Monday draft notes: Speed for the Seahawks?

November 19th, 2018 | Written by Rob Staton

A possible target for the Seahawks this off-season

The chances are they’ll do what is expected and draft a defensive linemen. Most teams picking in round one will. It’s going to be the clear strength of the first frame. There’s also a dearth of alternatives at positions like quarterback, receiver, offensive tackle and defensive back. Fighting the board, especially if the D-line is a need, would be an odd decision and go against Seattle’s approach in previous drafts.

That said, there is another position they could realistically consider early. They could use some speed on defense. That could come in the form of a top EDGE or even an interior rusher. Speed at linebacker could also be a priority.

We’ll need to see what happens with K.J. Wright and Mychal Kendricks. If one or both are re-signed, it’s less likely to be an option. With Bobby Wagner and Barkevious Mingo also under contract, it wouldn’t make much sense to draft depth at linebacker in round one or two (if they trade down). It might be something they look at later on.

With the Rams’ creative and fast-paced offense a big problem for the rest of the NFC West, finding a really fast and productive WILL to pair with Wagner could be a target. Someone capable of competing against an offense that has Todd Gurley but also contains a variety of sweeps, motions and attempts to create space for the ball carrier.

That’s not to discount Shaquem Griffin who they clearly like. His best role might simply be as a key special teamer and occasional nickel linebacker.

When the combine comes around it’ll be interesting to see who performs well in the forty and the short shuttle. Wagner reportedly ran a 4.46 forty and a 4.28 shuttle. He was also highly explosive with a 39.5 inch vertical and a 11-0 broad jump. They might not find someone with that sensational profile — but can they find a linebacker with the physicality to match-up against the run and have the speed to be a counter against a team like the Rams?

And make no mistake — the Seahawks need to find ways to combat LA’s offense. Turning those two losses into wins has to be a priority in 2019. They can’t afford to give up 36 and 33 points when they face the Rams.

We’ll likely need the combine to discover what options are out there. I’ve started watching Michigan’s Devin Bush. So far this season he has five sacks, 9.5 TFL’s and five pass break-ups. I’ve only watched two of his games and need to see more. There are things I like, some things I don’t. I’ll reserve judgement until I’ve done a bit more work. However, it’s worth noting that Jim Harbaugh described him as, “one of the fastest linebackers I’ve ever been around or seen.” That’s something to consider.

I suspect speed in the front seven, just as it was in 2012, will be a big focus this off-season.

Thoughts on Miami’s Gerald Willis

Willis is an interesting player. He was dismissed by the Florida Gators in 2015 for what reports called a ‘string of on and off-field incidents’. He’s now with Miami and there’s a bit of buzz about his stock.

Willis has 17 TFL’s this season. To put that into perspective, Kentucky’s ultra-productive Josh Allen has 17.5. Quinnen Williams has 15 and Zach Allen 14.5.

Willis certainly impacts games. Of the three I watched last week, you could make a really decent highlight video. The overall tape, however, hints at some limitations too.

He’s capable of working down the line, hand-fighting to disengage and making plays in the backfield. When he shakes off a block or has a route to the QB you really see his speed. Willis covers ground quickly to create pressure and you’ll always want someone blocking his path to the QB. He absolutely hammered one of the LSU running backs for a big TFL when unblocked. He clearly has fantastic agility and it won’t be a surprise if he posts a good 10-yard split at the combine.

He had a sack vs LSU swimming away from the guard and exploding into the backfield. The swim seems to be his go-to move. He used it on a second TFL vs the run against LSU and also to get free and pressure the LSU QB in his own end zone (he was also blatantly held as he broke free and it should’ve been a safety).

On the other hand, he was mostly handled by Boston College. His TFL in that game came on a 1st and 20 run with the Eagles leading 27-14 and trying to run out the clock. They practically sent an email to Miami pre-snap telling them it was a run. Sometimes he goes to the swim too often. Blockers adjust and anticipate it. You’d like to see him mix things up and show a better repertoire. There’s no real evidence of a bull rush. He’s a quicker rusher rather than a guy who bullies linemen at the LOS.

And that’s OK. The league needs quick interior rushers. He’s listed at 6-4 and 285lbs so you wouldn’t expect him to be Quinnen Williams or Dexter Lawrence. He’s probably always going to be the type of player you bring onto the field in certain scenarios as part of a rotation. That might limit his stock. If he’s viewed as a role player and if he’s not overly convincing when discussing the end of his time at Florida, he might last into the middle rounds.

One thing could change that. An outstanding workout.

It’s possible.

Willis was a four-star recruit. At the SPARQ combine, he had the following performance at 6-3 and 275lbs:

Forty — 5.16
Short shuttle — 4.32
Vertical — 31 inches

The fastest short shuttle by a defensive lineman at the 2018 combine was a 4.32 run by Sam Hubbard.

Here are the top-five short shuttle times:

Sam Hubbard — 4.32
James Looney — 4.37
Rasheem Green — 4.39
Bradley Chubb — 4.41
Marcus Davenport — 4.41

So despite being a 275lbs high school defensive tackle, Willis still achieved a similar short shuttle time to the best EDGE rushers in the 2018 draft.

Willis is now listed at 285lbs so he might not run quite as fast with an extra 10lbs added. Even so, he has a shot to match or beat the top times from the defensive tackles in the last draft:

Taven Bryan — 4.48
Harrison Phillips — 4.50
Foley Fatukasi — 4.53
B.J. Hill — 4.53
Nathan Shepherd 4.53

His vertical jump of 31 inches is also similar to Da’Shawn Hand’s (31.5), Harrison Phillips’ (32), Breeland Speaks (32.5), Rasheem Green’s (32.5) and Marcus Davenport’s (33.5).

I think if you take Willis in round one hoping he will play most of your snaps at defensive tackle, you might end up disappointed. If you can get him a little bit later as a specialist interior rusher, you could be onto a winner.

Updated draft order

With Oakland defeating Arizona yesterday, the San Francisco 49ers are now at #1 overall. With both the Niners and Cardinals struggling, there’s an increasing chance Nick Bosa finds a home in the NFC West. With Arizona in the #2 spot — we could also see one of Quinnen Williams or Clelin Ferrell in the division.

The Seahawks are at #19 after beating Green Bay.

Top-20 (courtesy of Tankathon)

#1 San Francisco
#2 Arizona
#3 Oakland
#4 New York Jets
#5 New York Giants
#6 Buffalo
#7 Tampa Bay
#8 Jacksonville
#9 Cleveland
#10 Detroit
#11 Atlanta
#12 Philadelphia
#13 Denver
#14 Green Bay
#15 Indianapolis
#16 Miami
#17 Oakland (via Dallas)
#18 Tennessee
#19 Seattle
#20 Cincinnati

I’ll be doing an updated mock draft this week. I’ve also been invited on the Tasteful Profanity podcast tonight so stay tuned for that.

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35 Responses to “Monday draft notes: Speed for the Seahawks?”

  1. Trevor says:

    Hi Rob

    Two guys who remind me of Malik McDowell from a physical profile standpoint are Gerald Tillery (ND) and Raekwon Davis (Alb). If PC/ JS try to add this type of player again what are your thoughts on either of these guys as a fit for the Hawks in Rd#1?

    Also Ziggy Anzah has been hurt almost all year but has been productive with 3 sack in 4 games despite a limited number of sacks. What are your thoughts on bringing him on a 1 yr prove it deal? Could he be an Avril type replacement opposite Clark?

    • Rob Staton says:

      I don’t see McDowell in Tillery or Davis to be honest. McDowell was a classic inside/out rusher. He had rare talent — an ability to play outside at his size, to be quite lean and long in his frame but also anchor and have the capability (in college at least) to play nose tackle. I’m not sure I’ve seen a player like McDowell before. I can’t really think of anyone who compares to him. Maybe Calais Campbell but even then, they both had significant differences.

      Tillery is a classic interior tackle while Davis is an absolute monster in terms of size. I wouldn’t be comfortable playing either at end and I wouldn’t want to use them as inside/out rushers either. Tillery is a player who could play the one and offer some pressure. I think Davis is an oversized three.

      I wouldn’t be interested in Ansah unless the price was extremely cheap. He’s hurt too often, he’s 30 next year. He’s always had fantastic physical talent but you never know what you’re going to get. 15 sacks or five. Someone will give him a decent salary. If we’re taking a chance on someone I hope it’s Clowney.

      • Trevor says:

        Thanks for the feedback Rob I guess I just meant the (height, weight, length) when comparing to McDowell. You are right they are very different players. Davis just seems like the kind of physical specimen Pete will be taking a close look at.

        Agree about Anzah if he gets a bigger $ deal I would not be interested but a 1 yr prove it deal I would love to roll the dice on.

    • cha says:

      Not Rob, but I wonder if Ansah might be too expensive. He’s making $17m this year and might not want to do a one year deal.

      The DL market has a lot of intriguing names. It will be fascinating to see how much a good DL draft class effects the overall market. Unless there’s a rush of teams extending their guys, there will be lots of options, from big name guys like Clowney/Ansah/Lawrence/Ford, to high upside guys like Fowler, to graybeards who can still contribute and may not be top dollar like Clay Matthews/Suggs/Wake/Orakpo.

      Assuming they tag or extend Clark, I could see the Hawks being patient with the FA pass rush market because they can target a range of players in the draft, bring back guys like Dion Jordan, Shamar and Branden Jackson, and count on more productive second seasons from Green and Shaquem.

      They could bring their guys back, bring in a mid-range FA, draft a guy, and then have lots of cracks at a veteran in the secondary FA market.

    • Coleslaw says:

      Key thing to remember about McDowell..

      Don’t remember McDowell 😭

      Put him on this team and its GG folks

  2. Gohawks5151 says:

    Good to see your review about Willis. I have thought he was a good player all year and that he would be a fit on this team. I can see him dropping purely on the depth of this class in the draft next year. Assuming we traded back in the 1st and got another 3rd or some thing, I think this is where i would take him and double dip on the Edge/DL depth. I wouldn’t hesitate to go LB with the other 3rd as well. I think the job Clint Hurtt does is a bit underrated. He has done a real good job with this D line and the growth is obvious over the past couple years.

  3. Zxvo3 says:

    Darnell Savage played a good game vs Ohio State. Do you think he’s rising up the draft boards?

    • Trevor says:

      Really like his game and passion he plays with. Will he anxious to see how he tests at combine and see how big he is.

    • Rob Staton says:

      Considering he was considered by some to be a possible UDFA, I think it’s safe to say he’s rising. It was hard to get a grasp of what he is vs Ohio State alone and I need to see more. Decent athlete based on his SPARQ workout.

  4. Trevor says:

    After reading his draft info that Rob hi-lighted and some of his other recen work I think Albert Breer is one of my new favourite national writers along with Lacanfora.

  5. icb12 says:

    Rob, Have you been able to see any NC State this year?

    Germaine Pratt is intriguing. I haven’t done any background, but on the field he looks long, and he looks much faster than some of the other Linebacker prospects. Haven’t really seen much buzz about the guy, but he looks the part and he’s productive. 98 Tackles, 2 ff, 2 pd, 6 sacks so far this year.

  6. millhouse-serbia says:

    I don’t know why, but I have strong feeling that we will draft one of Michigan duo (Gary – Bush).

    Or maybe both of the them. 😀

    Pete and John have always had praise on how players from Michigan had been coached. DT/DE and LB are our biggest needs and it seems that both these players fit physical profile seahawks love.

  7. GoHawksDani says:

    I’m happy you brought up the LB and speed topics. I think our DL depth is pretty good (Clark, Reed as clear #1s and Green, Martin might have huge upside and could be stars in the future, while Naz Jones, Jefferson, Ford might be better than OK, and we also have Stephen, Jordan, Jackson).

    Clark is a clear starter at DE. Reed also at DT. I think Green can be a monster, but he needed this first year to learn and might need next year too. Martin can also bring awesome pressure from the edge. So to me, the position with the biggest question mark and where I can only see OK players is the other DT position. We could definitely use another stud DE, but if we could select a really good DE or a really good DT, I’d pick the DT.

    But I also think that we have some issue deeper on the field. Most runs and plays either go for 1-2 yards or too much (8-12+) yards. Sometimes the DL can create pressure, or stop the RB, but if not, too often I see the RB gets tackled by a safety or CB. We always had some problems with RBs and TEs catching the ball. I know that most of these came by young guys, and scheme stuff, but I’d love to see a young stud OLB.

    So if I’d be JS, this would be my preference for our number one pick:
    1, An elite DT who can stop the run, but also capable of rushing the passer (don’t need to be Donald, but be a playmaker)
    2, A fast, hard hitter OLB who can make plays
    3, An elite DE who can pair up with Clark
    4, Trade back a bit and get a really good DT who can play the run, with some potential pass rush upside (someone like Reed)
    5, Trade back and get a good DE who might be a starter or a really good rotational guy

    I wouldn’t be opposed to trading up either (from like 19 to 11) if there’s a guy who’ll probably off the board when they pick and they think he could be a top player of his position for the years to come

    • Rob Staton says:

      The DL depth is OK but they have a distinct lack of difference makers. If you can draft a difference making DE or DT early — I think it has to be an option.

      • Sea Mode says:

        +1 IMO just draft the best pass rusher on the board, regardless of whether that be at DE, DT, or OLB. I wouldn’t pass up better talent for any specific position in the front seven.

  8. charlietheunicorn says:

    I just keep getting the feeling LB is a need spot for Seattle.
    With the on again and off again KJ knee issues, he might be “done”. I’m also pretty confident that Kendricks will miss 2019, since he will have to do some hard time for the crime.

    I also keep circling back to a Bruce Irvin profile. He is the type of player they might well be looking for, who can be a DE on certain plays and a stand up LB on others…. athletic freak. I’m not sure you would call him an EDGE player, but he is what they seek imo.

    • Rob Staton says:

      I think two things…

      1. The need at linebacker all depends on what they do with KJ and/or Kendricks. Keep either (or both) and it’s unlikely to be a target. Lose both and not sign a replacement and it’ll be a nod to it being a possible early round option.

      2. I’m not sure they’ll necessarily go for a Bruce type. He was, after all, drafted as the ‘ideal LEO’ according to Carroll. They converted him to LB because I think they saw that as a better, more extensive role for him. But still. He was a converted DE. I think if they’re looking to draft a WILL it’ll be someone more familiar with that role. Probably a more orthodox LB. However, if they do draft a LB early it’ll have to be a fantastic athlete. They’re not taking an average or slightly above average athlete in R1 to play linebacker. It’d need to be someone with great speed and agility.

  9. Sea Mode says:

    Gotta say, just saw the highlights. What a game last night! Both offenses are obviously amazing, but the better defense came out on top. Seems like a match-up that might just happen again this post-season…

  10. C-Dog says:

    Seattle was truly blessed at WILL with a healthy KJ Wright. Not the fastest 40 yard type, but his instincts had him playing fast enough, and his tackling as certain as November rain. That’s the thing that gives me some pause on Devin Bush. He has the speed to go sideline and get to Gurley near the LOS, but does he have it in the bucket to bring him down? KJ has had the individual man power to take a big back like Gurley down

    Kendricks seems to have that. I was pretty high on Darius Leonard last Spring because he seemed to have that, and it seems like the Colts got a really nice player out of him.

    I fully agree with the belief that Seattle needs to continue adding speed to the defense. It seemed like in the losses to the Rams and Chargers, the perimeters were under assault early and often. I also think that if KJ had been fully healthy, that may not have been the case.

    At the end of the day, I just really want to see this defense get back to being intimidating, especially now with the team sporting an intimidating run game again. IMO, that’s the perfect union, and I think that they have pieces in place. Frank, Bobby, and Jarran are intimidating players up front. I think Rasheem Green, if he can stay healthy, has perhaps the upside to be that.

    I’m not saying Bush can’t be that guy, but I’m not certain, and I don’t know if a 285 lb speedy defensive tackle like Willis is either. Now if by the grace of Heaven above, one of the Clemson DTs, or Derrick Brown, or Davis from Alabama is sitting there, can you imagine how intimidating it would be to run on something like Dexter Lawrence and Jarran Reed inside? That would likely make whoever is holding down the WILL’s job a heck of a lot easier, and if we are to go off of where they took Jarran, how they saw him, and what they have had in the past, Carroll seems to genuinely prefer big powerful sure tacklers at DT who have the strength to consistently two gap, and enough athleticism to offer some rush. While Jarran didn’t wow at the combine, his college tape never lied about his ability to play the run, and he seemed to possess just enough athleticism to develop as a pass rusher, and low and behold he’s doing just that.

    Conversely, if they did go LB early, and assuming Devin White is long done, D’Andre Walker seems like an interesting intimidator who could perhaps play off ball. IMO, he might be a really interesting replacement for KJ if he is not back. If we go back to KJ’s development, he started at SAM and worked himself into a role inside. Maybe Walker can do the same.

    • Zxvo3 says:

      I think D’Andre Walker can fill us that need of being a run stopper as well as a pass rusher off the EDGE. However, if the Seahawks decide to use Walker only off the EDGE, they may decide to draft a LB for depth and a guy that has the strength and speed to play the WILL could be Khalil Hodge out of Buffalo.

  11. AndrewP says:

    What about a Walker type in RD1 and a Gaines type in RDs 3-4?

    • Nathan Woo says:

      I would be on board. When teams were double teaming Vita Vea it allowed Gaines to be quite productive. I think Reed / Jones (where is he??) could be types that would eat up more blockers.

  12. clbradley17 says:

    On espn.com, according to Brady Henderson – “Seahawks defensive end Frank Clark has already tied his career high with 10 sacks this season. That gives him 29 since the start of the 2016 season, which is seventh-most. Of the players with the 10 highest sack totals in that span, Clark has played the second fewest defensive snaps, according to ESPN charting: Chandler Jones (38.5 sacks, 2,458 snaps), Von Miller (33.5, 2,189), Aaron Donald (33.5, 2,118), Danielle Hunter (31, 1,843), Ryan Kerrigan (30.5, 2,004), Khalil Mack (29.5, 2,196), Frank Clark (29, 1,779), Calais Campbell (28.5, 2,028), Mario Addison (28, 1,436), Cameron Jordan (26.5, 2,361).”

  13. drewdawg11 says:

    Bush is a great athlete who can’t really tackle or sauté someone up all the time. Arm tackles and questionable angles. Rarely does he send anyone backwards unless he’s cleaning
    Up someone else’s mess. Mid round? Maybe.

    • Rob Staton says:

      To me he’s used in a very aggressive way but it makes it very difficult to project at the next level. He basically runs head first into the LOS every down. Either to rush the edge or to try and find a gap inside. And what happens, too often, is he’s really aggressive inside and any outside run has legs because he loses contain on his side. And occasionally he’s too easily worked. Indiana’s first TD came on a run right at Bush. He’s short-armed so he can’t stack and shed. He was far too easily blocked out.

      Like his speed, like his effort, like that he makes plays. Not entirely sold though.

  14. drewdawg11 says:

    Rob, what do you think about a slightly lesser athlete who is just an outstanding linebacker named Chad Hansen? Played safety most of his career at Utah, but now he’s an excellent linebacker. Not a pass rush guy, but man can he run and tackle. He could be a good Strong side OLb or even play inside. Not a bad pass defender at all. He simply outgrew safety and the coaches said that they had always recruited him with that in mind.