Breaking down Mel Kiper’s first mock draft

January 15th, 2015 | Written by Rob Staton

Mel Kiper has the Seahawks taking Ohio State receiver Devin Smith

I have a lot of time for ESPN analysts Mel Kiper and Todd McShay. Without them the draft just wouldn’t be the same. I also don’t think they get the respect they deserve for identifying talent and being ahead of the curve. Off the top of my head, Kiper was all over Jason Pierre-Paul before many others. Ditto Greg Robinson a year ago.

Today he published his first mock draft and has the Seahawks taking Devin Smith (I knew I liked his style…). Here’s what he said about the pick:

I was between two players here — Smith and cornerback Jalen Collins of LSU. The injury to Seahawks receiver Paul Richardson has me leaning toward Smith, a good size/speed combination at wide receiver and one of the better deep threats in college football, a guy fully capable of making contested catches down the field (as anybody who saw him against either Alabama or Oregon can attest to). It’s likely that Richardsonâ??s recovery from ACL surgery could him out well into the 2015 season, and Seattle is going to need to add pass-catching talent either through free agency (they do have to pay the quarterback, remember) or the draft that can play, and Smith is a guy who would fit.

On the point of choosing between a corner and a receiver — I can see why Kiper came to this conclusion. There aren’t many holes in Seattle’s roster. They could use a receiver. Byron Maxwell is a pending free agent. The thing is, the Seahawks clearly back themselves to find cornerbacks later on. Look how often they’ve hit — Brandon Browner from the CFL, Richard Sherman in round five, Maxwell in round six. Previously they drafted Walter Thurmond in round four, now it’s Tharold Simon in round five and Jeremy Lane in round six.

Whether it’s a random free agent or another mid-to-late round pick, I think the Seahawks will continue down that same path if they need to replace Maxwell. It’ll probably take a really spectacular cornerback to change their mind. I think they might’ve considered Bradley Roby last year. He had the spectacular athleticism, some length. He just needed guidance and better coaching. Is Jalen Collins a similar type of prospect? I’m not sure. Roby was considered a potential top-15 pick before he chose not to declare for the 2013 draft. Then he had an inconsistent and poor season at Ohio State — terminally impacting his stock.

I like the Smith pick for the reasons noted in yesterday’s piece. There’s also this:

I think we see that in Smith. Unique production in terms of chunk plays and touchdowns. Top-tier athleticism. Will he battle? You bet. Watch him go up and high point the football, compete at the red line.

Kiper has the Seahawks picking at #32. Let’s run through some of the players that were off the board in my mock, that would be available in Kiper’s projection:

Eli Harold (DE, Virginia)
I had Harold going #8 overall — and I suspect he’ll be a fast riser after the combine. His combination of speed, power and grit is unmatched even in a talented class of pass rushers. They sky is the limit here. If he’s available at #32, I’d be tempted to suggest the Seahawks should run to the podium. There’s so much potential here. If you haven’t already, go and watch the Louisville game from 2014. And get excited.

La’el Collins (G, LSU)
Collins was the #13 pick in my projection to New Orleans. I’m not crazy about taking a guard in the first round, but for Collins I’d make an exception. For me he can become a perennial Pro-Bowler working inside. He can be a decent or average tackle at the next level, or a terrific guard. I think you move him inside and feel satisfied for ten years. He’s still one of my favorite players in this draft. He’s a team captain, he’s a plus-run blocker and he has the mobility to pull and get to the second level.

Todd Gurley (RB, Georgia)
Arizona took him at #24 in my projection. Even with the knee injury, getting a shot at Gurley could be a dream scenario. Marshawn Lynch, even if he plays for Seattle in 2015, is coming closer to the end it seems. His contract expires after next season. Seattle could red-shirt Gurley or at least give him sufficient time to make a full and proper recovery from his ACL injury. If the Seahawks win back-to-back Super Bowls (they’re picking at #32 here) they’ll prove they’re good enough to pull a move like this. It could set them up for years at the running back position and ensure no drop-off when Lynch calls it quits.

Cameron Erving (C, Florida State)
Erving was off the board at #23 in my projection to Detroit. He played well at left tackle, and even better at center. Erving is mature, flashes rare mobility for his size (he’s a converted D-lineman) and flexibility. He could start at guard, be the backup center and even be a swing tackle. He fills every spot on the O-line. A team like Seattle, that has struggled with injuries up front, could consider a guy like this. I just think they’ll be more inclined to target other areas and continue to let Tom Cable find ‘his guys’.

When I write a new mock, I tend to pump up the guys I like and take them out of contention for Seattle. In my two mocks so far, Harold, Collins and Gurley were all off the board. It’s good to look at another projection and consider who might be there. Imagine having the chance to draft one of Harold, Collins or Gurley? It’s an enticing prospect. Collins would provide an instant starter at guard, Harold would be an explosive project and Gurley a possible leading running back to replace a legend. And there’s Devin Smith too.

Kiper’s projection is an attractive one for Seahawks fans.

 

Updated mock draft: 14th January

January 14th, 2015 | Written by Rob Staton

#1 Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Marcus Mariota (QB, Oregon)
Nothing’s changed for me. Mariota has all the tools to become a dynamic NFL quarterback. There are zero concerns about his character. Put him on an offense that already includes Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson and he can be productive very quickly.

#2 Tennessee Titans — Randy Gregory (DE, Nebraska)
I think Dante Fowler Jr is a better player, but Gregory is a better fit for Ray Horton’s defense as a pure 3-4 outside rusher. He’s got the length and size but needs refinement. At the moment he’s most effective blitzing from deep, he needs to become a more rounded threat.

#3 Jacksonville Jaguars — Andrus Peat (T, Stanford)
Peat is a natural pass protector perfectly suited to the left tackle position. After spending the #3 pick on Blake Bortles, they have to build around him. Drafting two receivers early last year was a start, now it’s about better line play up front.

#4 Oakland Raiders — Dante Fowler Jr (DE, Florida)
This would be a steal. Fowler Jr could be the best overall defensive talent in the draft. You can line him up anywhere — D-end, inside, linebacker. He just makes plays. Throw in a terrific motor, great attitude and plus athleticism and you have the makings of a perennial Pro Bowler.

#5 Washington Redskins — Landon Collins (S, Alabama)
The combine will be the making of Collins. He’s a SPARQ success story waiting to happen. Scott McClaughlin has first hand experience of what a rangy, physical safety can provide to a team. Washington’s secondary is a mess and needs a tone setter.

#6 New York Jets — Shane Ray (DE, Missouri)
Here’s another player who should really help himself in Indianapolis. Todd Bowles doesn’t inherit a natural edge rusher for his scheme. It’d be easy to slot Jameis Winston here — a player who fits Bruce Arians’ offense perfectly. But the appointment of Chan Gailey is fascinating. Winston isn’t quite the same fit for Gailey’s spread attack.

#7 Chicago Bears — Leonard Williams (DE, USC)
I’m not quite as sold on Williams as a lot of other people, but the Bears will likely focus on defense this off-season. They need to repair the whole unit and a pick like this makes a lot of sense.

#8 Atlanta Falcons — Eli Harold (DE, Virginia)
Expect a huge rise for Harold. He’s a former 5-star recruit with insane athletic qualities, length and grit. He knows how to convert speed-to-power. He could go even earlier than this. There’s some Barkevious Mingo to his game, some Brian Orakpo. With the right guidance he could be a top player at the next level.

#9 New York Giants — Eddie Goldman (DT, Florida State)
Goldman is another former 5-star recruit. He can hold the point as a run stopper but flashed genuine playmaking quality in 2014 as a pass rusher. He’s a tremendous talent and acted as the anchor to FSU’s defense.

#10 St. Louis Rams — Ereck Flowers (T, Miami)
After Peat, he’s the best pass-protector in this class. They’re similar prospects — both combine great length and foot-speed with ample power and hand use. They need to avoid lunging as much but it’s workable. Flowers would further bolster the Rams O-line.

#11 Minnesota Vikings — Amari Cooper (WR, Alabama)
He’s shown he has the deep speed this year to make up for a lack of elite size. He’s the most naturally gifted receiver to enter the draft since A.J. Green. Very focused individual and not a diva. Pairing Cooper with Teddy Bridgewater seems like a smart move.

#12 Cleveland Browns — Jordan Phillips (DT, Oklahoma)
When Phillips rocks up at the combine and runs a 4.8-4.9 he’ll start to fly up the boards. He has better tape than Dontari Poe but has the same kind of rare size and speed. He’s had some injury history and that’ll need to be checked out. If he’s cleared — watch out for Phillips. He declared for a reason.

#13 New Orleans — La’el Collins (G, LSU)
The Saints rely so much on their guards to protect Drew Brees. It’s the way it’s always been in New Orleans with that quarterback. They’re likely to make some cost savings with the current starters and Collins is an absolute beast.

#14 Miami Dolphins — Malcolm Brown (DT, Texas)
A stud. Anyone who needed convincing just has to look at the way he took on Arkansas’ massive offensive line. He kept making plays. Another former 5-star recruit who appears destined for stardom. Like Goldman he should impress at the combine.

#15 San Francisco 49ers — Devante Parker (WR, Louisville)
I think he’ll measure out at 6-2/6-3 and around 205lbs which isn’t huge — but he plays big. The Niners should move on from Michael Crabtree and Anquan Boldin won’t last forever. They need more talent on offense, especially with the Frank Gore era drawing to a close.

#16 Houston Texans — Melvin Gordon (RB, Wisconsin)
It’s not their biggest need of course but Gordon isn’t going to last long in round one. Plenty of teams are going to fall for his combination of suddenness, a fluid running style and gym-rat mentality. It’s just a matter of how early he’ll go.

#17 San Diego Chargers — T.J. Clemmings (T, Pittsburgh)
Having revealed D.J. Fluker will be switching to guard, San Diego desperately needs to add a quality tackle. Clemmings has major upside potential but limited experience. He manned the right side for Pitt. Has an attitude and approach teams will love.

#18 Kansas City Chiefs — Kevin White (WR, West Virginia)
No touchdowns for a receiver all year only tells half the story. Look who they’re starting. It’s hardly a shock. Alex Smith is such a limited passing quarterback you need to put weapons around him. White will compete in the air, run after the catch and make plays downfield.

#19 Cleveland Browns — Bud Dupree (DE, Kentuck)
I like everything about Dupree’s game — except how he rushes the edge. Too often he’s guided away from the QB. The tenacity, athleticism, playmaking — it’s all there. But he’s like a more athletic Courtney Upshaw — or a less explosive Bruce Irvin. He might be best at outside linebacker with some rushing duties.

#20 Philadelphia Eagles — Jameis Winston (QB, Florida State)
Eventually someone will pull the trigger — and it’s likely to be an offensive mind that DNGAF. Chip Kelly clearly backs himself to fit any kind of quarterback into his scheme. The Eagles can afford to roll the dice — Kelly and not Winston would remain the focal identity. They also won 10 games with Foles/Sanchez, they wouldn’t be giving Winston the keys. This is the franchise that gave Michael Vick his second chance.

#21 Cincinnati Bengals — Vic Beasley (DE, Clemson)
A lack of size might be a hindrance although he should run a good forty time and ten yard split. Beasley has been ultra-productive at Clemson and the Bengals need someone who can get to the quarterback.

#22 Pittsburgh Steelers — Brandon Scherff (T, Iowa)
The guy just looks like a Steeler — and it’s more than just the Iowa uniforms. Lunch-pail worker who drives people off the ball in the running game. Right tackle is a huge need for Pittsburgh and Scherff would be a day one starter.

#23 Detroit Lions — Cameron Erving (C, Florida State)
He looked good at tackle last season — and looked even better at center in 2014. The Lions would get a player who can start immediately at center and back up every other position on the O-line. He’s a defensive line convert with massive potential.

#24 Arizona Cardinals — Todd Gurley (RB, Georgia)
A likely top ten pick without his ACL injury setback, Gurley could still be a top-20 selection. If he falls, a good team will get lucky. The Cardinals need a feature runner with size and are good enough to let Gurley take his time, fully recover and explode in the NFL.

#25 Carolina Panthers — Shaq Thompson (LB, Washington)
The Panthers rallied enough to feel comfortable taking the best player here. They have some cap freedom to improve the offense in free agency. Putting Thompson in that linebacker group is scary — so much speed and athleticism. Combined with a terrific defensive line it’d be a fun defense to watch.

#26 Baltimore Ravens — Trae Waynes (CB, Michigan State)
It’s a bad class of corners but even so — it’d be a shock to see none selected in the first round. Waynes is being touted to have a terrific combine performance and at 6-1/182lbs he could be the one and only cornerback taken in the first frame.

#27 Dallas Cowboys — Markus Golden (DE, Missouri)
The Cowboys have to keep adding pieces to their defense. They lack a threat off the edge. Golden is a beast — a ferocious, passionate football player who can provide leadership to a group of journeymen.

#28 Denver Broncos — Danny Shelton (DT, Washington)
I’m not a big fan of Shelton’s but others love him. I can’t be led just by my own opinions. Terrance ‘Pot Roast’ Knighton is a free agent and will be tough to keep if they re-sign Demaryius and Julius Thomas.

#29 Indianapolis Colts — Bendarick McKinney (LB, Mississippi State)
Big, physical 3-4 inside linebacker who made Miss State’s defense tick. Could be the player Rolando McClain should’ve been. Very solid prospect for any club looking for a presence on defense. He’ll move around at his size.

#30 Green Bay Packers — Owamagbe Odighizuwa (DE, UCLA)
I really, really like Odighizuwa. He’s not much of an edge rusher but the way he dips inside and uses brute force to decimate the interior is a sight to behold. For that reason he might be best acting as a 3-4 end with some outside rush duties thrown in.

#31 Seattle Seahawks — Devin Smith (WR, Ohio State)
I go into more detail below.

#32 New England Patriots — Tevin Coleman (RB, Indiana)
Coleman might not work out at the combine due to injury, but he’s shown enough on tape to warrant a top-40 grade. It’s pretty hard to work out the Pats — a team without a ton of needs. I like Coleman enough to put him in the late first.

Noticeable absentees

Dorial Green-Beckham (WR, Oklahoma) — a superb physical talent who could easily go very early. But there’s so much baggage. Teams will have to do their homework and until I hear positive news on that front, I have a hard time putting him in round one.

Maxx Williams (TE, Minnesota) — love his effort and ability to ‘maxx’ out his targets. He makes athletic plays despite looking fairly modest athletically. I think he’ll prove to a solid second rounder unless he excels at the combine.

Arik Armstead (DE, Oregon) — great run stopper but gets banged up too much and can he develop into more of a pass rusher? Why didn’t he ever entertain the idea of playing left tackle at Oregon?

Jaelen Strong (WR, Arizona State) — he just doesn’t wow me that much. I think he’s destined to be a second rounder.

So what about the Seahawks pick?

The options from about pick #26 aren’t that much better compared to the first 10-15 picks of the second round. For that reason, I think there’s every chance the Seahawks will look to move down (again) if they feel confident they can get ‘their guy’. Last year it worked for Paul Richardson. This is going to be a really nice first round with value all the way through the top-25. But the drop off after that is noticeable. Of course, the combine and Senior Bowl will have an impact on that perception.

Why Devin Smith? Let’s start with a few stats:

— Smith’s 30 career touchdown receptions have an average of 37.9 YPC. Think about that. He averages nearly forty yards per score.

— He had 17 catches worth +20 yards this season and ten touchdowns worth +20 yards. Both stats rank #1 among receivers in the power-five conferences.

— In 2014 he had a YPC average of 28.21 yards — good for #1 in the country among receivers with at least 20 receptions.

— He had 33 catches in 2014. 12 went for +40 yards — second only to Rashard Higgins at Colorado State.

— Smith is #2 all-time for touchdown receptions at Ohio State (30) — topping Cris Carter, Santonio Holmes and Joey Galloway.

In terms of explosive play-artists, nobody is better than Devin Smith in college football.

Then you move on to athleticism. He’s part of Ohio State’s track and field team and finished second in the high jump at the Big-10 Indoor Championships. He jumped 7-0.25. He was also part of the sprint relay team in the 4x100m. He was also Ohio state long jump champion at Washington High School in Massillon.

It would be a shock if he ran slower than a 4.45 at the combine. Odell Beckham Jr ran a 4.43. Smith and Miami’s Phillip Dorsett could end up competing for the fastest time. He could top Beckham’s 38.5-inch vertical.

Perhaps the most important factor is he’s made big plays despite limited targets. When we highlighted Kevin Norwood as a potential-Seahawk last year, one of the key aspects was his ability to max out his production. When A.J. McCarron threw his way, he usually made it count. Whether it was a scramble drill, coming back to the QB or a crucial third down. Norwood didn’t need multiple targets to make an impact. And that’s how Seattle’s passing game works.

A lot of critics are questioning whether Smith runs a full route tree or whether he’s much more than a simple downfield threat. I think he’s perfectly suited to Seattle’s offense. You can challenge him to win 1v1 — whether it’s throwing downfield or not. He’d provide a genuine deep threat — legit speed. He can eat up a cushion quickly and snap out of a break to force separation. He’s an chunk play specialist — a touchdown maker.

He’s also a productive special teamer — acting as a gunner for the Buckeye’s and earning particular praise from Urban Meyer for that aspect of his game. Can he return kicks? Possibly.

It’s a mistake to think all he does is run in a straight line and win with speed. He high points the ball superbly and takes it away from the defender. He has excellent body control. Seattle loves these types of athletes. Doug Baldwin keeps reminding us — it’s not just about size. And while they clearly could do with a seam-busting big target who can operate in the red zone, they also need to keep stockpiling talent around a quarterback soon to be worth $120 million.

By the time the Senior Bowl and combine are over, Smith could be being talked about as a top-20 prospect. I like the fit with the Seahawks right now — particularly with Paul Richardson facing a long recovery. Seattle faces the possibility of starting the season with Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse and Kevin Norwood at receiver. Consider they could also lose Marshawn Lynch. If you don’t think the skill positions will be a priority this off-season, I don’t know what to say to you.

 

Ogbuehi suffers torn ACL, Stanley staying & random thoughts

January 13th, 2015 | Written by Rob Staton

Cedric Ogbuehi faces a challenging comeback from injury — how much will this impact his draft stock?

It’s been revealed Texas A&M left tackle Cedric Ogbuehi suffered a torn ACL in the Liberty Bowl. Ogbuehi had a rough season. He struggled to adjust to the blindside after a good year at right tackle in 2013. Unlike Jake Matthews (who made a similar switch the year before) he just looked flat out bad at times — giving up nearly double digit sacks. Bob McGinn recently quoted an unnamed scout suggesting he was “soft” and “never practices”.

I wouldn’t want to draft Ogbuehi in round one — even before the injury. Not even to play right tackle. But the physical upside is so high (as evidenced in 2013, when he handled Dee Ford among others) — someone would’ve done. There are better options out there, more reliable options — even if nobody touches on the extreme value Joel Bitonio provided last year.

Would I redshirt him as a later draft pick? Possibly. It depends how legit the “soft” and “never practices” concern is. If you can trust the guy to do what it takes to get back — then you consider it. Personally I’d rather look elsewhere for O-line depth.

Meanwhile, Ronnie Stanley has opted to stay at Notre Dame for 2015. Andrus Peat (T, Stanford) & Ereck Flowers (T, Miami) are the top-two blindside blockers in this class for me. They share similar traits — solid in pass protection, capable of a little technical enhancement. They both lunge occasionally and get intro trouble. But they’re both long with a great punch, they’re both light on their feet. They should both go very early. T.J. Clemmings (T, Pittsburgh) flashes greater upside but has such limited experience at tackle and you never know how that’ll translate. He could be a long-term fit at guard.

Here are some quick-hitting thoughts. I’m contemplating doing another mock draft tomorrow:

— The more I watch Eli Harold (DE, Virginia), the more I think he could end up in the top ten. He’s long, he’s lightning fast. He converts speed to power better than I first considered. He’s got a repertoire. He’s going to tear up the combine as a former 5-star recruit. He’s not the finished article, but he really is about as good as it gets in terms of a D-end you bring in to develop.

— On the other hand, I think Bud Dupree (DE, Kentucky) might last a little longer than I first imagined. He’s an excellent player, don’t get me wrong. But he’s not the best rounding the edge as a pure rusher. He frequently struggles to turn the corner, being guided away from the QB by the tackle. Is he a natural edge rusher? He’s at his best working in space, fighting to the ball carrier. He has a knack of being in the right place to make a play. But he’s not a sack artist and probably won’t be at the next level. He might be best working as a linebacker hybrid. He’s athletic enough. He should still go in the top-25 and will be enticing to 3-4 teams.

— Dante Fowler Jr (DE, Florida) is the best all-round defensive player in the class. What a playmaker.

— Jordan Phillips (DT, Oklahoma) is a monster in terms of size and athleticism — but he can do a better job absorbing double teams and taking advantage when he’s blocked 1v1. His hand-technique can be better to disengage. He can be coached. A ton of teams are going to love the opportunity to get this guy right. Size, speed, power, playmaking qualities. He has every chance to go in the top-15. Phillips, Eddie Goldman (DT, Florida State) and Malcom Brown (DT, Texas) should go quickly.

— The more I watch Jaelen Strong (WR, Arizona State), the less I understand the first round hype. He doesn’t look particularly sudden or athletic. He can jump — you can see the family ties to basketball. But he’s not particularly big or fast. He knows how to box off defenders but 1v1 he doesn’t always win — he doesn’t eat up a cushion, turn the defender or create separation with an explosive break. He admitted when he arrived at Arizona State that he’d never lifted before and was working on core strength. I think we’ll see a decent vertical at the combine, but not a great forty or bench. I think round two seems reasonable, especially with 3-4 other receivers likely to find a home in round one.

— Danielle Hunter (DE, LSU) is pretty overrated. Great athlete, yes. Great football player? Not at all. He shows absolutely nothing in terms of technique as a pass rusher. He’s just a bull in a china shop. More often than not he ends up easily blocked and jumping to try and deflect the pass. I don’t think I’ve seen him produce one good edge rush in three games. He has no sense for the ball carrier. He has great length — he has a ridiculously low body fat percentage despite weighing 240lbs. He’ll no doubt perform well at the combine but he’ll need a ton of work.

— On the whole Marcus Mariota (QB, Oregon) debate, I think it comes down to this. Are you a creative-minded coaching staff, willing to accentuate his skill-set and work towards a system that emphasizes scrambling, ball control and some read-option elements? Or are you stuck within conventional wisdom — determined to force a quarterback to sit in the pocket and throw +30 times? Mariota needs to be a point-guard. We aren’t talking about a conventional pocket passer. Tampa Bay needs to work out what kind of team it wants. And if they just want a big and strong quarterback chucking bombs — they aren’t going to get it with Mariota.

 

Ohio State’s Devin Smith is multitalented

January 12th, 2015 | Written by Rob Staton

There’s a number of players worth monitoring into tonight’s National Championship game between Oregon and Ohio State. Arik Armstead (DL, Oregon) has the length Seattle loves (6-8, 290lbs) and the run defending skills to warrant some attention. He’s not a flashy pass-rusher, but he’s a really solid defender on a team loaded with speed and dynamism. Jake Fisher (T, Oregon) and Taylor Decker (T, Ohio State) have the same length but on the offensive side of the ball. There’s been some talk Decker might make a surprise declaration, while Fisher is heading to the draft as a senior.

It’s impossible to ignore prospective first overall pick Marcus Mariota (QB, Oregon), while Michael Bennett (DT, Ohio State) is running out of opportunities to show why he was once so highly rated.

But my focus will remain on Devin Smith (WR, Ohio State). An electric downfield threat. A gritty, competitive and skilled receiver who just makes big plays. He high points the ball, he plays with spirit and just looks like the type of guy Seattle likes. He’s a potential X-factor who warrants serious consideration in round one or round two. According to Buckeye’s coach Urban Meyer, he might be especially appealing to Seattle:

“He’s the best gunner, and the great thing is the Bill Belichicks of the world, NFL coaches, his stock is soaring right now… It’s because he catches the ball, but that’s No. 2, because he’s one of the best gunners in college football.”

Belichick’s not the only one who likes a good gunner. Seattle makes special teams a priority — and it’s a unit that hasn’t lived up to expectations this season. The current gunner, Ricardo Lockette, is a free agent in the off-season. He has as many bone-headed penalties as big offensive plays this year. He’s no lock to be on the roster for 2015. Adding an X-factor with genuine speed — especially in light of Paul Richardson’s latest ACL injury — will make all the more sense if the player can contribute as a special teams demon (gunner AND potential returner).

Another key for Seattle? Like Kevin Norwood last year, he maxes out limited targets. He can have an impact in a game where they only throw his way 2-3 times. That’s big.

It’s something else to consider when we debate the pro’s and con’s of Smith’s game. Keep an eye on him tonight and feel free to use this as an open thread later on.

EDIT — Sounds like Richardson’s knee injury is particularly troublesome:

 

Paul Richardson has a torn ACL

January 11th, 2015 | Written by Rob Staton

This is a huge blow for Richardson. Not only has he been robbed of the chance to finish the season in style, it’s his second ACL injury to the same knee. Technology has advanced enough to expect he will make a full recovery — but there has to be at least some concern about the long term health of the knee after two serious injuries.

Chris Clemons injured his ACL in the wildcard round of the playoffs two seasons ago. He returned at the start of the 2013 season and took a few weeks to get back to 100%. We’ll probably see Richardson in 2015 — it’s just a question of when?

Seattle already lost Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin this year (plus Golden Tate in free agency). Ricardo Lockette is a free agent to be. It’s not to everyone’s taste, but we have to consider receiver a relatively high priority need during the off-season. The situation will be impacted by the future of Marshawn Lynch, the health and status of Zach Miller and the extra pressure on Russell Wilson when he becomes the highest paid quarterback in the NFL. But you have to assume they’d like to add at least another good player to a group that might consist of Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse and Kevin Norwood as the primary targets.

Green Bay defeated Dallas today to advance to the NFC Championship. The Seahawks will need Norwood to play a role next week (he was inactive vs Carolina). They also need good Luke Willson to show up.

 

Instant reaction: Seahawks defeat Panthers, progress to NFCCG

January 10th, 2015 | Written by Rob Staton

Kam Chancellor came to play — and he led the Seahawks to a 31-17 victory over the Carolina Panthers

A lot of players performed tonight — including Cam Newton, Kelvin Benjamin, Jonathan Stewart and Greg Olsen. But nobody performed better than Kam Chancellor on another victorious playoff night in Seattle.

Carolina came to play and threatened the major upset in a mind-melting first half (more on that in a moment). But Chancellor’s tone-setting performance — hitting, covering, blocking and eventually scoring — sealed another NFC Championship game for the city next weekend.

Chancellor’s near 90-yard romp capped another smothering second half performance. During Seattle’s now seven-game unbeaten run, they’ve consistently started slow and excelled later. They trailed 6-0 to the Rams at the break. They struggled initially against the Niners. It was closer at the half than it needed to be against Arizona (twice) and Philadelphia.

Today was no different.

This particular first half was one of the strangest of the year. Carolina gave away two turnovers and Seattle dropped two more potential interceptions. Seattle thrived on explosive offensive plays — a 63-yard catch-and-run by Jermaine Kearse for a touchdown. Another 33-yarder to Kearse on a scramble drill. The Seahawks dominated field position early on.

And yet after two quarters, it was 14-10. A four-point game. Strangely, in the middle of all of the Seattle positives, Carolina mustered 14 and 13-play scoring drives. Newton ran and threw, misdirection and the read-option kept Seattle off-guard. Stewart drove through tackles for extra yardage.

Penalties also helped the Panthers. A needless Cliff Avril taunting flag offset a personal foul at the end of the second quarter. It kept Carolina in field goal range after Earl Thomas dropped a pick. Ricardo Lockette’s dumb personal foul for throwing a football at a defender was also avoidable, as was Jeremy Lane’s flag while blocking on a punt return. The Panthers out-ran the Seahawks 87-21 at the mid-way point.

It was the customary first-half toil, followed by a one-sided second half. The Panthers had no answer for a masterful Russell Wilson who finished with three touchdowns and was 8/8 passing on third down. This was the type of display that’ll warrant the richest ever quarterback contract in a few weeks.

Luke Willson had another random big game. When he performs like this — you wonder how good he can be. He’s just so inconsistent. He’s a consistent streak away from being the next dynamic receiving tight end in the league.

It didn’t take any unique offensive game plan today. Just Seahawks football. Wilson appeared to be trusting his receivers more than he has at any point this season. He took shots downfield. Oh for a great ‘big’ target like Kelvin Benjamin. A trio of wonderful touch passes really hit the mark — two others could’ve led to touchdowns (one to Kearse, one to Ricardo Lockette) but were half spilled, half defended. It’s those kind of touch passes lofted into the end zone that a Vincent Jackson would thrive on.

Benjamin consistently boxed off Tharold Simon all night, just using his frame and catch radius to dominate. It made life easy for Newton, who performed well generally in his first visit to Seattle. It’d be easy to express concern about Simon’s performance. He did struggle. But this is what an enormous receiver will do more often than not. I’m not sure Byron Maxwell would’ve had any more success. The Seahawks can be even more dynamic on offense if they can just find their Benjamin. The more experienced and proven the better — which is why a deal for Tampa Bay’s Jackson remains appealing.

The pass rush worked in fits and starts. Bruce Irvin, Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril all had explosive plays, but Newton also had a lot of time too. The Panthers seemed to do a good job bunching up the O-line, taking away the interior. You’ve got to praise the quarterback who was incredibly elusive as usual.

It’s a shame Jonathan Stewart is contracted until 2017 or 2018. The way he broke tackles today — he’d be a perfect replacement for Marshawn Lynch if he does depart or retire this year. It’s a little concerning that he ran so well — although Seattle’s defense didn’t do a good job tackling. In fact they were downright poor at times. It might be worth rooting for Green Bay on Sunday — Carolina controlled the ball in the first half and ran efficiently. That’s been Dallas’ modus operandi all year — and Tony Romo has complimented the run attack with a MVP season too. The Cowboys would be a really tough match-up next week.

Yet whoever wins, they’re still going to find it difficult to beat the Seahawks. Seattle’s stars are making big plays at crucial times. Chancellor, Wilson, Sherman, Thomas, Bennett, Irvin, Avril. They’re getting enough support from the Willson’s, Kearse’s and others. And it’s at Century Link.

Time for another NFC Championship game. Whoever the opponent.

 

Virginia’s Eli Harold is very Seahawky

January 8th, 2015 | Written by Rob Staton

If the Seahawks want tough, gritty players with plus athleticism — Eli Harold has to be a strong candidate if he makes it to their pick in the first round. We’ve talked about him a lot this year without dedicating a full debate to his talents. It’s time to have that discussion.

There might not be a more ‘Seahawky’ defender in the 2015 draft — and his back-story is a good place to start. Here’s Mark Giannotto writing in the Washington Post (note, Walter Harold is Eli’s older brother):

On Nov. 13, 2010, Walter Harold’s son, Forrest, unexpectedly died of an enlarged heart while playing basketball on the campus of Old Dominion University. It was a condition that had gone undetected and sent the family reeling.

Little did Eli know that at the same time, their mother, Sheila Korvette, was battling pancreatic cancer. Walter, Eli’s sisters and his mother kept the diagnosis from him until a few days before Korvette died in her Virginia Beach home on Jan. 2, 2011.

Those initial days afterward, once Eli moved in with Walter, are moments they still remember vividly. Previously, Walter had served as the closest thing to a father figure in Eli’s upbringing, but he had his own family to deal with. “We went everywhere together,” Eli says of their relationship.

Walter also admits to dealing drugs and was convicted of cocaine possession in 1991 before finding God and reforming. When tragedy struck, he worried about Eli making the same mistakes.

“All we had was each other. We didn’t really have nobody to talk to,” said Walter…. “When his mom passed, he was real angry. He started beating on the walls and stomping. He don’t show a lot of emotion, but he was devastated. We talk about it with each other.”

I get the sense, like most NFL teams, Seattle’s front office has a lot of time for a player who has battled adversity. Hasn’t had life easy. Has suffered a setback and become stronger as a consequence. We saw it with Russell Okung — who had to be the father figure to his siblings when his father passed away. We saw it with Bruce Irvin, who flirted with trouble before finding inspiration in football. We saw it with Russell Wilson — a quarterback doubted constantly due to a lack of height who also lost his father at a young age.

Harold has faced adversity — and when you combine that with his athletic potential there’s a lot to appreciate here. He was an elite prospect in high school — a true 5-star recruit. He was touted to play receiver, linebacker or defensive end — flashing a tremendous wingspan and closing speed. A Virginia native, he had his pick of the top colleges. Florida, LSU, Ohio State and more. They all showed interest. He chose to stay local.

He’s admitted to struggling to keep weight on. He has a high metabolism and lingered at 225lbs early in his Virginia career. They wanted him at 245lbs ideally. According to ESPN, he played at 250lbs in 2014. That’s a positive sign. When you look at his frame it’s almost ideal for the LEO position. The length is perfect — 6-4 and nice long arms. He’s incredibly athletic with fantastic foot speed. The burst and explosion is all there. The Seahawks have to like this guy. Have to.

The tape isn’t always great, however. I’ve watched three Virginia games from 2014 and he’s pretty boom or bust. There are times where he just gets smothered by bigger linemen and it hints at further work at the next level and maybe even something akin to a redshirt year (like Jordan Hill). His production dropped off considerably in the second half of 2014 — he had 1.5 sacks in his last seven games for Virginia (although he had 6.5 TFL’s) and struggled to make an impact against Florida State’s offensive front. The potential is there for all to see but he needs to learn to counter and not just rely on speed. He’s not quite adept yet at converting speed-to-power — although you see flashes of brilliance. Against Louisville he shoved the tackle into the backfield before exploding to the quarterback for a splash play. He just needs more time, more experience and further strength work. He’ll get there.

On the very next play in that Louisville game he lined up in a three-man front and just shot by the guard — who turned around in disbelief wondering what just happened. Another splash play. After that, he disengages an interior lineman to chase down the quarterback for a loss of two at the right sideline. Since I started writing this blog in 2008 I’m not sure I’ve seen acceleration like this from a defensive lineman. If you give him a lane he’ll impact the play — 4-3 and 3-4 teams will love this aspect and will enjoy trying to find ways to get him into space. You can just imagine him lining up next to Cliff Avril off the right edge — Avril absorbing the attention of the left tackle and Harold exploding into the backfield. It’d be pretty damn hard to defend.

He’s a respectable individual who speaks well. He leads. He’s also capable of being led — as evidenced by his appreciation for coach Mike London and his defense of said-coach when he came under fire:

The coach returned the favor when he made the decision to declare:

“Eli is an exceptional young man and has the potential to be a great professional player… I appreciate the passion, effort and heart he brought to our program.”

A combination of rawness and a slow burning college career could temper expectations at the next level, making him a viable option for the Seahawks in round one. I think any hope for that will change at the combine. He’ll run a blistering ten-yard split and forty yard dash. He should test well across the board. He has ideal length and size. He could be a faster version of Brian Orakpo — who went in the top-15. Harold should easily top Orakpo’s 1.58 ten-yard split. Cliff Avril and Bruce Irvin both ran 1.50’s — he should target that mark.

He might be the perfect edge rusher within this class for Seattle’s scheme and identity. It’s just a matter of whether after the combine the Seahawks will have any shot at taking him. Don’t be shocked if he winds up in the top 15-20 based on upside.

Another talented Virginia pass rusher — Max Valles — surprisingly announced his decision to enter the draft this week. We’ll take a look at him over the next couple of weeks.

 

Markus Golden Citrus Bowl notes — he’s a stud

January 7th, 2015 | Written by Rob Staton

Markus Golden has grit. Markus Golden is a leader. Markus Golden has production. Markus Golden is an athlete.

There are many reasons why Markus Golden might be a Seahawk one day. I kind of hope he’s needed enough to land in Seattle. He’s a player to root for. A player to enjoy watching. A player who leads from the front and gets the job done.

I’m not sure the Seahawks will go into the off-season feeling another pass rusher is a big priority. Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett are locked up long term. Bruce Irvin has turned into one of the more dynamic defensive playmakers in the NFL. Pete Carroll clearly has a lot of time for Cassius Marsh. The defense — while missing Marsh and other players like Brandon Mebane — has excelled in the second half of the season. Adding another first round pass rusher might be a luxury — especially with needs on the offensive side of the ball and the defensive depth available.

Make no mistake — the offense is really where the focus should be. It’s hard to find holes in Seattle’s defense. A serious injection of talent via the early rounds of the draft can have much more impact on an inconsistent offense compared to a brilliant defense. They might need to replace Marshawn Lynch, Zach Miller and James Carpenter. Do they need to bolster the O-line in general, or find more weapons for a soon-to-be $100m quarterback?

There’s every chance 2015 will be a very offensive-minded draft. At least early on. And yet a player like Golden just looks so enticing for this defense. If he’s expected to go in the top-40 — and I think he should — then they’ll really only get one shot.

He was named MVP of the Citrus Bowl and rightly so. Two sacks and ten tackles don’t do his performance justice. This was a relentless, passionate final fling for the Mizzou Tigers. A thank you to the school that gave him the chance to live out a dream. What a way to sign off.

I saved the tape to watch again in the New Year specifically to look back at Golden and Minnesota tight end Maxx Williams. I’ve broken down the impact plays Golden had below.

It’ll be intriguing to see how fast he runs (he’s a former running back) and how he measures (does he have the length Seattle loves?). The ten-yard split will be crucial as usual. Carroll reminded everyone this week how they love players with grit. Watching Golden explain his back-story and seeing him lead Missouri’s defense makes you think he’d fit like a glove.

Despite struggling with a hamstring issue mid-season and even missing a game — he finished 2014 with ten sacks and an incredible 20 TFL’s. He had 12 separate QB hurries, three forced fumbles and a couple of PBU’s. He returned a fumble for a 21-yard touchdown against Florida. This was his first season as a full-time starter.

One final point before we get into the Citrus Bowl notes (and the regulars will have seen me write this before). Last year Tennessee offensive tackle Ju’Wuan James was one of my favorite players in the draft. I ended up watching every Vols game from 2013. Only one player — one — gave James any trouble. Markus Golden. Name a SEC defender and I bet James handled him. Apart from Golden, who gave him fits.

Citrus Bowl notes vs Minnesota

1st quarter

Shane Ray picked up an injury near the start of this quarter and didn’t feature much. Missouri’s offense had a bad start and couldn’t stay on the field. As a consequence, their defense featured heavily early on. The second half was almost a complete role-reversal.

13:26 2nd and 10
Minnesota fakes the jet sweep with Golden playing left end. He reads the play perfectly, keying in on the running back who takes the hand off instead. Golden chases him down from behind for a one yard loss on the play.

12:47 3rd and 10
Golden explodes off the snap — his first step is considerably quicker than everyone else on the defensive line (including Shane Ray). The right tackle is forced into a very deep stance right off the bat. He gets his hands on Golden who just brushes him off. The tackle shoves him into a wide arch but he still has the foot speed to round the edge and sack the quarterback for a loss of six. The QB fumbles the ball as he’s taken down and it’s recovered by Missouri. Minnesota were trying to set up a screen pass and the quarterback should’ve known it was taking too long to develop. Still, credit to Golden for forcing the turnover.

11:38 1st and 10
Golden stunts inside on an I-formation running play. Maxx Williams can’t contain him and he’s two yards into the backfield, forcing the running back to bounce to the right. He doesn’t see a gap, looks indecisive and just about gets back to the LOS. Williams vs Golden was a mismatch even for a good blocking tight end.

10:19 3rd and 3
Golden again lines up against Maxx Williams, who this time is acting as a H-back in the backfield. Golden brushes him off initially but it’s a good recovery by Williams to stop him bringing the quarterback down on a QB keeper after another fake jet sweep. Once again Golden is 3-4 yards deep into the backfield, impacting the play while the rest of the D-line are stuck at the original LOS.

8:49 2nd and 1
He remains at left end and Minnesota calls a run play from a pistol look. Golden diagnoses the run and darts into the backfield to bring down the running back from behind. The Gophers continue to leave a tight end on him — this time #85 (not Williams). Two plays later they put a tackle and tight end on Golden to double team him.

7:02 1st and 10
Another running play in the I-formation. Golden stunts inside and brushes off the right tackle by dropping his shoulder and powering through. He gets a hand on the running back as he darts up the middle for a short gain. Once again he’s in the backfield impacting the play.

3:40 2nd and 3
This time Minnesota goes with the jet sweep. Golden reads it, shakes off the pathetic attempt of a block by the running back and forces the ball carrier to head to the sideline and run out of bounds for a three yard loss. This play flashed it all — the field IQ to know what Minnesota was going to do, the speed/power to brush off a weak block and then the discipline to contain the receiver and run him out of bounds for a loss. After the play you can hear Golden barking at the Gophers bench “I’m on that… I’m on that… this aint no Big Ten, this is S-E-C.”

1:18 3rd and 9
Golden and exciting defensive tackle prospect Harold Brantley both get a great burst off the snap. It’s a safe draw play by Minnesota at midfield. I froze the video at the moment the quarterback hands the ball off. Golden is four yards deep into the backfield rounding the right tackle. As the running back sets off Shane Ray (who stunted inside from the right end position) meets him but misses the tackle. The runner gets back to the LOS as a consequence, before Golden chases him down from behind for a short gain. After winning at the point as an edge rusher only for Minnesota to run a draw, he still rounds the right tackle, doubles back and makes the play to force fourth down.

(A quick note on Brantley. Missouri calls a fake punt deep inside their own half at the start of the second quarter. They fake a bad snap and get it directly to Brantley, who sprints for a 19-yard gain. He moves like a running back. This guy impressed whenever I watched Mizzou this year and he’s going to be big-time next season. He’s a terrific three-technique prospect. Another one off the production line.)

Second quarter

Missouri had a lot of the ball in this quarter — and Golden was spelled on some of the early downs and brought out again for third down.

3:46 3rd and 2
Minnesota’s quarterback and running back botch the hand off, fumbling the ball some 7-8 yards into the backfield. The runner picks it up and tries to recover some of the lost yardage but is quickly chased down by Golden from the left side for a big loss. He hops off the field in celebration.

1:04 1st and 10
Golden races into the backfield from the left edge on a read-option run. The quarterback is forced to hand the ball off because Golden takes away the edge. The running back runs into the back of one of his own linemen, allowing Golden to make yet another tackle from behind for a gain of about two. As the runner falls to the turf, Golden attempts to rip the ball out.

0:59 2nd and 8
This is the first snap where the Golden/Ray double team really excels. Nobody blocks Ray and he has a free run to the quarterback. I think they were trying to set up a screen of some kind with Maxx Williams running one of his crossing routes from left-to-right. Golden easily beats the right tackle again. It’s a stop-start move — he engages the tackle then throws a subtle punch to the chest before accelerating into the backfield. Hand use, speed-to-power — big box-ticking exercise for the next level here. Both Ray and Golden hammer the quarterback at the same time — but the pass is just complete to Williams who somehow avoids a loss of yards by breaking one tackle and fighting to the first down marker. It’s a great effort play by Williams. Despite having all three time-outs and the first down at around midfield, Minnesota’s coach just runs out the clock. Bizarre. Especially after Mizzou bagged an onside kick immediately after half time.

Third quarter

The second half begins with Missouri leading 10-7. The camera zooms into a shot of Golden who has Shane Ray by the arm and is speaking into his ear. Ray is nodding in agreement, with a determined expression on his face. It looked like a ‘this is our last half of football together’ moment.

12:02 1st and 10
This is the Maxx Williams hurdling touchdown play. Golden is jolted by the right tackle and for pretty much the first time in the game stone-walled at the LOS. After a bit of hand-fighting he shakes off the block and dips inside, running into the guard and center who do a good job keeping the pocket clean. You can’t fault the effort of Golden and the motor — but the O-line wins this down. The extra time allows Williams to get open and the rest is history.

8:11 2nd and 6
Gordon rushes inside from the left end position and shakes off the right tackle with a nice swim move. By the time the running back gets the hand off Golden is dead central, in the backfield waiting to make the tackle — literally stood behind where the center lined up. Golden hits the running back for a loss of two.

7:30 3rd and 8
It’s a shotgun pass by the quarterback. Golden rushes the left edge and the right tackle lunges to try and make a cut block. It’s easily dodged with some nice footwork and he races to the quarterback as he’s about to throw — leaping in the air with his arms out-stretched. The pass is batted down.

0:14 2nd and 10
Minnesota’s quarterback fumbles the ball after a hit by Shane Ray on a QB-keeper. Brantley picks it up and then fumbles himself. Golden — who was rushing the left edge — sprints to the football as another team mate falls on it. It’s a great effort play to go after the ball until the turnover was confirmed. In contrast — Ray, who forced the fumble, just stands over the quarterback smack-talking while the play unfolds.

Fourth quarter

9:16 1st and 10
The quarterback in the shotgun tosses the ball to the running back — who looks for the trick play throw back to the QB. Golden disengages the right tackle and flies to the RB as he sets to throw. He just gets it off — but the pressure is such he almost throws it straight to Brantley who is also in the backfield.

7:57 1st and 10
Attempted screen pass. The right tackle runs to the next level leaving the running back to block 1v1 against Golden. What happens? Golden just grabs him and tosses him away. No kidding. He just rag dolls him out of the way and hammers the quarterback for a sack. Too. Easy. A total mismatch.

7:08 3rd and 17
Golden isn’t on the field for this play — but Brantley drops into coverage and actually moves like a nimble linebacker to take away the middle of the field. Did I mention this Brantley guy is going to be a stud?

2:00 2nd and goal
Golden is unblocked into the backfield and forces a bad throw which is almost picked off (and potentially run all the way back).

After the game, Golden was named Citrus Bowl MVP.

With Bennett and Avril, the Seahawks have the kind of pass-rushing tandem most teams would love. There aren’t many clubs with more than a couple of really productive edge rushers. It’d be nice to get a three-man rotation going, but I think it’s too early to write-off Cassius Marsh after one injury. They could easily add another player, like Nate Orchard or Owamagbe Odighizuwa, in the middle rounds. That would allow them to concentrate on the offense early.

Yet even so, there’s just something about Golden that really appeals. It’s a pretty good year for defensive linemen — there’s every chance you’ll get a good one even at the back end of round one. If they do go D-end early, I hope Golden is considered. If he doesn’t fit in Seattle — he looks like a shoe-in to end up in the AFC North.

 

Dorial Green-Beckham will declare for the 2015 NFL draft

January 6th, 2015 | Written by Rob Staton

This is interesting.

In terms of pure talent and upside potential, Dorial Green-Beckham is off the charts. At 6-6 and 225lbs he is the prototype for a NFL #1 wide receiver. Size, length, hands and speed — Green-Beckham provides the full package. If you gave him Amari Cooper’s personality and grit, DGB would be a sure-fire top-five pick. Without question.

But he isn’t anything like Cooper. And that’s a problem.

When I wrote about Green-Beckham a month ago I kind of expected he’d return to play a season at Oklahoma. It made sense. Despite all the enticing physical potential he never put together a complete season at Missouri. As a sophomore he had 883 catches and twelve touchdowns. That’s a lot of scoring production — but he was patchy overall. He had one catch for six yards in a tight overtime defeat to South Carolina. He had two catches for 14 yards against Ole Miss. He had two catches for 22 yards against Tennessee. He only had three 100-yard games — against Kentucky, Indiana and Auburn in the SEC Championship.

He was a slow burner. A much-vaunted 5-star recruit, DGB featured as a true-freshman but always seemed to be in development at Mizzou. A self-inflicted year away from football wasn’t ideal when Gary Pinkel kicked him off the team — albeit necessary. Now he’ll head straight to the pro’s probably needing that extra year of work and game-time.

Before we even consider all the off-field trouble, it’s worth considering that he’s far from the finished article. He might share physical greatness with A.J. Green and Julio Jones — but he’s a long way off in terms of refinement, technique and production. Amari Cooper will have a chance, in the right offense, to compete for offensive rookie of the year because he’s technically adept and such a natural receiver. DGB is a natural athlete, but not necessarily a natural receiver. He will need work. And he could remain a slow burner, considering he plays a position that is notoriously difficult to master at the next level.

On the off-field stuff, here’s what I wrote in December:

In a year where the NFL has had to deal with high profile domestic abuse cases, Green-Beckham’s departure from Mizzou had a similar theme. After multiple incidents involving Marijuana (one suspension, one arrest that was later dismissed), he reportedly forced his way into an apartment and pushed a female down some stairs. He wasn’t arrested, but it was the final straw for Gary Pinkel and the Tigers.

When the Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson controversies were dominating the headlines, I think we all considered what it meant for Green-Beckham. Would teams be less likely to take a chance in light of what’s happened this year? Who knows. Only today Frank Tarkenton said he didn’t think Rice and Peterson should be allowed back into the league. Green-Beckham has obvious talent but is he a problem waiting to happen?

The Seahawks in particular aren’t just dealing with a changing NFL that is under pressure to be tougher on domestic abuse. They’re dealing with a season heavily impacted by a problematic wide receiver. After spending so much on Harvin, are they less inclined to take a risk on a guy like DGB?

Seattle cannot pick any lower than #28 overall in the 2015 draft. They shared the best record in football and the toughest strength of schedule among the playoff teams. So it’s #28-32 depending on what happens over the next few weeks. Here are the two main reasons why I doubt the Seahawks will draft Dorial Green-Beckham in the first round:

1.) Teams are going to do a ton of homework on his background and given the severity of the issues — I suspect a consensus will be formed. If he’s going to be considered by the Seahawks at the back end of round one, the consensus will likely be positive and a team picking earlier in the first frame will draft him. The risk factor between Kansas City at #18 (they need a receiver) and Seattle at #28-32 is minimal. If he convinces people he can be trusted, he’s too talented to last until the end of the first round. While the Seahawks are unconventional in their thinking, I doubt they’d take on a project like this if the rest of the league washes its hands.

2.) If he fails to convince teams he can be trusted, why would the Seahawks take the risk just because they pick later in the first? Sure, they’ve been willing to take a few chances in the past. Many teams would’ve run a mile from the Percy Harvin trade. We now know the Seahawks should’ve run away from it too. Having already blown a first rounder on one giant headache of a receiver, the last thing they need is another one to take his place. If Seattle is going to draft another wide out early — or sign one in free agency — they have to be ready to mesh with Russell Wilson and create a tight bond for the long haul. You better be all about football with no distractions. Wilson is going to get a $100m contract in a few weeks. The Seahawks need to protect that investment.

I found it interesting listening to Pete Carroll’s press conference earlier today. He was asked about what they look for in a receiver and he mentioned “grit”. And that’s so true. It’s a trait all the wide outs have in Seattle — even Harvin had it. When you watch West Virginia’s Kevin White you see it. I’m not totally convinced that Green-Beckham has it.

And despite that, he’s pretty much the one thing they really lack on the roster. They don’t have that tall, dynamic receiver who can dominate in the red zone and just scare the crap out of an opponent. Wilson does tend to overthrow at times — good luck trying to overthrow a 6-6 wide out with DGB’s wingspan. He could be a safety net, a playmaker, a game-changer.

We already noted he had 883 yards and twelve touchdowns as a sophomore for Missouri. That stat-line in Seattle would look pretty awesome — it’d be perfect for their scheme and the way they play on offense. They need someone who can compliment the receivers that are already here and improve the red zone play to put extra TD’s on the board.

There hasn’t been a prospect like this for a while. Dorial Green-Beckham has the talent to still go in the top-15. He could also go undrafted due to character concerns — or anywhere in-between. He’s a fascinating case and a potential head-case at the same time. Who knows where — or if — he’ll be drafted?

 

Updated mock draft: 5th January 2015

January 5th, 2015 | Written by Rob Staton

Oklahoma’s Jordan Phillips could see his stock sky rocket

#1 Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Marcus Mariota (QB, Oregon)
This pick looks like a formality. A total no-brainer. The Buccs need to appoint a creative and open minded offensive coordinator who won’t try to turn Mariota into a pure pocket passer. He didn’t play particularly well in the Rose Bowl but he should flourish against Ohio State in the title game.

#2 Tennessee Titans — Randy Gregory (OLB, Nebraska)
The Titans appointed Ray Horton as defensive coordinator and handed him a unit devoid of any players that fit his scheme. Jameis Winston is not the man to lead this tired looking roster. Build the defense and invest in Horton. They have to become tougher to beat.

#3 Jacksonville Jaguars — Dante Fowler Jr (DE, Florida)
Fowler is a maestro. You can line him up anywhere — outside linebacker, defensive end — even inside on third down. He will make plays. A tremendous athlete and playmaker, he’d be a legit candidate to be defensive rookie of the year in 2015. Simply put — a fantastic talent.

#4 Oakland Raiders — Andrus Peat (T, Stanford)
Peat has no peer in this class in terms of pass protection. He’s a natural with ideal length. Technique-wise he can make improvements, but he has the upside to quickly establish himself as one of the premier tackles in the NFL. Oakland has a boat-load of needs but protecting Derek Carr for the duration of his career is a good place to start.

#5 Washington Redskins — Landon Collins (S, Alabama)
He impacts games and when he turns up at the combine, he’ll be one of the winners. At 6-0 and 212lbs expect a lightning performance. He covers well despite his build, he’s instinctive. Collins can be a tone-setter for a secondary that is badly lacking talent.

#6 New York Jets — Shane Ray (DE, Missouri)
They can ill-afford another gaffe at quarterback. They have a talented defense but lack a pure edge rusher and any kind of talent in the secondary. Jameis Winston playing in New York doesn’t seem like a recipe for success.

#7 Chicago Bears — Leonard Williams (DE, USC)
I’m not as crazy about Williams as some others. He sounds better than the tape suggests. He’s mastered the J.J. Watt ‘swat the ball’ act but he’s not a brilliant edge rusher. What is his position at the next level? Still, the upside is there. Someone will take a punt.

#8 Atlanta Falcons — Bud Dupree (OLB, Kentucky)
A leader who flies around the field — he can play defensive end or outside linebacker. The Falcons lack toughness, speed and playmakers on defense. Dupree ticks every box. Few players were more fun to watch in 2014. He makes plays in a variety of ways.

#9 New York Giants — Eddie Goldman (DT, Florida State)
He didn’t have an impact against Oregon but was he 100%? He has every opportunity to establish himself as a premier inside rusher and run stopper. Goldman looks every bit a former 5-star recruit in terms of size and athleticism. Overall he had a great 2014.

#10 St. Louis Rams — T.J. Clemmings (T, Pittsburgh)
The Rams are a quarterback away from relevance but I’m not sure even Jeff Fisher will be prepared to put his franchise in the hands of Jameis Winston. Look for them to give Sam Bradford one last shot on a modest salary and add a quarterback later on. Clemmings has a ton of upside — the type of player Les Snead and Fisher have gone after.

#11 Minnesota Vikings — Amari Cooper (WR, Alabama)
He’s shown he has the deep speed this year to make up for a lack of elite size. He’s the most naturally gifted receiver to enter the draft since A.J. Green. Very focused individual and not a diva. Pairing Cooper with Teddy Bridgewater seems like a smart move.

#12 Cleveland Browns — Jordan Phillips (DT, Oklahoma)
When Phillips rocks up at the combine and runs a 4.8-4.9 he’ll start to fly up the boards. He has better tape than Dontari Poe but has the same kind of rare size and speed. He’s had some injury history and that’ll need to be checked out. If he’s cleared — watch out for Phillips. He declared for a reason.

#13 New Orleans — La’el Collins (G, LSU)
The Saints rely so much on their guards to protect Drew Brees. It’s the way it’s always been in New Orleans with that quarterback. They’re likely to make some cost savings with the current starters and Collins is an absolute beast.

#14 Miami Dolphins — Malcolm Brown (DT, Texas)
A stud. Anyone who needed convincing just has to look at the way he took on Arkansas’ massive offensive line. He kept making plays. Another former 5-star recruit who appears destined for stardom. Like Goldman he should impress at the combine.

#15 San Francisco 49ers — Devante Parker (WR, Louisville)
I think he’ll measure out at 6-2/6-3 and around 205lbs which isn’t huge — but he plays big. The Niners should move on from Michael Crabtree and Anquan Boldin won’t last forever. They need more talent on offense, especially with the Frank Gore era drawing to a close.

#16 Houston Texans — Melvin Gordon (RB, Wisconsin)
It’s not their biggest need of course but Gordon isn’t going to last long in round one. Plenty of teams are going to fall for his combination of suddenness, a fluid running style and gym-rat mentality. It’s just a matter of how early he’ll go.

#17 San Diego Chargers — Ereck Flowers (T, Miami)
Having revealed D.J. Fluker will be switching to guard, San Diego desperately needs to add a quality tackle. Flowers looks the part and could be the next best pass protector after Andrus Peat. This franchise only goes as far as Philip Rivers allows, so they must protect him.

#18 Kansas City Chiefs — Kevin White (WR, West Virginia)
No touchdowns for a receiver all year only tells half the story. Look who they’re starting. It’s hardly a shock. Alex Smith is such a limited passing quarterback you need to put weapons around him. White will compete in the air, run after the catch and make plays downfield.

#19 Cleveland Browns — Vic Beasley (DE, Clemson)
A lack of size might be a hindrance although he should run a good forty time and ten yard split. Beasley has been ultra-productive at Clemson and could end up replacing key free agent Jabaal Sheard.

#20 Philadelphia Eagles — Jameis Winston (QB, Florida State)
Eventually someone will pull the trigger — and it’s likely to be an offensive mind that DNGAF. Chip Kelly clearly backs himself to fit any kind of quarterback into his scheme. The Eagles can afford to roll the dice — Kelly and not Winston would remain the focal identity. They also won 10 games with Foles/Sanchez, they wouldn’t be giving Winston the keys. This is the franchise that gave Michael Vick his second chance.

#21 Cincinnati Bengals — Cedric Ogbuehi (T, Texas A&M)
The Bengals regularly take a chance on players who just dip a little bit. Ogbuehi didn’t have a great 2014 but with the right guidance he can make it work. There are questions about his preparation and work ethic — Cincy are always willing to take on a lost-soul project.

#22 Pittsburgh Steelers — Brandon Scherff (T, Iowa)
The guy just looks like a Steeler — and it’s more than just the Iowa uniforms. Lunch-pail worker who drives people off the ball in the running game. Right tackle is a huge need for Pittsburgh and Scherff would be a day one starter.

#23 Detroit Lions — Cameron Erving (C, Florida State)
He looked good at tackle last season — and looked even better at center in 2014. The Lions would get a player who can start immediately at center and back up every other position on the O-line. He’s a defensive line convert with massive potential.

#24 Arizona Cardinals — Todd Gurley (RB, Georgia)
A likely top ten pick without his ACL injury setback, Gurley could still be a top-20 selection. If he falls, a good team will get lucky. The Cardinals need a feature runner with size and are good enough to let Gurley take his time, fully recover and explode in the NFL.

#25 Carolina Panthers — Trae Waynes (CB, Michigan State)
It’s a bad class of corners but even so — it’d be a shock to see none selected in the first round. Waynes is being touted to have a terrific combine performance and at 6-1/182lbs he could be the one and only cornerback taken in the first frame.

#26 Baltimore Ravens — Tevin Coleman (RB, Indiana)
As well as Justin Forsett has played, you’d have to expect the Ravens to draft a running back this year. Coleman might not work out at the combine due to injury, but he’s shown enough on tape to warrant a top-40 grade.

#27 Indianapolis Colts — Taylor Decker (T, Ohio State)
There’s talk he could declare against the odds. Indy can upgrade both tackle spots and Decker has the size and athleticism to work his way into round one. Keep an eye on this guy.

#28 Dallas Cowboys — Eli Harold (DE, Virginia)
Harold’s speed is a joy to behold at times, but he also has a lot of average tape to counter some of the hype. He’s a determined individual and should be a leader even early in his career. Dallas needs all the talent it can find on defense.

#29 Green Bay Packers — Bendarick McKinney (LB, Mississippi State)
Big, physical 3-4 inside linebacker who made Miss State’s defense tick. Could be the player Rolando McClain should’ve been. Very solid prospect for any club looking for a presence on defense. He’ll move around at his size.

#30 New England Patriots — Devin Smith (WR, Ohio State)
Sparky, athletic playmaker who makes chunk plays. Always competitive. Has a little Odell Beckham Jr to his game. He’d offer something the Patriots don’t have on offense and he’d be a great compliment to Gronk and co. Smith averages an incredible 27.7 YPC.

#31 Denver Broncos — Shaq Thompson (LB, Washington)
The last couple of Washington games I watched forced me to temper expectations for Thompson. He’s athletic, he has major upside potential. But linebackers like this haven’t traditionally gone in the top fifteen. He’s certainly not Ryan Shazier.

And that brings us to Seattle.

I hate putting the Seahawks at #32 and dodged it throughout last year. For the purpose of this mock, however, it seems perfectly acceptable. I won’t be making a single selection. I want to run through the remaining options and get your thoughts. And the best way to do that is to have no other team picking after Seattle.

Let’s group some of the remaining prospects by position and need (and yes, it’s way too early to have any clear idea on whether this is a remotely realistic looking first round). Some potential draft targets are already off the board.

Running back
If the Seahawks lose Marshawn Lynch this has to at least be considered as a possible early draft target. The top three prospects are off the board and I have a hard time imagining Seattle going after Alabama’s T.J. Yeldon. In fact, the increased opportunities for Robert Turbin and Christine Michael could even be a trial run for 2015. Let’s not forget, when Ian Rapoport was touting interest in Melvin Gordon, the Seahawks were 3-3 and staring at a possible mid-first round pick. Now they can’t pick any earlier than 28th in round one. Gordon and Todd Gurley (even with his injury) could be long gone. Are you ready for the Turbin & Michael era? There’s enough depth to add a third wheel later on if there’s no shot at the top two prospects.

Wide receiver
I’m not a huge fan of Arizona State’s Jaelen Strong and don’t see him as a first round prospect. I think he’ll measure smaller than expected, I think he’s a modest athlete and he’s best suited to a Terrance Williams-style role on a prolific passing offense. Sammie Coates has the difference making athleticism Seattle loves but he’s not had the consistent production they also appreciate. He’s had some tough games. For every downfield bomb there’s a drop. He’s had injuries. He has the upside that is definitely worth considering — just not necessarily in round one. The options aren’t great for Seattle when it comes to this position as a first round choice, especially with Duke Williams staying at Auburn.

Tight end
There are a couple of intriguing players to monitor here. We’ve talked a lot about Maxx Williams — a player who blocks well, doesn’t have bad snaps and is as tough as they come at the position. He’s also shown a playmaking flash, he was Minnesota’s top receiving option in a run-based offense and crucially in terms of Seattle — he made the most of his limited targets. He could replace Zach Miller for the long haul and he only turns 21 at draft time. Would they go big on a Miller replacement? They did give him a five-year $34 million deal ($17 million guaranteed). At the time they also needed to bolster a weak roster and Miller understood Tom Cable’s system. I suspect Seattle will like Williams unless he’s a really mediocre athlete at the combine — but round one might be a bit rich for their tastes. We’ll see. The other player is Devin Funchess at Michigan. He has the size they badly lack in a receiver or tight end (6-5, 235lbs). The concern is he totally underwhelmed in college and needed pushing every step of the way. He turned it on for the Ohio State game at the end of the season — where was that type of performance earlier in the year? I’m not convinced he’s ‘Seahawky’ enough in terms of his attitude. But how can you not be intrigued by that size? Especially given Seattle’s redzone struggles. He wouldn’t be a blocker — he’d be a flex tight end/receiver.

Defensive line
A lot of the better options are gone here. I’m a huge fan of Missouri’s Markus Golden. He doesn’t have the length but he has the athleticism, attitude, competitive nature and production. I’d love to think he could be an option here, adding to the rotation for the next few years. I think it’d be too early for a prospect like Washington’s Hau’Oli Kikaha or Mississippi State’s Preston Smith. As noted earlier in the week — I think Danny Shelton is overrated and wouldn’t expect the Seahawks to show interest here. Locking up Cliff Avril was key and maybe limits the early round need here. Think of how well this D-line has played recently, then add a healthy Brandon Mebane and Cassius Marsh into the mix.

Offensive line
Seattle has already invested two first round picks, a second round pick and a third round pick on the O-line in the Carroll/Schneider era. I think if they were going to go down this route again it would mean James Carpenter departing and Justin Britt moving inside. I’m not totally convinced they’d want to move Britt after one year — but they did it to Carpenter. South Carolina’s Corey Robinson is a massive 6-7 and 335lbs with ideal length — but he’s said to have bad work habits. Oklahoma’s Daryl Williams has shown some skill as a run blocker and also has long arms to match a 6-5, 330lbs frame. I wasn’t blown away watching Colorado State’s Ty Sambrailo but he’s from an athletic family and has the size Seattle loves (6-7, 310lbs). I’m not sold on Oregon’s Jake Fisher as a first rounder — or Sambrailo for that matter — and this could be an area they wait on. Of course, they could just keep Britt at tackle, re-sign Carpenter or even start Alvin Bailey.

Remember, at the heart of everything is where can Seattle best upgrade their roster? That’s how they set up their draft board. The defense is remarkably well set for now and will be difficult to upgrade. On offense, they can make obvious improvements — especially if the likes of Lynch and Miller are no longer with the team. They’ve already lost Percy Harvin — their best X-factor playmaker at receiver. Then there’s the potential of changes to the offensive line.

Discussing possible draft picks for Seattle is about more than just SPARQ. It’s a combination of factors — including mainly film assessment, production, character and that all important roster upgrade. So you’re on the clock.

Who should we be talking about here?