Written by Kip Earlywine
A brief announcement:
Veteran readers may recall that in 2010, I did a daily series covering prospects titled “player of the day” or POTD for short. People seemed to enjoy reading them, but in terms of results, it was an abject failure. I covered about 30 or 40 players or so in that series. Only one of them (Earl Thomas) was actually drafted by the Seahawks, and he was a player I almost didn’t include because like most people I was assuming Seattle was only considering six foot plus defensive backs.
In my own defense, Rob and I did not yet have a direct pipeline to our inside source (although the source did tell us that Seattle loved “Thomas” before that draft- which I assumed meant Demaryius Thomas). The inside source has been much more generous this year, providing a list of names and front office insights for the #12 pick and the exact rounds Seattle will target certain positions through the rest of the draft, which is a huge benefit to us and makes projecting the Seahawks draft far less of a shot in the dark than two years ago. There was also the fact that Seattle had a ton of needs that year which led to them having a relatively unpredictable BPA oriented draft. And finally, there was the fact that it was John Schneider’s first ever draft as a GM, which was further muddled by the fact that he was presumably taking orders from Pete Carroll, a bit of an unknown in his own right since he swore to do things differently than his previous NFL jobs.
When the draft rolled around, the Eagles made a dramatic trade up right in front of Seattle for Brandon Graham in the first round, and the Browns made a big trade up right in front of Seattle for Montario Hardesty in round two. Those were two players I especially liked in my POTD series, so I’ve always felt those events were interesting coincidences. As it turns out, the rest of the league was just as much in the dark about John Schneider’s style and preferences as I was. With some good insider info and two years of experience covering this front office, I’m hoping this year’s spotlights will end up being more accurate.
I always thought that “POTD” sounded kind of clunky, so this year I’m changing the name to Draft Spotlight. Expect about four entries a week, possibly as much as six in a week if I have enough time. The goal is to cover twenty or so random players before the draft next month.
And so today, I’ll begin with Michael Egnew: tight end from Missouri. I want to remind everyone now that most of these write-ups will not be scouting reports. They will more closely resemble a research essay. So please do not take my opinions as gospel, especially not in this series.
Michael Egnew, TE, Missouri
A year ago, Michael Egnew was Blaine Gabbert’s go to guy. Blaine Gabbert ended up a top ten pick, and Michael Egnew picked up All-American honors before returning for his fourth year. Michael Egnew had 90 receptions in 2010 when paired with Gabbert. Ninety. That is not a typo. Even without Gabbert the Missouri tight end had 50 catches in 2011. To put that in perspective, potential first round pick Coby Fleener had a career high 34 receptions last year. The Megatron-esque Austin Seferian-Jenkins of Washington had 41 receptions last year. The top drafted tight end in 2011 (Kyle Rudolph) never had more than 33 receptions in a season. Jeremy Shockey had a college season high of 40 grabs. The last first round tight end to be drafted (Jermaine Gresham) had a career high of 66 receptions (but only 37 the year before). To say the least, Egnew’s 140 reception total over the last two years is eye catching.
There is just one problem. Was Michael Egnew really even a tight end? Below I’ve included a compilation video from Egnew’s 2010 All-American season.
Meticulous observers will notice right away that in Missouri’s spread offense, Egnew usually lines up in the slot, and occasionally even as a flanker, but almost never on the line. Now it could just be that Egnew did line up on the line a fair amount, and the video compiler chose to leave those plays out because Egnew did not factor in them. Still, shouldn’t it be worrisome that just about every single reception Egnew had in that video came from him lining up like a wide receiver? Missouri basically treated Egnew as a receiver with the benefit of his being covered by linebackers. Suddenly its no wonder at all that he amassed 140 receptions the last two years.
Egnew measured in at the combine at just a hair over 6’4″ and weighed in at 251 pounds, which in case you are wondering is the same weight as the departed John Carlson. Egnew ran a strong 4.62 forty time. It may not be the blistering 4.4s range time that Fleener put up at his pro-day, but its enough to make Egnew one of the fastest draftable tight ends on paper. I have to admit that his forty time is a bit of a surprise though, most scouting reports on Egnew describe him as slow and my own observation of him is that he frequently has poor separation. He also had just 9.2 yards per catch over those 140 receptions the last two years, and low yards per catch is often a good barometer of speed and separation (Mike Williams and TJ Houshmandzadeh are good examples of this).
As far as blocking goes (and I’m basing this off of what I’ve read), he’s often described as a guy that tries hard but doesn’t get the best results.
If I didn’t know any better, I’d wonder if I was writing a report on John Carlson four years ago. In terms of size, speed, separation, hands, blocking skills, and yards after catch, Carlson and Egnew are pretty damn similar. This is interesting because Seattle just lost John Carlson in free agency, and could be looking to replace him in the draft should an opportunity present itself.
But here is a question I have: is Seattle looking to replace John Carlson with another John Carlson? Part of me suspects not. Sure, its reasonable that Seattle wouldn’t want to match Minnesota’s 5/25 deal for Carlson’s services, but what about a 1/5 deal instead? Because that’s what the franchise tag would have cost for Carlson, and Seattle didn’t use it. Seattle didn’t appear to try very hard to negotiate with Carlson before free agency either. Keep in mind that they did this in the same offseason in which they rewarded Red Bryant, a 333 pound defensive end with two career sacks, a $35 million contract. John Schneider has shown that when he wants a guy back, he doesn’t play around. Yet he barely lifted a finger to keep Carlson.
I suspect that Seattle’s ideal number two tight end is a guy like Anthony McCoy without the drops. Someone that is strong as a blocker first and foremost and is also a weapon in the passing game. Running the ball will always be the priority for this team, and the tight ends on this roster will likely reflect that. This leads me to believe that Egnew is perhaps an unlikely selection for the Seahawks.
If Egnew is hanging around in the sixth round, Seattle might figure “what the hell” and take him, but my instinct tells me that if Seattle does draft a tight end, it will probably be a guy who is well above average at both blocking and receiving. This is not to say that I dislike Egnew, much less that I think you should. John Carlson was a great pickup by Seattle back in 2008. Egnew has a chance to be a tremendous mid-round value. I would celebrate an Egnew selection any time after the 3rd round. Its just that I have a hunch this front office could be looking a different direction at tight end instead.
Expected draft trajectory: Rounds 3-5.