CFB week 6: Jordan Love has three picks vs LSU

October 5th, 2019 | Written by Rob Staton

On Monday I’m going to publish a top-50 prospects list.

Here’s today’s review, starting with Utah State vs LSU…

Jordan Love could be the #1 pick next year. Many have already assumed Tua Tagovailoa will be the first player taken in 2020. That’s very possible. There’s a lot to like about his game. Yet he’s also a left-handed, slightly robotic passer without ideal size (he’s about 5-11). It’s not beyond the realms of possibility that teams will look at the size, arm strength and mobility of Love and Oregon’s Justin Herbert and see a preferable option.

I’m not saying that will happen. It’s just something to consider.

Love had an opportunity today against LSU to make an impression and he had a tough day. He had some accurate throws but also three interceptions. It shouldn’t damage his stock too much because clearly there’s a major talent discrepancy between LSU and Utah State. Patrick Mahomes had a four-interception game in a big loss to Oklahoma in 2015. It’s important to analyse the player and not the environment. LSU were always going to handle Utah State. Two of the picks were fantastic plays by LSU DB’s. The other was a poor read/decision.

Love is creative and like Mahomes and Kyler Murray can throw passes from awkward angles on the run with accuracy and velocity. Being able to create when a play breaks down is more important than ever given the major difference between D-line and O-line talent in the NFL. There are far fewer static, pocket-passer quarterbacks being drafted highly. Most top prospects have some ability to improvise.

Tagovailoa should be the favourite to go #1. Love and Herbert are in the running though.

LSU won the game 42-6 in the end. Their quarterback Joe Burrow threw for 344 yards and had five touchdowns and a pick. He’s having a strong season and is working himself into the top-50 equation. He’s a lot more mobile than you realise, throws a catchable ball and mixes his velocity. He’s accurate and has the tools. LSU has two terrific defensive back prospects and both continue to excel. Grant Delpit could be a top-five pick at safety and Kristian Fulton looks likely to secure a high grade too. Delpit was up at the line playing the run superbly, his pick was an excellent play on the football. What a talent.

— Jalen Hurts had his first semi-difficult outing today against Kansas. Oklahoma won convincingly but Hurts finished with only 228 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. He did add 56 yards and two more scores as a runner. Hurts is bolstering his stock and has a nice test next week against Texas. Receiver CeeDee Lamb had a quiet game with two catches for 25 yards and a touchdown. He dodged a defender David Moore-style to get the score. He also had a touchdown on a punt-return called back for a penalty. It was still an impressive run and showed off some special teams value for the next level.

— Auburn defensive tackle Derrick Brown is such an excellent combination of physical aggression, power and athleticism. He bullies O-lines, can play cross the line, win with initial quickness and today he showed great athleticism picking up and running with the football after gathering a fumble. In the fourth quarter he bull-rushed a lineman right into the QB, forced his own fumble and gathered it before sprinting for 10-yards. Incredible talent. Top-12 pick.

— Jonathan Taylor continues to dominate for Wisconsin. In an easy win over Kent State he ran for 186 yards on 19 carries, scoring four touchdowns. He added 29 yards as a receiver with a further touchdown. He cuts extremely well with quick feet to find a crease and accelerate. Keep an eye on tight end Jake Ferguson too. He’s not being used much in the passing game but he can block and he’s a terrific athlete. He scored a touchdown with his only reception in this game.

— TCU were handily beaten by Iowa State but receiver Jalen Reagor continues to boost his stock. He’s lightning quick and capable of impacting games as a downfield threat and as a receiver. However, today he had two excellent touchdowns high-pointing the football. His first was a redzone grab in tight coverage. He leapt way above the defender with extended hands to catch a fade. His second score was nearly identical — this time a 22-yard throw to the endzone and again he climbed the ladder and high-pointed the football. This is very impressive for a 5-11 receiver who’s already shown he’s plenty fast enough. These two touchdowns will stick in the mind.

— Penn State’s Yetur Gross-Matos is too inconsistent. He has dominating games and at other times he’s anonymous. Today he had a big game against Purdue with two sacks, two TFL’s and two QB hurries. His hand-technique is excellent and he plays with great effort. You’d like to see more of a speed-rush and greater consistency.

— Maryland’s Anthony McFarland could be a second or third round pick with value. He’s such a playmaker. He had 87 yards on seven carries today thanks to an 80-yard score. He added a second touchdown in an easy win against Rutgers.

— Colorado’s Laviska Shenault is extremely talented. However, he has too many minor injuries and it’s impacting him during a crucial season. He didn’t play today against Arizona due to a core muscle strain — even though he looked fairly nimble in footage of warm-ups. He’s tough to judge right now. His talent is top-15 worthy but there are clearly other things to consider. Are you going to get 16 games from him?

Tony Pauline is reporting today that Georgia right tackle Isaiah Wilson is leaning towards turning pro. This is good news for the Seahawks if Germain Ifedi and/or George Fant move on. Wilson looks like their type of tackle — enormous, long, physical and excels in the running game. I mocked him to Seattle in my first 2020 projection. Georgia beat Tennessee 43-14. D’Andre Swift had 144 total yards and a touchdown. Jake Fromm had another methodical game throwing for 288 yards (24/29) with two touchdowns. Fromm is yet to throw an interception in 2019 (six touchdowns).

— Ohio State are loaded with arguably the #2 roster in college football. The Buckeye’s have an incredible secondary featuring three possible high picks — Jeff Okudah, Shaun Wade (had a sack, TFL and a pass deflection) and Damon Arnette (who began the game against Michigan State with a fantastic forced fumble). J.K. Dobbins has first-round potential at running back and he flashed his acceleration on a 67-yard touchdown. He ended with 172 yards on 24 carries. Binjimen Victor had an ugly drop but also flashed exceptional agility for a taller receiver and scored an excellent 60-yard touchdown working in the open-field. K.J. Hill won’t be a high pick but he makes plays every week. Chase Young recorded half a sack and a TFL. The Buckeye’s won 34-10.

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Instant reaction: Seahawks beat Rams, move to 4-1

October 3rd, 2019 | Written by Rob Staton

Tedric Thompson’s interception was barely believable

Just enjoy it. Every single minute.

The crazy games. The crazy plays.

The extreme highs and the unbelievable lows.

You are blessed to be a Seahawks fan during this period of time. It doesn’t always go according to plan. But it’s never dull. It is never, ever dull.

When you’re sat moaning, jabbing away at your phone to voice your latest internet complaint at Pete Carroll, the play-calling, the philosophy, that player you don’t like much or anything else. Stop.

Do you realise how many other fanbase’s would love to have this?

The Carroll era has now produced 102 wins, a Super Bowl, a Super Bowl defeat and numerous winning seasons. It’s given us several legends who will be future Ring of Honour and Hall of Fame candidates. Heroes we’ll talk about for the rest of time.

It has also provided games that will live forever in the memory. Games that, when you stumble across that random highlights clip in the future, will raise a smile.

Nothing made sense tonight. The latest chapter in a highly unrealistic reality TV series. How on earth did they win? How are they 4-1 during the second year of a minor rebuild?

Just look at the latter sequences. The Seahawks take the lead when Chris Carson almost drops the easiest catch of the night. Tedric Thompson then produces one of the best interceptions you’ll see to seemingly win the game. Seattle can’t get a first down though — so they have to punt. The Rams use their get-out-of-jail-free card to get into field goal range…

…and ‘Greg the leg’ misses. Greg the freakin’ Leg.

All this after a truly fantastic display from Russell Wilson, highly impressive offensive adjustments from the Rams, two defense’s hanging on for dear life.

Speed, power, physicality. From both teams.

A perfect illustration of everything that makes football great — all tied up in four quarters. Real drama. The type that makes you feel sorry for people who don’t like sports.

Why would you ever complain about any of this?

We’re living the dream.

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Why I still think the Seahawks are a 10-6 team

October 2nd, 2019 | Written by Rob Staton

Any prediction requires some wiggle room and a margin of error. In terms of the NFL, a win either way seems fair.

I thought the Seahawks would be a 10-6 team in 2019. They could easily end up 11-5 or 9-7. They have the talent at quarterback to achieve more than 10-6. They also have flaws that could prevent them from being much more.

Whether they beat the Rams or not on Thursday, I still see that as the range.

There’s also nothing wrong with that. A 10-6 record is above average. That’s where the Seahawks seem to fit at the moment. There’s a top tier of teams — Kansas City, New England and New Orleans. Then there’s a large second tier where the Seahawks call home. If they’re able to claim a playoff bye and guarantee at least one home playoff game — they’ll be a contender. The thought of having to win three road games to make a Super Bowl, for this team in it’s current guise, seems improbable.

Again though, there’s nothing wrong with that. They’re still growing. They’re one of the youngest teams in the league and they still have some holes.

It’s too soon to properly judge Jadeveon Clowney and Ziggy Ansah but so far — let’s be honest — the results have been a little underwhelming. Hopefully there’s more to come.

There’s also a lack of playmaking in the secondary. The Seahawks have some solid defensive backs — led by Bradley McDougald. Yet they’re still not making a ton of plays on the back end (PBU’s, hits, interceptions).

On offense they’re still working things out in the running game and the O-line play has been up and down. Thankfully Russell Wilson, Tyler Lockett and Will Dissly have started superbly.

DVOA pretty much sums it up. The Seahawks are currently ranked #7 for offense and #17 defense. Overall they’re #11 in the league. They’re ranked #8 in the NFC. That feels about right — a team very capable of making the playoffs but not quite in the upper echelon.

With cap room to spend and a haul of draft picks they’ll have an opportunity to leap forward next year — possibly into the top tier.

For now though, they’re a work in progress. It should be celebrated that during a fairly significant rebuild the Seahawks remain a playoff contender. Instead of spending every waking minute questioning Pete Carroll’s philosophy, second guessing their draft picks and over-analysing every loss — maybe people should spend more time acknowledging how hard it is to avoid peaks and troughs in the NFL.

Take the 49ers for example. Look how they melted away when things turned sour during Jim Harbaugh’s tenure. The Saints won a Super Bowl then spent years in no-man’s land — even with Drew Brees — before eventually returning to contention. The Colts flip between contender and top-10 draft pick all the time. The Jaguars should’ve made the Super Bowl the year before last. Look at them last season. The Broncos? Up and down like a fiddler’s elbow. Ditto the Ravens.

Really only the Patriots, Steelers and Seahawks have found a level of consistency over the years. The Steelers and Seahawks might not be able to match New England’s empire but neither play in the wretched AFC East. Imagine how many titles Pittsburgh and Seattle would have if they got to play six games annually against the Bills, Dolphins and Jets? It’s a yearly invitation for the Patriots to claim a playoff bye. When Seattle has a bye they tend to make the Super Bowl.

Between 2012 and 2015, three different teams won the NFC West with the division overall sporting a record of 148-106-2. In that same period, New England finished 12-4 every year and the AFC East was a combined 134-122 (with 48 of the wins coming solely from New England). In the last 16 seasons, the Patriots have won the division every time apart from 2008 (when they lost out despite having the same 11-5 record as Miami). Alternatively the NFC West has been won by Seattle eight times, the Rams three times, Arizona three times and San Francisco twice. All four teams have reached the Super Bowl.

If the Seahawks finish 10-6 again this year and don’t win a Championship — there’d be no need for a post mortem on a wasted year. The 2020 off-season might be the most exciting in Seattle since Carroll and John Schneider arrived in 2010. They rarely have so much cap room and draft stock and they already possess a competitive roster.

While a 3-1 start is impressive and encouraging, they’ve also won three games against teams with a combined 1-10-1 record. It’d likely be worse if the winless Bengals and Steelers hadn’t played each other on Monday. It’s also worth remembering how narrow their victories were against Cincinnati (one point) and Pittsburgh (two points).

In their only serious test so far they crumbled against New Orleans. It could be that type of season. There’ll be some exhilarating moments just as we saw against Green Bay and Kansas City a year ago. There will also be some days to forget.

In 2018 they played two games against the Rams that could’ve easily gone either way. That may well be the case in the two games this season. Thursday might be a coin-flip — a shoot-out determined by who makes the key play or two in the fourth quarter.

When you look across the schedule though, it shows a series of games that could equally go either way. A trip to Cleveland to face a Browns team capable of brilliance or nonsense. A home game against the inconsistent Ravens. A trip to Atlanta to face a Falcons team who are all over the place but Seattle hasn’t ever really had an answer for Julio Jones when they’ve met previously (27 catches, 327 yards, two touchdowns in four games) and they’ve given up an average of 28 points per game in the last seven meetings between the teams. They have to go to LA, Philadelphia and Carolina. They’ve got two games against a better-than-expected 49ers team. They also get to cross swords with old nemesis Bruce Arians and Tampa Bay.

The Seahawks will win some of those games. They’ll also lose some. It’s a tough looking schedule. Six or seven wins between now and the end of the year would actually be an achievement — especially if it ends in a playoff berth.

If they can beat the Rams on Thursday it might even be enough to launch a NFC West challenge. It’s a stronger division this year with three teams capable of taking wins from each other. Head-to-head records will be vital.

If the Seahawks win on Thursday they’ll claim first blood in that regard. So even if 9-to-11 wins is the destiny regardless — this weeks game is still crucial.

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Draft notes on a quartet of players

October 1st, 2019 | Written by Rob Staton

Just a few thoughts on players I’ve been watching this week…

Shaun Wade (CB, Ohio State)
Sometimes a player just jumps off the screen and wows you. Wade had that impact for me. He’s essentially Ohio State’s #3 cornerback and plays in the slot. That’s no review of his performance though. The outside spots are occupied by likely top-12 pick Jeff Okudah and Damon Arnette (who could also go in the top-45).

He’s only a redshirt sophomore and with Okudah and Arnette heading to the NFL in 2020, he might prefer to stay another year for an opportunity to be the #1 corner on the team. However, based on what he’s shown already in his young career, he looks like a future high pick.

Wade’s well sized at 6-1 and 194lbs. He looks every bit the former elite 5-star recruit from 2017. It’s a shame he didn’t do the SPARQ workouts. Okudah (142.56) and J.K. Dobbins (146.76) both excelled. Indeed Ohio State have loaded their team with top SPARQ testers recently and it’s showing with the way they’re outclassing teams in terms of speed and explosive ability.

He’s exceptional in coverage even when he’s assigned difficult 1v1 tasks in space. He absolutely hammers as a hitter when he’s given an opportunity. As a freshman he had three interceptions. This year he’s added some blitz ability and he’s a sure tackler — recording a sack and two TFL’s. Wade has a fantastic combination of short-area quickness, recovery speed, ball-tracking and he can be physical.

It’s incredible to think Ohio State might have three first round cornerbacks on their roster. Everyone hope for a playoff game between Alabama and Ohio State. Imagine Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs and DeVonta Smith vs Jeff Okudah, Damon Arnette and Shaun Wade — with the likely #1 overall pick throwing the passes.

Wade may or may not declare but I’m putting him in the top-20 of my next mock.

Ashtyn Davis (S, California)
I’ve been searching for safety’s this year. It’s a weak crop. LSU’s Grant Delpit could go in the top-five. Clemson’s Isaiah Simmons could be a high pick too (although some teams might move him to linebacker). After that there’s a real dearth of alternatives.

The Seahawks could use a playmaker in the secondary. We know they don’t spend big on cornerbacks so the likelihood of a big addition (free agent or high pick) is unlikely there. They’ve invested plenty of picks at safety without any real long term solutions emerging. Hopefully Marquise Blair can grow into a starter. Bradley McDougald remains their best tone-setter, leader and playmaker in the secondary.

Adding a ball-hawk with range and proven production would be a boost this off-season.

Their best bet honestly might be a trade. The more I search in this draft class the harder it is to find options. Players could still emerge. The team might have their eye on someone. I recently had a look to see if Ashtyn Davis was an option but I came away unconvinced.

There’s no doubt he has flashes of quality. He had a couple of really athletic interceptions against Colorado last season. He had four picks in total in 2018 but is yet to get his first in 2019. There are also some decent hits when you look through his highlights videos. Certainly if you watch the best-bits you’d come away excited. However, on tape I thought he looked passive for the most part. He’s quick rather than rangy and there’s little evidence that he’ll be a big tester at the combine. There wasn’t a great deal to get excited about.

This isn’t to say he shouldn’t be applauded. He’s gone from being a walk-on to a starter at California and that deserves major credit. You need a bit more than just that to become a quality, playmaking NFL safety though. There just aren’t that many in the league. Try and name ten great safety’s currently playing in the NFL. It isn’t easy. I’m not sure Davis is much more than a late-round flier in the next draft, despite a lot of positive publicity recently.

DeVonta Smith (WR, Alabama)
Everyone talks about Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs at Alabama but it’s time people started talking about Smith. Especially Seahawks fans. Watching him you can just imagine Seattle’s front office loving his competitiveness, quickness and catching technique.

Every time I’ve watched Alabama this season he’s stood out. He’s practically unstoppable on slants. He’s an excellent hands-catcher. He has a burst of acceleration to separate and when he has the ball in his hands he can round corners and explode away from potential tacklers.

On Saturday I noted that he set a school record with 274 receiving yards. He broke Amari Cooper’s record from 2014. He also scored five touchdowns — another school record. With the five scores he also showed off his range of abilities. Smith took a slant 74-yards for a score. He had TD’s on a crossing route with some YAC and a pass into the flat. His fourth touchdown was a deep post. His final score was a great sideline grab running towards the end zone.

This was a message to the NFL — ‘I can do it all‘.

At SPARQ he ran a 4.13 short shuttle and jumped a 35-inch vertical. I’m not sure he won’t work his way into the first round discussion. At the very least it’s time to start talking about him in the top-50. He’s a very talented receiver. And as I mentioned earlier — don’t be surprised if he ends up on Seattle’s radar. With a first round pick and two second round picks, it makes sense that at least one of those selections goes on a receiver or tight end (Hunter Bryant anyone?).

Lamar Jackson (CB, Nebraska)
I had initially planned to write a glowing review for Jackson. He currently leads the nation with ten passes defended. He has an interception, three TFL’s, a sack and a forced fumble. He’s 6-3 and 215lbs. He’s a former four-star recruit and he jumped a 36-inch vertical at SPARQ.

When you look at him it’s hard not to be impressed. There are certainly plays on tape where he flashes some playmaking quality and he uses his size and length very well. However, just before I was ready to write that this was the guy we need to focus on for Seattle in the later rounds — I watched a couple of BIG-10 contests in detail. There were some turn-off moments too.

For starters — it’s great being 6-3 and 215lbs in some ways but at that size it’s inevitable there’s going to be some stiffness. In coverage at times he’s just not quick enough to stick and everything might have to be played in front. Teams will target him with faster receivers knowing he either offers a huge cushion or he might get beat over the top.

Secondly, there were a few moments where he got mixed up in coverage and appeared indecisive. There were also a couple of missed tackles. I was hoping at that size to see a few Brandon Browner-style hits to compensate for the extra size and the stiffness. It never really came.

Clearly he’s playing the ball well and making plays. I would urge all Seahawks fans to check him out if you can watch Nebraska. Yet to warrant serious consideration for Seattle he’s going to need to run at least in the 4.5’s and test reasonably well in the short shuttle. I fear he’s more of a 4.6 type if not slower. He has the numbers — physically and in terms of production. He’ll need the speed to match.

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Instant reaction: Seahawks dominate Cardinals

September 29th, 2019 | Written by Rob Staton

Last week was a debacle in the rain against the Saints. The Seahawks needed a get-right game. This was a routine win and exactly what was required.

The Cardinals are rebuilding with a complete makeover. They’re experimenting with a coach and an offensive philosophy. They have an extremely talented, playmaking quarterback who’s learning on the hoof.

They’re not particularly strong in any facet of the game. Seattle’s defense, running game and special teams were going to get ample opportunity to get back on track.

Job done.

Russell Wilson continued his fast start. The quarterback, like the team, has been a slow starter in the past. This feels like Wilson’s best start to a season. His touch is immaculate, his accuracy on point and he’s playing at a fantastic level.

Will Dissly is a major positive. He was drafted with a reputation for safe hands and quality blocking. He’s proving to be so much more. His ability to find soft-spots in coverage and hurt opponents is a major boost. He’s playing like the complete tight end they hoped Jimmy Graham would turn into. Fingers crossed he stays healthy because he’s doing a fine job as a playmaker and safety net — in many ways making up for the loss of Doug Baldwin.

If they were hoping for another Zach Miller — Dissly is showing the potential to be even better. Fingers crossed he stays healthy. It was even more poignant today given this is the stadium where he suffered his serious knee injury a year ago.

Tyler Lockett remains a top-level receiver and his chemistry with Wilson is a major feature of this offense. D.K. Metcalf has had a good start to his pro-career but he can still make more of his size to box-out smaller receivers. There were a couple of 50-50 situations where he missed out. Julio Jones wins those battles. You don’t mention Julio lightly but that’s the type of physical upside Metcalf has. With Lockett, Dissly and potentially Metcalf if he takes the next step — you’re talking about an incredibly balanced and dynamic passing attack.

The running game has stalled so far but today was always set up for positive gains. Arizona has been struggling to defend the run. It felt like they had a better day than they actually did. 115 yards from 27 carries at 4.3 YPC isn’t anything special. It’s a start though. Chris Carson needed a good day and he finished with 104 yards rushing and 41 receiving. More importantly — he didn’t fumble.

They finished the game with an eight-minute drive.

Defensively it was nice to see a few more plays being made. Rasheem Green had his best game as a pro and hopefully he can gain momentum from this. His sack on Murray in the first half where he stalked him in open space, changed direction and dropped him for a big loss was an amazing display of athleticism. He’s always had that in his locker. Let’s hope he builds on this.

Jadeveon Clowney had an excellent pick-six. Ziggy Ansah finished the game with a sack. Mychal Kendricks, for the first time this year, operated as an effective blitzer and had a couple of sacks. He can do more of that. Shaquille Griffin had a couple of smart break-ups.

Without wanting to tempt fate, Jason Myers deserves a lot of credit for the way he’s played so far.

Overall it was a good, solid win against a team they should beat. There’s only one grumble today…

It’s practically impossible to avoid Twitter during a game. It’s too tempting. Yet it’s also at its absolute worst during a Seahawks game.

The amount of complaining that goes on is unbelievable. A case in point. The Seahawks were leading by 17 points and then, while on offense, were flagged for a penalty. It led to 2nd and 20 in their own half.

They threw to Chris Carson for a five yard gain. A short pass to Will Dissly followed and they were forced to punt.

Immediately there were tweets moaning about ‘playing for the punt’, ‘playing scared’ and ‘not going for the throat’. Those only increased when the Cardinals subsequently scored on a drive that was extended by multiple generous penalty flags including a ridiculous holding call on Tre Flowers.

Apparently it wasn’t enough to have a handsome two-score lead in a divisional contest that was well in control. This needed to be a hammering. The fact they weren’t throwing downfield trying to score on 2nd and 20 with a 17 point lead wasn’t good enough.

What happened, guys?

When did football become a never-ending analysis of what a team should do? Has being right become more important than mere enjoyment of watching your team? Especially during what ended up being a straight-forward victory?

They won 27-10. Yet because in that one scenario — needing 20 yards on 2nd down deep in their own half — people were criticising Pete Carroll and Brian Schottenheimer for not playing aggressively (despite throwing on both downs).

Have a bloody day off and just watch the game.

Other notes…

— Given everything awful that has happened in Arizona’s stadium, it’s quite something that Seattle extended their recent run to 6-0-1 there against the Cardinals.

— The Seahawks and Cardinals weirdly had the same number of pass completions (22), sacks (4), total plays (59), penalties (7) and rushing yards today (115).

— Thursday night, if it’s anything like the two games in 2018, will be a shoot-out. It’ll be interesting to see how the Seahawks play the Rams. New England lined up safety’s at the LOS to deal with the sweeps and misdirection. They also adjusted their coverages before the snap to confuse Jared Goff (who still receives the majority of his coverage reads from Sean McVay). Will the Seahawks mimic some of this? It felt like they were against the Bengals (coached by a McVay disciple) in a ‘practise run’ but they ended up giving up a career yardage day to Andy Dalton. They have more tape on the Rams so might return to it. Or they might just play their way and see if Wilson can outgun Goff.

— The NFC is wide open. We’ve seen so many strange games so far. The Lions, arguably, should be 4-0. They aren’t because they collapsed against this Arizona team to tie. Then they played Kansas City about as well as possible without actually winning. The Eagles lost to the Lions one week then beat the unbeaten Packers on the road the next. Atlanta put themselves in a hole every week by half-time. Drew Brees is injured for the Saints. The Panthers are playing better without Cam Newton. The Bears won today without Chase Daniel at quarterback against a Minnesota team who should be a lot better than they are. The 49ers are unbeaten yet the Rams gave up 54 points in a loss at home to the Buccs (who lost at home to the Giants last week). Dallas are the only team playing consistently well at the moment. Yep, wide open.

— Gardner Minshew. How can you resist the bandwagon? He’s just too much fun.

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CFB week 5 notes: DeVonta Smith is really good

September 28th, 2019 | Written by Rob Staton

Alabama’s DeVonta Smith is exceptionally talented

Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs get all the attention at Alabama. Rightly so too, they’re both terrific players. Jeudy is lean and glides as a runner. He makes contested catches, gets downfield and he has YAC value. Ruggs is reportedly destined to run a 4.2 at the combine and does an excellent job extending to catch the football away from his body.

DeVonta Smith is the third wheel but he too warrants high praise.

Every time I’ve watched Alabama this season he’s stood out. He’s extremely dynamic and sudden and he’s practically unstoppable on slants. He’s an excellent hands-catcher. He has a burst of acceleration to separate and when he has the ball in his hands he can round corners and explode away from potential tacklers.

Against Ole Miss he set school records with eleven catches for 274 yards and FIVE touchdowns. Amari Cooper previously held the single-game yardage mark with 224 set twice (vs Tennessee & Auburn in 2014). The five scores were also a school record on a day Tua Tagovailoa also topped the mark for overall career touchdowns for Alabama.

Smith took a slant 74-yards for a score. He had TD’s on a crossing route with some YAC and a pass into the flat. His fourth touchdown was a deep post. His final score was a great sideline grab running towards the end zone. He basically showed he can score in every way possible in one single game.

At SPARQ he ran a 4.13 short shuttle and jumped a 35-inch vertical. He’s competitive, quick and catches well. If he turns pro after this season, keep an eye on him for the Seahawks. He looks like their type of receiver. Henry Ruggs left the game with a serious looking injury so fingers crossed he’s OK.

On the defensive side of the ball for Alabama, Trevon Diggs is the kind of defensive back the Seahawks could use. He’s tremendously athletic, physical and he tracks the ball well. He’s Stefon Diggs’ brother. He’s also a really good kick returner and had a 36-yard return in the 59-31 hammering of Ole Miss.

Elsewhere…

— On the subject of wide outs, CeeDee Lamb had seven catches for 185 yards and three touchdowns as Oklahoma beat Texas Tech 55-16. Lamb, Jeudy, Ruggs and Smith are just four of a great looking set of receivers for the 2020 draft. The Seahawks seem to have struck gold with D.K. Metcalf and hopefully John Ursua will eventually work his way into a role. Given the talent available at the position in the 2020 class, it’d be a surprise if the Seahawks didn’t tap into the group.

— One other player they could take a long look at is Washington tight end Hunter Bryant. The Huskies are developing a reputation for producing quality tight ends. Very few people talked about Will Dissly and Drew Sample during their final seasons at Washington but both significantly boosted their stock during the off-season and went in the fourth and second round respectively. The Seahawks will certainly need to add at least one tight end for next season. Bryant had a fantastic run and catch for yet another explosive play against USC. He finished with 49 yards on four receptions. He did have a fumble on a botched pitch. He’d be an excellent compliment to Dissly as a move-tight end capable of attacking the seam and creating mismatches. He catches the ball extremely well with strong hands and he’s very athletic. It’d be a surprise if the Seahawks didn’t have their eye on him.

— Jonathan Taylor had 119 yards on 26 carries plus a touchdown as Wisconsin beat Northwestern 24-15. He also had three catches for 15 yards. He can be a featured back and although he lacks top-level explosive athleticism or acceleration — he’s decently good at everything. He can cut, he can run with authority to get the hard yards, he’s not a slouch in the open-field. He has a very good chance to go in the top-50. It’s surprising that Wisconsin don’t feature tight end Jake Ferguson more in the passing game. He had a really good SPARQ score and is a terrific athlete capable of being more than a mere blocker. Some thought he could boost his stock into the early rounds this year.

— Clemson had a real battle against an energised North Carolina team today (and won by a point). Trevor Lawrence was rattled. He still managed to find Tee Higgins for a vital fourth quarter touchdown. Higgins finished with 129 yards on six receptions and a score. Add Higgins’ name to the long list of excellent receiver prospects. Isaiah Simmons had a big sack for a loss of 11-yards. He blitzed from the second level and blew up the attempted block by the running back for the sack. He also had multiple TFL’s. Is he a safety or a linebacker? He might be better at linebacker. Travis Etienne ran for 67 yards on 14 carries.

— I’ve never understood the first round talk surrounding Iowa pass rusher A.J. Epenesa. Where did it come from? He was spelled constantly last year and even in his better games there wasn’t that much to get excited about. This year he has one sack in four games. He had two tackles and a deflected pass only in a 48-3 win over Middle Tennessee today.

— Jeffery Okudah (CB, Ohio State) is showing why he’s the top cornerback in this class. He has great size, outstanding athleticism (he was a top SPARQ prospect) and he does everything. Against Nebraska he’s making jarring open-field tackles and jumped a route to make an interception. His second pick came after he slipped to the turf and showed great reflexes to catch a tipped pass while lying on his back. The Seahawks would surely love to have a player like Okudah. It’s a shame he’ll go in the top-10. Shaun Wade is another talented Ohio State cornerback. He’s a former five-star recruit and can play nickel or outside corner. Like Okudah he has size and is a willing tackler. He’s eligible for the 2020 draft but might stick around as a redshirt sophomore.

I’ll update this post with the later games shortly.

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Trying to find solutions in the BAMF department

September 25th, 2019 | Written by Rob Staton

Jamal Adams might be more strong safety than free but he brings the heat

This has been BAMF week on the blog. I’m not going to keep going over the same subject but I do think this is a warranted discussion based on what we’ve seen after three games. The Seahawks have failed to impose their will on any of their opponents so far and they’ve essentially had a harrowing loss to the Saints and two narrow wins against a pair of teams with a combined 0-6 record.

They will always have the potential of an explosive, playmaking offense with Russell Wilson under center. What they’re missing is a compliment. As noted yesterday, the Rams pair a highly efficient offense with the game-wrecking ability of Aaron Donald. The Patriots have Tom Brady on offense and the greatest defensive schemer for a Head Coach.

Teams used to fear playing the Seahawks. Since the start of the 2017 season they’re only 11-7 at Century Link Field. That’s astonishing. It would’ve been unthinkable a few years ago.

They’re just not that scary any more.

They aren’t the bully. Not since Marshawn Lynch and Kam Chancellor, plus several others, departed. They need to get that back.

It’s still early in the season and things can change. Marquise Blair will, hopefully, deliver a fear factor to the secondary when he eventually comes into the team. He was drafted to provide hits. That’s badly needed right now.

Chris Carson hasn’t become a bad player overnight. He’s still a terrific, explosive and powerful runner. As long as he sorts this fumbling issue out he can deliver the running game required to help knit everything together. He also needs help from the O-line which has so far been more talk than results.

If things don’t change, however, the Seahawks will face an off-season where they have a haul of picks (enhanced further with the Nick Vannett-to-Pittsburgh trade for a fifth rounder) and an estimated $75-80m to spend in cap space.

Back in 2011 they needed free agency to give things a jolt. They spent big on Sidney Rice, Zach Miller and Robert Gallery. The results were mixed but it was an act of aggression to add talent following the lockout. The Seahawks have enough money to similarly be pro-active in 2020 if that ends up being necessary.

I don’t want to jump too far ahead and understandably you might respond to this article by saying it’s too soon to have this conversation. A big win against Arizona on Sunday will right the ship and the mood in Seattle will flip completely if they’re 3-1 and preparing to host the Rams.

That said — I think a conversation like this after a game like the Saints loss can be a good thing. Who wants to linger on that game anyway?

I also wrote before the season started that the reset wasn’t complete. It felt like they needed another off-season to take a further step forwards. This could well be the step they need to take.

(If you missed it yesterday here’s my first 2020 mock draft of the season)

I spent last night trying to find safety’s in this draft who make big plays or deliver big hits and the options are severely limited. The best overall player in the 2020 class might be a safety (Grant Delpit) but after that it’s slim pickings. There are cornerbacks with major talent, ball-skills and physicality (Trevon Diggs, Jeffrey Okudah, Kristian Fulton) but they all might be high picks — and this is a position the Seahawks have traditionally avoided until later on.

If they want to enhance their physicality in the draft in the early rounds the best options might be on the O-line and D-line. There are a cluster of aggressive, large offensive linemen such as Isaiah Wilson, Tyler Biadasz, Prince Tega Wanogho, Lucas Niang, Tristan Wirfs and Trey Adams. There are also big, physical defensive linemen such as Derrick Brown, Raekwon Davis and Javon Kinlaw.

In terms of free agency and the trade market, I’ve been trying to find some options.

The Seahawks need playmakers and tone-setters in the secondary. Jamal Adams increasingly appears dissatisfied in New York. He was strangely benched after a misplay against Cleveland and there seems to be a growing disconnect between the staff and player.

A trade this season is a stretch but the Jets have a new GM/coach combo. They didn’t draft Adams and safety is one of the few positions where the Jets have some depth. They need to build around Sam Darnold and might be prepared to sacrifice a good player at the end of the year to get more stock — especially with a good looking draft class at receiver and offensive line.

Given Seattle’s need and the distinct lack of safety talent eligible for 2020, this wouldn’t be a bad consideration. It’d be costly — at least a first round pick — but Adams only turns 24 in October. He would offer the physicality and leadership they require and he was a significant playmaker at LSU.

The only issue is Adams is not a rangy free safety and is more suited to the strong safety role presumably saved for Marquise Blair. A combo of Adams and Blair is an intriguing thought though if they can be interchangeable. They’d certainly pack a punch.

If a trade for Jamal Adams isn’t possible, Oakland’s Karl Joseph is a free agent in 2020. I can’t recall seeing a bigger hitter in college in the 11 years I’ve been writing this blog. He was an absolute sledgehammer and a playmaker. He could also cover, lined up 1v1 against Sterling Shepard at Oklahoma and it wasn’t a surprise he ended up being a top-15 pick in 2016.

After a tough start to his pro-career he’s settled in with the Raiders. They drafted Johnathan Abram this year and it’s possible Joseph will move on. If that’s the case, the Seahawks could take a look. They need a bit of this…

The Seahawks need some dogs too. They need guys who are a little unhinged. Marcus Peters made a lot of headlines in Kansas City. He’s been a lot quieter with the Rams. He’s also a free agent in the off-season. He could be retained by LA — but would you be willing to roll the dice on his talent to get a player you know is a very capable playmaker at cornerback who brings the heat every week?

Everson Griffen will likely be a cap casualty in the off-season. He’s ageing but still effective and could provide a veteran presence if they don’t keep Jadeveon Clowney and/or Ziggy Ansah. Vic Beasley and Yannick Ngakoue are also free agents. They might be costly but could provide some complimentary quickness to the rush that is currently lacking.

If they’re going to keep any of their own free agents — the best bet remains Jarran Reed. They’re missing what he brings in terms of toughness and physicality. He might end up being an even more important player to keep based on what we’ve seen from the team so far.

The absolutely best possible move would be for the Jaguars to cut Calais Campbell in order to create $15m in cap space and for the Seahawks to finally fulfil their destiny and have Campbell anchor their D-line next to Reed, rotating in with Poona Ford.

Again, let’s hope Chris Carson gets back on track. He has the talent and running style to lead this team for years. Thomas Rawls was the future once, however. So it’s important Carson moves on from this difficult start.

The fact they spent a first round pick on Rashaad Penny also factors in. Does he get an opportunity to take Carson’s job if he doesn’t rekindle his best form? And can Penny stay healthy?

If — and I accept it’s a big if — they want to try and repeat the Marshawn Lynch trade, there are a couple of options.

It hasn’t worked for Leonard Fournette in Jacksonville. It seems he’s faced some of the same issues as Jalen Ramsey and a parting appeared likely at one point a year ago. Now he’s stuck in an offense that wiped away the running game in Minnesota in 2018.

Fournette was a incredible prospect at LSU and that’s why he went in the top five. In the right environment I still think he could thrive. Lynch’s face didn’t fit in Buffalo but he became a legend in Seattle. Could the same happen for Fournette?

It’ll also be interesting to see what happens with Melvin Gordon in Los Angeles. He’s not quite the physical force Fournette is but he’s had a lot more success in the league. A divorce with the Chargers seems unavoidable. It’s just a question of whether he walks as a free agent, via a tag-and-trade scenario or if he’s dealt before the trade deadline.

Hopefully neither move is necessary but it’s something to consider given the importance Carroll places on the running game and the struggles at the start of this season.

If they want to look outside for an offensive tackle, Jack Conklin is a free agent in 2020. He’s not lived up to expectations at Tennessee as a former #8 overall pick and the Titans declined his fifth year option.

Here’s how a NFC North scout described him pre-draft:

“That is a dude, right there. He was busting up Ohio State in the fourth quarter of that game not because he was more talented than those guys but because he just wanted it more. He’s tougher than old beef jerky. He fits in our division.”

If they move on from Germain Ifedi and/or George Fant and don’t draft a replacement, we’ve seen them take on reclamation projects in the past. Conklin could be an option.

The issue with all of the suggestions above is they’re all big names or former high draft picks. That’s not how the Seahawks built their Super Bowl team. They signed players who’d been disrespected or ignored. Players falling into the mid-to-late rounds of the draft, players left unsigned in free agency. The only real splurge they had was the post-lockout spend on Sidney Rice, Zach Miller and co.

I can write out names like this but the reality is they probably need to find some of the missing grit, determination and passion to prove people wrong. That might be as important as the need for physicality. Have some of their recent draft picks truly arrived on a mission to make it? They might be good players but were they pissed off for greatness, as we used to say about Richard Sherman and others?

The Seahawks have really good players. They have an exceptional quarterback. Whether they have the ‘edge’ to be great — that’s the big question.

If you have any further suggestions, let me know in the comments section.

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The first 2020 mock draft of the season

September 24th, 2019 | Written by Rob Staton

Georgia’s Isaiah Wilson is 6-7 and about 340lbs

We’re only three games into the season and it’s still a little early to determine what the Seahawks key needs will be in the off-season.

However, three areas stand out at the moment:

1. Playmaking and physicality in the secondary

2. Replacing prospective free agents on the defensive line

3. Replacing prospective free agents on the offensive line

More importantly though, as discussed already this week, something is seriously missing in the BAMF department.

Teams used to hate coming to Seattle. They had to face Marshawn Lynch and Kam Chancellor. How often did an opponent play the Seahawks and nearly always lose the following week? Remember when we used to talk about that? Seattle beat other teams up. They were the toughest team in the league.

Everything played off the attitude, intensity and fear factor of that duo. Granted they were supported well by other players who were a mix of supremely talented and gritty. The addition of Russell Wilson at quarterback was the final piece of the puzzle.

I do think you need more than one factor though, beyond just the quarterback, to succeed. That’s perhaps where the Seahawks currently suffer. Wilson has developed into a fantastic quarterback and the focal point of the team. Is he supported well enough though?

Sean McVay’s offense is electric. Yet teams are absolutely scared to death at the prospect of facing Aaron Donald. Take away Donald and the Rams are nowhere near the same force. The dynamic offense plus Donald is a winning combo.

New England has Tom Brady. They also have Bill Belichick who game plans on defense better than anyone. Look what he did to stymie the Rams in the Super Bowl. He’s a master tactician and the two have enjoyed unrivalled success as a consequence.

The Chiefs have Patrick Mahomes and based on what we’ve seen so far, he could turn into the greatest quarterback to ever play the game. I suspect, however, he won’t convert that to Championship’s until he’s complimented in some way. The Chiefs are trying to build up their defense. If they trade for Jalen Ramsey to go with Frank Clark and Tyrann Mathieu — would you bet against them winning it all this year? Without a great defense, are they going to face the same fate against New England in the playoffs that they suffered last season?

Wilson’s in the same boat. He can’t do it alone, no matter how talented he is. He helped the Seahawks to win a Super Bowl alongside the intensity brought by Lynch and Chancellor. Given Pete Carroll’s chosen philosophy and style of play, they need that back. They don’t have it. No turnovers, no big hits, no real imposing of will.

We’ve only had three games so there’s still time for players to emerge, grow and develop into long term pieces on this (still) re-setting team. It’d be wrong for me or anyone else to make final judgements on this roster so early in the season. Yet I feel somewhat confident this is a need we’ll be talking about for most of the year.

Identifying the players to help fill this need won’t be easy. Who could’ve realistically projected fifth round safety Kam Chancellor would be so integral months before he was drafted? How many of us thought it’d be possible to acquire Marshawn Lynch for a fourth round pick and a bag of football’s?

The Seahawks had a knack of finding the right guys in the early years under Carroll and Schneider. Chris Clemons, Richard Sherman, Brandon Browner. The way they found a role for Red Bryant because he added so much in terms of personality and toughness. Breno Giacomini at right tackle. They didn’t become the toughest team in the league with first round picks. They found these players in so many different ways.

Now they have to repeat that, some how.

They don’t need a team of physical tone-setters either. Lynch connected the offense and defense practically single-handed. Chancellor was the godfather of the defense. If it was the right player, it might only take one addition to bring back some of that brutality and connect everything again.

Let’s go back to the specific positional needs as we assess the situation today.

1. Playmaking and physicality in the secondary

Last season the Seahawks didn’t have enough turnovers in the secondary. Earl Thomas and Justin Coleman combined for four interceptions and have since departed. Bradley McDougald had three picks. Shaquill Griffin had two (both in the same game against Chicago) and Tedric Thompson caught a Hail Mary.

In three games so far, the Seahawks have had only one interception — Bradley McDougald’s on a botched attempt at a catch by Donte Moncrief.

They need help from the pass rush for sure. It’s also difficult to force mistakes when you spot an opponent 20 points like the Seahawks did on Sunday. Yet something is still missing in the secondary. It’s unrealistic to expect the second coming of the LOB. They need to be better than this, though.

There’s no hitting, no playmaking and nobody helping to set a tone. Marquise Blair was drafted to provide some of this and hopefully sooner rather than later he’ll be ready to play. It might even be worth him taking some lumps over the coming weeks to learn on the fly — just to get the hits he provides. There needs to be some fear factor for opponents.

Even if Blair becomes a starter, they’ll still need more. At cornerback and safety.

According to Mike Garafolo, a big trade for Jalen Ramsey is unlikely:

This seems like a good draft class for cornerbacks. There are several that could go in the top-45. The Seahawks haven’t entertained the possibility of a high pick at corner though. The scheme is supposed to make the position interchangeable. Plug-in-and-play. Yet without a top safety, the cornerbacks are more exposed.

The safety class at the moment doesn’t look as strong. LSU’s Grant Delpit will go in the top five or six picks. Isaiah Simmons will also likely go in round one but he’s a bigger strong safety and surely they have that role earmarked for Marquise Blair. After that, there aren’t currently any obvious first or second round alternatives.

It’ll be interesting to see how they approach this but we need to closely monitor the defensive backs in college football this season — especially those making big plays and playing with physicality. This is an area that must be addressed one way or another in the off-season barring a big turnaround in the coming weeks. They’ve tried to draft and develop cheaper players to replace the LOB and it just hasn’t happened.

2. Replacing prospective free agents on the defensive line

Jarran Reed is yet to sign a new contract while Jadeveon Clowney and Ziggy Ansah are both on short term deals. It’s too early to say whether any or all will be kept. Clowney has had a quiet start with only a few flashes. It’d be unfair to judge Ansah on his limited performance against New Orleans but he’s already missed two games and he doesn’t have time to settle into top form if he’s going to earn a longer deal. Reed is suspended and will be a difficult re-sign given the potential cost of keeping him after 2018’s 10.5 sack season.

They’ll hope L.J. Collier and Rasheem Green continue to develop. It’s still hard to imagine Green turning into a dynamic force for this team based on what he’s shown so far. He’s making slow progress and they’ll need to see a jump eventually. It’s too soon to judge Collier but having invested a first round pick in him they’ll want him to turn into a starter. Quinton Jefferson has had a good start to the 2019 season.

It’s a massive shame they couldn’t sign Calais Campbell when he left Arizona to go to Jacksonville.

The Seahawks have a projected $75-80m in cap space for 2020 so they’ll have room to make additions. Yannick Ngakoue and Leonard Williams are big name free agents but will likely cost mega money. Von Miller and Everson Griffen are possible cap casualties. It feels like they need some proven experience.

Hopefully Clowney can take a step forward and warrant consideration for a long term deal. He’s at a great age and he has everything physically. He needs to start impacting games though.

3. Replacing prospective free agents on the offensive line

Germain Ifedi, George Fant and Mike Iupati are all free agents in 2020. We’ll see what the Seahawks decide to do there. Fant could be retained modestly given his limited starting experience. Phil Haynes could be the long term successor for Iupati. They’ve opted to go for veteran experience on short term deals recently so that’ll likely be reviewed again. However, with some decent right tackle options eligible for the 2020 draft they could invest a high pick at the position if Ifedi moves on.

Onto the mock draft. Don’t pay too much attention to team needs at this point.

#1 Miami — Tua Tagovailoa (QB, Alabama)
Some teams think conventionally. Tua is the favourite to go #1 overall but rightly or wrongly some teams won’t want a 5-11, left handed quarterback.

#2 New York Jets — Andrew Thomas (T, Georgia)
Supremely balanced and consistent — Thomas looks the part of a NFL left tackle. His footwork is superb and he anchors brilliantly.

#3 Cincinnati — Justin Herbert (QB, Oregon)
Tall, mobile and with a strong arm. Herbert has all the qualities teams look for — he just needs refinement and the right scheme to flourish.

#4 Miami (via Pittsburgh) — Grant Delpit (S, LSU)
Arguably the top draft eligible player for 2020. Delpit has the range and tenacity to play safety and the ball-skills, recovery speed and athleticism to play corner.

#5 Denver — Jeffrey Okudah (CB, Ohio State)
He will destroy the combine and was a 142.56 athlete at SPARQ. Sticky in coverage but packs a punch as an open-field tackler.

#6 Washington — Jerry Jeudy (WR, Alabama)
Lean, sudden and can beat you in a number of ways. Jeudy is capable of getting downfield to make the big explosive play but he’s equally adept on WR screens.

#7 Arizona — Tristan Wirfs (T, Iowa)
If you can lift 450lbs in the hang clean, breaking the Iowa record by Brandon Scherff, NFL teams will take notice. He also jumps a 35-inch vertical and a 9-5 broad.

#8 Cleveland — Chase Young (DE, Ohio State)
Super-quick edge rusher who’s flashed for a couple of years. Will need to test well to max-out his stock and measurable’s will be important.

#9 Jacksonville — Derrick Brown (DT, Auburn)
Physical, tone-setting defensive lineman with the size, stoutness, quickness and ability to penetrate with speed or power. He can play any down/distance.

#10 Oakland — Dylan Moses (LB, Alabama)
Talent-wise he’s a sure-fire top-10 pick but there is some doubt after he suffered an ACL injury. He’s in the Devin White and Roquan Smith mould.

#11 LA Chargers — Jordan Love (QB, Utah State)
Capable of making all sorts of throws on the run and has the arm/mobility that will appeal to teams looking for the next Mahomes or Murray.

#12 Tennessee — Trevon Diggs (CB, Alabama)
Incredibly competitive cornerback who does an excellent job tracking the ball and breaking up passes. Highly athletic but with an injury history. Stefon Diggs’ brother.

#13 Atlanta — Raekwon Davis (DT, Alabama)
Playing under the pressure of expectation at Alabama but the fact is he’s a mean, highly athletic 6-7 and 305lbs defender whose best football is still to come.

#14 New York Giants — Tee Higgins (WR, Clemson)
Incredibly smooth, quick and reliable. Clemson receivers are always well coached and Higgins looks the part of a productive NFL receiver.

#15 Tampa Bay — Javon Kinlaw (DT, South Carolina)
He’s +300lbs but carries minimal body fat. His ability to convert speed-to-power is incredible and he dominated Alabama’s O-line at times last week.

#16 Carolina — Walker Little (T, Stanford)
Has suffered a season-ending injury. Ran a 4.40 short shuttle at SPARQ and scored an overall 107.25 (the top score by an offensive lineman in 2016).

#17 Philadelphia — D’Andre Swift (RB, Georgia)
A big play threat with the power to get the hard yards. He looks like Dalvin Cook but with more explosive power and quicker acceleration.

#18 Oakland (via Chicago) — Isaiah Simmons (S, Clemson)
Will be valued for his leadership and ability to make plays dropping in coverage or operating at or near the LOS. A tone setter.

#19 Seattle — Isaiah Wilson (T, Georgia)
He’s 6-7 and 340lbs but carries it very well. Great length and power at the point of attack and capable of driving big running lanes.

#20 Minnesota — Prince Tega Wanogho (T, Auburn)
Very much a right tackle prospect who lacks the foot-speed and drop to be a great pass blocker but he delivers a great punch and has value as a run blocker.

#21 Indianapolis — Travis Etienne (RB, Clemson)
Highly explosive running back with a similar running style to C.J. Spiller minus the elite track speed. Can be a X-factor at the position.

#22 Baltimore — Tyler Biadasz (C, Wisconsin)
Blocking form is inconsistent. He leans too much and defenders often jump back so he loses balance. When he locks on he can control linemen.

#23 New Orleans — Laviska Shenault Jr (WR, Colorado)
Has been slow to get going this season but at his best he’s a swiss-army knife in the Percy Harvin mould. Imagine him in the Saints’ offense.

#24 Detroit — Kristian Fulton (CB, LSU)
Big, physical cornerback who tracks the ball almost as well as Trevon Diggs. Despite his size Fulton does a job kicking inside to cover the slot.

#25 Miami (via Houston) — Lucas Niang (T, TCU)
Too upright and his footwork is poor leading to off-balance sets. However, he flashes athleticism and he recovers well. Not often beaten but technique needs refining.

#26 New England — Henry Ruggs (WR, Alabama)
Catches the ball well with outstretched arms and has a surprising catch-radius. Expected to run in the 4.2’s at the combine. Big-time playmaker.

#27 San Franciso — Jonathan Taylor (RB, Wisconsin)
Some of his cuts have to be seen to be believed and when he finds a crease he’s capable of going through the gears to turn a big play into a scoring play.

#28 Dallas — Jabari Zuniga (DE, Florida)
Typical Florida defensive end with a great combination of size and speed. Got off to a good start this season but left the game against Kentucky with an ankle injury.

#29 Buffalo — CeeDee Lamb (WR, Oklahoma)
Not quite at the level of some of the other receivers in this class but still very talented and capable of getting downfield to take the top off a defense.

#30 Green Bay — Najee Harris (RB, Alabama)
A dynamic athlete capable of running through arm-tackles and hurdling defenders. Has a burst of speed. Scored a spectacular touchdown against South Carolina.

#31 LA Rams — C.J. Henderson (CB, Florida)
Could be a dynamic nickel at the next level. His tackling is inconsistent but he’s a 4.3 runner in coverage. At SPARQ he ran a sensational 3.92 short shuttle.

#32 Kansas City — J.K. Dobbins (RB, Ohio State)
A SPARQ god who led the nation in 2016 with his 146.76 score. Has ideal size and athleticism and can get the tough yards and be a home-run hitter.

Thoughts on Seattle’s pick

Isaiah Wilson looks like their type of player for many reasons. He has incredible strength, length and power. He’s a good run-blocking tackle who drives defenders off the line and creates big running lanes. In pass-protection some of his drops are a little deep and he can improve by playing more inside-out. However, he’s extremely talented and if Germain Ifedi moves on they’ll need to look at their options. They’ll need those two second round picks to help produce talent in the secondary.

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The Seahawks are still trying to find the new ‘Beast Mode’

September 23rd, 2019 | Written by Rob Staton

For instant reaction thoughts after the New Orleans loss click here.

The Seahawks aren’t a finesse team. They might be a ‘wannabe’ though. Their desire is to be the bully. The reality is somewhat different.

In November 2014 I wrote the following:

Replacing (Marshawn) Lynch will be the toughest thing this franchise has to do in the post-Super Bowl era. You could argue running backs are easy to plug into an offense. How else can you describe 29-year-old Justin Forsett posting 5.4 yards-per-carry in Baltimore as the fourth most productive runner in the NFL? I think for most teams it’s a valid point. But not for Seattle. Not with Lynch.

He is so integral to this teams’ identity. He is a phenom, a truly unique runner that deserves to be remembered as fondly as any other running back since the turn of the century. His physical style, ability to break tackles, his attitude on the field. These are not easily replaced by just plugging in another player. The moment Seattle loses ‘Beast Mode’ the team will also lose a part of its identity. There’s no getting away from that.

Lynch is long gone in Seattle but his absence is still felt. They’re not just missing Marshawn’s exceptional running ability and talent. They miss the way he set the tone for everything and connected the offense to the defense.

It’s easy to forget how good Lynch was. Go back and watch the videos from 2011 onward. On a Mount Rushmore of Seahawks stars, he’d be a lock alongside Walter Jones.

He’s not the only one they miss. Kam Chancellor provided a similar dynamic on defense. Everything was geared around being bigger, faster, stronger and tougher than the opponent. Teams feared Marshawn and set up their defensive gameplan to stop him. Opponents feared Kam. Crossing routes? No thanks.

They were surrounded by an angry, pissed off, undermined group of misfits. Richard Sherman slighted by lasting to round five. Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril — failing to receive respect in free agency as they remained on the market in 2013.

The cumulative sum was a team so determined to prove a point both on the field and off. The Seahawks were the toughest team in the league. They were also the loudest — but they backed it up. The bark and the bite were equally strong.

Something is missing with the current team. There’s no doubt they’re talent rich. Russell Wilson is an exceptional quarterback. Bobby Wagner is the best linebacker in football. Tyler Lockett is incredible.

They also have a couple of extremely physical players such as K.J. Wright and Duane Brown plus some emerging young talent.

They’re not bullies though. They’re not scary. They’re not intimidating anyone. They’re not imposing their will.

Where’s the attitude? The fear factor? The intimidation?

The Seahawks have gone from the LOB to a much more welcoming environment in the secondary. The cornerbacks are no longer challenging routes and beating up receivers. Where are the turnovers and the hits? In the last 19 regular season games, Bradley McDougald consistently looks like the only one capable of making a pick or a big play.

This isn’t what you expect from a Carroll secondary. Clearly they need more talent and that will likely be a big emphasis in the off-season. They also need some dogs, too.

The reassuring thing is they clearly know it. They drafted Marquise Blair in the second round for this very reason. He’s a hitter. They know the secondary needs an edge. The quicker he gets up to speed and into the starting line-up the better.

It’s not just the secondary though. The front seven aren’t creating much pressure or challenging opponents. The secondary needs help.

On offense they want to run the ball but they can’t convert at home in the rain on 3rd & 1 or 4th & 1 from midfield. Chris Carson — who is capable of being a tone-setter and a dynamic physical presence — has fumbled three times in as many weeks. The big hulking offensive line that was so praised during the summer has been more hype than results after three games.

The Seahawks aren’t playing clean football this season. That can be tidied up. They’ve never been the fastest of starters.

The bigger concern for the long term, however, is how the physical edge is currently lacking. They simply don’t have enough BAMF’s.

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Instant reaction: Seahawks beat themselves, lose to Saints

September 22nd, 2019 | Written by Rob Staton

Having started the season with two unnecessarily narrow victories, the Seahawks needed to clean things up to continue their unbeaten start.

Today, the opposite happened. Things got worse. A lot worse.

Let’s run through the list of horrors:

— Giving up a punt return touchdown for the first time in four years
— Chris Carson fumbling again and seeing it returned for a touchdown
— Failing to convert on 3rd & 1 and 4th & 1, followed by a Saints scoring drive
— An illegal formation turning a missed field goal into an extended scoring drive
— Recover a fumble, give up 15 yards because someone on the sideline ran onto the field

These are just the highlights. I know there are more.

You can’t make this number of mistakes, give up this many cheap points, fail to execute this badly and expect to beat anyone.

Seattle saw a New Orleans Saints’ team minus Drew Brees and brought their own equaliser to the game — a truly wretched performance.

This will be a long week for Seahawks fans. You’ll hear a lot of people questioning this team. People will question Pete Carroll and his philosophy.

Criticism of the staff and the players is fair. Whether it was poor preparation, execution, decision making or play-calling — this was a terrible performance.

Yet this was also, in a perverse kind of way, a classic illustration of Carroll’s message. The Seahawks out-gained the Saints by 250 yards. Teddy Bridgewater threw for 177 yards. The best player on the field was a running back (Alvin Kamara). The Saints didn’t win by throwing it all over the yard. They won because they played three phases of football well and the Seahawks didn’t.

And how often has Carroll highlighted the importance of that?

Little things like being superior on special teams and winning the turnover battle matter sometimes. Especially when it leads to cheap points.

It might be a good thing for some fans to endure this loss. Re-adjusting expectations after a 2-0 start could provide some benefit down the line. They were lucky to be 2-0 and based on what they’ve shown through three weeks, had no right to be unbeaten.

They’ve lost a lot of experience and quality over the last two years. They still have an extremely good quarterback and some other big name players. This isn’t a complete roster though — far from it. There are band-aids and young players everywhere.

And there’s perhaps a greater problem I want to come back to later.

This team will provide some exhilarating wins, just as they did in 2018. They’ll provide some extremely frustrating losses too (again, just as they did in 2018).

This probably won’t be the only game where you’re cursing at the TV or yelling from the stands.

A 2-1 start would’ve been approved by most fans before the regular season. This loss will feel jarring because it was Bridgewater not Brees and the Seahawks were awful. Yet this wasn’t a playoff game and they get to play again next week.

The Carroll Seahawks have always been frustrating early in the season and liable to lose a game or two they shouldn’t. They also improve. They need to improve now.

That doesn’t mean Carroll avoids criticism. Playing this poorly so early in a game will always lead to a finger being pointed at preparation and the attitude of a team. Did a 2-0 start and the knowledge of Brees sat at home in Louisiana go to their heads? If there was any complacency the staff bear responsibility — especially when the weekly message is a determination to focus on going 1-0.

A coach has to have his team ready to play. The Seahawks bumbled their way through the first half and dug themselves a hole too great to climb out of.

That happens sometimes though. So I want to come to the issue I said I’d come back to earlier. For a team so determined to set the tone and be physical, have they remotely achieved that through three games? The running game is nowhere near what we saw in 2018 so far. Statement moments like running in short-yardage situations — the Seahawks didn’t win those battles today.

They’ve gone with a big, hulking offensive line for a reason. Yet their two wins so far haven’t been delivered off the back of a strong running attack.

It’s not just about their running game though. Does the team have enough attitude? Seattle’s Super Bowl team was dripping with intensity. They were loaded with alpha’s who punished opponents physically. This current team seems to have a distinct lack of BAMF’s. They have very talented players. They have players who can be physically excellent. Where are the tone-setters though? Players like Kam Chancellor and Marshawn Lynch? Even a Brandon Browner or a Breno Giacomini?

Are they nasty enough? Are they capable of consistently imposing their will on opponents? Where are the hits, the pressures, the turnovers? Where’s the fear factor, the thing that opponents have to be wary of?

This isn’t to say they’re a soft, finesse team either. Nobody would dare make that suggestion about Duane Brown, Bobby Wagner and others. Three games in though — where’s the physical edge?

Other notes…

— The Seahawks are in a tough spot with Chris Carson. He’s fumbled three times in three games and that doesn’t include the botched hand-off last week. In the first half you’d be forgiven for thinking he was playing in rollerblades the way he slipping around. He’s so important at his best so you can’t bench him but he can’t keep fumbling either.

— Is there a problem with the turf? It was wet today but players were slipping against the Bengals and throughout the pre-season in drier weather.

— Tyler Lockett had 154 yards and a touchdown, Will Dissly continues to make plays as does D.K. Metcalf. Shaquill Griffin played well on the first viewing. Jason Myers is consistent. That’s about as much positivity as I could glean.

— They have only five sacks in three games and only one interception. They’re not forcing errors or creating much pressure. Where are the hits? Why is the tackling so poor? Is there a player currently starting in the secondary you could realistically view as locked-in for the long term?

— This was a weird week in the NFC. Dallas allowed Miami to last longer than they should. The Eagles were poor in a loss at home to Detroit. The Falcons mixed between sublime and ridiculous to lose against the Colts. The Giants, starting their rookie QB, went into Tampa Bay and stunned the Buccs. The 49ers turned the ball over several times but an impotent Steelers’ redzone offense couldn’t capitalise.

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