Tony Pauline is well sourced, so when he makes reference to his contacts and writes a piece on Draft Insider.net it’s worth considering. In the last few days he posted a top-33 big board based on information he received during and after the combine. I’d recommend making Tony’s site a regular stop as we build up to the draft and you can see the list by clicking here. For ease of use I’ve also posted it in full below:
1. Andrew Luck – QB – Stanford
2. Robert Griffin III – QB – Baylor
3. Dontari Poe – NT – Memphis
4. Melvin Ingram – OLB – South Carolina
5. Trent Richardson – RB – Alabama
6. Matt Kalil – OT – USC
7. Justin Blackmon – WR – Oklahoma State
8. Morris Claiborne – CB – LSU
9. Fletcher Cox – DT – Mississippi State
10. Quinton Coples – DE – North Carolina
11. David DeCastro – OG – Stanford
12. Dre’ Kirkpatrick – CB – Alabama
13. Michael Brockers – DT – LSU
14. Jonathan Martin – OT – Stanford
15. Michael Floyd – WR – Notre Dame
16. Cordy Glenn – OL – Georgia
17. Devon Still – DT – Penn State
18. Whitney Mercilus – DE – Illinois
19. Coby Fleener – TE – Stanford
20. Nick Perry – DE – USC
21. Luke Kuechly – LB – Boston College
22. Kevin Zeitler – OG – Wisconsin
23. Ryan Tannehill – QB – Texas A&M
24. Doug Martin – RB – Boise State
25. Jerel Worthy – DT – Michigan State
26. Bobby Wagner – LB – Utah State
27. Stephon Gilmore – CB – South Carolina
28. Kendall Wright – WR – Baylor
29. Dwayne Allen – TE – Clemson
30. Donta Hightower – LB – Alabama
31. Kendall Reyes – DT – UConn
32. Stephen Hill – WR – Georgia Tech
33. Riley Reiff – OG – Iowa
For starters it’s easy to see the influence of the combine on the board. Dontari Poe had a superb work-out in Indianapolis, running a sub 5.00 despite weighing 345lbs and benching 45 reps – more than anyone else during the week. Players like Poe are rare and it’s no surprise that despite a lack of production at Memphis he appears so high on a board like this after his display last week. Teams hoping to transition to a 3-4 will look for a nose tackle to build around so expect Carolina to have their sights firmly on the big lineman come April 26th. The combination of below average production and different positional priorities will stop him going quite as high as #3, but he should secure a slot in the same region as B.J. Raji in 2009. Georgia Tech’s Stephen Hill and South Carolina’s Stephon Gilmore are two others who helped their stock at the combine and also make the list.
There are also some noticeable absentees, such as the Alabama pair of Courtney Upshaw and Mark Barron and the North Carolina linebacker Zach Brown. It’s no surprise that Upshaw has dipped given his negative publicity since the combine. Russ Lande from the Sporting News described his performance as such, “He struggled during the linebacker drills, where he was required to move his feet and show that he could handle playing off the ball in pass coverage. He was upright and stiff in drops, could not flip his hips to change direction quickly and lacked the explosiveness and burst that NFL teams wanted to see. In our view, his performance clearly showed that he is a power player who lacks the explosiveness and speed to be a threat as an edge pass rusher.”
The list is distinctly combine-influenced and Upshaw isn’t the only to suffer. Kendall Wright is ranked at #28, Ryan Tannehill (who didn’t perform) is at #23 and Riley Reiff plummets from potential top-10 choice to #33 after he was found to have short arms. These are the lucky few who clung to the top-33, while Upshaw, Barron, Brown and other fell like a stone. This may well represent the consensus feeling at the moment among scouts, but rest assured things can change again by the time April rolls around.
From what I’ve picked up while writing this blog, the combine largely makes up approximately 10-20% of a final judgement on a prospect. Tape study will always win the day. Rather than let a sloppy performance in Indianapolis leave a permanent scar, teams will return to the video room and revise their impression based on what they learnt at the combine. In some cases the negatives will show up on tape when perhaps they weren’t so noticeable at first. In other cases, watching back tape will reassure scouts and GM’s that their grade’s were satisfactory and need no adjustment. After all, performing in pads and a helmet will always be preferable than shorts and a t-shirt.
I suspect the Seahawks front office is one that puts a lot of trust in game tape, maybe more than the majority of teams. Having studied a lot of James Carpenter’s tape at Alabama last year – enough to rave about him during the 2011 season– it wasn’t a total shock that someone made him a first round pick. He didn’t have an incredible senior bowl or combine, but the talent flashed up on tape and John Schneider, Pete Carroll and Tom Cable noticed it. In fact, nearly all of Seattle’s draft picks so far have come from a similar ilk. They’ve avoided pure work-out warriors and late risers early in the draft and gone for solid football players who have produced in college and played on successful teams. Later in the draft they’ve taken chances on athletic small-school prospects with raw potential or talented players who have dropped due to injury or off-field concerns. Essentially, the Seahawks are trying to eliminate risk but also take advantage of potential bargains later on.
I’d be sceptical about Seattle’s draft board changing too much post-combine, which means their board may look quite different to the one above. I imagine they’ll have a pretty focused view of what they want long before the end of February and while the combine will have it’s role, it won’t dictate too much. Upshaw and Brown might have dropped in the media and seemingly also among scouts if Pauline’s report is to be believed, but I doubt they’ll have dropped too far – if at all – on Seattle’s grading scale. I know a lot of people disagree with me on this, but I firmly believe Upshaw is among the best prospects in this draft class. From what I understand, the Seahawks may share that opinion. Brown has raw, untapped potential and would make a logical fit at the WILL and while #12 might be considered a stretch, a high second round pick could present real value and bring the extra speed Seattle craves along the front seven.
One thing that works in both players favor might be that they fitin Seattle. Upshaw won’t attract every team given his size and skill set, but the Seahawks have had a lot of success with niche players and I suspect they’ll see more of the same in the Alabama pass rusher. In the draft report being handed to teams prior to the combine, Nick Saban was quoted as saying Upshaw was the meanest player he’s ever coached and someone that, “would never back down in a fight.” That’s the type of player this team wants, to go along with the Red Bryant’s, the Richard Sherman’s, the Kam Chancellor’s and the Earl Thomas’. Brown supposedly isn’t receiving glowing endorsements from his coaches at UNC according to Pauline, but the Seahawks will be acutely aware of the potential value on offer and linebacker will become a vital need if Leroy Hill and David Hawthorne both depart in free agency.
The fans may react to the idea of Upshaw at #12 followed by a day-two selection of Brown in a negative manner. No quarterback? Not selecting players promoted by the media leading into the draft? It begs the question – haven’t we been here before? In Seattle’s previous two drafts similar questions have been asked, yet subsequently answered by success. The front office deserves an element of trust given the good work so far, fitting what could’ve otherwise been years of rebuilding into 24 months. And while the likely extension of the quarterback dilemma will cause some consternation, a little patience may be rewarded in the long term.
A double pick of Upshaw and Brown wouldn’t be everyone’s preference, but it would pay dividends especially if other hot-choices such as Quinton Coples (ranked #10 on Pauline’s board) or Doug Martin (ranked #24) end up out of reach. Upshaw/Brown wouldn’t earn the top grade’s from Mel Kiper, Pete Prisco and whoever else marks a card as the event unfolds. However – this team has been doubted in the past and so far the rebuild has gone better than most expected. It’s only a few weeks ago that both were considered to be likely high picks and some teams will maintain that view. Not being swayed too much by the combine is a nice habit to have and the Seahawks could use it to their advantage in April.
If Pauline’s board is an accurate assesment of how the league feels about this draft class – it’ll provide the Seahawks a great opportunity to make it three successful drafts out of three for Schneider and Carroll.