It’s time to focus on the trenches, not linebacker and safety

December 9th, 2023 | Written by Rob Staton

Zak Zinter is a ‘bang the table for’ type of prospect

It should’ve been done years ago.

How long have we been talking about it? The need to transfer resources and spending from positions like safety and linebacker to the trenches.

I’ve written articles, conducted streams and even gone on 710 Seattle Sports multiple times with Jake Heaps to make the point.

If you want to play a brand of football that is physical, tough, runs the ball effectively and exerts your will on the opponent — you have to dedicate resources to the offensive and defensive lines.

It’s not that the Seahawks have completely gone against this. Back when these points were starting to be made, they were trotting out Benson Mayowa and Bruce Irvin as their best pass rushers. They were cobbling together O-lines. Meanwhile, they were making franchise-altering trades for safeties.

They’ve thankfully adjusted their approach since. They’ve used a top-10 pick on a left tackle, while adding a terrific right tackle book-end. They’ve spent two high picks on edge rushers, splashed out on Dre’Mont Jones and made a very aggressive trade for Leonard Williams. They have to make sure they retain Williams to avoid that deal being an egregious disaster (renting a player then going on an epic losing run is a horrendous look, not to mention a complete misjudgement on where they were in order to initiate such a trade). The point is, changes have occurred and they’ve started to take the trenches more seriously.

They need to go a step further though.

One of the consistent lines we’ve covered here (and rightly so) is the fact Quandre Diggs and Jamal Adams are set to take up $48.1m in cap space next year. How has that ever been allowed to happen? Given their performance and, in the case of Adams, behaviour — they need to write-off these deals as soon as possible in the off-season.

The money they can salvage, $27.5m in cap space for 2024, should be used to help the trenches — starting with keeping Williams in Seattle.

It goes further than this though. The Seahawks used a first round pick on linebacker Jordyn Brooks and are paying Bobby Wagner $7m this year. Other teams are not investing this much on a position that, like safety, is almost at running back value level on defense. They shouldn’t be looking to give Brooks a bit extension. They shouldn’t be looking to retain Wagner, given his weakness in coverage that is being readily exploited.

Instead, the Seahawks should be seeking to put as much investment in the two lines while finding cost-effective individuals who can play fast and physical at linebacker and safety. That could lead to some mistakes, some rawness. They might not have pro-bowl level talent at either position. So what? The players currently playing in those roles are hardly error-free. None of the four are among the top candidates for the Pro-Bowl, published by the league this week. They’re just expensive and underachieving. You might as well have that at a fraction of the cost.

You’d also hope if you become a better trenches team, it would aid the players you have playing at linebacker and safety.

The personnel priorities for the Seahawks in the off-season, whatever happens the rest of the way, should be:

1. Draft a young quarterback

2. Shift resource from linebacker and safety to the trenches

That has to be the plan.

Of course, they could go even further. It says it all when even the media are going to inconvenient places, such as former NFL GM Randy Mueller in the Athletic recently:

To me, the Seahawks have been a .500 team in recent years — staying the course and retooling as much as possible, but making minimal attempts at bigger swings. I understand the thinking, but adding linebackers and safeties does not constitute a full swing at the plate. Neither is an impact position. The Seahawks need impact players, which might require a change of philosophy.

You have an older coach who probably does not want to take a deep rebuild dive, especially at quarterback, the most important position. But the Seahawks are going to need to go there to regain elite status.

Seattle might have to take a step back to take two forward. I’m not sure 72-year-old Pete Carroll is up for that and the two years it might take to retool this roster to return to the highest level. The Seahawks might need to purge some of their roster to clear cap space to add impact at key positions.

The numbers show that the balance of 2023 is going to be an uphill battle. Their three-game losing streak could become four or five with the 49ers and Eagles up next. At 1-3 in the division and having been swept by the Rams, their realistic competition in the NFC West is Arizona, which has already embarked on a full rebuild. The Seahawks might be one year behind the Cardinals already. That’s concerning.

Mueller is only saying what needs to be said. He’s absolutely correct in his two critical assessments of the franchise. Firstly, that they need a longer term plan than the Carroll timescale permits. They are doing what they did in the prior reset. They’re band-aiding positions aggressively to try and complete a roster, that isn’t capable of being the contender they desire — purely because Carroll is running out of time.

Thus, Carroll is not the man for the moment. The Seahawks are working to his watch. He is close to the end of his career and they’re acting like it’s a race against the clock. It isn’t. I don’t agree that the Cardinals are ahead in any way but it’s true that Seattle is currently third in a four-horse race within the division and what is badly needed right now is a shift in the overall plan on how to get back to the top. They are not close and it needs a different person making the key decisions in order to realise this and do what is necessary on and off the field. There’s a distinct possibility we’re just going to waste two more seasons here, all for the benefit of Pete Carroll bleeding the last remnants of his Seahawks career dry.

Mueller is also correct that the Seahawks have felt like a .500 team for a long time. Not always in terms of results (Russell Wilson did a great job for a while ensuring they were above .500 consistently) but they haven’t felt like a serious playoff threat. The results — one playoff win in six years (soon to be seven, it’s safe to assume) — back that up.

The reality is, as we’ve noted a lot recently, Carroll was 15-19 before drafting Wilson and he’s 15-15 since trading him. That’s not to say Wilson was solely responsible for the success. The LOB defense and Marshawn Lynch were the main players initially — yet as time went on, Wilson was the Seahawks. Now, without a great defense or a difference maker at quarterback, Carroll can’t elevate his team beyond simply being very average. The win/loss record proves that.

Mueller is also right to point out, as we have done, the investment at safety and linebacker compared to other impact positions — and the need to shift resource to other areas.

So how do they do this?

They currently own the #15 overall pick in the draft. Realistically, they could be up to #12 by Sunday night. In what could end up being a three-quarterback first round depending on who declares, they’re going to need to move up if they want one of the top players in the class.

Although I had the Seahawks trading up for Quinn Ewers in my first mock draft, if he doesn’t declare — I do think they could/should have interest in moving up for Jayden Daniels. He ticks a lot of boxes for them. He has a great deep-ball and can make explosive plays downfield. His scrambling and ability as a runner would add an X-factor they don’t currently have.

He’s an experienced college passer, with 55 starts at Arizona State and LSU. To emphasise how good he is throwing downfield, he’s completed 62.6% of his passes of +10 yards — with 29 touchdowns and one interception on those throws. He was fourth in college football for big time throws (29) but his big time throw percentage (the number of throws that lead to big throws) was 8.4% — also fourth highest in the NCAA but crucially higher than any of the other big name draft prospects (Drake Maye 7.5%, Michael Penix Jr 6.7%, Caleb Williams 6.2%, JJ McCarthy 6.1%, Bo Nix 4.2%, Quinn Ewers 3.5%, Spencer Rattler 2.6%).

He only threw seven turnover worthy passes (1.6%) and his adjusted completion rate is a lofty 79.9%.

Basically, he has increasingly shown that he can make good decisions and protect the football while simultaneously being a highly explosive, productive, accurate passer who is a dynamic playmaker. That is basically what Russell Wilson was for the Seahawks. It’s what Carroll might need if he’s ever going to see a serious winner again in Seattle.

Assuming Carroll doesn’t depart at the end of the year, Daniels’ production and high number of college starts could be viewed as setting him up to start quickly. The only issue is, there’s likely to be red-hot interest in him. Don’t be surprised if very early in the off-season we see a team trade into the top-three picks, knowing they can guarantee one of Caleb Williams, Drake Maye or Jayden Daniels — and don’t be surprised if Daniels ends up being QB2 when all is said and done.

After that though, the focus should be on the trenches.

Diverting money from safety to Leonard Williams should be the first priority, given what they’ve invested in him. Williams is also the kind of character/leader they need in the locker room. They need more Leonard Williams’ and fewer Jamal Adams’.

Jordyn Brooks should be allowed to test the market and only re-signed if the value comes back to the Seahawks. Ditto Damien Lewis. The Seahawks shouldn’t be pushing the boat out for PFF’s 48th ranked linebacker and 35th ranked guard. If they are kept, fine. But it should be on your terms and not for big money.

The last few weeks of this season should be used to celebrate Bobby Wagner because unfortunately, this has to be the last dance. The Seahawks need someone who can drop into coverage in a way he no longer can. They can no longer give Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay an easy way to attack the defense.

NC State’s Payton Wilson is an excellent cover-linebacker with the attitude, professionalism, aggression and intensity they crave. He would be a tremendous fit but his injury history would need to be checked out. Sadly, without a second round pick, he might be out of reach. Their challenge should be to find someone later on who can fill a role in coverage. Steele Chambers (Ohio State), Cedric Gray (North Carolina), Tatum Bethune (Florida State) — players of that ilk. They don’t need to spend a high pick. If you’re focusing on the trenches and shifting money, they just need someone who can play fast and aggressive with the ability to drop.

At guard, it’d be great to see them make an investment at the position if possible. Robert Hunt was a blog favourite back in the day. He’s come on leaps and bounds in Miami and would be an excellent, proven addition to the O-line. I’m not completely opposed to bringing back Lewis either, it needs to be for the right money though.

One player I would personally describe as a ‘must have’ is Zak Zinter from Michigan. He broke his tib and fib against Ohio State and is going to be out for a while as a consequence. It’s a scary injury and there’s no guarantee he’ll make a full recovery. However, the more I watched of Zinter — the more I came to the conclusion he’s one of the best guards I’ve scouted since starting this blog.

He has great size and length with +33 inch arms. He plays how you’d expect from a Michigan lineman, with great toughness and physicality. He might be the best pulling guard I’ve watched, given how he runs into space and consistently hits the target. He can move off blocks and re-adjust easily. He can ‘throw defenders out of the club’ at the point of attack before they even engage, he steers openings in the run game and when he locks on he can control blocks with ease.

When you watch a good interior lineman on tape it’s tremendous fun and I’ve enjoyed watching Zinter more than most in this draft cycle.

Provided you can get a decent medical check in before April (which is extremely plausible) I wouldn’t want to leave the draft without him. If you have to redshirt him, fine. If he makes a full recovery, Zinter has a chance to be a 10-year pro in the league. If he wasn’t hurt, he’d be a sure-fire top-50 pick. If it wasn’t for the rampant quarterback need, there isn’t a spot in the draft I would be opposed to the Seahawks investing in Zinter if the medicals are OK.

There are good centers available too. Sedrick Van Pran at Georgia, Charles Turner at LSU, Jackson Powers-Johnson at Oregon, Graham Barton at Duke converting from left tackle. I suspect, sadly, all will be gone before Seattle has a chance to select one of them.

It’s a shame, frankly, the Seahawks don’t have more picks. The quarterbacks, Zak Zinter, Payton Wilson, McKinley Jackson, a decent crop of centers. Regardless, they need to spend their money and picks in the right areas going forward. Quarterback, O-line, D-line. It’s time to cease squandering money at safety and linebacker and get things back on track.

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Curtis Allen’s third quarter report card

December 8th, 2023 | Written by Rob Staton

This is a guest article by Curtis Allen…

Record: 1-3


In the first quarter the Seahawks’ record was 3-1. The second, 2-2. This quarter they turned in a 1-3 performance.

A scraping win over one of the NFL’s worst teams, a confounding loss to a division rival that has given them fits for years and two losses to talented teams the Seahawks considered potential equals have exposed this team.

The phrase ‘one of the worst losses of the Pete Carroll era’ keeps popping up this year. A Week One disaster against the Rams, a Week Nine bludgeoning at the hands of the Ravens and the Week Twelve beating by the Niners all fit into that category.

The shine of so many critical players has worn off and revealed a dull finish. Players like Geno Smith, Bobby Wagner, Jamal Adams and Quandre Diggs have even the most optimistic Seahawks fans looking for other options.

Jarran Reed has reverted back to just another defensive line piece after a very promising start to the season – his sack and two TFL’s against Dallas broke a five-game drought in both categories.


1. D.K.Metcalf

Rumors of losing a step are unfounded. He had a spectacular quarter with 21 catches for 358 yards, for a gaudy 17 yards per catch average.

Four touchdowns, four broken tackles and a whopping 17 first downs present a fantastic picture of his effectiveness this quarter.

He also did not hurt the team, as he was only flagged once this quarter for a penalty and Dallas declined it.

2. Charles Cross

One penalty this quarter.

PFF grades of 54.8, 75.4, 81.3, and 74.5 in four weeks. For the Rams and Niners games, he had the best PFF grade on the Seahawks’ offense and according to PFF did not allow a sack and only three pressures vs Nick Bosa and Chase Young for a franchise-player-like 90.7 pass blocking grade in 43 pass blocking snaps.

He appears to have fully recovered from his early-season injury and is showing his best form yet. He is delivering a level of play you expect of a plug and play first round tackle.

The Seahawks will need every good snap he can give them down the stretch – particularly another sparkling game against San Francisco.

3. Devon Witherspoon

True, Witherspoon was targeted more this quarter than the last and he did concede three touchdowns. Yet he still had a great quarter.

Witherspoon recorded another sack, a QB Hit, a forced fumble, 26 tackles with two for a loss and six passes defended (he leads the Seahawks by a country mile this year with 15 passes defended). PFF loved his quarter, giving him an average score of 70.5, including an 82.7 against San Francisco.

The Rams game in particular was brilliant. He was targeted six times and conceded three receptions for one yard. That’s it. One lousy yard. He also added a sack, a pass defended, a pressure and a tackle for loss in that game.

He regularly finds multiple ways to contribute in every game and the Seahawks are better off for having drafted him.

Rookie of the Quarter

1. Devon Witherspoon

See above for the statistical evidence.

It is fascinating to note that when Seattle acquired Jamal Adams in July 2020, Pete Carroll was the one who made the ‘impact’ comparison between Troy Polamalu and Adams. Not in size and profile necessarily but in ways that effect the opposing offense due to his skill, creativity and vision.

Polamalu was immediately referenced by Carroll after the draft this year as another player who can similarly impact a defense. Witherspoon has regularly delivered in a way that Adams has not since that amazing debut game against the Falcons in 2020.

2. Zach Charbonnet

With Kenneth Walker hurt in the Rams game, the Seahawks badly needed Charbonnet to increase his role from being a change-of-pace back to the featured workhorse — and he has.

He had 69 touches this quarter for 288 total yards and a touchdown. He broke three tackles and provided the Seahawks with 16 first downs. You have to think if the Seahawks were more committed to the run, Charbonnet would have a couple more explosive runs after wearing the defense down a bit.

He is just getting started.

3. Jaxon Smith-Njigba

16 catches on 25 targets returned 196 yards. Half of those yards came after the catch, as Smith-Njigba is finally being put in a position to exploit his shifty skills. Nine first downs and two broken tackles only add to his success this quarter.

The Seahawks have utilized him to the point where Smith-Njigba is as viable a target as Tyler Lockett (who had 30 targets to Smith-Njigba’s 25 this quarter).

There is still plenty of ceiling that has yet to be reached.

Speaking of that, Smith-Njigba had a play this quarter that needs a point all its own…


1. The Spectacular Catch by Jaxon Smith-Njigba against San Francisco

Have a look:

Seeing this play on tape does not do it justice. From inside the stadium, you could see that Geno Smith had thrown the ball to Smith-Njigba’s left shoulder and he had to make an adjustment with the ball in the air to switch his vision from his right shoulder to his left and reacquire the ball in the air. Chris Collinsworth comments on how hard that is in the clip and being a former wide receiver, he would know.

Then there is the grab. Even with the adjustment, seeing it live your first thought is ‘no way, that is an overthrow and this drive is over.’ Smith-Njigba not only ran the route and got separation, adjusted to the ball in the air — he makes a spectacular one-handed grab. That ball cradled in his hand as if Geno had been two feet away and threw it underhanded to him.

Then there is the situation. The Seahawks had just pick-sixed the Niners to draw to 24-10 and the defense came right back on the field and forced a three-and-out. They had all the momentum at that moment. The Seahawks offense then gained one yard in two plays and sat deep in their own zone with a third-and-9, and they were in danger of ceding all the momentum right back.

Then came this catch. The stadium gasped and then exploded, the Seahawks’ sideline came to life and the offense drove down for a field goal.

If the team had managed a comeback in the game, that catch would have been pointed to as a key turning point.

2. Jordyn Brooks’ pick-six in the Niners game

Credit to Leonard Williams and Boye Mafe for bringing the pressure on Purdy in the end zone and forcing an inaccurate throw, which Brooks easily cradled into his arms like his first-born child and danced into the end zone.

Their third pick-six of the season gave the Seahawks some hope in a very tough game. The defense provided points, special teams provided points but the offense just could not hold their end of the bargain up.

3. Jason Myers’ 17 points in the Washington game

The Seahawks were terrible on third downs in this game despite being very productive otherwise.

Myers kept this game on track for the Seahawks with a perfect day, including 5/5 on field goals and 2/2 on extra points.

Myers kicked a 43-yard field goal through the uprights as time expired to give Seattle the victory.


1-3. Coaching

There just cannot be anything more concerning for the Seahawks at this moment. They have the roster talent that could be shepherded to an 11-to-13-win season, but poor decisions, bad game planning and lack of proper preparation have this team stuck in the mud.

Every game this quarter featured inadequate coaching:

– Washington freely had explosive pass plays on this defense. They schemed a way to isolate Boye Mafe on a 51-yard touchdown pass to Brian Robinson. Later they found Dre Jones (of all people) on a 48-yard pass play to Robinson. Bobby Wagner was constantly targeted and burned in coverage. The offense gained nearly 500 yards but could only put 29 points on the board due to a 4/14 third down performance.

– With a halftime lead against the Rams, the Seahawks refused to protect it by running the ball in the second half. This allowed the Rams to get back in the game. Bobby Wagner was constantly targeted and burned in coverage. When Geno Smith suffered a bruised elbow, the Seahawks brought a cold Drew Lock into the game and – with a nine-point lead – called pass after pass. The result was predictable. The final offensive sequence of the game gave Jason Myers a much slimmer chance of making a long field goal and left everyone else making excuses for a wildly confusing sequence that wasted precious time.

– The Seahawks delivered a flat offensive performance against San Francisco (six offensive points and three of those were due to a 66-yard Dee Eskridge kick return) that started with a bizarre sequence with Geno Smith running on first down, coming off a bruised elbow with his availability for the game in question all week, followed by two questionable pass plays. On defense, they struggled to match the Niners’ intensity, with six missed tackles. Bobby Wagner was constantly targeted and burned in coverage. Pete Carroll said they went too easy on the players in preparation for this game and should have practiced them harder. “Now we know that” he concluded. And after the game, Pete Carroll said he “will take full account” for getting the team back on track.

– The Cowboys game featured a much better game plan on offense as the Seahawks finally found ways to utilize their talented wide receivers. Unfortunately, that was at the expense of the run game as they only ran 22 times and lost the time of possession game by nearly 13 whole minutes. The defense also was particularly awful, conceding points on every drive except one where Cee Dee Lamb dropped a pass to kill the drive. Penalties burned them once again. Bobby Wagner was constantly targeted and burned in coverage. The safeties looked particularly poor as well, conceding critical passes and missing tackles while trying to take shots. And the game’s deciding play was a call poorly conceived and even more poorly executed by Geno Smith and Deejay Dallas.

The offense leaned even more toward the pass, calling a 35/65 run/pass ratio of plays this quarter, despite having Kenneth Walker for two games and Zach Charbonnet and Deejay Dallas for all four. Late round draft pick Kenny McIntosh was activated before the San Francisco game and has yet to see an offensive snap. The play-calling this quarter revealed an inability to understand game theory. The defense needed critical time to rest. The passing game was running very hot and cold. Tight ends were running routes and not getting any targets and were therefore providing no value by their blocking in the run game.

Bobby Wagner was constantly targeted in coverage this quarter. He played every defensive snap and has played 98% of the snaps this season. Why? The Seahawks invested $3.5 million in Devin Bush and only brought him into the game this quarter when Jordyn Brooks got injured. They also invested very, very heavily to have three safeties that should be able to handle the coverage duties. But the team cannot seem to scheme Wagner out of coverage responsibilities. There are no excuses for this waste of resources.

Other player utilization seems extremely lacking. The tight ends. The running backs. Jamal Adams. Dre Jones noted he was ‘moved back to his natural position’ when the Seahawks acquired Leonard Williams but has not had enough of an impact to justify the large investment the Seahawks have made in him and the Rams exploited him in coverage for a big play.

The team committed 35 penalties this quarter for a whopping 340 yards. How bad is that? For a reference point, the Seahawks offense rushed for 348 yards this quarter.

A regular occurrence following a penalty was a breakdown. The offense cannot overcome a five-yard procedural penalty and is forced to punt or settle for a field goal. Conversely, the defense is doing the exact opposite – extending opponent drives with poor penalties and conceding points when they should be resting on the sidelines after a successful stop.

I wrote down three goals for this quarter in my Second Quarter Report Card: Find Your Identity, Improve on Offensive Playcalling and get back their Run Defense. I am forced to acknowledge that they failed in all three of those things. Spectacularly.

It all starts at the top.

Next Quarter Games

@ San Francisco
@ Tennessee
@ Arizona

Fourth Quarter Goals

1. Develop the Future of This Franchise

I have routinely put this down as a fourth quarter goal in recent years.

There are players on the roster that need NFL snaps in order to develop. At the very least, get some reps on film for the front office to evaluate in the offseason.

Derick Hall needs more than the 26% of the snaps he has been apportioned so far. It is time to acknowledge Frank Clark is not going to benefit the Seahawks very much this season.

Ditto with Anthony Bradford and Phil Haynes. It is time to acknowledge that Haynes just cannot stay healthy.

Why did Jake Bobo only get six targets this quarter? And why were half of them behind the line of scrimmage? In the Cardinals game, they targeted Bobo five times and were rewarded with four catches for 61 yards (a gaudy 15-yard average), three first downs and a spectacular touchdown. He seems to be a casualty of the offensive confusion. They need to reintegrate him soon. And properly.

Cameron Young, Olu Oluwatimi, Kenny McIntosh, Devin Bush, even Tyreke Smith need snaps to see how and if they will fit on this team going forward.

And – dare I say it? – Drew Lock should get some game action.

The Seahawks have $12.7 million reasons to make that particular move. If Geno Smith ends the season on Injured Reserve, his salary for 2024 becomes locked as it is guaranteed for injury.

Giving some thought to playing Lock has serious merit and the Seahawks would be doing themselves a disservice if they did not have a look at how he runs the offense in a real live starting role.

2. Tackle

Another coaching complaint: The Seahawks lead the NFL in missed tackles on defense.

Even when they make tackles, they let tough, determined players like Christian McCaffrey drag them for a couple extra yards.

Enough. Tackle the guy with the ball.

3. Please Stop Embarrassing Yourselves

Poor planning. Burned timeouts. Fronting off after an opponent makes a big play on you. Crazy matchups on defense and confusion on offense. Focusing on social media more than the next opponent. “I take full accountability for the poor play” after the game, followed by nothing but more poor play.

Stop it.


I wanted to write something else about Jamal Adams

December 7th, 2023 | Written by Rob Staton

Jamal Adams, a crushing disappointment in every way

Let’s be absolutely clear about Jamal Adams’ actions.

I’ve seen people brushing it off on Twitter, with some suggesting he was being a jerk and should basically just be ignored. Move on, etc.

Sorry, but no.

Adams took the decision to publicly insult a woman over her appearance. He did this shamefully and for no other reason than he took issue with her husband’s coverage of his NFL career.

Incidentally, coverage which was very similar to Seattle’s media coverage of Russell Wilson last year. Connor Hughes, the reporter in question, didn’t include Adams in his posts (some of which are documented on Field Gulls here). He simply highlighted the success of the trade from the Jets’ perspective, commented on bad moments in games and generally just spoke in a negative way about Adams’ struggles in Seattle.

Like I said, this is no different than anything we saw with Wilson and Seattle’s media a year ago. Many covering the Seahawks revelled in Wilson’s Denver struggles. It’s the same thing.

There’s no evidence of any personal attacks from Hughes. Nothing slanted to Adams’ family. No insults. No messages sent directly to Adams. It’s all stuff like, ‘I see Adams still can’t catch’. Brutal, right?

Seemingly the comment of ‘Yikes’ to a terrible piece of coverage was the final straw and tipped Adams over the edge. In his own words:

“I knew when I did hit that Tweet, I wasn’t in it to win it. At the end of the day it was to get him to understand, ‘Leave me the hell alone.’”

“When others go low, I go lower.”

“Obviously, hey, he responded to something that was uncalled for that he didn’t need to speak on. And, honestly, I’ve been letting him slide for too long and I just got fed up with it.”

“I did what I did. I hate that I had to bring her into the situation, but at the end of the day the ultimate goal was to get at him.”

“I’m not here to say if it was fair or not. But at the same time, at the end of the day, it’s been personal with him and I ever since I’ve been with the Jets and even before that, since my rookie year. Like I said, it’s been going on for countless years. He’s always said some smart things toward my play, if I do make a mistake. And I just got fed up with it, bro. This was the end of it. And I knew, this only thing right here, I was going to Tweet was going to hurt him. Anything else I said wouldn’t have hurt him. But he got my point. And he knows not to continue to mess with me.”

“Again, didn’t want to bring her in. But I just so happened I scrolled down and I seen what I seen, and I responded back with the same comment he made.”

No Jamal, you didn’t respond with the same comment he made. He passed judgement on your coverage skills in a football game. He’s passed judgement on mistakes you’ve made in Seattle, which is par for the course of being in the spotlight as a player in the National Football League.

You took an innocent woman and propelled her into the spotlight, without any means of stopping you. You reduced the value of the woman in question to her looks. You, in a way, implied that Hughes was a lesser man simply because in your opinion, his wife wasn’t attractive. Like any of this matters. You suggested that the woman’s value to her husband was purely and simply defined by her appearance.

You posted this to over 700,000 followers. The story received enough traction that news agencies all over the world were reporting on it (with a screen-grab of the deleted tweet appearing in every piece I found).

It’s possible that Connor Hughes’ wife has brushed this off. It’s also possible, unfortunately, that the last few days have been a living nightmare for her. Imagine going about your business quietly as a wife and mother, then in the next instance you’re in the middle of an online storm because a well-known NFL player spat his dummy out because your husband said ‘yikes’ about some sloppy coverage.

Imagine if this was your wife. Or your daughter. Or your mother. Hell, imagine it was a man. Yourself. Anyone. You don’t stoop to this level. If you somehow do, you own it and make it right. You don’t double down.

Adams was given an opportunity on Wednesday to own the situation, apologise and try and row back into the good books of fans. Instead, he made things worse with the most ridiculous, shambolic diatribe.

“When others go low, I go lower.”

“I hate that I had to bring her into the situation, but at the end of the day the ultimate goal was to get at him.”

There’s so much I’d love to write about these two quotes. I’ll leave it to your imagination. He’s right about one thing though. He’s lower than low.

His explanation is so terribly ugly. He had some beef. He wanted to hurt the individual in the biggest way possible to, seemingly, stop him highlighting errors on the field. So he trawled his social media to find a picture of his family, cropped out the husband and child and insulted the mother.

“I knew, this… was going to hurt him. Anything else I said wouldn’t have hurt him. But he got my point. And he knows not to continue to mess with me.”

This isn’t acceptable. I appreciate there are some fans out there who don’t care. That’s their choice and they’re welcome to it. I guarantee there are many, many more Seahawks fans who are officially done with Adams. I am in that camp.

I have no interest rooting for him on Sunday and will not do so. He should be left in Seattle. Play Julian Love. Play Coby Bryant.

He needs to realise the error of his ways. He needs to apologise — both personally to Connor Hughes’ wife and to the fans who feel let down by his actions. He needs to promise to learn and change, realising that he was in the wrong.

It needs to be full, frank and meaningful — not lip service.

Even then, this should only possibly buy him a few more games. Come the off-season, he needs to go. He should be designated as a post-June 1st cut as soon as possible. That would spread out a manageable dead cap-hit of $10,416,667 in 2024 (and the same in 2025) — saving the team $16.5m next season.

The combination of his behaviour and his play (which has been consistently poor aside from his debut in Atlanta) do not warrant a cap-hit of $26.9m next year. And yes — the decision to trade for Adams and pay him has always deserved more scrutiny than John Schneider and Pete Carroll have received. It was a disastrous trade and there’s never been any serious question put to the two main players about it.

If the Seahawks don’t act and just brush this under the carpet, in light of Adams’ doubling down, then there are a three conclusions to be drawn.

Firstly, what control does Carroll actually have over his players? Given one of Carroll’s fabled rules is to always ‘protect the team’ — how is this ugly episode in any way, shape or form protecting the team ahead of a vital game on Sunday? It’s an ugly distraction.

Hugh Millen said on KJR yesterday: “I don’t think Pete Carroll has the chops… to handle this situation appropriately.”

Prove him wrong, Pete.

Secondly, we hear so much about culture in Seattle. They’ve spent the last two drafts completely dedicated to character and professionalism with their picks. The actions of Jamal Adams contradict this vision. That has to mean something.

Thirdly, it’s pretty clear Jamal Adams has no concept of accountability. It’s evident he thinks he’s pretty much untouchable, never wrong, never thinks anything is his fault, has the thinnest skin imaginable, needs to spend less time obsessing over people’s opinions of his coverage and needs to grow up.

A lot of people are starting to question Carroll’s Seahawks based on results, performances and issues that never get fixed. There’s no identity, we’ve had games where the coach has confessed to not being properly prepared for key games and we’ve had players admitting other teams ‘wanted it more’ after losses. They’ve had three blow-out defeats and it might be four come Sunday evening.

This latest episode with Adams, I sense, is making it thoroughly unenjoyable to follow this team for a lot of people.

Jamal Adams needs to go. That can’t happen now, so he needs to sit out Sunday and then be given a long overdue humbling, before he delivers a proper apology.

If the Seahawks won’t do this, they should cease harping on about their great culture and standards. They’ll be enabling behaviour like this, which as noted goes beyond simply being a bit of a jerk.

Behaviour like this can have serious ramifications on an innocent person’s mental health. Singling out an individual in this way is disgusting, childish and it embarrassed the Seahawks franchise and everyone who follows the team.

You can’t just hope this’ll go away. They need to do something.

In the real world, insulting someone’s spouse in this way would typically result in a bop on the chin. That won’t happen here, so a metaphorical version must be delivered from the people running the team.

He shouldn’t play on Sunday and his days should be numbered in Seattle.


It’s time for Jamal Adams not to be with the Seahawks any more

December 7th, 2023 | Written by Rob Staton

If you missed it yesterday, don’t forget to check out my first 2024 mock draft.


Seahawks trade up in my first 2024 NFL mock draft

December 6th, 2023 | Written by Rob Staton

If you missed it last week, check out my horizontal board. It took months to put together, it’s where I’ve graded players vs where I think they might go in the draft.

Below you’ll find my first mock draft for 2024, with further thoughts on Seattle’s pick and details of the two trades included in the mock to follow.

2024 first round mock draft

#1 Chicago (v/CAR) — Caleb Williams (QB, USC)
If the Bears land the #1 pick thanks to the Panthers, they have to take Williams and pair him with a creative offensive-minded Head Coach.

#2 New England — Drake Maye (QB, North Carolina)
The Patriots are destined to take a quarterback with their top pick in 2024. I don’t think it’s as clear-cut, though, that Maye will be QB2.

#3 Arizona — Marvin Harrison Jr (WR, Ohio State)
This would be a home-run pick for the Cardinals.

#4 Seattle (v/WAS) — Quinn Ewers (QB, Texas)
The Seahawks give up a package of picks to move up 11 spots. Ewers’ natural talent, easy arm strength and massive potential will have him go far earlier than many are projecting. He’s not the finished article yet but when he gets there, the ceiling is limitless. If Texas wins the National Championship, there’s little reason not to declare.

#5 New Orleans (v/CHI) — Jayden Daniels (QB, LSU)
The Saints trade up in round one to select Louisiana’s adopted son and would-be Heisman winner. His outstanding playmaking qualities will secure a lofty draft placement. He has the deep-ball accuracy and running talent to be an X-factor player.

#6 New York Jets — Brock Bowers (TE, Georgia)
If Aaron Rodgers returns, this would be an excellent addition for the offense.

#7 New York Giants — Rome Odunze (WR, Washington)
With four quarterbacks off the board the Giants opt for an outstanding receiver with everything needed to be an excellent pro (speed, body control, ball-tracking, character). They could target a QB with their second pick if it plays out this way.

#8 Tennessee — Malik Nabers (WR, LSU)
They may never get over trading away A.J. Brown but in Nabers, they’d have someone who could have a similar impact.

#9 Chicago (v/NO) — Olu Fashanu (T, Penn State)
Fashanu isn’t technically efficient at this point but the raw materials are there. The Bears take a left tackle to protect their new quarterback investment.

#10 Tampa Bay — Spencer Rattler (QB, South Carolina)
It’s ridiculous how underrated he is. Rattler is a changed man/player these days with as good an arm as you’ll see. Outstanding talent.

#11 Las Vegas — Tyler Guyton (T, Oklahoma)
Every time I watched Oklahoma he stood out. He’s a big, physical, athletically gifted right tackle. He’s this year’s Darnell Wright.

#12 LA Chargers — Jared Verse (EDGE, Florida State)
Khalil Mack’s had a good year but he turns 33 in February and Joey Bosa has too many injuries. Why not add another pass rusher? Verse had an underwhelming season but showed his potential against Louisville.

#13 Buffalo — Taliese Fugue (T, Oregon State)
A big, brutal right tackle who plays with a punisher’s mentality.

#14 Denver — Laiatu Latu (DE, UCLA)
The injury history needs to be checked but he looks so much like Jaelen Phillips who went in this range (and also had similar health issues).

#15 Washington (v/SEA) — JC Latham (T, Alabama)
The balance, control and tippy-tappy feet he has at his size is astonishing.

#16 LA Rams — Troy Fautanu (T/G, Washington)
He reminds me of Alijah Vera-Tucker and could play tackle or guard at the next level.

#17 Cincinnati — Amarius Mims (T, Georgia)
It’s remarkable how big he is while carrying almost no bad weight. Teams are going to be struck by his frame and physical talent.

#18 Arizona (v/HOU) — Chop Robinson (EDGE, Penn State)
He’s so dynamic and quick off the edge and his best football should come at the next level.

#19 Atlanta — Jer’Zhan Newton (DT, Illinois)
The Falcons are a big ‘best player available’ team and that would be Newton here.

#20 Green Bay — Bralen Trice (DE, Washington)
He can run a 4.2 short shuttle at 270lbs. Enough said.

#21 Minnesota — Graham Barton (OL, Duke)
He can pretty much play anywhere in the interior, after excelling at left tackle for Duke. A terrific prospect. The only thing that lets him down is his short arms.

#22 Indianapolis — Xavier Legette (WR, South Carolina)
He’s had an incredible year and can run in the 4.3’s at his size. He will go early.

#23 Pittsburgh — Terrion Arnold (CB, Alabama)
Mike Tomlin would love his character and attitude and he’s had a tremendous season for Alabama.

#24 Houston (v/CLE) — Joe Alt (T, Notre Dame)
I think he’s a right tackle at the next level.

#25 Kansas City — Keon Coleman (WR, Florida State)
It’s very, very clear that the Chiefs need to add some quality at receiver.

#26 Jacksonville — Nate Wiggins (CB, Clemson)
Has the frame the NFL likes but could stand to play with a bit more intensity.

#27 Dallas — Cooper DeJean (S, Iowa)
A highly athletic chess-piece for the back end of the Dallas defense.

#28 Detroit — Kool-aid McKinstry (CB, Alabama)
Not as storied as the draft media have been saying but certainly worthy of a top-50 placing.

#29 San Francisco — Jacob Cowing (WR, Arizona)
He’s so underrated. His routes, athleticism, catching ability — everything — is so natural. One of my favourite players in the class.

#30 Baltimore — Dallas Turner (EDGE, Baltimore)
He feels like a classic Ravens pick.

#31 Miami — Kingsley Suamataia (T, BYU)
A big, rare athlete who has extreme potential and can play left or right tackle.

#32 Philadelphia — Payton Wilson (LB, NC State)
The injuries are a concern but he’s a sensational athlete and playmaker.

The trades explained

— The Seahawks move up from #15 to #4 to select Quinn Ewers. For a multitude of reasons, they need to make a big move this off-season. The franchise is flat. Pete Carroll’s record before (15-19) and after (15-15) Russell Wilson is mediocre. It’s increasingly looking like they need a difference maker at quarterback. C.J. Stroud has shown it’s possible to reach that level quickly and he has energised the Texans. Plus they’ve spent two drafts building up the roster. It feels like it’s time to replace Wilson. Hopefully they’ll do the right thing and finally appoint a quality offensive coordinator at a big cost to help the new QB take to the pro’s.

— The Saints are in the same boat as Seattle. An expensive and underperforming defense, some talented playmakers on offense but suffering due to uninspired coaching, an ageing, average quarterback and the whole franchise just needs a jolt. If they move up for LSU’s star player, it’d be well received. There’s chatter already that New Orleans will be aggressive.

I don’t think it’s plausible for the Seahawks, Saints or anyone else to trade up to #1 or #2, given the likelihood of the Bears and Patriots sticking and picking.

Further thoughts on Seattle’s pick

When I look online, half the Seahawks fan base seems to have already decided they want Michael Penix Jr because he plays for the Huskies. As explained in my horizontal board article, there are legitimate reasons why Penix might not be a first round pick. Added to that, I don’t think he’d be a great fit for the Seahawks aside from his ability to drive the ball downfield. I think his best fit would be to land with a team leaning into Miami’s offensive system, acting as a bigger-armed Tua Tagovailoa.

I think John Schneider will be a huge admirer of Quinn Ewers. When you properly study Ewers, there are so many traits that will stand out to pro-scouts in a way that perhaps the draft media aren’t as likely to highlight. His release is exceptional. There are throws where he has to make a very quick decision under pressure and there’s no wasted motion on the stroke. Some of the whip-like releases he’s shown have to be seen to be believed.

Ewers has easy arm strength with an ability to throw a Wilson-esque moon-ball. Lance Zierlein calls it ‘late life’. He explained to me a few months ago what it means:

“The ball seems to have similar energy in the final third of the deep ball as in the first third of the deep ball. Some QB’s have throws that just look like the ball dies on them late in the trajectory and some quarterbacks like Josh Allen and Aaron Rodgers have late life.”

We were specifically discussing Ewers here — and it’s notable that Allen was admired by Schneider and Rodgers was drafted by the Packers during Schneider’s tenure.

Ewers throws layered passes to all areas, throws in the modern style from different angles, functions within a system that carries some pro-crossover given he works with Steve Sarkisian and he’s a far better athlete than many realise. He throws with great anticipation already, he’s throwing receivers open and he has elevated Texas back to a level they’ve been chasing for years.

He can scramble to extend plays, throw on the run and he can make decent gains as a running threat. He led his team to one of the wins of the season at Alabama.

There are very few players with the natural talent Ewers has. As soon as he headed to Ohio State early, he’s been on a NFL trajectory. The buzz around him has been significant and noticeable. If he doesn’t declare, I’d predict he’ll be a top-two pick in 2025. He is going to go early. It’s clear on tape he isn’t the finished article because you see erratic errors and bad decisions. However, NFL scouts are going to project ahead to what he can become. With the right guidance, the sky’s the limit for Quinn Ewers.

I think Schneider will have a twinkle in his eye for this specific quarterback. I’m sure he won’t be the only player rated highly — but I’ve felt for some time that Ewers could be Schneider’s guy.

The key question is whether he’ll declare. Recent reports are suggesting he’s leaning to returning to Texas in 2024. However, if he wins the National Championship — that could change. What else would he have to prove? For a player who was believed to be on a ‘three-and-out’ path to the pro’s, it’d be mission accomplished. Especially with Arch Manning waiting in the wings for the Longhorns.

It’ll be intriguing to see what happens in the playoffs. I hope Ewers turns pro and if he does, I think there’s every chance he will be the player the Seahawks target and potentially move up for.

If you missed my first published horizontal board for the 2024 NFL draft, please check it out here. And if you can share it around the internet, even better.

If you enjoy the blog and want to support the site via Patreon — (click here)


Live stream at 2pm PT with Jeff Simmons

December 5th, 2023 | Written by Rob Staton


Will the Seahawks trade up for a quarterback in 2024?

December 4th, 2023 | Written by Rob Staton

I have a feeling John Schneider will really rate Quinn Ewers

The Seahawks are going to need to do something significant this off-season.

At the moment they’re ranked ninth in the NFC, behind the Vikings, Packers and Rams in the playoff hunt. Their chances of reaching the post-season are in the balance and if they do, it’ll likely be a back-door entrance.

The biggest headlines they’re making at the moment are courtesy of Jamal Adams’ disgraceful behaviour on Twitter/X. Fan unrest is starting to pick up a bit. After a run of one playoff win in six years, a defense that continues to rank in the 20’s per DVOA and an offense that is more stop-start than a clapped-out old Ford, people are starting to wonder about the future.

As noted in this piece last week (please check it out) there’s a myriad of issues to discuss.

Assuming change doesn’t include the GM and Head Coach, they’re going to need to formulate a plan for the off-season that lifts everyone and can, in time, elevate the on-field product. They won’t be able to just ‘run it back’ and risk more of the same.

How can they do that? I think there’s a reasonable chance the Seahawks will trade up in the 2024 draft, perhaps aggressively, to select a quarterback.

It’s not something they’ve done in the past, even if they’ve been aggressive in other ways. It’s an easy idea to galvanise the fans though. They’d be excited by the move. While there’s no guarantee of success, you can well imagine what the talk would be. ‘Look what C.J. Stroud did in Houston‘. Unquestionably the dynamic is changing around the Texans franchise as a consequence of Stroud’s arrival. Frustration in Seattle would turn to intrigue and maybe even optimism.

The Texans are also very well coached by Kyle Shanahan protégé Bobby Slowik but a change at offensive coordinator in the off-season feels inevitable at this stage. The fourth-down play-call against Dallas at the very end of the game surely sealed Shane Waldron’s fate.

There are a couple of things to consider here.

Firstly, Pete Carroll’s NFL record. With the Jets and Patriots he was 39-43 (including playoffs). Before the Seahawks drafted Russell Wilson, Carroll’s record in Seattle was 15-19. Since trading Wilson, his record is 15-15.

Without a genuine, legit franchise quarterback, Carroll has not succeeded in the NFL. Although the ‘Legion of Boom’ defense and Marshawn Lynch were the more significant players in winning the Super Bowl, the young version of Wilson also played a key role. After the LOB era ended, Carroll continued to win because Wilson carried the team.

Now, without a LOB defense or peak Wilson, his record has gone back to what it was in 2010/11 and in his prior stints in New York and New England.

Secondly, as middling as the team currently is at 6-6, you could argue there aren’t ‘that’ many holes on the roster. They’ve added talent to the defensive line and at cornerback. They’ve drafted players at the skill positions and offensive line. They clearly need to find more ‘stars’ among their developing players, plus there are positions that need to be upgraded. Yet this is far from a thin roster.

They are about as well positioned as they could be to make an aggressive quarterback move. If they’re willing to (finally) transfer spending resources from safety and linebacker to the trenches in the veteran market, they could even position themselves to have the makings of a highly competitive group.

They’re not going to move up for the sake of it. They’d need to see someone in this class they believe can achieve the impact that Stroud has had. Or, it’d need to be someone they think can eventually have that success, if they embrace Geno Smith as a bridge and re-work his contract at the end of the year (an inevitability if they intend to keep him, given his 2024 cap-hit is three times bigger after a very hit-and-miss 2023 season so far).

An aggressive quarterback move might also be necessary for Carroll and John Schneider. While their positions may be under no threat currently, they can’t afford to just be an 8-9 win team up until the team is sold. They need to find a way to break into the next level.

They’ve tried building the defense at great expense and they’ve not turned it into even an average unit. They’ve tried giving Geno Smith weapons galore. The one thing they haven’t tried since dealing Russell Wilson is properly trying to replace him.

That should be the plan, whether it’s via moving up or not. The NFL is not what it was in 2013. Defense, sadly, is now a complementary aspect of the game. The best defenses in the NFL are still conceding a lot of points. The Cleveland Browns had the #1 ranked defense per DVOA going into week 13. This week, they lost 36-19 to the Rams. The Dallas Cowboys had the #5 ranked defense. The Seahawks scored 35 points against them. The Jets have the #3 ranked defense and they’re awful because the offense stinks.

The Seahawks have the weapons to be a truly dynamic offense. They also have some defensive pieces to create a reasonable complementary unit. I’d argue that needs to be the approach. Become a tactically excellent offense that uses the weapons on the roster to attack opponents, be aggressive and multi-faceted. Score points, then try to get your stops.

This is the NFL in 2023. It’s how the Eagles and Chiefs made the Super Bowl. The idea of emulating the 49ers is fanciful at best. You don’t have their array of blue-chip talent or Kyle Shanahan, a man seemingly capable of coaching any quarterback to competency and consistency.

In order to reach the offensive potential needed to be excellent, it means adding a quarterback who can be a difference maker. The draft won’t provide any guarantees but it’s your only option. Sitting and waiting forever, hoping to strike gold one day, isn’t a serious plan.

It’s also a draft class where solutions could be available.

In my recent horizontal board, put together after months of study, I had Caleb Williams, Drake Maye, Spencer Rattler, Quinn Ewers and Jayden Daniels all graded as potential round one picks. If I was to produce a mock draft tomorrow, I’d have four of them in the top-10. I’d personally be willing to draft any of the quintet in that range. None of them are flawless. All of them are highly talented.

There’s a bit of a question mark about whether Ewers will turn pro, which is a shame because I can easily imagine him being the player Schneider would be most inclined to trade up for. If he performs well in the playoffs and if Texas win a National Championship (sorry Husky fans) he might be more likely to head for the NFL.

Trading into the top-two picks is unlikely. I’d expect the Bears to ‘stick and pick’ if they end up with the #1 pick courtesy of the Panthers. Justin Fields is a turnover machine, hasn’t been consistent enough and drafting a new QB re-sets the rookie salary benefit to the Bears. They can also move Fields for whatever compensation they can get (I don’t see him as an option for the Seahawks, for what it’s worth).

New England currently owns the #2 pick and they too would surely pick a QB rather than trade down. That would likely mean Caleb Williams and Drake Maye off the board.

All is not lost though. Jayden Daniels’ performances are starting to get him into the equation to go very early. As mentioned, I think Ewers’ incredible natural talent, easy arm strength and brilliant release could make him the apple of Schneider’s eye. I’m a big Spencer Rattler fan although I’m not convinced he will propel himself into the top-five equation, even if his talent may permit it. As noted with my horizontal board, I don’t think Michael Penix Jr, Bo Nix and JJ McCarthy are in the mix to go this early.

The Cardinals could/should take Marvin Harrison Jr at #3, meaning a trade up to #4 (Washington) or #5 (New York Giants) could be an option.

I don’t think Schneider or Carroll would be too worried about the compensation. The Leonard Williams trade told you all you need to know about their long-term planning.

It’d cost a fortune in picks, unless they continue to lose and pick higher than the #16 slot they currently own. If they view a quarterback in this class as having franchise-level potential, it’s hard to think they wouldn’t be prepared to invest.

The timing for a bold trade for a new quarterback feels right. The idea that they could just muddle along, with an ageing Geno Smith at quarterback, not really effecting major change within the roster while hoping this will make a jot of difference next year is for the birds. I think they’ll know that, even if Smith re-works his $31-33m cap-hit to stick around as a bridge.

Of course it’s also possible they’ll draft a QB without moving up. I just think the franchise is at a point now where it needs either a coaching change or a big move that brings about a serious difference on the field (or both). Everything needs a lift. Getting a difference maker at QB could achieve that. I think a bold off-season move up the board could happen.

If you missed my first published horizontal board for the 2024 NFL draft, please check it out here. And if you can share it around the internet, even better.

If you enjoy the blog and want to support the site via Patreon — (click here)


My first horizontal board for the 2024 NFL draft

December 1st, 2023 | Written by Rob Staton

Click on the board to enlarge the image

The point of the horizontal board

The internet is full of mock drafts and ‘top-30’ lists, where players are just stacked one after another. You learn very little about positional strength or where you can target certain positions. Rather than have 25, 30 or 50 names written in list form I’ve spent the last few months studying 164 players that are included on this board. I’m yet to watch every player because I do this in my free time. New names will be added in the coming weeks — in particular after the Senior Bowl and combine. I’ll also continue to review the board and make changes between now and April.

How good is this draft class?

I’ve adjusted the top two tiers and they’re now ‘blue chip’ for the top group and ‘players I’d take in round one’ in the second. I think this is a better way of doing things and will help me establish the small amount of ‘elite’ players vs players I’d happily take in round one.

Currently I have three blue chip players and a further 17 I’d be prepared to take in round one. I have a further 31 players with second round grades. That means, within the first two rounds, I have 51 players graded for 64 picks. That might be one of the reasons why the Seahawks were willing to trade away their second rounder in 2024. If they felt they wouldn’t find value in the bottom third of the second frame (a realistic projection for their pick when they beat the Browns and moved to 5-2) then it could’ve been one of the things that encouraged them to part with the pick for Leonard Williams.

The chances are the Seahawks will be in range to select a player in the first round that they view as worthy of a first round grade. If they win 8-9 games this season, they might’ve felt less comfortable with their options in round two.

What are the deepest positions?

Even with a number of quarterbacks opting not to turn pro and head for the transfer portal (more on that later), there are still a reasonable number of players available through the first four rounds. If you need to invest in a QB, you will be able to do it within this class.

It’s a good looking offensive line group. I have nine offensive tackles graded in the first two rounds, five guards and four centers.

As is normal, there’s a decent list of receivers turning pro. While there aren’t any first round types after Jer’Zhan Newton, it’s a deep group of defensive tackles and there could be some reasonable mid-round options at the position.

Which positions are weak in this class?

This isn’t the year if you need a dynamic edge rusher, the numbers simply aren’t there. It’s not great (again) at tight end or safety.

Notes on the blue chip players

Caleb Williams is a special talent and will be the #1 pick next year. Pair him with the right coach and he could be an incredible pro-quarterback. I’m not worried about the losses for USC this year or the fact he’s been a bit emotional at times as the season spiralled. For some reason, when a player has been in the spotlight for so long people feel the need to try and pick holes. This is all you need to know. Williams is supremely talented. The rest of USC’s roster is flawed. He has the potential for greatness. Draft him, put him with the right supporting cast and with the right coach and enjoy the ride.

Marvin Harrison Jr will be a #1 receiver very quickly in his career. He is virtually a flawless prospect and as close to a sure-thing as you’ll ever see for the next level.

Brock Bowers can be a dynamic modern-day weapon and provide X-factor value as a ‘big slot’. He and Harrison Jr are expected to test brilliantly, which will only confirm their position as blue-chip players.

Notes on the first round prospects (non-quarterbacks)

I’m told Rome Odunze can run a 4.3 so when you pair that with outstanding body control, reliable hands, excellent ball-tracking and A+ character — there’s a great chance he will go in the top-10. Malik Nabers just has it. I’m not really bothered what he runs. He has a great feel for his routes, he’s shifty and aggressive with the ball in his hands, he can separate downfield and I just get a sense that he could be an excellent player very quickly. Despite being so big there’s talk of Xavier Legette running in the 4.3’s. He’s a playmaking machine capable of getting downfield or taking a short pass the distance with blazing YAC.

Tyler Guyton and Taliese Fuagu were both ‘wow’ players when I watched them on tape. Guyton is big, highly athletic and does everything to a high standard. Fuagu is an absolute brute-force blocker and will set the tone at right tackle for whoever drafts him. Olumuyiwa Fashanu looks the part and has excellent upside but I just think he needs to work out some technical flaws to live up to his billing. Amarius Mims is a massive tackle with a freakishly athletic frame with minimal body-fat for his size. He looks like a first round tackle and has played like it since returning from injury. JC Latham has outstanding recovery skills and agility for a man his size and his ability to mirror is worthy of first round consideration.

Troy Fautanu reminds me of Alijah Vera-Tucker and while his frame will dictate a shift inside to guard, he’ll be a plug-and-play type and a possible top-25 pick.

Laiatu Latu and Jer’Zhan Newton are the top two defensive players in tier two. Latu’s hand-usage combined with his agility, quickness, motor and ability to shake off blocks and finish has made him a terror off the edge and the best pound-for-pound defensive end in this draft class. Teams will want to check out the injury that almost saw his career ended when he was at Washington. Newton is a legit game-wrecker from the interior. He combines first-step quickness with great hand-use, power, suddenness and he lives in the backfield.

Chop Robinson’s production is nowhere close to Latu’s but he has extreme athletic potential and should test very well. He’s a player whose best football feels like it’s ahead of him. I’m told Bralen Trice can run a short shuttle in the 4.20’s at 270lbs. In recent weeks he has played fantastically well, stacking up pressures and sacks.

Notes on the second-tier quarterbacks

I like Drake Maye and it’s frustrating that my grade describing him as a non-blue chip player feels like a criticism. It isn’t. He’s just not quite as good as everyone makes out. He has excellent size, a decent arm, he can improvise and make crazy throws from difficult angles on the run and he has more big time throws (36) in college football than anyone else. However, he also takes a lot of risks and has had too many turnovers. For a player so highly rated in the media, he only has 24 passing touchdowns and nine interceptions this year. Maye struggled for stretches against Clemson and Miami and Spencer Rattler was the better performer in week one when he faced South Carolina. He hasn’t elevated North Carolina and they’ve had some ugly results recently. I think teams will love his character, size and potential and he will go very early but talk of him going before Williams is too much.

Spencer Rattler is wildly underrated. He has matured greatly as a player and person at South Carolina. He no longer throws wildly into double or triple coverage, just trusting his arm as he did at Oklahoma. He plays within structure, operates well despite constant duress and has shown next-level talent on a weekly basis. He has a great arm and can throw layered passes from all sorts of angles. The torque he generates throwing on the run, not to mention his placement/accuracy, is impressive. His footwork can be subtle and deliberate to create time to let throwing lanes emerge and his release is extremely quick when he wants to pull the trigger.

In every game you see legit, NFL throws. You don’t see other more talked about quarterbacks in this class operate in a NFL environment. In other systems there are lots of high-percentage throws, half-field reads, minimal pressure and pitch-and-catch in a comfortable environment. Rattler at South Carolina has faced the same kind of challenges he will face at the next level, playing within an offense that carries some pro-terminology and he has produced.

See these handful of clips below for evidence. All of these throws are translatable:

What do you see on that video? Accurate 50+ yard throws off-balance as he’s about to be hit, subtle footwork in the pocket to create a passing lane for a layered throw over the middle, red-zone brilliance in the face of pressure, the ability to attack opponents downfield from an unclean pocket and a throw across his body, on the run, down the sideline, 37-yards downfield, hitting a receiver perfectly in stride. These are NFL throws.

He’s also a better athlete than people realise and he can make gains with his legs and be a threat as a runner. He’s been sacked 3.7 times a game — eighth most in college football — and faced constant pressure (185 total pressures, third most). Despite this, he regularly delivered pro-level passes with defenders breathing down his neck. He also only had 11 turnover-worthy plays, the same number as Drake Maye — the 79th most in college football. It speaks to how he has transformed his game, has not forced things and has remained composed in the pocket.

Further to this, his adjusted completion percentage (the percentage of aimed passes thrown on target) is 79.6% — eighth most in the NCAA. That’s only one place behind Heisman front-runner Jayden Daniels (79.9%), despite all of the pressure Rattler has faced.

Five wins might not seem much but South Carolina’s team is in development and transition. For me he deserves first round consideration and has finally delivered on the potential that had him talked about as a possible top-five pick at Oklahoma. He is naturally gifted in a way few are. The way he threw a football in High School frankly has to be seen to be believed. Now that he has matured and gained a better concept of what it takes to perform at a certain level, the sky’s the limit.

Quinn Ewers has had some erratic turnovers in his two years as a starter at Texas. He’s also had injuries. However, he is a naturally gifted quarterback with the talent and potential to be one of the best in the NFL. His throwing technique is first rate. Ewers has a rare ability to generate great velocity with a flick of the wrist but he can also throw with ideal touch to all levels. His deep-passes have improved this year and he’s a good athlete who throws well on the run. Ewers had the most impressive win of any QB this year at Alabama — where he led several key drives and threw layered passes with anticipation and accuracy. His background with Steve Sarkisian is a major plus and if he turns pro, don’t be surprised if the NFL rates him far higher than people on the outside. He has as much natural talent as anyone you’ll see — it just needs to be harnessed. The feeling within league circles is that he was always destined to be a three-and-out player in college with rare skill on a trajectory to get to the league quickly. We’ll see if he decides to stay in school or turn pro but don’t be shocked if, come next spring, you see him being mocked as a very high pick — even if he’s so far shown not to be the complete finished article in college.

I’m convinced Rattler and Ewers will be far more highly rated by NFL scouts than draft media. They have both shown immense talent and skill while displaying NFL caliber throws in NFL environments. This matters.

Jayden Daniels has just got better and better as the year’s gone on. He struggled against Florida State in week one but since then, he’s surely taken over the Heisman race with a number of exceptional performances. Nobody has improved his draft stock more than Daniels and he can justifiably be drafted in round one based on what we’re seeing this season. Yes, he does have a tendency to ‘one-read-and-run’ as we’ve highlighted many times. However, as a runner he is so incredibly elusive and explosive and he complements this with a brilliant deep-ball — challenging opponents vertically with his arm while forcing them to constantly consider containing his legs. The more I’ve studied Daniels (I’ve now watched all of his 2023 games) I’ve seen enough examples of him making progressions to feel comfortable that this can become a bigger part of his game. There have also been many flashes of truly exceptional playmaking. He’s third among quarterbacks for ‘big time throws’ (29), his ‘big time throw’ percentage is fourth in the NCAA (8.4% of all throws). His deep-ball is accurate, he has a strong arm and he can really stretch a defense.

I think with Daniels we are seeing a player who you can make a plan for at the next level. You make the most of his running and the deep pass, work-in an effective play-action and boot game and you could be left with someone who can lead your team. He is an exciting talent who can create, improvise and make the improbable happen. While you’ll need a plan for him, as we’ve seen with the Eagles and Jalen Hurts, it’s possible to turn talented and dynamic players into very effective NFL quarterbacks.

Why do you have Bo Nix, Michael Penix Jr and JJ McCarthy in round three?

I’ve watched a lot of Nix and Penix Jr. This is going to upset a lot of people but Nix reminds me of Taysom Hill. He throws like Hill, moves around like Hill and has a similar body-type. I do think he has plenty more throwing talent and a better arm — but the way he delivers a football, to me, is uncanny with Hill’s delivery and the way the ball comes out. I don’t think Hill can throw passes across his body in the way Nix did against Oregon State, or necessarily execute the Oregon offense with the same level of ultra effectiveness. Even so, Hill is the player that came to mind while watching Nix throw.

I do think a lot of his success with Oregon is scheme dependant. He’s been sacked 0.5 times a game this year — and of all his six sacks, arguably only one is down to poor play from the offensive line (eg — on one he scrambled and ran out of play for a short loss). He’s only faced 66 pressures — compare that to Spencer Rattler’s 185. Oregon has PFF’s best pass-blocking grade (90.5) in the NCAA.

For most of the year he’s been tasked with getting the ball out immediately within a short, high-percentage passing game. There are endless throws into the flat, wide receiver screens and dump-offs. They’re so effective with it, they can then hit you downfield when you’re vulnerable. It speaks volumes that Oregon have been consistently productive on offense and scored a bunch of points — yet Nix only has 16 ‘big-time throw’s according to PFF, 49th most among quarterbacks. Oregon operates like a well-oiled machine but it’s very much a user-friendly machine. Very little of the passing game translates and it makes for a difficult projection. We simply don’t see much tape where you go ‘I can see Nix doing that in the NFL’.

He isn’t asked to sit in the pocket and make many progressions. I can bring up plays where Rattler, Daniels, Ewers and Maye throw perfect passes just as they’re about to get levelled by a defender. I can see proper improvisation and needing to come off initial targets from Rattler and Ewers. With Nix (and to a lesser extent Penix) — it’s been like watching pitch-and-catch for most of the year. There are so few throws that you can use to form an opinion about his NFL prospects. Then you see spectacular plays against Oregon State and it catches your attention. It’s plausible that Nix’s physical quality could mean in time he becomes a legit NFL starter. I wouldn’t rule it out, especially if you get him in a system which features a quick-game. Yet it’s difficult to project him higher than round three when there’s so little evidence of translatable tape. Let’s be right here, being given a third-round grade isn’t ‘bad’ either. I can think of one very talented and successful third round quarterback.

When he did face strong SEC opponents and pressure at Auburn, he struggled. I appreciate that he has probably developed as a player since then and is benefitting from a superior environment. It’s a major positive for him that he’s turned his career around at Oregon — but it’s unlikely he’ll get such an inviting, supportive and user-friendly environment/offense at the next level as he’s found in Oregon.

We’ve spent a ton of time discussing Penix Jr but I have to admit I’m increasingly concerned for his stock. His completion percentage of just 58.8% in the last seven games is a severe regression from the 74.9% mark he had in the first five games. We’ve seen his PFF grade similarly regress from 89.9 to 71.5 in that same period. As the pressure has increased (6.6 pressure per game through five weeks, followed by 10.7 per game since) his accuracy has suffered. He’s thrown wildly at times, appearing to throw to areas based on pre-snap instructions rather than placing his throws and reading the defense.

His technique requires him to put his body into passes and this will be a concern at the next level when he faces a lot of pressure and will need to be decisive with his reads and get the ball out quickly. Although the pressure he’s faced has increased in recent weeks, he too plays a lot of pitch-and-catch to multiple NFL receivers behind an O-line featuring a top-25 pick at left tackle. At times it’s felt like he could throw it to Rome Odunze any time he’s 1v1 and the brilliant receiver will make a play. His injury history also warrants consideration as does the fact he’s a lefty. I was recently educated by a source on how this impacts your offense — not just blocking but the way receivers have to adjust to catching passes from a left-handed thrower. Everything is different and will take time.

That said, Penix Jr has arm talent for days and has consistently made ‘wow’ throws. The Washington State game was a rare occasion where he didn’t make an amazing, highlight-reel throw. Some of his passes have to be seen to be believed — driving into small windows across the field between defenders for example, touch passes to the deep-sideline or the throw on the run to his left against USC that was one of the plays of the season.

Because of this, he deserves a mid-round grade. You can’t write-off an arm as good as his. He’s also an underrated athlete, I discovered last week he can jump a 38-inch vertical. Yet the accuracy issues and other issues noted above mean that, for me, it’s only right to temper expectations over his stock. He’s a very solid day-two quarterback prospect and he will have a chance to make it in the NFL but he is not a first round pick on my board.

My thoughts on JJ McCarthy are going to be very similar to my thoughts on Drake Maye. Putting him in round three could seem ultra-critical because draft media is constantly talking him up as a first round talent. It isn’t fair on the player, in my opinion.

Michigan doesn’t ask much of McCarthy. In the recent win against Penn State, he only attempted eight passes. They are a running team with an extremely well-drilled defense. McCarthy essentially just has to be a facilitator at QB. In the last four games he’s thrown just one touchdown pass and one interception. His key role is to not lose the game. He also faces very little pressure — the Wolverines give up 1.2 sacks a game (14th best in college football) and they’ve only conceded 86 pressures.

He lacks great physical talent and I think he’d be best served returning to Michigan and working to get bigger/stronger. He’s a lean 6-3 and 202lbs. His throws lack the zip of others in this class. His accuracy at times has been iffy (he has a tendency to throw just high or wide). There’s very little in the way of the spectacular on tape.

On the positive front, he does his job well. He’s more mobile than you’d expect. He had one of the throws of the season against Ohio State, fitting a pass into an impossibly tight window. Yet I don’t see how anyone can watch Michigan and feel like they’re watching a first round quarterback in McCarthy.

Which quarterbacks are not on the board?

We’ve wondered how NIL’s will impact college football and the NFL and now we’re finding out. Veteran college QB’s are using their final years of eligibility to cash in. They’re being offered seven-figure sums to enter the transfer portal and switch teams. We’re essentially seeing free agency in college football.

You can’t blame the players. Unless you’re going in round one, you can earn more money playing one final season for a big programme than you will playing on a day three NFL contract with no long-term security. It’s understandable why going to play for Notre Dame, USC, Texas A&M, Florida State, Washington or another for around $1-2m carries appeal.

What it does mean, though, is the depth of the position for the draft has been wiped out for a second year in a row. Here are the names I’ve taken off the board because they’ve entered the transfer portal:

Cam Ward (Washington State)
Tyler Van Dyke (Miami)
Will Howard (Kansas State)
Will Rogers (Mississippi State)
Riley Leonard (Duke)
KJ Jefferson (Arkansas)
Grayson McCall (Coastal Carolina)
DJ Uiagalelei (Oregon State)

There have been rumours/talk of several others entering the portal, including Michael Pratt, KJ Jefferson and Taulia Tagovailoa. None of the three have confirmed, with Pratt accepting an invitation to the Senior Bowl.

Carson Beck (Georgia) also isn’t on the board. We’ll not know his plans until after the playoffs but I get the sense that unless he’s being told ‘first round’ by the draft committee that he won’t turn pro. I’ve studied him and I’m ready to add him to the board if he declares but for now I’ll assume he won’t

It’s the same situation with Brady Cook (Missouri). I’ve studied him but there’s no suggestion at this stage he will declare

Non-quarterbacks I’m not as high on as draft media

Kam Kinchens (S, Miami) — he can make plays in coverage and he has 11 picks in two seasons which can’t be ignored. Yet the Louisville game recently exposed issues elsewhere. He can fall asleep in coverage, he had a disastrous attempt at an open-field tackle by the sideline resulting in a whiff and a long winning touchdown for the opponent. He was destroyed by a stiff-arm from a tight end at one point too. For every positive play he provides, there are weaknesses for opponents to exploit. His coverage grade per PFF is only 62.1 and that passes the eye test. Plus, he’s given up 29 receptions from 36 targets (80.6% completions). I fear the 11 picks are a red-herring in terms of his stock. He’s also missed 10 tackles this season in 13 games.

Leonard Taylor (DT, Miami) — He had one sack all year (against 3-9 Temple), made very little impact in the way of splash plays and was virtually anonymous throughout the season. I thought he looked really poor towards the end of the year. Good athlete he might be and we’ll see if/when he tests. The production on the field, however, was minimal. I don’t get the talk of him going in the early rounds.

Dallas Turner (EDGE, Alabama) — To me, Turner feels like a typical Alabama edge rusher. There have been many over the years who don’t make an impact in the NFL. He’s small, doesn’t play with elite quickness and I think he could easily just be smothered at the next level. He’s about 240lbs but looks lighter. He only had two sacks in his final six games of the regular season. He finished strongly against Auburn with 10 pressures but I can’t get excited about him as a pro unless he can show freaky physical traits at the combine that you don’t really see on tape. As someone who wasn’t as high on Nakobe Dean and Nolan Smith — justifiably so given where they were taken — I sense Turner is being similarly overrated online.

Three players who feel like Seahawks

Zak Zinter (G, Michigan) — the more I watched of Zinter, the more I liked. Great size and length (+33 inch arms). Tough and physical, classical guard style and exactly what you’d expect from Michigan’s O-line. Exceptional pulling into space and hitting the target. Can move off blocks with ease and re-adjust. Has all the makings of a long-time, high-performing guard. His terrible injury against Ohio State is a real shame and it’s unclear what that means for the future. Frankly, with what he’s shown on tape, I’d take him anyway and redshirt him.

McKinley Jackson (DT, Mississippi State) — a physical force of nature, a huge, hulking defensive tackle who can both anchor and control but every now and again shows a blast of quickness or executes a nice spin-move to create pressure. He has been the vocal leader for Texas A&M and he’s a ‘chews glass’ type who will be prepared to go to war every week in the trenches. He has the kind of character and grit the Seahawks have increasingly sought.

Payton Wilson (LB, NC State) — the injury history with Wilson might impact his stock but there’s so much to like. He’s a former state-champion wrestler and lacrosse star who has been timed in the 4.4’s in the forty and 4.2’s in the short shuttle. He’s jumped a 35.5 inch vertical. He flies around the field like his life depends on it. Wilson gives everything in every game and crucially is able to drop into coverage, blitz with great effectiveness and play sideline-to-sideline. If he can stay healthy, the sky’s the limit for him.

Final thoughts

This is the first part of a long process. These grades are based on tape observation. Things could change after the College Football Playoffs and Championship games. Things will change after the Senior Bowl and combine. I’ll discover players I haven’t watched, review and reassess players I have watched. It’s taken months to build this board and I’ll be working on it all the way through until April.

These are my initial grades, so I ask that you bear that in mind.

If you enjoy the blog and want to support the site via Patreon — (click here)


The fourth quarter in Dallas exposed all of Seattle’s issues

November 30th, 2023 | Written by Rob Staton

Sometimes the end of a football game spells it out to you.

A defense that couldn’t stop anything, failing to protect an eight point lead.

An offense in the clutch moments, failing to deliver.

The end result is the Seahawks are a .500 team tonight.

Here’s what the end of that game tells us. Firstly, the defense isn’t good enough. Some have bent over backwards recently trying to convince people otherwise. Here was the reality check. Dallas had only one drive in the entire game where they didn’t score — unwisely going for a fourth down conversion instead of kicking a field goal to take the lead. CeeDee Lamb, who was wide open, dropped a rare pass. That was the only time the Cowboys didn’t score.

The unit is not aggressive enough to create pressure yet not talented enough up front to allow the defense to sit in soft zones and be picked apart. Experienced players such as Bobby Wagner and Jamal Adams are a liability in coverage. The pass rush, currently, isn’t good enough to create problems to compensate.

This is despite a massive resource spend on the defense. The picks, the salaries, the trades.

It’s not good enough.

It’s time more attention was focused on how bad this Seahawks defense has been for too long. As Gregg Rosenthal pointed out this week, Pete Carroll’s defense has been a problem for a number of years. The same issues are evident, year after year.

Then the offense. It actually stepped up to the plate today. For three quarters it was looking like a fantastic performance. They exploited Daron Bland apart from one exceptional interception. They asked questions of Dallas and kept putting points on the board. The receivers played well, they made better use of the tight ends. Protection was better.

Yet when the game was on the line, they were found wanting. Three failed fourth down conversions in a row. They needed one, four and two yards on each occasion and couldn’t do it.

The final play was a disaster. Micah Parsons was unblocked and Geno Smith panicked, throwing it at the feet of Deejay Dallas. It was a total bust. After the game, Smith said the plan all along was to allow Parsons a free run, with Dallas the intended target.

On the biggest play of the game, that was your go-to call?

What about max-protect to try and stop one of the best in the world having a free run at the QB and throwing an effective slant to D.K. Metcalf, who had played well all night? How about anything in fact, rather than that play call?

It further speaks to the way Shane Waldron isn’t getting it done as offensive coordinator and the quarterback isn’t absolved of blame either. That comes with the territory of being a QB. When the game is on the line, you need to step up. Dak Prescott did just that with critical scoring drives with the game on the line. Geno couldn’t, in a winnable game the Seahawks had to have. They had three fourth down opportunities and converted none.

For years the Seahawks could rely on Russell Wilson in these situations to give his team a punchers chance. I’m afraid, despite playing well for three quarters, when it mattered Geno Smith came up short.

Here’s what I think it means. Carroll, by now, should’ve been able to produce a better defense than this. Especially for the investment in the unit. How much longer is he going to get to sort this out before serious questions are asked — from the media and from the people making the decisions at the top of the franchise?

The team clearly needs a better play-caller and offensive decision maker. The team needs to draft a quarterback who can become a difference maker.

Many will clamour for a change at the top and frankly, it’s justified. Pete Carroll was 15-19 in Seattle before drafting Russell Wilson and he’s 15-15 since trading him to Denver. Without a top performing quarterback, he has not had sustained success. Just as he didn’t have success with the Patriots and Jets before.

His inability to build another great defense after years of trying — or to create a consistent identity this year — is just cause for having a discussion about whether he is the best man to lead the Seahawks. He shouldn’t just get a pass because of successes a decade ago or because people think an ownership change is imminent. Jody Allen says it isn’t and she also says she’s committed to winning. Therefore, everything should be on the table.

Drafting a quarterback and pairing them with an offensive-minded Head Coach — while bringing in an experienced defensive coordinator to sort out the defense — feels like a plan an increasing number of people can get behind. It would launch a new era of Seahawks football.

What I think is more likely is Waldron will be fired in the off-season, Carroll will remain and they’ll appoint a new offensive coordinator. I would hope there would be some pressure to open the wallet and go ‘big’ on a key hire but that would be a change from the norm. Carroll has had four go’s at appointing an OC and each will have ended in a firing. How many more chances does he get? If it happens, I think they then will be aggressive to get a quarterback in the draft, possibly trading up.

Carroll will be well aware of his record with and without Wilson. It’s clear as day he needs a difference maker. With time running out and with little concern, it seems, for the long term — I wouldn’t be surprised if they traded a fortune to move right up in round one to land someone who can be that difference maker for them.

Whether that happens or not, one thing is absolutely sure. They are currently set to pay a combined cap-hit of $48.1m for Quandre Diggs and Jamal Adams next year. That cannot happen. That, plus money spent in certain other areas, must be transferred to the trenches. This is long overdue.

If you missed by post-game stream, watch it here:


Instant reaction: Seahawks blow fourth quarter lead against Cowboys

November 30th, 2023 | Written by Rob Staton