First things first, don’t forget to check out Kip’s excellent write-up on Courtney Upshaw or the latest SDB community pick.
Quick-fire mock draft
I’ll be publishing my final 2012 mock on Wednesday just before the draft. You never know, maybe Kip will break out a mock too before Thursday (how about that for pressure). As we’re approaching draft week I wanted to note down a few thoughts and provide a quick first round projection. On Wednesday we’ll include the second round and full breakdown as usual.
#1 IND – Andrew Luck (QB, Stanford)
#2 WAS – Robert Griffin III (QB, Baylor)
#3 MIN – Matt Kalil (OT, USC)
#4 CLE – Trent Richardson (RB, Alabama)
#5 TB – Morris Claiborne (CB, LSU)
#6 STL – Justin Blackmon (WR, Oklahoma State)
#7 JAC – Fletcher Cox (DT, Mississippi State)
#8 MIA – Ryan Tannehill (QB, Texas A&M)
#9 CAR – Quinton Coples (DE, North Carolina)
#10 BUF – Stephon Gilmore (CB, South Carolina)
#11 KC – Luke Kuechly (LB, Boston College)
#12 SEA – Courtney Upshaw (DE, Alabama)
#13 ARI – David DeCastro (OG, Stanford)
#14 DAL – Mark Barron (S, Alabama)
#15 PHI – Melvin Ingram (DE, South Carolina)
#16 NYJ – Michael Floyd (WR, Notre Dame)
#17 CIN – Dre Kirkpatrick (CB, Alabama)
#18 SD – Nick Perry (DE, USC)
#19 CHI – Michael Brockers (DT, LSU)
#20 TEN – Whitney Mercilus (DE, Illinois)
#21 CIN – Peter Konz (OG/C, Wisconsin)
#22 CLE – Reuben Randle (WR, LSU)
#23 DET – Chandler Jones (DE, Syracuse)
#24 PIT – Dont’a Hightower (LB, Alabama)
#25 DEN – Doug Martin (RB, Boise State)
#26 HOU – Dontari Poe (DT, Memphis)
#27 NE – Shea McClellin (DE, Boise State)
#28 GB – Vinny Curry (DE, Marshall)
#29 SF – Riley Reiff (OT/G, Iowa)
#30 BAL – Cordy Glenn (OT/G, Georgia)
#31 NE – Stephen Hill (WR, Georgia Tech)
#32 NYG – Jonathan Martin (OT, Stanford)
More of this kind of thing on Wednesday.
Trading up for Fletcher Cox?
Dave ‘Softy’ Mahler at KJR tweeted an interesting rumor today, suggesting the Seahawks would consider moving up in the draft to get Fletcher Cox. The Seahawks want a pass rusher, it’s absolutely the #1 priority in the first round. While many have speculated about Luke Kuechly, David DeCastro and Michael Floyd, it’s all about creating more pressure up front. Cox is a pass rusher, so I’m paying more attention to this rumor than I would if – for example – it was being suggested the Seahawks wanted to trade up for Ryan Tannehill.
Cox put on a clinic at the combine, running a 10-yard split in the low 1.6′s (comparable to the top defensive ends) despite weighing 298lbs. He had 30 reps on the bench press and recorded a 4.79 forty. The guy looks the part, no doubt about it. Deciding his best position is the difficult part and is created an interesting (and at times, heated) debate for a lot of the off-season.
At Mississippi State he lined up everywhere – three technique, five technique, orthodox defensive end. I’ve always compared his game to a runaway train – full of speed and power, he can be unstoppable at times. He’s also a little off-balance and reckless and the key will be keeping the speed/power while rounding off a few of the rougher technical edges. He’s a pure physical specimen who doesn’t use a lot of technique or hand use, he prefers to get his head down and bull-rush. For that reason I think his best position will undoubtedly be the five-technique, where his speed and style will be a little more effective. He may even be able to play end on the strong side and could increase his rush capacity by losing a bit of weight and playing at around 290lbs.
When he’s at tackle I’m not enamoured by his run defense – he could be stouter, he could use a little more in the lower body. Cox looks like a big, athletic defensive end playing inside. His gap control is superior in the five and he’s not always the toughest to angle out on inside runs. He’s a pure pass rusher and while a lot of people believe he’ll create more pressure working inside, I’d rather see this guy playing the edge. Either way he’s one of the more unique athletes in this year’s draft and the versatility he brings to the table will probably interest Pete Carroll as much as anything else.
Would he fit into the scheme? Having spent a lot of time arguing the case for Courtney Upshaw, I’m not about to claim there’s no fit for Cox. They could use him at the three, before moving outside on certain downs. Yet isn’t that what they signed Jason Jones for? And if you’re drafting a guy to play tackle inside, do you cut Alan Branch? He isn’t likely to play permanently at end given Red Bryant’s recent extension. And before anyone asks about moving Bryant inside – this team moved him outside for a reason, and they also made him the best paid player on the defense as a defensive end for a reason.
It’s a name that hasn’t been touted elsewhere, which makes me believe there could be something in this. At the same time, moving up would be an expensive ordeal. You’d have to expect the Seahawks to pay a second round pick for the privilege of taking Cox, an expensive price given the needs elsewhere. And despite being such a physical impressive prospect, he still managed just five sacks in 2011. Break it down even further, and he actually only had sacks in three games – registering two against both Kentucky and South Carolina and one against Wake Forest (see tape below).
In 2010 he had 2.5 sacks and zero in 2009. Draft history is littered with stand-out athletic prospects who perform well at the combine, gradually rise up the boards and become top-ten picks. If those prospects fail, people inevitably try to find out what went wrong. They look at the late rise, they look at the lack of top-end production in college. That’s not to say Cox won’t play his best, productive football in the NFL, but sometime’s there’s a ‘fools gold’ aspect to prospects like this. That’s the gamble you take on upside, of which Cox has plenty.
That potential is expected to secure Cox a place in the top ten – either to St. Louis, Jacksonville, Miami or Carolina. I’m not convinced the Seahawks will pull the trigger on a trade, even if it is being contemplated as Softy has suggested. But one way or another they’ll be adding to the pass rush early in this draft.
So what’s the plan for draft day? Last year we ran a productive live-chat session that featured on Seahawks Draft Blog and Field Gulls. I’m pleased to say we’ll once again be using the live-chat feature on Thursday and Friday on both sites, covering rounds 1-3. For the final day on Saturday I’ll be creating an open thread for comments and reaction. Last year several hundred people used the live chat to talk with other Seahawks fans, analyse the picks and more. I hope you’ll join us again.