Archive for the ‘Scouting Report’ Category

Mike Evans the perfect example of tough scouting

Tuesday, September 17th, 2013

Scouting wide receivers is hard. Most of the time.

Anyone could watch A.J. Green at Georgia and see he was going to be a star. He was on a different technical level to any receiver going into the NFL in recent history.

Route running, hands, competitive spirit, athleticism, character. Green had everything.

And for the last two years he’s made Andy Dalton look like an acceptable starting quarterback. That’s good for Dalton, but bad for Bengals fans who, you know, want to compete for a Super Bowl.

Guys like Green are the major exception though. The only receiver I’ve seen that gets close to his level of polish entering the league is DeAndre Hopkins — and we started to see glimpses of his natural ability on Sunday. You could probably add Julio Jones to the list too.

The rest are a complete mixed bag that are almost impossible to judge with any certainty.

You’re throwing darts with this position.

Most of the time you take a chance on rare size and speed. Some prospects dominate — like Calvin Johnson. Others look clumsy, struggle to raise their game to the next level or become frustrated within a struggling offense.

(see: Jonathan Baldwin)

It’s about so much more than physical talent when you talk about first round picks who need to have an impact quickly. You absolutely have to have — in my opinion — an understanding of route concepts in college. It’s the only way you’ll transition quickly. DeAndre Hopkins used to reel off play calls and discuss specific routes during interviews at Clemson. The guy gets it.

Other players feature in these wide open spread offenses that require very little thought. This hand signal means to run a crosser. This number means go deep. You get the picture.

Those guys often come into the league not really knowing what they’re doing or why. They take an age to adjust in a league that demands instant gratification.

Receivers also need to be fiercely competitive for me if they’re going to go early. Why? See the Anquan Boldin vs Richard Sherman contest on Sunday. In college you might be able to run routes untouched, gliding past cornerbacks who don’t jam you on the line and get in your face.

In the NFL, you’ll get it every time you line up.

Wide receivers have to be sparky, scratchy, tetchy individuals who feel humiliated when they lose even one battle. It needs to burn in their mind like wildfire until the next snap.

“Next time I’ll get you.”

Hands are vital, but that’s obvious. Hands without route-intelligence and competitive spirit are worthless. They have to come as a package.

If they tick those boxes — then (and only then) I want to talk about physical skills.

Height, speed, reach.

That’s just how I approach the position these days. Not because I’m speaking from any position of authority. Not because I’ve read up on how the teams act. Mainly it’s because too often I fell for the guy with height and reach and too often those players didn’t work out on physical qualities alone.

Sadly, nowhere near enough receivers in college are ready for the NFL. It’s too easy in college. When you find the guy who is ready, you better draft him.

So when I come across Mike Evans, there’s immediate suspicion.

As impressive as the numbers were against Alabama, he basically makes a series of catches foreign to what he can expect in the NFL. Against Alabama, he gets downfield and wins jump balls. No jam at the line. All the passes are uncontested. He’s covered, but the defensive back isn’t playing the ball.

Without wishing to undermine his massive game, a lot of those catches are… well… easy. At least for him with his height advantage.

Stuff like this doesn’t happen all that often at the next level. Maybe against the Washington Redskins secondary, but yeah.

Seattle could use a 6-5 receiver with size who can win jump balls and be a factor in the red zone. Evans, with his basketball background, looks the part. And yet I have no idea what kind of prospect he’s going to be at the next level.

There’s no real evidence on tape that he’s a great route runner or understands route concepts. Neither is there a great deal of evidence he’s a fighter capable of dealing with the physical demands of the NFL. How will he do when there’s another pair of hands going after those jump balls?

And yet there’s no real evidence to the contrary either. Nothing to suggest he won’t be just as much of a force.

I suppose you could argue the fact he put up nearly 300 yards on a Nick Saban secondary is something. Is this ‘Bama secondary quite as good as previous seasons though? That’s debatable.

I do like the way he came back to the quarterback at 1:10, adjusting to Johnny Manziel leaving the pocket and giving his quarterback a target. I do like his body control and the way he high points the football. I like the way he appears capable of making a huge play like the 96-yard catch and run for a score.

But as I said, how do we determine whether this guy can be a success at the next level based on the video above?

I’m not sure we’ll ever know, without the ability to sit down and talk about him. Without the chance to speak to coaches about him. Without the chance to dig into his work ethic and discover whether he’s the type of guy who wants to be the best. Badly.

Such is the fallacy of what we do. It’s why for the most part blogging about the NFL Draft is a futile exercise. We only ever scratch the surface. And yet we’re ready and willing to praise and condemn in equal measure.

If the Seahawks drafted Mike Evans on the basis of performances like the one against Alabama, I’d be excited to see how he works out as the teams ‘big man’ at receiver. But I’ll have no qualifications to judge whether it’s a good decision. Not based off tape like above.

Such is the difficulty of trying to project receivers without obvious crossover traits.

If only guys like A.J. Green and DeAndre Hopkins were more common.

Thoughts on Alabama vs Texas A&M

Saturday, September 14th, 2013

A.J. McCarron would be a good Christian Ponder replacement

Mike Evans, future Seahawk?

I’m pretty sure Pete Carroll watched this game. Probably while playing acoustic guitar on a baseball bat.

If he was watching, then he was probably drooling over Texas A&M receiver Mike Evans.

Carroll loves big receivers. This team has been searching for a reliable big man since day one. It started with the courting of Brandon Marshall, developed into the Mike Williams project, became the Kris Durham experiment and after flirting with Braylon Edwards, Stephen Williams gets his shot.

Seattle lacks a great possession target with size who can be a difference maker in the red zone. We saw in the Pro Bowl this year how attractive that kind of receiver can be for Russell Wilson (courtesy of Vincent Jackson and Larry Fitzgerald).

But it’s not just about red zone targets. Carroll likes a guy who can win jumps balls and make plays downfield.

Mike Evans put on a master class tonight.

Time after time Johnny Manziel tossed floaty passes in the general direction of Evans. And pretty much every time he jumped into the air in tight coverage and made a play. His final stat line was an eye-popping seven grabs for 279 yards.

Evans also flashed his athleticism in a 95-yard catch and run for a touchdown (although Alabama’s defensive call on that play was astonishing).

Sure hands. Great body control. High pointing the football. This was a superb performance, defining what teams are looking for in a big receiver.

I half expect Pete and John to be talking about this guy right now.

Evans is 6-5 and 225lbs with a basketball background. If he plays many more games like this he won’t be available to Seattle in the back end of round one. In three games this year he already has 518 yards and three touchdowns.

He has to be a firm focus on our Seahawks radar the rest of the way.

Quarterback talking points

Johnny Manziel is great fun. Things happen when he’s on the field.

There were times today, particularly when A&M jumped to a 14-0 lead, that you imagined him in the NFL pulling off all these magic tricks.

Unfortunately, there were also some things that made you counter that enthusiasm.

The two interceptions he threw were a portrait of his limitations. He’s essentially a gun slinging play maker without the big arm. He’s a chancer. That can be great when it comes off. But in the NFL, Mike Evans isn’t going to make you look this good nearly every time you throw a 50-50 jump ball.

The two picks were ill-advised throws into tight windows. Poor decision making first off, and he hasn’t got the arm strength to really arrow the ball into a tight window on the intermediate level. He can chuck it high downfield and throw a catchable ball. But in the NFL you have to be able to make throws over the middle into tight spots, anticipating a route and guiding your receiver. You also need to be able to throw a big downfield ball on play action (eg Russell Wilson vs New England) with perfect velocity.

I’m not convinced Manziel can do either of those things. A lot of throws have to be to open guys or it’s a 50-50 dice roll.

He’s a hell of a playmaker and I wouldn’t bet against him having some kind of NFL future. But it’ll always be feast or famine. It has to be with him. You can’t put a lid on the playmaking, so you have to accept the consequences. He’s like a gambler playing with someone else’s money. It’s both exciting and potentially infuriating.

A.J. McCarron on the other hand is a consistent, intelligent passer without much wow-factor.

I think he’s better than a lot of people give him credit for. You can see tangible physical improvements over the last two years and he has the frame to keep getting stronger. He’s in control, he’s assured. He has a terrific supporting cast but knows how to get the best out of them.

Most importantly he makes good decisions. He has a great feel for pressure and knows when to live another down. He’s not a hopeless athlete and can buy time with his legs. For the most part he’s pretty accurate and he shows good touch.

It’s just whether, like Manziel, he can fit those passes into tight windows with an average arm and launch the ball downfield on the home run throw. Again, I’m sceptical.

If Andy Dalton is worth a high second round pick, I think McCarron could be too. Put him on a team that isn’t in total rebuild mode and has at least one solid target and he can make you competitive. I think he’d be ideal for a team like Minnesota, who probably don’t want to burn another first round pick replacing flop Christian Ponder.

Give McCarron Adrian Peterson, Kyle Rudolph, Greg Jennings and Cordarrelle Patterson — plus a decent offensive line — and he’ll get the ball out quickly to the playmakers and make you competitive. Put him on Oakland’s current roster and it’ll be messy.

But I guess that goes for most quarterbacks entering the league.

Maybe good teams get penalised?

We’ve talked a lot about how often Seattle is flagged and how much of an issue it’s been. Well, Alabama had 12 penalties for 104 yards today — much more than A&M. In the NFL, the best teams generally get penalised more too.

Is it more than a coincidence? Perhaps.

Stuff like this kind of makes me feel better about how many times the Seahawks get flagged. Although the game finished 49-42, you always felt Alabama were in control despite the penalties.

Other notes

- It was a better day today for Alabama left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio. It’s going to be another stellar year for offensive tackles in 2014.

- C.J. Mosley was barely noticeable today. Not because he had a bad game, for whatever reason the ball kind of just avoided him somehow.

- I’d hate to be an Alabama defensive back in meetings this week. Nick Saban’s hair looked angry today. And when Nick’s hair is all over the place, you’re in trouble.

- On a side note, I watched the game with my dad and at one point he questioned whether Saban wears a rug. I found that amusing.

Florida’s Dominique Easley one to watch this year

Wednesday, September 11th, 2013

Sometimes things happen for a reason.

Yesterday I wrote the following:

Louis Nix is a stud at Notre Dame and could be a top ten pick at the all important nose tackle position. After that, the options aren’t great. Some people like Will Sutton at Arizona State but I’m not a big fan. I’ve not seen enough of LSU’s Anthony Johnson to judge but watching the Tigers last year, nobody looked as good as 2012 first rounder Michael Brockers.

Florida State’s Timmy Jernigan is the only other player (defensive tackle) currently on the radar until others emerge.

I didn’t expect a player to emerge later that same night.

Really, there’s no true emergence in this case. It’s more a case of a guy (me) who happens to write a blog about the NFL Draft finally getting around to noticing a certain prospect who deserves attention.

Because a lot of people know about Florida’s Dominique Easley already.

And it’s time he got some attention.

When I watched Easley’s performance against Miami last night, I got excited.

Excited enough to fantasise about him playing against the Niners on Sunday.

(We could probably use him)

There are a few things I want to see in a defensive tackle. Easley pretty much ticks every box.

I want to see a high motor. He has that.

I want to see evidence of a nasty streak. Evidence that a guy just lives and breathes the war that is line play. Somebody who thrives on the scrappy, dirty, horrible nature of football at its purest sense. In the trenches.

I want to see someone who has at least solid hand technique and enough speed and raw athleticism to shoot gaps to stack up splash plays.

If I’m not seeing constant swim or power moves into the backfield, I at least want to see a guard or center being consistently pushed into his quarterback.

I’ve found the guys I like the most are nearly always five star recruits. Hey, at the end of the day, this needs to be a guy with rare athleticism weighing around 300lbs. Not many 18-21 year old’s fit that criteria.

On the evidence of the Miami game from Saturday, Easley does all of these things. Now it’s a case of tracking his season to see if this is a flash in the pan or truly what the guy is offering to NFL teams.

A few months ago we looked into a series by Matt Waldman discussing the characteristics Bill Walsh looked for in a player. Pete Carroll is obviously highly influenced by Walsh, and there are several obvious Walsh characteristics within Seattle’s current roster.

Here’s what Waldman wrote about Walsh’s ‘ideal’ defensive tackle:

Ideal size: 6-2, 290

Must have the girth, strength, ballast to hold off the guard, or to step into a tackles’ block without being knocked off the line of scrimmage.

Quick, strong hands to grab and pull are critical. This is common with the great tackles. The hands, the arms, the upper body strength and then the quick feet to take advantage of a moving man, just getting him off balance.

You are looking for somebody who can move down the line of scrimmage and make a tackle, pursuing a ball-carrier. That would be lateral quickness in a short area, being able to get underway and move over and through people. If you get knocked off the line, or get knocked sideways or knocked off balance, you cannot play this position. You must be able to work your way through people, so that kind of strength is a must.

The best defensive tackles move the offensive guard back into the quarterback. (emphasis mine) They won’t have nearly as many sacks as others, but if they can move the guard back into the quarterback, then the quarterback has to avoid his own lineman as if he were a pass rusher before he throws the ball. So this is a key ability.

Easley is 6-2 and 285lbs. Watch the video above and tell me you don’t see a Walsh defensive tackle. The one thing he probably lacks is girth. He doesn’t have a large rump (no giggling) or powerful base. He looks small.

But he plays big.

He’s a senior so he’ll definitely be in the 2014 draft. He’s a former five-star recruit (like it).

Perhaps tellingly, he never had an offer from Carroll’s USC in 2009 (he did get an offer from UCLA). Easley’s originally from New York. Sharrif Floyd — originally from Philadelphia — had an offer from USC in the same year and also ended up with the Gators. This doesn’t mean Pete Carroll necessarily had no interest in Easley, but it’s food for thought.

It’s also worth noting that Seattle has been anything but orthodox at the three technique. They keep trying bigger, leaner tackles at the position. Jordan Hill was perhaps the most orthodox they’ve been so far, but even he seems to have been tagged with the ‘passing downs’ label.

Even so, I find it hard to ignore pure three technique prospects. I think the Seahawks need one. And the likes of Michael Bennett are only here on one-year deals.

So what else do I like?

He seems to have a knack of jumping the snap and getting off the line quickly. He can switch quickly from power-to-speed and has good hand use. Easley plays end as well as tackle, which is testament to his athletic quality. He’s a brawler. I cannot stress how much that matters at this position.

Most importantly he has the ability to have a major impact on games. When he wasn’t in the backfield against Miami, he was being held. Like Vic Beasley, I’m not going to come out and say this guy is a nailed on first rounder. I don’t know what round he’ll go in. At this stage we’re merely identifying which players to monitor over the next few weeks.

Beasley and Florida need to be on your schedule.

Timmy Jernigan is a hard one to work out

Tuesday, September 10th, 2013

Last year was a good year for defensive tackles in round one.

Sheldon Richardson (#13 overall) is a future star. When the Jets inevitably move on from Rex Ryan next year and switch to the 4-3, he’ll be dynamic as hell.

Star Lotulelei (#14 overall) had to be checked for suspected heart problems at the combine. Although he was cleared, there’s a chance the stigma carried him into the teens in April. We witnessed on Sunday how disruptive he can be. What a steal for the Panthers.

Sharrif Floyd (#23 overall) was a trendy pick to go in the top five. Short arms plus a lack of pure production and nasty streak led to a fall. Yet he had enough athletic upside to warrant a pick in the 20′s.

Two other pass rushing interior lineman followed quickly — Sly Williams and Kawann Short. You don’t get many drafts with five defensive tackles going in the top-45.

And we almost certainly won’t see it in 2014.

It’s early, but already it’s looking like an miserly group of defensive tackles next year.

Louis Nix is a stud at Notre Dame and could be a top ten pick at the all important nose tackle position. After that, the options aren’t great. Some people like Will Sutton at Arizona State but I’m not a big fan. I’ve not seen enough of LSU’s Anthony Johnson to judge but watching the Tigers last year, nobody looked as good as 2012 first rounder Michael Brockers.

Florida State’s Timmy Jernigan is the only other player currently on the radar until others emerge. And Jernigan is one of the more frustrating players you’ll see this year.

(EDIT — ironically, after writing this piece, I watched tape of one of the best DT performances I’ve seen in a long time… from a name not listed here. More tomorrow).

At 6-2 and 294lbs he looks the part. He’s clearly an athlete. He flashes the occasional pass rush move that makes you sit up and take notice. Yet his overall effort just seems lethargic. He’s not a relentless, beastly tackle like Sheldon Richardson. He lacks the unique physical qualities of Star Lotulelei. He doesn’t have the production of a Kawann Short.

Jernigan’s a player who shows you a bit of leg then runs a mile when you offer to buy a drink.

We’ve seen it before with FSU linemen. It’s hard to explain why. In recent years we’ve seen a handful of players who flatter to deceive.

It’s only four years ago that Carolina gifted San Francisco a first round pick to get back into round two to select Everette Brown. In a 23-sack career with the Seminoles, Brown looked the part as an exciting edge rusher. He used to split out wide and rush from all angles. He did a great job, winning on athleticism rather than effort or technique.

At one point he was considered a possible top-15 pick. At the combine he measured just under 6-2 instead of Florida State’s listed 6-4, and the doubters grew. He ran a 4.65 at 256lbs.

The Panthers were looking for a long term replacement for Julius Peppers, who was demanding a trade and seemed destined to leave when his contract expired. Carolina bought what Everette Brown was selling and made a deal.

In return the Niners got Mike Iupati and went on to build the best offensive line in football.

Jernigan kind of reminds me of Brown. They both flirt with brilliance. The athletic potential is there. But the little things that make a complete player are lacking.

Brown’s athletic qualities didn’t stand out as much in the NFL. His technique was poor, he took such wide angles in college that he rarely had to engage a tackle or beat him with hand placement. Where was the relentless motor? He had just two years in Carolina before bouncing around the league. He recently had a camp with Philadelphia, but was released on cut-day.

I’m not saying Jernigan will have a similar career, but every time I see him I notice similar traits. Quality athletic potential, but a lack of technique, motor and consistency.

His play is largely unimpressive. He gets pushed around, he doesn’t show a nasty streak. He’s not consistently causing problems for an offensive line. One thing the Seahawks will look for in a tackle is the ability to push the blocker into the pocket, even if they don’t shoot a hole themselves. Jernigan doesn’t do that. He’s really powderpuff at times.

I almost switched off the video above after a few minutes. It was the same old Timmy Jernigan display.

Then at 4:26 he makes a play. He gets away from the center and stops the running back down for a loss.

I keep watching.

At 5:10 he gets off a block and sees a route to the quarterback. He turns on the jets big time and flies into the QB. It’s the kind of pursuit you don’t often see from a guy that size. Big sack. Impressive play.

And you want to start believing again.

Jernigan has the athletic potential to be very effective. If he can find an edge — a nasty streak — and just be a complete pain in the ass when he’s not flashing genuine athletic quality, then he has a shot.

However, at the moment he coasts along games waiting for his chance. And that’s not good enough. Until this improves, I just can’t get excited about seeing him in Seattle. But the potential is there. Which is why he’s a difficult guy to project.

Clemson’s Vic Beasley should be on our radar

Monday, September 9th, 2013

I’m not sure whether the Seahawks will be looking for another LEO in next years draft. After all, Chris Clemons, Cliff Avril and Bruce Irvin will be under contract. O’Brien Schofield looks like an able fill-in and Benson Mayowa is getting an opportunity to make it in the NFL.

If they are looking for another LEO, Clemson’s Vic Beasley could be the guy.

It’s difficult to project his stock at this stage. On the plus side, he has 10 sacks in his last nine starts. He launches out of the blocks with the kind of burst Bruce Irvin flashed at West Virginia. He’s quick, and speed matters in this offense. It wouldn’t surprise me if he ran a super-fast 40 and clocked a sweet 10-yard split.

Beasley’s also undersized. He’s listed at 6-3 and 225lbs but is undoubtedly bigger than that in my opinion. I’d say 235lbs approximately. Which is still smaller than ideal, but it’s better than 225lbs. He’s got the length Seattle looks for at 6-3 but could really do with adding weight before the combine and then proving he hasn’t lost the speed.

Here’s what I like — despite the fact he’s smaller than the average edge rusher, he has good hand use. On more than a few occasions he was able to get a push on the left tackle and drive him into the pocket. Sometimes that’s enough, it forces a quarterback to move around. Combine that with a couple (I reckon 2.5) big sacks off the edge and it was an impressive display overall against Georgia.

However, at the next level is he going to get his hands into a guys chest and get a push?

Not at 225-235lbs. And that’s the issue.

Speed kills in the pass rush, but so does a running game that can consistently target one side of the line. Beasley has liability versus the run written all over him in the NFL. That limits his stock. I can see him working as a specialist or depth pass rusher, but to be an early down guy he has to get bigger and keep the speed.

It’d be pretty easy for me to say he’s a round whatever pick right now. Sometimes you just can’t tell. But he’s a player I’ll keep monitoring this year. Clemson’s schedule is beyond vanilla the rest of the way. They host Florida State on October 19th and that’s their only real test until South Carolina on November 30th — their final game before a likely ACC Championship berth.

Check out the tape above and let me know what you think.

Brandon Coleman underwhelming in week one

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013

I’m a big fan of Brandon Coleman. Not many 6-6 receivers run with his fluidity and he’s flashed a playmaking quality to break off big runs after the catch.

Having said that, his nine catch, 94 yard and two touchdown performance against Fresno State might be one of the least impressive nine catch, 94 yard and two touchdown performances I’ve seen in a while.

Coleman will be blighted by bad quarterback play at Rutgers. With the greatest respect, Gary Nova is incredibly limited as a passer. Yet there are also instances where Coleman lets down his quarterback. And it’s those instances that’ll hold back his draft stock, no matter how much upside he has.

A good example of Nova’s limitations come at 1:05 in the video above. Coleman pulls off a superb double move on the cornerback, creating separation down the far sideline and opening up a potential big play. Nova throws the ball out of bounds. It was an easy 30-40 yard gain wasted.

On a simple underneath route at 2:06, Nova throws a pass I could’ve completed at the knees of Coleman. You could argue that maybe he should still make this catch and complete an easy first down. But look at the pass. It’s simple. Nova turned a routine completion into a chore. He followed it up with a rotten fade attempt, again to Coleman.

Then at 2:38 it’s almost like the frustrated receiver decides to have some revenge. Nova, for once, throws pretty much on the money downfield on a play action. Coleman has separation. You think it’s going to be a huge gain — possibly a touchdown. And the ball goes straight through his hands. At no point does Coleman locate the ball in the air. It’s ugly. He’s waving his arms around, he knows it’s coming. And before he sees the football it’s bouncing off the turf. You have to make that catch. You just have to.

There’s perhaps an uglier play at 5:27. He’s wide open. It’s in his basket. And he drops it. In fact this play is worse than the jugglers arms earlier. A key first down wasted after good work from the quarterback to keep the play alive. Coleman has to make that catch if he wants to be a first round pick.

He makes up for it at 3:42 with his first touchdown — Coleman does well to get open here and Nova hits him for a simple score. His second touchdown at the end of the game shows good positioning and body control to shield the corner away from the football.

There are other positive highlights — his first reception of the night, the play at 1:27 coming back to the receiver and the difficult grab at 5:13.

But the game ends with a pretty tepid attempt to catch a winning two point conversion. It’s not a great throw from Nova, but it’s catchable. He’s under a lot of pressure, he could get drilled. Yet the game is on the line here. Make the difficult grab, be the hero and have everyone talking about you this week. Instead he fails and it’s a bad defeat for Rutgers at Fresno State in week one.

Coleman is still a tremendous talent with limitless upside but despite the stat line this isn’t a great start. We’ve seen with Stephen Williams this pre-season what a big bodied receiver can do. Make tough downfield grabs, use height to your advantage and snatch the ball away. You can throw it up there and feel confident your guy wins the 50-50. Coleman isn’t doing that and he is making basic errors. Time is on his side, but he needs to improve as the season progresses to max out his potential.

Pre-season 2014 mock draft

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013

Look for the mouth guard

I did this for two reasons:

1. People like mock drafts

2. We can have a good laugh at it in a few months time

I determined the order by splitting the 32 teams into three groups.

Group 1 – the ‘is it April yet?’ collection
Oakland, Jacksonville, San Diego, New York Jets, Detroit, Arizona, Cleveland, Buffalo, Tennessee, Carolina

Group 2 – The ‘oh dear, you’re really average’ section
Dallas, Miami, Kansas City, Washington, Chicago, Minnesota, Tampa Bay, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia

Group 3 – The big guns, like Seattle etc
New England, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Houston, Denver, Indianapolis, New York Giants, Green Bay, Atlanta, New Orleans, San Francisco, Seattle

I put the three groups into a random organiser and the results were fairly acceptable. Oakland were given the #1 pick, which is apt given they’re already planning what to spend it on next April. New England face the New York Giants in the Super Bowl (again). And although the Seahawks only picked at #24, at least there’s the satisfaction of seeing San Francisco at #21 — meaning a first round playoff exit for Jim Harbaugh. Shame.


#1 Oakland Raiders – Jadeveon Clowney (DE, South Carolina)
I see the argument that says quarterback here — and the Raiders desperately need a quarterback. But how do you pass on Clowney? The simple answer is, you can’t.


#2 Arizona Cardinals – Teddy Bridgewater (QB, Louisville)
If the Cardinals are picking this early in 2014, Carson Palmer clearly didn’t work out. Bridgewater is exactly the type of quarterback the league is looking for — capable of running all the new wrinkles such as the read option but also a formidable pocket passer.


#3 San Diego Chargers – Cyrus Kouandijo (T, Alabama)
The Chargers have holes all over the roster but own a competent veteran quarterback. They started to try and rebuild their offensive line last year and that might continue in 2014. Kouandijo would theoretically replace King Dunlap and he looks like a future franchise left tackle.


#4 Cleveland Browns – Marqise Lee (WR, USC)
I’m not a huge Brandon Weeden fan, but Norv Turner’s offense actually really suits him. Is he the future? Maybe not. But he can be a nice transition player for that franchise. He’ll need help at receiver and Marqise Lee is a phenomenal talent.


#5 Carolina Panthers – Jake Matthews (T, Texas A&M)
Jordan Gross is flirting with retirement and is a free agent next year after restructuring his deal. It’ll create a big hole when he leaves. Matthews has to show he can transition to the left side but there are things about his game that suggest he could be a better player than Luke Joeckel.


#6 New York Jets – Kyle Van Noy (DE, BYU)
The Jets don’t have an outside rusher who can make plays. Kyle Van Noy is undersized but he makes things happen. If he keeps churning out sacks and performs well at the combine, there’s no reason why he can’t be a high pick.


#7 Buffalo Bills – Anthony Barr (DE, UCLA)
The Bills are switching to a hybrid defense and will be looking for a flexible pass rusher to help Mario Williams. Barr has the look of a future star and can play at the line or in space.


#8 Tennessee Titans – Louis Nix (DT, Notre Dame)
Big nose tackle prospect who really turned up in Notre Dame’s Championship run last year. Nix will interest the 3-4 teams too and could be a very early pick.


#9 Detroit Lions – Antonio Richardson (T, Tennessee)
I was a big Dallas Thomas fan in Tennessee and the fact he had to move to guard to accommodate Richardson speaks volumes. I only realised a few weeks ago he was eligible for the 2014 draft. The Lions have Riley Reiff slated to start at left tackle but he could easily move over to the right.


#10 Jacksonville Jaguars – Aaron Lynch (DE, USF)
Lynch is a monster who could go higher than this. The Jaguars are in a talent accumulating transitional stage. If he gets backs up to his Notre Dame weight, Lynch would make a great 5-tech for Gus Bradley’s four man front.


#11 Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Taylor Lewan (T, Michigan)
I think he’ll end up finding a home at right tackle. The Buccs have a decent roster and much will depend on the form of Josh Freeman this year. Assuming he earns a new contract, a player like Lewan could further bolster Tampa Bay’s offensive line.


#12 Kansas City Chiefs – Sammy Watkins (WR, Clemson)
Andy Reid drafted fast, playmaking receivers in Philadelphia. While he’s already re-signed Dwayne Bowe and now traded for 49ers bust A.J. Jenkins, he might still be looking for a receiver next year. Watkins is electric but needs to show renewed focus.


#13 Chicago Bears – Bradley Roby (CB, Ohio State)
A player who just gets better and better at Ohio State. Roby is a fantastic football player and could be a top ten pick. Chicago’s two starting corners are aged 32 and 29.


#14 Pittsburgh Steelers – Loucheiz Purifoy (CB, Florida)
Purifoy isn’t too far behind Bradley Roby and despite a disappointing Sugar Bowl performance last season, SEC teams generally kept away from him in the passing game.


#15 Philadelphia Eagles – Stephon Tuitt (DE, Notre Dame)
Philly’s defense has been terrible in pre-season. While it was tempting to put a quarterback in this slot (Manziel? Mariota?) it’s hard to see anything but an all-out assault on the defense coming up. It’s just not good enough at the moment. Tuitt has great size and flashed as a pass rusher in 2012. He also looked decidedly average in the BCS Championship against Alabama.


#16 Miami Dolphins – Zack Martin (T, Notre Dame)
It’s still a mystery why the Dolphins threw good money at average free agents, yet allowed Jake Long to join the Rams. Jonathan Martin looked surprisingly poor as a rookie and getting a new left tackle might be priority #1 next year for Miami.


#17 Minnesota Vikings – Tajh Boyd (QB, Clemson)
I’m not sure who will be the #2 quarterback to leave the board behind Bridgewater, but I know Minnesota will probably have to consider getting him next year. Christian Ponder’s 90-yard games won’t cut it. Boyd’s display against LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl was tremendous. He’s lost DeAndre Hopkins but retains Sammy Watkins.


#18 St. Louis Rams (from Washington) – Brandon Coleman (WR, Rutgers)
Unless Brian Quick really turns it on this year it’s not unrealistic that the Rams go in search of another big receiver. Coleman makes unreal plays for a guy his size and his inconsistencies can be levelled at the fact he plays with one of the most erratic quarterbacks in college football.


#19 Dallas Cowboys – Timmy Jernigan (DT, Florida State)
Prototype three-technique that’d probably interest Monte Kiffin. Jernigan has all the physical potential in the world but needs to put together a more consistent season. That’ll be tough without Tank Carradine and Bjoern Werner.


#20 St. Louis Rams – Ha Ha Clinton Dix (S, Alabama)
A safety prospect with a ton of potential, he could be the next Nick Saban protege to make it into the first round.


#21 San Francisco 49ers – De’Anthony Thomas (WR, Oregon)
With Tavon Austin going in the top ten this year, could Thomas also secure a high grade? He’d look good in the read option for San Francisco. Plus the NFC West is quickly becoming a copy-cat division. The Rams have Austin, Seattle has Percy Harvin. Will the Niners go for their version?


#22 New Orleans Saints – Denzel Perryman (LB, Miami)
The Saints have gone to a 3-4 and might have some teething problems this year. Up front they need a nose tackle, while they lack a top outside rusher at linebacker. Even so, I’m giving them an inside guy in Perryman here purely as a long-term cornerstone and defensive leader. He’s been compared to Ray Lewis by Tony Pauline.


#23 Atlanta Falcons – Austin Seferian-Jenkins (TE, Washington)
Tony Gonzalez can’t go on forever and already appears semi retired (he’s been allowed time off during camp). Seferian-Jenkins would be a natural successor to Gonzalez. You never want to compare college players to first-ballot Hall of Famers, but ASJ could be special.


#24 Seattle Seahawks – Colt Lyerla (TE, Oregon)
Whether he becomes more of a feature for Oregon this year or not, Lyerla is destined to blow up the combine in 2014. You have to believe the Seahawks would enjoy moving Lyerla all over the field to create mismatches. He’s 6-5 and 250lbs, but takes snaps at running back, blocks, lines up as a receiver. He’s a great chess piece for a creative offense.


#25 Baltimore Ravens – Adrian Hubbard (LB, Alabama)
The Ravens always make some kind of intelligent move and this would be another one. Hubbard is more of a pass rusher than C.J. Mosley and would fit nicely into Baltimore’s defense.


#26 Denver Broncos – Jackson Jeffcoat (DE, Texas)
Needs to bring it this year. There are too many underwhelming players at Texas these days. Jeffcoat has flattered to deceive but a big year in 2013 and he has first round potential. Let’s see it.


#27 Houston Texans – Daniel McCullers (DT, Tennessee)
At the moment McCullers is more about potential than production. However, at 6-8 and around 350lbs, he’ll turn some heads this season. He won’t be helped by a Tennessee team that is transitioning (again) to a new coaching staff. But he could shine in the post season and be a quick riser.


#28 Indianapolis Colts – Jordan Matthews (WR, Vanderbilt)
You’ll be hard pressed to find a more consistent, reliable receiver in college football than Matthews. He took major strides in 2012 and  just looks like the kind of guy you can imagine Andrew Luck throwing to.


#29 Green Bay – Ed Reynolds (S, Stanford)
Just a flat out playmaker and interception machine. Might not have the athletic qualities to warrant an earlier pick but has every chance of making it into the first frame.


#30 Cincinnati Bengals – Scott Crichton (DE, Oregon State)
I can see the Bengals looking at quarterbacks if Andy Dalton continues to hold back the plethora of weapons Cincy has on offense. Dalton is average. The guys he’s throwing to are world class. The extension for Carlos Dunlap makes keeping Michael Johnson difficult. Although they did draft Margus Hunt.


#31 New York Giants – Ifo Ekpre-Olomu (CB, Oregon)
There’s every chance New York goes cornerback next year. Ekpre-Olomu has great athletic qualities and would fill a need for the Giants.


#32 New England Patriots – Damian Swann (CB, Georgia)
I spent a lot of time watching the Bulldogs last year and this guy constantly kept jumping out. Georgia’s lost a lot of defensive talent to the NFL so it’ll be interesting to see if Swann continues to shine in 2013.

Notes

- Only two quarterbacks are listed in the first round. I can only give Teddy Bridgewater a sure-fire first round grade going into the new college season.

- Don’t sleep on Logan Thomas (QB, Virginia Tech) making a comeback. He had a lousy 2012 season but has all the physical tools. If he can rebound this year and put together a strong season — he could be back in contention as an early pick. A game against Alabama early in the year is the perfect platform to get back on track.

- I resisted the temptation to flood the mock with read-option quarterbacks. I’m not convinced Marcus Mariota (Oregon), Stephen Morris (Miami) and Brett Hundley (UCLA) will declare. Johnny Manziel (Texas A&M) just has too much baggage right now to put in round one.

- A.J. McCarron (Alabama) might start in the league for a team that features an orthodox passing game and likes to run the ball. But he isn’t a first round talent. And for me, neither is David Fales (San Diego State).

- The two players I really wanted to include here but couldn’t? Boston College defensive tackle Kaleb Ramsey. He’s had too many injury issues but nobody can deny his talent. Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley. Terrific player but other talented linebackers have struggled to crack the first round.

- If I had to include a running back in this mock it probably would’ve been Ka’Deem Carey (Arizona) or Lache Seastrunk (Baylor) but I can’t see the first round runner for 2014. It’ll be interesting to see how Michael Dyer gets on in Louisville.

Seahawks trade John Moffitt

Monday, August 19th, 2013

John Moffitt, we hardly knew ye

The Seahawks and 49ers love to mimic each other. So after watching San Francisco swap receivers with Kansas City earlier, Seattle decided to make a deal too.

John Moffitt, 2011 third round pick, has been dealt to Cleveland for undrafted defensive end Brian Sanford.

The Seahawks have had some big hits in the draft. 2010 landed a number of prominent starters, while the 2012 class provided cornerstone players like Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner.

However, the front end of the 2011 class can only be classed as a disappointment so far. James Carpenter has been plagued by injury and inconsistent play. Now Moffitt is moving to the other end of the country.

The pair were signed along with Robert Gallery to bolster the teams struggling running game. Instead the likes of Paul McQuistan, Breno Giacomini, J.R. Sweezy and Max Unger have been left to lead the revolution.

It’s easy to say after the event, but I always saw Moffitt as just a guy. It’s difficult to judge Wisconsin offensive lineman. They’re similar to Florida State pass rushers. They keep churning them out, they always look good in college and then flop in the NFL.

With the likes of Alvin Bailey almost certain to make the team (and maybe start), Moffitt was in serious danger of being cut. The trade with Cleveland symbolises that. They got what they could before the inevitable occurred.

I don’t know anything about Brian Sanford. He appears an odd fit in Seattle as a 280lbs defensive lineman without any great length (6-2). Is he a specialist three technique? I think they try him in that role, ala Greg Scruggs.

But he’s no lock to make the team, especially with the depth on the defensive line. And that kind of sums it up. The team took the hit on Moffitt and admitted it as an error. Even if Sanford doesn’t make the roster, Moffitt was likely a goner.

Thoughts on Jesse Williams

Thursday, May 2nd, 2013

Seattle's first Australian...

Jesse Williams is good at what he does. It’s what he doesn’t do that limited his stock.

It’s emerged that he suffered a fall in the draft due to medical concerns. Some teams apparently didn’t include him on their board. The Seahawks believed he was worth a shot in round five — they traded up for the first time in the Carroll/Schneider era to make sure they got both Williams and Tharold Simon.

I’m not sure the fall from possible first or second round pick to round five was purely down to the medical situation. Personally, I thought he was a solid second round pick who could fall into round three. Others had him rated higher than that, perhaps a little too high.

He’s pretty one-dimensional. He’s a run stopper. You put on the tape and he’s tough to move. He anchored the Alabama run defense from the nose after switching from end. He’s all upper body power. In a 1v1 situation he really excels at holding his ground and limiting the inside run. Time and time again Alabama could rely on Williams to do his job.

But when you actually sit down to study his tape, he doesn’t do a great deal other than excel in a 1v1 situation versus the run. He gets stuck on blocks far too much which really limits his ability to get into the backfield. There are times where he shows very good footwork and hands to get away from a block, force the runner to change direction and dive into traffic. These are few and far between though. He’s occasionally disruptive but never really a difference maker. He is not a pass rusher. Not yet, anyway.

We’re not talking about a fantastic athlete here — and I don’t think Williams would necessarily mind anyone saying that. He’s a worker, a grafter. He’s more perspiration than inspiration. Just an honest, salt of the earth defensive tackle who will turn up every week and put in a shift. He has a clear mean streak and an edge to his game. Teams won’t fancy running his way. They’ll probably have to do a bit of game planning, maybe double team him from time to time. But unfortunately they’re unlikely to be too concerned about his ability to crash the pocket.

Don’t get me wrong, there are substantial positives to having a guy like this on your team. I maintain that in short yardage and goal-line situations, I want Williams on the field. It’s going to be very difficult to run inside with Red Bryant, Brandon Mebane and Jesse Williams lining up next to each other. Seattle’s run defense seemed to get gradually weaker as the year went on and Williams’ addition helps in a big way.

But…. he isn’t going to rush the passer. And alongside the injury issues, that’s probably why he lasted until round five. I’m guessing teams weighed up the situation. He’s one-dimensional with medical concerns over his knee. That dropped his stock. Seattle might actually be the best fit for him. They’re a team that could use some depth and strength inside, but can live with the situation if he never plays a down. He’s versatile enough to play the one, three or five technique. His attitude and personality fits like a glove.

What we might see is Jordan Hill start in base, Michael Bennett used at the three on third down and in passing situations and Williams coming in to spell Hill and play some short yardage and goal-line. That would be a nice mix. Different fits for different scenarios.

For Williams to start full-time in Seattle he’ll probably need to see Hill struggle to create pressure. If it comes down to who is better versus the run with neither being great against the pass, Williams wins that battle. But I suspect the Seahawks believe Hill can be effective getting into the backfield (while being acceptable versus the run) adding a dimension to the defensive line that they lacked last year.

This was a solid pick in round five but I do understand why he fell — and I don’t think it was just the knee. To some teams the upside potential wasn’t really worth taking the chance. To Seattle, it clearly was. Even if Williams only ever offers light relief for the starters and solid run support, it’ll still be a good move. If he struggles to have an impact or the injuries play up, it really was no big gamble for this team. Working alongside Hill and Bennett this year, the Seahawks should be able to find a combination that works.

Jordan Hill: problem solver

Wednesday, May 1st, 2013

Jordan Hill is what the Seahawks need for their defense.

It’s a pretty obvious statement, considering they took him in the third round. How much did we talk about defensive tackle being a priority during the regular season? Every week? This pick wasn’t a reach or a desperate attempt to solve one of the few problem areas on the team. It was calculated, planned and inspired.

I’ve long been a fan of Hill’s, which is in part why I’m fairly positive about the pick. However, I wanted to go back and see what I’d actually written about Hill on the blog, before returning to the tape for a closer look. On January 29th I noted the following:

Out of all the players I’ve looked at so far, Penn State’s Jordan Hill is one of the players to keep an eye on in those mid-to-late rounds.

He’s 6-0 and 295lbs and plays with good leverage. If he gets a sniff of a gap he often takes advantage, using his speed to get into the backfield. In a 1v1 match-up he holds his own in the run game, holding his position with surprising power at the point of attack even against top offensive line opposition such as Wisconsin.

Hill’s a fighter — a relentless bundle of energy who defined his teams attitude last season. He chases outside of the tackle box, doesn’t give up on plays and often executes via the second effort. In the Senior Bowl he struggled a bit to generate pressure against a double team, but it was testament that the lineman even in that environment were consistently locking onto him and trying to shut him down. Although he didn’t challenge the quarterback against the double team, he more than held his own and managed to hold position. The Seahawks don’t have enough players on that defensive line right now that warrant a double team.

On February 14th after further tape review, I also wrote the following:

I cannot talk highly enough of this guy. He’s solid against the run despite a lack of pure size (6-0/6-1, 295lbs), he gets into the backfield to make plays and he’s got that little spark to his game that you want to see from a three technique.

Since the Seahawks drafted Jordan Hill, I’ve gone back to watch four Penn State games. You’ll find tape of two of the games below (vs Wisconsin, Iowa). The other two were Ohio State and Virginia from last season. You tend to watch a guy a little more closely when he’s going to be on the team. You look for ways in which he fills a need. I’m fairly confident Hill is the closest thing Seattle could find to the interior penetrator they needed. That’s without being in a realistic position to draft a guy like Sheldon Richardson.

I’m still not sure how the Seahawks intend to play their hand at defensive tackle. I’m not sure anyone is, because they have some options now. Clinton McDonald and Jaye Howard remain on the roster from last year. They signed Tony McDaniel in free agency and added Hill and Jesse Williams during the draft. They could rotate these guys to suit. Williams (who I’ve also watched more of since the weekend) is a one-dimensional player who offered very little pass rush in college. He was tough up the middle, difficult to move. In short yardage and goal-line situations he could be an asset. I’m not convinced he’ll offer any kind of pressure though, which is really what the Seahawks need inside.

To be more exact, they need a three technique. An orthodox three technique. A guy who isn’t completely hopeless against the run, but is quick enough to shoot a gap, force the guard or center into the pocket, get some pressure on the quarterback and move well laterally against the run. Hill ticks all of the boxes, which is why I think he’ll eventually win a starting job. He’s not an amazing athlete otherwise he’d have been going in the top-15 like Richardson. Yet the style of play is fairly similar. Even though Hill played a lot of one technique in college, he’s not merely a backup for Brandon Mebane. He can start at the three. And he can be disruptive.

Looking at the defensive line, they have the ability to use three different players at the LEO (Chris Clemons, Bruce Irvin and Cliff Avril). They can double up with speed off the edge in an obvious passing situation. They can use Michael Bennett as a specialist three technique or power end. They say they’ll try Avril and Irvin at linebacker. There’s so much potential there, so many different looks to present to an offense.

The biggest difference maker for Seattle’s pass rush next year might be from the inside in base. On 1st and 10 at the 20, I don’t think they’re going to get too cute with a lot of foreign looks. I think we’ll see a LEO alongside Red Bryant, Mebane and another (probably Hill). We’ll see three linebackers on the field. Or maybe two linebackers and Antoine Winfield in the slot. Just my guess. For the last three years in this situation, the entire responsibility for a pass rush lay with the LEO (Clemons). While that position has been productive for the Seahawks, alone it hasn’t been the catalyst for a fearsome pass rush.

Increasing the amount of pressure in base will take this defense to another level. Being able to really get at a team early will enhance Seattle’s status as a contender. Too many times last year they came up against a lousy offensive line filled with stopgaps and never took advantage. Press from the inside, collapse the pocket and watch the speed at the LEO position dominate.

Bennett will probably come in on third down or in situations where the other team has to chase. That’s the finishing move. The clincher. There’s improvements to be had here too — third down defense wasn’t good enough at times in 2012. Winfield also gives that area a boost.

But focusing on Hill, he offers a real chance to solve the issues in base. Let’s look at the Iowa tape. Fast forward to 2:14 in the video below:

The first thing to highlight isn’t a pass rushing move, but it’s a fun play nonetheless. Notice how well he moves laterally to the left, disengaging one block, picking through the traffic and making the tackle on a running back for a loss. That’s dominating. Let me refer back to the Bill Walsh ideal for a three technique:

“You are looking for somebody who can move down the line of scrimmage and make a tackle, pursuing a ball-carrier. That would be lateral quickness in a short area, being able to get underway and move over and through people. If you get knocked off the line, or get knocked sideways or knocked off balance, you cannot play this position. You must be able to work your way through people, so that kind of strength is a must.”

At 2:25 he’s lined up over the center and knifes through the A-gap to collapse the pocket. He forced the quarterback to move (and fumble) forcing a turnover. This is what Seattle needs. This is what it wasn’t getting from a nose tackle masquerading as a three technique last year (Alan Branch).

You want to see some hands? Go to 3:04 and watch how he schools the Iowa guard to break into the backfield for a big sack. Lost amid all the forty times and drills at the combine is the benefit of quick, aggressive hands. Hill has them. He can play stout against the run (holds position well) but he also has the ability to get into a lineman and quickly disengage, before rushing the passer.

Hill’s not the biggest guy, but he’s well proportioned. He’s got a nice thick base and room to get even bigger up top (muscle, rather than bad weight). I think it’s actually a good thing that he’s only 6-0 and 290-300lbs. Size is important but Hill clearly gets leverage because he’s a little shorter, he’s slight enough to stay mobile but not too small that he gets dominated. I hate comparing him to the best defensive tackle in the NFL, but that’s the kind of thing that helps Geno Atkins be so successful. Hill isn’t Atkins, but they share some similar characteristics.

At 3:25 he faces a center/guard double team. The guard eventually breaks off to try and attack the second level, but as a pair they fail to drive Hill backwards. As noted in the January piece I wrote, he faced a lot of double teams at the Senior Bowl and see you it often in the Penn State tape. He was the primary focus for the offensive lineman he faced. Very few — including Wisconsin’s brutish line — managed to slow him down.

It’s not all positive, of course. In the Iowa tape you see him get pushed back at 3:41. I’m willing to take my chances on that. There are going to be plays where he gets caught a little off balance and can’t recover. You can’t win every battle. But in the four games I’ve watched since the draft, I feel very comfortable about Hill’s ability to have an impact for this team and potentially solve a pretty big problem for the Seahawks. Only two other defensive tackles went off the board before Seattle took Jesse Williams in the fifth round (Brandon Williams, Akeem Spence). I’d argue they took Hill in just the right spot, from a value stand point and in terms of availability and need. He almost certainly wouldn’t have been there in the late fourth.

Seahawks fans should be excited about this pick.

The video below is of the Wisconsin game, always worth a watch: