Southern Utah’s Miles Killebrew could go early

December 5th, 2015 | Written by Rob Staton

Clemson’s Jayron Kearse gets a lot of attention. He’s 6-4 and 210lbs. Everyone is looking for the next big, athletic strong safety. Kearse’s size is really his best attribute. On the field he’s frequently out of position, over-running plays or failing to wrap-up. He’s an upside player who needs to learn structure and discipline. It should limit his stock and I think it’d be a surprise if he went early.

Southern Utah’s Miles Killebrew on the other hand — he might be set for a big rise over the next few months.

He’s a senior prospect and will get the opportunity to boost his stock during the off-season. He’s 6-3 and 223lbs and apparently runs in the 4.4’s — it shows up on tape. His instinct, feel for the game, speed and hitting ability makes him a very attractive prospect. Perhaps his most impressive quality is closing speed — he covers ground at a rate of knots for 223lbs.

Deone Bucannon shot up draft boards to go in round one because of his athleticism matched with a fantastic off-season. Killebrew has a shot to emulate that. Teams might even consider using him in a similar way as a kind of safety/linebacker hybrid.

Whether he goes in round one or not remains to be seen. Just keep an eye on him. And make sure you check out the video above.

 

Germain Ifedi to enter 2016 draft & some thoughts

December 4th, 2015 | Written by Rob Staton

The Tweet above indicates Germain Ifedi will turn pro and enter the 2016 draft. It’s not a big shock and was expected. So how good is he?

The Aggies flirted with moving Ifedi to left tackle this year. Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews also made the switch before becoming top-ten picks. Ifedi, for whatever reason, stayed at right tackle.

I went back and watched two Texas A&M games from this season to review how he performed. He played better than I remembered on the first viewing. He’s an enormous 6-5 and 320lbs yet moves superbly. His footwork is quite brilliant for a man his size — his kick slide is good, he moves freely to the second level. In the two games I watched he didn’t get beat once off the edge by a speed rush.

There’s very little ‘bad weight’ to his frame — he’s an enormous tackle and most of it is muscle. When a D-end tries to hand fight he usually absorbs the defender and it’s over. Technically he had some nice blocks — turning his man to open up a crease and moving people off the LOS to create a running lane. He has the athleticism to adjust on the move and if he ever moved to guard he’d have no trouble pulling or kicking out to the next level.

He kind of looks like a more athletic James Carpenter who’s in better shape. I like his chances of playing tackle in the NFL because of the athletic upside. He moves a lot better than Carpenter (who in fairness was more of a run blocker — and did it very well at Alabama).

I’ve seen quite a few complaints about his power in the run game but these issues didn’t show up in the two contests here. I thought he actually showed good leverage and punch to drive a couple of defenders off the line. Perhaps it’s more of a technique issue? Certainly to look at Ifedi you wouldn’t assume any lack of power.

He’s also quite the engaging and personable interview. He speaks very well. I suspect teams will like him when they meet with him.

Ifedi received a second round grade prior to the 2015 draft (he was contemplating declaring). Having watched Joeckel and Matthews rise as high as they did, you can understand why he backed himself to stay at A&M for another year.

The important thing to remember is — players with second round grades are going to be taken in the first frame. Remember last year when there was approximately 15 prospects graded in the first round? How else do you get to 32? Ifedi has every chance of being a top-25 pick even with a second round reference.

In terms of the Seahawks, he’d be an interesting prospect. If Russell Okung moves on and they seriously do think Garry Gilliam can switch to left tackle, Ifedi could be a decent replacement on the right side. As long as they upgraded the interior line (Alex Mack?) this could work for Seattle.

Ifedi’s size and raw athleticism makes for an interesting combination. If the Seahawks make the playoffs and you’re pinning your hopes on an offensive tackle being available beyond the 21st pick — this could be your best bet.

 

Updated mock draft: 3rd December

December 3rd, 2015 | Written by Rob Staton

We had some technical issues with the podcast this week — and it means we’ve only been able to salvage the first half of the recording. Please still check it out below:

First round update

#1 Tennessee Titans — Joey Bosa (DE, Ohio State)
#2 Cleveland Browns — Paxton Lynch (QB, Memphis)
#3 Dallas Cowboys — Robert Nkemdiche (DE, Ole Miss)
#4 San Diego Chargers — Laremy Tunsil (T, Ole Miss)
#5 San Francisco 49ers — Jaylon Smith (LB, Notre Dame)
#6 Miami Dolphins — Tre’Davious White (CB, LSU)
#7 Jacksonville Jaguars — Shon Coleman (T, Auburn)
#8 Baltimore Ravens — Corey Coleman (WR, Baylor)
#9 Philadelphia Eagles — Taylor Decker (T, Ohio State)
#10 St. Louis Rams — Laquon Treadwell (WR, Ole Miss)
#11 New Orleans Saints — Eli Apple (CB, Ohio State)
#12 Detroit Lions — DeForest Buckner (DE, Oregon)
#13 New York Giants — Myles Jack (LB, UCLA)
#14 Atlanta Falcons — Jaylen Ramsey (S, Florida State)
#15 Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Cameron Sutton (CB, Tennessee)
#16 Oakland Raiders — Jack Conklin (T, Michigan State)
#17 Buffalo Bills — Darron Lee (LB, Ohio State)
#18 Chicago Bears — Mackensie Alexander (CB, Clemson)
#19 New York Jets — Reggie Ragland (LB, Alabama)
#20 Pittsburgh Steelers — Kendall Fuller (CB, Virginia Tech)
#21 Washington — Michael Thomas (WR, Ohio State)
#22 Seattle Seahawks — Eric Striker (LB, Oklahoma)
#23 Houston Texans — Jared Goff (QB, California)
#24 Indianapolis Colts — Ronnie Stanley (T, Notre Dame)
#25 Kansas City Chiefs — Germain Ifedi (T, Texas A&M)
#26 Green Bay Packers — Adolphus Washington (DE, Ohio State)
#27 Minnesota Vikings — De’Runnya Wilson (WR, Mississippi State)
#28 Arizona Cardinals — Ezekiel Elliott (RB, Ohio State)
#29 Cincinnati Bengals — A’Shawn Robinson (DT, Alabama)
#30 Denver Broncos — Andrew Billings (DT, Baylor)
#31 Carolina Panthers — Tyler Boyd (WR, Pittsburgh)

So why Eric Striker?

The Seahawks’ offensive line has improved in recent weeks. If that progression continues, perhaps it increases the likelihood of Russell Okung and J.R. Sweezy being re-signed? Continuity is key to an offensive line. Having lived through the growing pains with this unit, blowing it up and starting again would probably lead to a similar slump at the start of 2016.

If the Seahawks also make the playoffs it makes it increasingly difficult to get at the top offensive linemen in this class. Picking at #22 keeps them away from the top four. Ronnie Stanley is one of the most overrated players in the 2016 class. Watch him rugby tackle Clemson’s Shaq Lawson from behind after a whiffed block a few weeks ago:

There’s a real lethargy to Stanley’s pass protection. He’s stiff. He doesn’t punish anyone in the run game or offer anything at the second level. It’s astonishing how much praise he gets compared to Auburn’s Shon Coleman.

If they do pay Okung and Sweezy — with a veteran center addition also a possibility — it’ll increase the likelihood of Bruce Irvin moving on. Kevin Pierre-Louis struggled in relief this year and finding an answer to that role is pretty underrated.

Irvin developed into quite the playmaker in 2014 and it’s something they’ve lacked since he got injured this year. I’m not sure his summer weight gain — probably to try and improve his power in the pass rush ahead of free agency — had the greatest impact.

Striker won’t be considered a first rounder on many boards. We also know the Seahawks do things differently — so I’ll make the case here for why he might be a nice option for them.

For starters he’s a terrific athlete. He lacks Irvin’s size (he’s listed at 6-1 and 223lbs) but he’s excelled in a similar role for the Sooners. He lines up at outside linebacker and splits snaps between rushing at the LOS and dropping in coverage/playing run support. Striker has exceptional first-step quickness and is constantly around the ball. He never takes a snap off. The end result? A fantastic, productive career.

This season he has 7.5 sacks. His 22 career sacks in three seasons is the most ever by an Oklahoma linebacker. He explodes off the edge, winning with pure speed. Often when he moves up to the line it messes with the protection because they need to cover him and a running back won’t cut it. He’s equally adept dropping into coverage and just plays with an incredible intensity.

Watch this video and tell me he doesn’t feel ‘Seahawky':

The lack of size doesn’t bother me because his suddenness and intensity (plus production) make up for it. I’d compare the situation to Tyler Lockett last year. Not a big guy — but his character, production and speed made him the prospect they had to have (thus, the trade up).

#22 is a tough range to draft in. On Tuesday we discussed how many first round prospects there might be in this class and I settled on 18. If you’re not getting at the top guys, do they move down again and get the player they want? Could it be someone like Striker?

It would also free them up to consider other needs in rounds 2/3. They could still add an offensive lineman like Adam Bisnowaty (who, I’ll keep saying, looks like an Evan Mathis type and should kick inside to guard in the NFL) a cornerback (Zack Sanchez at Oklahoma?) or a running back (Paul Perkins at UCLA? Alex Collins at Arkansas?).

I’ve also spent a lot of time reviewing certain prospects in the last few days. One player I was very tempted to include in this mock — and probably should’ve included — is Notre Dame receiver Will Fuller. Suddenness, fluid routes, safe hands, deep speed and production. I had him down as a second rounder. He could easily end up in the first.

 

Estimating legit first round prospects for 2016 draft

December 1st, 2015 | Written by Rob Staton

Florida State’s Jaylen Ramsey will be seen as a consensus first rounder

There are two types of first round draft prospect. Those that truly warrant the grade — and those who go in the first round anyway. Last year teams probably gave out between 12-16 legit first round grades.

There’s certainly potential for more this year — but not much more.

It’s still very early but this is how I see things at the start of December:

Possible ‘genuine’ first round prospects

Quarterback (1)
Paxton Lynch (Memphis)

Offensive line (4)
Laremy Tunsil (Ole Miss), Shon Coleman (Auburn), Taylor Decker (Ohio State), Jack Conklin (Michigan State)

Wide receiver (3)
Laquon Treadwell (Ole Miss), Michael Thomas (Ohio State), Corey Coleman (Baylor)

Defensive line (3)
Joey Bosa (Ohio State), Robert Nkemdiche (Ole Miss), DeForest Buckner (Oregon)

Linebacker (3)
Jaylon Smith (LB, Notre Dame), Myles Jack (LB, UCLA), Darron Lee (Ohio State)

Defensive backs (4)
Tre’Davious White (CB, LSU), Jaylen Ramsey (CB/S, Florida State), Cameron Sutton (CB, Tennessee), Eli Apple (CB, Ohio State)

Total: 18

Prospects who possibly miss out on legit first round grades that could go in the first frame anyway

Quarterback (1)
Jared Goff (California)

Running back (2)
Ezekiel Elliott (Ohio State), Derrick Henry (RB, Alabama)

Wide receiver (3)
De’Runnya Wilson (Mississippi State), Tyler Boyd (Pittsburgh), Will Fuller (WR, Notre Dame)

Offensive line (2)
Ronnie Stanley (Notre Dame), Germain Ifedi (Texas A&M)

Defensive line (3)
A’Shawn Robinson (Alabama), Adolphus Washington (Ohio State), Andrew Billings (Baylor)

Linebacker (1)
Reggie Ragland (Alabama), Eric Striker (LB, Oklahoma)

Defensive back (2)
Mackensie Alexander (Clemson), Kendall Fuller (Virginia Tech)

Total: 15

 

Monday thoughts: Gilliam, cornerbacks & receivers

November 30th, 2015 | Written by Rob Staton

I’ve included the Tweet above not because I have any faith in PFF (here’s one reason why). After all, how could anyone receive a higher than Russell Wilson and Doug Baldwin yesterday? Even so, it’s perhaps a sign that at least to some people, Garry Gilliam is showing signs of improvement.

That’s big for the Seahawks in 2015 and beyond.

They clearly have a lot of time for Gilliam. It’d be wrong to expect the finished article this year. He’s a converted tight end thrust into a starting role after the first week of pre-season because Justin Britt was struggling badly at right tackle.

It was a baptism of fire and he had a few iffy weeks. Is the game starting to slow down? Maybe. Russell Wilson’s mobility and nature to improvise requires good protection on the right side. He often scrambles that way when he’s looking downfield and trying to extend the play. It’s what he does. Gilliam has been a liability in that regard for much of the year. Is he turning the corner?

Better play from the tackle equals better performances from the quarterback. And that’s partly responsible for Wilson’s current tear.

For the future? It could mean you don’t need to replace Gilliam at right tackle. They might believe he can replace Russell Okung on the left (a topic we discussed earlier in the season). Either way — if Gilliam establishes himself as a long term fixture — the maximum tackles you need to sign or draft in the off-season is one. If you re-sign Okung it’s zero. That offers genuine draft flexibility. It’s up to Gilliam to prove he warrants the trust.

If, as Jason La Canfora suggested yesterday, Marshawn Lynch and his salary move on — it creates some extra free cash. With the cap set to rise again too it might be possible to re-sign Okung and J.R. Sweezy and maintain some consistency there.

Adding a veteran center feels inevitable with no Pouncey-esque prospect in this draft class. If they keep Okung and Sweezy, is there enough free cap to go after Alex Mack if his contract voids? Possibly.

It’d still be worthwhile adding some further competition and depth. That’s why a prospect like Pittsburgh’s Adam Bisnowaty — with similar size and characteristics to Evan Mathis — could be a nice option in the round 2-3 range. If he doesn’t start immediately at guard — he’s a swing tackle option.

If you’re going into the draft with Okung, Sweezy and Mack signed up (and yes, it’s a big IF) — it frees up the possibility to look at different needs in round one.

With a distinctly average looking class for defensive linemen — linebacker (replacing Bruce Irvin) and cornerback (an increasing need) could come into play. In particular at corner — Tre’Davious White (LSU), Eli Apple (Ohio State), Cameron Sutton (Tennessee) and Mackensie Alexander (Clemson) could be appealing.

This will be especially true if the top offensive linemen leave the board quickly (Coleman, Tunsil, Decker, Conklin, Stanley).

I wouldn’t expect the Seahawks to be in range to draft LSU’s White. An exceptional athlete with ideal size, he’s highly respected and was awarded the coveted Tigers’ #18 jersey for this season. He’s going to go early — possibly top ten. He’s not a freak of nature like Patrick Peterson but he could be LSU’s best defensive back prospect since Arizona’s all-pro.

Apple plays like a Seahawks corner — keeps the receiver in front, doesn’t get beat downfield but will at times concede position in the shorter-to-medium range. He gave up some catches facing off against Michigan State’s Aaron Burbridge — but even then, it was only a 62-yard display. Bright guy — like White. Suspect he’ll need a bit of time to pick up a new scheme and then watch him excel. The potential is there to be a big-time player at the next level.

Cameron Sutton might be the most toolsy of the quartet. Again, like White and Apple, he’s an impressive talker and student of the game. Like White and Apple, he’ll wow GM’s and scouts during meetings. He’s a shade under 6-0 but appears to have a long frame and incredible athleticism/upside. He’ll work to pick up the scheme and excel.

Mackensie Alexander is, as you’ve probably guessed, another thoughtful talker who understands the importance of preparation and technical execution. He’s very physical and sparky too — emphasised by a bout of jawing at the South Carolina bench at the weekend. He’s been a gradual riser this year and he’ll have a chance to perform in the playoffs presuming Clemson defeats North Carolina to win the ACC title.

Four good options there and food for thought. I’d have no issue grading each of these corners in the top-15/20. Of course, it doesn’t always work out that way. DeAndre Hopkins and Joel Bitonio looked like top-20 talents and they lasted. Ditto Jimmy Smith in 2011.

(A reminder that I don’t believe Florida’s overrated Vernon Hargreaves will be a first round pick, while Virginia Tech’s Kendall Fuller and Mississippi State’s Will Redmond are battling serious leg injuries. Iowa’s Desmond King is intriguing, while Oklahoma’s Zack Sanchez has turned his season around in the last few weeks).

As for receivers — perhaps the Seahawks can learn something from the Steelers?

After spending first round picks on Percy Harvin and Jimmy Graham — and having to live with the expectation of production to justify the moves — the Steelers’ way of doing things might be more suitable for this franchise.

The Seahawks were basically very similar to begin with. They set out to find sudden, explosive receivers. Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin emerged, as did Jermaine Kearse eventually. They got what they needed out of all three. Adding Harvin and now Graham came with the pressure to get them ‘touches’ — to satisfy a media thirst for production, to justify the outlay and cost.

That same pressure simply doesn’t exist with Tyler Lockett — who cost a third round pick. It still isn’t there for undrafted free agents Baldwin and Kearse. It won’t be there for Paul Richardson, Kevin Smith or Kasen Williams.

For whatever reason this Seahawks offense operates just fine without the big name. Without the star player. That’s not to say it wasn’t starting to really function with Graham (who had a fine game before his injury). Now it’s forced to turn to Baldwin, Kearse, Lockett, Luke Willson and hopefully Richardson — who’d bet against it continuing to function? Even without Marshawn Lynch.

Pittsburgh lined up the most explosive trio of receivers in the NFL yesterday. Speed, tenacity and game-changing ability. Markus Wheaton was drafted in round three. Martavis Bryant was drafted in round four. Antonio Brown? A sixth rounder.

Wheaton and Bryant were not unknowns. They just provided value and explosive plays. Brown is a genuine success story — and credit the Steelers for developing and trusting him when the world and his dog was calling for them to pay Mike Wallace or Emmanuel Sanders instead.

The fact they had Wallace (a third rounder) and Sanders (a third rounder) too merely adds to the point. They know what they want and where to get it in the draft. The Seahawks have shown they can have similar success — emphasised by the emergence of Lockett and their history with Tate, Baldwin and Kearse. Hopefully Richardson can stay healthy for a stretch in his Seahawks career to have a consistent impact.

Instead of chasing the big name — it’s time to start using their early draft stock on needs and re-commit to finding receivers later on, to continue re-stocking their group with explosive receivers who don’t necessarily have the ideal size but make up for it with suddenness, a crisp release and downfield skill.

Not every pick will hit. Not every pick is going to be a Wheaton or Bryant. They’ll be incredibly fortunate to land another Brown — but it’s worth a try. It feels like the right way forward for the Seahawks. And they might have to continue adding at wide out with Kearse a free agent in the off-season and Baldwin a free agent after 2016.

 

Instant reaction: Seahawks win epic, begin new era?

November 29th, 2015 | Written by Rob Staton

An all time classic — and just in the nick of time.

The Seahawks gave up a franchise record 456 passing yards to Ben Roethlisberger. The defense played poorly and had issues — but this was a masterclass by Big Ben and Todd Haley.

Not enough credit is given to Haley for the way he’s transformed Pittsburgh’s offense. They protected the quarterback, Roethlisberger was getting the ball out very quickly and they exploited the speed and dynamism of their top three receivers.

We’ll spend a week contemplating Seattle’s defensive issues and they must improve — particularly against high octane passing attacks. The tackling was poor again. Earl Thomas doesn’t look right. The four man pass rush isn’t getting home. They’re getting beat too often in the soft spot behind the linebackers and deep safety. They did have four interceptions today though and Richard Sherman did a masterful job covering Antonio Brown (51-yards).

But that’s for another day (and lets not ignore what was an excellent Pittsburgh offensive game plan, executed superbly).

Tonight we reflect on a truly exceptional performance by Russell Wilson and the passing offense. Wilson quietly threw for 345 yards and five touchdowns. Doug Baldwin had three touchdowns including a superb low grab on a crucial third down — before sprinting 80-yards for Seattle’s most explosive play of the season.

Jermaine Kearse added two scores. Kevin Smith and Tyler Lockett also contributed. The only negative? A horrible torn patella tendon injury to Jimmy Graham was the only disappointment. It’s the same injury currently dogging Victor Cruz’s career.

Credit too for the much maligned and often criticised Darrell Bevell. His play design today — he controls the passing game — was exceptional. They found a way to create mismatches for the receivers and get guys open.

The offense had to go toe-to-toe with an elite Ben Roethlisberger performance to save their season. And they did it. 39-30. The game of the NFL season so far.

Perhaps this was also a nod to the future? Jason La Canfora reported today that the Seahawks are likely to part ways with Marshawn Lynch at the end of the season. Russell Wilson, big contract and all, is probably going to be relied on many more times in the future. Today, for the first time this season, he showed he’s up to the task.

On a day when Thomas Rawls struggled for running room — Wilson had to step up. And if the defense is never be restored to its 2013 or 2014 level — he’ll need to fight like this again.

Are we witnessing the slow transition from a Beast Mode identity to the Russell Wilson-led era? Maybe it’s too early to say. If it does happen, today was very encouraging.

The Seahawks are now 6-5 and occupy the #6 seed and final Wild Card spot after Atlanta’s loss earlier. It sets up a vital road trip to Minnesota next week. It’ll be a very different challenge against Adrian Peterson and a complimentary, conservative passing game. Teddy Bridgewater has eight touchdowns and seven interceptions for the season. Wilson has eight touchdowns in his last two games.

 

First rounder Shon Coleman dominates vs Texas A&M (tape)

November 27th, 2015 | Written by Rob Staton

At last.

Shon Coleman has some tape on Draft Breakdown. It’s a good one too — his matchup against Texas A&M and Myles Garrett.

For those not familiar with Garrett, he will likely be a top-five pick in 2017. He and LSU running back Leonard Fournette are the two outstanding 2017 eligible prospects in college football.

Watch the video for yourself (Garrett wears #15). Number of times Garrett beats Coleman? Zero.

I’ve listed some of the highlights below. It’s also worth paying attention to how often Auburn ran to Coleman’s side and gained positive yardage. They recorded 311 (!!!) rushing yards in the game and won 26-10.

This is a masterful performance by a prospect who deserves to be ranked with the elite players eligible for the 2016 draft. There’s only one tackle that comes even close to his level of talent and that’s Ole Miss’ Laremy Tunsil.

If Shon Coleman isn’t a first round prospect then I’m an Australian.

Adding to everything is the tremendous strength of character he’s shown to beat cancer and pursue his dream to play football.

0:54 — Look at the combination of an effective kick slide, gaining early position and a powerful jolt to the D-end. The pass rusher doesn’t know what to do here. Coleman has the leverage and the end just accepts he’s beaten and stops trying to get to the QB.

1:11 — Garrett fakes the inside move by dropping the shoulder before attempting to dart on the outside. Coleman again is in position so quickly. His drop and set is exceptional. Look at that for a kick slide. Text book. He doesn’t bite on Garrett’s double move and just absorbs him, giving the QB enough time to fire for a first down.

1:51 — This is a really fantastic play that shows he can be just as effective in the run game as pass protection. Coleman dips inside to slam the defensive tackle off balance before locking on to a linebacker at the second level to spring the running back for a huge gain. Coleman’s second level block on the LB gets the back an extra 35-yards. If he doesn’t make that block it might not even be a first down conversion. Just brilliant.

3:41 — Coleman engages the defensive tackle, drives him backwards eight yards and then dumps him on his ass. Enough said. I shouted at the TV when I saw this live.

4:55 — Auburn tries an end-around. Coleman engages at the LOS and then pulls to his left to act as an open-field blocker. He decleats a defensive back who tries to make a play by the sideline. Just buries him. Extra yardage gained.

5:39 — Coleman blocks Garrett inside and drives him out of the play to open up a huge running lane.

6:18 — Second level blocking again. Locates the linebacker, drives him well out of the play. Big run for Auburn.

6:30 — Count how many seconds Garrett engages Coleman and cannot get off the block. Ok I’ll tell you anyway — it’s five seconds. After five seconds Coleman lets go because the running back is well clear of the first down marker. Dominating run blocking. Again.

7:55 — Coleman drives #40 six yards beyond the LOS as Auburn convert the first down running to his side. Power, technique, finish.

Shon Coleman looks like a NFL ready, complete left tackle with ideal size, length, athleticism, power in the run game and foot-speed to kick-slide and set. There isn’t a range in round one I’d feel uncomfortable taking him.

Need more convincing?

Here he is giving Georgia’s Leonard Floyd a tour of the car park:

 

An early look at positional targets (rounds 1-3)

November 26th, 2015 | Written by Rob Staton

Could UCLA’s Paul Perkins be a target for the Seahawks?

Here’s what I’d consider a good looking Seahawks projection for the end of November:

R1 – Shon Coleman (T, Auburn)
R2 – Eric Striker (LB, Oklahoma)
R3 – Adam Bisnowaty (T, Pittsburgh)
R3 comp – Paul Perkins (RB, UCLA)

First round
The safe money is on an offensive line pick. With Russell Okung and J.R. Sweezy both free agents, they might struggle to keep their two most experienced linemen. Even if they find a way to re-sign both — further investment in a struggling line seems inevitable.

They could look to free agency to add a center (Alex Mack would be the most intriguing option if he voids his contract in Cleveland). Adding a college left tackle here makes sense — with the option you could play them at guard or tackle. If they pick early they’ll have a shot at the bigger names. Even in the late first they’ll have options.

The best fit would be Auburn’s Shon Coleman — a complete tackle with ideal size and technique. We keep expecting to hear his name mentioned by the media among the elite prospects in this class and it never happens. Will he fly under the radar like Joel Bitonio or Ju’Wuan James? It’s possible. James was taken with the #19 pick. Bitonio went in the early second round. For more on Coleman click here.

Alternatively they could look to replace Bruce Irvin if he departs in free agency. There will be nice options in the first round — including UCLA’s Myles Jack (whose stock could take a hit due to a knee injury) and Ohio State’s Darron Lee. Notre Dame’s Jaylon Smith should be a top ten pick as one of the elite prospects in this class. It’s also a good year for cornerbacks — with Tre’Davious White (LSU), Cameron Sutton (Tennessee), Eli Apple (Ohio State) and Mackensie Alexander (Clemson) names to monitor. Joe McAtee recommended Iowa’s Desmond King on this weeks podcast (check it out). King has eight interceptions this season for the Hawkeyes.

Second round
If they go O-line in the first, this could be a nice range to target one of the more underrated players in the 2016 class. Oklahoma’s Eric Striker would be a nice replacement for Bruce Irvin if he moves on. For some time Striker has been an impact player for the Sooners. He’s constantly around the ball. He’s capable of dropping in coverage, playing sideline-to-sideline. Yet like Irvin he’s at his best lining up to make key plays as a pass rusher. He has 7.5 sacks in 2015 and this season set a new career Sooners record for sacks by a linebacker. He’s a passionate, sometimes outspoken player with a determined attitude and he could live in Seattle’s defense. For a couple of years I’ve wanted to see Striker at the combine to see how he tests. Don’t rule out a rise into the first round if he has a great work out.

Striker has also campaigned for racial equality in college. For more information check out this ESPN feature by Edward Aschoff and Adam Rittenberg.

Third round
It’s hard not to consider the O-line again here until we know exactly what happens with Okung and Sweezy. It kind of makes sense to make two picks either way. There’s nothing wrong with a highly competitive O-line group going into next years camp. If Justin Britt is competing for a start at guard, if a rookie is competing with Gilliam to start at tackle — so be it. Such is the depth in this draft it could be a good year to stockpile and address this need for the foreseeable future. Of course if Okung and Sweezy walk — you’re having to fill two extra holes right off the bat anyway.

The more I watch Pittsburgh tackle Adam Bisnowaty the more I want the Seahawks to draft him. In fact he could end up being a big riser who finds a way to go in the first two rounds. A former basketball player and wrestler, he was also a highly recruited four-star player in high school. The athletic potential, size and performance all match up to a very interesting prospect overall.

For me he has Evan Mathis potential. Seriously. The two players are almost identical in terms of frame (Bisnowaty is listed at 6-6 and 300lbs, Mathis at 6-5 and 301lbs). Just to look at them they appear similar in terms of body shape. Mathis is a former third round pick who became one of the leagues best guards. I think Bisnowaty fits best kicking inside to guard — but he could still play tackle if required. I’d have no issue drafting him in the first round to be fair. Incredible upside and potential. I wrote about him in more detail here. He’s a combine away from taking off.

Moving on from Marshawn Lynch would be tough if it happens — but it’ll be easier to stomach if the money saved produces an offensive line that reads Okung-Bisnowaty-Mack-Sweezy-Coleman.

Third round (comp pick)
If Lynch does indeed depart, the Seahawks will need to add a partner for Thomas Rawls. It’s hard to judge where the backs will go in this class. Arkansas’ Alex Collins is talented enough to go in round two but would you be surprised if he lasted until round 3? Jordan Howard at Indiana might be a later round prospect but he has a physical, punishing style and a lot of toughness between the tackles.

I think the ideal compliment for Rawls would be another quick-twitch back who could be a nice option in the passing game and doesn’t lack any toughness despite his modest size. Step forward UCLA’s Paul Perkins. Like Collins he could go earlier than this — but stock at this position is unpredictable. Perkins, like Rawls, is adept at maximising running lanes and exploding into the second level. He’s tough to bring down with insane cut-back ability. He’s certainly not a bell-cow but he wouldn’t need to be next to Rawls. Perkins has the potential to develop into a nice third-down back who provides a legit passing game option. There might not be a more fun running back to watch in college football (well, apart from Leonard Fournette).

I’m not going to get too deep into day three targets (it’s way too early). At the moment you would imagine they’d take their usual cornerback pick (probably round five again) while looking to add depth to the D-line. You’d imagine one way or another they’ll need to address cornerback — with Cary Williams likely to be on the chopping block and Jeremy Lane a free agent.

 

What is the future for Marshawn Lynch & the Seahawks?

November 25th, 2015 | Written by Rob Staton

It’s been a strange 12 months for Marshawn Lynch. A year ago Chris Mortensen was predicting his imminent departure from Seattle, reporting that the Seahawks had “grown tired of his ways”.

Lynch’s play down the stretch changed the dynamic completely. He became the focal point of the offense again as the Seahawks marched back to the Super Bowl. Life was bearable for team and player. He signed a handsome new contract and put off retirement.

Yet after an injury-ravaged 2015 season — and the emergence of Thomas Rawls — what happens now?

Davis Hsu’s Tweet above sums it up. You can save $6.5m by moving on from Lynch in 2016. That’s money that could, theoretically, be reinvested in the offensive line. It could go towards luring someone like Alex Mack if he voids his contract in Cleveland. It could go towards someone like Alex Boone. It could help you keep your best existing lineman in Russell Okung so that you don’t need to replace him in the draft (or hope Garry Gilliam is a better left tackle than right tackle).

On the other hand, are the Seahawks ready to lose such an important part of what they are? And how will it impact the locker room if Lynch is moved?

It’s a tough call for many reasons. And yet this is the big debate people in Seattle will be having until the off-season.

Replacing Lynch looked like the greatest pending challenge for Pete Carroll and John Schneider. For years they’ve been able to rely on Lynch’s punishing, physical style. It was as much about tone-setting and the identity of the team as it was production.

Without Lynch what were the Seahawks?

Watching Rawls has somewhat tempered concerns about life after Beast Mode. He’s not Marshawn Lynch — but even Carroll has dared to compare him loosely to Hall of Famer Earl Campbell.

In some cases he’s even offered a little bit more than Lynch. Does Marshawn run in the long touchdown against Cincinnati? Rawls has a second gear the 29-year-old Lynch currently lacks. When he gets to the second level he has the speed to break it into a big play. And while he might never be the grinding, wear you down over four quarters type — his ability to stretch a play out, find the edge and turn and explode at the second level is a real benefit against any defense that is already accounting for Russell Wilson and Jimmy Graham.

In an ideal world you’d combine the two running backs and share out the snaps. It’s strange, however, that they never really made this a two-headed monster even after Rawls’ 169-yard performance against the Bengals. The following week, when Lynch returned, Rawls had one carry against the Panthers. He had 12 total carries against the 49ers, Cowboys and Cardinals combined. It seems like if Lynch is playing — he’s getting the workload.

Maybe he feels he needs to get into a rhythm? Maybe it’s the way he wears down a defense? Whatever it is — a Lynch/Rawls double act seems unlikely based on the snaps this year. Rawls and another in 2016? That could be a more even split.

Lose Lynch and you lose more than just the on-field production. You lose an icon. A genuine Seahawks great who provided some of the best moments in franchise history. His career will be defined by one particular play against New Orleans.

The Pete Carroll story in Seattle has a whole chapter on Lynch. Maybe even two. Without Lynch — you never truly create the identity Carroll searched for. He’s been at the front and center of everything.

As a consequence he’s also become a powerful locker room presence. Was that a problem at times — as suggested by Mortensen in his report last year? Maybe. But not having Lynch around might be an even bigger problem. He and the likes of Kam Chancellor seem so closely aligned. Can this team remain tight with vital veteran leaders starting to move on?

It really comes down to what gives you the best chance to win. The Seahawks know this is their Championship window — and it’s a window that won’t necessarily extend for years. Key parts of the franchise — Lynch, Chancellor and even Carroll — aren’t going to be around another decade. They might not be here in another 3-4 years. Every decision — whether it’s trading a first rounder for Graham or making the decision to trust Tom Cable to build a cheap, functioning O-line — is made with a ‘win now’ mentality.

If this team can run the ball minus Lynch while improving the offensive line and pass protection — it has to be considered. There won’t be any room for sentimentality. It’s just whether they’re ready to move on if it’s their decision. Lynch could make it easier for them by retiring. What if he doesn’t though? What if he forces the Seahawks to make the decision?

It’d be a heck of a ruthless move by the Seahawks to just move on and save money. And yet it seems like they’ve been planning the future for some time. Mortensen’s report. The drafting of Christine Michael. If they wanted to move on and couldn’t before, will it be right in 2016? If so, you better believe they’ll be ruthless.

Perhaps there is still a chance for the storybook ending. Lynch returning in week 16 or 17 feels ambitious — but this is Marshawn Lynch. Nothing has been conventional to date with Beast Mode. The emotional pull of his last days in Seattle/the NFL could be a secret weapon for the Seahawks if they make the post season. They have to get there to see if there’s any benefit though.

In terms of the draft, it’s a nice class of running backs with some depth. The priority will probably be to go O-line early and then possibly look at a linebacker with Bruce Irvin a free agent. They should be able to find some value in rounds 3-7 (and after all, they found Rawls as a UDFA). Alex Collins (Arkansas), Paul Perkins (UCLA) and Jordan Howard (Indiana) are personal favourites.

 

3000 NFL mock draft: Episode #13

November 24th, 2015 | Written by Rob Staton

This week we’re joined by Joe McAtee from Turf Show Times to talk about LSU’s collection of pro-prospects (and the Rams). We discuss the emergence of Thomas Rawls and what it might mean for the Seahawks. We also get into the Michigan State/Ohio State contest and how Taylor Decker & Jack Conklin fared.