Here’s what I got out of today…
Aaron Donald (DT, Pittsburgh)
Without a shadow of a doubt, he’s a top-15 pick. He ran an official 4.68 at 285lbs with a 1.59 10 yard split. He had the fourth best three-cone drill (7.11) — superior to Jadeveon Clowney’s 7.27. Let’s just put this into perspective — he’s 19lbs lighter than Clowney, his split is only 0.03 seconds slower, and he has a better three cone. Don’t call this guy undersized. Call him a beast. He ticks every single box — production, athleticism, attitude, relentless nature, he’s a skilful technician. The only thing stopping him being the perfect three technique is an inch or two in height. Which is nothing. Draft the man.
Kony Ealy (DE, Missouri)
He’s one of the toughest players to judge on tape, so today was about finding some clarity. Mission:unaccomplished. I’m still left asking — what is he? He ran a poor 4.92 (with splits of 1.66 & 1.72) at 6-4 and 273lbs. For a player tipped as a possible outside linebacker, that was disappointing. His vertical jump was 31 inches — an inch shorter than Aaron Donald’s (despite a height and weight advantage). And yet despite all this he ran the fastest three cone among defensive linemen. In fact, he ran the third fastest three cone since 2006. Here are comparable performers in the drill since ’06: Bruce Irvin, Barkevious Mingo, J.J. Watt, Cliff Avril. He’s also long — with 34 /14 inch arms. He tests like he plays — sometimes mediocre, with flashes of quality.
Demarcus Lawrence (Boise State)
I came into the combine wondering if he could be an option for the Seahawks. He has great length (6-3, 251lbs, 33 3/4 inch arms). He recorded a 34.5 vertical jump — among the best on the day. Yet his official 4.80 forty is disappointing and a 7.93 three cone was worse than 326lbs nose tackle Zach Kerr. To get into the first round mix he needed to be closer to a 7.05 in the three cone and hit the 4.6/4.7 mark. Players like Marcus Smith at Louisville simply outperformed him on the day. Back to the drawing board here.
Ra’Shede Hageman (DT, Minnesota)
Another player who tested brilliantly in some categories, and not so much in others. He’s a former basketball player and managed the seventh best vertical (35.5 inches) at 6-6 and 310lbs. He had 35 reps on the bench press despite his long 34 1/4 inch arms. His 5.02 in the forty isn’t amazing, but it’s about right. Yet his three cone drill (7.87) was among the worst for defensive linemen. Will Sutton, who struggled badly all day, managed a 7.93 in comparison. His two 10-yard splits were 1.81 and 1.75 — again, among the worst. He coasted through his forty without any real running technique, and he was hit and miss in the drills. He’s going to need some coaching up. If he’s willing to work, he could be fantastic. I still think he’s a first round pick.
Jackson Jeffcoat (DE, Texas)
A lot of people expected Jeffcoat to run in the 4.7/4.8 range. Instead he managed an official 4.63 and had the second best three cone — only beaten by Kony Ealy’s historically good attempt. He had the sixth best vertical (36 inches) and he’s got really good length — 6-3, 247lbs, 33 7/8 inch arms. He’s a former 5-star recruit and he flashed some of those skills today. Tony Pauline really likes this guy. He has NFL bloodlines — his father Jim Jeffcoat was a standout defensive lineman for Dallas and Buffalo. You have to wonder if he’s due for a bit of a rise up the boards.
Louis Nix (DT, Notre Dame)
He admitted he’d dropped 20lbs for the combine — we’ll never now why he let himself get to 350lbs on a compact 6-2 frame. Was it an overreaction from Notre Dame, after getting beaten up by Alabama in the BCS Championship? Was it ill-discipline? He’s not a top-15 nose tackle with unbelievable athletic qualities. He ran a 5.42, only managed a 25.5 vertical, had a lousy 8.29 three cone and didn’t compete in the bench press. Vince Wilfork (6-1, 323lbs) recorded a 5.08 forty, a 7.62 three cone and had 36 reps on the bench. Wilfork went 21st overall. It’s difficult to see Nix topping that, but he might find a home at the end of round one. It’s no guarantee, though.
Anthony Barr (LB, UCLA)
At no point in the last two years has Barr looked like anything but a work in progress. He’s got a great lean off the edge (big positive) — but his hand use is really poor (big negative). He lacks core strength in the upper body and struggles in 1v1 combat. He looks like a guy who made a late transition from full back. 15 reps on the bench press is below average for the position, and he needs to get on those weights. His forty time at 4.66 was OK — but he’s only 244lbs. He did run the third best three cone among the linebackers with a decent 6.82. He’s a project for me — and not an obvious top-ten pick. He should go in round one, but I doubt it’ll be as early as a lot of the mock drafts are suggesting.
Jadeveon Clowney (DE, South Carolina)
The media narrative has been particularly negative throughout the combine. Mike Mayock has been extremely critical of Clowney, while other pundits have questioned whether you can trust him at the next level. I understand those concerns — Clowney is incredibly laid back. You get a vibe of entitlement. And you do have to wonder whether he truly wants to be ‘great’ — or will he just accept being rich and ‘good’? The thing is, it’s difficult to watch him run a 4.53 and not get excited. However critical people want to be about this guy, it’s going to be so hard to pass on him — whether you need a quarterback or not.
Timmy Jernigan (DT, Florida State)
On tape, Jernigan doesn’t blow anyone away. He’s not an explosive speed rusher, and that showed up today with a 5.06 forty (he didn’t run the three cone drill). He’s in between 6-1 and 6-2 at 298lbs — but he doesn’t get close to the type of athleticism flashed by Aaron Donald. He only had a 29.5 vertical and an 8.6 on the broad jump (9th worst). He doesn’t have much length either — with 31 5/8 inch arms to go with a compact frame. I’ll say this though — I kind of like the way he plays. He’s edgy, he has a good motor. He actually tires out sometimes because he tries too hard. He can manage that situation better and it cost him some crucial snaps at the end of the BCS Championship. I just have a really hard time placing him in the first round without the brilliant physical skills or the big-time production.
Players making an impression
Marcus Smith (DE, Louisville) — I’m going to watch tape on this guy tonight. Ran a 4.68 at 6-3 and 251lbs. He’s got 34 inch arms, managed a 35 inch vertical and a 10.1 broad jump. Doesn’t have Bruce Irvin (4.43) or Cliff Avril (4.51) speed, but he’s someone I want to get a closer look at.
Kevin Pierre-Louis (LB, Boston College) — ran a 4.51, made a 39 inch vertical and a 10.8 broad jump. He looked terrific in drills too. This was an explosive performance from the 6-0, 232lbs linebacker.
Larry Webster (DE, Bloomberg) — former basketball player. Lacked polish during the drills, but could be another Jameson Konz project with the ability to try-out at multiple positions (although he’s not a 4.38 guy like the Konz). He ran a 4.58 at 6-5 and 252lbs. Managed a 36.5 vertical and a 10.3 inch broad jump. A 7.29 broad jump is in the Jackson Jeffcoat range.
Caraun Reid (DT, Princteon) — Really shone in the drills — looked smooth, mobile and effective. Ran a 4.91 at 6-2, 302lbs. Nice three-tech prospect. Has 33 inch arms.
Telvin Smith (LB, Florida State) — any team trying to find a rangy, hard hitting safety should think about converting this guy. He’s 6-3 and 218lbs — but ran a 4.52. There’s a lot of potential here.
Anthony Johnson (DT, LSU) — Made the biggest impression during drills when the first group of defensive linemen were working out. Strong, violent hands. Effortless in the club/rip session. Solid looking frame, extremely powerful. Another player I’ll go back and re-assess. Could be a very solid mid-round type who develops into an effective run blocker.
Several big names missing
Stephon Tuitt told NFL.com’s live feed that his medical picked up a stress fracture on his left foot. He says he intends to delay surgery until after his pro-day, which could take place on March 6th.
Dee Ford was advised by combine officials not to participate. The medical exams revealed a problem linked to a 2011 surgery regarding a herniated disc. That could be serious.
Brent Urban hurt an ankle during the Senior Bowl and didn’t take part in the forty or any of the drills today.
C.J. Mosley didn’t run the forty and there were some concerns relating to his medical.
Ryan Shazier pulled out of the forty after hurting his hamstring doing the broad and vertical jumps. He did run a three cone — and made a decent 6.91.
Thoughts on Seattle and the defensive linemen
I think it’s pretty likely they’ll re-sign Michael Bennett, but they’ll lose Red Bryant (discussion coming up below) plus possibly Tony McDaniel and Clinton McDonald. Chris Clemons is also a potential cut.
There are existing players on the roster who will get the opportunity to step up (namely Jordan Hill), but they’ll likely have to re-stock the defensive line — even if they manage to keep one or both of McDaniel and McDonald.
There are players with length and athletic upside in this class that’ll be interesting if they make it to #32. Ra’Shede Hageman is a good example, while Kony Ealy’s three cone effort piqued my interest.
It’s debatable either will be available, while Aaron Donald will be long gone (sigh).
There probably isn’t a LEO you’d take in the first round — and there weren’t any pass rushers running in that 4.4/4.5 range today.
I still see Brent Urban as an option for the Seahawks, it’s a shame we didn’t get to see him work out.
The value in the mid-to-late rounds could be more attractive than what’s available at #32. Can you get an Anthony Johnson to plug into that line as a run stopper? Do you consider adding a Marcus Smith to your pass-rush rotation? Is Urban going to be there at #64 so you don’t have to look at him too early?
Any team wanting a top defensive lineman better get in there early. There’s quite a talent drop after the first 4-5 players leave the board. If we see a little rush early on, this won’t help the Seahawks if they want to go DL in the first round.
I’m loathe to keep ruling out options at #32. Having already poured cold water on a tight end in round one, I don’t want to necessarily do the same with the defensive linemen. I do think there are prospects that would be very attractive to Seattle, but the idea of a mini-rush on pass rushers seems plausible, limiting the options at the end of day one.
This might be an area they address in the middle rounds — where the value is greater.
And maybe this is just me getting carried away, but I think there will be opportunities in free agency similar to the deals for Bennett and Avril last year.
Players want to play in Seattle — and with a deep draft upcoming, not everyone’s going to get paid.
They might be able to find another impact rusher on the open market, on a bargain one or two year deal.
That possibility increases if they cut Sidney Rice, Red Bryant, Chris Clemons and Zach Miller — and the cap is set to increase by $8-9m too.
Free agency begins on March 11th.
Nailed on first rounders
After three days of combine work outs, these are the players I think are assured of being first round picks:
Eric Ebron, Greg Robinson, Taylor Lewan, Jake Matthews, Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans, Odell Beckham Jr, Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel, Jadeveon Clowney, Aaron Donald, Khalil Mack.
Which takes me on to my next point…
Unpredictable first round?
This is a very deep draft, and things might settle down over the next few weeks.
But I think this is going to be one of the more unpredictable first rounds this year.
After the top 10-12 players, there’s about 30-40 players who probably have very similar grades.
It’s a draft that has a bit of everything, too — so we might see teams attacking needs early knowing they can still find starters in the middle rounds.
Honestly, I wouldn’t be that shocked if it happened.
I’ll do a new mock draft on Wednesday where we’ll go into this in a bit more detail.
Pauline: Seahawks covet Beckham Jr
According to Tony Pauline, “If the Seattle Seahawks had their choice of player with the last pick of round one it would likely be Odell Beckham Jr.”
I guess you could say there are 31 other teams who’d be willing to draft Beckham Jr in that range too.
He’s a terrific player, a definite top-20 talent and has no business being on the board when Seattle’s on the clock. Speed, competitive nature, a playmaker, capable of high pointing the football and competing in the air. You’d be shocked if the Seahawks weren’t all over Beckham Jr.
Ultimately though he isn’t going to be there, as Pauline admits.
So basically, they’re willing to take the best players in the draft.
Red Bryant the next high profile cut?
Late yesterday this report emerged out of the blue…
— Alex Marvez (@alexmarvez) February 24, 2014
Cutting Bryant would save $5.5m. Add that to the saving made when Sidney Rice is officially released and you get a total of $12.8m.
Bryant’s departure wouldn’t be a huge shock. He averaged 29 snaps a game, playing in less than 30% of the Super Bowl snaps.
He’s been a valuable role player and leader, but they clearly believe he’s just not worth the $8.5m he’s due in 2014.
There’ll be more decisions like this to make in the future.
The Seahawks could afford to splurge in 2011 to try and get the rebuild going. Keeping Bryant and Brandon Mebane was key — and so was adding the likes of Zach Miller and Sidney Rice.
At the time they had plenty of cap room and were on the verge of adding starters in the later rounds of the draft. Overpaying a little for Bryant, Miller and Rice wasn’t a problem.
But is it now.
This is all about paying the people who are having the biggest impact on what is now a Championship team. Michael Bennett is criminally underrated — he did as much as anyone to take Seattle’s defense to another level in 2013. Losing him would be devastating, and the Seahawks know it.
Bryant’s role as a two-down run stuffer just cannot compare to the impact Bennett provides as a relentless pass rusher. So it’s pick your poison time. Where you going to spend the money?
On the pass rusher, of course.
The Seahawks spent four years trying to get their rush right. Now they’ve finally achieved it, they aren’t going to let it slip away.
They’ll face similar dilemma’s soon. Zach Miller is a great run blocking tight end, but a great run blocking tight end isn’t worth $7m. If you can keep Miller and do everything else you need to do, fine. But if you can save money on that position and pay an Earl Thomas for example, you’ve got to do it.
Releasing Chris Clemons also saves $7.5m — but it’s interesting that despite speculation relating to Rice, Miller and Bryant — none of the national pundits have name-checked Clemons as an expected cut.
I wonder, after four years of trying to get the pass rush right, whether they want another year of Clemons, Bennett and Cliff Avril working in tandem?
Going back to Bryant, the debate now is — how do you replace him?
I’m not convinced they’ll go in search of a cheaper big man. I’m also not sure they’ll look to promote a Jesse Williams into the same role (and really, he just has to get to a point where he can take the field again).
I think they’ll adjust and adapt. They found a role for Bryant and made it work. They’ll have a plan to move forward, and when the draft and free agency have been and gone — they’ll simply work out a formula that suits their personnel.
This is a team that’s constantly evolving. It might not be a case of looking for another 323lbs lineman. It might be more about continuing to look for length, power and the ability to play the run particularly well — whether you’re 290lbs or 320lbs.
Brandon Coleman met with the Seahawks
Rutgers wide receiver Brandon Coleman (Bishop McNamara) met with the Packers, Patriots and Seahawks, had an informal meeting with Redskins — Aaron Wilson (@RavensInsider) February 24, 2014
No big surprises here.
We’ve talked about Coleman a lot, so we don’t need to go over old ground. I suspect they’ll have a degree of interest in him — really it’s just about the grade he gets. Do they see him as a first round option, or would they only take him later on?
We’ll be back for the final day of the combine tomorrow, featuring the defensive backs.
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