Is Kevin King set to run a 4.45?

February 17th, 2017 | Written by Rob Staton

A few weeks ago we discussed the possibility of Seattle drafting Kevin King (CB, Washington) in the first round — with one caveat.

He had to have a great combine.

It’s well advertised the Seahawks haven’t drafted a cornerback earlier than the fourth round in the seven years of the Pete Carroll era. Two questions come to mind:

1. How easy is it to continue doing that?

2. What would it take to change that trend?

To answer question one, it is becoming increasingly difficult. Lance Zierlein highlights the problem:

“Speed matters, but more teams are beginning to trend toward length and takeaways over all else at the position. While there have always been teams who covet size at cornerback (including Green Bay), Seattle’s combination of Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman from years ago had to be an eye-opener for teams.”

Pretty much since 2013, teams have been looking to mimic Seattle’s approach to defensive backs. Richard Sherman likely wouldn’t be available in the fifth round of the 2017 draft. He was right there for them in 2011.

This week Kyle Shanahan talked about copying Seattle’s defense in San Francisco.

‘Their guys’ are going earlier.

Question two comes down to two things. The first is a need at the position. For a long time Seattle had good depth at corner. Unless the likes of Pierre Desir, Stanley Jean-Baptiste and DeAndre Elliott step forward in 2017, that isn’t going to be the case this year. Deshawn Shead’s injury increases the urgency to find a starter.

Secondly, it’s down to whether there’s a freaky enough athlete at #26. They’re not breaking this trend for Mr. Average, especially at cornerback. We know what the Seahawks like in round one — traits.

Kevin King has freaky potential.

At the 2016 Husky Combine he ran a 4.02 short shuttle, a 6.40 three-cone, jumped 39.5 inches in the vertical and 10-10 in the broad. If he repeats that three-cone at the NFL combine it’ll be the fastest by any player at any position. His broad jump would’ve matched Vernon Hargreaves’ effort a year ago for third best among cornerbacks. His 39.5 inch vertical would’ve also ranked third.

The only question mark is long speed.

According to Tony Pauline, that might not be a problem:

“I’m told the big corner has been running under 4.4 seconds hand-timed during combine training. When converted to electronic timing, King has spanned the 40 yards in about 4.45 seconds.

And while 4.45 is by no means an extraordinary time, it beats any expectations scouts had of King’s foot speed.

Consider the fact that scouts believed King to be a high-4.5 second corner in the 4.58-second range and that, throughout the season, speed was the sole criticism I heard about his game. The conversations usually went something to the extent of, “He [King] has the size and ball skills but can’t run.”

If he’s able to break into the mid-4.4s on the final day of combine workouts, King will cement himself as a top-45 selection.”

The average forty time of the cornerbacks drafted by Pete Carroll is 4.51. If King runs in the 4.4’s with outstanding height and length, incredible short-area quickness and explosive physical traits — he could be in contention at #26.

His tape isn’t bad either. In five games I didn’t see him beaten over the top once. He’s adept at covering crossing routes and comfortably lined up in the slot a year ago. He broke up 15 passes in 2016 — as many as Clemson’s Cordrea Tankersley and one less than Tre’Davious White and Adoree’ Jackson.

Like a lot of corners in this draft he can be more physical and improve his tackling.

There are reasons why King at #26 might not happen even if he does run a 4.4. The depth at the cornerback in this draft could allow Seattle to wait until rounds 2-3 for someone like Rasul Douglas, Howard Wilson or Ahkello Witherspoon. If Haason Reddick is there at #26, he’d be tough to pass up. Obi Melifonwu might be bigger, faster and freakier. If a slot corner is the priority maybe they consider Budda Baker, Adoree’ Jackson or a Justin Evans?

Yet King remains a very intriguing option for Seattle. And if he really does run in the 4.4’s, he will be one of the big winners at the combine.

 

Thursday draft notes — Jarrad Davis is under-appreciated

February 16th, 2017 | Written by Rob Staton

Tony Pauline reports Shalom Luani looks ‘very quick’ as he prepares for the combine. We’ve talked a lot about Luani and he’s one to keep an eye on in Indianapolis. His gritty background, athleticism, versatility and intensity could be an ideal fit in Seattle. He doesn’t get much of a mention in the national draft coverage — but Luani is really good.

— If you don’t include KJ Wright and his 4.71 — Seattle has drafted five linebackers in the Pete Carroll era running an average forty time of 4.48. Clearly they are willing to overlook a lack of great speed if a player has other valuable traits (Wright had unnatural length) — but it’s a safe bet that any future Seattle linebacker is going to have speed as an asset. Bobby Wagner and Malcolm Smith ran in the 4.4’s, Bruce Irvin (4.50), Korey Toomer (4.53) and Kevin Pierre-Louis (4.51) just missed out. It’s worth noting Haason Reddick reportedly ran a 4.47 at his junior pro-day and Jarrad Davis has been timed in the 4.5’s.

— Speaking of Florida’s Davis, he’s under-appreciated. His intensity, attitude and closing speed is as good as it gets. Mel Kiper mocked him to Arizona at #13 but he’s in the minority rating him that highly. Look at what he’s capable of:

Bench pressing Ryan Kelly (#18 pick last year):

Closing speed:

Coverage skills:

He’s an A* character:

If he really does run in the 4.5’s (link here) — what’s stopping him going a lot earlier than people realise?

In terms of Kiper’s mock, Haason Reddick was available to the Seahawks at #26 — as was Zach Cunningham, Ryan Ramcyzk and Obi Melifonwu. Five cornerbacks were off the board. This is why it might be difficult to justify a pick at corner unless a freaky ‘under the radar’ athlete emerges. That could be Kevin King if he repeats his 2016 Husky Combine performance in Indianapolis. The value at cornerback might be better in rounds 2-3 for Seattle — and it might be better at linebacker, safety and offensive tackle at #26.

Washington’s Psalm Wooching has announced he’s retiring from football to take up rugby. As a big rugby fan I look forward to seeing if he can make the transition and achieve his goal of playing in the Olympics.

 

New mock draft with trades: 15th February

February 15th, 2017 | Written by Rob Staton

Firstly, if you missed this weeks podcast you can check it out here:

There’s a lot of speculation about quarterbacks at the moment. Jason La Canfora believes Arizona would likely need to trade up from #13 to draft Deshaun Watson — and he believes #25 and Houston might be Patrick Mahomes’ floor.

On the other hand, there’s a developing thought that maybe Cleveland would be willing to give New England the #12 pick for Jimmy Garoppolo.

I wanted to run through some quarterback scenarios and then present a mock draft to judge impact.

Cleveland — trades the #12 pick for Jimmy Garoppolo
The Browns can wait forever for ‘the guy’ and continue to lose, or they can be aggressive. They’re likely going to take Myles Garrett at #1 and Trubisky and Watson might not be there at #12. The solution might be to trade for the 25-year-old Garoppolo and hope he isn’t Kevin Kolb.

San Francisco — draft
See the mock below. The 49ers might be willing to bring in a veteran stop gap like Matt Schaub and take their punishment in 2017. The roster is bare and there’s little hope of a quick turnaround. Kyle Shanahan needs to get a QB ingrained in his system. If they want offense to be their identity, don’t they have to do this ASAP?

Chicago — sign Tyrod Taylor in free agency
There isn’t a more conservative coach in the NFL than John Fox and he’s going to want a veteran quarterback. They need it too — this is a GM and Head Coach needing to win now. They won’t get 2-3 years to develop a young QB. If the Browns want Garoppolo and are willing to spend the #12 pick, the Bears can’t compete. If they’re unwilling to shell out for Tony Romo — Tyrod Taylor could be an alternative option.

New York Jets — sign Mike Glennon in free agency
The Jets are in the middle of a transition. They need to get younger and keep adding talent. Glennon might be a worthwhile bridge to the future even if he isn’t the definite answer. There has been talk linking the Jets with Glennon.

Buffalo — draft
It’s bizarre that the Bills, despite Tyrod Taylor playing quite well, are seemingly willing to let him walk. If they have any sense they’ll keep hold of Taylor and keep drafting to develop. If he leaves they’ll need to add another veteran at a big cost or address the need in the draft. They’ve been aggressive in the past — the mock below has them being aggressive again.

Kansas City — trades for Tony Romo
The Chiefs are in win-now mode and yet every time they get to the playoffs, they never really threaten. Alex Smith isn’t a bad quarterback but he plays within himself too often. The Chiefs might be aggressive to take the next step.

Arizona — draft
The front office is already talking about life after Carson Palmer. Now might be the time to act and redshirt a rookie. If they can’t get at the top two QB’s at #13 they might be willing to move down and target QB3.

Mock draft with trades

#1 Cleveland — Myles Garrett (EDGE, Texas A&M)
This feels like a done deal, even if Garrett hopes Jerry Jones picks up the phone.

#2 San Francisco — Mitch Trubisky (QB, North Carolina)
It’s hard to predict which QB Kyle Shanahan would prefer. Both Trubisky and Watson are mobile and capable of playing in his system.

#3 Chicago — Marshon Lattimore (CB, Ohio State)
The Bears’ GM stated he wants to address the secondary as a priority.

#4 Jacksonville — Malik Hooker (S, Ohio State)
Hooker has a chance to be Earl Thomas good.

#5 TRADE 1 Buffalo (via Ten) — Deshaun Watson (QB, Clemson)
Fearing the Jets and a possible move by Arizona, Buffalo finds a willing trade partner in Tennessee and goes up to get Watson. We’ve seen the Bills be aggressive before — and the Titans were happy to accumulate picks a year ago.

#6 New York Jets — Leonard Fournette (RB, LSU)
Mike Maccagnan is dedicated to BPA and if Fournette drops this far it’s a no brainer.

#7 LA Chargers — Jamal Adams (S, LSU)
He doesn’t have Hooker’s range but the Chargers miss a leader in the secondary.

#8 Carolina — Solomon Thomas (DE, Stanford)
The Panthers luck out and get a really, really good player.

#9 Cincinnati — Jonathan Allen (DE, Alabama)
Allen’s ceiling isn’t as high as the likes of Fournette and Thomas so he might last.

#10 TRADE 1 Tennessee (via Buf) — Marlon Humphrey (CB, Alabama)
The Titans move down and still get the best CB available, filling their biggest need.

#11 New Orleans — Sidney Jones (CB, Washington)
The Saints will probably look at corner and EDGE. Sidney Jones is legit.

#12 TRADE 2 New England (via Cle) — Reuben Foster (LB, Alabama)
The rich get richer. This would be a huge get for the Pats if they can turn Jimmy Garoppolo into the #12 pick.

#13 TRADE 3 Denver (via Ari) — Garett Bolles (T, Utah)
The Broncos need a long term answer at left tackle and work out a deal with Arizona.

#14 Indianapolis — Taco Charlton (EDGE, Michigan)
They need to find some pass rush and Charlton has a little Aldon Smith to his game.

#15 Philadelphia (via Min) — Dalvin Cook (RB, Florida State)
In this scenario they fill their WR need in free agency and target a dynamic feature running back here.

#16 Baltimore — John Ross (WR, Washington)
They’re losing Steve Smith and Mike Wallace is due $8m in 2017. They can save nearly $6m by cutting Wallace and drafting his replacement.

#17 Washington — Tre’Davious White (CB, LSU)
They could pretty much draft for any position on defense — but this is a CB draft and that could be the focus early and often.

#18 Tennessee — David Njoku (TE, Miami)
Having addressed their big need at cornerback, the Titans now add a target for Marcus Mariota.

#19 Tampa Bay — Corey Davis (WR, Western Michigan)
The Buccs need to put more weapons around Jameis Winston.

#20 TRADE 3 Arizona (via Den) — Patrick Mahomes (QB, Texas Tech)
Having moved down seven spots the Cardinals draft Mahomes as the QB heir apparent.

#21 Detroit — Derek Barnett (DE, Tennessee)
EDGE is the biggest need in Detroit and somebody will take a chance on Bennett’s college production translating to the next level.

#22 Miami — O.J. Howard (TE, Alabama)
They need a linebacker badly but Adam Gase loves to utilise a dynamic tight end and guys like Howard are rare.

#23 New York Giants — Ryan Ramcyzk (T, Wisconsin)
Not being able to test and only one year of tape keeps Ramcyzk on the board.

#24 Oakland — Charles Harris (EDGE, Missouri)
They rely too much on Khalil Mack for sacks. Harris can solve that problem.

#25 Houston — Adoree’ Jackson (CB, USC)
If they lose A.J. Buoye they’ll need a replacement.

#26 Seattle — Haason Reddick (LB, Temple)
Gritty, highly athletic and very productive.

#27 Kansas City — Jarrad Davis (LB, Florida)
Underrated tone setter and an athletic heart and soul type.

#28 Dallas — Justin Evans (S, Texas A&M)
Evans will have a sensational combine and boost his stock tremendously.

#29 Green Bay — Gareon Conley (CB, Ohio State)
Need matches value here for the Packers.

#30 Pittsburgh — Takkarist McKinley (EDGE, UCLA)
Some lingering injury concerns keep McKinley on the board.

#31 Atlanta — Obi Melifonwu (S, Connecticut)
The Falcons pair Melifonwu with Keanu Neal and set up their secondary.

#32 TRADE 4 San Francisco — Mike Williams (WR, Clemson)
The 49ers trade up to get a much needed wide out.

Notes:

— Haason Reddick is one of two possible ‘ideal’ picks for the Seahawks, along with Garett Bolles (T, Utah). Both players are gritty, have battled adversity, have great athleticism and fill needs stated by Pete Carroll. The Seahawks never truly addressed the void left by Bruce Irvin and Malcolm Smith. Reddick can fill it, with the ability to feature at the WILL or MIKE if required.

— If the Seahawks don’t go linebacker in round one, they could look at Obi Melifonwu, Kevin King or Budda Baker. Tyus Boswer could be a second round LB target. There will be great options at cornerback and safety from round two onwards.

Here are some other names to monitor in preparation for the combine:

Ahkello Witherspoon (CB, Colorado)
Tedric Thompson (S, Colorado)
Shalom Luani (S, Washington State)
Rasul Douglas (CB, West Virginia)
Harold Wilson (CB, Houston)
John Johnson (S, Boston College)
Fabian Moreau (CB, UCLA)
Treston Decoud (CB, Oregon State)

— No Zach Cunningham in round one? It might be that the linebackers, as good as they are, last a little longer due to the depth of talent elsewhere. This would be good news for the Seahawks and I wanted to represent that in a mock.

— No Jabrill Peppers? There’s every chance he finds a home in round one. This weeks mock represents the sentiment that he might fall.

— Could Mike Williams really drop? He’s a good player but he isn’t expected to have a great combine. He had ten games in 2016 without topping 100 yards, despite playing in an explosive, National Championship-winning offense.

— The thing I like least about this mock draft is Leonard Fournette, Solomon Thomas and Marlon Humphrey lasting as long as they do.

Tony Pauline reported today that Wyoming running back Brian Hill has tipped the scales at 220lbs and could run in the 4.4’s at the combine. The Seahawks have a ‘type’ at running back — and this combination of size and speed is right in their zone. It’ll be interesting to see Hill and the likes of Elijah Hood work out in Indianapolis.

 

New podcast on the draft and Seahawks free agency

February 15th, 2017 | Written by Rob Staton

 

Breaking down Charley Casserly’s mock draft

February 13th, 2017 | Written by Rob Staton

Charley Casserly used to be the GM in Houston. He’s worked at the NFL Network since 2006. Today he published a first round mock draft.

It’s interesting for a few reasons. Casserly is connected within the league and there’s a chance this projection reflects some of the consensus thinking on certain prospects.

Here are some points worth raising:

John Ross at #16 overall
A number of good sources have suggested Ross is destined for the top-20 and Casserly reflects that here. With the potential to run in the 4.2’s or 4.3’s at the combine, Ross could easily leave the board in this range. Yes a laundry list of injuries are a concern. Teams will do their homework. Yet the combination of an explosive release, the ability to get open and separate and take the top of the defense make Ross a DeSean Jackson type talent with none of the character headaches. Someone is going to roll the dice on his health.

Leonard Fournette at #4 overall
People are falling over themselves to knock Fournette, a genuinely fantastic talent capable of defining an offense over the next few years. And for all the talk of a diminished value in the running game — if Todd Gurley, fresh from a torn ACL, can go #10 overall — Fournette isn’t escaping the top-10. According to Casserly: “In my opinion, Fournette does some things better than Adrian Peterson.” Preach.

Cornerbacks come off the board quickly
This feels inevitable with the only challenge determining which names come off the board first. Casserly goes Marshon Lattimore, Sidney Jones, Marlon Humphrey, Teez Tabor, Gareon Conley and Tre’Davious White (in that order) in the top-25. Quincy Wilson and Adoree’ Jackson also go in round one. That’s eight cornerbacks in the first frame and it doesn’t feel unlikely this year. He also touches on some scenarios we’ve often discussed, like Humphrey and Jones being likely top-15 picks and Jackson going to Atlanta in the late first round.

Offensive tackles leave the board in a similar range
Personally I think Garett Bolles will work his way into the top-10 but Casserly’s scenario isn’t unlikely either. He has the Giants trading up to #18 to take Ryan Ramcyzk, the Broncos selecting Bolles at #20 and the Lions (potentially needing to replace Riley Reiff and Larry Warford) taking Cam Robinson at #21. Either way, the chances of Seattle getting an attractive OT option at #26 are slim.

Charles Harris goes in the top-20
He doesn’t get talked about much (possibly due to Mizzou’s poor 2016 campaign) but Harris is the real deal. He’s the type of pass rusher teams fall in love with. Great burst and balance, the ability to attack the edge consistently and you’d expect a really good 10-yard split at the combine. It feels inevitable that someone in the top-25 will take a chance on him.

The Pats get a fantastic deal for Jimmy Garoppolo
The Browns trade the #12 pick in Casserly’s mock to New England for Garoppolo. Cleveland should be made to make a formal apology to the rest of the league if they give the defending Super Bowl champions a top-15 pick. Even so, it seems Garoppolo is a target for a number of teams. And if the likes of Chicago prepare an aggressive move — Cleveland has the ammunition to beat any offer because of that high bonus R1 pick from Philadelphia.

No Haason Reddick in round one
With his supreme athletic profile, incredible production, top performance at the Senior Bowl and clear leadership qualities — it seems improbable that Reddick won’t be a day one pick. Casserly doesn’t include him in this projection. It’s not unlikely that Reddick’s floor is pick #26.

Taco Charlton drops to #30
Charlton flashed his incredible talent in the Orange Bowl against Florida State and with an Aldon Smith level of potential, it would be a major shock if he dropped this far in round one. If anything, he could force his way into the top-10.

Solomon Thomas drops to #17
It’d be an absolute gift for Washington. Thomas will have one of the more dynamic combines and with his size, versatility and character — he appears destined for the top-10. It’s always good for a prospect to go into the draft with momentum — and Thomas’ last game was a JJ Watt-esque performance against North Carolina. It won’t be a shock if the Niners take him at #2.

No David Njoku in the first frame
Njoku is just a fantastic prospect. With tight end size and receiver mobility, you can line him up anywhere at the next level. He’s the most exciting and enticing tight end prospect to enter the draft in a few years. It could be argued he’s a better prospect than any of the receivers available — and he might be a more dynamic target. Casserly also has O.J. Howard lasting until pick #32 (like the Pats need any more help after the Browns trade).

What about the Seahawks pick at #26?

Casserly has them taking Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey, stating: “Thomas Rawls has proven he can’t be reliable.”

It’s easy to imagine the Seahawks liking McCaffrey because, well, what isn’t to like?

He’s highly athletic, a lot more sudden than people give him credit for, he’s tough and dynamic in equal measure, he’s effective as a runner, receiver and returner. The rest of the league needs to pray he doesn’t end up in New England with Tom Brady.

The thing is, it’s hard to imagine the Seahawks taking a running back this early who is lighter than C.J. Prosise but with a very similar set of skills. It’d be an admission they’re virtually giving up on their preferred style of physical offense. With first and third round picks invested in two running backs of this style, they’d be changing the identity of the offense probably forever.

What’s more, we know Pete Carroll recently stated Seattle’s priority needs as cornerback, linebacker and offensive line. He also stated his confidence in Thomas Rawls. The Seahawks probably will add another running back in the off-season — but the first round feels unlikely.

Who else was available? Here’s a list:

Haason Reddick (LB, Temple)
Zach Cunningham (LB, Vanderbilt)
Jarrad Davis (LB, Florida)
Budda Baker (S, Washington)
Obi Melifonwu (S, Connecticut)
Justin Evans (S, Texas A&M)
Rasul Douglas (CB, West Virginia)
Kevin King (CB, Washington)
Fabian Moreau (CB, UCLA)

The scenario Casserly projects lends itself to a trade down. Mitch Trubisky is the only quarterback taken in round one so there’s a possibility someone would move up for a QB. The Seahawks could move down into the top of round two and still secure all but one (Cunningham) of this group according to Casserly’s mock.

One other quick thing to consider on this — you might be rooting for the QB’s to fall to present a favourable trade down scenario. Yet there are major benefits in terms of players dropping to #26 if they go early.

Jason La Canfora had an interesting report a few days ago. He suggested the Cardinals covet Deshaun Watson but would likely need ‘a significant trade up’ to get him. They have the #13 pick — so it sounds like he won’t be leaving the top-10.

La Canfora also had this to say about Patrick Mahomes:

At worst he’s the third quarterback taken in the draft and I wouldn’t rule him out as a top-three pick, either, depending on what quarterback-starved teams like the 49ers, Browns and Bears do in the trade or free agent market. I don’t think he gets past the Texans in the first round.

So it’s possible Mahomes and Watson go very early — and per this report, at least before Seattle’s pick. Assuming Trubisky also leaves the board, that could lead to some nice options dropping to #26.

In my next mock draft I might look at this kind of scenario with three QB’s going early plus a bunch of cornerbacks and what it could mean for Seattle.

This is a really fun draft class. It’s easy to pine for about 5-6 different players in round one and there’ll be a ton of options in the mid/late rounds too.

 

Saturday notes on Ahkello Witherspoon & Budda Baker

February 11th, 2017 | Written by Rob Staton

Colorado is a fun team to watch with a handful of intriguing defenders on their roster. Yesterday we discussed safety Tedric Thompson. Today it’s time to focus a bit more on his team mate.

Ahkello Witherspoon is a great example of why length is important at cornerback. There are times when he concedes position on a route (it’s going to happen) but his ability to recover and make a play on the ball is really consistent. So often he’ll get a hand in there to break it up.

He’s shown the awareness to squeeze the sideline and narrow the target zone for a QB. There’s evidence he can develop into a good red-line defender and with his size and length, any throw to a tight sideline is defendable.

His statement performance came against Washington and John Ross (see the video below). I’m not sure I’ve seen a corner defend Ross better than Witherspoon in 2016. He didn’t get beat over the top and was able to stay with him downfield. One of the things Ross is really good at is creating initial separation with an explosive release. Witherspoon, again, was able to recover and get a paw to the ball.

The one area of his game that needs work is tackling. This is a similar complaint within this cornerback class. There’s a lot of really good cover corners but there isn’t a fierce, jarring hitter. There’s no Brandon Browner type, at least not based on what I’ve seen so far. Witherspoon’s tackle form is generally poor and it’s not even like he’s overly aggressive and just whiffs. You’re going to need to spend time working on this area of his game.

The good news is he has the length and cover skills to make a worthwhile project. He’s one of a number of CB’s capable of rising quickly with a strong combine.

Assessing the potential fit of Budda Baker in Seattle

We’ve talked a lot recently about the possibility of Obi Melifonwu in Seattle. At 6-4, 219lbs and with expectations of a supreme combine performance, Melifonwu is seen as a chess-piece defender. He can be challenged to cover big tight ends and wide receivers. Melifonwu could eventually work his way from safety to corner (aka the Deshawn Shead transition).

In the ‘bigger, faster, stronger’ stakes this kind of pick makes sense — especially with Melifonwu impressing scouts at the Senior Bowl and earning rave reviews from his Head Coach at Connecticut. Even the critics have to concede, this is the type of early pick we’ve seen Seattle make in the past.

Budda Baker has a very different physical profile but might also be on Seattle’s radar. It’s difficult to gauge how interested they’d be.

On the one hand he lacks the size and therefore some of the versatility that Melifonwu offers. If you’re considering Melifonwu because he can cover big targets, potentially play some outside corner, play single high, play strong safety (etc etc) that’s quite a lot of options. Baker might be limited to free safety and slot corner. If he isn’t successful defending the slot, you’ve essentially got a backup safety.

On the other hand he appears to be highly athletic with a great passion and love for the game. He’s a high intensity local player with an explosive element. Some of what makes Earl Thomas great exists in Budda Baker. You can imagine him playing for the Seahawks (or the Falcons and Dan Quinn).

If he ended up being Seattle’s first round pick, it’d make a lot of people happy. There’d be an excitement and buzz around that selection. It’d be intriguing to see how the Seahawks intended to use him — and it’d be intriguing to see another defender just flying to the ball and making plays on this defense.

If I made a list of 15-20 players I most enjoyed watching in 2016, Baker would definitely be on there.

It’s just working out if he’s likely to be on the radar. It could go either way.

His role would probably need to be similar to Tyrann Mathieu’s in Arizona. Sam Monson analysed how Arizona used Mathieu a year ago, noting the following:

The Cardinals list Mathieu as a safety, because in base defense, that’s what he plays most of the time. In their base 3-4 defense, Mathieu lines up as a safety 77.6 percent of the time—but the Cardinals only play base defense on 33 percent of their defensive snaps.

In almost all other sub-packages, Mathieu plays cornerback, primarily, though he has played in pretty much every position in the back seven at one point this season.

Overall, he has been on the field for 720 defensive snaps this season. Of those 720 snaps, 66.7 percent of them have been at cornerback (mostly slot), with just 24.4 percent at strong safety, and 8.9 percent at free safety.

Mathieu is a special player. At LSU he was phenomenal — the ultimate playmaker. And if not for a highly publicised battle with marijuana, he likely would’ve been a very high draft pick.

There really isn’t anyone like the Honey Badger.

That doesn’t mean Baker cannot do Mathieu’s role — but he’s as unique as they come.

The Seahawks would need to feel comfortable with him playing a high percentage of snaps in the slot. At least he did it in college. Baker was listed by Washington as a free safety (and he refers to himself as such) but he spent a lot of time with the Huskies operating in the slot. And he had success. You see the speed, read-and-react and the ability to close and finish. He’s a really effective blitzer too from this position and made a number of plays in the backfield in 2016.

The issue is, he’s around 5-10 and about 180lbs. Teams can scheme against that, either by putting a TE in the slot or moving their key target inside and forcing Baker to stay put or move outside. There’s a mismatch to be found here and you might always need to have that in mind. There could be entire games where you almost have to accept he won’t be a factor.

That’s the benefit of Melifonwu at 6-4 and 219lbs. If he runs as quickly as expected at the combine and shines in the agility tests — in what scenario are you fearful of a physical mismatch? How often do you have to take him off the field? He’s only three pounds lighter than Deion Jones in Atlanta. He can probably line up at linebacker, safety or in the slot. If he has to travel outside, he can probably do that too.

Also if we’re going to consider Baker as an option, we probably need to do the same for Texas A&M’s Justin Evans. He’s a similar size, hits like a hammer and is expected to have an exceptional combine too (possibly one of the best at any position). If we’re looking at undersized, athletic safety’s, Evans and Baker really have an equal résumé.

Pete Carroll’s lukewarm review of Jeremy Lane’s performance in 2016 suggests a need for competition here. That could be in the form of one of these highly athletic safety converts, it could be an explosive cornerback (even someone lacking ideal length, such as Adoree’ Jackson) or it could be someone like Howard Wilson who we discussed yesterday.

Baker has an ‘IT’ factor to his game and is the type of player you can imagine the Seahawks really admiring. Whether they’re prepared to take him with their first pick, however, is going to be a challenging question over the next couple of months.

 

Friday draft notes: Tedric Thompson & Howard Wilson

February 10th, 2017 | Written by Rob Staton

There’s a reason why people are talking about the DB’s in this draft. Depth, talent at the top end and throughout the first three rounds. Some diamonds to find in day three. It’s an ideal opportunity for a team (see: Seahawks) to reload and try to rekindle some of that magic on defense.

Two players I watched yesterday were Colorado safety Tedric Thompson and Houston cornerback Howard Wilson.

Thompson jumped off the screen. He’s a really instinctive safety with the closing speed to make big plays in the passing game. That shows up with his seven interceptions in 2016 and 16 PBU’s. That’s as many PBU’s as cornerbacks Tre’Davious White and Adoree’ Jackson, and one more than Kevin King and Coredrea Tankersley.

He looks like he’ll have a great vertical at the combine (more on that in a moment). He frequently just goes up and gets the ball. Combine that with his ability to shift through the gears and close, read and react and play the ball. He’s ideally suited to be a rangy single-high safety.

Give him a lane to the ball carrier and he’ll get there. Throw it deep? You’re taking a chance against this type of speed. On the mid-range throws he’ll break on the ball and make a play with instinct and athleticism. It’s very difficult to fit throws into small windows at the second level with Thompson lurking. His field awareness is also good, putting him in a position to make plays and deceive quarterbacks.

This is kind of what we saw from Earl Thomas at Texas. He had eight picks in his final season in college. While Thompson will find it difficult to match Thomas’ level in the NFL — as a backup worthy of being developed over time, there are worse projects the Seahawks can take on.

It’ll be very interesting to see just how athletic he is. Tedric’s brother Cedric was a recent 5th round pick by the Dolphins and managed a 4.48 forty, a 40.5 inch vertical and a 10-2 in the broad jump.

A similar performance could put Tedric on Seattle’s radar. Getting a supremely athletic, productive developmental free safety could be a consideration, especially with Thomas missing games for the first time in his career in 2016.

It’s this type of prospect that ultimately makes this draft so intriguing for safety’s. You’ve got the big names (Adams, Hooker, Peppers, Baker) and then a second and third tier including Obi Melifonwu, Justin Evans, Tedric Thompson, Marcus Maye, John Johnson, Shalom Luani and Eddie Jackson. It doesn’t stop there, with other names to monitor before the combine.

Houston’s Howard Wilson is intriguing for a couple of reasons. Firstly, he looks like he has long arms. We know the Seahawks have a cut-off point of 32 inches. Secondly, he takes the ball away.

The Seahawks, for whatever reason, have struggled for turnovers in the last couple of seasons. Adding players with production in this area (forcing turnovers or completing them) could be a priority. So how about this stat — Wilson averaged an interception every 15 targets at Houston. He had five in total in 2016.

He’s not the biggest player at 6-1 and 185lbs but he has the potential to add weight and could end up like Byron Maxwell (6-1, 203lbs). At the moment he’s not too far off Jeremy Lane for size (6-1, 190lbs) and it stands to reason that the Seahawks will look to push Lane this off-season after a relatively middling 2016.

Wilson’s a good looking athlete so a strong combine shouldn’t be an issue. If he can add weight he might be a legit outside corner option. And while he won’t necessarily be an immediate starter outside, he could be a project for two years down the line where you’re looking at a productive core player.

It’s hard to determine what his range will be. There are so many cornerbacks and potentially as many as 20 could go in the first 3-4 rounds. Wilson could be a mid-round target especially if the Seahawks don’t add a CB in rounds 1-2.

I’ve posted highlight videos for both players below. Check them out. This is a good year to think about adding players to the secondary:

Other quick notes

Here’s an interesting quote on Obi Melifonwu courtesy of an anonymous NFL personnel executive: “Overall, this is the best group of DBs we’ve had in several years. Specifically, I love the safety depth. I keep watching one good player after another. The UConn kid (Obi Melifonwu) was a revelation at the Senior Bowl.”

— Why isn’t Zach Cunningham in Daniel Jeremiah’s top-50 board? NFL.com colleague Bucky Brooks looked into it: “While scouts frequently view players in different lights, I found it interesting that Cunningham didn’t make the cut despite the buzz that’s been surrounding his name throughout the fall. I recently had an AFC scout tell me that Cunningham “might be the best inside linebacker in the 2017 class” when it’s all said and done. When I challenged him on that assessment, he told me that he wasn’t alone based on his conversations with other scouts in the Southeast. Wow.

Tony Pauline is reporting that John Ross (WR, Washington) and Jeremy McNichols (RB, Boise State) will have labrum surgery after the combine.

 

Analysing Daniel Jeremiah’s mock draft 2.0

February 9th, 2017 | Written by Rob Staton

Daniel Jeremiah’s mock draft 2.0

Our latest projection

Jeremiah’s pick for Seattle at #26
Marlon Humphrey (CB, Alabama)

Jeremiah’s notes
“Humphrey has the ideal size and length to excel in the Seahawks’ scheme.”

Where we had Humphrey
#11 overall to New Orleans

Analysis
If a prospect has supreme athletic traits, excellent character and has performed well at the college level — usually they go very early.

There is a tendency in the media scouting community to focus on flaws and downgrade players as a consequence. We see it every year. It’s why the likes of Sheldon Rankins and Keanu Neal were rated in the #25-50 range a year ago but both went in the top-20.

Humphrey is knocked for the way he defends the long ball. The thing is, this is a technical/scheme flaw which is fixable. It’s not due to any lack of athleticism or recovery speed. Humphrey has the physical appearance of an Olympic sprinter and teams will know if they can iron out the kinks, they’ll be left with a high character, high quality cornerback. For that reason, it’s hard to imagine Humphrey falling as far as many mock drafts are currently projecting and that’s why we put him at #11.

Check out this report by Tony Pauline:

Just about everyone has Marlon Humphrey as the top rated cornerback on the board while some teams grade Desmond King at safety.

Another PAC 12 corner drawing rave reviews is Fabian Moreau of UCLA. While his grades are scattered some teams have stamped Moreau as a second day pick and feel a good combine workout, including a forty times in the low 4.4’s, will secure his position as a top seventy five selection.

Pauline wrote this in December and everything else has come to fruition. Since the Senior Bowl there’s increasing chatter about King having to move to safety and we’ve seen buzz surrounding Fabian Moreau.

It’s very possible teams are grading Humphrey a lot higher than the media.

That said, he’d be a fine selection for the Seahawks. He has extreme potential and athleticism and appears to have the kind of length they like. We’ll find out for sure at the combine. It just seems highly likely someone will take him long before pick #26.

Who else was available?

Here’s a list of prospects available at #26 that weren’t available for Seattle in our latest mock draft:

#11 Marlon Humphrey (CB, Alabama)
#16 Jabrill Peppers (S, Michigan)
#17 Haason Reddick (LB, Temple)
#21 Charles Harris (EDGE, Missouri)
#22 Zach Cunningham (LB, Vanderbilt)

Also available was Budda Baker, Obi Melifonwu and Jarrad Davis.

This would be an ideal situation for the Seahawks. There are enough viable options to consider trading down. Alternatively, they’d have their pick of a strong group of DB’s and linebackers.

Reddick screams Seahawks and will likely continue to ascend. Media pundits are starting to move him into the late first round after his great Senior Bowl. When he runs a 4.4 at the combine and tests well in every drill, we’ll likely see him move up even higher.

If he does last until #26, it could be a no-brainer for Settle. He’d be a supreme fit as a SAM with the flexibility to fill in at the MIKE and WILL for Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright if required. He’s a complete, modern day linebacker and would be a tremendous asset to the Seahawks. And he can rush the passer.

Zach Cunningham and Jarrad Davis likely would be attractive alternatives. They’re both three-down linebackers like Wagner and Wright, they’d be on the field for week one and would allow the Seahawks to be flexible with their two stud LB’s (as Pete Carroll asserted was a priority in his end of season press conference).

Melifonwu also remains appealing if he tests as well as expected. He’d be a dynamic chess-piece in the defensive backfield, capable of playing in several situations and maybe eventually settling at corner or strong safety long term. He’s the type of dynamic athlete often drafted by the Seahawks in the first round.

It’s also worth keeping an eye on whether Kevin King, Rasul Douglas or Fabian Moreau have exceptional workouts to warrant early round consideration.

 

Wednesday notes: Top-50’s, McShay’s mock and Calvin Pryor

February 8th, 2017 | Written by Rob Staton

Don’t read too much into top-50’s

There was some positivity in the comments section yesterday when Daniel Jeremiah updated his top-50 board. Garett Bolles was at #26, Haason Reddick was at #41 and Zach Cunningham (see video above) wasn’t even listed.

However, here’s a top-50 board Jeremiah wrote on April 26th, 2016 — shortly before last years draft.

The following prospects were ranked beyond Seattle’s pick at #26 but still weren’t available for the Seahawks on the day:

Sheldon Rankins — ranked #26, drafted #12
Will Fuller — ranked #29, drafted #21
Taylor Decker — ranked #31, drafted #16
William Jackson III — ranked #32, drafted #24
Karl Joseph — ranked #33, drafted #14
Josh Doctson — ranked #36, drafted #22
Keanu Neal — ranked #46, drafted #17
Artie Burns — ranked #49, drafted #25

So while it’s fun to consider Garett Bolles or Haason Reddick lasting until #26, it’s impossible to take anything out of these types of lists.

Ultimately it comes down to this — offensive tackles with Bolles’ tenacity and extreme athleticism and linebackers with Reddick’s speed, versatility and major production don’t generally get out of the top-20.

Unfortunately.

Parsing Pete Carroll

I went back again yesterday to review exactly what Pete Carroll said about needs in his end of season press conference:

“We gotta get Earl back, we gotta get the corner thing squared away. I think that’s one of them. We’ll certainly be looking at that in the draft. That’ll be one of the areas. We need some youth at the linebacker spot now. Bobby and K.J. played thousands of plays this year between the two of them and were extremely successful but we need to address that. We didn’t get anybody that really made a difference in the last couple of years to really fight to take those guys jobs. Think if somebody can battle K.J. and Bobby for the starting now — that’s what we need to draft towards so we’ll be looking there. The offensive line will continue to be an area of focus and it will be. We’re looking at everything — but those — I’m trying to give you guys something you can walk out of here with. That’s kind of probably the obvious focal points.”

This is worth another quick do-over.

— It’s interesting that Carroll specifically mentions the draft when talking about cornerbacks and the linebacker position — with no mention of free agency. He doesn’t specify where they will seek additions on the O-line.

— Carroll went into some depth to explain why he felt they needed help at linebacker. It’s intriguing that he made this point. The Seahawks don’t desperately need a player to challenge Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright. At any point in 2016 did you think, ‘if only there was someone pushing these two guys’? It suggests they have their eye on the position in general. Perhaps they’ve simply decided they want to tap into the depth of talent available? It’s a good LB class.

— This feeling might’ve changed slightly since the Senior Bowl with Haason Reddick receiving rave reviews (and the same could happen for Zach Cunningham, Jarrad Davis and Tyus Bowser down the line). When Carroll spoke (pre-Senior Bowl) Reddick was a bit of an afterthought. We might’ve mocked him to Seattle in round one in December — but no national pundits, draft media experts or insiders were talking about Reddick. It’s possible they felt confident a few weeks ago they could get him or one of the other top LB prospects at #26. That feeling might by changing.

— If you want an example of how quickly things can change, look at Trent Williams in 2010. Considered a right tackle-only prospect by the media throughout his final year at Oklahoma and receiving only lukewarm mid-first round reviews, he shot into the top five after a great combine. He was taken at #4 overall and he’s been one of the top LT’s in the league ever since. There’s every chance the Seahawks were targeting Williams early in 2010 and maybe even felt confident about landing him at #6 or #14. Things can change dramatically.

— This might be why a player like Obi Melifonwu ultimately becomes appealing to the Seahawks. If Reddick, Cunningham and Davis are gone (not out of the question) and considering their strict physical preferences at cornerback — a highly athletic, Greek God of a defensive chess-piece doesn’t look like such an unlikely alternative in round one. That is the type of move this team makes.

Todd McShay’s new mock draft

ESPN’s McShay has the Seahawks taking Cam Robinson (T, Alabama) in round one. So how likely is it to happen?

Our Trench Explosion Formula (explained here) helped identify a consistent physical profile for the offensive linemen drafted by Seattle. It helped explain the Justin Britt pick (inexplicable at the time) in 2014 and it helped us project Germain Ifedi as Seattle’s first round pick a year ago.

Seattle’s five starters that ended the 2016 season were all explosive athletes. If Cam Robinson is going to be a Seahawk, he’s probably going to need to match that.

It seems unlikely.

At the 2013 Nike Sparq Combine he jumped a 27-inch vertical which is well below the mark for TEF. An average or bad vertical rarely translates to a good broad jump (the other key explosive test). So it’s fair to assume he’s not going to hit the TEF mark.

There’s always a possible exception to the rule where they draft a non-ideal early. A 5-10 quarterback is the key example — yet Wilson was exceptional in virtually every gradable aspect apart from height. Even then, they didn’t take him in the first round.

Is Robinson exceptional enough in other areas to make up for a lack of explosion?

He’s certainly got the kind of size they like but his footwork is sluggish and choppy. An anonymous scout in this piece referred to him as “talented but he gets lazy” and Tony Pauline noted the following on Monday:

I’m not saying Robinson won’t be a good tackle in the NFL;, I just don’t think it will be on the left side.

Robinson looked dominant on film but he also looked stiff, displayed poor footwork and will have trouble protecting the edge on Sunday. In my opinion, it adds up to a move to right tackle or possibly guard for Robinson.

The last thing the Seahawks need is another tackle prospect kicking inside, failing to address their greatest need on the O-line. They’ve been there three times before with Carpenter, Britt and now Ifedi.

So who else was available at #26 in McShay’s mock that wasn’t in our latest projection on Sunday?

Alabama cornerback Marlon Humphrey and linebackers Haason Reddick and Zach Cunningham were all available. Florida’s Jarrad Davis is off the board to Oakland at #24, with Garett Bolles going at #25 to Houston.

I hope I’m 100% wrong — but it will be quite astonishing if these four all last into the mid-20’s. It’s improbable.

The league-wide need at left tackle will likely force one team in the top-20 to invest in the sensational Bolles. Reddick is basically a more productive version of Ryan Shazier — a player taken at #15 three years ago. Cunningham is expected to be a very impressive tester at the combine and will probably appeal to teams in the late teens or early 20’s. Marlon Humphrey has the physique of an Olympic sprinter and despite some flaws in his deep coverage, someone in the top-15 could/should take a shot on his extreme potential.

All four players have exceptional football and personal character too. When you have a really productive, highly athletic player with great college production and character — they don’t last. They jump off the screen and the scouting report and they get drafted early.

See: Keanu Neal, Sheldon Rankins a year ago.

Are the Seahawks interested in Calvin Pryor?

There’s probably nothing in this but we’ll throw it out there and you can make up your own mind.

This piece courtesy of NJ.com is linking the Seahawks with a potential trade for New York Jets safety Calvin Pryor:

Pryor, the Jets’ 2014 first-round pick, is entering Year 4. He hasn’t been a huge difference maker so far. The Jets have to decide this offseason whether to pick up his fifth-year option for 2018 (which doesn’t become a meaningful, binding decision until next offseason). They could also trade him. One trade possibility floated by a league source: Pryor to the Seahawks for Germain Ifedi, a first-round pick last year. Ifedi was Seattle’s right guard last season, but he has a background at right tackle. The Jets are expected to cut right tackle Breno Giacomini. And this draft’s tackle class is weak, remember.

Is there anything in this? In a word, no.

Ifedi has a $5.185m dead cap hit. Trading him would actually cost the Seahawks $4m.

Considering Pryor’s cap hit is $2.7m in 2017 — you’d be eating $7m of cap to have Pryor instead of Ifedi on your roster.

That isn’t happening.

It doesn’t mean the Seahawks wouldn’t be interested in a move for Pryor though.

Who knows if this league source was just throwing a dart — but we know the Seahawks want to add to their secondary. Pryor is a tone-setting, hard-hitting safety. He had a good year in 2015 but regressed with the rest of the Jets roster in 2016.

He’s not a fantastic athlete but he plays with the kind of intensity Seattle likes. He’s also only three years removed from being the #18 pick in the draft.

At the right price, it wouldn’t be a total shocker if they made a call. Pryor would provide some quality depth behind Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor and free up the Seahawks to consider cornerback and linebacker with their first two picks (or a hybrid like Obi Melifonwu).

 

Jarrad Davis won’t work out at the combine

February 7th, 2017 | Written by Rob Staton

This is disappointing. Having been touted as a potential mid-4.5 runner, it’ll be a shame not to see Davis compete against the likes of Haason Reddick and Zach Cunningham.

It likely helps him in terms of running a faster time, though. Florida, like most big schools, has a fast track. In 2010 Joe Haden ran a 4.62 at the combine but managed a 4.43 at the Gators pro-day.

Atlanta’s Deion Jones secured a second round grade after running a 4.38 at LSU’s pro-day a year ago. His time at the combine? 4.59.

With Jones putting on a show in the Super Bowl, many teams will be looking for their own version. Fast linebackers that fly to the ball are going to be en vogue in this draft.

It’s interesting that Rapoport refers to Davis as a ‘top-2 LB prospect’. It’s certainly possible. His intensity, closing speed, versatility and extremely good character will make him an attractive pick. Davis is a leader on the field, reportedly treats every practise with extreme importance and will be a coaches dream.

It wouldn’t be a shock if a team like Washington at #17 picks him to play MIKE, or Miami at #22.

Florida’s pro-day is on March 28th.

Meanwhile, take a look at this tweet from Mike Mayock if you’re still not convinced Garett Bolles could go in the top-10: