D-line review: Kaufusi, Bullard and Ogbah

March 26th, 2016 | Written by Rob Staton

Bronson Kaufusi (DE, BYU)
I watched BYU twice in 2015 but didn’t see the Fresno State game (see above). Yesterday I watched it for the first time and he basically took over the game. Granted it was a 52-10 beat down. Yet Kaufusi’s three sacks, TFL’s in the run game and a blocked kick just jumped off the screen.

It was similar to the type of performance we used to see from Margus Hunt at SMU. At 6-8 and 295lbs, Hunt was the #53 pick in 2013. Like Hunt, Kaufusi is also an older player entering the draft. He’ll be 25 as a rookie.

There are key differences between the two though — and this is why Kaufusi might end up having a superior pro career. For starters he’s more consistent on tape. Hunt flashed occasionally but watching Kaufusi — he’s more of a week-to-week impact player. He’s also a better athlete. Kaufusi ran an elite short shuttle at the combine at 4.25 seconds. He also had a 7.03 in the three-cone. He’s 6-6 and 285lbs.

Here’s the list of defensive linemen that performed better in the agility tests:

Joey Bosa (4.21, 6.89)
Shalique Calhoun (4.25, 6.97)
Shaq Lawson (4.21, 7.16)

Bosa is 6-5 and 269lbs, Calhoun 6-4 and 251lbs and Lawson 6-2 and 259lbs. Kaufusi moves as well as the top edge rushers in this class despite being freakishly bigger. He’s basically as agile and quick as Calhoun despite a 34lbs weight difference.

J.J. Watt, for what it’s worth, was 6-5 and 290lbs at his combine and had a 4.21 in the short shuttle and a 6.88 in the three-cone. There’s a 0.04 difference between his forty time and Kaufusi’s. Ziggy Ansah had a 4.26 in the short shuttle and a 7.11 three cone (he also had an incredible 4.56 forty and a 1.62 split).

Let’s state the obvious — these are not bad comparisons.

The Seahawks love top-level athletic traits. They also like production (he has that) and grit (he’s a coaches son and plays that way). That said — I’m not convinced he’s anything more than an edge rusher. Unlike Watt, there isn’t any real evidence of him moving around the line and impacting plays. He just wasn’t used in that way. He has the frame to do it but might need to add a little more bulk. If Seattle’s desire is to find a good inside/out rusher — you’d be taking a chance that Kaufusi can make that adjustment.

Here’s something else to consider — in terms of sack production, here’s the top four in the NFL in 2015:

1. J.J. Watt (6-5, 289lbs)
2. Khalil Mack (6-3, 250lbs)
3. Ziggy Ansah (6-5, 278lbs)
4. Carlos Dunlap (6-6, 280lbs)

There are two types of great NFL rusher at the moment — smaller with elite quicks (Mack, Von Miller) and the super-athletic big men (Watt, Ansah). Physically Kaufusi compares well to the bigger, athletic guys.

The issues on tape are pretty obvious. Because of his height he struggles with leverage when he doesn’t stay low. He has a tendency to play high and when this happens he just doesn’t have an impact. There’s a bit of fire to his play and his effort is excellent but he doesn’t chew glass. He’s not necessarily a war daddy but he equally won’t back down.

You get the sense he got by on athleticism in college and he’s not technically the best pass rusher. There’s no real evidence of a plan in place — he doesn’t take three plays to set up a blocker and he doesn’t have a repertoire. At the next level, when his athleticism is less dominating, he’ll need to be more nuanced. His first priority needs to be to work on his hand placement.

That said it would be interesting to see how he’d fair playing next to Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril and Frank Clark. He’s not going to face the double teams he had in college and his agility is good enough to make teams pay 1v1 off the edge. In a draft class without many freaky athletes Kaufusi deserves the description. He could be an option in round two if the Seahawks go O-line at #26.

Jonathan Bullard (DE, Florida)
After talking about Bullard over the last few days, I went back and watched Florida’s games against Ole Miss and Alabama. While he is very capable of playing end and tackle and moving around the line — Bullard isn’t a splash play specialist. In the two games he didn’t have a major impact — he just played well. He perfectly read an option play to drop a running back for a big loss against Ole Miss and he had a clear up sack against Alabama. Jake Coker scrambled away from pressure in the backfield, tried to extend the play and ran into Bullard.

It was good to watch him again if only to remind myself what I thought during the season. Bullard is a high-effort, intense defensive lineman but you don’t watch the tape and see anything particularly special. When he lines up at end he wins shooting the B-gap and timing snap counts. There’s not much variation. Working inside he can barrel his way into the backfield but it’s forceful rather than quick/twitch. At the next level he isn’t likely to just be able to get after the B-gap in the same way — he’s not an edge rusher by any stretch of the imagination even when he lines up at DE and he might end up making a permanent switch inside. That’s fine — but are the Seahawks looking for a smaller interior rusher in round one who doesn’t feature in base (and therefore plays a smaller percentage of snaps)?

If the Seahawks want a stout, consistent DE who plays the run well and doesn’t get shoved around — Bullard will do that. He’s a good run defender at DE. He can set the edge and his ability to close is exceptional. When he sees the ball carrier in front he’ll wrap up and finish the tackle. He never misses a tackle — period. He also does a very good job staying disciplined and filling his gap — something the Seahawks cherish.

But he isn’t a special pass rusher. He has a nice athletic profile but is he an 8-12 sack guy like Cam Jordan? I’m not convinced he will be. The Seahawks might be content with a 5-7 sack defender — essentially replacing the lost production from 2015 that they had in 2013-14 with Clinton McDonald and Jordan Hill. The question is — will they see that as worthy of a first round pick?

As an individual with his competitive nature, the chip on his shoulder, the intensity, the discipline and the run defense — Bullard’s a Seahawk. But they also seem to like unique traits in round one with major upside. Bullard, with respect, might only ever be a stout, solid run defender who gets you a handful of sacks a season working inside. It’s possible he might be the type of player they’d happily take at #56 or round three. They might prefer someone with a greater upside in the first round.

Bullard is a really fun player to watch, a guy who is easy to like and he’s not a slouch athletically. He’s a former 5-star recruit and he did well at the combine. There’s a pretty good chance you’ll get a good player if you draft him. Is he capable of being a great player though? That’s what the Seahawks would have to consider if they wanted to take him at #26. He might not be special enough to warrant a first day pick.

Emmanuel Ogbah (DE, Oklahoma State)
Here’s how a NFL area scout described Ogbah: “He’s stiff and upright so he has no counters as a rusher and then he doesn’t even play hard all the time. If you are going to be the hulk, then play hard all the time.”

I watched Ogbah vs Kansas State yesterday and this assessment is pretty much spot on. Cody Whitehair basically had his lunch money. Ogbah was happy to be blocked and probably thanked Whitehair for not being too mean. Time and time again the pair engaged, Whitehair contained Ogbah and finished the block. There was no counter, no physicality, nothing.

Oklahoma State adjusted and moved Ogbah to take on the right tackle. He got a sack and did a big boy pose. It’d would’ve been easier to stomach had he not received a wedgie earlier by a guy who will inevitably move to guard or center in the NFL.

His athletic profile is excellent but if Ogbah is going to succeed at the next level he needs to up the ante. He needs to play with more fire, he needs to work on counters and hand placement and he needs to show more effort. It’s tempting to look at a 13-sack season, a 1.5 split and a terrific forty yard dash for his size and get excited. It’s worth noting, however, that despite weighing 15lbs less than Kaufusi, Obgah’s agility testing led to a 4.50 short shuttle and a 7.26 three cone. Kaufusi, as we noted above, had a 4.21 and a 7.03 at 6-6 and 285lbs.

 

Seahawks meeting with Jonathan Bullard

March 25th, 2016 | Written by Rob Staton

This isn’t a big shock. Seattle’s two key needs — and the most likely picks in the first two rounds — are O-line help and a DE/DT hybrid.

Bullard ticks so many boxes. He can play DE in base and shoot the B-gap. On third downs and in nickel he can move inside.

Seattle met with Mario Edwards Jr a year ago and drafted similar inside/out players in Cassius Marsh and Frank Clark. They’ve since dropped weight — so presumably the search continues for that type of pass rusher.

Edwards Jr was hard to judge in terms of his range. Jason La Canfora made a strong case for him being a first rounder last year. He was the #35 pick to Oakland.

Bullard is getting similar grades. As we noted yesterday, Tony Pauline thinks he’ll go in round one while others insist he’s a second or third round pick. It really depends on scheme. Bullard’s not an automatic fit in the 3-4 and he’s equally not suited to an orthodox 4-3. He’ll do his best work moving around the line. It’s not surprising that Oakland (with Ken Norton Jr as their defensive coordinator) took Edwards Jr and Bullard is equally a good fit in Seattle’s defense.

It’s not just the scheme fit that will likely appeal to the Seahawks. Bullard has tremendous grit and spirit. He carried a major chip on his shoulder in 2015 after getting a mid-round grade from the draft committee. He admitted he returned to Florida to prove he was better than that. He’s a former 5-star recruit — something the Seahawks seem to like.

Bullard performed well at the combine and plays with a real fire and intensity. He doesn’t take snaps off and if the Seahawks really want to become the bully again this year — here’s a guy who can help them get there.

There aren’t many DE/DT hybrid’s in this draft class. Sheldon Rankins is probably the ideal but he’s expected to go in the top-15. Bullard might be the only other option for Seattle otherwise they’ll just look elsewhere (at maybe a pure edge or a DT).

For that reason it could make Bullard a very serious option at #26. They won’t be able to get at the top offensive tackles in rounds 2-3 — but there are likely to be interior line alternatives such as Connor McGovern or the rising Joe Haeg.

It wouldn’t be a total shock if the Seahawks approached the draft as follows:

1. Are Rankins or Bullard available at #26?

2. If not, take an offensive lineman with a high ceiling (Germain Ifedi)

3. If you go O-line at #26, take the best DT or EDGE at #56

They could equally just be so focused on the offensive line that this is a moot point. After all, Pete Carroll noted it was a priority at the end of the 2015 season:

“I don’t think we’ve nailed it yet. I think this needs to be a really competitive spot again, and we’re going to work really hard to build it up. For the course of the season, we weren’t consistent enough.

“We found a real good rhythm, but we can’t start and go through that again. We don’t want to have to experience that if we can avoid it. I think that’s a real area of focus again.”

They might be prepared to see how far Bullard lasts and consider trading up in round two. That enables them to get their guy on the O-line at #26.

Either way, the good money is on an OL/DL pick to start off the draft. Running back (did I mention Tyler Ervin is pretty good?), further O-line competition and possibly receiver will also come into play starting in round three.

 

How will the Seahawks approach adding a defensive lineman?

March 24th, 2016 | Written by Rob Staton

This is the second time I’ve seen someone suggest that the Seahawks want an inside-out type rusher as opposed to a pure edge or defensive tackle.

The Seahawks are minded to shut down the run with cheaper, bigger bodies in base. Then it’s time to unleash the hounds.

A player of this description is flexible enough to play a high percentage of snaps. You don’t need to take them off the field in base (they can play end) and they can move inside in nickel or nascar.

If the idea is to get bang for your buck — this type of defender makes sense. Since Bennett joined the Seahawks, it’s generally the type they’ve gone for. Even though Cassius Marsh and now Frank Clark have dropped weight — they both played a similar role in college.

That said, I doubt they’re married to the idea. If the draft provides an opportunity to add a talented defensive tackle instead so be it. This could be as much about an ideal rather than a priority.

So who’s out there?

DeForest Buckner will be long gone, Robert Nkemdiche is possibly going to fall out of the first round and might not be on Seattle’s board. Sheldon Rankins seems likely to go in the top-15.

Jonathan Bullard is one to monitor as we’ve previously discussed. He’s also one of the hardest prospects to assess in terms of draft range.

Tony Pauline is projecting him firmly in round one. Yet Bob McGinn’s anonymous scouting source had the following to say about Bullard:

“He’ll go second or third round just because of limitations on flexibility.”

He won’t fit several schemes. He’s not an ideal five-technique and yet he plays his best football off the edge working the B Gap. With the Seahawks generally using 3-4 personnel in their 4-3 scheme — that’s probably a good fit. Other teams might see him as a tweener.

Todd McShay today mocked him to #46 overall to the Lions:

“He lacks elite physical tools, but he grows on you the more tape you watch. He’s a high-motor player.”

Daniel Jeremiah has Bullard at #43 on his big board:

“He lacks the girth to consistently hold up vs. angle blocks and double teams. As a pass rusher, he uses his quick feet and hands to work through edges of blockers. He lacks knock-back power as a bull rusher. Overall, Bullard doesn’t fit every defense but he can be a disruptive presence on the inside.”

Scouts Inc offers the following take:

“He might not be a first round pick like former Gator defensive linemen Sharrif Floyd (Vikings, ’13), Dominique Easley (Patriots, ’14), and Dante Fowler (Jaguars, ’15) but Bullard should hear his name called on Day 2.”

Opinions are clearly mixed. Tony Pauline’s first round grade probably matches up with several teams in the league — as does Bob McGinn’s source suggesting the second or third round.

How far do the teams let him fall? Is he the best option for the Seahawks to fill this need?

Pauline has Oklahoma’s Charles Tapper in round two. He also played inside and out at college and blew up the combine with a surprisingly brilliant athletic display. He was one of the few D-liners to post a 1.5 10-yard split and he ran the fastest forty (4.59) despite weighing 271lbs.

As an athletic profile, that’s outstanding. He also has 34.5 inch arms and posted a 34 inch vertical.

Athletically he might as well be wearing College Navy right now — but here’s the thing. When we all thought he was probably a 4.7 runner his tape was palatable. Now that we know he’s an athletic freak of nature you kind of want to see more. You want to see him dominating — because we know he’s so much better physically than anyone else on the field.

The Seahawks might be able to buy into his upside — but he never got close to the kind of performances Frank Clark showed at Michigan. He dominated.

Tapper never really did.

Here’s Scouts Inc’s take:

He is a three-year starter who has the length and two-gapping ability to fit as a 5-technique in a base 3-4 defense. He continues to develop as a pass rusher and came on late in the year with all seven of his sacks coming in the final six games. Tapper projects as a fringe Day 2 prospect who should add immediate depth and quickly develop into a starter along a front line.

Ronald Blair III might come into focus again. He didn’t have a great combine but he has the size (6-2, 284lbs, 34 inch arms), first step quickness and he performed well in the short shuttle (Blair III’s 4.53 beat Bullard’s 4.56). He has his supporters but round two might be a bit rich.

Sheldon Day worked inside and out for Notre Dame. His production isn’t great (four sacks in 2015) and although he’s a very active player, he didn’t spend a lot of time in the backfield. He’s also small in stature at 6-0 and 293lbs with 32.5 inch arms. He did manage a 1.69 split which is decent for his weight and he had a very nice 4.50 short shuttle. It’s hard to imagine a player of his size on Seattle’s D-line, however.

Jihad Ward likely isn’t athletic enough for Seattle, Bronson Kaufusi might be more of a pure edge and after that the options aren’t great.

So it brings up two thoughts. Do they like a guy like Bullard enough that they can’t leave the draft without him? Remember, the Seahawks identify areas to get ‘their’ guys. If Bullard gets the special ‘we have to have him’ treatment he could be their pick at #26. If he’s a guy they like but can live without because they want to go O-line first — then they’ll have to see what’s available in round two.

Getting a guy they like on the O-line and D-line (one way or another) is probably a safe projection for the Seahawks in rounds one and two.

If the top DE-DT’s are off the board, other D-liners might come into focus.

McShay had UCLA’s Kenny Clark on the board at #56. Clark had one of the better workouts at the combine — looking sharp throughout the drills.

He’s 29lbs heavier than Bullard but had a similar 10-yard split, a forty time that was only 0.13 seconds slower and there was 0.07 seconds difference in the short shuttle. They are different players but Clark’s athletic profile for his size could be appealing.

He’d provide a like-for-like replacement for Brandon Mebane in terms of style and position. He’s a classic one-technique. Adding him to Seattle’s D-line rotation could give them a nice, cheap Mebane replacement for the next few years.

Willie Henry’s technique needs work (drops his head way too much) but he also does things very few guys his size can do. In round two, he could also be an option. He’s close to Frank Clark.

We’ve noted Kaufusi — who aced the agility drills at the combine despite being 6-6 and 285lbs.

Austin Johnson plays with his hair on fire and I think the Seahawks will like that even if he isn’t an amazing athlete. They might be willing to turn a blind eye. Jordan Hill isn’t a big time athlete and Johnson plays with real intensity. Here’s McGinn’s source:

Fits multiple schemes. Late first, early second. Like him. Plays more 3-technique but he can play nose.

Maliek Collins also had a great short shuttle and is a former wrestler. Joel Heath’s athletic performance led us to wonder if he could be their next O-line convert — but could they work him into their D-line rotation as a surprise pick? Quinton Jefferson also tested well for agility. Adolphus Washington, aka the forgotten man, didn’t have a good combine on top of some character concerns late in the season but he might be the closest comparison in this class to Malik Jackson.

Chris Jones had an underwhelming combine for a player of his potential — an issue that seems to sum up his pro-prospects. Here’s what McGinn’s scout said about Jones:

He could easily be in the top 50 but he is such a dog. He’s an underachiever.

The Tweet at the top of the page insinuates the Seahawks wouldn’t be interested in Emmanuel Ogbah based on scheme fit — but athletically he’s an intriguing proposition as more of an EDGE.

It seems likely that the Seahawks will use their first two picks to address the trenches, whether it’s an O-line then D-line combo or vice versa. While adding to the offensive line might be Pete Carroll’s self-confessed priority — getting another DE-DT hybrid (and some extra depth at running back) might be next on the list.

 

3000 NFL Mock Draft Podcast: 23rd March

March 23rd, 2016 | Written by Rob Staton

This week Kenneth and I talk about Russell Okung, yesterday’s seven-round Seahawks mock and we take some Twitter questions. Check it out…

Also today — the Seahawks were heavily involved in Connor McGovern’s pro-day workout at Missouri:

This isn’t a big surprise. If there are two players that might be ‘can’t leave the draft without’ types for the Seahawks — it could be McGovern and Tyler Ervin.

Dave Matter from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Seahawks brought a crowd to McGovern’s pro-day, including Brennan Carroll:

Three teams brought assistant coaches who put offensive linemen Boehm and McGovern through a lengthy series of position drills: Patriots OL coach Dante Scarnecchia, Colts assistant OL coach Joe Gilbert, Seahawks assistant OL coach Brennan Carroll and Bengals offensive quality control coach Robert Couch. The Seahawks and Chiefs were among a few teams that had multiple representatives on hand.

Here’s another video featuring Tyler Ervin I noticed last night:

Meanwhile John Schneider had an interesting quote at the owners meeting regarding Seattle’s O-line:

“Besides three or four offensive lines throughout the league, it’s a concern for everybody. So you are constantly working at it. There is a reason we are converting defensive linemen to offensive linemen. There is really a shortage of talent at this point in the league.”

It’s further evidence they’ll once again be looking for major upside with their offensive line picks. There’s a real shortage of unique athletes playing O-line in college. This is why it’s easy to assume the likes of McGovern, Germain Ifedi and Le’Raven Clark could be on their radar. It’s also why they might look to convert Michigan State’s Joel Heath to the offense.

Finally, this Tweet is worth noting:

This isn’t the first time someone has mentioned that the Seahawks want to add another Michael Bennett type to their roster. Not to replace Bennett, mind, but someone who can play end and still move inside for the key downs.

Rather than a pure edge or interior run stuffer — a DE that can move inside appears to be their main desire on the D-line.

 

Seven round Seahawks mock draft

March 22nd, 2016 | Written by Rob Staton

Tyler Ervin could be the guy they can’t leave the draft without

I’ve chosen two scenarios for rounds one and two. One that will satisfy those wanting the #26 to be spent on an offensive lineman — and one that will satisfy those wanting to see a pass rusher.

Round 1
Germain Ifedi (T, Texas A&M) or Jonathan Bullard (DE, Florida)
Ifedi is huge (6-6, 324lbs, 36 inch arms) but he’s also a dynamic athlete (second best vertical among O-liners at the combine) and he looks like the Hulk. He’s ranked #1 by SLA among offensive linemen and physically he’s in the 97th percentile for NFL lineman. Mock Draftable also compares him to Kelechi Osemele. A pick like this would allow the Seahawks to look at Ifedi and J’Marcus Webb at tackle and guard and make a decision on who starts where during camp. Starting Ifedi at left guard would give Tom Cable an athletic mauler. He’s a cheaper alternative to Osemele.

I suspect the Seahawks would like to add another DE who can kick inside on third down. That’s the ideal role for Bullard. PFF ranked him as the #1 interior run defender in college football for 2015. He impressed athletically at the combine with a decent three-cone (7.31) and vertical (32 inches). He also has good size (6-3, 285lbs, 33.5 inch arms, 10 inch hands) and has the right attitude for this team. Bullard returned to Florida in 2015 because he wanted to prove he was a better player than the mid-round grade he received from the draft committee.

Round 2
Connor McGovern (T, Missouri) or Bronson Kaufusi (DE, BYU)
If the Seahawks take a pass rusher in round one — this surely has to be an O-line pick? McGovern played left tackle for Missouri, following in the footsteps of back-to-back second round picks Justin Britt and Mitch Morse. McGovern is closer to Morse athletically — he’s ranked #4 among linemen by SLA and in the 87th percentile. He had the best vertical at the combine (33 inches) and excelled in the three cone and short shuttle too. He’s incredibly powerful and can squat 690lbs five times. The Seahawks love grit, physicality, athleticism and tackle experience on their O-line. McGovern could line up at guard or center and act as a tackle in an emergency.

As noted above, I’ve got a hunch the Seahawks want a D-end in base formations who can kick inside. Frank Clark was originally posted for that role but he’s now losing weight. They might reach a little bit for BYU’s Bronson Kaufusi. He’s 6-6 and 285lbs but managed a stunning 4.25 short shuttle and an impressive 7.03 in the three-cone. He had 11 sacks in 2015. He matches Seattle’s ideals for athleticism, size and production. You want to see him chewing glass a little bit more but that aside he can move along the line and is a day two athlete for sure. He’s the #3 SLA prospect for defensive linemen and in the 96th percentile.

Utah State’s Kyler Fackrell is smaller but could be another option. He’s more akin to Shea McClellin — who visited Seattle before signing with the Patriots. Maybe the #56 pick could be used in a possible trade, similar to the Arizona’s deal for Chandler Jones?

Round 3
Tyler Ervin (RB, San Jose State)
Everything about Ervin screams Seahawks. He’s a dynamic athlete (4.41 forty, 10-10 broad and 39 inch vertical), he has tremendous production (1601 yards, 13 touchdowns in 2015), he’s a team captain and he’s understated. On tape he runs hard despite a 5-10, 192lbs frame and he doesn’t shirk running between the tackles. He has that gliding speed the Seahawks love when he finds a crease and he goes through the gears to max-out gains. He carried his team on his back. Lance Dunbar recently visited Seattle and it hints at the incorporation of a pass-catching back moving forward. Don’t sleep on Ervin’s ability to be another Brian Westbrook. This pick would be the #90 overall selection — Westbrook is a former #91 overall pick by the Eagles. Ervin leaps off the tape and his combine workout was silky smooth. He might be the guy they feel they can’t leave the draft without.

Round 3 comp pick
Graham Glasgow (C, Michigan)
Whatever they do in rounds 1-2 — a second offensive lineman in round three seems likely. Again it’s likely to be someone that can compete at a couple of different spots. Glasgow in this instance has played center and guard for Michigan. His coach Jim Harbaugh suggested he deserved a first round grade before the Shrine Game. He’s a really tough, tone-setting lineman. He’s a no-nonsense type. He’s almost identical in size to Max Unger (6-6, 307lbs) and he performed well in the three-cone and short shuttle. He’s #10 for SLA just ahead of Christian Westerman who could be another option for the Seahawks. Glasgow has previously had issues with alcohol but he’s worked to address that — even moving in with his grandmother. He’s had to battle a bit and succeeded — the Seahawks tend to like that. Plus he’ll hit you in the chest.

Round 4
Devon Cajuste (WR, Stanford)
This has been a range where the Seahawks have taken receivers in the past (Kris Durham, Chris Harper, Kevin Norwood). They lack a big, athletic target following Chris Matthews’ departure and Ricardo Lockette sadly might not play again. Cajuste is extremely close to Doug Baldwin and would fit in immediately. He’s pushing 6-4 and 234lbs but he’s explosive — recording a 36 inch vertical and a 10-3 broad jump. He also has length (33 inch arms) and big hands (11 inches). He’s the #1 SLA receiver and he’s in the 91st percentile compared to the rest of the NFL. His production isn’t great but neither was Kris Durham’s. He did make some clutch catches in a run-first offense. The Seahawks don’t need him to post 1000 yards — they just need him to play a role, block and make the most of the few targets he gets. That’s what he does well — especially the blocking bit.

Round 5
DeAndre Elliott (CB, Colorado State)
The Seahawks nearly always take a cornerback in this range. That player needs to have +32 inch arms and be a certain height. Elliot is 6-0 and 188lbs with exactly 32 inch arms. He ran a 4.55 at the combine which is similar to Richard Sherman. He did post an explosive 41 inch vertical, a 10-5 broad jump and an incredible 3.93 short shuttle. He’s the #5 SLA cornerback and in the 85th percentile. Physically he’s the type of corner they can work with. He had two interceptions in 2015.

Round 6
Joel Heath (DT, Michigan State)
Heath is a natural leader and a great character. Could he be Seattle’s latest O-line convert? He’s currently 6-5 and 293lbs with 34.5 inch arms. He matched Connor McGovern’s vertical jump of 33 inches and his 4.52 short shuttle would’ve been fourth among O-liners. Given his high character and willingness to adapt in the past (he started at defensive end but added 30lbs to kick inside) he could be primed for a move to the O-line. Mock Draftable says he compares physically to Cam Erving — a first rounder last year who similarly moved from defense to offense at Florida State.

Round 7
Keenan Reynolds (QB, Navy)
The Seahawks could draft Reynolds based on his athletic profile and see how he fits in. That could be at receiver or running back. He had a terrific college career — finishing 5th in the Heisman voting and breaking a FBS record for 88 career running touchdowns.

Round 7
Alex Balducci (DT, Oregon)
The Seahawks took an interest in Balducci at the Shrine Game. Seahawks coaches were also heavily involved in his pro-day workout recently. He could be another camp body for the D-line competition.

 

Monday draft notes: Tyler Ervin, defense and Karlos Dansby

March 21st, 2016 | Written by Rob Staton

Tyler Ervin is one to really monitor
In such a disappointing running back class (with a handful of exceptions) it was interesting to read Darrell Bevell spent considerable time with Ervin at his pro-day.

He’s not the type of powerful, explosive runner they’ve generally sought. He’s 5-10, 192lbs and is to running backs what Tyler Lockett is to receivers.

That’s maybe the point.

The Seahawks do love size, power and physicality — but they also like suddenness, speed and explosive plays. With so few bigger, athletic runners available — Ervin’s profile is intriguing in a different way.

He ran a 4.41 at the combine, had a 39 inch vertical and a 10-10 in the broad jump. These are all very good numbers. He also had 1601 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2015 — not bad for a ‘scat back’.

It’s worth remembering that the Seahawks don’t just value athleticism. They love production and character. Ervin has both in spades.

Having visited with Lance Dunbar before he re-signed in Dallas — the Seahawks might be just tweaking their offense a little bit. They’ll still run with power predominantly — but adding a passing dimension to the running back group could be an option. Ervin can still run the ball up the middle — but he’s a potentially explosive compliment to their backfield.

Lining Rawls, Ervin and Jimmy Graham on the field at the same time could be tricky to defend. It might also take some of the strain off a rebuilt offensive line — offering Russell Wilson a simple check-down and a more dynamic passing option than 35-year-old Fred Jackson.

Don’t be shocked if they take Ervin as high as round three. He could be one of the guys they don’t want to leave the draft without.

Talking defense at #26
The Seahawks appear likely to draft an offensive lineman in round one for various reasons. They lost two key starters, have only really replaced one of them and they need greater depth, talent and competition up front.

When Pete Carroll has identified a need in the past it’s often been aggressively rectified — sometimes in the draft.

But you’ve heard all this before.

So let’s at least consider some of the things that might make it possible for the Seahawks to go with a defensive player at #26.

1. They’d have to be absolutely convinced that Garry Gilliam and J’Marcus Webb are the unchallenged starters at tackle. It’s almost impossible to believe they’d think that way — but with so few tackles likely to be available after round one, it’s likely what they’d need to believe.

2. Carolina recently started Michael Oher and Mike Remmers and made it to a Super Bowl. The Panthers’ strong interior line was a major strength during their run. It’s certainly possible for Seattle to build up the interior line in rounds 2-4. Of course, it’d be even easier to draft Germain Ifedi, Shon Coleman, Jason Spriggs or Taylor Decker at #26 and plug them inside — while allowing them to at least provide extra depth and competition at tackle. But there are good options after the first round at center and guard.

3. The Seahawks didn’t fight the strength of the draft in 2014 and took a receiver with their first pick. The depth at wide out would’ve enabled them to wait until round two, three or four and get an impact player. The depth at offensive tackle was much weaker. Yet they stayed true to their board and took Paul Richardson. This led to them somewhat desperately reaching for Justin Britt in round two — but they were willing to take that risk. We’ll see if they do something similar this year.

4. It’s not a great draft for pass rushers. It is a good draft for space eaters and run stuffers. If they feel like they absolutely need to add a potent pass rusher — they might have to do it early. Whether that’s an Emmanuel Ogbah outside or a Jonathan Bullard at defensive tackle. That said — Carroll has noted that the O-line is the priority and they do already have Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril and Frank Clark on defense. The existing talent on the O-line is much weaker — but they trust and depend on Tom Cable to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.

5. They’d need to believe an impact player on defense would be the difference between contending again and just falling short. Certainly it’d be a big benefit to add another disruptor. Whether the Seahawks can convince themselves that’s more important than rebuilding the O-line having lost two experienced starters is the big question.

Admittedly it’s not an altogether convincing case. For every point there’s a counter, highlighting how much it makes sense to draft for the O-line at #26 and then go from there.

Is there a scenario to satisfy both those hoping for an early injection of O-line talent and those wanting an impact defensive player? Absolutely — and we discussed it on the blog recently. Take your preferred O-liner at #26, then trade up in round two to get your pass rusher using one of your two third round picks.

In 2014 the Eagles traded up from #54 to #42 for a late fourth rounder — a generous deal on behalf of the Titans. The Seahawks are unlikely to get a bargain like that but their tradable third round pick could get them into the early 40’s or late 30’s. That could land them Bullard to go with the offensive lineman — and you’d still have a compensatory third round pick spare.

Is Karlos Dansby an option for the Seahawks?
He’s not an obvious scheme fit — but this is one of the fun things about the Pete Carroll version of this franchise. They’re flexible and willing to adapt to suit the talent available.

There’s no indication how strong the interest is — but it’s interesting nonetheless. Dansby is 34 and no longer the player who once ran a 4.45 at the 2004 combine with a 41.5 inch vertical at 245lbs. He’s still an incredibly physical, tough guy.

If the Seahawks want to be the bully again — as John Schneider claims — this is the type of player that can help them get there.

The reaction of the Arizona fans to the Tweet was telling:

It might be a long shot and who knows how they’d fit him into Seattle’s defense — but the guy can play the brand of football this Seahawks defense is used to.

Dansby had three interceptions and two touchdowns in 2015. He also had two forced fumbles and deflected six passes. He’s two years removed from a 6.5 sack season for the Cardinals.

If the Seahawks take a chance, they’ll be getting a possible impact player that knows the NFC West.

Alternative O-line options at #26
I might do a bigger piece on this down the line — but I spent time over the weekend considering some alternative options other than the big, athletic tackles at #26.

Some are obvious. Cris Collinsworth mocked Ryan Kelly to Seattle last week and made a very strong case for that line of thinking.

Others aren’t quite so obvious — and that’s testament to Tom Cable’s way of doing things. They’re just as likely to consider a unique, SPARQ superstar as they are a modest, unspectacular athlete who plays with his hair on fire.

For example:

Athletes — Okung, Sweezy, Gilliam
Tough guys — Moffitt, Britt, Unger, Giacomini
Big guys — Carpenter, Bailey

I’m led to believe they at least had some tentative interest in Laken Tomlinson a year ago before he was drafted at #28 by Detroit. Had he dropped into round two he could’ve been an option. His combine performance was extremely modest.

Cody Whitehair didn’t sparkle in Indianapolis this year — at least in terms of the numbers. He ran a decent 5.08 but only managed 25 inches in the vertical jump. Watching the drills, however, he looked fluid and natural with great balance and bend. He looked like an ideal fit to kick inside to guard or center. His footwork and mobility did not look clunky or lacking in athleticism.

He also has tackle experience at Kansas State and plays a physical brand of football. His tape is very good and his ability to play multiple spots could appeal.

The one issue might be length. He has 32.5 inch arms. It’s not a death sentence for offensive linemen — Joe Thomas has short arms too. Yet the Seahawks haven’t drafted an offensive lineman with sub-33 inch arms in the Carroll era. We know how strict they are with cornerback length — it might be a similar case for offensive linemen.

Whitehair would give them options at center and both guard positions — plus he could play tackle if needed. Considering the massive size and upside of other players (Germain Ifedi has everything physically and a nice comparison to Kelechi Osemele courtesy of Mock Draftable) — he might not be the guy they take. Yet it’d be wrong to rule out some of the less spectacular specimen’s in this draft. Cable has shown there’s no exact type he goes for. It’s really more of an attitude thing first and foremost.

 

Jason La Canfora on the Seahawks & Joe Thomas

March 20th, 2016 | Written by Rob Staton

Joe Thomas could be traded by the Browns before the draft

Jason La Canfora has a track record on the Seahawks. Last year he called the Frank Clark pick the night before it happened. He also had the news on Marshawn Lynch’s new contract during the 2015 combine.

Today he posted some thoughts on Cleveland offensive tackle Joe Thomas. La Canfora thinks the Browns could still be open to trading him and suggests talks could occur during the upcoming owners meeting.

He questions why the Browns didn’t accept Denver’s offer of a first rounder plus change before the trade deadline — and believes they should go all out to acquire a similar deal before the 2016 draft.

Inevitably the Seahawks are mentioned…

Seattle, a team with an aggressive and bold general manager in John Schneider, has an opening at left tackle with injured Russell Okung moving on and the Seahawks not making a move in free agency. This kind of swashbuckling deal — with the Seahawks picking 26th and still firmly in Super Bowl-now mode — would be right up his alley. Some of his peers see him as a prime trade partner, though league sources have indicated that the slew of big contracts handed out by the Seahawks probably has to stop at some point, and they did just deal their top pick to take on tight end Jimmy Graham’s huge deal a year ago.

It doesn’t appear likely at this point, though with someone as cunning as Schneider I wouldn’t entirely rule it out, either.

It’s an interesting summary and goes further than merely linking the team to a need. La Canfora offers informed analysis. He doesn’t rule it out — but does suggest it’s unlikely.

That wouldn’t be a bad position for everyone to assume.

Thomas is a quality player and if he was 28 instead of approaching 32 it’d make a great deal of sense. However, he’s reaching the inevitable point in his career when players start to dip. Not many offensive tackles play on at an extremely high standard well into their 30’s.

Seattle’s physical brand of football, focused on the running game, hasn’t just led to injury issues for Russell Okung. Virtually every member of Seattle’s various O-lines has missed time since 2010. It’s challenging physically to play in this scheme.

Thomas would do it because he’s that type of guy. How long he could do it for is the big question.

What you pay him isn’t the issue. A $9.5m salary in 2016 with $10m to follow in each of the next two seasons is about the going rate. The thing to consider is the potential saving you make if you think you can get a very good offensive tackle at #26.

Sure — you won’t get Joe Thomas. But if you think you can get a good starter with a high ceiling and the potential to be great at a salary of £1.5m — that weighs into the equation.

Only recently we noted the lack of elite offensive tackles in the NFL’s top performing O-lines. Spending a first round pick on a great short term measure at tackle isn’t necessarily a formula for overall success. The interior line might be taking on a greater importance.

The Seahawks would have five years of club control on a young first round pick. If the prospect became a success — you’d be looking to pay him going into his peak years in the league. With Thomas you’re already investing heavily in the twilight of his career on what could be anything from a one to three year rental.

Team chemistry also has to be considered. Thomas wouldn’t be any kind of issue in the locker room — but repeatedly bringing in expensive outsiders might be a problem. Especially when you consider that, like Jimmy Graham, Thomas’ salary would be greater than Michael Bennett’s and Kam Chancellor’s.

Eventually they have to draw the line on that type of activity — as La Canfora notes.

The Seahawks will continue to be linked with Thomas until he goes somewhere else (providing he does). It’d be wrong to rule it out completely. Many fans will clamour for the trade — amid a perception that the Seahawks now cannot address their biggest need sufficiently.

However — it’d be wrong to assume they didn’t have a plan when they allowed Russell Okung to walk for what amounts to a one-year, $5m prove-it deal. Or when Donald Penn re-signed with the Raiders for $7m or Kelvin Beachum rolled the dice in Jacksonville.

They’ll know what they want to do — and the plan likely involves using the draft to substantially address this matter. It just so happens this is a pretty good class if you’re wanting to make a couple of additions to your offensive line.

Is getting younger a problem? Maybe initially. But the key for the Seahawks isn’t to just add one big name to reassure the fans. It’s to create a line that can play together, ideally, for the next 4-5 years at least. Cohesion, consistency and performance. These things need to be built — and the Seahawks are re-building their line because they didn’t want to pay Okung and J.R. Sweezy.

They might prefer to focus on the interior line — again as we discussed here.

We know John Schneider likes to make deals so who knows what’ll happen. Given the lack of great pass rush options in the draft, is there an alternative trade out there for a defensive player? One similar to the move Arizona just made for Chandler Jones?

After all, the Seahawks do still have a bit of cap room to play with.

 

Exclusive: RB Darius Jackson highlights & LSU tape

March 19th, 2016 | Written by Rob Staton

The Seahawks like a certain style of running back. Ideally they need to be in the 5-10 to 6-0 range, weigh about 210-220lbs, have plus athleticism and they need to be physical and finish runs.

It’s quite a list — but they base their offensive identity on running the ball.

Only C.J. Prosise and Kenneth Dixon really got into range in Indianapolis (let’s discount Ezekiel Elliott and Derrick Henry for now). Dixon’s ball security issues might be a concern for the Seahawks (13 fumbles in three seasons).

The Seahawks are almost certain to draft a running back at some point — so it’s worth keeping an eye on the pro-days for non-attendees to the combine. It’s also worth monitoring who visits the VMAC between now and the draft.

Eastern Michigan running back Darius Jackson was allowed to workout at the Michigan pro-day. Here’s what Tony Pauline had to say about his performance:

“One of the stars during today’s Michigan workout was Eastern Michigan running back Darius Jackson. The ball carrier measured 6000, 220 pounds, posted a 41-inch vertical jump and an 11-1 broad jump, and completed 20 reps on the bench. He was fast in the 40, timing in the mid 4.3s on many watches. The Detroit Lions spent hours with Jackson after the workout, driving back to EMU with him and watching film.”

Gil Brandt added:

“He did the short shuttle in 4.27 seconds and the three-cone drill in 6.82 seconds. Jackson is from Sparta, Ill., and wanted to be a baseball player. He went to EMU because the school promised that he could play both baseball and football. Jackson ultimately decided that football was his cup of tea. Jackson — who had 1,078 yards and 14 touchdowns rushing in 2015 — had a dynamite pro-day workout, and could be a late-round selection in the 2016 NFL Draft.”

He ticks the size and athleticism boxes. He’s likely to be regarded as the top SPARQ running back in the 2016 class.

The Seahawks have Thomas Rawls and Christine Michael. They’re likely to add a third down back and possibly some further competition. Jackson could be a target.

What about the tape?

Thanks to Justin P here’s some of Jackson’s college highlights and his tape vs LSU. You won’t find this anywhere else.

 

Will the Seahawks concentrate on upgrading their interior line?

March 18th, 2016 | Written by Rob Staton

Ryan Kelly could be an option for the Seahawks at #26

Seattle’s starting tackles might be on the roster already. Garry Gilliam could be switching to the blindside and J’Marcus Webb could be starting on the right.

With an emphasis seemingly on greater competition this year — nothing is set in stone. It’s at least possible, however, that these two will emerge as the projected starters.

Hidden within a piece of classic football rhetoric (you win games in the trenches) is a feeling that you need a great left tackle to win. The reality might be a little bit different. According to Football Outsiders, these were the top ten teams for pass protection in 2015:

1 St Louis/Los Angeles
2 Baltimore
3 New York Jets
4 Oakland
5 Arizona
6 New York Giants
7 New Orleans
8 Pittsburgh
9 Atlanta
10 Washington

Of that group, one team benched their left tackle during the season (Baltimore), the Giants started a rookie, Pittsburgh started Alejandro Villanueva and the Jets had a player (D’Brickashaw Ferguson) that has been touted as a cap casualty for a few weeks.

Only Washington fielded an elite tackle in Trent Williams.

In the NFL’s top 100 list for 2015, only four offensive tackles were listed. Most teams in the league are not starting a great NFL left tackle.

The four offensive tackles starting in Super Bowl 50 were Michael Oher, Mike Remmers, Ryan Harris and Michael Schofield.

It’s an overrated thought that a brilliant left tackle is vital for a successful O-line. Really it’s about creating a chemistry. Knowing what you want to do and finding players that can execute.

In fairness the Seahawks have never hidden what they want to do. Their identity is to run the ball as a priority — so they generally target good run blockers. That doesn’t mean they can’t do a better job consistently pass blocking. And it’s consistency they lacked — nothing more serious than that.

This Tweet shows how productive Seattle’s O-line was in the second half of the 2015 season:

The key is to produce that level of performance over 16 games, not eight. Having big name or ageing veterans is not vital to achieve that. Better depth and competition — plus an injection of young talent — could be the key to finding the right blend.

In 2015 the Seahawks didn’t do a good enough job stocking the shelves. They had automatic, unchallenged starters at new positions and too many players struggled early — especially at the two guard spots and center.

While many focus on what the Seahawks need to do to replace Russell Okung, the more pertinent question might be — how do they upgrade the interior line?

If they believe they can get by with Gilliam and Webb at tackle (much like the Panthers succeeded with Oher and Remmers) — improving at center and guard could be the focus.

It was often the interior that created issues for Seattle. Certainly against the Rams and Panthers they had trouble inside.

Teams want to contain Russell Wilson by having their edge rushers sit. If the pocket collapses, Wilson will try to scramble and it’s an easy sack for the DE just anticipating the move. If they can protect inside to force teams to attack the edge — it not only keeps the pocket clean but it gives Wilson a better chance to improvise because the edge rushers are committed.

Cris Collinsworth raised an interesting point this week in a mock draft. He had the Seahawks taking Alabama center Ryan Kelly:

The more football I watch, the more I’m convinced that center is a very underrated position. The other thing I’ve noticed is that edge rushers are almost entirely dependent on the interior rushers getting a push that keeps the QB from stepping up in the pocket.

So many teams put a premium on the center’s ability to get to the second level that they sign smaller centers that can move. I would put the premium on strength and size that could hold the point and allow my quarterback to step up. The Seahawks need help along that offensive line, and losing Max Unger in the Jimmy Graham trade last offseason hurt, but combining a talented young center like Kelly with Russell Wilson would give the Seahawks a communication tandem that would last a decade.

There are two thoughts here…

1. Collinsworth acknowledges the importance of interior protection and how it impacts the edge rush.

2. Everything the Seahawks do on offense from here on in will be designed to build long term relationships with Russell Wilson.

Make no mistake, Wilson is the heart of Seattle’s offense now. Drafting Tyler Lockett gives him a target he can grow with for multiple seasons during his peak years. The decision to trade for Jimmy Graham was inspired by a desire to aid Wilson. Any future moves on the O-line will also likely be with Wilson in mind.

Maybe there’s a type of O-liner the Seahawks think Wilson needs? It’s worth considering. Maybe that wasn’t obvious when they drafted him? Perhaps that’s why they’ve allowed the entire starting O-line from the Super Bowl to depart?

Wilson is, after all, a very difficult quarterback to block for because of his improvising quality. Extreme athleticism on the line might be increasingly important — along with mobility and the ability to sustain a block.

They’ve maybe decided he needs greater interior protection too. He has the escapability to see the edge rusher and avoid taking a sack. It’s not quite as easy when the interior O-line collapses.

Building a relationship at center for the long term might also be seen as a priority — as Collinsworth suggests. Whether they make that move in round one remains to be seen — there will be options later on.

They might draft a highly athletic tackle who can move inside and offer competition at a couple of spots. It could mean drafting a pure guard (something they’ve tended not to do — but might be more open to it for the right guy). It could mean a new center.

Athleticism, grit, toughness, physicality and run blocking are likely to be the things to look for. Spending two early picks on the O-line appears inevitable at this stage. Let’s look at some of the players potentially on Seattle’s radar if they try to upgrade their interior line…

Ryan Kelly (C, Alabama)
A powerful, physical player who loves to battle and scrap. He’s ranked in the top eight for SLA and is in the 80th percentile for NFL linemen in terms of size and athleticism. He size in the lower body, plays quite top-heavy and could be jolted back without a firmer base at the next level. He sometimes gets stuck hand-fighting at the line. Some see him as a top-25 talent — but there’s a pretty good chance he’s there at #26. They’d have to take him in round one due to his toughness and athleticism. He won’t last too long.

Germain Ifedi (T, Texas A&M)
An absolute physical freak of nature with better tape than people recognise. He has ideal length, size and mobility. He’s in the 98th percentile for NFL linemen and he’s the top SLA O-liner in the class. Mock Draftable says his nearest physical comparison in the NFL is Kelechi Osemele. He could slot in at left guard and provide a similar impact for a fraction of the cost. This is what he’s capable of. He’s capable of being a future left or right tackle — but could really excel at left guard.

Shon Coleman (T, Auburn)
A terrific football player who’s battled cancer and pushed himself towards a NFL career. He’s a fantastic blocker off the edge but could be a beast inside. He too has ideal size, length and mobility. He’s much older than Ifedi and injury means he’s been unable to test at the combine or the Auburn pro-day. There’s a medical question mark here but if Ifedi’s off the board he’s the best tackle-or-guard option. He’d be a top-25 pick with a clean bill of health.

Connor McGovern (T, Missouri)
McGovern is far less flashy than Ryan Kelly and would need to transition to center — but he has the ideal frame and base for the role. Unlike Kelly, McGovern has tree trunks for legs and he can squat 690lbs. Nobody is shoving him backwards once he sets 1v1. He’s also a terrific athlete — ranked #4 in SLA and in the 87th percentile among NFL linemen. He appears destined for a similar rise to Mitch Morse — who also played left tackle at Missouri before kicking inside.

Joshua Garnett (G, Stanford)
A local player, Garnett suggested it’d be a ‘dream come true’ to play for the Seahawks during his combine press conference. Garnett is massive and powerful and does a terrific job in the run game. That would interest the Seahawks. What puts him at a disadvantage is he’s one dimensional and a pure guard. Coleman, Ifedi and McGovern can play 2-3 spots and that appears to be important as the Seahawks work out this line. There are reportedly some concerns about Garnett’s conditioning and he’s only 16th in SLA, in the 67th percentile for NFL linemen.

Christian Westerman (G, Arizona State)
Westerman is really fun to watch. He didn’t blow up the combine athletically as expected but he’s a gritty battler who moves around freely and gets to the second level. He’s a candidate to play either guard spot or center. He’s in the 76th percentile athletically and is a rising prospect. Some have compared his size, frame and athleticism to that of Alex Mack. He could be a good option at #56.

Cody Whitehair (T, Kansas State)
He played tackle in college and had a lot of success. Unfortunately, he’s a T-Rex with 32.5 inch arms at 6-4 and 301lbs. That means he almost has to play guard or center at the next level. His balance, physicality and natural technique has had people suggesting he could be another Zack Martin. Although he plays guard for Dallas — Martin was Notre Dame’s left tackle but moved inside due to short arms. Whitehair will provide someone with a solid option at guard or center in the #25-40 range.

Graham Glasgow (C, Michigan)
Jim Harbaugh, not that he’s biased at all, labelled Glasgow a first round talent before the Shrine Game. He had a tough week when facing off against Sheldon Rankins at the Senior Bowl but otherwise was terrific. He has similar size to Max Unger and plays with great attitude and ferocity. He might be available in round three but he could be one of the big value picks in the draft. He has the flexibility to play guard. Glasgow ranked 10th in SLA in the 76th percentile.

Nick Martin (C, Notre Dame)
There’s so much to like about Martin’s game. He performed modestly at the combine but that isn’t his stage. His tape is arguably better than Ryan Kelly’s — he doesn’t get stuck in traffic blocking for the sake of it at the LOS. He progresses nicely to the second level, knows how to twist a D-liner to create a crease and he has the bloodlines. He’s not going to blow people away physically but he’ll be a tough, solid pick for someone in the top-50. He can also play guard.

Joe Dahl (T, Washington State)
One of the major highlights of the Senior Bowl was watching Dahl and Nick Martin combine as a center/right guard combo. The two appeared to hit it off and developed an immediate chemistry. It’d be great to see that partnership at the next level. That said, neither player is particularly brilliant physically. Dahl is in the 51st NFL percentile, Martin in the 32nd. They might be overmatched against superior athletes. Dahl might be an option to provide competition at right guard, center or right tackle.

There are others we could include. Denver Kirkland and Sebastien Tretola might appeal due to their size, Evan Boehm and Jack Allen are smaller center’s but offer genuine toughness. Le’Raven Clark is raw but has a high ceiling.

It’s a good enough class for the Seahawks to grab a couple of cornerstone players for their line. Guys they can build and grow with. The strength of the class arguably suggests they take a versatile, athletic tackle at #26 (such as Ifedi) and then focus on the interior with their second O-line selection.

If they can stop the pocket collapsing inside and give Russell Wilson time to make a good decision — this line can succeed in pass protection. We know Tom Cable will prepare them adequately to run the ball.

 

How Russell Okung’s departure impacts the draft

March 17th, 2016 | Written by Rob Staton

For starters, is anyone really surprised?

The Seahawks had an opportunity to extend Russell Okung’s contract well beyond the start of free agency. Unlike Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, Russell Wilson, Bobby Wagner and several others — they let his deal play out.

Rightly or wrongly, they decided long ago that Okung wasn’t a priority. A player they’d rather not lose? Perhaps. But his $10.6m average in Denver is not crazy money for a left tackle. They could afford to keep him. They chose to prioritise other players in free agency and let him walk.

Seahawks fans have been tracking the free agent tackle market for several days — but did the team show the same level of interest?

Let’s run through what actually happened:

— The Seahawks reportedly made a strong offer to keep Okung — which he chose not to accept in pursuit of more money. An improved offer was not forthcoming despite Okung making several visits to other teams.

— Despite hinting that Seattle was interested, Donald Penn never arranged a visit with the Seahawks. He was set to visit with the Giants before agreeing a $14m, two-year deal to stay in Oakland. There’s no real indication that the Seahawks made a big push to sign Penn.

— Kelvin Beachum was reportedly set to visit Seattle last Monday but instead travelled to Jacksonville where he eventually agreed terms on a $4.5m one-year contract with an option to extend to four-years for $40m. Were the Seahawks really that serious about signing Beachum?

— Seattle was pretty quick to touch base with J’Marcus Webb and Bradley Sowell and signed both players.

It’d be foolish to think the Seahawks don’t have a plan here. They allowed several veteran tackles to sign elsewhere without much of a fight. It might not be clear what the plan is six weeks out from the draft — but make no mistake, the Seahawks will know what they want to do with their self-confessed off-season priority.

So again, why is there no reason to panic?

It’s likely they will spend at least two early picks on the offensive line. The Rams started two rookies on their line in 2015 and were ranked #1 pass protection by Football Outsiders.

They could still add further veterans (they are still in the running to sign Ted Larsen).

The Broncos just won a Super Bowl with the following O-line protecting an immobile, now-retired quarterback: Ryan Harris – Evan Mathis – Matt Paradis – Louis Vasquez – Michael Schofield. The only big name is Mathis who is 35 this year. Vasquez has since been cut and they allowed Harris to sign a modest deal in Pittsburgh.

Let’s not forget the success of the Carolina Panthers in 2015. A year ago their big addition on the offensive line was Michael Oher — fresh off a hugely disappointing spell in Tennessee. Oher’s cap hit in 2015 was $2.4m.

Tackle was seen as a big need for the Panthers — and yet they crafted their line with a certain type of lineman that fit the personality of their team.

Here’s what I wrote on February 1st about Carolina’s O-line:

At right tackle they’re starting Mike Remmers — an undrafted free agent from 2012. He’s 26-years-old and already on his sixth NFL team. He was snatched from the Rams practise squad. His cap hit for this season is $585,000.

Cam Newton is generally well protected. The Panthers gave up 33 sacks during the regular season — the same number as the much vaunted Dallas Cowboys O-line and 13 fewer than the Seahawks.

Carolina are built to win in the trenches and they’re doing it without first round offensive tackles. The Seahawks have to consider a similar path.

Ryan Kalil (center) and Trai Turner (right guard) are Carolina’s two best offensive linemen. Kalil is a pillar of consistency, the unquestioned leader up front. Turner is the ultra-talented, physical guard playing next to him.

This is the strength of the unit.

The Seahawks might attempt to emulate the Panthers by producing a consistently performing O-line built in the same way.

This is something to consider moving forward. Perhaps the Seahawks, like the Panthers, think they can win without elite offensive tackles? Perhaps they believe the interior is the key?

(By the way, for those suggesting the tackles cost Carolina a Super Bowl — watch this).

Perhaps they intend to start Garry Gilliam at left tackle and Webb at right tackle? Perhaps their focus will be to upgrade the interior O-line?

That could mean drafting Germain Ifedi to play left guard. That could mean drafting Ryan Kelly to start at center. It could mean ploughing resources in rounds 2-4 into the interior line.

Just because the Seahawks aren’t paying big money to a name tackle doesn’t mean they cannot succeed. The Panthers and Broncos showed that in 2015. But they will need to upgrade at guard and center to create the same kind of success.

Many will ask whether the Seahawks will trade for Denver’s Ryan Clady as a reaction to losing Okung. Why would they give up a pick and pay Ryan Clady — a more injury prone left tackle than Okung — $9.5m a year? If they were willing to make that kind of investment they surely would’ve just kept Okung?

The only likely way Clady lands in Seattle is if he’s cut and receives a cold market. He missed 18 games in the last three seasons. The Broncos made the Super Bowl twice without him.

On the plus side — the Seahawks now have some cap room to play with. Don’t be shocked if they make a move because there’s little point sitting on that available salary. Trading for a pass rusher could be a possibility — as the Cardinals did recently with Chandler Jones.

That would enable them to add an impact veteran possibly using their second round pick — before fixing the O-line at #26 and in round three.

They’re also reportedly visiting with Mike Neal, formerly of the Packers.