Some thoughts on Donte Moncrief

March 25th, 2014 | Written by Rob Staton

Moncrief's leaping ability is pretty special

Donte Moncrief’s 2013 tape is pretty average and frustrating.

And it’s not really his fault. Not entirely.

I’m not sure what Ole Miss are trying to do on offense under Hugh Freeze. They spell in two quarterbacks, they do a little read option. They ask Bo Wallace to run the ball but he’s also predominantly a pocket passer.

It’s a bit of everything which ends up being pretty muddled and messy for the most part.

They’d almost be better off just committing to one or the other. Be a pro-style team or a run heavy option attack.

Moncrief’s form suffered as a consequence, and he probably wasn’t the only one. And while his situation is still a darn site better than the one Brandon Coleman found himself in at Rutgers, it’s not exactly been the ideal environment for a receiver to perform.

Having said that — he’s not entirely blameless either. He didn’t trouble Alabama’s secondary at all — and that’s a massive audition for the NFL. There were too many games last year where he left opportunities on the field and didn’t have enough of an impact — even if he did play on a disappointing offense.

I found his 2012 tape to be a lot better. And despite some of the frustrating moments last season, there’s definitely plenty to work with.

Moncrief can be a big-play artist. He’s got enough size (6-2, 221lbs) to compete in the air, plus the speed (4.40) to be a YAC or downfield threat.

There are more than a handful of examples on tape where he sidesteps a corner after a quick out and he’s gone. He’s not just a good athlete who can run, there’s so much natural ability to his game. You can throw a quick pass to him in the flat and he’s tough to bring down. He’ll get cheap yards on the quick throws (Seattle often used these to Golden Tate).

He’s extremely effective in chewing up a DB’s cushion, driving off a corner and creating separation (see 0:40 in the video below). He can get deep too. Both Moncrief and Martavis Bryant use speed as a decoy running routes — they’ll give the impression they’ll run deep, eliminate the cushion and get the corner turned. Then they’ll drive into a little crossing route or sit.

Both players have mastered this, and Moncrief’s done it without the top-notch coaching the Clemson receivers get.

He had a 39.5 inch vertical at the combine and an 11.0 broad jump. Only two players had a better vertical, and nobody topped 11.0 on the broad.

He also carries 221lbs very well. There’s no bad weight — and that’s quite a big frame for a 6-2 receiver.

It’s not all positive of course — and there’s one crucial area he’ll need to improve to be a potential Seahawk.

Winning jump balls and competing in the air is a must for this team. Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin might not be +6-0, but they’re fantastic at going up and getting the football against bigger corners. I’d say Moncrief is average at best winning jump balls. And that’s a shame given his impressive vertical.

Part of it is inconsistent physicality. He’ll get pushed around sometimes. He doesn’t always show strong hands (his hands, incidentally, are on the small side at 9 1/8 inches).

This is kind of why he was so frustrating last year. There are examples where he does compete well in the air, or show genuine toughness.

His run blocking kind of sums him up perfectly. When he wants to block — he’s awesome. I’ve seen him throw some of the best blocks you’ll see from a college receiver — and he knows it. He celebrates the good blocks.

And then there are other times where he doesn’t want to know.

If you could get under his skin, get at him a little and make him play with a chip on his shoulder, you’ll get a better player. It really comes down to whether you can create that environment — and how will he respond to being challenged by his own team? Some thrive in that type of situation, others fold. Although I will say Moncrief appears to be mentally tough.

I suspect some teams are going to look at the 2012 tape and really buy into this guy. He could easily be the 3rd or 4th receiver on a few draft boards. The national pundits aren’t really discussing this, but for me he could easily be a first round pick. Easily.

And yet it wouldn’t surprise me either if he did stick around into the second frame.

Moncrief might not be a really dominating, prototypical big man like Mike Evans or Kelvin Benjamin might become — but he could be a guy who’s capable of making several big plays during a season and enough basic plays per-game to warrant a high pick.

For the Seahawks, I do think he’ll be an option at #32. His SPARQ rating will be through the roof and I think you can work on making him a little edgier.

(Just make him share a room with Doug Baldwin on road trips)

In fact his best fit might be on an offense like Seattle’s. They can take their shots using him downfield, they can use his leaping ability in jump ball situations and work on making him stronger in that department.

He could offer some of the X-factor qualities that Golden Tate provided, plus some of the factors Sidney Rice offered as a taller receiver in this system.

I would recommend checking out his 2012 tape — it is better than some of the 2013 stuff out there. Here’s a game against Texas where he should’ve had three highlight-reel touchdowns:

 

Offensive line & wide receiver big board

March 24th, 2014 | Written by Rob Staton

No problem…

NOTE — Just because I’ve put a certain grade on a player (eg first round) doesn’t mean I expect them to go in that range.

This isn’t me projecting where players will go. It’s just how I’m ranking them on March 24th (for whatever it’s worth).

This is such a good class, I expect players with first round grades to last into round two. There’s every chance Brandon Coleman lasts until #64, or Brandon Thomas.

Offensive tackle

Round one

#1 Greg Robinson (T, Auburn)
#2 Jake Matthews (T, Texas A&M)
#3 Joel Bitonio (T, Nevada)
#4 Taylor Lewan (T, Michigan)
#5 Zack Martin (T, Notre Dame)
#6 Morgan Moses (T, Virginia)
#7 Brandon Thomas (T, Clemson)

Round two

#8 Ja’Wuan James (T, Tennessee)
#9 Antonio Richardson (T, Tennessee)

Cyrus Kouandjio would’ve been on this list — probably in the top three — before the combine. News of a potentially serious knee problem worries me enough to take him off the board.

He’s received high-profile support from people like Dr. James Andrews recently, who claimed there were “wear patterns” on the knee. These were present throughout his college career, having no obvious impact on his play.

Yet when you hear the term “arthritis”, alarm bells have to go off. It’s a shame for Kouandjio who looked terrific at Alabama against some top level opposition. But unless it’s a late round flier (ala Jesse Williams) I’m not making any investment here.

Seattle is unlikely to get any shot at Greg Robinson, Jake Matthews or Taylor Lewan (despite his recent trouble with the law). Joel Bitonio, Morgan Moses and Brandon Thomas can all play tackle at the next level, with Moses perhaps the best fit on the right side.

One of the big plus points for Bitonio is his ability to fill multiple spots. He could play guard and backup left tackle. In that scenario you’re trusting Michael Bowie or Alvin Bailey to start at right tackle.

Offensive guard

Round one

#1 Joel Bitonio (Nevada)
#2 Zack Martin (Notre Dame)

Round two

#3 Marcus Martin (USC)
#4 Xavier Su’a -Filo (G, UCLA)

I’m really not a fan of the pure guards available in this class. I wouldn’t draft David Yankey in the first two rounds, ditto Cyril Richardson.

Gabe Jackson doesn’t look like a great fit for Seattle and probably suits a man-blocking scheme. I’ve not had a chance to look at Penn State’s John Urschel.

The best players available are converts. Bitonio and Zack Martin both played tackle in college, while Marcus Martin was a center. On the plus side I think Bitonio is a possible Logan Mankins clone while both Martin’s should make extremely competent guards at the next level.

Wide receiver

Round one

#1 Sammy Watkins (WR, Clemson)
#2 Mike Evans (WR, Texas A&M)
#3 Marqise Lee (WR, USC)
#4 Odell Beckham Jr (WR, LSU)
#5 Kelvin Benjamin (WR, Florida State)
#6 Martavis Bryant (WR, Clemson)
#7 Brandon Coleman (WR, Rutgers)
#8 Brandin Cooks (WR, Oregon State)
#9 Donte Moncrief (WR, Ole Miss)

Round two

#10 Jarvis Landry (WR, LSU)
#11 Paul Richardson (WR, Colorado)
#12 Allen Robinson (WR, Penn State)
#13 Davante Adams (WR, Fresno State)

The strength of this draft is at wide receiver. I’d be surprised if all nine of the names I’ve listed for the first round were gone by #32 — making for great value at the end of day one.

There’s a cigarette paper between Watkins and Evans at the top.

We could see five or six receivers off the board by the Jets at #18. Even if such a rush occurs, there’s plenty of remaining fits for Seattle.

Martavis Bryant is tall, long and fast. He’ll make chunk plays downfield, he can run away from a defense. There’s a little Randy Moss to his game. If he’s switched on he can become a big time receiver at the next level.

There aren’t many 6-6, 225lbs receivers who run in the 4.5′s like Brandon Coleman. He’s a rare prospect who had the misfortune of playing in a lousy college offense. In the right system, Coleman can become a star.

Brandin Cooks is a smaller playmaker who commands attention wherever he lines up. Oregon put three defensive backs on him in the Civil War game. He was a production machine last season and had a terrific combine.

Donte Moncrief’s tape is frustrating to watch, but so is Ole Miss’ offense in general. He has ideal size and speed and you just get the sense his best football will come at the next level (depending on what team he plays for).

I like the round two options, although out of the four names listed there’s a bit of a gap between Jarvis Landry and the rest.

I’m guessing people will mention the absence of Jordan Matthews. Right now I think he’s a third round talent. Great stats, good measurables. Very average tape.

I’ve been putting it off for a while but eventually I’ll get round to doing an article on Matthews explaining my opinion in more detail. This piece by Sigmund Bloom is worth reading and covers some of the issues I have.

To answer the final question in the Tweet at the top of the piece — “Who do you take before who, between the two?” — it really comes down to who’s available.

Here’s a combined OL/WR board for the first round:

#1 Greg Robinson (T, Auburn)
#2 Sammy Watkins (WR, Clemson)
#3 Mike Evans (WR, Texas A&M)
#4 Jake Matthews (T, Texas A&M)
#5 Marqise Lee (WR, USC)
#6 Odell Beckham Jr (WR, LSU)
#7 Joel Bitonio (T, Nevada)
#8 Kelvin Benjamin (WR, Florida State)
#9 Taylor Lewan (T, Michigan)
#10 Martavis Bryant (WR, Clemson)
#11 Brandon Coleman (WR, Rutgers)
#12 Brandin Cooks (WR, Oregon State)
#13 Donte Moncrief (WR, Ole Miss)
#14 Zack Martin (T, Notre Dame)
#15 Morgan Moses (T, Virginia)
#16 Brandon Thomas (T, Clemson)

If the intention is to grab a receiver and an offensive lineman, really it depends on what you get at #32. If you take a receiver in the first round, you’re looking at the offensive line options at #64. And vice versa.

I’d lean towards a receiver in round one due to the sheer quality of the position this year. But if a player like Joel Bitonio is sitting there at #32, I’d find it tough to pass.

Meanwhile the 2014 compensatory picks were announced today. Unsurprisingly, the Seahawks weren’t awarded any additional picks.

 

Thoughts on LSU’s Jarvis Landry

March 23rd, 2014 | Written by Rob Staton

Jarvis Landry is a terrific football player.

Out of this fantastic crop of receivers in the draft, if you needed one guy to make a key third down conversion — you’d probably choose Landry.

He’s a gutsy, ferocious competitor with massive 10 1/4 inch hands.

Landry just always seems to be involved. If he’s not catching a pass, he’ll be around the ball trying to throw a block or looking for someone to hit. He loves to hit people on special teams.

He’s exactly the type of player you can rely on. He’s a tough, gritty receiver — with the right attitude to the game.

But athletically, he’s nothing to shout about.

A lot of his catches in college were contested. Sometimes that’s a good thing — he’ll compete in the air to make a difficult conversion over the middle and you get out of your seat.

At times he also struggles to manufacture separation at the beginning of his routes with a lack of explosion. He won’t get beyond a defender and take the top off a defense. He’s not a downfield threat.

For an offense that loves to take shots (eg Seattle) — he’s not going to burn off a defense on play action and make the huge chunk play. He also lacks the height and reach (5-11, 31 1/4 inch arms) to be a great jump ball specialist.

That’s not to say he doesn’t make spectacular plays. He does. He’s definitely capable of ‘wow’ moments and he wins his fair share of 50/50 passes. Look at the video above and notice the one-hander against Arkansas in the back of the end zone at 2:57.

We just need to work out whether his skill set translates into what the Seahawks want to do.

He’s going to win by out-working a defender, using body control on shorter routes to get an edge and being a solid hands-catcher. He’s not a burner with great height and length.

Can he win the red-line? Sure. He’ll have an early impact on special teams too. But he’s not a deep receiver. And I’m not convinced he’ll be much of a red zone threat at the next level.

They’ve added toughness and consistency to the receiver position, but not with early picks or big free agent money. I get the sense they’ll really like Landry, but we need to work out what kind of grade he’ll be getting.

Landry had a poor combine, running one forty time of 4.77 before getting injured (hamstring). He tried to do the drills but pulled up after a solitary one-handed grab on a short route. The injury probably had an impact on a lousy 28.5 inch vertical.

He needs a good pro-day to recapture some momentum. And yet teams won’t be too concerned about that when they go back and watch the tape and see what a great competitor he is.

There isn’t a tougher receiver in this class.

Here’s how I’d look at it. If Seattle drafted Jarvis Landry in round one or round four I’d be thrilled. You want players like this on your team. And it’s not always about being the biggest or the fastest player — a seven yard completion on third down can be one of the most important plays in a game.

That’s the kind of thing Landry does well.

It’s hard to work out where his stock is right now — but a smart team will be ready to pounce if he falls.

 

Seahawks discussed trade for DeSean Jackson

March 22nd, 2014 | Written by Rob Staton

When a good receiver is made available via trade, the Seahawks nearly always make an enquiry.

Brandon Marshall, Vincent Jackson, Randy Moss. Percy Harvin.

And now DeSean Jackson is the latest player they’ve asked about, according to Jason La Canfora.

John Schneider and Pete Carroll like to make deals. Whether it’s the package that brought Chris Clemons to Seattle, the Harvin move or the trade with Buffalo for Marshawn Lynch — they’ve always been active.

So interest in Jackson shouldn’t be a shock. And it shouldn’t be taken too seriously.

But neither should it be ignored.

Seattle doesn’t seem to worry too much about size. I think they’d love to get a dynamic, bigger receiver. Why not?

Yet they’re not going to ignore the chance to add another X-factor to the offense just because he isn’t 6-4.

Jackson is an incredible deep threat, another extreme competitor and he just flat out makes plays.

That’s what Carroll wants.

Seattle’s offense would be one of the more explosive in the league if they could field Jackson and Harvin at the same time.

The Seahawks want to compete at every level — on and off the field. That’s why they keep asking questions, seeing what’s available and trying to find ways to get better every day.

Undoubtedly that’s why they made this call.

But it doesn’t mean anything will come of it.

The interest from San Francisco also plays a part. Why not just make life a little bit more difficult for your rivals? This is how the Seahawks and the 49ers compete with each other.

Jackson has a 2014 cap hit of $12.75m. Neither the Seahawks or the 49ers are going to inherit that.

There are suggestions he could be cut. In that scenario, I could easily see him making a visit to Seattle.

People will cite character concerns. There’s a reason why Philadelphia are seemingly willing to part with one of their better and more productive players.

Yet the Seahawks are willing to take chances. They believe in the strength of their dressing room.

It’d probably help that Marshawn Lynch is tight to Jackson from their Cal days.

But yeah — it’s still highly unlikely we’ll see any deal here, either via trade or free agency.

It’s a great draft for receivers (have I mentioned that?) and even if he’s cut, Jackson isn’t going to come here for $4-5m. Not with teams like Oakland needing a receiver and having money to burn (ideal location too).

It’ll be even more unlikely if Jared Allen decides to join the Seahawks this weekend, further limiting the teams available cap.

 

Martavis Bryant is really good

March 21st, 2014 | Written by Rob Staton

Martavis Bryant is better than a lot of people realise

On Wednesday I put Martavis Bryant in the first round of my latest mock draft.

I genuinely believe he could go that early. Certainly within the top 40 picks.

And he’s very much an option for the Seahawks at #32.

Earlier in the week I sat down and watched three Clemson games again — Syracuse, Maryland and Georgia Tech.

I want to highlight some plays to back up why he could be an early pick in May:

1:42 — Bryant eats up the cushion and gets the defensive back to turn his hips. He sells the route perfectly, giving the impression he’s running downfield. He’s looking straight on, his body is positioned to run beyond the corner. Instead he cuts inside, creating ample separation before making a difficult low grab. A better throw there (and it’s a shocker by Tajh Boyd) and you’re looking at major YAC.

1:48 — It’s a blown coverage, and that’s why he scores the touchdown. But I’m going to highlight scoring plays here too.

2:09 — This is what we want to see. He exploits another bad job in coverage, with the corner passing him off too easily. The safety’s coming over the top and Bryant can hear the footsteps. Even so he maintains concentration, completes the catch and absorbs a big hit. That’s one of the toughest things to do. Ask Vernon Davis.

0:16 — The Seahawks want to own the red line. This is a great example. Bryant is in complete control of this route. He knows where he wants to go, he knows he’s getting a back shoulder throw. The corner’s playing to his tune. The back shoulder is the toughest pass to defend as a DB. But you still have to set up, and Bryant does that here. It’s a really crisp route. He deliberately drives to the outside, making it seem like he’s running deep down the sideline. The corner is so concerned about getting beat, it’s relatively easy to adjust and catch the ball on the turn. Great technique.

0:27 — He doesn’t put the guy on his backside, but Bryant’s block here in the run game helped Clemson get a first down.

0:57 — Just a really smart corner route. Finds a soft zone between two defenders, dissects the pair and he’s wide open for the target. This is again about perfecting your craft. He’s not doing anything spectacular here, just his job. Clemson coach their receivers very well and you can see that with Bryant on this play. He knows what he needs to do to make a play. But that also takes work and time on the practise field.

1:09 — This is a terrible throw by Boyd and should’ve been picked. Bryant turns into the defender and manages to smack the ball out of the hands of the corner. This is a big time play, helping his team avoid a turnover. See the replay. Nobody can doubt his commitment and effort.

1:56 — Downfield shot. Doesn’t high point the football but still makes a difficult grab between two defenders for a big 41 yard gain. Seattle loves to take shots like this on play action. Look at the route again. Little stop and go at the top, then he flies downfield. The pass is actually badly under-thrown. Bryant beats the corner and if this is thrown deeper towards the end zone, it’s a touchdown.

0:10 — Again Bryant is let down by his quarterback. He’s got the guy beat on the right sideline. Boyd guides him out of bounds with a wayward pass. If this is thrown out in front of the receiver and into the end zone with a straighter trajectory, it’s a touchdown. Bryant flat out beats the guy and creates separation.

0:33 — Tight coverage downfield, but Bryant makes a difficult catch for a big 47 yard gain. I’m being a bit nitpicky here, but I reckon a softer, higher throw into the end zone and Bryant wins the foot race for a touchdown. It’s a very basic go route on this occasion, nothing special here. But he can make plays like this with his size and speed. And once again, it’s the type of shot Seattle loves to make. They want to go after single coverage.

1:05 — Beats the corner, gets separation and runs away from the defense for a big touchdown. The coverage is terrible — the safety doesn’t sense the danger and come across to help the cornerback. But look how Bryant capitalises for a 76 yard score. One little sniff of a chance and he’s racing into the end zone. And let’s be right — it’s bad safety play. But he completely dominates the corner with a little shimmy. If you look at the replay Clemson uses Sammy Watkins as a decoy in the backfield to draw the safety’s attention. He doesn’t bite, it’s just lousy coverage. But the Seahawks can use a similar play design with Percy Harvin in the backfield and Bryant flying downfield.

2:41 — Classic Seahawks-style shot. Running back comes up to block, Boyd throws down the right sideline trying to win versus single coverage. Bryant competes for the ball in the air and makes a really tough catch for a huge gain. How does he catch this ball? He’s fighting off a blatant hold, he’s got arms all over him. That is special.

I get the feeling Seattle’s been looking for a receiver like this. Not necessarily a pure big man. But a big man with wheels who can compete for the ball and make chunk plays.

Sidney Rice is not a traditional big receiver, but he competes like crazy and makes difficult grabs. He also had enough speed to win downfield (see: game-winner vs New England).

Bryant is like a taller version of Rice with Ricardo Lockette’s athleticism. He runs a 4.42 at nearly 6-4 and 211lbs. He’s competitive (as noted with the hit in the Syracuse game and the way he wins those 50/50 throws downfield in single coverage), but he’s a shade off Rice’s intense energy.

It’s no biggie, though.

There’s plenty of examples where he gets involved in the running game. And that’s what we need to see.

I like the example vs Ohio State below. Fast forward to 0:09:

Boyd takes it in for a score on a keeper. Even when he’s home and hosed, Bryant sprints to get involved and cuts across Ryan Shazier to get in his face and just make absolutely sure.

On the next play in that video, he makes a key block on the left hand sideline.

And while we’re getting into the Ohio State game, look at the fade for a touchdown at 1:34.

Do you need to see any more to believe in this guy?

I found this Tweet interesting today:

Don’t be shocked at all if he goes as high as #18. There’s a TON of potential here.

Bob McGinn quoted an unnamed scout referring to him as a “knucklehead”. Do your homework on him. See how he checks out.

Bryant’s definitely shy during interviews. He’s not a good talker like former teammates Sammy Watkins or Nuke Hopkins. His on-field personality is pretty much what you want to see, however. There’s a spark there.

He does have some drops on tape — it’s not all great. But overall there’s a lot to like here.

And some teams will want a bigger receiver. That’s just the way it is. Odell Beckham Jr and Brandin Cooks are very good football players. But they’re sub-6-0.

If you want size, you can get size in this draft. It doesn’t stop with Mike Evans and Kelvin Benjamin.

Some people think guys like Bryant and Donte Moncrief will last until rounds two or three. The more I study, they could easily be part of a mass exodus of receivers leaving the board on day one.

Seattle will be lucky to have Bryant as an option at #32. The more you watch of him, the more there is to like.

Sometimes it just takes a little longer to realise these things.

Q&A with Kenny

I conducted a Q&A session with Kenneth Arthur at Field Gulls. You’ll find a link in the Tweet above.

Check it out.

Latest Jared Allen news

Jay Glazer and Jared Allen are tight. This info is legit.

It seems the main motivation behind Allen’s return home for a good think is the other offers on the table.

Here’s my best guess:

– Seattle is offering less money than he wanted, perhaps substantially so. But they’ve also given a hard sell and he knows it’ll be a chance to play for a great team with an unmatched home-field advantage.

– Two teams not as close to contending are offering more money than Seattle. So in the end he has to decide whether to take the hit on the salary to play for a better club, go where the value is or simply do something else with his life.

 

Report: Jared Allen joining the Seahawks (or maybe not…)

March 20th, 2014 | Written by Rob Staton

For a few moments, this looked like a done deal…

But then came the following…

For me it looks like the Seahawks are making a big push — just not financially.

If the numbers were right, this would probably be done by now. Instead, the Seahawks aren’t budging.

They’re not going to be offering a salary in the $9-10m range — the sum it’s believed Allen is looking for.

Their offer could be half that.

This could easily be the sticking point and why Allen is going away to have another think.

He could go through the rigours of training camp and a long season — all for a price he believes is too low — for the chance to fight for an elusive Championship ring.

Or he can walk away. Retire. Move on from football.

Not because he wants to — simply on a point of principal.

It says something for Seattle that he’s even considering this. I’m not sure there are many teams that could say — “We’re not going to pay you anything near what you want, but sign for us anyway” — and actually have a shot.

Although ending the visit and heading home could be one last powerplay to try and get the price up a little higher.

It’d be a major boost for the Seahawks if he does accept their offer. Currently they’re a veteran down having cut Chris Clemons. They need an established right end — and it’d allow Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett to attack the left side of the line as they did emphatically in the playoffs.

Options are running out in free agency if they want to add a veteran. Although a pass rush led by Avril and Bennett, supported by players like Benson Mayowa, would still cause problems.

Yet having come this far, it’d be a disappointment not to close the deal.

The agonising wait for news on first Henry Melton and now Jared Allen continues.

Seahawks fans will be hoping for a positive conclusion.

*** Update ***

Dan Pompei believes Allen could be looking for a contract worth $6m per year.

Meanwhile former San Diego guard Stephen Schilling has signed today, adding some much needed depth to the offensive line.

 

Updated mock draft: 19th March

March 19th, 2014 | Written by Rob Staton

I’m feeling pretty confident the Seahawks are looking at receiver and the offensive line at #32 and #64.

Why wouldn’t they?

They’ve cut Sidney Rice and allowed Golden Tate to sign with Detroit.

And although they’ve apparently shown moderate interest in re-signing Rice (and they’ll meet with Kenny Britt) — these are only short term options.

You’re not re-signing Rice on a multi-year deal, fresh from a serious knee injury after his back-catalogue of issues.

The fact is they’ve lost two starting receivers this off-season — and Doug Baldwin is an unrestricted free agent next year too.

The offensive line needs depth. For all we know they’re very optimistic about Michael Bowie and Alvin Bailey as potential starters, while James Carpenter remains on the roster.

They’ve lost Breno Giacomini and Paul McQuistan is talking to the Browns.

It seems fair to suggest they’ll spend at least one early pick on a player who can potentially start at left guard or right tackle.

****************

When I listened to Golden Tate’s interview with Bob and Groz yesterday, a thought crossed my mind. It’s like they already know how they’re going to replace him.

The derisory offer made to Tate — and that’s clearly how he felt about it — was almost a “thanks, but no thanks”.

The Seahawks always seem very focused on what they want to get out of a draft.

They wanted a tackle and a safety in 2010 — at one point in the process it looked like it could be Eric Berry and Trent Williams. They ended up with Russell Okung and Earl Thomas.

In 2011 they were desperate to improve the run game and the offensive line, so they grab a great college run blocker in James Carpenter.

In 2012 it was all about adding speed in the front seven and Pete Carroll knew all about his “ideal LEO” Bruce Irvin.

Call it a hunch, but maybe Carroll has spotted his “ideal receiver” in this terrific class? Or maybe they just see so much talent they’re willing to let Tate walk knowing they’ll be able to replace him at a much cheaper price?

If they’d re-signed Tate they were probably looking at a minimum pay out of $5m a year for the next 4-5 years.

If they take a receiver at #32 or #64, they’ll be paying a fraction of the cost over the same time frame.

****************

I wonder if we’re going to see a crazy rush on receivers in round one.

Without a shadow of a doubt, it’s a great year for the position. And the assumption is you’ll be able to wait until rounds two, three or four to get a great pick.

I’m not sure about that.

I think there’s a very good chance several teams will have eight or nine receivers with first round grades, and they’ll want to come away with one as early as possible.

Martavis Bryant could easily go in round one. The more I watch of him — the more I can see a team thinking, “We can work with this.”

He’s electric. Positively brilliant at times. And I get the issues — I’m not ignoring them — but the upside is incredible. It’s first round upside.

Donte Moncrief can be a frustrating watch. Greg Cosell this week compared him to a Demaryius Thomas or Josh Gordon style receiver. I kind of see that. He can develop into that. He’s a 6-2, 220lbs receiver who nearly jumped a 40 inch vertical and runs a 4.40.

I think back to Thomas and Gordon coming into the league and they were pretty frustrating to watch too, particularly Thomas.

Don’t be shocked if there’s a few teams out there with a first round grade on Moncrief.

In this weeks mock I’ve got eight receivers in round one.

I think the rush will continue into round two, involving players like Davante Adams, Brandon Coleman, Allen Robinson, Jarvis Landry, Paul Richardson and Jordan Matthews.

By round three, you might be looking at scraps.

****************

I think it’s a pretty fluid situation in terms of whether Seattle goes receiver or O-line in round one.

If eight wide outs are off the board by #32, it maybe forces your hand. If a few of the top group are still available — I could see them showing interest in a Beckham Jr, Moncrief or Bryant.

I still believe they’ll have a strong interest in Brandon Coleman, but may chance him being available at #64 if they go OL early. I also think they’ll love the competitive streak in Jarvis Landry — if not his performance at the combine.

One way or another though, unless things change dramatically, I’m preparing for a WR/OL or OL/WR combo with the first two picks.

****************

First round mock draft

#1 Blake Bortles (QB, UCF)
He’s elusive for a 4.93 runner. He extends plays. Bortles is a very creative quarterback. Houston’s offense is set up for a big rebound year.
#2 Greg Robinson (T, Auburn)
Hang your hat on this guy. I’m not sure why St. Louis is so desperate to trade this pick with Robinson available.
#3 Jadeveon Clowney (DE, South Carolina)
The Jaguars have filled out their defense with veteran leaders (Bryant, Clemons). This is the perfect environment for Clowney to enter the league.
#4 Khalil Mack (OLB, Buffalo)
They’ve appointed a defensive minded Head Coach and with it looking increasingly unlikely they go QB here, Mack could be a nice bookend for Barkevious Mingo.
#5 Sammy Watkins (WR, Clemson)
The best receiver prospect to enter the league since A.J. Green and Julio Jones. You can build around a talent like this. Get a quarterback later.
#6 Jake Matthews (T, Texas A&M)
The Falcons should just sit tight and see what falls to #6. This looks like a great match. They need to protect Matt Ryan.
#7 Mike Evans (WR, Texas A&M)
Tampa Bay is a strong candidate to move up for another pass rusher. If they stay put, they might consider adding another talented receiver.
#8 Marqise Lee (WR, USC)
Lee’s just a quality receiver, an insane competitor and he’s going to go early. The Vikings need to keep adding weapons on offense.
#9 Taylor Lewan (T, Michigan)
Some believe he’s a bit of a phony tough guy. Others really like him. It’s worth a shot here.
#10 Justin Gilbert (CB, Oklahoma State)
He’s had a fantastic off-season — and yet he was nearly benched by Oklahoma State during the season. He has all the tools to be a lockdown corner.
#11 Johnny Manziel (QB, Texas A&M)
Ken Whisenhunt doesn’t appear to have any faith in Jake Locker. Manziel is going to find a home somewhere in the top-20.
#12 Aaron Donald (DT, Pittsburgh)
He should be a top-10 player in this draft. He ticks every box. The Giants can feel very fortunate if he’s still here at #12.
#13 Ryan Shazier (LB, Ohio State)
Speed and physicality is king in the NFC West. Shazier is an insane athlete — the type you need at linebacker in this division.
#14 Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (S, Alabama)
Chicago’s defense was a shambles at times last season. They’ve added Lamarr Houston up front, now they need to improve that secondary.
#15 Kelvin Benjamin (WR, Florida State)
The Steelers don’t have a big man on the outside who can be a threat in the red zone. Benjamin’s potential is through the roof.
#16 Anthony Barr (DE, UCLA)
The Cowboys need to keep adding to the defensive line. After bringing in Henry Melton, now they need an edge rusher.
#17 Ra’Shede Hageman (DE, Minnesota)
After losing Arthur Jones in free agency, the Ravens could use an athletic replacement up front. Hageman fits the bill as a possible five technique.
#18 Odell Beckham Jr (WR, LSU)
Incredible athlete, massive hands, return man, playmaker. Beckham Jr is the real deal and deserves to go in the top-20.
#19 Zack Martin (G, Notre Dame)
An absolutely superb tackle in college, but expected to move to guard in the NFL. Could play left guard next to Brandon Albert.
#20 Brandin Cooks (WR, Oregon State)
Receiver isn’t a huge need for the Cards, but he’d add another dimension to the offense as an explosive playmaker. Keep Ted Ginn on returns.
#21 Eric Ebron (TE, North Carolina)
Perhaps not quite ‘can’t miss’ enough to go in the top-15. He’d excel in Green Bay with Aaron Rodgers. Very athletic but not out of this world.
#22 Darqueze Dennard (CB, Michigan State)
A physical corner who plays with an edge. Good blitzer. Philly wants tough football players on defense.
#23 Donte Moncrief (WR, Ole Miss)
They can’t rely on their current group of receivers. They need a big #1 type who can make plays and grow into Andy Reid’s offense.
#24 Bradley Roby (CB, Ohio State)
Cornerback is a big need for this team. Roby needs to do a better job staying focused on the field. From an athletic point of view he jumps off the screen.
#25 Stephon Tuitt (DE, Notre Dame)
There just aren’t many players over 300lbs who can run a 4.8. Strong as an ox. Some teams will love his play.
#26 Kyle Fuller (CB, Virginia Tech)
Two picks on defense and no QB? Perhaps. It’s entirely possible they wait until round two and keep building that D.
#27 C.J. Mosley (LB, Alabama)
This is all about value. If he checks out medically, Mosley is a plug in and play defender who can have a quick impact. New Orleans wants to get tougher.
#28 Morgan Moses (T, Virginia)
I’m not sure how Carolina has allowed a situation to occur where they’re suddenly desperate at receiver and the offensive line.
#29 Louis Nix (DT, Notre Dame)
He’s a big bodied guy who’s tough to shift. He isn’t a fantastic athlete, and that’s why he might last until round two.
#30 Martavis Bryant (WR, Clemson)
The 49ers have plenty of possession style receivers. Why not add a home run hitter? You’ve got the quarterback to make it work.
#31 Chris Borland (LB, Wisconsin)
Denver needs a tone setter. A leader. A guy who flies around. This would be a smart move. You want this guy on your team.
#32 Joel Bitonio (T, Nevada)
Underrated, incredibly athletic tackle or guard. Versatile. Outstanding character. He’s a Logan Mankins clone. Can either replace Breno Giacomini or play left guard.

 

Is there any chance Seattle trades up in the draft?

March 18th, 2014 | Written by Rob Staton

However unlikely it may be, Mike Evans would look great in Seattle

It’s not something we’ve really considered thus far. And with good reason.

This is an excellent draft class, bolstered by 98 underclassmen.

There’s depth at the positions Seattle will probably target (offensive line, receiver).

With some of the old guard moving on, we’re getting an insight into the future.

Re-load. Re-tool. Almost re-build certain units within the team.

You keep your key players, as we saw with Michael Bennett. We’ll see it with Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman and Russell Wilson too.

But you make sacrifices elsewhere.

Giving up multiple picks to get one player doesn’t make sense.

It’s the kind of move Atlanta pulled in 2011 to get Julio Jones. They were chasing a ring.

Seattle’s already reached the top of the mountain.

Now it’s all about staying there.

So before we even get into this piece I’ll admit — trading up is very unlikely.

****************

The Seahawks need as many picks as possible because this year is just the start.

Red Bryant, Chris Clemons, Golden Tate, Breno Giacomini…

Even more will walk next year.

And they’ll need to be replaced.

The Seahawks will always be somewhat active in free agency, looking for bargains.

But predominantly they’ll lean on the draft.

A year after making a bold trade for Percy Harvin for multiple picks, a similar move this year seems unlikely.

But we’ll have the debate anyway.

Let’s look at the scenario where this could have some benefit to Seattle, however unlikely.

****************

There are three reasons I think you consider moving up in any draft:

1 — an opportunity arises to secure one of the top prospects in the draft

2 — you have an opportunity to address a major need (eg moving up for a quarterback)

3 — you leapfrog another team to secure a player you couldn’t leave the draft without

I don’t believe the Seahawks need to consider #2 and #3.

Really, for me, it comes down to scenario #1.

Will there be an opportunity to get one of the top players in the draft, at a price you can justify?

There could be more opportunities to trade up this year than ever before. Asking prices should come down because picks in this draft are like gold dust. It’s such a good class.

There are teams within the top-15 who might be willing to take a drop of 10-15 spots simply to acquire another second rounder. Two really good players for the price of one.

For the Seahawks to move up, they’d have to hope there’s a team prepared to accept what constitutes a ‘bargain’ deal for extra stock.

I think the maximum amount they’d be willing to invest is the #32 and #64 pick in 2014. To make a substantial move they’d probably have to throw in some 2015 stock too, maybe as much as a second or third rounder.

I’m not convinced they’d be interested in spending two first rounders — but they might not need to.

Within the top-15 there’s one potential trade partner who might be open to a big move down the board.

Minnesota at #8.

The Vikings need a quarterback but Rick Spielman is already talking up his interest in moving down.

Spielman: “I really, really think we’re going to do a lot of movement in the draft.”

Here’s why I think Minnesota would at least consider a substantial move down the board:

– New offensive coordinator Norv Turner likes a certain type of quarterback — a big pocket passer with a decent arm. Bortles is really the only one of the big three who fits the bill, and everyone expects him to go first overall to Houston. Minnesota might target Derek Carr, Zach Mettenberger or even Logan Thomas later on. Matt Cassel’s return after originally cancelling his own contract suggests he feels he’ll get a chance to start in 2014. So they might not be thinking quarterback in the top ten, increasing the chances they’re at least willing consider a trade.

– If the Vikings aren’t taking a quarterback at #8, who are they going to take? They have a top-five pick at left tackle, a first round receiver, a first round three technique, a first round corner. All drafted in the last two years. They might see value in quantity over quality.

– After Minnesota and Tennessee, there really aren’t any teams in the first round you’d say are obvious landing spots for quarterbacks apart from Cleveland. And if Houston and Oakland address their need in the top-five, they might feel pretty comfortable dropping down substantially to target ‘their guy’.

– Spielman is a dealer. Aside from his trade with Seattle for Percy Harvin last year, he also moved back into the first round to get Cordarrelle Patterson. In 2012 he managed to dupe the Browns into swapping picks so that they could secure Trent Richardson. He makes trades.

Would they be interested in a deal that gives them the #32 and #64 picks to go along with their own #40 pick?

Debatable.

If you throw in a 2015 second or third rounder for good measure will it sweeten the deal? It really comes down to their willingness to trade and the other possible offers on the table.

They already have Seattle’s third round pick this year because of the Harvin deal. If our example here comes off, in the first two days of the draft they’d have the following picks in 2014: #32, #40, #64, #72 and #96.

They’d get five players in the top-100.

It’d be a good deal for the Seahawks in terms of perceived value to move up. Yet in a great draft full of talent, it’d give the Vikings a real chance to get better very quickly — while still addressing that quarterback need.

Again, I’m not saying a deal is likely. I’m just throwing out a scenario that might have some value for both teams.

****************

If the trade was completed, the Seahawks could then target a player like Mike Evans at #8.

In this scenario you’re relying on finding offensive line depth from round four onwards. This is perhaps another reason why such a deal appears fanciful. Being able to go OL-WR or WR-OL in the first two rounds make so much sense.

Getting Evans would be a major boost to the offense. But do you really want to wait until round four at the earliest to add some much needed depth to the O-line?

You could argue Seattle appears comfortable allowing Tom Cable to go digging for diamonds. There’s every chance Michael Bowie and Alvin Bailey take on bigger roles in 2014 — so hunting for depth in the later rounds wouldn’t be a disaster if you’re talking about finding backups.

But it just might be that they see a greater urgency to bolster this unit having lost an established starter (Giacomini) and some depth (McQuistan — although technically he could return).

Evans would be a perfect fit in Seattle’s offense. He’s competitive, he wins at the red line and he’s spent the last two years working with a scrambling quarterback.

That experience with Johnny Manziel puts him in a unique category. He already knows what to expect — and his instinct to work back to the quarterback would be a major asset playing with Russell Wilson.

Athletically there’s a lot to like too. He’s tall (6-4), long (35 1/8 inch arms), fast (4.53) and he can jump (37 inch vertical). He had 1394 receiving yards in 2013 alone with 12 touchdowns.

He’s legitimately among the best players in a great draft. A Vincent Jackson-style receiver. Who wouldn’t want a 20-year-old version of Jackson on their roster?

And don’t you just know Pete Carroll watched this game and salivated over what he could do in his offense…

Is a trade for Evans likely?

Heck no.

I don’t think it will happen. I doubt Carroll and John Schneider even consider it.

But if there’s one scenario where it’s even 2% possible, this might be it.

I just wouldn’t get your hopes up though.

Henry Melton set to join Dallas

Meanwhile one player who definitely won’t be joining the Seahawks is defensive tackle Henry Melton.

It had to be a multi-year contract. The Cowboys don’t have enough cap room to sign a short-term ‘prove it’ deal.

And they likely threw a ton of back-loaded money at Melton to ensure they actually have a defensive line in 2014.

It’ll be interesting to see what Jared Allen decides to do now…

 

Seahawks unlikely to sign Melton, interested in Britt

March 17th, 2014 | Written by Rob Staton

The opportunity to sign Henry Melton was just that.

An opportunity.

The Seahawks haven’t gone after free agents since 2011 — during the early stages of a major rebuild.

Now it’s just about seeing what’s out there.

I’ll understand if there’s a tinge of disappointment at this latest development (if we can call it that). At one point a report suggested both parties were “deep” in negotiations.

So what’s changed?

Melton’s coming off an ACL injury and there’s a few character concerns that need to be checked out.

On a one or two year ‘prove it’ deal, Melton would’ve made a lot of sense.

But if the Cowboys and Vikings are talking long term — and if that’s what Melton prefers — what are you going to do?

Dallas only really has the option to offer a multi-year deal. They have virtually no cap room in 2014. They have to back-load contracts and mortgage the future on the present.

You could say it’s an astonishingly reckless way to run a franchise.

Yet that’s no real concern of Henry Melton or his agent.

The Seahawks aren’t going to go chasing these players.

They’ll just wait for the next opportunity.

It’ll be the same with Jared Allen. It’s highly unlikely they open the cheque book for him either. He’s going to have to compromise if he wants to play for this particular challenger.

Personally I’d choose Allen over Melton anyway. Less injury risk, less character risk. In a perceived weaker season he still had 11.5 sacks. He plays a ton of snaps.

Soak it in. This is what it feels like to follow a Championship team with a switched-on front office.

***Update***

Clarence Hill reports Melton is actually looking to sign a short term contract to prove his health in 2014.

That’s interesting.

Hill also suggests such a deal might be too costly for the Cowboys.

This is no surprise when you consider what we talked about above. Dallas has to back-load deals because of their lack of cap space. Signing a one-year contract with Melton won’t work unless he’s willing to play for about three million bucks — max.

Seahawks interested in Kenny Britt?

Adam Schefter seems to think so…

Here’s another opportunity.

Britt had so many chances in Tennessee and wasted every single one.

His career’s dangling by a thread. Which means he’s cheap.

Which means the Seahawks will show interest until the moment he stops being cheap.

Meanwhile Ian Rapoport believes Seattle also showed some interest in new Oakland receiver James Jones:

Marcus Smith tape

Even if the defensive options early in the draft aren’t great — the middle rounds could provide some relief.

Marcus Smith at Louisville is one to monitor. Dan Quinn was at his pro-day today.

See for yourself:

 

Jared Allen visits Seattle, Hauschka re-signs

March 17th, 2014 | Written by Rob Staton

The man who originally wouldn’t take any visits is finally doing the rounds.

Jared Allen visited Seattle on Sunday and according to further reports will head to Dallas on Tuesday.

This is where the market confuses me a little.

How has a soon to be 32-year-old Demarcus Ware managed to obtain a $30m contract over three years?

How has Julius Peppers signed a similar deal with notorious tight-wads Green Bay?

And yet Allen remains unsigned. Untouched, almost.

Is he demanding too much money? Some reports have suggested he’ll retire if he doesn’t get what he feels he’s owed — around $12m per season.

Presumably that stance is now softening given he’s visiting two teams who won’t be spending anything like that amount on a pass rusher.

Which makes you wonder, if he was hoping to drive a hard bargain with a diva-like approach at the start of free agency — it clearly hasn’t worked.

His market is cold — or at best lukewarm — while other, supposedly similar players have been paid handsomely.

He’s still a very good defensive end and for all the talk of decline — he played a ton of snaps in 2013 and has avoided thoroughly mediocre play/effort (Peppers) and nagging and persistent injuries (Ware).

He had 11.5 sacks on a bad team last season. He has 45.5 in the last three years.

The Seahawks have room for another pass rusher or two. They’ve talked to Henry Melton and now Allen.

They have an estimated $16-17m in cap space following Zach Miller’s restructure.

In a fantasy world both Melton and Allen would take short term, cost-effective contracts and Seattle would field a terrifying pass rush next season.

But is it fantasy?

Maybe not.

As Hsu points out — Dallas really has no scope to get anything done.

You need to keep around $3-4m free in the cap for injured players and draft picks. So they’re not working with a lot of room here.

They’d have to sign either player to a longer term, back-loaded deal. But they’ve already back-loaded contracts to the max (see: Tony Romo) just to create room in 2014 (they were well over the cap going into the new league year).

Jerry Jones is on like his fourth credit card and he’s taking out a short term loan to fix his car (aka a decimated defensive line).

He might be able to appeal to Melton’s Texas roots, but even then it’s a hard sell.

But long term security is what players look for. Even if the Cowboys are putting themselves in a serious hole in the process.

The Seahawks are clearly thinking much more short term. They probably want to rent both players for a couple of years while avoiding any dead-money nightmares in 2015 or beyond.

Even getting just one deal done would be a positive. Heck — if they have to go into 2014 with Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett as their only two established pass rushers, it’ll be better than most teams.

Yet if they can add one more weapon to the defense, they’ll be able to concentrate fully on the offensive line and wide receiver in the first two rounds of the draft.

Hauschka stays in Seattle

The deal makes Hauschka the eleventh best paid kicker in the league according to Spotrac, which sounds like a pretty good deal for Seattle.

This was a crucial re-sign after such a productive 2013 season.

Sidney Rice sighting

The Seahawks could have some competition for Sidney Rice, who they have interest in re-signing…

And oh yeah… the draft…

Dan Quinn was reportedly at the Louisville pro-day today, possibly to take a closer look at pass rusher Marcus Smith.

The reviews on Teddy Bridgewater however were not kind…

I’ve long had the opinion that Bridgewater is a pretty accomplished college quarterback whose ceiling at the next level will be a more polished Andy Dalton.

But for me, that’s his top potential. And I wouldn’t invest a top ten pick on that skill set.

Tony Pauline believes he’ll end up with Oakland, but doesn’t specify whether that’s with the #5 pick…

Also noted in that Pauline piece — Brent Urban is wearing a walking boot and might have a stress fracture in his foot.

He had injury issues in college (ACL) and hasn’t worked out since the Senior Bowl. He didn’t participate in today’s Virginia pro-day.

This could lead to a fall on draft day. A smart team will take advantage.

Joel Bitonio update

If I was putting money on a potential Seahawks pick at #32, Joel Bitonio would be one of the names I seriously consider.

We’ve talked about him a lot already, and we’ll talk about him some more this week.

He had his pro-day last Wednesday and according to Gil Brandt, he was tried out at tackle, guard and centre.

Brandt reckons he’ll go in the 40-50 range. I think Seattle will be lucky if he’s there at the end of round one.