I’m splitting this article into two parts. Firstly, some notes and quotes from Pete Carroll’s final press conference. Secondly, some thoughts after studying the top ranked cornerbacks in the 2017 draft.
Pete Carroll’s final press conference
On Seattle’s needs going into the off-season, Carroll listed the following:
— Young depth at linebacker
Carroll has been very honest about off-season needs in the past. After the 2010 season he highlighted the need to dramatically improve the running game and they spent their first two picks on run blocking O-liners (James Carpenter, John Moffitt). Before the 2012 season he stated more speed in the front seven was the big need. They drafted Bruce Irvin and Bobby Wagner.
It doesn’t expel them from targeting a different area of the team (eg, if the opportunity to sign Calais Campbell presents itself). Yet the needs listed today will likely be prioritised.
On Jimmy Graham: “I’m excited for him to come back.”
There’s no need to continue debating his presence on the roster. The Seahawks have $40m in cap space, more than enough to compete for additions. They don’t need to save an extra $10m and they certainly don’t need to create an unnecessary void at tight end by moving one of the NFL’s best players.
When asked if they should spend more money on the offensive line, Carroll explained why they’d essentially been forced to go with a younger O-line this year, before adding: “We’re not going to spend a ton of money on one guy to save the day… I don’t think you can buy your way to it.”
Carroll admitted Germain Ifedi has the ability to play guard or tackle but will remain at right guard for the sake of continuity.
Not making a host of changes was a common theme. “(It’s a) chance to come back with the same group… but we’ll challenge them.” Carroll talked about adding one or possibly two offensive linemen in the draft and also made a reference to free agency. It didn’t sound like a major O-line rebuild was in the works.
On George Fant: “He made a big impact on us.” It sounds like he’s the future at left tackle, at least for now. Rees Odhiambo could compete for that job.
He admitted some concern about the durability of C.J. Prosise: “He has to show it.” Carroll seemed less concerned about Thomas Rawls’ injury problems, referencing the incidental nature of his broken leg and previous broken ankle.
He talked positively about the running back group, name checking Rawls, Prosise and Alex Collins, “plus whatever else comes up.” Adding a running back to the competition seems likely — but it didn’t sound like a major priority either.
When asked about criticism of Darrell Bevell and certain fans wanting a change, Carroll fired back, “They don’t know what they’re talking about. Darrell does a great job.” He also ruled out any other coaching changes unless Tom Cable becomes the Head Coach in San Francisco.
Unsurprisingly he also made reference to the run/pass balance: “I don’t like how it split this year. That’s not how it’s supposed to be.” Expect a greater commitment to the running game in 2017. A healthy Russell Wilson and Thomas Rawls will help.
We know what to focus on now. Defensive backs, offensive linemen, linebacker depth. Here are two possible early round targets at each identified need area:
OT — Garett Bolles (Utah), Ryan Ramczyck (Wisconsin)
LB — Zach Cunningham (Vanderbilt), Haason Reddick (Temple)
DB — Adoree’ Jackson (USC), Kevin King (Washington)
Studying the cornerback class
I’ve been eager to look at this group. The Seahawks haven’t drafted a cornerback before the fourth round during the Pete Carroll era. Yet this is considered a deep draft at the position at a time when Seattle’s depth has never been lighter. They’re young and raw and incumbent starter Deshawn Shead could miss the start of next season with a serious knee injury.
Yesterday I watched at least one game of all of the top ranked corner’s according to draft media.
The lasting impression was it’s clearly a deep group of good cornerbacks. However, it wasn’t easy to find guys that leap off the screen. It’s very easy to throw on some Garett Bolles tape, watch Solomon Thomas’ Bowl game, enjoy Malik Hooker’s range or the relentless nature of several EDGE rushers in this draft and be wowed.
The cornerbacks all shared similar features. Generally they’re decent cover corners that aren’t physically imposing. Some of them are sub-6-0. The tackling form wasn’t great across the board. Run support was mixed.
I wanted to see a Jimmy Smith type — 6-2, 210lbs, physical, runs in the 4.4’s. Alabama’s Marlon Humphrey might be the closest thing if he declares — but he likely won’t last beyond the top-15.
The Seahawks have such a clear and defined approach with cornerbacks — draft and develop their own — that any potential early round pick at the position probably needs to be a physical freak with major upside. We also know they have a specific profile for size and length.
We’ll have a better idea of who they might target after the combine. There’s certainly potential within some of these prospects to be fantastic athletes. The Seahawks could always draft someone to play in the slot. Carroll offered a lukewarm assessment of Jeremy Lane’s season earlier. If they wanted to add some competition there that would possibly take away the need to focus on tremendous size/length and prioritise suddenness and athleticism.
The freakiest athlete could be Washington’s Kevin King. He’s 6-3 and 192lbs but look at how he performed at last years Husky combine:
4.02 short shuttle
39.5 inch vert
He’ll probably only run a similar forty time to Richard Sherman (4.56) but these are crazy numbers.
King’s three cone of 6.40 would’ve been easily the best by a cornerback at the 2016 combine. Maryland’s Sean Davis ran the fastest time a year ago with a 6.64.
If he repeats it at the NFL combine, it might be the best three-cone by a cornerback ever. Buster Skrine’s 6.44 is the current best mark since records began in 2006.
His broad jump of 10-10 matches Vernon Hargreaves’ effort and would’ve been the third best in 2016 (Jalen Ramsey was #1 with an 11-3). His vertical jump would’ve also been the third best at last years combine (DeAndre Elliott incidentally had a 41 inch vertical).
His short shuttle would’ve ranked at #6.
If King can replicate these numbers in Indianapolis, he could easily find a home in the first round.
In November Tony Pauline reported teams were ‘salivating’ over King.
Long speed is a concern and pre-draft forty times are critical but as told to me by one insider, King is a typical Seattle Seahawks type of cornerback who will be selected during the second day of the draft.
In terms of prototype Seahawks size and length for an outside corner, he ticks the boxes. In terms of freakish athleticism, he has that too.
He also had a productive 2016 season. King defended 15 passes, tied for #16 in the country (level with Clemson’s Cordrea Tankersley). He also had two interceptions. He was targeted a lot as teams generally avoided Sidney Jones on the opposite side of the field. This is useful experience if he does end up playing across from Richard Sherman.
If they’re going to take a cornerback in round one, it could easily be Kevin King.
In terms of the rest of the class, I liked Ohio State’s Gareon Conley more than I expected. He doesn’t have insane size but there doesn’t appear to be much of a talent difference between Conley and team mate Marshon Lattimore. It was fun watching him match-up against Clemson’s Mike Williams. Both players had their moments.
Adoree’ Jackson is clearly a tremendous athlete. His 16 passes defended was tied 11th in the country with LSU’s Tre’Davious White. At the 2013 Nike SPARQ combine Jackson managed a 4.44 forty and a 37-inch vertical. His SPARQ score was a decent 122.7. He’s petit but could be an option as an explosive slot corner/safety hybrid. If providing competition for Jeremy Lane is a priority — Jackson could be a key target.
Two players I enjoyed watching again were the aforementioned White and Tennessee’s Cam Sutton. Both have a lot of value in the kicking game, they’re good athletes and respected leaders. In terms of character they’re top of the draft class at CB. White has had the coveted #18 jersey at LSU for the last two seasons. Sutton is a tremendous public speaker with a great backstory related to Hurricane Katrina. I think teams will like him.
The issue with both is size and length. They’re in that 5-10-5-11 range which is borderline for Seattle. We know the Seahawks want +32 inches in arm length. I’ll be rooting for both players at the combine. Sutton in particular is a very intriguing prospect overall.
Two players I expected more from were Quincy Wilson and Teez Tabor. Wilson looks thick set and lacks suddenness. Tabor equally didn’t stand out as an athlete. I went back and looked at the 2013 Nike combine numbers and they were revealing:
Quincy Wilson — 4.60 forty, 32 inch vertical
Teez Tabor — 4.64 forty, 35 inch vertical
They’ll need to do a lot better than that at the NFL combine. For whatever reason, a string of Florida Gator cornerbacks have not performed well in these testing events. Even Vernon Hargreaves last year ran an underwhelming 4.50.
Teams avoided throwing at Washington’s Sidney Jones all season — he was targeted only 48 times. It was clear to see, especially watching him live against Arizona State. He’s an athletic, technically gifted cornerback with major pro talent. He looks dinky in size — but so did Hargreaves and Eli Apple last year. It won’t be a surprise at all if he lands in the top-20.
Cordea Tankerlsey is intriguing but how much of an athlete is he? Tankersley can really bolster his stock with a good combine.
I’m going to spend more time looking at the group after the combine and Senior Bowl when we have measurements and physical profiles to work with. However, at this point I would project the following players have a good chance to go in the top-25:
Marlon Humphrey (Alabama)
Marshon Lattimore (Ohio State)
Sidney Jones (Washington)
Adoree’ Jackson (USC)
The following players could also work their way into the first round:
Kevin King (Washington)
Cordrea Tankersley (Clemson)
Gareon Conley (Ohio State)
I’m going to reserve judgement on Wilson and Tabor until after the combine and further study. Wilson is technically sound and can be physical. He’s cocky in a good way. He has a pro cornerback mentality. But he has to do more than a 4.6 and a 32 inch vertical to get ahead of some of these players.
None of this group are as exciting as Marcus Peters was entering the league. Arguably the NFL’s best cornerback these days, Peters just looked like a stud — size, length, physicality, ball skills, athleticism, attitude.
So it’s a deep class of good cornerbacks instead of 2-3 studs at the top of round one. If the Seahawks truly wanted to invest in the secondary, they should be able to get two solid defensive backs in the first four rounds.
I’m sure other names will emerge during the process. We’ll keep monitoring this class and I haven’t watched everyone yet. Colorado’s Akhello Witherspoon needs to work on his tackling — but he did a decent job covering John Ross. He could be a later round option at 6-3 and around 190lbs. Witherspoon was #2 in the country for passes defended (22).
The big stars of the 2017 draft might come at other positions. It’s a fantastic safety class and Malik Hooker in particular has a chance to be special. Whenever you watch Washington Budda Baker jumps off the screen. He’s a fantastic, underrated talent.
It could end up being a really productive group of defensive linemen and edge rushers. Solomon Thomas has generational potential. It’s easy to imagine Taco Charlton and Charles Harris having a big impact quickly in the league. Jonathan Allen is consistently disruptive at Alabama, while Takk McKinley has some DeMarcus Ware and some Ziggy Ansah to his play. Tim Williams has character flags to check out — but he had a tremendous career at Alabama.
The top two running backs — Leonard Fournette and Dalvin Cook — appear destined for greatness. Garett Bolles has a chance to be a really good offensive tackle in a league desperate for quality at the position. The top two tight ends — O.J. Howard and David Njoku — can also have a major impact.
And at linebacker — Reuben Foster could be another Luke Kuechly or Bobby Wagner. Zach Cunningham is another tremendous talent and Raekwon McMillan looked better on a second glance at Ohio State yesterday. Florida’s Jarrad Davis is one to watch.
Three round projection based on what we heard today:
R1 — Kevin King (Outside CB, Washington) or Adoree’ Jackson (Slot CB, USC)
R2 — Haason Reddick (LB, Temple)
R3 — Shalom Luani (S, Washington State)
R3 — Adam Bisnowaty (T, Pittsburgh)
And with approximately $37m in free cap space — they’ll have an opportunity to add to the D-line, O-line and possibly running back.