Tuesday notes: trio visit Seattle, thoughts on Billy Turner

April 15th, 2014 | Written by Rob Staton

Cody Latimer visited Seattle today and Tweeted this picture...

Trio visit Seattle

The Seahawks have at least three players visiting their facility today — UCLA linebacker Jordan Zumwalt, Indiana receiver Cody Latimer and Canadian offensive lineman Laurent Duvernay-Tardif.

The most high profile of the three is, of course, Latimer. He caused a stir with an impressive pro day — registering a forty yard dash in the 4.39-4.43 range and recording a 39 inch vertical. He’s since started to appear in multiple first round mock drafts.

Latimer’s virtually taking a tour of the NFL before next months draft — visiting with a whole host of teams. He didn’t do any drills at the combine or his pro day due to a foot injury. This is the first chance anyone gets to really test him.

Although how much of a challenge running routes in shorts will be for such a talented athlete is open to interpretation. Here’s the bottom line with Latimer — he run blocks better than any other receiver in the class, he has incredibly strong and reliable hands and he’s a freakish ‘basketball player’ athlete.

On tape he does it all — drives defenders off the ball in the run game, high points the football, makes spectacular grabs, runs downfield and takes the top off a defense. He even has some special teams involvement — although funnily enough I think he can show a little more intensity in that area given the way he plays on offense.

If he doesn’t go in the first round, I think it’ll be an upset. There’s simply too much upside on offer. He’d be a terrific pick for Seattle at #32.

Zumwalt really made an impression at the Senior Bowl. Here’s Tony Pauline’s three-day assesment of his performance in Mobile:

Day One: Had several nice plays throughout the day. Stomped on a tight end during blocking drills then showed a lot of discipline throughout the rest of the day.

Day Two: Had a “WOW” sort of day. Dominant during blitz drills, showed a lot of skill in pursuit and held his own in coverage. Just a lot to like about his game.

Day Three: Not as effective as yesterday yet played well in all areas. Leaves Senior Bowl practice as a winner.

When I spent a bit of time during the 2013 season watching UCLA to monitor Anthony Barr’s progress — I kept being drawn to Zumwalt. I’m not sure he’s the type of player who will ever develop into a bona fide starter in the NFL — but he’ll be a special teams demon. And hey, I wouldn’t rule out a starting role one day. If it doesn’t happen, it won’t be due to a lack of effort or intensity.

We all know Seattle wants competitive, fiery individuals. That’s Zumwalt. He puts his body on line time and time again. He seems like the type of guy who’s up for any challenge — a dependable tone-setter.

According to Scott Enyeart, he’s also a player Seattle knows all about:

He’s one to keep an eye on in the later rounds or even UDFA. Enyeart also points out he had some injury/concussion issues at UCLA and that could hamper his stock.

And then there’s Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, or ‘LDT’ as the draft community has started to call him. Unsurprisingly there’s not a great deal of McGill University tape available on the internet, but I did manage to find some footage from his pro day:

He’s a medical student from Canada who practised once a week with his team in college. So you’re talking about a guy who’s raw and relatively new to the game. He ran a 4.94-5.08 forty at his pro day, had a 32 inch vertical, a 9.5 in the broad jump and managed 34 reps on the bench press. He’s 6-5 and 320lbs. He also ran a 7.3 three cone and a 4.59 in the short shuttle. Those are all impressive numbers.

Some scouts are grading him in the third or fourth round. Nolan Nawrocki highlights LDT’s, “Stout anchor in pass protection. Violent shock in his punch. Plays with a nasty temperament and seeks to bury defenders into the ground. Aggressive run blocker — runs his feet on contact and plays beyond the whistle.”

Nawrocki also says he can learn to take better angles in pass protection and improve his recovery speed. Clearly there’s something to work with here — but where do you take the guy with so little football experience? Out of all of today’s three visits — LDT’s might be the most important.

One note of caution — according to ESPN he only has 33 inch arms. His body type is that of a guard. That might be his best position at the next level.

Notes on Billy Turner

Today was the first chance I’ve had to watch Turner. I only watched one game (vs Kansas State) but wanted to put a few initial thoughts out there.

Right off the bat you can can tell he’s a strong, combative run blocker. There were several occasions where he drove his man downfield while the rest of the line stalled. When you’re watching a small school prospect you want to see flashes of quality where they just stand out. Turner on numerous occasions looked to be playing at a different level to the rest of his line. That’s to be expected if he’s going to play in the NFL.

I was actually surprised that he only managed 25 reps on the bench press at the combine — because he looks very powerful on tape. Particularly with his initial punch. Maybe it’s a work-out thing coming from a small school? Either way, when I went back to the combine notes I expected to see an extra ten reps.

He has the kind of attitude you want to see (plays to the whistle, drives into the second level, always looking for someone to block). He’s a level headed, well spoken individual.

However, I also saw some key issues that I think will limit his stock.

When I started to write about Joel Bitonio and the Seahawks — people asked what was the difference between Bitonio and Turner. On this evidence, quite a lot. As a pass protector Turner’s technique leaves a lot to be desired. His footwork is all over the place and his kick slide looks clumsy and sluggish. His pad level is inconsistent and too often he overextends and bends at the waist.

He wasn’t exposed against a very average looking Kansas State pass rush. But I’m concerned at the next level he’s going to really struggle against even solid speed rushers. Anyone with a nice get off and a counter will cause him problems.

Bitonio is such a smooth operator in comparison. He glides into pass pro, makes blocking the edge look comfortable and he’s shown genuine ability to shut down leading college edge rushers such as Anthony Barr and the Florida State defensive line. Technically he’s very sound and it compliments the rare athletic potential he showed at the combine.

Often when he comes up against speed he has the ability to just guide the DE/LB out of the play. When he faces a dip inside or counter he can handle it. He doesn’t struggle against the bull rush. Turner isn’t going to be able to set the edge moving like he does in the Kansas State tape. In fact he’s going to watch people run past him, straight into the quarterback.

Comparisons have been made athletically between the two players, but Bitonio had a better broad jump, 10-yard split, forty time and vertical at the combine. Turner had far from a poor work out in Indianapolis — but Bitonio had an explosive performance. So he’s a superior athlete with less of a learning curve from a technique point of view. That’s why, in my eyes, he’ll be a first round pick and Turner won’t be anywhere near that type of grade.

Both players ultimately might end up at guard. And both could end up being very accomplished players at that position. Turner’s footwork will be less of an issue inside and he has the potential to develop into a very good run blocking interior lineman. As long as he isn’t trying to set the edge, he can prosper.

Out of the two — Bitonio has the greater potential to have a shot at playing right tackle and he could act as a backup left tackle. For me, Turner’s a pure guard.

I’ll go back to Pauline’s Senior Bowl notes. This is what he had to say about Turner’s week in Mobile:

Day One: Struggled and had coaches screaming at him. Lined up at right tackle but never seemed to get his feet underneath him. Lacked balance, footwork and not a good start to the week.

Day Two: Not a good day for Turner. Lined up at right tackle and was torched throughout the practice. Consistently beaten like a drum.

Day Three: Played a lot of guard. Was slightly better but in the end did nothing to improve his draft stock. Tough three days for Turner.

Here’s the Kansas State tape. Take a look for yourself and see what you think:

Tomorrow I’ll have a new mock draft on the blog. 23 days to go.

 

Do the Seahawks draft better when they aren’t forcing it?

April 14th, 2014 | Written by Rob Staton

Pete Carroll and John Schneider built a Championship roster in four years

I don’t like using the word ‘reach’. It suggests clumsiness. The reality is all teams ‘reach’. It shouldn’t be considered such a tragic negative.

You’ll hear a GM mention ‘best player available’ during an interview, but every team has goals and aims going into a draft.

The first round is a mix of value and reach. Some teams aggressively pursue needs. That in turn creates value for other clubs.

The 2013 class is a good example of this.

The New York Jets didn’t need Sheldon Richardson. They had a solid defensive line and had recently invested first round picks in Quinton Coples and Muhammad Wilkerson. Richardson wasn’t even an obvious scheme fit as an orthodox looking three technique for a 4-3.

Yet they took him. Why? The value was unbelievable. Arguably the best player in the draft was sitting right there at #13.

Compare this to some of the other picks we saw in round one. Buffalo drafted E.J. Manuel after trading down — having already made their mind up to take a quarterback. The Falcons needed to bolster a weak secondary — and crept up to select Desmond Trufant. The Cowboys, after aggressively moving down to #31, selected center Travis Frederick to fill a vital need.

All of these moves were premeditated. All of these teams knew with a degree of certainty what they were going to do.

They had needs to fill.

If anyone thinks the Seahawks haven’t used this tactic too — they’re mistaken.

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

2010 was probably a fun draft for Seattle’s front office. They could pretty much do anything. The roster was a shambles.

Even then they had a very good idea about what they wanted to do in the first round. It’s my understanding at one point in the process they believed there was a chance they could select Eric Berry at #6 and Trent Williams at #14. Williams rose considerably after a fantastic combine and quickly established himself as the top tackle in the class — ending those hopes.

But a tackle/safety combo was the preference if it was possible. It couldn’t have worked out much better for Seattle, with Russell Okung available at #6 and Earl Thomas somehow getting to #14. They got the two key building blocks they wanted in round one.

The rest of the draft seemed to be about value. They had a first round grade on Golden Tate so took him in the late second. Walter Thurmond also received a strong grade and only fell due to injury concerns. They took a low-risk gamble in round four. Kam Chancellor was a raw safety in a linebacker’s body — 5th round. And Pete Carroll picked up Anthony McCoy — a faller due to off-field concerns — in the 6th.

The Seahawks were picking off value and ended up with four contributing players beyond the first round — including two key factors in the Super Bowl run (Tate & Chancellor).

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

This apparent tactic of filling needs early and then hunting for value continued in the next two classes, with different results.

In his end of season press conference after the 2010 season, Pete Carroll discussed his unproductive run game. That was going to be Seattle’s identity — and yet they were among the worst in the league at running the football.

They’d brought in Marshawn Lynch and needed to establish a run/power approach on offense. So they went out to draft a really good run blocking offensive lineman. James Carpenter was the left tackle at Alabama as Mark Ingram won a Heisman. He was a road grader — a man mountain who could move people out of the way to create running lanes.

This was filling a need. And at the time — this was the priority. Forget any other position. This is what they had to do — get the running game going.

In hindsight it was no surprise they went after a similar player in round three (after trading down) in John Moffitt. Wisconsin always run the ball well and they clearly hoped Carpenter and Moffitt could combine on the right side to significantly improve the blocking. Robert Gallery was also signed in free agency to play left guard.

This was an aggressive, premeditated ambition of the Seahawks. Not a case of sitting around waiting for the draft to come to them. I liked Carpenter enough to mock him to Philadelphia at #23 in my final 2011 mock draft — so Seattle drafting him at #25 didn’t shock me personally. But were there better players available at other positions?

Sure.

As much as I liked Carpenter, I liked Jimmy Smith (a cornerback from Colorado) even more. Jabaal Sheard looked like an ideal LEO and Colin Kaepernick (yep) was my final mock pick at #25 for the Seahawks.

All three looked like better players — that’s my read on the situation. All would’ve filled needs at the time. But not Carroll’s biggest need.

As we know now the decision to draft Carpenter hasn’t completely paid off. He’s been injured, he’s had to switch positions and his play has been inconsistent. He’s had some extremely sloppy games and was benched for the playoff game against New Orleans. Yet he’s also had consistent success against Justin Smith — one of the top defensive linemen in the NFC.

He faces a potential make or break year in Seattle. Either way he didn’t do what was intended — lock down the right tackle position and become a great run blocker.

When the Seahawks reverted back to value in the later rounds, they once again started to collect starters. K.J. Wright was a steal in round four. The word ‘steal’ doesn’t come close to sufficiently describing the addition of elite cornerback Richard Sherman in round five. Byron Maxwell was a sixth round pick and now starts opposite Sherman, while Malcolm Smith — the Super Bowl MVP — was a seventh round pick.

All of these players filled holes, but all were taken in spots that matched a specific grade. Good scouting, preparation and development turned them into winners. Nothing was forced. For example, had K.J. Wright been drafted before Seattle’s pick in round four would they definitely take another linebacker?

I’m pretty confident Carpenter was one of maybe 4-5 tackles they would’ve taken in round one — ticking them off as they left the board. They knew they’d get one.

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

Fast forward to 2012 and another post-season press conference. Carroll is now name-checking speed in the front seven as the priority. So that’s what they go after.

I understand a pass rusher was always the intention in round one and I sense the Seahawks — with Carroll’s ties to Bruce Irvin — always knew what they were going to do. There’s been talk of interest in Mark Barron and Luke Kuechly — but teams know how a draft will likely play out in the first 10-15 picks long before the first pick. They’ll have known neither player was going to fall to them, making (I suspect) the Irvin pick all the more predictable in the front office.

We’ll never know whether interest in Irvin elsewhere was legit. The Seahawks claimed afterwards that other teams would’ve drafted Irvin in round one right after them. The Jets were revealed as a possibility — a rumour they later denied. It was called a ‘reach’ given Irvin’s main role as a third down specialist for West Virginia. Yet he filled the crucial need Seattle identified. That’s why they drafted him — not necessarily because they thought he was the absolutely best player available at the time.

The stars aligned to add more speed in the front seven in round two. Bobby Wagner — a player many mocked to the late first round (including ourselves) lasted until #47. Great value — and while they probably intended to draft a linebacker here, I doubt they would’ve forced it had Wagner and Lavonte David both been off the board.

After that they got Russell Wilson in round three, a pick that kind of worked out I guess. In all seriousness that was a classic example of patience and preparation. Seattle believed they could wait to get him — to hunt for the value. Waiting on Wilson shows they weren’t forcing anything later on. They were willing to miss out on him altogether to make sure they got the right value. Wagner and possibly missing out on Wilson was considered superior to Wilson and definitely no Wagner.

Robert Turbin filled a hole in round four — they needed a backup to support Lynch. Then more value — Jeremy Lane in round six, J.R. Sweezy and Gregg Scruggs in round seven are the best examples.

Once again when the Seahawks were letting the board come to them and searching for value — the results were very positive. Although as with Carpenter — Irvin so far as the early pick hasn’t delivered as expected. He went from “the ideal LEO” (in Carroll’s words) to a project linebacker in the space of a year. Now he’s on Twitter pining for a return to defensive end, while Dan Quinn says in an interview he’s staying put. Who knows what the future holds there.

It just occurs to me that it might not be a coincidence why Seattle has had more success in the later rounds. They’ve found a franchise quarterback, a lockdown corner, the best strong safety in football and some other pieces in rounds 3-7. Their two first round picks since 2011 haven’t prospered as hoped (although nobody’s writing them off just yet).

And sure — they haven’t hit on every mid or later round pick. But you’re picking from a much smaller talent pool compared to the first round. You’re not going to nail every choice.

(NOTE: I’ve not included the 2013 class here because it’s still too early to judge — and most players were redshirted anyway.)

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The point of this piece isn’t to say the Seahawks should just go BPA at #32 next month and they’ll get another elite talent. That’s too simplistic.

But it’s perhaps a cautionary note that while we as fans pine for that offensive lineman or big receiver — trying aggressively to fill needs early doesn’t always pan out for the best.

So maybe if a player at a different, lesser need position falls — Seattle should consider it instead of simply drafting the next best OT or WR?

After all — the Seahawks aren’t trying to build a Championship roster any more. They’re trying to maintain one. They have less needs than most. And as we’ve seen this off-season — a certain degree of planning is required to anticipate needs in future years, not just now.

They lost Golden Tate in March. They’ll lose other guys too.

Perhaps you do run the risk of missing out altogether on addressing vital needs? But isn’t that just an opportunity for the Michael Bowie’s, Alvin Bailey’s or whoever else to step up?

While I still think it’s likely they go OT or WR at #32 and possibly #64 too — it doesn’t mean they need to feel backed into a corner either. And with a longer list of prospective free agents in 2015 and 2016 — some forward planning could be crucial.

 

Ryan Shazier is a Seahawks wildcard

April 12th, 2014 | Written by Rob Staton

I’m working away this weekend but I wanted to get this tape out there anyway as part of a quick blog post.

This is Ryan Shazier versus Indiana. And I think this will allay some of the fears people have about his ability to be an impact player at the next level.

His official stat line for the game is: 19 tackles, five tackles for a loss and a sack. In his own words, “I just had a monster game. It was just ridiculous.”

Just watch this video. Watch it. Tell me you’re not impressed when you put it next to the tape above. Go on. I dare you. Resist being impressed.

For me he’s a rare player. 4.38 speed, a 42 inch vertical — and yet he hits like a ton of bricks. He’ll move sideline-to-sideline, he can drop into coverage and he can blitz. He was the heart and soul of the Ohio State defense last year — the ultimate tone setter.

I’d take him in the top-20. A team like St. Louis at #13 could easily take him — as could Arizona at #20.

The performance vs Indiana vindicates that type of grade in my opinion.

Yes he’ll need protecting by scheme. His best fit at the next level is probably the WILL. Let him play in space. Use his range. Limit the one true negative in his game (getting off blocks) and pump up the athletic qualities.

I can’t see him making it to #32 — but I’d have no problem drafting him in that spot. You can’t have enough players like this. And while a linebacker in round one isn’t a pressing need for the Seahawks unless K.J. Wright and Malcolm Smith both walk in free agency next year — a trio of Wright, Bobby Wagner and Shazier would have the makings of a legendary group.

Shazier actually name-checked Wagner as a player he admires. They share similar tendencies. Putting the three of them on the field would be an antidote to Colin Kaepernick running all over Seattle as he did in the first half of the NFC Championship game.

I still think we’re looking at a receiver or an offensive lineman at #32 — but I’m not ruling out a possible wildcard like this.

Shazier’s a rare talent — and if he makes it to #32 — there’d have to be an exceptional wideout or tackle available to stop me pulling the trigger.

 

Friday draft notes: DGB, QB’s, trades and Cassius Marsh

April 11th, 2014 | Written by Rob Staton

Green-Beckham is a superb athlete. He’s 6-6 and 225lbs, won state high school championships in the 100 meters and the triple jump and he was one of the top recruits in the country when he committed to Missouri.

Even in a losing effort he looked like the best player on the field in the SEC Championship game last season. He was a first round pick before he played even a snap of college football.

And now? Who knows.

He’s had several issues during his time at Missouri, but this latest one — detailed by ESPN’s Edward Aschoff — appears to be the straw that broke the camels back:

Green-Beckham was the subject of an investigation by Columbia, Mo., police this week after an 18-year-old Missouri student said the receiver forced open her apartment door at 2:30 a.m. Sunday while trying to see his girlfriend, a friend of the alleged victim.

The woman said Green-Beckham pushed her down at least four stairs.

Another roommate told police the 6-foot-6, 225-pound athlete pushed the first woman with two hands to the chest. Later that night, the two told a detective they didn’t want to press charges, and police closed the case Thursday without an arrest.

Green-Beckham has two prior marijuana-related arrests. In January, Green-Beckham and two other men were arrested after Springfield, Mo., police found a pound of marijuana in their car. No charges were filed in that case.

In October 2012, Green-Beckham, then a freshman, was charged with marijuana possession in Columbia and later pleaded guilty to second-degree trespassing after he and two teammates were reportedly smoking marijuana in a campus parking lot. Green-Beckham was suspended for one game after that arrest.

Gary Pinkel, Missouri’s Head Coach, says “Dorial’s priority going forward needs to be focusing on getting the help he needs.”

I suspect he’ll join up with a smaller school and play football next year — in an attempt to prove to NFL teams he’s a ‘changed man’. Several players have gone down this road. None have been able to maintain their lofty position as a high pick.

It’s particularly frustrating when it’s a player as good as Green-Beckham. He had all the tools to be an elite NFL receiver. What a complete waste of talent to get involved in issues such as this.

He’s also made sure fans of every NFL team in the world will spend the entire draft process next year asking whether their team will be the one “to give him a chance.”

Because that type of conversation never gets boring.

Carr rising, Bridgewater falling?

Chris Mortensen is reporting good news for Derek Carr, but not so good news for Teddy Bridgewater:

This follows a trend that has lasted for a few weeks now.

It shouldn’t really surprise anyone.

Bridgewater’s a pretty good quarterback. Is he special? Is he even going to be ‘pretty good’ in the NFL? I can’t answer that. And neither can I get excited about him leading my franchise if I’m a team needing a QB.

That’s not to say I’d be one of the teams potentially drafting Derek Carr instead between picks 8-20. I wouldn’t do that. I’d rather wait and take my chances on developing Tom Savage or Logan Thomas in a later round (if I was the GM of a patient team, of course).

But Carr has the arm. Teams who want to run a conventional high percentage passing game will feel he’s a good fit. Minnesota with Norv Turner, Arizona with Bruce Arians. Carr is much more suited to that type of offense. And they’re two of the teams in that 8-20 range that theoretically will look for a quarterback.

I’ve long thought Bridgewater was a more accomplished version of Andy Dalton — who went in the early second round. He’s in that mould of pretty good technical passer who will probably make mistakes at the next level while also winning you football games. That type of player is always seen as better value in round two — for whatever reason.

And hey — there are probably teams in 2011 who wished they’d drafted Dalton in round one despite his flaws. There will be teams who end up feeling that way about Bridgewater if he drops into round two.

But I get why it might happen. I get why Carr could be drafted first.

Personally I wouldn’t be rushing to the podium to get either player.

Maybe a team like Cleveland jumps up to go after Carr? They’ve reportedly got a lot of interest there.

And maybe, as we’ll go into in a moment, we’ll end up seeing more trades in round one than we ever anticipated?

Teams covet Mike Evans

According to Tony Pauline, the team who takes receiver Mike Evans will likely be trading up to get him:

Based on conversations its my educated “guess” the team who selects Evans will make a trade to acquire his services.

Right now it looks like three teams are the frontrunners to make some sort of move for Evans. If the St Louis Rams trade out of the second spot, and they will make every effort to do as much, Evans would be a target assuming they stay in the top ten.

Two teams selecting in the middle of the first frame who are very high on Evans and would consider trading up to grab him are the Philadelphia Eagles and Baltimore Ravens.

Pauline also reports several teams have Zach Martin graded higher than Taylor Lewan

On the trade talk — it’s interesting how many potential deals are currently being discussed. Here’s a breakdown of all the rumours doing the rounds:

– The Texans and Rams both want to trade down from #1 and #2

– The Jacksonville Jaguars are also showing interest in trading down from #3

– The Detroit Lions might be prepared to trade up for Sammy Watkins

– The Falcons are interested in moving up

– Philadelphia and Baltimore might be willing to trade up for Mike Evans

For me Watkins and Evans are about as safer picks as you can get in this class — particularly if you have a quarterback like Matt Stafford or an offense like Philadelphia’s.

It makes a lot of sense to move up and target them, even in a deep draft. Teams have to be prepared to be pro-active. This great class isn’t just about depth — it’s about top tier talent.

The worst value in this draft might come in the 13-23 range in the first round. You miss out on the top 10-12 prospects, and players who would be considered great value at 25-32 might not look quite so attractive to a team like Baltimore at #17.

We might end up seeing a perfect storm for movement — with rebuilding teams like the Jaguars collecting picks and sides like the Ravens going for a big-time addition.

Either way, don’t rule out the possibility of several moves within the first round. It could happen.

Seahawks meet with UCLA prospect

Marsh is 6-4 and 252lbs — he ran a 4.89 at the combine but managed a 1.66 10-yard split. He had a 32-inch vertical.

Here’s some 2013 tape vs New Mexico State:

 

Looking at Seattle’s options using Todd McShay’s mock

April 10th, 2014 | Written by Rob Staton

This screen grab has to be top five on the errr... screen grab big board

The thing about a mock draft is, it’s dominated by your own opinions and grades.

According to the Huddle Report rankings for 2013 — the #1 placed mock had 12 correct matches (team & player) and guessed 26 of the 32 players drafted in round one.

So really any mock is lucky to hit on 8-10 matches come draft day.

And that means when I put together my weekly projections, I might be taking players off the board that could be available at #32.

For that reason I wanted to look at Todd McShay’s latest mock for ESPN and see who was left at the end of round one.

You’ll need an Insider account to see the full two rounds, but here’s a list of some of the players who were gone by #32:

Morgan Moses (T, Virginia) — drafted by Miami at #19
Odell Beckham Jr (WR, LSU) — drafted by Green Bay at #21
Cody Latimer (WR, Indiana) — drafted by Kansas City at #23
Kelvin Benjamin (WR, Florida State) — drafted by Cleveland at #26
Joel Bitonio (T, Nevada) — drafted by Carolina at #28
Ra’Shede Hageman (DT, Minnesota) — drafted by Denver at #31

McShay had the Seahawks taking Xavier Su’a-Filo (G, UCLA) at #32. It’s a popular pick among national pundits but one I’m pretty sceptical about.

I highly doubt the Seahawks will take a pure guard in round one. Right tackle is a much greater need and any player drafted that early is going to need to be versatile enough to play multiple spots. Su’a-Filo played some tackle in college but projects as a pure guard in the NFL.

But more than anything I just think his tape is really hit and miss. Against Stanford — a game Daniel Jeremiah talked up on the NFL Network this week — I thought he got shoved around and actually looked a bit of a liability at times.

I don’t expect the Seahawks or anyone else to draft Su’a-Filo in round one. So who else might they target if McShay’s projection is fairly accurate from picks 1-31?

Here’s some of the other players who were still on the board that I included in my first round mock draft yesterday:

Ryan Shazier (LB, Ohio State)
McShay has Shazier leaving the board at #43 to the New York Giants
For me there are two issues with Shazier amid a ton of positives. Firstly, he’s not the biggest. He weighed 237lbs at the combine and looked in the best shape of his life at the Ohio State pro day. Yet on the field it looks like he played at a lighter weight (possibly in the late 220′s). Keeping the weight on during training camp and a long season might be a struggle for Shazier, and it could limit his role at the next level. He isn’t going to be playing middle linebacker in the 3-4 at the size he played in college.

The second issue is somewhat linked — his ability to get off a block and avoid traffic. Consistently on tape he gets swallowed up by blocks — it happens time and time again and becomes quite frustrating. It takes away his range and effectiveness. Any team that drafts him needs to protect him via scheme. The Seahawks would be a great fit, using him at the WILL and allowing him to roam the field and make plays in space.

On the plus side he’s a tenacious player who flies to the ball carrier, hits like a ton of bricks, he’s an effective blitzer and he’ll be a dynamo in coverage. Shazier’s a tone setter on defense and in the right scheme he’ll be a playmaker who forces turnovers.

Linebacker isn’t a massive need but with K.J. Wright and Malcolm Smith both free agents next year and Bruce Irvin potentially returning to the LEO — Shazier’s 4.3 speed and 42 inch vertical screams ‘Seahawks’. It’s just whether they feel the value’s there with a first round pick. Do they need to draft a linebacker that high?

Anthony Barr (DE, UCLA)
McShay has Barr leaving the board at #36 to Oakland
It wouldn’t be a shock if Barr dropped into round two. Despite a lot of generous talk during the college season — he’s ‘steak tartare’ as a pass rusher. He’s still learning his craft and developing the necessary skills to be an effective defensive end or outside linebacker. He has no counter move or upper body technique. He doesn’t use his hands effectively at all. There’s a degree of ‘hit and hope’ to his tape where he tries to win with athleticism and if it doesn’t work — well it doesn’t work.

Nobody would really mind any of this if he flashed special athletic qualities and the potential to be great. Yet at the combine he ran a 4.66, had a decent but not sparkling 34.5 inch vertical and a 9.11 broad jump. None of those numbers stand out. He’s essentially a decent project who might need a redshirt year.

First of all he has to get stronger. He needs to be able to win a hands battle and get off a block. He must develop a bull rush. At the very least he needs some counter moves — he can’t just wing it off the edge.

I’m not sure the Seahawks would be all that interested in adding another developmental pass rusher. They’d have to really buy into the 4.44 Jim Mora ‘reported’ from the UCLA pro day. Without that 4.4 speed he’s probably not even really considered at #32. With it, he becomes a lot more intriguing. But I suspect the Seahawks might be turned off by the lack of gritty competitive spirit to win 1v1 or the dynamic speed to be a constant headache even as a rookie.

Martavis Bryant (WR, Clemson) & Donte Moncrief (WR, Ole Miss)
McShay has Bryant leaving the board at #63 to Denver, Moncrief isn’t listed in rounds one or two
There’s every chance McShay hasn’t really delved into the tape on these two players yet. In this new projection he admits on Cody Latimer, “(I) was blown away by his game when I finally got to study his tape recently.” Latimer immediately leapt into the first round at #23. If McShay is yet to really get into the Bryant and Moncrief games, they too could be set for a big rise.

Personally I think both players are destined to be, at worst, early second round picks. There’s just too much potential. Moncrief suffered badly in a bizarrely structured Rebels offense that tries to do a bit of everything and just lacks any type of cohesion. The quarterback Bo Wallace has never really recovered from shoulder surgery and is highly inaccurate. He also wasn’t helped by being constantly spelled by a read option replacement.

Yet you still see real flashes of upside in Moncrief. He chews up a cushion better than most receivers in this class, shows a terrific break on the football and he can really fly for a +220lbs receiver (4.40). He also has an impressive vertical (39.5 inches). There are no character concerns and he’s also shown a willingness to get involved as a blocker. There’s a lot to work with here and definite #1 potential.

That’s not to say he can’t improve. He needs to do show stronger hands in certain situations and the quality of his blocking is often dictated by whether he’s simply in the mood.

Bryant had a wake-up call to end the 2012 season after he was left at home for the Chick-fil-A Bowl against LSU. He has a young daughter and had an epiphany moment while watching the game on TV. He knew he was wasting an opportunity to provide for his family and made a point of re-focusing, going to class and working on his craft. The results were impressive and he had a big impact in 2013 as Nuke Hopkins’ replacement.

At times he looked like a Diet Randy Moss. He’s 6-4, 211lbs and runs a 4.42. He’s a dynamic downfield target who can run away from defenders. He too eats up a cushion quickly and breaks on the ball with vigour. All Clemson wide outs are well coached — and you see that in the way he sells a deep route and cracks back to the quarterback for a little inside break. It’s only when you really study the tape that you realise how inaccurate and sloppy Tajh Boyd is. Bryant suffered at the hands of his QB on several occasions.

The big question with Bryant is whether he’ll continue to work when the pay cheques start coming in or whether he’ll simmer down having accomplished his mission of supporting his daughter. If you can keep the fire burning — watch out. He could be special.

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

Apart from these four, the only other players I had in my mock yesterday that McShay didn’t include in the first round are Derek Carr (QB, Fresno State) and Chris Borland (LB, Wisconsin). So there are some similarities.

And it goes to show there will be a nice option for the Seahawks at #32. It just might not be a player many expect — such as a Shazier for example. In fact using McShay’s mock you could come out of the draft with Shazier and Moncrief as your first two picks.

That’d be a pretty explosive double dip for the Seahawks. Presumably they’d spend the rest of the draft digging for offensive line depth (plus the annual cornerback pick in round five or six).

Even the biggest proponent of offensive line investment would probably struggle to complain if Seattle brings in Shazier and Moncrief with their first two picks.

 

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.