In this weeks podcast, Kenny and I get into a number of topics including the importance of wingspan and the likelihood of the Seahawks focusing on the nickel/slot position. Check it out:
Today I wanted to build on what we discussed yesterday — the key to this draft could be what Seattle does at the nickel/slot position.
There’s a consensus among draft analysts that the Seahawks will take either an O-liner or an outside cornerback. It’s possible for sure, depending on who’s available.
Yet with the Seahawks shifting towards more of a 4-2-5 formation (and as we highlighted yesterday, it perfectly suits Seattle’s defense) adding a dynamic ‘fifth DB’ could be much more of a priority than people realise.
There’s a relatively high chance they will be attracted to Obi Melifonwu and Adoree’ Jackson for this role — but it’s entirely possible neither will be there at #26.
So today I wanted to look at another option.
Colorado’s Chidobe Awuzie.
If you didn’t see this yesterday, take a look…
Before you even get into what he shows on the field, isn’t this just about the most impressive video you’ve seen this year highlighting the football IQ of a draft prospect?
If the Seahawks do draft a ‘big nickel’ in round one, that player is going to need a strong awareness of safety and cornerback duties. You’re basically a match-up weapon — playing at the LOS, blitzing, covering across the middle, dropping into a two-safety deep zone. You might end up travelling to the outside. It’s a complex job requiring a strong understanding of different techniques.
So right off the bat, Awuzie ticks that particular box.
We learnt yesterday how the 4-2-5 looks to utilise blitzing — in particular with the fifth DB. The Seahawks have experimented with the CB Blitz since Kris Richard became defensive coordinator. Awuzie attacks the backfield better than anyone (or at least at the same level as Budda Baker). He had four sacks in 2016 and six TFL’s. In his college career he had an astonishing 226 total tackles.
He isn’t the biggest but he compares to Bradley McDougald in terms of size. He’s 6-0 and 202lbs while McDougald is fractionally taller (6-1) and a little bigger (209lbs). Awuzie on the other hand is much faster (4.43 speed), more agile (4.13 short shuttle) and more explosive (39.5 inch vertical, 11-0 broad). If they’re willing to play McDougald as a big nickel, Awuzie is basically a more athletic version.
Is wingspan a problem? Arguably not considering he’s essentially acting as a ‘third safety’ or a hybrid CB/S. Earl Thomas has a 74.5 inch wingspan, Awuzie’s is 74 1/8 inches. We’ll find out in this draft class how important wingspan is considering the massive difference between the short cornerback group and the long safety group.
What do you see on tape? He’s good in run support with the requisite physicality and aggressiveness. There is absolutely zero doubt he’s a fit in that regard. Awuzie plays with the kind of attitude you expect from Seattle’s defense.
Unlike Adoree’ Jackson he’s not a particularly sudden runner and he does give up separation to more dynamic receivers. That said, he’s competitive to work back and recover and there’s a reason he has 28 PBU’s in his college career.
Awuzie is an instinctive player and he clearly does his homework. His one interception in 2016 came on a play he identified, made himself disappear in coverage and was then able to explode to the ball having anticipated the throw.
I liked in the video above that he basically had a chip on his shoulder about his athletic profile, even giving Daniel Jeremiah some grief for his pre-combine view of his speed.
He might not have the dynamic raw playmaking skills of Adoree’ Jackson or the standard-setting physical profile of Obi Melifonwu — but there’s a ton to like about Awuzie. It’s very easy to imagine him in Seattle’s defense — his personality fits them like a glove and if he needed to he could probably adjust to free safety in an emergency. He has the talent, grit and athleticism to be a starter as a big nickel/slot hybrid.
He’s another player in this class who could easily go in the top-20 or last into range for Seattle. He is a must-consider though for all Seahawks fans at #26. Put him on your radar, add him to the list. He’s a legit option.
While a lot of focus has gone on the offensive line and outside cornerback, it’s worth remembering a few things:
— Seattle likes their young group of O-liners and has already signed two veteran players to support the developing unit
— The Seahawks still have Richard Sherman and while many assume they’re going to want a dynamic #2 or eventual replacement for Sherman, look at how they’ve actually filled that job in the past (Browner — free agent from the CFL, Maxwell — sixth round pick, Williams — free agent, Shead — UDFA converted safety)
— Jeremy Lane has played outside cornerback, they seem to like Neiko Thorpe and Pierre Desir and Deshawn Shead is working to return — this is how Seattle has filled that #2 corner position in the past
— While a case can be made that Bradley McDougald could be the starting ‘big nickel’, as discussed yesterday his signing looks like a hedge
— If McDougald ends up just being a backup safety that’s no bad thing because there is literally zero depth on the roster behind Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor at the moment apart from McDougald
— The Seahawks appear to have a pretty strict wingspan ideal and if Kevin King is off the board at #26, it’s hard to find an alternative who matches what they like (unless they want to start Melifonwu at corner)
It’s entirely possible Seattle addresses the following positions in this kind of order:
R1 — Big nickel or slot cornerback
R2 — Pass rusher
R3 x 3 — Safety depth, tight end, receiver, D-line, cornerback or linebacker
So while there’s currently a lot of focus on the Seahawks drafting an outside corner or O-liner with their first pick, that might not be the case.