It was at least a little bit interesting last week when Pete Carroll suddenly added ‘pass rusher’ to the list of possible draft options for the Seahawks. He’d previously listed cornerback, linebacker and O-line as the priorities for the off-season. He made reference to CB and LB again — but swapped out the OL following the additions of Luke Joeckel and Oday Aboushi.
That’s not to say the Seahawks won’t go O-line at #26. If one of the big names falls into range, a Bolles or Lamp for example, they could easily be the pick.
However, I wanted to look at a scenario where the Seahawks consider a pass rusher earlier than we’ve been discussing:
#1 Cleveland — Myles Garrett (EDGE, Texas A&M)
#2 San Francisco — Solomon Thomas (DE, Stanford)
#3 Cincinnati (Trade) — Leonard Fournette (RB, LSU)
#4 Jacksonville — Deshaun Watson (QB, Clemson)
#5 Tennessee — O.J. Howard (TE, Alabama)
#6 New York Jets — Malik Hooker (S, Ohio State)
#7 LA Chargers — Jamal Adams (S, LSU)
#8 Carolina — John Ross (WR, Washington)
#9 Chicago (Trade) — Marshon Lattimore (CB, Ohio State)
#10 Buffalo — Marlon Humphrey (CB, Alabama)
#11 New Orleans — Haason Reddick (LB, Temple)
#12 Cleveland — Jonathan Allen (DE, Alabama)
#13 Arizona — Reuben Foster (LB, Alabama)
#14 Philadelphia (via Min) — Kevin King (CB, Washington)
#15 Indianapolis — Forrest Lamp (G, Western Kentucky)
#16 Baltimore — Cam Robinson (T, Alabama)
#17 Washington — Taco Charlton (EDGE, Michigan)
#18 Tennessee — Gareon Conley (CB, Ohio State)
#19 Tampa Bay — Adoree’ Jackson (CB, USC)
#20 Denver — Garett Bolles (T, Utah)
#21 Detroit — Obi Melifonwu (S, Connecticut)
#22 Miami — Jabrill Peppers (S, Michigan)
#23 New York Giants — Ryan Ramcyzk (T, Wisconsin)
#24 Oakland — Jarrad Davis (LB, Florida)
#25 Houston — Mitch Trubisky (QB, North Carolina)
You might say it’s unlikely that Obi Melifonwu, Kevin King, Adoree’ Jackson and Gareon Conley are all off the board before pick #26.
Maybe it is?
Here’s the thing though — it isn’t that improbable and here’s why:
— Melifonwu is the definition of what teams are looking for on defense in 2017. A 6-4, 225lbs defender with the short-area quickness and agility to cover the slot, the size and explosive traits to defend the run and the versatility to line-up in various different match-ups and positions. He could be a corner, a strong safety or a ‘Buffalo’. Simply put, there aren’t many human beings with his physical profile on the planet. He could set a new standard at the big nickel.
— There aren’t many cornerbacks ever that have possessed King’s combination of size, length and athleticism. He has the deep speed to cover outside, the size to handle true #1 receivers and unnatural short-area quickness and agility to work in the slot despite his 6-3, 200lbs frame. When interviewed he talks about the intricacies of the offense he’s facing and what he learned during tape study. He had 16 passes defended in 2016 — as many as any of the top cornerbacks in this draft — and one incredible interception against Arizona State that will have teams salivating at his potential.
— Jackson is a first round pick in any draft class. A genuine, true game-changer. He can handle the slot at a time when teams are predominantly using nickel in base. He has the potential to be one of the all-time greats as a kick returner. He can handle a package on offense. Every time he’s around the ball he’s a threat to score. Furthermore, he was a team captain at USC and despite his lack of size — he doesn’t shirk a tackle. I’ll say it again — he’s Percy Harvin on defense without the hassle.
— Conley isn’t quite as freaky as the other three and he has some issues with hand use, offering far too many free releases in college. He’ll need to learn to jam and re-route and get a feel for when a receiver is breaking without getting flagged. There will be a learning curve. That said, he’s pretty much everything you want from a starting outside corner. He has the size, length, speed and instinct. His positional play — knowing where to position himself to break on the ball — is exceptional. Cornerback is a vital position and Conley has a shot to be a high-end starter in the NFL.
When you actually consider the talent, production, physical profile and positional value of the four players — it’s very easy to make a case that they won’t get out of the top-25.
What is more likely, after all? That Tennessee’s Derek Barnett remains in the top-25 despite being a short-armed, undersized defensive end with a middling physical profile? Or that teams instead look at the extreme potential and ability of the four names above?
I’m not trying to argue that this is definitely going to happen. It will be Seattle’s good fortune if one or more of the four DB’s fall into range. It’s not something we’ve really considered though — that they won’t be there. And whether it’s likely or not, it’s at least possible.
In the top-25 projection above the top O-liners are also off the board and a possible consolation prize like Jarrad Davis is also gone at #24 to Oakland.
So what happens in this situation?
Have the Seahawks been planning for this scenario?
— Pete Carroll recently noted Bradley McDougald could act as a ‘big nickel’ or ‘Buffalo’. Seattle needed safety depth anyway — but if depth was the key, this draft is loaded with good safety’s. Was McDougald brought in because they feel Melifonwu, a possible target to play as a ‘big nickel’, now won’t be available at #26?
— If they were hoping to draft Adoree’ Jackson but he’s now expected to go earlier than originally expected (top-20 is NOT a stretch), this might explain why the Seahawks had a good look at Houston’s Brandon Wilson at his pro-day last week as a possible later round alternative:
— Carroll stated that Germain Ifedi is moving to right tackle and Luke Joeckel will get a chance to win the left tackle job. Is this an admittance that they don’t believe the top tackles will reach #26?
— A final interesting nugget from Carroll’s conversation with John Clayton last week was Jeremy Lane moving to outside corner as the ‘next man up’ in replacing Deshawn Shead. It essentially cleared the way for McDougald to be the new ‘nickel’ and perhaps signals Seattle’s intention to let their existing corners battle it out to start across from Richard Sherman, rather than bring in a first round pick to start immediately.
Admittedly, a fair bit of dot-connecting is going on here. Yet it doesn’t feel entirely implausible either. The Seahawks generally set themselves up for every draft class and have a pretty good idea of who will/won’t be available at their various picks.
And if this type of situation arises, maybe they will take an EDGE rusher early?
A top-25 like this presents a few different options:
— Trade down (Mahomes and Webb are still on the board as trade bait)
— Continue the rush on defensive backs with Budda Baker, Chidobe Awuzie, Cordrea Tankersley, Justin Evans or one of the many other options
— Take a pass rusher such as T.J. Watt, Tyus Bowser, Takk McKinley, Jordan Willis or Charles Harris
I’m going to make a case in this piece for Tyus Bowser and T.J. Watt.
Here’s the key info from the article:
Ten yard splits
T.J. Watt — 1.59
Tyus Bowser — 1.59
Khalil Mack — 1.64
T.J. Watt — 4.13
Tyus Bowser — 4.40 (Pro day)
Khalil Mack — 4.18
T.J. Watt — 6.79
Tyus Bowser — 6.75
Khalil Mack — 7.08
T.J. Watt — 37
Tyus Bowser — 37.5
Khalil Mack — 40
T.J. Watt — 10-8
Tyus Bowser — 10-6
Khalil Mack — 10-8
Forty yard dash
T.J. Watt — 4.69
Tyus Bowser — 4.65
Khalil Mack — 4.65
Production (final college season)
Khalil Mack (2013) — 10.5 sacks, 18 TFL’s
Tyus Bowser (2016) — 8.5 sacks, 12 TFL’s (in just eight games)
T.J. Watt (2016) — 11.5 sacks, 15.5 TFL’s
Watch this footage of Bowser at the combine. Look how quick, fluid, twitchy and ripped he looks:
Here’s Watt’s workout as a comparison:
We know both players ran a 1.5 split (Seattle likes that), we know both ran exceptionally well in the agility tests (Seattle likes that) and we know they’re both really explosive, productive and passionate about the game (Seattle especially likes that).
Even in a worst-case scenario with so many good defensive backs flying off the board, there’s still a really attractive, freaky upside alternative in these two.
And with the great depth at cornerback and safety in this class — the Seahawks should be able to find options at both positions in rounds 2-3.
If you’re feeling a little bit down after reading about the top DB’s potentially being off the board at #26, this’ll cheer you up. Mel Kiper and Todd McShay ran through a two-round projection today. Kiper had Seattle drafting Marlon Humphrey and T.J. Watt with their first two picks. That would be a haul.
Here’s another player to keep an eye on too as a possible day-three option. Noble Nwachukwu (DL, West Virginia). Gritty backstory, basketball background, good length, grown man. Could be an inside/out type rusher.