Why isn’t Evan Engram getting more credit?

April 20th, 2017 | Written by Rob Staton

We’re recording the latest podcast today so stay tuned. In the meantime, I wanted to put a few thoughts out about one of the more underrated players in the draft.

The first player we really focused on this year (back in early October) was Ole Miss tight end Evan Engram:

Engram is a little bit like Jordan Reed albeit 10lbs lighter. He can line up anywhere — inline TE, detached, slot, H-back. He’s a mismatch. At a listed 6-3 and 227lbs you could just use him as an out-and-out bigger receiver if you wanted. He has the agility, fluidity and athleticism to make it work.

We talk a lot about mismatches these days. Engram is a perfect example. Yet he doesn’t get that much hype.

That probably needs to change.

Yesterday I paired him with the Giants at #23. New York needs a tight end and with O.J. Howard and David Njoku likely gone, Engram could be an ideal fit.

It shouldn’t be considered a reach either.

One of the more dynamic receivers in the NFL currently is Mike Evans. Let’s compare his physical profile to Engram’s:

Mike Evans
Height: 6-5
Weight: 231
Arms: 35 1/8
Hands: 9 5/8
Forty: 4.53
Vertical: 37
Broad: DNP
Short shuttle: 4.26
Three-cone: 7.08

Evan Engram
Height: 6-3
Weight: 234
Arms: 33 1/2
Hands: 10
Forty: 4.42
Vertical: 36
Broad: 10-5
Short shuttle: 4.23
Three-cone: 6.92

Engram is shorter and isn’t quite as long — but he’s quicker, has superior long speed and he’s equally explosive.

Evans was the #7 overall pick in 2014 but it’s worth noting not everyone projected him to go that early. This profile by Nolan Narwocki listed him as a borderline first round pick (the same as Engram):

A prep hoopster with shooting-guard size, Evans combined with Johnny Manziel to form one of the most dominant quarterback-receiver connections in the nation the last two seasons. He’s a big, physical, strong-handed, West Coast possession receiver with playmaking ability who projects as a No. 2 in the pros where he will make his money as a chain mover and red-zone target.

It doesn’t mean Engram’s going to go in the top-10. The comparison feels somewhat legit though — and a smart team might get a similar player at a cheaper price.

Evans spends a lot of his time in the slot acting as a mismatch. This is how you’d likely use Engram. He’s not so much a tight end as a dynamic big target. Put him up against a safety or linebacker and he’ll have success.

The 2017 draft is going to be unpredictable. More so than in previous years. There are a bunch of players with similar grades. It wouldn’t be a huge shock if Engram went a lot earlier than most are currently projecting — especially if Howard and Njoku are both gone in the top-15.

The talent at tight end could also work against the receiver class. Howard, Njoku and Engram are explosive, highly athletic playmakers. And they’re healthy. Corey Davis, Mike Williams and John Ross don’t have that.

Would the Seahawks take Engram at #26? As good as he is, they’re already struggling to utilise the tight ends they’ve got. Even if you view him as a mismatch receiver — Seattle’s problem isn’t a lack of targets on offense.

Even if they were planning ahead with Graham and Willson out of contract in 2018, wouldn’t they just be better off franchising Graham? It’s not like there’d be any less pressure to feed Engram the ball as a first round pick.

For it to happen they’d have to be pretty down on the defensive talent available.

He’s very good though — and if they were going BPA he wouldn’t be a bad choice. It’s likely lesser players will be off the board before Engram. I’m going to revise my tiered rankings before next week and Engram will be in the third tier as one of the best twenty or so players in the class.

 

Seahawks trade down scenario (and a first round projection)

April 19th, 2017 | Written by Rob Staton

John Schneider’s review of the 2017 draft two weeks ago suggested the Seahawks were preparing to be active one way or another:

“I don’t like it quite as much as I liked it last year. I think there’s different parts of it that I do like and that we want to pick in that range. We have, what? Two weeks left… so we have some time to kind of get back with everybody but just sitting there by myself staring at it at night… I’m not there yet. Last year I just felt like it was kind of thick all the way through and we were willing to pick players all the way through. This year it seems that there’s some gaps in there that you may be able to… which for us not having a fourth and a fifth this year may work out in our favour.”

Schneider’s colourful admission that he sits staring at the draft board at night is quite the review of how he views this class. He possibly knows he’ll need to be aggressive one way or another to get into the parts of the draft where they want to pick.

With just over a week to go I wanted to look at a scenario that would possibly lead to the Seahawks moving down.

#1 Cleveland — Myles Garrett (EDGE, Texas A&M)
#2 San Francisco — Solomon Thomas (DE, Stanford)
#3 Chicago — Jamal Adams (S, LSU)
#4 Jacksonville — Leonard Fournette (RB, LSU)
#5 Tennessee — O.J. Howard (TE, Alabama)
#6 New York Jets — Reuben Foster (LB, Alabama)
#7 LA Chargers — Malik Hooker (S, Ohio State)
#8 Carolina — Jonathan Allen (DE, Alabama)
#9 Cincinnati — Garett Bolles (T, Utah)
#10 Buffalo — David Njoku (TE, Miami)
#11 New Orleans — Marlon Humphrey (CB, Alabama)
#12 Cleveland — Gareon Conley (CB, Ohio State)
#13 Arizona — Jarrad Davis (LB, Florida)
#14 Philadelphia (via Min) — Christian McCaffrey (RB, Stanford)
#15 Indianapolis — Haason Reddick (LB, Temple)
#16 Baltimore — Forrest Lamp (G, Western Kentucky)
#17 Washington — Obi Melifonwu (S, Connecticut)
#18 Tennessee — Chidobe Awuzie (CB, Colorado)
#19 Tampa Bay — Adoree’ Jackson (CB, USC)
#20 Denver — Ryan Ramcyzk (T, Wisconsin)
#21 Detroit — Charles Harris (EDGE, Missouri)
#22 Miami — Marshon Lattimore (CB, Ohio State)
#23 New York Giants — Evan Engram (TE, Ole Miss)
#24 Oakland — Kevin King (CB, Washington)
#25 Houston — Cam Robinson (T, Alabama)
#26 Jacksonville (TRADE) — Deshaun Watson (QB, Clemson)
#27 Kansas City — Patrick Mahomes (QB, Texas Tech)
#28 Dallas — Jabrill Peppers (S, Michigan)
#29 Green Bay — Quincy Wilson (CB, Florida)
#30 Pittsburgh — John Ross (WR, Washington)
#31 Atlanta — Justin Evans (S, Texas A&M)
#32 New Orleans — Taco Charlton (EDGE, Michigan)

Notes on the trade

— There’s so little buzz about the quarterbacks, it feels possible they’ll last deep into round one. In this scenario one of the teams picking in the 30’s (Jacksonville) makes a move. I think it’s unlikely Tom Coughlin will see Blake Bortles’ character and lifestyle as the right fit for his version of the Jaguars.

— The Seahawks at #26 are well placed if they do want to move down. They sit right in front of Kansas City (a possible destination for quarterbacks). A deal with Jacksonville could net a high fourth round pick.

— The options at #26 in this scenario aren’t terrible. There are still some intriguing possibilities. However, a similar plan to last year could be on the cards. Seattle moved from #26 to #31 to get Germain Ifedi, then moved from #56 to #49 to get Jarran Reed. Considering the players they met with recently (Malik McDowell, Jourdan Lewis, Tim Williams, Ahkello Witherspoon) it feels like they’re looking at players that might be available in the #30-50 range. They might prefer to pick there twice instead of at #26 and #58.

— Who would they consider? It certainly feels like there’s a lot of momentum for a defensive back and a pass rusher with the first two picks (in no particular order).

— Ultimately their picks will come down to a handful of factors — need, grit, traits. We highlighted last week why SPARQ isn’t the be-all and end-all and they could end up taking a less athletic albeit highly gritty player.

Notes on some of the other picks

— Reuben Foster could fall. He also could easily go in the top-10 which was the initial projection at the start of the process. Mike Maccagnan has consistently gone pure BPA with his picks. Foster could be BPA at #6. It’s a weird pick to own this year in terms of value and the Jets could be a strong candidate to take a cheap deal to move down if teams want Malik Hooker or Jonathan Allen.

We mocked David Njoku to Seattle back in January and while we’ve since moved on to other positions, he’s still a fascinating player. He could go in the top-12.

— Obi Melifonwu could easily last into range for the Seahawks. He could easily be their first round pick. Yet his rare combination of size, explosive athleticism, sure-tackling and versatility could also tempt a handful of teams to take him earlier than the 26th pick. Don’t be shocked if he goes earlier than expected.

— There’s often a big name that falls. There’s talk about teams souring on Marshon Lattimore due to hamstring issues. He might be one who drops a bit.

— Evan Engram runs a 4.42 at 234lbs. He deserves to go in round one. The Giants need a tight end and Engram could be their guy if Njoku’s off the board.

— There are question marks about the top three receivers (injury, speed, inability to workout during the off-season). Could John Ross, Mike Williams and Corey Davis fall quite far? Possibly. Especially when there are healthier, highly athletic and productive alternatives in rounds 2-3 (Zay Jones, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Curtis Samuel, Chris Godwin). The tight ends being so dynamic (Howard, Njoku, Engram) could also work against the big name wide outs.

 

Quick notes: Takk McKinley & Malik McDowell

April 18th, 2017 | Written by Rob Staton

Just a couple of quick notes today on a couple of defensive linemen…

Takk McKinley notes

Lance Zierlein has the Seahawks taking McKinley at #26 in his latest mock today. There’s a growing sentiment Seattle might go D-line with their first pick. It’s certainly true there’s a huge drop off in D-line talent after the top prospects leave the board. It’s a really deep corner and safety class.

If the Seahawks were after an EDGE, McKinley would be a terrific shout. His backstory and character are off the charts. Watch this video and tell me you won’t root for this guy whatever team he lands with. Yesterday we talked about Malik McDowell not fitting the ‘Seahawky’ profile. McKinley is the complete opposite. He’s grit personified.

He’s a 1.60 runner over 10-yards, his motor is relentless and never stops. He wins with a fantastic get-off but also has the power and thick base to bull-rush and overwhelm weaker tackles. He’s highly explosive, scoring a 3.39 in TEF. He has some technical flaws (needs to learn how to use his hands) and that could set him back early in his career. The upside 2-3 years down the line is very positive.

Here’s the thing though — I’m not convinced the Seahawks are after an EDGE. It seems for a while now they’ve been after another inside/out rusher. They’ve never really had that prolific interior rusher. The meeting with McDowell is indicative of their desire to find that type of player.

The problem is, that type of player is so rare.

McKinley was 250lbs at the combine and looked maxed out. He’s a thick, stout 250lbs. It’s difficult to imagine how he’s going to get another 15lbs onto his frame, let alone another 25-30. He’s an EDGE. And finding a fourth EDGE rusher isn’t anywhere near as much of a priority as finding an interior presence or some depth in the secondary.

Still, he’s very Seahawky in terms of character and motor.

Malik McDowell notes

I went back today and watched three perceived ‘positive’ games for McDowell (Notre Dame, Wisconsin, Indiana) following his visit to Seattle.

Certainly you see flashes of real talent. A one-armed bull rush to collapse the pocket, supreme agility to work the EDGE at 295lbs, the quickness and power combining to disrupt the interior (just what Seattle needs really).

The thing is, he doesn’t seem to make many plays (and the stat line backs that up — 1.5 sacks, seven TFL’s in 2016).

He’s reckless. He’s too manic, too out of control. His gap discipline as a consequence is all over the place and too often he’ll put his head down and rush and have zero impact.

A good example came against Wisconsin. He attacked the edge at 100mph and Ryan Ramcyzk just nudged him to the floor, using his own momentum against him. The Wisconsin running back rolled him on to his belly and it was over. Ugly and slightly embarrassing.

There are plenty of occasions where he goes for the club/swim working inside and attacks the wrong gap, leaving a nice running lane on the opposite side. His EDGE rush is quite predictable (club/swipe every time) and easy to adjust to.

And then you see the flashes. He’ll break into the backfield and look like DeForest Buckner at his best. He’ll rush the edge and chase down the QB for a sack. He’ll absorb blocks to allow a blitzing linebacker to get home.

There’s potential here for sure. Yet his off-putting character, slouchy mentality to the end of the season and reckless play show he’s a big project with major boom or bust potential.

If the Seahawks are seriously considering him it’s surely either after trading down from #26 or if they choose to try and move up from #58. It’s much easier to imagine Seattle taking a chance on him in round two where the stakes aren’t as high.

The team to get ahead of in round two could be Minnesota at #48. He’s a Mike Zimmer type of D-liner. And that might be his best fit in all honesty. Zimmer coaches hard and he’s used to dealing with this type of character.

Even so, it wouldn’t be the most shocking scenario if Seattle drafted both players they met with yesterday (Obi Melifonwu, Malik McDowell) with their first two picks.

 

Seahawks meeting with Malik McDowell & Obi Melifonwu

April 17th, 2017 | Written by Rob Staton

Reportedly, both meetings took place today:

Let’s start with McDowell. He started the 2016 season being touted as a potential top-10 pick. Physically, he certainly had that potential. McDowell is deceptively quick for his size (6-6, 295lbs) with the ability to take over a game when he’s on form.

A 4.85 forty and a superb 4.53 short shuttle are indicative of his quickness.

That’s the good bit out of the way.

Now onto the bad.

McDowell appeared to mail in the 2016 season as soon as it started to go south for Michigan State. He slouched through games. One play against rival Michigan stands out, with McDowell blatantly moping around and watching the running back push the pile into the end zone for a touchdown. Did he go to help? Did he get involved? No. But he did throw his arms up in frustration once the score was confirmed.

He finished the season with 1.5 sacks and only seven TFL’s. For a player with his talent, this was a complete waste of a year.

So was it just a rough few months? Was he saving himself?

Well maybe — but his interviews are among the worst you’ll see. If this is his personality off the field, it totally justifies how he acted on it:

His body language is atrocious. I remember watching this interview during the season and immediately thought ‘this guy doesn’t seem like a Seahawk’.

It seems like it isn’t just a lack of enthusiasm for the media either. Eric Edholm reported the following about how teams viewed McDowell’s interviews at the combine:

“Worst interview we did,” said one team. Added another: “Awful interview. Awful.”

“Does he love football? Is he going to work? I can’t figure out what makes this kid tick. He might be the type who, maybe he falls and it lights a fire under him. I don’t know. But I need that light on more often, and he didn’t like it when we asked him about that. McDowell might never fully show his full skill, but passing on him also means you’re missing out on a potentially rare talent.”

We can go through all the Pete Carroll ‘master motivator’ spiel as much as we want. Do you really imagine the Seahawks spending a first round pick on a player of this character?

I suspect they were bringing him in to prod him and poke him and hopefully the fire lights up. Yet everything about him — effort, demeanour, body language — it’s not good.

Always compete? He might need a Mike Zimmer style coach to drag him kicking and screaming into a successful career.

He’s not a complete lost cause. It’d be nice to see/hear more of this:

His pass rush repertoire also needs padding. He basically has one move when attacking the edge, a club/swipe. He’s mastered it and has success with it — but it’s also quite predictable and pro-offensive tackles will see it coming a mile off.

The Seahawks have had visits like this in the past. A year ago they met with another player with suspect motivation — Mississippi State’s Chris Jones. They didn’t draft him though. And let’s be real here, Chris Jones is Russell Wilson at his most enthusiastic compared to McDowell’s MSU media day appearance.

There’s room for another inside/out rusher on this roster but drafting McDowell seems like a risk for a team that not only passed on Jones a year ago but also Robert Nkemdiche. I didn’t include McDowell in my top-40 yesterday because I think he’s the perfect example of a player you let someone else draft. If he becomes a success, good for them.

We’ll see if the Seahawks see something in him. He’ll probably need to have been at his most impressive during this meeting today.

If they do ultimately draft him, they’ll believe in the size and quickness — they’ll think he’s possibly worth the risk because his talent is extreme. If they did select him you’d give them the benefit of the doubt because of his extreme ceiling. D-liners don’t have to be press conference stars but they do need to be ready to go to war every week. We saw Nkemdiche in Arizona in 2016 with his great physical profile basically be a total non-factor as a rookie. The fear has to be that McDowell could be similar.

That said — there aren’t many players with the ability to anchor and bull rush inside combined with the quickness to play the edge and get to the QB. He could be really good. Can you trust him to be great though? And if he falls to #26 with this physical profile, isn’t that in itself a warning sign?

It might be that they’re willing to trade down, possibly into early round two, and that could be the type of range where they feel comfortable taking a chance on McDowell.

Melifonwu on the other hand is a different case. He’s a sensational athlete and very personable and motivated. Is he a competitor? Well look back at the way he reacted with major disappointment at ‘only’ jumping a 44 inch vertical at the combine (he wanted to break the record).

The Seahawks have spent a lot of time with Melfionwu during this pre-draft process. A lot of people ask whether he’s gritty enough. I think it’s a little bit unfair. If you’re expecting crunching hits every week, well not even Kam Chancellor does that. While he isn’t Kam (who is?) he’s not exactly a shrinking violet either. He’s a sure tackler, he closes on the ball rapidly and he has the short area quickness to be a real threat as a big nickel or corner.

He could easily be their pick. He might not be their #1 choice or preferred target. But he might be the best option at #26 if they don’t move up or down.

For more on Melifonwu, click here.

 

Top-40 big board (includes tiers, with a Seahawks slant)

April 16th, 2017 | Written by Rob Staton

Quincy Wilson — suddenly underrated and in tier four

The names listed in each tier are not ranked, they are grouped.

Tier one (4)

Leonard Fournette (RB, LSU)
Solomon Thomas (DL, Stanford)
Myles Garrett (EDGE, Texas A&M)
O.J. Howard (TE, Alabama)

Myles Garrett and Solomon Thomas are two of the most explosive defensive linemen to enter the league in a generation. Here’s how they compare to other great defensive linemen using TEF:

Myles Garrett — 4.21
Mario Williams — 3.97
Solomon Thomas — 3.83
J.J. Watt — 3.82
Khalil Mack — 3.81
Aaron Donald — 3.53
Jadeveon Clowney — 3.50

O.J. Howard could be the most complete tight end to enter the NFL, possibly ever. He’s a 4.50 runner at 250lbs, has textbook blocking technique and can be the ultimate weapon at the next level.

Leonard Fournette is a beast. Pure and simple. Like all running backs the environment he plays in is crucial. If he lands on a team committed to running the ball with at least an average offensive line, he has superstar potential.

Tier two (5)

Haason Reddick (LB, Temple)
Marlon Humphrey (CB, Alabama)
Malik Hooker (S, Ohio State)
Jonathan Allen (DE, Alabama)
Garett Bolles (T, Utah)

Haason Reddick is a modern day defensive dynamo. He flies to the football, plays with great intensity, gets sideline to sideline and can rush the passer. He could be Ryan Shazier working inside or Von Miller lite at OLB.

Marlon Humphrey is the best cornerback in the draft in my opinion. For some reason there’s too much focus on his ball-tracking skills (can be improved) and not enough on his physicality, athleticism and coverage ability.

Whenever you get a chance to draft someone with Earl Thomas’ range and nose for the ball, you should seriously consider it. Malik Hooker is cut from the same cloth and while he probably lacks Earl’s quirky intensity — he’ll allow teams to play single-high and exploit the benefits of nickel base.

Jonathan Allen is a bad ass. He isn’t twitchy and he isn’t going to dominate like Aaron Donald at the next level. He will, however, absorb blocks and set the tone up front. He’s a finisher when he gets sight of the quarterback.

Garett Bolles plays like he’s pissed off with the world. You want your linemen to have an edge and Bolles is as nasty as they come on the field. He’s also incredibly athletic — capable of locking on to a D-liner, winning with leverage and possessing the hip-torque to turn his man in the run game to open up huge lanes.

Tier three (6)

Jarrad Davis (LB, Florida)
Adoree’ Jackson (CB, USC)
Christian McCaffrey (RB, Stanford)
Jabrill Peppers (S, Michigan)
Reuben Foster (LB, Alabama)
John Ross (WR, Washington)

Patrick Willis? Ray Lewis? These comps are not unfair for Jarrad Davis. He’s that good. Plays his tail off, great athlete, fantastic character.

Adoree’ Jackson is the ultimate playmaker and a first round pick in any draft. He’s a threat to score any time he touches the ball. He could be one of the all-time great kick returners. Fantastic character and a willing tackler despite his lack of size.

Christian McCaffrey is another player perfectly matched for the modern game. He can line up in the backfield, split out wide and cause constant headaches for a defense. He could be Julian Edelman or Doug Baldwin in the slot and he’s a sudden, physical runner in the backfield.

Jabrill Peppers might be the most misunderstood player in the draft. His entire role at Michigan was to contain the edge in the run game. The whole ‘one interception’ thing is such a misplaced narrative. He’s a dynamic, gritty strong safety or big nickel and a plus return man.

Reuben Foster could slip due to character concerns but these appear to be mostly related to the company he keeps. It’s hard to judge him on that — especially if you were considering moving him to the other side of America. He’s highly athletic and hits like a sledgehammer.

John Ross isn’t just a 4.22 runner down the field only capable of separating on a go-route or deep post. He consistently wins at the snap, creating early separation in his routes. In the modern NFL he can be a genuine threat lined up outside or in the slot, capable of Antonio Brown-style mass production in the right offense.

Tier four (15)

Quincy Wilson (CB, Florida)
Kevin King (CB, Washington)
Chidobe Awuzie (CB, Colorado)
Forrest Lamp (G, Western Kentucky)
Gareon Conley (CB, Ohio State)
Marson Lattimore (CB, Ohio State)
Taco Charlton (EDGE, Michigan)
David Njoku (TE, Miami)
Budda Baker (S, Washington)
Obi Melifonwu (S, Connecticut)
T.J. Watt (LB, Wisconsin)
Tyus Bowser (EDGE, Houston)
Evan Engram (TE, Ole Miss)
Jamal Adams (S, LSU)
Mike Williams (WR, Clemson)

The more I watched Quincy Wilson, the more I liked. He has good size, mirrors receivers very well and anticipates routes to play the ball. He’s confident and cocky (in a good way) with the size to be physical in the run game.

Kevin King is a freak of nature. There just aren’t many 6-3, 200lbs cornerbacks capable of running a 4.43, jumping a 39.5 inch vertical and flashing the kind of agility he showed in the short shuttle (3.89) and three cone (6.56). There are ways he can improve at the next level but any coach worth his salt is going to want to work with this physical profile.

Chidobe Awuzie is what the league needs as it moves ever closer to a consensus nickel base. He has the athleticism to cover the slot, the awareness and physicality to be an effective blitzer and the football IQ to line up at safety, outside corner or inside. He can be a hybrid starting at nickel and dropping into a two-deep zone in certain looks.

Forrest Lamp was the most explosive offensive lineman at the combine. He lacks the length to be an obvious fit at tackle but he could be an early starter at guard or center. Great character and attitude. The type of player teams love for their O-lines.

There are a lot of reasons to like Gareon Conley — size, length, athleticism, fantastic positional awareness. There is one minor quibble though — he didn’t use his hands enough at Ohio State. He can’t get away with conceding so many free releases at the next level and he has to learn how to jam and re-route.

There isn’t a ton of difference between Marshon Lattimore and Conley. Lattimore is the better athlete but there are concerns about his long term health (hamstring issues).

Taco Charlton is a really fun player to watch. He was finally being used properly as a Senior, lining up as a pure EDGE and attacking the LOS. He could be Chandler Jones as a fair comparison and his ceiling is possibly Aldon Smith.

David Njoku is a sensational athlete at the tight end position. A true mismatch target. He can line up outside or as a joker. His blocking is better than advertised. He will dominate smaller cornerbacks and safety’s. Only scratched the surface of his potential at Miami. Would like to see more of an edge.

Budda Baker is a 5-10 defensive back who plays like he’s 6-4 and 225lbs. Intense, physical, fast. Very few players can sift through traffic and explode into the backfield like Baker. There will be concerns about his size if you want to play him in the slot but if anyone can make it work it’s Budda.

The league is going through a phase where teams are utilising multiple-WR sets and emphasising the tight end in the slot. The counter punch is the 4-2-5 formation and the use of the big nickel. Obi Melifonwu could set a new standard for one of the most important positions in the modern NFL.

T.J. Watt and Tyus Bowser are almost identical physically. Let’s add a third name into the equation — Khalil Mack. Look at how they compare to the reigning NFL defensive MVP. You’ll be surprised how they similar they are.

Evan Engram sometimes gets lost in the wash but he might be Mike Evans (Tampa Bay receiver). He’s a 4.42 runner at 234lbs. People raved about Melifonwu’s 4.40 at 225lbs. Engram thoroughly deserves a first round grade.

Jamal Adams is a good football player but is he really special? His pro-day was considerably better than his combine which is always suspicious. He’s not an overly physical hitter and he’s not as rangy as Hooker. He’s a good leader though and made some big plays at LSU.

Mike Williams isn’t a great athlete and might be more Alshon Jeffrey than DeAndre Hopkins. Jeffrey is still a really good player though and Williams is capable of similar production in the NFL.

Tier five (10)

Justin Evans (S, Texas A&M)
Cam Robinson (T, Alabama)
Takk McKinley (EDGE, UCLA)
Charles Harris (EDGE, Missouri)
Tre’Davious White (CB, LSU)
Jourdan Lewis (CB, Michigan)
Corey Davis (WR, Western Michigan)
Zach Cunningham (LB, Vanderbilt)
Cordrea Tankersley (CB, Clemson)
Chris Wormley (DT, Michigan)

Yes, the missed tackles are a concern for Justin Evans. They are for Earl Thomas too. I’m willing to live with that a little to tap into Evans’ explosive athleticism, bone-jarring hits and special plays.

Cam Robinson is a good offensive linemen. However, there has to be a legit feeling that he’ll end up moving inside to guard where you can make the most of his size and power — because he isn’t explosive, mobile or particularly athletic.

Takk McKinley has a lot of potential. He’s a 1.60 10-yard runner and his motor never stops. He’s relentless. His technique needs some fine-tuning and he might have a Ziggy Ansah learning curve but he has a ton of upside.

Charles Harris really boosted his stock at the Mizzou pro-day with better results in tests like the vertical jump. He performed well during the positional drills at the combine too. Highly athletic EDGE rusher and his best football is ahead of him.

The #18 jersey at LSU is coveted, saved for a player with special personal and leadership qualities. Tre’Davious White has worn the #18 for the last two seasons. He’s not a twitchy athlete but he’s tough, fast enough and is a playmaker in the return game. Dependable.

Jourdan Lewis is toughness personified. He never backs down, he’s sticky in coverage and plays well above his size in the run game. He’s a specialist slot cornerback with grit and intensity. Consistently made plays at Michigan.

Corey Davis hasn’t done any workouts this off-season due to injury. He has some concentration drops and he’s better after the catch than he is running routes or creating separation. Might be a bit of a Jordan Matthews at the next level.

Zach Cunningham isn’t a sideline-to-sideline, super fast Ryan Shazier type linebacker. He is explosive and tough, ideally suited to playing the MIKE. He’ll be a tackle machine for several years.

Cordrea Tankersley is savvy, physical and has some really good tape against tough opponents. He dominated Bucky Hodges at Virginia Tech. He undercuts routes, jams with authority and anticipates throws to make interceptions.

Chris Wormley can be inconsistent and it’s unclear whether he’ll ever be a truly dynamic pass rusher. However, he has really good size and length — plus a strong motor and great attitude. He might not be a headline maker at the next level but he might be a solid, underrated starter.

Key names not included (and why)

The quarterbacks
The Seahawks have a franchise quarterback so there was little point including them here. I will say though — I like Deshaun Watson, Patrick Mahomes and Mitch Trubisky. I’m not sure why they’re considerably less hyped than Jared Goff.

Dalvin Cook (RB, Florida State) & Joe Mixon (RB, Oklahoma)
Just a personal opinion (and it’s my board after all). If they’re good, they can be good somewhere else. Zero sleep lost.

Ryan Ramcyzk (T, Wisconsin)
He was a zero-star recruit, he quit football once already and while you have to give him respect for coming back and making a career out of this in the end — he’s now recovering after surgery on a torn labrum and hasn’t done any off-season work-outs. He doesn’t wow you on tape and he isn’t a dominant run blocker. I’m willing to risk him being really good somewhere else.

Sidney Jones (CB, Washington)
Jones is a really good player but achilles injuries are legit. The chances are he won’t play in 2017. I’d consider him after round two as a redshirt but look at all the injured players San Francisco used to draft and stash. How many worked out?

Derek Barnett (DE, Tennessee)
Short arms, mediocre athleticism, small size. It’s not a great combination. Barnett plays hard every week and had some great moments in Tennessee. Is he going to be able to re-create that at the next level with his limited physical profile?

Tim Williams (EDGE, Alabama)
Without the character concerns, he’s a first rounder. When a player constantly admits his mistakes and keeps making them — that’s a problem. He’s good but is he worth the risk in the top-50?

Fabian Moreau (CB, UCLA)
He tore his pec at the UCLA pro-day. His athleticism and frame are better suited in the slot but he struggled working inside. He’s been injured a lot in his career.

15 names for later on (Day 2-3, UDFA)

Shalom Luani (S, Washington State)
Noble Nwachukwu (DE, West Virginia)
Nico Siragusa (G, San Diego State)
Jehu Chesson (WR, Michigan)
George Kittle (TE, Iowa)
Michael Davis (CB, BYU)
Rayshawn Jenkins (S, Miami)
Samson Ebukam (EDGE, Eastern Washington)
Scott Orndoff (TE, Pittsburgh)
Daeshon Hall (EDGE, Texas A&M)
Brandon Wilson (CB, Houston)
Deangelo Yancey (WR, Purdue)
Adrian Colbert (S, Miami)
Damore’ea Stringfellow (WR, Ole Miss)
Dylan Cole (LB, Missouri State)

 

Updated mock draft: 15th April

April 15th, 2017 | Written by Rob Staton

This is my first mock draft in over a month. Notes below.

#1 Cleveland — Myles Garrett (EDGE, Texas A&M)
#2 San Francisco — Solomon Thomas (DE, Stanford)
#3 Chicago — Jamal Adams (S, LSU)
#4 Jacksonville — Leonard Fournette (RB, LSU)
#5 Tennessee — O.J. Howard (TE, Alabama)
#6 New York Jets — Marlon Humphrey (CB, Alabama)
#7 LA Chargers — Malik Hooker (S, Ohio State)
#8 Carolina — Jonathan Allen (DE, Alabama)
#9 Cincinnati — Christian McCaffrey (RB, Stanford)
#10 Buffalo — Haason Reddick (LB, Temple)
#11 New Orleans — Taco Charlton (EDGE, Michigan)
#12 Cleveland — Marshon Lattimore (CB, Ohio State)
#13 Arizona — Jarrad Davis (LB, Florida)
#14 Philadelphia (via Min) — Gareon Conley (CB, Ohio State)
#15 Indianapolis — Forrest Lamp (G, Western Kentucky)
#16 Baltimore — Cam Robinson (T, Alabama)
#17 Washington — Jabrill Peppers (S, Michigan)
#18 Tennessee — Chidobe Awuzie (CB, Colorado)
#19 Tampa Bay — Adoree’ Jackson (CB, USC)
#20 Denver — Garett Bolles (T, Utah)
#21 Detroit — Reuben Foster (LB, Alabama)
#22 Miami — Kevin King (CB, Washington)
#23 New York Giants — David Njoku (TE, Miami)
#24 Oakland — John Ross (WR, Washington)
#25 Houston — Patrick Mahomes (QB, Texas Tech)
#26 Seattle — Obi Melifonwu (S, Connecticut)
#27 Kansas City — Deshaun Watson (QB, Clemson)
#28 Dallas — Justin Evans (S, Texas A&M)
#29 Green Bay — Tre’Davious White (CB, LSU)
#30 Pittsburgh — Tyus Bowser (LB, Houston)
#31 Atlanta — Charles Harris (EDGE, Missouri)
#32 New Orleans — Quincy Wilson (CB, Florida)

General notes

— There’s very little buzz around the quarterbacks and that’s unusual this close to the draft. It’s still entirely possible one goes very early (my bet would be Deshaun Watson, possibly to Jacksonville). After all, who thought Blake Bortles would be the #3 pick in 2014? At the moment though, it looks like there’s a chance they will last and we could see teams trading into the 20’s to to get their guy.

— No Ryan Ramcyzk, Corey Davis or Mike Williams in round one. All three could easily go in the first round. Yet as players like Chidobe Awuzie move into the top-20, others have to drop out. Ramcyzk hasn’t done anything in the off-season due to a torn labrum and had only one year of college experience at Wisconsin. Davis has equally been out of sight, out of mind due to injury. And Williams, as good as he is, relies on winning contested catches and isn’t a special athlete.

— There aren’t many really exceptional defensive linemen. And for that reason it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Taco Charlton going a lot earlier than people are currently projecting. If you want a player with Chandler Jones style potential, you’re looking at a limited pool of options.

Seahawks notes

— There’s been a lot of talk in the comments section about moving up for a defensive linemen recently. It would make some sense. This isn’t the deepest class up front and the Seahawks have been seemingly looking for another inside/out rusher for a couple of years now. Yet it’s hard to imagine how they can pull this off. Jonathan Allen, even with a suspect shoulder condition, isn’t likely to get beyond Cleveland at #12. And if Taco Charlton is also off the board in the top-20, it becomes increasingly difficult.

— With the quarterbacks lasting into the 20’s there’s every chance the Seahawks would trade down in this scenario, before using the picks they gained to move up from #58. They did something similar a year ago. This could help them secure a dynamic slot defender and a pass rusher — arguably their top two targets.

— The Melifonwu pick comes down to extreme athleticism, his ability to play numerous roles and possibly set a new standard at the ‘big nickel’ position. Seattle could easily trade down and look at different options (Jourdan Lewis is really intriguing — he’s a battler and would give the Seahawks a genuine talent in the slot). Yet Melifonwu has felt like a possible option for some time now and if he’s there at #26, he could be the guy.

— Melifonwu ticks a lot of boxes in terms of apparent ideals. If they wanted to try him at cornerback he has a +79 inch wingspan and an exceptional broad jump (11-9). He has the type of speed they like if they wanted to use him as a LB/S hybrid (4.40) and his reported short shuttle (4.09) is exceptional for his size. He’s not the finished product by any means but with the game going the way it is — Melifonwu is a player you never have to take off the field that can play the slot, drop into a cover two and travel outside if required.

— The only thing undetermined is Melifonwu’s ‘grit’ factor. It’s hard to say whether he has it or not. It’s easy to ascertain with some players. For others it’s harder to establish. That might be why they’ve reportedly spent so much time with him during the draft process. It’s something to consider though because there are other players in the class that clearly have an appealing ‘Seahawky’ attitude (Jourdan Lewis, Budda Baker, Quincy Wilson to name three available in this mock scenario — and plenty more were off the board already).

— According to the draft trade chart, the Seahawks can get back into the top-45 using #58 and one of their three third rounders. It feels like they’ll be aggressive at some point in this draft.

— A final note. You may have noticed the new adverts in the sidebar, one for the 2017 draft caps. I believe these are available now. If you were buying one anyway and were willing to go through our links it’d be much appreciated. All money raised will be put towards running costs for the blog.

 

Are the Seahawks really that focused on SPARQ?

April 14th, 2017 | Written by Rob Staton

The Seahawks traded up to get Jarran Reed — the #47 SPARQ D-liner in 2016

The Seahawks are all about SPARQ, right?

Not so fast.

You can make an argument for such a focus on day three or during UDFA. The Seahawks try to max out every draft pick these days (no backup kickers) and often shoot for upside later on.

Kristjan Sokoli is a good example. He was a unique athlete with enormous potential. Seattle drafted him in round six with the intention of converting him from defensive tackle to center. His SPARQ score was off the charts. He was a physical phenomena.

He was also incredibly raw and inexperienced and couldn’t make the positional switch work. He lasted a year as a redshirt before being cut.

No big loss. It’s a sixth round pick. It’s a half-court shot on the buzzer.

If they can get the best athletes into the building and coach them up — you could end up with an exceptional player. Why not take the shot?

Here’s a list of later round picks where the players have had above average SPARQ scores:

R5 Luke Willson — 136
R6 Jeremy Lane — 128
R6 Eric Pinkins — 135
R6 Garrett Scott — 135
R6 Kristjan Sokoli — 155
R7 Jameson Konz — 150
R7 Ryan Murphy — 127
R7 Greg Scruggs — 132
R7 JR Sweezy — 127

You can also find examples where the Seahawks spent early picks on SPARQ stars. Bruce Irvin (144), Frank Clark (142) and Christine Michael (150) are the three.

However, the overall picture in rounds 1-3 is quite interesting and not as focused on SPARQ as you might think (especially compared to day three & UDFA).

Seattle’s first two picks last year were Germain Ifedi and Jarran Reed. According to SPARQ, Ifedi was only the 21st best athlete in the O-line class (scoring 111). The Seahawks could’ve taken Jason Spriggs instead, the #7 O-liner with a SPARQ rating of 123 (putting him in the 92nd NFL percentile).

George Fant was the #2 SPARQ O-liner (129) and joined the Seahawks as an UDFA.

Reed was even less athletic as the #47 SPARQ D-liner (101). He was only in the 23rd percentile for NFL players at his position. The Seahawks passed on more athletic D-liners with their first pick (Chris Jones, Vernon Butler) and even traded up to get Reed.

Seattle had five picks between rounds 1-3 last year:

Germain Ifedi — 111 SPARQ, #21 OL, 70th percentile
Jarran Reed — 101 SPARQ, #47 DL, 23rd percentile
C.J. Prosise — 120 SPARQ, #40 RB, 47th percentile
Nick Vannett — 106 SPARQ, #29 TE, 21st percentile
Rees Odhiambo — 83 SPARQ, #164 OL, 7th percentile

Not a single one of Seattle’s five early picks in 2016 ranked in the top-20 for their position according to SPARQ. Only Ifedi ranked above the 50th percentile in terms of NFL athleticism.

In 2015 the Seahawks did select Frank Clark as the #5 SPARQ EDGE rusher. There’s no doubting he’s a Greek God of an athlete. Yet with their second pick in the draft they traded up for Tyler Lockett — the #80 ranked wide receiver according to SPARQ.

That might surprise a lot of people because Lockett is assumed, not unfairly, to be a tremendous athlete. His SPARQ score however doesn’t represent this. He’s only in the 46th percentile for NFL receivers.

Furthermore, Seattle has consistently drafted receivers with a similar SPARQ score:

Tyler Lockett — 115
Golden Tate — 116
Paul Richardson — 118
Chris Harper — 116
Kris Durham — 116
Kevin Norwood — 111
Kris Lawler — 103

The best SPARQ receiver added in the Carroll era is Ricardo Lockette, an undrafted free agent who scored a 135.

This isn’t just the case at receiver either. The average SPARQ score of the cornerbacks drafted by the Seahawks is 115. 43 cornerbacks in the 2017 draft class scored higher than a 115.

The Seahawks have drafted six offensive linemen since 2010 in rounds 1-3. Here’s how they scored using SPARQ:

Russell Okung — 114
James Carpenter — 100
Germain Ifedi — 111
Justin Britt — 122
John Moffitt — 96
Rees Odhiambo — 83

And here are the O-liners they’ve drafted in rounds 4-7 plus select UDFA’s:

Mark Glowinski — 124
Terry Poole — 110
Kristjan Sokoli — 155
Garrett Scott — 135
JR Sweezy — 127
Ryan Seymour — 120
Michael Bowie — 86
George Fant — 132
Garry Gilliam — 122
Alvin Bailey — 110

Average (R1-3) — 104
Average (R4-UDFA) — 120

This backs-up the half-court shot theory. The Seahawks are mostly shooting at the buzzer on fantastic athletes on day three and in UDFA.

With their early picks, they have been known to draft the occasional SPARQ demon. Yet the evidence shows the Seahawks are not just using SPARQ to determine who they draft early. Positional ideals and specific physical traits appear to be equally if not more important.

For example:

— On the O-line there’s a strong focus on explosive performers (vertical, broad, bench press) rather than overall athleticism (as emphasised by our TEF study)

— At linebacker there appears to be a focus on short area quickness (short shuttle), general speed and explosive physicality (highlighted here)

— At cornerback we know they like length on the outside as they’ve consistently drafted players with 32 inch arms and a 77.5 inch wingspan (highlighted here)

— At running back they’ve consistently prioritised explosive traits ahead of speed, while drafting for a certain body type (approximately 5-11, 225lbs)

You can pretty much go through every position and identify the trends. Mentality, grit and physicality are important too.

Let’s go back to last years class. Why did Seattle draft each player, considering we’ve already established it wasn’t due to their SPARQ score?

Germain Ifedi — fantastic size, explosive tester, good TEF score
Jarran Reed — Toughness, great run defender, grit
C.J. Prosise — Fit Seattle’s size profile at RB, explosive
Nick Vannett — Good blocker, unique in the modern game
Rees Odhiambo — Had potential, wasn’t 100% pre-draft

Unique qualities. Traits such as size/length, short-area quickness or the way a player performed in the explosive tests. Attitude, mentality, grit. These appear to be at least as valuable as SPARQ in projecting what Seattle will do.

This year, Obi Melifonwu might be another Frank Clark or Bruce Irvin — an all-round dynamic athlete with limitless upside they just have to add. Ditto Kevin King or Tyus Bowser (for example).

Yet there’s no reason to believe they wouldn’t also draft a prospect early without a high SPARQ score. Michigan’s Jourdan Lewis, who recently visited Seattle, is a good example. He’s the #71 SPARQ cornerback this year, scoring a 109.8. He’s also really gritty, superb in coverage, makes plays and has the kind of mentality that fits this defense.

Everything people said about Jarran Reed a year ago.

So while SPARQ is a useful tool to compare athletic profiles and it certainly has a use in helping to identify potential day three or UDFA targets for Seattle — the evidence shows it’s not the be-all and end-all when it comes to projecting who the Seahawks might draft in the early rounds.

And while they might end up selecting a supreme athlete with their top pick this year, it’s arguably just as important to identify three things:

— What are the specified areas of need?
— What are the positional ideals (physical features or testing results)
— Who stands out? (length, grit, etc)

 

Thursday notes: Thoughts on Awuzie & Witherspoon

April 13th, 2017 | Written by Rob Staton

It’s not surprising the Seahawks brought in Witherspoon for a visit. He’s one of two projected early round cornerbacks with the wingspan Seattle has exclusively preferred. He had a terrific combine and he’s a smart guy — he plans to become a doctor after football.

I suspect there’s at least some possibility however, that the Seahawks sat him down and played clips like this…

…and asked what the heck was going on.

The Seahawks, with their extreme focus on defending the run, are not going to draft a player who defends his side of the field like this. There are times where Witherspoon appears to actively avoid contact. At the very least he needs to hold position, force the ball carrier back inside and hold down his side of the field. Just get in the way.

If he plays in the NFL the way he did at Colorado, teams will design plays to attack his side. They’ll exploit the WR screen game. They will go after him over and over again.

It’s a shame because his coverage skills are exceptional. He is a terrific cover corner. I’ve said a few times — he defended John Ross better than any other corner I’ve watched from this class.

Teams need to look him in the eye and see if there’s any dog in there. Can he at the very least avoid being a liability as a tackler or run defender? That’s the key and could’ve been the tone of the meeting.

I just wish we could say with any confidence this a problem that can be rectified. You need to see it to believe it.

This was disheartening to read. Awuzie is a terrific player and fully warrants a place in the top-20. He wasn’t getting much hype. It was a bit of a gut punch to see this report just a couple of days after we talked about him being an option for Seattle.

It’s possibly one of the reasons why the Seahawks are looking at Jourdan Lewis, as discussed yesterday. The slot cornerback position seems to be a key target. Lewis doesn’t have Awuzie’s physical profile but he’s incredibly gritty, competitive and has terrific coverage and run-defending skills. Don’t underestimate his stock either — he’s worthy of a place in the top-50.

If players like Awuzie are starting to rise, others will begin to fall. That isn’t necessarily a great thing for Seattle though. For example, there appears to be some concern about Marshon Lattimore at the moment. If he dropped deep into the 20’s, why would the Seahawks halt the fall? Especially given the concerns are injury related and he doesn’t have the kind of length Seattle wants.

I suspect there’s a chance Corey Davis and Mike Williams will go a lot later than many are projecting. It seems unlikely though that Seattle would go receiver with their first pick. The quarterbacks might drop and a player like Ryan Ramcyzk might fit a positional need but are the Seahawks going to draft an injured tackle without a complete physical profile?

The good news about this class is there will likely be a good option, even in the worst case scenario. Even if some of the prospective top targets are off the board (Awuzie, Melifonwu, Adoree’, King) there’s always another option (Lewis, Watt, Bowser, Budda).

One way or another the Seahawks should be able to add a corner (outside, big nickel or slot) and a pass rusher with their first two picks if that’s the direction they want to go in.

Finally, here are the 22 players set to attend the draft this year:

 

Slot vs outside cornerback & notes on Lewis, Wormley

April 12th, 2017 | Written by Rob Staton

Jourdan Lewis visits Seattle — what it tells us

According to the man himself, he’s either visited the Seahawks or will do in the near future.

This is significant for two reasons:

1. It reinforces the belief Seattle is going to focus strongly on the slot cornerback / nickel position rather than outside cornerback

2. It suggests length is not as crucial in the slot

On the first point, here are some of the reasons why the Seahawks might be more likely to draft a slot cornerback at #26 instead of the more popular prediction of an outside cornerback:

Our piece on wingspans highlights this isn’t a great draft for long cornerbacks. The Seahawks have never drafted a cornerback with a sub-77.5 inch wingspan. There are only six cornerbacks in this entire draft class with a +77.5 inch wingspan. The only two ‘fits’ expected to be drafted during the first two days are Kevin King and Ahkello Witherspoon (and Witherspoon is allergic to tackling as noted here). It’s possible their only serious outside cornerback target at #26 is Kevin King.

— It’s worth remembering how the Seahawks have filled the #2 cornerback spot over the years (and as of today, Richard Sherman doesn’t appear to be anywhere close to being traded, so they are looking for a #2). They used Brandon Browner (ex-CFL), Byron Maxwell (6th rounder), Cary Williams (free agent) and Deshawn Shead (UDFA). So the idea of Jeremy Lane, Neiko Thorpe, Pierre Desir or a returning Shead starting across from Sherman is not fanciful or unrealistic.

— It’s still likely they will draft an outside cornerback at some stage but is it likely to be their first two picks? Or is it more likely to be someone in round three or in the later rounds? Remember — they’ve not previously drafted a cornerback earlier than the fourth round. They’ve consistently waited until day three.

— We know the Seahawks played a lot of 4-2-5 last season (explained here). With Jeremy Lane at least temporarily moving to outside corner (in Pete Carroll’s words) there’s an opening at the ‘fifth DB’ position. That position was a 71% defensive snap role in 2016. It could be even more significant in 2017 as the Seahawks appear open to adopting a nickel base moving forward.

— This draft class is strong at safety and slot cornerback. Some of the best options at #26 are likely to be players who can act as a big nickel or orthodox slot corner. Obi Melifonwu, Adoree’ Jackson, Chidobe Awuzie, Justin Evans and Budda Baker are among the really enticing options.

This brings us onto point #2 — length.

Jackson, Awuzie, Baker all have sub-32 inch arms and short wingspans. We know the Seahawks have strictly drafted long cornerbacks in the past. Is this vital in the slot?

Their two all-world safety’s don’t have particularly long wingspan’s (Earl Thomas — 74.5, Kam Chancellor, 76.5). And the way the league is adapting, the ‘fifth DB’ position is pretty much a safety/corner hybrid.

The meeting with Jourdan Lewis kind of confirms length isn’t as important for this role. He has 31 5/8 inch arms. He’s also small — listed at 5-10 and 188lbs. He’s in the Adoree’/Budda bracket for size.

It might be a coincidence but Pete Carroll attended the USC pro-day (Jackson) and Kris Richard was at UCLA (Fabian Moreau). Now there’s the Lewis visit and Melifonwu has been in Seattle for a meeting too.

A lot of the mounting evidence points to the slot cornerback/big nickel role being a major target — arguably more so than outside corner.

And this shouldn’t be a surprise given the way the league is trending and Carroll’s lukewarm assessment of Jeremy Lane’s performance in 2016.

More on Jourdan Lewis

Having a more open mind on size/length has opened up a lot of new options to assess. As noted yesterday, Chidobe Awuzie is a diamond. He just isn’t long. If that doesn’t matter in the slot he could easily be Seattle’s first pick.

Awuzie is one of those players who could go in the top-15 or last into the early 30’s. There’s a few in this class. If he’s off the board — and if Melifonwu, Jackson and King are too — the Seahawks could do with alternative targets.

And that’s arguably where Jourdan Lewis comes into play.

I sat down to focus on him today for the first time, watching three games initially. Here are things that really stand out:

— He is ultra competitive despite his lack of size. Awuzie has the kind of gritty personality that matches this team but Lewis takes it up another notch.

— Lewis is nearly always in position to make the play. He lives in the WR’s hip pocket. Even when he gives up some separation downfield, he finds a way to get a hand in there to make the play. Despite his relatively short arms (31 3/8 inches) he actually has a 75 1/8 inch wingspan. It’s not elite length but it’s good for his size.

— He’s possibly the toughest little b*****d in the draft. Considering his size, it was a joy to watch him in run support. He gives absolutely everything, leaves it all on the field, never shies away from contact, tackles competently and does a far superior job than any of the big cornerbacks in this draft (this CB class is lacking in run support overall).

— Solid run support in this ‘fifth DB’ role is absolutely crucial.

— He had the interception of the season to win a game for Michigan against Wisconsin. It was Odell Beckham Jr-esque:

— You can clearly see he isn’t the same type of athlete as Adoree’ Jackson, Justin Evans or Chidobe Awuzie. He is very much a gritty, well drilled, well coached, loves the game type of player. That lower grade of athleticism is probably what separates him from the pack. Yet there’s not a huge drop-off in performance.

Lewis ran a 4.45 forty at his pro-day with a 4.29 short shuttle and a 6.88 three cone. At the combine he jumped a 10-1 broad and a 34.5 inch vertical. Not great numbers but not a problem either.

I think it’s highly likely he’ll be a top-50 pick.

In a scenario where the likes of Awuzie and Jackson are off the board — or if the Seahawks have some kind of a plan that involves a real desire to trade down — Lewis makes a ton of sense. Alternatively, they could look to trade up from #58 to target Lewis and take a pass rusher (for example) with their top pick (eg Bowser or Watt).

If you were impressed with Awuzie’s character yesterday, there’s more of the same here. This is an interview he did at the Senior Bowl:

Is Chris Wormley an option too?

The Seahawks seem to like and appreciate the Michigan defense. It’s not a big surprise. Despite the often heated rivalry between Pete Carroll and Jim Harbaugh, there also lay a kind of mutual respect.

And while Lewis could legitimately be an option for them at slot corner, versatile D-liner Chris Wormley is another possible target too.

I wrote a brief piece about Wormley when I visited Seattle last November. Here are some of the notes:

For starters his gap discipline is excellent and that’s pretty much one of the most important things if you’re going to play D-line for the Seahawks. They put a high priority on players who can execute their jobs, control the situation and work against the run. Wormley is very good here with plus strength and the ability to handle 1v1 blocks consistently well if he lines up inside or out. He plays with heavy hands in the run-game.

He’s nearly always on the field for Michigan (doesn’t get subbed very often) but he’s still willing to string plays out and work in pursuit. He plays with an edge and he’s tough.

As a pass rusher nobody would say he’s twitchy but he does have a decent get-off. He had 6.5 sacks last season and 14.5 TFL’s. This year he already has 7.5 sacks and 7.5 TFL’s. You can’t argue with his production. He’s savvy with the push-pull move and he has enough power to drive blockers into the backfield to impact snaps even when he doesn’t get on the stat sheet.

Wormley has classic size to be a potential inside/out rusher (DE in base, kick inside on third down). He’s 6-5 and 298lbs with 34 1/8 inch arms and a 82 3/4 inch wingspan (he’s the fourth longest interior D-liner in the draft).

He didn’t work out at the combine but managed a lightning quick 4.84 forty, a 31.5 inch vertical and a 9-2 broad.

The key workout to focus on might be the short shuttle. The two pass rush DT’s the Seahawks have drafted since 2010 are Jordan Hill and Jaye Howard. Hill ran a really good 4.51 shuttle and Howard a 4.47. Wormley is right in that ballpark with a 4.55.

Howard also ran a 1.68 10-yard split (good for his size) while Wormley ran a 1.67.

Wormley’s three cone time (7.08) is also considerably faster than any of the DT’s Seattle has drafted in the Carroll era (the best was Howard’s 7.32).

He’s also an authority figure, speaking like a grown man in interviews with a striking maturity and business-like attitude.

He does have a tendency to be a little inconsistent on tape but if the Seahawks do want to add another inside-out rusher, this could be their best bet.

Could they trade down at #26 and then trade up at #58 to land Lewis and Wormley with their first two picks?

I wouldn’t bet against it.

It feels like there’s a strong possibility they’ll add a slot corner/big nickel and a pass rusher in the first two rounds.

 

Chidobe Awuzie could be on Seattle’s radar & a new podcast

April 11th, 2017 | Written by Rob Staton

In this weeks podcast, Kenny and I get into a number of topics including the importance of wingspan and the likelihood of the Seahawks focusing on the nickel/slot position. Check it out:

Today I wanted to build on what we discussed yesterday — the key to this draft could be what Seattle does at the nickel/slot position.

There’s a consensus among draft analysts that the Seahawks will take either an O-liner or an outside cornerback. It’s possible for sure, depending on who’s available.

Yet with the Seahawks shifting towards more of a 4-2-5 formation (and as we highlighted yesterday, it perfectly suits Seattle’s defense) adding a dynamic ‘fifth DB’ could be much more of a priority than people realise.

There’s a relatively high chance they will be attracted to Obi Melifonwu and Adoree’ Jackson for this role — but it’s entirely possible neither will be there at #26.

So today I wanted to look at another option.

Colorado’s Chidobe Awuzie.

If you didn’t see this yesterday, take a look…

Before you even get into what he shows on the field, isn’t this just about the most impressive video you’ve seen this year highlighting the football IQ of a draft prospect?

If the Seahawks do draft a ‘big nickel’ in round one, that player is going to need a strong awareness of safety and cornerback duties. You’re basically a match-up weapon — playing at the LOS, blitzing, covering across the middle, dropping into a two-safety deep zone. You might end up travelling to the outside. It’s a complex job requiring a strong understanding of different techniques.

So right off the bat, Awuzie ticks that particular box.

We learnt yesterday how the 4-2-5 looks to utilise blitzing — in particular with the fifth DB. The Seahawks have experimented with the CB Blitz since Kris Richard became defensive coordinator. Awuzie attacks the backfield better than anyone (or at least at the same level as Budda Baker). He had four sacks in 2016 and six TFL’s. In his college career he had an astonishing 226 total tackles.

He isn’t the biggest but he compares to Bradley McDougald in terms of size. He’s 6-0 and 202lbs while McDougald is fractionally taller (6-1) and a little bigger (209lbs). Awuzie on the other hand is much faster (4.43 speed), more agile (4.13 short shuttle) and more explosive (39.5 inch vertical, 11-0 broad). If they’re willing to play McDougald as a big nickel, Awuzie is basically a more athletic version.

Is wingspan a problem? Arguably not considering he’s essentially acting as a ‘third safety’ or a hybrid CB/S. Earl Thomas has a 74.5 inch wingspan, Awuzie’s is 74 1/8 inches. We’ll find out in this draft class how important wingspan is considering the massive difference between the short cornerback group and the long safety group.

What do you see on tape? He’s good in run support with the requisite physicality and aggressiveness. There is absolutely zero doubt he’s a fit in that regard. Awuzie plays with the kind of attitude you expect from Seattle’s defense.

Unlike Adoree’ Jackson he’s not a particularly sudden runner and he does give up separation to more dynamic receivers. That said, he’s competitive to work back and recover and there’s a reason he has 28 PBU’s in his college career.

Awuzie is an instinctive player and he clearly does his homework. His one interception in 2016 came on a play he identified, made himself disappear in coverage and was then able to explode to the ball having anticipated the throw.

I liked in the video above that he basically had a chip on his shoulder about his athletic profile, even giving Daniel Jeremiah some grief for his pre-combine view of his speed.

He might not have the dynamic raw playmaking skills of Adoree’ Jackson or the standard-setting physical profile of Obi Melifonwu — but there’s a ton to like about Awuzie. It’s very easy to imagine him in Seattle’s defense — his personality fits them like a glove and if he needed to he could probably adjust to free safety in an emergency. He has the talent, grit and athleticism to be a starter as a big nickel/slot hybrid.

He’s another player in this class who could easily go in the top-20 or last into range for Seattle. He is a must-consider though for all Seahawks fans at #26. Put him on your radar, add him to the list. He’s a legit option.

While a lot of focus has gone on the offensive line and outside cornerback, it’s worth remembering a few things:

— Seattle likes their young group of O-liners and has already signed two veteran players to support the developing unit

— The Seahawks still have Richard Sherman and while many assume they’re going to want a dynamic #2 or eventual replacement for Sherman, look at how they’ve actually filled that job in the past (Browner — free agent from the CFL, Maxwell — sixth round pick, Williams — free agent, Shead — UDFA converted safety)

— Jeremy Lane has played outside cornerback, they seem to like Neiko Thorpe and Pierre Desir and Deshawn Shead is working to return — this is how Seattle has filled that #2 corner position in the past

— While a case can be made that Bradley McDougald could be the starting ‘big nickel’, as discussed yesterday his signing looks like a hedge

— If McDougald ends up just being a backup safety that’s no bad thing because there is literally zero depth on the roster behind Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor at the moment apart from McDougald

The Seahawks appear to have a pretty strict wingspan ideal and if Kevin King is off the board at #26, it’s hard to find an alternative who matches what they like (unless they want to start Melifonwu at corner)

It’s entirely possible Seattle addresses the following positions in this kind of order:

R1 — Big nickel or slot cornerback
R2 — Pass rusher
R3 x 3 — Safety depth, tight end, receiver, D-line, cornerback or linebacker

So while there’s currently a lot of focus on the Seahawks drafting an outside corner or O-liner with their first pick, that might not be the case.