Updated mock draft – 21st December

December 21st, 2011 | Written by Rob Staton

This was one of the most challenging mock drafts I’ve ever had to compile, and the Seahawks are 100% to blame. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to project a pick for Seattle. The defense has taken a giant leap forward this year with several players snatching opportunities to become legitimate starters. The offense is coping despite losing several players to injury. The team overall keeps winning and suddenly the playoffs look mildly possible. In fact, had the Seahawks not blown a 17-7 second half lead at home to Washington, they’d be in a very strong position to claim a wildcard berth.

Due to the slow start (including a 2-6 run through the first half of the season) Seattle is only creeping down the draft board rather than catapulting away from the top ten. At the moment they own the #15 pick, still well out of range for the top three quarterbacks barring a minor miracle. This recent run of wins has only confirmed the need to make a move up the board to get their long term quarterback. There is enough talent on this roster to afford spending a few picks on getting that crucial piece of the puzzle. The fans should have faith in Pete Carroll and John Schneider to keep finding gems with the picks they’re left with after such a deal. We all know the QB position involves so much more development and planning when you go beyond the elite few. Heck – even Robert Griffin III should be viewed as a developmental type of player that’s given time to learn before being thrust into the NFL spotlight. This probably isn’t going to be a problem solved by the kind of quality scouting that uncovered Richard Sherman or KJ Wright.

The Seahawks need that one player that can bring this all together and continue the growth of this franchise under Carroll and Schneider’s guidance. Tarvaris Jackson is doing a good job and deserves a lot of credit. People have stopped talking about Matt Hasselbeck for a start and Jackson himself has developed a rapport with the fans and more importantly, his teammates. As well as he’s played at times this season, it’s still a major stretch to think he can lead this team to the promise land.

Projecting trades is even more convoluted than predicting picks, it’s something I’ll never do in the mocks. There’s going to be this underlying theme every week where I feel the need to place a giant asterisk alongside Seattle’s pick. “This week the Seahawks are taking X, but let’s not forget they could trade up for a quarterback.” The madness must end next April, the Seahawks cannot let a talented roster go to waste as many have in the NFL because they lack that one guy who when needed, can duke it out with the best. If Matt Barkley declares for the NFL draft, the Seahawks have to pull up their pants and go get him.

As Adam Caplan tweeted following the win over Chicago, “Say what you want about the Seahawks, but they are going to be good if they can get the right QB. Love the speed on defense.”

So with that out of the way, let’s talk about this week’s pick.

One player I get asked about a lot is Courtney Upshaw (DE/OLB, Alabama). People want to know why he hasn’t been in the mocks before and the main reason is I have a hard time fitting him into a specific position. He’s in the 6-1/6-2 region, so he’s not got the kind of length you traditionally see at defensive end. His physical style and brilliant sense of leverage works best at the LOS though, so will he be as effective moved into space as a 3-4 OLB? He’s a bit of a tweener in that regard.

It put me off giving him the kind of high grade that everyone else appears willing to offer. However, this week I went back and revisited a handful of Alabama games I’ve saved over the season. One thing stuck out to me, and that was a slight similarity between Upshaw and former Iowa defensive end Adrian Clayborn. Both have a brawling style, they love to take on blockers and while neither is an elite edge rusher – they maximise leverage and had a lot of success in college. Clayborn is enjoying his rookie year in Tampa Bay so far with 7.5 sacks on a team missing it’s best defensive tackle (Gerald McCoy). I had a look at the physical numbers and Clayborn is only 3cm’s taller than Upshaw, but he’s heavier (281lbs compared to 263lbs) and ran a 4.78 forty yard dash with the extra bulk.

According to the sources we use, the Seahawks liked Clayborn but didn’t anticipate drafting him last April. He wasn’t a LEO pass rusher and didn’t have an obvious role in the the Seahawks front line. Yet there was something they liked about the guy – his style of play, his combative nature perhaps? If only he was a better scheme fit, would he have been a real option? Considering Upshaw plays the game in a similar way, perhaps he’ll get some interest in round one after all? The Seahawks may feel his lighter frame works well off the edge, even if he doesn’t have the kind of break-neck speed or taller frame to be a natural LEO.

The Seahawks use a lot of size in their three man fronts with Chris Clemons playing in space, perhaps they could use some different looks by using Upshaw in more orthodox 4-3 sets? They’ve relied on Clemons for pressure all year (he has 11-sacks, matching his career high from 2010) but they haven’t had the same level or production from Raheem Brock. Could Upshaw provide a fresh dynamic, working with Clemons to enable the defense to get more consistent pressure? It’s really the only thing that’s missing at the moment. Cornerback – a position many considered a big need several weeks ago – now contains two of the most exciting defensive players in the NFC over the last few weeks in Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman. At the safety position, Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor have grown into the best young tandem in the entire league (no hyperbole, it’s true). KJ Wright is fast becoming an integral player at linebacker. A more consistent pass rush created by a productive three-technique or a further outside threat could turn this defense from blossoming to dominating.

We’ll never be able to escape Seattle’s need at quarterback, but if there really is no chance of moving up to fill that hole then this is another alternative option for the Seahawks next April.

Note: Jarvis Jones (LB, Georgia) has been removed this week because he didn’t even file his papers to the draft committee for evaluation. He’s staying at Georgia in 2012. Mohamed Sanu (WR, Rutgers) and Manti Te’o (LB, Notre Dame) were removed last week after making it clear they wouldn’t be entering the draft.

Updated first round mock draft

#1 Andrew Luck (QB, Stanford)
The Colts are facing a difficult situation where they’ll have to either cut Peyton Manning or trade this pick. Interesting times ahead.
#2 Matt Kalil (OT, USC)
The Rams could end up with the #1 pick at this rate. Whether it’s St. Louis or Minnesota that picks here, they should take Kalil.
#3 Morris Claiborne (CB, LSU)
He keeps making plays – eleven interceptions in two seasons. Minnesota’s defense is a mess and needs some help in the secondary.
#4 Matt Barkley (QB, USC)
The Browns have a chance to get good quickly by using their two first rounders wisely. They should run to the podium for Barkley.
#5 Dwight Jones (WR, North Carolina)
The complete package at receiver – size, speed, good hands, competitive, adjusts to the ball. Ideal fodder for Blaine Gabbert.
#6 Trent Richardson (RB, Alabama)
Richardson will take some pressure off Josh Freeman and add star quality to the Buccs. This would be an exciting pick for Tampa Bay.
#7 Robert Griffin III (QB, Baylor)
Griffin will help sell tickets in Miami. There’s every chance he’ll go even earlier than this with the hype train rattling down the tracks.
#8 Justin Blackmon (WR, Oklahoma State)
If they’re slated to pick after Miami and Cleveland, they could be even more aggressive about landing Peyton Manning.
#9 Jonathan Martin (OT, Stanford)
Buffalo would love to find a top-end pass rusher, but they also have a need at tackle. This would be a smart move.
#10 Luke Kuelchy (LB, Boston College)
A tackling machine who will help solidify Tampa Bay’s defense. Blue collar defender with leadership qualities.
#11 Zach Brown (LB, North Carolina)
Philly should use this high pick to try and find an impact player. Brown has the talent to be a playmaker in year one.
#12 Riley Reiff (OT, Iowa)
A man of few words and a tackle’s attitude. Scott Pioli has ties to Kirk Ferentz and loves players from Iowa – he’s drafted a few for KC already.
#13 Andre Branch (DE, Clemson)
They need an OT, but the top three are off the board. The next biggest need is a pass rusher and Branch will start to rise up boards.
#14 Kendall Wright (WR, Baylor)
Electrifying receiver capable of having an immediate impact in the NFL. Could be the making of Jake Locker in Tennessee.
#15 Courtney Upshaw (DE, Alabama)
The Seahawks rely a lot on Chris Clemons to create pressure, so would they consider adding some help with the aggressive Upshaw?
#16 Quinton Coples (DE, North Carolina)
Would they take first-round five techniques in back-to-back years? Coples’ best fit in the NFL will come at 3-4 DE.
#17 Kevin Reddick (LB, North Carolina)
Under rated linebacker who flies around the field and makes plays. He won’t be much of a pass rush threat, but he’ll solidify the strong side.
#18 Devon Still (DT, Penn State)
A lot of the Bears’ needs come on offense, but adding another big piece to that dangerous front line could appeal too.
#19 David DeCastro (OG, Stanford)
He’s a little over rated, but should find a home in round one. Cincy could use a boost among their interior line.
#20 Janoris Jenkins (CB, North Alabama)
Elite cornerback talent but troubled by off-field problems. The Bengals needs to draft a corner and Jenkins is good enough to start quickly.
#21 Whitney Mercilus (DE, Illinois)
With 14.5 sacks this year, someone will give him a chance early in the draft. New York needs to improve it’s outside pass rush.
#22 Kelechi Osemele (OG, Iowa State)
He could be better than DeCastro, but doesn’t get anywhere near as much hype. This would be a smart move by Detroit.
#23 Michael Floyd (WR, Notre Dame)
Having drafted a new quarterback earlier, Cleveland now needs to add a playmaker. Floyd has the kind of size Mike Holmgren likes in a #1 receiver.
#24 Lamar Miller (RB, Miami)
The Broncos run the ball well and could look to add another back to their stable. Carolina had two first round runners under John Fox.
#25 Dre Kirkpatrick (CB, Alabama)
He’s big and good in run support, but has struggled in coverage at times. Jerry Jones will like this guy, so will Eli Manning.
#26 Vontaze Burfict (LB, Arizona State)
Although I think his stock is falling, someone could take a shot on Burfict. My guess is he’ll end up playing AFC North..
#27 Alameda Ta’amu (DT, Washington)
His potential to play nose tackle could keep him in round one, even if his play has been inconsistent for the Huskies.
#28 Peter Konz (OC, Wisconsin)
Stood out last year in a big-name Badgers offensive line. Could return for another year, but ready to have an impact as a pro
#29 Nicolas Jean-Baptiste (DT, Baylor)
He’s no Phil Taylor, but every time I’ve watched Baylor this year he’s been the one defensive player who looks to have some pro-potential.
#30 Oday Aboushi (OT, Virginia)
I’ve seen Virginia twice this season and Aboushi looks like a NFL tackle. Baltimore needs to bolster that offensive line.
#31 Fletcher Cox (DT, Mississippi State)
He plays a bit like a runaway train. His running style looks off balance, but he moves for a big guy. A 3-4 fit looks ideal.
#32 Mark Barron (S, Alabama)
He’s having a good year but his stock is limited due to the position he plays. This would be a nice get for the Packers.

19 Responses to “Updated mock draft – 21st December”

  1. Norm M says:

    Without a trade, D line is a good pick. I think that a defensive end or an inside pass rusher would definitely improve our defense and create pressure on opposing QB’s which leads to turnovers. I am feeling much better about the Seahawks future then I was even just a few weeks ago. Of course a QB is still a need but we now seem to have the “luxury” of picking the best player available. With the style of football that Carroll has instilled TJ can manage a game, wear down a defensive with hard nosed running game, and create points off of turnovers with an aggressive defense. Although not a first round need, I do think we need to pick up a RB that can provide Lynch a breather and fill in when needed. That and linebacker depth are our two biggest early and mid round needs to buff out the roster. It has been interesting looking at some of the other mock drafts out there. It seems to me that the “experts” are looking at the 2009 roster and have not actually watched Seattle play a game in the last eight weeks. Thanks for providing a 2011 Seahawks perspective.

  2. Craiger says:

    I understand your sentiments, Rob. From a Seahawks perspective, this draft is nearly impossible to predict. I hate all of our options at 15 and can only hope that the front office is willing to invest significant draft capital to move up and get a QB. I have to be honest and admit that I know very little about Upshaw but, from your description, I have a hard time seeing the fit in our defense. Additionally, I don’t know that his role on our defense makes us significantly better. The biggest concern I have for next your is the status of Chris Clemons who, from my understanding, is a free agent after this season. He will be 31 next season: do you think that is too old to invest the type of money he will command next year? If it is, are there any ideal LEO candidates in the draft? Also, it seems to me that O-line is a strength of the first round in this draft. Would it be wiser to draft someone like DeCastro or Konz and look for defensive help later on in rounds 2-4 should the move up not materialize? I realize we have invested heavily there in the past two years, but I really feel we need to go best available with the first pick. I trust John and Pete to draft defense well during later rounds of the draft as they have shown a propensity to do. After watching Holmgren for ten years, I don’t have the same confidence at QB outside the top three. Great job on the site, Rob. My day is not complete until I have checked in with my friends here.

  3. JC says:

    Not a fan of Nick Perry, Rob? Truth be told I don’t know a whole lot about him aside from rather vauge chatter about this “athleticism” and “upside” and ever other mock draft (inferior as they may be) has him going in the 1st.

    As a general rule I’ve tired of every pundit and talking head attaching every other USC grad to Seatle because of PC. In this case, Perry was a Pete Carroll recruit that seems to have been, at least on paper, a LEO candidate.

    Thoughts?

  4. JC says:

    That’ll teach me to read posts out of order. Rob already addressed Perry elsewhere.

  5. jianfu says:

    Vikings fan here just dropping by to say I love the site.

    And note, if Kalil’s off the board when the Vikings pick, I think they’d be more than open to trading out of #3 (or at least, they should)…

  6. Darnell says:

    Rob,

    I know that noticeable improvement by draft prospects is pretty important to you when you evaluate guys (Robert Griffin). I wonder if you put the same weight in improvement when evaluating guys already in the league – in terms of guys like Wright,Sherman,Baldwin,Browner,Kam,Earl – big upside or guys nearing their ceilings?

  7. seanmatt says:

    Chris Clemons is a free agent after next season not after this season

  8. Vandehawk says:

    Rob,
    I know you don’t really like Coples that much do you think that the Seahawks have the right locker room environment that they could make him work a little harder (someone like Mike Williams maybe). From what I have read on other sites (vastly inferior sites by the way) he is definitely a threat as a pass rusher, especially when he is motivated. Also, if Barkley doesn’t come out this year do you think we could give up our first in a move to get someone elses next year so we can make a move for him when he does come out? It seems that would be the best for the Hawks that way they could get a developmental guy like Austin Davis this year and have 2 first round picks next year to go up and get Barkley if at all possible and would also give them another draft to prepare for the QBOTF. I am ready for them to get that QB now, actually I have been ready for a few years but I can be patient for Barkley. I also think that what they do with free agency is going to be huge this year both with our own free agents and a couple out there I would really love to see in Seahawk blue.

  9. SteadyHawk says:

    Rob,

    Just wondering your honest feelings on what you would be willing to see our FO part with to move up and grab Barkley?

    I’ve come to grips with 3 first rounders personally, but would that be enough being in the late teens?

  10. Jeff M. says:

    I think if we use a 1st-rounder on pass rush, it’s good to be someone bigger than Clemons, not smaller. What we need is a guy who can replace Clemons on obvious rushing downs to get even bigger and more physical, provide good pressure out of a more traditional 4-3 LE role when we take Red out, and (most importantly) be a dominant interior pass rusher on passing downs–think of how Justin Tuck was used early on.
    Now, I don’t have any idea if that guy is available, but it seems to me that the 6’1″ 260lb speed rusher-type is always going to be available in later rounds. Even in the middle of the 1st, I’d look for a DL/LB who’s more of a physical specimen, or add another corner (the way the spread has taken off, you can never have too many good cover guys…).
    But that’s all moot, because we’re definitely moving up for a QB, right guys???

  11. Ryan says:

    At risk of being in the minority, I have to say T-Jack has won me over. I no longer believe we should draft a QB in the 1st or trade up. I feel that if the need for more pass rush is addressed, we could be witnessing the development of one of the most punishing defenses ever.
    QB should be addressed either in later rounds or free agency. I’d also like to see them draft an explosive RB too. Forsett isn’t cutting cut as a #2 anymore.
    I’m a Hawk fan that lives in San Diego and Scnieder looks like an absolute genius at talent evaluation compared to AJ Smith.

    Good discussion, Great Blog!

  12. thebroski says:

    I absolutely do not see Tampa Bay picking up Richardson. They have a steal in L. Blount so they won’t be wasting their high first rounder on a RB, even though Richardson is a pretty huge baller.

    I also expect to see Blackmon go before Jones. Way too much name recognition in Blackmon for him to not go first.

  13. Norm M says:

    Just my thoughts. Barkley does not declare. RG3 wow’s everyone with pre draft workouts and moves into the first overall pick. Luck is snatched by the Browns who trade up to the 2 spot. Seattle trades down and picks up a rush end or stud interior d lineman and a big bruising running back. Oh and Carroll takes a flyer on Kellen Moore who turns into the next Joe Montana. Merry Christmas Seahawk fans

  14. thebroski says:

    I think that if Zach Brown is there when we pick there is a good chance we take him. Leeroy Hill’s contract is up, plus there are injury issues for him and Heater.

    I could also see us going for Devon Still. If I’m not mistaken he is a 3-tech who would be the starter in place of Alan Branch. If Branch had started the game against Washington I still believe we would have won. We got absolutely no pressure from the inside. Still would make for a beast of a starter and Branch would make for a beast of a backup/rotational player.

  15. Rob S. says:

    Hi Rob,

    Really enjoy your website. I agree with you completely that we need to pull the trigger on a QB of the future. I have all the confidence in the world in the Seahawks current front office to make the right choice. I feel that by getting the right QB that it will not only help our offense, but also help our defense. I have talked with people about this and they ask me, “how can a QB help the defense?” I feel like a good QB will keep the offense on the field and hopefully lead to some points, while this allows the defense to rest, prepare more for adjustments, and stay aggressive.

    Keep up the great work!

  16. john says:

    Barkley is staying in school. Damn!

  17. Tom says:

    Where are the elite college pass rushers?

  18. Tom says:

    And another left hook to the jaw of RG3.

    “Heck – even Robert Griffin III should be viewed as a developmental type of player that’s given time to learn before being thrust into the NFL spotlight.”

    Developmental type? RG3 starts from day 1 and that’s how he develops. RG3 is a smart kid with solid decision making, pocket presence and an absolutely wicked arm. It’s been months that I’ve had him as a top 15 pick when others couldn’t decide if he was 1st round worthy even less than a month ago.

    RG3 will do more with less than most NFL Qb’s and I expect him to be a top 10 NFL QB in short order. Book it…. ;-)

  19. Jarhead says:

    Honestly at this point I wouldn’t hate us taking a chance on one the high risk-high reward splash players like Floyd, Jenkins, or Burfict. Incredible abilities, and questionable character but maybe they’ll buy in to what Carroll is preaching like so many others do. We could uncover a real steal and have a player come in to make an instant impact. I would honestly rather take a flier on a position that we would otherwise fill with a less talented-less risky player. I mean hey, there is no absolute ‘this is our can’t miss guy right here!’ that is obvious to me. So let’s make some noise and reach a little. You never know, right?