Top five Seahawks draft needs & players who “jump out”

February 4th, 2015 | Written by Rob Staton

LSU cornerback Jalen Collins jumps out as a possible Seahawks target

Seattle’s top off-season needs

#1 Receiver / tight end

The Seahawks just need more talent here. In the last twelve months they’ve lost Golden Tate, Percy Harvin and Sidney Rice. Paul Richardson might not play in 2015 and if he does, he’ll miss a whole off-season of work with Russell Wilson. How much will he realistically contribute? There’s at least some possibility Zach Miller is a cap casualty, saving $3m if he’s cut. You cannot lose that much talent in a year and not address it.

Seattle paid big money to land Rice hoping he would be the ultimate difference maker. They went even bigger to get Harvin. They previously flirted with Brandon Marshall and Vincent Jackson. They are clearly invested in finding a true match-up nightmare — a player with unique qualities. I don’t see why that would change now. Why would it? They have to keep searching.

With Russell Wilson set to become the highest paid player in the NFL (at least until Andrew Luck pens a new contract with the Colts) — more than ever he needs an injection of quality at receiver. The Seahawks are always going to be a run-first team. But you still have to throw the ball effectively. Never was that more obvious than the Super Bowl. Whether it’s a dynamic pass-catching tight end or a new go-to target at receiver — this has to be addressed.

#2 Cornerback

Byron Maxwell has played his last game for the Seahawks. That’s a safe assumption. He’s the best cornerback hitting free agency and it’s not a deep draft at the position. There are teams in the NFL crying out for help at corner — teams like Jacksonville who also have masses of unused cap space. There’s very little Seattle can do here.

The more pressing concern is there doesn’t appear to be a ready made replacement. You felt comfortable watching Walter Thurmond and then Maxwell stepping in for Brandon Browner. Tharold Simon has had his moments in what is essentially his first proper year in the NFL. Can he take the next step? I’m not totally sold. Jeremy Lane just needs to concentrate on getting healthy. This is a group that could use another player capable of competing for a start quickly.

I think the three most important things about this team are Russell Wilson, the running game (aka Marshawn Lynch) and the secondary. You secure the first two by paying Wilson and Lynch. You need to make sure the LOB remains at the top by adequately replacing Maxwell.

#3 Offensive line

A lot of people like to bag on James Carpenter and at times it’s warranted. But he’s not been a totally useless pick and he’s one of the few players who consistently worked over Justin Smith during his career. He provides genuine size on the line and the ability to move his man off the spot in the running game. If he departs he’ll need to be replaced.

The question is how do you replace him? Do you really want to go early again on the offensive line? Spending first round picks on Russell Okung and James Carpenter, a second round pick on Justin Britt and a third rounder on John Moffitt hasn’t provided an elite line. In fact Seattle’s most consistent offensive lineman over the last two years has been a converted defensive lineman taken in the 7th round.

There is one other angle of course. Okung is a free agent after 2015. How easy is it going to be to extend his contract? Do you plan ahead now by investing an early pick on a guard/tackle who can potentially man the blind side in 2016? That’s easier said than done. There’s a reason Okung went in the top ten and why the best tackles consistently go that early. Replacing Carpenter in 2015 with a guy like Ty Sambrailo and expecting him to replace Okung the year after looks like a sure-fire way to weaken an already average O-line.

#4 Defensive line

Depth is an issue here but with an asterisk. It’s OK pointing at the absence of Cliff Avril in the second half of the Super Bowl and stating it’s a reason for going big on another defensive end in the draft. Injuries happen to key players and you can’t always have a first round backup. Why not draft a first round QB to backup Wilson? Or a linebacker to backup Wagner? Spending a first round pick on a corner would be to replace a starter and fill a hole with Maxwell likely departing. Spending a first round pick on a receiver would be about adding a potential impact player. Spending a first round pick on a D-end would be going big on a #3. Isn’t that a luxury?

Of course, that’s not to say a defensive end would simply be a backup. The rotation would get them involved. Not many teams, however, carry three very talented edge rushers. I think they could use one more, but I’m not convinced it needs to be a high pick. Find someone who can contribute in the middle or later rounds. An athletic rusher who needs some refinement.

At the end of the day you’re still going to roll out Avril and Bennett as starters. I put the D-line at #4 because I don’t think they have an adequate starting corner on the roster behind Maxwell or enough talent at receiver/tight end. I also feel somewhat comfortable with the interior D-line too. Jordan Hill took a major step forward this season and will be back. It’s safe to presume Brandon Mebane will return. Tony McDaniel should return. Kevin Williams might even return — and if not, they’ve shown they can fill holes here. Hill and Mebane are the key players and both are contracted for 2015.

#5 Running back

This one’s short and sweet. If they extend Marshawn Lynch’s contract, they don’t need to draft a running back. If he departs, this could be a top-three need.

Thoughts on the likely options at #31

Fast forward to 35:15 in the audio below. It’s an interview Pete Carroll conducted on the Brock & Salk show on Tuesday:

You’re always looking for the guy that jumps out. The player in the draft. That may or may not happen. But we’ll go about it to just get better.

If you want to try and consider who they might take at #31 or #63 or wherever, you’re really looking for the player that jumps out. The combine is a useful tool because it can focus your attention. We know they like speed and length at certain positions (receiver, TE, corner, OL, DL). Then it’s about finding the player who stands out among the crowd. The difference maker. Bruce Irvin was a difference maker, so was Earl Thomas. Golden Tate. Even James Carpenter if you go back and watch the Mark Ingram era at Alabama. Production, to an extent, also appears to be key.

Let’s focus on the first round today:

Tight end / receiver

I would expect Amari Cooper, Devante Parker and Kevin White to be off the board. You’re left with a situation where the smaller-style receivers are more appealing at #31 compared to some of the bigger options. For example, Jaelen Strong is a nice big target who makes circus catches and contends for the ball in the air. But he struggles mightily to gain separation against even below-average college DB’s. He just isn’t very sudden and he doesn’t have great deep speed. My concern is at the next level he doesn’t maintain that knack of making the spectacular, difficult grab and what you’re left with is just a really average, slow possession receiver without difference-making size.

On the other hand, I think there are very appealing traits in Devin Smith and Phillip Dorsett. People love to bag on Smith because he was used predominantly as a deep threat at Ohio State. And? The guy is the most prolific downfield receiver in college football over the last four years. His YPC average is off the charts, he competes for the ball at the highest point and he has big-time special teams value to boot. I’m not even afraid to make the comparison to Odell Beckham Jr. He isn’t ODB — don’t get me wrong. But he has similar characteristics and athleticism.

See for yourself:

He doesn’t have the short-game Beckham Jr flashed at LSU or the massive hands. He’s very much a diluted ‘diet’ version of ODB. But that’s the difference between the #11 overall pick and potentially being around at #31. I still think you use Smith in the same way — as an all-round receiver who can make big plays down the sideline and act as a genuine playmaker despite a lack of size. He also has a bit of DeSean Jackson about his play.

Dorsett is a different player with incredible speed to get downfield, explode out of his breaks and consistently create separation. He’s a joy to watch at times. And I won’t hesitate to consider him as a top-50 pick in this draft.

You just have to ask yourself — how comfortable are you spending another high pick on another small receiver? We saw what Chris Matthews added to the offense simply through sheer height, catching radius and size. Russell Wilson is a tremendous deep-ball thrower and a couple of rangy targets with size would really open up the offense. It could also provide a major shot in the arm to the red zone production. This is also why tight end is a big need. The Seahawks are crying out for a difference maker here — with unnatural size, working the seam and scoring touchdowns.

They might be able to find a solution in free agency. If they’re able to acquire a Vincent Jackson (somehow) or bring in a Jordan Cameron, this kind of move might be more palatable. It would mean spending a third consecutive first pick on a receiver. That shouldn’t matter — a need’s a need. But we all know some people won’t be able to live with that thought.

In terms of the bigger receivers or tight ends in the draft, I still believe Dorial Green-Beckham will prove too much of a risk in the first round for any club in the post-Rice/Peterson NFL. Devin Funchess would give Seattle a seam-busting tight end with fantastic size, catching radius and big-play ability. He’s very attractive in that regard. But his tape at Michigan is so thoroughly underwhelming. He looks like a guy who needs to be constantly pushed — and that doesn’t feel like the type of player to mesh with Seattle’s bunch of self-motivators.

Sammie Coates has good size and freaky athleticism — but he’s just so inconsistent. Maxx Williams has gone from being very underrated to quite a bit overrated. He’s a very solid player who will make a fine pick for someone. But he’s not an exceptional athlete with unique size. I suspect he’ll be a very reliable albeit modest tight end at the next level. I’m willing to be proven wrong if he takes over the combine later this month.

There is some depth at receiver — so there’s no real pressure to go first round or bust. I think rounds 2-3 will offer a sweet-spot. There also may be opportunities for Seattle in free agency, depending on cost. This story is interesting:

Cornerback

I wrote about this yesterday, but I’ve spoken to people who would know about this kind of thing and they say Seattle will only take a corner in round one if it’s a truly special prospect. That makes sense. They found Richard Sherman in round five, Brandon Browner in the CFL, Walter Thurmond in round four and Byron Maxwell in round six. They know what to look for. Yet for the first time the well appears to have run dry. They don’t want to miss a beat if they lose Maxwell as expected. And corner could provide the best value in the top-40.

There are three players to focus on at the combine I think. Trae Waynes, Marcus Peters and Jalen Collins. Waynes is grabby and will need technique work, but he’s very fast and long (6-1). Peters is 6-0 with similar length, has a real nose for the ball and plays with a physical edge. Collins is a super-fluid athlete at 6-2 who works well in run support. He oozes class.

Out of the three, I like Collins the most. He’s raw and only started ten games at LSU. But he looks like a guy they can work on. I spent a bit of time today watching all three players and I see the most upside in Collins. His frame screams Seahawks and he just ticks so many boxes — light on his feet, changes direction effortlessly, sticks in coverage and has long arms to play the ball. One play sticks out from 2014 and it’s not even a coverage play. Fast forward to 4:06 in the video below:

That’s Melvin Gordon — supreme athlete and expected to run a very fast forty time — being caught in a downfield chase by Collins. He never gives up on the play, is clearly faster than Gordon. I haven’t seen anyone chase him down like that. Nobody. That is elite speed. Throw in the length and size and hey — we’ve potentially found one of those players who jump out.

I’m not even going to hide it — Collins might be my favorite realistic option at #31. And we shouldn’t expect him to last even that long. He’s Lance Zierlein’s #25 overall prospect. Todd McShay has him at #32. I’m not sure you’ll find a better upside prospect to slot into the LOB this year. It’s just whether or not they’ve identified another 5th round sleeper who can come in with the same potential at a cheaper price.

Is Collins special enough to warrant early attention by the top dogs for DB development? I think so. Tony Pauline recently reported he was one of the few corners who could handle Odell Beckham at LSU.

Another thing worth noting — Peters might fall due to character concerns. Zierlein compares him to Aqib Talib: “Both entered the draft with off-field concerns. They show similar body language when things don’t go their way on the field and are both volatile, but their playing styles are similar, too. They both love to attack the ball and sit down on routes to try to make things happen.” If Seattle’s locker room is as volatile as suggested earlier in the season — would they be prepared to take him in the first two days?

Offensive line

This is a toughie. A lot of fans would be happy if Seattle spent every one of their first round picks on the offensive line. Personally I feel like they’ve pumped enough into that group — and any further early picks really need to enhance the level of play substantially. I don’t want any more early OL picks for the sake of it. I liked Joel Bitonio a lot last year because I believed he could really enhance the performance of the line at guard or tackle. When I look at Tony Pauline’s newly published big board for O-liners today, I’m not sure I see a similar type of player.

Pauline grades Brandon Scherff and Andrus Peat as his only two clear-cut first rounders. T.J. Clemmings gets a round 1/2 grade. Taking those grades on face value, that could put Clemmings in range. They clearly like tackles who can play guard (and vice versa) — see Carpenter, Britt, Bailey, Bowie. Clemmings has the length they love and could play right tackle, left tackle or guard. He’d be a nice pick for upside. But you have to expect — with such a big premium on long, athletic tackles — that he won’t be there at #31.

I rate Ereck Flowers much higher than Pauline (he says third round) so for the sake of this piece I’m going to rule him out for now — although he would be a nice possibility if available and a possible long-term replacement for Okung if that situation materialized. Pauline’s next three linemen (all with second round grades) are Ty Sambrailo, Cedric Ogbuehi and Daryl Williams. He previously reported Seattle interest in Sambrailo. Would they take him at #31? I think he’d fit nicely into Carpenter’s position and they have similar size. I’m just not convinced he’d take the line to the next level. It’d be a sideways step. And in round one I kind of want more than that. Pauline has Jake Fisher in round three, Corey Robinson in round four and Rob Crisp as an UDFA — all more appealing in my opinion in those rounds vs Sambrailo in the late first or early second after a move down.

I’m not a fan of Ogbuehi’s and wouldn’t have him on my board after the ACL injury. Oklahoma’s Williams I’m much more open too — another massive tackle similar to Carpenter who might be available at #63. That would be decent value.

It would have to be a special player falling to warrant a first round pick here for what amounts to an interior lineman unless you want to move Britt inside. Scherff’s run blocking will appeal, for example. Peat is a classic blind-side pass-protector. Clemmings is all about the upside. If you’re willing to accept Clemmings has as much chance to be a total disaster as a perennial all-pro — then by all means take the shot. He is the most attractive option here, but Tom Cable would need to be ready to coach him up.

There is some depth in this area and I’d be willing to play for value later on.

Defensive line

This is a pretty good class for pass rushers. But here’s the thing. Seattle has a very specific type of pass rusher they target. Length is key, so is the ten-yard split. Cliff Avril and Bruce Irvin are both long athletes running spectacular 1.50 ten-yard splits. Let’s wait for the combine to be 100% sure, but when I watch Bud Dupree, Nate Orchard, Hau’Oli Kikaha and others — I just don’t see either the speed, the length or both.

Eli Harold sticks out like a sore thumb and if he doesn’t fly up the board (for me he’s a top-15 level prospect) I’d be ready to pull the trigger. He’s long, athletic with a great burst. He converts speed to power easily. He’s been productive. He’s a gritty individual who’s faced adversity. He’s a former 5-star recruit. He’s another player who jumps out to you. I just don’t see any way he’s there at #31. See for yourself:

If I’m not getting a player like that — I’m waiting and seeing what’s available later. After all — this is a DEPTH pick. Not many teams have two pass rushers like Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril. The need for a third is not vital — it’s just about stacking the rotation. If a special player like Harold is there I’m game. But while Orchard and Kikaha have been productive in the PAC-12, I’m not convinced either is worth the big spend just to put another body behind Avril/Bennett. Vic Beasley might be another one to monitor. He’s a better fighter than he gets credit for, he’s been very productive at Clemson and he has track speed.

In the interior, I do expect Danny Shelton and Jordan Phillips to be gone. Both are unique enough to fit into the ‘jump out’ category. I’ve shifted my position on Shelton after viewing his Oregon tape. I’m a big fan of two former 5-star recruits in Eddie Goldman and Malcom Brown but expect both to be off the board, leaving the options to be pretty thin the rest of the way.

Running back

This is all about Marshawn Lynch. Will he stay or will he go? If he goes, this becomes a big need unless you fancy the idea of a Robert Turbin led running game (with Christine Michael spelling). Two players jump out to you of course — Melvin Gordon and Todd Gurley. The ACL injury doesn’t bother me with Gurley — I’ll take my chances because he’s that good. I don’t expect either player to be available at #31.

I do think they’ll find a way to keep Lynch, taking this off the list of needs.

Players who jump out at the five ‘need’ positions so far

Jalen Collins (CB, LSU)
Eli Harold (DE, Virginia)
Devin Smith (WR, Ohio State)
Melvin Gordon (RB, Wisconsin)
Todd Gurley (RB, Georgia)
T.J. Clemmings (T, Pittsburgh)

 

Post-Super Bowl mock draft: 4th February

February 3rd, 2015 | Written by Rob Staton

#1 Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Marcus Mariota (QB, Oregon)
Here’s what I think it comes down to. Tampa Bay is taking a quarterback. They’ll meet with both. Study the tape like crazy. And they’ll feel more comfortable and confident building around the safer investment. Mariota it is.

#2 Tennessee Titans — Jameis Winston (QB, Florida State)
I’ve battled with this one because I think Winston has to prove he can be trusted. Ruston Webster is a Tim Ruskell disciple so you know he values character. But this is a team crying out for identity and quality. They have nothing to build around. Winston at least offers some hope.

#3 Jacksonville Jaguars — Andrus Peat (T, Stanford)
Peat is a natural pass protector perfectly suited to the left tackle position. After spending the #3 pick on Blake Bortles, they have to build around him. Drafting two receivers early last year was a start, now it’s about better line play up front.

#4 Oakland Raiders — Dante Fowler Jr (DE, Florida)
He’s just a flat out playmaker. You can line him up anywhere — D-end, inside, linebacker. He just makes plays. Throw in a terrific motor, great attitude and plus-athleticism and you have the makings of a perennial Pro Bowler.

#5 Washington Redskins — Shane Ray (DE, Missouri)
He’ll win at the combine with speed and explosion. Expect a big-time ten yard split. That’ll be enough to convince the Redskins this is their guy — they badly need defensive talent and are likely to lose Brian Orakpo.

#6 New York Jets — Randy Gregory (DE, Nebraska)
He’s a project wherever he goes. Length, athleticism. Some have compared his upside to that of Aldon Smith. But right now he’s at his best as a blitzing linebacker, not a natural edge rusher. Still, he fits the 3-4 and it’s a need for the Jets in Todd Bowles’ scheme.

#7 Chicago Bears — Leonard Williams (DE, USC)
I’m not quite as sold on Williams as a lot of other people but the Bears will likely focus on defense this off-season. They need to repair the whole unit and a pick like this makes a lot of sense.

#8 Atlanta Falcons — Eli Harold (DE, Virginia)
Expect a huge rise for Harold. He’s a former 5-star recruit with insane athletic qualities, length and grit. He knows how to convert speed-to-power. He could go even earlier than this. There’s some Barkevious Mingo to his game, some Brian Orakpo. With the right guidance he could be a top player at the next level.

#9 New York Giants — Danny Shelton (DT, Washington)
I watched the Oregon tape today and came away much more impressed than I expected. I’m not too proud to admit when I make mistakes. On that evidence, he does deserve to go earlier than I initially projected.

#10 St. Louis Rams — Ereck Flowers (T, Miami)
After Peat, he’s the best pass-protector in this class. They’re similar prospects — both combine great length and foot-speed with ample power and hand use. They both need to avoid lunging but it’s workable. Flowers would further bolster the Rams O-line.

#11 Minnesota Vikings — Amari Cooper (WR, Alabama)
He’s shown he has the deep speed this year to make up for a lack of elite size. He’s the most naturally gifted receiver to enter the draft since A.J. Green. Very focused individual and not a diva. Pairing Cooper with Teddy Bridgewater seems like a smart move.

#12 Cleveland Browns — Jordan Phillips (DT, Oklahoma)
When Phillips rocks up at the combine and runs a 4.8-4.9 he’ll start to fly up the boards. He has better tape than Dontari Poe but has the same kind of rare size and speed. He has an injury history and that’ll need to be checked out. If he’s cleared — watch out for Phillips. He declared for a reason.

#13 New Orleans — T.J. Clemmings (T, Pittsburgh)
I thought he had a disappointing Senior Bowl but the fact of the matter is — athletic tackles with length go early. They always do. The Saints back themselves to coach him up knowing the worst case scenario is he moves inside to guard.

#14 Miami Dolphins — Landon Collins (S, Alabama)
He’ll be a SPARQ demon at the combine and could force his way into the top ten. Collins had a big season, proving he can cover and hit. He’s better than Ha Ha Clinton-Dix who went in the first round last year.

#15 San Francisco 49ers — Arik Armstead (DE, Oregon)
Assuming Justin Smith does retire, the 49ers are going to need to fill out that D-line. Armstead has unreal size and upside. There’s every chance he’ll go early purely based on potential. He wasn’t the finished article at Oregon. Far from it.

#16 Houston Texans — Eddie Goldman (DT, Florida State)
There’s no quarterback solution here so they might as well keep padding the defensive line. They need a good run stopper to work the interior. Goldman is superb working against the run and he has untapped potential as a pass rusher. Former 5-star recruit.

#17 San Diego Chargers — Melvin Gordon (RB, Wisconsin)
Having switched D.J. Fluker to guard, San Diego desperately needs to add a quality tackle. They don’t see a solution here so go with a playmaker at running back instead. Opinions are mixed on Gordon, but I can see a few teams really buying into his skill-set and unreal work ethic.

#18 Kansas City Chiefs — Devante Parker (WR, Louisville)
Receiver is such a big need here. Alex Smith can win you games but he needs weapons. Parker offers the kind of dynamic receiving threat the Chiefs currently lack. You get the feeling they’ll go all-in to find a solution here and might even move up for Amari Cooper.

#19 Cleveland Browns — Bendarick McKinney (LB, Mississippi State)
Big, classic 3-4 inside linebacker who set the tone for Miss. State in 2014. He could be the player everybody expected Rolando McClain to be. The Browns have a defensive Head Coach and need to develop an identity on that side of the ball after wasting two first round picks a year ago. Will they trade up for a quarterback? Maybe.

#20 Philadelphia Eagles — Trae Waynes (CB, Michigan State)
Corner is a need and Waynes will impress at the combine. He’s physical and might need to tone it down at the next level to avoid penalties — but it’s his size and speed that will entice teams to take him early.

#21 Cincinnati Bengals — Vic Beasley (DE, Clemson)
A lack of size might be a hindrance although he should run a good forty time and ten yard split. Beasley has been ultra-productive at Clemson and the Bengals need someone who can get to the quarterback.

#22 Pittsburgh Steelers — Brandon Scherff (T, Iowa)
The guy just looks like a Steeler — and it’s more than just the Iowa uniforms. Lunch-pail worker who drives people off the ball in the running game. Right tackle is a huge need for Pittsburgh and Scherff would be a day one starter.

#23 Detroit Lions — Cameron Erving (C, Florida State)
He looked good at tackle last season — and looked even better at center in 2014. The Lions would get a player who can start immediately at center and back up every other position on the O-line. He’s a defensive line convert with massive potential.

#24 Arizona Cardinals — Hau’Oli Kikaha (DE, Washington)
This is a hunch. The Cardinals need a pass rusher to work the edge in a big way. Kikaha has great hands and probably needs to work in space. His production is off the charts. It just seems like a fit. And I think the Cards will be prepared to reach a bit to make this happen.

#25 Carolina Panthers — Kevin White (WR, West Virginia)
Since Dave Gettleman took over as GM he’s let the draft come to him. He’s looked for value and avoided reaching. They have bigger needs than receiver, but White falls a bit and they capitalize. It’s been suggested he loses confidence quickly and worries. That could provoke a slight drop down the board.

#26 Baltimore Ravens — Todd Gurley (RB, Georgia)
A top ten pick without the injury, Gurley falls to an ideal spot. The Ravens re-sign Justin Forsett and stash Gurley away for the future. Another brilliant pick by a franchise that just gets it year after year.

#27 Dallas Cowboys — Malcom Brown (DT, Texas)
Terrific defensive tackle prospect who could go much earlier than this. Another former 5-star recruit. Adept at knifing into the backfield to make plays. Classic three-technique with the size to hold up against the run.

#28 Denver Broncos — Carl Davis (DT, Iowa)
If they lose Terrance Knighton they’ll need an interior force on the defensive line. Davis had a tremendous Senior Bowl. The tape is a bit ‘meh’ but he showed what he’s capable of in Mobile. Coaches will love the upside here.

#29 Indianapolis Colts — La’el Collins (G, LSU)
Watching the all-22 against Alabama gave me a new perspective on Collins. He’s not as good as I first thought and will need to move inside to guard. He’s good in the run game and will slot in straight away. But he’s not as good as Joel Bitonio.

#30 Green Bay Packers — Owamagbe Odighizuwa (DE, UCLA)
I really, really like Odighizuwa. He’s not much of an edge rusher but the way he dips inside and uses brute force to decimate the interior is a sight to behold. For that reason he might be best acting as a 3-4 end with some outside rush duties thrown in.

#31 Seattle Seahawks — Marcus Peters (CB, Washington)
I go into more detail below.

#32 New England Patriots — Bud Dupree (DE, Kentucky)
You have to like his attitude, leadership and playmaking. He’s just not that great rushing the edge. I can see him working in New England’s defense by lining up in multiple positions and having an impact. He’d be a great fit here.

Notes on the Seahawks pick at #31

1. Why no receiver?

Yes, it’s a big need. But I just get the sense rounds 2-3 will be the sweet spot at the position this year. There are plenty of guys I think could go in the late first, but it’s more likely we see a host of second and third rounders like Devin Smith, Phillip Dorsett, Justin Hardy, Jaelen Strong, Sammie Coates, Nelson Agholor, Devin Funchess, Tyler Lockett. This is also the area I think Dorial Green-Beckham will fall to.

As much as the Seahawks need to fill this role, I don’t think you fight the board for the sake of it. If you want a tall, rangy wide receiver or tight end the options are limited. You’re probably going to have to be creative in free agency. Goodness knows how given the players you want to re-sign in Seattle. But are you really going to buy into a guy like Jaelen Strong in round one and feel he’s the answer? I wouldn’t want to do that. Ditto Sammie Coates. Ditto Devin Funchess. And as much as I like Devin Smith and Phillip Dorsett, I’m not totally sold on them in round one given their stature. Seattle needs someone who can box off a defender and make the kind of plays Chris Matthews made on Sunday — and I retain that belief even if you think Matthews can be a role-player in 2015.

I would rather take my chances seeing who is there in rounds 2-3 looking at the group available. Don’t ask me how they make it happen, but I just have to hope they have some kind of solution to address this need in a cost-effective way in free agency. Whether it’s Jordan Cameron, Julius Thomas or trading for Vincent Jackson. Maybe they make some surprise cuts to free up room? Maybe they pull off a ‘go get a ring’ deal? I don’t know. Jackson is still the one I want.

2. Why a corner?

I’ve said a few times — and this opinion stems from speaking to people who would know — that I don’t think the Seahawks will ever go corner early unless it’s a really special player. I do think they had some interest in Bradley Roby a year ago. This was a guy coming off a down year who was previously regarded as a top-15 pick. He had some length and quicks. An ideal slot receiver at the very least. I think he might’ve been special enough. We’ll never know. I suspect they knew well before the draft he wouldn’t make it to #32.

I’m not sure if Marcus Peters will be considered ‘special’ enough. I do like his tape for the most part. I like his nose for the ball. I think he’s ideally suited for this scheme. I look at the other needs (WR, DL, OL, TE) and think this might be their best opportunity to get a player who stands out. A cornerstone pick who starts quickly and for multiple years. Someone you’d love to coach up and develop but can still feature in week one. I think he will tick a lot of the boxes. I just want to see his long speed at the combine.

Then there’s the character concerns. After all, he was kicked off the team at Washington.

I think putting him in a situation where he almost has to work for the LOB would be a good thing for Peters. He wouldn’t be able to pull any crap around Kam Chancellor, Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman. I don’t think they’d be scared off by his connection to Marshawn Lynch (a close family friend). In fact it might just help keep him in line (a bit like Tyrann Mathieu and Patrick Peterson). Maybe it would be a problem? We have no way of knowing. But while a lot of teams might be scared off by the risk-factor with Peters (and that’s why he’d even be available at #31) the Seahawks might feel they have the setup to deal with a player like this. Carroll knows he’ll get a fair and honest assessment of his character from Steve Sarkisian.

Corner became a bigger need than I think we all thought watching the Super Bowl. And while I think we all trust this team to continue to find later round gems, they face the possibility of having to start a mid-to-late round rookie in 2015 or one of Tharold Simon or (health permitting) Jeremy Lane. I think the three key strengths of this team are Russell Wilson, the running game and the secondary. You solidify two of those strengths by paying Wilson and Lynch. You solidify the third by making sure you aren’t caught short when Byron Maxwell inevitably signs elsewhere.

Why would you risk Peters and not Green-Beckham? Simple. If DGB is a problem child it’s another headache for Wilson after the whole Percy Harvin fiasco. Asking Wilson to set him straight might be too much for one man. You have three veterans (Chancellor, Thomas and Sherman) to guide Peters, plus a proven DB coaching setup that will aid his development.

Want an alternative? How about LSU’s Jalen Collins. Tall (6-1), speedy. Far from the finished article but with a ton of upside.

In this scenario you target WR/TE, OL and DL in the next two rounds. Obviously if you were able to acquire someone like Vincent Jackson you can focus on the two lines. Perhaps you go R1-Peters or Collins, R2-Sambrailo, R3-Lockett. I think they’ll be less inclined to go D-line after signing up Cliff Avril. They will get Jordan Hill and Cassius Marsh back.

Like I said, I don’t know if Peters will be considered special enough to warrant Seattle’s first round pick. We’ll probably find out at the combine. But it does make some sense.

 

The day after the night before thread — MOVING FORWARD

February 2nd, 2015 | Written by Rob Staton

I know you’re hurting. I am too. After watching the Super Bowl I went straight to work. As I type it’s 9:14pm and I still haven’t been to bed. I wouldn’t be able to sleep anyway. The Seahawks were a yard away from immortality. An off-season of dynasty talk, debate as to whether they can make it three in a row. Their place in history secured forever.

Instead the Patriots are getting the glory and the celebration and all anyone wants to talk about is one play. One play. One questionable play call, one superb break on the ball by Malcolm Butler. You know what? It was never about just one play. That will not define this team, these coaches, this FRANCHISE. The Seahawks aren’t going anywhere. The NFC West? Weaker. The NFC challengers? Who scares you?

Russell Wilson. Earl Thomas. Richard Sherman. Michael Bennett. Beast mode? Why not? They’ll be ready. You’re going to let one play break this bond? You’re going to dedicate all of your energy to one play — however crucial?

Look through the game and you’ll find it was more than just a solitary slant to the inside. It was four consecutive scoreless offensive drives to end the game. It was giving up 14 fourth quarter points when you were in total control at 24-14. It’s about dropped passes when you’re driving to extend your lead. It’s about a first quarter where your quarterback doesn’t complete a pass and your receivers can’t get open. It’s about injuries — lots of them. Those who could make the field were banged up. It’s about a lack of pass rush outside of the sensational Bennett. It’s about leaving K.J. Wright to cover Rob Gronkowski on an island twice, once for a big touchdown. It’s about 3rd and 14 conversions and off-side penalties. It’s about deciding the world stage is your opportunity to simulate taking a dump to “prove a point” and pick up a dumb penalty.

That play? Decisive. Clinching. But not the only reason for defeat. Over time I think perspective will combat anger and prove victorious.

This was a messy game by the Seahawks across the board and they almost found a way to win anyway. That’s so Seahawks. They should’ve won it. But they didn’t. Not this time.

What’s next?

That was the battle cry from Red Bryant when they won a Super Bowl. It needs to be shouted louder than ever today.

The Seahawks played a messy game against a legendary coach and quarterback combo and still should’ve won a Super Bowl. Can you imagine being offered that scenario at the start of 2010? With one title already secured. Yes it hurts. Sure it does. Would you rather be debating Mariota or Winston this week? Or whether you should give Sam Bradford one last chance? Or whether a coaching team led by Jim Tomsula, Eric Mangini and Geep Chryst is really actually seriously going to take over from Jim Harbaugh?

Week one. Century Link Field. On it.

The disappointment will never go away but it is what it is. This is a great team. A young team. And they have to find a way to channel this anguish into a positive. They need to have the best off-season of their lives — AGAIN. And they need to get back to the big game and make it count this time.

Healthier, cleaner and ready to execute.

And now we’ve got that out of the way, let’s look at the big talking points going forward:

Receiver has to be a priority

It’s a debate we’ve had many times, but never has it been more obvious that the Seahawks need extra talent at receiver. For all the protestation of Doug Baldwin, he and Jermaine Kearse are not capable of leading this group alone. They need help — and so does Russell Wilson. It’s blindingly obvious.

Chris Matthews’ performance simply highlights the absolute need for a dynamic big target. Wilson is accurate enough with the deep ball to give his receiver a shot. Matthews obliged to the tune of 100 yards with sheer positioning, control, size and catching technique. Wilson is capable of so much more as a passer but his development is being held back because he’s being forced to work with a weaker group of receivers every year. This team has lost Sidney Rice, Golden Tate and Percy Harvin and one of the replacements — Paul Richardson — might be set for a Navarro Bowman ‘off year’ as he recovers from a serious knee injury. This is need numero uno. It was painful to watch Wilson get 8-10 seconds to end the first quarter and nobody could get open. It was up to Matthews — a guy plucked off the practice squad — to open the passing game up. And on the biggest play of the night they go to Ricardo Lockette.

How can that be right? Where’s your go-to receiver for that type of situation?

Maybe Matthews will prove to be part of the solution? They still need to get another. And it MUST be a player with the capability of making the kind of plays we saw yesterday. Downfield, size and reach advantage, high pointing the football, boxing off defenders and making plays in the red zone. Badwin is a savvy, sometimes explosive receiver and a key part of the team. But he’s not a #1.

But how do you find that in this draft? And can you seriously even begin to contemplate bringing in a veteran (trade or free agency) if you intend to give Marshawn Lynch a pay rise? This is where you’ll end up with a headache. If you were ever going to move up the board to go and get a receiver — last year was the year to do it. Not this year. And the likely options at #31 are not going to be great. They won’t be any better at #63. I just feel there will be some form of ‘splash’ here. High pick, key acquisition, trade. Something.

I just don’t know what it is.

Let’s tone down the Bevell hate

Curse him all you want, but let’s have some perspective here. The St. Louis Rams cannot find an offensive coordinator. The Cleveland Browns couldn’t find one. The San Francisco 49ers had to settle on Geep Chryst because they couldn’t find one.

There is not a deep talent pool of offensive coordinators out there. That doesn’t excuse or validate Darrell Bevell, but there’s a genuine tendency among Seahawks fans to shut off any positives and heap so much damning criticism and blame on his shoulders. There’s a reason why so many defensive minded coordinators received Head Coaching positions at the end of the season. There’s a real dearth of quality play callers/designers. I don’t really fancy lounging around in no-man’s land like the Rams or simply appointing Tom Cable to the position and asking him to devise a superior passing game.

Whether you want to accept it or not, overall Bevell has had a positive impact on the Seahawks. He helped develop Wilson from a rookie to an established NFL quarterback over three years. Seattle’s offense has ranked #7 in 2013 and #5 in 2014 according to Football Outsiders. He’s not ultra conservative, he’s willing to consider the creative. He has flaws — no question. But your thirst for blood is unnecessary. He messed up. The Seahawks messed up. But why would a team that has made back-to-back Super Bowls and fielded a top-10 offense in both seasons make major unforced changes to its staff? I mean, honestly.

What’s more I trust Pete Carroll — and so should you.

Cornerback might be a bigger need than we thought

Unless Byron Maxwell receives an unexpected frosty market next month, he’s likely a gonna. The position is too important — and too weak in the draft — to not expect Maxwell to get paid (Jacksonville anyone?). Seattle’s vaunted production line has been able to produce so many cheap, talented corners. But now they’re in somewhat of a bind. Tharold Simon just doesn’t look good enough to start every week. Jeremy Lane is going to have to battle to start the season. This is a need.

Maybe they will find the next Maxwell, Browner or even Sherman in the draft? It’s one position they’ve had a lot of success with. But it’s hard to imagine this positional group not receiving some attention in the off-season — and it might be a bit more than a mere later round pick. But they’d need a reason to draft a corner early — and that might be an issue too. Who’s out there? The final day of the combine will be fascinating viewing.

What happens with Marshawn Lynch?

Ian Rapoport reported before the Super Bowl that Seattle would offer Lynch a big new contract extension. The thing is — if the report is accurate — there’s no guarantee Lynch will sign it.

How much does he want to continue? How much longer does he want to wage war on the media and the league? Will $10m in 2015 be seen as adequate compensation and enough respect? Will he ever be able to trust a coaching staff that put the game on Ricardo Lockette at the one yard line instead of their best offensive player?

I have a hard time imagining Lynch quitting the game. But I also have a hard time imaging a harmonious atmosphere between Lynch and his superiors. He’s a players player, not a coaches favorite. Will he have the motivation and desire to go and get hit several times repeatedly when he can set up a temporary store in Arizona and make $200,000 during Super Bowl week?

This is a situation that needs a conclusion ASAP. All the other domino’s won’t fall until the Seahawks know what’s happening with Lynch. Are they going to have $7.5m in cap space to play with (and a gigantic hole to fill) or will they lose some money against the cap and the opportunity to upgrade other positions in free agency?

I’ll probably do a mock draft tomorrow, or at least go through someone else’s and see what was available for Seattle. It’s draft time.

 

Instant reaction: Seahawks lose Super Bowl to Patriots

February 1st, 2015 | Written by Rob Staton

With under 30 seconds to go, Bill Belichick decided this was going to be it. Seattle’s offense vs New England’s defense.

Just moments after the latest crazy catch in Patriots’ Super Bowl history, the Seahawks were going in. The next play worked perfectly. A stuffed run in bounds, killing the clock. Brady is reduced to a spectator. This is it.

The Seahawks are set. They have a time out. The watching world thinks this is going to be a run. And somewhere, in the mind of whoever made the ultimate decision, that fact jumps out.

Darrell Bevell probably made the call, but I’m not going to just assume that until we get some form of confirmation. It could’ve been an audible. It’s a classic debate I’ve heard many times on Brock and Salk this year. Why do offensive coordinators over think situations? Sometimes the obvious play really is the right play.

EDIT — everyone is rushing to accept the blame, which isn’t surprising:

In this scenario another stuffed run and a time out would’ve been just fine. Just fine. But Seattle went for the unpredictable. A pick play with Ricardo Lockette running a slant. In fairness, the play worked to a tee. There is Lockette primed to make the play of his life. And he gets mugged. Malcolm Butler fights to the ball to be the one who gets the glory. He beats Lockette. The Patriots win.

Here’s the play. Lockette has to do a better job here:

Ultimately it kind of compounds the decision to throw it. You’re going to put the Championship on a short throw to Lockette in traffic with a time out remaining? It was asking for trouble. It would’ve been so much easier to stomach if they’d just at least run it one more time and used that time out. This wasn’t a desperation play call. The whole situation was in Seattle’s control.

Breathtaking.

The look on Richard Sherman’s face said it all. Total disbelief, a little anger, a heck of a lot of frustration.

One play (or one play call) will be the talk of Seattle sports for an entire off-season. I do quickly want to add another perspective.

The Seahawks had a ten point second half lead and all the momentum. On offense they were moving the ball at will and the usual second-half adjustments had slowed down Brady and the Patriots offense. It was drifting towards a comfortable victory. Then two things happened:

1. The offense stalled
Three consecutive possessions ended very quickly with no time taken off the board. Even a field goal drive at that point further tires out the Patriots and makes it an ominous looking 13-point deficit. The Seahawks failed to score a point in their final four offensive drives despite looking mostly in control. The Pats couldn’t contain Wilson, Lynch was running well. And they couldn’t finish.

2. 3rd and 14 conversion changed the game
There’s no getting away from how tough this group played with the LOB banged up, Cliff Avril out with a concussion and Jeremy Lane suffering a horrendous broken arm. But they found a way to impact the game in the second half. Brady faced a 3rd and 14 deep in his own territory. Seattle rushed the edge, left an opening in the pocket which he exploited and converted on a 21-yard strike. That drive ended in a touchdown. Game on. At the time it didn’t feel too significant. With hindsight, that was a killer. Another punt there and Seattle has field position and a chance to get that elusive score to possibly win the game.

In both situations the Seahawks hurt themselves. Throw in the way the game ended and it feels like the Seahawks gave it away. That’s the hard part. And that’s not to take anything away from a spirited New England fightback. Few teams would’ve mustered that against Seattle. The Patriots were hurting too — they were tiring. And they fought til the end. But the best finishing team in the league couldn’t finish this one. The Patriots outscored Seattle 14-0 in the final quarter.

The Seahawks were a yard away from back-to-back Championships. I cannot imagine even Brady driving down with seconds remaining to get at least a field goal. And the Wilson-to-Lockette play call will go down in Seattle sports history. Everything was set up for the win — the west coast Super Bowl, the crowd advantage, the ten point lead, Wilson driving and ready to add another chapter to his amazing story.

These moments are so rare — it’s difficult to make it this far. We’ve seen that this year, with all the adversity this team faced to make it back to the Super Bowl. To be that close — that’s the cruel aspect.

This team is young enough and good enough to win future title’s. But they won’t repeat. All because of one little yard.

I guess the only thing to say is: Onto the draft. Seattle picks 31st overall.

EDIT #2 — Reader ‘Ho Lee Chit’ has a clear breakdown of the situation here (plus a fairly relevant user name):

Carroll explained it clearly. The Hawks have a three play series in that situation that is designed to take the clock down. They put three WR’s on the field expecting NE to match up. The Patriots did not match up and went with their goal line package of heavy defenders because they knew the Hawks would just hand off to Marshawn and he would walk into the end zone. The goal line defense against the three WR set left the Hawks with no TE’s and not enough blockers. They had to throw quickly and come back for the next play. Against the heavy defense the slant route was wide open. The defender just make a miraculous play. Obviously, he had watched film and read the slant perfectly. Nine of ten times the defender cannot get there in time to stop the TD let alone intercept the ball. Carroll also said, when NE came out in their heavy defense to stop Marshawn, Pete gave the order to throw the ball rather than call time out.

Here’s Carroll’s explanation:

 

Report: Seahawks offer Marshawn Lynch new contract

February 1st, 2015 | Written by Rob Staton

Here’s more from Ian Rapoport:

The Seattle Seahawks not only want Marshawn Lynch around next year, but they’ve made a significant commitment to keep him on their team, possibly, for the rest of his career.

On the heels of another dominant season for the running back nicknamed “Beast Mode,” multiple sources tell me Seattle has made Lynch an offer on a huge contract extension that would keep him in a Seahawks uniform for years to come.

The deal is believed to include more than $10 million for Lynch in the 2015 season alone. Lynch currently is slated to make $5 million in 2015, the final year of what originally was a four-year, $31 million deal.

The Seahawks believe that Lynch, who has rushed for at least 1,200 yards in each of the past four seasons, has outplayed his contract, sources say. They want to reward him for his work.

This is a stunning turnaround from where the Seahawks were with Lynch earlier in the season. For a variety of issues — including Lynch’s somewhat chilly relationship with coaches, his age and his hefty salary — the expectation was that Seattle wouldn’t bring Lynch back for another season. But the way Lynch has played and led this team to another Super Bowl forced the Seahawks to reverse course.

This is obviously big news and a statement of intent with major ramifications. Presuming such a deal satisfies Lynch, the cap hit for Seattle in 2015 (currently $8.5m) will rise. The Seahawks are doing what it takes to keep one of their best players — and one of the best players in the league — on their roster.

As we discussed yesterday — who is harder to replace? Byron Maxwell, James Carpenter or Marshawn Lynch? It’s an easy question to answer. Maxwell, as the top free agent corner set to hit the market, was probably always going to be out of reach for Seattle. Replacing Carpenter might be seen as a greater draft priority. They might have to sacrifice other veterans like Zach Miller to create funds. Russell Wilson is obviously going to get paid — but is there any scope to re-up Bobby Wagner and J.R. Sweezy?

These are all questions we’ll get into in the coming days after the Super Bowl. But the big news today is — the Seahawks are pulling out all the stops to keep Beast Mode in Seattle. If he wants more money, if he wants more respect — here it is.

Now go win another Championship.

 

Marshawn Lynch and the Seahawks: Is tomorrow the last dance?

January 31st, 2015 | Written by Rob Staton

Conan O’Brien, Beast Mode apparel and not talking to the media have kept one particular Marshawn Lynch story line out of the national debate over the last few days.

Is this the end?

It could be. Pushing the NFL’s buttons this week smacks of a player with nothing to lose. Is it mere rebellion or a final middle-digit salute? Only one man truly knows.

Lynch still has his confidants in the media — Michael Silver being one of them. Here’s what he told the NFL Network yesterday on the discussion of Beast Mode’s future in the league.

“So why is there all this tension between Marshawn Lynch and his employers — which is real — why is he so mad? Over the off-season — might not have resounded nationally — but Darrell Bevell the offensive coordinator went to a Chamber of Commerce event I believe or a season ticket holder event and made a point of saying, ‘we are going to split carries, we are going to have running back by committee’. Of course they’re high on Christine Michael and they drafted Robert Turbin the year before — and Marshawn heard that and he was kind of like, ‘hmmmm’. And then, Pete Carroll kind of reinforced that and then I think Pete said Christine Michael’s going to have a very, very prominent role and you kept hearing all the way through training camp, ‘oh man! Christine Michael!”. Well, Marshawn wanted more money and they gave him a little more — he came back — and proceeded to reinforce the fact that there’s not another Marshawn Lynch walking through that door. Because all that’s happened, I think they’ll put a band-aid on this situation and he will be there next year. Certainly they want him back at his salary for next year (currently $8.5m). Certainly he will hold out this time more forcefully if they don’t give him more. I think they’ll solve the problem and give him a few million more — which is smart business. Keep him as long as you can.”

He was then asked whether he believed Lynch was actually benched in the games he didn’t start in 2014 — or did he really have an upset stomach and/or bad back?

“No, I think it’s the opposite. I can’t prove it, but I think Marshawn Lynch picked strategic times to remind them ‘you kind of need me’. That whole ‘backfield by committee thing’ — OK. Look, he’s always been there on Sunday’s. He always plays hard. But let’s look at the season. First series against the Redskins — Monday Night Football everyone watching — Marshawn’s not in the game? Oh yeah his back’s acting up. Kansas City game was the last game they lost. It’s half-time. ‘You know what? My back’s not feeling right. I’m just going to stay on the field, out in the cold during half-time, while you all go in and talk about it’. Now that happened. And then the game you mentioned Arizona. ‘I’m not really loose maybe you should run with Turbin this quarter’. I can’t prove it, I don’t know if it’s true for sure, but I think the tension is real — I think that’s more likely.”

Silver appears to be indulging in a bit of educated speculation — there’s often an element of “I know something” about stuff like this. As in, “this is exactly the situation I’m just not spelling it out for you.” Especially when you know, as we do, that Silver is very close to the Lynch camp.

A few thoughts on this:

— If Lynch really did start playing little games (sitting out the start of the Redskins game, the whole half-time charade in KC), it fully explains the many reports suggesting Seattle had “grown tired” of Lynch’s act. Imagine having to deal with that if you’re Pete Carroll? Imagine how potentially divisive that could be? That’s not acceptable, quite frankly — whatever your beef is with the team. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that at one point during the 2014 season the Seahawks reportedly felt a divorce was inevitable.

— If Lynch really is going to “hold out more forcefully”, this situation is getting resolved in the next few weeks. I cannot imagine a scenario where the Seahawks sleepwalk into training camp, Lynch is a no-show and the drama explodes into life again. Marshawn Lynch was the 5th best paid running back in 2014 and on his current deal will almost certainly be the 6th best paid in 2015 after DeMarco Murray hits free agency (numbers via Spotrac). A pay increase of less than a million dollars will be enough to move Lynch up to #3 on the list. He’ll need an extra $3.45m to equal LeSean McCoy at #2. The Seahawks are preparing to pay Russell Wilson a +$100m contract. Starters Byron Maxwell and James Carpenter are free agents. Bobby Wagner and J.R. Sweezy are both one year away from free agency. There’s a lot of work to be done. Basically, none of the other domino’s can fall until they find out whether they can afford to meet Lynch’s demands or whether they’ll have to part ways and save $7.5m against the cap in the process. It could be a case of keep Marshawn for an extra year and lose Maxwell, Carpenter and possibly a cap-casualty like Zach Miller.

— Silver points out twice that the tension is “real”. Can it be fully repaired for one more season? This is a big point to consider here. Whether Lynch likes it or not, Russell Wilson’s placing within the Seahawks organisation is going to change when he receives the biggest contract in the NFL. Even if Andrew Luck signs an even bigger deal this off-season, Wilson is going to be a pretty close #2. His personality and leadership will define this team, at least on offense, moving forward. They cannot have players creating drama or taking themselves out of games to prove a point. The offense moving forward will, of course, remain run-based. But the personnel will be drafted and developed to mesh with Wilson the player and Wilson the character. Another year of Lynch is attractive because he’s one of the best players in the league. Yet Silver calls it a “band-aid” situation and band-aid’s fall off sometimes. The Seahawks will have to make a big decision on whether they want to risk that happening or whether it’s simply time to move on.

— Silver indicates the Seahawks will probably pony up to make sure he stays put — but is there any way at all he’s doing some of Lynch’s bidding by pointing out it’s what they should do? After all, it raises expectations. It’s seen as the right thing to do. If the Seahawks go against the grain when keeping Lynch is a possibility — they look like the bad guys. Lynch’s popularity within the fan base has never been higher. The 12’s are lapping up his approach to the media — even going as far to say, “leave him alone”. I think he’s brought a lot of the attention on himself (it’s quite easy to fade into the background — how many Tom Brady quotes have you seen this week?) and I think it’s all planned and executed to perfection. Rather than need protection, I think Lynch knows exactly what he’s doing. I don’t think he wants to conform to the league — whether it’s speaking to the media, wearing gold cleats or grabbing his crotch. This is his form of protest — and it’s effective. The fans are loving it. For the Seahawks to cut Lynch from this position, they’ll have to justify it to the most passionate fan base in the league. I wouldn’t want to write that speech.

So what if they can’t sort this out? Well, it means tomorrow could be the end. If not in Lynch’s career, at least his time in Seattle. Ultimately Silver is probably right and he’ll stay for another year. It will make it very difficult to keep Maxwell and Carpenter — or make any free agent acquisitions. It could make it harder to re-sign Wagner and/or Sweezy this year. It would put extra pressure on the draft — but the Seahawks are expected to have 10-11 picks to play with. It might be why we’re hearing about interest in Ty Sambrailo. It might put extra pressure on Seattle to draft an impact corner instead of a mere developmental prospect. They might have to cut other players like Zach Miller to make savings elsewhere.

Ultimately it might come down to this. Is it easier to replace Byron Maxwell, Zach Miller and James Carpenter or Marshawn Lynch? You probably don’t need me to answer that question.

 

La’el Collins all-22 tape vs Alabama

January 30th, 2015 | Written by Rob Staton

It’s interesting how much you learn watching all-22 vs TV tape.

I came into this video a big fan of LSU’s La’el Collins, but there are certain issues you pick up here. He lets D-linemen get into his frame far too easily and is often jolted backwards on contact. He’s pretty good at recovering and holding position. But against bigger, faster and more physical pass rushers — this is going to be an issue. Where’s the punch or counter-punch? Why isn’t he the aggressor? His kick-slide isn’t fluid, it’s actually a little sluggish. Alabama don’t have great edge/speed rushers and they don’t really trouble him here. But you can really imagine this being an issue in the NFL. He’s quite upright in his stance and doesn’t often play with good leverage. He also lunges quite a bit.

It’s really hard to imagine he has a future at tackle playing this way. I’ve long felt he’d be better at guard — but this kind of emphasizes the point. He’s a guard, plain and simple.

The one positive that shows up here is the drive blocking in the run game. He’ll move people off the spot to create running lanes. It’s pretty subtle at times but look at the space on his side. He creates some big lanes that LSU didn’t capitalize on. There’s also a few blocks where he just whiffs. Look at 4:46. I mean, this is just bad. He misses the guy and then hooks him round the waist. A blatant hold.

He’s a brawler though. He gets in there and knows how to scrap and battle. I think you can work on him as a pure run blocking guard. And I think he shows enough willingness to get to the next level.

I will add that this was a top-level opponent and LSU were devoid of skill position/QB talent last season. They lost all the big guns from 2013 and tried to run the ball most downs. Alabama could attack the line with seven or eight in the box. I’m sure if we go and get all-22 tape against weaker opponents we’ll see a better game. But it’s a perspective moment that makes you think and re-consider a few things. Daniel Jeremiah has Collins down at #32 on his big board. I was thinking top-20 before I watched the video below. Now? I’m not so sure. But I’m also not so sure he’s the answer to potentially replace James Carpenter even if he makes it to the end of round one. I’m not going to set that opinion in stone on one mind-changing video. But I’ll go back and do more work. Right now I’m thinking I overrated Collins and that maybe Jeremiah is right. We’ll see. More homework needed.

 

INTERVIEW: Osi Umenyiora picks the Patriots to beat Seattle

January 30th, 2015 | Written by Rob Staton

Osi Umenyiora picks the Pats, talks about “U mad Bro” and says he would’ve enjoyed playing for the Seahawks…

 

The ‘draft offensive lineman’ angle

January 29th, 2015 | Written by Rob Staton

Ty Sambrailo looks like he could feature in a Robin Hood film, but is he on Seattle’s radar?

We’ll ramp up the draft stuff after Sunday — from tomorrow it’s Super Bowl talk. I’ve set up an interview with former Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora. The audio should be on here at some point in the morning.

In the meantime, I wanted to bring this scenario to the table. That’s what this process is about, debating all eventualities.

Will the Seahawks go after another offensive lineman early? They have previous. Russell Okung at #6 in 2010. James Carpenter at #25 in 2011. John Moffitt was a third round pick in the same draft. Then Justin Britt in the second round last year.

Very few clubs have pumped this level of investment into the O-line. That’s often forgotten. It isn’t a cure-all solution — especially considering Seattle’s scheme and their desire to be the #1 scrambling team. The Seahawks also went big to sign Robert Gallery in 2011, re-signed Max Unger and paid Zach Miller — a great blocker — a top tight end salary.

Here’s the situation though. Miller might be a cap casualty. Carpenter is a free agent with no guarantee to return. Alvin Bailey has shown in flashes, but is he an every week starter? Is he perhaps better off as a versatile backup, capable of filling three or four different spots in a crisis?

If (and it’s a big ‘if’) they’re able to bring in a veteran receiver or tight end during free agency — while also retaining Marshawn Lynch — a case could be made for finding a replacement O-line starter in the first two rounds. Whether that means drafting a guard or drafting a tackle and then moving Britt inside.

A week ago Tony Pauline reported the Seahawks had interest in Colorado State tackle Ty Sambrailo — adding they also liked San Diego State’s Terry Poole:

With James Carpenter slated to hit the open market in two months and Russell Okung up for free agency in 2016, there’s been a long held belief the Seattle Seahawks will make offensive line a priority in April’s draft. Its been passed around the internet the team likes Colorado State’s Tyler Sambrailo, something I’ve known since October and was confirmed earlier this week. I’ve also been alerted Terry Poole of San Diego State is another tackle the team likes. Poole started slowly at Shrine practice in St Petersburg but by Thursday he was one of the better blockers on the field.

Pauline touted interest in Odell Beckham Jr and Aaron Donald a year ago — well before their stock exploded into the top-15. With hindsight it’s easy to see why Seattle would’ve been smitten with that pair — and it perhaps gives some chops to Pauline’s sources.

For me I’d like to see Sambrailo kick inside to guard. At the Senior Bowl he struggled a bit working the edge, even if he has the length and size to man the tackle spot. He has the tendency to be beaten inside and doesn’t always the make the most of his 80-inch wingspan to ward off rushers. Speed is a problem for him. But surprise surprise — he’s a really effective run blocker. He’d be a nice fit in the zone blocking scheme — he’s quick off the snap and gets a nice initial surge. He doesn’t always play with an edge.

You can emphasize some of the good points and minimize the negatives — limitations versus speed, not a great kick-slide — by moving him inside. In that sense he looks like a fit. The Seahawks seem to like these guys who can play tackle or have some experience as an edge blocker. I’ve seen him projected in the top-50 but I think that’s a stretch. He could, however, be a decent value pick at the end of round two.

Poole I don’t know much about other than he has tackle size at 6-5 and 305lbs. He might be considered more of a late round option — but people probably said the same about Britt a year ago.

There are some other intriguing options that could be available at the end of the first round. Personally I think La’el Collins belongs in the top-20 — and yet ESPN currently ranks him at #25 overall and he’s at #32 overall on Daniel Jeremiah’s big board. There’s your ideal guard-who-can-play-tackle. He’s not unlike the Pouncey brothers. That’s another reason why I can’t see him falling.

T.J. Clemmings’ stock is unclear after an indifferent Senior Bowl. Is he too raw to go in the top-25? Or is the potential too much for certain teams to pass? At what point does Jake Fisher become an interesting option? Or Daryl Williams at Oklahoma? Is there a chance the slightly overrated Brandon Scherff lasts deep into the first round? What about Andrus Peat and Ereck Flowers? Two players I’d expect to go in the top-15 but I’ve seen ranked all over the place.

The options on the offensive line might simply be more appealing at #31 or #32 compared to some of the other current needs (receiver, tight end, D-line). We know the team trusts Tom Cable to find ‘his guys’ and there’s a chance he’ll unearth another J.R. Sweezy rather than go down the whole first round route. But it’s a debate worth having. So we’ll have it today.

 

Why was John Schneider at the University of Missouri?

January 28th, 2015 | Written by Rob Staton

Time for some good old speculative blogging.

Seahawks GM John Schneider spoke with the media yesterday and was asked about the Percy Harvin trade. This is what he had to say:

“You’re talking about a person’s livelihood. We have to do what’s best for the organization, first and foremost. We had the support of our owner, which was huge. We had discussed it for a long time with our owner. For one reason or another, it didn’t work out so we had to be able to move forward. So, the Jets got real interested. It was the Thursday night game. I was actually at the University of Missouri, and we were just able to move forward. We played the Rams that weekend.”

Harvin was traded to the Jets on October 17th. The night before New York lost a heart-breaker to the Patriots 27-25. The Seahawks played the Rams in St. Louis on the 19th.

There’s nothing untoward about Schneider visiting Mizzou. Why not? Make the trip, head over to the game on the Sunday. It’s an ideal trip. The thing is, Missouri played on the road that weekend — at Florida on Saturday the 18th. So he wasn’t attending a game. This was a different kind of visit.

There are many reasons why a GM would make that kind of trip. I won’t pretend I know them all — I don’t. For all we know it could be something as trivial as meeting a former colleague. Or it could be background checks and research. There are several Missouri players of interest entering the draft. Shane Ray is tipped to go in the top-15. Markus Golden had a good 2014 season. Lucas Vincent is an intriguing later round possibility. Even if you’re not going after a top prospect like Ray, a little background info isn’t a bad thing for future planning. You could even be asking about players likely to enter the 2016 draft — like Harold Brantley.

And then there’s Dorial Green-Beckham.

For those not familiar with the back-story (most are so I’ll be brief) — DGB was dismissed by Missouri after a string of incidents. He opted to move to Oklahoma and ultimately sit out the 2014 season instead of joining a smaller school and playing immediately. Without taking a snap for the Sooners, he chose to declare for the NFL draft earlier this month.

Every NFL team is going to need to do substantial homework on DGB. It’s not just a case of checking in with the Oklahoma staff to see how he dealt with the situation. You need to go back to Missouri and get their take on it all. Was he kicked off the team as a wake-up call? An act of tough love? Or was it more serious than that? And what does the team know about the key final charge that eventually led to his departure?

We’ve gone through the Green-Beckham debate several times. Here’s the piece we did when he declared. Was Schneider doing the rounds, or working specifically to collect information on a particular prospect?

I think this is the best way to judge the DGB situation. If the Seahawks are willing to take him at #31 or #32, I suspect someone else will draft him earlier. He’s that talented. If he makes it all the way to the end of round one, it’s probably with good reason. After the Harvin mess the last thing the Seahawks need is another troubled receiver. With Russell Wilson set to become a $100m quarterback, you’d expect any receiver coming in would have to be ready to work with zero distractions. The anti-Harvin.

And yet if there’s one thing that makes this even vaguely possible — it’s Seattle’s need for a receiver with DGB’s rare skill set and size. But again — they’re not the only team with that kind of need. He’s a unique player in this class — he has the talent to go top-15 and the red flags to go at any point in the three draft days.