Mel Kiper’s mock: Who was available for the Seahawks?

January 14th, 2016 | Written by Rob Staton

First of all, if you missed this weeks podcast don’t forget to check it out (see below). We had Matt Brown on (he attended the National Championship game) and talked about the Seahawks/Panthers game this weekend.

Mel Kiper published his first 2016 mock draft today. I’ll keep using the ESPN mock drafts (via Kiper and Todd McShay) to look at players we aren’t considering because we assume they won’t be available.

For example, I personally believe Shon Coleman is worthy of a high grade and don’t expect him to get out of the top-20. I also appreciate many others feel differently — whether that’s down to his age (24) or battle with cancer.

Both Kiper and McShay had Coleman available for the Seahawks in their respective initial projections.

I broke down McShay’s first mock here. Today let’s look at Kiper’s mock to see who was unavailable to the Seahawks in my projection last week:

Eli Apple (CB, Ohio State)
My projection: #5 overall
Kiper pairs the Seahawks with Apple using the #26 pick. I think this would be a fantastic get for Seattle. Although they trust their ability to find and develop cornerbacks in the later rounds, Apple appears to be a good fit for this team. He doesn’t get beat deep and keeps everything in front — plus he’s long and athletic. He generally tackles well in the open field. Plugging Apple into the position across from Richard Sherman would prevent the almost annual problem solving they need to do at cornerback.

Shon Coleman (T, Auburn)
My projection: #6 overall
He’s officially declared for the draft now and I’m still shocked people aren’t looking at him as a viable early first round pick. I believe he is eligible for the Senior Bowl and hopefully he receives an invite. Coleman has everything you want in a tackle prospect — nimble feet, a decent kick-slide, the ability to lock-on and finish, the desire to reach the second level and punish linebackers and he plays with an edge. His age (24) doesn’t bother me. If you get five good years out of him it’ll be worth it.

Tre’Davious White (CB, LSU)
My projection: #8 overall
White is still deciding whether or not to declare. I still believe he’s destined to be a fine pro with the upside to be excellent. He’s very athletic and a typical cover corner. He offers something as a kick returner and was singled out for the coveted #18 jersey (reserved annually at LSU for the most respected, high character player on the team). He’s not quite as long as Eli Apple but if he does declare it’s hard to imagine him not going in the first frame. Coaches will want Tre’Davious White on their team.

Darron Lee (LB, Ohio State)
My projection: #10 overall
Kiper doesn’t have Lee in the first round, which is pretty surprising given the way he performed in 2015. If there’s one player ready and waiting to launch his stock into the top-15 it’s this guy. On the field he flashes great instinct and patience — but he also has the closing speed and burst to race to the ball and finish. He’s an effective blitzer and can cover with ease. Character wise he’s perfect — a well spoken, mature individual. He’s a perfect package for any team needing a defensive cornerstone and could easily fit into Seattle’s defense.

Corey Coleman (WR, Baylor)
My projection: #17 overall
At times in 2015 he looked unstoppable — a genuine game-changer with a unique skill set. His ability to make all kinds of catches (contested, deep, explosive break, high-point) made him a Heisman contender. Then Baylor’s quarterback got injured and his production fell off a cliff. He went from record-setting numbers to M.I.A. The big test now is to find out whether he’s the brilliant athlete he appeared to be in college. Can he run in the 4.3/4.4 range? If so — the flair and quality he showed in the first half of the season could tempt a team to see if he can be another X-factor receiver.

Michael Thomas (WR, Ohio State)
My projection: #21 overall
With decent size (6-3, 210lbs) and deceptive mobility — Thomas could easily wind up as a productive NFL receiver. Urban Mayer doesn’t use a wide-open air raid offense ideal for mass production. Thomas’ stats aren’t outstanding — but he always seemed to be making key plays for Ohio State in 2015. He basically pulled down Kendall Fuller’s pants in week one with a brilliant stop-and-go route for a touchdown. He showed tremendous agility on a juking lunge to the end zone against Notre Dame. The Seahawks might consider an athletic, big receiver if they lose Jermaine Kearse.

Ezekiel Elliott (RB, Ohio State)
My projection: #22 overall
A player who makes things happen. Unlike Derrick Henry he doesn’t require huge gaping lanes and a seam to run into and accelerate. Elliott takes the hit and moves the pile. He’s adept at blocking in pass protection and he’s a useful tool in the passing game. He’s a physical runner with the ability and speed to be a home-run hitter too. The Seahawks are going to be moving on from Marshawn Lynch. It’s perhaps unlikely they seek to pair Thomas Rawls with a first round partner — but Elliott is a talented prospect.

These are probably the positions to monitor based on Seattle’s possible needs. With Russell Okung (T), Jeremy Lane (CB), Bruce Irvin (LB) and J.R. Sweezy (G) the big-name free agents in waiting — they might need to replenish at one or two key positions.

It’s also worth noting today that Tennessee cornerback Cam Sutton and Alabama pass rusher Tim Williams both officially announced they aren’t turning pro. They could both easily be top-15 picks in 2017.

 

3000 NFL mock draft: Episode #20

January 14th, 2016 | Written by Rob Staton

This week we’re joined by Matt Brown from Sports on Earth. He attended the National Championship game this week. We also get into the Seahawks, the win against the Vikings and the big game this weekend against the Panthers.

 

Instant reaction: Seahawks survive, beat Vikings

January 10th, 2016 | Written by Rob Staton

Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.

This wasn’t a good Seahawks performance. They spent three quarters adjusting to the freezing conditions. They struggled on offense from start to finish.

It took a missed chip-shot field goal by Blair Walsh to secure a 10-9 win that wasn’t exactly deserved.

But a win’s a win.

It was a real battle of endurance. Neither team played particularly well in the conditions but Minnesota did a better job overall. The Seahawks seemed to be trying to work it out on the run.

As the offense suffered they couldn’t find a couple of wrinkles to move the ball. The first points of the day were surrendered after a botched punt. When another snap troubled Jon Ryan — they started trying to convert on fourth down instead of playing field position. One of those fourth down attempts led to an interception and subsequent return.

The Seahawks were completely discombobulated on offense.

Things didn’t really improve. It took another botched snap and some Russell Wilson magic to provoke a touchdown drive to make it 9-7. Kam Chancellor’s timely forced fumble shortly after gave them the lead.

Even then, with the game on the line, the offense stalled. They had two more drives after going 10-9 ahead. One was a quick three-and-out. The other went to 3rd and 5 and a conversion would’ve virtually iced the game. No dice.

It was mildly reminiscent of the Cincinnati road game earlier in the year. They just couldn’t finish it off. They gave Minnesota life. They almost took full advantage.

A slightly dubious P.I. call on Kam Chancellor and a big catch-and-run from Kyle Rudolph set up a likely Vikings win. Walsh kicked their hopes wide of the post.

Kenny’s wit punctuated the immediate celebrations.

Was it the pressure? Was it the cold? Was it the placement of the football? Or was it just a team getting very lucky at the crucial time?

Wilson looked like a block of ice moving out of the pocket. He had a permanent grimace on his face. His deep throws fluttered in the bitter air. The offense couldn’t play like the Seahawks of recent weeks — and they didn’t really have much of a counter. They particularly struggled on third downs — an issue they solved several weeks ago.

This wasn’t fun — but they won’t face conditions like this again.

That’s not to say there weren’t some bright spots. Wilson’s broken-play magic, Christine Michael’s overall performance and this piece of brilliance by Doug Baldwin were highlights:

The defense had a fantastic day. Adrian Peterson was again bottled up for just 45 yards on 23 carries (plus the fumble). Teddy Bridgewater only threw for 146 yards with 24 coming on Rudolph’s late catch and run. It’s an encouraging sign going into next weeks trip to Carolina.

The Seahawks have won six in a row on the road. In that run they’ve given up just one offensive touchdown (vs Arizona).

The mere fact they won’t be playing in conditions akin to the arctic circle will be a big plus. This was a let off — but the season continues for another week at least.

 

Some thoughts on the Marshawn Lynch withdrawal

January 9th, 2016 | Written by Rob Staton

The Tweet above from Danny Kelly sums it up perfectly. Can anyone say they’re surprised by this latest drama?

After a week of positives, Marshawn Lynch was declared ready to go by Pete Carroll, Tom Cable and Darrell Bevell. They all expressed a similar sentiment — he wouldn’t be here if he wasn’t ready.

Something changed on Friday. He didn’t board the bus to the airport. He didn’t travel to Minnesota. He will not play against the Vikings.

ESPN’s Ed Werder quoted a Seahawks source suggesting the u-turn “seemed very sudden”. It’s unclear what kind of connections Michael Irvin has to the Seahawks or Lynch — but he is reportedly claiming Lynch isn’t playing due to friction between the player and the team.

Those quotes and the dramatic nature of the decision hinted at a degree of subterfuge. After preparing all week to play — this all feels very strange.

And really, nobody is wrong for wondering what the heck is going on. Danny O’Neil put it perfectly in these Tweets:

Several reports have suggested the Seahawks and Lynch have endured a strained relationship. That is why the circus definition is fair. The Seahawks have essentially done everything to accommodate Lynch. Hold outs, days off, time away, new contracts. Which other player would be allowed to go and recover from a hernia and train off-site for multiple weeks?

To an outsider, it feels like none of this has ever been enough for Lynch. The Seahawks traded for him when he was buried deep on Buffalo’s depth chart. They made him the focal point of the team. They gave him the opportunity to thrive. He took it with both hands, ran through three tackles and scored. It’s a relationship that has been supremely prosperous for both parties.

One party, however, seems to want to sock it to the man. Fiercely loyal to his team mates but carrying an issue with authority. Maybe that’s just the way Lynch rolls.

Tom Cable recently suggested Lynch would have to “adapt to this football team” when he returned to health. “In the way it is, the way it acts and the way it’s moving right now, collectively.” These were interesting remarks.

That’s not to say he’s pulling some trick this weekend. That would be a bizarre way to end his story in Seattle. A very peculiar message to send to a team that has coped just fine without him for several weeks. The whole drama lends itself to speculation though. As O’Neil suggests, it “sure seems something went sideways between him and the Seahawks in (the) past 24 (hours)”.

Others have been quick to diffuse the situation. Michael Robinson told the NFL Network Lynch “wasn’t explosive” during the week and “he’s not going to get on the field until he feels like he’s right.” Lynch’s agent told Dave Mahler: “He simply had a setback Friday and was unable to go.”

It’d actually be refreshing if Lynch has done the honorable thing. If he felt he was going to hinder the running game — he’s right not to play. Christine Michael and Bryce Brown filled in nicely against Arizona. Lynch isn’t the type of back to be spelled. You don’t feel the benefit if he only has 8-10 carries.

The nature of the admittance though — in the dying stages of the week after all the preparation — makes for a slightly disappointing outcome.

So what now?

The Seahawks have a decision to make after the weekend. If they win in Minnesota and the Michael/Brown combo thrives — it might be best to go with what they’ve got. Lynch could always return if Seattle reaches the Super Bowl — but if they win three road playoff games without him — would you go back? Is it healthy to have the continuous ‘will-he-won’t-he’ speculation if they keep winning? Is it time to permanently make this Russell Wilson’s team and put him on I.R.?

It’s a virtual certainty Lynch will not return to Seattle next season. Will he play anywhere else? Could this be the end?

Hopefully this latest story won’t be too disruptive ahead of a tough game against the Vikings. And that’s where being a circus comes in handy. The Seahawks are used to this drama. It’s simply another day at the office.

 

3000 NFL mock draft: Episode #19

January 7th, 2016 | Written by Rob Staton

This week we preview the NFL Playoffs and spend considerable time looking at Seattle’s chances in the post-season. We then move on to talk about the National Championship game and some of the bowl games last week before breaking down this weeks new mock draft.

 

Justin Zimmer (DL, Ferris State) is one to watch

January 6th, 2016 | Written by Rob Staton

This week draft insider Tony Pauline threw a new name into the mix:

Everybody loves a sleeper come draft time and the name of Justin Zimmer from Ferris State has been quietly spoken about in scouting circles.

Unmentioned by scouts prior to the season, Zimmer posted 81 tackles, 13 sacks and broke up 5 passes this season. The thee time Academic All American who measures 6-feet/3-inches and a shade over 290-pounds, has reportedly timed under 4.8-seconds in the forty and completed 46 reps on the bench press last summer.

The hope is Zimmer gets a last minute invite to one of this months All Star games but draft junkies best start watching film on this dominant defender and keep an eye on his pro-day workout.

Nearly every year a small school prospect gets mentioned. I recall being underwhelmed by Brandon Williams from Missouri Southern State (a 2013 third round pick by the Ravens). Hobart’s Ali Marpet has just completed a very solid rookie season for Tampa Bay after being taken in round two in 2015.

As soon as you look at Zimmer’s tape, it’s hard not to be impressed.

You want to see a possible NFL prospect dominating against small school opponents. They need to look like ringers. In the video above Zimmer consistently explodes into the backfield, sheds blocks and works across the line to make plays against the pass and run. He’s seen hurdling a blocker at 290lbs, he’s disengaging blocks with ease and he finishes plays.

He looks like a terrific athlete with excellent power and physicality. What’s more, he’s doing it from multiple positions. He’s rushing the edge, he’s collapsing the pocket from the inside. On one play he drops into coverage and actually breaks up a pass over the middle.

Zimmer has excellent closing speed and when he works into space he’s like a magnet to the ball carrier. You see genuine evidence of him converting speed-to-power. He can swim and rip — and win with speed off the edge.

The only thing he might lack is great length. Watching the clip of him doing 46 reps on the bench (see below) — his arms look a bit on the short side:

This shouldn’t be a major concern as long as you’re willing to use him inside. At DE it’ll be a problem — you want to see length so he can keep a tackle from getting into his pads and driving him out of contention. Working inside it’s not the same kind of issue if you’re shooting gaps and winning with power and get-off.

Aaron Donald only has 32 5/8 inch arms. He ran a 4.68 at 285lbs and had 36 reps on the bench. Pauline notes that Zimmer is capable of a 4.8 at 290lbs.

It’d be great to see him at the Shrine game and possibly the combine. Ali Marpet made it to the combine due to some late buzz in scouting circles. If people in the league are talking about Zimmer — it’d be useful to see how he compares to the rest of the 2016 class.

He also seems pretty level headed. The only interview I could find is at the back end of this clip:

Knowing the Seahawks as we do — it wouldn’t be a total shocker if they looked at Zimmer as a possible convert candidate for the interior offensive line. Although he’s a much more refined pass rusher than Kristjan Sokoli.

He’s one to monitor going forward along with Southern Utah safety Miles Killebrew — who has already received an invite to this months Senior Bowl.

 

With the 2016 draft order set, here’s a new mock draft

January 5th, 2016 | Written by Rob Staton

#1 Tennessee — Joey Bosa (DE, Ohio State)
They already have two top-11 picks on their offensive line (Taylor Lewan, Chance Warmack). They have Marcus Mariota and Dorial Green-Beckham to build around. It’s time to add a defensive focal point.

#2 Cleveland — Paxton Lynch (QB, Memphis)
Teams will believe they can win with Lynch. He’s big, mobile, accurate and led a Memphis team to a winning season against the odds. A poor man’s Cam Newton.

#3 San Diego — Laremy Tunsil (T, Ole Miss)
He missed most of the 2015 season but played well against Texas A&M’s explosive pass-rusher Myles Garrett.

#4 Dallas — Jaylon Smith (LB, Notre Dame)
Smith will undergo reconstructive left knee surgery. And? The Cowboys are good enough to stash him away and think long term. He could be the best talent in the entire draft.

#5 Jacksonville — Eli Apple (CB, Ohio State)
Length, quickness and intelligence. Apple is a fantastic corner. He doesn’t get beat deep and keeps everything in front.

#6 Baltimore — Shon Coleman (T, Auburn)
The best tackle in college football. Coleman plays with an edge and loves to punish linebackers at the second level.

#7 San Francisco — Cam Sutton (CB, Tennessee)
I’ve got a feeling they’ll give Colin Kaepernick one more chance with a new coach. Sutton is an explosive athlete. A future game-changer at corner.

#8 Miami — Tre’Davious White (CB, LSU)
White is a fabulous talent. He’s a tremendous cover-corner, a superb kick-returner and he was awarded the coveted #18 jersey by LSU.

#9 Tampa Bay — DeForest Buckner (DE, Oregon)
Not an explosive athlete but a productive pass rusher (double digit sacks this season). He can work inside or the edge.

#10 New York Giants — Darron Lee (LB, Ohio State)
A well spoken leader who looks like a 4.4 runner with great instinct. He could be a big-time riser over the next couple of months.

#11 Chicago — Myles Jack (LB, UCLA)
Recovering from a knee injury but another athletic, versatile linebacker. The Bears need to keep adding pieces to their defense.

#12 New Orleans — Mackensie Alexander (CB, Clemson)
He could go in the top-10. The Saints tried to get physical at corner with Brandon Browner. Alexander can fill that role.

#13 Philadelphia — Jared Goff (QB, California)
Whoever takes over, they’re going to need a quarterback. Is Sam Bradford really the answer? A coach like Adam Gase would be perfect for Goff.

#14 Oakland — Jaylen Ramsey (CB, Florida State)
He’s a tweener. Does he have the hips and quicks to match-up with elite suddenness? Or is he a permanent safety?

#15 St. Louis — Laquon Treadwell (WR, Ole Miss)
They could go receiver or O-line. Funny, aren’t those two of the areas they’ve already pumped a ton of stock?

#16 Detroit — Taylor Decker (T, Ohio State)
He could go much earlier. People underestimate his athleticism. He is tall though — Decker’s listed at 6-8. That causes problems with leverage.

#17 Atlanta — Corey Coleman (WR, Baylor)
Imagine pairing Coleman with Julio Jones. If the Falcons can upgrade their defense in free agency — they can afford a pick like this.

#18 Indianapolis — Jack Conklin (T, Michigan State)
Just a hard-nosed, blue-collar tough guy who fought his way into this range as a walk-on at MSU. Not an amazing athlete — but someone teams will love.

#19 Buffalo — Robert Nkemdiche (DE, Ole Miss)
Some coaches will say, ‘Let somebody else take a chance on him’. Rex Ryan will say, ‘Let’s draft him and go eat a goddamn snack’.

#20 New York Jets — Carson Wentz (QB, North Dakota State)
I suspect the Jets are aware they need to start developing the future at QB. This would be ideal for Wentz. Sit for a year or two, then step in for Ryan Fitzpatrick.

#21 Washington — Michael Thomas (WR, Ohio State)
Teams will covet Thomas’ combination of mobility, size and catching radius. He moves very well for a big guy. Thomas has a ton of upside.

#22 Houston — Ezekiel Elliott (RB, Ohio State)
By making the playoffs they make it harder to draft a quarterback. Elliott can help lead the offense while they search for a solution. He makes things happen.

#23 Pittsburgh — Kendall Fuller (CB, Virginia Tech)
Arguably the best of the Fuller brothers. His college debut? Against Amari Cooper and Alabama. He excelled. He’s also recovering from an injury.

#24 Seattle — Will Fuller (WR, Notre Dame)
He chose to turn pro in the end. He has electric speed and suddenness. He’s a legit downfield threat but also creates separation with explosive breaks.

#25 Green Bay — Leonard Floyd (LB, Georgia)
Floyd has loads of upside but his college career was pretty ‘meh’. Green Bay needs someone who can cover and rush at OLB.

#26 Kansas City — Ronnie Stanley (T, Notre Dame)
Stanley offers no second-level blocking and relies too much on his natural athleticism. Clemson’s Shaq Lawson embarrassed him. He could drop into round two.

#27 Minnesota — Cody Whitehair (T, Kansas State)
I spent some time watching him today and there’s a lot to like. A natural athlete with good size and mobility. He should kick inside to guard.

#28 Cincinnati — De’Runnya Wilson (WR, Mississippi State)
Similar to Kelvin Benjamin and could provide a nice alternative to A.J. Green. Good luck stopping Green, Eifert and Wilson in the red zone.

#29 Denver — Germain Ifedi (T, Mississippi State)
Some people think he’ll drop into the middle rounds. He’s very muscular and in good shape. There’s plenty to work with here at tackle or guard.

#30 Arizona — Adolphus Washington (DE, Ohio State)
Flits in and out of games. Goes from impactful to anonymous. Projects well to DE in the 3-4. Fits Arizona’s scheme.

#31 Carolina — Tyler Boyd (WR, Pittsburgh)
He’s just a really clever receiver. He won’t run as fast as some of the others but he knows how to get open consistently.

Further thoughts on the Seahawks

I’m not ready to move off Will Fuller yet.

I’ll stress again — since 2012 the Seahawks have drafted dynamic athletes early. Irvin, Wagner, Michael, Richardson, Clark and Lockett. They traded for Harvin and Graham. This is too much of a trend to ignore.

It feels like philosophy. Much in the way they’ve also allowed Tom Cable to identify and draft ‘his guys’ to build the O-line. One of Cable’s guys might be there at the end of round one. If he isn’t, I don’t think they’ll force anything to fill the tackle need if Russell Okung departs.

I’ve become mildly obsessed (only half joking) with the idea of speed and suddenness at receiver. Watching the Steelers’ trio of Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton and Martavis Bryant has sold me on speed, quick twitch, separation and grit. It’s the modern NFL. It’s incredibly difficult to defend. And I freaking love it.

The idea of being able to field a combination of Tyler Lockett, Doug Baldwin, Paul Richardson and Will Fuller alongside Jimmy Graham on any given snap is salivating. And if the Seahawks O-line can continue to protect Wilson the way it has since the bye week — it could be a frightening proposition for the rest of the league.

There are some legitimate concerns about Fuller’s hands. He does body catch in mid-air too often and he doesn’t always pluck the ball at its highest point. He also makes some excellent, tricky grabs in coverage. I’d be comfortable working on this area and there’s no real pressure for an immediate impact (see: Paul Richardson in 2014).

It could be classified as a luxury. There’s every chance they keep Jermaine Kearse with a new contract. Kearse isn’t a trendy player but he’s constantly made big plays for this team and appears to have a flawless attitude and chemistry with Wilson. On the other hand, Kearse could move on and Baldwin’s contract only lasts until the end of next season. Richardson also hasn’t been able to stay healthy.

Everything about Fuller intrigues me. His personality, his ability to adjust to the ball in the air, his rare speed and the way it scares teams so much he frequently finds open space underneath.

Watch this:

Look at the way he kicks through the gears to beat the corner — and then lays out to make the catch.

With Russell Wilson continuing to develop and flirting with the possibility of becoming the NFL’s best quarterback one day — this is the type of player that can help him get there. If the Seahawks don’t take him, the Cardinals probably will.

A lot of the better offensive linemen, linebackers and cornerbacks are gone in this projection. When Mel Kiper publishes his first mock next week we’ll run through some of the options available to Seattle and look at alternatives to Fuller.

There’s enough depth on the O-line (possible options beyond round one include
Adam Bisnowaty, Joe Dahl and Jason Spriggs), at defensive tackle, linebacker and running back. They can fill several needs with value to boot. I’m not sure a player like Fuller will be available after round one.

 

Seahawks: Top-five off-season needs

January 4th, 2016 | Written by Rob Staton

#1 Offensive tackle

It’s hard to specify whether it’ll be a left or right tackle. The Seahawks are expected to have around $34m in free cap room this off-season. It’s more than enough to re-sign Russell Okung. However, he’s missed 24 games in a six-year career and might command a top-tier salary. If he departs they’ll need to add a new tackle — even if Garry Gilliam is moved to the blind side. Making sure Russell Wilson is well protected for 16 games and not seven has to be Seattle’s top priority going into 2016. If Okung signs a new contract, we can pretty much strike this off the list of needs.

Possible first round OT’s: Laremy Tunsil (Ole Miss), Shon Coleman (Auburn), Taylor Decker (Ohio State), Jack Conklin (Michigan State), Ronnie Stanley (Notre Dame)

Prospect beyond round one to monitor: Adam Bisnowaty (T, Pittsburgh)

#2 Cornerback

Jeremy Lane and DeShawn Shead are both free agents in waiting. Good cornerbacks are hard to find and Byron Maxwell struggling in Philadelphia is unlikely to dissuade teams from adding a former Seahawks DB. Neither of these two are likely to get close to Maxwell’s salary — but they might get offers that are a little rich for the Seahawks. Lane is only 25 and might be best signing a new one-year deal in Seattle to return as a starter with the intention of maximising his stock for 2017. Either way, the conveyor belt of talent is running out of talent and Seattle’s depth at corner is weak. The failed Cary Williams experiment could put them off free agency. They might need to make an early pick at corner this year.

Possible first round CB’s: Eli Apple (Ohio State), Tre’Davious White (LSU), Cam Sutton (Tennessee), Mackensie Alexander (Clemson), Kendall Fuller (Virginia Tech)

Prospect beyond round one to monitor: Zack Sanchex (CB, Oklahoma)

#3 Linebacker

This is another need based on what happens with a prospective free agent. That’s testament to Seattle’s balanced roster. Bruce Irvin isn’t just a starter — he’s a potential playmaker. He had fewer big impact plays this year (5.5 sacks, one FF, no picks) but there isn’t anyone like Irvin in the league. He can rush the passer, cover, play to the sideline. He’s a unique swiss army knife of a linebacker. By choosing not to take up his affordable 2015 contract option, they made it clear they were willing to risk losing him. He’s 29 next year so what is his value? Is it greater to the Seahawks than anyone else? Maybe. If he walks (possibly to rejoin Dan Quinn in Atlanta) they’ll need a replacement. Kevin Pierre-Louis did an unconvincing job in spot starts this season. If they’re lucky someone like Ohio State’s Darron Lee could be available (unlikely). Oklahoma’s Eric Striker is an option. They could also look to convert an athletic safety in the mould of Deone Bucannon.

Possible first round LB’s: Jaylon Smith (Notre Dame), Darron Lee (Ohio State), Myles Jack (UCLA)

Prospect beyond round one to monitor: Eric Striker (LB, Oklahoma)

#4 Wide receiver

Jermaine Kearse isn’t a big stat guy. He’ll never be considered an elite receiver. Yet he’s made some of the most significant catches in Seattle’s franchise history. He won’t be easy to replace and could easily wind up being a priority keep this off-season. Doug Baldwin’s contract expires after 2016 and he too is due an extension. The lack of security here — plus Paul Richardson’s injury habit — puts receiver on the need list. College football is consistently producing pro-ready wide outs these days. The idea that it’s a bad position to draft early is a thing of the past. If the Seahawks can add another dynamic pass-catcher with suddenness, explosiveness and the ability to get open — they have to consider it. Especially if Kearse moves on.

Possible first round WR’s: Laquon Treadwell (Ole Miss), Corey Coleman (Baylor), Will Fuller (Notre Dame), Michael Thomas (Ohio State), Tyler Boyd (Pittsburgh), De’Runnya Wilson (Mississippi State)

Prospect beyond round one to monitor: Braxton Miller (WR, Ohio State)

#5 Running back

Marshawn Lynch is due $11.5m in 2016 and it feels almost certain this will be his final season in Seattle. The Seahawks have an heir-apparent in Thomas Rawls at a much cheaper cost. They can use the draft to find a supporting runner. It’s time for both parties to move on, hopefully after one more fruitful playoff push together. This looks like a good draft for runners. Seattle could target rounds 2-4 (as they have in the past) to look at the position. UCLA’s Paul Perkins and Arkansas’ Alex Collins are personal favourites.

Possible first round RB’s: Ezekiel Elliott (Ohio State)

Prospect beyond round one to monitor: Paul Perkins (RB, UCLA)

So what do they do?

The Seahawks have recently looked to draft and develop athletic offensive linemen in the mid-to-late rounds while adding dynamic athletes in the early rounds. They could easily go receiver or linebacker first and offensive tackle later.

That said, the entire 2015 season was influenced dramatically by the state of Seattle’s O-line. When they struggled earlier in the year, so did the Seahawks offense. Badly. As this young group developed and found some chemistry — Russell Wilson was able to play at an elite level.

The absolute number one priority for the 2016 season has to be to create an environment where Wilson can prosper for a full 16-games. This could happen in a number of ways. They might re-sign Okung and J.R. Sweezy. They might choose to replace Okung in the draft and move Gilliam across. They might upgrade the interior line in free agency by signing someone like Alex Mack. They might even look into the possibility of trading for Joe Thomas.

Whatever they do, they can’t have the same growing pains next year. They don’t have to go O-line in the first round — but the line generally has to be the key.

Highlighted prospect at each position

Shon Coleman (T, Auburn)
Still the best tackle in college football for me in 2015. Coleman is a complete tackle. He kick-slides with ease and has ideal length and size. When he locks onto a defender it’s over with excellent hand placement and upper body power. Coleman loves to finish — driving pass-rushers off the ball and usually onto the turf. He matched up well against the best the SEC had to offer (Myles Garrett). He also frequently gets to the second level and seeks out linebackers to smash. His stock could be impacted by age (24) and the fact he’s battled cancer. If he lasts until the late first round, more fool the rest of the league.

Eli Apple (CB, Ohio State)
I’m a big admirer of Apple, Tre’Davious White and Cam Sutton. All three have the upside to be special at the next level. I’m highlighting Apple because he might be the best fit for the Seahawks. He has the size, length and athleticism to be a star — but it’s his on-field savvy and game-smarts that are most intriguing. Apple doesn’t get beat over the top, keeps everything in front and manages the explosive play. He’ll give up 5-6 yards to avoid giving up 50. That’s OK. He’s a solid open-field tackler, he will make the occasional break on the football and he’s fundamentally sound across the board. Compare that to the streaky (and overrated) Vernon Hargreaves — a corner that is a hopeless open-field tackler and inconsistent in coverage.

Darron Lee (LB, Ohio State)
There’s just something really fun and unique to Lee’s game. He’s not a stunning athlete like Ryan Shazier but he’s well above average. He could run in the 4.4’s. His natural instinct and flair for the game shines through on tape. Lee knows how to disguise and time a blitz — but he also has the acceleration and closing speed to be effective. He’s very good working in space and making tackles despite a lack of excellent size. He’s a well spoken, intelligent individual destined to be a leader at the next level. It wouldn’t be a surprise if he went in the top-12 picks. Not in the slightest. He’ll be a fine addition to any roster and a genuine safe pick.

Will Fuller (WR, Notre Dame)
Russell Wilson appears to be more comfortable throwing to sudden receivers who create obvious separation. It sounds like a fairly obvious thing to say — but it’s arguably partly why he seemed unwilling to trust Jimmy Graham in tight coverage at times. Graham has never been a guy who gets open per se — he wins match-ups. I’m not sure it’s in Wilson’s psyche to throw passes with a high degree of perceived risk. Fuller is a thoroughly dynamic, sudden athlete who creates separation in the short game with crisp breaks. He also has the deep speed to get downfield and be an X-Factor. Imagining adding him to the offense, especially with Paul Richardson’s injury history, is a salivating thought. If you need more convincing, click here. He could be a big riser over the next two or three months.

Ezekiel Elliott (RB, Ohio State)
I’m not convinced the Seahawks have much interest in a genuine two-headed monster at running back. They need a supporting cast for Thomas Rawls. Some competition — but really someone who can work third downs and the two-minute drill and provide some relief. Are you going to take that type of back in round one? That’s not taking anything away from Elliott — who looks the part of a dynamic runner. He explodes through an open lane and has the sprinter-speed to finish runs. He’s tough to bring down, keeps his legs moving and doesn’t flop over on contact. Elliott consistently makes things happen even when the blocking isn’t perfect or the defense finds an edge. He has a shot to crack the top-25.

 

Instant reaction: Seahawks hammer Cards, finish 10-6

January 3rd, 2016 | Written by Rob Staton

Last week was an aberration. A typical game against the Rams. St. Louis have the antidote to the Seahawks. Their defensive line, led by the incredible Aaron Donald, has their number.

That’s just the way it’s going to be. If you’re hoping to draft or sign a player who can handle Donald in the future, you’ll be waiting a long time. He’s on a path to usurp Ndamukong Suh as the best interior pass rusher since Warren Sapp.

This was the Seahawks team we’d come to expect. With a fifth straight road win — Seattle again looks like a contender. Arizona didn’t mail this in, the Seahawks took it away. They won 36-6 with nearly all the damage coming when the Cardinals were playing their starters.

As they’ve looked more vulnerable at home, Carroll’s Seahawks have never looked more threatening on the road. This was a signature victory to pair with the Vikings beat-down. It might actually be a good thing to go on the road in the playoffs.

Look at the adversity this team has had to overcome to make the playoffs and win 10-games:

— The Kam Chancellor hold-out

— The agony and manner of the Super Bowl loss

— Losing the heart of your running game twice (Marshawn Lynch, then Thomas Rawls)

— Numerous other injuries (Jimmy Graham highlighting a long list)

— Having to reclaim their identity (compete & finish) after numerous blown leads

There’s a few other things too. It took until week 17 for a team to miss a field goal against Seattle (which is bizarre luck). Once again Seahawks’ opponents were collectively the least penalised this season (which is astonishing).

To get to ten wins with all of that working against them makes this regular season quite satisfying. The big question is — can they do it again? Can they go on the road and make another tilt at this thing?

Can they make a third straight Super Bowl and claim redemption?

Russell Wilson was again exceptional. He finished with three more touchdowns and 197 passing yards. In the process he set franchise records for passing touchdowns, passing yards in a season and completion percentage. He will be the NFL’s quarterback rating leader.

This was the best season by a Seahawks quarterback ever. He is the undisputed best quarterback in franchise history — four years into his career.

The offensive line — missing Russell Okung and J.R. Sweezy — protected him very well. It’s ironic that the two prospective free agents missed this one. I doubt one game has a significant impact on any decision they make — but it shows they can potentially survive if both players move on. Mark Glowinski looked fine in his first start.

Tyler Lockett was a major X-factor in the return game. Let’s hope that continues into the post season. The Seahawks had three interceptions and constantly made Carson Palmer uncomfortable in the first half. Seattle got production from running backs and tight ends that are deep on the depth chart or recent off-the-street additions.

The Seahawks allowed the fewest points in the NFL for the fourth straight season.

The manner of the win will give the Cardinals a sleepless night or two during their bye week. There were no crotch-chops from Carson Palmer here. The only dancing Drew Stanton did came in the pocket before he threw two interceptions. Bruce Arians, who ranted about home fans selling their tickets, had to listen to loud choruses of ‘Seahawks‘ throughout the day.

Arians is 0-3 at home against the Seahawks. Today ended a nine-game winning streak for the Cardinals. When the Seahawks lose, it’s a tight game. They don’t get blown out like this.

Seattle played this well without their starting left tackle, right guard, running back, strong safety and tight end. All five could return for the playoffs.

Both teams were also in contention for Football Outsiders’ DVOA title. With Seattle putting in a complete performance with added special teams brilliance — it’s hard to imagine the Seahawks don’t have it wrapped up for a fourth successive year. Nobody has ever managed that before.

So what’s next? Washington or Minnesota?

 

Will Fuller will enter the 2016 NFL draft

January 3rd, 2016 | Written by Rob Staton

Will Fuller was arguably the most explosive receiver in college football this year. A supreme downfield threat with breakaway speed — he also has initial suddenness to create separation and the ability to make difficult catches in traffic. Essentially, he’s the type of receiver the Seahawks generally like.

I mocked him to Seattle last week. Although receiver isn’t the greatest need — it’ll be hard to find a fantastic offensive tackle between picks #21-31 and the top cornerbacks and linebackers in this class could easily be gone too.

With Jermaine Kearse’s contract expiring after this season, Paul Richardson’s injury problems and Doug Baldwin’s deal lasting only until the end of 2016 — it’s not unlikely they’ll consider a player like Fuller. They’ve consistently gone after sudden, unique athletes early in the draft since 2012 — selecting Bruce Irvin, Bobby Wagner, Christine Michael, Paul Richardson, Frank Clark and Tyler Lockett. They also traded for Percy Harvin and Jimmy Graham. Fuller would continue this trend.

Don’t be shocked if he ends up going in the top-20 and out of range for the Seahawks. It’s easy to forget but at this time in 2013 many people thought Odell Beckham Jr. was a late first rounder because of his lack of size. Fuller is an explosive, dynamic receiver with exceptional character. Teams will covet him.