‘All football’ and fixing the running game

March 27th, 2018 | Written by Rob Staton

Unless you weren’t already aware, Seattle sees fixing the running game as a priority.

And it’s no wonder really. The last two years have been a disaster.

Teams treat their running games differently. For some it’s a compliment or even an afterthought. For the Seahawks, it’s crucial. It connects everything together.

Pete Carroll made it abundantly clear again today at the Owners Meeting how vital it is they fix the run:

“Our formula of the running game being an integral part of it is really the focus… We’ve got to get that done. Without that, then we’re still kind of in a mode where we don’t feel as comfortable as we want to be. So it’s hugely important. Somehow we’ve got to keep our running backs healthy. In the last few years it just has not been the factor for us, and it’s been a problem even going back two years when Russell (Wilson) was hurt the whole year. So that needs to emerge as a significant part of our program, and everything else I think will fall into place. We know what the formula is, we know what it takes, we just have to get ourselves back and feel that continuity. So that’ll be a big focus again, and the challenge begins. Here we go.”

The Seahawks are in a transition, a re-tool or whatever other way you want to describe it. They’re not going to be able to fix every need in one off-season.

Does the defensive line need help? Absolutely. Yet with limited draft stock (and a loaded D-line class ready and set for 2019) it might be an area where they go for competition rather than a big splash.

Do they need talent at receiver? Almost certainly yes. Tyler Lockett will be a free agent next year and they’ve already lost Jermaine Kearse and Paul Richardson. Yet this isn’t a strong class of receivers either. Again, this might be an area where competition wins.

This draft class is tailor made to bolster the running game. It fits perfectly. It’s a beautiful coincidence but maybe the Seahawks deserve a bit of fortune? At the time they most needed some help in improving their run attack, here comes the 2018 draft.

It seems pretty clear. This is the focus for now. And if they can fix the run and find balance on offense — they will be competitive. Russell Wilson and a running game gives you a chance to win. Even as you make changes to the defense.

Carroll also spoke about the existing running backs:

“You can say (Chris Carson is the starter) because of where he was when he got hurt, but Mike Davis did a really nice job for us last year… Mike finished and sustained throughout the season, unlike some guys in the last couple of years, and he showed us consistency and toughness and production. I think Mike really comes back getting the ball first, and the competition is on. That’s the first handoff, then after that it’s dead even.”

And he spoke about the offensive line:

“This is the best we’ve been in some time. A little quietly it’s emerging that it’s a very good group and it’s going to be one that we’re going to look forward to seeing some real progress made… It hasn’t been mentioned that much, but we feel like we have continuity. We haven’t said that in so many years, but we feel like we have some continuity on the offensive line, so we’re looking forward to it.”

It’s difficult to project what the Seahawks are going to do because we don’t know what’s happening with Earl Thomas. That lingering situation will hopefully come to a conclusion, one way or another, very soon. The mystery isn’t really doing anyone any good. If Thomas remains in Seattle, a fairly obvious projection would be:

1. The Seahawks trade down from #18
2. They trade down just far enough to put themselves in position to address the running game

Whether you’re a fan of Ronald Jones II, Nick Chubb, Kerryon Johnson, Derrius Guice or another — it feels likely the Seahawks will pick their guy. After that, the other needs are clear — D-line, tight end, cornerback, linebacker, receiver. All likely to be addressed, perhaps too the O-line and special teams.

But it all starts with fixing the run. This is the year to do it and the draft class to do it with. With so few early picks this year, they can’t afford to wait on addressing that vital need.

Bob Condotta also produced a series of quotes from John Schneider. He discusses everything from free agent departures, what happened with Richard Sherman and the possibility of an Earl Thomas trade.

All of those topics will be covered elsewhere. I noticed a theme, however, in Schneider’s answers.

The words “all football” kept coming up.

For example, when discussing the addition of D.J. Fluker:

“He’s all football. When he came out, everyone knew he was an all-football guy. If you look at all the guys we’ve signed and re-signed, we know they all have a chip on their shoulder, they have something to prove, and they’re all football guys, so we’re excited about it. All these guys, every single one of them we signed.”

On if there’s a theme among the collection of players they’ve signed so far:

“Smart, tough reliable guys that love football and have a chip on their shoulder.”

On the Maurice Alexander signing:

“Just a real fast, tough all football guy… We’ve got another fast, tough all football guy.”

On re-signing Mike Davis:

“Again all ball.”

It’s not uncommon for a General Manager to use terms like ‘all football’ or make reference to wanting players committed to the game. It’s a football buzz-word that often gets thrown around to describe virtually any type of player or personality.

It’s also quite common to hear the Seahawks talk in these terms. One of Pete Carroll’s big things is ‘all in’ and buying in. So again, it’s not that surprising to hear Schneider speaking like this.

Yet this is a very different off-season. More than ever these references seem to really mean something. They’ve released outspoken personalities. They’ve dramatically reduced the number of highly paid players on the roster and they’ve balked at paying a high price for anyone in free agency.

Two or three years ago the Seahawks might’ve been ‘all-in’ on a Marcus Peters trade or signing Ndamukong Suh. They would’ve been the ones looking at an $8m salary for Sheldon Richardson as a great opportunity.

Only a year ago they gave Luke Joeckel $7-8m.

This is a different plan now. This is about players with something to prove and a need to earn everything.

It could also be indicative of the Malik McDowell pick a year ago. McDowell might never play a snap of NFL football after hurting himself in an ATV accident during the off-season. There were already concerns about his focus and effort pre-draft. Who can forget John Schneider’s words on the phone when they picked him. “Remember what we talked about?” They knew they were taking a shot.

It’s unlikely they’ll suddenly become risk-averse. But this year, more than ever, they might pick their battles.

The theme of free agency is likely to continue in the draft.

So what will that actually mean?

It could be another indicator they’ll trade down (which already seems pretty certain). There’s an entitlement that comes with being a top-20 pick. So unless you’re getting an absolute must-have prospect (seems unlikely this year at #18) they might prefer to move down and get a player who dropped a bit — or is grateful for the opportunity of going in the 25-45 range.

It’s not cast-iron though. Bruce Irvin certainly appreciated Seattle believing in him as a top-15 pick. Irvin never carried a sense of entitlement and just became one of the guys.

It probably means you can forget about players like Arden Key. The risk is too similar to McDowell.

It doesn’t mean they’ll snub their ideals and physical preferences. Those will likely remain. They’ll just want the players that fit to be gritty, determined and have a point to prove.

It’s hard for us mere observers to properly judge who does and doesn’t have a chip on their shoulder. We can read backstories and watch interviews. It’s not enough really. And that’s the stark reality of any draft coverage. Blogs like this and the media simply have no chance of getting a proper read on these players. We don’t meet with them, we don’t track them from High School to college to the combine.

We can only make assertions and projections.

I think a lot of the top running backs in this class play with the kind of aggression and attitude that suggests they’re ‘all football’. It’s pretty hard not to watch Ronald Jones II and get that impression. Or Kerryon Johnson. Or Nick Chubb. Or Derrius Guice.

They all play hard and tough. It’d be difficult to separate them as a quartet really. However, I think Chubb in particular has the biggest chip on his shoulder.

Case in point. Watch this interview by Terrell Davis (a former Georgia running back). Keep an eye out for Chubb’s change in expression when Davis notes he was ‘surprised’ by his quick feet and the way he answers that question:

‘Guys like you who don’t know’

Ouch.

He also gave Davis a little look at the end of the interview. You can see the fire in his eyes.

A lot of the interior offensive linemen we’ve discussed are also ‘all football’. Isaiah Wynn, Austin Corbett, Billy Price, Will Hernandez, Frank Ragnow. There’s absolutely no question there. And especially not with Quenton Nelson.

Some of the tight ends in the draft also fit in that category. If you’re playing the position in 2017 and are willing to block as your first duty, you’re committed to the game. It’d be difficult to question Dalton Schultz, Durham Smythe and Will Dissly in that regard. Whether they grade well enough for the Seahawks, we’ll see. But they likely need to add another tight end at some point in this draft class.

On the defensive side of the ball it’s a little easier to judge. Pursuit, intensity, motor. These are all easily identifiable. B.J. Hill and Justin Jones for example, with their motors and the way they carry themselves, likely grade well in this area. You’re not likely to question the commitment of any of the Ohio State, NC State and Wisconsin defenders. They all play with attitude.

You see it in Andrew Brown, Josh Sweat, Harrison Phillips, Rashaan Evans, Ronnie Harrison, Maurice Hurst, Leighton Vander Esch, Josey Jewell, Leon Jacobs, Isaac Yiadom, Nick Nelson, Kemoko Turay and others.

This draft class has its faults. Yet for a team like the Seahawks — seeking to fix the run and get young talent on defense — there are options. For a team also seeking guys with good motors and chips on their shoulder, they should also be able to find players that fit.

It’s been tough for Seahawks fans recently. Seeing the Rams add players like Peters and Suh. Watching Richard Sherman move to San Francisco and Michael Bennett to Philadelphia. Earl Thomas could still depart too.

Yet when this draft class is put together and you get to camp — the excitement will be back. This draft is well suited for Seattle’s needs and they’ll have an opportunity to put together a newly competitive environment.

Finally, it seems Texas A&M receiver Christian Kirk will workout for the Seahawks:

Kirk is a highly dynamic, X-factor type receiver. It suggests they’re still looking for downfield speed for the offense (a theme with the receivers they’ve added so far). It also suggests they might be trying to acquire multiple second round picks (the range Kirk is expected to go).

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A tempting pass rusher & is guard back on the radar?

March 26th, 2018 | Written by Rob Staton

The top-20 defensive end that could tempt Seattle

Recently we’ve focused on the running back and defensive end positions. The Seahawks need help in both areas, whether it’s to fix the running game or get another pass rusher.

They’ll likely need to trade down to address both positions — unless of course they trade Earl Thomas and get a top-40 pick in return. That could potentially free up the #18 pick to be used (although there’s every chance they’d still trade down).

A player who could be of interest at #18, if available? Marcus Davenport.

We analysed Davenport in this piece back in December, so check it out.

But why would he be a player they’d consider taking?

Simply put, at his best he’s a game wrecker. The type you often need to spend a high pick on. He’s not quite got the freaky athleticism and length of a Ziggy Ansah and that’s why he might not go in the top-10. Even so, he tested well at the combine:

Height: 6-5
Weight: 264lbs
Arm length: 33.5 inches
Forty: 4.58
10-yard: 1.63
Vertical: 33.5 inches
Broad: 10-4
Bench: 22 reps
Short shuttle: 4.41
Three-cone: 7.20

Two of these numbers stand out, the rest is just solid across the board. His 4.58 forty is in the 94th percentile for an EDGE. The 10-4 broad jump is in the 91st percentile. So he’s quick and explosive.

Is that ‘special’ enough for the Seahawks? It’s a difficult question to answer. After all, Frank Clark ran a incredible 4.05 short shuttle at 271lbs and jumped 38.5 inches in the vertical. That’s special. Bruce Irvin ran a 4.50 at 243lbs and managed a 4.03 short shuttle plus a 6.70 three-cone. That’s special.

Even so, Davenport is the only pass rusher in the class not named Bradley Chubb where you put the tape on and you’re just wowed by his ability to get after the quarterback.

Personally I don’t think he’ll make it to #18. With pass-rush options so limited this year, you’d have to imagine someone will take him off the board. It could be Oakland at #10, Buffalo at #12, Washington at #13, Green Bay at #14 or Baltimore at #16.

There are reasons why he might last, however.

Draft Analyst’s Tony Pauline today published an unnamed teams ‘top-15’. The team, understandably anonymous, owns a pick in the first half of round one. Davenport was not included in the top-15.

It’s only the opinion of one team (and considering they have three quarterbacks at the top, presumably it’s a team needing a signal caller). It’s still food for thought. It could be a consensus.

There’s also this. Bob McGinn has quoted an unnamed scout who offered the following take: “He is going top 20 but I wouldn’t take him in the first round… He scares the crap out of me. He’s a renaissance man, writes poetry and (bleep) like that. I don’t know if football is really that big for him. There’s times he can be soft.”

It’s not the most glowing review if you’re hoping to see him in Seattle. Having listened to interviews with Davenport, he’s clearly a deep thinker. I’m not sure I saw any softness on the field. It’s possible he heard that opinion a little too often at the Senior Bowl. Davenport didn’t really attempt a speed-rush in the early 1v1’s and seemed to try to prove he could bull-rush and win with power.

During the Senior Bowl game, Davenport did what he was doing at UTSA — winning battles and impacting plays. He even scored a touchdown on a fumble recovery.

He might need time to find his groove at the next level. The scout above might be right about some of his concerns. Yet if the Seahawks want to take a chance on a pass rusher — Davenport could be an option if he lasts.

Of course, it’s still more likely than not they’ll trade down from #18 and look in a different direction. Namely, fixing the run.

One other quick point to make — The Seahawks in 2010-2011 relied almost solely on Chris Clemons as a pass rusher. In 2012 they added Bruce Irvin. It wasn’t until 2013 that they signed Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril.

While they’ll likely want that type of rotation again in the future, they did take their time to find the right guys. They’ve already got Frank Clark, Dion Jordan, Barkevious Mingo and Marcus Smith. So while a pass rusher could be an early draft priority — if the options aren’t there they probably won’t force it. And 2019 is set up to be a very good D-line draft.

Guard back on the table?

The signing of D.J. Fluker seemed to indicate the Seahawks might look away from the guard position in the draft. After all, they only spent a second round pick on Ethan Pocic last year.

If Fluker was being pencilled in at right guard, Pocic was the presumed starter at left guard. It would’ve been hard to justify yet another high O-line pick, especially if it just forced Pocic onto the bench.

That still remains relatively true. Yet today’s news on Fluker’s contract is interesting:

Considering he’s only guaranteed $300,000 — they have the flexibility to cut him at any point. He’s not a lock to start on this contract. He’s not even a lock to make the roster.

Fluker, essentially, is a hedge. If they’re open to taking a guard but the draft works a different way, they’ll be covered. If they end up selecting, for example, Isaiah Wynn, Will Hernandez or Austin Corbett — they could just open up the competition and see how it goes.

And that would be a good thing. Wynn in particular is a fantastic prospect and possibly worthy of the #18 choice. Corbett and Hernandez are also very intriguing.

In an ideal world they’d be able to take one of the top O-liners plus a running back in the sweet-spot range of 25-45. Sadly with their lack of early picks there’s no ‘ideal’ situation this year. They have to prioritise. And Fluker provides the kind of experience at guard that Mike Davis and Marcus Smith cannot at RB or DE.

Yet it’d be unwise to rule anything out given today’s news on Fluker’s contract. I won’t mock a guard to Seattle any time soon — but I wouldn’t completely rule it out either.

A final note — this is a really great interview by the NFL Network’s Steve Wyche with Pete Carroll. In under three minutes Wyche asks all the questions that needed to be asked and even pushes Carroll on his future. Well worth a watch:

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Seahawks & Earl Thomas — set a trade deadline this week

March 24th, 2018 | Written by Rob Staton

I want to be a Seahawk. I want my jersey retired in the ring of honor with the other greats that came before me. The winning culture we have established, I want to be a part of it for life.

The Seahawks are clearly open to trading Earl Thomas.

Let’s not pretend that isn’t true. It is.

They’re reshaping the team in an attempt to create a new competitive environment. They’re dumping many of the big contracts.

This will be a much younger team in 2018.

Thomas wants a new contract. He’s made that clear. It’s understandable because he’s the best safety in the NFL and like all players, he seeks long term security.

It’s also understandable that the Seahawks have some trepidation over a new deal. They’ve avoided paying anyone big money so far in free agency. They’ve let a number of established names depart.

Based on the current plan, giving a new contract to Thomas is a non-starter. So seeing what you can get in a trade makes sense. Who knows what a team would be willing to pay? You’d be silly to ignore a great offer.

Yet here we are on March 24th and so far, that offer hasn’t arrived. In total, 24 players have been traded this month. Big names like Marcus Peters, Jason Pierre-Paul and Jarvis Landry have switched teams for mid-round compensation only.

No big trades. No first or second round picks exchanged.

It’s still possible a big offer is forthcoming but as every day passes, it seems less likely.

Increasingly it feels like teams are waiting out the Seahawks to see if they lower their demands (reportedly at least a first round pick).

Mike Fisher, a well sourced Cowboys reporter for Cowboys HQ wrote this piece titled: ‘Patience Right Play On Thomas’

The Seahawks are counting on someone panicking. They’re counting on that someone being the Cowboys. Because, if you look around at other reporting, there doesn’t seem to be another team connected to these trade rumors. The Cowboys are the only team I can find. So while there can or maybe will be others, this feels to me like the Seahawks are trying to drum up interest in a player that know is not interested in coming back. The belief is that the Cowboys are moving Byron Jones to corner, which opens up a spot at safety and there’s pressure on the Cowboys to make a move, which is the worst time to make a move.

So the Cowboys are playing this right. Let the price come down, because a first-round pick for Thomas is not worth it. If the Raiders could only extract a fourth-round pick from the Patriots for Randy Moss a decade ago, well, the price has not gone up for a veteran safety. If the Seahawks become willing to part with Thomas for a third, then we’re talking. If you’re worried about the money, don’t worry. Fish has explained in multiple ways the levers the Cowboys can to flip to create more cap space.

We’ll ignore Fisher describing himself a.) as ‘Fish’ and b.) in the third person and concentrate on the point he makes. The Seahawks want a team like the Cowboys to make a move. The Cowboys are inclined to wait for the price to come down.

You end up in a metaphorical staring contest waiting to see who blinks first. The Seahawks can’t be the ones to blink.

So we continue to wait. The owners meeting this week could be a turning point. Everyone will be in Orlando at the same time. If a deal’s going to happen it’ll probably be off the back of conversations taking place over the next few days.

A deal on draft day would seem improbable purely because any prospective buyer would want to agree terms on a new contract. It’s why you never see big-name players traded during the first two rounds of the draft.

Uncertainty about the situation isn’t going to do anyone any good. The Seahawks need to be able to make plans. Earl Thomas deserves to know what’s happening. And so do the fans.

Setting a deadline and making it clear this is the week to get it done — at the owners meeting — would be best for all concerned. Don’t let this drag on any more.

If nobody matches your demands — commit to keeping Earl Thomas.

He said it above: “I want to be a Seahawk”

Prove it then. No more talk of holding out. Play on the contract you agreed to this year. In 12 months time you’ll either be a free agent or playing on the franchise tag. Considering the frozen nature of the safety market currently, a contract of $11-12m guaranteed for the 2019 season might be an attractive proposition, albeit short term.

Thomas wants to be in the Ring of Honor — this is the chance to prove it.

That’s the commitment he needs to make.

In turn, the Seahawks should set a deadline on a trade and then make their own commitment to Thomas if no acceptable offer comes in. Otherwise teams will wait… and wait… and wait… in the hopes of getting a bargain trade.

A third round pick? If the Cowboys think that’s going to happen, tell them to get stuffed.

Now or never. Or more accurately — this week or never. Pony up.

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Updated mock draft — two rounds

March 23rd, 2018 | Written by Rob Staton

Trades are again included. Thoughts are underneath.

Before starting, I was invited on the ‘Waxing Lyrical’ podcast this week (a UK based NFL show). Have a listen by clicking here. Chris Wesseling was also a guest.

#1 Cleveland — Sam Darnold (QB, USC)
#2 NY Giants — Saquon Barkley (RB, Penn State)
#3 NY Jets (via Ind) — Josh Allen (QB, Wyoming)
#4 Buffalo (via Cle, Hou) — Josh Rosen (QB, UCLA)
#5 Denver — Quenton Nelson (G, Notre Dame)
#6 Indianapolis (via NYJ) — Bradley Chubb (EDGE, NC State)
#7 Tampa Bay — Vita Vea (DT, Washington)
#8 Chicago — Denzel Ward (CB, Ohio State)
#9 Miami (via SF) — Baker Mayfield (QB, Oklahoma)
#10 Oakland — Tremaine Edmunds (LB, Virginia Tech)
#11 San Fran (via Mia) — Minkah Fitzpatrick (S, Alabama)
#12 Cleveland (via Buf, Cin) — Mike McGlinchey (T, Notre Dame)
#13 Washington — Leighton Vander Esch (LB, Boise State)
#14 Green Bay — Marcus Davenport (DE, UTSA)
#15 Arizona — Lamar Jackson (QB, Louisville)
#16 Baltimore — Derwin James (S, Florida State)
#17 LA Chargers — Roquan Smith (LB, Georgia)
#18 New England (via Sea) — Kolton Miller (T, UCLA)
#19 Dallas — Rashaan Evans (LB, Alabama)
#20 Detroit — Da’Ron Payne (DT, Alabama)
#21 Cincinnati (via Buf) — James Daniels (C, Iowa)
#22 Cleveland (via Buf, KC) — Maurice Hurst (DT, Michigan)
#23 LA Rams — Harold Landry (DE, Boston College)
#24 Carolina — Rasheem Green (DE, USC)
#25 Tennessee — Taven Bryan (DE, Florida)
#26 Atlanta — Calvin Ridley (WR, Alabama)
#27 New Orleans — Justin Reid (S, Stanford)
#28 Pittsburgh — Jessie Bates III (S, Wake Forest)
#29 Jacksonville — Tim Settle (DT, Virginia Tech)
#30 Minnesota — Isaiah Wynn (G, Georgia)
#31 Seattle (via NE) — Ronald Jones II (RB, USC)
#32 Indianapolis (via Phi) — Austin Corbett (G, Nevada)

#33 Cleveland — Jaire Alexander (CB, Louisville)
#34 NY Giants — Will Hernandez (G, UTEP)
#35 Cleveland — Sony Michel (RB, Georgia)
#36 Philadelphia (via Ind) — Malik Jefferson (LB, Texas)
#37 Indianapolis — Kerryon Johnson (RB, Auburn)
#38 Tampa Bay — Derrius Guice (RB, LSU)
#39 Chicago — Connor Williams (T, Texas)
#40 Denver — Nick Chubb (RB, Georgia)
#41 Oakland — Ronnie Harrison (S, Alabama)
#42 Miami — Billy Price (C, Ohio State)
#43 New England (via SF) — Mike Hughes (CB, UCF)
#44 Washington — Royce Freeman (RB, Oregon)
#45 Green Bay — Courtland Sutton (WR, SMU)
#46 Cincinnati — Hayden Hurst (TE, South Carolina)
#47 Arizona — Tyrell Crosby (T, Oregon)
#48 LA Chargers — Brian O’Neill (T, Pittsburgh)
#49 Indianapolis — D.J. Moore (WR, Maryland)
#50 Dallas — Carlton Davis (CB, Auburn)
#51 Detroit — Frank Ragnow (C, Arkansas)
#52 Baltimore — B.J. Hill (DT, NC State)
#53 Cleveland (via Buf) — Sam Hubbard (DE, Ohio State)
#54 Kansas City — Joshua Jackson (CB, Iowa)
#55 Carolina — Mike Gesicki (TE, Penn State)
#56 Buffalo (via LAR) — Harrison Phillips (DT, Stanford)
#57 Tennessee — Lorenzo Carter (EDGE, Georgia)
#58 Atlanta — Andrew Brown (DT, Virginia)
#59 San Francisco (via NOR) — Braden Smith (G, Auburn)
#60 Pittsburgh — James Washington (WR, Oklahoma State)
#61 Jacksonville — D.J. Chark (WR, LSU)
#62 Minnesota — Geron Christian (T, Louisville)
#63 Seattle (via NE) — Josh Sweat (DE, Florida State)
#64 Cleveland (via Phi) — Donte Jackson (CB, LSU)

The trades

Buffalo trades #12, #22 and #53 picks to Cleveland for #4
The Bills are in a situation now where their trade partners are quite limited. If they want to move up for a quarterback — and they clearly do — they’ll have to pay a steep price.

Miami trades #11 and #73 to San Francisco for #9
Seeing an opportunity to jump up two spots and secure a long term solution at quarterback, the Dolphins pull the trigger with Arizona, Baltimore and Los Angeles lurking.

New England trades #31 and #63 to Seattle for #18
The Patriots use their extra second round pick to jump into the top-20 to secure a replacement for Nate Solder. The Seahawks get an extra pick in the top-60.

Indianapolis trades #36 and #140 to Philadelphia for #32
The Colts make a small jump back into round one to secure the underrated Austin Corbett.

Mock notes

— There are numerous possibilities in the top-four. New York trading Jason Pierre-Paul could bring Bradley Chubb into play at #2. The Giants could easily take a quarterback there. Either way, Barkley probably doesn’t drop any further than the #4 pick. My prediction is the quarterbacks could come off the board in this order — Darnold, Allen, Rosen, Mayfield.

— In this projection I’ve got two running backs going in round one and seven in the top-50. San Diego State’s Rashaad Penny is the one name I couldn’t find a spot for. He could easily go in the second round too.

— If there are two positions that might get pushed up the board due to lack of numbers it’s offensive tackle and defensive end. I’ve not really represented that here, although Mike McGlinchey at #12 and Kolton Miller at #18 does to some extent. The EDGE rushers might go quickly too. If you need one — you’ll need to take them early.

Notes on the Seahawks

— It’s much harder to project the Seahawks this year because of their lack of picks. It’s pretty certain they’ll trade down from #18 but predicting a deal isn’t easy. It’s even harder to work out how they might fill their most pressing needs.

— I went with Ronald Jones II first because he’s the type of dynamic, high-upside athlete they’ve targeted early (or via trade) in the past. Lance Zierlein’s tweet yesterday was interesting but this is the team that traded for Percy Harvin and Marshawn Lynch and drafted Malik McDowell. So I’m not sure how impacted they’ll be by this. And let’s be clear — the frustration about Jones II is nowhere near the kind of drama Seattle handled/tolerated with Harvin, Lynch and McDowell. Not even close. I’m just pointing out they’re not easily put off natural talent.

— We talked yesterday how they could go RB/DE or DE/RB. At #31 the defensive end options had pretty much gone in that range. Harold Landry and Rasheem Green were off the board in the 20’s. So running back in this situation felt like a fair choice.

— I considered writing in another trade down for Seattle. In that scenario they would’ve probably missed out on Ronald Jones II. Nick Chubb would’ve been option B.

— In the late second round there might be some appealing defensive line options. I paired Sweat with Seattle based on his profile. It was equally tempting to give them someone like B.J. Hill, Andrew Brown, Kemoko Turay or Jalyn Holmes.

— These two picks would allow the Seahawks to target linebacker (Leon Jacobs?), defensive line (Tyquan Lewis, Justin Jones?), defensive back (Natrell Jamerson?) and tight end (Schultz, Smythe or Dissly?) on day three. The lack of a third round pick could cost them an opportunity to draft some intriguing players, especially on the defensive line and at tight end.

I’ll do a Live Google Hangout at 5pm PST today. If you have a question for the Q&A leave it in the comments section.

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Why the Seahawks might not draft a guard early

March 22nd, 2018 | Written by Rob Staton

Here are three facts about this draft class:

1. It’s top heavy at running back
2. It’s thin at EDGE
3. There’s some talent at guard/center in the first two rounds

The Seahawks have the #18 pick and then nothing until #120. It’ll be virtually impossible to draft one of the best running backs, a top guard and a pass rusher before round four. Even if they trade down.

Let’s go through each position.

1. Running back

We could see 6-8 going in the top-60. It’s that kind of class. By the start of round three all eight of the top runners could be gone. Then there’s a drop-off.

The top eight are likely Saquon Barkley, Ronald Jones II, Nick Chubb, Kerryon Johnson, Derrius Guice, Sony Michel, Rashaad Penny and Royce Freeman.

If you want to tap into this great running back group you’re probably going to have to take one in the top-50. And teams know that. Jay Gruden pretty much admitted the Redskins intend to. They won’t be alone.

2. Defensive end

Bradley Chubb and Marcus Davenport will go in the top-15. If you want an impact EDGE rusher with serious potential after that, you’re looking at Harold Landry, Josh Sweat and Kemoko Turay. Some teams might view Uchenna Nwosu, Lorenzo Carter and Leon Jacobs as EDGE options but they’re arguably better suited to SAM/LEO (where Seattle just added Barkevious Mingo). There are inside/out type rushers too (Rasheem Green) but there are some nice DE/DT types available later. That might be a role reserved for Dion Jordan. This could be about finding the next Cliff Avril.

A 1.5 10-yard split is usually a good indicator for a talented EDGE and only Landry (1.59) and Sweat (1.55) managed that. Turay ran a 1.62. Tulane’s Ade Aruna ran a 1.60 and had a very good combine workout but will likely need at least one redshirt year. To compare, Avril ran a 1.50 and Bruce Irvin a 1.55.

The Seahawks need some pass rushers. If Avril retires they’re currently relying on Frank Clark, Jordan and Mingo. They probably need to add a veteran and a rookie. If they don’t take an EDGE early they might miss out.

3. Guard/center

Quenton Nelson will go in the top-10 and then we could see a handful of interior offensive linemen drafted in the late first or early second round. That’s the range where Isaiah Wynn, Will Hernandez and Austin Corbett are slated to go. Iowa center James Daniels will also go quickly plus injured duo Frank Ragnow and Billy Price will probably be top-50 picks. Braden Smith could also go in round two.

As with the running back position, we’ll then see a drop-off.

If you had multiple picks between 20-60 you could address all three areas. The Colts own #6, #35, #36 and #49. They’ll be rubbing their hands looking at this class. Not only can they address DE early (Bradley Chubb) they’ll be in prime range to add a guard and a running back in the value zone and fill another need.

Jealous much?

The Seahawks are in a very different situation. They’re not going to be able to turn #18 into two early second round picks. At best they might be able to take advantage of New England (#31) and Cleveland (#33) owning multiple second round picks. A deal to move down 13-15 spots could net a late second.

They’re going to have to pick their poison.

Only a big trade involving Earl Thomas can change the situation. Even then, you’d be creating a void at safety that might need to be filled by a Jessie Bates III or Justin Reid. And currently, nothing appears imminent on Thomas. It’s over a week since Jason La Canfora’s tweet about interest in a deal.

By trading down significantly from #18 and acquiring a late second rounder or an early third rounder, they might be able to target two of the need positions.

So far they haven’t signed a defensive end. They re-signed Mike Davis today, although that’s likely a deal to provide competition and depth. The addition of D.J. Fluker as a likely starter suggests they won’t be drafting a guard early.

The focus instead could be RB + DE.

Reasons why they might’ve come to that conclusion

The Seahawks are only a year removed from drafting Ethan Pocic in round two. It’d be a big call to determine he isn’t good enough after just one season.

They’ve invested a ton of draft picks into their offensive line:

Duane Brown — 2018 R3 and 2019 R2
Ethan Pocic — 2017 R2
Justin Britt — 2014 R2
Germain Ifedi — 2016 R1
Rees Odhimabo — 2016 R3

Now they’ve signed D.J. Fluker too.

Eventually, you have to back your judgement and challenge the coaches to make the group function. Mike Solari hasn’t come in to blow up the personnel and create a new line. He’s here to work with the bulk of the existing group. The only new starter might be Fluker at right guard.

There could be some shifting around. George Fant might win the job at right tackle. Rees Odhiambo could compete at left guard. The Seahawks have already poured picks into their O-line. Now it’s time to get it working.

It can’t always be about ‘one more high pick’. The success or failure of the line is unlikely to be determined by the left guard alone. It’s one man in a group of five. Solari’s challenge is to improve communication and execution, particularly in the run game.

Time to deliver.

That’s not to say they wouldn’t benefit from having Isaiah Wynn, Austin Corbett or Will Hernandez lining up at left guard. It’d be great. But what’s the proposal? Bench Pocic and call it a wasted pick, while failing to properly address running back or defensive end? Or give Pocic a chance to take a step forward and fill the other two needs?

This is just part of building a roster. Every team has a call to make. Very few come into the draft with only one or two holes to fill. You’re nearly always working out the best combination.

Seattle drafted Pocic. They signed Fluker. They’ve not done anything significant at running back or defensive end. Things can change but right now those two positions seem to be the draft focus.

If nothing else, it’s logical.

And while some might suggest the Mike Davis signing addresses running back — you’re not passing on the top runners in this draft because of this news. You really aren’t. This is about making sure you’re not going into camp with just a rookie, Chris Carson and C.J. Prosise as your depth.

We should spend some time discussing combinations at running back + EDGE that fit for the Seahawks.

They could find a way to go Ronald Jones II then Josh Sweat. Or it could be Harold Landry and Nick Chubb.

Either scenario makes some sense.

They’d be taking a pass rusher that fits what they’ve gone for in the past (highly athletic, 1.5 10-yard split, good agility/explosive testing). If they want an EDGE with plus athleticism, Landry and Sweat are certainly options.

There are alternatives too. If they wanted to go with an inside/out rusher instead they could consider Rasheem Green. He’s projected in the late first or early second round. Sam Hubbard is another who could go in that range. Andrew Brown is rising quickly and could be a target as early as round two.

Jones II is a little lighter than they’ve drafted at running back but he’s that explosive, sudden, dynamic playmaker they’ve often coveted. He has star potential and looks every bit Jamaal Charles 2.0. That’s hard to ignore. He’s also much tougher and aggressive than some of the bigger backs in this class. If only Bo Scarborough played with Rojo’s intensity. He’d be going a lot earlier in the draft.

Chubb meanwhile is practically the definition of the type of running back they’ve previously drafted. About 5-10 and 225lbs, incredibly explosive and tough. Kerryon Johnson is another alternative.

Address these two needs early and you’re set up for the rest of the draft. You can fill out your D-line depth with the beef at Ohio State (Tyquan Lewis, Jalyn Holmes) and NC State (B.J. Hill, Justin Jones, Kentavius Street). You can look to bring in another blocking tight end (Dalton Schultz, Durham Smythe, Will Dissly). There are plenty of options at linebacker (Leon Jacobs, Fred Warner, Dorian O’Daniel, Oren Burks) and you can add some talent to the secondary (Natrell Jamerson, Nick Nelson, Tre Flowers, Isaac Yiadom, Brandon Facyson, Terrell Edmunds).

If there’s one other thing free agency is telling us, it’s that the Seahawks aren’t enamoured with the draft options at receiver. They’ve already added Marcus Johnson and Jaron Brown. Reportedly they’re still in the hunt for Terrelle Pryor. They might wait until the last round or UDFA although Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimious St. Brown are intriguing options from the combine.

Re-signing Bradley McDougald and adding Maurice Alexander could take strong safety off the board too, especially if Earl Thomas is retained at free safety.

EDIT — The Seahawks also re-signed Marcus Smith today. It’s valuable depth and he can be an EDGE. As with the Davis signing, I’m not sure it changes anything in terms of the overall discussion in this piece.

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Assessing the D-line options in the 2018 draft

March 21st, 2018 | Written by Rob Staton

The Seahawks are thin on the defensive line. Michael Bennett is gone, Cliff Avril might be going. Sheldon Richardson is in Minnesota and there’s no news about Malik McDowell’s future.

They were able to re-sign Dion Jordan as a restricted free agent (as expected) but no other moves have been made. Simply put, they need to bolster their rotation and add pass rushers.

The options early in the draft aren’t great. That’s not a problem. The Seahawks probably need to focus on their running game anyway. Thankfully there are possible targets later on.

Crucially the options are better at defensive tackle than EDGE. It’s likely one of the reasons, alongside money and culture change, that the Seahawks appear to be showing minimal (if any) interest in Ndamukong Suh.

Senior Bowl review

This week I went back and watched some of the Senior Bowl practises (OL vs DL). NC State’s B.J. Hill and Justin Jones just flat out dominated in the 1v1’s. Both players consistently drove offensive linemen 4-5 yards into the backfield. Power, leverage, great hand placement.

They looked like Alabama linemen in Mobile. They were just bigger and more physical than any one else. They stood out. I’m not sure how easy it’d be to acquire both (especially with multiple needs and limited picks) but Seattle’s interior D-line rotation would be a force. Naz Jones, Jarran Reed, B.J. Hill and Justin Jones would be a quartet of nasty, physical linemen.

If there’s any way at all to get these two, it’d be a huge boost for Seattle’s D-line rotation. Hill in particular just looks like a force. It won’t be a surprise if he goes in the second or third round range.

On a separate note — while re-watching the day-three Senior Bowl practise — Will Hernandez struggled a bit. He was beaten on a B-gap rush thanks to suspect footwork (heavy feet) and then struggled to handle Kemoko Turay rushing from the inside. Turay jolted him backwards and then tried a neat pull-push move. All Hernandez could do was grab his jersey. It would’ve been a holding penalty in a game. It was a bit of a surprise to see Hernandez toil against a smaller speed rusher working inside.

Ohio State’s Tyquan Lewis had a great Senior Bowl and that showed up in the practise re-watch. He dominated Jamil Demby on one snap working at defensive end. He was equally comfortable rushing the left or right side and had a great rep against Brian O’Neil too, just dominated him.

Both Lewis and team mate Jalyn Holmes had to share reps in a heavy D-line rotation for the Buckeye’s. Don’t sleep on either player. Lewis is an exceptional athlete:

Andrew Brown at Virginia stood out on the Senior Bowl re-watch too. It won’t be a shock if he goes in round two or three and B.J. Hill isn’t far behind. There was one snap where Brown jumped offside and tripped up. He suddenly flipped back up to the turf and got back into position. It was an impressive show of athleticism at 296lbs.

He’s really quick off the snap:

He also plays like his hair is on fair. There are some general technique things to work on. Sometimes Brown gets a little high and loses leverage. It’s coachable.

If Hill and Jones are just nasty and rich in attitude, Brown has a none-stop motor and plus athleticism/quickness.

What range are they going to go in?

NFL.com’s draft tracker (put together by Lance Zierlein) currently lists the players in the following range:

B.J. Hill — R4-5
Tyquan Lewis — R5-6
Justin Jones — R6
Andrew Brown — R6-7

I’m pretty sure all four will go earlier than projected. Much earlier in some cases (Hill, Brown). If they were all available on day three it’d be a fantastic opportunity to really bolster the D-line depth and it might be one of the reasons why they haven’t really added anyone in free agency.

Do they actually fit the Seahawks?

Yes. As noted in our combine preview, the Seahawks like length and agility. They haven’t drafted a D-liner with sub-33 inch arms. They’ve often drafted players that performed well in the short shuttle, such as Quinton Jefferson (4.37), Jordan Hill (4.51), Jaye Howard (4.47) and Malik McDowell (4.53).

How did the four players above measure and test?

B.J. Hill — 33 inch arms, 4.53 short shuttle
Tyquan Lewis — 34 inch arms, DNP
Justin Jones — 33.5 inch arms, 4.74 short shuttle
Andrew Brown — 34.5 inch arms, 4.48 short shuttle

Hill and Brown in particular stand out here. They’re also the two most likely to go earlier than expected (possibly rounds 2-3).

Jones didn’t actually perform that well in the short shuttle. However, the attitude and way he plays might still appeal to the Seahawks. Naz Jones ran a 4.63 short shuttle so they’re not tied to the 4.4 or 4.5 range.

Lewis didn’t do the short shuttle or many of the combine drills due to illness. He did do the vertical (35.5 inches) and broad (10-2) and tested very well in both jumps. At the Nike SPARQ combine he ran a 4.41 short shuttle.

Two of Lewis’ team mates are worth monitoring too. Sam Hubbard ran a 4.32 short shuttle and had the best three-cone among defensive linemen (6.84). He has 33 inch arms and is a pure 4-3 defensive end with some Patrick Kerney level upside. Jalyn Holmes is 6-5 and 283lbs with 34 inch arms. He didn’t do the short shuttle but ran a superb 1.67 10-yard split for his size.

Ohio State and NC State have some great options to fill out a defensive line in this draft class. They might need to fill out their day two board to have a shot at B.J. Hill or Andrew Brown (plus possibly Jalyn Holmes) but the likes of Lewis and Jones might be there on day three.

There are options here for the Seahawks.

What about EDGE/speed rushers?

It might be difficult to find them in this draft. There are only a handful.

We know the Seahawks like 1.5 10-yard splits from the EDGE. They’ve taken freaky, long, high-ceiling athletes to play D-line. Bruce Irvin, Frank Clark and Malik McDowell were all physical freaks. They’re not going to settle on an average athlete here. They’re going to look for someone with special traits.

Only two pure EDGE rushers ran a 1.5 10-yard split at the combine — Harold Landry (1.59) and Josh Sweat (1.55). That was a bit disappointing. Two SAM/LEO prospects also ran in the 1.5’s (Leon Jacobs and Lorenzo Carter).

The likes of Landry, Hubbard and USC’s Rasheem Green might go a bit too early for Seattle. It’s also questionable whether they’re truly special enough in the way Irvin, Clark and McDowell stood out.

Josh Sweat on the other hand could be exactly the type of player they’re looking for.

It’s not a surprise they’re keeping an eye on him. There aren’t many human beings on the planet with this type of physical profile:

Height: 6-5
Weight: 251lbs
Arm length: 34.5 inches
Forty: 4.53
10-yard: 1.55
Vertical: 39.5
Broad: 10-4
Short shuttle: 4.28

That’s a freakish looking combination of size, length, speed, explosion and agility. If they’re looking for high-upside with rare traits, Sweat’s your guy.

According to Tony Pauline, the Seahawks interviewed Sweat after his workout.

On tape he can be a little frustrating at times. He’s not necessarily the high-intensity player you see with B.J. Hill, Justin Jones and Andrew Brown. He has an injury history too including a severe knee injury in high school and a meniscus tear in 2016.

The feeling is Sweat will go in round two based on upside and the lack of alternatives in this class. If the Seahawks were going to consider taking him, they’d likely need to acquire multiple picks in that range. Quite aside from their other needs (running game) it’d be quite the gamble to take a chance on Sweat staying healthy.

An alternative could be Rutgers’ Kemoko Turay. He also has some of the size (6-5, 253lbs) and length (33.5 inch arms) they like. He didn’t do any of the agility testing at the combine after injuring a hamstring running the forty. He managed a 1.62 10-yard split. Turay really impressed at the Senior Bowl and looked twitchy and capable of playing some SAM/LEO as well as EDGE.

Reviewing the options

In the near future I’m going to put together a ‘targets list’ that we can update as the process goes along. This will include any VMAC visitors, players they’ve met with or players that fit certain physical ideals.

On the D-line I’ll be including B.J. Hill, Andrew Brown, Tyquan Lewis, Jalyn Holmes, Justin Jones, Josh Sweat and Kemoko Turay.

It might be frustrating for fans at the moment watching the Rams flirt with Ndamukong Suh while other teams make bold moves in free agency. I would stress the need to be patient. This isn’t a loaded draft class rich in legit first round prospects. It might be the perfect draft for the Seahawks though if they want to fix the running game and re-make the defense.

The only position they might struggle to add is at cornerback. There are some options that fit their profile but not many. Re-signing Byron Maxwell could be pretty important.

Quick note on the USC pro-day

Ronald Jones II didn’t do a full workout today. According to Tony Pauline he’s only at 70% health after recently hurting his hamstring. The belief is he will conduct a workout some time in early April.

We’ve been saying it for a few months now — but keep an eye on RoJo for the Seahawks. He’s a special talent, the kind Seattle has added in the past. He’s an extremely physical, tough, aggressive running back with explosive traits and incredible speed/suddenness. He’s a playmaker in the mould of Jamaal Charles and he could easily end up being Seattle’s first pick in this draft. For more on Jones II check out these articles here and here.

Defensive end Rasheem Green did the bench press today, managing 23 reps. It means his TEF score is now confirmed as a 3.20.

Sam Darnold received mixed reviews for his throwing performance. None of the quarterback have really separated so far. I think it’ll be between Josh Allen and Darnold to go first overall, then the Giants will have to make a decision on whether to go quarterback or Saquon Barkley. One way or another we’ll probably see three QB’s off the board in the top four plus Barkley.

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Are the Jaguars a possible Earl Thomas trade partner?

March 21st, 2018 | Written by Rob Staton

Could these two be lining up together in 2018?

Jacksonville has been busy creating cap room over the last few days. Cutting Marcedes Lewis and Allen Hurns freed up $10m. Today it was revealed they’ve restructured Telvin Smith’s contract.

It means they have approximately $18m to spend.

So why are they making these moves?

Could they be creating room for an Earl Thomas trade?

The Jaguars are in ‘win now’ mode. They’ve been aggressive in free agency. Jason La Canfora called it a two-year window for Tom Coughlin in a piece earlier this week.

Despite fielding one of the best defenses in the NFL last season, the Jaguars were susceptible to the deep ball. Look how easily the Seahawks climbed back into the week 14 game between the teams. Unusually simple deep throws to Paul Richardson and Tyler Lockett almost inspired a late victory.

In the AFC divisional game against Pittsburgh, Jacksonville were in complete control but blown coverages downfield kept the Steelers in it right until the end. Ben Roethlisberger threw five touchdowns and 469 yards.

That play above happened with 25 seconds left in the first half. It was a 36-yard pass from Roethlisberger, with the Steelers desperately trying to find some points trailing 28-7. That play — plus a 43-yarder to Antonio Brown later — kept Pittsburgh alive.

Thomas could be the missing piece to the defense. He’d take away the deep post and make the most of Jacksonville’s extreme talent at cornerback, linebacker and on the defensive line.

Furthermore, they also use a similar defensive scheme to the Seahawks. Defensive coordinator Todd Wash was Seattle’s D-line coach in 2011 and 2012 before leaving with Gus Bradley.

The Jaguars are picking in the late first round (#29). It’s possible New Orleans (#27) and Pittsburgh (#28) take safeties off the board right before they pick. Acquiring Thomas wouldn’t just make that a moot point. They’d add a future Hall-of-Famer to an already loaded defense. Jacksonville would be in a great position to go one better in 2018 and win the AFC.

For the Seahawks, it might be their best chance to get the desired first and third round pick they’re reportedly asking for.

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Why would a team trade up to #18?

March 20th, 2018 | Written by Rob Staton

UCLA’s Kolton Miller could be a target for teams needing a tackle

It’s fairly safe to assume that the Seahawks will trade down from #18. Without going over old ground too much, here’s a quick summary:

— They don’t have any picks in rounds 2-3, meaning they’d pick at #18 and then not until #120. Particularly this year, the Seahawks can’t afford to sit and watch 102 players come off the board.

— It’s a common opinion that there’s anywhere between 10-20 legit first round grades in this draft class. Even if they stay at #18, it’s possible they’ll be picking from a pool of players with second round grades.

— Seattle’s priority appears to be fixing the running game. With a cluster of talented guards and running backs set to come off the board between picks 25-60, trading down would allow them to tap into that value and address key needs.

The Seahawks successfully traded down in the last two drafts. Last year the Falcons were determined to add a pass rusher so made an aggressive move to go from #31 to #26 to get Takk McKinley. In 2016 the Broncos and Cowboys were bidding with Seattle to move up and get Paxton Lynch.

Here are three scenarios that could lead to a team coveting the #18 pick…

1. Left tackle

This isn’t a great class for offensive tackles but there are quite a few teams needing one. Joe Thomas retiring in Cleveland and Nate Solder leaving New England for the Giants created needs for the Browns and Patriots. The Broncos, Colts and Eagles could also be in the market for an athletic tackle.

There’s no real top-tier prospect in this class. Mike McGlinchey and Kolton Miller are likely competing to be the first off the board. When one goes, however, it could create a scramble for the second. After these two the options are extremely limited. The position is also important enough to warrant an aggressive trade.

The Cardinals at #15, Ravens at #16 and Chargers at #17 could all take McGlinchey or Miller. If one goes and the other remains by #18, teams might get a little anxious about missing out. Especially if the Seahawks end up talking to multiple teams about tackles. They also had representatives at the UCLA pro-day and might send out signals that they’re also prepared to take Miller.

This might be the ideal scenario for a trade down. The Browns, Patriots and Colts all have multiple second round picks. The Seahawks could be able to turn #18 into two second rounders or in the case of the Patriots — #31 and #63.

2. Wide receiver

This isn’t an appealing draft for receivers. It’s likely one of the reasons the wide out market exploded in free agency. We might only see one prospect — Calvin Ridley — drafted in the first round.

Ridley’s stock is tough to get an angle on. Some really like his polish and ability to get open. He had a fairly accomplished career at Alabama. There’s also nothing particularly outstanding about his physique. He’s only 6-0 and 189lbs. He ran a 4.43 which is fine at his size but not remarkable and his short shuttle time of 4.41 was beaten or matched by five defensive linemen, 10 edge rushers and one offensive lineman (James Daniels).

Even so, someone is going to take a shot on Ridley as a reliable target. The Dallas Cowboys might be looking for a receiver in this draft and could take him at #19. If teams grade Ridley as the clear #1 receiver they might be willing to jump ahead of Dallas to get their man.

Atlanta, Indianapolis, New England, Philadelphia, Tennessee, New Orleans and Minnesota are not improbable suitors.

One other thing to consider here — the rising cost of the receiver market in free agency could make Ridley an appealing option. Having him at a relatively cheap price for five years could be an attractive proposition. And some teams are going to really like Ridley. He might generate quite a mix of opinions across the league. But some teams might even see him as a top-10 type talent.

3. Defensive prospects

It’s quite possible the two teams picking after Seattle (Dallas, Detroit) will go defense. Quite a few of the teams in the 20’s could also be thinking defense in round one (Buffalo, Los Angeles, Carolina, Tennessee, Atlanta, New Orleans, Pittsburgh, Jacksonville).

Dallas and Detroit could be thinking linebacker. This is a good draft for the position with some high class talent set to go in round one. Tremaine Edmunds will likely go in the top-10. Personally I think Leighton Vander Esch will be the second off the board.

Roquan Smith is regularly mocked in the top-12 picks and he had a particularly strong end to the season with Georgia. However, Tony Pauline has reported on some possible injury red flags and scheme fit is also important with Smith. He’s a very good player but he’s only 6-0 and 236lbs. He’s unlikely going to be an option for the 3-4 teams.

Alabama’s Rashaan Evans is also a very talented, highly touted option. He’s expected to go in the second half of round one.

If you want either of these players, you might need to get ahead of Dallas and Detroit. Both teams could be thinking D-line as an alternative. It’ll also be curious to see how long Derwin James lasts.

A year ago Atlanta traded with Seattle to secure the defender they wanted. We might see a similar situation this year.

No quarterback scenario?

It just doesn’t seem likely. Increasingly it looks like the ‘big four’ will go in the top-10 and that could push Lamar Jackson up the board too.

Would the Cardinals take Jackson at #15?

Most of the teams in the 20’s already have a quarterback anyway. Assuming Buffalo also makes a move using their #12 pick, virtually all of the teams in the second half of round one have an established starting quarterback or someone they only recently drafted.

What can the Seahawks collect in a deal?

The best move would be to trade straight from #18 into the late first or early second round. The bigger the drop the more likely they are to come away with a haul. They need multiple day-two picks.

Getting two second rounders, for example, would enable them to address O-line and running back.

Such an offer might not be forthcoming though, which could mean two separate trades. Can they move from #18 to about #25 and collect a third rounder? Then make a similar move from #25 into the top of round two?

That would give them three picks instead of one. An Earl Thomas trade could also generate a late first or second round pick — enabling them to address multiple key needs. If they were able to come out of day two with a running back, guard, defensive lineman and safety — that could be a good days work.

The players are there to make it happen:

Running back — Ronald Jones II, Nick Chubb, Kerryon Johnson, Derrius Guice, Sony Michel, Royce Freeman, Rashaad Penny

O-line — Isaiah Wynn, Will Hernandez, Austin Corbett, Frank Ragnow, Billy Price, Braden Smith

Front seven defense — Josh Sweat, Lorenzo Carter, Kemoko Turay, Andrew Brown, B.J. Hill, Sam Hubbard

Safety — Jessie Bates III, Justin Reid, Ronnie Harrison

Meanwhile…

This is an interesting signing. It could be an O-line hedge if they want to go running back first in the draft. It could purely be a move to add competition at right guard.

In an ideal scenario the Seahawks would be able to add one of Isaiah Wynn, Will Hernandez or Austin Corbett to the O-line while still landing one of Ronald Jones II, Nick Chubb or Kerryon Johnson. That won’t be easy though unless they own two picks in the top-45.

Nevertheless, there’s no harm in adding some competition up front. Fluker worked with Mike Solari in New York last year and had a decent spell before injury ended his season prematurely.

Meanwhile defensive tackle Bennie Logan and cornerback Dontae Johnson reportedly visited with the Seahawks.

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Status check after the first wave of free agency

March 19th, 2018 | Written by Rob Staton

— So far the Seahawks haven’t made any significant moves to improve their running game. The first two rounds of the draft are loaded with talent at guard and running back. All signs point to the Seahawks focusing first and foremost on those two areas.

— I still think the names to keep an eye on are Isaiah Wynn (G, Georgia), Will Hernandez (G, UTEP), Austin Corbett (G, Nevada), Ronald Jones II (RB, USC), Nick Chubb (RB, Georgia) and Kerryon Johnson (RB, Auburn). Getting two of this group of six would be a huge win.

— Why those three running backs in particular? Details here.

— They also need to pad out their defensive line. There will be options from the middle rounds onwards. NC State held its pro-day today and they have four beasts entering the draft this year. Bradley Chubb will go in the top-six. B.J. Hill, Justin Jones and Kentavius Street are also worth monitoring. All three have +33 inch arms (Seattle has never drafted a D-liner with sub-33 inch arms) and just look built for the pro’s. Of the three, Hill could be the earliest to go. He’s highly athletic for his 311lbs frame (4.99 forty, 4.53 short shuttle) and plays with great intensity. You could imagine him rotating with Jarran Reed and Naz Jones and plays with the kind of attitude they’ll be looking for. Both Hill and Jones stood out at the Senior Bowl. Street is a three technique with explosive power and quickness. He ran a 1.67 10-yard split at 280lbs — a good time for his size.

— Ohio State also has three appealing options. Sam Hubbard might go too early but he proved to be a lot more athletic than expected at the combine. His 6.84 short shuttle was the fastest among defensive linemen and is the sixth fastest in the last 10 years. He was also an explosive tester (estimated TEF score of 3.26) and has great size (6-5, 270lbs). Hubbard will likely go in round two at the latest. Jalyn Holmes is another name to keep an eye on. He’s 6-5 and 283lbs with long arms (34 inches). Like Kentavius Street he also ran a 1.67 10-yard split and could be a useful inside/out type rusher. Tyquan Lewis was ill at the combine but did the vertical (35.5 inches) and broad (10-2). He also has long arms (34 inches) and good size (6-3, 270lbs).

— Keep an eye on Virginia’s Andrew Brown. Very few players can match him for aggression and intensity. He’s a former five-star recruit and had a terrific Senior Bowl. He has everything you want physically — size (6-3, 296lbs), long arms (34.5 inches), speed (5.03 forty) and great agility (4.48 short shuttle). It won’t be a surprise at all if he sneaks into round two. If the Seahawks manage to acquire multiple day two picks, Brown could be a target. Along with the guys from NC State and Ohio State, there are clearly options here to create a solid D-line rotation.

— The EDGE options are limited and it’s even worse at the SAM/LEO. It’s not a surprise at all that Seattle prioritised signing Barkevious Mingo in free agency. There are only three logical LEO types — Harold Landry, Lorenzo Carter and Kemoko Turay. Landry and Carter both ran 1.5 10-yard splits but might go a bit too early for Seattle’s taste. Turay ran a 1.62 split but could be an option in the middle rounds. He has a lot of potential as a speed rusher off the edge.

— The other name to keep an eye on is Josh Sweat. He’s more of a pure EDGE than a SAM/LEO but there aren’t many human beings with his combination of size, length and incredible athleticism. He had injury issues at Florida State but he’s a good character with great potential. He’s nearly 6-5 and 251lbs with 34.5 inch arms. He still managed to run a 4.53 with a 1.55 10-yard split and his explosive and agility testing was also excellent. He’ll go in round two at the absolute latest.

— For anyone thinking Seattle should prioritise D-line early because of the loss of Sheldon Richardson, Michael Bennett and potentially Cliff Avril — it’s not an unfair position to take. But please look at the options available. The likes of Vita Vea will be long gone by #18. Marcus Davenport will not last to #18. It is possible to address the running game early and still get some very intriguing defensive prospects later on. That is how this draft is set up. It’ll be much harder to go defense early and then fill your offensive holes. Much, much harder.

— For more on the defensive line class read our positional review from the combine.

— Will the Seahawks sign Ndamukong Suh? It looks highly unlikely. After some early excitement about the possibility, it’s becoming increasingly clear what Seattle’s plan is. Young, hungry, poor, competitive. It’d be a curious move to cut back as much as they have and then suddenly spend big money on Suh. Plus, as we’ve noted above, there are some good D-line options available in the middle or later rounds this year.

— It’ll be a good year to add some depth at linebacker. The Seahawks need some speed on defense. Wisconsin’s Leon Jacobs ran a 4.48 at 6-1 and 246lbs. He plays with his hair on fire. It’ll be a surprise if he’s not on Seattle’s radar along with Wisconsin team mates Natrell Jameson and Nick Nelson. The Badgers are a production line for defensive talent at the moment.

We discussed the Earl Thomas situation (or stalemate) yesterday. You have to wonder if the Seahawks will eventually lower their demands and be willing to take a lesser pick, such as a second rounder. They’ve been checking out the safety class (Justin Reid, Natrell Jamerson, Jessie Bates III) and need picks in the valuable round 2-3 range.

— Why will teams trade up to #18? I don’t think it’ll be for a quarterback. The ‘big four’ are increasingly likely to go in the top-10. Lamar Jackson could move up as a consequence and possibly go in the top-15. It will mean other players drop. With limited offensive tackle options, someone might be willing to move up and take UCLA’s Kolton Miller. Roquan Smith probably isn’t going to go as early as many expect and could be a target for the Dallas Cowboys. If Calvin Ridley remains on the board, he too could be a target for Dallas at #19. Teams might be willing to move up quite aggressively to take possibly the only receiver that’ll go in round one.

Tony Pauline says Temple receiver Keith Kirkwood will visit with the Seahawks. At his pro-day today he ran in the 4.4’s at 6-3 and 221lbs. The Seahawks have regularly targeted receivers running in the 4.4 range. He also jumped a 35 inch vertical and a 10-5 broad.

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Justin Reid set to visit Seahawks

March 18th, 2018 | Written by Rob Staton

This is interesting for quite a few reasons.

Reid is going to go in the first two rounds of the draft. It’ll be a surprise if he makes it out of the top-40.

His brother Eric (still available as a free agent) was the #18 overall pick in 2013. Justin performed better in the speed/agility tests at the combine (4.40 forty, 4.15 short shuttle, 6.65 three cone compared to Eric’s 4.53, 4.22 and 6.99). Eric was slightly more explosive (40.5 inch vertical, 11-0 broad compared to Justin’s 38.5 and 10-8).

Justin didn’t get enough attention for his performance in Indianapolis. At 6-0 and 207lbs, these are really good numbers. If you’re looking for a modern day safety capable of playing up in the slot, lining up deep in single-high or playing at the LOS — this kind of physical profile tells you Reid has the potential to do it all.

Having watched three of his games there are areas he can improve. His tackling isn’t textbook and there are question marks about his ability to play deep in space.

For the Seahawks to even think about drafting him early — you know what that means for Earl Thomas. And with 4.40 speed they might be thinking Reid can develop into a free safety.

A visit doesn’t mean the Seahawks are automatically going to target Reid in the draft. It has occasionally been a telltale sign, however. Last year they met with both Malik McDowell and Shaquille Griffin. In 2016 they invited Zac Brooks and Christian French to the VMAC (both ended up with Seattle) and held private workouts with Germain Ifedi, Rees Odhiambo and George Fant.

There’s also a long list of players they met and didn’t draft. In 2016 Derrick Henry, Vernon Butler and Chris Jones visited the VMAC. They took Ifedi instead with their first pick. So there’s the perspective.

Yet there’s a trend occurring specifically at the safety position. Reid will visit the Seahawks. Last week they had dinner with Natrell Jamerson after the Wisconsin pro-day. In February Tony Pauline reported they were ‘looking hard’ at Wake Forest’s Jessie Bates III.

They could be doing due diligence. After all, there’s no point trading Earl Thomas if you don’t think there’s an adequate replacement available. Even if they planned to start Bradley McDougald at free safety, they’d likely want to know what the draft options are.

Thomas is also out of contract after the 2018 season. If he stays for one more year, they might be planning ahead.

The report about the Reid visit will add fuel to the fire that Thomas is about to be dealt. It’s gone a bit quiet after Jason La Canfora’s tweet/report on Thursday that the Seahawks were talking to potential trade partners. The detail presented (trade price, contract value) made it seem like a deal was close. Yet there hasn’t been any kind of update since. It makes you wonder if teams are playing a long game. Do they think they’ll get a cheaper price if they bide their time? Possibly.

The Seahawks have already moved Richard Sherman and Michael Bennett. If other teams believe they’re determined to move Thomas too — why are you going to pay a high draft pick? Wait it out until the Seahawks lower their demands.

Seattle’s only counter, because it’s obvious they are making major changes, is to try and create a lot of interest so teams feel like they have to act or they’ll miss out.

We could be witnessing a stalemate. No teams willing to pay the asking price, Seattle not budging. Who’s going to blink first? The Seahawks need the pressure of multiple interested parties to create some urgency.

There are plenty of teams out there that could use an upgrade at safety. Here’s the league-wide picture. A lot of the focus has been on Dallas yet Carolina, Denver, Detroit, the LA Chargers, Pittsburgh and Miami could all use an upgrade.

Regardless, it feels increasingly like the Seahawks are planning for life after Earl Thomas.

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