Seahawks sign former #3 overall pick Dion Jordan

April 11th, 2017 | Written by Rob Staton

The Seahawks now have the #2 and #3 overall picks from the 2013 draft on their roster (Luke Joeckel, Dion Jordan).

File this under ‘why not?’. There’s very little to lose from this signing. The Seahawks will likely add another pass rusher in the draft too, potentially with their second pick. Later on I’ll post a new Seahawks seven-round projection looking at this scenario.

 

Seattle’s defensive future lies in the 4-2-5 and here’s why

April 10th, 2017 | Written by Rob Staton

For quite some time now we’ve been discussing Seattle’s use of the 4-2-5 formation and why it might feature even more prominently in the future.

Here’s a quick recap on some of the main points:

— Seattle ran a lot of 4-2-5 last season with Jeremy Lane playing 71% of the defensive snaps as the nickel cornerback

— Lane replaced the SAM linebacker as the Seahawks, like a lot of teams, moved towards a ‘nickel base’

— Frequently a 4-2-5 is a Cover-3 look with a post safety or middle-of-the-field safety

— This formation puts the Nickel and the Strong Safety close to the line of scrimmage, leaving the Free Safety aligned in the middle third

— You can also switch into a look that puts the Nickel next to the Free Safety aligned in a two-deep look

— In other words, this is very ‘Seahawks’

— Pete Carroll’s lukewarm review of Jeremy Lane’s play as the starting nickel led us to wonder whether that would be considered a key target area in the draft

— Carroll recently suggested they are willing to use a formation with three safety’s on the field at the same time

— This is a strong draft class at safety

— The Seahawks have not drafted an orthodox cornerback earlier than the fourth round in the Carroll era, so a ‘Buffalo’, ‘Big Nickel’ or ‘Slot’ drafted in the first round arguably would chime with this existing trend

An article was brought to my attention today that further reveals why the Seahawks might be trending towards a permanent switch to the 4-2-5. The piece was written by the TCU Head Coach Gary Patterson, detailing the benefits of the formation and why he’s used it during his career.

Every single word from Patterson is solid gold. I originally intended to highlight some select quotes but basically I’d have to copy and paste the whole thing to do it justice. You’ll read the first couple of paragraphs and I guarantee you’ll be nodding along, fully understanding why the Seahawks are embracing this 4-2-5 concept.

Here’s the Cliffs Notes version of its intentions:

— Provide a simple scheme that promotes execution and athleticism

— Take away an opponents run game

— Establish an eight-man front

— Find a way to counter-punch while playing ‘bend-but-don’t-break’

— Out-hit the opponent, create takeaways and eliminate big plays

— Find ways to blitz using your DB’s

I’ve basically just bullet-pointed Seattle’s defensive plan. Patterson writes about the 4-2-5 like he’s just finished watching the Seahawks defense.

And when you consider the ‘Buffalo’ (a 4-2-5 with a third safety on the field, explained here) is a single-high safety cover-3 scheme anyway — it all makes perfect sense.

This is why I think it’s highly likely the Seahawks will draft Obi Melifonwu if he’s available at #26.

He appears set to be the poster child for the ‘big nickel’ moving forward. If you were to create an ideal prospect for the position, he’d look like Melifonwu. The 4.40 speed, the 6-4, 225lbs size, the 79 1/4 inch wingspan, the 4.09 short shuttle.

For a position of growing importance in the NFL, Melifonwu is essentially the ideal. It’s no surprise the Seahawks’ top brass got excited watching him at the combine.

We already know they love unique traits and freakish athleticism. For this specific role he is the ultimate prospect.

Of course, there are likely other teams with similar intentions. Don’t be surprised if Melifonwu is off the board by #26 as a consequence. He could set a new standard for the trendiest defensive position in the modern NFL.

Carroll recently asserted Bradley McDougald could be used as a ‘third safety’ or ‘big nickel’ in 2017. I suspect he was brought in as a hedge. If the Seahawks really want to run this type of scheme, they couldn’t go into the draft knowing they might miss out and then have to re-think everything they want to do.

The McDougald signing means they can use a 4-2-5 next season with a big nickel. The question now is whether Melifonwu or someone else will end up taking that job as a first round pick.

Melifonwu isn’t the only option. Chidobe Awuzie was 6-0 and 202lbs at the combine. McDougald is listed at 6-1 and 209lbs. It’s entirely possible Awuzie could be drafted to compete for that job.

And despite his lack of size there seems little point in betting against Budda Baker also being a consideration — or Adoree’ Jackson for that matter considering his extreme kick return qualities and rare athleticism.

For some McDougald’s presence on the roster will be interpreted as the Seahawks having ‘got their man’ and now they can look at other positions. Possibly so. Yet their willingness to play the waiting game before eventually getting him for a mere $1.8m would be a curious and cheap way of landing a vital starter.

The price feels like a hedge. And they do need depth at safety as well. So if he’s beaten to the ‘big nickel’ job by a rookie, it’s hardly a wasted signing.

Either way, it still feels like this circled position…

… is the key to the Seahawks plans on defense this year.

And if they don’t take a ‘Big Nickel’ with their first pick, keep an eye on Shalom Luani later on.

Other notes

Jason La Canfora is reporting Gareon Conley is going to be drafted in the top half of round one.

This isn’t a big surprise. Conley is a prototype outside cornerback who had a very good combine, a solid final season at Ohio State and he has zero character concerns.

The question is — how quickly will Kevin King, Obi Melifonwu and Adoree’ Jackson follow after him (assuming Marshon Lattimore and Marlon Humphrey are the first two CB’s off the board)?

Teams generally aren’t stupid. When you have rare physical traits, way beyond the norm, you’re going to go early. Teams will look at King and Melifonwu and see how unique they are and they’ll take a shot. Jackson is an explosive, incredible playmaker.

The Seahawks under Pete Carroll have impacted the league. A player you’d consider ‘Seahawky’ these days is attractive to virtually the entire NFL.

As we discussed above, increasingly this is a match-up league and finding players that can give you a match-up advantage is incredibly important. The best way to create a match-up advantage is to draft for extreme physical upside.

So while there’s been an assumption for a long time that Melifonwu, King, Conley and Jackson will last to #26, do not be shocked if that isn’t the case and the Seahawks have to consider alternatives like Chidobe Awuzie, Budda Baker, Tyus Bowser, T.J. Watt or Justin Evans.

I wanted to finish with a quick word on Colorado cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon. As we highlighted over the weekend, there are actually very few cornerbacks in this draft class that match Seattle’s previous length barometers.

Witherspoon is one of the few that does.

I watched three of his games again over the weekend and there are so many things to like. He’s terrific in coverage — regularly extending to break up passes. He has the short-area quickness, feel for the route and the deep speed to be a very effective cover-corner.

Only one player in the country defended more passes than Witherspoon in 2016 — his Colorado team mate Tedric Thompson.

However, his play against the run is so bad it’s frankly impossible to imagine him in Seattle’s defense.

When I say bad, I mean Indiana Jones 4 bad. There are literally plays where Witherspoon moves out of the way to avoid contact. He shows zero willingness to even set a strong edge to push the play back inside. His mere presence would be enough at times — he doesn’t need to get off a block and tackle like Richard Sherman. Just hold the point at your side, force the run back inside and let the other players do their work.

Unfortunately, he doesn’t even do that. This isn’t about tackling technique (which also isn’t great) or a couple of things that need tweaking. This is about want and desire. And sadly, as good as he is in coverage, you’re going to give up a ton of plays if Witherspoon plays this way at the next level. Teams will key to his side all day long — whether it’s running the ball, bubble screens, WR screens or whatever.

So unless he can convince teams that he has it within him to change, it’s hard to imagine him being much of a consideration for a club like Seattle that places such a strong emphasis on defending the run and tackling.

 

The 2017 cornerback class has a wingspan problem

April 8th, 2017 | Written by Rob Staton

Ahkello Witherspoon is one of only a handful of CB’s with Seattle’s preferred wingspan

Every cornerback drafted during the Pete Carroll era has had 32 inch arms. They have acquired a cornerback with sub-32 inch arms (Marcus Burley) but he was considered a slot-corner only.

With the Seahawks seemingly prepared to continue playing predominantly in nickel (4-2-5) it looks like addressing the ‘fifth DB’ is a priority (either a big nickel or orthodox slot cornerback) so we’ll see how important arm length is if they address this early in the draft (Adoree’ Jackson and Chidobe Awuzie could easily be on their radar).

However, at the very least they view length as vital at outside cornerback. So are we right to focus on pure arm length or is wingspan the more important feature?

Wingspan is defined as the length between the tip of your middle finger on one outstretched arm to the other.

The average NFL cornerback has a wingspan of 75.5 inches (31.5 inch arm length).

Here’s the arm length and wingspan data for some of Seattle’s draftees, acquisitions and starters since 2010:

Richard Sherman — 32 (arms) 78 (wingspan)
Brandon Browner — 33 (arms) 80 (wingspan)
Byron Maxwell — 33.5 (arms) 77.5 (wingspan)
Jeremy Lane — 32.5 (arms) 78 (wingspan)
Tye Smith — 32 (arms) 78 (wingspan)
DeAndre Elliott — 32 (arms) 77.5 (wingspan)
Neiko Thorpe — 31 3/4 (arms) 78 1/2 (wingspan)
Stanley Jean-Baptiste — 32 3/8 (arms) 78 3/8 (wingspan)
Pierre Desir — 33 (arms) 77.5 (wingspan)

All of these players have at least been tried at outside corner (Lane started as a rookie at outside corner and is currently ‘next man up’ to replace Deshawn Shead).

The Seahawks appear to be less concerned about wingspan at safety. For example, Earl Thomas’ wingspan is only 74.5 inches and Kam Chancellor’s wingspan is 76.5 inches. This is possibly one of the reasons why they might draft a slot corner/big nickel with shorter arms.

Yet if you’re looking at outside corner, the Seahawks have a very consistent ‘type’. They’re adding players with at least 32 inch arms and a wingspan of 77 inches.

Surprisingly, this isn’t a great draft for cornerbacks who fit Seattle’s preference in terms of wingspan. It might be another reason why John Schneider was lukewarm about this class.

Here’s a list of most of the ‘big name’ corner’s in the draft and all of the cornerbacks with 32 inch arms and a +77 inch wingspan. Any names not included here don’t have the necessary arm length or wingspan. The cornerbacks who match each marker are highlighted in bold:

Marshon Lattimore — 31 1/4 (arms) 74 7/8 (wingspan)
Marlon Humphrey — 32 1/4 (arms) 76 1/4 (wingspan)
Tre’Davious White — 32 1/8 (arms) 75 3/4 (wingspan)
Gareon Conley — 33 (arms) 76 (wingspan)
Fabian Moreau — 31 3/8 (arms) 75 3/4 (wingspan)
Kevin King — 32 (arms) 77 7/8 (wingspan)
Jalen Tabor — 32 (arms) 76 5/8 (wingspan)
Cordrea Tankersley — 32 1/4 (arms) 76 1/4 (wingspan)
Adoree’ Jackson — 31 3/8 (arms) 74 (wingspan)
Ahkello Witherspoon — 33 (arms) 79 3/8 (wingspan)
Sidney Jones — 31.5 (arms) 71 7/8 (wingspan)
Rasul Douglas — 32 3/8 (arms) 76 7/8 (wingspan)
Shaq Griffin — 32 3/8 (arms) 74 3/4 (wingspan)
Chidobe Awuzie — 30 5/8 (arms) 74 1/8 (wingspan)
Marquez White — 32 1/8 (arms) 77 3/8 (wingspan)
Treston Decoud — 33 (arms) 77 1/4 (wingspan)
Brian Allen — 34 (arms) 78.5 (wingspan)
Michael Davis — 32 1/4 (arms) 77.5 (wingspan)
Quincy Wilson — 32 1/4 (arms) 75 7/8 (wingspan)

Only six cornerbacks in the entire class have 32 inch arms and a +77 inch wingspan.

There are some very surprising notes here:

— Despite having 33 inch arms, Gareon Conley’s wingspan is a relatively modest 76 inches — comparable to Fabian Moreau despite his much shorter arms (31 3/8 inches)

— Sidney Jones has average arm length by NFL standards (31.5 inches) but his wingspan is incredibly just 71 7/8 inches

— If wingspan is really important, Ahkello Witherspoon (79 3/8 inches) could be a key target (especially considering how well he performed overall at the combine)

— It’s not unfair to suggest they might only be interested in Kevin King and Ahkello Witherspoon early in the draft in terms of outside cornerbacks

— Despite having 32 3/8 inch arms, Shaq Griffin’s wingspan (74 3/4) is comparable to shorter cornerbacks like Adoree’ Jackson

The mediocre length on offer among the cornerbacks is even more striking when you looking at the safety class:

Malik Hooker — 32 1/4 (arms) 77 3/4 (wingspan)
Jamal Adams — 33 3/8 (arms) 75 1/2 (wingspan)
Budda Baker — 30 3/4 (arms) 71 3/4 (wingspan)
Jabrill Peppers — 30 3/4 (arms) 74 (wingspan)
Josh Jones — 32 (arms) 76 1/4 (wingspan)
Marcus Maye — 32 1/2 (arms) 77 1/4 (wingspan)
Obi Melifonwu — 32 1/2 (arms) 79 1/4 (wingspan)
Justin Evans — 32 (arms) 76 5/8 (wingspan)
Delano Hill — 32 1/8 (arms) 77.5 (wingspan)
Jadar Johnson — 32 (arms) 77 3/8 (wingspan)
Eddie Jackson — 32 1/4 (arms) 78 (wingspan)
Rayshawn Jenkins — 32 3/4 (arms) 77 3/8 (wingspan)
Josh Harvey-Clemons — 35 3/8 (arms) 82 5/8 (wingspan)
Damarius Travis — 31 3/4 (arms) 78 1/8 (wingspan)
Montae Nicholson — 33 3/8 (arms) 78 (wingspan)
Chuck Clark — 32 1/4 (arms) 77 1/8 (wingspan)
David Jones — 31 5/8 (arms) 77 3/4 (wingspan)

Shalom Luani — 32 (arms) 74.5 (wingspan)
Leon McQuay — 31 7/8 (arms) 77 1/4 (wingspan)

Cornerbacks with 32 inch arms & a 77 inch wingspan: 6
Safety’s with 32 inch arms & a 77 inch wingspan: 13

There are more than twice as many safety’s than cornerbacks in this draft with Seattle’s preferred length.

I’ve not included every safety in the draft here — but those who aren’t listed above don’t have 32 inch arms or a +77 inch wingspan.

This might be one of the reasons why teams are seriously considering moving Obi Melifonwu to cornerback. Not only does he have the speed and agility to work outside, he also has supreme length.

If the Seahawks are tied to a wingspan number (77 inches) as they appear to be with arm length (32 inches), the options are relatively limited in this draft at outside corner.

If Kevin King is off the board at #26 or they see Melifonwu as a corner, they might focus on the nickel ‘fifth DB’ position unless they’re really high on Ahkello Witherspoon and want to take him with their first pick.

It’s arguably further evidence that a ‘slot’ pick (big nickel or cornerback) could be the choice if they take a defensive back early.

 

Kirwan & Miller present intriguing mock scenario

April 7th, 2017 | Written by Rob Staton

Pat Kirwan and Jim Miller of SiriusXM NFL Radio have put together a two round mock draft that included quite an aggressive approach by the Seahawks:

Here’s a breakdown of Seattle’s moves:

— Traded Richard Sherman and pick #106 to Tennessee for the #18 pick

— Traded pick #26 to the Titans (who’d already moved down from #5 to #11), receiving picks #41, #77 and #106 in exchange

— Traded picks #58 and #77 to the New York Jets for pick #39

So after all that, they moved Richard Sherman and picked three times in the top-40.

It’s all a bit Madden ’17 but it’s still pretty fun and interesting.

Here’s how they used the picks and what they had left:

#18 — Ryan Ramcyzk (T, Wisconsin)
#39 — Adoree’ Jackson (CB, USC)
#41 — Ahkello Witherspoon (CB, Colorado)
#90 (R3)
#102 (R3 comp)
#106 (R3 comp)
#210 (R6)
#226 (R7)

There are obviously a few things to contend here. For starters, I wouldn’t expect Adoree’ Jackson to last this long. Marlon Humphrey, Kevin King, Chidobe Awuzie and Jarrad Davis also fall into round two. And if the Seahawks were being aggressive in trading up twice, going up to get Humphrey or King would appear to be the stronger play rather than trading up for Ahkello Witherspoon.

The mock overall though highlights a possible talent drop-off in the late second round — and part of John Schneider’s lukewarm review of the draft class might be in part due to this. Are they going to have to be aggressive to try and manipulate extra picks in the top-50 this year, or risk coming away with a class without impact players? Maybe.

That said, this would be quite an interesting way to possibly upgrade the roster despite losing a player of Richard Sherman’s undoubted quality. You get an addition at left or right tackle (Kirwan has Seattle taking Ramcyzk but they could’ve picked Bolles or Lamp too), you get one of the most dynamic impact players in the draft (Jackson) to play the slot and you get a tall athletic outside corner (Witherspoon).

And if you moved into position to get Humphrey or King instead of Witherspoon, even better.

If you get a talented outside corner to replace Sherman, Jackson in the slot and further bolstered your O-line — that’s a semblance of a plan to try and galvanise this team minus Sherman.

Of course it’d be quite unprecedented to see a team make this many trades. It’s something to ponder though, especially if Seattle does end up dealing their #1 cornerback.

Meanwhile, I’d highly recommend reading this piece by Jason La Canfora on the Sherman/Marshawn Lynch situation. La Canfora has a reputation for accurate reporting on the Seahawks and this article contains quotes from John Schneider.

Here’s the most interesting part:

You can only pay three of your four starting defensive backs top-of-the-market money for so long and the Seahawks could use more balance in the cap and cash spending. They still have a big need along the offensive line and redirecting resources there over the next few years to preserve franchise quarterback Russell Wilson is in order. That money has to come from somewhere.

Sherman just turned 29 and is one of the highest-paid corners in the game and that’s a position where Seattle should be best positioned to turn another mid-round pick into a potential impact starter. In the age of Moneyball, that’s an efficiency they should be able to cash-in on. They might not find another Sherman, but, for a tenth of the money, maybe they get something fairly close over the next year or two.

So if this is an educated guess instead of a mere assertion, we might see more money spent on the O-line (or at least further draft stock) and a confidence from within Seattle’s front office to find an adequate replacement for Sherman.

And if nothing else, the article does little to quell the recent talk of a potential trade.

 

John Schneider prefers the 2016 draft

April 6th, 2017 | Written by Rob Staton

John Schneider spoke on Brock and Salk yesterday and had this to say about the 2017 draft class:

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

So what can we take from this? Here’s my best guess:

— Does the quality of the draft class drop off a cliff before, around or just after Seattle’s three third round picks? The Seahawks own picks #90, #102 and #106.

— Schneider more or less spells this out: “…not having a fourth and a fifth this year may work out in our favour.” However, if he merely didn’t see value in those rounds he probably would’ve been more positive about the situation. After all, they don’t have any picks in rounds four or five. Yet he still offers a lukewarm review of the class. It’s possible he doesn’t expect to get great value in the late third.

— The Timmy Jernigan trade is perhaps indicative of this situation. The Ravens, knowing they were unlikely to pay Jernigan big money at the end of his contract, traded him to Philadelphia to move from #99 to #74. It possibly highlights how teams are viewing this class. Is it relatively deep up to the #75-90 range, followed by a big drop off?

— This could be impacting how they view the value of pick #26. They might want to trade down but if the return is a third, fourth or fifth round pick they’re not really interested in, is it worth moving down?

— If they don’t like their options in round three, it could tempt them to use their extra picks to trade up at some point, or acquire 2018 stock.

—- Some of Schneider’s disappointment might be influenced by a desire to increase depth and competition in a number of areas. This draft might present an opportunity to get a couple of early contributors but it might be light on overall depth once you get out of the top 75-100. And Seattle’s best work under Schneider and Carroll has come between rounds 3-7.

— It’s also possible, as we touched on yesterday, that some of the players we previously expected to be there at #26 are gradually moving up draft boards. It’s at least somewhat possible Obi Melifonwu, Kevin King and Adoree’ Jackson won’t be there, plus some other blog favourites. That could also be provoking a tinge of disappointment. There will still be good options though — such as (possibly) Tyus Bowser, T.J. Watt or Chidobe Awuzie.

— I spent a bit of extra time watching Awuzie yesterday. He’s a warrior for sure. And while he’s nowhere near the sudden, spectacular athlete Adoree’ Jackson is — he’s more of a threat screaming off the edge, making plays in the backfield and he’s an underrated playmaker. Awuzie is also big-time in terms of character. His interviews are possibly the second best I’ve seen this year behind only Jarrad Davis. He’s one to keep in your thoughts.

 

Looking at a scenario where Seattle goes EDGE early

April 5th, 2017 | Written by Rob Staton

It was at least a little bit interesting last week when Pete Carroll suddenly added ‘pass rusher’ to the list of possible draft options for the Seahawks. He’d previously listed cornerback, linebacker and O-line as the priorities for the off-season. He made reference to CB and LB again — but swapped out the OL following the additions of Luke Joeckel and Oday Aboushi.

That’s not to say the Seahawks won’t go O-line at #26. If one of the big names falls into range, a Bolles or Lamp for example, they could easily be the pick.

However, I wanted to look at a scenario where the Seahawks consider a pass rusher earlier than we’ve been discussing:

#1 Cleveland — Myles Garrett (EDGE, Texas A&M)
#2 San Francisco — Solomon Thomas (DE, Stanford)
#3 Cincinnati (Trade) — Leonard Fournette (RB, LSU)
#4 Jacksonville — Deshaun Watson (QB, Clemson)
#5 Tennessee — O.J. Howard (TE, Alabama)
#6 New York Jets — Malik Hooker (S, Ohio State)
#7 LA Chargers — Jamal Adams (S, LSU)
#8 Carolina — John Ross (WR, Washington)
#9 Chicago (Trade) — Marshon Lattimore (CB, Ohio State)
#10 Buffalo — Marlon Humphrey (CB, Alabama)
#11 New Orleans — Haason Reddick (LB, Temple)
#12 Cleveland — Jonathan Allen (DE, Alabama)
#13 Arizona — Reuben Foster (LB, Alabama)
#14 Philadelphia (via Min) — Kevin King (CB, Washington)
#15 Indianapolis — Forrest Lamp (G, Western Kentucky)
#16 Baltimore — Cam Robinson (T, Alabama)
#17 Washington — Taco Charlton (EDGE, Michigan)
#18 Tennessee — Gareon Conley (CB, Ohio State)
#19 Tampa Bay — Adoree’ Jackson (CB, USC)
#20 Denver — Garett Bolles (T, Utah)
#21 Detroit — Obi Melifonwu (S, Connecticut)
#22 Miami — Jabrill Peppers (S, Michigan)
#23 New York Giants — Ryan Ramcyzk (T, Wisconsin)
#24 Oakland — Jarrad Davis (LB, Florida)
#25 Houston — Mitch Trubisky (QB, North Carolina)

You might say it’s unlikely that Obi Melifonwu, Kevin King, Adoree’ Jackson and Gareon Conley are all off the board before pick #26.

Maybe it is?

Here’s the thing though — it isn’t that improbable and here’s why:

— Melifonwu is the definition of what teams are looking for on defense in 2017. A 6-4, 225lbs defender with the short-area quickness and agility to cover the slot, the size and explosive traits to defend the run and the versatility to line-up in various different match-ups and positions. He could be a corner, a strong safety or a ‘Buffalo’. Simply put, there aren’t many human beings with his physical profile on the planet. He could set a new standard at the big nickel.

— There aren’t many cornerbacks ever that have possessed King’s combination of size, length and athleticism. He has the deep speed to cover outside, the size to handle true #1 receivers and unnatural short-area quickness and agility to work in the slot despite his 6-3, 200lbs frame. When interviewed he talks about the intricacies of the offense he’s facing and what he learned during tape study. He had 16 passes defended in 2016 — as many as any of the top cornerbacks in this draft — and one incredible interception against Arizona State that will have teams salivating at his potential.

— Jackson is a first round pick in any draft class. A genuine, true game-changer. He can handle the slot at a time when teams are predominantly using nickel in base. He has the potential to be one of the all-time greats as a kick returner. He can handle a package on offense. Every time he’s around the ball he’s a threat to score. Furthermore, he was a team captain at USC and despite his lack of size — he doesn’t shirk a tackle. I’ll say it again — he’s Percy Harvin on defense without the hassle.

— Conley isn’t quite as freaky as the other three and he has some issues with hand use, offering far too many free releases in college. He’ll need to learn to jam and re-route and get a feel for when a receiver is breaking without getting flagged. There will be a learning curve. That said, he’s pretty much everything you want from a starting outside corner. He has the size, length, speed and instinct. His positional play — knowing where to position himself to break on the ball — is exceptional. Cornerback is a vital position and Conley has a shot to be a high-end starter in the NFL.

When you actually consider the talent, production, physical profile and positional value of the four players — it’s very easy to make a case that they won’t get out of the top-25.

What is more likely, after all? That Tennessee’s Derek Barnett remains in the top-25 despite being a short-armed, undersized defensive end with a middling physical profile? Or that teams instead look at the extreme potential and ability of the four names above?

I’m not trying to argue that this is definitely going to happen. It will be Seattle’s good fortune if one or more of the four DB’s fall into range. It’s not something we’ve really considered though — that they won’t be there. And whether it’s likely or not, it’s at least possible.

In the top-25 projection above the top O-liners are also off the board and a possible consolation prize like Jarrad Davis is also gone at #24 to Oakland.

So what happens in this situation?

Have the Seahawks been planning for this scenario?

— Pete Carroll recently noted Bradley McDougald could act as a ‘big nickel’ or ‘Buffalo’. Seattle needed safety depth anyway — but if depth was the key, this draft is loaded with good safety’s. Was McDougald brought in because they feel Melifonwu, a possible target to play as a ‘big nickel’, now won’t be available at #26?

— If they were hoping to draft Adoree’ Jackson but he’s now expected to go earlier than originally expected (top-20 is NOT a stretch), this might explain why the Seahawks had a good look at Houston’s Brandon Wilson at his pro-day last week as a possible later round alternative:

— Carroll stated that Germain Ifedi is moving to right tackle and Luke Joeckel will get a chance to win the left tackle job. Is this an admittance that they don’t believe the top tackles will reach #26?

— A final interesting nugget from Carroll’s conversation with John Clayton last week was Jeremy Lane moving to outside corner as the ‘next man up’ in replacing Deshawn Shead. It essentially cleared the way for McDougald to be the new ‘nickel’ and perhaps signals Seattle’s intention to let their existing corners battle it out to start across from Richard Sherman, rather than bring in a first round pick to start immediately.

Admittedly, a fair bit of dot-connecting is going on here. Yet it doesn’t feel entirely implausible either. The Seahawks generally set themselves up for every draft class and have a pretty good idea of who will/won’t be available at their various picks.

And if this type of situation arises, maybe they will take an EDGE rusher early?

A top-25 like this presents a few different options:

— Trade down (Mahomes and Webb are still on the board as trade bait)

— Continue the rush on defensive backs with Budda Baker, Chidobe Awuzie, Cordrea Tankersley, Justin Evans or one of the many other options

— Take a pass rusher such as T.J. Watt, Tyus Bowser, Takk McKinley, Jordan Willis or Charles Harris

I’m going to make a case in this piece for Tyus Bowser and T.J. Watt.

This piece highlights how similar they both are physically to Khalil Mack.

Here’s the key info from the article:

Ten yard splits
T.J. Watt — 1.59
Tyus Bowser — 1.59
Khalil Mack — 1.64

Short shuttle
T.J. Watt — 4.13
Tyus Bowser — 4.40 (Pro day)
Khalil Mack — 4.18

Three cone
T.J. Watt — 6.79
Tyus Bowser — 6.75
Khalil Mack — 7.08

Vertical jump
T.J. Watt — 37
Tyus Bowser — 37.5
Khalil Mack — 40

Broad jump
T.J. Watt — 10-8
Tyus Bowser — 10-6
Khalil Mack — 10-8

Forty yard dash
T.J. Watt — 4.69
Tyus Bowser — 4.65
Khalil Mack — 4.65

Production (final college season)
Khalil Mack (2013) — 10.5 sacks, 18 TFL’s
Tyus Bowser (2016) — 8.5 sacks, 12 TFL’s (in just eight games)
T.J. Watt (2016) — 11.5 sacks, 15.5 TFL’s

Watch this footage of Bowser at the combine. Look how quick, fluid, twitchy and ripped he looks:

Here’s Watt’s workout as a comparison:

We know both players ran a 1.5 split (Seattle likes that), we know both ran exceptionally well in the agility tests (Seattle likes that) and we know they’re both really explosive, productive and passionate about the game (Seattle especially likes that).

Even in a worst-case scenario with so many good defensive backs flying off the board, there’s still a really attractive, freaky upside alternative in these two.

And with the great depth at cornerback and safety in this class — the Seahawks should be able to find options at both positions in rounds 2-3.

If you’re feeling a little bit down after reading about the top DB’s potentially being off the board at #26, this’ll cheer you up. Mel Kiper and Todd McShay ran through a two-round projection today. Kiper had Seattle drafting Marlon Humphrey and T.J. Watt with their first two picks. That would be a haul.

Here’s another player to keep an eye on too as a possible day-three option. Noble Nwachukwu (DL, West Virginia). Gritty backstory, basketball background, good length, grown man. Could be an inside/out type rusher.

 

Linebacker 10-yard split times highlight some good options

April 4th, 2017 | Written by Rob Staton

Despite signing some veteran linebackers in free agency, Pete Carroll still stated his desire to draft for the position when speaking to John Clayton last week.

Recently we highlighted how important the short shuttle times appear to be for Seattle. Now it’s time to look a how significant the 10-yard splits are.

Here are the times for Seattle’s draftees since 2010:

Kevin Pierre-Louis — 1.53
Mike Morgan (UDFA) — 1.54
Bruce Irvin — 1.55
Bobby Wagner — 1.57
Brock Coyle (UDFA) — 1.60
Malcolm Smith — 1.61
Korey Toomer — 1.61
K.J. Wright — 1.66

K.J. Wright is an exception but everyone else has ran a really good split. Anything faster than a 1.60 is considered elite.

For example, here are the ten yard splits for some of the top DB’s in the 2017 draft:

Jamal Adams — 1.60
Budda Baker — 1.56
Jabrill Peppers — 1.54
Josh Jones — 1.58
Marcus Maye — 1.56
Marcus Williams — 1.61
Gareon Conley — 1.56
Chidobe Awuzie — 1.64
Cordrea Tankersley — 1.56

Seattle’s linebackers ran similar times to some of the DB’s in this loaded draft. Get-off, explosion and short-area quickness appears to be just as important as agility.

There weren’t many fantastic forty times among the linebackers at the combine. However, there were some impressive short shuttle times and the 10-yard splits are also better than expected.

Here are all the linebackers in the 2017 class who ran faster than a 1.65 split either at the combine or at their pro-day:

Dylan Cole — 1.54
Jarrad Davis — 1.54
Duke Riley — 1.56
Anthony Walker — 1.57
Zach Cunningham — 1.58
Alex Anzalone — 1.59
Tyus Boswer — 1.59
Jayon Brown — 1.59
Jordan Evans — 1.59
Haason Reddick — 1.59
T.J. Watt — 1.59
Elijah Lee — 1.60
Blair Brown — 1.61
Brooks Ellis — 1.61
Raekwon McMillan — 1.61
Marquel Lee — 1.62
Paul Magloire — 1.62
Hardy Nickerson — 1.62
Tanner Vallejo — 1.62
Vince Biegel — 1.64
Pita Taumepenu — 1.64

As you can see, there’s a long list of really quick linebackers.

Jarrad Davis stands out at the top. His closing speed shows up time and time again on tape and it’s validated here. Considering his size, quickness, athleticism, tenacity and character it’s impossible to imagine him not going in the first round. He could go in the top-20.

Would the Seahawks consider him? I think they’d have to. And while there might be an alternative defensive back or offensive lineman that wins the day due to need — you at least have to make Davis part of the conversation. He’s that good.

He also managed a 4.29 short shuttle at his pro-day so there’s another positive mark. Bobby Wagner ran a 4.28 at his pro-day.

Of the list of names above, here are the prospects who ran a sub-4.30 short shuttle and a sub-1.65 10-yard split:

Dylan Cole — 4.08 & 1.54
Jarrad Davis — 4.29 & 1.54
Duke Riley — 4.21 & 1.56
Zach Cunningham — 4.29 & 1.58
Alex Anzalone — 4.25 & 1.59
Tyus Boswer — DNP & 1.59
T.J. Watt — 4.13 & 1.59
Blair Brown — 4.18 & 1.61
Brooks Ellis — 4.25 & 1.61
Paul Magloire — 4.28 & 1.62
Vince Biegel — 4.16 & 1.64

That’s not to say the Seahawks wouldn’t draft a linebacker with a +4.30 short shuttle time — but the players they have added since 2010 ran the following times:

Korey Toomer — 4.00
Kevin Pierre-Louis — 4.02
Bruce Irvin — 4.03
Bobby Wagner — 4.28
K.J. Wright — 4.35
Malcolm Smith — 4.54

Smith was a seventh round pick and compensated with a 1.61 split, a 4.44 forty and a 39 inch vertical (he also had knowledge of Pete Carroll’s system at the start of the new regime).

There may not be any 4.44 runners in the 2017 class of linebackers but there’s enough burst and quickness to imagine the Seahawks will come across some attractive options.

And if they want to draft Obi Melifonwu to act as a big nickel or safety/linebacker hybrid — he ran a 1.51 split and a 4.09 short shuttle at 6-4 and 225lbs.

 

Seahawks first round big board & Tony Pauline’s mock

April 3rd, 2017 | Written by Rob Staton

Earlier today Field Gulls published a piece I wrote for them looking at possible options at #26. It’s written in a ‘big board’ style. Check it out and let me know what you think, either in the comments section here or on the FG site.

You might also want to check out Tony Pauline’s new three-round mock draft. He has the Seahawks taking Chidobe Awuzie at #26:

“The Seahawks like to play five defensive backs and the versatile Awuzie can play corner, nickel and/or safety. The fact he scored a 35 on his wonderlic at the combine makes him that much more appealing.”

Awuzie is gritty, athletic and had a better combine that a lot of people expected. When we talk about players in this draft who could go anywhere from the teens to the early 40’s, Awuzie is that type of player.

He is undersized — but if the Seahawks are looking for a slot corner that might not be so much of an issue. We don’t have the data to sufficiently judge such a pick. It seems a bit rich though to consider the possibility of Seattle drafting Budda Baker to play as a third safety/nickel and not consider the likes of Awuzie or Adoree’ Jackson.

Personally I think Jackson, who was available in Pauline’s mock, could be more attractive to the Seahawks if they are looking for a slot specialist. His special teams value, freaky athleticism and ability to score every time he touches the ball screams ‘Pete Carroll favourite’.

That said, Awuzie plays with great toughness for his size and he made several big plays in the backfield in 2016. He’d be a creative blitz option and not just a coverage specialist. He has high character and fits the mentality of Seattle’s defense perfectly. He could be a serious option.

Here’s a video if you’re unfamiliar with Awuzie’s playing style:

 

Trying to identify possible pass rush targets

April 2nd, 2017 | Written by Rob Staton

Pete Carroll admitted last week the Seahawks are considering adding another pass rusher and he saw a few attractive options in the draft.

So what type of player have they looked at in the past and how does it help us identify possible targets in this class?

Since 2010, the Seahawks have drafted the following EDGE/DE types:

Bruce Irvin
Frank Clark
Cassius Marsh
Obum Gwachum

— All of the players ran a sub-4.30 short shuttle. Irvin and Clark both ran sensational times (4.03 and 4.05 respectively).

— Irvin and Clark also ran elite 1.5 10-yard splits. Marsh ran a 1.70 and Gwachum a 1.66. So an elite time doesn’t appear to be critical even if it’s appealing.

— It’s a mixed bag in terms of explosive traits. Irvin (10-3, 33.5), Clark (9-10, 38.5), Marsh (9-6, 32), Gwachum (10-1, 36) all have different results in the broad and vertical.

— The TEF results also vary. Irvin (3.41), Clark (3.25) and Gwachum (3.38) all performed well but Marsh (2.84) was much less explosive. If you’re unfamiliar with TEF or don’t understand why we use it on defensive linemen, there’s an explanation here.

— All of the group had +33 inch arms.

— Three of the four ran a 7.08 or faster in the three cone, with Obum Gwachum running a 7.28.

There are bits of pieces of info here but nothing strikingly consistent apart from arm length.

Now let’s look at the 2017 class…

— No D-line prospects ran a short shuttle anywhere near as good as Irvin or Clark. Carl Lawson had the fastest time at 4.19. Trey Hendrickson (4.20), Solomon Thomas (4.28) and Jordan Willis (4.28) were the only other sub 4.30 runners.

— In terms of 10-yard splits, Jordan Willis (1.57), Haason Reddick (1.59) and Trey Hendrickson (1.59) all ran in the elite 1.5’s. Terrell Basham, Carl Lawson, Takk McKinley and Derek Rivers all ran a 1.60.

— Myles Garrett (4.21), Haason Reddick (3.93), Solomon Thomas (3.83), Jordan Willis (3.70), Ife Odenigbo (3.61), Derek Rivers (3.57), Carl Lawson (3.54) all performed very well in TEF.

— There are over 30 players that topped a 3.00. Here are the prospects who scored a +3.00 with +33 inch arms:

Josh Carraway — 34 1/4
Taco Charlton — 34 1/4
Daeshon Hall — 35 5/8
Tanoh Kpassagnon — 35 5/8
Jeremiah Ledbetter — 34 1/4
Takk McKinley — 34 3/4
Carroll Phillips — 33 3/4
Dawuane Smoot — 33 1/4
Jordan Willis — 33 1/2
Deatrich Wise — 35 5/8

If we isolate this group for now, let’s see how they tested in the short shuttle and 10-yard split:

Josh Carraway — 4.44, 1.72
Taco Charlton — 4.39, 1.70
Daeshon Hall — 4.38, 1.67
Tanoh Kpassagnon — 4.62, 1.69
Jeremiah Ledbetter — 4.56, 1.72
Takk McKinley — 4.62, 1.61
Carroll Phillips — 4.37, 1.64
Dawuane Smoot — 4.39, 1.68
Jordan Willis — 4.28, 1.57
Deatrich Wise — 4.36, 1.70

Considering they haven’t drafted any player with a +4.30 short shuttle, the times by Takk McKinley and Tanoh Kpassagnon (4.62) stand out negatively. Jordan Willis obviously looks like a fit (not a surprise considering he had one of the best combines regardless of position). The times run by Taco Charlton, Daeshon Hall, Carroll Phillips, Dawuane Smoot and Deatrich Wise aren’t particularly troubling even if they’re reasonably below Obum Gwachum’s 4.28.

Can we learn any more using the three cone?

The following players from the list above (33 inch arms, explosive traits) all ran comparatively well to Seattle’s previous draft picks:

Jordan Willis — 6.85
Daeshon Hall — 7.03
Carroll Phillips — 7.06
Deatrich Wise — 7.06
Taco Charlton — 7.17
Dawuane Smoot — 7.18
Josh Carroway — 7.20

The following ran much slower than Seattle’s picks:

Tanoh Kpassagnon — 7.46
Takk McKinley — 7.48
Jeremiah Ledbetter — 7.55

A pattern is more or less forming here. The likes of Jordan Willis, Daeshon Hall, Taco Charlton, Carroll Phillips and Deatrich Wise could be safely on their radar.

That said, there’s not a stand-out piece of data here. Not in the way they’ve consistently taken cornerbacks with size and 32 inch arms. Not in the way they’ve looked at the short shuttle marks at linebacker. Not in the way they’ve highlighted explosive traits on the O-line.

With so many explosive defensive linemen in the class, they might be willing to take one even if their short-area quickness isn’t as good as the likes of Irvin, Clark or Marsh.

The 33 inch arms is a trend but would they really rule out Alabama’s Tim Williams for having 32 3/4 inch arms? Or Derek Rivers? Or Tarell Basham?

And are they willing to look the other way if a prospect runs a really good 10-yard split, such as Trey Hendrickson, Terrell Basham, Carl Lawson, Takk McKinley and Derek Rivers?

These are questions we’ll be able to answer with greater confidence after the 2017 draft (assuming they do add a pass rusher).

It’s also worth considering the rush linebackers. We’ve already highlighted how T.J. Watt and Tyus Bowser compare physically to Khalil Mack. So how do they compare to the D-line class?

— Both have +33 inch arms

— T.J. Watt ran a 4.13 short shuttle, faster than any defensive lineman at the combine (Bowser didn’t run a short shuttle at the combine)

— Bowser (6.75) and Watt (6.79) ran faster three-cone times than any of the defensive linemen

— They both ran elite 1.59 10-yard splits

— Watt (3.64) and Bowser (3.61) both excel in TEF

Essentially Watt and Bowser would fit right in with Seattle’s previous pass rush picks. Sadly, both could go in the top-45.

That’s probably the case for Jordan Willis too. So if adding a pass rusher in rounds 2-3 is a target for the Seahawks — Daeshon Hall, Carroll Phillips and Deatrich Wise are perhaps more likely to land in Seattle.

They could, of course, repeat what they did last year. Move down in round one and then trade up in round two.

By this point you’re also probably wondering about interior rushers. Unfortunately, it’s hard to find them in this draft class.

There are some markers to focus on. The three interior rushers they’ve drafted previously all ran quick short shuttle times for their size:

Jordan Hill — 4.51
Jaye Howard — 4.47
Quinton Jefferson — 4.37

Jordan Hill, the highest interior rusher drafted in the Carroll/Schneider era as a former third round pick, scored a 3.09 in TEF. Jaye Howard only scored a 2.62 and Quinton Jefferson didn’t perform a broad jump.

In the 2017 class, Eddie Vanderdoes ran a 4.39, Ryan Glasgow a 4.50, Jonathan Allen a 4.50 and Malik McDowell a 4.53. These are the quickest short shuttle times among interior defensive linemen.

Only Vanderdoes from the four names above scored a +3.00 in TEF (3.04).

So while a lot of fans are clamouring for another interior pass rusher to be added, it’ll be tough finding one in this class.

It’s also worth keeping an eye on confirmed VMAC visitors, especially any prospects not invited to the combine. It’s a good way to identify potential targets and highly athletic prospects we haven’t discussed here.

 

Pete Carroll hints Seattle will feature a ‘Buffalo’

April 1st, 2017 | Written by Rob Staton

Pete Carroll spoke to John Clayton at the owner’s meeting this week. You can hear the piece here and it’s worth a listen.

Here are some of the higlights:

— With Deshawn Shead currently injured, Jeremy Lane is ‘next man up’ at outside cornerback

— The Seahawks still intend to fill Mike Morgan’s spot on the roster and Morgan, a free agent, remains an option

— Cornerback and linebacker are the two positions of focus on defense

— Carroll stated they’re also ‘always looking to upgrade the pass rush’ adding it’s ‘a good draft for some guys who could help us’

I think the most intriguing thing, however, is the increasing focus on this position:

That’s an image we first looked at in February when discussing the role of a ‘big nickel’ or ‘Buffalo‘.

Seattle ran a 4-2-5 for a large part of 2016 with Jeremy Lane playing 71% of the defensive snaps as an orthodox nickel corner.

John Schneider’s comments on the SAM linebacker position this week suggest they’ll continue to start an extra defensive back:

“When you look at the SAM linebacker position, it’s really hard to say you’re going to take a huge risk on somebody or step out on a limb for somebody because the reps are… it’s 15 to 17… or something like that, is the average. So that’s why you see that position in our defense, it’s just a nickel league now.”

Carroll further emboldened the suggestion they’ll use a big nickel when discussing Bradley McDougald’s role in Seattle:

“Maybe we can do some things with our packaging so we play three safety’s at the same time. We’ve looked at that over the years and done that at times.”

So considering they’ve already signed McDougald, what can we take from all of this?

— With Lane moving outside, at least to begin with, it creates a hole in the slot somebody is going to need to fill

— McDougald might play a high percentage of snaps as a big nickel or he might compete with a rookie

— McDougald might win the nickel job outright or he might spell it with someone else depending on the match-up (eg a dynamic slot corner)

— They might have McDougald try to win that job (similar to Brandon Browner a year ago) and if it doesn’t work, start a more traditional slot corner (as they did with Lane in 2016)

The talk of an extra safety being on the field and the lukewarm discussion of the SAM position highlights why Pete Carroll and John Schneider appeared to look so excited after watching Obi Melifonwu at the combine:

Melifonwu is a unique player. There really isn’t anyone else like him in the league. Linebacker size, 4.40 speed, highly explosive, supreme agility and short area quickness.

For this specific role he could be the new standard. And a virtually unmatchable standard at that — considering how rare his physical profile is.

And that’s why, despite everything we’ve talked about recently with Adoree’ Jackson, he could be a highly coveted prospect for Seattle.

Jackson could be an option for very different reasons. He’d be the compliment to McDougald. A player who might take 90-100% of the snaps one-week and 20-30% the next depending on the match-up. If he wasn’t playing much on defense you’d still be getting his extreme special teams value. So it still makes sense.

However, if Melifonwu is there at #26 he might be their guy. The question could be — will another team beat Seattle to the punch. Will another team acknowledge the way this league is going and consider taking the ultimate Buffalo?

And if he’s not there that might be when you consider the alternatives — slot corner (Jackson, Baker, Awuzie), outside corner (Tankersley, King, Conley) or another safety (Evans).

An alternative would be to draft someone like Shalom Luani later on.

As for Carroll’s mention of the pass rush, it’s an interesting note. With five picks in the first three rounds the Seahawks should be able to find someone they like. It could be, for example, someone like Daeshon Hall. It could be a T.J. Watt, Vince Biegel, Jordan Willis or Tyus Bowser. So while it seems very likely Seattle will go DB with their first pick, the EDGE class is deep enough to consider the options in rounds 2-3.