Why Shea McClellin could make sense for Seattle

March 20th, 2012 | Written by Kip Earlywine

Written by Kip Earlywine

(Be sure to check out Rob’s review of Ronnell Lewis if you haven’t already.)

Seattle has been pretty up front about their goals this offseason.  Namely, they want to improve the pass rush and add speed at linebacker.  Two-thirds of Seattle’s linebacker corps are currently free agents who may not return.  Seattle wants to “get faster” at linebacker after all, and it would be hard to do that starting the same trio as last year.  This is where a player like Shea McClellin could be particularly intriguing to Seattle, but before I talk about him, I think its important to discuss Seattle’s options.  Thankfully, there are many.

We are almost a full week into 2012’s NFL free agency period, and only one single high profile linebacker has signed with a team (Steven Tulloch), which was literally announced right as I began writing this.  This speaks to just how greatly the NFL has devalued 4-3 linebackers.  David Hawthorne, Leroy Hill, and Curtis Lofton are all still available as of this writing.  Pete Carroll chimed in the other day with his own theory for the lack of earnest pursuit:

“There are close to 12 draftables with good grades which hurts vets looking for deals”

While things could still happen in free agency (with the Matt Flynn and Zach Miller signings being evidence that anything can happen at any time), you can’t help but wonder if Seattle isn’t planning to shun free agency and instead add not one but multiple linebackers in the draft.  This may especially be true if Seattle signs Michael Bush, which would narrow down their draft priorities considerably.

Rob and I have highlighted a couple of obvious speedy linebacker options like Zach Brown and Mychal Kendricks.  We’ll continue to dig through the draft and try to identify as many of Carroll’s twelve as we can over the next month or so.  Today, I’ll start with a dark horse 4-3 linebacker candidate who’s versatility could be very interesting to Seattle: Boise State’s defensive end Shea McClellin.

McClellin starred at defensive end for Boise State, but many draft sites now list him as an outside linebacker.  An explanation might be found in Rob Rang’s post senior bowl observations:

“McClellin accepted the invitation to the Senior Bowl, anticipating he would remain at [defensive end] but perhaps see some time at linebacker. Instead, he has worked almost exclusively at linebacker, taking virtually every snap Wednesday on the weak side and proving his versatility and draft grade are perhaps significantly underrated.

McClellin showed off his potential at his new position early on, demonstrating surprisingly quick feet and balance during bag drills. More important, he made some of the more impressive plays of the day during scrimmages.

Proving much more comfortable than expected considering his lack of experience at the position, McClellin showed good diagnosis skills, quickly attacking gaps in the running game. He took on blocks aggressively, using his long, strong arms to quickly disengage as well as the flexibility and awareness to keep his feet free from the mass of humanity surrounding him near the line of scrimmage. Though not allowed to take ball carriers to the ground during practice, McClellin closed quickly and wrapped up securely before releasing them to finish their runs.

As impressive as McClellin was defending the run, it was his surprising agility and awareness in coverage that caught some by surprise.”

McClellin’s natural ability at linebacker caught many by surprise, but further investigation reveals that maybe it shouldn’t have.  Boise State was known to use McClellin in a versatile manner during his time there, and wouldn’t you know it, McClellin played linebacker in High School.

Its not every day you see a defensive end impress scouts as a weak side coverage linebacker.  McClellin’s combine numbers further added to the intrigue.  Rob Rang once again:

“[McClellin’s] workout certainly showed off the straight-line speed (4.63) and change-of-direction skills (7.07 seconds in the three-cone drills) to handle this conversion. McClellin’s speed, in fact, would have ranked him fourth among the 29 linebackers tested at the Combine — and this is after measuring in at 6-3, 260 pounds.”

Having scouted him in a couple of games, I’m personally not the biggest fan of McClellin as a pure defensive end.  He looked average in most ways but made up for it with a high motor and relentless pursuit.  He was a great football player with questionable tools to star at defensive end at the next level- he reminded me a bit of Grant Wistrom.  If drafted purely as a defensive end, I’d probably give him a 4th round grade.

But if McClellin’s Senior Bowl performance and Combine numbers are to believed, he’d be one of the fastest linebackers in the draft after Brown and Kendricks leave the board.  He’d also have the versatility to lineup at defensive end of course.  That could score McClellin bonus points for our front office, as they are looking for players that have versatility. Our defense could use the flexibility in game situations where defensive substitutions are impossible (hurry up offense, etc).  We’ve already seen some evidence of this as Seattle signed Jason Jones for his ability to handle looks at both defensive tackle and defensive end.  If Seattle could get a speedy linebacker who can put a hand in the dirt too, that would be close to a best case scenario, even moreso if for some reason Seattle does not select a pass rusher in round one.

I don’t know how Seattle grades the linebackers, but it would not completely shock me if they have McClellin even higher than a guy like Mychal Kendricks.  Kedricks is a very good player with a ton of speed, but McClellin is bigger and faster than KJ Wright, looks natural at the WILL spot, and comes with impressive pass rush versatility.  McClellin’s stock is rising, and he’s certainly worth keeping an eye on as the draft nears the 43rd pick.  As one NFL scout said when talking to Rang:  “Don’t write too much about the guy, we’ve been on him all year long and don’t want others jumping on him now.”

29 Responses to “Why Shea McClellin could make sense for Seattle”

  1. peter says:

    Thanks Kip,

    I’ve been curious about this guy and Jonathan Massaqoui for Seattle for some, primarily as every prospect you or Rob mentions in the next week they start rising, I figure I have to look further and further out of the range of possibility…!

    I do like his versatility and have a spot in my heart for any athlete that jumps at the chance to impress in different areas…In the second Round I think this guy could make a ton of sense

  2. Stuart says:

    Kip, thanks for doing this write up and keep them coming:). He sounds like a 2nd rounder to me. Any chance he slids to us in the 3rd round?

  3. Turp says:

    Great read Kip. Just like Stuart, I’m wondering what he is grading out at…2 or 3?

  4. Jarhead says:

    I like Kendricks more in the second round, as he has the better pedigree, credentials, and instincts. I would say McClellin and Kendricks are similar athletically, but Kendricks is higher on the talent side. I believe with a position change likely, a 3rd round pick would be best for this guy. And I think it would be unwise to get older at rb with bush when there are already plenty of talented rb’s in the draft. I’d still not use 3 picks on LB/DE’s before I’d drafted a rb

  5. Jon says:

    I think he already answered that question guys. Kip said, “McClellin’s stock is rising, and he’s certainly worth keeping an eye on as the draft nears the 43rd pick.”

    My question is that if the Hawks like McClellin would that change what they do at 12 with the possibility of Upshaw. I am one who is totally on board for Upshaw, but they seem to fulfill the same role in many ways. I realize they are not the same player, but drafting both would be strange IMO.

    I am so excited for the draft, as there are so many possibilities to improve this team in the front 7.

  6. Doug says:

    What this guy shows is that there is plenty of talent at the position. It also shows that we might be better suited taking limited talent early on. Like OL, WR, RB or something of that nature.. Richardson to be sure, Blackmon or DeCASTRo…
    We now have OL as a position of need with Gallery and Kings release, and it seems a sure bet to get a stud in rd1, that would be in Flynns best interests…

    I know y’all think front 7 and esp. Upshaw is the pick, but don’t get your panties in a bunch if they go in a different direction…

    I’m just sayin…

  7. Ely says:

    I’m with you Doug. I would not at all be surprised if it’s DeCastro with the 12th pick. I know it’s getting a little old picking O line in the first round but I think we need to view sacks on both sides of the ball and not just defensive sacks. I think Flynn will help get the offensive sacks given up down with quicker decision making but adding a concensus O-line stud like DeCastro seems, to me, to be the best and safest move. With the defensive group as deep as it is, I think we can add a guy in the second without losing huge value there from the first.

  8. Ed says:

    We need backers. If we don’t trade back, I really think de or lb should be the pick. Upshaw/Coples/Kuehly would be good picks.

  9. Kip Earlywine says:

    I think McClellin will be a 2nd rounder. It could be argued that his combination of size, speed, coverage skills and pass rush versatility makes him the highest upside 4-3 OLB in the entire draft. I’d grade him in the 4th round as a DE, but if not for questions about his experience at linebacker he’d probably be a 1st round pick.

    I personally like Kendricks better, but Kendricks is four inches shorter and fifteen pounds lighter than McClellin. I think between the two, Kendricks has the better chance to reach the 3rd round (not that I expect he will).

  10. TJ says:

    Doug & Ely – As much as I like DeCastro too, I have a funny feeling Carpenter will be our LG and Moffit our RG for the next 4-5 years.

  11. Scott says:

    I love McClellin at LB for the Hawks. He played the Senior Bowl at 260, then at the combine he had slimmed to 248. That might suggest that he also sees himself being a linebacker. He looks comfortable in coverage, and has enough pass rush to be effective in zone blitzes or the occasional 3-4 look attack.

    Versatile is a big deal to Pete, and the kid is versatile.

  12. peter says:

    Tj,

    That’s the way I’m starting to see it….

    The problem I have with Decastro, is besides the expenditure of three first round picks on the O-line is that the O-line was not that bad last year, with McQ and Giaccominni…

    Then you have Carp and moffit coming back from injury, so there is some depth depending on how the chart is worked out.

    Maybe this year we use the PC *magic* and find some depth in the later roudns and actually use a draft pick besides a 7th rounder on DE that I personally can not say I have ever seen play (dexter davis) and a super small speed LB (Malcolm Smith)

  13. peter says:

    Decastro I do think will be great BTW…

  14. Phil says:

    McClellin looks impressive. This really reinforces my feeling that because there are so many talented DEs/LBs in this draft, the Seahawks may try to trade their #12 pick for multiple later round picks or else go somewhere other than DE/LB with the #12. The guy who is dropping in my eyes is Coples — he may have more physical skills than some of the other guys, but if I was Carroll or Schneider, I’d be looking at guys who never seem to take a play off.

  15. Clayton says:

    I would rather take Zach Brown with the number 2, if Coples, Upshaw and Irvin are the number 1 choice. I just dont see us going LB, LB, which is why I think the DE position maybe address first as it lacks depth.

  16. AlaskaHawk says:

    I was thinking DE too, but with PC boosting the DL with Jones, maybe he will go LB. A couple mocks have us choosing with Kuechley. Though other people seem vehemently against him. I just worry about the Curry factor, I’m not sure I will ever be able to choose a LB in the first round again!!!

    As for DE in the second Branch or Chandler Jones will be available. Looking at the two scenarios I would still prefer DE in the first.

    Then a RB in case Marshawn is injured. Then OL and WR to protect our QB and give him more targets.

    I am not of the opinion that Okung, Carpenter and Moffit will ever play together for a season. I predict that two of the three won’t even be resigned 3 years from now because of multiple injuries. I am sorry to say that PC probably wasted those picks. We are playing with backups in our offensive line. We need to find two more offensive linemen, starting with a RT.

  17. David says:

    Zach Brown is such a waste of a pick all speed and zero football intelligence

  18. Doug says:

    Carp might be good for a LG, but he will not be ready to start the year, and we have no back-ups.. I can’t begin to count how many whiffs occurred at the LG position last year making life for TJ miserable, and I just don’t see Pete putting his new boy into the danger zone. I think Decastro is a plug and play for the next ten years. He isn’t a Hutch, but he is a solid high quality player that would make the left side great for years to come with Okung. Let the best of the rest compete to start on the right side, and the leftovers become solid back-ups.

    I guess I’m super tired of talking about the DE / LB spot, because in my tiny brain, that’s not a lock at #12, especially if all of the big 4 are gone…

  19. Attyla the Hawk says:

    I understand and agree with the notion we’ve already addressed the O line.

    Decastro is one of 4 players one could say is a once in 5+ years talent (Luck, Richardson, Kalil being the others). In fact, you actually need to go back to Hutchinson in 2001 to find a guard who separates himself amongst others in multiple draft classes so completely. Iupati had a lot of question marks coming in and was a pick based on potential. Decastro is potential, coupled with demonstrated dominance over years and hands down one of the most polished G prospects since Hutch.

    We lost King, Gallery and Gibson already. Moffitt is likely to miss much of training camp and maybe be cleared by the end of preseason. I’d expect Carpenter to be PuPed and subsequently IRed after week 9. He clearly needs to be part of a rigorous and supervised training regimen when healthy and the months of inactivity with his injury will almost assuredly mean he’s so far out of shape as to leave the season unrecoverable. For an athlete who stays in shape and isn’t putting 300+ pounds of strain on his knees, the normal recovery is 9-10 months. That puts him into the regular season. Carpenter can barely stay in shape when fully healthy. I’m not hopeful that he has any chance of coming back early and probably is going to fall on the very high end of recovery.

    We can fill those OL spots with FA or later picks. But we have holes there just as we do at LB. OL was our obvious position of need in 2011 and at best the effort to resolve that need could be described as incomplete in 2012. Bordering on revisit required by 2013.

    There isn’t a LB that separates himself so completely as Decastro does for the last decades’ worth of guards. I get the ‘throwing good money after bad’ type scenario here. But we also have to look at what’s the alternative. Are there talents at 12, that are so compelling and more likely to develop into a day one starter versus any talents at 43? Or even 76?

    In this case, we have a deep LB draft, with no elite prospects at a position that is typically neglected until later rounds. There is the very real expectation that taking Decastro would not preclude Seattle from getting the LB upgrades they covet.

    Likewise, unless there is a special pass rusher that drops — this class doesn’t have an apparent signature talent for that either. Obviously if they see something most don’t then they should go that route. But I would not be surprised in the least if the best 2 pass rushers from this class aren’t even first round picks. There seems very little separation between the top rated guys and the 10th rated guys. Compare this class to last year and I’m not sure any of them are picked in round 1.

    The absence of marquee talent (or rather the depth of good but not great talent) at LB and DE, would suggest there isn’t a sacrifice in taking Decastro in the first. Adding Jones, retaining Bryant and drafting a couple of linebackers in the 2nd and 3rd could be considered a good offseason’s effort to fix the D by itself. Adding Decastro would be a big BPA pick and would be a very best case hedge pick to minimize the potential misses on the 2011 needs. If Moffitt and/or Carpenter can’t go, that has to be considered a big miss, as they’ll enter year 3 of their careers with limited experience and virtually no training camp reps in that entire time.

  20. Doug says:

    Attyla –
    thanks for summing up what I was thinking, that really clarifies where I was trying to go in a much more organized and clear way.
    Well done mate, thanks

    +++1

  21. Tom T. says:

    Bills just signed Mark Anderson as a pure pass rusher. All that does is give an even higher chance of Upshaw being there for pick 12.

  22. Smeghead says:

    I can understand the temptation to draft DeCastro but we still have solid enough depth at the G and T spots that I think we should entertain a trade back from 12 if someone is targeting DeCastro…

    There is just too much talent available at LB and RB around the early 2nd round to pass up an additional pick IMO.

    Week 1 O-Line
    Okung – McQ – Unger – Moffit or L Jean Pierre – Breno G

    McQ, LJP and Breno all played solid in relief last year. McQ played three spots I believe including LT for Okung. I think we’ll be ok…

    Week ?
    Okung – Carp – Unger – Moffit – Breno G

    I’ve got no issues with that line for the next several years – of course we will need to add later round / UDFA talent to groom behind those guys.

  23. Smeghead says:

    McClellin is clearly a gamer, I do like him if Kendricks is unavailable in the 2nd…

  24. peter says:

    The problem with Decastro being plug and play is that if he gets injured and no one could have seen Okung’s injury problems, then it’s not as simple as “well, we foudn the best guard sice Hutch.”

    I again think the guy is incredible, and I would love for seattle to be Greenbay or insert other great team with longetivity, where we could just get BPA, but right now, for all the well reasoned arguments for Decastro, you could make the same arguments for our pass rush, or for the fact that we may be down two or three starting LB’s next year, or we might want to use a decent pick for someone like Doug Martin, to back up Lynch, because even if the line is working , if Lynch goes down so does our offense (see: Cleveland.)

    Or Some of you have made great points, jarhead and rob as example, for taking a shot on Osweiler in the second, which is my preffered option…

  25. Meat says:

    Great points made. Significant holes that need to be filled. I sort of understand the Gallery move because he was not cheap and injury prone (age), but the need as other key positions it appears he should have stayed on another year. LB/pass rushers, Oline, ‘playmakers’, are all positions that the Hawks need upgrades and depth. I didn’t even inlude QB. I hope the depth of WR and LB in this draft are utilized. Seahawks have have six picks this year? DE, RB, LB, LB, OL, WR

  26. peter says:

    Meat,

    Regardless of the names people like for each position, the set-up you have above would be pretty solid.

  27. Tezlin says:

    I don’t think they go with DeCastro. We just signed Omiyale so that closes that need, plus drafting line 3 years straight? I just don’t see it. Especially when we had NO PASS RUSH other than Clemons all year. We still need someone on the other side of Clemons, now that we have some inside rush, and assuming that Clemons is still productive. We can clearly see that the Hawks aren’t going to go crazy for linebackers given that they aren’t signing their own Free Agents yet, so I can’t imagine that they go anywhere other than DE unless they trade down. And then why would they when their target is a DE who most likely won’t wait around for them?

    Good debate, but I don’t buy the premise.