Firstly, if you missed our post-combine podcast, don’t forget to check it out:
Purdue lineman adds to TEF options
According to Nathan Baird at the Lafayette Journal & Courier, we have another name to monitor on the O-line. Purdue guard Jason King recorded a 31 inch vertical, a 9-0 broad jump and managed 35 reps on the bench at his pro-day.
His TEF score is a 3.30.
George Fant (3.35) and Mark Glowinski (3.34) had similar scores. If King had recorded these numbers at the combine, he would’ve been the most explosive tester among offensive linemen (beating Forrest Lamp’s 3.23). He’s a name to watch.
What are the Seahawks going to do at linebacker?
“We’ve gotta get the corner thing squared away… we’ll certainly be looking at that in the draft. That’ll be one of the areas. We need some youth at the linebacker spot now. Bobby and K.J. played 1000’s of plays this year between the two of them and were extremely successful but we need to address that. We didn’t really get anybody that made a difference in the last couple of years that can really fight to take those guys job. Think if somebody could battle K.J. and Bobby for their starting jobs? That’s what we need to draft towards, so we’ll be looking there. The offensive line will continue to be an area of focus and it will be. We’re looking at everything but I’m trying to give you guys something that you can walk out of here with. That’s probably the obvious focal points.”
Carroll doesn’t talk about drafting a SAM linebacker. Instead he specifically talks about drafting players that can push Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright, or at the very least ease their workload.
If they want MIKE and WILL depth and competition rather than finding a starting SAM, it could be indicative of a plan to draft someone like Obi Melifonwu and run a lot of 4-2-5 again this year. Jeremy Lane had 71% of the defensive snaps a year ago. If they take Melifonwu early, he could inherit Lane’s and Mike Morgan’s snaps and be a full-time ‘Buffalo’ nickel offering Deion Jones size and defensive back athleticism.
Even if they draft Kevin King instead, his first role as a rookie could be ‘big nickel’ considering how well he tested in the short shuttle and three cone. His learning curve might be to start in the slot while he develops the outside corner technique. Either way you’re putting Melifonwu or King on the field at the expense of the SAM.
It’s also not unfair to assume if Carroll intends to add a SAM as a priority, he would’ve stated it. Instead he made specific references to Wagner (99.35%) and Wright (97.41%) playing virtually every defensive snap in 2016 and needing help at their spots.
Here’s where it becomes interesting though. What does history tell us about the possible MIKE and WILL fits in this draft?
Community member JT put together this spreadsheet detailing Seattle’s previous draft picks at the various positions, including linebacker.
The biggest takeaway might be the variety of the linebackers Seattle has entertained.
On the one hand, you’ve got a ‘Greek God’ of an athlete in Bobby Wagner at 6-0, 241lbs with 4.46 speed, an 11-0 broad jump and a 39.5 inch vertical. It’s remarkable that Wagner lasted as long as he did in the 2012 draft.
This is off-set though by K.J. Wright — a 6-3, 246lbs bigger linebacker with incredible length (35 inch arms) but only 4.71 speed, a 34 inch vertical and a 10-0 broad.
They’ve drafted smaller, faster linebackers (Malcolm Smith, 4.4 speed) and medium sized, explosive linebackers running in the 4.5’s (Kevin Pierre-Louis).
It suggests they’re not tied to a ‘type’ quite as strictly as they perhaps are at cornerback, running back or the offensive line. A fit at this position could be a player who runs a 4.4 like Wagner or Smith — but it could also be a player who runs a 4.6 or 4.7 if they have other appealing traits like K.J. Wright.
That could be important if they want to fill this need because it’s increasingly likely Haason Reddick will find a home in the top-20. Jarrad Davis, who won’t workout until his March 28th pro-day, is also being tipped to go earlier than many are projecting.
So while they probably prefer to draft a really dynamic athlete at linebacker, a compromise might be needed.
I’ve been thinking a lot since the combine about what the Seahawks are looking for. And while they’re certainly looking for those freakish athletes — they also want players who love football. Their first two picks in 2016 were junkyard dogs in college. Jarran Reed, their second round pick, wasn’t a big-time athlete. But he was their type of guy. Intense, gritty. He fit into the personality of this defense.
That might be the key at linebacker this year.
For example, Zach Cunningham had a middling combine overall. He tested well in the jumps (10-5 broad, 35 inch vertical) but had a mediocre forty time (4.68). He’s only 0.03 seconds faster than K.J. Wright despite being 12lbs lighter.
So he’s off the radar, right?
He has 34.5 inch arms — so similar length to Wright. And a couple of quotes in this piece by Chris Low are interesting:
“He’s in love with the game of football, and you see that every day in the way he prepares,” Marve said. “He’s always putting in extra time, but he also does a lot of things naturally that you don’t see in a lot of players. You hear guys say they want to be great. Zach practices that way and approaches every game that way.”
Vanderbilt was playing Georgia, and Cunningham on three occasions tackled Todd Gurley in one-on-one situations. “It was Zach and Gurley one-on-one. It wasn’t Zach and somebody else and Gurley, just Zach, and he made the play all three times,” Mason recalled. “Guys in the NFL don’t tackle Gurley in that situation, and it made me realize how special this young man can be. He sees things before they happen and has so many dimensions to him as a player, but what separates him is his ability to close and finish.”
If the Seahawks are convinced he loves ball and get the sense he’s a physical, committed linebacker that fits the personality of this team — he could be a consideration at some point, even with a 4.67 forty.
It’s also possible other options will emerge on the pro-day circuit. For example, reports from the Oklahoma pro-day today suggest Jordan Evans had a really good workout:
— Tony Pauline (@TonyPauline) March 8, 2017
The broad jump would ideally be +10-0 but the other numbers are right up there. He’s faster than Cunningham with a better vertical and a similar short shuttle (4.28 vs 4.29). Evans managed 19 reps on the bench. Another name to keep an eye on.
SAM linebacker options
Let’s suppose the Seahawks don’t seek a ‘Buffalo’ like Obi Melifonwu and want to draft a more traditional SAM instead. I spent some time watching T.J. Watt, Tyus Bowser and Jordan Willis last night to consider the options.
Firstly, I think Willis is a pure EDGE. He’ll also be an interesting subject when the draft begins. Physically he has a fantastic profile. His 1.54 10-yard split is the best for a +250lbs player since Cliff Avril’s 1.50. When you look at his combine workout, you can imagine a team in the top-50 taking a shot.
That said, Avril lasted until round three. So did Justin Houston. Occasionally, these fantastic athletes do last into the middle rounds. And when you watch Willis’ tape you do see a tendency to struggle getting off blocks. His hand technique and repertoire needs work. Coaching can get him there — but he’s a player who might need time.
To some extent he reminds me of Donte Moncrief. Both players are tremendous athletes. Both had good plays on tape. Both needed time. Moncrief was being tipped to go in the top-50 after his great combine in 2014 but lasted until round three. Could the same happen to Willis? Don’t rule it out. But I suspect he’s an EDGE rather than a SAM/LEO.
Tyus Bowser and T.J. Watt, on the other hand, appear capable of playing SAM. They’re not as fast as Bruce Irvin, Malcolm Smith and Mike Morgan (all 4.4/4.5 runners) but they’re really explosive, move well in space and can set the edge vs the run.
Bowser has a freakish physical profile and it feels like we’re only just starting to see him truly develop as a player. His ceiling might be as high as any of the top players in this class. As a ball of clay waiting to be moulded, coaches are going to love this type of project.
“One word to describe my style is grit” says T.J. Watt in this video. That will appeal to the Seahawks.
He makes good use of his ridiculous 11-inch hands and controls defenders, winning with power. He also has the agility to stay skinny when attacking his gaps and he finishes. He’s not a quick-twitch speed/athlete (4.69 runner) but he’s quick enough and agile enough in space.
Cassius Marsh, a 4.70 runner, has featured at the SAM for Seattle in part because he has rare agility for his size. How do Marsh and Watt compare? Here’s how they performed at their respective combines:
Name: Cassius Marsh
Arm length: 33 inches
Forty: 4.89 (he ran a 4.70 at his pro-day)
Three cone: 7.08
Short shuttle: 4.25
Vertical: 32 inches
Name: T.J. Watt
Arm length: 33 1/8 inches
Three cone: 6.79
Short shuttle: 4.13
Vertical: 37 inches
Marsh’s agility tests were really good for his size — and Watt beats him comfortably in both cases while also proving to be extremely more explosive.
It’s worth noting the Seahawks never made any firm commitment to Marsh at the SAM. It was tested but Mike Morgan started when healthy. I bring this up purely to emphasise Watt’s fit as a possible SAM — although it’s entirely possible he’ll be viewed as a pure 3-4 OLB (and a potential target for Green Bay and Pittsburgh).
Even so, it’s something to consider over the coming weeks. Especially if any reports emerge of King and Melifonwu going earlier than we’re currently projecting.
Free agency outlook
Jason La Canfora is consistently on the money when it comes to the Seahawks, so this is worth paying attention to:
Seahawks monitoring market for many RBs (AP, Blount, Cunningham) and OL (Lang, Whitworth, Okung). Will be active but smart on the $$ too
— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) March 8, 2017