Archive for the ‘Scouting Report’ Category

Kawann Short vs Sheldon Rankins

Friday, February 12th, 2016

Why Kawann Short fell and why Sheldon Rankins won’t

Josh Norris’ latest mock draft has Sheldon Rankins paired with the Seahawks at #26:

“Don’t get me started on Rankins. He is a top 10 talent in this draft. He is a true upfield disruptor who is smooth, quick and versatile with his hands to win the balance advantage. I’ll go as far to say that Rankins could be this year’s Kawann Short. The Seahawks love disruption, and Rankins would offer it.”

In January 2013 I wrote a piece suggesting the Seahawks should draft Kawann Short with their first round pick (later traded for Percy Harvin):

“He generally does a great job getting off blocks using nice hands and flashing great athleticism for his size. He’ll shoot a gap effectively and gets a nice quick burst off the snap. He’s shown decent ability on stunts to skip wide and attack from a different angle. You see the swim, club and spin moves — so he’ll be creative and keep an offensive lineman guessing. When he gets low and drives into his blocker he can flash a solid bull rush. Sometimes he gets too high and loses leverage but this is coachable.”

Short lived in the backfield at Purdue and there isn’t a player with his pass-rushing technique in this draft class. He fell into round two (pick #44) and has since developed into one of the top defensive tackles in the league.

Surely if a player of that quality can drop all the way to #44 — Rankins could suffer a similar fate?

Doubtful.

#1 — Age
Short was a 24-year-old rookie. He turned 27 a few days ago. These are the peak years of his career — and he’s still on his rookie contract. Sly Williams (in Short’s draft class) also fell to the late first round (he was a 25-year-old rookie). Sharrif Floyd was a weaker pass-rusher than both in college — but he was 21 in his rookie year.

Sheldon Rankins is 21. He turns 22 on April 2nd. Age is a factor.

#2 — Motor
There were always concerns about Short’s effort at Purdue. A 2012 game against Ohio State still sticks in the memory to this day. As good as he is/was — he mailed it in against the Buckeyes. Teams often focus on the tape vs your best three opponents. That was a bad showing.

Here’s what I noted in the article endorsing him for the Seahawks in round one:

Unlike Sheldon Richardson and Sharrif Floyd, the motor seems to stop running when the play moves away from his part of the field. Richardson turns into a linebacker when the play kicks out wide, tracking the ball carrier and often being the one to make the decisive tackle. Short, more often than not, shuts down and doesn’t make the effort.

Nobody is going to doubt Sheldon Rankins’ motor. After watching three Louisville games since the Senior Bowl — Rankins just keeps on going. He hustles to the ball-carrier, keeps his feet moving and doesn’t take plays off. Teams are really going to the like the effort they see on tape. It’s similar to Austin Johnson at Penn State who will also likely go early.

Rankins proved he’s athletic when he turned up in Mobile and lit up the competition in practise. Couple that with a relentless motor and it’s a far cry from Short’s inconsistent effort.

#3 — Conditioning
Short always looked big at Purdue — like he was carrying extra weight. This was a noted concern going into the draft. When Short attended the Senior Bowl in 2013 he looked a lot leaner — having shed around 10-15lbs. It would’ve concerned teams, however, that they were going to need to monitor this situation during his career.

Rankins is a compact, cannonball of a defensive lineman. For some schemes he’ll be undersized at 6-1 and 304lbs and it’s hard to imagine him fitting in a 3-4 defense. For the 4-3 teams he’s the ideal size for a three-technique.

Pete Carroll is a Bill Walsh protégé. Walsh’s ideology for each football position was published by the Pro Sports Xchange a few years ago. Here’s what he wanted in a 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. 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.

Not only is Rankins close to the size ideal, he also ticks a lot of boxes here. He moves down the LOS easily, working his way through traffic. He’s powerful at the point of attack with the ability to shoot gaps. His compact frame provides the “ballast” and “girth” Walsh refers to.

It’s also worth noting the bit about, “they won’t have nearly as many sacks as others.” For all the talk of needing more pass rush in the interior — Seattle’s preference for stoutness up front is perhaps indicative of Walsh’s influence on Carroll. The one key difference is Carroll’s willingness to sign bigger defensive tackles to achieve the same goal (Athbya Rubin is surely the only 330lbs three-technique in the NFL).

For teams with a similar mentality (eg — Atlanta with Dan Quinn) — Rankins will be just as ideal. The thought of him slipping beyond the Falcons and through to #26 feels like wishful thinking. As good as Kawann Short is — there just aren’t the same kind of question marks with Sheldon Rankins.

One final note. This interaction on Twitter is quite interesting…

This is a very deep defensive line class with plenty of big name, star power. It’s also a group filled with compromises.

The more secure, polished defensive linemen will go early. Rankins falls into that category.

If you want an alternative that might be available to Seattle — keep an eye on Ohio State’s Adolphus Washington. He flashed during the Senior Bowl practises with some impressive speed, get-off and hand-use. He was streaky in college but had enough splash plays to be interesting. He might be the best interior rusher in this class. He lacks Rankins’ powerful base and size in the lower body. He is extremely quick.

He also has 34 inch arms (impressive length) and good size with minimal bad weight (6-3, 297lbs).

This is what he’s capable of…

Works to get off the block with great hands, power and speed. Finishes with a sack. He’s too strong and quick for Brian Allen (Jack’s brother):

Good use of length to keep Jack Allen away from his frame, excellent counter move after Allen recovers to spin into the quarterback. Would’ve been a splash play in a game:

Draws a double team, reads the play to notice the dump-off before intercepting the pass for a pick-six:

This is how to shoot a gap in the run game:

Fast forward the video below to 11:40 for two snaps of Adolphus Washington vs Joshua Garnett. On the first play Washington tries to bull-rush Garnett who just about contains him (he’s pushed back into the pocket). On the next play Washington wins with a beautiful spin move. Fast forward to 16:15 to watch Washington have Joe Dahl’s lunch money. Dahl does a much better job on the second 1v1.

Studying the Seahawks’ draft trends: Production + Athleticism

Tuesday, February 9th, 2016

The Seahawks have only drafted elite athletes on defense in the early rounds — such as Frank Clark (1.58 ten-yard split at the combine)

Every now and again it’s worth reviewing Seattle’s draft trends in the Pete Carroll era. You only have to look at their first and second round history to work out the kind of prospect they like to take early:

2010: Russell Okung, Earl Thomas, Golden Tate
2011: James Carpenter
2012: Bruce Irvin, Bobby Wagner
2013: Percy Harvin (trade), Christine Michael
2014: Paul Richardson, Justin Britt
2015: Jimmy Graham (trade), Frank Clark

With the exception of the offensive linemen, every player listed above is a fantastic athlete. Speed, explosive talent.

They also produced on the field in college:

2010 — Earl Thomas had eight interceptions in his final season at Texas
2010 — Golden Tate won the Biletnikoff
2011 — James Carpenter was arguably the best run blocking tackle in college
2012 — Bruce Irvin had 22.5 sacks in two seasons at West Virginia
2012 — Bobby Wagner had four sacks as a senior and 478 (!!!) career tackles
2014 — Paul Richardson had 1343 and 10 touchdowns in his final year at Colorado
2015 — Frank Clark’s tape was actually really good with many splash plays

You could also include last years third round pick Tyler Lockett. He had 2777 yards and 22 touchdowns in his final two seasons at Kansas State.

It doesn’t guarantee anything but it’d be silly to ignore this information. Six drafts is quite a body of evidence.

Here are the takeaways I can see:

— They’ve never taken a none-elite athlete on defense in the first or second round

— They don’t seem to be quite as concerned about athleticism on the offensive line and arguably prefer size ideals, physical toughness and the mentality to mesh with Tom Cable’s way of doing things

— They generally don’t draft underachievers and the two players who did fall short of expectations in college (Christine Michael & Frank Clark) were two of the biggest SPARQ freaks to ever grace the combine

— Carroll and Schneider’s Seahawks have picked between #25-32 in four of their six drafts — and on three occasions traded the pick (so if they don’t like the value available, they’re going to do something about it)

How do we use this information to project what they might do?

We know they want to produce a consistently performing offensive line
Pete Carroll stated this was the key priority in his end-of-season press conference. The draft history suggests if they want to take an O-liner at #26 it doesn’t necessarily have to be a freak of nature. They’ve taken productive, gritty, physical offensive linemen that excel in the run game. Players that fit Tom Cable’s preferred style and not necessarily raw, athletic players with a high ceiling. The two offensive linemen they drafted earliest in 2014 and 2015 (Justin Britt, Terry Poole) were not big-time athletes. That said, they recently started to look for upside (Sweezy, Sokoli, Gilliam) albeit in the later rounds. They don’t appear to be handcuffed to a certain level of athleticism though, rather than a mental/physical ‘type’.

We know they’d like to add a pass rusher
What was the big difference between 2015 and the two previous seasons? They lacked the production of Clinton McDonald (2013) and Jordan Hill (2014). Finding someone who can get 5-8 sacks in a rotation might be the priority. They could also look to add another edge rusher if Bruce Irvin departs in free agency.

What kind of defensive prospects are we talking about?
If they’re going to take an interior or edge rusher early they need to be explosive and athletic. Sheldon Rankins is explosive and that’s probably why, according to Tony Pauline, the Seahawks gave him a first round grade. An edge rusher is going to need to produce a fantastic ten-yard split or excel in the vertical/broad/three-cone at the combine. The previous six drafts tell us speed, explosion and production is the key here. Anything else would be a significant detachment from what they’ve done so far.

Who are some of the players to keep an eye on?
We’ll know more after the combine of course. I’ve compiled a new mock draft (to be published tomorrow) with many attractive options off the board before the 20th pick. In the past, that has provoked the Seahawks to trade.

If a high ceiling isn’t entirely necessary on the O-line, the likes of Shon Coleman, Cody Whitehair, Nick Martin and Ryan Kelly aren’t going to stand out in Indianapolis but could be options. Coleman would address the tackle or left guard position. Whitehair, Martin and Kelly play center. All have the potential to solidify one key position and help provide some consistency in the trenches.

If they’re intent on shifting towards major upside, I suppose we have to bring up the name of Texas Tech left tackle Le’Raven Clark.

Watching his tape is like watching your Grandpa trying to work an iPad. He’s technically deficient in pretty much every way imaginable. And yet his athletic profile is elite — +36 inch arms, 6-5, 312lbs. He’s a freak.

Lance Zierlein offers this quote from an anonymous NFC personnel director:

“He’s going to end up being big time in our league. He’s got elite foot quickness, he’s long and he’s smart. He’ll keep getting better once he gets to a pro offense and away from that stuff Texas Tech does and he’ll become one of the top five tackles in our league.”

Zierlein also notes, “Left tackles with his potential in pass protection carry first round value.” As bad as Clark is technically, Tom Cable has stated he believes every college lineman enters the league needing to start from scratch. If the Seahawks want to shoot for the stars at left/right tackle — Clark might be a scary, exciting, concerning, potentially genius decision.

If consistency and not pure upside is the order of the day — adding a player with decent physical skills who simply gets the job done might be preferable. The likes of Coleman, Whitehair, Martin and Kelly are a picture of consistency and physicality.

On defense we have to assume the likes of Noah Spence and Sheldon Rankins will not reach the #26 pick. Both shone at the Senior Bowl. Mississippi State’s Chris Jones could be a wild card. He was once the #2 recruit in the nation. He has fantastic length and size (6-6, 308lbs) and generally does a good job controlling his gap, working vs the run and occasionally providing a dynamic pass rush.

Had Jones delivered on his massive potential in college he’d probably be a top-15 pick. The fact that he didn’t is why he could be available in rounds 2-3. The trends tell us the Seahawks will only seriously consider a perceived underachiever early if he’s a SPARQ freak. We’ll need to see what Jones does at the combine.

Seattle’s preference to emphasise gap discipline and stoutness vs the run in base perhaps makes it unlikely they’ll use their first pick on a defensive tackle unless it’s someone of Rankins’ quality. If they do want to find a player who can contribute in the same way as Clinton McDonald, they might find better value waiting until rounds 2-4. There’s abnormal depth in this class on the D-line and the highest pick they’ve used on a DT so far is the third rounder spent on Jordan Hill in 2013. If they’re bringing in a defensive impact player who doesn’t start in base — how likely are they to spend a first round pick? Some of the options in rounds 2-4 are Adolphus Washington, Jihad Ward, Willie Henry, Ronald Blair III and Darius Latham.

One player who could come into focus is LSU’s Deion Jones. He’s a possible outside linebacker replacement for Bruce Irvin. He’s not a pass rusher — but he needs to be mentioned here. Jones has an opportunity to really excel at the combine. He’s an outstanding athlete — and that’s what the Seahawks love at linebacker (see: Irvin, Wagner, Pierre-Louis).

He could easily run in the 4.4’s at 6-1 and 219lbs. He doesn’t get overmatched at that size and plays with great discipline in the run game. His ability to be a key special teamer could also have some value.

Did he produce at LSU in 2015? Five sacks at linebacker, one interception (returned for a touchdown) and 99 total tackles.

Jones isn’t a defensive or offensive lineman but he’s the type of player the Seahawks have taken early in recent years. They’ll also need to replace Irvin in all likelihood. Mike Florio suggested today he’ll get a contract offer in free agency worth $10m APY. Keep that in mind, even if it’s not a top priority. Like Chris Jones and Le’Raven Clark, Deion Jones could come into play if they trade down.

This is a difficult class to find SPARQy edge rushers in range at #26. Clemson duo Kevin Dodd and Shaq Lawson might not be athletic enough for the Seahawks. Leonard Floyd might be but he’s been a disappointing edge rusher for two years and hasn’t produced.

Cliff Avril ran a 1.50 ten yard split at his combine. Bruce Irvin managed a 1.55. Frank Clark had a 1.58. Anything in the 1.5’s is elite. That’s the type of edge speed the Seahawks are attracted to and it’s what we need to look for at the combine.

Utah State’s Kyler Fackrell is going to be a really interesting player to follow in Indianapolis and he’s possibly Seattle’s best shot if you want an outside rusher to be drafted in round one.

He looks like a good athlete. How good though? Can he top Clay Matthews’ 4.67 forty yard dash and 35.5 inch vertical? At USC’s pro-day Matthews ran a 1.49 ten-yard split and a 4.59 forty on a fast track. Fackrell needs to crack the 1.5’s in the split.

On tape he’s superb. A true splash-play specialist constantly impacting plays. PFF had this to say about his 2015 season:

At +34.4 he is our highest graded 3-4 OLB, with the highest grade as a pass rusher, against the run, and sixth-highest in coverage just for good measure.

The Seahawks use 3-4 personnel in a 4-3 so don’t be put off by his tag as a 3-4 OLB. He ticks the production box for sure. The big question is whether he’s athletic enough for the Seahawks to be considered early. Clay Matthews lasted until the #26 pick despite proving he was very athletic. Perhaps the same happens to Fackrell?

Will they trade down?
Carroll and Schneider have traded 75% of their picks when selecting between #25-32. If the value isn’t there, they’ll probably move down again (with limited cap space they’re unlikely to pull another Harvin or Graham trade).

I like to compare my own mock drafts to those in the draft media to see if I’m ruling out possible options for the Seahawks. I was equally pleased and alarmed to see how similar tomorrow’s mock draft was to Daniel Jeremiah’s. Noah Spence was available to the Seahawks (this was a pre-Senior Bowl mock by Jeremiah) but apart from that only Andrew Billings, Cody Whitehair and Kyler Fackrell were available that I had off the board at #26.

That doesn’t mean there weren’t some good options available in round one in both projections. It does suggest, however, that the ‘genuine’ first round talent in this class might run dry quickly. And if that happens — they’ve shown a consistent willingness to trade and hunt for better value.

They might think #26 is too early for a Chris Jones, Deion Jones, Le’Raven Clark (the athletic trio) or Cody Whitehair, Nick Martin, Ryan Kelly, Shon Coleman (the physical & consistent quartet). Can they move down into the 30’s?

Their desire to move down will be influenced by their ability to fill certain needs. In 2011 when they owned the #25 pick — the three top offensive tackles were off the board by #22. They selected James Carpenter without moving down, possibly because they didn’t want to miss out altogether.

Note the following tweet:

If they see replacing Russell Okung as an absolute priority — and with Tunsil, Decker, Stanley and Conklin likely to be off the board by #26 — how much of a risk do they want to take?

Alternatively if they know they can get their guys later on they’ve shown they’re willing to manipulate the draft in their favour. That’s exactly what they did when trading down and drafting Paul Richardson in 2014.

So what happens?

The information in this piece and study of the draft class suggests the Seahawks are possibly going to do one of four things:

1. Pick their favourite offensive lineman and just feel good about addressing the self-confessed top priority, even if the player isn’t a top athlete

2. Make a somewhat surprising high-upside pick on the O-line such as Le’Raven Clark that leaves people gasping

3. Take an elite athlete who plays defense

4. Trade down

Austin Johnson & who is the next Derek Wolfe, Malik Jackson?

Monday, February 8th, 2016

Austin Johnson’s (DT, Penn State) tape vs Ohio State is frustrating. Having watched both Johnson and Michigan’s Willie Henry struggle against this unit, I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. The Buckeye’s had a loaded roster across the board and it showed. When I watched Johnson against Indiana and Maryland there was much more to like.

He’s 6-4 and 323lbs so he’s a big dude. We’re not talking about a natural three-technique who comes in for the nascar package and rushes the QB. Anyone hoping Johnson alone is the answer to Seattle’s pass-rush issues is probably going to be disappointed.

That’s the case, however, for pretty much every defensive lineman in this class. Assuming a prospect like Sheldon Rankins isn’t available, you’re going to compromise one way or another. It’s about identifying the player or players you think you can develop from a deep group at the position.

They might end going for the best athlete (possibly Mississippi State’s Chris Jones) and trying to tap into his upside. They also generally haven’t gone after underachievers — and that’s really what Jones is. A former #2 overall and 5-star recruit, Jones never lived up to that billing. So while the potential is there — consider the priority Seattle has placed on production and not just extreme athleticism:

2010 — Earl Thomas had eight interceptions in his final season at Texas
2010 — Golden Tate won the Biletnikoff
2011 — James Carpenter was arguably the best run blocking tackle in college
2011 — John Moffitt helped Montee Ball set records at Wisconsin
2012 — Bruce Irvin had 22.5 sacks in two seasons at West Virginia
2012 — Bobby Wagner had four sacks as a senior and 478 (!!!) career tackles
2014 — Paul Richardson had 1343 and 10 touchdowns in his final year at Colorado
2015 — Frank Clark’s tape is actually really good with many splash plays
2015 — Tyler Lockett had 2777 yards and 22 touchdowns in his final two seasons

The one player that didn’t have major production and went very early? Christine Michael in 2013 — one of the greatest athletes to ever test at the combine, taken in a year where they hardly had any key needs. That aside, the Seahawks seem to place a certain emphasis on production.

Jones had 2.5 sacks in 2015 and three in 2014. He’s a self-confessed underachiever with a physical skill set to be incredible. In a draft of compromises on the defensive line — you could do a lot worse. Draft history suggests they’re more likely to seek out an overachiever who isn’t a slouch.

That’s where Johnson possibly comes in.

The issue might be size. It’s not usual for a team to draft a 323lbs defensive lineman to provide a spark for the pass rush. The Seahawks have also opted against drafting such size for their D-line. The early picks have gone on more quick-twitch, dynamic athletes (Irvin, Hill, Clark). It’s not like you’re going to roll a 6-4, 323lbs monster on the field for third and long.

To that extent Jones’ length (6-6), athleticism and ability to play at around 295lbs (Derek Wolfe size) might be preferable. And I do like what I’ve seen from Jones so far — it’d be easy to imagine he’s a candidate for the Seahawks.

Back to Johnson — here’s a video to show he’s not just a cumbersome nose tackle:

There is some evidence of burst off the LOS and quickness too. He’s a former basketball player in High School and you see that athleticism on tape. There’s minimal bad weight on that frame. His hustle is incredible — he’ll keep fighting until the whistle. He keeps trying to find ways to work to the ball carrier and won’t give up like some of the DT’s in this class.

There’s something to be said for a really active defensive tackle who you have to focus on for the whole play. A guy who is constantly moving his feet and fighting to get into the backfield. His tackle numbers are incredible for a DT — and it’s down to his relentless effort. So while he might not always win with speed to knife straight into the backfield or dominate with a pretty good bull-rush — his motor and determination make him a very interesting player. His closing speed and pursuit is also surprisingly good.

He doesn’t have ideal length (32 and 5/8 inch arms) and that could be an issue. Smaller defensive tackles in this class are longer (Adolphus Washington is only 6-3 and 297lbs but has 34 inch arms). You also wonder what his position is in Seattle. As intriguing and fun as he is to watch — is he upgrading the pass rush? Or is he a one-technique or a Rubin replacement who can do you a good, disciplined, hearty job but isn’t creating relentless pressure?

And how much more likely are they to perhaps consider a Chris Jones, Adolphus Washington or Jihad Ward with the offer of a little more explosion and superior length?

In fact if people are looking for the next possible Malik Jackson or the next Derek Wolfe — look no further than Washington and Ward.

Jackson is smaller than Washington (284lbs vs 297lbs) but they both have 34 inch arms and the ability to flash in the pass rush. Pete Carroll worked with Jackson at USC before he transferred to Tennessee in 2010 so he’ll know what to look for if he wants a similar player. Ward is mirroring Wolfe’s pre-draft process to a tee. Wolfe was considered a marginal later round pick without an obvious position but his stock quickly increased during the post-season and he went in round two. Ward is doing exactly the same thing and could go from projected fifth rounder to second rounder. They’re almost identical in size — Wolfe is 6-5 and 295lbs, Ward 6-5 and 296lbs. Ward also has an interesting backstory — he’s had to battle adversity in his life.

If you’re hoping for a cheap way to try and emulate Denver’s depth on the D-line — it might be time to hope Washington falls due to character flags and Ward stick with a day three grade. That’d be one way to upgrade things while affording the opportunity to make early picks on the O-line and at linebacker or running back. I suspect Austin Johnson, meanwhile, is going to go in round two or three.

Projecting legit first round grades for the Seahawks

Friday, February 5th, 2016

There might be 31 picks in the first round this year — but there certainly won’t be 31 first round grades handed out by the teams.

This is always the case. A decent average could see around 12-18 legit first round prospects in a given draft class. Unless you’re picking very early (top-15) you’re likely facing a compromise. Do you take the best player remaining at a position of need, trade down or use your first round pick creatively?

In 2013 and 2015 the Seahawks traded their picks for proven veterans — feeling that was a better use of the resource because they weren’t going to land a first round talent. In 2014 they dropped back into round two before selecting Paul Richardson.

They haven’t always gone down that road — I’m not entirely convinced they had James Carpenter down as one of the best fifteen or so players in the draft. That was about filling a priority — taking the best run blocking tackle available to enhance a league-worst running game.

They’re unlikely to make another big trade this year — probably because they can’t afford to do so. So how likely are they to acquire a legit first round prospect with the #26 pick? And how likely are they to trade down?

In December I estimated a total of 18 first round grades for the 2016 class. Two of those players chose to return to college (Cam Sutton and Tre’Davious White). I listed a further 15 players that could realistically be considered in the first frame as a borderline ’round one’ prospect.

Today I’m going to predict a conservative tally of 14 legit first round grades. This takes into the account the likelihood the Seahawks aren’t going to seriously consider one of the top three quarterbacks. I’m also including 18 ‘borderline’ first round grades. Players they might be willing to consider in round one — or could target after a small trade down.

With so many players in the ‘borderline’ category — it probably lends itself to suggesting the Seahawks are likely to move down. However — they haven’t had a serious need (O-line) like this since 2011, where they took Carpenter to try and solve a problem. In that draft a lot of the better O-liners were off the board before Seattle’s pick and options were thin. They’re perhaps unlikely to take too many risks if there are two or three prospects they really like available at #26. Moving down a few spots and remaining in the late first round could be an option.

Legit first rounders

Offensive line
Laremy Tunsil, Taylor Decker, Jack Conklin, Shon Coleman
Tunsil’s a prototype for the position and a former 5-star recruit who’s been on a path to the NFL since High School. Decker is long and more athletic than people realise — plus he has a terrific attitude and fits Seattle’s profile for the O-line. Conklin lacks elite athleticism but plays with such a grit and determination. He wouldn’t be a left tackle in Seattle — but he could be a fantastic left guard or right tackle. Coleman’s age (24) and medical history might be a concern for some teams — but I think he’s a top-20 talent. He’s long, athletic, physical and plays with an edge.

Linebacker
Jaylon Smith, Myles Jack, Darron Lee
The Seahawks want elite speed and athleticism at linebacker. Smith (pre-injury), Jack and Lee all look like 4.4 runners. Smith was a candidate to be the best player in the draft before he hurt his knee against Ohio State. Jack is also recovering from an injury but possesses such a natural athleticism and played running back for UCLA too. Lee is a fiery competitor and an intelligent player with the speed to match.

Defensive end
Joey Bosa, DeForest Buckner, Noah Spence
Bosa could be another Robert Quinn at the next level (he’s possibly just a notch below Quinn’s level of athleticism). Buckner is a powerful, versatile D-lineman that can line up inside and out. He had major production for Oregon. There isn’t another player like Spence in the draft — he has the speed to work the edge, the hand-technique to fight off blocks and the agility to evade blockers and explode.

Defensive tackle
Sheldon Rankins
The Seahawks haven’t drafted a defensive tackle earlier than the third round and I suspect it’s because that player would need to be a very athletic, quick-twitch pass rusher that plays with gap-discipline and spirit vs the run. Rankins consistently embarrassed Graham Glasgow at the Senior Bowl with an explosive get-off, spin move, swim/rip and elite quicks. The Seahawks can find run stuffers in free agency. They struggle to find guys like this because they’re so few and far between.

Cornerback
Eli Apple, Mackensive Alexander, Jaylon Ramsey
Apple looks like he’d be a perfect fit for the Seahawks. He keeps everything in front and doesn’t get beat deep. On top of that he appears to pass the 32-inch arm test and he’s a great athlete. There’s so much potential here. Alexander might not pass the length test but I’ll reserve judgement until the combine. He’s sparky, physical and a great cover corner. Ramsey won’t play CB for every team but his physical style would work well in Seattle.

Borderline first rounders

Offensive line
Jason Spriggs, Nick Martin, Cody Whitehair, Ronnie Stanley
Spriggs reminds me a little of Nate Solder who the Seahawks apparently liked in 2011. He’s long and athletic with upside and could play right tackle. Nick Martin might be the most accomplished O-liner in the draft. He’s a plug-in-and-play center who gets the job done. Whitehair needs time to adjust to center but has the balance, frame and physicality to be a safe pick. Stanley plays with inconsistent effort and someone needs to light a fire under him. He has the athletic upside to stick in round one — but he could fall.

Linebacker
Leonard Floyd, Kyler Fackrell, Deion Jones
Floyd is pencil thin and hasn’t always looked great rushing the passer (see: Shon Coleman blocking him into the car park). He is a terrific athlete though — in one game he covered a teams #1 receiver on a deep route at 6-4 and 231lbs. Fackrell is just a constantly disruptive pass-rushing force — a splash-play specialist. Jones won’t get many first round grades but his fantastic suddenness, fluidity and all-round athleticism could put him near the top of Seattle’s board.

Defensive tackle
Vernon Butler, Andrew Billings, Robert Nkemdiche, Jarran Reed, A’Shawn Robinson
This is a tough one to gauge. Will they take a bigger, non-quick-twitch interior D-lineman? Butler is intriguing because he combines size, length and quicks to show flashes of Muhammad Wilkerson. He’s still a 325lbs defensive tackle and that’s not something the Seahawks have pursued early. Billings is very strong and athletic but doesn’t play with any kind of discipline and that’s a concern. Nkemdiche might be struck off many boards for off-field concerns despite his massive upside. Reed is a pure run-stopper but plays with his hair on fire. Robinson coasts through a lot of games. He’s an incredible athlete for his size but how badly does he want to be great?

Running back
Ezekiel Elliott
Elliott does everything well. He doesn’t go down on first contact, he can be a home-run hitter, he pass-blocks very well, he’s a threat to catch passes out of the backfield and he makes things happen. He’s the only running back in this class that deserves to go in the first frame.

Wide receiver
Will Fuller, Corey Coleman, Laquan Treadwell, Michael Thomas
Fuller’s suddenness and elite speed to separate and explode will surely be coveted by teams in the top-25. Coleman isn’t far behind as a sparky, athletic playmaker that can make the circus catch and be a production machine. Treadwell is Mr. Consistency but might drop a little if he runs in the 4.6’s or 4.7’s. Thomas is a big target with great agility. The stop-and-go route he put on Kendall Fuller was a thing of beauty.

Safety
Darian Thompson
He had a terrific Senior Bowl — flashing range and closing speed. He’s a playmaker in the secondary and had five picks and two forced fumbles in 2015. He has the size (6-2, 210lbs) to play up at the line if needed. Thompson is an ascending talent and appears to be working his way into first round territory.

D-line vs O-line and thoughts on Baylor’s Andrew Billings

Thursday, February 4th, 2016

Baylor’s Andrew Billings was mocked to the Seahawks by Todd McShay

Do you take a defensive tackle at #26 or begin to improve the offensive line?

A consensus opinion is emerging that the Seahawks are probably going to focus on the trenches in the draft. It makes sense — it’s a good class on both sides of the ball.

So what are some of the things to consider?

Pete Carroll said the priority was fixing the O-line

In the past when Carroll says they’re going to do something — they’ve gone after it aggressively. He wanted to improve the run-game in 2011 so they drafted the best run-blocking tackle in college football (James Carpenter) and a road grader guard (John Moffitt). In 2012 he wanted to add speed to the front seven so they took Bruce Irvin and Bobby Wagner in the first two rounds. In 2013 they wanted to improve the pass rush so went and added Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril in free agency.

The Seahawks haven’t had a glaring need since. Now they have. Carroll’s apparent determination to produce a consistently performing O-line could be all the information we need when it comes to the #26 pick.

What about the D-line though?

There isn’t anyone quite as disruptive as Kawann Short (pre-draft scouting report here) but it’s a deep class overall at defensive tackle. In a recent two-round mock draft I put nine DT’s in the first two rounds. Some would argue that’s a conservative projection.

This depth should filter into the early third round but then it starts to thin out. Alternatively, you should be able to find good options for the O-line later on. This is a loaded class at center and it’s possible the likes of Joe Dahl (T, Washington State), Fahn Cooper (T, Ole Miss) and the technically deficient with major upside Le’Raven Clark (T, Texas Tech) could be around in the middle rounds.

For that reason you can make a case for going defense first.

So will they go defense?

It depends on who they like. They haven’t really committed to perceived ‘value’ over ‘need’. They clearly liked Carpenter and Irvin a lot and took them earlier than most people expected. In 2014 they needed a tackle and a receiver but passed on several accomplished linemen (including Joel Bitonio) because they just had to have Paul Richardson. By the time they picked at the end of round two — their options on the O-line were very limited. Without a third round pick (Percy Harvin trade) they felt obliged to reach for Justin Britt to make sure they got a guy they liked. The options at receiver remained strong beyond Seattle’s second pick — Donte Moncrief and Martavis Bryant for example remained on the board and Jarvis Landry was taken just before they chose Britt.

Their desire to take Richardson trumped the fact that draft value was telling them to go OT first and WR second.

It doesn’t guarantee anything but history suggests they’ll judge the best way to upgrade their roster, find a guy they like and take them. If that player happens to be an offensive lineman — they probably don’t think twice. Even if they’re able to fill more needs by going defense first.

What kind of player do they need on defense?

They’d like a pass rusher. It’s not a frightening need with Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril and Frank Clark on the roster. They are potentially losing Bruce Irvin, however, and didn’t get any production out of Jordan Hill in 2015. Essentially they need the next Clinton McDonald or late-2014 Hill.

That’s assuming they retain Brandon Mebane and Athyba Rubin. With Carroll declaring Rubin as the best three-technique they’ve had in Seattle, it’s safe to bet he’ll be sticking around. Mebane earned $5.7m in 2015 and turned 31 in January. He might be willing to agree a team-friendly deal to finish his career with the only club he’s played for.

Keeping both could be important. While they want to upgrade the pass rush, they don’t want to weaken the run defense. Nobody ran for 100 yards against Seattle in the regular season. That’s a big deal.

They need someone who can work into a rotation and make some plays. It doesn’t need to be an every-down pass-rush DT (those are hard to find). It needs to be someone who can do what Hill did late in the 2014 season or McDonald in 2013.

Will this require a first round pick?

Let’s be real here — probably not. Assuming you keep Rubin and Mebane you’re talking about a rotational defensive tackle who plays a certain percentage of the snaps. Is that a good use of resources?

Alternatively you could argue they made a similar pick in round two with Frank Clark last year. Is that an indication they would be willing to take a role-player early? Perhaps — if they have unique traits like Clark (a genuine SPARQ monster).

There are some options later in the draft that could provide some value. Appalachian State’s Ronald Blair III is incredibly disruptive. If he can add another 5-10lbs he could be an interior rusher. He lived in the backfield against Clemson which is no mean feat. Keep an eye on that guy. Ferris State’s Justin Zimmer is another possible diamond in the rough and South Carolina State’s Javon Hargrave has a nice combination of technique and quicks.

What about free agency?

They’ve consistently found value here. Clinton McDonald, Tony McDaniel, Kevin Williams, Athyba Rubin. All were acquired at a modest price. Are there players who can have a similar impact in 2016? Is there a player who can come in and compliment what they already have?

Looking at the list of current prospective free agents — nobody stands out. Henry Melton hasn’t really been the same since his knee injury. He’s just completed an average season with the Buccs.

There could be a cap casualty or two along the way. A solution might not be evident just yet.

It’s worth noting that when he was asked about adding a pass rusher — Carroll specifically made reference to seeing what the draft provides. Money could be tight in free agency if they manage to keep a large number of their UFA’s. It doesn’t mean they have to take a D-liner at #26 though.

If they were going to go DT in round one, who would they like?

Tony Pauline noted the Seahawks have given a first round grade to Louisville’s Sheldon Rankins. At the Senior Bowl he displayed top-tier quickness, get-off and the ability to use a swim/rip effectively. The top interior pass-rushers in the league have this skill set. He has enough size to be an early-down DT and plays with terrific gap discipline — something the Seahawks value greatly for their run defense. His tape isn’t quite as brilliant as the way he destroyed Graham Glasgow in Mobile — but there’s a skill set and understanding that matches what they like.

Rankins is unlikely to reach the #26 pick. There’s too much talk about him right now. He’s being mocked in the top-10 by some. Pauline also noted Atlanta likes him in round one and they own the #17 pick.

So what about one of the other options?

Today I went back and reviewed three Baylor games to watch Andrew Billings. Yesterday ESPN’s Todd McShay mocked him to the Seahawks at #26.

Clearly there’s a lot to like — I’m just not convinced he’s right for Seattle. He uses his length well to keep blockers off his frame and generally does a good job to disengage. He shows great pursuit — on one play he ran 60-yards to chase down the ball-carrier and prevent a touchdown. Billings gets into backfield quickly and effectively when he finds the space to exploit.

However, therein lies part of the issue. His gap discipline is non-existent. Whether he’s told to or not, he frequently moves laterally off the snap to shift down the line, find a gap and run to the ball. That seems to work against a lot of the spread teams — especially West Virginia, TCU, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech. They separate their tackles off the line and almost put them on an island. It’s perhaps not surprising that four of his 5.5 sacks in 2015 came against these teams. Against Oklahoma though he was frequently caught off balance and spent far too much time on the turf.

He seems to use two moves — the bull rush or this lateral movement. Sometimes he’s capable of plowing his way through the LOS with sheer power. That’s what he does very well — and if he wins with initial power he can find the space to explode and finish. Unfortunately there’s little evidence of a quick get-off followed by a swim/rip to burst into the backfield.

At the next level he’s needs to win straight up 1v1. He might be able to do that with power and be an effective force. His use of length, arm extension and upper-body are intriguing. When he isn’t winning with the bull rush, however, he’s going to need to be quick-twitch to be an effective pass rusher and that just isn’t him. Give him space and he’ll finish better than any DT in this class. Finding the space might be the problem — and it did cross my mind whether he might actually be better suited playing the 5-technique to find an angle.

When he’s moving laterally he almost always concedes his gap — allowing running lanes to materialize. I suspect this will concern the Seahawks and will raise some questions — can he be taught to remain tight in-line and can he still be an effective pass rusher in this role? When he’s not able to wing it trying to find a route into the backfield — can he still win consistently? Can he take his game to the next level and learn to win with a get-off and quickness? Or does he end up being a pure one-technique who possibly does all the things Mebane does but doesn’t really provide consistent pressure?

To some extent he reminds me of another former Baylor D-lineman in Phil Taylor. He too was abnormally athletic for his size (he was 20lbs bigger than Billings), had a lot of upper body power and could sprint to the sideline in pursuit. He ended up being the #21 overall pick because of such an enticing skill set. He struggled to adapt to the pro’s and after being released by Cleveland following the 2014 season he hasn’t had another team.

That’s not to say Billings faces the same fate — but Taylor’s skills are reasonably similar. Like Taylor I could easily see him going in the #15-25 range because very strong, athletic nose tackles generally go early.

I’m going to spend time looking at some of the other options too. Vernon Butler (DT, Louisiana Tech) is a player I’m intrigued with because he has shown flashes of winning with quickness as well as possessing great athleticism at 325lbs with 34 inch arms. The comparisons to Muhammad Wilkerson are not ridiculous. I want to review my position on A’Shawn Robinson (DT, Alabama) a player I’m currently grading in round two and feel is overrated. I’ve settled on second round grades for Kenny Clark (DT, UCLA) and Jonathan Bullard (DT, Florida). Clark is a good run-stopper with limited pass-rushing skill. Bullard’s get-off is fantastic and he plays with high intensity — but he looks like an average athlete and appears to have a relatively low ceiling at the next level. Javon Hargrave (DT, South Carolina State) dominated at a small-school level.

I’m not sure there’s a better way for the Seahawks to improve in 2016 than if they sort out the O-line once and for all (particularly the interior). However, the number of good DT’s in the class and the overall depth on the offensive line makes this a debate that will rage on into free agency.

NFL mock draft: Updated 1st February (two rounds)

Monday, February 1st, 2016

The Carolina Panthers are starting Michael Oher at left tackle — a free agent cut by the Tennessee Titans last February. His cap hit for this season is $2.4m.

At right tackle they’re starting Mike Remmers — an undrafted free agent from 2012. He’s 26-years-old and already on his sixth NFL team. He was snatched from the Rams practise squad. His cap hit for this season is $585,000.

Cam Newton is generally well protected. The Panthers gave up 33 sacks during the regular season — the same number as the much vaunted Dallas Cowboys O-line and 13 fewer than the Seahawks.

Carolina are built to win in the trenches and they’re doing it without first round offensive tackles. The Seahawks have to consider a similar path.

Ryan Kalil (center) and Trai Turner (right guard) are Carolina’s two best offensive linemen. Kalil is a pillar of consistency, the unquestioned leader up front. Turner is the ultra-talented, physical guard playing next to him.

This is the strength of the unit.

The Seahawks might attempt to emulate the Panthers by producing a consistently performing O-line built in the same way.

A lot of teams don’t even rush the edge against Russell Wilson. They play contain knowing if they create interior pressure Wilson will scramble straight into the waiting arms of a defensive end. Keeping the pocket clean from the inside is crucial and could be the priority going forward.

Seattle can deal with speed. Tom Cable recently told the local media only one edge rusher in the entire NFL can beat Garry Gilliam with speed. They aren’t built to defend the Kawann Short’s and Aaron Donald’s they end up facing annually. That’s a problem.

This mock draft is based around this thought process. Find a long term solution at center to avoid the kind of mistakes that dogged the start of the 2015 season. Provide toughness, grit and athleticism to the guard positions and develop partnerships that can grow together over the next 4-5 years.

They can find a tackle — just as Carolina did with Oher and Remmers. If they have to plug in a Phil Loadholt in free agency — so be it. If they have to take on a major project like La’Raven Clark in rounds 3-4 — so be it. If they have to lean on a Fahn Cooper drafted even later — so be it.

This projection is all about the interior O-line and finding a solution to Seattle’s biggest off-season priority — improved play in the trenches.

Round one

#1 Tennessee — Joey Bosa (DE, Ohio State)
They already have two top-11 picks on their offensive line (Taylor Lewan, Chance Warmack). They have Marcus Mariota and Dorial Green-Beckham to build around. It’s time to add a defensive focal point.

#2 Cleveland — Paxton Lynch (QB, Memphis)
Teams will believe they can win with Lynch. He’s big, mobile, accurate and led a Memphis team to a winning season against the odds. A poor man’s Cam Newton.

#3 San Diego — Laremy Tunsil (T, Ole Miss)
He missed most of the 2015 season but played well against Texas A&M’s explosive pass-rusher Myles Garrett.

#4 Dallas — Carson Wentz (QB, North Dakota State)
The Cowboys take the opportunity to draft Wentz after working with him at the Senior Bowl. The heir apparent to Tony Romo.

#5 Jacksonville — DeForest Buckner (DE, Oregon)
The Jags welcome back Dante Fowler in 2016 and pair him with their answer to Michael Bennett. Buckner is a disruptive force that can line up inside and out.

#6 Baltimore — Eli Apple (CB, Ohio State)
Length, speed and smarts. NFL teams will view Apple as an ideal corner prospect to develop. He keeps everything in front and doesn’t get beat deep.

**TRADE** #7 Philadelphia — Jared Goff (QB, California)
The Niners give Colin Kaepernick another shot and trade with the Eagles. Philly turns the page on the Chip Kelly era by giving Doug Pederson his own QB.

#8 Miami — Mackensie Alexander (CB, Clemson)
The Dolphins need to improve their secondary. Alexander is a fiery competitor who loves to talk. He plays above his listed size.

#9 Tampa Bay — Robert Nkemdiche (DE, Ole Miss)
He’ll need to convince teams about his character, but there’s no denying his talent. The Buccs lack a dynamic compliment to Gerald McCoy.

#10 New York Giants — Myles Jack (LB, UCLA)
A superb athlete, Jack can play any linebacker position. The Giants need to improve their second level defense.

#11 Chicago — Jaylon Smith (LB, Notre Dame)
He drops a bit due to injury but not too far. Smith is an exceptional player and someone you can truly build around on defense. He could be the top talent in the draft.

#12 New Orleans — Noah Spence (DE, Eastern Kentucky)
He had a fantastic Senior Bowl and probably did enough to warrant a grade in this range. There isn’t another player like Spence in this class.

**TRADE** #13 San Francisco — Taylor Decker (T, Ohio State)
After moving down six spots, the Niners bring in a new tackle. With Anthony Davis retired and Alex Boone likely departing — they need to repair that O-line.

#14 Oakland — Jaylen Ramsey (CB, Florida State)
He’s a tweener. Does he have the hips and quicks to match up with elite suddenness? Or is he a permanent safety?

#15 Los Angeles — Darron Lee (LB, Ohio State)
The Rams disappoint their fans by failing to land a quarterback. They do add one of the best players in the draft — Lee is a 4.4 runner with great instinct.

#16 Detroit — Ronnie Stanley (T, Notre Dame)
He’s overrated but admittedly there is some pass-pro upside. Someone will take a shot. He doesn’t get to the second level or play with an edge.

#17 Atlanta — Sheldon Rankins (DT, Louisville)
Their defense is still pretty powder puff. Rankins was a winner in Mobile and fills a big hole for the Falcons.

#18 Indianapolis — Jack Conklin (T, Michigan State)
Just a hard-nosed, blue-collar tough guy who fought his way into this range as a walk-on at MSU. Not an amazing athlete — but someone teams will love.

#19 Buffalo — Leonard Floyd (OLB, Georgia)
A tall, thin linebacker suited to the 3-4. He could easily be another Aaron Maybin. The Bills do need to find players that fit the Rex Ryan scheme.

#20 New York Jets — Ezekiel Elliott (RB, Ohio State)
He could be a superstar in New York. Chris Ivory is a free agent and went off the boil in 2015 after a good start.

#21 Washington — Jarran Reed (DT, Alabama)
Scot McCloughan wanted to make Washington tough in the trenches. His first pick in 2015 was a big, hard-nosed, athletic guard. His first pick in 2016 is a big, hard-nosed, run-stuffing D-liner.

#22 Houston — Will Fuller (WR, Notre Dame)
Fuller is a dynamite playmaker. Picking this late limits their ability to get at the QB’s. Whoever starts at QB might as well throw to Fuller and DeAndre Hopkins.

#23 Minnesota — Shon Coleman (T, Auburn)
Maybe Coleman won’t rise into the top-10 where he belongs? He’s still an awesome lineman. He should go much earlier than this.

#24 Cincinnati — Corey Coleman (WR, Baylor)
He just makes fantastic plays. He’s a better athlete than people realise. He’d make a terrific compliment to A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert.

#25 Pittsburgh — Kyler Fackrell (LB, Utah State)
The Steelers are always willing to draft an outside linebacker in round one. Jarvis Jones has been a disappointment.

#26 Seattle — Nick Martin (C, Notre Dame)
The best offensive lineman at the Senior Bowl. He matches Seattle’s desire for toughness in the trenches. He’s wildly underrated and not too far behind his brother Zack. He’s going to be a top-40 pick.

#27 Green Bay — Andrew Billings (DT, Baylor)
Country strong, big defensive tackle that can play the nose and do some pass-rushing. Could switch between NT and DE in Green Bay’s scheme.

#28 Kansas City — Vernon Butler (DT, Louisiana Tech)
The Chiefs might lose Jaye Howard in free agency and can plug Butler straight in as a 3-4 DE. Length, power, size and athleticism.

#29 Denver — Jason Spriggs (T, Indiana)
Tall, athletic offensive tackles generally go early. Spriggs is a bit of a project. The Broncos might need to replace Ryan Clady.

#30 Arizona — Cody Whitehair (T, Kansas State)
He will move inside to guard or center. In this scenario, the Cardinals draft him to be their long term answer at center.

#31 Carolina — Laquon Treadwell (WR, Ole Miss)
With reports of a possible 4.6-4.7 in the forty yard dash, Treadwell drops a bit. He’ll still be a productive and consistent receiver at the next level.

Round two

#32 Cleveland — Braxton Miller (WR, Ohio State)
A dynamic weapon to compliment Josh Gordon and Gary Barnidge.

#33 Tennessee — Reggie Ragland (LB, Alabama)
Tough inside linebacker — ideal for their 3-4 defense.

#34 Dallas — Derrick Henry (RB, Alabama)
Doesn’t it seem inevitable? He’s a good fit for their scheme.

#35 San Diego — A’Shawn Robinson (DT, Alabama)
Overrated defensive tackle who switches to DE in San Diego’s 3-4.

#36 Baltimore — Darian Thompson (S, Boise State)
They need to upgrade at safety and Thompson stood out at the Senior Bowl.

#37 San Francisco — Kevin Dodd (DE, Clemson)
His get-off isn’t good enough but he knows how to get to the QB.

#38 Miami — Shaq Lawson (DE, Clemson)
More of a power end and not quite as quick-twitch as Dodd.

#39 Jacksonville — Vernon Hargreaves (CB, Florida)
Overrated corner with poor tackling form. Athletic but needs coaching up.

#40 New York Giants — Adolphus Washington (DT, Ohio State)
Dynamic interior rusher. Washington is streaky and needs to be more consistent.

#41 Chicago — Kendall Fuller (CB, Virginia Tech)
Hampered by an injury, Fuller could drop into the first half of round two.

#42 Tampa Bay — William Jackson (CB, Houston)
With excellent length and ball skills, Jackson could be a big riser.

#43 Los Angeles — Michael Thomas (WR, Ohio State)
A big target with surprising agility. He could go earlier.

#44 Oakland — Su’a Cravens (S, USC)
They need to rebuild their secondary. Cravens is a versatile defender.

#45 Los Angeles — Germain Ifedi (T, Texas A&M)
Capable of playing tackle or guard, the hulking Ifedi has a ton of upside.

#46 Detroit — Vonn Bell (S, Ohio State)
Another good value safety pick in round two and a need for the Lions.

#47 New Orleans — Kenny Clark (DT, UCLA)
The Saints need a disruptive nose tackle.

#48 Indianapolis — Jonathan Bullard (DT, Florida)
His get-off is superb but is he special enough to go earlier?

#49 Buffalo — Jihad Ward (DT, Illinois)
Long, physical defensive lineman that can play end for Rex Ryan.

#50 Atlanta — Miles Killebrew (S, Southern Utah)
The Falcons can try and mould him into a big-hitting safety/linebacker hybrid.

#51 New York Jets — Nick Vannett (TE, Ohio State)
Arguably the best all-round TE in the class. The Jets keep adding weapons.

#52 Houston — Christian Hackenburg (QB, Penn State)
Bill O’Brien takes a chance on his former protégé.

#53 Washington — Jordan Jenkins (LB, Georgia)
Jenkins had a nice week in Mobile and works into Washington’s pass rush rotation.

#54 Minnesota — De’Runnya Wilson (WR, Mississippi State)
A safety net target for Teddy Bridgewater, Wilson is similar to Kelvin Benjamin.

#55 Cincinnati — Eric Striker (LB, Oklahoma)
The Bengals like these tough, athletic linebackers. Striker is a playmaker.

#56 Seattle — Deion Jones (LB, LSU)
Ultra-fast prospect with speed to burn. The type of LB the Seahawks covet.

#57 Green Bay — Tyler Boyd (WR, Pittsburgh)
He’s too good to last this long. It’d be an absolute steal for the Packers.

#58 Pittsburgh — Zack Sanchez (CB, Oklahoma)
They need to do something about that secondary. Sanchez is a ball-hawk.

#59 Kansas City — Xavien Howard (CB, Baylor)
What a talent. He’d make a great partner for Marcus Peters. One to watch.

#60 New England — Sterling Shephard (WR, Oklahoma)
Mr. Consistent and could be a production machine for the Patriots.

#61 Arizona — Kamalei Correa (DE, Boise State)
Athletic edge rusher ideally suited to OLB in the 3-4.

#62 Denver — Charles Tapper (DE, Oklahoma)
Capable of playing end or tackle, Tapper is a productive and polished pass-rusher.

#63 Carolina — Emmanuel Ogbah (DE, Oklahoma State)
A little bit raw and maybe a little overrated. This is a nice spot for him.

Seahawks picks

R1 — Nick Martin (C, Notre Dame)
An instant starter who provides consistency, power and technique.

R2 — Deion Jones (LB, LSU)
Elite speed and range at the WILL or SAM.

R3 — Paul Perkins (RB, UCLA)
An ideal compliment to Thomas Rawls.

R3 — Joe Dahl (G, Washington State)
Looked at home at right guard next to Nick Martin in Mobile.

R4 — Sebastien Tretola (G, Arkansas)
Massive left guard with plus mobility for his enormous size.

R5 — James Bradberry (CB, Samford)
Tall, long corner project as per usual in round five.

R6 — Travis Feeney (LB, Washington)
Instant special teams value.

R7 — Marquez North (WR, Tennessee)
Former four-star recruit with all the tools.

R7 — Ronald Blair III (DE, Appalachian State)
Versatile pass rusher. Lives in the backfield.

Notre Dame center Nick Martin might be underrated

Friday, January 29th, 2016

There are some good, hard-nosed center’s in this draft class. That’s a good thing for a Seahawks team looking to get physical. And while it’s unclear what they intend to do at the position (draft, free agency?) it does seem likely they’ll be adding a new center at some point.

Seattle’s line play improved dramatically when relative novice Drew Nowak was replaced by Patrick Lewis. Nobody would argue Lewis is a top-tier center — but his knowledge of the position, understanding and ability to make the right line calls was pivotal in a mid-season offensive turnaround. Solidifying this position over the short term (veteran signing) or long term (rookie) could be an off-season priority.

The overall depth available (you might be able to find a starter in rounds 3-4) could push the Seahawks to address other needs early. That said, I’m starting to wonder if Notre Dame’s Nick Martin might be underrated.

He’s the brother of Zack Martin (the #16 overall pick by Dallas in 2014). Zack played left tackle for Notre Dame and was pretty much considered a future first rounder the minute he walked on campus and so it proved. He’s since moved inside to right guard where he’s established himself as one of the best in the league.

He was considered a clean prospect. Not overly spectacular but a nice mix of athleticism, grit, maturity and dependability. When I sat down last night to really study his brother Nick — I saw a lot of the same characteristics. Nobody will argue they’re the same player — Zack is more athletic — but there’s not a million miles of difference.

The video above is against Ohio State — the toughest opponent Notre Dame faced last year. Take a look for yourself. I didn’t see a single snap where he even looked flustered. Some of the play calls were dubious (a lot of shifting the protection which felt unnecessary) but Martin just excelled throughout. There were a handful of occasions where the rest of the line dropped 2-3 yards behind the LOS to protect while Martin remained at the line blocking his guy better than anyone else. He knows how to work an opening up the middle in the run game and his pass protection is sound.

He can move around and pull when required — plus after watching three Notre Dame games in the last 24 hours he’s certainly willing to get to the second level. Like his brother appeared to be going into the NFL — he’d be a nice fit in the ZBS. He’s a block-finisher which is good to see and he plays with an edge. He plays with balance, setting his position and locking-on. These are all things the Seahawks are almost certainly looking for.

There really isn’t much to nitpick here. Like his brother, Nick Martin is just a really solid future NFL starter.

A serious knee injury in 2013 appears to have taken away some of his explosion and perhaps is the separating factor between Nick and Zack. That said — if you’re after a really dependable interior blocker with the bloodlines, attitude and ability to start quickly — this feels like a wise choice. For a team like the Seahawks that suffered so much uncertainty at the position — you’d know what you were getting from your center with this guy.

So how early could he go?

I’ve seen him ranked predominantly in the middle rounds although interestingly Tony Pauline gave him a first or second round grade last week. That might be about right actually. He’s going to be a multi-year starter. He has decent size (not too big but not as squatty as Jack Allen or Evan Boehm) at 6-4 and 296lbs.

He could easily go in the top-50 picks.

If you imagine a scenario where the top offensive tackles are off the board by #26 (and the best pass rushers) taking a good center might not be such a bad idea for the Seahawks. They’d still have to draft or sign another tackle and find a replacement at left guard — but this is also a deep draft at tackle and the veteran market might provide a solution at either position. They might be able to trade down from #26 (as they’ve been known to do) and still look at a guy like this.

It’s something to consider. Martin wouldn’t necessarily be a flashy pick but if the Seahawks want a player they can trust to start in week one and be a solid starter — they could do a lot worse.

I suspect a few people will cringe at the idea because he’s perceived not to be a first or second rounder. The league might be judging this player differently though. And if you knew a lot of NFL teams were looking at Martin early — would that change your perception?

I sense Nick Martin is being underrated in some quarters and don’t underestimate the power of bloodlines. Even if he doesn’t end up going in the top-50 — he might be a coveted center at the end of round two. If the Seahawks were able to add a first round tackle or guard and come back in round two with a center like Martin — they could feel pretty good about their O-line going forward.

NFL Mock Draft: Update 21st January & more notes

Thursday, January 21st, 2016

For the first time since Sunday — I’ve contemplated the Seahawks not taking an offensive lineman in round one.

The reason?

This class has some really interesting hidden gems.

There’s a lot of value to be had here — and that’s a good thing. A lot of the top prospects could be off the board by pick #26. Not having to force anything would be beneficial to the Seahawks. It’s not unrealistic to think five or six linemen could be gone by the time they’re on the clock.

Their philosophy has been to shoot for athletic, upside linemen. I want to highlight two prospects I’ve watched in the last 24 hours that appear to fit that approach.

Alex Lewis (T, Nebraska)
After rave reviews at the Shrine Game, I put on USC vs Nebraska from the 2014 season. Lewis showed excellent hand placement, a more than adequate kick-slide and enough athleticism and mobility. He even scored a touchdown in the game — working as an eligible receiver. He’s had some issues and that will limit his stock. He was jailed for 28 days in 2014. According to ESPN’s Mitch Sherman, “witnesses said Lewis repeatedly slammed the head of 22-year-old Lee Bussey into a brick wall and punched the Air Force cadet, who was knocked unconscious.” He also had a bizarre Twitter rant against Nebraska’s fans in 2015 after they criticised him for a personal foul penalty. There’s no denying his upside though — and he seems to be turning over a new leaf. He’s 6-6 and 302lbs with 33.5 inch arms. He could play right tackle.

Fahn Cooper (T, Ole Miss)
I was blown away by Cooper when I went back and watched two Ole Miss games. He’s a thoroughly competent blocker who filled in on the left side when Laremy Tunsil was unavailable. Watching interviews — he’s a well spoken, intelligent tackle who understands scheme and his role. He’s a good size — 6-5, 304lbs with 34.5 inch arms. He’s an athletic player who’d be worth a look on the blind side. He has a natural knee bend (so does Lewis) and he’s adept at working 1v1. Every year there’s a tackle who just flies under the radar and ends up being a real value pick. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Cooper is that guy. I’m not convinced the drop off from players like Jason Spriggs is all that far. And while you’d rather have a Tunsil if possible — it isn’t going to work out that way for the Seahawks.

Tony Pauline had both players rated as 6th round picks. They appear to be improving their stock during the Shrine Game. I don’t think it’d be a shocker if either works their way into the third or fourth round.

When you also factor in the emergence of Michigan center/guard Graham Glasgow — there is a realistic way for the Seahawks to add some depth and competition to their line without necessarily having to force things if the right guy isn’t there at #26. Could upgrades and competition come in rounds 3-5 via players like Lewis, Cooper, Graham, Connor McGovern or others?

It could theoretically allow them to look at a pass rusher in round one — or a cornerback or linebacker. I haven’t done that in this updated mock draft but it’s food for thought.

Contributor ‘bobbyk’ also raised the possibility of Seattle looking at Minnesota’s Phil Loadholt. He turned 30 today and has a cap hit of $7.75m in 2016. He didn’t play a single game in 2015 and missed five games in 2014. Loadholt is a possible cap casualty in Minnesota. Darrell Bevell was on the Vikings staff when he was drafted in the second round.

The Seahawks like size at right tackle (Breno Giacomini was very tall) and they’ve also looked for size at left guard (James Carpenter). Loadholt, if he’s released, could be a relatively cheap, veteran addition.

First round mock draft

I’ve included three trades in the projection…

#1 Tennessee — Joey Bosa (DE, Ohio State)
They already have two top-11 picks on their offensive line (Taylor Lewan, Chance Warmack). They have Marcus Mariota and Dorial Green-Beckham to build around. It’s time to add a defensive focal point.

#2 Cleveland — Paxton Lynch (QB, Memphis)
Teams will believe they can win with Lynch. He’s big, mobile, accurate and led a Memphis team to a winning season against the odds. A poor man’s Cam Newton.

#3 San Diego — Laremy Tunsil (T, Ole Miss)
He missed most of the 2015 season but played well against Texas A&M’s explosive pass-rusher Myles Garrett.

**TRADE** #4 St. Louis — Jared Goff (QB, California
The Rams trade up to try and find an answer at quarterback. They’re moving to L.A. and need to take a step forward. They aren’t doing that with Case Keenum.

#5 Jacksonville — DeForest Buckner (DE, Oregon)
The Jags welcome back Dante Fowler in 2016 and pair him with their answer to Michael Bennett. Buckner is a disruptive force that can line up inside and out.

#6 Baltimore — Eli Apple (CB, Ohio State)
Length, speed and smarts. NFL teams will view Apple as an ideal corner prospect to develop. He doesn’t get beat deep and keeps everything in front.

**TRADE** #7 Philadelphia — Carson Wentz (QB, North Dakota State)
The Niners give Colin Kaepernick another shot and trade with the Eagles. Philly turns the page on the Chip Kelly era by giving Doug Pederson his own QB.

#8 Miami — Mackensie Alexander (CB, Clemson)
The Dolphins need to improve their secondary. Alexander is a fiery competitor who loves to talk. He plays above his listed size.

#9 Tampa Bay — Myles Jack (LB, UCLA)
Jack is an explosive athlete recovering from a knee injury. The Buccs put him next to Levonte David and behind block-absorbing Gerald McCoy.

#10 New York Giants — Darron Lee (LB, Ohio State)
A well spoken leader who looks like a 4.4 runner with great instinct. He could be a big-time riser over the next couple of months.

#11 Chicago — Jaylon Smith (LB, Notre Dame)
He drops a bit due to injury but not too far. Smith is an exceptional player and someone you can truly build around on defense. Could be the top talent in the draft.

#12 New Orleans — Andrew Billings (DT, Baylor)
The Saints need a nose tackle and they’ve been looking for a while. Billings is all brute strength and if he tests well could go in this range.

**TRADE** #13 San Francisco — Taylor Decker (T, Ohio State)
After moving down six spots, the Niners bring in a new tackle. With Anthony Davis retired and Alex Boone likely departing — they need to repair that O-line.

#14 Oakland — Jaylen Ramsey (CB, Florida State)
He’s a tweener. Does he have the hips and quicks to match up with elite suddenness? Or is he a permanent safety?

**TRADE** #15 Dallas — Robert Nkemdiche (DE, Ole Miss)
The Cowboys are never afraid to roll the dice. Nkemdiche might be a head-case but he’s talented. Jerry Jones approves.

#16 Detroit — Ronnie Stanley (T, Notre Dame)
He’s overrated but admittedly there is some pass-pro upside. Someone will take a shot. He doesn’t get to the second level or play with an edge.

#17 Atlanta — Laquon Treadwell (WR, Ole Miss)
Imagine pairing Treadwell with Julio Jones. If the Falcons can upgrade their defense in free agency — they can afford a pick like this.

#18 Indianapolis — Jack Conklin (T, Michigan State)
Just a hard-nosed, blue-collar tough guy who fought his way into this range as a walk-on at MSU. Not an amazing athlete — but someone teams will love.

#19 Buffalo — Leonard Floyd (OLB, Georgia)
A tall, thin linebacker suited to the 3-4. He could easily be another Aaron Maybin. The Bills do need to find players that fit the Rex Ryan scheme.

#20 New York Jets — Ezekiel Elliott (RB, Ohio State)
He could be a superstar in New York. Chris Ivory is a free agent and went off the boil in 2015 after a good start.

#21 Washington — Corey Coleman (WR, Baylor)
The minute they sign Kirk Cousins to a mega-deal, they have to put weapons around him. Coleman could replace DeSean Jackson if he’s cut.

#22 Houston — Will Fuller (WR, Notre Dame)
Fuller is a dynamite playmaker. Picking this late limits their ability to get at the QB’s. Whoever starts at QB might as well throw to Fuller and DeAndre Hopkins.

#23 Minnesota — Shon Coleman (T, Auburn)
Maybe Coleman won’t rise into the top-10 where he belongs? He’s still an awesome lineman. He should go much earlier.

#24 Cincinnati — Jarran Reed (DT, Alabama)
A brutish defensive tackle who excels in the run game. They add another layer of toughness to their defensive front.

#25 Pittsburgh — Kendall Fuller (CB, Virginia Tech)
Their secondary is a mess and needs addressing. Fuller is recovering from injury but has the bloodlines and the talent to go in this range.

#26 Seattle — Cody Whitehair (T, Kansas State)
The Seahawks take the technically gifted, athletic Whitehair and plug him in at either left guard or center.

#27 Green Bay — Kyler Fackrell (LB, Utah State)
The Packers need more athleticism at linebacker and somebody who can cover and rush. Fackrell feels like a Green Bay type of player.

**TRADE** #28 Cleveland — Michael Thomas (WR, Ohio State)
The Browns move up from #32 to #28, swapping picks with the Chiefs, to add a much needed receiver. Thomas is a big target with great agility.

#29 Denver — Germain Ifedi (T, Mississippi State)
Some people think he’ll drop into the middle rounds. He’s very muscular and in good shape. There’s plenty to work with here at tackle or guard.

#30 Arizona — Adolphus Washington (DE, Ohio State)
Flits in and out of games. Goes from impactful to anonymous. Projects well to DE in the 3-4. Fits Arizona’s scheme.

#31 Carolina — Jeremy Cash (S, Duke)
They could use some youth and an upgrade at safety. It’s not a great class overall but Cash seems to be rising.

Some players of interest after round one

Paul Perkins (RB, UCLA)
Eric Striker (LB, Oklahoma)
Marquez North (WR, Tennessee)
Ronald Blair (DE, Appalachian State)
Justin Zimmer (DE, Ferris State)
Zack Sanchez (CB, Oklahoma)
Deion Jones (LB, LSU)
Xavien Howard (CB, Baylor)
Fahn Cooper (T, Ole Miss)
Graham Glasgow (C, Michigan)
Alex Lewis (T, Nebraska)
Joe Dahl (T, Washington State)
Miles Killebrew (S, Southern Utah)
Connor McGovern (T, Missouri)
Braxton Miller (WR, Ohio State)
Charles Tapper (DE, Oklahoma)

Further thoughts on the Seahawks

I sense they had a fair bit of interest in Mitch Morse last year. He was taken by Kansas City a few picks before Seattle were on the clock in round two. Having the opportunity to draft Whitehair would give them a chance to move him inside to left guard or center.

There are some similarities to Zack Martin. At Notre Dame, Martin was the left tackle due to his superior athletic qualities and technical brilliance. Whitehair was put on the blind side for the same reasons — and even though he lacks great length he was still a big success in 2015.

Martin was destined to be a first rounder from the moment he stepped on campus at Notre Dame. Whitehair is more of a self-made man — but that shouldn’t be any concern.

Whether he fits in at left guard (replacing Justin Britt) or center (replacing Patrick Lewis) probably depends on what else they’re able to do. The intention in this mock scenario would be to add possibly two more offensive linemen.

With draft depth on the O-line (and the possibility they will move on from Russell Okung, thus saving money) — they might have the ability to do what they’ve done so well in the past — add a free agent pass rusher. Whether it’s Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril or the failed attempts to land Henry Melton and Jared Allen — the Seahawks have looked to use the market to bolster their pass rush.

Miami’s Olivier Vernon could be one to watch. He had 7.5 sacks in 2015 (and 29 in a four-year career so far). He might command big dollars on the open market. If, like Bennett and Avril, it’s not as hot as he thought — he might consider a one or two-year prove-it deal. He’s only 25 so time’s on his side.

You could argue — why not just use any free cash to keep Bruce Irvin? It could be a combination of age (he turns 29 this year) and a possible desire to adapt that position (do they go for a safety hybrid?). They might also need any free money to put a package together to keep Jeremy Lane. 2015 showed they need cornerbacks that understand the scheme to operate effectively. Losing Lane would be a potential disaster — and if they overpay to keep any of their own FA’s, it might be Lane.

Three O-line scenarios for the Seahawks

Wednesday, January 20th, 2016

What does the future hold for Russell Okung?

This is going to be the biggest talking point of the off-season. Finding consistency on the O-line is the greatest priority for this team per Pete Carroll — and nobody is going to rush to dispute that.

It’s also a difficult and complex conundrum to solve with Russell Okung and J.R. Sweezy becoming free agents.

Brian Nemhauser has put together an excellent piece on Tom Cable that I’d recommend reading. I wanted to highlight one part in particular:

Letting Sweezy and Okung walk would probably make a lot of Seahawks fans happy. Be careful what you wish for. Continuity is a almost as important as talent when it comes to forging a good offensive line. Starting over at square one every offseason is not a great way to build a group that can dominate. It is a surefire way to begin the season with a struggling unit once again.

So much about line play, especially pass protection, has to do with communication and recognition. No two players on the Seahawks line this year had played a snap next to the either player that flanked them before this season started. That is about the worst-case scenario.

Consistency and continuity is the most underrated characteristic of an offensive line. Ploughing high picks or expensive free agents into an O-line isn’t a solution on its own. The Seahawks, for example, have spent as much on their O-line since Pete Carroll arrived in Seattle as any team in the league. Two first rounders (including a #6 pick), a second rounder, a third rounder and two fourth rounders last year. They also signed Robert Gallery in 2011.

People have called for that level of investment again — almost forgetting that the Seahawks have tried, in vain, to create a fantastic line using high picks in the draft.

Talent is important — but an O-line is at its best when five guys function as one. When they have the timing, understanding end execution down to a tee. When that happens — you can have success. Even if you aren’t fielding Zack Martin and Tyron Smith.

Changes up front (losing Unger, Giacomini, McQuistan, Carpenter) have prevented a cohesive unit coming together. And while it might sound attractive to simply replace Okung and Sweezy with picks or a big name free agent — it might just add to further growing pains in 2016.

At the same time, it’s not as simple as going out and re-signing Okung and Sweezy. They’re unlikely to overpay to keep either — and both players might have to enter free agency and talk to other teams to establish their true market. If the price goes beyond the Seahawks’ value — they probably move on. And who could blame them?

That doesn’t mean they’ll be easy to replace. Rookies don’t offer any guarantee to come in and play at a high level. They’re not able to replace Okung with another top-ten draft pick after all. Big name free agents don’t always pan out — and they have to be able to fit Seattle’s blocking scheme.

It’s also worth noting that one of the key free agents people want the Seahawks to sign — Alex Boone — was an undrafted free agent in 2009. You can find pieces for an O-line at any stage in the draft if you know what to look for. The Cowboys and their three first rounders up front are the exception and not the rule — and that supposed elite line in Dallas hasn’t prevented Tony Romo from missing considerable time through injury.

That said — if consistency and improved performance up front is the priority — are you going to start entrusting UDFA’s and late-round rookies to get you there? There’s also no guarantee a lineman taken at #26 will be any better than the guy they took at #25 in 2011 (James Carpenter).

So yeah, it’s a dilemma all right. And one they absolutely have to get right.

Here are three different scenarios, debating what might happen up front…

‘Evolution, not revolution’

Re-sign Okung ($7-8m APY as projected by John Clayton)
Re-sign Sweezy
Draft Cody Whitehair at #26
Draft a guard or center

The line didn’t play too badly in the second half of the year. It’s never going to be possible to shut out Aaron Donald if that is your expectation. This plan builds on what you’ve got while solidifying either the center position long term or replacing Justin Britt at left guard. Whitehair has been compared to Zack Martin. You could draft him and Graham Glasgow and let Glasgow compete with Patrick Lewis. Pete Carroll has expressed a desire to keep their players together. This would go along with that.

Projected O-line

LT — Russell Okung
LG — Cody Whitehair
C — Graham Glasgow or Patrick Lewis
RG — J.R. Sweezy
RT — Garry Gilliam

So what’s the problem?

It’ll be a challenge to keep Okung. He’s in a weird spot as a not-elite-but-still-pretty-good tackle in a league facing a left tackle crisis. He’s suffered a cluster of minor injuries in his career but nothing like a torn ACL. What is his market value? He probably needs to find out before the Seahawks can act.

This is arguably the best way to combine consistency with an upgrade. Therefore it’s arguably Seattle’s best way to achieve their #1 off-season priority. Yet all signs point to Okung moving on at the moment, leaving a big hole at tackle that would need to be addressed one way or another.

‘Blow it up and start again’

Let Russell Okung walk
Let J.R. Sweezy walk
Sign a veteran center (Alex Mack)
Draft a right tackle in the first round
Draft a guard in the middle rounds

This represents a major shift with possibly every position changing from 2015. Garry Gilliam moves to left tackle and is replaced on the right side by a rookie. You’re using the Okung/Sweezy money to put a new veteran at center and starting Mark Glowinski at right guard. By drafting a guard you’re also giving Justin Britt some competition. You’d possibly have to wait until the middle rounds to do so — with tackle being a high priority with Okung moving on.

Projected O-line

LT — Garry Gilliam
LG — Graham Glasgow or Justin Britt
C — Alex Mack
RG — Mark Glowinski
RT — Shon Coleman

So what’s the problem?

It’s a complete overhaul — and that could be a recipe for growing pains. If there’s one thing the Seahawks want to avoid it’s another six weeks of transition on their O-line. You’d be relying on Gilliam and a rookie to secure the tackle spots, Glowinski to prove his performance against Arizona wasn’t a flash in the pan and a rookie to upgrade the left guard spot. Alex Mack would also need to mesh with an incredibly young group of linemen as the richest (and oldest) member of the unit. There would be so many question marks here. Can Gilliam switch to the left? Can two rookies perform?

‘The bit of both scenario’

Let Russell Okung walk
Re-sign J.R. Sweezy
Use the Okung money to sign a veteran center or guard (Alex Mack or Alex Boone)
Draft a tackle early
Draft a center or guard

This plan keeps J.R. Sweezy and Garry Gilliam in the line-up. You’re adding a veteran interior O-liner to upgrade a big need area and using your first round pick to replace Okung. If you sign Mack, you’re looking at guards in the draft to compete with Justin Britt. If you sign Boone, perhaps you draft a Graham Glasgow to compete with Patrick Lewis? This would still be some considerable change but with fewer question marks.

Projected O-line

LT — Garry Gilliam
LG — Alex Boone or Graham Glasgow
C — Alex Mack or Graham Glasgow
RG — J.R. Sweezy
RT — Shon Coleman

So what’s the problem?

How motivated are the Seahawks to make a big splash on an outside free agent? Alex Boone is only 28 and could easily command $8m APY like Mike Iupati. You’d be asking him to play with two rookies, a raw left tackle and Sweezy. It seems like an ill-fit and defies what Pete Carroll said about keeping the team together. They haven’t made a big outside FA acquisition on the OL since Robert Gallery. Their willingness to just plug guys in at left guard (Carpenter, Bailey, Britt, McQuistan) also makes you wonder if center will be a bigger priority if they do bring in an outsider. It’s a shame Adam Bisnowaty seemingly didn’t declare — he could’ve been an ideal mid-round pick.

Other thoughts

It might be wrong to assume they’ll draft an offensive tackle in round one if Okung walks. After all, the starting right tackle in 2015 was an UDFA and we’re discussing whether he’ll switch to the blindside. Who ever heard of Breno Giacomini before the Seahawks made him a starter?

They might look at the interior with a Cody Whitehair type — or even draft a pass rusher or linebacker. There’s at least some chance their next starting right tackle is a long, SPARQ’d up mid-to-late rounder we’re not even discussing yet.

The tricky thing to work out is how do they find the balance between changes and simple improvement? Clearing out most of the existing line and starting again doesn’t seem very likely. Subtle additions with a sense of priority and increased competition appears to be the way forward. That’ll be hard to achieve if both Okung and Sweezy walk because you’re replacing as many as three or four fifths of your line.

My best guess? Sweezy re-signs, Okung gets a nice offer somewhere else. Gilliam moves to the left. They draft either Whitehair or a right tackle in the first round and use some middle round picks to add competition. There’s no reason to completely rule out the addition of a veteran center — especially if they save money on Okung.

Other notes

Graham Glasgow (C, Michigan) continues to shine at the Shrine practises…

Glasgow lined up at guard today. Pauline believes he’s improved his draft grade by two rounds this week, having previously listed him as a fifth round pick.

There are some slight concerns that will hurt him, despite a glowing reference from Jim Harbaugh. Glasgow had issues with drink in the past and was forced to live with his Grandmother as a solution. Teams will need to convince themselves he can move out of his comfort zone and remain focused on football.

He’s also not a major athlete and relies on power over quicks. The Seahawks tried to force the Drew Nowak project and kept Kristjan Sokoli on the roster. That suggests they want unique athleticism at the position. The problems on the O-line this year could force their hand to be adaptable and put that plan to one side. Glasgow arguably suits power vs the ZBS — but there’s enough second-level willingness to think he can fit either scheme.

Seattle’s willingness to draft Shrine Game stand-outs makes Glasgow one to monitor. With two late third round picks — that could be the range he leaves the board.

Kyler Fackrell is intriguing

With the likelihood of Bruce Irvin moving on to pastures new, the Seahawks are going to need to fill a hole at SAM linebacker.

Utah State’s Kyler Fackrell is certainly one to monitor.

I’ll do more on him in the coming days, but PFF rated him as the best under-the-radar pass rusher in college football:

At +34.4 he is our highest graded 3-4 OLB, with the highest grade as a pass rusher, against the run, and sixth-highest in coverage just for good measure.

He missed most of the 2014 season with a serious knee injury before returning this season. He only had four sacks but PFF seems to like what he did (although some of their grades can be a little hard to fathom). He’s 6-5 and 250lbs.

Based on what I’ve watched so far he gets around the field, has some talent working the edge and getting off blocks. He occasionally whiffs in coverage against quicker receivers but he’s not a lost cause.

If he was available in round two, he could be an option for the Seahawks. Daniel Jeremiah has him as high as the #28 overall prospect in his rankings, stating: “Overall, this is a very athletic edge defender with the ability to make plays on all three downs.”

Take a look for yourselves:

I’m going to do a new mock draft tomorrow. There’s also a lot of new content on the blog in the last few days so make sure you head to the homepage and scroll down.

Tuesday notes: Shrine, Jeremiah, O-line & more

Tuesday, January 19th, 2016

First of all, if you missed the podcast this week check it out. We did a mailbag episode answering a ton of questions on the future of the Seahawks.

There are so many things I want to get into so I’m just going to throw a lot of them into this article.

Shrine game stand out

The East-West Shrine game is this week and it’s something to keep an eye on. The Seahawks have drafted quite a few players who attended the game in recent years:

2015: Terry Poole, Mark Glowinski, Tye Smith
2014: Justin Britt, Cassius Marsh
2013: Christine Michael

One player appears to be standing out so far — Michigan center Graham Glasgow.

Pauline graded Glasgow in the fifth round in his recently published positional rankings.

Mike Mayock also gave Glasgow a nice reference at the Shrine practises, noting: “He was the guy who really stood out to me… It’s a strong year for centers, but he looks like an NFL starter. Very strong. He could compete at the Senior Bowl.”

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh also rates his chances of making it at the next level: “Graham Glasgow, what an amazing player… He could be a first-round pick, the way he played, the way he’s played all year.”

Whether Glasgow propels himself into the first round remains to be seen — but this is a nice boost. He’s a former walk-on and he’s listed at 6-6 and 303lbs. In comparison, Max Unger was 6-5 and 302lbs — so they’re similar. Glasgow has a brother (Ryan) who also walked-on and made the team as a nose tackle.

There are always late risers, especially on the O-line. Mitch Morse is a good example last year. Who’d rule out Glasgow working himself into the second or third round? With the Seahawks expected to focus on the offensive line early he could be an option.

I’ve not watched the video below yet — but it’s Michigan’s O-line vs Maryland from 2015. Glasgow is #61.

Kevin Dodd better than Shaq Lawson?

A lot of people are grading Clemson pass rusher Shaq Lawson in the first round. I’m not entirely convinced. He had 12.5 sacks in 2015 and embarrassed Notre Dame’s Ronnie Stanley on October 3rd. The issue I have is natural speed, quickness and get-off. He’s very good at disengaging and finishing — but is he going to be able to win with explosion and speed-to-power at the next level? Plus, he’s a bigger guy (listed at 275lbs) so is he better at DE in the 3-4 or is he a power end in the 4-3?

Tony Pauline is reporting that a number of teams are rating his team mate Kevin Dodd above Lawson. I can see why. Dodd suffers a similar issue to Lawson (get-off) and while he abused the Alabama right tackle in the National Chamionship — you can’t help but wonder if he’ll be able to get off blocks and finish in the same way he does at Clemson.

Pauline notes: “The consensus is Lawson is being overrated while Dodd is underrated.” I think that’s probably fair — but what range are they going to go? I’m not convinced the Seahawks will have much interest here unless they turn up at the combine and put on a show. They could both go in round two.

Marquez North a receiver to monitor

Tennessee receiver Marquez North is immensely talented. In his first year with the Vols he looked like the real deal. His career since has been hampered by injury and ineffective play.

He made a late decision to enter the 2016 draft. It’s a surprise considering he only lodged six catches during the 2015 season. He has zero momentum.

For that reason he won’t be a high pick. He might even go undrafted. Yet at 6-3 and 229lbs with enough speed and the ability to make highlight reel catches — he could be one to work with and develop. I’m leaning towards the Seahawks re-signing Jermaine Kearse, trusting Paul Richardson to return and utilising Kevin Smith in 2016 — pushing receiver down the list of needs (Doug Baldwin will also surely receive a new contract). North could be had in the later rounds.

Watch out for Ronald Blair III

Hat-tip to valued member of the SDB community Volume 12 for highlighting Appalachian State’s Ronald Blair. Take a look for yourself:

And look at this pick six (29 seconds in):

He’s received a combine invite and it’ll be fascinating to see if he tests as fast as he looks on tape. He’s 6-4 and 270lbs. I wonder if he can get up to 275-280lbs and act as another inside-and-out player for the Seahawks?

There’s no great secret to successful pass rushers. If they live in the backfield, win with quickness and get-off, have a repertoire and utilise speed-to-power it usually translates. Blair appears to tick all the necessary boxes. If the Seahawks want to keep adding pass rushers, ‘RBIII’ could be an option.

Daniel Jeremiah publishes his first mock draft

The Seahawks take Vernon Butler (DT, Louisiana Tech) with the #26 pick. According to Jeremiah: “Butler is gaining a lot of steam in personnel circles and he’d look great in this scheme.”

I’ve watched two Louisiana Tech games from 2015. I wouldn’t say I was blown away but there is a lot of upside. Butler is very mobile and gets around. He seems to have a good motor and there’s evidence to suggest he can grow and develop into an effective rusher. He isn’t there yet — and that’s the issue I’d have putting him in round one.

In 2015 he only had three sacks. Those sacks came against Louisiana Lafayette, Texas San Antonio and Rice. It’d be unfair to judge him purely on production — but it highlights the point that he’s far from the finished product.

The Seahawks want difference making special athletes they can coach up. If they see Butler as a dynamic pass-rusher in the making they will almost certainly consider him. I just wonder if they also want to see striking evidence of production to match upside. Bruce Irvin, after all, was the most prolific pass rusher in college football in 2010 and 2011. Frank Clark is a tremendous athlete but he flashed first round talent on tape too. Butler doesn’t have that same fantastic tape or numbers.

Lance Zierlein has compared him to Muhammed Wilkerson — which is lofty praise. Wilkerson was only the #30 pick in the 2011 draft (the Seahawks passed on the chance to take him with their #25 pick). It’s worth noting that Wilkerson had 10 sacks as a junior at Temple and looked the part on tape. He also had long 35 1/4 inch arms and ran a 4.96 at 315lbs. Butler will do well to match that combine performance. He’s still one to monitor.

A lot of good offensive linemen are off the board at #26 in Jeremiah’s mock draft but Shon Coleman (T, Auburn), Cody Whitehair (T/G/C, Kansas State) and Germain Ifedi (T, Texas A&M) are all available.

An early prediction on what the Seahawks will target

It is still very early — and this is a subject I won’t to talk about in more detail in other articles this week. However, I want to put down some early thoughts to generate a debate.

Based on what Pete Carroll said to the media yesterday — targeting the offensive and defensive line early feels like a safe bet. Departing UFA’s will have an impact there too. If they lose Bruce Irvin for example and a top linebacker is available in the first three rounds, that could also be an area they look at.

My personal prediction is that Russell Okung will test the market to establish his value. The Seahawks will be open to him returning — but I doubt they aggressively compete if the market is hot. Okung departing would open up a slot at left or right tackle (depending on whether you move Garry Gilliam to LT).

I sense they would at least like to add some competition at left guard after a year of Justin Britt. The center position is also an area of focus. Carroll described Patrick Lewis as a solid player yesterday, essentially stating, ‘we didn’t need him to be the best center in the NFL’. I don’t anticipate the Seahawks viewing Lewis as a long-term option. He’s thoroughly replaceable but could also hold the fort for another year if required.

There are going to be good offensive linemen available to the Seahawks in this class. Even if the top prospects depart, they’re going to have options.

They can plug Shon Coleman in immediately at left or right tackle. They’re not afraid of extreme height (see: Breno Giacomini) so 6-8 Taylor Decker could be an option at right tackle if he lasts.

Germain Ifedi looks like a tremendous athletic specimen (and he’s enormous) and could work at tackle or left guard. If they want hulking size at left guard again with James Carpenter now in New York — Ifedi could be an option. Cody Whitehair is smaller and athletic but could be an option at center despite playing left tackle for Kansas State. Missouri’s Connor McGovern is another prospect who figures to kick inside to guard or center. He has a very attractive athletic profile.

Washington State’s Joe Dahl and Indiana’s Jason Spriggs could be options too. Then there’s Graham Glasgow at center — a player we talked about earlier.

Yes, it’s possible the Seahawks use free agency to fill a hole or two. As they analyse why they struggled so early in 2015 up front — inexperience and a lack of quality at center might be one of the main issues. There’s no reason to rule out interest in Alex Mack if he voids his contract. It would solidify the center position. However — they also seem to want to continue what they’re building up front. They might prefer to use the draft to increase competition across the board and set up camp battles at numerous positions.

O-line will be the early favourite at #26 with an extra pass rusher perhaps the second most likely option. With four picks in the first three rounds they might look to draft two O-liners and a D-liner. They will also surely consider linebackers and running backs — with receiver and cornerback saved for day three.

If you want a D-liner to consider after the first round, take a look at Okalhoma’s Charles Tapper (could add some size and develop into an interior rusher) along with Ronald Blair.

Mock scenario

Round 1 (#26) — O-line (tackle?)
Round 2 — Pass-rusher
Round 3 — Linebacker/Running back/OL
Round 3 (comp) — Linebacker/Running back/OL