Updated mock draft: 9th April

April 9th, 2014 | Written by Rob Staton

It’s taken until the second week in April, but finally Joel Bitonio is getting the attention he deserves.

In the last few days Lance Zierlein mocked him to Seattle in the first round, while Daniel Jeremiah is now saying he’s a potential late first round pickto the Seahawks no less.

I wrote this piece on February 27th suggesting Bitonio would be a good fit for Seattle. We first mocked him to the Seahawks on March 5th and if you missed this article the first time — check out how uncanny the comparison is between Bitonio and Logan Mankins.

If they’re going to draft an offensive lineman early — it’s going to be someone with plus athletic skills and upside who can play multiple positions. It also probably needs to be a player who can fill in at left tackle and potentially one day replace Russell Okung if he can’t be resigned after the 2015 season (as discussed here).

I’ve seen some online scouting reports knocking Bitonio’s arm length and consigning him to a role as a pure guard. I’m not sure they realise he has the same arm length as 6-7 Taylor Lewan (33 7/8 inches) and he has longer arms than Jake Matthews (33 3/8 inches).

Not only that — he tested just as well at the combine as the top 3-4 tackles. His 9.6 in the broad jump ranked #2 behind Lewan and just ahead of Greg Robinson. He beat both of those players in the three cone (7.37) and had the second best vertical jump amongst offensive lineman.

He had the fourth best forty yard dash (4.97).

For me the question isn’t whether he’s an option for Seattle at #32 — it’s whether he’ll even last that long. I’m a big Zack Martin fan — but I’m yet to hear any logical explanation as to why he’s a consensus top-25 pick and Bitonio ‘might’ sneak into the first.

Aside from the athletic positives — his versatility will be attractive to the Seahawks. He could easily start in year one at right tackle or left guard. You open up the competition in camp and let Alvin Bailey, James Carpenter, Michael Bowie and Bitonio fight for two spots (plus any other rookies you add to the roster).

In this scenario, Bitonio also becomes your backup left tackle.

They don’t have to go in this direction (drafting a tackle early) even if he lasts until #32. I feel like they’ll be more than comfortable drafting a couple of tackles between rounds 2-7 and letting Carpenter, Bowie and Bailey compete for the guard spot. For those sleeping on Carpenter — check out this photograph he posted on Instagram today. He’s never been in better shape.

There’s tackle depth in the draft this year — meaning they could look at a talented receiver class in round one or potential wild card options such as Ohio State’s Ryan Shazier (who I think will be a top-25 pick, but you never know…).

But I still expect a rush on receivers in round one. And if that happens, it could make for a relatively easy decision at #32.

I’ve also included two trades in the top ten this week. I’ll do a broader trade-mock with multiple deals within the next couple of weeks.

#1 Blake Bortles (QB, UCF)
He’s elusive for a 4.93 runner. He extends plays. Bortles is a very creative quarterback. Houston’s offense is set up for a big rebound year if they find a solution here.
TRADE #2 Jadeveon Clowney (DE, South Carolina)
Doesn’t it just seem inevitable? Thomas Dimitroff and Les Snead are close. The Rams want to move down. The Falcons need a pass rusher like Clowney.
TRADE #3 Sammy Watkins (WR, Clemson)
The Lions appear to be enamoured by Watkins. They also want to set up a dominant passing game. The Jags might be willing to move down for a reasonable price.
#4 Greg Robinson (T, Auburn)
Just take the best player on the board. Robinson would dominate at right tackle or guard. Make the offensive line your identity and run the ball.
#5 Khalil Mack (LB, Buffalo)
I suspect they’d love a shot at Watkins. They might look at Mike Evans. Or they might try and get a pass rusher who can have a quick impact.
TRADE #6 Jake Matthews (T, Texas A&M)
Jeff Fisher knows the Matthews family. They’ve seen Mack and Watkins leave the board. The pick makes sense in this scenario.
#7 Mike Evans (WR, Texas A&M)
Josh McCown had Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffrey last year. If they’ve signed McCown to start, give him Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans this year.
#8 Aaron Donald (DT, Pittsburgh)
He won countless awards in college, had major production and lit up the combine. Mike Zimmer might see Geno Atkins in Donald.
#9 Taylor Lewan (T, Michigan)
The addition of Mike Williams gives Buffalo some breathing space to add another offensive lineman at #9.
TRADE #10 Johnny Manziel (QB, Texas A&M)
Having dropped down from #3, the Jaguars get a fantastic competitor to lead their offense. I suspect Gus Bradley will love Manziel’s fiery character.
#11 Kelvin Benjamin (WR, Florida State)
Not a huge need but this is all about value. Benjamin would make a great tandem with Kendall Wright. He possesses freakish upside.
#12 Marqise Lee (WR, USC)
Finding more targets for Eli Manning has to be a priority. It’s easy to forget how dominant Lee was in 2012.
#13 Ryan Shazier (LB, Ohio State)
In the NFC West you need speed at linebacker. Pairing Shazier with Alec Ogletree would add to St. Louis’ terrifying front seven.
#14 Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (S, Alabama)
They’ve added Lamarr Houston and Jared Allen up front, now they need to improve the secondary.
#15 Odell Beckham Jr (WR, LSU)
Receiver is a big need for the Steelers. They need someone who can come in and have a quick impact. Out of all the WR’s in this class, Beckham Jr is best served to hit the ground running.
#16 Anthony Barr (DE, UCLA)
I wouldn’t draft Barr this early, but the Cowboys are stuck without moving up or down. After bringing in Henry Melton, they need an edge rusher. They have no alternative.
#17 Eric Ebron (TE, North Carolina)
Getting another big target who can work the seam will be attractive to Baltimore. It’d also be good value in this spot.
#18 Brandin Cooks (WR, Oregon State)
They need to keep adding playmakers. Rex Ryan will get the defense going. The offense can’t rely on just Eric Decker. It needs a spark.
#19 Morgan Moses (T, Virginia)
Miami needs to keep repairing its offensive line. Branden Albert is a good start. Why not add a bookend here with Moses slotting in at right tackle?
#20 Ra’Shede Hageman (DT, Minnesota)
They don’t have a lot of remaining needs — apart from finding a long term answer at quarterback. Even so, Hageman is a value pick at this point. They can add a developmental QB later.
#21 Donte Moncrief (WR, Ole Miss)
They invested free agent money in the defense. That could mean a receiver here — because their options are a little depleted these days. Moncrief has a ton of upside.
#22 Cody Latimer (WR, Indiana)
A physical, competitive receiver who run blocks superbly and competes for the ball in the air. He’ll make Nick Foles look good by winning plenty of 50/50 throws.
#23 Calvin Pryor (S, Louisville)
With the receivers leaving the board early the Chiefs might look at safety in a scenario like this. Pryor would be a nice compliment to Eric Berry.
#24 Bradley Roby (CB, Ohio State)
A player who divides opinion. A year ago he would’ve been a high pick. It wouldn’t be a shock if he’s the first corner off the board.
#25 Louis Nix (DT, Notre Dame)
They need to bring in a nose tackle. Nix isn’t Dontari Poe or B.J. Raji in terms of athleticism, but he can hold the point and absorb blockers.
#26 Derek Carr (QB, Fresno State)
There’s a lot of talk about Carr and the Browns — so I’m going for the ‘no smoke without fire’ approach here. Twitter loves Teddy Bridgewater, but Carr might have the higher upside.
#27 Justin Gilbert (CB, Oklahoma State)
Nearly benched last season and overrated after a great combine. He is the ideal athlete for the position though — and that could keep him in the first round.
#28 Zack Martin (T, Notre Dame)
I’m not sure how Carolina has allowed a situation to occur where they’re suddenly desperate at receiver and the offensive line.
#29 C.J. Mosley (LB, Alabama)
This could be a good spot for a team trading back into the first. New England have gone after Alabama linebackers in the past and could use Mosley inside.
#30 Martavis Bryant (WR, Clemson)
Has a little Randy Moss to his game. Could excel playing in a power offense with a big-armed quarterback. He’ll beat you deep and can be an X-factor.
#31 Chris Borland (LB, Wisconsin)
Denver needs a tone setter. A leader. A guy who flies around. This would be a smart move. You want this guy on your team.
#32 Joel Bitonio (T, Nevada)
Terrific player. Compares favourably to all of the top offensive tackles in this class. Can play on the left or right — and could be another Logan Mankins at guard.

 

Jarvis Landry runs a 4.58 at LSU pro day

April 9th, 2014 | Written by Rob Staton

I’ll have an updated mock draft on the blog later — but I wanted to get this out there in the meantime.

Jarvis Landry clearly wasn’t 100% at the combine and while nobody expected a blazing athletic performance — a 4.77 wasn’t a fair reflection of his ability.

Now that a hamstring issue has cleared up, he ran two 4.58′s at the LSU pro day today (according to Tony Pauline). It’s more what we expected from Landry and allows him to regain some momentum ahead of next months draft.

He also had a 30.5 inch vertical and a 9.3 on the broad jump.

What he lacks in pure speed he makes up for in competitiveness, large (10 inches) reliable hands and excellent technique. He high points the ball superbly, makes improbable catches and has a little Donald Driver to his game.

A 4.58 might not be enough to put him in the first round — but I doubt he’s getting out of the second.

For me this is a similar situation to Joe Haden. He ran a 4.57 at the 2010 combine which at the time was a major surprise. Yet on tape he was so accomplished — there was never any real doubt he’d be a top NFL corner.

Haden was drafted with the #7 pick by Cleveland and has since gone on to become one of the best corners in the league.

Landry isn’t a burner either — and admittedly his vertical and broad jumps aren’t comparable to Haden’s (35 vertical, 10.5 broad). But the guy can play. There’s absolutely no doubt about it.

And like Haden — I think he’ll go on to have a productive career.

Here’s how I’d sum up Landry. I can’t decide what grade to give him. First, second, third round. I don’t know.

But he’s a player I’d be willing to gamble on making it happen at the next level — because if he fails, it won’t be through a lack of effort.

Mike Mayock interviewed Landry after his pro day today — comparing him to Hines Ward during the conversation. Les Miles was also particularly complimentary when he spoke to Mayock.

 

Report: Seahawks to go ‘OT heavy’ in draft

April 8th, 2014 | Written by Rob Staton

Offensive tackles like Joel Bitonio could be on Seattle's radar

Tony Pauline at Draft Insider is quoting a source that believes the Seahawks will focus on offensive tackles in this years draft.

Last week sources told me they expect an offensive tackle heavy draft from the Seattle Seahawks next month. The hope is to select a versatile edge blocker as protection in case the team cannot resign Russell Okung when his contract is up in two years.

It’s an interesting dynamic.

The Seahawks need to add a tackle of some description having lost Breno Giacomini and last years backup LT Paul McQuistan. Even if Michael Bowie or Alvin Bailey start at right tackle this year, the depth at the position isn’t strong.

But the idea of also needing a possible replacement for Okung is an interesting one.

His 2014 cap hit is worth $11.2m, but it drops to $7.2m in 2015 before he becomes a free agent.

Having missed considerable time due to injury (19 games in four years), the Seahawks aren’t really in a position to talk extension this year. They can’t afford to dedicate around $10m a year to an injury-prone tackle. Okung is basically playing on a two-year prove it deal.

He needs to prove he can stay healthy.

We’ve also seen a number of high profile tackles entering the free agent market recently. Usually if you have a starting left tackle you keep them. Yet Miami allowed Jake Long to walk, Baltimore were comfortable letting Eugene Monroe find his value, Jared Veldheer left the Raiders and Brandon Albert walked away from the Chiefs.

If Okung can’t stay on the field, he might be in a similar situation in 2015.

So what would an ‘offensive tackle heavy’ draft look like?

It could mean anything. The Seahawks could identify a tackle at #32 to get the ball rolling and add a couple of later round prospects too. They might wait until #64 before going through Tom Cable’s list. Or they might even ignore the position completely in the first two rounds if the value isn’t there — instead adding two or three players in rounds 4-7 (Seattle has an extra 5th round pick).

In the past they’ve gone after needs aggressively — so don’t be surprised if they force the issue this year. Which is why I think they, more than some other teams, will show interest in a Joel Bitonio type player (as we’ve been discussing the last couple of months). They need someone who can start in multiple positions but has the potential to play left tackle if needed.

They’ve also shown a desire to add big, hulking lineman. Antonio Richardson and Ja’wuan James both fit the bill — and Cable worked the pair out last week. They could be targets at #64.

Morgan Moses is another big bodied pass protector who can start at right tackle and switch over to the left. Cyrus Kouandjio is due to hold a pro day today to try and convince teams he’s fully healthy and capable of improving on a rotten combine.

Yet it’s also clear they’re looking at later round options too. Pauline is reporting Ulrick John (OT, Georgia State) will visit with the Seahawks. He runs a 4.93 at 6-7 and 290lbs. William Poehls — a 6-8, 334lbs monster from Montana — will also make an official visit.

There’s some depth at OT this year and quite rightly they have faith in Cable’s ability to find starters later on. If the desire is to add a player who can potentially develop into an Okung replacement at tackle — I’m not sure you necessarily draft that guy two years in advance with a first round pick. That role might be saved for a developmental style player.

And the options in round one — barring a big reach — are limited following the news of Brandon Thomas’ ACL tear. Moses could be long gone with teams like Carolina picking ahead of Seattle. Bitonio could be there if they like him, but for me it’s no guarantee. After that? You’re really talking about Richardson and James — and I suspect there’ll be much greater value elsewhere at #32.

Essentially the Seahawks could attack the OT position early. They could wait until the later rounds. It could be a mix of the two.

Either way they’re going to add more than one versatile offensive lineman in this draft.

And I still think we’re looking at a situation where WR and OT are the most likely picks at #32, with a few potential wild cards in the conversation should they fall (eg Ryan Shazier).

Jarvis Landry vs Texas A&M

Increasingly I’m hoping the Seahawks find a way to add Jarvis Landry. I know — the speed. Tomorrow’s a big deal if he works out at the LSU pro day. He needs to get into the 4.6′s at best. I expect he’ll do it if he’s 100% healed from a hamstring pull.

When you watch the tape, Landry is pretty much the most competitive, sparky prospect in the draft. He high points the ball superbly. He wins contested passes. He has huge, reliable ten inch hands. He’s capable of the spectacular catch and he’s at a superior technical level compared to most receivers in the draft thanks to his time working with Cam Cameron.

Take a look at his tape vs Texas A&M. For me, he’s a 4.63 away from being back in the first round mix. At worst he’s a tremendous value pick in round two.

 

Monday draft notes: Thomas’ ACL, Latimer & Shazier

April 7th, 2014 | Written by Rob Staton

Brandon Thomas, blocking here for Tajh Boyd, suffered an ACL injury last week

Brandon Thomas tears ACL

According to Adam Caplan, Clemson offensive tackle Brandon Thomas tore his ACL last week. A lot of people have been projecting him as a guard — but he showed enough on tape during 2013 to at least warrant consideration as a NFL tackle.

It’s big news considering he could’ve been a late first or early second round pick. Teams like New Orleans, Carolina and Seattle — who were all potentially in the market for OL help — are unlikely to consider him that early following today’s news. He’ll need a redshirt year at least — and then you’re looking at a 317lbs man with knee history.

It doesn’t just impact Thomas’ stock. It could provide a significant boost for the likes of Joel Bitonio and Morgan Moses.

It’s a further body blow for the tackle class. Cyrus Kouandjio’s injury mystery and a lousy combine hammered his stock. Cedric Ogbuehi, Cameron Erving and La’el Collins opted not to declare for the 2014 draft. What could’ve been a legendary class is taking a hit. There’s still enough talent though to see 6-7 linemen go in round one.

It’s also sad news for Thomas — who enjoyed a productive Senior Bowl before testing well at the combine. He had 35 reps on the bench press despite having nearly 35 inch arms and also ran a 5.09 forty.

He could drop significantly depending on how serious the tear is.

Latimer to visit the Seahawks next week

Aaron Wilson is reporting a date of April 15th for Cody Latimer’s trip to Seattle. He’ll also visit with Buffalo, Philadelphia, Detroit, Oakland, San Diego and Carolina.

I kind of feel like the media — and those of us who discuss the draft — are late to the party on Latimer. He didn’t get a lot of attention during the season. Injury kept him out of the combine and he’s only really gathered momentum after Indiana’s pro day.

He stands out on tape. He’s productive within an average passing offense and he’s one of the more intriguing players in the draft.

It’s no surprise a high number of teams want to get a closer look — he hasn’t done a proper work out yet due to a foot injury. Don’t be surprised if he finds a home in the late first round.

Wilson says he ran in the 4.39-4.43 range with a 39 inch vertical — and that’s with the foot issue. You’re talking about a big-time athlete in perfect physical shape.

There’s also this:

I wrote a more detailed piece about Latimer a week ago. He’s not just an athlete playing receiver — he has strong hands, he competes for the ball in the air and he’s the best run blocking wide out in the draft.

Former NFL Scout Louis Riddick says he’s been training with Brandon Marshall throughout the off-season in Florida. His main focus, apparently, is to work on separation ability. It’s definitely the main area he can improve, but as Riddick notes:

I asked him for some further thoughts on Latimer, who’s beginning to get more and more attention as people watch the 2013 tape. Riddick listed the following positives to me:

“Size, strength at the line, strength at the break point, contested catch skills, strong RAC, special teams value.”

Needless to say, these are all characteristics the Seahawks love.

He could be the 5th or 6th best receiver in the class after Odell Beckham Jr, Marqise Lee and Kelvin Benjamin (with Watkins & Evans at the very top). I think you can make that argument. And it wouldn’t surprise me if he’s off the board before the #32 pick.

This is a very interesting receiver group and I still maintain we’ll see as many as 7-8 leaving the board in round one. If not more.

Unless you’ve handcuffed yourself to certain needs (eg Dallas and defensive linemen), you’d be silly to avoid this years offensive linemen and receivers if there’s a space on your roster.

Don’t sleep on guys like Latimer and even Jarvis Landry — who might’ve had a disappointing combine, but is a heck of a football player.

Let’s hope this doesn’t happen

Speaking of competitive, talented football players…

Ryan Shazier on the Cardinals defense would be terrifying.

I spent a bit of time this weekend looking at a few Ohio State games. Some from the Draft Breakdown database, some that I’d saved on my own system from 2012.

He’s the complete package.

Hard hitting, instinctive, great blitzer, terrific range. He’s possibly the best athlete in the 2014 draft (including Jadeveon Clowney). He’s ripped, but also managed a crazy 42 inch vertical at the combine and ran a 4.3 at his pro day.

There’s only part of his game you need to improve — avoiding getting caught in traffic and shedding blocks. He needs to be protected by the scheme — keep him rangy. Keep him away from the LOS. Too often he gets sucked into the middle and ends up getting blocked. If he can stay in space, react and play sideline-to-sideline, he could quickly develop into one of the best linebackers in the NFL.

He also has all the intangibles you want to see — he speaks well, he’s a great team mate and a leader.

I don’t consider linebacker a big need for the Seahawks — not to the extent they have to spend a first round pick in 2014. Yes, Malcolm Smith and K.J. Wright are free agents next year. But they’re also 7th and 4th round picks. If you can’t re-sign them, do you really need to bring in a first round replacement?

Definitely not.

But I’d make an exception for Shazier.

And I hope for the NFC West’s sake he doesn’t leave the board at #20.

Don’t be shocked if he’s taken at #13 by St. Louis either.

Need convincing?

What are we waiting for?

I’ve always felt the draft process is too drawn out. And I know that’s easy for me to say, as an impatient fan not working in a front office.

It’s just the length of time from the combine to draft day feels like an eternity.

The draft has been moved back by around two weeks this year in order to lessen the burden on teams and front office staff. So I found this Tweet interesting today:

The draft is crucial for NFL teams and with so much money invested — they can’t afford to miss on those first round picks.

And yet I don’t understand why condensing the process and giving staff more time after the event isn’t a much more sensible idea? Work harder to an earlier deadline, but get more time off upon the conclusion of, let’s say, a mid-April draft?

We’re 31 days away from the 2014 event. I wonder how many teams would say they still need that much time to prepare?

 

Seven prospects: four overrated, three underrated

April 6th, 2014 | Written by Rob Staton

A quick disclaimer for this piece. If I say a player is overrated, it just means I think they get too much attention either in the media or amongst fans. It’s the opposite for the underrated group.

For example — I have Jordan Matthews as overrated and Brandon Coleman as underrated. I think both players probably go in the second round. The difference is one players gets talked about an awful lot, the other gets almost no attention. That’s the gist of the piece.

Overrated

Dee Ford (DE, Auburn)
A player it’s tough to imagine going in round one, despite a lot of mocks suggesting it’ll happen. Ford can run. He has a nice get off and if he gets a route to the quarterback he can be successful. But here’s the thing — one dimensional pass rushers very rarely work out at the next level. When Ford is forced to use his hands, shed a block or make a counter move — he comes unstuck. He struggled badly against Cedric Ogbuehi (Texas A&M) and had a really quiet night against Alabama despite getting some favourable match-ups against their tight ends. He’ll need to play in an extreme wide-9 formation, rushing from a distinct angle straight to the quarterback. How many teams can really accommodate that? And for a 6-2, 244lbs rusher you’d expect better times than a 4.59 and a 4.54 at his pro-day. Speed-to-power is crucial for a defensive end. Watch Cliff Avril — he mixes it up. He can beat you off the edge, but he’s also willing to get stuck in with a bull rush. He counters, he sets up a lineman over 4-5 snaps. Ford is a million miles away from that and can only be projected as a specialist right now. He’s already 23 years old as a redshirt senior. If you’re taking a chance on a rotational pass rusher, target Marcus Smith or Demarcus Lawrence later in the draft.

David Yankey (G, Stanford)
In terms of pure size it’s hard to complain. Yankey’s 6-6 and 315lbs with 34 inch arms. He played some tackle at Stanford before kicking inside. He looks like a tackle. And he plays like a big lumbering guard. The combine backed that up — he ran a 5.48 with a 1.87 10-yard split. OK — guards don’t have to run fast. They don’t have to be great athletes. They need to be country strong and play with attitude. Well, Yankey’s 22 reps on the bench press ranked among the lowest for offensive linemen. So he’s not a great athlete, he’s not very strong. And on tape he spent most of his time doing what all Stanford guards do — pulling out of position and blocking from favourable angles. I hate the Cardinal blocking scheme — it’s backed up by multiple TE sets and technically so precise. It doesn’t translate to the next level. Yankey, quite frankly, fits only in a man-blocking scheme that values size — and yet he’s very likely to get shoved around by tougher, more athletic defensive linemen. He’s got John Moffitt written all over him and there are several better guards available in this draft. It’s hard to see him being much more than a third round pick, but he’s regularly touted as the best guard in the class or even a late first rounder.

Timmy Jernigan (DT, Florida State)
What is he? He lacks the size (6-1/6-2, 298lbs) to play nose tackle — and yet it’s probably his most natural fit for what he shows on tape. He has the size, however, of a three technique. And yet he has an average get off, he’s rarely in the backfield and he’s just not very good at rushing the passer. He had 4.5 sacks in 2013 — two of which came against Idaho. Stats aren’t everything, which is why you put on the tape. He just doesn’t have enough splash plays — and think about the talent he played with at FSU. It’s so hard to get excited about a player like this. He’s at his best taking up a couple of blockers and making life easier for others. But you can find players like that in the middle rounds. He’s strong — but still manages to be overpowered from time to time. You’ve also got to have serious question marks about his stamina. He was used as a rotational player at FSU and got tired way too easily. It was cringeworthy seeing him take himself out of the game right at the crucial moment of the BCS Championship. I don’t like his footwork either — too many wasted steps. For a guy who’s consistently mocked in the first round — there’s just something so underwhelming here. Aaron Donald is five times the player — constantly involved and a major impact prospect. Even in round two, Jernigan would be an underwhelming pick.

Jordan Matthews (WR, Vanderbilt)
If you just looked at stats and the combine, Matthews would be among the top players in the draft. He had a lot of production over multiple years at Vandy — and he showed off 4.46 speed, big hands and long arms in Indianapolis. He’s also a relative of Jerry Rice. Unfortunately the tape just isn’t that great. A lot of his production is generated by screen plays — and the success of these plays is totally reliant on whether the blocking’s good or not. Matthews isn’t elusive, he isn’t shifty in the open field. When he gets great blocking he’s got the speed to really exploit it. When he’s covered up, you’re in trouble — unlike, for example, a guy like Brandin Cooks. He drops more easy passes than people believe. Yes — he tries to catch the ball away from his body for the most part and he’s also capable of making some spectacular grabs. But he also has drops that’ll make Kelvin Benjamin blush and he lets the ball get into his pads too often. Despite the size (6-3, 212lbs) he’s not overly physical down the sideline and he has marginal impact in the red zone. He doesn’t win too many contested passes. He’s pretty ‘finesse’. He’s not a bad receiver by any means, but he’s not quite as good as some people will have you believe. A grade in the round 2/3 range seems fair.

Underrated

Jarvis Landry (WR, LSU)
Yeah, he had a combine to forget. He clearly wasn’t 100% and ran a shocking 4.77 as a consequence. He probably should’ve just waited until the LSU pro day which takes place on April 9th. Here’s the thing though — football is predominantly about guys you want to go to war with. You need to accumulate a bunch of players you know are going to turn up every day and work to improve. You need players who will lead by example, put the team first and be prepared to do the ugly things (blocking, special teams). Crucially at receiver, you also need a guy that on 3rd and 5 you can trust to make a play. Jarvis Landry ticks every one of those boxes. He’s a fierce competitor, a special teams demon, a clutch receiver on key downs and he’s also capable of making the ‘wow’ plays downfield. He high points the ball superby, he has huge 10 inch hands and doesn’t drop the ball. He has one of the best highlight reels in the 2014 draft (see above) with the #1 moment a tremendous one-handed touchdown grab against Arkansas that has to be seen to be believed. There are very few negative plays on tape — he’s a picture of consistency. The only issue really is the bad combine and the serious doubts now about whether he’s athletic enough to make it at the next level. I think we need to learn from players like Anquan Boldin — who also fell as a consequence of a 4.7 forty. Sometimes you just need to trust the tape and take a chance on a guy who deserves a shot. Whoever gets Landry next month won’t regret it. If I’m a good team needing a receiver, I’m not ruling out the late first.

Brandon Coleman (WR, Rutgers)
What’s the difference between Coleman and Kelvin Benjamin? Easy. Jameis Winston. Athletically there’s very little difference. Benjamin’s heavier (240lbs vs 225lbs), while Coleman ran a better forty (4.56 vs 4.61) and had more reps on the bench press (21 vs 13). But they had the same vertical (32.5 inches) and three cone (7.33). Benjamin has slightly longer arms (34 7/8 inches vs 34 inches). On tape you see similar positives and negatives. Neither player high points the football well enough and this’ll be a teaching point as a rookie. Both players have careless drops. And yet both players are just insane, incredible athletes with the potential to become dominating #1 receivers. One players is graded as a likely top-20 pick, the other is graded anywhere from rounds 2-4. And that brings me back to the main difference. Benjamin had a Heisman winning quarterback throwing darts against weak ACC defenses. Coleman had Gary Nova lobbing ducks in possibly the worst passing offense in the NCAA. Words cannot sufficiently describe how bad Rutgers were on offense last year. Here’s the bottom line — there just aren’t many humans like Brandon Coleman. He has devastating potential — how many 6-6, 225lbs receivers run away from secondary’s that include first round picks for an 80-yard touchdown scamper? If he lands on the right team — watch out. He could be another Josh Gordon.

Joel Bitonio (T, Nevada)
I’m not quite sure what Bitonio has to do to get a little love. Even Mike Mayock recently naming him as the #5 tackle on his board hasn’t led to any extra attention. It’s quite staggering really that players like Xavier Su’a-Filo get first round grades as frequently as they do — and yet Bitonio is a presumed second or third rounder at best. For me, there’s a significant talent gap between the two. For starters, the tape is excellent. Bitonio held his own against a Florida State defense that basically tee’d off after building a commanding advantage. You sit there waiting for the breaking point. When is he gonna cave? And it never happens, even in a blow out. He easily handled — and occasionally dominated — UCLA’s Anthony Barr. And against lesser opponents he’s also looked the part. I want to go back and review his performance against Demarcus Lawrence — because from memory he had a terrific game against Nevada (although from memory, he mostly rushed the right side). Athletically he’s almost identical to Logan Mankins entering the NFL, with an exact replica of a college career too. That gives you confidence he can develop into a top guard. But he tested so well at the combine — as well as any of the top left tackle prospects — so why wouldn’t you try him at tackle first? And then there’s his blue collar attitude and flawless character. Just draft the guy. He looks like an 8-10-year starter and a very safe pick for any team needing a stalwart on the offensive line.

 

Seahawks showing interest in Brandin Cooks

April 5th, 2014 | Written by Rob Staton

Kippy Brown, Seahawks receivers coach, speaking to Brandin Cooks at his pro day

According to the man himself, Brandin Cooks has a workout or visit scheduled with the Seattle Seahawks.

It certainly looks like more than a passing interest. Kippy Brown attended his pro day and spent some time chatting with Cooks (see above). I think most people would say it’d be an upset if he lasted until #32, but you never know.

One other angle worth considering is scouting-in-advance. New England are bringing Teddy Bridgewater and Johnny Manziel to their facility. They might be looking at potential replacements for Tom Brady (who turns 37 in August), but they’ve also been known to use these sessions to get a good look at a player they might be competing against in the future.

Several NFC foes pick in the 20′s — Arizona (#20), Philadelphia (#22), New Orleans (#27), Carolina (#28) and San Francisco (#30). You could make a case for all drafting Cooks if he’s available in their slot.

Are the Seahawks planning ahead? Maybe.

Yet at the same time they might have genuine interest themselves. Not everything has to be kept under wraps — it was common knowledge they went bowling with Russell Okung before the 2010 draft.

I mean, would anyone in the NFL be shocked that Seattle might take Brandin Cooks at #32? Most would be more shocked if he was actually available there in the first place.

I spent a bit of time looking through Oregon State tape tonight, sifting through Cooks vs Washington, Stanford, Boise State, Hawaii, Colorado and Utah.

The first thing that really stands out is he can fly. He’s a shade under 5-10 and just 189lbs — but he kind of looks bigger on tape. And he can move. The 4.33 speed at the combine wasn’t a fluke. He’s a naturally talented sprinter who moves up through the gears quickly.

His best quality without a doubt is YAC. Oregon State used a ton of fly sweeps, quick hitters, bubble screens, receiver screens, slants and reverses to get the ball in his hands.

There’s not too much evidence he can be a sideline hugging, ‘win the redline’ type. In fact after watching the first five games today — I counted just one contested 50/50 pass against Hawaii. It doesn’t mean he can’t do it. He was rarely asked.

Then I watched the Colorado game and he high pointed two downfield shots and caught both. He also spent more time as a conventional wide out and made several catches in traffic. So the potential is there.

I think the Beavers just wanted to get him in space — and rightly so. He’s not going to win too many deep shots at 5-9. Golden Tate was a rare smaller receiver who high pointed the football incredibly well. Odell Beckham Jr is another player who competes well for his size. But they aren’t common.

Cooks had a ton of success running underneath, getting a quick pass and just exploding into the second level. He’s shifty, he’s tough to bring down and he eats up yards.

He’s incredibly adept at exploiting zone coverage. He’ll settle down into space — he really knows how to sell a route. On one touchdown he made three deliberate changes of direction in the corner of the end zone. Even in such a tight spot he had the corner tripping over his feet. He got open and made an easy score.

On another deep route he nailed a double move to find space in behind a corner and just in front of the safety. If the key talent any receiver needs is the ability to get open, Cooks ticks that particular box.

‘Elusive’ is a good way to describe him. Any team that drafts him needs to be creative. He’s very similar to Tavon Austin. St. Louis tried to fit Austin into a structured offense and wasted a year of his explosive potential. Whoever gets Cooks needs to appreciate what he’s best at — he needs plays in the playbook designed solely to get him the ball.

Get him in space and let him make things happen. He’s got a great spin move, he has that ‘gliding’ effect as a runner, he changes direction effortlessly. He’ll be a YAC monster at the next level in the right offense and he’s tough to bring down.

The one game that concerned me a little was the Washington tape. Marcus Peters had him for lunch by being physical and refusing to let him get into a rhythm. Peters was sensational on the day. Cooks didn’t come up against many cornerbacks like that — but he will at the next level. If he’s going to be more than a slant, sweep and reverse guy — he’ll need to be ready for the physical corners in the NFL.

He returned some punts but didn’t have a huge impact. I suspect he can improve here because of the elusiveness he showed in open play. But right now it’s not a strength.

He doesn’t drop easy passes but there are occasions when he lets the ball slip through his hands. It’s not a major concern.

One final note — I’ve not listed it here, but I remember the Oregon vs Oregon State game from 2013 vividly. The Ducks put three men on Cooks — they triple covered him. It’s not often you see that. They sold out the entire defense to cover Cooks. And he still had 110 yards in the game.

You can never have enough of these players on your roster and I think the Seahawks would consider putting Cooks and Percy Harvin on the same field and saying, “Good luck defending that.” They could test him out on punts, work him in the slot and over time try to develop him into a more rounded threat out wide.

If he lasts until #32 — which, again, seems unlikely — he’d be one of the best players left on the board and the value might be too good to pass.

But’s it’s a major stretch to imagine he’d get past Carolina at #28 or San Francisco at #30. Almost impossible I’d say.

And if they are scouting Cooks in advance — maybe we should expect the 49ers to make a move up the board in round one to get him?

 

Pete Carroll agrees contract extension with Seahawks

April 4th, 2014 | Written by Rob Staton

I remember the day the Seahawks fired Jim Mora.

Seattle had just finished the 2009 season with a 5-11 record. Among the eleven defeats were several blow outs — including games that were over long before half time.

The Seahawks had no real identity. For all of Mora’s enthusiasm, his brand of football was non-specific. The key component to the offense was ‘balance’. Defensively it was just a bland 4-3 at a time when the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens were dominating the AFC with aggressive and creative 3-4 schemes.

Players were going on radio shows mouthing off about the dynamic in the team. In Mora’s end of season press conference he refused to pinpoint any issues — simply repeating they’d assess everything.

When asked what positives he could build around — he name-checked the punter.

The Seahawks were irrelevant.

Forcing a new GM to inherit Mora as Head Coach felt like an exercise in futility. They had to break free, take the hit and find a fresh vision for this team.

On the 8th January 2010, “Jim Mora fired by the Seahawks” rolled across my Rotoworld timeline (in the days before Twitter, of course).

It was exciting because it showed mediocrity wasn’t acceptable to this franchise.

But not as exciting as the news that would break an hour or two later.

The Seahawks were going after Pete Carroll.

Forget the success at USC, the ‘big name’ hire and the end of the muddled Mora era (such as it was).

The best thing about Carroll was his strong vision. He knew what he wanted to do and how to implement his plan.

The Seahawks had direction again.

***********************

December 12th, 2010.

Debilitating. Hopeless. Gut wrenching.

A Seahawks team that had scratched its way to 6-6 were shredded by a 4-8 San Francisco outfit.

It was a game Fox Sports cared so little about, they were willing to experiment with a backing track during the broadcast. After every snap, a drum beat played over the announcers to try and force some excitement into what the rest of the country saw as a mediocre contest.

(Imagine if they tried that now for a Seahawks/49ers encounter?)

The game finished 40-21 to the Niners. The size of the task facing Pete Carroll was never more ominous.

A now 35-year-old Matt Hasselbeck threw four lousy interceptions and lost a fumble. Michael Robinson was Seattle’s most productive running back with 33 yards rushing.

Ruvell Martin was the teams leading receiver with 75 yards. Aaron Curry led the team in tackles.

The Seahawks didn’t force a single turnover in the game, with Alex Smith slicing and dicing his way to three touchdowns.

The score was 40-7 heading into the final quarter. A Leon Washington kick return and a late Deon Butler touchdown added some gloss to a miserable day.

Carroll had a turnover machine at quarterback, a festering stench of a running attack and an impotent defense.

It was a horror show — and the Seahawks were a million miles away from the Super Bowl.

The only building blocks they had were players drafted in Carroll and John Schneider’s first class. Russell Okung and Earl Thomas showed promise — while a young special teams stand-out called Kam Chancellor was creating a stir with his effort and application.

The new regime inherited a mess. I’m not sure non-Seahawks fans realise just how bad the situation was.

They were expansion-franchise ugly by the end of 2009. As Kenneth Arthur points out, Seattle were 29th for DVOA in 2009 and 30th in 2010.

In 2012 and 2013, they ranked #1 in DVOA.

If you’d have told me after that San Francisco game in 2010 that this team was three years away from getting to the Super Bowl — I wouldn’t have believed it. No way.

And that’s why Carroll’s work should be praised and celebrated among the greatest jobs ever by any coach, GM or owner.

***********************

It’s not just the way this team has been built, because a lot of the credit there must be shared with Schneider. No other team in the league has managed to discover the following within four drafts:

– A franchise quarterback in the third round

– A shutdown, elite corner in the 5th round

– The best strong safety in the NFL in the 5th round

– An elite running back and tone setter for a trade worth little more than a 4th rounder

They also crafted the deepest and classiest roster in the league, aided by multiple hits in the later rounds or undrafted free agency. How many other teams can win the Super Bowl when their two most explosive players (in Seattle’s case, Christine Michael and Percy Harvin) are sat on the bench or in the treatment room for most of the year?

Seattle really left no stone unturned in piecing this together. They rejected conventional wisdom. They did it their way.

It’s not just about acquiring talent and hitting on draft picks. It’s about developing talent. Carroll put together a staff who are adept at getting the best out of their young players.

While the rest of the league now scrambles to mimic the current World Champions — all will fail unless they re-create the systems in place to develop their talent. It’s not just about drafting tall, long athletes to play in the secondary. That’s the smallest part of the team building exercise.

The key is what you do with those players when they enter the building. And that’s where Carroll wins.

He is a fantastic coach. And while someone like Bill Belichick continues to receive most of the plaudits (and rightly so) — you also have to note the decline in New England’s defensive performance in recent years. Belichick, by nature, is a defensive coach.

I doubt you’ll ever see Carroll’s defensive backs or defense in general play lousy football. If there’s one guarantee you’ll get from this group, it’s fine secondary play. That’s Carroll’s forte.

It won’t matter if defensive coordinators move on, or other coaches. While ever Carroll is part of this franchise you should expect high standards on defense. It’s his project, he is pulling the strings.

Today’s announcement of a new contract isn’t necessarily a surprise, but it’s the best news anyone in Seattle could’ve asked for this off-season.

The Seahawks are fortunate to have Carroll. They’re fortunate to have the ‘Win Forever’ vision. And they’re fortunate that there’s going to be at least three more draft classes that benefit from his wisdom.

***********************

Why three years?

That was the question both Schneider and Carroll had to dodge in the press conference and then an appearance on Brock and Danny shortly after.

When news of an extension broke I think most people expected at least a five-year deal. Carroll’s a young 62 — and the Seahawks have an opportunity over the next decade to win multiple Championships.

Three years just seems a little… short.

I wouldn’t read too much into it though and I certainly wouldn’t fear it’ll be three and out by 2016.

This might just be an exercise in Carroll keeping his options open. He doesn’t need long term job security. And I doubt he has much interest in being tied down for the rest of his working life.

By the end of 2016 he might feel like he prefers another challenge in football. Or he might want to do something completely different.

Or he might just sign another three year extension. I don’t even think Carroll himself knows where his head will be in a few years time.

I’ve already seen people speculating on Twitter about what will or won’t happen. Why even have that debate? Pete Carroll will be the Seahawks coach for at least another three years — maybe longer.

Even when he leaves — almost certainly to return to L.A. or Southern Cal in some capacity or another — it doesn’t mean Russell Wilson, Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman also automatically move on.

Today is a day for celebration. Big Balls Pete is staying put. That’s all that matters.

***********************

Carroll isn’t just a Super Bowl winning coach. He’s an inspirational public speaker with a message that goes far beyond a football locker room.

A lot of what he teaches his players can be installed into everyday life. I suspect that’ll be his next challenge and project — installing Win Forever into a broader non-sporting universe, further growing projects like ‘A Better L.A.’ and inspiring a new generation of young people to achieve their potential.

He recently returned to USC to conduct a seminar at the Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies. There’s a few Seahawks-nuggets in this session, but more than anything it’s a great insight into Win Forever and how it can be used in a non-football environment.

I’d recommend watching all two hours if you have the time.

 

Updated mock draft (two rounds): 3rd April

April 3rd, 2014 | Written by Rob Staton
#1 Blake Bortles (QB, UCF)
He’s elusive for a 4.93 runner. He extends plays. Bortles is a very creative quarterback. Houston’s offense is set up for a big rebound year if they find a solution here.
TRADE #2 Jadeveon Clowney (DE, South Carolina)
Doesn’t it just seem inevitable? The Falcons move up for Clowney. The Rams are happy to deal down.
#3 Johnny Manziel (QB, Texas A&M)
The ultra competitive Manziel fits Gus Bradley’s approach perfectly. The Jaguars need someone who can come in and elevate this team. Manziel can be that guy.
#4 Greg Robinson (T, Auburn)
Just take the best player on the board. Robinson would dominate at right tackle or guard. Make the offensive line your identity and run the ball.
#5 Sammy Watkins (WR, Clemson)
The best receiver prospect to enter the league since A.J. Green and Julio Jones. You can build around a talent like this.
TRADE #6 Khalil Mack (OLB, Buffalo)
When’s the last time a Jeff Fisher team spent a high pick on the offensive line? Mack can play linebacker and create a terrifying triple-threat attack rushing the passer.
#7 Mike Evans (WR, Texas A&M)
Josh McCown had Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffrey last year. If they’ve signed McCown to start, give him Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans this year.
#8 Aaron Donald (DT, Pittsburgh)
He won countless awards in college, had major production and lit up the combine. Mike Zimmer might see Geno Atkins in Donald.
#9 Jake Matthews (T, Texas A&M)
This would be good value for the Bills, who can start Matthews at right tackle.
#10 Marqise Lee (WR, USC)
Matt Stafford throwing to Megatron, Golden Tate and Marqise Lee. That’s how you kick start this team. Get a cornerback in round two.
#11 Taylor Lewan (T, Michigan)
Some believe he’s a bit of a phony tough guy. Others really like him. It’s worth a shot here.
#12 Kelvin Benjamin (WR, Florida State)
Finding a big target for Eli Manning has to be a priority. Benjamin oozes potential, even with those inconsistent hands.
#13 Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (S, Alabama)
They need to keep adding talent to their secondary. This would make a lot of sense here.
#14 Calvin Pryor (S, Louisville)
They’ve added Lamarr Houston and Jared Allen up front, now they need to improve the secondary. A bit of a reach.
#15 Odell Beckham Jr (WR, LSU)
Receiver is now a big need for the Steelers. They need someone who can come in and have a quick impact. Out of all the WR’s in this class, Beckham Jr is best served to hit the ground running.
#16 Anthony Barr (DE, UCLA)
I wouldn’t draft Barr this early, but the Cowboys are stuck without moving up or down. After bringing in Henry Melton, they need an edge rusher. They have no alternative.
#17 Joel Bitonio (T, Nevada)
While the rest of the league sleeps on this guy, a smart team like Baltimore will add a legit top-20 prospect.
#18 Eric Ebron (TE, North Carolina)
The Jets need to add a receiver or a tight end here. If Ebron lasts this long, he’s an option. They should keep adding weapons on offense.
#19 Zack Martin (G, Notre Dame)
An absolutely superb tackle in college, but expected to move to guard in the NFL. Could play left guard next to Brandon Albert.
#20 Ra’Shede Hageman (DT, Minnesota)
They don’t have a lot of remaining needs — apart from finding a long term answer at quarterback. Even so, Hageman is a value pick at this point. They can add a developmental QB later.
#21 Ryan Shazier (LB Ohio State)
Green Bay’s defense is too slow, too sluggish and doesn’t have enough playmakers. A linebacker like Shazier can help take this unit away from total mediocrity.
#22 Darqueze Dennard (CB, Michigan State)
A physical corner who plays with an edge. Good blitzer. Philly wants tough football players on defense and this fills a big need.
#23 Donte Moncrief (WR, Ole Miss)
He’s a big time athlete with good size. Kansas City needs a sparky receiver like this. His best football will come in the NFL.
#24 C.J. Mosley (LB, Alabama)
Linebacker and cornerback are the big needs here. Although they need to do their homework on Teddy Bridgewater. Do you really want to pay Andy Dalton?
#25 Louis Nix (DT, Notre Dame)
They need to bring in a nose tackle. Nix isn’t Dontari Poe or B.J. Raji in terms of athleticism, but he can hold the point and absorb blockers.
#26 Brandin Cooks (WR, Oregon State)
I think they’ll be happy to wait until round two for a quarterback. They have the #35 pick. We always expect teams to move up for a QB and it never happens.
#27 Morgan Moses (T, Virginia)
New Orleans can’t afford to mess around at left tackle any more. Moses deserves a chance to start on the blind side.
#28 Brandon Thomas (T, Clemson)
I’m not sure how Carolina has allowed a situation to occur where they’re suddenly desperate at receiver and the offensive line.
#29 Martavis Bryant (WR, Clemson)
He has a little Randy Moss to his game. Bryant would provide an explosive X-factor to the Pats offense.
#30 Justin Gilbert (CB, Oklahoma State)
Nearly benched last season and overrated after a great combine. The Niners can afford to take a chance on this gambler with their dominant front seven.
#31 Chris Borland (LB, Wisconsin)
Denver needs a tone setter. A leader. A guy who flies around. This would be a smart move. You want this guy on your team.
#32 Cody Latimer (WR, Indiana)
Competes for the ball in the air, runs in the 4.4′s, possesses strong hands and run blocks superbly.

Round two

#33 Houston Texans — Bradley Roby (CB, Ohio State)
#34 Washington Redskins — Jimmie Ward (S, Northern Illinois)
#35 Cleveland Browns — Derek Carr (QB, Fresno State)
#36 Oakland Raiders — Stephon Tuitt (DE, Notre Dame)
#37 Atlanta Falcons — Jace Amaro (TE, Texas Tech)
#38 Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Timmy Jernigan (DT, Florida State)
#39 Jacksonville Jaguars — Jarvis Landry (WR, LSU)
#40 Minnesota Vikings — Zach Mettenberger (QB, LSU)
#41 Buffalo Bills — Brandon Coleman (WR, Rutgers)
#42 Tennessee Titans — Teddy Bridgewater (QB, Louisville)
#43 New York Giants — Kony Ealy (DE, Missouri)
#44 St. Louis Rams — Xavier Su’a-Filo (G, UCLA)
#45 Detroit Lions — Kyle Fuller (CB, Virginia Tech)
#46 Pittsburgh Steelers — Jason Verrett (CB, TCU)
#47 Dallas Cowboys — Demarcus Lawrence (DE, Boise State)
#48 Baltimore Ravens — Marcus Smith (OLB, Louisville)
#49 New York Jets — Davante Adams (WR, Fresno State)
#50 Miami Dolphins — Ja’Wuan James (T, Tennessee)
#51 Chicago Bears — Stanley Jean-Baptiste (CB, Nebraska)
#52 Arizona Cardinals — Antonio Richardson (T, Tennessee)
#53 Green Bay Packers — Allen Robinson (WR, Penn State)
#54 Philadelphia Eagles — Dee Ford (DE, Auburn)
#55 Cincinnati Bengals — Marcus Roberson (CB, Florida)
#56 San Francisco 49ers — Bruce Ellington (WR, South Carolina)
#57 San Diego Chargers — Jeremiah Attaochu (OLB, Georgia Tech)
#58 New Orleans Saints — Jordan Matthews (WR, Vanderbilt)
#59 Indianapolis Colts — Deone Bucannon (S, Washington State)
#60 Carolina Panthers — Cyrus Kouandjio (T, Alabama)
#61 San Francisco 49ers — Marcus Martin (C, USC)
#62 New England Patriots — Troy Niklas (TE, Notre Dame)
#63 Denver Broncos — Gabe Jackson (G, Mississippi State)
#64 Seattle Seahawks — Brent Urban (DT, Virginia)

– I’ve included one trade this week. I think it’s almost inevitable we’ll see a deal between St. Louis and Atlanta. Thomas Dimitroff and Les Snead are close. Not just in a football sense — they both have ridiculous hair. The Falcons go up to add Clowney, the Rams fall back and play the percentages. One thing worth noting — Jeff Fisher never invested a great deal of draft stock in his offensive line during the Tennessee days. Don’t be shocked if he goes in a different direction here. They’re already paying big money to Jake Long and Roger Saffold.

– I have nine receivers going in the first round. Not a single one is a reach in my opinion. Nine offensive linemen went in the first round last year — this really isn’t any different. It’s a fantastic group of receivers. Simple as that.

– Cody Latimer is this weeks #32. He’s a freakish athlete with basketball skills, he’s a terrific run blocker and he competes for the ball in the air. If you want to take shots downfield he’s got the 4.4 speed to run by defensive backs and the strong hands to win contested passes.

– Any team that gets Brent Urban late in the second round needs to get the champagne out. If the injury issues this off-season lead to a fall, it’ll be a crying shame. A smart team will capitalise.

– Joel Bitonio goes at #17 to Baltimore. He’s a legit top-20 player for me and the Ravens always seem to draft the players I bang on about (Courtney Upshaw, Jimmy Smith, Arthur Brown). Joking aside,  check out this interview with Bitonio for an insight into the man. Athletic bloodlines, incredible combine, excellent tape, flawless character. He’s everything you want in a first round pick. It’ll be nice if he lasts until #32.

– I didn’t deliberately avoid the offensive line for Seattle. What we see here is a very real scenario — a handful of options leave the board before #32 (Bitonio, Moses, Thomas) and the same thing happens at #64 (James, Richardson). You can’t fight the board — and it could mean an OL-heavy end to the draft as Tom Cable goes through his late-round list.

 

Tom Cable works out Antonio Richardson & Ja’Wuan James

April 2nd, 2014 | Written by Rob Staton

It’s not uncommon to see Seattle coaches attending a pro-day.

Today John Schneider, Pete Carroll, Darrell Bevell and Kippy Brown all attended the Washington event. As far as I’m aware, Carroll and Schneider have consistently attended the Huskies pro-day.

But Tom Cable was extremely active in Tennessee’s work out this afternoon, having a good long look at tackle duo Antonio Richardson and Ja’Wuan James.

There’s a difference between mere attendance and helping conduct the work out.

For all we know Cable was invited to run through a session because he’s a respected offensive line coach with a strong reputation. Likewise some people might speculate this is some kind of elaborate smokescreen.

I think the truth is he probably just went to have a closer look at both players. Nothing more, nothing less. No conspiracy theory needed.

Richardson is massive at 6-5 and 336lbs. He has 35 inch arms. At the combine he struggled badly during drills, particularly in the kick slide and mirror. He just looked incredibly sluggish all round and there were also reports of a lingering knee issue.

On the field at Tennessee he was a classic underachiever. Some people suggested he was holding back for the draft. You could definitely make that argument watching him play. His effort was up and down, he didn’t finish blocks and for all his mountainous size — he never made it count.

And yet a coach like Cable probably sees pure potential. If the Seahawks want to win getting off the bus — a lineman with Richardson’s size makes a statement.

He’ll want to know exactly what he can and can’t do. Is there enough evidence to feel like you can mould him into a productive starter? Can you get his fire burning? Or is it just too much work?

Cable, like the rest of Seattle’s staff, is all about development. Richardson has oozed upside throughout his college career — even if he never dominated in the SEC.

James also boasts intriguing size at 6-6, 311lbs and again 35 inch arms. He started at right tackle at Tennessee, with Richardson on the left.

In some ways he had the more impressive college career. He’s more polished and requires less technical improvement. While the upside isn’t anywhere near as high, James is more of a plug-in-and-play prospect. He carries less risk — he’s mature, composed and established. But he has a much lower ceiling overall.

He’s a little bit finesse at times. You’re not talking about a great run blocker — he’s better as a pass protector. He doesn’t bust a gut to get to the second level and his footwork can be sluggish at times.

I’ve seen both players graded anywhere from rounds 2-4. We should expect the Seahawks to take multiple offensive linemen in the draft — even if they go in a different direction at #32.

Here’s some tape vs Alabama from 2013:

 

Draft forecast: Six options for the Seahawks at #32

April 1st, 2014 | Written by Rob Staton

Ryan Shazier -- fits the bill as a developmental coaches dream

Having written a couple of mock drafts where a lot of potential Seahawks are off the board before #32, I wanted to highlight some of the players I think will be options with the last pick in round one.

Pete Carroll is on the record as referring to his coaching staff as “developmental coaches”. They look for unique qualities they can enhance and develop. While a lot of other teams think conventionally, the Seahawks are at least willing to consider high-ceiling, gritty prospects who are far from finished products.

It appears their goal is to look at what a player can become and then help him to get there. Obviously the opportunities are broader when you’ve got a prospect with a much higher upside. The names below aren’t being touted much by the media, but that’s OK.

Some national pundits wants to go with what they understand — because that’s how a lot of the teams operate. They want to be able to judge based on what they can see and assess with some degree of surety. They want to rely on what has worked in the past.

Anything foreign or unconventional sets off an alarm.

I don’t think Seattle looks at it that way. In fact I’m convinced they don’t. They’ll consider all of that. But I also think they look for rare qualities — usually a combination of athleticism, size, speed, explosiveness and competitiveness. At the end of the day, it’s easier to take an insane athlete, identify what his peak potential could be and strive to get there than it is to turn an average prospect into a great player.

The thing is — that average player might save another GM’s job. If he plays to a certain level you probably look OK. You didn’t draft a bust. You’re not being ridiculed for a titanic mistake. You got a fairly decent player. Congrats.

The Seahawks front office aren’t concerned by stuff like that. They’ve been trusted by the owner to shoot for the fences. Carroll repeatedly refers to this being the catalyst for his return to the NFL.

And they’re even less likely to be concerned with a Super Bowl trophy tucked away in the cupboard. You can’t even call this a gamble. A gamble would be drafting a raw prospect and hoping for the best.

That isn’t Seattle.

Seattle = development

I’m not trying to suggest I have all the answers. For all I know the names below aren’t on Seattle’s radar at all.

But I think these players are more likely than a lot of the names you’re seeing posted in the media, so here are six suggestions.

I could’ve listed more. I haven’t included the following players because I expect they’ll be off the board by #32: Kelvin Benjamin (WR, Florida State), Odell Beckham Jr (WR, LSU), Aaron Donald (DT, Pittsburgh), Marqise Lee (WR, USC), Mike Evans (WR, Texas A&M).

Donte Moncrief (WR, Ole Miss)
He’s a supreme athlete with a big frame (6-2, 221lbs). There’s so much to work with and develop here. He’s not just a 4.40 runner with a 39.5 inch vertical — he chews up a cushion quickly, drives off the corner and consistently creates separation. He can get deep and challenge a secondary downfield. When he really wants to block — he’s nasty. The challenge will be to get that motor running consistently, because he can be Jermaine Kearse-good as a blocker when he’s at it. He could easily develop into a genuine #1 and he’s got the skills to work as a better YAC threat than we saw in college. The 2012 tape hints at a fantastic NFL receiver. The 2013 tape is frustrating enough that he could be available at #32. Some of it’s on him, most of it’s on Ole Miss’ bizarre offense.

Areas for concern
He needs to do a better job winning 50/50 throws. This is a big one, especially with Seattle’s penchant for taking shots and asking their receivers to high point the football to make contested catches. He’s more than capable of making the necessary improvements so it’s not like you take him off the board or anything. But there are other receivers who are better at this than Moncrief.

Game tape: Donte Moncrief vs LSU

Joel Bitonio (T, Nevada)
Totally underrated. Bitonio compares favourably to all of the top tackles in this class athletically. His 10-yard split of 1.68 is right up there with Greg Robinson, Jake Matthews and Taylor Lewan. He had the third best short shuttle among offensive linemen. His broad and vertical jumps also rank right at the top of the class. His arms are exactly the same length as 6-7 Lewan’s. On tape he comfortably dealt with UCLA’s Anthony Barr, completely held his own against Florida State and demolished several lesser opponents. I agree with Mike Mayock — let him prove he can’t play left tackle. If teams are foolish enough to let him drop — a franchise that already has a proven blind-side blocker can slot him in at left guard. He’s almost identical to Logan Mankins entering the NFL. Blue-collar attitude, zero sense of entitlement.

Areas for concern
I dunno, maybe you don’t think much of his beard? As someone who’s currently in the process of sporting a beard myself (it’s very fashionable for 2014) I’m not even going to try and write something here for the sake of it. Bitonio is a top-20 talent in my book and would be a steal at #32.

Game tape: Joel Bitonio vs Florida State

Cody Latimer (WR, Indiana)
Not the same kind of fluid athlete as Moncrief, but Latimer’s a devilish competitor. The best run blocking receiver in the class without a doubt. He’ll drive defenders out of the way to create running lanes. When he latches out to a smaller corner, it’s over. It’s not just a nice positive to Latimer’s game, it’s a major plus point. You can rely on this guy to put his heart and soul into the ugly side of the game — and that could be huge for a team that loves to run the ball. He benched 23 reps — more than any other wide out at the combine. Then you throw in the way he contests the ball in the air, a 39 inch vertical, incredibly strong hands and 4.4 speed. He’s a wildcard to watch out for at #32. He’s a fighter who can handle physical corners and make explosive plays, plus a reliable target.

Areas for concern
He’s a straight-line runner. He doesn’t eliminate the cushion like Moncrief or Martavis Bryant and a lot of his catches are contested because he fails to create the same level of separation. Latimer can move, but he’s stiff. He’s probably going to be an up-and-down type and the dilemma will be if he can’t win the same 50/50 battles against pro-defensive backs, there’s not much more to his game. But he’s also a reliable and competitive target who makes more than enough ‘wow’ plays to make up for it.

Game tape: Cody Latimer vs Penn State

Ryan Shazier (LB, Ohio State)
Shazier didn’t run at the combine, but he clocked an unofficial 4.36 at his pro-day. Put that alongside a 42 inch vertical and a ridiculous 10.10 broad jump. That’s the definition of explosive. He needs protecting because he has a tendency to get caught in traffic and get washed out of plays. But as a possible WILL in Seattle’s scheme he could become an extreme playmaker — competing in space and just reacting to the football. He’s a four-down player who also carries special teams value and he’s considered by most observers to be a highly competitive player. You can see that in his tackling — he uncoils on contact and sets the tone. He has the range to work in coverage and the untapped potential to be an effective pass rusher.

Areas for concern
How badly does Seattle really need a first round linebacker? Yes, Malcolm Smith and K.J. Wright are free agents next year. But there’s every chance one or both players are re-signed and we’re talking about a seventh and fourth rounder here. What’s stopping Seattle finding mid-to-late round replacements (if necessary) in either the 2014 or 2015 draft? This might be a bit of a luxury pick all things considered, if indeed Shazier did manage to last until #32.

Game tape: Ryan Shazier vs Clemson

Martavis Bryant (WR, Clemson)
The best word to describe Bryant is ‘dynamic’. Speed kills with this guy — he consistently creates separation with solid technique. All Clemson receivers are well coached. Bryant’s head movement and body shape sells the deep route. When he gets the corner turned, he’ll stick his foot in the ground and break off to get open. Tajh Boyd’s inept accuracy wasted many of these moves in 2013, but the sky’s the limit for Bryant if he lands on a team with a good quarterback. He has the potential to glide past cornerbacks, compete for the ball in the air and do a decent job as a blocker. He’s an explosive athlete with major upside. There’s a little Randy Moss to his game.

Areas for concern
Bryant was left out of the 2012 Chick-Fil-A Bowl and told to stay at home by Dabo Sweeney. Faced with the prospect of wasting his career — and with a young child to provide for — the light finally switched on. He knuckled down, started to attend class and finally had an impact. If he continues to work at his craft and be dedicated to football, he can be a fantastic player. But you better do your homework to see if this was a one-year effort with so much on the line.

Game Tape: Martavis Bryant vs Georgia Tech

Brandon Coleman (WR, Rutgers)
It’s impossible to discuss Coleman without first highlighting how miserable the Rutgers passing game has been since Tom Savage opted to transfer. I’m not sure any receiver could sufficiently develop in that system. It’s not an excuse, but it goes some way to describing Coleman’s strangely inconsistent numbers in college. Really it comes down to this — if you’re willing to invest the time and effort to develop this guy, you could end up looking very smart down the line. There just aren’t many 6-6/225lbs humans on the planet who can do what Coleman does (eg run away from defenders for 80-yard touchdowns). Technically he needs work, but he’s big, strong (21 reps), fast (4.56) and possesses a massive catching radius (34 inch arms). He’s a big-time red zone threat who can make chunk plays. He had 10 touchdowns in 2012.

Areas for concern
Technically he requires a lot of work. He has shown the ability to high point the football and make difficult grabs, but he’s also got a lot of mistakes on film. How much of that is down to playing with Gary Nova — and how much is on Coleman? Patience will be key here. If you’re willing to accept you’re not going to get the finished product in year one, you could end up with a Josh Gordon style break out season in year two.

Game tape: Brandon Coleman vs Louisville, Virginia Tech & Cincinnati