Cosell hits a home run on receiver observation
“You can’t teach 6-5” — one of the popular buzz phrases of the 2014 draft. It’s often used to describe Kelvin Benjamin and Mike Evans — two players who will probably go in the top-20 on Thursday. Why? I’m not a paid up member of the cult-of-Greg Cosell, but he’s written an absolutely blinding piece about the way the NFL views the receiver position:
“The concept of separation has changed. Distance between receiver and corner does not necessarily have to be the defining criterion. The ability to use your long or wide body against shorter and smaller corners has become just as valuable an attribute, especially with more and more man-to-man coverage being played.”
Cosell absolutely nails it. He goes on to add:
“Separation is not the defining characteristic needed for them (Evans and Benjamin) to be dangerous receiving threats. What throw has become such a critical part of the NFL game? The back shoulder fade. The back shoulder throw is almost impossible to defend against big, physical wideouts like Evans and Benjamin; corners cannot defend two routes, and they must play the deep ball first, so a well-executed back shoulder throw to a big-bodied wide receiver is a tactical nightmare for even the best of corners.”
This is one of the best observations we’ve seen all off-season — and a reason why big, tall receivers will be attractive to teams in this draft. It’s not just the big guys either. Odell Beckham Jr, Marqise Lee, Brandin Cooks. None taller than 6-0 — but all capable of competing for the ball at its highest point.
The days of precise accurate routes and timing are fading. Seattle’s DB’s have contributed to that as much as anyone. The Seahawks have receivers who can do what Cosell talks about in his piece — but they lack that tall, rangy wide out who can be a relentless force outside of the numbers. You just know Pete Carroll wants to find that guy, even if it isn’t with the #32 pick.
McGinn’s scouts analyse the defensive linemen
Over the weekend Bob McGinn provided anonymous scout quotes on the receivers and offensive linemen. Today he moved on to the D-liners — the other position Seattle is likely to consider early in the draft.
Here’s the quotes on three players we’ve focused on ahead of this years draft:
Brent Urban (DT, Virginia)
“He is the blueprint of a 3-4 end physically… Very strong.”
“He is a poor man’s J.J. Watt. They look the same. They play the same. Everything about Urban is just lesser than what J.J. had.”
“He’s a power guy… Size and length (34¼ arms). He can push the pocket but doesn’t have a lot of twitch to get an edge. Lot of batted balls. Plays hard. He’s an ideal 3-4 guy.”
Those who’ve followed the blog from September will know I’m a big fan of Urban’s. For me he could easily have sneaked into round one with a healthy post-season. That comparison to J.J. Watt is right on the money. As crazy as it sounds — that’s what he looks like on tape. He’s a diet version of Watt.
He gets banged up and has an ACL injury on the list of previous issues. But if the Seahawks took him at #32 I’d be surprised but not upset. If they get him in any round after it’ll be a fantastic pick. He has the length and strength to be effective against the run. He can play early downs and he has untapped potential as a pass rusher.
Urban’s been totally overlooked because he’s not done anything since hurting his foot at the Senior Bowl. Do not sleep on this guy.
Dominique Easley (DT, Florida)
“The knees are OK with us… That’s what will make him fall to the second round or maybe early third.”
“He’s as good as (Aaron) Donald… Really a good player.”
“Plays hard… When he hits it right, he’s disruptive. But he’s disruptive both ways. He’ll get knocked out of the hole. He’ll get gashed. Hurt all the time. He has five career sacks. We’ve got people here who love him.”
“Even big, strong guys have trouble with him because he’s in their pads so fast. He can create inversion. That’s how he survives. Big guys will wash him. He gets swallowed.”
I’m surprised he received such a middling review. The second scout hits the right note for me — he’s as good as Aaron Donald. Both players have a sensational ability to collapse the pocket. It’s very rare you find one guy capable of doing this in a draft class — let alone two. Disruptive, natural three techniques are among the most fun players to watch in the NFL. Everyone loves Geno Atkins’ style. This pair can play up to that standard — seriously.
The final quote isn’t inaccurate. There are plays where he gets washed out against the run. A big lineman is going to turn him a few times and open a hole. It’s the sacrifice you make for starting a 280-290lbs defensive tackle. For the sake of one or two 10-yard gains in the running game though, I can live with the 5-6 huge plays he seemed to make at Florida where he’s into the backfield before the quarterback’s finishing his drop.
Easley is a special player. The type Seattle would normally have no chance of getting at pick #32. If they have no problem with the knees like the first quote above, they’ll be getting an explosive pass rusher to add to the ranks. I just wonder if he’s recovered well enough to be off the board before the Seahawks pick.
Ra’Shede Hageman (DT, Minnesota)
“Physically, he’s got tools… He’s one of those guys, you’ve got to see what’s underneath the grill.”
“Those guys on that line at Minnesota played hard. Except him, he’s kind of fooling around. He had two sacks the whole year and he’s probably the most talented physical specimen in the Big Ten at the position. He has no feel on the pass rush. He just throttles it down whenever he gets stymied. If things don’t go he just stops. You’ve got your hands full coaching him. I just don’t think mentally it’s there.”
“You’ve got to like him because of the ability… But he just wallows around sometimes. He gets knocked on his back. Takes himself out of games. But a big, giant guy. When he goes he hits heavy and shows a lot of athletic ability.”
The more you read on Hageman, the more likely it seems he’ll fall to the second round. There are times on tape where he really turns it on and you think, “Wow”. But we are literally talking about 2-3 times a game. And the rest of the time he’s a non-factor. I thought for a while the pure upside would keep him in day one — and that may still prove to be the case. But there’s a lot of noise from within the league that he’s just too inconsistent and presents too much of a risk.
He’s athletic enough for the Seahawks to consider and can’t be ruled out at #32. But look back to what John Schneider said about guys fitting into Seattle’s intense locker room and then you read this: “Those guys on that line at Minnesota played hard. Except him..” — doesn’t it just make you second guess Hageman’s suitability?
It was also reassuring to see McGinn’s sources saying the kind of things we’ve talked about with some of the more overrated D-linemen in this class.
On Dee Ford one scout says, “He just jumps, jumps, jumps. Just a little guy that’s not a special pass rusher. He’s got to be a 3-4 guy, but I don’t think he’s that kind of an athlete.”
Another scout says about Kony Ealy: “There’s no outstanding traits about him other than he gives you some versatility in a bad (defensive-line) draft. He’s a mess. Somebody’s going to draft him because they need a defensive end and overdraft him.”
On Timmy Jernigan: “Like him, don’t love him. He’ll fade on you. You won’t see him sometimes. He has really good three-technique quickness but not first-round three-technique quickness. He has some strength, but he’ll get swallowed up by some big people.”
And Stephon Tuitt: “That’s all he is. Big dude. Zero pass rush.”
I’ve seen a few quotes on Twitter tonight from people in the media claiming they’ve been told their mock drafts are inaccurate and we’re in for a shock on Thursday. It’s just my take — but I think you’ll only be shocked if you expected the likes of Ford, Ealy and Jernigan to go early.
Kam Chancellor set to miss time
A new need for #Seahawks? Safety Kam Chancellor had hip surgery this offseason, will hope to be ready this preseason. But nothing is certain
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) May 6, 2014
The good news is this has been dealt with immediately — giving Chancellor the best possible opportunity to return. The Seahawks were willing to shell out to keep Jeron Johnson and that is significant. He’ll likely be tasked with stepping in if Chancellor misses time.
It’s unlikely to be considered a new need as Rapoport’s suggests — you don’t overreact to news like this. But having ended the 2013 season playing his best football, Seahawks fans will be hoping he’s available to open the season against the likes of Green Bay and Denver.
Seahawks wish list/cheat sheet
I got an email earlier today from a reader named Andy:
I have a request. Would you be willing to put together a ‘cheat sheet’ with the prospects that you think are the most likely candidates for the #32 pick, with a sentence or two summarizing each of them? I won’t have a tablet or laptop with me watching the draft. If possible, I would like to have something I can print, maybe circle the guys I like best, and then refer to them quickly when each pick is in.
I’m basically picturing this… except with your thoughts instead of Todd McShay’s. You could include the top-tier guys like Clowney and Watkins if you want, or you could limit it to guys that are more likely to be available at #32.
This might not be the easiest thing to read and break down — but I guess you could copy it to a word document. Hope it’s what you were after Andy.
Johnny Manziel (Texas A&M)
The ultimate competitor and playmaker. Improvisation is the most underrated characteristic in a quarterback and Manziel has it in spades. If you’re willing to build around him and maintain an open mind, he can be a very successful quarterback.
Scored a 32 on the wonderlic, just under 10 inch hands
Sammy Watkins (Clemson)
Big, reliable hands. Strong as an ox. Capable of doing it all at the next level — running across the middle, owning the red line, being a YAC threat and working on end arounds. The best receiver to enter the league since A.J. Green.
34 inch vertical surprisingly modest, ran a 4.43
Mike Evans (Texas A&M)
Jump ball specialist. Showed he’s quick enough running away from Alabama defensive backs for a 99-yard touchdown. Very similar to Vincent Jackson. Sometimes easily wound up on the field and needs to stay in control.
Has +35 inch arms and recorded an impressive 37 inch vertical
Odell Beckham Jr (LSU)
Massive ten inch hands on a 5-11 frame. High points the ball superbly. Gritty, sparky playmaker who never backs down. Will enjoy immediate success as a return man. Exceptional athlete.
Both parents were athletes, had a 38.5 inch vertical
Marqise Lee (USC)
In 2012 he was the most dominant playmaker in college football. Another brilliant competitor. Watch the Stanford game from 2013 — he won it for the Trojans with an injured leg. Forget the 4.5 forty — he’s quick enough. Drops the occasional pass but makes up for it.
Had a difficult upbringing and turned his life around, 38 inch vertical
Cody Latimer (Indiana)
Exceptional player. Never drops a pass. Runs a 4.4 with basketball skills in the air. The best run blocking receiver in the draft. Wins the red line consistently, takes the ball away at the highest point. Spent the off-season working his tail off with Brandon Marshall in Florida.
Recently recovered from a foot injury, has impressive dunking skills
Brandin Cooks (Oregon State)
Tavon Austin-style receiver. Plays above his size at the sideline. In the 2013 Civil War game he consistently drew triple coverage (!!!) from the Oregon defense — and he still made plays. If a team is willing to be creative and move him around — you can feed him the ball. Good character.
Has the same sized hands as Mike Evans (5-10 vs 6-5)
Kelvin Benjamin (Florida State)
Incredible size is a positive not the negative some make out. At his best high points the ball, shields defenders and will break tackles. Capable of destroying defenders in the run game. Had too many lousy drops in college and needs to concentrate more. Will be a red zone demon.
35 inch arms and 10 1/4 inch hards — has a huge catching radius
Fringe first round:
Martavis Bryant (Clemson)
Exceptional athlete but an immature player who still needs to do some growing up. Nearly blew his career due to complacency. Throat-slashing celebration against NC State was ugly. Could be special with the right development. Well coached at Clemson in terms of routes and an absolute dynamo downfield.
39 inch vertical, has a young child to support
Donte Moncrief (Ole Miss)
Another incredible athlete. Good size at 6-2, 221lbs but also had a hand timed 4.3 at the combine. Disappointing 2013 season leaves stock difficult to judge. Missouri game in particular was very sloppy. Part of this is on the Ole Miss offense. He showed against Texas & LSU in 2012 he has the potential to be special.
Incredible 11-foot broad jump and 39.5 inch vertical — legit top-5 athlete in the draft
Eric Ebron (North Carolina)
Ideal modern day pass-catching tight end. So fluid working the seam. If he gets into space he can break off big gains. Made some one handed catches in 2013 that had to be seen to be believed. Also has the occasional disappointing drop. Minor character concerns and can show more commitment to blocking.
Had a 4.60 forty — Rob Gronkowski managed a 4.68
Greg Robinson (Auburn)
Incredible beast of a tackle. The biggest concern surrounding most college tackles is their ability and willingness to excel in the running game. Robinson thrived in Auburn’s run-heavy system and will have instant success at the next level. He can be as good as he wants to be. Potential star left tackle.
Ran a 4.92 at 332lbs — has 35 inch arms
Jake Matthews (Texas A&M)
Shorter arms but natural technique and feel for the game. Terrific bloodlines. Always looked better than Luke Joeckel when the pair played together at College Station. Plays to the whistle, holds position well and kick slides perfectly well. Solid prospect.
Part of the famed Matthews clan — and so is Notre Dame tight end Troy Niklas
Taylor Lewan (Michigan)
Tall, athletic tackle. It’s been suggested he’s a bit of a phony tough guy. On tape I think he plays tough. Very self confident. Another player who might fair better on the right side. Like Matthews, will be solid if not spectacular.
Recently had a run-in with the law, ran a 4.87 at 309lbs
Zack Martin (Notre Dame)
I’m surprised it took so long for the media to realise how good Martin is. He looked like a first rounder throughout his time at Notre Dame. Can play any position on the offensive line. Could have a better career than Matthews and Lewan.
Didn’t run a forty at the combine, 32 and 7/8 inch arms
Ja’Wuan James (Tennessee)
Prototype tackle with long arms, height and a good frame. Mr. Technique — never gets flustered in pass protection and plays with excellent balance, hand use and stops defenders with ease. Needs to get stronger — doesn’t drive people off the ball. Started 49 games at right tackle in the SEC.
Had the third lowest reps on the bench at the combine among OL’s
Joel Bitonio (Nevada)
In terms of size, athleticism and length — he’s on par with Matthews, Lewan and Martin. Very underrated. Shut down Anthony Barr, held a thriving Florida State defense at bay and Demarcus Lawrence had no success against him. Great attitude, plays to the whistle. Very similar to Logan Mankins coming out.
Late father was a martial arts expert, ran a 4.97 at the combine
NOTE: I would’ve included Alabama’s Cyrus Kouandjio as a first round suggestion. He has the length and size for Seattle. I thought he played at a very high level in the SEC and would’ve been a top-20 pick but for concerns over an arthritic knee. If the Seahawks have faith in his health, then he could be an option. Without the necessary information it’s hard to project where his stock is. He could go anywhere from round one to being completely off many boards.
Aaron Donald (Pittsburgh)
At times unblockable. Size (6-0, 285lbs) will concern some teams but it shouldn’t. Fires off the line and constantly impacts plays. Donald was the star of the combine — running a 4.68 and recording 35 reps on the bench. Grounded individual, could be a little more confident. A really safe pick even in the top ten.
A home-bird born and raised in Pittsburgh, has a young child
Dominique Easley (Florida)
Two serious knee injuries are a concern — but he’s since been cleared and could be ready for training camp. If you aren’t put off by the injury history he’s just as good as Donald — and potentially better. Explodes off the line with great burst, he’s stronger than you expect. Impact pass rusher who holds his own against the run. Ideal three-technique. Team captain and leader. Fun personality.
Has a young son, worked at Florida with Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn
Jadeveon Clowney (South Carolina)
For all the negative talk about Clowney — you just have to watch him at his best to understand why he’s so highly rated. Watch the Tennessee game from 2013. With the right guidance he can be just as good as Julius Peppers. He won’t always play with fire, but in the big games he’ll be a difference maker.
Ran a 4.53 at the combine, has a laid back personality
Khalil Mack (Buffalo)
In terms of athleticism he’s top notch. The concern is against mediocre opposition in the MAC he didn’t have an impact. Yes — he destroyed Ohio State. But his opponent that day — Jack Mewhort — might not even play tackle at the next level. I’m not as sold as others — but he’ll go in the top ten.
40 inch vertical was impressive, has the length to play DE
Anthony Barr (UCLA)
He needs time. He’s played two years on defense and showed plenty of potential. Not an incredible athlete like we expected but he managed a 1.56 ten yard split at the combine. Barr needs to work on his technique and upper body strength. Getting stronger is an absolute must. You can’t rely on an immediate return and that could hurt his first round stock.
Ran only a 4.66 at the combine and benched just 15 reps
Ryan Shazier (Ohio State)
Incredible athlete. Runs in the 4.3/4.4 range, jumped a 42-inch vertical. He struggles to keep weight on during the season and will ultimately play between 220-230lbs. For that reason he needs to be protected by scheme. His best fit is at weakside linebacker in a 4-3 — where he can play in space and fly around the field.
Has dealt with hamstring issues this post-season, appears to love the game
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (Alabama)
Not a Mark Barron or Earl Thomas — but the best safety in this class. You can rely on him to come in immediately and settle into a defense. He has enough range. Might work best partnering another dynamic player on the back end.
Had a suspension at Alabama, first name is short for ‘Ha’Shean’
Note: I didn’t include any cornerbacks because let’s be right here, Pete Carroll isn’t taking a first round corner. They’ll keep finding guys later on. For what it’s worth I expect four to go in round one — Bradley Roby, Darqueze Dennard, Kyle Fuller and Justin Gilbert.
I’ve written some further notes on some of the players I’d like to see in Seattle, regardless of round:
Brandon Coleman (WR, Rutgers)
See the Cosell article above. Size wins in the modern NFL and Coleman is 6-6 and 225lbs with 34 inch arms. He ran a hand timed 4.50 at the combine (official 4.56). And he’s strong — managing 21 reps on the bench. He was a team captain at Rutgers and really suffered in a terrible passing offense. He needs development and time — but the ceiling is so high. How many players have you seen with this size run away from defensive backs for 80-yard touchdowns? Imagine him in Florida State’s offense instead of Rutgers’. He can be taught to make the most of his size and reach — and in today’s game a player like this will be a threat.
Brent Urban (DT, Virginia)
As we discussed earlier — he’s Bud Light to J.J. Watt’s Budvar. That doesn’t mean he’s going to come into the league, be the most dominant defensive player in the NFL and win countless awards right off the bat. But he has at least a shot at being a similar albeit less effective type of player for a team. And that’s exciting to me. He’s stout against the run, he destroys linemen with power and drives blockers into the pocket. He has the length (+34 inch arms) and size (6-7, 295lbs) Seattle loves. He’s a freak of nature. If he stays healthy he could be one of the steals of the draft, whichever round you take him.
Cody Latimer (WR, Indiana)
What’s not to like? He’s a former basketball player with incredible athletic qualities and leaping ability. He’s been timed in the 4.3/4.4 range and he has the size at 6-2 and 215lbs to win in the modern NFL. All of that alone is enticing. But the #1 reason why Latimer is so appealing is his hands. The guy doesn’t drop passes. Whether it’s running over the middle in traffic, high pointing the football down the sideline or ripping an under-thrown pass away from a cornerback — he just makes plays. He’s reliable. Add in his willingness to run block (seems to enjoy it) and you’re talking about someone who should be a consensus first rounder.
Dominique Easley (DT, Florida)
Three techniques have to carry an edge. They’re not like other players in the league. Darnell Dockett is a great example. Can you honestly tell me he’d be the same player without his quirky personality? Ditto Sheldon Richardson or Warren Sapp or any of the greats. Your ideal offensive lineman is a meat and potato’s blocker with a blue collar attitude. Your ideal three technique collapses the pocket, makes a sack and has a well crafted dance routine to celebrate. Easley isn’t just explosive, lightning fast, strong at the point, relentless and at times unstoppable — he has the perfect personality to be the next star three-tech. He dances between snaps, wears a heavy chain to take onto the field and carries a Chucky Doll to games. Most importantly he was a team captain at Florida — a real heart and soul type who commanded respect from the coaches and his team mates.
Joel Bitonio (T, Nevada)
I’d have no concern playing him at right tackle. He can do it. I think if you needed him to he’d hold his own as a left tackle for a few weeks. I agree with those who believe his best position could be guard. For me he’s another Logan Mankins. If you slot him in at left guard he could easily hold that spot down for 10-12 years. Look at the comparisons between the two coming into the NFL — they’re nearly identical. But I think he can play tackle — and that’s the crucial thing in terms of the Seahawks. He needs to get stronger, but he makes up for it with sound technique and elite athletic ability. For me there’s nothing between Jake Matthews, Taylor Lewan and Bitonio. Size, length, athleticism — they’re similar. Except Bitonio’s the only one to shut down Florida State, Anthony Barr and Demarcus Lawrence. He has longer arms than Zack Martin and Matthews and the same arm length as Lewan.
Ja’Wuan James (T, Tennessee)
The more I watched of James recently, the more I liked. He’s a much better prospect compared to team mate Antonio Richardson. Aside from one difficult match-up against Missour’s Markus Golden he just oozed comfort. He never gets flustered. The ball’s snapped, he locks onto the edge rusher and does his job. If you want a blocker who can come in and keep your QB clean — James will do that. He’ll start for years at right tackle and might even be able to shift over to the left. He has good character, he started 49 games in college (in the SEC). Technically he’s very good (excellent balance, footwork). He needs to get stronger and he doesn’t drive people out of the way in the run game. But as a pass protector he’s very accomplished.
In terms of later round/UDFA guys — the Seahawks know the types of player they want. They’ll bring in a host of athletes and some unknowns. It’s hard to project who they’d show interest in. Here are some of the names I like, although some of these players won’t fit into Seattle’s thinking:
Chris Whaley (DT, Texas), Kaleb Ramsey (DT, Boston College), Jordan Zumwalt (LB, UCLA), Jonathan Dowling (CB/S, Western Kentucky), Jonotthan Harrison (C, Florida), Marcel Jensen (TE, Fresno State), Kevin Norwood (WR, Alabama), Ronald Powell (DE, Florida), Taylor Martinez (QB, Nebraska)
Oh, and then there’s this…
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) May 6, 2014
Talk about always compete. Although hopefully whoever typed it (so many typos) will be getting some competition this off-season too…
Tomorrow I will post my final mock draft. It’s the version I’ll be sending to the Huddle Report.
On Thursday I’ll be taking part in a Field Gulls Hangout and conducting a live session with the Seattle P.I. offering analysis during the draft. Both features will be available on the blog.