We know the Seahawks are going to draft for the linebacker position (Pete Carroll spelled it out at the end of the season). Two players they might show interest in are Wisconsin pair Vince Biegel and T.J. Watt.
If yesterday’s assertion on the importance of short shuttle times is accurate, both players fit the bill. Watt ran the fastest time among linebackers at the combine (4.13) and Biegel recorded a 4.30. In comparison, Bobby Wagner ran a 4.28.
Yes the Seahawks clearly like SPARQ’d up dynamic athletes at linebacker. Yet there’s enough evidence, highlighted yesterday, to suggest a tough, physical LB with great agility will also be considered.
Here’s T.J. Watt talking about his partnership with Biegel:
“We’re so similar in our whole attitude to begin with on football and the high motor, trying to make a play for our defense all the time.”
And here’s how Biegel described being double-teamed in 2016 and how that impacted the defense:
“When I get double teams or more focus on myself, that’s providing opportunity for our defense to make plays. I’m not a big stats guy. I’m a football player, and I want our defense to play well. At the end of the day, the only stat line that means anything to me is the win column.”
Biegel’s NFL.com profile lists the following strengths: ‘Voted team captain. Known for intensity and all-out love for the sport’.
Here’s what Lance Zierlein has to say about T.J. Watt: “He is a tireless worker who pursues from snap to whistle and his brother, J.J., will be a tremendous resource for technique and pass-rush plan.”
Here’s an anonymous source on Watt: “This guy just plays his tail off… Boy, does he have technique. He’s Clay Matthews. Probably more explosive. Uses his hands well. He finishes things better than his brother (J.J.) did. I think he’s special.”
Les Miles similarly called Biegel a special player before LSU’s game in Wisconsin.
J.J. Watt describes in this video the ‘strong competition’ between the three brothers as they were growing up. “Nobody was going to mess with the three of us.”
The Seahawks value run defense. Wisconsin had the #2 unit vs the run in 2016, behind only Alabama. They were also the #4 scoring defense (behind Alabama, Michigan and Ohio State and ahead of LSU and Florida) and ranked seventh in total defense.
That’s without a lot of big stars and five star recruits. Watt and Biegel have been described as the heart and soul of that defense. The two leaders of a very productive group.
When you watch Wisconsin games, Watt and Biegel not only work together to create openings but they frequently reached the quarterback at the same time. Against Michigan State they combined for 20 quarterback pressures. A lot of this was down to the creative (and effective) blitz packages used by Justin Wilcox — but the execution and understanding of the defense was also evident within these two players.
Between 2014-2016, Biegel had a combined total of 19.5 sacks and 36.5 TFL’s. Watt finished the 2016 season with 15.5 TFL’s and 11.5 sacks. And he did this:
Watt has stated in the past how much he has used brother J.J. Watt as a resource, sharing videos of tape and asking for advice. It shows not only in his play but also when he’s discussing the defense:
Biegel discussed his role at Wisconsin in detail at the combine:
If the Seahawks are looking for intensity and players that elevated a team to a level of performance beyond expectations, Watt and Biegel achieved that. They both tested well enough in terms of agility to be considered and although neither ran a particularly fast 40 time, they tested well as overall athletes.
The average pSPARQ score of pure linebackers (not converts like Eric Pinkins) drafted by the Seahawks is exactly 140. T.J. Watt scored a 140.8. Vince Biegel managed a 122.2 but that’s still better than the 117 scored by K.J. Wright. And Biegel’s short shuttle (4.30) is similar to Wright’s (4.35).
They’re both well sized too. One of the supposed knocks on Biegel, at least according to his NFL.com profile, is size. Yet he was 6-3 and 246lbs at the combine — the exact same height and weight as K.J. Wright. T.J. Watt is 6-4 and 252lbs with enormous 11 inch hands.
How would they fit? Pete Carroll often talks about utilising 3-4 personnel within his 4-3 under scheme. Both Watt and Biegel played outside linebacker at Wisconsin in 2016 (Biegel previously played inside) but it’s worth noting K.J. Wright also played OLB in a 3-4 at Mississippi State. Biegel could provide the necessary depth/competition at inside backer that Carroll has talked about. Watt is likely a SAM in Seattle — another potential need area.
The frequent pro-comparison for Watt is Clay Matthews. Bob McGinn’s sources made that reference and so did Mike Mayock recently. Watt, actually, has to be described as the superior athlete:
Name: Clay Matthews
Vertical: 35.5 inches
Bench: 23 reps
Short shuttle: 4.18
Three cone: 6.90
Name: T.J. Watt
Vertical: 37 inches
Short shuttle: 4.13
Three cone: 6.79
Watt ran a similar forty and beat Matthews in the vertical, broad, short shuttle and three cone. That’s despite weighing 12lbs heavier.
Projections have Watt currently going in the first or second round, with Biegel potentially going in round three.
The Seahawks shouldn’t have any trouble finding a handful of linebackers they like. Skim through this short shuttle list and find the tough guys, essentially. And with others impressing on the pro-day circuit recently (Jordan Evans, Jimmie Gilbert) this looks like an underrated position in this draft class.
If the Seahawks do target players like Kevin King and Obi Melifonwu early, they’ll have a chance to bolster another key need before the end of day two. Watt’s explosive athleticism and incredible agility could put him in contention at #26. He’s competing with genuine freaks at other need positions.
Sidney Jones injury
At the Washington pro-day today possible #1 cornerback prospect Sidney Jones suffered a suspected achilles injury:
— Rob Rang (@RobRang) March 11, 2017
This would be a huge setback for Jones. It’s a highly competitive group of cornerbacks jockeying for position. A serious, long term injury could move him from #1 on many boards to #6-7. Especially if there’s a chance he won’t play in 2016.
Hopefully it’s not a very serious injury although a ruptured achilles can take almost a year to heal.
Two thoughts come to mind:
1. How much does this help players like Gareon Conley and Kevin King, two players who really impressed at the combine?
2. Why the heck are pro-days taking place within a week of the combine? We just saw some of these players going through drills and doing tests less than a week ago.
Seahawks seeking late round/UDFA defensive tackles?
According to Tony Pauline, the Seahawks attended the Alabama State pro-day and kept a close eye on 6-0, 339lbs defensive tackle Rod Henderson.
As Pauline notes: “This is the second time this week I’ve reported the Jets and Seahawks on hand to see a late round/free agent wide bodied NT/DT.” He previously reported the Seahawks have an official visit set up with Colorado’s Josh Tupou.
It looks like they’re searching for cheap, early-down depth up front — possibly to provide a most cost-effective solution to players like Tony McDaniel. This is especially likely given the dearth of good early-round DT options and the extremely good alternatives available at positions like cornerback, safety and tight end.
If you missed it yesterday, the Seahawks also worked out Washington State safety Shalom Luani at his pro-day.