Seahawks trade for left tackle Duane Brown

October 30th, 2017 | Written by Rob Staton

Let it never be said that the Seahawks left anything to chance during this Championship window.

This is their fourth big trade since 2013 and second during the 2017 season alone. The Seahawks want to win the Super Bowl. And they’re going to do as much as they can to make it happen.

The price is quite steep but Seattle, once again, found itself in a sellers market. The Seahawks have traded both their 2018 and 2019 second round picks for Sheldon Richardson and Duane Brown. That tells you everything you need to know about Seattle’s urgency to add another title.

This is an important move for a couple of reasons. Firstly, there isn’t a left tackle answer forthcoming in the 2018 draft. With five wins already and the Seahawks well placed to make a run, they’re unlikely to be picking in the top ten. Notre Dame’s Mike McGlinchey is playing well enough to go early, Trey Adams’ knee injury means he’s reportedly staying with Washington next year and Texas’ Connor Williams is talented but raw and currently injured.

So this trade works in two ways. It provides an immediate answer at left tackle and buys the Seahawks some time.

They won’t need to dig through a bad looking free agent group at offensive tackle. They won’t need to be aggressive in the draft or pick at the O-line scraps in the first round.

These were basically the options available to solve this problem:

— Trade up in the 2018 first round (hard to do without a second round pick)
— Sign one of the ‘top’ free agents (Nate Solder was the only mildly appealing name)
— Hope Fant recovers in time for the 2018 season
— Try to make a trade now that helps both immediately and for at least next season

With so few good left tackles actually playing in the league, Seattle managed to acquire one. Which is no mean feat.

It’s an immediate upgrade at a vital position, filling one of the teams’ biggest voids and finally putting to bed the constant talk of improving the position.

Brown is 32 so he isn’t likely to be a long term solution. That could be Fant. Indeed this trade also allows Fant to recover properly and in good time. Brown isn’t a bad mentor either.

People have often complained about Seattle’s unwillingness to pay attention to the offensive line. They’ve answered that call. Now they have, potentially, at least three positions solidly filled with Brown, Justin Britt and Germain Ifedi. Luke Joeckel has shown enough promise to consider a possible long term fixture (health permitting) at left guard. Ethan Pocic could fill the right guard slot in the future. That’s a strong looking quintet for this year and potentially beyond.

If you missed it earlier, I also posted some further notes on yesterday’s win.

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Further thoughts on the Texans win

October 30th, 2017 | Written by Rob Staton

So far, this season is actually pretty similar to 2013. Here are the comparisons:

— The Seahawks won a classic vs Houston that included a come-from-behind victory inspired by Russell Wilson, a pick-six and interceptions by Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman

— The Seahawks beat the Giants in New York

— Seattle won their home opener against San Francisco despite a rough first half offensively

— They beat the Rams on the road thanks to a late red zone stop

— They botched a winnable road game against an AFC South opponent

There are other similarities too:

— Not running the ball well? In 2013 the Seahawks had to abandon the run against the Rams with Marshawn Lynch recording 23 yards on eight carries. In the season opener in Carolina, Lynch had 43 yards in 17 carries. None of this compares to yesterday’s stymied run attack — but it’s worth highlighting.

— Seattle’s 2013 Championship winning, legendary defense gave up 21 points in a half to the 0-7 Tampa Bay Buccaneers at home. In the process they made Mike Glennon look invincible and conceded 158 rushing yards to sixth round rookie running back Mike James.

— The wins against the Rams and Buccs were so underwhelming, critics questioned Seattle’s validity as a contender. They won their next three games against Atlanta, Minnesota and New Orleans by a combined score of 108-37.

— Was the O-line great in 2013? It was good when Russell Okung and Breno Giacomini returned from long-term injuries. Paul McQuistan started eight games at left tackle, book-ending seventh round rookie Michael Bowie. The results, at times, were similar to what we’re seeing this year.

Try not to read too much into the negatives of last nights tremendous win. Yes the Seahawks couldn’t run out of a large, wet paper bag. Yes the defense gave up an unusually high number of chunk plays. Yes they almost dropped a home game many assumed would be a straight-forward victory.

Such is life in the Pete Carroll era. The unexpected happens, weird games occur and unlikely victories are mixed in with the occasional baffling defeat.

Here’s what we know about this team. Defensively they are a lot better than they showed last night. Deshaun Watson had a fantastic game. Despite his performance (no doubt aided by a bye week and two weeks of preparation on with Bill O’Brien) the Seahawks still won. Because ultimately, that’s what this team does. Finds a way to win, more often than not.

If Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, Bobby Wagner, Sheldon Richardson, Frank Clark, K.J Wright and the rest are out on the field — there’s very little reason to be overly concerned with the defense. It was a rough outing against a brilliant opponent that still included five sacks and three interceptions.

Clearly the running game is more of a concern. Despite a lot of focus in the off-season and plenty of talk about repairing the run, this is possibly an even weaker running attack than last season. A bit of everything seems to be at fault.

There are plays if you watch back the Houston game where running backs are misreading and leaving yards on the field. There are times when the run blocking is not very good and RB’s are getting hit three yards behind the LOS.

It’s hard to know what they can do right now. The run blocking isn’t suddenly going to make a major jump half-way through the season. Eddie Lacy has been a big disappointment and Thomas Rawls’ 2015 season is increasingly looking like a mirage. C.J. Prosise could be the answer if he could stay healthy for more than five minutes — and J.D. McKissic is more complimentary X-factor than feature back.

Would Mike Davis do any better? Maybe. Or he might just be the next one to struggle.

Sadly any hopes of a consistent running game fell with Chris Carson’s broken leg.

It’s hard to work out what the solution is going forward. In the past Seattle managed to put together a collection of terrific run blockers. This group might just be better at pass pro (and it’s getting better, week after week). The Seahawks used to be able to rely on Marshawn Lynch for production — but legendary, future Hall-of-Fame running backs aren’t readily available.

They’re not going to get at Saquon Barkley next year so they might have to keep looking at several options until they discover the long or medium term answer. That could be a free agent splash (Carlos Hyde?) or future draft stock (more likely middle round than first round). Hopefully Carson makes a full recovery but he’s in the same boat as George Fant now — you want to rely on them for the long term but how can you after both picked up serious injuries?

The good news is Wilson looks like he’s starting to go on one of his mid-season blasts. And he showed yesterday that if the running game or defense can’t seal the deal — he’s capable, along with his receivers, of picking up the slack.

A couple of other quick notes…

— The trade deadline is tomorrow and while there’s been a lot of talk and rumours, nothing has materialised so far. Peter King from MMQB thinks something could happen:

The Seahawks are snug up against the salary cap, and if they want (Duane) Brown, they may have to redo Brown’s deal and redo some of their own contracts. That’s, of course, if Schneider can find a deal to satisfy the Texans by the 4 p.m. ET trade deadline Tuesday. My money’s on Schneider.

It may be moot. But I don’t think so. Schneider is one of the most aggressive GMs in recent NFL history. He knows his offensive line is the major Achilles heel on the team, the one thing standing in the way of what could be the last deep playoff run for an aging defense. To beat Philadelphia’s outstanding front seven, Schneider knows he might have to go get a tackle by Tuesday’s deadline. Joe Staley’s overpriced in San Francisco (and suffered a reported suborbital fracture under his right eye on Sunday), and Cordy Glenn not likely to be freed up in Buffalo. It might be Brown or Colt Anthony Castonzo … and Brown’s better. We shall see.

— In previous drafts a lot of the players we liked on this blog ended up in the AFC North. It was fun watching three prospects we really liked playing so well for Houston together. Here are some articles and notes on all three pre-draft:

Deshaun Watson: “Watson is the latest victim of familiarity. Increasingly we’re rushing to criticise and lament big name college football players. Every problem is over-analysed. Every hole examined. When do we get back to focusing on what a player can do?

DeAndre Hopkins: “He’s a top-20 talent who may go later… and a smart team will be ready to capitalise.

Will Fuller: “Fuller is an explosive, dynamic receiver with exceptional character. Teams will covet him.”

In particular the piece about Watson really resonates today, especially this bit:

Are there flaws? Yes. Some of his turnovers this season were careless and reckless. Yet overall he has a 90:32 touchdown/interception ratio in college. He’s been a relentless winner on a team that was previously never quite been able to get over the top.

There are so many positives. Would he improve a team like Cleveland or San Francisco? Absolutely. Is he a superior prospect to the #1 pick last year? Probably.

There’s probably a lesson for us all here. There’s a constant need for people to Tweet opinions, offer ‘takes’ and provide relentless mock drafts. There’s nothing wrong with critiquing players and assessing what they can and can’t do. Just maybe spend a bit more time on the ‘what they can do‘ bit.

Watson could and probably should go in the top-10. I can’t believe there are bad teams in the NFL without quarterbacks that won’t be significantly better off with him under center.

He was over-analysed to the point of insanity. He’s a winner, a playmaker and a leader — and the teams that passed on him will be severely regretting it today.

I’m not surprised the Seahawks traded for Percy Harvin in 2013. It would’ve been interesting to see if Hopkins would’ve been their pick at #25 had they not made the deal. He looked perfect for Seattle — a student of the game who talked about routes and coverages during media interviews, a gritty player who carried his offense and played with a chip on his shoulder. He’s one of my favourite players we’ve covered since the blog started in 2008 — so this post-game image was pretty cool:

Sherman wrote on his jersey:

“To Nuk, I told you! You were a dog the first time we played! And you have worked to become one of the best in the league!”

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Instant reaction: Seahawks win game of the decade

October 29th, 2017 | Written by Rob Staton

I have to be up very early to present a breakfast show, so I will keep this brief and have more thoughts tomorrow.

That was an incredible game of football, typifying the character and mental toughness Pete Carroll has brought to this franchise.

On a day where the defense gave up more big plays than you could ever imagine, the running game had to be abandoned and the Seahawks gave up what felt like a back-breaking turnover in the fourth quarter — they somehow, someway, found a way to win.

Incredibly this one topped the Pittsburgh victory in 2015 for drama.

It was also a fantastic portrait of Russell Wilson’s talents. This season has often been about the offense not supporting a top-performing defense. In this game, the complete opposite was true. Wilson and his receivers took on the Houston Texans and had to match every blow dealt by Deshaun Watson and DeAndre Hopkins.

(How good was Watson by the way?)

Even after the late pick, Wilson came flying back after a key defensive stop to lead this team to victory. It was a stunning performance by the quarterback.

It’d be wrong, however, not to highlight the brilliance of Paul Richardson. His jump ball catch at the end was so vital. It could’ve been another turnover, easily. It could’ve been incomplete and the Seahawks would’ve been left with a mountain to climb. That chunk play put Seattle in a position to win and was as important as his two touchdowns (a third was taken away due to a silly penalty from Thomas Rawls).

He wasn’t alone. Jimmy Graham (no, they’re not trading him) got two touchdowns and Tyler Lockett had a huge day. Doug Baldwin chipped in.

Now, enjoy the win and pray for Earl Thomas’ hamstring. More tomorrow.

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Jordan Palmer highlights O-line issues in the NFL

October 28th, 2017 | Written by Rob Staton

We talk a lot about offensive lines. Understandably so. The league has a problem. And while many Seahawks fans think the problem starts and ends in Seattle, the reality is there’s a dearth of talented and available O-liners at the pro level.

There are reasons for it. A point we often touch on (and one backed up multiple times by John Schneider when he’s asked about O-liners) is the preference of the top college athletes to play defense. As Brock Huard suggested a few weeks ago — Walter Jones is probably playing three-technique if he’s a college freshman in 2017.

Now, former NFL quarterback turned QB guru Jordan Palmer has suggested another potential problem to consider.

When asked by Mike Salk on 710 ESPN about the changing face of the game and the emergence of a different quarterback profile, Palmer had this to say:

I believe the game is going towards the mobile quarterback. If you look at what’s happening at the college level, with the similar constraints on the coaching staff that they do in the CBA (collective bargaining agreement) in the NFL, and so the position — and everyone thinks quarterbacks are the ones that aren’t being developed — the number one position, if you talk to real coaches, is O-line.

They don’t have enough padded practises in college to really teach it. And then in college they also don’t run the ball a whole lot so you get kids learning how to do one thing pretty good. Then they go to the NFL and what’s happening is these older linemen are going to start retiring, you’ve got a bunch of young guys who don’t know what they’re doing. And there’s not enough time in the CBA to fix it. So the way that I think it’s going to play out to the layperson and somebody just watching on TV is it’s going to create a precedence for quarterbacks who can extend the play.

It’s a subject that has come up more often in recent weeks. Due to the CBA practise restrictions, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for teams to sufficiently develop their offensive linemen early in their careers. There will always be exceptions — but those exceptions will likely be the true standout players who go in the top-20 of the first round (the Zack Martin, Taylor Lewan types).

The Seahawks haven’t been in range to draft the top offensive linemen in a draft class for five years. They’ve always been picking late in the first round. They’ve been forced to develop later round picks or players that fit a certain physical profile.

Imagine how difficult that is considering what Palmer is saying here?

It’s something to think about when judging Tom Cable.

We’re seeing Germain Ifedi show signs of development this year in his second season. Maybe, just maybe, some growing pains were inevitable given Palmer’s points above? It took Justin Britt three years to settle into the pro’s but now he’s one of the finest center’s in the league. Ethan Pocic didn’t start the season and perhaps now we understand why? His debut performance against the Giants was encouraging.

We can go down the list really. James Carpenter took a while but developed into a productive guard. J.R. Sweezy, a former defensive tackle at NC State, became a regular starter quite quickly. It took Max Unger some time to turn into the player he eventually became. We saw positive signs with George Fant before his knee injury. Luke Joeckel was making strides before his recent surgery.

That’s not to say every decision or error is suddenly justified. Perspective is important though and Palmer highlights a point worth noting. Teams are limited in what they can do because of the CBA and it’s taking O-liners longer to get to grips with the pro-game.

If anything the Seahawks were ahead of the curve. They were one of the first teams to start an elusive quarterback capable of extending plays. They deliberately made the scramble a feature on the offense — embracing the situation rather than fighting it. They seemed to identity a ‘type’ of linemen they could mould and develop without owning a pick in the top-20.

We’ll see if their way of doing things can produce a solid O-line as it gains further experience.

The good news for the Seahawks is Ifedi, Pocic, Britt, Joeckel and Fant are all trending up.

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Top-20 feature — another October projection

October 26th, 2017 | Written by Rob Staton

I wanted to update this from a few weeks ago. Several players (Tim Settle, Maurice Hurst, Bryce Love, Anthony Miller) deserve some recognition.

Although it’s in the format of a mock draft, it’s not a serious projection. This is simply a way to highlight a few names and pair them with team fits.

If you think someone should be on the list let me know in the comments section. Sam Darnold (QB, USC) and Trey Adams (T, Washington) were not included due to recent reports suggesting they won’t declare for the 2018 draft.

#1 Cleveland — Josh Rosen (QB, UCLA)
#2 San Francisco — Saquon Barkley (RB, Penn State)
#3 New York Giants — Lamar Jackson (QB, Louisville)
#4 Indianapolis — Bradley Chubb (DE, NC State)
#5 Cincinnati — Tim Settle (DT, Virginia Tech)
#6 Tampa Bay — Taven Bryan (DE, Florida)
#7 Arizona — Christian Wilkins (DT, Clemson)
#8 Baltimore — Quenton Nelson (G, Notre Dame)
#9 Oakland — Mike McGlinchey (T, Notre Dame)
#10 New York Jets — Connor Williams (T, Texas)
#11 Los Angeles Chargers — Minkah Fitzpatrick (DB, Alabama)
#12 Chicago — Clelin Ferrell (DE, Clemson)
#13 Dallas — Maurice Hurst (DT, Michigan)
#14 Denver — Vita Vea (DT, Washington)
#15 Cleveland (via Houston) — Bryce Love (RB, Stanford)
#16 Detroit — Derrius Guice (RB, LSU)
#17 Atlanta — Anthony Miller (WR, Memphis)
#18 Washington — Baker Mayfield (QB, Oklahoma)
#19 Tennessee — Derwin James (S, Florida State)
#20 Jacksonville — Billy Price (G, Ohio State)

Players considered:

Courtland Sutton (WR, SMU)
Ronnie Harrison (S, Alabama)
Braden Smith (G, Auburn)
Austin Bryant (DE, Clemson)
Roquan Smith (LB, Georgia)
Harold Landry (EDGE, Boston College)

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Tim Settle is a fantastic prospect

October 23rd, 2017 | Written by Rob Staton

In Tony Pauline’s latest ‘risers and sliders’ piece today, he highlighted Virginia Tech defensive tackle Tim Settle:

A redshirt sophomore graded by a number of scouts prior to the season, Settle is playing beyond expectations and has turned in some dominant performances this year. One of those performances occurred this weekend when he was a one-man show against North Carolina, posting five tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss and a sack. The big defensive tackle has recorded 9.5 tackles for loss in seven games this season. Tipping the scales around 325 pounds, Settle is more than a big man that takes up space in the middle of the line; he’s a playmaker who displays a great degree of athleticism and explosion in his game.

After reading the words ‘325 pounds’, ‘playmaker’ and ‘great degree of athleticism’ I wanted to check him out today. I managed to find the North Carolina game on Youtube (see above) and also watched his performance vs Clemson last season.

Tony wasn’t kidding — this guy can move. The 325lbs feels like a conservative estimate. Settle is enormous — and yet he moves with the quickness of a much lighter defensive tackle.

His swim move in particular is a thing of beauty. Take a look:

That’s Settle taking down Deshaun Watson. Look how quickly he’s on the right guard. He just brushes him aside with a perfect swim and he’s in the backfield. Watson tries to take off, sensing the pressure, but no dice. Settle brings him down by the ankles.

You don’t often see this level of athleticism combined with that size.

He’s a former four or five star recruit and he’s always been big (listed at 325lbs by Rivals during recruiting and in some places at 339lbs). He’s a local guy and committed to Virginia Tech but he was coveted by Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Florida State, Ohio State and others. He took a visit to USC, Oklahoma State and, somewhat surprisingly, Washington State.

He’s only a redshirt sophomore so might not declare for the 2018 draft. Considering the way he’s playing this year, he’ll likely have a big decision to make.

In the North Carolina game he was terrific. Granted he was playing a weak opponent (UNC’s first two offensive snaps went for -20 yards and the game ended 59-7). Yet he kept jumping off the screen. You just don’t see big men move as fluidly as this:

On one play he lined up at DE and patiently just contained the edge. He then exploded through the B gap and chased the quarterback as he scrambled out of the pocket forcing an incompletion.

The first hit in the video above knocked the QB out of the game. The second hit had him carried off the field.

On the following drive, North Carolina started at their own one yard line. Virginia Tech spelled Settle here and took him off the field. UNC moved the ball well, converting a couple of third downs and getting up to the 25. Settle came back onto the field at this point and immediately bull rushed the right guard two yards into the backfield and dropped the running back for a loss.

Next play? Settle initially shapes as if he’s running a stunt before engaging the center. He shrugs him off with a superb pull/push move and shares a sack with a blitzing defensive back for a loss of 11 yards.

He was off the field and UNC moved the ball 24 yards. He comes back on to the field and immediately generates two huge TFL’s to kill the drive.

Just look at this against Boston College:

Be excited about this guy. He is special.

It’s always exciting to find a player like this. Tim Settle is a player to keep an eye on from now on. On this evidence he could be a very high pick one day.

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Instant reaction: Seahawks beat Giants, move to 4-2

October 22nd, 2017 | Written by Rob Staton

The Giants came into this game banged up and missing several key players. No Odell Beckham Jr, no Olivier Vernon, no Brandon Marshall.

Those are just the headliners.

But don’t let anyone talk you into thinking this wasn’t a terrific Seahawks win.

The defense continues to play Championship level football. Is there a better performing unit in the league right now?

They held the prolific Rams to ten points before the bye and completely smothered the Giants today. A couple of ugly plays against Tennessee in week three shouldn’t blight the overall picture. This is a unit that shut out Aaron Rodgers for a whole quarter at Lambeau. They are playing at an elite level.

The usual suspects continue to play with the discipline and execution you’d expect. Several new stars are emerging, however. Jarran Reed is quietly having a fantastic season. His sack fumble of Eli Manning today was the moment this game completely turned in the Seahawks’ favour. A tight contest, still in the balance, suddenly became a ten point Seattle lead thanks to Reed’s turnover.

It’s the second game in a row where he’s made a huge play, following the bull rush he had against the Rams to force Jared Goff to throw straight at Earl Thomas. Reed is not just a run stuffer. He is providing value as a pass rusher. He hasn’t just taken a step forward in 2017, it’s a giant leap.

Shaquill Griffin and Justin Coleman are equally making an underrated impression on this team. Opponents aren’t exploiting a rookie or a guy picked up via trade right before the season began. Considering these are merely the early days of their careers in Seattle, this is incredibly encouraging for the future of the secondary.

Naz Jones and Frank Clark also continue to have an impact (Clark scooped up the Reed forced fumble) and Sheldon Richardson, while not providing any big splash plays today, has fit into the defense nicely.

This group might not carry some of the attitude we saw in 2013 (they don’t have Red Bryant, Brandon Browner or Chris Clemons) but they might be performing at an equally good if not better level thanks to the youth movement and the addition of Richardson.

Bringing it all together is the play of Bobby Wagner — possibly the most underrated player in the NFL. Wagner is a phenomenal talent, one of the best players in the entire league (offense or defense) and it’s high time he received the national recognition he is due.

Yes they were facing an opponent ravaged by injuries. It’s also worth remembering what this same Giants offense did to Denver’s top tier defense a week ago:

Total yards @ Denver — 266
Total yards vs Seattle — 177

Yards per pass @ Denver — 5.4
Yards per pass vs Seattle — 3.3

Time of possession @ Denver — 30:36
Time of possession vs Seattle — 24:34

Rushing yards @ Denver — 148
Rushing yards vs Seattle — 46

It’s not easy to go into Denver, run the ball effectively and retain a balanced attack. The Giants achieved it and deservedly won on the road last week.

Today, the Seahawks virtually pitched a shut out against the same group. The only points came after a Thomas Rawls fumble deep into Seattle territory.

The defense is playing well enough for the Seahawks to win any game against any opponent. Whether they actually do or not will be down to the offense.

There was little sign of any offensive consistency emerging here. There were major highs and frustrating lows:

— Two horrible Jimmy Graham drops in the first half had everyone rolling their eyes but he had a much better second half capped by a late red zone touchdown

— Thomas Rawls’ fumble put points on the board for New York but he ended the game running hard as Seattle closed it out and managed 104 team rushing yards

— Seattle had 11 unsuccessful ‘and goal’ plays on one first half drive, meaning an eight minute attempt resulted in zero points

— They also moved the ball freely and with great success with Russell Wilson ending with 334 yards and three touchdowns

— Speaking of Wilson, he mostly had an excellent game but missed two wide open touchdowns to Doug Baldwin (wide open) and Tyler Lockett (clearly open) on a day where he could’ve easily had five scores

The encouraging thing is all the gripes are mistakes based around poor execution. Drops, overthrows and fumbles. This wasn’t a back-breaking ‘can’t run for love nor money’ performance or the type where the O-line completely destroys any chance of a sustained drive. On another day they score 30-40 points.

The Seahawks are gaining momentum and return to Seattle for two home games against Houston and Washington (I’ll be attending the Redskins game).

A quick final thought to finish on. The trade deadline isn’t until after the Houston game next week. Is it possible the Seahawks and Texans are waiting until after they meet to work something out for Duane Brown? It might explain why they haven’t signed Brandon Albert. It makes some degree of sense — with the Texans quite rightly not wanting to give Seattle a boost before they meet.

Just something to consider. The trade deadline might be conveniently placed for both teams after next weeks game.

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Memphis receiver Anthony Miller is really good

October 20th, 2017 | Written by Rob Staton

On the recommendation of community member Volume 12, I spent tonight taking a look at Memphis receiver Anthony Miller.

He’s received a fair bit of buzz recently. One anonymous NFL executive said this about him:

“He’s a highly productive, competitive receiver who plays faster than he will test. He runs very good routes and has a large catching radius. All he does is make plays.”

Chad Reuter at NFL.com says:

“(Miller) will be one of those third-round receivers who contributes immediately for whatever NFL team drafts him.”

And Tony Pauline listed him as a week three draft riser:

“Miller gave serious consideration on entering last April’s draft but decided to return to Memphis for another season. It looks as though he made the correct choice.”

Tony also notes the importance of his combine workout. At 5-10 and 190lbs he’ll need to test well. The Seahawks drafted Tyler Lockett after the following workout:

Height: 5-10
Weight: 182lbs
Forty: 4.40
Vertical: 35.5
Short shuttle: 4.07

Lockett performed as well as any receiver before the 2015 draft. He also had a strong Senior Bowl. Hopefully Miller will compete in Mobile too.

So far in 2017 he’s put up major numbers, providing the Memphis offense with a dynamic X-factor. In the same way Paxton Lynch elevated the Tigers a couple of years ago, Miller seems to be having the same effect.

Today I watched his play against Houston, UCLA and Connecticut and he had a huge impact in all three games:

UCLA — 9/185 and two touchdowns
Connecticut — 15/224 and four touchdowns
Houston — 10/178

He combines crisp routes and excellent body control with fantastic speed. He’ll explode out of his routes to create separation, he’s a terrific deep threat and always competes for the ball.

Miller isn’t a flawless hands catcher but he has a tendency to make the occasional spectacular grab:

He also makes his fair share of contested catches:

Against UCLA he made a fantastic diving catch, laying out to collect a deep shot despite tight coverage. He runs by the defensive back on a post route and just extends to make a finger-tip grab. It’s a stunning play made with just a minute to go until half time. Shortly afterwards he beats man-to-man coverage to complete a 33-yard touchdown. Memphis went ahead 27-24 before the break and it’s all on Miller and the quarterback.

That drive was the perfect illustration of the way he can have a game-changing impact.

When you consider his athleticism, the chunk plays and the contested catch ability — Miller absolutely has to be on our radar moving forward.

In terms of his character, here’s his postgame interview last night:

Note the bit about him being a former walk-on (grit).

This isn’t a great class for wide receivers. Some of the bigger names have been a bit underwhelming so far and a prospect like Miller could rise up the boards considerably over the next few weeks. There’s always a team looking for an early round weapon on offense.

It’s hard to say whether the Seahawks will be in the market for another receiver next year. They have been willing to spend high picks on the position (Golden Tate, Percy Harvin, Paul Richardson, Tyler Lockett, Amara Darboh). They have a young group they clearly like. Richardson is out of contract though — and Miller is the kind of player you can imagine them liking even if they ultimately don’t draft him.

So far he has 55 catches for 784 yards and nine touchdowns in 2017. Last year he finished with a 95/1434/14 stat line.

Keep an eye on this guy.

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Most impressive 2018 draft prospects so far

October 19th, 2017 | Written by Rob Staton

1. Saquon Barkley (RB, Penn State)
Barkley just finds a way to make explosive plays and put points on the board every week. He’s a freak of nature with great character. A top five placing seems inevitable if he avoids injury.

2. Quenton Nelson (G, Notre Dame)
It was tempting to put Nelson at #1 but Barkley is too good. Nelson is the complete package at guard — he’ll pull to the second level, hit people at the LOS and open up huge running lanes. Fantastic prospect.

3. Bradley Chubb (DE, NC State)
There aren’t many players at 6-4 and 275lbs who combine great athleticism, quickness and power. Chubb is an every down edge rusher, is physical against the run and has the same bloodlines as top-tier athlete cousin Nick Chubb.

4. Christian Wilkins (DT, Clemson)
There are some similarities to Sheldon Richardson. Wilkins is a ball of energy. He’s not the most prolific pass rusher but his motor never switches off. He hustles to the ball and doesn’t stop. Good athlete.

5. Taven Bryan (DE, Florida)
An inside/out rusher who dominates the LOS. Bryan drives blockers into the backfield with a vicious bull rush but he also wins with quickness. He’s highly underrated and one of the best players in college football.

6. Vita Vea (DT, Washington)
Yes there are accusations of inconsistency but there aren’t many players with Vea’s skill set. He and Greg Gaines are a force inside, clogging up run lanes and providing some pass rush. Excellent nose tackle prospect.

7. Clelin Ferrell (DE, Clemson)
Shaq Lawson type defensive end coming off a forceful 3.5 sack performance against Syracuse. Ferrell is listed at 260lbs but looks and plays bigger. Good against the pass and the run. Part of a fantastic front seven.

8. Maurice Hurst (DT, Michigan)
His performance against Indiana was dominant, adding to a great year so far. He lived in the backfield and blocked a crucial field goal. The league needs quality three-technique prospects. Hurst’s a classic example.

9. Minkah Fitzpatrick (S, Alabama)
Highly athletic, modern day defensive back capable of lining up in multiple positions. Aggressive, leads by example and should be an early starter at the next level.

10. Derwin James (S, Florida State)
He’s sometimes a bit stiff in the open field but he has the size to defend the run and the range to make plays in coverage. He’s listed at 6-3 and 211lbs and could play some strong safety and big nickel.

11. Josh Rosen (QB, UCLA)
He isn’t getting much help and he’s had some pretty terrible interceptions. That said, Rosen has also shown poise, accuracy and the ability to move around in the pocket to make a wide range of throws.

12. Lamar Jackson (QB, Louisville)
Playmaker. Capable of running for a 1000 yards to go with his throwing ability. Continues to grow as a passer. There are too many critics with Jackson. He has a big future at quarterback. He gets no help at Louisville.

13. Billy Price (G, Ohio State)
Price plays like his hair’s on fire. Very active, very aggressive with the mobility to move to the second level. Switched to center this year but could play guard in the NFL. A notch behind Quenton Nelson but really good.

14. Mike McGlinchey (T, Notre Dame)
Solid rather than spectacular but he emphatically won every battle against Boston College speed rusher Harold Landry. If you want to make a case for McGlinchey that’s the tape you turn to.

15. Bryce Love (RB, Stanford)
Home-run hitter, just needs a crease to explode to the second level and break off a big run. He’s not the biggest (listed at 5-10 and 196lbs) but he’s incredibly dynamic. Making a strong Heisman case.

Not included…

Sam Darnold (QB, USC)
He hasn’t even had a full season as the starter at USC. There’s no rush to declare, especially if Cleveland ends up with the #1 pick.

Trey Adams (T, Washington)
Reports suggest he won’t turn pro at the end of the season after suffering a serious knee injury. A weak tackle class could tempt him — but for now we have to assume he’ll stay with the Huskies in 2018.

Derrius Guice (RB, LSU)
He’s a little bit banged up and needs a strong finish to the season to get some momentum behind his stock.

Nick Chubb (RB, Georgia)
He’s coming close to his best again but the medical checks will be so important. We know he’s a fantastic athlete. We’ll see if he’s still at that level at the combine.

Courtland Sutton (WR, SMU)
He’s starting to find some form. With #1 receiver size and a little Dez Bryant to his game, Sutton has time to push himself into the early part of round one.

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Wednesday notes: Cliff Avril & offensive tackles

October 18th, 2017 | Written by Rob Staton

Cliff Avril on injured reserve

This is sad news and certainly not the way you’d want Cliff Avril to potentially end his career.

Thankfully, it doesn’t appear that’s the case:

Avril has long been under-appreciated and underrated not just in Seattle but in the NFL overall. He’s had an extremely consistent and productive nine-year stretch for the Lions and Seahawks. Between 2010 and 2016 he played in all but four games, recording 62.5 sacks. Always there for his team, always making plays.

He’s also an exceptional athlete. At the 2008 combine he ran a 1.50 10-yard split at 253lbs. Anything in the 1.5’s is considered elite. Avril nearly cracked the 1.4’s.

At only 31 years old hopefully he will make a full recovery. His cap hit next year is a ridiculously team friendly $8m. In the modern market a player of Avril’s quality might cost double that amount.

It’s also possible he could still return this year. The Seahawks can call back two players from injured reserve and haven’t got another candidate at the moment. It seems unlikely due to the serious nature of the injury — but at least the option is there.

More importantly though this is about a man’s health. Avril has done so much for charity during his career and was an integral addition as the Seahawks won their first Super Bowl in 2013. The time where they added Percy Harvin, Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril in an incredible triple move will go down as one of the more exciting weeks in franchise history.

This is a big opportunity for Frank Clark. He had an exceptional game against the Rams and is eligible for a new contract in the off-season. We’ll see if Marcus Smith expands his role and hopefully Dion Jordan can have an impact down the line.

Avril is one of the best pass rushers this franchise has had. Period.

They can only dream of finding a player in the future with equal stature who will provide so much quality at such great value.

If you want to donate to the Cliff Avril Family Foundation, or if you want more information on the great work they do, here’s the link.

Offensive tackle problems

The knee injury for Trey Adams — and the reports since suggesting he will now return to Washington in 2018 — has left the offensive tackle draft class looking pretty thin.

We’ve had this discussion before…

There will be some nice O-line options in the draft next year (Quenton Nelson, Mike McGlinchey, Billy Price) but there’s no getting away from the fact the tackle numbers are light yet again.

Tony Pauline sums up the problem:

That leaves just two potential first-round tackles: Mike McGlinchey of Notre Dame and Oklahoma’s Orlando Brown.

People I’ve spoken with tell me they expect Brown to enter the draft but that he doesn’t grade out as a top-25 selection — an opinion I share at this point.

Several scouts are enamored with Chukwuma Okorafor of Western Michigan, but I haven’t heard any first-round grades on him since the season began. The recent ankle injury to Martinas Rankin, which I’m told is worse than what’s being reported, also negatively impacts the position.

The projected crop of free-agent tackles for next March does not look very promising either. This means teams needing an offensive tackle in the offseason could be in a bind.

That last paragraph really does ring true. A league lacking adequate talent at left tackle is facing another barren year in the draft and free agency.

Nate Solder, recently struggling with the Patriots, is arguably the best prospective free agent set to hit the market next year. Then you have the likes of Luke Joeckel, Justin Pugh and Jack Mewhort. There’s no Andrew Whitworth next year.

This is possibly why so many teams spent big money on O-liners in free agency in March — anticipating an even weaker crop of veterans in 2018.

This might be one of the reasons why the Seahawks have been pursuing the likes of Branden Albert and Duane Brown. At the very least they’d get some veteran security on the left side of the line and some insurance for 2018. They wouldn’t need to pick at the limited options available on the open market.

It’s only October and a lot can change over the next few weeks — but the injury to Cliff Avril and the continued issues with the O-line make it increasingly likely we’ll be focusing on the trenches again come draft time. It’s looking like there’ll be a very attractive crop of defensive line talent available. And at the very least a handful of good O-line options (Nelson, Price, McGlinchey).

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