2016 draft first round candidates (weeks 1 & 2)

Tre’Davious White is a special player destined for round one

Some thoughts on the players showing first round potential in the first two weeks of the college football season…

(We also discussed some of these prospects in this weeks edition of the 3000 NFL Mock Draft podcast)

Michael Thomas (WR, Ohio State)
Very quick into his breaks for a big receiver. Combines size (6-3, 210lbs) with plus speed and fluidity as an athlete. Destroyed one of the best cornerbacks in college football (Virginia Tech’s Kendall Fuller) with a superb stop-and-go move for a long touchdown in week one. Won’t put up gaudy numbers (Urban Meyer’s teams never have a go-to receiver) but very much a first round candidate.

Tre’Davious White (CB, LSU)
The latest top corner off the LSU production line. Jalen Collins headed for the NFL despite an excellent 2014 season because he feared losing his job to the other talented corners at LSU, including White. He was awarded the #18 jersey during the off-season, given annually to the LSU player displaying a selfless attitude while representing the Tigers in a first-class manner both on and off the field. At 5-11 and 191lbs he’s not huge — but he shows great hip flexibility in back-pedal, water tight coverage skills and he plays the ball. Good in run defense and a sound tackler in the open field. He could end up battling Ohio State’s Eli Apple to be the first corner taken. NFL teams will fall over each other for White.

Braxton Miller (WR, Ohio State)
He’s made a smooth transition to receiver. He’s being used in the backfield, in the slot, split out wide. He’ll throw the occasional pass this year. Urban Meyer’s using him in the same way he used Percy Harvin. His first catch against Virginia Tech was a fingertips-to-the-turf snag, he added a terrific sideline grab for a score and had that spin move on a run. Good frame yet tremendously athletic — a genuine game-changer. If he keeps developing there’s no reason why he can’t work into first or second round contention.

De’Runnya Wilson (WR, Mississippi State)
There just aren’t many players with Wilson’s skillset. He’s 6-5 and 215lbs. He’s lean and fast. He’s a typical box-off receiver who uses body control and size to shield cornerbacks. He’s a great weapon to have if you need a short third down conversion, a red zone score or a downfield shot. He’s shown inconsistent hands at times (so did Kelvin Benjamin) but he also has a knack for big plays. There are some off-field question marks but he’s a basketball star playing in the NFL and teams are starting to covet this type of safety net. Impressed against a rock-solid LSU secondary making one acrobatic catch in tight coverage against Tre’Davious White (see above).

Shon Coleman (T, Auburn)
Coleman battled cancer to take his chance at Auburn and against the odds he’s back on the field and performing as well as any offensive lineman in college. Inspiring backstory and never gave up despite combining fighting for his life along with trying to forge a football career. When he gets his hands on you it’s over. Smothering pass-blocker who loves to get to the second level. Can improve his kick-slide technique but there’s a lot to work with. If he isn’t playing left tackle in the NFL he’ll fit anywhere else on the O-line. Occasionally shows a similar aggressive edge to Ereck Flowers.

Jack Conklin (T, Michigan State)
Consistently moved the Oregon D-line to create running lanes on the left side. Worked very well with the left guard. Whether he converts to the NFL as a left tackle remains to be seen but he could easily transition to the right side with plus size and mobility. MSU’s best pro-prospect on a top-four caliber team.

Eli Apple (CB, Ohio State)
Ideal size (6-1, 200lbs) and very competitive. Has a nose for the ball and consistently gets into position to make a play. Another very smooth athlete who can mirror speed receivers and defend against bigger wide outs. Tackling can be a little suspect at times — especially on a weak attempt to bring down the Virginia Tech full back in week one (the play led to a touchdown). He should perform well at the combine and could easily be a top-15 pick.

Jaylon Smith (LB, Notre Dame)
Watch the Texas game. He’s a thoroughly modern, explosive linebacker who can play multiple spots, has the speed to cover and work sideline-to-sideline. With the game moving towards a quicker pace including a lot of stretch runs and inside short-passing — Smith can do it all. There’s every chance he will be a very early pick much like Ryan Shazier in 2014. Has a chance to go high in round one.

Quarterback thoughts

None of the quarterbacks have impressed enough so far to warrant first round talk. Connor Cook (QB, Michigan State) is the same player he was last year. He throws too many contested passes, tends to be wildly erratic at times and has no mobility. Against Oregon he had one ugly interception (overthrowing an open receiver) moments after hurling into double coverage for an incompletion. It seems desperation is forcing people to put him in the first round mix. He is not a day one talent based on what we’ve seen so far.

Cardale Jones (QB, Ohio State) has probably the best arm talent of all the quarterbacks in college football. He throws a pretty spiral with good arm strength. Against Virginia Tech he had a couple of fantastic throws with almost no back-lift. When he’s on form he looks like a very early pick. He’s also surprisingly mobile for his size. However — he remains extremely inexperienced and it shows with some of his decision making. He had a lacklustre game against Hawaii with some wondering if J.T. Barrett would replace him as the starter. Ideally he’d have another year starting in college in 2016. Teams will also ask questions about his maturity and ability to handle the pressure of being a NFL quarterback. Putting your finger to your lips to the Virginia Tech fans from the sideline isn’t a good look. Teams pick up on little things like that when there’s so much focus on the QB position.

Christian Hackenburg (QB, Penn State) is incredibly toolsy and looks the part of a pro-QB. He’s also the victim of a shambolic few years for Penn State. To his credit he didn’t walk away from the team after committing despite all the scandal and then Bill O’Brien’s departure. Even so, it’s not done his career much good. It might be preferable for Hackenburg to get into the league as soon as possible and just sit for a year or two as a developmental quarterback in a pass-friendly scheme. He has the talent. It just needs to be harnessed in the right way. Any team expecting to draft him in round one and have him start right away will be doing even more damage to what is clearly a very talented prospect. He is far from ready for the NFL. If he goes on day two to a team with an ageing franchise quarterback — that would be best for all concerned.

There’s always time for a quarterback to emerge (Dak Prescott? Jacoby Brissett? Jared Goff?) but at the moment this looks like possibly a draft class without a first round QB. As is often the case during a down year for quarterbacks, the shortfall will be made up with multiple first round offensive linemen. It looks like another good class of receivers and there are several cornerbacks with first round potential aside from the two highlighted here.

Strong safety thoughts

It feels almost necessary to look at big strong safety types given the current drama involving the Seahawks. I’m not sure how high USC’s Su’a Cravens goes but there’s some intrigue there. He’s big at 6-1 and 225lbs with a sack and a pick to his name already in 2015. He’s being touted as a possible linebacker covert — much like Kam Chancellor was at Virginia Tech. Eric Striker (LB, Oklahoma) and Vonn Bell (S, Ohio State) are two other possible targets. Striker in particular intrigues me. He’s a fantastic playmaker at linebacker for the Sooners but is a little light for the position at 6-1 and around 225lbs. A move to safety makes sense in the right scheme. One to monitor for sure.


  1. Trevor

    Thanks Rob for the write up as it gives us a list of guys to monitor!

    My wish list currently is Cravens at (SS) and Shon Coleman at (OT). Those guys both seem to have the back stories and personalities the Hawks love and the production on the field speaks for itself. Add in a DT and RB in the 3rd and we are all set for the 2016 draft in Sept 🙂

  2. CHawk Talker Eric

    Impossible to watch ND play and not drool over the prospect of Jaylon Smith playing for SEA.

  3. Volume12

    Rob, where do you see the current value of CBs Cam Sutton, Will Redmond, and Zack Sanchez?

    Sanchez is under-weight, but I love this kid’s ball skills and grit.

    • Rob Staton

      All three could go in the first round.

  4. Volume12

    I’m with ya on Eric Striker. A unique playmaker for sure. Plays bigger than his size and his swag/personality/intense competitiveness seem like a perfect match for the LOB. Hands down one of my favorite players in this class.

  5. Volume12

    According to PFF, On 69 snaps in coverage, TCU safety Denzel Johnson has allowed 9 receptions and 0.29 yards/coverage snap.

    Hawks were at the TCU vs Minnesota in week 1. May be someone to monitor.

    • Trevor

      Will check him out for sure. Thanks for the heads up Vol.

      • Volume12

        Played corner in 2014, dime back, and is now a SS. So he seems to have some versatility.

  6. red

    If you want a budget Wilson look at Bug Howard from UNC 6’4 210.

  7. Trevor

    Sorry to change the topic but I just watched the Packers game against the Bears. This week is going to be a real indicator of where our OL run blocking and Marshawn are as a unit because that Packers run defense is god awful. If we dont run it well this weekend I will be very concerned.

    I really hope they design some runs for Russ this weekend or he at least keeps a couple of times in the read option. I just find he gets more confidence the defense gets on their heals a little and the offense runs so much better when he does. The Packers have always struggled with Kapenick as well when he runs.

    I know the Packers will score this weekend but if our offense plays up to its potential I really think we have a good shot at this game because I think the D will be fired up with all the you cant win without Kam talk this week as it shows no respect for all the other great players on that unit.

    I am predicting Hawks 31-28 will Russel to Graham for the winning score with less than 2 min to play. Then Bailey makes a 4th stop in coverage to preserve the win. That would certainly change the narrative in the national media next week.

    • Rob Staton

      I’m watching the game right now. Matt Forte looks like he’s rolling back the years. Some of the cuts he’s making — wow. Hard for any defense to stop.

      • Trevor

        I think Forte has been one of the most under appreciated backs in the league for years. Comes to work without any drama, plays all 3 downs well and performs each and every week for a team that has had a weak OL for years. He is not flashy but everything he does is precise and efficient. Very few negative runs and always hits the right hole it seems.

  8. Ed

    I still see our needs as OL/DL/WR and RB of Lynch leaves. Any late 1st round talent at DL or RB?

    • Volume12

      You talking DTs or what?

      There is a plethora of really good DTs in this class, even more so if a few juniors come out. Unless an A’Shawn Robinson or Kenny Clark are sitting there, wait until the 3rd where you’ll get tremendous value.

      Couple under the radar names and a junior:

      South Carolina St DT Javon Hargrave- kid flat-out dominates his opponets. Had over 20 sacks last year IIRC.
      Georgia Tech DT Jabari Hunt-Days- former MLB, has now bulked up to 295, and from what I hear is a freak athlete.
      Penn St DT Austin Johnson-great size/length, frees up Anthony Zettel to make plays, powerful dude.

    • CA

      OT and CB for sure. WR & RB can wait until 3 or 4 unless the RB they like is there. Agree though

  9. Trevor

    Rob in one of your previous posts about kam you said you thought there was a real chance Seattle could go 0-2 in their first 2 games and after that you figured there might be some movement on the Kam front. Do you still feel the same way now? It almost feels like it has gotten to the point of no return.

    • CHawk Talker Eric

      I think PC said today the only news that could happen regarding Kam is that he shows up. Otherwise, no movement, no matter what.

    • Rob Staton

      Post on this coming Thursday.

  10. Trevor

    Also on a Kam he has broken one of Pete Carroll’s Golden rules, and that is to protect the team–he’s put himself before the team, and now that we’ve lost a game, he’s caused harm. I really don’t see how he comes back to this team, coaching staff and fan base now. I see 5 possible solutions and I am curious what others think are the best or most likely.

    1)We loose week #2 and PC/JS cave and give Kam what he wants. (My god I hope not)

    2)Nothing happens till week #10 and he shows to avoid not accruing the year and the team tries to get him back in game shape and in the line up.

    3) Nothing happens till week #10 and he shows to avoid not accruing the year and when he returns the team simply suspends him with pay the balance of the year and makes him inactive. Then looks to trade him in the off season.

    4) He sits the entire year and then team looks to trade him in the off season.

    5) He sits the entire year and in the off season the team stands pat and we are in the exact same position next year.

    6) Win or Loose week #2 Kam realizes he is not going to win this battle and reports. The team welcomes him back and he plays the year looking to renegotiate in the off season

    7)The team decides they cannot have this distraction hanging over the team all season and since he has broken one Pete Carrol rule “Never hurt the team” they decide to put him on the block.

    What do you guys think is A) the most likely outcome and B) What is your preferred outcome?

    • Trevor

      My first thought was option 4 let him sit and do nothing till he caves or retires but I think it unrealistic, wastes an asset and is lingering over the team like a virus.

      So I think #7 is the best option. Put him on the trade block now or after the season before the draft. If they decide to trade him now my two choices as trade partner would be Wash and Jacksonville.

      Washington lost its starting safety and needs one. So Kam to Washington for Jeron Johnson a 2nd rounder and 5th rounder.

      Jacksonville needs a veteran leader, has lots of Cap space and Gus knows Kam. So Kam to Jacksonville for a 2nd and 5th rounder + Cyprian who has been a bit of a disappointment but would be familiar with our system and may thrive lining up with Earl.

      • CHawk Talker Eric

        They won’t trade him. Both sides have dug in and it’s a Mexican standoff at this point. SEA is in the superior position. They control his ability to earn $$ in the NFL, so if he wants to get paid (regardless of which team pays him), ultimately he’ll have to relent. In other words, he needs them more than they need him, and that disparity grows with each week he’s out.

      • Ho Lee Chit

        This is no longer about Kam. Kam’s holdout challenges the basic business model of the NFL. The CBA gave the teams the right to renegotiate or cut an under performing player. The players have no right to renegotiate when they feel they out performed their contracts. It may be a bad deal for the players but that is the way the system works. A trade does not resolve this issue. Schneider and Paul Allen must win this battle or the salary cap management for every NFL team suddenly becomes impossible. The owners will never tolerate star players forcing their way to a better deal with a holdout and/or trade. Changing his position at week 10 to allow the clock to run on his contract after he has lost $4 million in salary would ensure the team collects all of the fines due. It would also reduce his trade and contract value by making him a malcontent. If he got a new deal from another team what is to prevent him from holding out again? The only options I see are 5 or 6.

    • JeffC

      I think 2 and 6 are most likely and 4 or 5 is least likely.

      I’m banking that he is not completely stupid. If it’s 4 or 5, then I think he’s taken too many blows to the head.

      There’s also another option: He’s hiding an injury or feels the wear and tear and knows time is coming up.

      • CharlietheUnicorn

        There is one other option not mentioned, taking the 49er off-season way… retire.

  11. peter

    I like the idea of Eric Striker at SS. Not sure if it’ll work but I’m intrigued for sure.

    I hate having to look for SS candidates but I honestly do not see how Seattle gets to the draft next year without having some SS on their board.

    With that said. I just watched all the draft breakdown cut ups of Dukes’ Jeremy Cash. I have to be honest he’s a little hesitant but he’s definitely not a liability and has his moments as a in the box safety. His coverage isn’t amazing but it’s not a liability and can get better.

    Also I just watched some video of Tevin Carter out of Utah vs. Michigan…I’m in.
    Both players I think could be excellent in the seahawks system

    • Volume12

      Very interested in tommorow night’s L’ville vs Clemson game. Clemson has a big corner in Mackenzie Alexander and a huge safety in Jayron Kearse. Both are underclassmen I believe.

      Haven’t got to see either play in an actual game, so looking forward to seeing those 2.

      • peter

        Just watched some highlights of both. And am going to watch the game tonight. My initial thought with Jayron kearse and Orion Stewart (big safety out of Baylor) is they both hesitate trying to diagnose a play. Granted both sets of highlights are from last year so I hope to see son improvement from both especially Kearse.

        Unlike striker/carter/cash who all seem to diagnose well and square themselves for the tackle.

        Corner has got to be a pick or two next year. Williams isn’t the future, clearly Simon isn’t yet, i hope smith and or lane become/stay members of the lob….but who knows

  12. rowdy

    Conspiracy theory about kam, what If during training camp he didn’t feel like his injuries were healing right and decided to take hgh so they would heal better and faster and is holding out so he won’t get tested? Granted I don’t know if he still has to get tested during his holdout. It’s really the only thing that makes sense to me. He would be doing what’s best for him as in taking care of his life because we all agree holding out isn’t and he would still be taking care of the team by not testing dirty. Even if he did test dirty he isn’t with the team during the failed test. To me it’s the only thing that explains this holdout after showing up for training camp.

    • peter

      Don’t they get tested while recuperating?

      • rowdy

        I’m not sure. I just thought it was a weird time to hold out after showing up to training camp.

  13. Volume12

    Rob, what do you make of Miss St DT Chris Jones?

  14. Jarrett

    Rob, I strongly believed we should draft a left tackle, corner, and running back with our first three picks next year. If I’m not mistaken, we should have a late first, second, and two thirds.

    I don’t see Russell Okung coming back, and I have read you say that top LTs after the top half of the first round are hard to find. This may be true, but even if the guy never develops into a pro bowler he’d be a heck of a lot better than Alvin Bailey.

    As far corner, I think it’d be great if we can find a difference make that allows us to cut cary williams and save $6 million, allowing us to be active in free agency and pick up some depth. We’ve always made it work late round guys and we’ve overcome their issues that made them fall – whether it be Sherman’s lack of elite quickness, Simon’s off – the field crap, or Lane’s lack of height. Imagine what we could do with a 6’2″ athletic, smart, guy manning that RCS spot.

    Running back seems obvious – replace beast mode.

    Is there anywhere else I missed? (Besides SS i think Kam will be back) I feel confident in KPL, Glowinski, Hill, or Lockett replacing Irvin, Sweezy, Rubin, and Kearse next year, I think we’re set there!

    • CA

      I agree largely with this. Irvin will go, needs to be replaced. OT, CB, RB, pass rush.

      • Volume12

        I’m not sold pass rusher is a huge need, I’m sure they’ll take one, just remains to be seen where. As for DT, Hill seems better suited coming off the bench spelling someone.

        I’d have to say OL, HB, DT, CB, and possibly C, but good C’s can be found on day 3. I think Kam will be back as well, but I’d almost expect them to take a SS for depth somewhere. It is interesting that their back-up safeties are all UDFAs.

  15. peter

    I’d agree to the above posters about ol, CB, hb, and dt. It might be nice to draft and develop some d Lin talent for a change. I’m not sure how they replace okung. He not been amazing recently but its so hard to find tackles because they get hyped so hard during the draft process .

    I’m pretty worried about the RB’s in this draft. There’s some good ones but to me no world beaters. I hope Lynch looked rusty just because he didn’t play in preseason. Sure he had power but it seemed like his quicks were off a bit. I know 2017 draft but that may not be a luxury the team has.

    I feel as of now 60% Kam doesn’t play for Seattle again. At this point he’s 7 weeks out of game conditioning regardless of how much working out he does at home. If he reports at week ten there are three outcomes:

    1. Seattle has proved like the patriots that the team is bigger then one player and they are winning without him so what’s the benefit of a rusty player?

    2. Seattle isn’t bigger then one player and the defense turns to a shambolic 34 points a game dumpster fire. Seattle has no chance of making the playoffs and is eyeballing draft picks in the low teens.

    3. Seattle is decidedly mediocre but could be a wild card with Kam activated and playing.

    Realistically if the FO are not talking to him at this time he needs option three at week ten to be the scenario. Option 1 and 2 (Seattle is awesome, Seattle sucks). Won’t help his cause at all.

    • Volume12

      Keep an eye on Illinois DT Jihad Ward. Kid has freakish length and size, fires off the snap, and his back-story is pretty damn inspiring. Oh yeah, Seattle scouts were at Illinois’ training camp this summer.

    • Volume12

      That’s what people said 3 years ago when Eddie Lacy, Gio Bernard, and others came out. And 2 years ago when Jeremy Hill and Carlos Hyde did.

      There’s RBs in this draft that are good enough to bridge the gap for a year, with the ceiling of being a 1/workhorse and a floor of a very solid 2/back-up.

      I still like Alex Collins followed by Derrick Henry. My sleeper is Indiana’s Jordan Howard (UAB transfer), UDFA type is Texas A&M’s Tra Carson, and a wildcard is Kenyan Drake.

      Mid-late rounders are Kenneth Dixon, Florida’s Kelvin Taylor, Elijah McGuire, and Keith Marshall. These guys and Drake are more 2’s.

  16. peter

    It’s why I think Seattle moves to rbbc. Because they’ve been lucky to have a,world beater at that position. Jeremy hill is good/great same with lacy but the jury to me is still waaay out on Hyde and bennard is a nice solid back like turbin. 30 games 1500 yds, 10 tds. Good just not offensive identity material.

    I’m looking forward to seeing Dixon this week against a more stout d. Just like to see how he handles it even if his line gets stood up against kstate.

    Btw I’m actually fine with a rbbc. Its so hard to count on one guy in this league and Seattle has been blessed thus far. If you can find a dynamic player awesome but the reality is that is a pretty hard thing to accomplish

    • Volume12

      I don’t see a problem with a RBBC either, I’m just not sure that’s the way Seattle will go.

      A Bernard or Hyde would be fine for a year until 2017. IMO Seattle will add a guy to split carries with Lynch for a year,and then in 2017 take one of the many stud backs. Then going forward, they have 2 good-great backs, and always an UDFA type of guy as a 3, kind of like Rawls.

      • peter

        Gotcha. I’m projecting negatively that lynch leaves. If your situation happens…he stays and they get a good back UNTIL 2017 would actually be great if it plays that way

  17. CHawk Talker Eric

    1-2watch this weekend: GT DT Adam Gotsis going up against a good ND OL. I think V12 mentioned this guy a while back. Aussie football convert, been playing only a few years. Big and tall – 6’5″ 300lbs – and fast. Plays similar to Marsh in terms of intensity and effort,

    • Volume12

      He’s very intriguing. I’ve yet to watch him play as well.

      GT has a few interesting D-lineman. The mentioned above Gotsis, Jabari Hunt-Days and Francis Kallon from England I believe.

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