Updated mock draft: March 16th

March 16th, 2017 | Written by Rob Staton

Notes below, including a few thoughts on each round for the Seahawks.

#1 Cleveland — Myles Garrett (EDGE, Texas A&M)
#2 San Francisco — Solomon Thomas (DE, Stanford)
#3 Chicago — Jamal Adams (S, LSU)
#4 Jacksonville — Leonard Fournette (RB, LSU)
#5 Cleveland (trade) — Deshaun Watson (QB, Clemson)
#6 New York Jets — Garett Bolles (T, Utah)
#7 San Diego — Malik Hooker (S, Ohio State)
#8 Carolina — John Ross (WR, Washington)
#9 Cincinnati — Taco Charlton (EDGE, Michigan)
#10 Buffalo — Marshon Lattimore (CB, Ohio State)
#11 New Orleans — Haason Reddick (LB, Temple)
#12 Tennessee (trade) — Marlon Humphrey (CB, Alabama)
#13 Arizona — Jonathan Allen (DE, Alabama)
#14 Philadelphia (via Min) — Gareon Conley (CB, Ohio State)
#15 Indianapolis — Reuben Foster (LB, Alabama)
#16 Baltimore — Jarrad Davis (LB, Florida)
#17 Washington — Jabrill Peppers (S, Michigan)
#18 Tennessee — O.J. Howard (TE, Alabama)
#19 Tampa Bay — David Njoku (TE, Miami)
#20 Denver — Christian McCaffrey (RB, Stanford)
#21 Detroit — Charles Harris (EDGE, Missouri)
#22 Miami — Budda Baker (S, Washington)
#23 New York Giants — Ryan Ramcyzk (T, Wisconsin)
#24 Oakland — Kevin King (CB, Washington)
#25 Houston — Mitch Trubisky (QB, North Carolina)
#26 Seattle — Obi Melifonwu (S, Connecticut)
#27 Kansas City — Dalvin Cook (RB, Florida State)
#28 Dallas — Tre’Davious White (CB, LSU)
#29 Green Bay — Adoree’ Jackson (CB, LSU)
#30 Pittsburgh — Takkarist McKinley (EDGE, UCLA)
#31 Atlanta — Forrest Lamp (G, Western Kentucky)
#32 New Orleans — Derek Barnett (DE, Tennessee)

Seahawks trading down?

There’s possibly going to be a drop off in talent in the second round at around pick #50-55. The Seahawks pick at #58.

A year ago they moved down from #26 to #31 before trading up in round two (#56 to #49) to get Jarran Reed. Trading down in the first again this year could provide the ammunition (fourth round pick) to repeat the act.

With Kevin King off the board in this scenario (#24) they might be able to move down a few spots and still land Obi Melifonwu.

Trading up in round two? Who for?

It could be for one of the cornerbacks they really like. Cordrea Tankersley has size, length and speed. Let’s see if he can improve his broad and vertical jumps at the Clemson pro-day today.

They could look at T.J. Watt. His ability to play SAM and potentially the WILL could be appealing. He’d add another pass rush option as well. His agility testing at the combine almost certainly got Seattle’s attention. Tyus Bowser had a near-identical workout and could also be on their radar. Does either last to #58?

Wildcard options? How about Evan Engram (possibly out of range as a pick in the early 30’s) or Zay Jones?

Would they trade down in round two?

If there is a drop in talent in the pick #50-55 range, the Seahawks might trade out of round two (just as they did in 2011). The late second round is a bit rich for some of the linebackers in this draft. If they move down into the early third round, that could be the range to justify taking someone like Wisconsin’s Vince Biegel.

Who probably won’t be there for the Seahawks in round one?

Garett Bolles and Haason Reddick. They’re destined for the top-15.

Reddick is second only to Myles Garrett in this draft in terms of explosive, natural athleticism. Bolles is a beast at left tackle with the athletic qualities to go top-10. He sets the tone on offense. For example:

It’s also why his team mate (#54 Isaac Asiata) might appeal to the Seahawks. He plays with the exact same intensity.

What does this likely mean at #26?

Get a defensive back. It’s a DB-draft. There could be alternatives (Forrest Lamp for example) but this class is going to be defined by the cornerbacks and safety’s. They will go early and often. Every team is going to want a piece of this group.

There will be good options at linebacker and the O-line in rounds 2-3.

Notes on Obi Melifonwu

Melifonwu gets nitpicked more than a lot of other prospects probably because his physical profile is so exceptional. People expect to see a combination of Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas. When they don’t, an overreaction occurs.

Here’s a small sample of what he’s capable of. Watch him cover the slot receiver, recover and then break on the ball:

There aren’t many players in the league with this level of short-area quickness and recovery speed, with the explosive traits to make a play on the ball. There are even fewer players that possess this level of agility and quickness covering the middle of the field with Melifonwu’s size. So while you might be able to find that quick-twitch, nimble orthodox slot corner to make a play like this, they’re often 5-10 and 190lbs. Melifonwu is 6-4 and 230lbs. Why is that important? He’ll never be a mismatch vs tight ends and bigger receivers working inside.

The video below belittles the suggestion he plays without instinct and isn’t a good fit as an orthodox safety:

You can see him read the quarterback and flash the range to make a play on the ball. It’s a late throw by the QB admittedly. That said, he feels confident enough to attempt this pass because the safety is covering the middle. This is a throw to the left corner of the end zone. Look how much ground Melifonwu makes up to intercept the ball. That’s range defined.

Notice how in the two videos above he undercuts the route. That’s instinct. It’s football savvy. It’s knowing what you need to do to put yourself in position to make a play. Melifonwu’s athleticism will often get him to the ball — here’s the evidence he can take advantage when he gets there.

Here’s another example:

He’s reading this play and covering ground from centre-field. He might not be smashing people into next Tuesday like Kam Chancellor. Yet his combination of size and athleticism will enable him to make rangy plays all over the field.

Adding to this, here’s an interesting article on his play courtesy of PFF. They’re asserting he ranked ninth in run-stop percentage and seventeenth in tackling efficiency among CFB safeties last season.

It’s not a big surprise. Melifonwu doesn’t always deliver the highlight-reel hits but he’s an incredibly assured tackler. Again, his athleticism will often get him to a ball-carrier. The important thing is the finish. And he’s a finisher.

For a defense designed around not giving up the big play, creating pressure gradually and being bigger and faster than the opponent, he’s a good fit.

PFF’s comparison for Melifonwu in their piece is Kam Chancellor. That’s a little rich given the difference in their playing styles — but in terms of sheer physical potential, they kind of have a point:

This comparison is low-hanging fruit, but the reality is there just isn’t another existing player in the NFL who can play up to Melifonwu’s ceiling based on his size and athleticism. Chancellor’s role is one that many teams try to emulate and Melifonwu is one of the few capable of living up to that type of hype.

He isn’t going to be Kam. Nobody is. But he has the potential to be really, really good with the right guidance. There is a chance he could be tried at cornerback but his best fit is likely big nickel and strong safety. Essentially he’d provide depth behind Chancellor and the potential to take Jeremy Lane’s 71% of defensive snaps working the slot.

Melifonwu is set to visit the VMAC according to reports and the Seahawks are clearly doing their homework. The key to this fit isn’t likely to be his physical potential and tape. It’s the mental side of things. How does he fit in the locker room? Can he handle being part of a defense littered with alpha-males? We’ll never know how the Seahawks assess him in that regard. It’s probably the only hurdle he has to clear to secure a spot in round one.

Possible round-by-round options

This is a very tentative and most definitely incomplete list. It’s just a guide for now if you want to look at possible options.

In terms of what the Seahawks might look for specifically at linebacker and the O-line, I’d recommend reading these two articles:

Trying to crack Seattle’s linebacker code

TEF results 2017: What did we learn?

I’ve also discarded some positions (eg running back) in the early rounds. It seems unlikely they’d spend a high pick on a RB after adding Eddie Lacy this week.

R1 — (DB) Kevin King, Obi Melifonwu, Budda Baker, Justin Evans, Tre’Davious White

(Expectation — Garett Bolles, Haason Reddick, Marlon Humphrey and Gareon Conley are unavailable)

R2 — (LB/SAM) T.J. Watt, Tyus Bowser, Jordan Willis, Zach Cunningham, (DB) Cordrea Tankersley, Ahkello Witherspoon, Josh Jones, Quincy Wilson (OL) Taylor Moton (WR) Zay Jones (TE) Evan Engram, Bucky Hodges

R3 — (LB) Vince Biegel, Duke Riley, Anthony Walker Jr, Elijah Lee, Alex Anzalone (OL) Isaac Asiata, Nico Siragusa, Adam Bisnowaty (TE) George Kittle, Jonnu Smith, Marcus Maye (DB) Shaq Griffin, Rasul Douglas, Shalom Luani, Jadar Johnson, Rayshawn Jenkins, Delano Hill (WR) Robert Davis, Jehu Chesson, Malachi Dupre, Josh Reynolds

R6 — (DT) Carlos Watkins (LB) Ben Gedeon, Jordan Evans (DB) Marquez White, Treston Decoud, Brendan Langley (WR) DeAngelo Yancey (K) Zane Gonzalez

R7 — (RB) Chris Carson (WR) Quincy Adeboyojo (DB) Brian Allen, Montae Nicholson (DT) Josh Tupou, Rod Henderson

If you missed it earlier in the week, don’t forget to check out the Sea Hawkers podcast appearance. The draft talk starts 30 minutes in:

 

Wednesday notes: Linebackers, splits, O-line, McShay

March 15th, 2017 | Written by Rob Staton

TJ Watt at inside linebacker?

Could this be the Seahawks?

Even if it isn’t, it could be an option.

We recently highlighted their focus on the short shuttle for linebackers. Watt ran a sensational 4.13 at the combine — the fastest time by a linebacker.

To put this into content, Budda Baker ran a 4.08 at 195lbs. Watt is 252lbs. His time is comparable to Fabian Moreau’s (4.12), one of the fastest, most explosive cornerbacks.

If the short shuttle really is a point of focus, how can they not be intrigued by Watt?

He’s also six pounds heavier than K.J. Wright and really explosive (Vertical: 37 inches, Broad: 10-8). There could be some flexibility to play SAM or WILL. His attitude and physical approach — plus his great hand use — lends itself to moving inside.

Note — In the 4-3 under the MIKE and WILL essentially play ‘inside’.

We know they want to add depth at the position. Pete Carroll specifically talked about players competing with Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright (and carrying some of their extreme workload).

There are still a lot of questions though in terms of what they might do.

1. Are they even looking for a SAM?

Pete Carroll specifically talked about Wagner and Wright — pushing and helping their starting WILL and MIKE. He didn’t mention the SAM. Jeremy Lane played 71% of the defensive snaps in 2016 and they could mix between a 4-2-5 and a 4-3 Under depending on who they draft.

2. Don’t they just want extreme speed?

They’ve used 4.4 runners like Mike Morgan, Malcolm Smith and Kevin Pierre-Louis. One of the best athletes they drafted (Bruce Irvin) eventually landed at the SAM. They also tried Cassius Marsh in the role. He didn’t have a great forty but his agility testing was through the roof (like Watt). If they did want speed they might be more inclined to look at Obi Melifonwu or Josh Jones as ‘Buffalo’ nickels.

3. What about Tyus Bowser?

We’ve talked a lot about Bowser potentially being on Seattle’s radar. His workout was almost identical to Watt’s. Almost the same forty, vertical and broad. Very similar splits. Very similar three cone. If they think Watt can move inside — that might be the case for Bowser too.

Watt took part in the Wisconsin pro-day earlier today with Vince Biegel, who re-ran the short shuttle. Tony Pauline says he timed in the 4.07-4.10 range. If accurate, that would be a freakish level of agility that would certainly interest the Seahawks. Biegel is one to monitor for Seattle possibly in round three.

Pauline also notes the Pittsburgh Steelers are ‘unlikely’ to draft Watt in round one but they think he’ll be gone by the end of round two.

He probably won’t last as long as Seattle’s pick in the second frame either. They were aggressive to go up and get Jarran Reed a year ago. If they wanted to trade up to get Watt in round two they have the ammunition to do it.

10-yard splits revealed

Reminder — anything in the 1.5’s is elite for a standard-sized EDGE. These are official 10-yard splits:

1.57: Jordan Willis
1.59: Tyus Bowser, Trey Hendrickson, Haason Reddick, T.J. Watt
1.60: Terrell Basham, Carl Lawson, Takk McKinley, Derek Rivers
1.63: Myles Garrett

Cliff Avril ran a 1.50 split at his combine. Bruce Irvin managed a 1.58.

For Willis, Bowser, Reddick and Watt — this is really good. Reddick is probably going to go in the top-15. His stock just continues to rise and rise. For Bowser, Watt and Willis it strengthens their case as pass rushers. All three were explosive and agile. Now they clearly have top-level get-off and quickness.

Non-combine linebackers continue to shine

The Seahawks are going to add a linebacker or two in this draft, even if a Haason Reddick, Jarrad Davis or T.J. Watt doesn’t land in Seattle. Aside from Vince Biegel possibly being a third round option there are one or two others that are starting to emerge on the pro-day circuit.

According to Tony Pauline, Kansas State linebacker Elijah Lee had an impressive workout:

Measuring 6025/229 pounds, Lee completed 18 reps on the bench, touched 38 inches in the vertical jump and reached 10-foot-2 in the broad jump. His forty time clocked 4.65s, the short shuttle come in at 4.27s and 6.91s was his three cone.

If Lee had been invited to the combine his three cone and short shuttle would’ve been sixth fastest among linebackers. He would’ve had the best vertical jump. His forty time is the same as Tyus Bowser’s and would’ve been the fifth fastest.

This is the kind of profile the Seahawks could consider.

It follows a similarly impressive workout by Jordan Evans at the Oklahoma pro-day. He reportedly ran in the mid 4.5’s, had a 7.03 three cone and a 4.28 short shuttle. He also had a very impressive 38.5 inch vertical.

Both players are explosive, agile and competitive. With three picks in the third round, don’t be surprised if the Seahawks do some moving around with the intention of creating a rich competition for places behind Wright and Wagner. At the moment their linebacker depth is non-existent.

There could be two waves for linebackers in this draft. The initial group of big names in rounds 1-2 and then another blast towards the end of round three stretching into day three.

Seahawks still need an O-liner? No need to panic

After missing out on T.J. Lang and having only added Luke Joeckel so far, there’s every chance the Seahawks will add an offensive lineman in the draft.

That doesn’t mean they have to do it in round one.

Many of the national mock drafts are focusing on Cam Robinson as Seattle’s pick at #26. TEF revealed to us that he’s an ill-fit in round one. The Seahawks don’t have to pass on the great defensive talent available to force this.

If they want to add competition at guard, the likes of Isaac Asiata and Nico Siragusa are certainly appealing and will be available after the first round. Taylor Moton at Western Michigan is a Seahawks type of G/T. All three matched up in TEF/wTEF.

However, they might not solely focus on our identified TEF targets as they go deeper into the draft.

One thing they appear to have done in the past is identify physical alternatives. In 2014 they couldn’t afford to make a move for DeSean Jackson (a Pete Carroll favourite) so they drafted Paul Richardson instead.

A year ago, would anyone dispute Germain Ifedi was targeted as a possible alternative to Kelechi Osemele? At least in terms of body type they’re a match.

That’s not to claim either pick has succeeded in providing an alternative — it’s merely an assertion on what the thought process might have been.

(But don’t make the mistake of thinking Osemele was an instant hit as a rookie in Baltimore)

One player fans discussed as a possible free agent target this year was Ricky Wagner. He ended up signing a contract in Detroit worth $9.5m a year — a price the Seahawks were never going to pay.

I don’t know if Seattle ever had any interest in Wagner or would show interest in a similar player in the draft. However, in December Tony Pauline compared Adam Bisnowaty to Wagner:

Most expect Bisnowaty to be selected earlier than Wagner, who was a fifth round selection in 2013, but feel Bisnowaty doesn’t wow anyone on film and won’t test off the charts athletically. Subsequently he will be under-drafted much in the same manner Wagner was.

Bisnowaty didn’t have a great combine and neither did Wagner. They tested in a very similar fashion and scored almost identical scores in TEF:

Bisnowaty: 2.51
Wagner: 2.57

It’s also worth highlighting Bisnowaty’s wrestling background (something Tom Cable looks for) and he’s a physical brawler, perfectly designed to excel in the run game. He’s 6-6, 304lbs and has 34 inch arms. He’s not a high-upside type. He might not be on Seattle’s radar. Yet if they’re looking for another Breno Giacomini, someone with a little nasty to their game and an edge, plus somebody who compares physically to Ricky Wagner without the price tag — just keep Bisnowaty in mind.

Todd McShay updated mock draft

The Seahawks take Malik McDowell at #26 which seems unlikely. McDowell mailed it in when Michigan State’s season went south. For a team obsessed with grit, McDowell seems like the last person they’d consider in round one.

Garett Bolles lasts until pick #20. Haason Reddick goes at #22. Ryan Ramcyzk at #23. Kevin King at #24. If it played out this way, Seattle could move up for the price of a third round pick.

It seems unlikely, however, that Bolles and Reddick will last that long.

This is the first national mock projecting King to be gone by Seattle’s pick — a very real possibility. He was always underrated (his tape is very good) and the combine helped shine a light on his talents. He’s a physical freak who played well in college with good character.

This type of scenario would present a perfect opportunity to move down. Budda Baker, Obi Melifonwu, Gareon Conley, Marlon Humphrey, Jarrad Davis, T.J. Watt, Jabrill Peppers, Justin Evans and several others are all still on the board.

King and Melifonwu stand out as possibilities for Seattle in round one. If they want King they probably have to take him at #26 if he’s there. For Melifonwu, they might be able to move down.

It’s another mock that highlights the rich options available in the mid-20’s this year. The Seahawks could be creative and land two impact players with their first two picks — possibly by repeating what they did last year (moving down in round one, then trading up in round two).

Coming tomorrow, a new mock draft and a look at options for the Seahawks in every round. The second round in particular is opening up to be a bit of a potential wildcard.

 

Free agency podcast

March 14th, 2017 | Written by Rob Staton

This week Kenny and I talk about the additions of Eddie Lacy and Luke Joeckel, the state of the NFC West and some draft topics.

For further reaction to the signing of Lacy, click here.

 

Seahawks sign Eddie Lacy

March 14th, 2017 | Written by Rob Staton

Interestingly the Seahawks are still meeting Jamaal Charles. If they were to sign Charles too, it’d create a ferocious competition in 2017. Considering how much Seattle struggled in the run game last season, that wouldn’t be a bad thing. Relying on Thomas Rawls and C.J. Prosise staying healthy would’ve been a gamble.

Lacy when healthy and in shape is a force. The type of runner that will commit defenders into the box and create better opportunities for Jimmy Graham and the other tight ends. It’ll help the play action game too.

The problem is, Lacy hasn’t been able to stay healthy or in shape. He missed most of last season with an ankle injury. This tweet from Bob McGinn suggests he’ll again need to lose significant weight over the summer:

This wasn’t going to be a problem for someone like Adrian Peterson. It’s possible Peterson was unwilling to sign a deal worth $5.5m ($3m guaranteed). Lacy is currently set to be the ninth highest paid running back in the NFL in 2017. It’s a modest contract and a minimal gamble with no long term commitment.

Lacy is also a better scheme fit — but don’t take my word for it:

With only Luke Joeckel added to the O-line, they needed a runner to get the hard yards. Lacy, in fairness, has excelled in that area:

Let’s see what he can do. It’s a minimal risk addition. If he gets in shape (admittedly a big ‘if’) and stays healthy, it could be an inspired signing.

What does this mean for the draft and running backs? It’s worth noting again that there aren’t many runners in this class that fit Seattle’s ‘type’. They’ve drafted players who weigh +220lbs and are really explosive, running in the late 4.4’s or 4.5’s.

It’s also quite an overrated bunch of running backs. Leonard Fournette will go in the top ten. There are two or three others who have a shot to be really good. Then there’s a lot of average runners.

The Seahawks had around $12m in available cap room after T.J. Lang opted to sign with the Lions. They still have some room to seek value or extend contracts (e.g. Kam Chancellor, Justin Britt).

We’ll see if they agree terms with Jamaal Charles. They’re also meeting with tight end Jared Cook today.

The second wave of free agency is oddly still quite expensive. The Chiefs just signed defensive tackle Bennie Logan on a one-year deal with $7.68M fully guaranteed. Value will be the key for Seattle if they add anyone else.

 

Monday notes: Joeckel, free agency & Sidney Jones

March 13th, 2017 | Written by Rob Staton

Before we get into this, if you missed the Sea Hawkers podcast appearance posted earlier don’t forget to check it out. The draft talk starts after 30 minutes:

Thoughts on Luke Joeckel & free agency so far

ESPN’s Bill Barnwell thinks the Seahawks overpaid Luke Joeckel:

Taking a flier on Joeckel would be one thing, but the Seahawks are paying Joeckel like he’s a solid guard, with his $8 million cap hit more than the rest of the Seattle offensive line combined ($7.5 million).

It’s understandable why there might be a negative reaction to this deal given his underwhelming career to date and recent knee injury.

That said, let’s put the $7m guaranteed into context. The free agent offensive tackle market exploded this year. Russell Okung, Matt Kalil, Riley Reiff, Mike Remmers, Andrew Whitworth and others all got paid more (considerably more in some cases) than anyone expected before the start of free agency.

People like John Clayton were talking about Seattle potentially signing Reiff on a $6-7m type deal. He got $11.75m a year from Minnesota. Apparently there was interest in a return for Okung. The Chargers gave him $13.25m a year to be the highest paid left tackle in the league.

If you told fans before free agency that Seattle would miss out on Reiff and Okung and sign Joeckel for $6m less — most would say ‘fair play’.

The Joeckel contract, in context of the situation, is modest. Matt Kalil was also terribly disappointing as a top-five pick and he too was injured for most of the 2016 season. Even he got $11m a year from Carolina.

Stephen Cohen points out Joeckel will be the 34th highest paid offensive lineman in 2017. More context.

Free agency rarely provides answers and solutions for teams. The Seahawks were priced out of the market for good and average offensive linemen. They move on.

They’re not alone.

Dallas, for example, don’t have the room to make major moves to help their defense. The Patriots have been active — but they’re willingness to give away Chandler Jones and Jamie Collins (plus potentially Dont’a Hightower) has enabled them to sign other players. The Falcons have been quiet, the Steelers have been quiet, the Cardinals have lost several key defenders.

When analysing Seattle’s one move so far — and the moves they haven’t made — context usually provides a dose of reality.

They will have to keep managing and developing this offensive line. It doesn’t mean they won’t make further moves in free agency or the draft — and it doesn’t mean they can’t or won’t improve.

Going back to Joeckel, there’s no doubt his career to date has been a let down. He would’ve been the #1 pick in a bad 2013 draft but for the sudden rise of the more athletic Eric Fisher. Joeckel was a technician, capable of handling stunts and deception. He’d worked in a pro-style and spread offense, protecting two different quarterbacks in Ryan Tannehill and Johnny Manziel.

Physically he wasn’t as good as Fisher and ultimately that’s why he went at #2 instead of #1. He was still highly regarded and a consensus top-five pick throughout the 2012 college season leading into the draft process.

It’s possible the lack of elite physical skills are too much of a problem to overcome and at this level, he doesn’t have any compensatory skills (mental or physical) to counter the deficiencies. Yet he has shown, even in Jacksonville, that he can be serviceable. A blocker who can properly identify a stunt? That alone will be a boost for Seattle.

There’s very little to lose from the deal. Here are possible scenarios:

1. Joeckel excels and you have a 25-year-old quality tackle with a shot to retain him as a possible core player moving forward.

2. Joeckel excels and you have him for one year before he signs one of those $10-12m contracts, giving you a third round compensatory pick on a one-year rental.

3. Joeckel is average but that in itself might be enough to upgrade the position he ends up playing.

4. Joeckel is awful or gets injured and you have no commitment to him beyond 2017.

This is a Seahawks type of move. He has a point to prove, something at stake. Possibly his last real shot at making a career out of this.

If they can turn a seventh round former defensive tackle into a $6.5m a year guard — they have a shot to resurrect Joeckel’s career.

What happened with T.J. Lang?

According to these tweets, Detroit technically usurped the Seahawks:

You have to have a limit. Seattle likely stretched their’s to get up to the $8m range. Who’s to say if they’d matched Detroit’s offer ($9.5m APY) it still wasn’t going to be enough? The Lions might’ve gone to $10-11m.

Getting into a bidding war was never going to put the Seahawks in a position to get this done. They have to move on. And they will.

Sidney Jones falling?

After hurting his achilles during the Washington pro-day, Tony Pauline believes he could fall into day three of the draft. That would be a titanic fall for a player who would’ve otherwise been a top-15 pick.

It’s hard to imagine why he would fall that far. Yes he likely won’t play in 2017. The injury could also linger or impact his performance going forward. However, Jaylon Smith and Myles Jack both only fell into the early second round a year ago. Smith is now having to deal with drop-foot for the rest of his career. Dallas still rolled the dice.

The deep cornerback class could work against Jones but is there a team in rounds 2-3 that would be willing to take a chance? His talent and attitude warrant that level of faith. He seems like the type of character that will be highly motivated by an injury/draft fall.

If he drops into round three, 31.5 inch arms or not, I hope the Seahawks consider taking him. With three picks in that round it’d be a chance to get a possible future star at a bargain price. Jones is special. This probably won’t hold him back.

Daniel Jeremiah’s big board

It’s difficult to read into these things. Jeremiah, in his final top-50 before the 2016 draft, ranked the following players far lower than they were eventually drafted:

Sheldon Rankins — ranked #26, drafted #12
Will Fuller — ranked #29, drafted #21
Taylor Decker — ranked #31, drafted #16
William Jackson III — ranked #32, drafted #24
Karl Joseph — ranked #33, drafted #14
Josh Doctson — ranked #36, drafted #22
Keanu Neal — ranked #46, drafted #17
Artie Burns — ranked #49, drafted #25

In his latest top-50, Jeremiah has the following ranked within striking range of Seattle’s pick at #26:

#20 Garett Bolles
#22 John Ross
#26 Haason Reddick

All three could/should go in the top-15.

Meanwhile Marlon Humphrey is ranked at #43, Kevin King at #44 and Obi Melifonwu at #46. It’s possible one or two of this trio won’t be there at #26.

What it does highlight though — even if these players go earlier than they’re ranked on Jeremiah’s board, the options are going to be really good at #26. Several players are going to be very appealing when Seattle is on the clock.

Veteran running backs still on the radar

Ian Rapoport mentioned today that Jamaal Charles is the preferred option in Seattle. It’s possibly no coincidence they’re meeting with him after Adrian Peterson, Latavius Murray and Eddie Lacy. Get a feel for the rest, then close in on the one you want.

The Seahawks are a shotgun offense these days. Charles fits that the best. Unless they’ve been highly impressed by Peterson, it’s possible Charles could be the player they opt for by the end of the week. Either way, they’ll be looking for value.

It’s unlikely Seattle wants to be the team setting the market for veteran running backs. They’d probably rather have someone else do it for them. Yet if the options for Charles, Murray, Lacy and Peterson remain limited — their value is going to be impacted as a consequence.

Melifonwu visiting Seattle

Aaron Wilson notes the UConn defensive back will take a trip to the North West. This follows reported interest and possible meetings between the Seahawks and Melifonwu at the Senior Bowl and Combine.

There’s no doubting Melifonwu’s physical talent. Learning about the man and how he fits into Seattle’s alpha-male locker room is the key to determining whether he’s an option at #26.

Seahawks meeting with Jared Cook

This is the time to find value in the (somewhat delayed) second wave of free agency.

Cook is looking for a new home after the Packers chose to sign Martellus Bennett.

 

Sea Hawkers Podcast appearance

March 13th, 2017 | Written by Rob Staton

Draft and Seahawks talk (starting 30 minutes in). Check it out:

 

Why Seahawks fans shouldn’t overreact to T.J. Lang news

March 12th, 2017 | Written by Rob Staton

T.J. Lang won’t be signing with the Seahawks. He’s joining the Detroit Lions after agreeing a three-year contract.

Lang spent the weekend visiting with Seattle. It’s possible the Lions stepped up their interest as he prepared to make a decision, potentially offering an amount the Seahawks and Packers were not willing to pay.

There are reasons why this shouldn’t be seen as terrible news:

1. Lang is injured
He’s set to miss all of the off-season as he recovers from hip surgery and a broken foot. He had a similar situation a year ago as he recovered from shoulder surgery — but he already had chemistry with his team mates in Green Bay. His first playing time in Detroit could be pre-season or it could be week one of the regular season. Not ideal.

Lang isn’t as young as the other offensive linemen getting paid this year. He turns 30 in 2017 and has had a few injuries. It might be something that concerned the Packers enough to balk at re-signing him.

2. Green Bay didn’t prioritise him
The Packers made two significant moves in free agency. They paid linebacker Nick Perry and brought in Martellus Bennett. Have a look at this tweet:

Lang clearly stated the Packers would get first refusal on any offer he received on the open market. They just let him join a competitive divisional rival, despite having plenty of cap room available.

Lament Seattle’s ability not to complete this signing if you want but Green Bay didn’t feel too strongly about needing to keep him.

3. The Seahawks can use this money elsewhere
There’s still a number of good players available on the open market and Seattle has money to spend:

They’re not going to land a big name free agent O-liner — but it’s a bad market this year. Supply is not meeting demand and look at the crazy contracts being handed out. Even Seattle is offering $7m guaranteed to take a punt on Luke Joeckel.

They should be able to land a free agent running back at a team-friendly price. They might be able to pursue a veteran defensive lineman like Connor Barwin. They can look at what’s left on the O-line or D-line.

And perhaps more importantly — they can use the $12m left to reward their own (see: Kam Chancellor).

Seattle clearly wanted to sign Lang. Why else would they bring him in for a pitch and visit? They likely wanted to do this on their terms though. Their price, their value. Not overpaying and getting desperate. The kind of approach that often keeps good teams at the top.

Nobody was talking about Lang two weeks ago. A lot of people wanted to see Russell Okung return. There were discussions about Riley Reiff and Matt Kalil. Lang only really appeared on the radar of Seahawks fans when it was revealed he was coming in for a visit.

That’s worth remembering if you’re feeling overly disappointed by today’s news.

***Update***

$9.5m a year and $19m guaranteed is a considerable sum. Reportedly Green Bay offered $7m a year and only $6.5m guaranteed.

 

Wisconsin’s T.J. Watt & Vince Biegel could fit in Seattle

March 11th, 2017 | Written by Rob Staton

When it comes to grit and agility, T.J. Watt and Vince Biegel score highly

We know the Seahawks are going to draft for the linebacker position (Pete Carroll spelled it out at the end of the season). Two players they might show interest in are Wisconsin pair Vince Biegel and T.J. Watt.

Agility

If yesterday’s assertion on the importance of short shuttle times is accurate, both players fit the bill. Watt ran the fastest time among linebackers at the combine (4.13) and Biegel recorded a 4.30. In comparison, Bobby Wagner ran a 4.28.

Yes the Seahawks clearly like SPARQ’d up dynamic athletes at linebacker. Yet there’s enough evidence, highlighted yesterday, to suggest a tough, physical LB with great agility will also be considered.

Grit

Here’s T.J. Watt talking about his partnership with Biegel:

“We’re so similar in our whole attitude to begin with on football and the high motor, trying to make a play for our defense all the time.”

And here’s how Biegel described being double-teamed in 2016 and how that impacted the defense:

“When I get double teams or more focus on myself, that’s providing opportunity for our defense to make plays. I’m not a big stats guy. I’m a football player, and I want our defense to play well. At the end of the day, the only stat line that means anything to me is the win column.”

Biegel’s NFL.com profile lists the following strengths: ‘Voted team captain. Known for intensity and all-out love for the sport’.

Here’s what Lance Zierlein has to say about T.J. Watt: “He is a tireless worker who pursues from snap to whistle and his brother, J.J., will be a tremendous resource for technique and pass-rush plan.”

Here’s an anonymous source on Watt: “This guy just plays his tail off… Boy, does he have technique. He’s Clay Matthews. Probably more explosive. Uses his hands well. He finishes things better than his brother (J.J.) did. I think he’s special.”

Les Miles similarly called Biegel a special player before LSU’s game in Wisconsin.

J.J. Watt describes in this video the ‘strong competition’ between the three brothers as they were growing up. “Nobody was going to mess with the three of us.”

Production

The Seahawks value run defense. Wisconsin had the #2 unit vs the run in 2016, behind only Alabama. They were also the #4 scoring defense (behind Alabama, Michigan and Ohio State and ahead of LSU and Florida) and ranked seventh in total defense.

That’s without a lot of big stars and five star recruits. Watt and Biegel have been described as the heart and soul of that defense. The two leaders of a very productive group.

When you watch Wisconsin games, Watt and Biegel not only work together to create openings but they frequently reached the quarterback at the same time. Against Michigan State they combined for 20 quarterback pressures. A lot of this was down to the creative (and effective) blitz packages used by Justin Wilcox — but the execution and understanding of the defense was also evident within these two players.

Between 2014-2016, Biegel had a combined total of 19.5 sacks and 36.5 TFL’s. Watt finished the 2016 season with 15.5 TFL’s and 11.5 sacks. And he did this:

Football IQ

Watt has stated in the past how much he has used brother J.J. Watt as a resource, sharing videos of tape and asking for advice. It shows not only in his play but also when he’s discussing the defense:

Biegel discussed his role at Wisconsin in detail at the combine:

If the Seahawks are looking for intensity and players that elevated a team to a level of performance beyond expectations, Watt and Biegel achieved that. They both tested well enough in terms of agility to be considered and although neither ran a particularly fast 40 time, they tested well as overall athletes.

The average pSPARQ score of pure linebackers (not converts like Eric Pinkins) drafted by the Seahawks is exactly 140. T.J. Watt scored a 140.8. Vince Biegel managed a 122.2 but that’s still better than the 117 scored by K.J. Wright. And Biegel’s short shuttle (4.30) is similar to Wright’s (4.35).

They’re both well sized too. One of the supposed knocks on Biegel, at least according to his NFL.com profile, is size. Yet he was 6-3 and 246lbs at the combine — the exact same height and weight as K.J. Wright. T.J. Watt is 6-4 and 252lbs with enormous 11 inch hands.

How would they fit? Pete Carroll often talks about utilising 3-4 personnel within his 4-3 under scheme. Both Watt and Biegel played outside linebacker at Wisconsin in 2016 (Biegel previously played inside) but it’s worth noting K.J. Wright also played OLB in a 3-4 at Mississippi State. Biegel could provide the necessary depth/competition at inside backer that Carroll has talked about. Watt is likely a SAM in Seattle — another potential need area.

The frequent pro-comparison for Watt is Clay Matthews. Bob McGinn’s sources made that reference and so did Mike Mayock recently. Watt, actually, has to be described as the superior athlete:

Name: Clay Matthews
Height: 6-3
Weight: 240lbs
Forty: 4.67
Vertical: 35.5 inches
Broad: 10-1
Bench: 23 reps
Short shuttle: 4.18
Three cone: 6.90

Name: T.J. Watt
Height: 6-4
Weight: 252lbs
Forty: 4.69
Vertical: 37 inches
Broad: 10-8
Short shuttle: 4.13
Three cone: 6.79

Watt ran a similar forty and beat Matthews in the vertical, broad, short shuttle and three cone. That’s despite weighing 12lbs heavier.

Projections have Watt currently going in the first or second round, with Biegel potentially going in round three.

The Seahawks shouldn’t have any trouble finding a handful of linebackers they like. Skim through this short shuttle list and find the tough guys, essentially. And with others impressing on the pro-day circuit recently (Jordan Evans, Jimmie Gilbert) this looks like an underrated position in this draft class.

If the Seahawks do target players like Kevin King and Obi Melifonwu early, they’ll have a chance to bolster another key need before the end of day two. Watt’s explosive athleticism and incredible agility could put him in contention at #26. He’s competing with genuine freaks at other need positions.

Sidney Jones injury

At the Washington pro-day today possible #1 cornerback prospect Sidney Jones suffered a suspected achilles injury:

This would be a huge setback for Jones. It’s a highly competitive group of cornerbacks jockeying for position. A serious, long term injury could move him from #1 on many boards to #6-7. Especially if there’s a chance he won’t play in 2016.

Hopefully it’s not a very serious injury although a ruptured achilles can take almost a year to heal.

Two thoughts come to mind:

1. How much does this help players like Gareon Conley and Kevin King, two players who really impressed at the combine?

2. Why the heck are pro-days taking place within a week of the combine? We just saw some of these players going through drills and doing tests less than a week ago.

Seahawks seeking late round/UDFA defensive tackles?

According to Tony Pauline, the Seahawks attended the Alabama State pro-day and kept a close eye on 6-0, 339lbs defensive tackle Rod Henderson.

As Pauline notes: “This is the second time this week I’ve reported the Jets and Seahawks on hand to see a late round/free agent wide bodied NT/DT.He previously reported the Seahawks have an official visit set up with Colorado’s Josh Tupou.

It looks like they’re searching for cheap, early-down depth up front — possibly to provide a most cost-effective solution to players like Tony McDaniel. This is especially likely given the dearth of good early-round DT options and the extremely good alternatives available at positions like cornerback, safety and tight end.

If you missed it yesterday, the Seahawks also worked out Washington State safety Shalom Luani at his pro-day.

 

Trying to crack Seattle’s linebacker code

March 10th, 2017 | Written by Rob Staton

On Wednesday we discussed the need to keep an open mind when it comes to the Seahawks and linebackers in the draft. It’s clear they like highly athletic players at the position (Bobby Wagner, Kevin Pierre-Louis, Malcolm Smith) but they also like K.J. Wright — a 6-3, 246lbs bigger linebacker with 4.71 speed.

And then it suddenly occurred to me…

A year ago the Seahawks invited Alabama linebacker Reggie Ragland to the VMAC for a pre-draft visit. It was a weird one at the time because Ragland didn’t test well in the forty, vertical or broad jumps.

You can see how important these visits and workouts are from the list below:

If the Seahawks were visiting with Ragland they were likely interested in drafting him (and were thinking of adding a linebacker last year, not just this year).

Officially he ran a 4.72 at 6-1 and 247lbs, jumped 31.5 inches in the vertical and 9-8 in the broad. He’s as quick as K.J. Wright but less explosive.

The drill where he excelled was the short shuttle. Ragland’s 4.28 was the sixth best by a linebacker at the 2016 combine.

It would’ve been the sixth best at the 2017 combine too if he was part of this years draft.

In comparison, K.J. Wright ran a 4.46.

Here’s how Lance Zierlein described him in his draft bio:

Thumping inside linebacker with throwback size and tone­setting mentality. Ragland is a confident and capable early starter in league who has the temperament to become one of the premier run­-stopping inside linebackers in the pro game. Ragland has some coverage and speed limitations, but his instincts and overall awareness should be able to mask those issues.

Ragland didn’t have straight-line speed or explosive traits. He was big, physical and agile. And the Seahawks, seemingly, had some interest.

You know who else ran a 4.28 short shuttle? Bobby Wagner at the Utah State pro-day. Ragland didn’t have Wagner’s speed or explosiveness but he had similar agility.

This could be the test to focus on when judging who the Seahawks might draft at linebacker this year.

Here are the linebacker performers in the short shuttle at the 2017 combine:

= 1. T.J. Watt — 4.13
= 1. Ben Gedeon — 4.13
3. Blair Brown — 4.18
4. Duke Riley — 4.21
= 5. Alex Anzalone — 4.25
= 5. Brooks Ellis — 4.25
7. Zach Cunningham — 4.29
8. Vince Biegel — 4.30
9. Connor Harris — 4.31
10. Anthony Walker Jr. — 4.34

Note: Tyus Bowser, who recorded the fastest three cone by a linebacker, didn’t run a short shuttle.

There’s further evidence that the short shuttle is a crucial test. Kevin Pierre-Louis ran a 4.51 at his combine but his 4.02 short shuttle is the seventh best by a linebacker in the last ten years. They drafted him.

The fastest time in the last ten years (3.96) was run by Jordan Tripp. He signed with the Seahawks last September before landing on injured reserve and eventually being waived. Tripp was a 4.67 runner at his combine but performed well in the agility tests.

At the start of free agency a year ago the Broncos put a second round tender on linebacker Brandon Marshall. Troy Renck reported the Seahawks and Dolphins were showing interest. Marshall ran a 4.81 forty at the 2012 combine but had a superb 4.09 short shuttle.

A tough, physical linebacker with excellent agility could be the profile the Seahawks are looking for — not just the SPARQ standouts.

Go watch the names in the list above — plus Tyus Bowser and Jarrad Davis (just in case) — and look for the toughest, meanest run defender.

It’ll be really interesting to see how Davis tests at the Florida pro-day on March 28th. Hopefully he’ll do a short shuttle and three cone on top of the usual drills.

Despite running middling forty times the likes of Zach Cunningham, Alex Anzalone, Vince Biegel, Anthony Walker Jr. and others could very much be on Seattle’s radar. Oklahoma’s Jordan Evans ran a 4.28 short shuttle at his pro-day this week. It’s also more ammunition for those wanting to see T.J. Watt and Tyus Bowser in Seattle.

If there’s something in this, the Seahawks should have no problem adding a linebacker or two they like between rounds 1-3.

While this isn’t a fast group of LB’s — there’s plenty of agility and toughness.

Meanwhile, this piece by Daniel Jeremiah and Bucky Brooks lends support to our post-combine suggestion that Obi Melifonwu and Kevin King could be the two players Seattle focuses on at #26.

According to Brooks, Melifonwu is ‘more than a HWS (height-weight-speed) monster’:

He’s an active box defender with outstanding instincts, awareness and a nose for the ball. Melifonwu is a tackling machine who’s capable of displaying “thump” or wrap-up skills in the hole. He rarely misses runners in the open field and his secure tackling skills will make him a coveted player in defensive meeting rooms around the league.

Looking at his career resume, it’s not a coincidence that his tackling production has steadily improved over his four years as a starter (70 in 2013, 75 in 2014, 88 in 2015, 118 in 2016). He not only has a knack for finding the ball but he takes good angles and flashes some explosiveness upon contact. Melifonwu’s superb tackling places him ahead of some prospects who lack the discipline, courage and toughness to hit runners squarely in the chest.

Brooks also suggests: ‘I can see him thriving in a Kam Chancellor-like role as a pro‘.

With Chancellor’s contract set to expire after the 2017 season — the Seahawks might be thinking it’s time to plan ahead.

Meanwhile, Jeremiah has this to say about Washington cornerback Kevin King:

King has outstanding size and he ran much faster than evaluators expected. He also had an outstanding field workout, displaying excellent quickness and change-of-direction skills. Heading into the combine, I had King just outside my list of the draft’s top 50 players, but he clearly established himself as a top-40 selection with his performance in Indianapolis. This draft is loaded with talented cornerbacks, but his combination of size, length, ball skills and speed could make him a late-first-round pick.

If the Seahawks are ever going to take a cornerback in the first round, it feels like it’d be for a player like King. Length, straight-line speed, short-area quickness and agility. He’s a genuine freak of nature, doing everything well at the combine.

It was interesting to see a Seahawks coach work out Shalom Luani at his pro-day. That’s a name to watch for Seattle.

And there’s another name to add to the TEF list (explained here). Chris Muller’s performance at the Rutgers pro-day earned him a 3.25 score. Purdue guard Jason King, another player not invited to the combine, scored 3.30 at his pro-day on Wednesday.

 

Seahawks sign Luke Joeckel, visiting with T.J. Lang & RB’s

March 9th, 2017 | Written by Rob Staton

The Seahawks fans get their wish — some O-line help. The deal for Joeckel is reportedly worth $8m. It’s a substantial prove-it deal — but look at the going rate:

— The Panthers gave Matt Kalil, a below-average starter who missed 14 games in 2016 through injury, a $55.5m contract with $25m guaranteed.

— The Browns are set to pay Kevin Zeitler $60m over five years with $31.5m in guarantees. They’re also giving often-injured guard Joel Bitonio a $51.5m extension with $23m guaranteed.

— The Broncos are paying Ronald Leary $36m over four years with $20m in guarantees. Leary only started in Dallas in 2016 because of an injury to La’el Collins and he was diagnosed with a degenerative knee issue.

— The Rams are paying Anthony Whitworth $36m with $15m in guarantees, including $13m in 2017. Whitworth turns 36 in December.

— Russell Okung has agreed a $53m, four-year contract with the Chargers including $25m in guarantees.

— Riley Reiff intends to sign for the Vikings. Considering Minnesota’s desperate need on the O-line, they’re likely giving him a big contract.

The Seahawks cannot compete in this market — and that’s a good thing.

Before the Joeckel addition, Seattle only had five players set to earn more than $10m in 2017 — Russell Wilson, Richard Sherman, Michael Bennett, Earl Thomas and Jimmy Graham. All five justify their salaries. The next five highest earners are Doug Baldwin ($9.6m), Kam Chancellor ($8m), Bobby Wagner ($7.6m), K.J. Wright ($6.8m) and Cliff Avril ($5.5m).

Consider the cap hits for those ten players and then consider what Matt Kalil and Ronald Leary are going to be earning in 2017. Then consider which of the ten above you’d rather lose and replace with Kalil, who would be the third highest paid player on the team.

Like it or not, the Seahawks built their identity on defense and possess a rare, genuine franchise quarterback.

Had the Seahawks built their identity on the O-line like Dallas, that’s likely where the investment would be right now. And we’d all be talking about the defense not being good enough instead.

As it is, the Seahawks didn’t have the #9 pick in 2011 for Tyron Smith or the #16 in 2014 for Zack Martin. They picked at #25 and #32 instead. And they had the foresight to draft Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, K.J. Wright and others on day three.

They’re left to try and develop a young line with a little help from guys like Joeckel with a point to prove. And they have to identify targets in an ever shrinking pool of draft options.

Good O-liners go early (aka the range where Seattle never picks) and it’s why Garett Bolles will likely go in the top-10 this year. They just don’t last. You’re often looking for upside and potential after the first round.

Have they missed on players? Sometimes. But it’s not a long list of O-line Pro-Bowlers drafted after the first round in the Pete Carroll era:

2010: 0
2011: 2 (Rodney Hudson, Jason Kelce)
2012: 1 (Kelechi Osemele)
2013: 1 (David Bakhtiari)
2014: 1 (Trai Turner)
2015: 0
2016: 0

Five in seven years. That’s it. And at a time when Pro-Bowl invites aren’t exactly hard to come by.

Plus for all the talk of Seattle’s ability to identify talent, it could be a lot worse. See, the 2011 late first round:

#23 Danny Watkins (Eagles)
#26 James Carpenter (Seahawks)
#29 Gabe Carimi (Bears)
#32 Derek Sherrod (Packers)

Meanwhile they’ve turned a defensive tackle into a $6.5m a year guard, a second round tackle into a blossoming center and we’ll see if the current group can take a step forward in 2017.

Joeckel has a point to prove. He was once tipped to be the #1 pick in 2013 before the Chiefs selected the more athletic Eric Fisher. He flopped in Jacksonville after being selected at #2. Yet he has familiarity with Germain Ifedi and might be playing next to him at right tackle.

$8m speaks to how highly rated he was entering the league. It also dispels any theory that the Seahawks are ‘cheap’ on the O-line.

It’s the kind of prove-it deal Seattle nailed with Bennett and Avril. Let’s see if Joeckel can deliver on his potential. He’s not even 26 until November.

As for T.J. Lang — he’s considered one of the best guards in the NFL. He broke his foot in the NFC Championship game and is expected to miss the entire off-season. That could impact his value. And while it seems somewhat likely he’ll end up returning to Green Bay, the news he’s visiting with the Seahawks tomorrow will be welcomed by anyone hoping for proven experience and quality on the O-line.

This level of focus also suggests what we kind of knew already — this is a draft for the Seahawks to go heavy on defense.

Meanwhile other reports claim the Seahawks will visit with Latavius Murray, Jamaal Charles and Eddie Lacy. A veteran running back addition appears to be a distinct possibility.

And Stephen Hauschka has signed a contract with the Bills. There will be a new starting kicker in Seattle this year.