First, a reflection on what we saw today involving the defensive backs.
Justin Gilbert (CB, Oklahoma State)
The first thing that stood out with Gilbert is just how much of an athlete he is. He looks in fantastic shape and backed it up with the fastest forty yard dash (4.38). He managed 10.6 on the broad jump and a 35.5 inch vertical. Yet the most impressive aspect was his length. He had the longest arms in the DB group at 33 1/8 inches. When people talk about ‘Seattle style’ corners, they think 6-3. That’s not accurate. It’s about length and ball skills. Byron Maxwell was only 6-0 and 202lbs at the 2011 combine. But he ran a 4.46 and has 33 1/2 inch arms. Gilbert is exactly the same height/weight as Maxwell and pretty much the definition of a Seattle corner in terms of physical make-up. Plus he’s a ball hawk (seven interceptions in 2013). There’s only one concern — how dedicated is he to his craft? He admitted during his press conference that he didn’t know who Aqib Talib was. That’s scary.
Jason Verrett (CB, TCU)
The other thing Seattle likes to see is grit. Verrett lacks size at 5-9 and 189lbs. He doesn’t have great length with 30 5/8 inch arms. Yet he’s a tremendous athlete and he plays with a major chip on his shoulder. He ran the second fastest forty at 4.38, had the fourth best three cone (6.67) managed a superb 39 inch vertical and added a 10.8 in the broad jump. That vertical is important — it shows he can high point against bigger receivers despite a serious height disadvantage. In the drills he stayed low in his back-pedal, had decent snap in his transition and moved very smoothly. You expect that with a small corner, but Verrett ticked every box today. And perhaps more importantly, he looked completely healthy. He might not crack the first round but whoever gets this guy will have a terrific competitor who won’t back down.
Bradley Roby (CB, Ohio State)
This was always going to be a nice stage for Roby. A year ago he was considered a potential top-15 pick. He was convinced by his family to stay at Ohio State for another season — and he had a classic down year as a consequence. On tape he has all the physical skills you want to see. Yet his on-field IQ leaves a lot to be desired. He struggles against the double move, he’ll let receivers get in behind and he struggles to recover. Every now and again he’ll peak into the backfield and get caught. The big question is — can you coach him up? Because there’s a lot to like — quick hips, loose runner, capable blitzer, plays the ball. Today he had a chance to show off how much of an athlete he is — running a 4.39 with a stunning 1.47 ten yard split. His vertical (32 inches) and broad jump (10.4) were pretty good. He doesn’t have great length at 5-11, 194lbs and 31 1/2 inch arms. There’s also a character red flag after he was arrested and charged with misdemeanor battery last July.
Darqueze Dennard (CB, Michigan State)
Deion Sanders told Dennard in an interview he thought he looked stiff during drills. I didn’t really see too much evidence of that personally — although Sanders’ second point was absolutely true. Dennard is a press-man corner. He likes to get into a receivers pads and he’s strong, so he’ll translate well in any scheme that prioritises physicality. I liked his work out and thought he transitioned well, ran smoothly in the open field and did a good job tracking the ball in the air. But here’s the thing — he’s not a ‘must have’ type of player. He’s 5-11 and 199lbs, but lacks length (30 1/4 inch arms) and top end speed (4.51). You can’t bang the table for those numbers. He also didn’t do the vertical or broad jump due to a minor hamstring problem he picked up during drills. Durability is another concern. Is he a first rounder? Debatable.
Keith McGill (CB, Utah)
When he ran an unofficial 4.47 and 4.44 — you sat up in your chair. The biggest defensive back put up two of the fastest times at 6-3 and 211lbs. His official time was later adjusted to a 4.51 — but that’s still mighty impressive. He reminds me somewhat of another former Utah corner — Sean Smith (now with the Chiefs). Smith was 6-3 and 214lbs at the 2009 combine and ran a 4.50. He went in the late second round. McGill actually had a superior vertical (39 inches vs 34) and broad jump (10.9 vs 9.11). McGill’s vertical was the third best on the day among DB’s, his broad jump ranked second. We’re talking about a big-time athlete here, the type Seattle typically shows interest in. I suspect he might go in the same range as Smith, perhaps even a little earlier. People are going to tout a switch to safety — and he did look a little stiff in some of the drills today (it’s tough to stay low and smooth in the back-pedal at 6-3). But before anyone crowns him the next Kam Chancellor — there is one issue. Chancellor is an enforcer, who plays every snap like the Super Bowl’s on the line. On tape McGill doesn’t play with anywhere near the same physicality. He isn’t ‘Bam Bam Kam’. Not by a long stretch.
Bashaud Breeland (CB, Clemson)
He wasn’t as long as he looks on screen — 5-11, 197lbs with 31 3/4 inch arms. It’s not bad size, but it isn’t great either. I noted in the live blog earlier that he had nice length — so it was pretty surprising to see the official measurements. He ran a pretty pedestrian 4.62, had a vertical of 34.5 inches and a broad jump of 10.3. He came into the combine with a bit of positive momentum, but the showing didn’t back it up. Perhaps the national media are trying too hard to find ‘Seattle style’ cornerbacks? Let’s hope other teams try too hard too. At the end of the day, development is king. The Seahawks didn’t just stumble across a cluster of excellent defensive backs. They coached them into productive starters. You can try and draft as many long cornerbacks as you want, but you’ve still got to develop them.
Jonathan Dowling (S, Western Kentucky)
Here’s an interesting prospect. He’s just under 6-3 and 190lbs. That’s slim, but he doesn’t look too skinny and has room to add weight. He had the longest arms in the group alongside Justin Gilbert (33 1/8 inches). He ran a 4.52, which is comparable to Keith McGill. Yet his vertical (33.5 inches) and broad jump (9.10) were both disappointing. In the drills I thought he looked quite fluid for his size. He put in a good performance based on what the NFL.com feed was willing to show us. Here’s the issue though. He’s a former four-star recruit who played two games as a Freshman at Florida. He got kicked off the team by Urban Meyer, and transferred to Western Kentucky. It wasn’t abundantly clear why at the time, but he says it was over a dispute with a positional coach who he found to be too negative. I’m not sure Meyer would give up on a player over that alone, although he admitted he skipped practise as a consequence of the coach’s criticisms. It’s not a good look. I’d do some homework on this guy.
Kyle Fuller (Virginia Tech)
The Fuller family have deep NFL routes — Kyle has already discussed joining his brother Corey on the Detroit Lions roster. I actually really like Kendall Fuller — a 2013 Freshman also at Virginia Tech who had some big games as a first-year starter. He has a ton of potential. But so does his brother Kyle. He’s 5-11 and 190lbs with the fourth longest arms in the group (32 7/8 inches). He had a 38.5 inch vertical — sixth best on the day. His broad jump of 10.8 was the third best recorded among DB’s. In the drills he looked like a natural corner — good technique, sound fundamentals. He might not be the most spectacular player at the next level, but he’ll be a nice addition to someone’s secondary and he should be a day two pick.
Other players of note
Mo Alexander (S, Utah State) — One to monitor for the Seahawks. He’s 6-1 and 220lbs, ran a 4.54 and has nice length (6th longest arms in the class). He also had a 38 inch vertical and a 10.3 broad jump. A definite later round candidate for Seattle.
Brock Vereen (S, Minnesota) — he was one of the big winners with a 4.47 forty, a 6.90 three cone and 25 reps on the bench press. He excelled in drills and the brother of New England’s Shane Vereen is one to keep an eye on.
Jaylen Watkins (CB, Florida) — speaking of brothers, Sammy Watkins’ older sibling ran a 4.41 despite carrying a strained achilles. He’s got short arms, but put up 22 reps on the bench. We know he’s got good DNA.
Deone Bucannon (S, Washington State) — he looked in great shape today and did himself the power of good with a really solid work out. Decent size (6-1, 211lbs) and might be a bit of a safety-tweener, but this was a good day for Bucannon.
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (S, Alabama) — he didn’t do anything spectacular. We’re not talking about Earl Thomas here, and I’m not convinced he’s Mark Barron either despite the physical comparisons. But he ran faster than Kenny Vaccaro a year ago and there are teams in the mid-first who really could use a safety upgrade. A lack of depth at the position helps Clinton-Dix.
Calvin Pryor (S, Louisville) — he’s a big hitting safety who’s likely to be a walking yellow flag as a rookie. He ran a 4.58 just like Clinton-Dix and they look very similar — physically and during work outs. This is likely to be a pick your poison situation.
Final thoughts on the DB’s
Overall it’s not a great defensive back class. There’s a lack of obvious first round talent — in fact it’s not unbelievable to think Justin Gilbert might be the only first rounder.
I’d like to be Alterraun Verner or Aqib Talib right now. If they aren’t franchised, they’re both set for a bumper pay day when free agency begins on March 11th.
In terms of the Seahawks, there aren’t a lot of obvious options here for their next later round project at corner. Last year it was fairly simple to identify Tharold Simon — nice length, style of play, 4.5 speed. There’s not a great deal of length/speed in this class.
Justin Gilbert sticks out like a sore thumb. He’s almost too good to be true in terms of physical fit for this team. Of course, he’ll be long gone by #32 unless something seriously went wrong during interviews at the combine.
The one thing Seattle expects is dedication. I’m not talking about the coaches here necessarily — I’m talking about the players. Richard Sherman took it upon himself to become the most prepared cornerback in the league. He critiques his own play, he studies the film.
I’ve no doubt he took his cue from Earl Thomas. Byron Maxwell has been credited for adopting Sherman’s approach to the game. The entire Legion of Boom are film room junkies as much as they are great players.
You can’t expect to survive in that defensive back meeting room unless you’re going to work your tail off. When I hear Gilbert say he doesn’t know who Aqib Talib is, I wonder whether he’s going to know what his next opponent likes to do with route concepts. What are the looks you’re going to get? What does a quarterback like to do to a certain coverage? How can you find the edge, find the way to make a play?
So many of Sherman’s big plays are down to study and hard work. If Gilbert drops into Seattle’s range, it’ll not be because of a lack of talent. It’ll be because he scares the crap out of teams picking early. In that scenario, would they believe he could change with the right influence surrounding him? Or would they merely be the next team to say, “no thanks”.
We’ll give him the benefit of the doubt today. An outstanding work out deserves some credit, and that was a top-15 performance out there.
Further thoughts on the receiver group
Some extra thoughts having sifted through the numbers from Saturday…
Odell Beckham Jr (WR, LSU)
Only eight players recorded a superior vertical jump (38.5 inches) to Beckham Jr — and he’s 5-11. He also recorded a 4.43 forty with a 1.50 ten yard split. His three cone (6.69) was in the top six for receivers. On the field he competes for everything, high points the ball consistently and makes plays as a wide out or return man. Listen to any of his interviews and you’ll come away impressed. In many ways, he’s the perfect Seahawks prospect. It’s just a shame he’ll be long gone by #32.
Marqise Lee (WR, USC)
Many of the headlines discussed Lee’s average forty yard dash (4.52). It could’ve been better, no doubt about that. He’s a hair under 6-0 and sub-200lbs — and players without great size are expected to be able to run. Here’s the thing though — Lee makes up for it elsewhere. He had a 38 inch vertical — like Beckham Jr, among the best in the class. He had the second best broad jump at 10.7. In both those two categories, he beat Sammy Watkins. He’s also a terrific competitor on the field — a real ‘heart and soul’ type. He doesn’t know when he’s beaten and at the back end of the season made some incredible plays at less than 100% health. The forty times aren’t the be-all and end-all for these players. Carroll recruited him and would probably love a shot at him at #32, it’s unlikely though.
Martavis Bryant (WR, Clemson)
Physically this guy is right up Seattle’s street. He’s a shade under 6-4, weighing 211lbs. He runs a 4.42 and his vertical jump of 39 inches was only beaten by two other receivers (Tevin Reese & Damian Copeland). He also recorded one of the best broad jumps at 10.4. You can work with a guy like this. Yet he’s also been labelled a ‘knucklehead’ and just doesn’t seem like a confident character at all. His interviews are shy and retiring, and he doesn’t go into technical detail on routes or defenses like former Clemson team mates Sammy Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins. Having seen how competitive those two players are, you’d think it might rub off on Bryant. It didn’t, and his college career was wildly underwhelming. “Pissed off for greatness” just isn’t the vibe you get. And yet athletically he’s so impressive.
Allen Robinson (WR, Penn State)
I was almost ready to dismiss Robinson as an option for Seattle after seeing a mediocre 4.60 forty. Then I looked at some of the other numbers — tied third best vertical (39 inches), 10.7 broad jump, a 1.54 ten yard split on his forty. He’s not an explosive runner, but he’s not a bad all-round athlete by any means. I still don’t think the Seahawks would pick a 4.60 receiver in round one unless he has Kelvin Benjamin’s size, but Robinson isn’t a total lost cause. If he’s there in round two, it might be one to monitor.
Kelvin Benjamin (WR, Florida State)
Personally, I just think Pete Carroll would love to wheel out a 6-5, 240lbs receiver who looks as good as Benjamin. There’s a definite ‘win getting off the bus’ mentality to Carroll’s set-up, and Benjamin carries 240lbs better than anybody you’ll ever come across. He has long arms at 34 7/8 inches and a terrific catching radius. And yet compared to Mike Evans, there’s a little disappointment too. Evans had an incredible 37 inch vertical. Benjamin’s is 32.5. He’s big and tall, but he doesn’t have a ton of hop. Only six receivers had a worse vertical jump. He’s an impressive looking guy, but he’s not mind blowing.
Michael Campanaro (WR, Wake Forest)
I’m not crazy about 5-9 receivers for an offense that highlights chunk plays, jump balls and tries to exploit single coverage — but this guy is different. He ran a 4.46, recorded an outstanding 39 inch vertical (same as Martavis Bryant), had a 6.77 three cone, a 10.4 broad jump and even benched 20 reps at 225lbs. I’ll remind you again, he’s 5-9 and 192lbs. That’s one impressive dwarf.
Players with first round potential who looked kind of Seahawky at the combine
Aaron Donald (DT, Pittsburgh)
Decorated, all-round tackle and possible top-ten pick. Wowed with an athletic display for the ages. High character, high motor individual.
Odell Beckham Jr (WR, LSU)
Basically, the prototype player Seattle goes for. Undersized by conventional wisdom, and yet plays way above those limitations. It also helps he showed he’s a big time athlete with incredible numbers in the vertical and broad jump. Huge hands.
Kelvin Benjamin (WR, Florida State)
Not the other-world athlete we expected. He aint Megatron. But he’s the type of player Seattle loves to field — incredible size. And while his vertical wasn’t great, you can’t help but drool at the prospect of him competing in the red zone with that 6-5, 240lbs frame.
Kony Ealy (DE, Missouri)
We’re led to believe Seattle really looks at the three cone drill, as do a lot of teams. Ealy’s three cone of 6.83 wasn’t just the best this year — historically it was one of the best for a defensive lineman. It’s comparable to Bruce Irvin, Cliff Avril and J.J. Watt. And while he ran a 4.92, Michael Bennett once ran a 5.00. They could possibly get him up to 280lbs and use him as a versatile pass rusher.
Ryan Shazier (LB, Ohio State)
Do the Seahawks need a linebacker? No. But how can you ignore Shazier’s incredible 42 inch vertical (he’s 6-1), an equally impressive 10.10 broad jump and a 6.91 three cone? The Seahawks could lose K.J. Wright and Malcolm Smith after the 2014 season. They like insane athlete’s, and Shazier appears to be one.
Ra’Shede Hageman (DT, Minnesota)
Length, size and a top notch vertical. That’s what Hageman showed at the combine. It’s hard to imagine they won’t have serious interest here, given their penchant for guys that are 6-6 and 310lbs. His interviews will have been crucial though.
Morgan Moses (T, Virginia)
They seem to want length at tackle. Moses flashed 6-6 and 314lbs size, with 35 3/8 inch arms — third longest among offensive linemen.
Antonio Richardson (T, Tennessee)
The other thing they’ve gone for on the offensive line is abnormal size. Richardson was the biggest tackle on display at nearly 6-6 and 332lbs. He didn’t look good during the drills and some pundits have suggested he’s set for a fall. People also said the same about James Carpenter during the 2011 combine. He has 35 inch arms. There’s a lot to work with here.
Justin Gilbert (CB, Oklahoma State)
Just the perfect example of ballhawking skills, raw athleticism and length. He’d fit like a glove, if he had any chance of reaching the #32 pick.
Troy Niklas (TE, Notre Dame)
He looked really stiff during drills and wussed out of the forty. And yet he has the body of a Greek God. The Gronk comparisons are overblown — he’s not a 4.6 runner. But he could develop into an upper echelon blocker with the right guidance. He’ll provide a major threat with his height (6-6) size (270lbs) and reach (34 1/8 inch arms). His vertical jump (32 inches) matched Eric Ebron’s.
Salary cap set for a huge rise?
Source: Salary cap will exceed $132 million this year, possibly by a few million http://t.co/39b6yqsz3c
— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) February 25, 2014
This is welcome news.
Initial reports suggested the cap would rise by $7m to $130m. That would’ve significantly boosted Seattle’s chances of keeping the likes of Michael Bennett, Golden Tate and others.
Now Mike Florio is reporting that the cap could go beyond $130m — potentially by millions.
His suggestion is a total of around $135m — a $12m increase from 2013. If the Seahawks do eventually cut Sidney Rice and Red Bryant, they’d be looking at around $24m in cap space.
When you consider the potential savings elsewhere (Chris Clemons, Zach Miller) — Seattle could eventually find itself in a very healthy position in it’s quest to keep the band together.
Essentially the NFL and the NFLPA had to act. The new CBA has absolutely killed the free agent market, as we saw in full view last year. The new deal was supposed to reward proven veterans, while limiting the crippling financial cost at the top end of the draft.
What’s actually happened is teams are making major savings on cheap rookies and they’re not reinvesting the money into the open market.
Under the old system, everyone got paid. Rookies and vets. So paying out for a proven commodity made financial sense.
Now, an influx of players enter the league every year being paid a relative pittance. And it’s revolutionised the market.
Faced with the option of signing Cliff Avril to a substantial five-year contract or waiting to take their chances in the draft, teams are focusing on the draft.
When they are spending, they’re spending on quarterbacks. Teams like Baltimore, Green Bay, Atlanta and New Orleans have given out big contracts to signal callers, limiting how much money there is to spend elsewhere.
The business model as it was planned is failing. And the only solution is to create even more cap space.
It’s kind of like a fiscal economic plan. Speculate to accumulate.
What they’ll hope is — teams paying major money on quarterbacks will still be able to invest in other positions. Teams who were coming into the off-season with major cap room, now have even more incentive to be pro-active.
And teams like Seattle who were up against their budget, can still be financial players.
It won’t surprise me if the total cap increases again and again from here on in. It could be upwards of $150m by 2015.
Whether the plan works or not, we’ll wait and see. But they had to do something — because all the power belonged to the teams. They were having their cake in the draft and eating it in free agency.
The lack of clarity on the final cap for 2014 may also be the reason why Sidney Rice and Red Bryant are yet to be officially released, despite recent national media reports and in Rice’s case a farewell Tweet.
And if the cap increases every year, there shouldn’t be any issues paying Russell Wilson, Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman.
Why they might keep Chris Clemons for another year
Just look at what’s available in this draft.
Sure, it’s a deep class. But not for ideal LEO rushers.
There are some options later on, such as Louisville’s excellent Marcus Smith.
But unless you plan on moving up for Jadeveon Clowney, you won’t find a solution early.
It might be a case of going with what you’ve got and what you know. The Seahawks had a formidable post-season pass rush with Avril, Bennett and Clemons working in tandem — even if the latter wasn’t quite at his best across 2013.
It’s been a long but enjoyable last three days, spending hours sat in front of a computer screen watching and reporting on the combine. But now that it’s over, I need something else to watch in order to unwind.
This ought to do it…
Tomorrow’s assignment: a post-combine mock draft. See you then.