Observations on the draft post Senior Bowl week

January 26th, 2018 | Written by Rob Staton

— To me the week of practise in Mobile confirmed a few things about this draft class. Firstly, it’s light on legit first round talent. Secondly, while there are going to be pockets of value at different positions in various rounds — I’m not sure it’s a nice, thick class all the way through. There will be good options on the interior O-line in rounds 2-3. There will likely be a run on running backs in that same range. We’ll see a cluster of quarterbacks go early. And day three will have some appealing defensive and receiver projects. It also feels like you could write down 7-8 good ‘fourth or fifth round’ options and half of them will go in round three because the depth of talent overall isn’t that great.

— I think this assertion is backed up by how aggressive Seattle was in making trades during the season. They’ve never done that before. The Percy Harvin and Jimmy Graham deals came pre-draft, where they could make a considered decision judging the draft options vs the potential to acquire veteran talent. It’s quite possible they just felt the deals for Sheldon Richardson and Duane Brown presented excellent value. Yet the decision to go into the off-season with only one pick in the first three rounds perhaps suggests they too believed this class was a little light in certain areas.

— Here are the players I thought impressed based on what I saw at the Senior Bowl:

Isaiah Wynn (G, Georgia)
Unsurprisingly, a fantastic week. It emerged yesterday that Wynn practised with a torn labrum too and will have surgery next week. He probably won’t be at the combine but he’ll be ready for camp. To play as well as he did given the injury (and his decision to compete) is really something. Don’t be shocked if he sneaks into round one. Power, control, footwork, finish, subtle technique. He is a terrific prospect. ESPN’s Louis Riddick called him the most impressive player in Mobile. Agreed.

Justin Jones (DT, NC State)
Practised with intensity, power and explosion. Good size (6-2, 311lbs) with impressive length (33 5/8 inch arms plus big 10-inch hands). Attacked his gaps with vigour and could be a useful rotational pass rusher in the NFL. Looked really good.

B.J. Hill (DT, NC State)
Jones’ team mate also came away with an impressive week of work. He’s bigger at 6-3 and 321lbs and is a very different player to Jones. On the one hand you’ve got a possible third-down pass rusher capable of two-gapping and attacking from different angles. Hill is tough, strong and shakes off blockers.

Will Hernandez (G, UTEP)
One of the few players who could work into first round consideration. He had a terrific first day looking like the best player in Mobile. He overpowered players, showed a genuine edge and attitude and surprising agility on his feet (a slight concern going into the week). Impressive and at the very least a second round prospect.

Durham Smythe (TE, Notre Dame)
I hadn’t watched any of his tape going into the week but read a lot of reports suggesting he was the best ‘Y’ tight end in the class. Blocking is going to be a big deal for the Seahawks at this position. That said, he really flashed as a pass catcher on Thursday and looks the part. The only concern might be his short 31 1/2 inch arms. Good character, got open in the TE vs S drills and made one terrific catch on a fade against Kyzir White.

Brett Toth (T, Army)
I hadn’t really written about Toth during the week because he’s in the army. Last year they incorporated a rule that basically made it a lot harder for recruits to play in the NFL without undertaking two years of service. Apparently, there might be a way around this. If he can go to the NFL in 2018, Toth is one to keep an eye on. He’s tough, in control and had some big moments as a blocker. Could be a mid-rounder and play right tackle or guard.

Kemoko Turay (DE, Rutgers)
He’s had two years of injury issues and he’s raw. However, Turay will be a nice project for someone as a late round pick or UDFA. He looked really quick and sharp in Mobile. He’s quick off the snap, showed good bend and footwork. Technique wise he needs some work — he needs to learn proper hand-use and develop ways to get off a block. He’ll be worth a camp though.

Bradley Bozeman (C, Alabama)
On Tuesday he was great. He controlled defenders with great hand placement and leverage — plus he had the strength to finish. He wasn’t quite as effective on day two. For some reason all of the great technique went by the wayside in the 1v1 drills. However, he’s a tough, competitive interior lineman with good size (6-4, 317lbs). At the very least could be a strong backup.

Darius Leonard (LB, South Carolina State)
He’ll be a project — but what a project. Fluid hips, great speed, ideal size (6-2, 229lbs) and great length (34 1/8 inch arms plus 10 3/8 inch hands). Get Leonard on the roster. He started the week struggling in coverage but on Thursday showed major strides. He loves a hit too — he absolutely demolished one of the running backs towards the end of the day yesterday on a pass into the flat. He’ll need time but Leonard is a modern day NFL linebacker with a ton of potential.

Marquis Haynes (LB, Ole Miss)
Haynes is a playmaker, always has been. And while his role at the next level might be limited to nickel pass rush duties, he did a lot this week to prove he’s worth considering. He moves well in space, he showed well in the pass rush drills (great quickness, flashed a counter and was willing to use power in the bull rush). It’s hard to determine what round he’ll land — but he’ll be worth a shot to be an impact rotational player.

Kalen Ballage (RB, Arizona State)
The tough thing to work out with Ballage is whether all of the positivity he built up this week is ever going to lead to anything. He’s a sensational talent, looked like a receiver running routes and he’s a natural athlete. But when the grind of a 16-game season is ongoing, is he going to be there for you? That’s the big question. In Mobile he looked terrific.

Ogbonnia Okoronkwo (LB, Oklahoma)
He seemed to be trying too hard on day one but once he settled in he showed what he does best — get after the quarterback. He beat Tyrell Crosby on back-to-back snaps using an outside speed rush and then an inside spin move. He has great length (34 1/2 inch arms) and he’s versatile.

Darrell Williams (RB, LSU)
Yesterday was my first opportunity to watch the running backs and Williams stood out. He’s sturdy and well built and right in Seattle’s wheelhouse for RB’s (5-11, 229lbs). Downhill runner with power but intriguing quickness. Was stuck behind Leonard Fournette and Derrius Guice at LSU. Could be a later round value pick.

Austin Corbett (T, Nevada)
I thought he looked a bit sluggish on Wednesday but in the team drills yesterday he took no prisoners. He was driving defenders off the LOS, attacking the second level, working well with Bradley Bozeman on double teams. Top performance.

Da’Shawn Hand (DT, Alabama)
Hand looked good when he was able to avoid Isaiah Wynn. The standout moment for me was a rush he had at defensive end during team drills on Thursday. He stunted inside and just blew past the interior linemen to get into the backfield. Marcus Davenport also rushed the edge and the two met the QB at the same time. It was a flash of genuine quality and showed why Hand was once the #1 overall recruit.

— I remain relatively convinced that acquiring talent at running back will be a significant draft priority for Seattle (especially given the quality of player available). Pete Carroll pretty much spelled that out when he spoke at the end of the season. Adding at least two backs from this class seems likely.

Daniel Jeremiah listed Nick Chubb at #49 on his top-50 list. That would suggest a R2-3 type range. Lance Zierlein on the other hand lists him in R3-4. If he has a clean medical check and the kind of combine we know he’s capable of, I think he’ll be nearer round one than round four. Frank Gore lasted into round three after seriously injuring his knee in college. Chubb might provide similar value and toughness. It’d certainly give Seattle’s running game a shot in the arm if they were able to get Ronald Jones II and Nick Chubb. How likely that is, I don’t know. It’s a fun thought.

— Both Jeremiah and Zierlein have Billy Price rated in the late first/early second round range. I think he’s a top-15 talent. If Price, Will Hernandez, Isaiah Wynn and Frank Ragnow were available it’d be very easy to feel quite positive about getting one to potentially play left guard. However, there might be a reason why they’re looking at players like Austin Corbett. Firstly, they already have a first rounder, two second rounders and a player who cost a second and third round pick starting on their O-line. At what point is it down to Mike Solari to make this work, while focusing on other areas? Secondly, they might want (or need) to focus on RB and defensive front seven.

— Ultimately I don’t think there’s a right or wrong approach for Seattle at #18 (even though fans will, inevitably, pick a side on the debate). There is some value in staying put — especially if they think as highly of Ronald Jones II as I do (for whatever that’s worth) and several others do (Jeremiah and Zierlein). There’s also some benefit in trading down and being able to address several needs instead of one. If I could try and shape the debate within this community for the next few weeks I would propose the following. Debate the pro’s and con’s of both, rather than argue vehemently for one or the other.

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Senior Bowl day three notes

January 25th, 2018 | Written by Rob Staton

Quickly if you’ve missed anything this week…

Senior Bowl measurements
Senior Bowl day one notes
Seahawks interested in Austin Corbett?
Senior Bowl day two notes

They didn’t do any OL vs DL drills today so I paid most attention to the RB/TE vs LB/S drills. I’ve posted my notes below.

— Notre Dame tight Durham Smythe is one to watch. Absolutely 100%. Described by Lance Zierlein asa classic “Y” tight end who carries himself like an offensive lineman” — this is the type of TE you’d expect the Seahawks to target. They want to run the ball. They want players who can do the Zach Miller type work. Smythe, unlike Mike Gesicki, Troy Fumagalli and Mark Andrews, was actually tasked with blocking duties at Notre Dame. Today he showed off what he can do in the passing game. He was tremendous. On one snap vs Armani Watts he had a nice, subtle push off to create separation and make a catch. He absolutely bossed Kyzir White twice. On one occasion he faked an inside move then darted outside to the sideline to get open. Then he caught a badly underthrown fade vs White — competing for position and making the difficult catch. He also got the better of Trayvon Henderson in emphatic style. Henderson tried to jam him at the line, got into his pads and clung on for about 2.5 seconds. Smythe just blasted out of his grasp and completed the route before making the catch in the red zone. Hands, physicality, focus, smooth routes. If you’re looking for a day three tight end for the Seahawks this could be your man. He seems like a good character too:

— I did wonder if Smythe’s length might be an issue. He’s 6-5 and 253lbs so there’s no problem there. He only has 31 1/2 inch arms though. Length can be important but having checked, Luke Willson pre-draft was 6-5, 251lbs with 32 1/4 inch arms. It’s something to consider though. Nick Vannett for example was 6-6 and 257lbs at his combine with 34 1/4 inch arms. Hopefully Smythe measures a little longer in Indianapolis (not uncommon).

— The other tight ends were really hit and miss. Penn State’s Mike Gesicki had a couple of great routes. He destroyed Kyzir White with a double move near the end of the session. He’s a great athlete and when he gets a free release and a chance to win with speed and agility he’s tough to stop. Yet he’s not the most physical when engaged. White controlled him quite easily on one snap by getting into his pads. He’s a big target — long, tall and not overpowering. Fumagalli is quite similar. He had a wonderful route vs Marcus Allen, creating separation and completing a difficult one handed grab. Yet when he got stuck on a jam he couldn’t release. White again got into his pads, just like Gesicki, and stayed with him (might’ve been called a hold, mind).

— Smythe didn’t let a pass hit the deck. Fumagalli had one bad drop and so did Tyler Conklin. Both showed a frustrating lack of focus on those plays.

— Mike Mayock isn’t messing around this week. Charles Davis tried to compliment Gesicki and Fumagalli on their blocking, saying, “they block the same way, they position on just about everything.” Mayock then chimed in, “Oh, I thought you were going to say non existent.” In fairness to Mayock, he’s right. It’s a big problem within this class and within the position overall in college. It’s why O.J. Howard was so rare and so coveted a year ago in round one. He was a sensational athlete who’d actually been taught how to block.

— The safety class remains unimpressive in my eyes. Seattle’s biggest needs are O-line, defensive front seven and running back. That’s a good thing, because it’s not an exciting DB class.

— Arizona State’s Kallen Ballage was unblockable. Absolutely unblockable. Bigger, faster, quicker. No safety or linebacker could stick with him. It was noted by the broadcast team that he worked well in pass protection yesterday. He seems to be gaining some momentum this week. Ballage has so much potential but underwhelmed in college. It won’t be a surprise if he has a big workout at the combine.

— On the other hand Iowa’s Akrum Wadley was unimpressive here. He struggled to get open and separate. On one snap he allowed the safety to force him to the sideline, narrowing the window for the QB. On another snap he just fell over as soon as the whistle blew. He couldn’t separate when a linebacker got his hands on him. He just looked so limited. Daniel Jeremiah added he wasn’t good in pass protection either. He finally had a nice route and catch on a fade to the back corner of the end zone late on. This was a bit of a disappointment though considering he’s a smaller back and will be looked at as someone who needs to contribute in the passing game.

— USC’s Uchenna Nwosu showed well in coverage. He has a nice, physical jam and an ability to stick on the route and play the ball. He hasn’t looked particularly strong as a pass rusher but this was a positive. He’s a former safety and it shows.

— South Carolina State’s Darius Leonard had a terrific day in coverage. He especially performed well vs Rashaad Penny. He broke up a wheel route in the team scrimmage vs Penny, didn’t bite on a double move in the 1v1’s and had the quick reactions and speed to recover on any route. He’s big, fluid as a runner and gets around the field. He’s going to need time to develop and learn but he’ll be a decent project for someone.

— San Diego State running back Rashaad Penny had a bit of trouble catching the ball again. He hasn’t had good reviews this week in terms of his hands. He had a really bad drop in the 1v1’s vs Darius Leonard. If the Senior Bowl was a chance to separate and boost his stock within a loaded RB class — I’m not sure he capitalised on that opportunity.

— Indiana’s Ian Thomas looked a bit stiff and sluggish in the 1v1’s. Virginia’s Quin Blanding covered him with ease on one snap — and Thomas wasn’t as fluid as Gesicki (another athlete type TE). It’s hard to be overly excited about his stock or the TE class on the whole.

— Nevada O-liner Austin Corbett dominated in the team drill, lining up at guard and tackle. On one snap he drove a LSU lineman down the field five yards, then he worked a nice double team with Bradley Bozeman. He finished blocks, played with an edge and looked the real deal. The Seahawks reportedly like him.

— Marcus Davenport had a terrific sack in the team drills, working inside and exploding to the QB. That was a first round move. Terrific. He’s raw and he’s working stuff out. He will be a high pick though. There’s too much upside. He’ll likely go in the top-15. Here’s the play:

— With this being the final day of practises, I don’t feel like we’ve really learnt a lot of new information. There weren’t many first rounders in Mobile. We can clearly see some of the issues at DB, TE and DE. We already knew there was some nice depth and talent along the interior O-line. This is a draft class without a lot of star power. There will be pockets of value at various positions (RB, OL, defensive front seven) and the key to a good draft is going to be finding the hot spots and working that value. There will be good options at RB and OL in rounds 2-4. There will be some good defensive talent available on day three. This Senior Bowl didn’t uncover any new gems who are set to fly up the boards and some of the bigger names didn’t elevate their stock. This is encouraging though:

— On a general point away from the Senior Bowl, some words on USC’s Ronald Jones II. We’ve talked a lot about him due to Seattle’s need at running back. For me he’s a Jamaal Charles clone, one of the few legit first round talents in the draft and someone who warrants genuine consideration in the first frame. He’s tough for his size, finishes runs, he is sudden and glides at the second level, he’s a home run hitter and he flashes vicious cuts at the LOS to break big gains. Daniel Jeremiah listed him at #12 in his top-50 earlier this week. Now Lance Zierlein appears ready to offer a similar grade. Believe in this guys ability. For all the talk of moving down, it might be hard to pass on Jones II if he lasts to #18. He is that good. Doesn’t mean that’s what they’ll do — just don’t be surprised if he’s firmly in their sights. He’s a potential superstar.

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Senior Bowl day two notes

January 24th, 2018 | Written by Rob Staton

Quickly if you’ve missed anything this week…

Senior Bowl measurements
Senior Bowl day one notes
Seahawks interested in Austin Corbett?

Here’s what I’ve seen on day two…

— Isaiah Wynn had a fantastic performance in the 1v1 drills against the defensive linemen. He absolutely dominated LSU’s Greg Gilmore on his first snap. Wynn stayed square, showed great hand placement and just flat out stoned Gilmore. Perfect. On his second snap he delivered an incredible jolt to Virginia’s Andrew Brown to knock him off balance and then just controlled the block. He has everything — a powerful base, great hand technique, strength, balance. What a prospect he is. Look at him:

— Alabama center Bradley Bozeman had a good day yesterday but took a step back today. Texas’ Poona Ford beat him with a spin move where he had no answer and then he struggled to anchor against LSU’s Gilmore. His hand placement was as poor today as it was exceptional yesterday. He lost all control.

— Former #1 overall recruit Da’Shawn Hand has a lot to prove and faired
better today (at least when they kept him away from Isaiah Wynn). He beat Nevada’s Austin Corbett to the left shoulder. Corbett struggled to turn his hips and keep the defender in front and ended up one-arming the block. He didn’t look comfortable and Hand won.

— Alex Cappa from Humboldt State is getting a lot of push from Mike Mayock on the NFL Network but he can’t defend a spin move. He did have a good snap vs a Marquise Haynes bull rush but then he completely whiffed on his next two blocks including a waltz to the QB from Utah’s Kyle Fitts.

— For some reason Haynes bull rushed on all of his snaps and so did UTSA’s Marcus Davenport. Let’s see some speed! Davenport had an ineffective snap against TCU’s Joe Noteboom. The South coaches are using a snap count (the north aren’t) and Davenport is having trouble timing his get-off. He has potential and he looks the part. He isn’t dominating though — he’s raw and will need time to learn the fundamentals at the next level. Get-off, hand use, technique, variety of pass-rush moves. He might need a red-shirt year.

— It’s pretty clear the most talented receiver in Mobile is James Washington of Oklahoma State. He’s explosive, quick, powerful and has long levers. He has a very strong opportunity to go in the top-40 and potentially round one.

— Washington’s Oklahoma State team mate Marcell Ateman also showed well, including a nice 1v1 against North Carolina’s M.J. Stewart. He’s long and tall but not quite as stiff as some of the bigger north team receivers.

— I also spent a little bit of time watching the North team WR’s vs the DB’s. Allen Lazard at Iowa State is big, physical and looked quite smooth. There were also some snaps where his size was a problem when he had to run shorter routes and create separation. This was a common problem with the group. Jaleel Scott at New Mexico State had even more difficulty creating space in the short game and really only shone when offered a big cushion and was able to work the sideline or run straight downfield. DaeSean Hamilton looked like the most natural receiver on the north team.

— South Carolina State Darius Leonard absolutely hammered Ito Smith on a pass into the flat. Leonard showed good range, timing and brought the heat. I want to see more of him. There are some day three defensive players in this draft with the potential to come good.

— Nathan Shepherd, a small school prospect from Fort Hays State, started brightly but has since picked up a hand injury. He’s gone for X-Rays. Reportedly it’s a broken hand. He didn’t feature in the OL vs DL drill.

— The OL vs DL drills started with Oklahoma’s Ogbonnia Okoronkwo against Oregon’s Tyrell Crosby. On the first snap Crosby false started and Okoronkwo still beat him. He was too quick and just got to the edge before Crosby had even got into his backpedal. They replayed the snap because of the false start but Okoronkwo won easily again — this time using a spin move to beat Crosby inside. They were two ugly snaps for Crosby. He looks out of shape, like he’s carrying bad weight. When he gets his hands on a defender (as he did in a snap later vs Garret Dooley of Wisconsin) he can lock on and finish. He dominated Dooley. Too often though his footwork is stodgy and he’s beaten by a better athlete.

— Harrison Phillips always seems to have a plan. He knows what he wants to do pre-snap and he has a nice repertoire of pass rush moves. He’s quicker than you’d think for his size. However, his counter is sometimes suspect. He was stoned by Cole Madison and Mason Cole on separate snaps. Occasionally he struggles to disengage.

— Brian O’Neill at Pittsburgh. Hmmm. #16 in Mel Kiper’s mock draft and sometimes you can see why. He has upside. In a later drill he pulled to the right sideline from the RT position and drove a defensive back downfield 10-yards, then threw the guy to the ground. In space he worked well, located and connected with a more athletic second level defender. Yet his technique in pass protection is concerning. He ended yesterday overextending against Garret Dooley and started in exactly the same fashion today. Dooley let O’Neill shoot his hands and then just swiped them away. He’s reaching. O’Neill got some heavy coaching after that snap and didn’t fair much better against the speed of Kemoko Turay. He got beat to the outside and his footwork this time was suspect. He looks raw.

— Will Hernandez was the star of day one but he didn’t quite reach those heights today. He was grabby in pass pro and didn’t shoot his hands inside. A lot of his work was to the shoulder pads. Justin Jones from NC State beat him quite easily on one snap (before Hernandez got revenge in a rematch). Still, he looks completely comfortable squared up blocking front on. The only concern is how he’ll fair when he has to move off the spot and shift the angle of his block. It’s not an insignificant issue.

— NC State’s B.J. Hill continues to look extremely powerful and quick. He’s one of the big performers so far. His bull rush is pure nasty and he always has a counter move to disengage. He flashed quickness and agility too with a great spin move to win inside. Hill looks fantastic out there.

— Ohio State’s Tyquan Lewis also showed well attacking the interior. He destroyed Scott Quessenberry on an inside move and walked Cole Madison back into the quarterback. He impressed today.

Here’s a few notes from elsewhere:

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Seahawks showing interest in Austin Corbett?

January 24th, 2018 | Written by Rob Staton

Tony Pauline is the best in the business when it comes to insider info on the draft. He also has a proven track record connecting offensive linemen to the Seahawks (see: Terry Poole).

He’s in Mobile for the Senior Bowl and filed this report at the end of day one:

The Seattle Seahawks, a team that needs offensive lineman, were very complimentary of Austin Corbett throughout today’s first practice. They mentioned his durability (Corbett played more than 600 snaps in college), versatility (he played three positions today) and ability to obliterate defenders.

Corbett isn’t a player we’ve focused on yet but he’ll be someone to check out. Mike Mayock made a loose comparison to Joel Bitonio during the NFL Network coverage.

He had some decent snaps in the 1v1 drills. Pauline had these notes from practise:

One of the better blockers on the South. Lined up at center, guard and right tackle. Shows some stifness in his game but displayed strength, staying square and controlling opponents in one-on-one situations. I like him better in a smaller area, but he definitely has next-level stuff.

So who is Austin Corbett? Here’s what you need to know courtesy of Chris Murray at the Reno Gazette-Journal:

Over the last couple of years, the Wolf Pack’s Austin Corbett has developed into one of the best offensive tackles in the nation while academically working toward becoming a surgeon.

With a bachelor’s degree in his pocket and a potential position in the NFL draft coming soon, Corbett certainly could have been tempted to rest on his achievements. But, there was one big reason that could never be the case. As well as he was doing, his girlfriend was besting him at every step.

Corbett started dating Madison Morell, a Wolf Pack volleyball star at the time, during his freshman season. When Corbett posted GPAs in the 3s, Morell was carding 4.0s. When Corbett earned second-team All-MW honors, Morell was recording back-to-back first-team awards. When Corbett was named a two-time team captain, Morell was traveling to Slovenia to compete with the MW’s global all-star team.

“She pretty much always had a 4.0,” Corbett said at the MW Media Summit. “I was always above a 3.0, but I wanted to beat her. I finally pulled my first true 4.0s the last couple of semesters, and it was because of her and making sure my life was set up to provide for her. And her being all-conference, she said, ‘How come you’re not all-conference yet?’ I was, like, ‘I’m sorry. I’ll do better, I guess.’”

And some more info from the same writer, pre-Senior Bowl:

Corbett started 49 of 50 games at Nevada, missing only one game during his freshman year because of an ankle injury. Those starts all came at left tackle, but the 6-foot-4, 305-pound Corbett is likely to move inside at the pro level. Most sites have him listed as one of the draft’s top offensive guards, but the Senior Bowl roster lists him at center. Corbett figures he’ll see time at each position this week.

“Right now, I’m listed at center,” said Corbett, who worked on his center snaps after practice with Nevada offensive line coach Mason Miller throughout the season. “I’m sure I’ll play all five positions and I’m sure that’s how it will go for the majority of the offensive line. Most scouts want to see what you can do where, so I’m sure there will be a good rotation. I’m not entirely sure where I’ll start off on day one.”

Smart, tough, durable, versatile and driven. It’s not a surprise the Seahawks are showing at least some interest. They’re probably not alone.

I could only find one game tape on Youtube. It’s against Notre Dame from 2016. I haven’t studied this yet but if you want to take a look, here you go:

If you missed our Senior Bowl day one notes, click here.

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Thoughts on day one of the Senior Bowl

January 23rd, 2018 | Written by Rob Staton

If you missed the measurements (and some thoughts on Daniel Jeremiah’s top-50 list) be sure to click here.

The best part of the Senior Bowl is the O-line vs D-line drills. It’s the one thing the NFL Network sticks with and you genuinely get a good look at how these players compete 1v1.

I was able to go back and watch these drills on repeat — but I haven’t had access to any other parts of the day apart from some of the receiver drills where I thought Oklahoma State’s James Washington set about confirming a top-40 grade.

It’s also worth noting that a bad performance here doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t be drafted by the Seahawks. Justin Senior was a late Senior Bowl call up a year ago and looked quite out of his depth on day one. He showed relative progress as the week went on and that’s probably why the Seahawks ended up spending a sixth round pick on him. Even so, his first showing in Mobile wasn’t good.

Here are my day one notes:

— The big winner, without doubt, was UTEP’s Will Hernandez. He started working against Ohio State’s Jalyn Holmes. On the first snap he just walled him off, showed excellent footwork to guard against a counter and rode him out of the play. His second snap was just pure dominance. Hernandez showed great initial footwork and balance to mirror and then dumped the DL on his backside. You could see how frustrated Holmes was after. He couldn’t beat him. The coaches put Hernandez up against Miami’s Chad Thomas at the end of the drill. Thomas had been arguably the most productive performer on the North D-line to that point. This was best vs best from day one. Hernandez won again — emphatically. He got into Thomas’ pads and just overpowered him, sending him to the turf as he tried to counter. I’ve had Hernandez in my top-50 from the start and this was a fantastic start for him.

— Isaiah Wynn worked at left and right guard but didn’t get any tackle snaps which was a shame. He’s going to play guard at the next level but it still would’ve been good to see him have a little time at tackle. He had a great snap against Alabama’s Da’Shawn Hand — great footwork, set, an initial jolt to engage and he finished the block by shoving Hand to the floor. Technique, footwork and finish. Wynn is really good.

— After Will Hernandez, you could make a case for Alabama center Bradley Bozeman having the second best performance. He consistently won with leverage which is impressive considering he’s pushing 6-5 and 317lbs. He gets his hands inside, locks on and gets a good knee bend. He had a nice win against Texas’ Poona Ford who really should’ve won the leverage battle considering he’s under 6-0. Bozeman controlled the block and finished. On his next snap he won again with great hand placement against Greg Gilmore of LSU. We’ve talked about it for years — but hand technique is so underrated when judging these players in the trenches.

— Brian O’Neill at Pittsburgh was listed as the #16 pick in Mel Kiper’s mock draft but his technique needs a lot of work. He’s clearly athletic (he is a former tight end) but he reaches with his arms and it’s easy to counter. On his first snap here he engaged well against Garret Dooley from Wisconsin, kept his frame clean and won. Yet on the next play Dooley knew what he was going to do. He simply clubbed his hands away, knocked him right off balance and all O’Neill could do was grab Dooley and hold. It was an ugly snap. You never see Isaiah Wynn reach and overextend. O’Neill might have the physical upside but he’ll need work based on this evidence.

— They didn’t show enough of UTSA’s Marcus Davenport to judge but I saw one snap where he bull rushed Auburn’s Austin Golson and walked him back into the quarterback. He’s quick enough working the edge to be satisfied with his game in that regard. When you see him rushing inside like this with leverage and power — that’s why he might go in the top-15.

— Ole Miss’ Marquis Haynes is going to provide a steal for someone. He has good size, he’s a playmaker and he’s versatile. Here he had a great rush against Alex Cappa of Humboldt State — swiping at his arms and brushing him off. He dipped inside for the win and it all looked so easy. Cappa had no answer — it was like he was stuck in the mud (bad footwork). Haynes had a lot of production at Ole Miss. He’s one to watch during this process.

— One of the bigger 1v1 disappointments was Ogbonnia Okoronkwo from Oklahoma. I’m not sure if he was trying too hard or what. On his first snap he did a great job getting into Tyrell Crosby’s frame, jolting him right off balance for the win. He bullied him. Yet on the next snap he went way too wide to try and win with speed and Crosby just used his length to ride him out of the play and onto the ground. They put Okoronkwo against a different blocker on his third snap — he tried a spin move, fell over and ended up on his backside. He lacked control.

— NC State’s B.J. Hill looked big, quick and physical. He refused to be blocked when getting upfield against Washington State guard Cole Madison (who had a good performance overall). Mason Cole managed to stone Hill on another snap though, slowing him down. That was a good battle inside.

— Harrison Phillips probably had the rep of the day. He looked more like Justin Timberlake pulling off an incredible sidestep to fool Scott Quessenberry of UCLA, darting from left to right and exploding into the backfield. He looked quick, athletic and sharp. Quessenberry recovered on the next snap though — stoning him inside on a bull rush. The third contest between the pair was pretty much a draw. Phillips engaged and tried to work upfield but Quessenberry stayed with him.

— Two unheralded names to watch for the rest of the week are Kemoko Turay from Rutgers (long, lean, really quick with a nice spin move) and Nathan Shepherd from Fort Hays State (aggressive, tough, intense). Turay’s had injury problems and Shepherd is a small schooler but both made decent starts today.

Here are some other thoughts from the day courtesy of Tony Pauline and Draft Analyst:

Tony has an excellent prospect-by-prospect recap at Draft Analyst. These words on Notre Dame tight end Durham Smythe will be interesting for Seahawks fans: “Smythe had a terrific day and was the best tight end on the North. Was dominant in blocking drills and as a blocker in scrimmage. Manhandled Jalyn Holmes a number of times. Also caught the ball very well.” If the Seahawks draft a tight end this year, you better believe they’ll be good at blocking.

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Senior Bowl weigh-ins & Daniel Jeremiah’s top-50

January 23rd, 2018 | Written by Rob Staton

Firstly, these always seem to be different at the combine. For example, a year ago Adam Bisnowaty was measured as having 32 5/8 inch arms at the Senior Bowl. That was a red flag given his 6-6 height. At the combine, his arm length was measured at 33 7/8 inches. Quite a difference.

So while these measurements are interesting, the accuracy and usefulness is debatable.

Draft Bible has the data in full here in a useful format. I’m listing some key names:

Cornerbacks with +32 inch arms:

Chandon Sullivan (32 1/2)
D’Momtre Wade (32 5/8)
Levi Wallace (33 3/8)
Christian Campbell (32 1/2)
Jamarcus King (32 1/2)
Isaac Yiadom (32 1/4)

Marcus Davenport (DL, UTSA)
6-5, 259lbs
34 inch arms, 9 inch hands, 81 1/4 wingspan

Frank Ragnow (OL, Arkansas)
6-5, 307lbs
33 1/4 inch arms, 9 1/8 inch hands

Dallas Goedert (TE, South Dakota State)
6-4, 260lbs
33 7/8 inch arms, 10 1/8 inch hands

Ian Thomas (TE, Indiana)
6-3, 256lbs
33 1/8 inch arms, 9 5/8 inch hands

Marcell Ateman (WR, Oklahoma State)
6-4, 216lbs
33 5/8 inch arms, 9 inch hands

D.J. Chark (WR, LSU)
6-2, 196lbs
33 inch arms, 9 1/4 inch hands

James Washington (WR, Oklahoma State)
5-11, 210lbs
33 7/8 inch arms, 9 5/8 inch hands

Isaiah Wynn (G, Georgia)
6-2, 308lbs
33 1/8 inch arms, 8 1/2 inch hands

Shaquem Griffin (LB, UCF)
6-0, 223lbs
31 5/8 inch arms, 9 inch hands

Marquis Haynes (LB, Ole Miss)
6-2, 233lbs
33 inch arms, 9 7/8 inch hands

Micah Kiser (LB, Virginia)
6-0, 236lbs
31 7/8 inch arms, 9 1/4 inch hands

Darius Leonard (LB, South Carolina State)
6-2, 229lbs
34 1/8 inch arms, 10 3/8 inch hands

Uchenna Nwosu (LB, USC)
6-2, 245lbs
33 1/2 inch arms, 9 1/4 inch hands

Dorian O’Daniel (LB, Clemson)
6-0, 215lbs
31 1/8 inch arms, 9 3/8 inch hands

Quin Blanding (S, Virginia)
6-2, 209lbs
31 3/4 inch arms, 8 1/8 inch hands

M.J. Stewart (CB, North Carolina)
5-10, 198lbs
31 1/2 inch arms, 9 3/8 inch hands

Rashaad Penny (RB, San Diego State)
5-11, 224lbs
31 1/2 inch arms, 9 1/8 inch hands

Kalen Ballage (RB, Arizona State)
6-2, 222lbs
33 1/4 inch arms, 9 3/4 inch hands

Josh Allen (QB, Wyoming)
6-5, 237lbs
33 1/2 inch arms, 10 1/8 inch hands

Luke Falk (QB, Washington State)
6-4, 211lbs
32 1/8 inch arms, 9/3 inch hands

Poona Ford (DT, Texas)
5-11, 306lbs
32 3/4 inch arms, 9 1/4 inch hands

Da’Shawn Hand (DT, Alabama)
6-4, 282lbs
34 1/4 inch arms, 10 inch hands

Troy Fumagalli (TE, Wisconsin)
6-5, 247lbs
32 1/4 inch arms, 9 5/8 inch hands

Tyler Conklin (TE, Central Michigan)
6-3, 252lbs
33 1/4 inch arms, 9 3/4 inch hands

Tyrell Crosby (T, Oregon)
6-5, 319lbs
34 3/8 inch arms, 10 7/8 inch hands

Will Hernandez (OL, UTEP)
6-2, 340lbs
32 3/8 inch arms, 9 3/4 inch hands

Mike Gesicki (TE, Penn State)
6-5, 242lbs
34 inch arms, 10 1/8 inch hands

B.J. Hill (DT, NC State)
6-3, 321lbs
32 1/4 inch arms, 10 3/8 inch hands

Harrison Phillips (DT, Stanford)
6-3, 303lbs
33 3/4 inch arms, 10 1/2 inch hands

Ogbonnia Okoronkwo (LB, Oklahoma)
6-1, 243lbs
34 1/2 inch arms, 9 1/4 inch hands

Tyquan Lewis (DE, Ohio State)
6-3, 276lbs
33 5/8 inch arms, 10 3/8 inch hands

Brian O’Neill (T, Pittsburgh)
6-6, 298lbs
34 1/8 inch arms, 9 3/8 inch hands

Jaleel Scott (WR, New Mexico State)
6-5, 216lbs
33 7/8 inch arms, 9 3/4 inch hands

Kyzir White (S, West Virginia)
6-2, 216lbs
32 inch arms, 9 7/8 inch hands

Meanwhile, Daniel Jeremiah posted his pre-Senior Bowl top-50 today. We noted last year how it’s difficult to read anything into these rankings. Otherwise the Seahawks would’ve had a shot at Sheldon Rankins and Keanu Neal in 2016 and a year ago they would’ve been able to draft Marlon Humphrey or Evan Engram.

Even so, it’s interesting to look and compare to our own rankings — to see who we might be overrating or underrating.

Here’s my own top-50 and a list of the players I think are worth legit first round grades (11 in total).

My thoughts completely align with Jeremiah’s in terms of the top four. Saquon Barkley, Quenton Nelson, Tremaine Edmunds and Bradley Chubb are the best four players in the draft. I think that’s a pretty cast-iron thought.

I also like Jeremiah’s rankings for Vita Vea (#9), Marcus Davenport (#10) and Ronald Jones II (#12). All three were in our ‘legit first rounders’ list.

Jeremiah’s ranking of Roquan Smith (#19) also resonates. Smith is really good — but at around 6-0 and 225lbs, some teams are going to be put off by his size and scheme fit. He will be limited to the WILL for some teams. It’s something to consider with a lot of people projecting Smith as a possible top-10 pick.

Billy Price is listed at #30 (quite low in my view) with Isaiah Wynn at #37 (Jeremiah suggests he has pro-bowl potential at guard, a point I’d agree with 100%).

Nick Chubb and Kerryon Johnson are the last two names on the list at #49 and #50. Jeremiah compares Chubb to Jonathan Stewart — a connection we’ve talked about over the last few weeks.

What I read from this top-50 is — Ronald Jones II is the running back to consider in round one but if he isn’t available or you’re determined to trade down — there will be good options in the second round.

So here are the players I believe warrant legit first round grades and where Jeremiah has them listed in his top-50:

Saquon Barkley — #1
Quenton Nelson — #2
Tremaine Edmunds — #3
Bradley Chubb — #4
Sam Darnold — #6
Josh Rosen — #7
Vita Vea — #9
Billy Price — #30
Ronald Jones II — #12
Tim Settle — Not ranked
Marcus Davenport — #11

Here are some of the names not included in Jeremiah’s top-50 that were present in mine: Tim Settle, Royce Freeman, Rashaad Penny, Frank Ragnow, Braden Smith, Lorenzo Carter.

Here’s why I think Settle warrants consideration:

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2018 Senior Bowl preview

January 21st, 2018 | Written by Rob Staton

Here are the big name prospects who decided not to participate at the Senior Bowl this year:

HB Sony Michel
HB Nick Chubb
LB Lorenzo Carter
LB Rashaan Evans
LB Josey Jewell
OL Billy Price
QB Mason Rudolph
WR Anthony Miller
DT Maurice Hurst
WR Courtland Sutton
LB Skai Moore
OL Martinas Rankin
DE Duke Ejiofor
OL Frank Ragnow
DT Derrick Nnadi
LB Harold Landry
OL Braden Smith
CB Anthony Averett
DE Bradley Chubb

Mason Rudolph, Harold Landry, Anthony Miller and Frank Ragnow are nursing injuries. The Georgia and Alabama players finished their season several weeks after everyone else having qualified for the National Championship game. Bradley Chubb has very little to prove as a top-five pick and only stands to risk injury.

Billy Price opted against participating, as did Braden Smith. That’s slightly disappointing because both players had something to gain from being in Mobile. It’s indicative perhaps that both are hearing positive things about their draft stock. That wouldn’t be surprising. Price is a legit top-20 pick and Smith will gain a lot more attention when he destroys the combine.

To see who is attending, you can view both rosters by clicking here.

Here is the practise schedule (all times are CT):

Tuesday, January 23
1:30 pm – 3:00 pm (SOUTH)
3:30 pm – 5:00 pm (NORTH)

Wednesday, January 24
12:30 pm – 2:30 pm (NORTH)
3:00 pm – 5:00 pm (SOUTH)

Thursday, January 25
12:30 pm – 2:30 pm (NORTH)
3:00 pm – 5:00 pm (SOUTH)

Here are some of the players to monitor and why…

North roster

Jaleel Scott (WR, New Mexico State)
Best known as the receiver responsible for this catch, Scott reportedly has a 6-6 and 215lbs frame while showing the ability to compete for the ball in the air. Seattle could be in the day three market for receivers.

Kyzir White (S, West Virginia)
Seen by some as a possible big nickel, White has size (6-2, 218lbs) and has been touted as a possible high pick in a mediocre safety class. It’s difficult for safety’s to stand out in Mobile but he’s someone to watch in Saturday’s game.

Kalen Ballage (RB, Arizona State)
A good athlete with excellent bloodlines, Ballage is a fantastic character and comes across as a great guy. He has so much potential but ended up being lost amid a sea of mediocrity at Arizona State. He will use this draft season to regain some momentum.

Ogbonnia Okoronkwo (LB, Oklahoma)
He’s a difficult player to judge. At about 6-1 and 240lbs it’s hard to imagine him playing defensive end at the next level. And yet he’s such a talented pass rusher and does his best work in attack mode. Size could limit his stock but he’s good. Watch him in the DL vs OL drills.

Harrison Phillips (DT, Stanford)
The first college game I watched in 2017 was Stanford’s trip to Australia. Bryce Love had a big day vs Rice but so did Phillips. He stood out. Henry Anderson went in round two after a great combine. Can Phillips move from likely top-100 pick into the round two range? If he’s capable — he’ll stand out in DL vs OL and come close to matching Anderson’s combine.

Brian O’Neill (T, Pittsburgh)
Listed in the middle of round one in Mel Kiper’s first mock draft, I watched some of O’Neill last week and wasn’t blown away. He looks a bit stiff, tall and reckless. He chose to declare early and is a former tight end. This will be a vital week if he’s going to live up to Kiper’s billing.

Tyrell Crosby (T, Oregon)
He looked a bit big and sloppy and his play was a bit mixed too. Watching him live, it was hard to judge his play against Washington as the game escalated out of control. As with the other O-liners, he has a great chance to impress in the pass rush/pass pro drills.

Will Hernandez (G, UTEP)
He’s big, physical, strong and has some nuance to his technique. You wonder if he’s a bit stiff as an athlete though — he’s not Billy Price, Quenton Nelson or Isaiah Wynn on the move. Might be a straight ahead blocker. You know what the theme is here though. The O-line vs D-line drills are the most important part of the Senior Bowl.

Luke Falk (QB, Washington State)
He had a hit and miss season career. At times he looked like a possible second rounder, then he’d have a stretch of games where he’d look like a day three type. This will be a tough week for Falk given the upsetting situation at Washington State. He has to show adequate arm strength and can he look like an alpha leader within the group?

Durham Smythe (TE, Notre Dame)
I haven’t studied Smythe but noticed a few people talking about him in the comments section. Notre Dame traditionally does a good job developing TE’s and require their guys to do some blocking. Seattle might draft a TE at some point and whoever it is will need to block. Mike Gesicki (Penn State), Tyler Conklin (Central Michigan) and Troy Fumagalli (Wisconsin) are also on the North roster.

B.J. Hill (DT, NC State)
Bit of a hidden gem and a possible mid round DT with value — Hill has an opportunity to grow his stock in Mobile. Especially since he’ll be competing against the likes of Will Hernandez 1v1.

Tyquan Lewis (DE, Ohio State)
Once considered a possible high pick not so long ago, Lewis never really delivered on the promise. He had seven sacks in 2017 and 9.5 TFL’s but had to work as part of a rotation at DE. This is a nice opportunity for him in a setting made for pass rushers to impress.

South roster

Quin Blanding (S, Virginia)
Once a big-time five star recruit pursued by many top teams, Blanding chose Virginia and never really reached the highs expected. He’s 6-2 and 210lbs and we’ll see if he can make some plays in the game.

Da’Shawn Hand (DT, Alabama)
If Blanding was once a highly recruited High School stud, Hand takes it a step further. He was the #1 recruit in the country. Yet at Alabama he always had a supporting role and flattered to deceive. He has the physical talent but needs to show it here.

Marcell Ateman (WR, Oklahoma State)
Another big receiver (6-4, 220lbs) who could have some appeal to the Seahawks later on. The receiver class looks better from round three onwards than it does in the early rounds. Ateman is one to watch.

James Washington (WR, Oklahoma State)
Ateman’s partner in crime, Washington is likely a top-40 pick. He’s compact with a similar frame to Golden Tate and is capable of making big plays downfield.

Shaquem Griffin (LB, UCF)
Shaquill’s brother and a much-admired playmaker for UCF. It’ll be interesting to see how the NFL coaches use him in Mobile. Is he rushing the passer, playing at linebacker, safety? Or a combination of all?

Rashaad Penny (RB, San Diego State)
With so many big name RB’s not attending, this is a big opportunity for Penny. He’s stout, returns kicks, has home-run hitting ability and he’s tough. Hopefully he gets some decent carries in the game. He has MVP potential for the game and could make a big impression.

M.J. Stewart (CB, North Carolina)
In a seriously underwhelming cornerback class, Stewart has the size and athleticism to boost his stock significantly here and at the combine.

Marquis Haynes (LB, Ole Miss)
It felt like Haynes was at Ole Miss forever — but now he’ll turn pro and he’s an interesting prospect at about 6-2 and 230lbs. He was a playmaker, totting up TFL’s and impact plays for many years. One to watch and could be a valuable day-three option.

Daniel Carson (K, Auburn)
The only kicker with a chance of being drafted. He will get a chance in a camp somewhere. You don’t need me to tell you why he’s listed here. Has quite a big leg and scored a lot of points for the Tigers.

Uchenna Nwosu (LB, USC)
Not a million miles away from a Rashaan Evans type in terms of playing style. Reportedly there is some interest within the league in Nwosus’s forty time and a feeling it will make or break his stock.

Micah Kiser (LB, Virginia)
Kiser could generate some first/second round talk down the line. He’s in a similar position to Leighton Vander Esch in that regard. He’s 6-0 and 240lbs and looks the part. One to monitor. He could be a riser.

Dorian O’Donnell (LB, Clemson)
Certainly benefitted from Clemson’s all-star D-line and there are concerns about his modest size at the next level (6-1, 215-2220lbs). Seen by many as a WILL and might have to prove he can play the SAM in Mobile.

Isaiah Wynn (T, Georgia)
For me, one of the best prospects in the draft based on what he showed on tape. Wynn was a master at left tackle, controlling even the Alabama front seven in the Championship game. He will likely move inside to guard. This is a great setting for Wynn to push himself into a possible first round placing.

Ian Thomas (TE, Indiana)
Not the most versatile or interesting tight end, Thomas is a pure pass catcher and a big target. He’ll likely be a late round pick at best but it’ll be interesting to see if he can generate some buzz here and perform well at the combine. Dallas Goedert (TE, South Dakota State) is also on the South roster but I think he’s a bit overrated.

Marcus Davenport (DE, UTSA)
A monster in college and this is his big opportunity to cement a place in the top-15. His tape is great. He looks fast, powerful, dynamic and at times unstoppable. Now can he do it in this setting against his peers? Davenport vs Wynn will be box-office viewing.

Poona Ford (DT, Texas)
Compact defensive tackle who excelled at the Shrine game according to reports. Ford had eight TFL’s in 2017. He’s only 6-0 and 305lbs but that sometimes helps with leverage. Let’s see if he excels in the DL vs OL drills.

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Nike SPARQ data for the 2018 draft class

January 20th, 2018 | Written by Rob Staton

If you’re not familiar with SPARQ here’s a simple breakdown courtesy of Top End Sports:

SPARQ is an acronym for Speed, Power, Agility, Reaction and Quickness. The SPARQ Rating is a scoring system designed to measure sport-specific athleticism. The results from various tests in each of the areas of speed, power, agility, reaction and quickness are combined and weighted using a sport specific formula.

Every year Nike hold a SPARQ combine and the top high school athletes are invited to take part. If you know where to look there’s plenty of data involving many of the big names making up the 2018 draft class.

Even though their testing results could easily be different at the NFL combine — it’s still a useful benchmark for what we can expect in Indianapolis.

I had to search numerous websites for this info. Many prospects either didn’t participate or chose not to reveal their results. You’ll notice there’s no mention of Bradley Chubb, Vita Vea or Tremaine Edmunds.

Here are the SPARQ scores I did find:

Malik Jefferson (LB, Texas) — 145.65
Nick Chubb (RB, Georgia) — 143.91
Josh Sweat (EDGE, Florida State) — 140.01
Minkah Fitzpatrick (S, Alabama) — 130.41
Lorenzo Carter (LB, Georgia) — 129.75
Christian Kirk (WR, Texas A&M) — 129.30
Derwin James (S, Florida State) — 124.35
Royce Freeman (RB, Oregon) — 121.17
Saquon Barkley (RB, Penn State) — 116.79
Quin Blanding (S, Virginia) — 115.95
Rashaan Evans (LB, Alabama) — 113.7
M.J. Stewart (CB, North Carolina) — 112.08
Jerome Baker (LB, Ohio State) — 106.35
Kevin Toliver (CB, LSU) — 99.03
Roquon Smith (LB, Georgia) — 97.20
Josh Rosen (QB, UCLA) — 96.90
Armani Watts (S, Texas A&M) — 96.51
Calvin Ridley (WR, Alabama) — 92.70
Tavarus McFadden (CB, Florida State) — 91.86
Quenton Nelson (G, Notre Dame) — 85.20
Da’Ron Payne (DT, Alabama) — 84.00
Derrius Guice (RB, LSU) — 83.37
Tim Settle (DT, Virginia Tech) — 73.17
Sam Darnold (QB, USC) — 71.25
Derrick Nnadi (DT, Florida State) — 70.14
Isaiah Wynn (T, Georgia) — 54.45

Running backs Damien Harris (126.93) and Bryce Love (122.43) didn’t declare. Bo Scarborough, Sony Michel and Braden Smith didn’t complete a full test to qualify for a score.

I’ve listed the testing information in full below. There’s some very interesting data. Here are some of the highlights:

— Malik Jefferson’s sensational 145.65 SPARQ score is mostly down to a 4.39 forty and a 40 inch vertical at 6-2, 215lbs. If he gets close to these marks at the combine, he’ll be one of the big winners.

— We’ve often discussed Nick Chubb’s incredible SPARQ performance. The key to his stock will be medical checks on his knee and whether he’s still capable of an elite workout. If he ticks both boxes he could easily be a high pick.

— Chubb’s Georgia team mate Sony Michel isn’t quite as explosive. He was reasonably quick with a 4.46 forty but he only managed a 30.5 inch vertical — that’s a 10.5 inch difference compared to Chubb’s attempt.

— Minkah Fitzpatrick, Derwin James and Christian Kirk completed SPARQ tests in 2013 and 2014. The data I’d been using for Fitzpatrick and James was from 2013. They both significantly improved their scores the following year.

— Roquon Smith plays fast with great intensity but he only managed a 4.55 forty at 203lbs here. His SPARQ score of 97.20 is well below the likes of Lorenzo Carter, Rashaan Evans and Jerome Baker. It’s something to keep an eye on at the combine. He’s really good — but a mediocre combine would hamper his stock. Teams want speed at linebacker these days.

— Calvin Ridley is a very consistent receiver. Physically, however, he’s unspectacular. He isn’t big or particularly fast and at the SPARQ combine he ran a 4.54 at just 169lbs with a 32 inch vertical. It’s hard to get excited about Ridley.

— Quenton Nelson and Da’Ron Payne weighed a combined 650lbs at the SPARQ combine. They both scored higher than Derrius Guice.

— Braden Smith is known as an explosive, athletic freak at Auburn. He managed a 35.5 inch vertical at 285lbs. Providing he tests at the combine, he’s going to put on a show.

Full breakdown

Malik Jefferson (LB, Texas)
Height: 6-2
Weight: 215lbs
Forty: 4.39
Short Shuttle: 4.19
Powerball: 42
Vertical: 40
SPARQ: 145.65

Nick Chubb (RB, Georgia)
Height: 5-11
Weight: 217lbs
Forty: 4.47
Short Shuttle: 4.12
Powerball: 43
Vertical: 41
SPARQ: 143.91

Josh Sweat (EDGE, Florida State)
Height: 6-4
Weight: 240lbs
Forty: 4.46
Short Shuttle: 4.25
Powerball: 42
Vertical: 39
SPARQ: 140.01

Minkah Fitzpatrick (S, Alabama) (2014)
Height: 6-1
Weight: 194lbs
Forty: 4.51
Short Shuttle: 3.81
Powerball: 39.5
Vertical: 36
SPARQ: 130.41

Minkah Fitzpatrick (S, Alabama) (2013)
Height: 6-0
Weight: 183lbs
Forty: 4.67
Short Shuttle: 4.05
Powerball: 34
Vertical: 37
SPARQ: 106.26

Lorenzo Carter (LB, Georgia)
Height: 6-5
Weight: 234lbs
Forty: 4.63
Short Shuttle: 4.32
Powerball: 41.5
Vertical: 40
SPARQ: 129.75

Christian Kirk (WR, Texas A&M) (2014)
Height: 5-10
Weight: 191lbs
Forty: 4.47
Short Shuttle: 4.25
Powerball: 41.5
Vertical: 39
SPARQ: 129.30

Christian Kirk (WR, Texas A&M) (2013)
Height: 5-10
Weight: 185lbs
Forty: 4.49
Short Shuttle: 4.15
Powerball: 38
Vertical: 36
SPARQ: 115.83

Derwin James (S, Florida State) (2014)
Height: 6-2
Weight: 200lbs
Forty: 4.50
Short Shuttle: 4.21
Powerball: 41
Vertical: 36
SPARQ: 124.35

Derwin James (S, Florida State) (2013)
Height: 6-2
Weight: 197lbs
Forty: 4.52
Short Shuttle: 4.32
Powerball: 38
Vertical: 35
SPARQ: 108.57

Royce Freeman (RB, Oregon)
Height: 6-0
Weight: 227lbs
Forty: 4.58
Short Shuttle: 4.07
Powerball: 39
Vertical: 34
SPARQ: 121.17

Saquon Barkley (RB, Penn State)
Height: 5-11
Weight: 208lbs
Forty: 4.63
Short Shuttle: 4.06
Powerball: 35
Vertical: 38
SPARQ: 116.79

Quin Blanding (S, Virginia)
Height: 6-2
Weight: 209lbs
Forty: 4.62
Short Shuttle: 4.18
Powerball: 38
Vertical: 37
SPARQ: 115.95

Rashaan Evans (LB, Alabama)
Height: 6-3
Weight: 217lbs
Forty: 4.51
Short Shuttle: 4.27
Powerball: 33
Vertical: 38.4
SPARQ: 113.7

M.J. Stewart (CB, North Carolina)
Height: 5-11
Weight: 190lbs
Forty: 4.57
Short Shuttle: 4.00
Powerball: 36
Vertical: 34
SPARQ: 112.08

Jerome Baker (LB, Ohio State)
Height: 6-1
Weight: 202lbs
Forty: 4.54
Short Shuttle: 4.09
Powerball: 35.5
Vertical: 34
SPARQ: 106.35

Kevin Toliver (CB, LSU)
Height: 6-1
Weight: 193lbs
Forty: 4.61
Short Shuttle: 4.25
Powerball: 32
Vertical: 37
SPARQ: 99.03

Roquon Smith (LB, Georgia)
Height: 6-1
Weight: 203lbs
Forty: 4.55
Short Shuttle: 4.29
Powerball: 31
Vertical: 35
SPARQ: 97.20

Josh Rosen (QB, UCLA)
Height: 6-3
Weight: 206lbs
Forty: 4.99
Short Shuttle: 4.25
Powerball: 40
Vertical: 32
SPARQ: 96.90

Armani Watts (S, Texas A&M)
Height: 5-11
Weight: 183lbs
Forty: 4.76
Short Shuttle: 4.07
Powerball: 33
Vertical: 35
SPARQ: 96.51

Calvin Ridley (WR, Alabama)
Height: 6-0
Weight: 169lbs
Forty: 4.54
Short Shuttle: 4.15
Powerball: 32
Vertical: 32
SPARQ: 92.70

Tavarus McFadden (CB, Florida State)
Height: 6-2
Weight: 198lbs
Forty: 4.60
Short Shuttle: 4.34
Powerball: 33.5
Vertical: 32
SPARQ: 91.86

Quenton Nelson (G, Notre Dame)
Height: 6-5
Weight: 302lbs
Forty: 5.64
Short Shuttle: 4.81
Powerball: 42.5
Vertical: 24
SPARQ: 85.2

Da’Ron Payne (DT, Alabama)
Height: 6-3
Weight: 348lbs
Forty: 5.24
Short Shuttle: 4.80
Powerball: 37.5
Vertical: 25
SPARQ: 84.0

Derrius Guice (RB, LSU)
Height: 5-11
Weight: 215lbs
Forty: 4.61
Short Shuttle: 4.66
Powerball: 35
Vertical: 30
SPARQ: 83.37

Tim Settle (DT, Virginia Tech)
Height: 6-2
Weight: 339lbs
Forty: 5.35
Short Shuttle: 5.06
Powerball: 31.5
Vertical: 24
SPARQ: 73.17

Sam Darnold (QB, USC)
Height: 6-3
Weight: 202lbs
Forty: 4.96
Short Shuttle: 4.47
Powerball: 35
Vertical: 27
SPARQ: 71.25

Derrick Nnadi (DT, Florida State)
Height: 6-1
Weight: 299lbs
Forty: 5.53
Short Shuttle: 5.06
Powerball: 34
Vertical: 26
SPARQ: 70.14

Isaiah Wynn (T, Georgia)
Height: 6-2
Weight: 274lbs
Forty: 5.30
Short Shuttle: 5.06
Powerball: 32
Vertical: 27
SPARQ: 54.45

Bo Scarborough (RB, Alabama)
Height: 6-2
Weight: 215lbs
Forty: 4.59
Short Shuttle: 4.09
Powerball: DNP
Vertical: 31
SPARQ: Incomplete

Sony Michel (RB, Georgia)
Height: 5-11
Weight: 194lbs
Forty: 4.46
Short Shuttle: 4.22
Powerball: DNP
Vertical: 30.5
SPARQ: Incomplete

Braden Smith (G, Auburn)
Height: 6-6
Weight: 285lbs
Forty: 5.12
Short Shuttle: 4.65
Powerball: DNP
Vertical: 35.5
SPARQ: Incomplete

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Looking at Daniel Jeremiah’s first mock draft

January 19th, 2018 | Written by Rob Staton

Another day and another mock draft by one of the higher profile pundits on ESPN or the NFL Network. This time it’s Daniel Jeremiah’s turn. He has the Seahawks taking a cornerback at #18:

Isaiah Oliver (CB, Colorado)

Oliver has excellent size and speed. He can locate and play the ball down the field. The Seahawks are likely headed toward a rebuild in the secondary.

Let’s address the elephant in the room. The Seahawks aren’t taking a cornerback in round one. They have consistently waited until later in the draft to take CB’s. If there’s one position in football Pete Carroll is clearly very comfortable drafting to develop, it’s cornerback.

Even when they had an opportunity to draft Kevin King with his unique size, length and athleticism — they passed in favour of waiting until round three to get Shaq Griffin. Indeed Griffin — a late third round pick — is by far the highest pick they’ve spent on a corner since 2010.

Instead they’ve started 5th round picks, 6th round picks, free agents from the CFL and UDFA’s. This has never been a position Carroll has looked at early.

Jeremiah’s point on change in the secondary is accurate. And it’s true the defense is going to look very different going forward. An early pick on a DB is unlikely though, as illustrated here by Kenneth Arthur at Field Gulls. In fact you could argue they’ll probably never take one in the first round unless they end up picking in the top-10 and a Jalen Ramsey or Patrick Peterson are sat waiting for them.

As for Oliver, he’s not a player I’ve spent much time on personally. Here’s what an anonymous scout told Bob McGinn about his pro-prospects:

“He’s a solid third-round talent who may go earlier if he impresses or fools personnel staffs with his elite athleticism at the combine and pro day,” said one scout. “He does have make-up speed … average instincts and inconsistent reaction to short and intermediate routes … just average physicality in run support and as a tackler.”

Elite athleticism is very appealing to the Seahawks. Average physicality and mediocre run support is not.

It’d be unfair to criticise Jeremiah or Mel Kiper for their picks at #18 (Kiper also had Seattle taking a defensive back). They’re not Seahawks fans, they’re unlikely to have intimate knowledge of team needs or the philosophy Carroll uses to draft certain positions.

If anything they’re following the narrative to a tee. The Legion of Boom era might be over. Completely. And given how important the secondary was to Seattle over the years, repairing and rebuilding it will be seen by many as a likely course of action.

However, that is unlikely to be Seattle’s priority this off-season.

For starters, it’s at least somewhat possible that both Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas will remain with the team. If they re-sign Bradley McDougald, Justin Coleman and Byron Maxwell and continue to develop Shaq Griffin — that’s a useful looking secondary. None of this is improbable.

Secondly, they drafted a number of defensive backs a year ago. As well as Griffin they brought in Delano Hill, Tedric Thompson and Mike Tyson. It’s possible they will get an opportunity to stake a claim before the Seahawks write off their chances.

Thirdly, we’ve already heard Carroll speak directly about the need to repair the running game. It was the outstanding theme of his end of season press conference. Carroll’s arguably the best developer of DB’s in the NFL. Being able to field a strong secondary is within his grasp even if there’s major change coming. Fielding a strong running game has been an overwhelming problem ever since Marshawn Lynch left.

They simply haven’t been able to manufacture even an average running attack.

The crisis that occurred this year can’t be underestimated. Russell Wilson was the leading rusher, only one running back scored a touchdown and that was gadget player J.D. McKissic and they pretty much played with one arm tied behind their backs all season.

Carroll and co. will get this defense going again. Probably not to 2013 levels, maybe not 75% of what they once had. He’ll put a defense on the field though to compete. It’ll be younger, cheaper and feature new faces. Carroll’s a proven builder and will likely go about this the way he did in 2010-2011. It’s also entirely possible he’ll retain three elite players in Thomas, Sherman and Bobby Wagner.

The running game on the other hand is on its knees. The offensive line needs an overhaul in terms of the way it functions, with personnel changes possible too. The running backs are ineffective bar one man — a 7th rounder who spent most of 2017 on injured reserve.

They clearly want to be tough, physical, productive and punishing in the running game. And they’re so far away from that — this is the unit most likely to get attention.

Interestingly in Jeremiah’s mock, Billy Price (C/G, Ohio State) was still on the board at #18 and Isaiah Wynn (T/G, Georgia) went at #23 to the Rams. These are two of my favourite players in the class and it was reassuring to see Wynn listed that highly (more on him here). It’s extremely possible he works into the first round discussion. If the Seahawks had their second round pick available to get a running back, I’d be banging the table for Seattle to take Wynn with their first choice. He is a terrific player.

All of the running backs are on the board expect Saquon Barkley too. This projection shows quite clearly how beneficial it’d be for the Seahawks to move down and try to acquire multiple day two picks to try and repair their running game.

I also think the mocks by Jeremiah and Kiper prove how few legit first round prospects there are. There’s very little consensus aside from the very top of round one. By the time you get into the 20’s — there’s a lot of unexpected picks.

This isn’t a good cornerback class for example, yet both Kiper and Jeremiah are loading their first round with corners. Both include a tight end — yet neither player (Mark Andrews or Hayden Hurst) really warrants that type of placing (we might not see a TE drafted before the end of round two). Harrison Phillips — a likely top-100 type who could get into round two with a good workout — is also listed in round one.

This is a draft class that save for about 10 names is still really working itself out. There are about 18 places in round one up for grabs, with the Senior Bowl and Combine likely to determine who makes it. The strength of this class is not going to be in the second half of round one. The players going at 45 are not going to be that different than the players going at 20.

It’s good news if you’re hoping Seattle trades down. If there’s a big cliff at about pick #15-20 (and if the late first round is going to be a bit of a jumbled mess) — teams might be very interested in trading up to #18 to get at the last few remaining players they actually like in round one.

Here’s my own mock draft if you missed it earlier in the week (with the Seahawks trading down out of round one):

#1 Cleveland — Josh Allen (QB, Wyoming)
#2 NY Giants — Sam Darnold (QB, USC)
#3 Indianapolis — Saquon Barkley (RB, Penn State)
#4 Cleveland (via Hou) — Bradley Chubb (EDGE, NC State)
#5 Buffalo (via Den) — Josh Rosen (QB, UCLA)
#6 New York Jets — Quenton Nelson (G, Notre Dame)
#7 Tampa Bay — Vita Vea (DT, Washington)
#8 Chicago — Marcus Davenport (DE, UTSA)
#9 San Francisco — Tremaine Edmunds (LB, Virginia Tech)
#10 Oakland — Orlando Brown (T, Oklahoma)
#11 Miami — Billy Price (C, Ohio State)
#12 Cincinnati — Minkah Fitzpatrick (S, Alabama)
#13 Washington — Roquan Smith (LB, Georgia)
#14 Green Bay — Tim Settle (DT, Virginia Tech)
#15 Arizona — Mike McGlinchey (T, Notre Dame)
#16 Baltimore — Calvin Ridley (WR, Alabama)
#17 LA Chargers — Baker Mayfield (QB, Oklahoma)
#18 Cleveland (via Sea) — Denzel Ward (CB, Ohio State)
#19 Dallas — Arden Key (DE, LSU)
#20 Detroit — Leighton Vander Esch (LB, Boise State)
#21 Denver (via Buf) — Derwin James (S, Florida State)
#22 Denver (via Buf, KC) — Lamar Jackson (QB, Louisville)
#23 LA Rams — Harold Landry (EDGE, Boston College)
#24 Carolina — Taven Bryan (DT, Florida)
#25 Tennessee — Joshua Jackson (CB, Iowa)
#26 Atlanta — Maurice Hurst (DT, Michigan)
#27 New Orleans — Lorenzo Carter (LB, Georgia)
#28 Pittsburgh — Da’Ron Payne (DT, Alabama)
#29 Jacksonville — Courtland Sutton (WR, SMU)
#30 Minnesota — Derrick Nnadi (DT, Florida State)
#31 New England — Ben Banogu (EDGE, TCU)
#32 Philadelphia — Rashaan Evans (LB, Alabama)

If it played out like this (with the Seahawks acquiring day two stock) — they’d have a good opportunity to address the running game (RB, OL) and/or add to the defense.

One final thought for today — if you can come out of this draft class having taken a couple of players from Georgia, you’ve done well. There’s a reason that team came agonisingly close to winning the playoffs despite starting a true Freshman quarterback. Wynn, Michel, Chubb, Carter, Wims and others. That was a loaded group.

If you missed the podcast I did this week with the UK Seahawkers, please have a listen:

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Mel Kiper’s first 2018 mock & thoughts on Derwin James

January 18th, 2018 | Written by Rob Staton

Before we get into Mel’s mock, this week I was invited onto the Pedestrian Podcast (courtesy of the UK Seahawkers). Please check it out below and have a listen…

Mel Kiper published his first 2018 mock draft today, with the Seahawks taking Derwin James at #18:

“James is tough to figure out, but Seattle would be thrilled to get him here. He’s super talented and looked like a top-five pick as a freshman at Florida State in 2015, but he missed the entire 2016 season because of a knee injury. James had a solid 2017 season with 84 total tackles and two interceptions, but scouts wanted to see more. At his peak, though, James is a typical Seattle safety and fits what it looks for. Kam Chancellor’s future is up in the air after a neck injury, and the Seahawks could need a replacement.”

Regular visitors to the blog will know I’ve been saying James is a bit overrated — but I’m starting to think my view is part of the consensus. Kiper has him at #18, I had him at #21 in my mock draft. I think he’s going to go in the mid-to-late first.

My argument for him being overrated was based on projections of a top-10 slot, which are/were unrealistic. But I also think it’s important to work through some of the hype with James — one of the biggest names in the 2018 draft but not necessarily one of the absolute best prospects.

Physically he looks the part. I’d expect a good vertical jump at the combine and some nice explosive testing marks. I don’t think he’ll be the fastest or the most agile but he’s about 6-3 and 211lbs so that’s not a big surprise.

In the Nike SPARQ testing he had the following performance:

Height: 6-2
Weight: 202lbs
Forty: 4.52
Short shuttle: 4.27
Power throw: 40
Vertical: 37 inches
SPARQ: 113.34

It’s a reasonable workout for sure. Yet if you compare it to Lorenzo Carter’s at Georgia, there’s a bit of a difference:

Height: 6-5
Weight: 234lbs
Forty: 4.63
Short shuttle: 4.32
Power throw: 41.5
Vertical: 40 inches
SPARQ: 129.75

James is a box safety well suited to playing up at the line of scrimmage. He’s a sure tackler and occasionally delivers a big jarring hit. His run defense is extremely disciplined. Look at the play below and the patience he shows before shedding Damien Harris’ block and making the tackle:

He is capable of creating a fear factor on crossing routes and that’s one of the reasons he’ll be a first round pick. This is textbook — reads the play, classic form on the hit and makes it count:

Here’s another example of his tackling form. Anyone who’s watched Lamar Jackson will know how difficult he is to tackle in space. James executes his attempt perfectly:

Put him up against a bigger receiver and he can gain position and make a play on the ball:

These are some of the areas where he’s going to excel. If you want someone who can run and hit effectively as a box safety, James will provide some value.

Sadly, James just doesn’t make enough plays beyond the hits and tackles. It’s why Kiper starts his blurb with the line ‘James is hard to figure out‘. Brock Huard said the following about him today when assessing Mel’s pick for Seattle:

“Freak show. Five star, #1 recruit in America just a few years ago… There’s an unbelievable Youtube — when I did some Florida State games — of him in a weight room jumping some 50 inches on a pad. An adonis. You’re not supposed to be that dynamic at that size. So unique gifts and all that, kind of fits Pete’s eye and scouting eye. Not nearly the productivity. Where is all of it on the field? Let me see that come to life. Where is that play after play after play… you don’t see those two back each other up and that’s why he’s probably going to be a mid to late first rounder instead of some of the safety’s we saw last year taken in the top ten.”

We’re talking about a decently explosive athlete. Not the fastest, I wouldn’t expect a great forty time. But he’s explosive. And big. But still a box safety.

And unfortunately, you see moments like this:

He’s the last line of defense in the video above. He’s playing deep — and in that situation, he just has to do better.

How is he covering in the short game? This is where Minkah Fitzpatrick excels. In the video below, James is covering Florida’s Antonio Calloway in the slot:

You could say it’s a mismatch in coverage and any right minded quarterback will exploit that. If you’re taking a safety in the top-20, however, you want more than he’s showing here.

While he’s very good at the LOS, you also see some misses. Damien Harris in the video below takes him out of the play quite easily. If the hope is that James can be Kam Chancellor — with Kam’s limitations and strengths — well Kam never looked like this attacking a running back in pass-pro:

James is far from a bad player. He’s good and will likely will go in the first round. Is he a treasured blue-chip prospect in the same tier as Tremaine Edmunds, Saquon Barkley, Quenton Nelson and Bradley Chubb? No, not for me. And he might not be in the second tier either.

So what about his fit in Seattle?

With Kam Chancellor retiring, being able to land a dynamic strong safety with great size could be perfect timing. There are a couple of things that are important to remember though:

— In the Carroll era, the Seahawks have only drafted one defensive back in the first two rounds. It’s Earl Thomas, a future Hall of Famer. Carroll’s track record in Seattle is to draft DB’s later and coach them up. It’s a plan that has worked emphatically so far. It doesn’t mean they won’t take James in round one but history tells us they’d have to rate any safety or corner very, very highly to pull the trigger.

— How important is it for the Seahawks to invest their top pick in a strong safety? If Earl Thomas stays in Seattle they could re-sign Bradley McDougald and have a good pairing. Ultimately, what is best? Earl & McDougald plus the ability to use the first rounder on someone else? Or having Earl & Derwin James?

Ultimately it probably comes down to this — Carroll’s ability to coach up a safety versus the need to repair or manufacture a running game. In the last two years Seattle failed spectacularly to run the ball. They can’t make it a hat trick in 2018. And if they draft James at #18 — they won’t pick again until the second half of round four. That’s a significant wait to do anything about the offense.

Further notes on Mel’s mock

— Kiper has Josh Allen at #1 to Cleveland. I also mocked that in my projection. Not because I think Allen is the best QB in the class — there’s just too much noise at the moment suggesting John Dorsey (Browns GM) believes he is.

— Vita Vea drops to #19 in Mel’s mock. Maybe I’ll be wrong but I’m 99.9% certain he will not fall that far. Top ten prospect.

— Mel includes Oklahoma tight end Mark Andrews, UCLA tackle Kolton Miller, USC defensive end Rasheem Green and UCF corner Mike Hughes in round one. I need to watch more of Green and Hughes — I’ve not studied them at all. I was surprised to see Andrews in round one (I’m not convinced he’ll go in round two, let alone the first) and Miller’s inclusion also raised an eyebrow. Perhaps most surprising though was Pittsburgh tackle Brian O’Neill at #16. I need to watch some of his tape.

— Kiper has Billy Price falling to the Panthers at #24. Interesting.

— He also only has one running back (Saquon Barkley). It’s worth noting that Kiper is Lord Commander of the ‘don’t draft RB’s early’ clan so it’s not too surprising. Still, it goes to show the options Seattle would have if they wanted to trade down significantly — possibly into round two. There wouldn’t just be good options at running back — but also on the O-line (Wynn, Ragnow) and defense (Carter, Vander Esch, Settle).

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