Tuesday notes: Kyler Murray, O-line & Dre’Mont Jones

February 5th, 2019 | Written by Rob Staton

The latest on Kyler Murray

Yesterday we highlighted Tony Pauline’s two-round mock draft. Today, Tony has provided an update on Kyler Murray on the ‘Journey to the Draft’ podcast.

It’s worth a listen. Although there’s a lot of negativity around Murray at the moment — mostly due to his awkward appearance on the Dan Patrick show — I still firmly believe he is the most talented player in this draft class. If the Seahawks are considering taking a quarterback early this year, as we’ve discussed a lot recently, Murray and Will Grier might be the two most likely candidates.

About the offensive line

It’s been discussed a few times in the comments section about spending a pick on the offensive line. It’s certainly a possibility. I think there are a few things to consider though…

1. I think D.J. Fluker and J.R. Sweezy will both be re-signed. The players and the team are motivated to make this happen. Both deals should be relatively cost effective. I think everyone will be quite relaxed about the situation and I think it’ll get done. While neither player can reliably be considered a long-term fixture, both players would begin 2019 as automatic starters.

2. They have better depth than people maybe are willing to recognise. Jordan Simmons is under club control and played well as a spot starter. George Fant can back up either tackle position plus Jamarco Jones will return. There are big question marks about Ethan Pocic but he remains on the roster for now. Joey Hunt played well as the starting center against the Cowboys in week three. They could add some competition here but it’s not necessarily a priority compared to other positions.

3. It’s possible they could add more cheap veterans. A year ago they signed Fluker and Sweezy. They could follow a similar path in 2019.

4. Rookies generally struggle and need time unless they’re the best of the best (eg Quenton Nelson). A lot of Seattle’s former young offensive linemen experienced growing pains — Max Unger, James Carpenter, Justin Britt, Ethan Pocic and Germain Ifedi for example. Others adjusted quicker (Okung, Sweezy). The Seahawks benefitted in 2018 from a more experienced group. Whenever the Seahawks come to eventually replace Sweezy, Fluker and any other lineman — they might be better off looking for veteran replacements.

On the other hand, of course it is possible that they select an offensive lineman — at any stage in this draft. Pete Carroll has already stated he doesn’t believe they have any glaring needs. If a particular opportunity arises to land a quality offensive lineman they may well consider it.

There could also be a ‘sweet spot’ within this draft. The third round, for example, could provide some good value. A few teams seem to have taken to Boston College’s Chris Lindstrom. Is he around in that range? Where does Kaleb McGary land? What about Erik McCoy or Michael Deiter? Is Dalton Risner going to be available in the middle rounds? Where does Ben Powers go after a decent Senior Bowl?

There’s also Chuma Edoga who is a fascinating prospect. He was fantastic in Mobile and looked very comfortable at left tackle. He lacks some of the height and size you want from a NFL tackle (between 6-3 and 6-4 in height plus 303lbs) but he has fantastic length (35 inch arms and an 81 inch wingspan).

Edoga’s a former five-star recruit and played right tackle for USC. With Germain Ifedi and George Fant both unrestricted free agents after the 2019 season, Edoga could be someone they look to develop. He’s definitely one to watch at the combine considering how he looked at the Senior Bowl.

If the Seahawks are able to acquire an extra round three pick by trading down from #21 — they could do a lot worse than a Senior Bowl double of Chuma Edoga and L.J. Collier in the third frame.

Dre’Mont Jones continues to intrigue

For some players you just need a combine. You have to see how they test, work out what their ceiling is. Ohio State pass rusher Dre’Mont Jones is one of those players.

On tape there is an awful lot to like. He’s extremely quick off the snap, has the ability to shoot gaps and live in the backfield. If you’re able to watch his tape on Youtube — pause the video right off the snap. You’ll regularly see Jones well ahead of his team mates. His get-off is excellent.

He can swim when needed. He’s slippery to block. Jones played consistently well in 2018 with 8.5 sacks and 13 TFL’s. He also had an incredible pick-six on a very instinctive, athletic read of a shovel pass and a second touchdown on a fumble recovery.

You watch him and see a player with good size to play as a modern interior rusher. He’s definitely not an every-down defensive tackle and would likely have some issues against the run if you asked him to play that role. If you want to go big and athletic on early downs though, he could be an option to play some end and then kick inside.

Whether the Seahawks would look for a player like that a year after selecting Rasheem Green remains to be seen. A great combine could provide some clarity.

Can he run a great short shuttle? The tape suggests it’s possible. How does he measure up for size/length? Can he flash some explosive ability in the vertical and broad and can he provide an excellent 10-yard split?

He is a bit one-dimensional in terms of his NFL worth but given the way he played in 2018 and considering the importance of rushing the passer — a great combine provides him an opportunity to really boost his stock.

While other defensive linemen have stolen the headlines recently because of the Senior Bowl, Jones is one to keep in mind in Indianapolis. We’ll see if he can aid his stock with a combine to match the way he flashed during the season.

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Tony Pauline posts a two-round mock draft

February 4th, 2019 | Written by Rob Staton

You know this already but Tony Pauline is the best draft insider in the business. The draft wouldn’t be the same without Tony, his analysis and his information.

Today he posted a two-round mock draft. I wanted to spend some time discussing how it would play out for the Seahawks.

The mock doesn’t include any trades so the Seahawks pick at #21. They’ll almost certainly move down, possibly multiple times, to add to their league-low four draft picks. Tony has them selecting Florida State’s Brian Burns.

If they were to move down to a range between #30-40, who else would be available based on Tony’s projection?

#31 — Andre Dillard (T, Washington State)
#32 — Montez Sweat (EDGE, Mississippi State)
#33 — Deebo Samuel (WR, South Carolina)
#36 — Cody Ford (T, Oklahoma)
#46 — Marquise Brown (WR, Oklahoma)
#47 — Jaylon Ferguson (EDGE, Louisiana Tech)
#52 — Terrill Hanks (LB, New Mexico State)
#59 — Parris Campbell (WR, Ohio State)
#62 — Terry McLaurin (WR, Ohio State)
#63 — D’Andre Walker (EDGE, Georgia)

Not included:

Devin Bush (LB, Michigan)
D.K. Metcalf (WR, Ole Miss)

This would be a good looking scenario for the Seahawks. They’d be able to trade deep into the second round and find some superb options remaining on the board.

In my last mock draft I had Andre Dillard, Cody Ford and Marquise Brown as top-20 picks. Here they’re all available in the late first or second round. Parris Campbell and Terry McLaurin are late second round picks while Montez Sweat and Jaylon Ferguson are still on the board too.

It’d be a fantastic opportunity to trade down and still land a significant talent.

It’s also interesting that no quarterbacks go in round two after the initial four in round one. This would present a possible opportunity for the Seahawks to take a QB in rounds two or three, as discussed recently on the blog.

I’m not sure how likely it is that some of these names will last as long as suggested. But it’s important to consider other projections and scenarios. In Tony’s mock there would be plenty of options for the Seahawks after inevitably trading down from #21.

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The Russell Wilson no-news headlines begin

February 3rd, 2019 | Written by Rob Staton

When we talk about a Russell Wilson contract saga and make reference to how frustrating it will be, there are many reasons for that.

At some point in the next six months Wilson’s agent Mark Rodgers will make an appearance on the radio. You’ll hear rumours and conjecture. Both sides will be striving for any leverage they can get.

And you’ll get ‘updates’ like this…

The word ‘still’ is important here. Russell Wilson and the Seahawks still haven’t talked about a new deal.

The headline presents this as a problem. They haven’t talked. Yet realistically, why would they?

It’d actually be a surprise if they had started talking.

As we discussed last week — the eventual negotiating barometers are clear.

Russell Wilson and his team can use the franchise tag to ask for $110m fully guaranteed from 2020-2022. Why? Because if they’re willing to do what Kirk Cousins did and collect franchise tags, Wilson will receive guaranteed salaries of $30.34m, $36.41m and $43m for the three seasons.

There’s simply no pressure for Wilson to ‘secure’ his long term future. He’s incredibly rich. The Seahawks are highly unlikely to just let him walk if he picks up one injury. Even if they did, he’d be able to name his price to any prospective employer on the open market. There is no scenario where Wilson does not get a ton of cash.

So he can say, not unfairly, give me $110m guaranteed or something similar. And the Seahawks would be unwilling to accept that as a proposition. So Wilson’s team are unlikely to propose it and the Seahawks are unlikely to initiate talks knowing what the response will be.

This is business. And it takes time. Knowing when to make the first move, gaining leverage, biding your time. It’s a slow process that takes a while. Just look at 2015. A formality of a new deal with Wilson ended up taking months.

Here’s the reality of the situation. It wouldn’t be a big surprise if talks didn’t happen at all until after the draft. By that point the Seahawks have done free agency and potentially even drafted a quarterback. That would be a preferable time to open talks. They can explain to Wilson their full financial situation. By then they might have an idea on Frank Clark’s future — plus Jarran Reed and Bobby Wagner. They’ll have a lot more information at their disposal and may even be able to challenge Wilson with the addition of a new QB on the roster.

How badly do you want to be here long term because we’re willing to draft others?’

By saying that it doesn’t mean they intend to move on from Wilson. It’s a bargaining position. The type you need to gain any kind of foothold in talks.

If no deal is forthcoming before training camp — the 2020 franchise tag amount of $30.34m is not an issue. The only problem will be if they can’t negotiate new deals with Clark, Wagner and Reed before the end of 2019 and risk losing one of those players due to the limit of one franchise tag per team.

Essentially there’s no rush here. It’s going to take a long time. We’re going to see plenty more articles like this. ‘Still haven’t talked’ will be a phrase you read a lot. Then it’ll be ‘haven’t made any ground’. Then it could be ‘Seattle considering their options’. Then it might be ‘Seahawks draft quarterback’.

It’s going to be a saga. It’ll be a battle of business. And it could go either way.

Unfortunately you’re going to get a lot of non-information about a situation that isn’t that complex to understand or work out. It’s simply a difficult deal to do and it’ll take time to conclude.

If you missed yesterday’s piece on Khalen Saunders and Parris Campbell, click here.

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Saturday notes: Khalen Saunders & Parris Campbell

February 2nd, 2019 | Written by Rob Staton

Khalen Saunders tape review

Saunders was one of the big winners at the Senior Bowl. He had the backflips, the new-born baby at home. He became a story before even taking the field. Then he made a few headlines with his play.

I wanted to go back and have a closer look at his tape and pull out some highlights. He’s an incredibly impressive player with major potential. His splash-plays are fantastic. There are also some moments where there are noticeable technical flaws (hardly surprising) and maybe a nod that he’ll need some time to adjust to the pro speed and intensity. Overall he’s an exciting addition to a deep D-line class.

Let’s start with the positive plays. There aren’t many humans that can do a backflip at 320lbs. It’s not just a social media gimmick. Both on tape and at the Senior Bowl, Saunders did crazy things for a man with his size. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a 320lbs defensive linemen rush the edge before with some degree of success. Saunders manages it. He covers ground quickly and wins with strength and speed.

I wanted to focus on his performance against North Dakota State seeing as they’re the best team at his level of pre-NFL football:

Here are the plays that really stood out:

0:53 — Saunders lines up over the left guard. The blocker comes off Saunders because he’s wary of the left tackle being occupied by a blitzing defensive back. The guard takes the EDGE and leaves Saunders unblocked. The running back fills the holes in pass protection and Saunders just shoves him out of the way with utter disdain before hitting the quarterback. You might expect a 320lbs lineman to win that battle especially against a runner who isn’t any good in pass-pro. The impressive thing is the way he just abuses the RB. ‘Get out of the way’. No messing about.

1:01 — This isn’t a splash play but he’s lined up over the center. He gets underneath the blocker and gains leverage with good hand placement and a decent jolt. He holds position. It ends up being a QB-run up the gut but he has nowhere to go because Saunders controls the interior. He finishes by throwing the center to the turf then stands over him to admire his work. This is the kind of play you want to see if you intend to use him as an athletic nose tackle. Can he control blockers up the middle, can he secure the interior run defense? Although not a dominating play vs a double team this was a decent look.

1:11 — Saunders rushes from the edge as a defensive end. He dips inside the left tackle and sprints to the quarterback. It’s a terrible job by the tackle who was probably surprised he was being asked to cover a 320lbs EDGE. Even so, look at the quickness and mobility at that size. He’s so smooth working into the backfield and finishing. How many guys with his size and weight move as well as this?

2:29 — This is a run play where Saunders absorbs contact and then judo throws the interior linemen to the turf before hammering the ball carrier and driving him backwards (and finally into the turf). This is exactly how you want to see a player at this level perform if you’re projecting him to the NFL. It’s a stand-out play. No issue getting off the block after initial contact. Great power to make a mismatch with the blocker. Finishes the play with a bang.

7:28 — Saunders does a great job to disengage from the center and create a clean path to the running back, dropping him for only a short gain.

10:04 — You can’t leave him unblocked. This is great quickness to exploit the blown protection (he covers 10-yards very quickly here) and then hits the quarterback to force a fumble. In the NFL he’s not going to get an invitation to hammer the QB like he did here. He’s going to have to create opportunities. Even so, it was impressive to see his quickness to get into the backfield and eliminate any thinking time before a potential throw.

There are other positive examples in this video too (including a second rush from the EDGE where he again shows quickness and a natural ability to rush the passer). I selected the above mainly for impact.

You will also notice that a lot of the highlighted plays come early in the video. There’s then a five-minute gap where he doesn’t really have much impact. I thought he tired a little after a fast start. I’m not sure if this is a conditioning thing. Is it a review of the level and how he’s probably not getting the same benefits a Clemson defensive linemen would get in terms of support staff, nutrition or facilities? Is he simply being asked to play too many snaps because he’s their best defensive player? It could be a combination of all things. Yet it was noticeable that there was a stretch in the game where he wasn’t quite as effective after a great start.

There are also some slight technical corrections that are needed. You can see his hands are quite wide when he initiates contact. On one snap he was trying to drive an interior lineman off the LOS by hooking the sleeves of his jersey. He doesn’t have great length but at 6-0 in height he should be able to get low and secure leverage. It’s vital he plants his hands inside and presses and doesn’t grab on the outside. There was one snap where the center got the better of him and he ended up on the turf as a consequence.

He’s a freaky athlete but length is not a plus so his technique will need to be on point to keep his frame clean at the next level.

Considering he can do backflips and he covers ground really well, it’s possible Saunders will have a good combine. If that happens it won’t be a shock if he sneaks into round two. At the moment though I think he’s at least a round three prospect with major potential and upside to be a force as a run stopper and pass rusher. Those types of players, at 320lbs, are highly valued.

Is he a Seahawks fit? I think in many ways he is. The way he dominates in a unique way for a big defensive tackle will likely appeal. He only has 32 3/8 inch arms though and they’ve never selected a defensive tackle with sub-33 inch arms based on my own quick research. It’s probably not a deal maker but let’s put it out there.

He might need a year or two to reach his maximum potential (similar to Jarran Reed) but there’s no doubting that even in this loaded D-line class, Saunders matches up well. It’s an appealing thought that you could line up two big, physical DT’s like Saunders and Reed together and still be able to get some pass rush from both. With Poona Ford also part of the rotation (and maybe one other) it’s a group you can keep fresh and productive.

Saunders will be one to keep an eye on at the combine. Look out for his short shuttle time — it’s a test the Seahawks seem to value at defensive tackle.

Further thoughts on Parris Campbell

The more I’ve studied Parris Campbell the more I like. In fact I think he’s seriously underrated within this draft class at a time everyone is talking about other receivers.

I wrote a bit about him here but here’s what he brings — excellent catching technique, developed routes and understanding of how to exploit a defense, sensational speed and explosive athleticism (121.8 SPARQ). He’s well sized at 6-1 and 208lbs as a converted running back.

To me, he looks like Percy Harvin with a little less suddenness but without the character red flags.

I’m starting to wonder why a consensus has emerged that Marquise Brown and D.K. Metcalf are two receivers worthy of top grades but Campbell isn’t. Especially in this modern NFL where misdirection, sweeps and explosive athleticism is so important.

Metcalf has really only shown an ability to get deep. Yes, his size and athleticism is really exciting. He also has a number of frustrating drops and there’s no evidence of him running any kind of variety of routes or using his size as a major weapon. Brown is incredibly dynamic, quick and savvy but he might weigh-in at 170lbs.

Campbell can get deep, settle into zones, win with quickness to separate on slants and crossing routes, you can have him run the ball in certain looks or take a sweep. He’s also well equipped to take a hit with his size.

If the Seahawks trade down into the late first instead of the early second round, I think Campbell would be a fine option for them. Good character, competitive, productive, athletic. He would provide an exciting weapon that’s different to anything else on the roster currently.

And with terrific players like L.J. Collier potentially available in the round three range, they might be willing to use the depth of this D-line class to their advantage and get a weapon early. T.J. Hockenson would also be an excellent option but increasingly it looks like he will go in the top-20.

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Seahawks seven round mock draft (2019 #1)

January 31st, 2019 | Written by Rob Staton

The Seahawks will trade down from #21. We all know that.

It’s very difficult to project a trade (we had to do it for a full draft season last year). I’m going to offer the same proposal here that was involved in our latest mock draft. It’s a deal with Buffalo.

Ultimately the team, the terms and the scenario don’t matter. Really this is just an exercise to fill out Seattle’s board for a projection.

Here’s the deal…

In our last mock we had Buffalo trading down in round one (going from #9 to #12). They acquired a third round pick. This gave the Bills two picks in the third, fourth and fifth round. It seems ample stock to try and trade back into round one to try and build around young quarterback Josh Allen. So we had them trade from #40 up to #21 for Jonah Williams. The Seahawks, for moving down 19 spots, receive a third, fourth and fifth round pick.

Here’s what they’d end up with:

R2 (#40)
R3 (#76)
R3 (#85)
R4 (#118)
R4 (#125)
R5 (#148)
R5 (#149)

I have no idea whether this is realistic or not. The Seahawks might not want to trade down that far in one go. The Bills might not want to aggressively trade back into round one. It’s difficult to make sense of what could happen — especially this early in the process.

For now, this is what I’m going with.

If something like this did happen, it’s possible the Seahawks could trade down again from #40. This feels like a draft with some day three value. With Pete Carroll emphasising a desire for competition rather than any specific positional need, collecting day three picks seems like a realistic target.

At this point it’s also worth remembering the Seahawks only have 47 players contracted in 2019. Only three teams have fewer and that includes the Los Angeles Rams (who are yet to sign anyone to a futures contract because their season is yet to be completed).

While some are suggesting the Seahawks can make a significant free agent splurge — the reality is they have to prioritise retaining their own, find a solution to the Wilson/Wagner/Reed/Clark dilemma and fill out their roster. There’s not enough money to do all of those things and add a $15-20m free agent. They’re going to need to look for value and let free agency come to them.

It also means they’re going to need a decent collection of draft picks. Thus, the potential to trade down more than once.

It’s probably not the most exciting thing to consider for fans. Some will want a splash. They want to see a couple of big names added, believing it could push Seattle ‘over the top’. The Seahawks already have most of the pieces to contend. They need some of their younger players to take a big step forward in 2019, they need greater depth on both sides of the ball and they need competition.

If Anthony Barr’s market is chilly when free agency begins — that could be an opportunity to repeat the Bennett/Avril heist of 2013. Aside from any prospective moves like that, the biggest free agent acquisition they might make is a quality kicker. And who would argue with that? Their one ‘splurge’ could be to sign Stephen Gostkowski away from the Patriots. It could be to go and get Robbie Gould from the Niners. They’ve had three inconsistent years of kicking. It’s time to sort that out.

Anyway, back to the mock. It’s a post-Senior Bowl projection so it’s heavily influenced by what happened in Mobile (and to a lesser extent, the Shrine Game). The combine will change things of course. We’ll do another seven-rounder after that to see how things have changed.

R2 (#40) — Will Grier (QB, West Virginia)
I firmly believe the Seahawks will target and draft a quarterback this year. We’ve gone over the reasons why, relating to Russell Wilson’s contract. Why Grier? I wrote a more detailed explanation here. He was the best deep-ball thrower in college football for the last two years and specialises in explosive pass-plays on go-routes. He elevated West Virginia and led them to significant wins (eg Texas on the road). John Schneider attended the Oklahoma vs West Virginia game in person. It’s possible Grier could be available in round three. It’s possible they could trade down again from this spot and land him later in round two. Regardless, I believe they will strongly consider drafting a quarterback early.

R3 (#76) — Khalen Saunders (DT, Western Illinois)
I like everything about Khalen Saunders. He dominated at a small-school level. He’s strong enough to toss linemen to the ground, he controls the POA, he can shoot gaps with quickness and swim/rip to the backfield. You see him working down the line to stretch out runs and he even took some snaps at DE. He can do back-flips at over 300lbs. He’s a sensational athlete with massive potential and great character. He was a ‘wow’ performer at the Senior Bowl. The only thing that makes me pause is arm length. The Seahawks nearly always draft defensive linemen with +33 inch arms and Saunders’ are listed at 32 3/8 inches. The short shuttle will be big for for him. If he runs it in the 4.5’s — that’s Seattle’s ball-park.

R3 (#85) — L.J. Collier (DE, TCU)
Collier is a fantastic prospect. I’d bang the table for him. He stood out at the Senior Bowl. Right off the bat in practise #1 he drove Dalton Risner to the turf and it set the tone for a fantastic week. He won with a bull rush, won with a speed rush. He used hand-technique to disengage, he extends his arms to keep his frame clean, he converted speed-to-power and showed a good dip and bend to attack the edge. On tape he consistently found a way to make splash plays. In the Bowl game against California he had this one play where he absorbed a double team then just powered his way through both blockers to hammer the running back for a four-yard loss on a stretch run. He has nearly 35-inch arms and an 81 1/4 inch wingspan which is freaky length for a 6-2 lineman. We’ll need to see how he tests at the combine but if the Seahawks can’t get a pass rusher with their first pick — Collier could be a great alternative here.

R4 (#118) — Jamal Peters (CB, Mississippi State)
Last month Tony Pauline reported the Seahawks had interest in Peters. He has 33 1/8 inch arms and he’s 6-2 and 217lbs. He looks like a big, physical cornerback and his play matches the profile. He struggled for turnovers in college and it’s what likely keeps him on the board. He needs to learn to track the ball and find ways to impact games. That said, he’s a tough tackler and is willing to lay a hit. The Seahawks are likely to add a cornerback to the competition on day three.

R4 (#125) — Drew Sample (TE, Washington)
Sample had such a good Senior Bowl he might not actually last this far. He did everything well. In catching drills he showed an ability to get open over the middle. I didn’t see him drop a pass in any practise session. In the blocking drills the Raiders had the TE’s block on an island and he even excelled there which was extremely impressive. The Seahawks could do with adding a tight end with Will Dissly returning from injury and Nick Vannett one year away from free agency.

R5 (#148) — Khalil Hodge (LB, Buffalo)
Hodge put up huge numbers at Buffalo, collecting hundreds of tackles. He’s not a dynamic athlete capable of making rangy plays in coverage. However, he fills gaps well in the running game and can sprint to the sideline to lay a hit. There’s untapped potential with Hodge who has the kind of grit and leadership Seattle has targeted regularly. Tony Pauline reported at the Shrine Game that many in the league believe the Seahawks really like Hodge.

R5 (#149) — Alec Ingold (FB, Wisconsin)
Seattle’s offense is set up to feature a full back. They spent most of last season without one. They could put that right in 2019. There aren’t many orthodox full backs in college football but Ingold fits the bill. He’s exactly what you want from the position. He’s physical, he’s effective in short yardage situations, he has decent hands and special teams value. He had one crack-back block in the Senior Bowl that had Jon Gruden marching onto the field to give him a high-five. It won’t be a surprise if the Seahawks go after Ingold.

Full projection

R2 (#40) — Will Grier (QB, West Virginia)
R3 (#76) — Khalen Saunders (DT, Western Illinois)
R3 (#85) — L.J. Collier (DE, TCU)
R4 (#118) — Jamal Peters (CB, Mississippi State)
R4 (#125) — Drew Sample (TE, Washington)
R5 (#148) — Khalil Hodge (LB, Buffalo)
R5 (#149) — Alec Ingold (FB, Wisconsin)

What you’re getting from the class
Depth and competition at key areas on the defense — pass rush, defensive tackle, linebacker and cornerback. You’re getting day three value on offense with a tight end and full back who should be able to contribute quickly. The first pick isn’t an ‘impact’ player but it could be a vital addition considering Russell Wilson’s contract situation.

Players likely to be gone
We’ve talked a lot about Montez Sweat (EDGE), T.J. Hockenson (TE) and Kyler Murray (QB). Currently I’m not expecting any of those players to be available if Seattle trades down. Hockenson and Murray probably won’t make it to pick #21 let alone round two. Parris Campbell (WR) and Andre Dillard (T) could also be gone. We’ll see on Terry McLaurin (WR) too. I think at least 12 defensive linemen and two linebackers will go in round one.

Alternative options

The Seahawks appear set to lose K.J. Wright in free agency (he will get paid) and the future is unclear for Mychael Kendricks. Even if Kendricks avoids jail and is re-signed, they could do with more depth at the position. New Mexico State linebacker Terrill Hanks has an 80 1/2 inch wingspan and similar length to Wright. He had a terrific Senior Bowl with many comparing his performance to that of Darius Leonard a year ago. Hanks will need to prove he has the agility and speed for the next level at the combine. If he achieves that he could be an option for the Seahawks in round two.

Renell Wren is 6-4, 315lbs and reportedly runs a 4.85 and jumps a 34.5 inch vertical. He can also bench 430lbs and squat 600lbs. There aren’t many humans like Wren. He’s built like a tank. You’re always going to pay attention to an athlete like that. He’s being touted as a second or third round pick.

Chuma Edoga (T, USC) was outstanding at the Senior Bowl at left tackle and could be added to provide some quality tackle depth and long term security. He really looked the part in Mobile.

Lonnie Johnson (CB, Kentucky) had an impressive Senior Bowl and has the size (6-2, 220lbs) and arm length (32 1/4 inch arms) that the Seahawks like. Jim Nagy described Marquise Blair (S, Utah) as a ‘Seahawks’ type safety. He’s quick and hits like an absolute hammer. He might be a late round or UDFA target. Seattle reportedly took an interest in Terry Godwin (WR, Georgia) at the Shrine Game. He’s a former four-star recruit with a lot of potential.

Chris Lindstrom (G, Boston College) and Kalen McGary (T, Washington) both really impressed in Mobile. Both players are tough and physical with great attitude. Ben Powers (G, Oklahoma) showed well last week as did Bobby Okereke (LB, Stanford), Charles Omenihu (DE, Texas) and Byron Cowart (DE, Maryland).

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Updated mock draft: 30th January

January 30th, 2019 | Written by Rob Staton

I want to be creative with these mocks. Offer something different. And with the Seahawks certain to move down from #21, I want to include trades.

Here’s the full projection in list form, with a breakdown of each pick below:

#1 Oakland (via ARI) — Kyler Murray (QB, Oklahoma)
#2 Denver (via SF) — Drew Lock (QB, Missouri)
#3 New York Jets — Nick Bosa (DE, Ohio State)
#4 Arizona (via OAK) — Quinnen Williams (DT, Alabama)
#5 Tampa Bay — Rashan Gary (DE, Michigan)
#6 Oakland (via NYG) — Clelin Ferrell (DE, Clemson)
#7 Jacksonville — Jeffery Simmons (DT, Mississippi State)
#8 Detroit — Christian Wilkins (DT, Clemson)
#9 Green Bay (via BUF) — Josh Allen (EDGE, Kentucky)
#10 San Francisco (via DEN) — Devin White (LB, LSU)
#11 Cincinnati — T.J. Hockenson (TE, Iowa)
#12 Buffalo (via GB) — Andre Dillard (T, Washington State)
#13 Miami — Dexter Lawrence (DT, Clemson)
#14 Atlanta — Ed Oliver (DT, Houston)
#15 Washington — Dwayne Haskins (QB, Ohio State)
#16 Carolina — Devin Bush (LB, Michigan)
#17 Cleveland — Marquise Brown (WR, Oklahoma)
#18 Minnesota — Cody Ford (T, Oklahoma)
#19 Tennessee — Jachai Polite (EDGE, Florida)
#20 Pittsburgh — Greedy Williams (CB, LSU)
#21 Buffalo (via SEA) — Jonah Williams (T, Alabama)
#22 Baltimore — Jawaan Taylor (T, Florida)
#23 Houston — Byron Murphy (CB, Washington)
#24 Oakland — Josh Jacobs (RB, Alabama)
#25 Philadelphia — Montez Sweat (EDGE, Mississippi State)
#26 Indianapolis — D.K. Metcalf (WR, Ole Miss)
#27 Oakland — Terry McLaurin (WR, Ohio State)
#28 LA Chargers — Irv Smith Jr (TE, Alabama)
#29 Kansas City — Jaylon Ferguson (EDGE, Louisiana Tech)
#30 Green Bay — Parris Campbell (WR, Ohio State)
#31 New England — Daniel Jones (QB, Duke)
#32 Pittsburgh (via LAR) — Deebo Samuel (WR, South Carolina)

First round positional breakdown

Quarterbacks — 4
Running backs — 1
Wide receivers — 5
Tight ends — 2
Offensive linemen — 4
Defensive linemen — 12
Linebackers — 2
Cornerbacks — 2
Safety’s — 0

#1 Oakland trades up and selects Kyler Murray (QB, Oklahoma)
The Raiders trade Derek Carr before the draft to the Giants. And with a bevvy of picks, they make sure they get their replacement by jumping from #4 to #1. Murray is the most talented player in the draft.

#2 Denver trades up and selects Drew Lock (QB, Missouri)
This is very early for Lock. However, reports suggest John Elway really likes him. And waiting until #10 could be dangerous. The 49ers will be motivated to trade down so it could make sense for both parties.

#3 New York Jets — Nick Bosa (DE, Ohio State)
Nick, just like brother Joey, falls to a lucky team owning the #3 pick.

#4 Arizona trades down and selects Quinnen Williams (DT, Alabama)
The Cardinals move down three spots and get one of the top defensive linemen.

#5 Tampa Bay — Rashan Gary (DE, Michigan)
A former #1 national recruit — teams will love Gary’s upside and he’ll go very early.

#6 Oakland trades Derek Carr and selects Clelin Ferrell (DE, Clemson)
The Raiders move Carr to the Giants for their top pick. They then go and add a much needed edge rusher.

#7 Jacksonville — Jeffery Simmons (DT, Mississippi State)
The Jags sign a veteran QB (Joe Flacco? Nick Foles?) and then draft a replacement for Marcell Dareus.

#8 Detroit — Christian Wilkins (DT, Clemson)
A genuine top-10 talent with great character and athleticism.

#9 The Packers trade up to select Josh Allen (LB, Kentucky)
Green Bay trades with Buffalo to move up and get a fantastic scheme fit for their 3-4.

#10 The 49ers trade down and select Devin White (LB, LSU)
San Fran swaps #2 for #10 and selects a cornerstone defender and leader.

#11 Cincinnati — T.J. Hockenson (TE, Iowa)
He’s a complete tight end and an X-factor in the passing game.

#12 The Bills trade down and select Andre Dillard (T, Washington State)
The Bills drop three spots and start to build around their young quarterback.

#13 Miami — Dexter Lawrence (DT, Clemson)
The Dolphins are starting their rebuild in the trenches.

#14 Atlanta — Ed Oliver (DT, Houston)
Ed Oliver is a wonderful talent. But what’s his fit at the next level?

#15 Washington — Dwayne Haskins (QB, Ohio State)
I think he’s a bit overrated and might last longer than people think.

#16 Carolina — Devin Bush (LB, Michigan)
The Panthers wait for round two to get a safety.

#17 Cleveland — Marquise Brown (WR, Oklahoma)
Of course the Browns will troll the Steelers by drafting Antonio’s cousin.

#18 Minnesota — Cody Ford (T, Oklahoma)
Ford has superb feet and agility for his size.

#19 Tennessee — Jachai Polite (EDGE, Florida)
Polite’s motor never stops and he could go earlier than this.

#20 Pittsburgh — Greedy Williams (CB, LSU)
Williams is slightly overrated and will last longer than people think.

#21 The Bills trade up and select Jonah Williams (T, Alabama)
The Bills acquire a third rounder for trading down from #9 to #12. They give it to the Seahawks to draft Williams and convert him to center.

#22 Baltimore — Jawaan Taylor (T, Florida)
His best fit at the next level is probably at guard.

#23 Houston — Byron Murphy (CB, Washington)
The Texans address their biggest need in round one.

#24 Oakland — Josh Jacobs (RB, Alabama)
The Raiders need two things — pass rush and offensive playmakers.

#25 Philadelphia — Montez Sweat (EDGE, Mississippi State)
The Eagles love to draft for the lines and might need to replace Brandon Graham.

#26 Indianapolis — D.K. Metcalf (WR, Ole Miss)
He has everything physically but there are medical concerns and he drops too many passes.

#27 Oakland — Terry McLaurin (WR, Ohio State)
Jon Gruden had a look in his eye when talking to McLaurin at the Senior Bowl.

#28 LA Chargers — Irv Smith Jr (TE, Alabama)
They don’t have a ton of needs so can add a weapon here.

#29 Kansas City — Jaylon Ferguson (EDGE, Louisiana Tech)
He didn’t have an amazing Senior Bowl but the raw talent is there.

#30 Green Bay — Parris Campbell (WR, Ohio State)
They need more playmakers and Campbell is the real deal.

#31 New England — Daniel Jones (QB, Duke)
They’ve been planning ahead at QB for a long time.

#32 The Steelers trade up and select Deebo Samuel (WR, South Carolina)
After dealing Antonio Brown, the Steelers move up from #36 to secure a replacement.

Trades breakdown

Oakland (#4) trading up with Arizona (#1) to select Kyler Murray
I think the Cardinals will look to trade down. If the Raiders trade Derek Carr before the draft they might want the insurance of guaranteeing his replacement at #1.

The New York Giants trade #6 for Derek Carr
The Giants want to win now and see the 27-year-old Carr as a better shot to do that than grooming a rookie.

Denver (#10) trading up with San Francisco (#2) to select Drew Lock
Clearly this is very early for Drew Lock. I wouldn’t make this move personally. Yet there’s reported strong interest from the Broncos in him. They could be aggressive and the Niners will definitely want to trade down.

Green Bay (#12) trading up with Buffalo (#9) to select Josh Allen
This is a deal that works for both parties. Allen is an ideal fit in the 3-4 scheme Green Bay uses. They jump ahead of the Niners (in the market for an EDGE rusher). The Bills move down a few spots and get the best left tackle in the draft.

Buffalo (#40) trading up with Seattle (#21) to select Jonah Williams
The Seahawks might not want to drop 19 spots. However, if a team actually wants to trade up badly enough it’s a way to pad out your draft board. In this mock draft the Bills acquire the 75th pick from Green Bay for trading down from #9 to #12. So they’re comfortable giving the Seahawks one of their two third round picks. The Bills also own two fourth round picks and two fifth round picks. So they have the stock to make a deal and not do too much damage to their own draft board. The Seahawks get a third, fourth and fifth for dropping 19 spots. The Bills move ahead of Baltimore to draft Alabama’s Jonah Williams to develop as a center or guard.

San Francisco trades #36 for Antonio Brown
This is only a first round projection but I have the Steelers trading up to #32 and need to explain why. I have the 49ers trading the #36 overall pick to Pittsburgh for Antonio Brown.

Pittsburgh (#36) trading up with the Rams (#32) to select Deebo Samuel
With the Steelers having moved on from Antonio Brown they need a wide receiver. With several leaving the board at the end of day one, Pittsburgh moves up a few spots to get Samuel.

Seattle’s options in this scenario

I’ve deliberately not done a round two projection. I wanted to talk about options, not single out one player for the Seahawks.

It’d be an interesting position to be in. It would illustrate Pete Carroll’s stance this off-season. They don’t have any glaring needs. They want to add competition.

A lot of the players we’ve talked about during the draft process are off the board. There’s no T.J. Hockenson or Montez Sweat. Terry McLaurin and some of the other receivers are gone. Most of the top defensive linemen are off the board.

They’d be left to let the board come to them. Who are the best players available? Where can they best add competition? And while I do think there’s a scenario where the Seahawks move down and still address arguably their biggest need (front seven on defense) — I can also envisage a situation like this where they’re having to go BPA.

So what direction could they go in?

I think the Seahawks like their safety’s more than the fans do and won’t feel that’s a position to target with their first pick. It’s not a good year at the position anyway, although you would expect Johnathan Abram and Taylor Rapp to be off the board reasonably quickly on day two.

New Mexico State linebacker Terrill Hanks could be a possible option. It’ll depend a lot on his combine. How quick is he? How does he do in the agility tests? He earned rave reviews at the Senior Bowl for his ability in coverage and his speed. He’s well sized at 6-2 and 234lbs with 33 5/8 inch arms and a huge 80 1/2 inch wingspan. Hanks has longer arms than offensive tackles like Andre Dillard, Max Scharping, Kaleb McGary and Chuma Edoga.

One of the things they loved about K.J. Wright was his length. Wright has nearly 35-inch arms and an 80-inch wingspan. They’re not going to take a linebacker in round two based purely on length. If Hanks has a great combine he could be on their radar.

He’s already being compared to Darius Leonard — last years big riser after the Senior Bowl. It might be a lazy comparison based purely on position. Leonard was the #36 pick in 2018. We’ll see if Hanks gets into a similar range but some are starting to believe he will.

There are intriguing O-line options remaining including Kaleb McGary, Greg Little and several others. The run on receivers at the end of round one has left that position a little dry and it’s the same for the tight ends. Drew Sample in this situation would be a better target later on (in a similar range to the Will Dissly pick a year ago).

Renell Wren has the size, length and explosive athletic profile to provide some intrigue as an interior D-line option. There are still pass rushers available including D’Andre Walker, Brian Burns and Zach Allen.

One player I’m really starting to like is Western Illinois defensive tackle Khalen Saunders. More on him in a moment. I’m not sure it’s that unrealistic that he could work his way into the second or third round.

We really need the combine to shed some light. The Seahawks don’t draft average athletes with their first pick. Whoever it is will have strong positional traits.

What is clear is they’ll almost certainly trade down. They’ll want to add some depth to the defensive front seven. I think they will identify a quarterback to draft. They’ll want competition in the secondary and they’ll likely look to add at the skill positions and possibly the offensive line.

I think there’s a chance the likes of Will Grier (QB), L.J. Collier (DE), Jamal Peters (CB), Drew Sample (TE), Chuma Edoga (T) and Khalil Hodge (LB) could be possible targets after the first pick. I’ve been compiling a list of potential targets and why I think they might interest the Seahawks. I’ll publish it in an article soon and update it after the combine.

I wanted to end by reflecting on two players I’ve been watching in the last 24 hours.

Preston Williams (WR, Colorado State)
Sometimes you watch a player for the first time and you instantly sit up and take notice. That’s what you get with Preston Williams. He’s an outstanding talent at receiver. He’s 6-4 and 210lbs and plays up to his size. However, he is so gifted at getting open. Give him a free release and it’s over. Even against top opponents like Florida — if you don’t get your hands on him you’ll get beat. If you get into him he competes and fights to get open. He competes for the ball in the air, makes improbable catches and can equally provide a downfield speed threat or the savviness to get open at the intermediate or short range level through sheer quickness. Reportedly there are serious character concerns with Williams and some teams won’t have him on their boards. It’ll be a real waste if he allows red flags to ruin his career. He has top-level potential and could be a major force in the NFL.

Khalen Saunders (DT, Western Illinois)
Saunders was a star at the Senior Bowl and I wanted to see if I could find some Western Illinois games to see him in college. Saunders has the kind of ‘wow’ factor you want to see from small-school players. He flat out dominated at times. Saunders shows the power to physically bully linemen when engaged (sometimes simply tossing them to the ground) but he also has fantastic quickness to shoot gaps, swim away from blocks and burst into the backfield. He lacks length (6-0, 320lbs, 32 3/8 arms, 78 1/2 wingspan) but that probably helps in terms of leverage. I’m fascinated to see what he does at the combine (if invited). He’s an exciting player with the range to be a strong run defender and a pass rusher.

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Will Grier could be an option for the Seahawks

January 28th, 2019 | Written by Rob Staton

Will Grier could be a Seahawks target in the draft

I think there’s a strong chance the Seahawks will draft a quarterback this year. I discussed the reasons in yesterday’s thoughts and predictions piece.

Here’s the Cliffs Notes version:

— Russell Wilson and the Seahawks appear destined for a long-running contract saga

— Wilson can earn a fully guaranteed $110m between 2020-2022 if he’s willing to embrace the same tactic as Kirk Cousins and play on multiple franchise tags

— The Seahawks can realistically tag Wilson until 2021 but after that, the cost would be so high they’d either need a deal or they’d be forced to let Wilson become a free agent

— That means they have a two-year window to get a deal done and/or prepare for the worst case scenario of losing Wilson

— It’s not much but acquiring a quarterback they have faith in could present some form of leverage in a year or two by placing the onus on Wilson to decide how badly he wants to stay in Seattle (eg — ‘do you want to be here and compromise on a deal because if not we like this other guy and we’ll start him and trade you‘)

I think the Seahawks are well aware of this situation and are actively working to identify quarterbacks they like. Good teams plan ahead. There’s a chance they’ll come to a long-term agreement with Wilson. I suspect all parties want that to happen so it’s a good starting point. You still have to prepare for the other possibility.

John Schneider attended several high-profile pro-days a year ago specifically to look at quarterbacks (Sam Darnold, Josh Allen). He was spotted keenly observing the quarterbacks at the Senior Bowl. He attended the Oklahoma vs West Virginia game featuring two big name college QB’s.

In 2017 the Seahawks were also heavily linked to interest in Patrick Mahomes.

Revisiting the Mahomes speculation led me to this quote by Schneider before the 2017 draft:

“I’ve always thought you have to have one in the chamber and have a guy who is getting ready, and it just hasn’t gone that way for us.”

These are all reasons why I’m looking at the quarterback class this year.

I’d already watched all of Kyler Murray’s games as a starter in 2018. I believe he’s the most talented player in the 2019 draft. I think he’s a strong candidate to be a top-10 pick if not the top selection. There’s already talk that the New York Giants won’t draft Murray due to his lack of size. If Murray falls, that’ll be why. If he drops into range for the Seahawks I think there’s a relatively decent chance they will consider selecting him.

If Murray is gone, who else is there?

I started by watching Auburn’s Jarrett Stidham. He gained relatively positive reviews for his performance during Senior Bowl practises. He has good size, a strong arm and a year ago was considered a potential first round pick.

Auburn struggled in 2018 across the board. As a consequence Stidham struggled. His completion percentage dropped by five percent, he threw for only 2794 yards and Auburn finished the regular season with a 7-5 record.

It was said Stidham didn’t take the next step. He actually threw for the same number of touchdowns in 2017 and 2018 (18) and had one fewer interception. With Auburn struggling however, Stidham never really managed to elevate his stock.

I started by watching the 2017 film. Auburn beat Alabama in the Iron Bowl and reached the SEC Championship game. Stidham moved the ball well, managed the game and had enough arm strength to test a top defense. He was fairly solid. I then watched two more 2017 games and two 2018 games.

It’s extremely difficult to get a proper read on what he’s capable of. The Auburn offense doesn’t place a great demand on the QB. It’s a lot of quick passes, one-read throws and plays called by the sideline after seeing the defensive formation. There’s very little evidence of intermediate throws, multiple progressions, improvisation or touch downfield. When it’s time to take a shot they take a shot. When it’s time to throw a screen they throw a screen.

One thing that did show up was Stidham taking too many hits. This was a problem in the Senior Bowl game too. He had a turnover via fumble because he held onto the ball too long and shortly after took another unnecessary sack. It’s slightly concerning. Is he used to having things on a plate? When he has to make reads and think on his feet can he do it or is he going to keep getting hammered in the backfield?

Someone will take a shot on his arm talent. It might be in the middle rounds or it could be day three. I’m not convinced that team will be the Seahawks.

The second quarterback I watched this week (and third in total) was West Virginia’s Will Grier.

I was pretty interested in this. I figured John Schneider attended the Oklahoma vs West Virginia game primarily to watch Kyler Murray. I’d started to wonder whether it was actually a chance to see two high-profile quarterbacks — with one player perhaps more securable than the other.

Based on my study of Grier I do think there’s a somewhat decent chance the Seahawks are interested in him.

One thing that kept showing up was Grier’s accuracy on deep passes. Time and time again Grier would make extremely accurate throws on go-routes and big shots downfield.

A good example of this is his performance against Tennessee:

It’s actually an excellent performance across the board. Grier extends plays, throws at all levels with accuracy and velocity, shows great composure and finished the game with five touchdowns and 429 yards. In particular though, focus on the throws at 2:55, 3:35 and 4:00. His touch and ability to throw deep passes with accuracy is very much in the Seahawks ballpark.

Pete Carroll wants explosive plays. As much as he wants to be physical and run the ball, he also wants the passing game to be a threat downfield. Grier’s ability to throw with accuracy and get big chunk yardage fits their mantra.

This kept showing up again and again so I did some digging to see if there were stats to emphasise the point. PFF noted after his 2017 season how effective he was throwing the deep pass, acknowledging only three other college quarterbacks (including Baker Mayfield) received a better grade than Grier when throwing downfield:

“Grier targeted a fly route on 17 percent of his pass attempts (79 attempts), averaged a whopping depth of target of 29.5 yards and accumulated 1,102 of his total passing yards. Speaking specifically to those three routes targeted over 20 yards downfield, Grier had a passer rating above the NCAA average on all three of them, including a 100.1 passer rating on ‘go’ routes.”

He wasn’t just throwing to one fantastic speedy receiver either:

The Mountaineers were an equal-opportune receiving corps in 2017 as Grier (and Chris Chugunov in relief) targeted four recievers on at least 26 deep shots. Ka’raun White (509 deep receiving yards), David Sills (477) and Gary Jennings (432) all finished within the top 26 in terms of most deep receiving yards by a wide receiver. No other FBS team had three receivers to finish in the top 45 of deep receiving yards.

So what about the 2018 season? Grier ranked #1 among Senior Bowl quarterbacks for yards per completion (14.53 YPC). Kyler Murray was the top ranked quarterback overall (16.77 YPC). In comparison, Dwayne Haskins was only the 32nd ranked quarterback for YPC (12.95).

Maybe it’s a coincidence John Schneider went to watch Murray vs Grier. Or maybe there’s something in it?

At the end of the 2018 season PFF published a piece called ‘best at everything’. It was a breakdown of every position or unit and named a player that succeeded in a certain aspect of play (eg best player to run a hitch route, best swim move, best box safety).

Grier was ranked #1 for throwing the go-route:

No college quarterback throws a better go route than Grier, a trend that has continued from a season ago. He leads the nation with 1,207 yards and 24 big-time throws on go routes, doing so without throwing a turnover-worthy pass. In total, he’s completed 35 of 68 go routes for 17 touchdowns, averaging a hefty 24.2 yards downfield per target, routinely leading his receivers so well that they’ve gained 32.8 percent of his passing yards after the catch.

He was also named the best quarterback at handling a defensive blitz:

Grier has read and diagnosed blitzes this year better than any other quarterback. When the defense sends extra rushers, he’s completed 85 of 124 passes for 1,303 yards and a remarkable 22 touchdowns against no interceptions. His 14 big-time throws against the blitz lead the country, as do his touchdowns — as he’s been able to find soft spots and holes in coverages despite extra blitzing defenders coming at him.

Grier does have some limitations. His throwing technique is far from textbook. He doesn’t have a rocket arm and sometimes it seems he compensates on his technique to acquire extra velocity. There’s good and bad on tape. He took way too many sacks in the Iowa State game for example.

However, this is the second best throw I saw in 2018 after Kyler’s Murray’s impossible deep-ball touchdown while on the run against Alabama:

Assuming Murray isn’t available to the Seahawks and with a firm belief there’s a strong chance they’ll draft a quarterback at some stage — I think Grier could be a guy they look at. His ability to throw with accuracy downfield and make big plays fits what they look for. If he can gain arm strength and spend some time adjusting to a pro-scheme — there is potential to work with.

If the Seahawks trade down from #21 and acquire an extra third round pick, it wouldn’t be a big surprise if they used it on Grier if he’s available.

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Thoughts and predictions on Seattle’s off-season

January 27th, 2019 | Written by Rob Staton

Everything I think about the forthcoming off-season in one post…

KJ Wright will get big money somewhere else

There are teams with millions to spend. Indianapolis has $115m in cap space for 2019. The Jets have $96m. Buffalo $80m. Oakland $74m. If someone is willing to pay Zach Brown $8m a year, Benardick McKinney $10m a year and Alex Ogletree $11m a year — someone will pay to add Wright. Yes he missed a lot of the 2018 season through injury. If you have $115m in cap space, you don’t worry too much about that. Not when you’re adding the consummate professional with years of production. Wright will get paid and Seattle will be priced out.

The Seahawks won’t make a free agency splash

A lot of people are talking about Seattle’s cap space. It’s currently set at about $55m for 2019. That’ll rise because they’ll save money on Kam Chancellor’s contract. Here’s the reality though. Nearly $30m of that alone is going to go on Frank Clark’s contract extension or franchise tag plus the usual amount you need for injured reserve, the practise squad and a draft class. With only 47 players currently under contract for 2019, they simply don’t have the ability to go out and throw major money at a Jadeveon Clowney, Demarcus Lawrence or any of the other big names out there. They’ll need to be calculated, wait for the market to settle and seek value. It could be a very similar free agency to last year.

The priority will be retention not addition

I’m not sure Seahawks fans realise there’s a significant issue on the horizon. Russell Wilson, Bobby Wagner and Jarran Reed are all out of contract after the 2019 season. If Frank Clark receives the franchise tag, he too will be out of contract in 12 months time. The only way to guarantee you keep all three for 2020 or beyond is to have at least three signed to extensions before the end of this year. That’s a huge task. Clark will probably be the easiest to agree terms with. The tag plus the next contract Demarcus Lawrence signs will shape his market. The Seahawks will probably be open to making Wagner the highest paid linebacker in the league (Luke Kuechly only earns $12.3m a year). Reed is tricky because he’ll want to be paid as a 10.5 sack defensive tackle despite only having one year of production. And then there’s the pending Russell Wilson saga. There’s no doubt about it — the priority this year likely isn’t who they can add. It’s who they can keep. Re-signing three vital players in less than a year isn’t easy.

What happens with Russell Wilson?

The Seahawks will be highly motivated to get a deal done. If Wilson takes a franchise tag in 2020, the process starts where he can do so for 2021 and pocket $66m in fully guaranteed salary. That’s manageable to an extent. The year after though he’d be due $43m. At that point, he either agrees a new deal or he walks as a free agent. So the Seahawks likely have a two-year window to sort this out. We just don’t know what Wilson and his agent Mark Rodgers are thinking. A hostile and long-winded saga occurred last time Wilson and the Seahawks talked contract. Last time the Seahawks had some leverage because Wilson was only earning $1.5m in 2015 due to his third-round rookie contract. There’s no such leverage this time. Wilson can ask for $110m fully guaranteed until 2021 because that’s what the tag will pay him. The Seahawks are unlikely to agree to that. This is destined to be the storyline that dominates Seattle sports for a considerable length of time.

They will seriously consider drafting a quarterback

As a right-minded and well run football team, they have to. Everything I said about the Wilson situation above is true. And if they can’t strike a deal in the next two years (a very real possibility) — they have to be prepared for a scenario where Wilson leaves. A poorly run franchise would sleepwalk into that situation. They’d end up scrambling around in free agency, giving $20m to Sam Bradford and another $8m to Mike Glennon. They’d feel obliged to take a rookie QB in round one. Just look at the mess the Cardinals are in because they failed to plan for the inevitable end of the Carson Palmer era. The Seahawks can at least work to avoid all of that by drafting or acquiring a quarterback as insurance. Someone they believe can start, eventually, in the league. Someone they can turn to if indeed Wilson departs. That’s not easy to find, especially outside of round one. But you have to try. You have to attempt to develop someone.

So is Wilson’s departure inevitable?

No, no no. Let’s make this clear. I’m not saying Wilson is off soon and the Seahawks need the next guy. I’m saying a well run team plans for it being a possibility. It’s why John Schneider attended every quarterback pro-day a year ago. It’s why he travelled to watch Oklahoma vs West Virginia in person. It’s why he was spotted closely watching the QB’s at the Senior Bowl. The Seahawks are looking for the next guy because they might need him. If anyone thinks that would be a wasted pick — you’re wrong. It’ll be one of the best and most reassuring picks they’ll ever make. Covering yourself at quarterback is never a bad idea. Especially with the forthcoming situation with Wilson’s contract.

Who could they draft?

That’s the difficult question. None of the Senior Bowl quarterbacks were particularly impressive. That makes it more likely Kyler Murray goes early, plus Dwayne Haskins. I’m currently running through the QB class to form proper opinions on all of the players. I’m starting with Jarrett Stidham. His 2018 tape was mixed (like Auburn’s season) but he played very well in 2017 with a highlight performance in a key win against Alabama. A final quick point on Murray. I love the guy. I think he’s the most talented player in the draft. But he’s 5-9 and it’d be naive to think that won’t matter to some teams. So while I think he should (and will) go in the top-10 — just be ready if he falls.

Anthony Barr will be interesting

If there’s one player in particular I think they might look at in free agency it’s Barr. He’s their type of athlete. He’s 6-5, 255lbs with 34 inch arms. He ran a 1.57 10-yard split. He ran a 4.19 short shuttle and a 6.82 three-cone. He’s explosive with a 34.5-inch vertical and a 10-5 broad jump. For whatever reason Barr’s career in Minnesota stalled. He’s never had more than four sacks in a season featuring mostly at linebacker. He would probably benefit from a fresh start. It’s hard to predict what his market will be like. He may still get decent money and thus the Seahawks could be priced out. Yet if there’s a potential Michael Bennett/Cliff Avril type ‘prove-it deal’ candidate out there, I think it might be Barr. Sign him to a good-not-great one or two year deal. Promise him more pass-rush opportunities. Let him go after a big contract in the future.

They will trade down from #21

It’s inevitable. They only have four draft picks. They need more. They could trade down multiple times. Last year a move from #18 to #27 netted a third and sixth round pick. A similar trade down about nine or ten spots should net the same return. From that point they could move down again. They’ll probably be looking for 6-8 picks at least. I get the feeling they might see this as a draft where it’s worth having a fair amount of day-three stock. It feels like that type of class. If they do move down and acquire an extra third round pick — that could be an area where they target a quarterback.

Forward planning could be important

Aside from needing to think long-term at quarterback (just in case) they also need to think about the future of the offensive line (Germain Ifedi is a free agent after 2019) and at receiver (how many more years does Doug Baldwin want to play?). Clark and Reed have expiring contracts on the D-line. Duane Brown is 34 in August. Some of these issues don’t need to be addressed with early picks but extra depth, competition and forward planning could be a priority.

They like their safety’s more than you do

It’s common to see the Seahawks paired with a safety in mock drafts. It’s a rotten year for the safety position. As Bob McGinn notes: “This class of safeties lacks quality and quantity.” It seems unlikely that’s what Seattle will do with their first pick. Regardless, I think Pete Carroll likes his guys. Bradley McDougald has developed into a key player. Tedric Thompson is only a one-year starter. Carroll was quick to praise Delano Hill at the end of the season. Hill was playing very well before getting injured pre-playoffs. The Seahawks were very lucky to be in a position to draft Earl Thomas and benefit from his talents for many years. Let’s not forget though — Philadelphia traded above them in 2010 and we all thought it was for Thomas (it ended up being for Brandon Graham). They were extremely close to never having Earl Thomas. They wouldn’t have found a similar player in 2011, 2012, 2013. Any subsequent draft. There is a world for Carroll without an Earl-level safety in his defense. I think he’s pretty comfortable moving on and thinks highly of the guys he has. Could they add more competition? Sure. But probably not in the early rounds.

Earl Thomas is done in Seattle

This is almost as inevitable as the ‘trading down from #21’ thought. We all know it. Earl Thomas will be moving on in the off-season — quite possibly to the Cowboys. We’ll never know what motivated this decision. It’s probably something to do with the injuries. But the Seahawks were willing to part ways with Earl a year ago and now it will happen in free agency. It’s just a bit strange they weren’t able to work a deal in 2018 to avoid losing him for nothing more than a possible compensatory pick.

Mychal Kendricks will re-sign

I’m not a legal expert but I do think it’s unlikely Pete Carroll would’ve talked so openly about bringing Kendricks back if he didn’t have some indication that a jail term is unlikely. And it’s very likely that Carroll has communicated with informed individuals on this situation.

They’ll keep D.J. Fluker & J.R. Sweezy

Neither player will be expensive. Both players loved playing in Seattle in 2018. Pete Carroll said several times he wants to keep them both. He even told me when I asked in London that he sees them as part of the ‘new core’. It doesn’t mean they’ll get long-term deals and be seen as multi-year fixtures. But they’ll be back in 2019. It’s a no-brainer.

The first draft pick won’t necessarily be a D-liner

I made a mistake at the start of the off-season. I kept saying Seattle’s first pick would be a pass rusher. I still think it’s their biggest need. But I’ve spent time studying the class and I think there’s a very real prospect that they look elsewhere with their first pick. Once they’ve traded down from #21 — possibly into the early second round — a lot of the defensive linemen will be off the board. There could be a scenario where the strength at that point could be receiver, tight end, linebacker or offensive line. Plus there’s enough good D-line depth this year that they could wait on the position. I’m taking a more open mind going forward. Their biggest need is more pass rush but their first pick could be one of many different positions.

Washington trio make an impression

Congratulations to three players from the state of Washington for the way they performed at the Senior Bowl. Andre Dillard, Drew Sample and Kaleb McGary were all excellent and among the best players in Mobile. It’d be fun to see any of the three playing for the Seahawks.

Montez Sweat in the top-10? Not so fast

I rate Montez Sweat. There aren’t many players with his length, quickness and pass-rushing skill set. It’s very possibly he could be a high pick — especially if he has a great combine. However, there are still questions to be answered about his departure from Michigan State. He’s inconsistent and showed that again in Mobile. On day one he had that great rep against Tytus Howard but then he had some rough moments on day three. In the game itself he had a great first quarter but was handled the rest of the way. Sweat will appear in the top-20 in pretty much every mock draft you see this week. I still think he could be in play for Seattle when they pick — even if they trade down.

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Senior Bowl 2019 — game notes

January 26th, 2019 | Written by Rob Staton

— None of the quarterbacks were particularly impressive. Certainly nobody performed like Josh Allen a year ago. He really elevated his stock with the way he played in the game. Drew Lock spent the day checking down. Will Grier floated passes and was lucky on a couple of throws not to turn the ball over. Trace McSorley was off-target and inaccurate. Gardner Minshew also missed on many throws and appeared limited physically. Daniel Jones holds the ball far too long. Jarrett Stidham took an avoidable sack (leading to a fumble). Tyree Jackson had some decent throws but also had an ugly turnover. Ryan Finley was fine. It seems like Lock is the most highly regarded of the group with Stidham being a possible mid-round wildcard. Even so — the big winners today were Kyler Murray and Dwayne Haskins.

— USC’s Chuma Edoga and Washington’s Kaleb McGary were excellent at tackle. Edoga, as he did in practise, flashed terrific balance and agility. His hand-use was good. He handled Montez Sweat on a run play and kicked out into space on a stretch run. Edoga is incredibly intriguing with the skills and athleticism to compete in the NFL. McGary was really terrific again and surely leaves the Senior Bowl as one of the big winners. He was awesome in this game — moving people in the running game, appearing in complete control and handling his duties in pass-pro. He’ll need to go through rigorous health-checks at the combine (he has had heart issues in the past) but all being well he’s a lock for day two of the draft.

— Washington’s Drew Sample and Boston College’s Chris Lindstrom also impressed. Sample caught every pass thrown his way — none were easy. We know he can block but this week Sample also showed he can get open and has soft hands. He’s a very interesting player who had a great week in Mobile. Lindstrom was very convincing at right guard. On one play in the fourth quarter he progressed to the second level with ease and absolutely destroyed a linebacker. Lindstrom is tough and has the same level of composure as Kaleb McGary. Big performance today.

— Montez Sweat is officially an enigma. At times he looks the part of a high pick — then he just disappears or is easily handled. That happened during the college season and was evident again here. Early in the game he showed great closing speed to the QB when he was left unblocked on a handful of bootlegs. He had a good rush vs Max Scharping early on and blew up Tommy Sweeney on a run call. This all happened in the first quarter. After that he struggled to make an impact and was being handled with relative ease by the tackles as the game wore on. Teams may look at his length and quickness and be willing to take him very early in the draft. However, it feels like he still has plenty of questions to answer about his play on the field and his departure from Michigan State.

— Khalen Saunders was a big winner this week. He recorded a huge sack in the game, swimming by the Ole Miss left guard and flashing amazing quickness to break into the backfield and hammer the quarterback. His mobility at his weight is very impressive and it’ll be interesting to see how he runs at the combine. On this evidence he’ll start to creep into the third round range.

— Miami safety Jaquon Johnson closed quickly throughout the game and had an excellent play vs the run in the first half — identifying the call and flying to the ball carrier for a TFL.

— Terry McLaurin didn’t have any big chunk plays but he again showed great quickness, suddenness and was constantly getting open. He had a great catch on a floaty flea-flicker from Daniel Jones. He did also drop a ball he should’ve caught in the red zone. McLaurin is a complete receiver with blocking skills and special teams ability to match his dynamic athleticism. I think people are seriously underestimating his stock after this week in Mobile.

— Some other quick notes — Jaylon Ferguson had a nice rep against Max Scharping and had a sack on one of Daniel Jones’ ‘holds the ball too long’ moments. Ryquell Armstead is tough and finishes runs. Kingsley Keke made plays throughout the practise week and was a force again in the game. Zach Allen didn’t have any impact plays as a pass rusher but blocked a PAT. Elgton Jenkins is a powerful center with a great frame and length. L.J. Collier did as much as anyone to improve his stock this week and he had a good performance in the game. Wisconsin full back Alex Ingold had a massive block on an end-around that had Jon Gruden marching onto the field for a high-five. As a former unbeaten wrestling star in High School (45-0) — Ingold could be a Seahawks target.

If you missed the article discussing the Russell Wilson contract situation and why Seattle might need to draft a quarterback early this year, click here.

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The Russell Wilson contract saga is coming

January 25th, 2019 | Written by Rob Staton

Russell Wilson’s current deal runs out after the 2019 season

Russell Wilson’s contract situation is about to become a long-winded and frustrating saga that could dominate the off-season and beyond.

Here’s why…

1. His 2015 deal set a precedent

The Seahawks and Wilson last began negotiating a contract extension after the Super Bowl loss to the Patriots. A deal was expected to be a formality. Other quarterbacks like Cam Newton had set the market. Wilson was due a base salary of only $1.5m in 2015 because he was still on a third-round rookie contract.

Everything was set up. Wilson no doubt sought proper financial compensation having reached two Super Bowls (winning one). The Seahawks wanted to keep a young franchise quarterback. The market had already provided the parameters for a deal.

And yet it took months for an extension to be agreed.

Instead of a formality it ended up being a long, protracted saga — played out through the media. Who knows exactly what Wilson and his agent, Mark Rodgers, had hoped to achieve? Rodgers came from a baseball background. Maybe he wanted a baseball-style contract with hefty guarantees? Maybe even a fully guaranteed contract? We’ll never know. Who can blame them for taking a shot?

Whatever was discussed — a relative stalemate occurred. And the thing that likely ended the stalemate was time. Wilson and his team wanted a deal before training camp for obvious reasons. A serious injury would’ve severely impacted his earning potential. The pressure was on to ensure Wilson didn’t miss out on his second contract — and the first lucrative deal of his career.

After a long wait a four-year $87.6m contract was finally agreed with $61.5m guaranteed.

The Seahawks in this situation had the upper hand. Wilson, as a third round pick, was not earning a fortune as a rookie. He needed a deal before the season began.

That won’t be the case in 2019.

2. Why the odds are stacked against Seattle

Wilson is now one of the richest and most successful NFL players in the league. Furthermore, he’s married to an incredibly wealthy and successful woman — forming a celebrity power couple.

His base salary in 2019 is $17m — not $1.5m. There’s simply no financial pressure to get a deal done this time.

Adding to this is the Kirk Cousins situation. Previously the franchise tag was seen as a hindrance to players. It was a way to get a nice lump sum (guaranteed) for a years work — yet the lack of long term security was seen as a problem. Cousins completely changed the perception of the tag. He gambled on his own health and performance and made considerably more than most other quarterbacks by playing on the franchise tag year after year. And when the increasing cost became too rich for the Redskins — they allowed Cousins to test the open market.

Cousins had his cake and ate it.

Someone else is going to follow his lead at some point. Considering how Wilson and Rodgers approached their last negotiation, they could be the ones to try and emulate Cousins. In 2015 they signed the deal right before training camp. This year, they could be the ones making a final demand of the Seahawks. And if the team won’t meet those demands — they’ll likely feel very comfortable playing for $17m in Wilson’s final season before anticipating the franchise tag.

If this happens — there’ll be little motivation for Wilson to do anything the following year either. Keep accumulating tags. Brady Henderson notes in this article how much he’d be set to earn:

Based on the 120 percent rule used to calculate franchise-tag values, the cost to tag Wilson would be $30.34 million (120 percent of Wilson’s scheduled 2019 cap number) in 2020 and then $36.41 million (120 percent of $30.34 million) in 2021.

Unless the Seahawks were willing to top those numbers and offer Wilson $36-38m per year on a long extension, why would he sign? He’d be getting $67m for two years work. Remember, his existing contract only contained $61.5m in total guarantees.

A third year on the tag would cost $43m. Under the current cap that wouldn’t be manageable. Who knows where the NFL will be in 2022? At the moment, however, that would likely be the point where Wilson tests the market. Just as Cousins did.

The Seahawks have no leverage in these talks. The only card they can play is an appreciation for Wilson, familiarity and the success they’ve so far enjoyed together. With tens of millions at stake that doesn’t seem sufficient.

Wilson and Rodgers can turn to the Seahawks and lay out three numbers: $30m, $36m, $43m. Annual figures all guaranteed with three franchise tags.

There’s simply no serious incentive for Wilson to take anything Seattle offers that doesn’t compare favourably to what he can get, fully guaranteed, under the tag. It’s not just the cap hit we’re talking about here. Three franchise tags equals about $110m fully guaranteed for three extra seasons.

So Mark Rodgers, Russell Wilson and whoever else is involved in talks will likely say they want a fully guaranteed contract worth the average of the three tags combined. And they’d be well within their rights to ask for it too.

3. How can the Seahawks gain any kind of leverage?

It’s really, really simple…

Draft another quarterback.

Not a seventh round pick either. Someone who they can realistically point to in a negotiation.

This is why I believe John Schneider has been so active in appearing at different quarterback pro-days in the last two years. I suspect he has been anticipating this impasse. And while there’s been online chatter that the Seahawks might trade Wilson as a point of philosophy or cost-saving — I think the reality is quite simple. They know they need a bargaining chip and some insurance and they knew the potential contract storm that was brewing.

This is why I’ve written about Kyler Murray and the Seahawks. Murray is an exceptional talent. He’s arguably the most talented player in the entire 2019 draft class. He’s accurate, has a rocket arm, makes the impossible possible, is elusive and a threat as a runner. He’s a sensational prospect. The only problem for some is he’s 5-9 and not a conventional pro-QB.

Schneider was in West Virginia to watch the Mountaineers play Oklahoma. I’m convinced he wanted to get a closer look at Murray (even if that wasn’t the sole aim for the trip).

Let’s imagine a scenario where the Seahawks draft Murray with their first pick in the draft (whenever that might be after they inevitably trade down). The reaction by the media and some fans will be to freak out. Does it mean they’re going to trade Wilson? Why have they wasted a pick? Why didn’t they draft a defensive lineman?

In reality, this would be the smartest and most logical business move the Seahawks have possibly ever made. And it’s without doubt the only way they’ll gain any kind of leverage in contract talks with Wilson and Rodgers.

Drafting Murray would allow the Seahawks to turn to Wilson at some point in the next two years and say it’s time to get serious. We’ve drafted Kyler Murray and we’re prepared to start him and trade you to another team. So how badly do you want to be a Seahawk? Do you want a legacy in this city? Do you want to be a one-team quarterback? Do you want to stay in this setting, with this front office and coaching staff? Or do you want to go somewhere else where the Head Coach doesn’t necessarily value improvisation? Or it might be a dumpster fire of a franchise or a lousy market.

They can tell Wilson and Rodgers it’s time for a compromise. Time to work out a deal that works for both parties. Or it’s time to move on.

Suddenly the onus is back on Wilson. The Seahawks can finally shoot their shot. And they can do so with confidence, knowing they won’t be left scrambling around to draft a rookie quarterback or sign whichever version of Sam Bradford is out of contract.

That’s how they gain some kind of leverage.

And there’s nothing — not one scenario — that is a negative after that happens.

a.) Wilson signs an extension and you either keep Murray as a backup or you trade him — just like the New England Patriots did with Jimmy Garoppolo.

b.) You trade Wilson for picks and name Murray your starter.

You could argue it’d be an expensive price to pay to win a negotiating battle with your starting quarterback. I’d argue it’d be one of the best moves this franchise ever made. They’d be covering their backs against a worst-case scenario of Wilson departing and they’d give themselves a better chance to extend Wilson’s contract by actually having a bargaining angle.

That’s why I’d draft Kyler Murray given the opportunity. Not to necessarily replace Wilson — but to potentially help keep him. And if that can’t happen well you might as well have an ultra dynamic player like Murray waiting in the wings.

4. If this is such a big problem why not just trade Wilson now?

Because you actually have to go through the process. Anything else is putting the cart before the horse.

You need to actually have the contract talks. Take part in the negotiations. Set deadlines. Identify compromise. Make ground.

When you’re talking about multi-million dollar contracts, these things take time. And the Seahawks and Wilson actually have to go through the motions a little here. Plus you also have to give each other the chance to get a deal done. If you give up on talks after a month and move on — that just seems like a situation you might end up living to regret.

It’s far better to strengthen your hand in negotiations and exhaust all eventualities than simply give up before giving the two parties any realistic chance to come together.

Is it impossible they consider trading Wilson this off-season? It’s highly unlikely and improbable. Jason La Canfora did note in September, however, that it could be a possibility:

“The Seahawks clearly still have ample time to work something out with the perennial All-Pro, though the months following the 2018 season will certainly bring the matter to a head. Going year-to-year on the franchise tag, especially for an elite quarterback in his prime, is less than ideal. Allowing Wilson to enter the final year of his contract at a time when contracts continue to soar and the cap continues to increase significantly (and could so even more with a wave of gambling-related revenue on top of the now-massive streaming rights) is risky, and Wilson’s trade value would be at its peak next winter, with some general managers I spoke to believing Wilson could fetch potentially three first-round picks in return.”

This report was made before Wilson had a career season and led the team on a playoff run. It’s fair to assume if this was a consideration in September it’s almost certainly less of a consideration now.

5. Does it have to be Kyler Murray?

It doesn’t. Observers in Mobile noted John Schneider was paying close attention to the quarterbacks at the Senior Bowl. There may be other players they’re interested in — potentially in the second or third round range.

There’s also a very reasonable chance Murray goes in the top-10 and isn’t even a remote option for Seattle.

The reason I keep bringing Murray up, however, is he’s such an outstanding prospect. It’s hard to even consider going from Russell Wilson to a non-spectacular quarterback. Will Grier and Ryan Finley don’t get the juices flowing in quite the same way.

Don’t take my word for it on Murray either. Here’s what Bob McGinn’s scouting sources had to say about him:

“I don’t know what you do with a guy that’s 5-9 but he is something special,” said one scout. “He would be a shorter version of Patrick Mahomes. He can be that special. He’d probably run like a 4.4 something. He’s a better football player than Baker Mayfield because he runs so well.

“He can be going full speed left or right and throw the ball the length of the field. I haven’t really broken him down yet because I figure he’s going to play baseball. But you go ‘wow, wow, wow!’ when you watch him. I wouldn’t want to defend him.

“The amazing thing is his arm strength. He’s accurate, too. He’s the closest thing I’ve seen to Mahomes.”

Operating in the same system under coach Lincoln Riley, Murray posted an outrageous NFL passer rating of 141.5 while rushing for 892 yards (7.3) and 11 touchdowns in 2018 whereas Mayfield compiled a 137.9 rating while rushing for 311 (3.2) and five TDs in 2017.

“He’s a better player than Mayfield,” another scout said. “Is he a better pro prospect? Mayfield (6-0 ½, 215, 4.84) was taller. I think Murray has a stronger arm. He’s Doug Flutie with all the better skills.

“Murray reminds me of Michael Vick. Not that tall. This kid is as explosive or more explosive. He’s got more accuracy and more ability to run a pro team than Vick did early.”

The pending Wilson contract saga could be the defining storyline of the current off-season. It could drag into next off-season too. So be prepared for what’s coming.

If you missed the Seahawkers podcast this week, don’t forget to check it out. We discuss the Wilson contract situation, the Senior Bowl and the off-season in general:

Also check out our Senior Bowl practise review with notes on why Andre Dillard, Terry McLaurin and Deebo Samuel were the standout performers with honourable mentions for Washington duo Kaleb McGary and Drew Sample.

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