A mediocre day
As far as underwhelming combine days go — this was right up there. Is this a defensive draft? Absolutely based on the way the skill positions performed on Friday and Saturday.
If you want to know why the Seahawks are firmly keeping hold of Jimmy Graham — this is why. It’s a horrible tight end class again. Graham, even coming off a significant injury, is a far superior option than anyone in this draft.
The receivers are mostly slow or average (or both) and the top quarterback trio (Lynch, Wentz, Goff) look like guys you prefer to admire from afar. If you’re a fan with Russell Wilson leading your team they probably seem pretty good. I’m not sure, however, if you’d be quite so thrilled if you were pinning your hopes on any of the three winning you a Championship over the next decade.
The running backs yesterday had a couple of highlights (Ezekiel Elliott and Derrick Henry) but some of the second tier options were very average. C.J. Prosise and Kenneth Dixon are probably battling to be the next guys up.
There are some nice options on the O-line — but the star power is mostly on defense.
Josh Doctson made a statement
After running a decent 4.50 at 6-2 and 202lbs — Doctson followed it up with a 41 inch vertical and a 10-11 broad jump. He’s not the longest player (31 7/8 inch arms) but on tape he does a good job adjusting to the ball and making difficult grabs. He’s a nice compliment of reasonable size and explosion (he does turn 24 this year). He could be an early second round pick depending on what teams are looking for. If you want speed you go Will Fuller, if you want a bit more size you take Doctson.
Sterling Shepard is also moving up
Bring on the comparisons to Tyler Lockett. Shepard was incredibly reliable in college but needed to flash some athleticism here. Job done. After running a 4.48 he jumped 41 inches in the vertical. That’s a nice combination and could secure a second round grade.
Marquez North states his case
We highlighted North as a later round option — or even an UDFA option. At 6-2 and 223lbs he ran a 4.48, jumped 35 inches in the vertical and had a 10-3 in the broad. North is pretty much the receiver version of running back Keith Marshall. They were both highly rated recruits flashing major talent early in their college careers. Now they’re starting over in the NFL after some struggles and injuries. North also caught the ball very well during drills, presenting his hands to the quarterback.
Duke Williams & De’Runya Wilson struggle badly
Nothing represents the rampant mediocrity of the day better than these two. Williams, who was kicked out of Auburn, claimed he was a first round talent with seventh round character earlier in the week. After running a 4.72 he might want to rethink the self-scouting. Wilson was even worse — running a 4.85 and posting a ridiculous 28 inch vertical. He’ll sink like a stone unless a legit injury issue emerges.
How to rank the receivers
Corey Coleman didn’t run a forty but jumped a 40.5 inch vertical. He’s an explosive athlete who makes big plays. Laquon Treadwell is sturdy and looks in great condition — he’s just not a speed guy. That’s your top two. After that? It could be anything. Josh Doctson and Will Fuller maybe stole a march on Michael Thomas and the rest. Sterling Shepard is closing the gap.
The top three QB’s
There wasn’t a great deal to separate the top three. Carson Wentz, Paxton Lynch and Jared Goff all looked fairly comfortable. Lynch was perhaps a little weaker in terms of accuracy during the throwing drills. He also arguably has the greater physical upside — jumping a 36 inch vertical at 6-7 and 244lbs. In comparison, Andrew Luck also jumped a 36 and Cam Newton had a 35. Wentz managed a 30.5 inch vertical and Goff a 27. Lynch presents an intriguing skill-set. Wentz and Goff might be deemed ‘safer’ prospects — but neither has Lynch’s upside, size, arm strength and athleticism. The combine buzz seems to indicate Wentz will be the first off the board.
What about the next group?
Christian Hackenburg has some of the physical traits you like but he was all over the place during drills today. His accuracy was well off — even standing in shorts throwing to open receivers. Connor Cook looked OK — pretty much how he looked in college. Good but not great. Nobody else really stood out as a nice developmental guy to work behind Russell Wilson.
Time to forget about Apple, Alexander and Howard
The Seahawks won’t take cornerbacks with sub-32 inch arms. There’s always a chance they make an exception for an exceptional athlete. Eli Apple and Mackensie Alexander don’t appear to have the dynamic athleticism to combat a lack of length. Xavien Howard? We’ll see. We’ll find out for sure on Monday when the DB’s work out.
Apple and Mackensie have 31.5 inches arms, while Howard’s are 31 inches. It’d take an amazing athlete for the Seahawks to consider a corner in the first frame regardless. They’re unlikely to find one at #26.
Vernon Hargreaves — still overrated
On tape he bites on double moves, gambles way too much and is a poor open field tackler. Yes — he’ll probably have a great work out on Monday. At 5-10, 204lbs and with 30.5 inch arms — can you seriously put him out wide? People love to compare Hargreaves to Joe Haden — but Haden has 33 inch arms and was far more polished.
Hargreaves looks like a pure slot corner. Which is fine — he could be a very good one with explosive athleticism and a nose for the ball working across the middle. It’s a nice fit. But how early are you willing to take a slot corner? Bradley Roby was the #31 pick in 2014. I still think there’s a chance Hargreaves drops into that kind of range.
Keanu Neal looks more attractive by the day
We highlighted him a couple of days ago as a possible option at #26. That talk isn’t going away. Neal is almost identical in size to Deone Bucannon (6-0, 211lbs) but he has superior length (33 inch arms). Length, speed, athleticism, grit, tenacity — it’s everything the Seahawks look for.
I sense some scepticism about taking a ‘deathbacker’ (hybrid S/LB) in the first round. I get that. There are bigger needs today on the O-line and D-line. If they’re able to fill some of those needs in free agency then don’t rule this out. The Seahawks pick four times in the first three rounds and will have an opportunity to fill several needs in the first two days.
Neal is explosive and hard-hitting and would be Seattle’s answer to Bucannon and Mark Barron. He can cover the slot too and possibly replace Kam Chancellor at strong safety one day.
He might not even make it to #26. For me Keanu Neal is one of the best 25 players in the draft. And if you’re wondering about the name…
Keanu Neal says that he was named after Keanu Reeves, but he's not a big fan of Reeves as an actor. People joke about the Matrix with him
— NFL Draft Zone (@NFLDraftZone) February 27, 2016
The group of 32
If we need to focus on defensive backs with 32 inch arms, here’s the list:
James Bradberry — 6-0, 211lbs, 33 inch arms
Artie Burns — 6-0, 193lbs, 33 inch arms
Jeremy Cash — 6-0, 212lbs, 32.5 inch arms
Deandre Elliott — 6-0, 188lbs, 32 inch arms
T.J. Green — 6-2, 209lbs, 32 inch arms
Deiondre Hall — 6-1, 199lbs, 34.5 inch arms
William Jackson — 6-0, 189lbs, 32 inch arms
Karl Joseph — 5-10, 205lbs, 32 inch arms
Jayron Kearse — 6-4, 216lbs, 34 inch arms
Miles Killebrew — 6-2, 217lbs, 32 inch arms
Jordan Lomax — 5-10, 202lbs, 32 inch arms
Eric Murray — 5-10, 199lbs, 32 inch arms
Keanu Neal — 6-0, 211lbs, 33 inch arms
Jaylen Ramsey — 6-1, 209lbs, 33.5 inch arms
Rashard Robinson — 6-1, 171lbs, 32 inch arms
Keivarae Russell — 6-0, 192lbs, 32 inch arms
Justin Simmons — 6-2, 203lbs, 32.5 inch arms
Brandon Williams — 5-11, 197lbs, 32.5 inch arms
Daryl Worley — 6-0, 204lbs, 33.5 inch arms
Tony Pauline says Jaylon Smith could be a day three pick
It’s the saddest story of the combine so far — but Notre Dame’s star linebacker is set to go from top-five lock to day three flier. All because he injured his knee in a meaningless bowl game.
Pauline says he could last until rounds 4-7. Like Marcus Lattimore, he’ll get a chance to return. There’s also a realistic possibility we don’t see him until 2017 at the earliest — and will he ever be 100%?
Pauline also says Jack Conklin is destined to go in the top-15, Le’Raven Clark is going to be a second round pick at worst and Mitchell Schwartz will command $8m APY in free agency.
The line on Clark is interesting. Teams clearly love the potential but are probably petrified of the work he needs on his technique. If it clicks though you could be looking at an elite left tackle. The risk/reward could be appealing to any team with a good O-line coach.
Tomorrow and Monday is when the fun begins
Here’s the key for tomorrow — look for edge rushers running a 10-yard split in the 1.5’s. Cliff Avril ran a 1.50, Bruce Irvin a 1.55 and Frank Clark a 1.59. Anything in the 1.5’s is elite.
For the defensive tackles — anything in the 1.6’s is excellent. Aaron Donald ran a 1.59 split but he’s a freak of nature.
The Seahawks would like to add a pass-rusher and while it might be interesting to look at some of the bigger-bodied guys and see how they move — this front office has preferred to draft base DT’s in rounds 3-5 or look to free agency.
Quickness, agility, explosion. For all the depth on the D-line in this class there aren’t a ton of great interior pass rushers. Let’s see if there are any prospects with at least the upside to get there.
#1 Tennessee — Laremy Tunsil (T, Ole Miss)
#2 Cleveland — Carson Wentz (QB, North Dakota State)
#3 San Diego — Jaylen Ramsey (CB, Florida State)
#4 Dallas — Myles Jack (LB, UCLA)
#5 Jacksonville — Joey Bosa (DE, Ohio State)
#6 *TRADE W/BALTIMORE* Los Angeles — Paxton Lynch (QB, Memphis)
#7 San Francisco — Jared Goff (QB, California)
#8 Miami — DeForest Buckner (DE, Oregon)
#9 Tampa Bay — Noah Spence (DE, Eastern Kentucky)
#10 New York Giants — Darron Lee (LB, Ohio State)
#11 Chicago — Ronnie Stanley (T, Notre Dame)
#12 New Orleans — Sheldon Rankins (DT, Louisville)
#13 Philadelphia — Jack Conklin (T, Michigan State)
#14 Oakland — Ezekiel Elliott (RB, Ohio State)
#15 Baltimore — A’Shawn Robinson (DT, Alabama)
#16 Detroit — Jason Spriggs (T, Indiana)
#17 Atlanta — Leonard Floyd (LB, Georgia)
#18 Indianapolis — Taylor Decker (T, Ohio State)
#19 Buffalo — Jarran Reed (DT, Alabama)
#20 New York Jets — Derrick Henry (RB, Alabama)
#21 Washington — Reggie Ragland (LB, Alabama)
#22 Houston — Corey Coleman (WR, Baylor)
#23 Minnesota — Laquon Treadwell (WR, Ole Miss)
#24 Cincinatti — Andrew Billings (DT, Baylor)
#25 Pittsburgh — Joshua Garnett (G, Stanford)
#26 Seattle — Keanu Neal (S, Florida)
#27 Green Bay — Vernon Butler (DT, Louisiana Tech)
#28 Kansas City — Vernon Hargreaves (CB, Florida)
#29 Arizona — Eli Apple (CB, Ohio State)
#30 Carolina — Shon Coleman (T, Auburn)
#31 Denver — Cody Whitehair (G, Kansas State)