Where are the special players?
The guys who are unique athletes? The guys who stand out?
This is a nice deep class overall — but there aren’t many players projected to go in the top-40 that scream ‘Seahawks’.
In the middle rounds you can come up with several examples:
Joe Haeg and Joe Dahl — explosive, long offensive tackles expected to kick inside
Connor McGovern — Missouri coached, tough and extremely explosive with the ability to emulate Mitch Morse
Tyler Ervin — an electric playmaker who plays big despite his size and has a fantastic attitude
Devon Cajuste — SPARQ demon who run blocks brilliantly, maxes out his targets and has a quirky ‘Seahawks’ receiver personality
Joel Heath — up for the challenge, incredibly athletic and could convert to the O-line
There’s also a whole host of athletic defensive backs expected to be available on day three that fit Seattle’s criteria.
Yet in terms of that perfect combination of grit, athleticism, upside and production — there aren’t a ton of options at #26.
Jonathan Bullard is a nice overall prospect — but he has limitations. Bob McGinn put out a piece today on defensive linemen and here’s the blurb on Bullard:
Considered coming out a year ago. “He was smart,” said one scout. “He had a heck of a year for them. Played his (expletive) off. He can play 3- or 5-technique. Is he a great player? No. Solid rotational player.” Finished with 175 tackles (34 for loss) and 12 sacks. Described as an “overachiever” by a second scout. “More of a strength than finesse player,” a third scout said. “He does not have the explosiveness or twitch that you’d like shedding blocks. His pass rush has no personality or power. His only source of quarterback harassment was a collapsing power rush. He’s not around the ball like he should.”
There’s a lot to like about Bullard’s game — but are the Seahawks really going to draft a “solid rotational player” in round one given their previous trends?
Vernon Butler has a nice physical profile and the players at Louisiana Tech appeared to gravitate towards him. Is he a pass rusher though? Not yet. Is he only ever going to be a one (or a three) in Seattle and is that worth a high pick in this defense?
It’s a big question on Butler — who appears to be a big favourite among NFL scouts. He does have a ton of upside though and he could be one to watch if he lasts. Here’s McGinn’s notes on Butler:
Can play anywhere across the front. “He wore a single-digit jersey, No. 9, that really made him stand out in terms of his movement skills,” said one scout. “I wouldn’t classify him as a grinder type of D-lineman. He really relies on his athletic ability. He’s got a lot of potential.” Finished with 170 tackles (29 ½ for loss) and 5 sacks. “He’s got some quickness for a big man,” said a second scout. “He’s more of a nose but he has some movement skills. He can push the pocket and get an edge on occasion.” Long arms (35). From Summit, Miss. “His body balance, bend, acceleration is very good,” a third scout said. “He’s a big finesse athlete. This year, he used his hands much better and played with better strength. He’s a little bit of a goofball, in a good way. Not a bad kid. Athletic as hell. You need the right D-line coach and then coach the crap out of him.”
For what it’s worth, McGinn has him as the #3 defensive end in the draft behind only Joey Bosa and DeForest Buckner. He might not make it to #26.
Chris Jones has plenty of upside — but there are major concerns about his character. Here’s more from Bob McGinn:
Quintessential underachiever. “Boom or bust,” said one scout. “Yeah, he’s talented as hell, but his whole makeup is very, very limited. He shows everything you want in flashes, but it’s just so hit or miss. Our area guy hates him, but I bet him someone will take him in the first.” Tied for the longest arms (34 ½) and biggest hands (10 ¾) of any DT. “He’s got talent but he’s a mess as a kid,” said another scout. “He really flashes but has character concerns.” Started 16 of 39 games as a third-year junior, finishing with 102 tackles (18 for loss) and 8 ½ sacks. “He’s 6-6, he’s gonna be 320, he’s got really good feet,” a third scout said. “But he’s got two things going against him: he’s a junior from Mississippi State, and he’s not too smart (Wonderlic of 15). He’s country. He’s a bad (expletive) but he has to be more consistent.” From Houston. Added a fourth scout: “How much dog does he have in him I guess is the old phrase. They’re the same questions about Albert (Haynesworth) when he came out. At some point you figure the maturity will kick in and he’ll say, ‘You know what, this is what I want to do for a living.’ If he can get the right (coach) in his ear he can do whatever he wants to do.”
Can you really expect the Seahawks to spend a first round pick on a “quintessential underachiever”?
This trio have some positives — but the Seahawks haven’t drafted a defensive lineman earlier than the third round. Are they going to break that trend with these guys? Butler might be the most likely candidate.
This is why we brought up Bronson Kaufusi on Saturday. He might not be everyone’s favourite but at least he offers genuinely unique size and athleticism. His 4.25 short shuttle is incredible at 6-6 and 285lbs. So is his 7.03 short shuttle.
He didn’t provide a truly explosive combine (30 inch vertical, 9-3 broad) though — which was somewhat disappointing given his combination of size/quickness.
“Real effort player,” one scout said. “He’s smart (Wonderlic of 32), alert, instinctive. But he’s not an explosive player. He has enough strength. He knew his weaknesses and compensated well. He’s a thinking player and he has length (34 ½ arms).” Finished with 167 tackles (44 for loss) and 26 ½ sacks. Will be a 25-year-old rookie because he served a two-year Mormon mission to New Zealand. “They just think the world of him there,” another scout said. “He’s going to be a big surprise for somebody. He’s just going to get better. He’s got takeoff and speed to the corner.”
That’s quite a positive review.
If this is a case of compromise for the Seahawks with their first pick — Kaufusi might just be ‘more special’ than some of the other options. And that could put him on their radar earlier than anyone expects.
In a similar way, it’s probably what makes Germain Ifedi the odds-on favourite to be picked if they stay at #26. He has unique size (6-6, 324lbs, 36 inch arms) and athleticism (32.5 inch vertical, 9-1 broad). He isn’t Bruce Irvin or Frank Clark or Jimmy Graham — but he’s the type of player they’ve drafted early.
Most people I speak with feel Ifedi is a great fit for the team at the end of round one. The recurring comment is “Ifedi is a Seattle Seahawks type of lineman.”
He could easily be their pick, solidifying the left guard spot. He does compare favourably to Kelechi Osemele’s physical profile. Yet with attractive O-line options available in rounds 2-3 (Haeg, Dahl, McGovern), they might be obliged to go defense first.
And while nearly every national mock has the Seahawks taking Ryan Kelly these days — here’s a quick reminder on why that would be a major outlier based on how they’ve drafted since 2012 (click here).
All of this points to one thing — trading down.
There’s really very little difference in terms of talent between the 20th pick and the 45th. That range is going to all be about jockeying for position. Getting ahead of certain teams, moving down because you can.
None of this lends itself to any kind of ‘great deal’. You’re not going to get a 2017 first rounder. It’s more about getting into the position that suites your need.
The Seahawks should be able to find a trade partner.
According to Tony Pauline, the Ravens are keen to draft a top safety:
During combine week I mentioned on Walters Football the word around Indianapolis centered on the Baltimore Ravens dropping back into the bottom half of round one then selecting a safety. I was told last week the team loves Su’a Cravens, hence he could be the target if they trade down.
Instead of moving down from #6, could the Ravens move up ten spots from #36 and get ahead of teams like Arizona?
Such a trade could see both teams swap third rounders for a fair deal.
The Browns might look to move back into the first too. Charlie Campbell claims it’s a possibility:
In speaking to sources, the Browns and Denver Broncos have been speaking to teams to feel out potential deals to trade up from their picks at 31 (Denver) and 32.
Either way it seems likely. And an extra fourth rounder (King’s projection) could secure a high enough pick to select Devon Cajuste on day three.
Who are some of the outsider candidates?
Moving back into round two could bring Derrick Henry into range. The Seahawks are a run-first team and Henry is one of the few ‘freaky’ athletes in this class. He’d be a size/style outlier based on what the Seahawks have previously looked for in a running back — but there aren’t many players with his combination of skills.
Henry was also on the list of confirmed VMAC visits. That said, he might be more of an option if he lasts to #56.
EDGE rusher isn’t really that much of a need. After all, the Seahawks drafted Frank Clark a year ago while Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril are signed up long term. Chris Clemons was also re-signed so that’s four solid options for a healthy rotation.
However, Jason La Canfora put out a mock draft today and selected Noah Spence for the Seahawks. In the piece he admitted he was tempted to pair Emmanuel Ogbah at #26 too.
According to Zach Whitman’s Three Sigma rankings, Spence isn’t a freaky overall athlete. However, neither is Joey Bosa according to Whitman’s site — and yet it’s Bosa’s elite agility testing that makes him so interesting as a prospect (he ran an incredible 6.89 three cone and a 4.21 in the short shuttle).
How does Spence compare? He ran a very good short shuttle (4.35) but his three cone was fairly disappointing given his size (7.21). He did, however, manage a 35-inch vertical and a 10-1 in the broad jump. He had 25 reps on the bench (decent) and ran a 1.61 10-yard split (just shy of the 1.5 ‘elite’ bracket).
Yet look at the top NFL pass rushers Von Miller and Khalil Mack and see how Spence compares:
Height: 6-2 5/8
Height: 6-2 5/8
Height: 6-2 1/2
The only similarity is size. Still, we’re talking about two top-five picks and a guy who might be available at #26.
He’s a former 5-star recruit — something Pete Carroll is evidently drawn to. And here’s something else to consider — they tried Cassius Marsh at linebacker and appear to be projecting him as such again this off-season.
Here’s Marsh’s combine compared to Spence’s:
Arm length: 32 3/4 inches
Vertical: 32 inches
Three cone: 7.08
Short shuttle: 4.25
Arm length: 33 inches
Vertical: 35 inches
Three cone: 7.21
Short shuttle: 4.35
Physically there are similarities — but Spence has a lot more burst (10-yard split), explosion (broad, vertical) and he’s stronger.
On tape you see that too. Marsh wasn’t much of an edge rusher but Spence has shown to be an excellent edge rusher — albeit slightly one-dimensional (he needs to increase his repertoire).
Spence could be a candidate to play SAM/DE. Possibly. And the difference between his character issues and someone like Robert Nkemdiche is Spence actually went to Eastern Kentucky to prove to teams he’s a changed man. Nkemdiche’s issues are very much in the here and now.
The counter to this projection is fairly obvious. Seattle’s two greatest needs are a DE/DT hybrid who can kick inside on third down and the O-line. Taking an EDGE is a bit of a luxury unless, like Louis Riddick, they think he’s special:
“This is the best edge rusher in this draft… no-one has this kid’s hand use, no-one has his feel for pad-level, leverage points in terms of attacking offensive tackles and getting people on the ground.”
I would agree with Riddick — Spence is the best edge rusher in the draft. He isn’t Von Miller, Khalil Mack or Bruce Irvin though in terms of an overall athletic profile. It still shouldn’t be a total shock if they take him at #26 — or if he goes before they’re on the clock.
With a few days to go my hunch right now is they’ll trade down and take the most ‘Seahawky’ prospect on the O-line (Ifedi?) or D-line (names noted above). An EDGE or running back is a wildcard.
Are we looking at this group (in no particular order)?
Shon Coleman (if they see beyond the health issues)
They can draft for the O-line in rounds 2-3 if they go defense first (McGovern, Haeg, Dahl) and it won’t be a shock if they zone in on Tyler Ervin and Devon Cajuste by round four.
If you want to hold out hope on the ideal scenario coming true — Daniel Jeremiah today mocked Sheldon Rankins to the Seahawks.