Seahawks wanted Randy Moss? And what now for Marcus Peters?

November 7th, 2014 | Written by Rob Staton

According to reports, Randy Moss snubbed Seattle’s offer of a NFL return

Seahawks wanted Randy Moss?

According to this article in the Denver Post, reliable NFL Insider Jay Glazer reported Seattle approached Moss about a return to the NFL. It appears he declined the offer, but has since hinted he’d be willing to come out of retirement again to play for either Peyton Manning or Tom Brady.

There are two thoughts here. Firstly — the Seahawks were clearly pining for a big target after they realized Percy Harvin’s days were numbered in Seattle. You can add Moss’ name to Vincent Jackson, Julius Thomas, Jordan Cameron and Coby Fleener — all reported targets. Even at 37 Moss would’ve also provided a genuine deep threat (he did for the 49ers in 2012). Whatever happens between now and the end of the season, it seems inevitable this will be a targeted need during the off-season.

Secondly, it’s interesting that Moss chose not to accept the offer — while seemingly leaving the door open for a different type of return to the game. It’s not unfair to suggest this is probably down to Seattle’s style of offense. In New England he’d potentially reignite his rapport with Tom Brady and go back to the big production he experienced last time out with the Patriots. In Seattle he’d be like every other receiver — feeding off scraps (potentially 2-3 targets per game).

Sure, he could be joining a contender. But he also might spend several weeks acting as a decoy. Is he really going to leave a nice warm studio at FOX Sports to run deep routes in the rain so Russell Wilson can scramble for a seven yard gain?

Unfortunately this could be a problem in free agency. If you’re a top receiver used to putting up big numbers — are you going to sign for Seattle? Are you prepared to accept you might be consigning yourself to multiple years of 700-900 yard seasons? And how much are you going to need to be compensated to ignore the attentions of another team who happens to be fielding a gunslinger at quarterback?

This is the type of dilemma potentially facing the Seahawks as they look for a big target (and it might be why they considered the trade market). In reality is a Dez Bryant or Demaryius Thomas (for example) more likely to re-sign in Dallas or Denver where they’ll get the chance to put up Hall of Fame numbers AND compete for a Championship, or will they go to a team that is flirting with a multi-year Super Bowl window and accept they might not top 1000 yards in a season?

Whatever anyone says, receivers love stats. Why else is Golden Tate reveling in Detroit? He’s the same player as last year. Except this season he’s getting a ton of attention. He deserves it. He’s enjoying it.

If the Seahawks can’t convince Moss to have one last go for a ring — can they truly convince a leading tight end or receiver to sign in free agency without paying over the odds? Will they be forced to consider giving up even more trade stock to address this need?

What now for Marcus Peters?

This had been coming. Seemingly a constant headache this season for first year Head Coach Chris Petersen, Peters had already served one suspension. Clearly it didn’t act as a sufficient warning. He’ll turn pro next year with a big old red flag attached to his back.

The big question is — how much will it impact his draft stock?

NFL.com are running an article that says at least three teams will take him off their draft board. Clashing with coaches, as Peters apparently did, will be seen as a big no-no for many. Especially in a year where several players have created havoc off the field and in the locker room. I suspect a theme in the off-season will be damage limitation.

“How can we avoid bringing in a future problem?”

Of course that will create opportunities for those still willing to take a risk. Seattle aren’t going to back off. At least I doubt it. They haven’t come this far to suddenly become all precious. Yet even Pete Carroll and John Schneider have their limits. The question is — when teams dig around, how bad are the issues with Peters?

Overall he was a pretty overrated player in my opinion. Certainly a player who needed a lot of fine tuning and good coaching. He was intriguing from a Seattle perspective because he had a physical edge and had a knack for making plays. The Stanford game in 2013 stood out as the ultimate potential-tape for Peters. And yet he never showed enough consistency at Washington to warrant all the first round hype. There are games where he got beat badly. Some of the physical stuff makes up for a lack of pure technique. The NFL is forcing corners to harness technique over aggressive physical play.

He needed to go to a team with a proven track record of coaching up DB’s. I also think he probably needed to go somewhere without any sense of entitlement. If teams feel that way — don’t be shocked if he goes undrafted. The NFL has no problem teaching prospects a lesson (see: Vontaze Burfict) — it doesn’t matter how talented you might be. In many ways it could salvage Peters career if he gets that type of wake up call.

I’m not convinced he’ll drop that far although we don’t know enough about his dismissal to make a serious judgement. It really comes down to how much teams believe in the potential (which is evident). He’ll be helped by a total dearth of top tier cornerbacks in this class. Anyone with a big need at the position might feel it’s worth taking a shot as early as rounds two or three. What are the alternatives?

From Seattle’s point of view they drafted Tharold Simon in round five despite his appearance on a not too complimentary list of names at LSU. Would they take a chance? Perhaps. But it’d probably be in a similar kind of range where the risk factor is so low.

 

Seahawks add tight end Tony Moeaki

November 5th, 2014 | Written by Rob Staton

The Seahawks decided at some point during the season they needed to find a big target. We spent a lot of the off-season discussing it — and yet it was an issue never really addressed. We’ve all seen the reports regarding trade proposals for Julius Thomas, Jordan Cameron and Coby Fleener. Seattle were supposedly one of the teams who asked about Vincent Jackson.

The need was further emphasized in the last game against Oakland. A week after bagging the game-winning touchdown against Carolina, Luke Willson had an off-day. They clearly want a mobile tight end who can make grabs over the middle and in the red zone. Pete Carroll made reference to the red zone issue during a radio slot today. Marshawn Lynch is essentially Seattle’s defining threat — either as a runner or receiver. Outside of that — who are you looking to? Seattle doesn’t even have a decent fade option.

Tony Moeaki (6-3, 250lbs) signed for the Seahawks today — a former third round pick in 2010 drafted by Kansas City. It’s interesting to note he was taken two picks before Jimmy Graham. The Chiefs thought very highly of him before the injury-bug struck. He was put on IR in 2011 and 2012. A fractured shoulder before the 2013 season ended his time in KC. He signed with the Bills in December that year but further injury trouble led to his release before the 2014 season began.

He’s best known for the catch in the video above, but that’s not necessarily the kind of spark Seattle needs. Russell Wilson has to have someone who can create a mismatch in the red zone. He needs to know he’s got a linebacker matched up against a big target. He needs that second or third read over the middle. Essentially they need someone who can do what Mychal Rivera did on Sunday.

The fact Rivera had two touchdowns and looked a threat against the Seahawks shows you don’t need Jimmy Graham or the Gronk to be effective. In certain games you can exploit the tight end. He then needs to make the play. Seattle needs someone like Moeaki to just make a play when the situation arises.

In all Carroll’s time here, they’ve never really found their version of the modern tight end. Anthony McCoy was flirting with a break-out during the 2012 season but injury has potentially ruined his career just as he was getting started. Zach Miller for all his production in Oakland has never been able to recreate that form in the passing game — mainly due to the scheme and his skill as a blocker.

They’ve given Willson more than enough of a chance to nail the role but he’s just too inconsistent. They’ve had a chance to draft other tight ends who’ve prospered at the next level. For some reason it’s an area they’ve never really been able to get right — despite a clear desire to find that elusive chess piece.

In 2010 they took Walter Thurmond two picks before injury-plagued (but talented) Dennis Pitta — who ran a 4.63 at his combine. In 2011 Jordan Cameron dissected the two fourth round picks they spent on K.J. Wright and Kris Durham. Julius Thomas also went in the fourth round that year. Ladarius Green — a hot prospect for San Diego — was drafted a few picks after Robert Turbin in 2012. The pick used on Percy Harvin could’ve brought in Zach Ertz — while Travis Kelce left the board one pick after Seattle drafted Christine Michael in 2013. This year the Seahawks traded out of range for Austin Seferian-Jenkins. The third rounder spent in the Harvin trade could’ve allowed the team to take a punt on Green Bay’s Richard Rodgers.

Now it’s easy to sit here and point at players and say, “look what you could’ve won”. The Thurmond and Wright picks paid off. Nobody can say taking Turbin has been poor use of a fourth rounder. The Harvin trade was clearly a major own goal but they took a swing and missed. We don’t know if they ever had any interest in ASJ, Kelce or any of the others anyway.

However — you do wonder if this is an area they’ll be aggressive with next year. It’s not a good draft at all for TE’s, but maybe they’ll identify that big rangy difference maker and make sure they don’t miss out? They could look at free agency — although the cost of keeping Julius Thomas and Jordan Cameron in Denver and Cleveland respectively should secure both players for at least another year.

For now Moeaki gets his shot to prove he’s past the injuries and can still make a play at a career in the NFL.

 

Instant reaction: Seahawks beat Raiders, improve to 5-3

November 2nd, 2014 | Written by Rob Staton

This was a relatively comfortable yet strangely unsatisfying 30-23 victory. Seattle sputtered on offense and had a day to forget on special teams. A banged up defense again generated some pass rush and flashed some 2013 form in the secondary — even it was far from a flawless display.

The injury situation is incredible right now. Kam Chancellor, Russell Okung, Max Unger, Byron Maxwell, Bobby Wagner, Zach Miller and Jeremy Lane are all missing. Seattle fielded its fourth choice center. Valuable backups like Jeron Johnson are also out. This team is decimated and any kind of win was going to be valuable today.

With no depth remaining its no surprise the special teams play is suffering. Seattle uncharacteristically gave up some big gains, they had a punt blocked for a touchdown and Steven Hauschka missed a field goal. They nearly gave up an onside kick at the end when Cooper Helfet let the ball slip through his grasp. Without the quick thinking of Jermaine Kearse the Raiders would’ve had the ball at midfield with a chance to drive for the win.

Seattle must get healthy to restore some order. They can ill afford special teams play like this and against St. Louis.

Offensively it was just a sluggish day from start to finish. Russell Wilson never got into a rhythm. For every good play he seemed to have 2-3 bad ones. He dodged two major bullets — a dropped interception by D.J. Hayden and a near pick-six by the same player. The Raiders did a great job containing the bootleg right with Khalil Mack. It’s no shock the pass protection suffered at times missing the starting left tackle and center. James Carpenter also left the game with a bad ankle.

The Seahawks can’t revert to a conventional passing offense for situations like this because everything about them is so unconventional. It’s a great dilemma. Wilson needs movement — he needs to get out of the pocket. It also puts a great strain on the offensive line — half the time they don’t know what he’s going to do. Sometimes he encourages pressure because he’s so mobile and quick to bolt. When he’s not having a great day the passing game just suffers. There’s not really a solution other than feeding Marshawn Lynch, which in fairness they did today.

Justin Britt is not playing well recently. Today he just looked lost. On one key pressure he allowed two rushers off the edge a free run to Wilson. Luke Willson chipped and went downfield, Britt clearly didn’t have a grasp on his assignment and it was costly. Just one example, there were several. They might need to consider adding extra protection to his side next week with the continued absence of Zach Miller.

Luke Willson, for all his great athleticism and ability to find the right spot, has hands of stone. I counted four catchable drops today. It’s hard to criticize him too much a week after he scored the game winning touchdown. But those big plays are too sporadic — his general play more hindrance than help. The Seahawks are crying out for a big target in the passing game and the player with the most potential to provide it can’t make consistent, basic grabs.

Whatever happens the rest of the way it’s stating the obvious to say Seattle absolutely must prioritize getting a tall receiver or tight end who can act as a go-to target. Attacking the perimeter all the time with shorter receivers isn’t always effective. Wilson needs an outlet he can deliberately over throw or challenge to high point a tough catch and work the middle.

This could be the most important addition next year. Seattle does not have enough difference making size at receiver. They have two big stars on offense — Lynch (who is reportedly on the way out) and Wilson. You cannot pay Wilson $100m and then expect miracles minus Beast Mode. Even if they draft Todd Gurley next April they need to make sure the investment at quarterback is not a total waste. Lynch was the best player on the field today and more specifically the best receiving target. If the focus is drifting towards the QB he’s going to need an equally effective running back and better weapons. I like Kearse but he had one catch on seven targets today for a grand total of four yards.

On a positive note I thought Alvin Bailey had a decent game at left tackle. If they weren’t so intent on pushing Britt at right tackle you could probably make a case for starting Okung and Bailey at the two spots.

On defense it was good to see Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett continue their recent upturn in form. Richard Sherman finally got a catchable ball for his first interception of the year and Bruce Irvin made an outstanding play on the pick six.

The Seahawks will get a tough game against the Giants next week. Eli Manning is running the type of offense that has started to hurt Seattle. They better hope for some good news on the injury front this week.

 

Thoughts on Georgia vs Florida (Dante Fowler, Leonard Floyd)

November 1st, 2014 | Written by Rob Staton

Dante Fowler Jr should be a first round pick next year

Dante Fowler Jr is a terrific player with great range. He had one big sack working against a tight end off the edge — flashing by with ease thanks to a great dip and lean. He matches athleticism with hustle — a couple of times he worked off blocks through sheer determination to get the quarterback out of the pocket. He was also dropping into coverage from the linebacker spot with relative ease. We didn’t see much of him lining up inside — but he’s shown he can do that too.

He pretty much fits every scheme. He can work the edge as a pure DE, he’s loose enough to feature as a 3-4 OLB. He could even feature at outside linebacker in a 4-3 and move to the edge in nickel like we’re seeing with Bruce Irvin at the moment.

This is a great year for defensive ends and outside linebackers. Fowler is right there with the best eligible for 2015 and a sure-fire first round pick.

On the other side Leonard Floyd had absolutely no impact for Georgia. I’m still trying to work out what all the fuss is about. Florida didn’t throw much so it’s not like he could get after the quarterback. But still. The Gators ran for over 400 yards overall — the most Georgia have conceded since 1978. He’s lean and skinny and just looked lost trying to stop the run. Floyd relies totally on a speed rush to be effective and a nice get off. But when he needs to set the edge against the run or get off a block — he struggles. Tight ends were giving him a hard time in this game.

He’s eligible to declare for the 2015 draft as a sophomore because of the Larry Fitzgerald rule. For me — and I’ve said this before — he needs to come back to Georgia next year, add strength (upper & lower body) and develop beyond being a one-dimensional prospect. There are too many other, superior, defensive ends ready to pack out round one. In the top-25 projection I made earlier in the week, there were seven DE/OLB players on the list. Hey — it’s just one man’s opinion. But for me Floyd will not be among the top 5-6 players at his position if he declares.

On a more positive note, Florida senior defensive tackle Darious Cummings had a decent game and recorded a sack late on rushing the interior. He’s 6-1 and 297lbs and a player I’ll have another look at down the line. Seattle needs interior pass rush help going forward. I also thought Damian Swann had another decent performance at cornerback for Georgia. He worked well defending the run and had another productive day on special teams (including a big block on a kick return). Get him a good DB coach and he has a future.

 

A way too early thought on what the top-25 could look like

October 30th, 2014 | Written by Rob Staton

I’m not labeling this a mock draft, even if it looks like one. I haven’t gone deep into positional need. It’s more an exercise in offering a take on the players I think have impressed this year, for those who give a crap.

The draft order used here is lifted from the current ‘league’ standings on NFL.com.

Yes, Seattle are pinned next to a running back. No, don’t read much into it. I will make this point though. Seattle has two offensive superstars — Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch. However much the pass rush looks like a huge need right now, if Lynch does indeed depart next off-season — they can’t pay Wilson $100m and expect miracles. He’s going to need help. They need an impact player to replace Lynch.

Robert Turbin has not done enough to suggest he’s the heir apparent to Lynch. We can say with some confidence he isn’t. I’m not convinced Seattle has ever trusted Christine Michael. Despite his clear potential, he’s constantly been kept at arm’s length. And then this yesterday:

The running backs coach is on the radio saying Michael isn’t “fundamentally sound”. For what it’s worth, I understand his pain. Watch any college football game this weekend. You’ll see running backs with no future at the next level switching the ball from right to left as they head to the sideline. It’s such a basic thing.

The idea that Michael suddenly becomes the feature back appears fanciful. A best case scenario is probably he’s part of a committee next year.

They’re going to bring in a running back if Lynch goes. And I’m not convinced in the slightest they’ll be satisfied going after a mid-to-late round plodder who just adds to the competition. Replacing Lynch will be the toughest thing Pete Carroll does post-Super Bowl. Seriously.

Does this mean they’ll draft a running back in round one? Not necessarily. But I think they’ll consider it for the right player. I bet they’d love to have Todd Gurley — one of the best players to turn pro in several years in my opinion (and I started the season as a skeptic). I can see some interest in Melvin Gordon too. I’m not arguing for this or anything — it’s a take. The defensive line remains the #1 off-season priority unless there’s a major improvement in the second half of the season. But we should at least discuss alternatives.

1 OAK — Marcus Mariota (QB, Oregon)
2 NYJ — Todd Gurley (RB, Georgia)
3 JAC — Randy Gregory (LB, Nebraska)
4 TB — La’el Collins (T/G, LSU)
5 TEN — Shawn Oakman (DE, Baylor)
6 ATL — Alvin ‘Bud’ Dupree (DE, Kentucky)
7 STL — Jameis Winston (QB, Florida State)
8 WAS — Vic Beasley (DE, Clemson)
9 MIN — Andrus Peat (T, Stanford)
10 CHI — Shaq Thompson (LB, Washington)
11 NYG — Dante Fowler Jr (Florida)
12 NO — Leonard Williams (DE, USC)
13 CAR — Shane Ray (DE, Missouri)
14 HOU — Bendarick McKinney (LB, Mississippi State)
15 SEA — Melvin Gordon (RB, Wisconsin)
16 SF — Amari Cooper (WR, Alabama)
17 MIA — Markus Golden (DE, Missouri)
18 KC — Brandon Scherff (T, Iowa)
20 CLE — Cedric Ogbuehi (T, Texas A&M)
21 SD — T.J. Clemmings (T, Pittsburgh)
22 PIT — Ifo Ekpre-Olomu (CB, Oregon)
23 IND — Corey Robinson (T, South Carolina)
24 GB — Cameron Erving (T, Florida State)
25 CLE — Kevin White (WR, West Virginia)

 

2015 NFL Draft status check: Thoughts on 32 eligible prospects

October 28th, 2014 | Written by Rob Staton

LSU’s La’el Collins is one of the best three players eligible for the 2015 draft

The big three…

The following three draft-eligible players are the best I’ve seen this year. A lot can (and will) change. But these three have played at a consistently high level and have every chance to work into the top range of prospects for 2015.

Marcus Mariota (QB, Oregon)
Still the best candidate by far to go first overall. If Oakland ends up with the top pick they should start Derek Carr next year and let both players compete. Mariota can be as productive as Colin Kaepernick. He hasn’t quite got the same arm strength — but he might be more accurate. Cool, calm and collected — and a big time playmaker.

Todd Gurley (RB, Georgia)
Just a terrific player. There’s no point marking him down because of the failure of previous running backs drafted in the top five (eg Trent Richardson). Gurley is a massive running back but he plays with light feet. Very few runners with his size possess this kind of home-run hitting ability. He’s a rare talent and has really improved in 2014.

La’el Collins (T/G, LSU)
A dedicated leader and thoroughly mature individual. Collins is the captain of the LSU offense and deserves so much more attention. He could be a perennial Pro-Bowler at guard but has shone at tackle this year. He’s an accomplished run blocker who never gets flustered. The best 2015-eligible offensive lineman and for me — it aint that close.

And the rest…

I could’ve added more players, but these are the 32 I wanted to comment on today based on what I’ve seen during the 2014 season. This is not a big board. Some of the players listed here won’t get close to the first round.

Bud Dupree (DE, Kentucky)
Another big character guy with a ton of talent. I’ve spent the last three days watching his tape and it’s time to get on board. Dupree combines a relentless attitude with great speed off the edge. He can act as a LEO, work into the 3-4 or just play as an orthodox edge rusher — even at his size he sets the edge nicely. Explosive.

Amari Cooper (WR, Alabama)
He’s back to his best this year and the way he burned off those Tennessee defensive backs at the weekend showed a blast of speed that’ll really bolster his stock. He’s not a prototypical #1 receiver with great size, but he’s a natural receiver who shares some of A.J. Green’s innate ability to play the position. Could be the next Reggie Wayne.

Shawn Oakman (DE, Baylor)
Oakman has drifted in and out of Baylor’s key games this year and struggled to make an impact against TCU and West Virginia. And yet there simply aren’t that many human beings with his size and athleticism (6-8, 280lbs). He has to be a high pick based on the insane ceiling he possesses. He’s a better prospect than Ziggy Ansah.

Andrus Peat (T, Stanford)
He’s the next best offensive lineman after La’el Collins and the most natural left tackle. Unlike Cedric Ogbuehi and Brandon Scherff, Peat is actually a competent pass protector. He’s technically quite accomplished and just needs to avoid lunging. He has ideal size. He’s not a great run blocker like the others, but he’ll start at left tackle for several years.

Vic Beasley (DE, Clemson)
Great speed off the edge and production to die for (29 career sacks in as many games). Beasley’s been a terror for three seasons now. He doesn’t have great length and this will be a slight concern. He chose not to declare for the 2014 draft. His get-off, competitive edge and third-down capabilities will attract a lot of interest.

Shaq Thompson (LB, Washington)
How many defensive prospects get bumped to running back for a full game? That happened to Thompson at the weekend. He’s just a fantastic athlete and a thoroughly modern day first round pick. He has multiple defensive touchdowns this year and will be a high pick. The NFL draft seems to churn out super-athletic linebackers ever year these days. Thompson is the next in line.

Melvin Gordon (RB, Wisconsin)
He glides as a runner with long graceful steps. He looks like a gazelle. He’s added good weight over the years without losing a step — but he’s still not a great between-the-tackles runner. The extra blocking duties this year will be a big help to his stock. He can be a real X-factor at the next level as a runner and receiver — but can he get the tough yards inside?

Shane Ray (DE, Missouri)
Part of a big-time tag-team with the next name on this list. Ray knows how to get to the quarterback — he can rush the edge, stunt inside and he plays with his hair on fire. He’s not the biggest and won’t be a measurable king — but he just has a knack for making plays. The question is — does his game translate to the next level? If it does, watch out.

Markus Golden (DE, Missouri)
He’s been slowed a little by a nagging hamstring strain — but that hasn’t stopped Golden sacking QB’s, scoring touchdowns and making plays. He’s a terrific athlete with great size and balance. He’s better than Melvin Ingram was at South Carolina. He’s the only player who gave first round pick Ja’Wuan James a problem in 2013.

Jameis Winston (QB, Florida State)
As much as you want to knock him (and I do) for all the off-field nonsense and controversy — he somehow manages to stay focused and perform. He’d be a better option for at least 10-12 NFL teams compared to their current starters. In a cultured, pass happy offense he will put up big stats. But can you trust him?

Benardrick McKinney (LB, Mississippi State)
If you want to know why Miss State is doing so well this year, here’s one key reason. McKinney could be the player Rolando McClain was expected to be at Alabama. He’s got the size to play inside linebacker in the 3-4. Hits like a sledgehammer and quickly closes any running lanes.

Kevin White (WR, West Virginia)
What’s not to like? He has the size and speed, he high points the football superbly. He’s had an impact in every WVU game this year — even in blanket coverage. What’s more he’s quickly becoming the heart and soul of the Mountaineers offense. Nobody has done more to improve their stock in 2014.

Josh Robinson (RB, Mississippi State)
‘The human cannonball’ — and he plays that way. Robinson is short and squat with tremendous lower body power and enough speed to keep a defense honest. He breaks tackles, fights for extra yardage and still makes big plays. He’s a bit like a more compact version of Michael Turner.

Hau’oli Kikaha (DE, Washington)
Nobody has more sacks in the NCAA (14.5 so far). He isn’t a special athlete and by the time the combine comes around, he might struggle to maintain the obvious momentum he currently has. And yet he just finds ways to sack the QB. His play this year demands respect.

Leonard Williams (DE, USC)
It’s not that I don’t rate Williams. He holds the edge well and does a good job swatting at the ball. He has some nice athletic qualities for his size and the way he played through the pain against Stanford was admirable. And yet he doesn’t live in the backfield, doesn’t look like a brilliant 4-3 DE or three technique. If he’s best at the five, what does that mean for his stock?

Randy Gregory (LB, Nebraska)
He’s not been at 100% all year and that’s perhaps limited his ability to make waves this year. He’s a brilliant looking prospect in pads — tall, lean without being skinny and he moves well for the size. The thing is, he’s a better blitzing linebacker than a pure pass rusher. For me he’s strictly a project if you’re thinking 4-3 DE.

Dante Fowler Jr (DE, Florida)
The Gators are a shambolic mess and it’s had an impact on Fowler’s performance. With a productive supporting cast he had a chance to compete for a top five spot. He can still regain momentum at the combine. Fowler is an active, versatile pass rusher who can line up inside or out.

Cedric Ogbuehi (T, Texas A&M)
Does anyone consider him a left tackle prospect any more? He’s struggled all year conceding nearly double digit sacks. A return to the right side could be inevitable. It’s hard to imagine he’ll go as early as some people are projecting. He needs a lot of work.

Brandon Scherff (T, Iowa)
Run blocking? Perfectly acceptable. Pass protection? Stiff, awkward and asking for trouble. He’ll punish you head on and he loves to drive people off the spot in the run game. But even at the college level he looks like a future liability in the passing game. He might be limited to a spot on the right or even at guard.

Danny Shelton (DT, Washington)
Big nose tackle prospect and you have to love the way he plays the game. Brings the attitude every week with a real mean streak. Pushes people around. Is he a good athlete for the size? That’s the key question. Big guys who aren’t special athletes don’t go much higher than the middle rounds, even if they’re good. If he turns a few heads at the combine — his stock will sky rocket.

Ameer Abdullah (RB, Nebraska)
You can’t argue with his production and ability to ‘wow’ with big plays. He’s a very patient runner. However, he just looks like a player with a limited role at the next level. He’s not an every down back at 5-9 and 190lbs. He’ll need to make the most of his snaps. Prediction? He’ll start as a 6-8 carry player with potential and eventually fade away.

Ifo Ekpre-Olomu (CB, Oregon)
Not a good year so far — and he had a few tough days last season too. Can he really play outside? Or is he limited to working in the slot? Teams are willing to take slot corners early these days. He could still be a first round pick in that role, but he’s not lived up to the lofty expectations.

Jordan Phillips (DT, Oklahoma)
Another big nose tackle. He flashed rare athleticism on a big-time fumble return early in the year, sprinting the length of the field for a score (the play was called back on a lousy penalty call). He plays on a pro-ready D-line and that helps, but he’s made some key plays rushing the passer too. Phillips had injury problems last year (back).

Leonard Floyd (DE, Georgia)
Looks a bit like Aaron Maybin. Too lean and needs to add weight. Nobody doubts his potential but the best thing to do is return next year, add core strength and get another year in the SEC. He has a great get off but he can’t shake a block, he has no counter. At the next level he will be found out unless he improves.

Devin Funchess (WR, Michigan)
Ideal size to be a #1 (6-4, 235lbs) and he has experience at tight end and receiver. He does a good job working the seam, making the most of a physical mismatch and he provides a nice big target for the quarterback. However — he doesn’t really do anything well technically and he has too many mental errors. The potential’s off the charts, but he might look better than he is. You could argue it’s difficult to judge him in a miserable Michigan offense.

Marcus Peters (CB, Washington)
At times he looks physical and gritty — but he will give up plays too. He’s Marshawn Lynch’s cousin. He’s been involved in too much drama and he’s missed games as a consequence. There’s no doubting his potential and with the right coaching he could easily start in the NFL. But how concerning is the character stuff? And can he be more consistent?

Shilique Calhoun (DE, Michigan State)
I’ve watched several Michigan State games over the last two years — and at no point have I ever come away impressed with Calhoun. He just looks, well, a bit soft. He got pushed around in the Big Ten Championship last season and the same thing happened at Oregon this year. I’m not sure what all the fuss is about.

T.J. Yeldon (RB, Alabama)
Who expected DeMarco Murray to turn into a dominating power/speed back? At Oklahoma he was more of a receiving option out of the backfield. You could kind of see Yeldon developing into an effective runner over time. He’s a former 5-star recruit, there’s definitely something there. But it’s so much more fun watching Derrick Henry run the ball. Yeldon’s one to watch, but he might be a bit of a gamble.

Duke Johnson (RB, Miami)
He’s not an up-the-gut runner. It’s hard to imagine him carrying the rock with any authority at the next level. He’s more effective in space as a pass-catcher. His best role in the NFL might be as a return man or third down back. It’s hard to get too excited, even if you have to love a ball-carrier with the name ‘Duke’.

 

Why the idea of an early round RB isn’t so ridiculous

October 27th, 2014 | Written by Rob Staton

Amid all the Marshawn Lynch speculation yesterday, the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport had a lot to say about Seattle’s plans at the running back position…

I find it hard to believe Seattle, somehow, is leaking information to the media on their plans for a draft that is five months away. The idea is quite ridiculous in fact. The scouts are out watching games every week, so is John Schneider. They’ll know players they like, sure. But it’s way too early to say with any certainty that a running back will be a first or second round target next April.

At yet I’ll concede it’s very easy to imagine John Schneider getting a Russell Wilson-level man-crush over Melvin Gordon and/or Todd Gurley.

Both players are very talented. Gordon runs like a gazelle, has great vision plus breakaway speed and he can be a home run hitter. With a greater role this year he’s been asked to do more blocking and he’s added good size too. He’s an athletic playmaker with a sturdy frame.

Gurley is a phenom. Yes he’s big and powerful — but he’s also a terrific athlete with incredible breakaway speed. People compare him to Lynch but it’s a poor comparison. Gurley is much more of a threat to take it the distance, he’s also bigger than Lynch. Yet he lacks that unique, unmatched quality to break tackles that will live and die with Beast Mode in this league.

Seattle’s running game would look very different subtracting Lynch and installing either of these two players. It doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Sometimes change can be a good thing, even if Lynch has been such a terrific acquisition for this team.

We have no idea where either player will fall in the draft — another reason why Rapoport’s speculation isn’t worth paying much attention to in late October. For me Gurley is possibly the first, second or third best player eligible for the 2015 draft along with Marcus Mariota and La’el Collins. I’m a convert after some skepticism entering the season. Trent Richardson went third overall. Will that scare teams off? Could Gurley provide a dynamic, instant playmaking quality to a team like Jacksonville, for example, that has recently spent first round picks at quarterback and left tackle?

It could happen. Or he could end up lasting a while — such is the feeling that you can find productive runners later on (DeMarco Murray, for example, is a third round pick).

We just don’t know.

However, I can see a scenario where the Seahawks do go early on a running back if one of these two dynamic players makes it to Seattle’s pick — and they fill some other needs in free agency.

The Seahawks have put a lot of emphasis on the running game. It’s part of the teams DNA. And it didn’t really get going until they put together a functional offensive line and traded for Lynch. Even with Pete Carroll highlighting the run and trying to make it the identity of the Seahawks — no team in 2010 were as poor as Seattle running the ball. Lynch was absolutely integral in establishing Carroll’s philosophy. The offense without him is still pretty unimaginable.

Moving on from Lynch will be the hardest thing this team has to do in terms of a pure football move. Forget all the other stuff — the apparent dysfunction with Carroll/Schneider and whatever else is being reported. Forget about it. From a pure talent perspective it will be a major turning point when the Seahawks say, “no more”. This will be, officially, the passing of the torch to Russell Wilson.

I think we know they’re comfortable with this. They’ll definitely pay Wilson a huge contract in 2015 and he’ll take on even more responsibility than before. He’s a successful, hard working individual and the type Carroll and co want at the forefront of this roster.

They’re also ready, it seems, to put young talent beneath him. Players who can follow Wilson. Players who walk into that locker room and admire him, respect him. Will work with him and for him. Will listen, learn and improve. Will be “all in”.

It seems clear that Percy Harvin and Lynch aren’t or weren’t willing to do that. Wilson’s coronation didn’t sit comfortably with the two other veteran stars on offense. One is gone, one is going.

Seattle will probably hope Paul Richardson can develop and be a young playmaker at receiver, learning with Wilson. Ditto Kevin Norwood. They already have two respectable veteran receivers in Doug Baldwin (paid this year) and Jermaine Kearse (paid next year?). They will probably identify a veteran to come in and help out (a big target at receiver or tight end) but that will probably be a carefully selected individual after the issues with Harvin.

And then there’s the running back position. The best way to soften the blow of Lynch’s departure would be to get a big time X-factor at the position. Go big. Potentially go get a Gurley or a Gordon. A young player who will know his place with the talent to be productive quickly. They could target later round RB’s but it becomes a bit of a crap shoot. If you believe Gurley or Gordon will be a star, why hesitate to keep the running game at the top?

They’ve shown they’re willing to draft runners early (see: Christine Michael). As for Michael and Robert Turbin — they’ll probably get an expanded role too. At USC Carroll loved to bring in 5-star recruits at running back and let them compete. An extra playmaker would be ideal — Turbin could end up being a Marcel Reece-style full back going forward (why not?) and there still appears to be some trust issues with Michael.

I get this is just some classic October spit-balling. I get that people won’t like it. Football fans constantly want to draft for the offensive or defensive line. Seattle has possible needs in both areas next year. And yet if they make some shrewd acquisitions in free agency you just never know. Maybe Rapoport’s hints at a big splash at running back could come true? I’m not saying it’d be right or that it’s what I want to happen. I’m just suggesting it could.

Tomorrow I’ll publish a ‘top-20′ prospects so far list. Expect a 1-2-3 of Mariota, Gurley and La’el Collins. Kentucky’s brilliant Bud Dupree will also be included.

 

Instant reaction: Seahawks beat Panthers 13-9, move to 4-3

October 26th, 2014 | Written by Rob Staton

Wilson’s Seahawks beat Newton’s Panthers for the third straight season

Make no mistake, this was an absolutely crucial win.

The Seahawks head into back-to-back home games at 4-3. If they were 3-4, the noise could’ve been too loud for even Russell Wilson to ignore. The national media sees a story in Seattle. Whether it’s Wilson’s status in the locker room, the future of Marshawn Lynch or the aftermath of the Percy Harvin trade — there’s a pound of flesh for one and all. The defending champs losing three in a row would’ve been like throwing petrol on on a blossoming garbage fire.

This wasn’t a pretty victory, but it was pretty gutty. Seattle blew a host of missed opportunities to make this a fairly comfortable encounter and still managed to win thanks to Wilson’s late game winning drive.

If I missed anything in this little review, let me know:

— The Seahawks defense dropped two catch-able interceptions. Tharold Simon saw the first smack him in the chest, K.J. Wright failed to pull in a diving attempt at midfield.

— Marshawn Lynch let a Wilson pass zip through his fingers leading to a red zone interception. It should’ve been caught and took a minimum of three points off the board before half time.

— Wilson missed a wide open Cooper Helfet for a sure touchdown. He was close to crossing the original LOS, but the ugly pass that wobbled out of Wilson’s hands was bizarre and took an easy seven off the board.

— Backup center Stephen Schilling botched a snap leading to another red zone turnover. Again, points came off the board.

— Michael Bennett failed to complete a sack of Cam Newton in the end zone. Seattle lost a safety and moments later on 3rd and long Newton completed a 50-yard bomb to Kelvin Benjamin. Overall it created a 5-point swing and gave Carolina a 9-6 lead late in the fourth.

Usually when you have such a list of missed opportunities, you lose a football game. Seattle found a way to win — and that’s exactly what they needed to do to get this season back on track.

Wilson didn’t have his best game overall but when it mattered — he produced a huge drive. The winning touchdown to Luke Willson was inch perfect, the overall drive reminiscent of the one Aaron Rodgers produced recently to beat Miami. The top QB’s in the game, when given an opportunity to drive for the win, usually get it done. Wilson was robbed of the chance last week because of the fake punt in St. Louis. He made the Panthers pay this time.

The other big positive was a major improvement to the pass rush. Seattle had a lot of success pressing Newton — forcing an interception for Marcus Burley on one productive rush and ending the game with two Bruce Irvin sacks. Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril had better games. Brandon Mebane also had a vital sack in the fourth quarter.

I’ll watch the game again in the week to study if there’s anything obvious Seattle did differently. They were playing a banged up line with four UDFA’s starting for Carolina. Left tackle Byron Bell was also in and out of the game with an injury. It’s still a positive sign — and Seattle aren’t facing elite offensive linemen in the next fortnight (vs Oakland, New York Giants).

An underrated aspect of the win? Greg Olsen was invisible. Whether it’s because he was asked to do more blocking with a dodgy line, who knows? Tight ends have had success against Seattle recently and he’s a dangerous weapon. Benjamin had a day against the LOB, but Olsen was a total non-factor.

Paul Richardson and Kevin Norwood also had an impact, which was good to see. However, one lingering problem remains and could still be addressed before Tuesday’s trade deadline.

The Seahawks are not a good red zone offense, especially when time is tight. When they can’t run because of the clock, they don’t have a single red zone target who creates a distinct mismatch. Who can they throw a fade to? Who can they stick on a linebacker and deliberately overthrow to challenge the receiver? Kudos to Willson for making the big play late on — but so far he’s not provided a red zone threat. Neither has the injured Zach Miller.

Look at the way Newton could throw the ball to an area where only Benjamin could get it. He did this several times even with Sherman in coverage. Benjamin dropped a red zone target in the first half on one of those occasions.

The Seahawks need this type of receiver and that is why they’re reportedly looking at Vincent Jackson.

The dynamic of this offense will receive a huge boost if Wilson gets that red zone target. It’s not about getting a pure #1 who can put up 120 yards every week. It’s about finishing drives and turning 0-3 points into seven. They’d probably use Jackson more like a glorified joker tight end. I appreciate a lot of fans want to focus on both lines — I get it. But whatever happens, this is going to be a priority whether it’s before Tuesday or in the off-season. They are going to go after either a big-time tight end or a tall, physical wide out. Why else are they even considering Jackson? Why else did they ask about the top tight ends in the game when trying to deal Harvin?

Continuing issues in the red zone today plus Tampa Bay’s agonizing loss at home to Minnesota could be the catalyst to a deal. We’ll see. Despite all the reports nobody is saying it’s likely — plus other teams like Philadelphia and New England are also said to be interested. They might feel it’s their best bet to get a big target — who really believes Dez Bryant, Demaryius Thomas, Julius Thomas and Jordan Cameron will hit the open market? And there aren’t many options in the draft.

If you missed the chatter on Marshawn Lynch earlier, check out this morning’s piece. Perhaps the most interesting thing about it all is Ian Rapoport hinting — on more than one occasion — that Seattle will draft a running back early in the 2015 draft.

 

Report: Seahawks have “grown tired” of Marshawn Lynch

October 26th, 2014 | Written by Rob Staton

All the talk of dysfunction will not go away.

Last week Seattle went to St. Louis with the Percy Harvin trade lingering like a bad smell. Now they head to Carolina with the future of Marshawn Lynch in apparent doubt.

Following the Harvin trade there was a report, since disputed, that Lynch nearly didn’t board the bus taking the team to the airport for the Rams game. He held out over the summer before returning with a re-tweaked deal. From the outside it appears Seattle has tolerated Lynch ever since his arrival because he was such a vital factor on offense. He had a little more rope than some of the other players. Those days are seemingly coming close to an end.

Mike Silver — a fellow Cal alumni and one of the few reporters close to Lynch — had an interesting report on the NFL Network today:

There’s also this:

If Lynch is more ‘complain mode’ than ‘beast mode’ these days — Seattle, and Pete Carroll specifically, have probably come to the end of their tether.

There appears to have been some shift towards Russell Wilson this year — not in terms of the philosophy (run heavy) but certainly in terms of responsibility and making him the identity of the team on offense (with Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor the key defensive pieces). Those roles previously rested with the likes of Lynch, Red Bryant and Chris Clemons. Wilson is going to receive a contract worth over $100m in 2015 and he will become the unquestioned ‘face of the franchise’ going forward. If Lynch’s attitude threatens to undermine that — it won’t be a surprise if he suffers the same fate as Harvin.

In the short term this cannot help the team. If there’s bad blood with Lynch — short of cutting him and hoping for a miracle — what chance has this team got of repeating? Almost none. Last year, even if there were differences we didn’t know about, it seemed like everyone was pulling in the same direction. Now the Seahawks look like a team in transition.

What’s most troubling is the inability to do anything now that won’t further rock the boat. Cutting or trading the popular Lynch could create a mutiny in what appears to be a locker room with some issues. Keeping hold of him, if he is becoming a growing problem behind the scenes, might have an equally negative impact. Can they manage the situation? Can Lynch get back to producing big performances on the field in this atmosphere?

When Lynch goes he’ll be impossible to replace, whenever it happens. He is totally unique. That’s not to say Seattle can’t succeed with a different type of runner, but that rare physical style will be missing. Todd Gurley is not Marshawn Lynch. Melvin Gordon isn’t Marshawn Lynch. There is no equal to Lynch.

But there are good (albeit different) players out there. Just yesterday we highlighted Miss State’s Josh Robinson — a stout, shorter runner who breaks tackles and has enough speed to be a threat. Given Seattle’s needs on the defensive line and, potentially, the offensive line, it’s unlikely they go big early at the running back position. But hey — you could equally see John Schneider and Pete Carroll becoming enamored with a runner like Gurley or Gordon — both terrific players. So you never know. Ian Rapoport is hinting at a high pick on the position:

Either way the Seahawks are facing a moment of real evolution — if not quite revolution. A Seattle without Lynch was unimaginable three weeks ago. Now it seems entirely possible.

But before you panic too much here’s some calming words from a former Seahawks favorite, Michael Robinson.

Meanwhile, the Seahawks are reportedly one of several teams monitoring a potential trade for Vincent Jackson:

Adam Schefter suggests Doug Martin is more likely to be traded by Tampa Bay:

***Update***

Chris Mortensen has now put this piece together, suggesting the following:

— The Seahawks would’ve possibly been open to trading Lynch before Tuesday’s deadline, but Derrick Coleman’s broken foot has limited their options. Mortensen has since Tweeted that Lynch is not on the trading block.

— Russell Wilson knew Harvin was on the way out for a month and actually argued the case for him remaining in Seattle, until he was told it was a “futile” attempt.

— Wilson has been asked to limit his endorsements.

 

Thoughts on Miss State @ Kentucky & Brandon Scherff

October 25th, 2014 | Written by Rob Staton

Kentucky’s senior DE Bud Dupree could be a first round candidate

Thoughts on Miss State @ Kentucky

Josh Robinson (RB, Miss State) looks like a smaller version of Michael Turner and deserves a chance in the NFL. He has superb lower body power, enough speed and he can make the big play. He had a crucial 73-yard run for a touchdown in this one, dodging tackles and cutting his way to the end zone. All the attention goes to Todd Gurley, Melvin Gordon and others — but do not sleep on Robinson. He’s not a flashy player who will go early — but I bet he’ll get a shot at the next level and has a chance to make it happen. On one play he broke six tackles, doubled back on a run up the middle and bounced outside to get a first down. He’s a powerful ‘cannonball’ style runner with a future.

Keep an eye on Patrick Towles (QB, Kentucky) going forward. He made some big time throws in this game into some tight windows. Admittedly he was fractionally off on some easier, shorter attempts to the outside. He can work on that. Some of the downfield stuff he showed today is just innate. He’s also a fantastic athlete for 6-5 and 238lbs — he had a 48 yard run and scored two rushing touchdowns. He ended with 390 yards passing against the #1 team in the country adding two more passing scores. He didn’t turn the ball over. He’s a talented sophomore who could eventually work his way into the early round conversation in 2016 or 2017.

Kentucky corner Blake McCain also impressed as a potential slot corner prospect. He’s 5-11 and around 195lbs. He was physical — competing well against the run and delivering one huge (clean) hit over the middle on a receiver. He also looked sharp in coverage, making one nice break-up in the corner of the end zone against a taller wide out. He’s also only a sophomore but again he’s another to monitor going forward.

After the game Kentucky Head Coach Mark Stoops touted senior pass rusher Alvin ‘Bud’ Dupree as a first round draft pick. He had at least two sacks in this game, showed a high motor throughout and had one big QB hurry. He looks like an impact player and better still, he used his hands well today to go along with the speed. He’s around 6-3/6-4 and 265lbs. He’s a definite LEO candidate. Very interesting prospect and reports suggest he’s also a big time character guy. Great get off, better than you’d expect against the run. He’s a playmaker and the first round talk is legit. In Kentucky’s upset win over South Carolina recently, Dupree scored a game-winning pick-six.

Miss State linebacker Benardrick McKinney is such an underrated player. He’s a beast at linebacker — constantly swallowing up running lanes and hitting with ferocity. He has perfect size for the inside linebacker role in a 3-4 at 6-5 and 245lbs. He’s a monster, an absolute beast and he’s destined to be an early pick if he declares for the 2015 draft. He also moves well for the size. He could end up being the player Rolando McClain could’ve been (and in a strange way kind of is right now for Dallas).

Thoughts on Iowa’s Brandon Scherff

I feel like the more you watch the group of potential 2015 offensive tackles, the less excited you become. Cedric Ogbuehi (T, Texas A&M) has had a torrid year conceding nearly double-digit sacks. Cameron Erving (T, Florida State) has been distinctly hit and miss. Brandon Scherff (T, Iowa) likewise is not having a fantastic season on the evidence I’ve seen over the last few days.

So far La’el Collins (T, LSU) is the only one making big steps forward and improving on last season. His best position at the next level could be guard — he’ll probably be a regular Pro Bowler if he moves inside. And yet after watching the three others — he’s outperforming them all at tackle.

Scherff, like Collins, excels in the running game. He’s at his best pushing people off the line, driving forward and blocking at the second level. He needs no invitation to burst through and take on a linebacker. He’s best suited on a run-heavy offense that values second level blocking — and will be prepared to accept his obvious flaws in pass protection.

It really starts with the footwork and foot speed. He’s just not very good at mirroring a pass rusher, to the point he’s getting beat by mediocre Maryland linebackers rushing a very basic curve off the edge. He’s no counter either — no strong jolt with the hands to disrupt the arc of the rush. You don’t see him get his hands on a DE early, planting and driving them out of the play. It doesn’t take much to beat him and you get a real sense he could be a liability at the next level protecting the edge against the speed rush.

Like Collins he might be better suited moving inside. He’s got a real mean streak in the run game and when he’s blocking head-on he’ll drive people off the ball. Angles are not his friend. When he has to move around or slide to make the block he has problems. When he can look another guy in the eyes and get at it — he has success.

In the last few years there’s been a tendency to go after big time athletic tackles who look good at the combine. The exception is Luke Joeckel — an excellent technician. The first tackle or two off the board next year could be based purely on who does the best at the combine. It’s funny it’s come to this — the combine never used to be a difference maker for this position. And yet watching all the top prospects on tape, none are making a case to be the clear #1.

If I needed an offensive lineman badly, as things stand I’d have La’el Collins at the top of my board. That way you know at least you’re getting a terrific guard if nothing else. It won’t be a total shock, however, if the likes of Scherff and Ogbuehi go a little lower than most currently project.