Legit first round grades & an updated top-50

January 17th, 2018 | Written by Rob Staton

In a good class you might have 20 players graded in the first round.

I think it’ll be a lot less this year.

It’s still very early in the process and the Senior Bowl and combine will change things dramatically. We’ll come back to this list down the road and see how things have shifted. For now though, here are the players I think are worthy of first round grades:

Saquon Barkley (RB, Penn State)
Quenton Nelson (G, Notre Dame)
Tremaine Edmunds (LB, Virginia Tech)
Bradley Chubb (EDGE, NC State)
Sam Darnold (QB, USC)
Josh Rosen (QB, UCLA)
Vita Vea (DT, Washington)
Billy Price (C, Ohio State)
Ronald Jones II (RB, USC)
Tim Settle (DT, Virginia Tech)
Marcus Davenport (DE, UTSA)

11 players.

A lot of people will have Minkah Fitzpatrick and Derwin James listed as legit first rounders. I think they are both a bit overrated. Roquan Smith seriously warrants consideration but he’s only 6-0 and 225lbs. Quarterback needy teams might have Josh Allen or Baker Mayfield listed.

For me though, these are the eleven I think are genuinely worth a first round grade.

Barkley, Nelson, Chubb, Darnold and Rosen will appear on many similar lists so I want to concentrate on the other six.

Tremaine Edmunds (LB, Virginia Tech) — he’s just an incredible talent. Edmunds can play inside linebacker, outside linebacker, LEO, he can rush. You can ask him to do so many jobs. He’ll appear from nowhere to blow up a screen or sweep, he’ll chase down the ball carrier and make a secure tackle in space, force turnovers with jarring hits and he’s always in control. He has great size (6-4, 235lbs) and length. Expect a great workout at the combine and a very, very high grade among scouts. For more on Tremaine Edmunds click here.

Vita Vea (DT, Washington) — there are plenty of mixed opinions on Vea but you have to watch him live to appreciate his talent. He’s 6-4 and 340lbs but he moves around the field with incredible mobility. You expect him to be powerful and capable of controlling the LOS with his size. He does that very well. Yet it’s his ability to play across the line, sprint to the ball carrier and move with unnatural ease that makes him one of those rare nose tackle prospects who go early in the draft. He could be Haloti Ngata.

Billy Price (C, Ohio State) — Price is pretty much the complete package. He plays the way you want your offensive linemen to play — with great intensity and a nasty edge. He sets the tone up front. He combines athleticism and power with strength and physical toughness. He plays like a third Pouncey brother. Urban Meyer absolutely raves about him, crediting Price with a stirring motivational speech to kick start Ohio State’s season after their big loss at Iowa. Plus he’s smart, intelligent and knows what he wants in life. He used the 2017 season to set himself a challenge of becoming a first round pick. He will go early.

Ronald Jones II (RB, USC) — apparently he only received a second round grade from the draft committee but I think he’s special. The comparisons to Jamaal Charles are legit — absolutely legit. So how can I not name him here? He dodges tackles and cuts his way through traffic like a slalom skier. He has the burst, suddenness and acceleration to explode to the second level and capitalise on an opening. Most of all though, he finishes every single run. He’s tough. He’ll need to show he can pass protect but he has star quality. For more on Ronald Jones II click here.

Tim Settle (DT, Virginia Tech) — it’s surprising to see Settle receive so little hype, especially after he declared for the draft as a redshirt sophomore. You don’t see many players do that, especially not 6-3, 328lbs defensive tackles. There’s a reason though. Settle has the size to play nose but the quickness, get-off and pass rush ability to be so much more. He had 12.5 TFL’s in 2017. That’s incredible for a 328lber. In comparison, Vita Vea had 5.5 TFL’s and Da’Ron Payne 1.0. The scary thing is he could stand to lose a little weight and be even better. For more on Tim Settle click here.

Marcus Davenport (DE, UTSA) — watching his tape he looks special. At first you wonder about the competition level and then you see him do it to every opponent and you have to buy in. He’s about 6-5 or 6-6 and around 254lbs. At times you feel like you’re watching DeMarcus Ware. He has a violent bull rush, he explodes off the edge and dominates the tackle. He can hold off offensive linemen with one arm and he has the quickness to win with speed. He’ll chase down a ball carrier and finish consistently. He has a big opportunity to impress at the Senior Bowl and prove the hype is warranted. If he succeeds — he could be a top-15 lock. For more on Marcus Davenport click here.

This list could grow. At the moment this is how I see things. It looks like a draft where there will be around 10-15 legit first round grades. That’s my current estimate. There might be better value in round two than in the second half of round one.

Seeing as a number of high profile prospects have chosen not to declare for the draft (Clelin Ferrell, Christian Wilkins, Austin Bryant, Damien Harris, Bryce Love) I thought I’d also update my top-50:

Quarterbacks (5)

Sam Darnold (USC)
Josh Rosen (UCLA)
Baker Mayfield (Oklahoma)
Lamar Jackson (Louisville)
Josh Allen (Wyoming)

It’s possible all five could go in the first round.

Running backs (8)

Saquon Barkley (Penn State)
Ronald Jones II (USC)
Kerryon Johnson (Auburn)
Nick Chubb (Georgia)
Sony Michel (Georgia)
Royce Freeman (Oregon)
Rashaad Penny (San Diego State)
Derrius Guice (RB, LSU)

The group takes a hit with Damien Harris and Bryce Love opting not to turn pro. Still, this is a strong looking list with 3-4 potential stars.

Wide receiver (5)

Calvin Ridley (Alabama)
Courtland Sutton (SMU)
James Washington (Oklahoma State)
Anthony Miller (Memphis)
D.J. Moore (Maryland)

The depth at receiver is better than the early round talent. Ridley isn’t particularly big or fast but he gets open and he’s consistent. Sutton is a big bodied Alshon Jeffrey type. Washington could go in the 20-40 range.

Tight end (0)

As things stand, there’s a chance we won’t see a tight end go in the first two rounds of the draft. It’s almost certain there won’t be a first round tight end.

Offensive line (9)

Quenton Nelson (G, Notre Dame)
Billy Price (C/G, Ohio State)
Orlando Brown (T, Oklahoma)
Mike McGlinchey (T, Notre Dame)
Isaiah Wynn (G, Georgia)
Frank Ragnow (C, Arkansas)
Braden Smith (G, Auburn)
Will Hernandez (G, UTEP)
Coleman Shelton (C, Washington)

It’s a decent crop of interior linemen but a weak looking tackle class. Nelson could go in the top-10 and Price isn’t far behind. Brown and McGlinchey are expected to be first round tackles. The rest could go in the late first or second round.

Defensive line (10)

Bradley Chubb (DE, NC State)
Vita Vea (DT, Washington)
Tim Settle (DT, Virginia Tech)
Marcus Davenport (DE, UTSA)
Taven Bryan (DT, Florida)
Arden Key (DE, LSU)
Da’Ron Payne (DT, Alabama)
Derrick Nnadi (DT, Florida State)
Maurice Hurst (DT, Michigan)
Ogbonnia Okoronkwo (DE, Oklahoma)

Clelin Ferrell could’ve been a top five pick. The Clemson trio staying in school is big news. There’s still a bit of everything here — speed, power, length, size.

Linebacker (7)

Tremaine Edmunds (Virginia Tech)
Roquan Smith (Georgia)
Leighton Vander Esch (Boise State)
Rashaan Evans (Alabama)
Lorenzo Carter (Georgia)
Keishawn Bierria (Washington)
Harold Landry (Boston College)

Edmunds is the outstanding linebacker prospect. Smith, Vander Esch, Evans and Carter are capable of going in the first frame.

Cornerback (3)

Denzel Ward (Ohio State)
Joshua Jackson (Iowa)
Anthony Averett (Alabama)

It’s not a good looking cornerback class. Iowa’s Joshua Jackson has major production this year with eight interceptions and a pair of touchdowns. He could sneak into the first round. Some think Ohio State’s Denzel Ward is the best corner in the draft and he’s expected to have a great combine. Averett is sparky and could be a useful slot corner.

Safety (3)

Minkah Fitzpatrick (Alabama)
Derwin James (Florida State)
Ronnie Harrison (Alabama)

The safety’s are a bit overrated but Fitzpatrick is likely a top-15 pick, James could go between 15-30 and Ronnie Harrison could be a second rounder.

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New mock draft & the benefit of trading down

January 16th, 2018 | Written by Rob Staton

Could the Seahawks move down and address two key needs?

Trade down or stay put.

We’ll be having this discussion a lot over the next three months.

Here are the two arguments:

1. Stay put

The Seahawks haven’t picked in the top-20 for six years. The intention should be to make this a rare one-off. Do they need to make the most of this opportunity? The last three players taken at #18 were Adoree’ Jackson, Ryan Kelly and Marcus Peters. This has been a sweet spot in the draft in recent years.

2. Trade down

With no picks in rounds two or three, the Seahawks are currently set to pick just once before day three. Without a massive amount of cap space, the draft is Seattle’s best opportunity to address several needs. There will be good depth on day two. They might be able to get two or even three players by moving down instead of just one.

Weighing up the options

There are cases to be made for both scenarios.

If the Seahawks had their second and third round picks, it’s a no-brainer. Play the draft board at #18 as you see fit. You’ll still have a chance to get two more good players.

Unfortunately they don’t have those picks — so they have to consider the bigger picture.

It doesn’t mean they can’t or won’t just take BPA at #18. It’s still possible. The problem is — with the likes of Clelin Ferrell and Drew Lock opting to stay at Clemson and Missouri respectively, the chances of a top player dropping to #18 are slimmer.

Tremaine Edmunds isn’t going to last to #18. He’s too good. Billy Price? Possible. Good interior linemen have lasted into that range before. Quenton Nelson will go in the top ten and it’ll be interesting to see how that impacts Price. If he falls to #18 they might have to consider taking him.

Why would trading down be attractive?

This draft class is particularly deep in three need areas:

1. Running back

2. Interior O-line

3. Defensive front seven

By trading down, you might be able to address two of these needs before the end of day two.

Let’s focus on the running game for a moment. Among our top-50 draft eligible players, here are the names included on the O-line and at running back:

Quenton Nelson (G, Notre Dame)
Billy Price (C/G, Ohio State)
Orlando Brown (T, Oklahoma)
Mike McGlinchey (T, Notre Dame)
Isaiah Wynn (G, Georgia)
Frank Ragnow (C, Arkansas)
Braden Smith (G, Auburn)
Will Hernandez (G, UTEP)
Coleman Shelton (C, Washington)

Saquon Barkley (Penn State)
Ronald Jones II (USC)
Kerryon Johnson (Auburn)
Nick Chubb (Georgia)
Royce Freeman (Oregon)
Rashaad Penny (San Diego State)
Sony Michel (Georgia)

(Bryce Love and Damien Harris aren’t included after they opted not to turn pro)

The names in bold, plus Derrius Guice, could be available in rounds 2-3.

So you’re faced with a situation. Let’s say Billy Price lasts to #18. You take him but miss out on the best players in this excellent running back class. Is that better than being able to get a pairing of Ronald Jones II and Frank Ragnow or Isaiah Wynn and Nick Chubb?

Here’s a mock draft that looks at a trade down scenario:

#1 Cleveland — Josh Allen (QB, Wyoming)
There have been reports that John Dorsey is a big fan of Allen’s. If the Browns make a deal for a veteran (eg Alex Smith) they might sit Allen for a year.

#2 NY Giants — Sam Darnold (QB, USC)
This could be either Darnold or Rosen but with Pat Shurmur expected to be the new Head Coach, Darnold’s mobility could give him the edge.

#3 Indianapolis — Saquon Barkley (RB, Penn State)
Barkley deserves to go this early. He could be the highest graded player to enter the league since, funnily enough, Andrew Luck.

#4 Cleveland (via Hou) — Bradley Chubb (EDGE, NC State)
The Browns pair Chubb with Myles Garrett to create a fearsome pass-rushing double act.

#5 Buffalo (via Denver) — Josh Rosen (QB, UCLA)
Armed with the #21 and #22 picks, the Bills trade ahead of their divisional rivals in New York to get Rosen.

#6 New York Jets — Quenton Nelson (G, Notre Dame)
With three quarterbacks off the board already, Mike Maccagnan falls back on taking the best player available.

#7 Tampa Bay — Vita Vea (DT, Washington)
Someone will take Vea early. He’s too big, too quick for his size and too powerful. He has a shot to be Haloti Ngata.

#8 Chicago — Marcus Davenport (DE, UTSA)
If they use free agency to improve at the receiver position, this will allow the Bears to take a top defensive prospect here.

#9 San Francisco — Tremaine Edmunds (LB, Virginia Tech)
Quite frankly a sensational prospect worthy of a place in the top-10. He can play inside linebacker, SAM, EDGE, LEO. An incredible talent and clearly one of the ten best players in this draft class.

#10 Oakland — Orlando Brown (T, Oklahoma)
Enormous prospect with NFL bloodlines and could solve a problem for the Raiders at right tackle.

#11 Miami — Billy Price (C, Ohio State)
Teams will love Price. His attitude, his physicality, his versatility. He’s a third Pouncey brother. A top end talent in this draft.

#12 Cincinnati — Minkah Fitzpatrick (S, Alabama)
Fitzpatrick is a bit overrated and it’ll be quite the thing if he goes earlier than Earl Thomas, Keanu Neal and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.

#13 Washington — Roquan Smith (LB, Georgia)
The Redskins cling on to Kirk Cousins for another year and take the best defensive player on their board.

#14 Green Bay — Tim Settle (DT, Virginia Tech)
Underrated player who managed 12.5 TFL’s at 330lbs. That’s relatively unheard of and considerably more than Vita Vea (5.5) and Da’Ron Payne (1.0).

#15 Arizona — Mike McGlinchey (T, Notre Dame)
The tackle position has become a big problem for the Cardinals. McGlinchey is finesse but one of the best options in a weak OT class.

#16 Baltimore — Calvin Ridley (WR, Alabama)
Not an exciting player. Lacks size and not the most sudden. His interviews are a bit weird. He is consistent though and Baltimore loves ‘Bama.

#17 LA Chargers — Baker Mayfield (QB, Oklahoma)
The Chargers are reportedly looking to develop a player to be the heir apparent to Philip Rivers. Mayfield could be their guy. Rightly or wrongly, might last due to his height.

#18 Cleveland (via Sea) — Denzel Ward (CB, Ohio State)
John Dorsey trades up to secure the best cornerback in the draft.

#19 Dallas — Arden Key (DE, LSU)
Jerry Jones loves a splash and isn’t afraid to take a risk. Key has talent but will he ever put it together?

#20 Detroit — Leighton Vander Esch (LB, Boise State)
Matt Patricia begins his stint as Head Coach by drafting an on-field leader.

#21 Denver (via Buf) — Derwin James (S, Florida State)
The Broncos fill a big need here. Like Fitzpatrick, James is a little overrated. He looks the part and tackles well but he’s a box safety. More Eric Reid than Eric Berry.

#22 Denver (via Buf, KC) — Lamar Jackson (QB, Louisville)
The Broncos draft a quarterback capable of delivering some excitement back to Denver.

#23 LA Rams — Harold Landry (EDGE, Boston College)
He’s not physical enough to play DE so he has to go to the right scheme. Wade Phillips’ defense is a good fit.

#24 Carolina — Taven Bryan (DT, Florida)
Bryan could be used as an inside/out pass rusher for the Panthers. He has major upside.

#25 Tennessee — Joshua Jackson (CB, Iowa)
Despite drafting Adoree’ Jackson a year ago, the Titans still need more in their secondary. Jackson’s combine will determine if he goes this early.

#26 Atlanta — Maurice Hurst (DT, Michigan)
Hurst can rush the passer from the interior and these types of players always have value.

#27 New Orleans — Lorenzo Carter (LB, Georgia)
Carter has explosive qualities and finds a way to impact games. Capable of playing SAM/LEO or OLB.

#28 Pittsburgh — Da’Ron Payne (DT, Alabama)
Payne just looks like an ideal fit for the AFC North. Arguably the best run defender in the draft.

#29 Jacksonville — Courtland Sutton (WR, SMU)
If they lose Allen Robinson they might look for a big receiver to replace him on the outside.

#30 Minnesota — Derrick Nnadi (DT, Florida State)
Nnadi played better in 2016 but he’s still a disruptive nose capable of providing some pass rush.

#31 New England — Ben Banogu (DE, TCU)
He just feels like the type of unheralded defensive prospect the Patriots take in the late first round.

#32 Philadelphia — Rashaan Evans (LB, Alabama)
Evans doesn’t just tackle and hit, he hammers people. The combine will be big for his stock.

Trade breakdown

— Buffalo trades #21 & #22 to Denver for #5 and a sixth round pick

— Cleveland trades #33, #63 and a fifth rounder to Seattle for #18

Trade notes

It feels like the Bills are setting up for a big move. With the #21 and #22 picks, they have the stock needed to climb into the top-10.

The Browns have two first round picks and three second round picks currently. Trading back into the top-20 would give them three top-tier picks and an opportunity to pick again at #35.

John Schneider and John Dorsey know each other very well, so it’s plausible they could work together on a trade.

So what would the Seahawks do if they did end up with #33 and #63?

Simple — repair the running game or take one player for each side of the ball.

For example, if Georgia’s Lorenzo Carter lasted into round two — could he be an option to fill the Bruce Irvin role at SAM/LEO? Would they have any interest in Oklahoma’s Ogbonnia Okoronkwo? The Senior Bowl and combine will reveal more about possible defensive options.

If they wanted to focus on offense, they could go running back and O-line. That could mean considering Georgia’s brilliant Isaiah Wynn to play guard with their first pick and then assessing the running back options at #63. Would Nick Chubb, Rashaad Penny or Royce Freeman be there in the late second? Possibly.

In 2016 they used a fourth round pick to move up seven spots to select Jarran Reed. A similar deal in this scenario could secure the running back they want. If the Browns give Seattle their fifth round pick as part of a trade, that could also be used.

Alternatively they could take a running back at #33. In this scenario Ronald Jones II, Kerryon Johnson, Nick Chubb, Sony Michel, Derrius Guice and others are available. They might even move down again, as they did a year ago before selecting Malik McDowell.

With a running back secured, they can wait to see which interior offensive linemen are left at the end of round two. Frank Ragnow (Arkansas), Braden Smith (Auburn), Will Hernandez (UTEP) or Coleman Shelton (Washington) could be options.

The late second could be another trade-down spot — and that could bring receiver, tight end and several defensive positions into play too.

When you look at it like this, trading down is a reasonable option. You’re moving into the heart of the value zone for Seattle’s key positions of need. And you’re giving yourself a chance to acquire more picks to help repair the running game and aid the transition to a younger (and cheaper) defense.

Mock draft in full

#1 Cleveland — Josh Allen (QB, Wyoming)
#2 NY Giants — Sam Darnold (QB, USC)
#3 Indianapolis — Saquon Barkley (RB, Penn State)
#4 Cleveland (via Hou) — Bradley Chubb (EDGE, NC State)
#5 Buffalo (via Den) — Josh Rosen (QB, UCLA)
#6 New York Jets — Quenton Nelson (G, Notre Dame)
#7 Tampa Bay — Vita Vea (DT, Washington)
#8 Chicago — Marcus Davenport (DE, UTSA)
#9 San Francisco — Tremaine Edmunds (LB, Virginia Tech)
#10 Oakland — Orlando Brown (T, Oklahoma)
#11 Miami — Billy Price (C, Ohio State)
#12 Cincinnati — Minkah Fitzpatrick (S, Alabama)
#13 Washington — Roquan Smith (LB, Georgia)
#14 Green Bay — Tim Settle (DT, Virginia Tech)
#15 Arizona — Mike McGlinchey (T, Notre Dame)
#16 Baltimore — Calvin Ridley (WR, Alabama)
#17 LA Chargers — Baker Mayfield (QB, Oklahoma)
#18 Cleveland (via Sea) — Denzel Ward (CB, Ohio State)
#19 Dallas — Arden Key (DE, LSU)
#20 Detroit — Leighton Vander Esch (LB, Boise State)
#21 Denver (via Buf) — Derwin James (S, Florida State)
#22 Denver (via Buf, KC) — Lamar Jackson (QB, Louisville)
#23 LA Rams — Harold Landry (EDGE, Boston College)
#24 Carolina — Taven Bryan (DT, Florida)
#25 Tennessee — Joshua Jackson (CB, Iowa)
#26 Atlanta — Maurice Hurst (DT, Michigan)
#27 New Orleans — Lorenzo Carter (LB, Georgia)
#28 Pittsburgh — Da’Ron Payne (DT, Alabama)
#29 Jacksonville — Courtland Sutton (WR, SMU)
#30 Minnesota — Derrick Nnadi (DT, Florida State)
#31 New England — Ben Banogu (EDGE, TCU)
#32 Philadelphia — Rashaan Evans (LB, Alabama)

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Ken Norton Jr, Mike Solari returning to the Seahawks

January 15th, 2018 | Written by Rob Staton

Mike Garafolo also reports Norton Jr has an out in his recently signed contract with the 49ers to move to Seattle. The report is backed up by Alex Rozier who claims it’s a three-year contract.

The length of the deal suggests Pete Carroll isn’t thinking of quitting any time soon.

It became apparent Seattle was moving on from Kris Richard when they tried to lure Gus Bradley from the Chargers. Did they expect to land Bradley? Have they been seeking an alternative since?

Expect to see a lot of statistics highlighting how bad Norton Jr’s Oakland defense was. Some key points need to be highlighted here:

— Jack Del Rio pretty much ran Oakland’s defense. Pete Carroll might do the same in Seattle and he’s going to be better at it.

— Oakland had Khalil Mack but they didn’t have Bobby Wagner and Earl Thomas.

— Norton Jr is a great motivator and commanded great respect from Seattle’s alpha dog defense before he left for Oakland.

Bucky Brooks made this observation on the hire:

I’m not sure it’s quite as negative as this. Brooks implies Carroll wants a yes man. That’s one way of looking at it. The Brian Schottenheimer hire also plays to this dynamic. Rex Ryan highlighted Schottenheimer’s loyalty to the Head Coach during an interview on Brock and Salk this morning. Ryan told this story during the piece:

“One day, we were playing the Detroit Lions and I told these guys, ‘Look, we are going to run the ball 40 times tomorrow,’ because I thought in my heart that was the best way to beat them. We’re just going to pound them. So, sure enough, we’re doing it, they got (Ndamukong) Suh, they got all these other guys, and we’re running the ball. Well, all of the sudden, they’re putting eight, nine guys down there and we can’t run it. Yet, Brian is so loyal to the head coach, that by God, we’re getting beat 20 to nothing and we keep running it. I finally went over and said, ‘Guys,’ I’m looking at Schotty, I said, ‘Schotty, we’re down 20,’ and he said, ‘Yeah but Rex, we’ve got to get those 40 carries.’ I go alright, forget it. I call the offense over and Brian said, ‘I think we can throw it on them,’ and I said, ‘Well, you guys want to win the game, I know I told you we were going to run it 40 times. Would you rather win the game or run it 40 times?’ I said alright, let’s just light them up. And that’s exactly what Brian did, he flipped the switch, we went no-huddle, ended up forcing overtime and winning.”

That’s pretty striking evidence that Schottenheimer will do pretty much whatever Carroll asks.

However, I’m not ready to assume Carroll is an overlord demanding everyone ‘respect his authoritah’. It could be that he wants to be more hands on. It’s possible he simply believes his message has been lost over the last two or three years — or that he’s relinquished too much control.

He wants to run the ball as a point of emphasis, so he appears set to name an offensive coordinator committed to doing so. He possibly wants more control of the defense. In the past maybe it was Bradley, Richard or Dan Quinn leading the way on game day, with Carroll acting as the motivational source? Perhaps the roles are flipping, with Carroll now in charge and Norton Jr doing what he does best?

One other thing to consider:

The two coordinator hires are not flashy. They aren’t new or bold or different. The Seahawks haven’t gone after big names to do things differently. This really is Pete Carroll going back to his roots. This is an attempt to play the way he wants to. We’ll see if Norton Jr and Schottenheimer help make that happen.

Meanwhile…

Here’s your Tom Cable replacement. Solari was Seattle’s O-line coach between 2008-09, spent four years as San Francisco’s O-line coach between 2010-14 and most recently spent two years coaching the Giants’ O-line.

In 2009 I wrote a piece for Bleacher Report looking at Solari’s version of the zone blocking scheme. Here are some notes:

Offensive line coach Mike Solari has predominantly favoured a slightly different variation. It could be described as a “power ZBS” in that the guards are usually bigger and do most of the heavy work load.

Unlike Knapp’s ZBS, they are the primary movers with the center more likely to progress to the second level and attack linebackers due to directional drive blocking.

The advantage of Solari’s system is that if a defense goes run blitz, the linebackers can be driven out of the play creating huge gaps.

It’s possible the Seahawks could combine the two. Looking at the current roster, the potential is certainly there to be flexible.

Guards Mike Wahle and Rob Sims are athletic enough to fill Knapp’s ZBS. Wahle in particular has good technique and should be able to execute well as a starting left guard. Neither are the big power types that would usually be used in Solari’s scheme.

Mansfield Wrotto, however, stands at 320lbs—the perfect kind of weight to fit the power ZBS. He’s also a good athlete, so he could excel in this system. The downside is he’s still a little raw even approaching his third year in the league. The mental side of the Solari version is less demanding which could help Wrotto get on the field.

The center position is a point of contention. Chris Spencer has the freaky athleticism and solid strength which would make a good fit at guard in either system. His issue has always been execution and technique, which would be a problem at center in either scenario.

Recently drafted Max Unger is a little more predictable. He is an obvious guard in Knapp’s ZBS background and a center in Solari’s. I have to believe the Seahawks won’t be willing to flex between the two at center, but they may have to in certain circumstances.

Expect the power ZBS in 2017.

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Report: Brian Schottenheimer is Seattle’s off-coordinator

January 13th, 2018 | Written by Rob Staton

After this tweet from Adam Schefter, Ian Rapoport added that Pete Carroll had called Schottenheimer to offer him the job. The Seahawks have selected their replacement for Darrell Bevell.

The initial reaction from a lot of fans isn’t positive. It feels a little bit like 2018’s version of Darrell Bevell. A coach who is available and seemingly not that in-demand. In 2011 the Seahawks were linked to Josh McDaniels before going with Bevell. This has a similar feel.

His track record is mixed. The Rams offense ranked 21st, 22nd and 25th in DVOA during his tenure in St. Louis. When he was with the Jets they ranked between 12th and 22nd. On the other hand, the quarterbacks he had to work with were essentially Chad Pennington, Mark Sanchez and whoever was the backup to an injured Sam Bradford.

Schottenheimer has never had an opportunity to work with a player like Russell Wilson before. It’s often said players make coaches. This is his opportunity to prove the numbers above are a product of mediocre tools not a suspect workman.

There are some positives to mention. In 2009 the Jets had the top ranked running attack in the NFL (albeit paired with the 31st passing offense). Seattle’s big priority is to get the running game fixed. At the very least, he’s had some success in that department.

Schottenheimer is also fresh off a stint working with Jacoby Brissett in Indianapolis. Considering they traded for him as the season was about to begin, a 3,098 yard effort with 13 touchdowns and seven picks was respectable. It was a bad year for the Colts but nobody was pointing the finger at Brissett.

You can’t blame fans for feeling a little bit underwhelmed though. When Bevell and Cable were fired we talked about a desire to see one coach brought in to control the whole offense (no more passing/running coordinators), being afforded an opportunity to hire his own staff and have a major say in how they were going to attack opponents.

Schottenheimer might be provided that opportunity. However, this feels like a further reminder that this is very much the Pete Carroll show.

His offense.

His identity.

His way of doing things.

They haven’t gone out and landed a big name, an ex-Head Coach or a young stud potentially to groom as the heir apparent. Someone who might need convincing to take the job with the promise of newfound power or control.

It seems like they’ve gone and got someone who will likely facilitate Carroll’s wishes and desires for his offense. Run the ball, old school style. If it works, great. But it has to work now.

They’ve tried for two years to get back to what they want to be. John Schneider explicitly stated their desire to become the ‘bully’ again before the 2016 season. Pete Carroll talked about getting the running game going again a year ago. Neither happened.

They have to be open to scheme tweaks, personnel changes and doing things differently. That has to include considering a switch in the way the O-line operates and how they try to run the football.

There is some encouraging news on this — Schottenheimer isn’t another west coast coach. In fact in the past his system has been accused of being overly complex. So it could indicate a change in tact.

While this job will be highly attractive because it’s an opportunity to work with an extremely talented quarterback — there’s also a lot of pressure. The Seahawks can ill-afford another calamitous season of offense were they spend 16 weeks scratching around trying to be something they aren’t anymore.

The inspiring appointments don’t always work out. Philadelphia Eagles fans were probably stoked when the innovative Chip Kelly was appointed as Head Coach. The much less hyped Doug Pederson is the one that has guided them to the #1 seed in the NFC.

People will undoubtedly give Schottenheimer a chance. There’s no other choice. But with the Rams and 49ers fielding increasingly potent offenses, the Seahawks need a counter punch. Especially if the defense is going to be in transition.

Schottenheimer faces a big task to make that happen.

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Appearace on KJR with Softy

January 12th, 2018 | Written by Rob Staton

Have a listen below. I was invited onto Softy’s show on KJR to talk about the Seahawks in London, the coaching changes and the draft. Check it out:

 

Thursday notes: How do the changes impact the draft?

January 11th, 2018 | Written by Rob Staton

A quick heads up — I’m scheduled to appear on KJR with Softy at 5pm to talk about the Seahawks playing in London this year. Tune in if you get a chance.

How do the changes impact the draft?

Seattle will have a new offensive coordinator and a new offensive line coach.

Will Pete Carroll retain the existing identity with some minor tweaks and a new voice giving out the instructions? Or is he willing to cede some control to get a big name coordinator?

For example, if the Seahawks appoint Eagles quarterback coach John DeFilippo, we could see similar concepts and therefore personnel. If they go out and land Todd Haley, the changes could be more significant.

We know fixing the running game is a priority. We also know the Seahawks have drafted a ‘type’ of running back in recent years.

Could that change depending on the coordinator?

For example, with Haley would they try to recreate Pittsburgh’s offense utilising a patient runner similar to Le’Veon Bell? If so, Kerryon Johnson could be the target.

Previously I’d thought Oregon’s Royce Freeman would be a bad fit in Seattle but a nice option for other teams. Are the Seahawks a more likely destination if they adjust their blocking scheme?

After all, while Freeman isn’t the most physical runner, he’s a good athlete. Here’s how he performed at the 2013 Nike SPARQ combine:

Height: 6-0
Weight: 227lbs
Forty: 4.58
Short Shuttle: 4.07
Powerball: 39
Vertical: 33.6
SPARQ: 121.17

Will a new offensive line coach or offensive coordinator demand even more focus on the O-line, to finally get sorted up front? And will the #18 pick provide an opportunity to do that?

Of course, it’ll still be John Schneider and Pete Carroll having the final say on personnel. It’ll be interesting to see who they bring in, however, and whether that does tweak some of the decisions they might make in the draft.

Damien Harris doesn’t declare

It’s a blow because he fit Seattle’s running style nicely. He was also a terrific pass blocker and played with a real tenacity. A complete running back.

There are still a lot of good options in the draft, however.

USC’s Ronald Jones II might come into even more focus. He’s lighter than Seattle has drafted for the positions (6-0, 200lbs) but as we highlighted recently, he’s so similar to Jamaal Charles. Putting Chris Carson and Jones II together could be a great combo. They could also add a free agent into the mix.

Kerryon Johnson, Sony Michel, Nick Chubb and Royce Freeman could all make sense too if the Seahawks move back from #18 into the early second round.

Da’Ron Payne impressive vs Georgia

I watched the National Championship again in particular to focus on Alabama’s Payne. He had a terrific performance and was arguably ‘Bama’s best defender.

Considered by many to be the best run stuffer eligible for the draft (he has now declared he’ll be turning pro), you saw plenty of snaps where Payne absorbed double teams and controlled the LOS. A lot of Nick Chubb’s rough night was down to Payne dominating the interior.

He also flashed an assortment of pass rush moves and some surprising quickness I hadn’t noticed before. He showed a good get-off on several snaps to break into the backfield and impact the quarterback, there was evidence of a swim move, evidence of a pull-push to get off a block. On one burst into the backfield he forced a bad throw leading to a tipped pass and an interception. He had a great bull rush, driving a blocker deep into the backfield before disengaging to bring the running back down at the LOS.

Look at the quickness here at 6-2 and 308lbs. The Georgia center has no chance to get across and make this block:

Here he is handling the run inside:

He’s also not a bad target in the red zone:

This was a first round performance from Payne. And if it’s true the Clemson trio of Clelin Ferrell, Christian Wilkins and Austin Bryant are considering returning — Payne will likely be one of the benefactors.

I was also invited to do a quick podcast appearance with Field Gulls today on the London game:

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Listen: Hawk Blogger podcast appearance

January 10th, 2018 | Written by Rob Staton

This week I was invited onto the Real Hawk Tawk podcast courtesy of Brian Nemhauser at Hawk Blogger. Big thanks to Brian for having me on.

We went over several different draft and Seahawks topics. Check it out below.

Underneath the audio I’ve posted some thoughts on Darrell Bevell’s reported firing.

Curtis Crabtree reported in the early hours of the morning that Bevell had been fired.

Firstly, I think whatever your opinion is of Bevell — he deserves some credit for the job he’s done in Seattle. He was the offensive coordinator tasked with helping a rookie Russell Wilson. He was part of two Super Bowl teams. On his watch Seattle’s offense had four consecutive years ranking in the top-10 per DVOA (including a year where they finished #1 in the league).

This was all achieved in a not ideal environment for a play caller. Russell Wilson, as industrious as he is, is also highly unpredictable. Bevell was tasked with orchestrating a ‘scrambling offense’ for a 5-10 quarterback. Not an easy thing to do.

He also had a pretty unique working arrangement. He had to coexist alongside a ‘running game coordinator’ who also acted as the offensive line coach and Assistant Head Coach. And the Head Coach, despite being defensive minded, chose the offensive identity.

It was difficult to apportion blame when things went wrong. Even with that play call against New England. Now isn’t the time to re-hash that debate — but Seattle’s offensive setup hasn’t exactly been orthdox since Bevell arrived in 2011.

That said, it feels like change is required. The Seahawks have regressed in recent years and didn’t make the playoffs this year. It would’ve been too easy to blame injuries — a refresh and a transition is required. On the field and on the sidelines.

It’s time to have one offensive coordinator in charge of the offense, not two. It’s time for the play caller to be responsible for the entire performance. He also needs a significant say in the identity and plan moving forward.

A re-tread or a ‘big name’ will comfort some. Yet the NFC West is now rich in young offensive minded coaches. Arizona might join the party when they name a new Head Coach shortly.

Personally, I hope the Seahawks go for an up-and-comer too. Someone who can craft an offense to support and propel Russell Wilson to new heights. Someone with the potential to be a Head Coach very soon — possibly in Seattle as Carroll’s heir apparent.

John DeFilippo is a strong candidate in Philadelphia. They have a balanced, explosive offense which heavily features the run. He’s a student of the game and speaks clearly and precisely about the little details that make an offense click.

They might have to wait with Philadelphia in the playoffs — but that type of appointment would make sense. And when the next man comes in, he should be granted the freedom to appoint his own support staff.

It’s since been reported by Bob Condotta that Tom Cable has also been fired. This felt inevitable with the running game struggling for two years.

One final note — Damien Harris apparently chose not to declare for the NFL draft. It weakens the running back class slightly — and narrows the options for Seattle if they want to take a runner with their first pick. This wasn’t a big shock — he’d been on the fence about this for a while according to reports.

Tremaine Edmunds, unsurprisingly, did declare today along with his brother Terrell. Tony Pauline is reporting it’s possible Christian Wilkins, Clelin Ferrell and Austin Bryant all return to Clemson.

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Tuesday draft notes & free agency thoughts

January 9th, 2018 | Written by Rob Staton

A quick heads up — tonight I’ve been invited onto the Hawk Blogger podcast. Hope you’re able to join us from approximately 7pm.

National Championship reaction

After giving it the big billing that there were several interesting prospects to watch, Georgia vs Alabama didn’t exactly go according to plan.

The Bulldogs abandoned the run and started the game throwing eight consecutive times, relying on their true Freshman quarterback to attack ‘Bama. After half-time they tried to drain clock — which, given it’s predictability, proved to be challenging against the best front seven in college.

Alabama launched their second half comeback thanks to a Freshman quarterback and several other inexperienced players.

Nick Chubb and Damien Harris had minimal impact in the game, Lorenzo Carter disappeared after half time and Javon Wims caught one pass for 16 yards.

This wasn’t supposed to happen.

We said yesterday that this could be a game for Sony Michel rather than Chubb. Running against Alabama is tough, especially when your quarterback is a Freshman. ‘Bama sold out to stop Chubb and they did. He managed just 25 yards on 18 miserable carries.

It’d be harsh to overreact to this one game but it’s worth noting this is the second time it’s happened. Chubb toiled against Auburn too facing a stout front seven. Unlike Michel, he wasn’t able to create yardage.

His stock will be determined at the combine, not here. If he goes to Indianapolis and matches his incredible Nike SPARQ workout from 2013 he’ll rise up boards quickly (especially if the medical checks are fine on his knee). This was a performance, however, that has you thinking more second round than first.

Michel was dynamic and really needed to see more of the ball. His 14 carries produced 98 yards including an incredible tightrope run down the right sideline. Somehow Michel dodged three Alabama defenders to get free, leading to a 26-yard gain. It was one of the few memorable offensive plays in the first half:

There have been reports that some scouts rank Michel ahead of Chubb. I can see why. He’s 5-10 and 220lbs. He might be seen as predominantly a pass-catching speed back but he has the size and build of a more orthodox runner. At the moment he’s not the type you slam it up the middle with and try and grind out wins. But he can be used in virtually any play call.

As we saw against Alabama — on a night where rushing yards were hard to find for both teams, Michel was still able to create. Where would Georgia’s running game have been without this type of option? Teams will value that. And while he’s not Alvin Kamara — he’ll provide that same balance to a running attack.

Michel was helped by the brilliant blocking of Isaiah Wynn. I said it yesterday — despite all of the talent at Georgia, he’s probably my favourite prospect. He’s just so consistent. He did a good job in protection and used subtle technique and control to open up several running lanes. Look at this run for Michel (Wynn is #77):

Want more evidence of his ability to set, control the defender and finish? You’ve got to love the end of this play:

This isn’t the best clip but this run from Michel was directly through a hole created by Wynn at left tackle:

It’s a good draft for interior offensive linemen and Wynn will be one of the best available. If he even lasts until the second round it’ll be a bargain. The team that gets him will be very satisfied. He could sneak into round one depending on how he tests.

The standout defensive player for Georgia was clearly Roquan Smith. He might be a little undersized but he flies around the field. His best play was arguably this:

Look how he diagnoses quickly what is happening here, avoids the receiver sent in to rub and then hammers Bo Scarborough. This is just brilliant. It was on third down too — Alabama punted after that play.

Damien Harris (who we’ll come onto next) is one of the best pass-protecting running backs you’ll see in college. He blocks like his life depends on it. Here’s what Roquan Smith did to Harris (#34) in the second half:

Smith won’t fit every scheme because of his size but it’s hard to imagine he won’t go in the top-20.

For Alabama, Harris was again severely underutilized. He had minimal success with his early carries and then took a backseat. Just as they did against Auburn, it felt like Alabama tried too hard to make Jalen Hurts the focal point as a runner. Harris finished the game with only six carries — and he’s far too good to only have six carries in the biggest game of the season. It was a huge waste.

Harris has the athleticism, all-round ability and character to go in round one. He didn’t finish the season strongly, however, and you wonder if that will leave a lasting impression. He’d be a bargain pick in round two. It’s unclear whether he’ll decide to turn pro — there’s been a question mark there for the last few weeks.

Big Da’Ron Payne had a good performance on defense. His stock is open for debate. He’s the best run stuffer eligible for the draft but we’ve seen those types last into rounds 2-3 before (see: Jarran Reed). He only had one TFL this season and one sack. He had two really good games in the playoffs though and flashed some athleticism at 6-2 and 308lbs. Look at his quickness here (#94):

The combine will be interesting for Payne to see if he performs better than expected. There’s no doubting his ability to handle double-teams and defend the run:

Anthony Averett also impressed despite being far from 100%. He’ll make a really good slot corner at the next level — he’s tenacious, strong and covers a lot of ground quickly.

If you’re hoping the Seahawks can trade down and get a really good running back with their first pick, this game probably helps. It’s possible Harris, Chubb and Michel will all be viewed as second round types. Ronald Jones II, for me, is dynamic enough to warrant serious first round talk — but he was given a second round grade by the draft committee.

Assuming the Seahawks are able to move down, they might be able to do so comfortably and still get one of the best runners. A lot of RB’s are likely to go in the second round though. They won’t be able to wait too long to get a guy they like.

Some quick thoughts on free agency

It’s a bit early to talk about free agency but then this tweet emerged…

It’s unclear why Seferian-Jenkins tweeted this. Lee’s Jaguars are still in the playoffs. Both players will eventually be free agents.

Stuff like this is one of the reasons why social media can be a pain in the backside sometimes. For all we know this is part of a joke between the players, or something similar. Instead we’re all second guessing what it means. Will both players land in Seattle? Nothing about this tweet will determine that.

The Seahawks are also unable to contact either player or their agents until the legal tampering period right before free agency. At the very least they’d have to wait for the combine when the other kind of mini-tampering occurs.

So no, there’s not much to say about this tweet and how it pertains to Seattle’s free agency plans.

However — it would make some sense.

The Seahawks are currently tight against the cap and will need to re-sign or replace several players during the off-season. If they don’t keep Sheldon Richardson, Paul Richardson and Jimmy Graham, realistically they might have around $10-15m in free cap room to spend. That accounts for cuts (Jeremy Lane, Michael Bennett) a couple of retirements (Kam Chancellor, Cliff Avril) and some choice moves elsewhere.

A year ago the Seahawks tried to use the market to their advantage by bringing in players on cheap one-year ‘prove-it’ deals. That plan worked for them in the past with Bennett and Avril and there was some method in trying again with Luke Joeckel, Eddie Lacy and Bradley McDougald.

Sadly, on this occasion McDougald was the only one to shine.

They don’t have the mega money to go on a free agency splurge. They might have enough to sign one highly rated player. Some have suggested Carolina guard Andrew Norwell. Yet if they spend all their available cap room on one player, how do they fill out the roster?

It’s not ideal but this is another reason why they need to get a bit younger and cheaper — to provide the kind of flexibility they had in 2011 when they went after Sidney Rice, Zach Miller and Robert Gallery to compliment the talent they’d drafted.

Can Austin Seferian-Jenkins replace Jimmy Graham’s red zone production at a smaller cost?

Will Marqise Lee provide a cheaper alternative to Paul Richardson? Or is he a little more physical and rounded?

Are both players in the range of free agency where they’d consider a short term contract?

A year ago Terrelle Pryor and Alshon Jeffery had to sign one-year prove it deals. This year the receiver market is by far the strongest position group. There’ll be a lot of competition for money. Some good players might be forced to think short term.

Both Seferian-Jenkins and Lee carry a lot of upside.

One other quick thought on free agency — will the Seahawks try to mimic the Saints?

New Orleans’ running game was the envy of the league in 2018. The veteran north-south runner Mark Ingram and the perfect compliment Alvin Kamara.

Can Seattle find a similar duo?

One option could be to test the water with San Francisco’s Carlos Hyde. See if he can be your answer to Ingram. They could then draft Ronald Jones II or Sony Michel to be their Kamara. It’s an option.

They do have Chris Carson too. It might be better to be overstocked than understocked given the issues they’ve had at running back. Plus Carson is on a cheap seventh-round rookie contract for the next three years. Having ‘too much’ talent at RB wouldn’t be a negative thing.

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National Championship draft preview

January 8th, 2018 | Written by Rob Staton

This is the ultimate ‘draft game’ for Seahawks fans. Two SEC teams loaded with talent at positional needs for Seattle.

A lot of the more intriguing names are on Georgia’s roster.

Lorenzo Carter is an extremely interesting option for Seattle. He’s about 6-5 and 240lbs and ideally suited to play LEO/SAM like Bruce Irvin. The Notre Dame-Georgia game was a great insight into his potential.

At the 2013 Nike SPARQ Combine, Carter had the following workout:

Height: 6-5
Weight: 234lbs
Forty: 4.63
Short shuttle: 4.32
Powerball: 41.5
Vertical: 40 inches
SPARQ: 129.75

That was the second best SPARQ score among front seven defenders and even topped Solomon Thomas (121.77).

It’s a different workout to Irvin. He’s not as quick — Bruce ran a 4.50 forty at his combine despite carrying an extra 11lbs. He also had a 4.03 short shuttle. Carter isn’t anywhere near as quick or agile as that. He is, however, potentially more explosive. If he repeats his 40-inch vertical that would considerably top Irvin’s 33.5-inch attempt.

His vertical won’t be a surprise to anyone who watched the Rose Bowl:

There’s a reason Irvin was the #15 overall pick. His incredible production at West Virginia matched with his unique physicality and speed warranted a high selection. Carter won’t go as early. While Irvin was getting double digit sacks at WVU, Carter had just 7.5 TFL’s in 2017. However, he has a physical profile that could interest Seattle. He’s a first or second round possibility.

Running backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel had a field day against Oklahoma’s typical Big-12 defense. Both players were bottled up in a big loss on the road to Auburn during the regular season. This is a big test to see if they can deliver against the toughest front seven in college football.

Chubb has the potential to go in round one depending on medical checks at the combine. He was one of the most explosive players to ever test at the SPARQ combines:

Height: 5-11
Weight: 217lbs
Forty: 4.47
Short shuttle: 4.12
Powerball: 43
Vertical: 41 inches
SPARQ: 143.91

If he matches that in Indianapolis in March, he has every chance to not just be a first round pick but also crack the top-20.

He compares favourably to Jonathan Stewart. Chubb is around 5-11, 228lbs. Stewart at his combine was 5-11 and 235lbs. He ran a 4.48, managed a 36.5 inch vertical, a 10-8 broad and a 4.53 short shuttle. Chubb is capable of topping some of these numbers.

Stewart was the #13 pick in 2008. This is why it’s entirely possible Chubb cracks the top-20.

We know what he is — a physical north-south runner capable of getting the tough yards. If he finds a crease he can accelerate and break off big gains. He goes from 0-60 quickly for his size. His footwork can be choppy when he has to stop-start but he’s also capable of sticking his foot in the ground and making a decisive cut.

It’ll be a huge statement if he can make big gains against this loaded Alabama defense. Space will be at a premium. It’ll be an opportunity to show he can create when the odds are stacked against him.

You can imagine the Seahawks showing interest in a back with Chubb’s explosive quality and running style. The combine will determine whether he’s a late first or second round pick or a much earlier selection.

Michel is a better pass catching, multi-dimensional back but it’s worth noting he’s also around 220lbs so he can run up the middle too. We’ll see how Georgia mix him in with Chubb. This might be a game for Michel. Chubb is going to see a lot of extra bodies at the LOS (Georgia’s quarterback is a true freshman). Getting the ball to Michel in space is key. He’s also a potential second round pick.

Possibly my favourite prospect on the Georgia team is left tackle Isaiah Wynn. You won’t see a more in-control blocker, whether it’s playing the pass or run. He is a fantastic offensive lineman. Get excited about this guy.

He just does everything to a high standard. His kick-step is fluid and he sets easily. He never overextends and delivers a timely punch with accurate hand-use to stymie edge rushers. In the running game he perfectly engages contact then turns opponents to open lanes. He’s adept at pulling to the outside and he progresses nicely to the second level to lock onto linebackers. There are examples where he drives defensive linemen 5-6 yards beyond the LOS (check out his Missouri tape for examples of this).

Wynn is 6-2 and 300lbs so his future is likely at guard. We know the Seahawks like versatile O-liners and appreciate tackle experience. Wynn, to me, has an opportunity to be one of the most consistent and useful players from this draft class. He isn’t Quenton Nelson overwhelming people with power and size. He doesn’t play with Garett Bolles’ nasty edge. He is, however, extremely difficult to get the better of. This will be a great test against Alabama’s front seven. He has every opportunity to go in the first round and if he’s available in the second — you run to the podium. No question. As a left guard option to compliment and finalise Seattle’s O-line, Wynn would be a terrific pickup. They’d have to be creative to make it happen with only the #18 pick in the first three rounds. Wherever Wynn ends up, he’s going to make that team very, very happy.

Roquan Smith is also an exciting talent. He’s smaller than ideal (around 6-1 and 225) but plays with such quickness, physicality and delivers a hammer blow when he locks on to the ball carrier. He delivered two stunning hits in the Rose Bowl denying a touchdown on one play and a key first down on the other.

His best fit is likely at the MIKE or WILL at the next level. Seattle has Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright, so Smith is an unlikely first round target. At the moment a lot of people believe Smith goes in the top-20. That’s highly possible and I’ve mocked that myself. However, consider this. His size will rule him out of some schemes and Jarrad Davis lasted to pick #21 a year ago. For me, Davis was a better player and a greater athlete too. Smith can go earlier — but it’s possible he’ll be seen as more of a mid or late first type.

Receiver Javon Wims is another Georgia talent to focus on. He became the teams go-to receiver during the season, saving his only college production for his Senior year. He’s 6-4 and 215lbs and could provide the kind of dynamic big outside target the Seahawks have lacked over the years.

The back-shoulder fade has been his best friend but he’s also developed into a key red-zone threat and he does well high-pointing the football. He sometimes produces a nice check down option settling over the middle and he can separate on the shorter routes. He’s at his best, however, working the red line to make big plays.

It’s difficult to project what his stock could be. He’s a one-year wonder and it’s unclear what his physical profile is. Hopefully he gets a combine invite. A safe projection is middle rounds at this stage.

Alabama is equally rich in talent but it’s hard to see how they fit in Seattle. Minkah Fitzpatrick is a bit overrated. You’ll see him touted as a top-10 pick in a lot of mock drafts. His value is probably in the 10-20 range. Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix lasted until pick #21. Earl Thomas lasted to pick #14. Keanu Neal was the #17 pick. All three, in my opinion, are better than Fitzpatrick.

He’s not an outstanding athlete. He also worked out at the 2013 Nike SPARQ combine. Here’s how he performed:

Height: 6-0
Weight: 183lbs
Forty: 4.67
Short shuttle: 4.05
Powerball: 34
Vertical: 37 inches
SPARQ: 106.26

The forty time stands out. That’s slower than Lorenzo Carter despite a 51lbs weight difference. There’s nothing wrong with his vertical or short shuttle. He hasn’t got an amazing physical profile though — he’ll want to do better at the combine.

Fitzpatrick plays in a lot of different positions. His coverage in the short game (red zone) is impressive but he’s not a cornerback at the next level and he’s not a tone-setting big tackler either. It’s hard to think he’ll end up on Seattle’s radar.

His safety partner Ronnie Harrison is quite different. He is a big hitter — just ask Kerryon Johnson. Harrison absolutely hammered Johnson in the Iron Bowl, eventually forcing him out of the game. He clearly wasn’t 100% in the SEC Championship as a consequence. Without that hit — this game could easily be Alabama vs Auburn.

Harrison is the type of player you can imagine contributing to a defense consistently. He won’t be the big star. On a team with a good front seven and some coverage talent, he’d be a nice compliment. His stock is possibly late first or second round.

Another player that is talented and will go early is linebacker Rashaan Evans. He is fantastic to watch — a relentless, physical defender who makes every hit count. He doesn’t just bring down the quarterback or running back — he brings the pain. Working out what is his best position will be the tough part.

For Alabama he moves round, sometimes playing inside or working the edge. He’ll blitz and rush the passer. At 6-2 and 232lbs his future at the next level might be WILL or MIKE. He doesn’t really have the length to be a LEO. The combine will be important to determine how early he goes. First round is a distinct possibility. He has good character too. Ultimately though he looks like the type of player you admire throughout the process but doesn’t land in Seattle. He screams AFC North, probably Baltimore.

Like Georgia, there are two high profile running backs to monitor. One is the most underrated player eligible for 2018. One is the most overrated.

Bo Scarborough has not lived up to the hype. There was hope he would be the next Derrick Henry. It hasn’t materialised. At his very best (see: 2016 playoffs) he is a scary opponent. He took over the game against Washington a year ago with his incredible combination of size and speed. Yet this year he failed to take the next step. He’s a tease. You want to believe he has the make-up of a big-time talent. Yet whether he’s banged up, injured, playing within himself or just a nice big target to hammer in the running game — Scarborough hasn’t delivered at Alabama. At the moment, it feels like he’ll last into day three.

Damien Harris, however, is a completely different story. Possibly the most complete runner not named Saquon Barkley, Harris has the ideal combination of grit, physicality, speed, explosion, willingness to pass block like his life depends on it, size and character.

His YPC for Alabama absolutely demolishes any former backs from the school including Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson, T.J. Yeldon, Derrick Henry and Kenyan Drake. He’s also not been worked into the ground like some of those runners. Alabama has tried desperately to feature their sophomore quarterback and use a committee at running back. Harris will be fresh for the NFL.

Harris’ SPARQ workout isn’t as good as Chubb’s but it’s not a million miles off:

Height: 5-10
Weight: 210lbs
40-yard: 4.48
Short shuttle: 4.00
Vertical: 38 inches
SPARQ: 126.93

I think he’s worth a first round pick. If you get him in the early second it’s an absolute steal. It’s worth noting however that there’s some feeling he might return to Alabama. Winning a National Championship might influence his decision, especially if he has a big game. If they don’t win, or if Harris is motivated by a possible Heisman campaign in 2018, he might stay in school.

Receiver Calvin Ridley isn’t big (6-1, 190lbs) and he isn’t an athletic freak. He’s Mr.Consistent. He’s being graded as a top-15 pick by some, I think his stock is more modest. In a class without a lot of star quality at receiver he could go earlier than he otherwise would. The Seahawks are unlikely to draft Ridley, it’s safe to assume. His interviews are a bit weird sometimes.

Da’Ron Payne is arguably 2018’s best eligible run stuffer. He is what he is though. He had just one TFL in 2017. Compare that to Tim Settle’s 12.5 TFL’s. His stock is likely in the second or third round range seeing as he’ll mostly be viewed as an early down defender and not a pass rusher.

Cornerback Anthony Averett is a talented coverage defender. He’s likely to be somewhat limited. He hurt himself getting off the bus before the Clemson game. No joke, he tripped on a curb. He played against the Tigers but wasn’t 100%.

There’s every chance this game will contain at least one future Seahawk, if not multiple. One of the running backs, Isaiah Wynn and Lorenzo Carter would certainly cure a lot of ills in Seattle.

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Why the defense has to be younger & Jones II = Charles

January 6th, 2018 | Written by Rob Staton

Why Seattle’s defense needs to get younger (and cheaper)

In 2017 the Seahawks spent $93,714,666 on their defense, more than any team in the NFL. The split between offense and defense was 36.37% vs 55.98%.

They spent $60,885,063 on the offense — 29th highest in the league.

Of the 12 biggest cap hits on the roster, nine were defensive players. The three offensive players were Russell Wilson, Jimmy Graham and Luke Joeckel. Graham and Joeckel are both free agents.

At the moment they’re facing a very similar situation for 2018. They’re set to pay $91,613,442 for their defense (#5 in the NFL) and $62,541,747 for the offense (#24).

These numbers will change if/when Jeremy Lane is cut, Cliff Avril and Kam Chancellor retire and if some other moves are made. Even so, this could be one of the reasons why a transition is expected. The percentage needs to be nearer 50-50 than the current 56-36.

It’s going to be difficult to redress the balance in 2018 alone, which is one of the reasons they might initiate a transition now. For example, they won’t save much by cutting Michael Bennett (around $3m). However, his cap hit for 2019 (around $9m) would be completely off the books.

It would put pressure on the team to find some cheap replacements. However, pass rushers have been their speciality. They brought in Bennett and Cliff Avril at bargain prices, pulled off a killer trade for Chris Clemons, found Frank Clark with a late second round pick and have identified an exciting reclamation project with Dion Jordan.

It’s not often you see a team paying so many big name players on one side of the ball. The Seahawks did it because they had so much talent. Keeping the defense together felt like the key to multiple opportunities to win a Super Bowl. As those days fade, the need to change is clear.

Part of being younger on defense is also about being a cheaper.

The imbalance in spending isn’t the only reason why Seattle’s offense hasn’t performed. There was still enough talent to expect better results in 2017. However, if you actually write down the number of defensive studs vs offensive studs on Seattle’s roster, it’s quite significantly weighted in one direction. If you want a balanced team, you might need a more balanced spread of talent.

After cuts and possible retirements the Seahawks could be left with around $30m in cap space. It depends how aggressive they want to be. A portion of that would be required to fill out the roster (they carried a lot of players on one-year contracts in 2017). They’d also ideally retain players like Bradley McDougald and Sheldon Richardson. McDougald is the easier keep but I wonder if a statistically poor year for Richardson leads to a colder market than currently expected? Perhaps he’d be willing to return on a one-year deal to improve his stock in 12 months?

If there is the money to spend, it could come on offense. Value deals, possibly short term, appear likely to fill out the roster (with the hope of finding some longer term parts for the next core).

Green Bay want John Schneider

Multiple reports today are suggesting the Packers are interested in making John Schneider their new GM. Some have even suggested, not surprisingly, that Schneider is very interested in the Green Bay job. There’s not really much to say on this other than whatever happens, let’s hope it happens as soon as possible. This is a big off-season for the Seahawks. They need to know where they stand.

Proof Ronald Jones II is Jamaal Charles

Ask most Seahawks fans what they want in a running back and they’ll say tough, physical and someone who gets the hard yards. Many will have watched Nick Chubb against Oklahoma last week and salivated at the thought of him trying to fill the RB void in Seattle.

Clearly the Seahawks have a preference too. It’s worth highlighting again that this team has a type at running back. These are the backs they’ve drafted in recent years:

Robert Turbin — 5-10, 222lbs
Spencer Ware — 5-10, 228lbs
Christine Michael — 5-10, 220lbs
C.J. Prosise — 6-0, 220lbs
Alex Collins — 5-10, 217lbs
Chris Carson — 6-0, 218lbs

Size matters to this team, as does explosive traits. A strong vertical (+35 inches) and broad jump (10-5) has also been a factor. Speed? Not as much.

Chubb, Damien Harris, Kerryon Johnson, Rashaad Penny and others will fit into Seattle’s size prototype. Ronald Jones II probably won’t. He’s expected to be measured at about 6-0 and 203lbs.

The thing is, he is pretty much a Jamaal Charles clone. Charles was one of the more dynamic players in the NFL in recent history, at any position.

Watch the videos below. One is Jones II running for USC, the other is Charles running for Texas. It’s freaky how similar they are:

Jones II, like Charles, is just so dynamic. And despite neither player being 220lbs they get as much as they can out of most runs.

He might not be an aggressive north-south runner with prototype size but if any team believes Jones II can be as good as Charles, that has to be worth an early pick.

He just has ‘it’. He looks like a dynamic playmaker for the next level. Someone capable of making big plays on a consistent basis.

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