Today provided more questions than answers.
First of all — how good is this receiver class? I mean, really?
There’s a heck of a lot of depth — enough to extend into the second round before a considerable drop in talent. That’s one major positive to come out of the day.
The other was Odell Beckham Jr — who put on a clinic during the Group 1 receiver drills.
He ran an official 4.43 and looked impressive in every session. He’s always been a top-20 talent. Go and watch the Mississippi State tape from 2013 if you have any doubts.
Yet his performance today provided a rare moment of clarity.
Here’s what we can say with some certainty. Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans and Beckham Jr all deserve to be top-20 picks.
Can we agree on that?
In terms of the rest — well, we could see 8-9 receivers go in the first round. That’d be a new record.
Or we could see as little as four — an underwhelming suggestion given how many people are praising this receiver class.
In many cases, there are plenty of question marks.
Let’s start with the three we can feel confident about…
Didn’t run as fast as expected (official 4.43) but didn’t harm his stock after a superb on-field work out. He was silky smooth throughout — running crisp, effortless routes and catching the ball with natural ease. You have to assume he’ll be the first receiver taken.
He ran a 4.53 which is perfectly acceptable for a 231lbs receiver. It isn’t the 4.41 Vincent Jackson managed at 241lbs however, probably ending any chance he usurps Watkins to be the first receiver taken. Here’s the major positive though — he has 35 1/8 inch arms and recorded a 37 inch vertical jump. That’s some catching radius.
Odell Beckham Jr.
He’s a superb football player who’ll be able to start very quickly. It’s not just the physical qualities either, he’s technically a gifted receiver. There’s a little Golden Tate to his game — he’ll be able to work the sideline despite a lack of size (5-11, 198lbs). He has 10-inch hands that absorb the football. He’s a fantastic competitor, an explosive return man and he high points the ball better than anyone in this class.
And here’s the rest…
He ran a 4.61 at 240lbs. Which is fine. But we mentioned Vincent Jackson with Mike Evans — and he managed a 4.41 at a similar height/weight to Benjamin. Jackson was the 61st pick in 2005. I’m not suggesting Benjamin will fall that far, because he won’t. But can we really say with any confidence he’ll be the top-20 lock we’d started to predict? He’ll be a 23-year-old rookie, he had some ugly drops in college. He had the worst three-cone drill along with Brandon Coleman (7.33). And yet he’s the prototype size for a #1 receiver and has almost no body fat at 240lbs. I could see him going in the top-15, I could see him going in the 20’s or 30’s.
The NFL Network had a camera on Pete Carroll during Lee’s forty yard dash (see the video here). When the timer showed a 4.5, Carroll mouthed “wow”. Everyone expected him to run faster, especially the guy who recruited him to USC. He’s only 5-11 and 196lbs and with an official 4.52 he isn’t going to go as early as expected. Lee didn’t have a great 2013 season — he was injury-hit, the Trojans imploded and he had a high drop percentage. We all saw Robert Woods as a top-15 guy at one time. He ran a 4.42 at 6-0, 201lbs and was pick #41 last year. Lee might suffer a similar fate, but he is better than Woods. Would you be shocked if the Jets took him at #18? I wouldn’t be.
I noted earlier in the live blog that this was ‘job done’ for Coleman. He had his knee cleared. He had 21 reps on the bench press and looked in fantastic shape at 6-6 and 225lbs. He ran an official 4.56 which is only 0.03 slower than Mike Evans. But he also had the joint worst three cone at 7.33 (with Kelvin Benjamin). That’s a big deal for teams like Seattle, who DO take combine drills very seriously. How do you balance out a nice forty with a disappointing three cone? We’re talking about a guy with mountains of potential, an insane ceiling. There aren’t many players capable of doing what he does. But he’s a complex mix of extreme highs (size, forty, upside) and lows (inconsistency even in a crappy offense, lousy three cone, technical flaws). He could go anywhere — round one, round two, lower. Who knows?
Bob McGinn reported today that Bryant could slip into the first round mix. Athletically, it’s not impossible. He’s 6-4 and 211lbs running a 4.42. He completely looks the part of at least a high second rounder. And yet McGinn’s report also labels him a “knucklehead” and someone you wouldn’t want to grab in the first round. Despite his good showing in the forty, his three cone time of 7.18 is lower tier and worse than Mike Evans. He has shorter arms than Odell Beckham Jr. He did post a 39 inch vertical jump — third best for receivers. The tape isn’t great. Another guy who really could be anything to anyone.
He ran a 4.33 and with his massive production in 2013, it won’t be a shock if he goes in round one. He’s also in-between 5-9 and 5-10 and only 189lbs. With guys like this, you have to create a gameplan around them. Brian Schottenheimer in St. Louis refused to do that for Tavon Austin, and the results were a mediocre rookie year with only flashes of brilliance. A creative coach picking in the early 20’s might fancy a shot here. But what if Odell Beckham Jr is still on the board? His floor will be round two, he could go in the first — but nothing’s certain.
I don’t think anyone expected him to run a 4.46. He followed it up with a 35.5 inch vertical and a 6.95 three cone. Very few players did more to help themselves than Matthews today. Understandably, it’s kicked off the first round talk again. I don’t think you can rule it out. But I’m still not sure the tape indicates much more than a solid #2 receiver. He just looks pretty good. He isn’t overly physical, contesting (and winning) passes down the sideline. He’s a crisp route runner with a ton of savvy working the middle of the field. That has some value, but I’m not sure anyone bangs the table for him in round one. He is a hard worker though, with the right attitude. You can’t help but like him, but it’s hard to get too excited at the same time.
I think he got a bit too much hype during the season. He lacks size at 6-0 and 212lbs. Watch the San Jose State game and tell me he didn’t benefit from a serious lack of quality opposition last year. Fresno State were found out by a pretty average USC team, the one opponent of any quality they faced. And yet despite the lack of speed for his size (4.56) he pulls out a 39.5 inch vertical jump — third best among receivers. His three cone was in the top-15. It’s probably not enough to get him in the top-50, but he has a weird blend of fantastic jumping ability and middling speed.
He just isn’t an explosive player, and nobody should’ve expected more than a 4.60 forty today. He’s a shifty open field runner, a tremendous competitor and a really level headed prospect. The big question is — can he continue to be elusive and a YAC threat at the next level? Can he get downfield to take the top off a defense? I’m not convinced. Everything is faster in the NFL. And watching the Penn State tape, you can’t help but wonder if he can remain effective. There’s only one nagging thing in the back of my mind. I didn’t really like Keenan Allen, and he wasn’t a burner either. Allen’s a former 5-star recruit, so he was still a vastly superior athlete to Robinson. But still, fool me once –shame on you etc.
He’s not quite as big as expected (6-2, 221lbs) but he promised a decent forty time and he delivered a 4.40. His 39.5 inch vertical is equal to Davante Adams’ — tied-third best among receivers. He had a 7.02 three cone. And yet during the drills he looked exactly like he does on tape — kind of cumbersome, going through the motions. There’s a really good player in this guy waiting to break free. Someone needs to light a rocket up his ass and he might actually deliver on his potential. Nobody in this class has more self-confidence than Moncrief. That can be a good and a bad thing, I think in his case he needs to realise what is he right now — and what he could potentially become if he just worked that bit harder.
So yeah, we could see 8-9 receivers in the first round. It wouldn’t be a major shock. It’s a good group.
But it also wouldn’t be a big surprise if by the end of day one — most of these names were still on the board, with a rush on the position commencing shortly after round two begins.
I’ll also add — after yesterday’s underwhelming performance by the tight ends, we might only see one Eric Ebron drafted in the first frame.
How the Seahawks might approach this receiver class
Assuming they retain Golden Tate (increasingly likely with the cap set to be extended to $130-132m), they simply don’t need another sub-6-0 receiver. Neither do they need a relatively well sized, technically gifted 6-1/6-2 type.
What they need is a beast. A guy with the size to develop into a true #1. Someone who can win jump balls downfield, dominate the red-line and be a much needed force in the red zone.
Seattle doesn’t have that right now.
Mike Evans will be gone. Kelvin Benjamin could be gone. They both look like classic #1 receivers, the type Pete Carroll admires.
So it could come down to how they view the remaining options. Do they see Coleman as a player worthy of the first round? They’ve shown they’re not afraid to draft for athletic potential early in the draft. And it was reported earlier today that Seattle has shown genuine interest in Coleman.
Do they like Bryant enough, with all of his scary athleticism, to take a major chance on him at #32?
If they don’t see a big receiver worthy of a first round pick left on the board, I think they’ll simply look at other positions. I doubt they’ll take another receiver just for the sake of this being a good class.
The way they judge needs is to grade where they can get the biggest on-field improvement. With Percy Harvin, Golden Tate, Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse — they don’t need to add to the group for the sake of it. They need what they don’t have — a 6-4/6-5, +225lbs monster.
If that guy isn’t there, I think they’ll simply look at other positions.
Time for the defense to shine
With a lack of great front seven depth beyond the first round or two, we might see teams prioritise the defensive talent early.
Unlike at receiver, where you can get a good one in round two — that probably won’t be the case up front on defense.
Here are the players I’m particularly keen to see work out.
Demarcus Lawrence (DE, Boise State)
Ideal length for a LEO, 6-3 and 250lbs. Long arms. On tape he has speed to burn, a relentless attitude and he gets to the quarterback. He needs to prove he has top-end speed with a solid 10-yard split. I touted him for Seattle in my pre-combine mock draft and he’s someone we should be taking very seriously. I just wonder if he could be set for a Chandler Jones-style rise — respected within war rooms for some time, but doesn’t get any media attention until late in the process.
Brent Urban (DT, Virginia)
Another player with the kind of length Seattle loves on the defensive line — 6-7, 295lbs and 34 1/4 inch arms. Looks the part on tape. Had to leave the Senior Bowl with an injury, so this is a good chance to get some momentum going as a potential first round pick. I’ve said many times he could be the steal of the draft. Get him in the weight room and try to turn him into J.J. Watt-lite. He has a ton of potential.
Ra’Shede Hageman (DT, Minnesota)
A former basketball player, Hageman has the odd moment where he looks unstoppable on tape. Can he prove he’s worthy of a top-25 grade tomorrow? Another player with ‘Seattle length’. You could see him going to Arizona or Green Bay. He could be another Mohammed Wilkerson. I thought he’d blow up the Senior Bowl, but he left that to Aaron Donald. Now this is Hageman’s time to make a statement.
Stephon Tuitt (DE, Notre Dame)
He’s lost weight for the combine. Some pundits rank him in the third round, others say he’s too athletic for the size not to be a day one pick. I’m leaning towards him being in the round 2-3 range, but if he runs a 4.8 tomorrow at 6-5, 304lbs — I have to reconsider. Big guys who can run don’t last long. So let’s see if he can run.
Kony Ealy (DE, Missouri)
I’ve not seen anything on tape to get really excited about. I’m not sure what he is — a 4-3 end? A poor man’s version of Michael Bennett? Does he need to play inside as a nickel pass rusher? Some people think he could play outside linebacker. The fact is, however, that if he performs well at the combine at 6-4 and 273lbs — someone will take him early. You can work with a guy like that.
Aaron Donald (DT, Pittsburgh)
For me, you could take him as early as you wanted. Terrific football player, without doubt one of the best in the draft. He has nothing to prove tomorrow. But can he be the star of the show? Tony Pauline has been reporting all week he could run in the 4.6/4.7 range. If he manages it, he’ll be a top-15 pick. He should be anyway.
Louis Nix (DT, Notre Dame)
Apparently he dropped 20lbs for the combine. How on earth did he get up to 350lbs? And why? He won’t run like Dontari Poe, but it’s not that long ago people considered him a top-15 pick as a rare 3-4 nose tackle. Let’s see if he can give his dwindling stock a boost.
Doctors x-rayed Seferian-Jenkins left foot with the sole intention of examining the ankle which he sprained a year ago and kept him on the sidelines during a small portion of the 2012 season. In reviewing the x-rays doctors noticed what seemed to be a potential small fracture in the foot and ordered more tests. I’m told Seferian-Jenkins was getting ready to take the field for his workout when he was pulled from the line and told additional tests were needed. The big tight end was as surprised as anyone as he’d never experienced pain in his left foot to that point. Seferian-Jenkins combine weight of 262-pounds is a number significantly lower than his playing weight of 2013. I’m told Seferian-Jenkins had been timing in the 4.6’s during recent training.
— Blake Bortles looked good today throwing the ball, but is he really #1 pick material? Johnny Manziel won’t suit every team — and might not fit the club picking first overall. But he’s the only quarterback in this draft I’d really want to build around.
I sympathise with those saying they’re not sure Bortles or Bridgewater are top-ten locks. I know the QB position is important, but there’s a ton of value at offensive tackle (Robinson, Lewan, Matthews), defensive end (Clowney) and receiver (Watkins, Evans). If I’m Houston or Cleveland, I consider taking Manziel. If I’m Jacksonville or Oakland, I’m not sure I force a quarterback pick. Keep building. Draft smart.
— This could be the end for Big Red…
— Alex Marvez (@alexmarvez) February 24, 2014
“We all we got, we all we need”
This would save $5.5m, to go with the $7.3m saved when they officially release Sidney Rice. There could be more painful cuts to come. Keeping Michael Bennett is a priority, and so it should be. Re-signing Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman is a priority. There’s a handful of other free agents you’d ideally keep. Any why not at least have the option to look at the open market?
— And what a strange story this is…
Tomorrow we’ll be live blogging all throughout the drills, starting at 6AM PST.
See you then.