I watched some Detroit Lions tape yesterday to look at free agent pass rusher Cliff Avril. He’s an effective edge rusher, with great balance and lean and when he’s lined up against a right tackle he causes a lot of problems. But there’s one thing that kept jumping off the screen. Something that smacks you in the face it’s so obvious.
Interior pressure collapsing the pocket. Time and time again.
It was 2011 tape, Ndamukong Suh’s weakest season statistically. He had four sacks in 14 games that year. Yet it was clear as day what an effective force he continued to be. On almost all of Avril’s 2011 sacks, Suh crashes the pocket preventing the quarterback from stepping up — essentially making him a sitting duck for the speed rush off the edge. The Seahawks in 2012 created almost no push up the middle and never truly felt the maximum benefit of a defensive end (Chris Clemons) who — like Avril — can lean, accelerate and finish.
Nobody should doubt that Clemons is one of the most underrated players in the league. Three straight seasons with double digit sacks as the only pure pass-rusher in Seattle’s base defense is incredible. He’ll be a huge miss if he starts 2013 on the PUP as he recovers from ACL surgery.
Finding a defensive tackle who can be productive on the stat sheet isn’t imperative. The Seahawks just need someone who can make life easier for whoever’s playing the edge.
Of course it’s very easy to point to Suh and say, “just get someone who does that.” He’s a unique and gifted player. The type you need to be picking in the top two or three to get any shot at. You can’t expect to find the next Ndamukong Suh with the #25 pick. The three-technique is one of the single hardest positions to judge based on college tape. It’s such a rare blend of speed and relative size, plus burst and aggression. Without just going out and throwing money at a proven commodity, it’s a difficult hole to fill.
During my time writing this blog only one prospective three-technique has performed so well on tape, there was no doubt his skill set would translate to the next level. That was Suh. Most of the defensive tackle videos I’ve watched since have been mediocre or incomplete. You’re almost always left wanting more — greater strength against the run, quicker burst, more size, a nasty streak. It is so hard to find the ‘ideal’.
Players like Nick Fairley and Sheldon Richardson come close, but even they had some flaws in college. It’s almost like you have to accept some rough edges. It might be a pick based more on potential, frame and athleticism rather than production and tape. And then you ask yourself — can this player be Geno Atkins? Or will he be just another bust among many?
I wanted to do a mock this week where the Seahawks draft a defensive tackle in round one. And it really came down to two players.
Datone Jones — more than anyone it seems — is having a great Senior Bowl. He’s 6-4 and 280lbs, played everywhere along UCLA’s defensive line and registered 6.5 sacks in 2012. He played nose tackle, three technique, power end, five technique. He did it all. ESPN’s scouting trio of McShay/Wiedl/Muench noted how impressive he’s been in Mobile so far:
“Jones was the only guy on Tuesday who beat CMU OT Eric Fisher in a one-on-one drill, and he did it with an outside-in move. Fisher usually protects that pretty well, and Fisher stoned Texas’ Alex Okafor on a similar move earlier in practice.”
Jones was the most consistently disruptive defensive lineman on the field. He’s off to a good start and his performance here is going to send us back to watch more tape of his 2012 season.”
This was just one of many positive reviews, so I looked at a few UCLA games from last season. Jones definitely stands out as a penetrative force. He has a knack of getting into the backfield, flashes nice burst and an effective swim/club move. Despite not being the biggest lineman he doesn’t get destroyed against the run. You start to wonder if he could work his way into becoming a disruptive three-technique.
The big concern is going to be his size against bigger, more physical lineman. He could be a liability against the run at the next level. Whenever you’re talking about a 280lbs player starting inside, it’s a concern. However, the Seahawks have been at least willing to give Greg Scruggs (285lbs) some snaps in that position. If you’re willing to accept he’s going to get blown up sometimes, you could end up with a pretty good pass rusher.
He needs to learn to finish — often he doesn’t make best use of his ability to live in the backfield, either failing to track the play or just not executing. I’ve included tape above of his performance against Stanford in the PAC-12 title game.
Pete Carroll recruited Jones at USC so he’ll know about his potential. It might be a stretch to think he could jump onto Seattle’s first round radar, but stranger things have happened. A strong Senior Bowl is aiding his cause.
He just gets edged out this week by Florida’s Sharriff Floyd. I talked about him in greater detail on Monday and although he’s divided opinion somewhat on this blog, I do think he’ll receive some consideration. I went back and looked at some Gators tape from 2011 to watch Jaye Howard again — and the difference between Howard and Floyd was tangible. We’re talking about a whole different level of athlete. Floyd’s only scratched the surface of his potential so far. I still think he might be best suited to the five technique but there’s no doubting he has some untapped potential as a pass rusher.
The Seahawks know more about this guy than anyone in the NFL given Dan Quinn’s time in Florida and Pete Carroll’s background recruiting him for USC. Nobody will be left wondering about this particular prospect if they pass. If you want to watch his two-sack performance against Louisville (full game) click here.
Note — I have only one quarterback in round one this week. However, I think as many as three or four could go on day one. We could see teams trading up into the late first. I don’t include trades in my mocks — if I did — you’d see four quarterbacks in the top-32. Matt Barkley, Tyler Wilson, Geno Smith and Mike Glennon. A lot of people want to tell you this is a bad year for the position. It isn’t a bad year. It’s just not an Andrew Luck/Robert Griffin III year.
Note 2 — This tweet from Daniel Jeremiah suggests today’s projection might be short lived…
One junior player generating a ton of buzz is Florida DT Sharrif Floyd. Had one high ranking exec guarantee he’d go top 10.
— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) January 24, 2013
|#1 Matt Barkley (QB, USC)
I’m going to settle on this pick for the time being. Kansas City needs a quarterback. Barkley should be the first to go.
|#2 Bjoern Werner (DE, Florida State)
Gus Bradley needs a pass rusher and Werner could be the choice after a 13.5-sack season.
|#3 Star Lotulelei (DT, Utah)
Both of Oakland’s starting defensive tackles are free agents. They had the second worst pass rush in the NFL behind Jacksonville.
|#4 Luke Joeckel (T, Texas A&M)
Chip Kelly needs to rebuild Philly’s offensive line.
|#5 Damontre Moore (DE, Texas A&M)
The Lions could use an edge rusher, especially if they lose Cliff Avril. Moore had 12.5 sacks in the SEC this year.
|#6 Chance Warmack (G, Alabama)
Don’t fight the board. The Browns have bigger needs but Warmack is immense.
|#7 Eric Fisher (T, Central Michigan)
They’ll need to really distrust the QB class to do this. But they DO need a left tackle.
|#8 Alec Ogeltree (LB, Georgia)
Ogletree might have the biggest upside in the entire draft.
|#9 Barkevious Mingo (DE, LSU)
Get Revis back, plug in a speedy pass rusher and New York’s defense will be scary. In a good way. Unlike the offense.
|#10 Sheldon Richardson (DT, Missouri)
|#11 Lane Johnson (T, Oklahoma)
They need to draft a left tackle.
|#12 Cordarrelle Patterson (WR, Tennessee)
The X-Factor player of this draft.
|#13 Dee Milliner (CB, Alabama)
The complete cornerback. This would be a steal.
|#14 Sylvester Williams (DT, North Carolina)
Nice size with an effective swim move and burst.
|#15 Ezekiel Ansah (DE, BYU)
Lot’s of upside but is he enough of a threat rushing the edge?
|#16 Kenny Vaccaro (S, Texas)
Out of all the safety’s in this class, Vaccaro is getting talked up the most. He’s a solid football player.
|#17 Kevin Minter (LB, LSU)
This could be their biggest need.
|#18 Barrett Jones (C, Alabama)
It’s a reach, but Dallas needs to fix their offensive line. And it starts with the center.
|#19 Jonathan Cooper (G, North Carolina)
New York should skip to the podium if this happens.
|#20 Zach Ertz (TE, Stanford)
Terrific tight end prospect. Could go even earlier.
|#21 Dion Jordan (DE, Oregon)
A possible replacement for Michael Johnson who could depart?
|#22 Jonathan Jenkins (DT, Georgia)
Will they switch to the 3-4 if they appoint Rob Ryan? If so, plug in a nose tackle to take up blockers for Long, Quinn and Brockers.
|#23 Travis Frederick (C, Wisconsin)
Big body, intelligent player and looks made for a man-blocking scheme.
|#24 DeAndre Hopkins (WR, Clemson)
DeAndre Hopkins is a fantastic receiver. Simple as that.
|#25 Sharrif Floyd (DT, Florida)
Supreme athletic potential, has history with both Pete Carroll (recruiting) and Dan Quinn (coaching).
|#26 Jesse Williams (DT, Alabama)
His best fit in my opinion is at 3-4 end.
|#27 Jonathan Hankins (DT, Ohio State)
I’m not a fan. He’s just a big body. I guess that works as a nose tackle.
|#28 Xavier Rhodes (CB, Florida State)
After that playoff defeat, surely the secondary has to be a target area for improvement?
|#29 Matt Elam (S, Florida)
They also need to upgrade that secondary.
|#30 Jarvis Jones (DE, Georgia)
The spinal stenosis issue will need to be tested thoroughly.
|#31 Manti Te’o (LB, Notre Dame)
Tough shoes to fill, but the Ravens often look for value in round one.
|#32 Datone Jones (DE, UCLA)
He’s a fast riser and dynamic pass rusher. Could go earlier than this.
#33 Jacksonville – Eddie Lacy (RB, Alabama)
#34 Kansas City – Tyler Eifert (TE, Notre Dame)
#35 Philadelphia – Geno Smith (QB, West Virginia)
#36 Detroit – Arthur Brown (LB, Kansas State)
#37 Cincinnati – Stepfan Taylor (RB, Stanford)
#38 Arizona – Tyler Wilson (QB, Arkansas)
#39 New York Jets – Mike Glennon (QB, NC State)
#40 Tennessee – D.J. Fluker (T, Alabama)
#41 Buffalo – Ryan Nassib (QB, Syracuse)
#42 Miami – Margus Hunt (DE, SMU)
#43 Tampa Bay – Justin Pugh (T, Syracuse)
#44 Carolina – Logan Ryan (CB, Rutgers)
#45 San Diego – Terrance Williams (WR, Baylor)
#46 St. Louis – Robert Woods (WR, USC)
#47 Dallas – Alex Okafor (DE, Texas)
#48 Pittsburgh – John Simon (DE, Ohio State)
#49 New York Giants – Sam Montgomery (DE, LSU)
#50 Chicago – Oday Aboushi (T, Virginia)
#51 Washington – Justin Hunter (WR, Tennessee)
#52 Minnesota – Kawann Short (DT, Purdue)
#53 Baltimore – Menelik Watson (T, Florida State)
#54 Cincinnati – Johnthan Banks (CB, Mississippi State)
#55 Seattle – Keenan Allen (WR, California)
#56 Green Bay – Giovanni Bernard (RB, North Carolina)
#57 Miami – Dallas Thomas (G, Tennessee)
#58 Houston – Markus Wheaton (WR, Oregon State)
#59 San Francisco – Jordan Poyer (CB, Oregon State)
#60 New England – Tavon Austin (WR, West Virginia)
#61 Atlanta – Gavin Escobar (TE, San Diego State)
#62 Denver – Larry Warford (G, Kentucky)