Archive for May, 2016

Updated podcast: 23rd May

Monday, May 23rd, 2016

Kenny and I have a final run through the 2016 draft and some of the talking points it provided…

Podcast appearances

Sunday, May 15th, 2016

Thought I’d pass on a couple of recent podcast appearances:

Sea Hawkers Podcast appearance (also includes an interview with Ricardo Lockette’s father):

3000 NFL Mock Draft with Kenny:

2017 draft top-50 watch list

Thursday, May 5th, 2016

So we’re at the end of another draft season. I want to thank everyone who is part of this increasingly active community for making this such a great blog. It’s incredible that as traffic has grown — the comments section has remained a mature place to discuss football matters (even when disagreements occur).

In case you’re interested, between January and the end of the draft we had 18,076,727 hits. We had 606,134 hits during the first round of the draft alone.

This is usually where I take a break. It’s been virtually an article a day since September and it’s time to focus on the day job and family. We’ll get things going again in the summer and begin to preview the new college and NFL season.

In the meantime here’s a list of 50 names to chew on for 2017.

The top ten

These are the players we can say with some degree of certainty will be generating most of the draft headlines this year.

Leonard Fournette (RB, LSU)
Just an incredible football player. He could very easily be the #1 overall pick next year. There are no flaws. An absolute beast.

Myles Garrett (DE, Texas A&M)
Really dynamic edge rusher with speed, bend and technique. Looks like a sure fire top-five pick.

Dalvin Cook (RB, Florida State)
Some possible character issues that’ll need to be looked into — but there’s no denying his talent. Fast, powerful and dynamic. Only a notch below Fournette.

Jarrad Davis (LB, Florida)
Modern day linebacker who jumped off the screen while watching Jonathan Bullard and Keanu Neal. A candidate to go very early.

Cam Robinson (T, Alabama)
Superior to some of the previous Alabama left tackles to enter the league. Ideal size and has a chance to be the top 2017 tackle.

DeShaun Watson (QB, Clemson)
A genuine playmaker with room to continue improving. Elusive and improvises well. Can he take the next step and secure himself as the top QB prospect?

Tim Williams (DE, Alabama)
He could’ve been a top-20 pick this year. Terrific edge rusher with fantastic athleticism. Major talent.

Jonathan Allen (DE, Alabama)
Really productive and physical — has the size to play DE in a 3-4 or 4-3. A nice compliment to Williams for ‘Bama.

Tre’Davious White (CB, LSU)
Would’ve been an early pick this year but decided to return to LSU. Great character, great athlete, good kick returner. Top-15 potential.

Jalen Tabor (CB, Florida)
Better than Vernon Hargreaves who went in the top-12. Has the size (6-1, 191lbs) and length teams crave. Could be another top-15 talent.

Five personal favourites

Players who stood out during the 2014 and 2015 season that are eligible for the 2017 draft.

Jehu Chesson (WR, Michigan)
Great size (6-3, 207lbs) with room to add weight. Owned Vernon Hargreaves in the Citrus Bowl. Returned an opening kick off 96-yard for a TD against Northwestern. Underrated.

Harold Brantley (DT, Missouri)
A car crash kept him out for the 2015 season but he’ll be healthy and ready to return this year. Fantastic three-technique interior rusher.

Cam Sutton (CB, Tennessee)
A stud athlete, Sutton glides around the field. He’s a playmaker, a kick returner and he could’ve gone in round one this year. So fluid.

Christian McCaffrey (RB, Stanford)
A modern day weapon. Ten years ago he wouldn’t go early — in 2017? This is the type of player teams are looking for. Shifty rather than fast.

Adam Bisnowaty (T, Pittsburgh)
It was a bit surprising he didn’t declare this year. Will likely move to guard in the NFL but he could be another Evan Mathis.

Looking to take the next step

The following group are fairly established college players who can really help their stock with a good 2016 season.

JuJu Smith-Schuster (WR, USC)
A few recent USC receivers haven’t lived up to expectations in the NFL. JuJu is bigger and more physical. He’s lost his quarterback though (Cody Kessler).

Royce Freeman (RB, Oregon)
‘Rolls’ Royce isn’t Fournette or Freeman but don’t sleep on his potential. Well sized with good athleticism if not elite speed.

Samaje Perine (RB, Oklahoma)
A different type of back to the ones listed above. Perine is big and physical but has enough speed to make plays.

O.J. Howard (TE, Alabama)
He exploded in the National Championship game after an underwhelming start to his college career. His size/speed combo could secure a first round grade next year.

Eddie Jackson (S, Alabama)
Very agile safety prospect with some decent size (6-0, 194lbs). Scored two touchdowns in 2015 and had three big interception returns.

Nick Chubb (RB, Georgia)
Horrible injury ended his 2015 season and it looked as bad as Jaylon Smith’s. If he returns to 100% — he has a chance to go early. Extremely competitive.

Brad Kaaya (QB, Miami)
Considered a possible school saviour when he was drafted, Kaaya hasn’t really matched the hype. 2016 is his chance to boost a weak looking QB class.

Charles Walker (DT, Oklahoma)
Classic three-technique. Sets up his blocks and wins with a great swim move and quickness. Had six sacks last year.

Ethan Pocic (C, LSU)
Received a second round grade from the committee but chose not to declare this year. Absolutely massive (6-7, 309lbs). Very solid.

Derek Barnett (DE, Tennessee)
Already has 20 sacks in just two seasons with the Vols. Built like a pro already. Big thick frame — a bit like Shaq Lawson.

Adoree Jackson (CB/WR, USC)
Incredible athlete. Crown him 2017’s top combine performer today. Needs to nail down one specific position. Might be better on offense.

Carl Lawson (DE, Auburn)
Finally healthy. Laremy Tunsil said at the combine Lawson was his toughest college opponent. Tough to block but needs to put together a strong (full) season.

Jabrill Peppers (CB, Michigan)
Former big time recruit. Ideal length and athleticism for the position. A modern day prototype at corner.

Desmond King (CB, Iowa)
Very productive in Iowa’s 2015 run but maybe a little overrated in terms of the pro’s. Is he big enough to go early?

Guys to keep an eye on

This is a list of prospects who are moving into starting roles for the first time or could be ready for a breakout season.

Marcus Maye (S, Florida)
Had a big impact in 2015 forcing five fumbles and collecting two interceptions. He’ll take on an even greater role with Keanu Neal now in the NFL.

Denzil Ware (DE, Kentucky)
Lacks elite size (6-2, 255lbs) but just started to put things together at the back end of last season.

David Sharpe (LT, Florida)
Good size and length for the position. Moving into his third season as a starter. Passes the eye test.

Quin Blanding (S, Virginia)
Former top five star recruit who doesn’t get much attention due to the team he plays for. A new coaching staff at Virginia could help change that.

Da’Shawn Hand (DE, Alabama)
Expect Hand to fill the hole created by ‘Bama’s D-line exodus. He could play a similar role to D.J. Pettway and he’s a far superior athlete.

Caleb Brantley (DT, Florida)
Not short on confidence but needs to be more productive. Has the talent and size. Disruptive.

Bo Scarbrough (RB, Alabama)
Massive running back. Could replace Derrick Henry. Dubbed the next big thing at Alabama but we’ll see how his role develops this year.

Jamal Adams (S, LSU)
Receives lofty praise but could do with a consistent season where he makes a number of plays and stands out.

Daeshon Hall (DE, Texas A&M)
Exploded to start 2015 with a four-sack game to start the season vs Arizona State. Looked the part there but needs to be an every-week performer. Has length and size.

Devonte Fields (DE, Louisville)
Always seemed to be near the action when watching Sheldon Rankins tape. Long, fluid athlete. Can he perform with Rankins in the NFL?

Sony Michel (RB, Georgia)
Took over from Nick Chubb and might end up remaining in the starting role to start 2016. Michel, like Chubb, was a big time recruit.

Malachi Dupre (WR, LSU)
Wiry, thin receiver but capable of big plays. Suffers because of the mess at QB. Can he add some weight?

Quincy Wilson (CB, Florida)
Tabor will get the praise but don’t sleep on Wilson — another talented Florida CB off the production line.

Raekwon McMillan (LB, Ohio State)
Wasn’t quite as enamoured by McMillan as some others — but he’ll have to be a playmaker for the Buckeye’s this year with all the talent they’ve lost to the NFL.

Charles Harris (DE, Missouri)
Raw as anything you’ll see but recorded major TFL stats in 2015 and could be the next top-tier EDGE from Mizzou.

Marlon Humphrey (CB, Alabama)
Had three picks in 2015 and his responsibility will expand this year. Could develop into another Nick Saban early round DB.

Chris Wormley (DT, Michigan)
He posted 6.5 sacks last year and like everyone at Michigan will only continue to improve with Jim Harbaugh.

Skai Moore (LB, South Carolina)
Tackle machine and developed into a playmaker for the Gamecocks. Smaller linebacker in the Darron Lee mould.

Zach Cunningham (LB, Vanderbilt)
Rangy tackler with decent size and length. Former four-star recruit who drew attention from several top schools.

Davon Godchaux (DT, LSU)
Has looked really good at times. Stood out in the win against Auburn last year. Certainly capable of drawing NFL attention.

Roderick Johnson (T, Florida State)
Big, long and well proportioned left tackle prospect. Doesn’t play with his hair on fire though. Too passive.

Thoughts on Jarran Reed & Rees Odhiambo

Wednesday, May 4th, 2016

Jarran Reed (DT, Alabama)
Who really expected Reed to last until pick #49? We had him at #16 in our final mock draft to the Detroit Lions.

The Seahawks love to be unconventional and so it proved again this year. While the rest of the NFL sought three-down prospects who can play in a world dominated by nickel defense and high-octane passing offenses — the Seahawks took a fierce run-defender and a blocking tight end (Nick Vannett) before the end of day two.

Having dragged the entire league into a new modern era — the Seahawks seem to be re-establishing the core foundation of what really made them successful. For all the new-age thinking and the many ways they’ve revolutionised the NFL — the Seahawks’ style of play is classical all the way.

Run the ball. Stop the run. Force turnovers. Protect the ball.

If you like tough football dripping with blood and sweat in the trenches — you’ll love Jarran Reed. I watched four games in the last 24 hours and didn’t see a single play where he lost leverage or was shoved into the backfield.

I’ve watched a lot of defensive linemen since starting the blog in 2008. Only Ndamukong Suh had quite this level of toughness up front.

Now let’s get one thing straight here — Reed is not Suh. For such an immovable object at the LOS he’s not the most effective bull rusher. He does have better athleticism than you’d think — and he played some DE as well as lining up inside. He can get into the backfield and chase down a quarterback.

He just isn’t Suh.

And that doesn’t matter.

In Seattle he’s going to be a run defender. I suspect he’ll continue to play some DE mixed in with most of his snaps at DT. He’s an absolute beast vs the run. He locks out brilliantly, controlling one or sometimes two blockers while somehow managing to locate the ball and make the tackle. He had more tackles than any other Alabama defensive lineman in 2014 and 2015 and it’s easy to see why.

Even as he controls the LOS he disengages like a savvy veteran. It’s a thing of beauty. You hardly ever see him linger on a block for more than a split second. When he needs to get clean and go chase the football — he’ll do it. When he finds the ball carrier he can pursue and finish and he’s a powerful form-tackler.

You never see him knocked off balance or on the turf. When he sets position and plants his legs — you’re not going to move him. He took on several double teams vs LSU and Clemson in particular and just maintained the original LOS. There’s no push. On one snap vs Tennessee he held up two blockers allowing linebacker Reggie Ragland a clean route to hammer the running back for a jarring hit.

Watching him next to A’Shawn Robinson is ideal. Robinson is passive and doesn’t play with the same level of sheer intensity. Reed is the tone-setter, the natural leader. His motor never stopped while Robinson was too often happy to stay blocked.

It helped that Reed was used in a heavy rotation and played about 60-70% of the snaps. The Seahawks would be wise to use him in the same way — and they can afford to with their new-found depth up front.

Watch the video below and fast forward to 2:09:10. This is the fourth quarter of the Senior Bowl — a showpiece finale to the more important week of workouts and drills.

Jarran Reed had just played in the National Championship game a couple of weeks earlier and didn’t even need to show up in Mobile (Ryan Kelly the center chose not to attend and compete). In the game he’d already made a big splash — chasing down Carson Wentz on one eye-catching play in the first quarter. Yet even with the game won and with just over five minutes to play — this is the kind of impact he was having:

Snap 1 — 2nd and 15
Reed disengages, chases down Jeff Driskel and tackles him from behind for a short gain. He dances in celebration.

Snap 2 — 3rd and 12
Short throw to Tyler Ervin. Jarran Reed disengages, retreats and again makes the tackle from behind to prevent the first down.

Snap 3 — 4th an 1
Tyler Ervin runs to try and make the first down. Reed escapes his block and helps stop the RB for a loss. Turnover on downs.

The Seahawks value gap discipline and he’s adept here. He does his job first and foremost and then looks for the ball. He’s not a one-gap penetrator but again — the Seahawks don’t need him to be. They’ll get their pass rush from Bennett, Avril, Clemons, Clark and hopefully Jefferson and Hill.

If he can control the LOS and absorb blocks like he did at the college level (that remains to be seen) it’ll create a lot of 1v1 opportunities for the DE working his side of the field plus Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright.

Reed barely has any flaws. He’s just not a prolific pass rusher. The modern NFL has deemed that isn’t valuable enough to go early. The Seahawks saw an opportunity and grabbed it. More power to them.

If they wanted to become the bully again in 2016 — this was the guy to draft. Nobody embodies that identity more than Jarran Reed.

Daniel Jeremiah’s ranking of Reed (#13 overall in the class) was totally justified. The Seahawks stole one here.

Rees Odhiambo (T, Boise State)
I could only find one video for Odhiambo (vs Virginia) so it’s difficult to judge him (the usual minimum is three games). Even so, here’s what I noted…

In terms of agility you can see why the Seahawks’ sport science guys supposedly really value his upside. At 6-4 and 314lbs he moves really well. He has one of the best kick-slides you’ll see in this class and he had no issues at all setting his stance, re-setting, keeping the defender in front and mirroring.

There’s a lot to like about his fit in the ZBS. He’s an athlete for sure.

His upper body power was obvious and looks like another key characteristic the Seahawks valued. He delivered several jolts and he can hand-fight. As a run blocker he stoned a couple of defenders with a really nice piece of hand-use, gaining leverage and finishing.

Combining strength and mobility appears to be a major emphasis at the moment. It’s almost like a return to the ZBS roots albeit with size thrown into the mix (Joey Hunt, a classic ZBS center, is the exception).

On the slightly negative side though there wasn’t a clear edge to Odhimabo’s play and you’d love to see him knocking some helmet’s like we saw from Shon Coleman at Auburn. At tackle he’s a bit of a lunger and he sometimes overextends. Moving him inside will limit some of his weaknesses and bring out his power/agility.

To that extent he’s an exciting project for Tom Cable. He’s big, strong and mobile. Everything you hear about him suggests he’s a quick learner, he’s intelligent and a good worker. There’s no real pressure for him to start immediately (Mark Glowsinki appears to be pencilled in at left guard) and in a years time he could be really pushing to be the long term answer at that position.

Even though he’s better suited inside — like Ifedi he also has some swing-tackle benefits.

The key is health. He’s missed at least four games in each of the last three seasons. Injuries have been an issue for the Seahawks O-line in the past due to the physical nature of the scheme and their running style.

If he can avoid injuries he has a shot. John Schneider suggested this week he could’ve been a top-45 prospect without the health problems. At the very least it’ll be good to see legitimate competition across the O-line this summer — something the Seahawks badly lacked a year ago.

If you missed any of our other reviews so far, here’s the list:

Germain Ifedi
Joey Hunt
Nick Vannett & Alex Collins

At the moment there isn’t any Draft Breakdown tape of Quinton Jefferson and only a highlights video on Youtube. It’s not ideal but it is all-22:

We talked about him briefly in this weeks podcast, plus Kenny Lawler and Zac Brooks.

C.J. Prosise is someone we often discussed during the season and in the early part of the post-season. His role has been pretty much established as the third down back. He has excellent burst to the second level, is capable of taking a run to the house but he also has plenty of experience running routes as a former receiver. Expect him to wind up being the running back in the two minute drill.

We touched on some of the UDFA’s in the podcast but it’s a really good group.

Tyvis Powell has genuine Deone Bucannon potential. Brandin Bryant’s tape is fantastic and matches up with a tremendous pre-draft workout. He might be their most exciting UDFA signing if they can tap into his potential.

Cornerback DeAndre Elliott is someone we identified post-combine as a real candidate for Seattle — he ticks all the boxes in terms of playing style, size, length and range. George Fant could be the next Garry Gilliam while Christian French and Steve Longa will battle with the existing linebackers in one of the more intriguing camp battles.

Tanner McEvoy is 6-5, 231lbs and an amazing athlete. He could be their next Jameson Konz-style project because he doesn’t really have a set position. Montese Overton and David Perkins have a shot to make the team and who would rule out Trevone Boykin landing as a future backup for Russell Wilson?

The sheer depth of numbers and quality from the 2016 draft and UDFA could create a 2013 level of depth for the Seahawks.

I’ll be posting a 2017 top-25 summer watch list tomorrow and then taking a break. If anything happens (a podcast or radio appearance, some breaking news) I’ll make sure it’s posted on the blog.

Final 2016 draft podcast

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016

Some final thoughts on Seattle’s draft with a focus on day three and UDFA. At the end we also look ahead to 2017 and some of the names to monitor during the new college football season.

Jerry Jones’ Seahawks regret & other notes

Monday, May 2nd, 2016

Jerry Jones, Stephen Jones and Jason Garrett debate in Dallas’ war room during the 2016 draft

Jerry Jones wishes he’d given the Seahawks an early third rounder.

In a fantastic piece by Peter King today, Dallas’ desperation to draft Paxton Lynch is revealed for the first time. They viewed him as the twelfth best player in the draft and were determined to make him Tony Romo’s heir.

The Seahawks traded the #26 pick to Denver in return for the #31 and #94 picks. Dallas were offering their second round selection (#34) and a fourth rounder (#101).

That wasn’t going to work.

In order to get Lynch they needed to deal their third rounder (#67). They chose not to.

“If I had to do it all over again? I’d give the three.”
— Jerry Jones

That’s how close the Seahawks were to securing an early third rounder. There’s every chance they would’ve been able to still select Germain Ifedi at #34.

We’ll never know who they would’ve taken at #67 but the following players were still available:

— Jonathan Bullard
— Bronson Kaufusi
— Kenyan Drake
— Shon Coleman
— Le’Raven Clark
— Braxton Miller
— Kyler Fackrell

King details the negotiations between Seattle and Dallas:

Between 9:25 and 9:45, Stephen Jones had three conversations with Seattle. Jones started with a simple swap offer: Seattle would send the 26th pick to Dallas, with Dallas returning a two and four. Next call: Stephen Jones, apparently sensing interest, tried to move it along, offering to add Dallas’ sixth-round pick if Seattle would give back its lower of two seventh-round picks.

Now 9:54. Schneider back on the phone. The call was quick. Stephen Jones got off the phone, turned to Jerry Jones at the board, and as one eyewitness recalled son said to father: “No way with Seattle. Too much. They want our two and three.”

Quiet in the room. “Thoughts?” Stephen Jones said to his father. “Any thoughts?”

They had a minute, maybe, to up the offer to Seattle, which was the only fish on the line. But no new offer was forthcoming. It was a minute later, maybe two, that Denver consummated the deal with Seattle for the ability to pick Lynch. The Denver deal was clearly better. Dallas was offering picks 34 and 101 for the 26th overall pick. Denver was offering picks 31 and 94—and by staying in the first round with its pick, Seattle got to control the player it picked for a fifth year, as opposed to four-year control for a second-round pick. Denver’s offer was superior. Dallas could have trumped Denver only one way—by offering its third, the 67th overall choice.

That was it. If Lynch turned into a star instead of wearing one, it would bug Jones for years to come.

According to King, Jones slept for just three hours on Thursday night and was wide awake by 6am. Seemingly, he was filled with regret:

“When I got up this morning,” Jones said Friday afternoon, “I second-guessed the hell out of myself for not giving the three. I have always paid a premium for a premium. So many times my bargains have let me down.”

It’d be fascinating to know what the Seahawks would’ve done had they acquired the #67 pick. It’s possible, of course, they would’ve drafted the same three players in round three anyway (Prosise, Vennett, Odhiambo). They noted at the end of day three, for example, that they didn’t expect Vennett to last as long as he did.

It also could’ve provided a scenario nobody could’ve even dreamed about before the draft began. Securing Germain Ifedi, Jarran Reed and potentially one of Jonathan Bullard, Bronson Kaufusi or Shon Coleman? That would’ve been really something.

Thoughts on Nick Vannett

I didn’t spend much time at all looking at Vannett pre-draft because I wrongly predicted the Seahawks wouldn’t select a tight end early. That was a major mistake on my behalf.

We often talk about how the Seahawks look for unique or rare traits. Funnily enough that’s kind of what Vannett provides. There are barely any blocking tight ends in college football. He is a rare gem, a collectors item. Someone who was asked to be, in the purest sense, a blocking TE.

I watched three games yesterday including Vannett vs Notre Dame where he really stood out. He blocks well on the move and squared up. He pulls inside and can deliver the key block to spring an inside run. On one snap against Notre Dame he drove Sheldon Day six yards off the LOS. He cut blocks well. I don’t recall a single poorly executed block.

This play in particular stood out. Look how he moves inside, locates and executes the key block that opens the hole for a big touchdown:

This isn’t an easy play for Vannett. He’s pulling to the right, hitting the hole and has to key in on the linebacker who is off-center. Make no mistake — he made this play happen. Ezekiel Elliott finishes — but it’s created by Vannett.

With Thomas Rawls’ burst and ability to break off big chunk gains, Vannett could provide tremendous value here.

Across the three games he proved to be an extremely willing and effective blocker. I think desire is a big thing here. At a time when the whole NFL is looking for the next Gronk or Jimmy Graham, Vannett’s college role could’ve seriously impacted his pro-prospects. In many ways it did — he lasted until the late third and never had a chance to show what he can do as a receiver. Yet he’s out there, doing the job asked of him. He earned this shot.

It’s impossible to judge him as a target for the Seahawks — but that’s unlikely to be his role. With Graham returning and Luke Willson a superior athlete — he might not be asked to do much route running at least initially. He will keep a defense honest though and allow them to be more creative with Graham — using him perhaps as more of a mismatch and receiver instead of an in-line blocker.

On the handful of routes he did run in the three games I saw, he lacked snap especially on the shorter stuff to the sideline or inside. On more than one occasion he seemed to be just going through the motions. He doesn’t exactly fire down the seam and create much of a challenge for the linebackers. He might be most useful in the red zone where his size, length and enormous wingspan can be effective.

Per Zach Whitman, Vannett has the third longest wingspan in the last three drafts at tight end.

Zach Miller’s Seahawks career was a bit underwhelming in terms of receptions considering what he achieved in Oakland. Vannett is likely to have a similar role. A key blocker vs the run and pass — the occasional target but much more effective in the red zone.

It’s not a flashy pick — but it’s typical of the way Seattle approached this draft. Tough, physical, re-establishing their identity in the post-Marshawn era. Vannett might not make any headlines as a rookie — but his impact could be vital.

Thoughts on Alex Collins

We spent most of the 2015 college season talking about Alex Collins. On May 6th last year we named him on our early 2016 watch list and on February 16th we mocked him to Seattle in round two. Everything about his running style screamed Seahawks — physical, hits the hole with a nice burst, doesn’t run out of bounds, finishes runs, pushes the pile and doesn’t go down on contact.

This remind you of anyone?

His combine performance, however, was a major turn off. He ran a 4.59 and managed only 28.5 inches in the vertical jump. He just looked sluggish and went from a possible second or third round target to off our radar completely.

It’s nice to see the Seahawks didn’t feel the same way — because Collins has the potential to be a fantastic value pick. There wasn’t a single Arkansas game I watched where he didn’t have an impact. He first stood out against Texas A&M in 2014 and I wish, with hindsight, I hadn’t been so swayed by his combine.

The competition at running back in camp is going to be intense. Don’t be shocked if Alex Collins emerges as the legit #2 option behind Thomas Rawls. Christine Michael is going to have a fight on his hands.

Drafting for the Cleveland Browns

The Browns are going through yet another big rebuild. Another new front office setup, another new Head Coach. Another shot at trying to make the franchise relevant.

The latest plan involved trading down from #2 to #8 and then down to #15. They acquired a cluster of picks in the middle rounds and in 2017. They stuck to an analytical approach that seemed to include drafting anyone who put up big stat numbers (Corey Coleman, Emmanuel Ogbah, Carl Nassib).

Unfortunately they didn’t really come out with anything that looked like a coherent plan. Building a team is surely more than simply acquiring production? What is their identity?

I went through the draft and considered what I think would’ve been a better plan for the Browns.

First and foremost — they’re in the AFC North. They need physicality on defense. That needs to be the identity, secured with a productive running game. I looked at the players available with each of their picks and took an alternative view:


The only pick that remains the same is Shon Coleman at #76.

Maybe the Browns will be proven right over time? They needed a wide out and Corey Coleman is a playmaker. Hue Jackson is a good enough QB coach to make Cody Kessler an interesting project.

Yet they had a chance to begin building a defense with toughness, athleticism, physicality and grit. Neal at safety, Jack paired with Perry at linebacker with Bullard and Henry anchoring at DE.

Reinforce the O-line with Coleman and Westerman.

This is a rebuild after all — not an attempt to win the Super Bowl in 2016. Put down the foundations for defense and look to next year on offense.

If you missed our review of Joey Hunt (C, TCU) check it out here. Later today Kenny and I will be recording our final podcast of the draft season.

Joey Hunt and the Seahawks’ zone blocking scheme

Sunday, May 1st, 2016

“I don’t know if Pete and I would’ve been able to leave the building if we didn’t come away with Joey.”
John Schneider

“We had to get that done.”
Pete Carroll

Of the ten players drafted by the Seahawks this week, only Joey Hunt was described as a player they simply had to have.

It was the most interesting part of Carroll and Schneider’s day three press conference. It made an undersized sixth round center thoroughly more fascinating than he otherwise would’ve been.

So this felt like the ideal place to start when reviewing Seattle’s draft class.

The Seahawks run a zone blocking scheme and yet the personnel they use is a real mixed bag. Mike Shanahan’s pure use of the scheme focused on agility and often smaller linemen. The Seahawks have started guys like James Carpenter, Justin Britt, Robert Gallery and now Germain Ifedi. All were in the 6-5, 320lbs range more suited to a man blocking scheme.

I haven’t spent any time studying what the Seahawks called in the run game last season and they may already do this — but I wonder with this pick whether they plan to run a ton of outside stretch. It relies on the left tackle and centre working to the second level, while the guards are asked to pin their defenders inside. Both Garry Gilliam and Hunt are athletic enough to do this — and it might be why they’re looking for size at guard and right tackle as a compliment.

This type of running play is also hugely beneficial for a runner like Thomas Rawls. He attacks the LOS so well, reads the hole and explodes. He’s extremely precise and sudden. They might be designing their O-line around Rawls — and possibly C.J. Prosise too (or at least that type of runner/skill set).

The combination of size/agility across the line also possibly counters some of the issues the traditional ZBS has faced against the growing disparity between O-line and D-line in the NFL. You’ve got some bigger maulers in there but still complimented with athleticism/agility at certain positions too. It could also allow the Seahawks to install some man-scheme counters and game plan for specific opponents.

So what about Joey Hunt specifically? I watched two games today (vs Kansas State & Minnesota).

He loves to get to the second level and doesn’t waste any time in doing so. He’s also a master at executing precise double teams — an underrated aspect of the ZBS.

The scheme in its most basic form asks a lineman to determine whether he is covered or uncovered on a given snap. If he’s uncovered, the player is often required to work a double team. Time and time again on tape you see Hunt effectively blocking inside on a double team. It seems like he’s reading the plays correctly, understanding his duty on a snap-by-snap basis and doing what he needs to do. If that’s the case, it arguably makes him relatively prepared to succeed in Seattle’s scheme.

Only this week Pete Carroll mentioned how disappointed he was watching college O-line tape pre-draft. Carroll, Schneider and Tom Cable have talked about how badly prepared offensive linemen are entering the league. If Hunt provides any kind of an edge here in terms of his readiness — that has to be a plus.

On the first snap of the game vs Kansas State Hunt perfectly executes a double team, opening up a huge running lane for a long touchdown. On several occasions in this match-up he opened up running lanes right up the gut.

There are two other big positives on tape. He sets well in protection with an upright posture and he’s very good at the legal cut block (which remains a key feature of the ZBS).

Size could be an issue. There are times when he’s walked back into the pocket. He seems to struggle against long defensive linemen who get into his frame and move him off balance. There were a couple of times where he struggled to plant and hold position and was nearly on the turf. He was handled pretty easily on both occasions and didn’t really have a counter. He’s only 6-2 and 300lbs with 30 1/4 inch arms. He’s pretty adept at squaring up and winning with leverage — but there are times where he’s controlled by bigger, longer and more explosive defensive linemen.

There were times where Hunt showed really good technique with his hands. On a couple of attempted spin moves he just worked the DL and stayed in position. He moves well on his feet and wasn’t beaten once vs Kansas State or Minnesota by a swim/rip.

His main challenger for the job is Patrick Lewis who himself is only 6-1 and 311lbs with 32 1/2 inch arms. It’s kind of peculiar that the Seahawks have looked at so many contrasting body types at centre. Hunt and Lewis are small and lack length and yet Max Unger was around 6-5 and 305lbs. All three lack truly explosive athleticism. Then there’s Kristjan Sokoli — the best athlete to enter the NFL in a generation with size (6-4, 295lbs) and length (34 inch arms).

There isn’t a great deal preventing Hunt from competing early for a starting spot. He’ll battle with Lewis, Sokoli and possibly Will Pericak. That’s a wide open race and let’s not forget — Lewis a year ago didn’t win the job vs Drew Nowak.

It wouldn’t be a total shocker if the Seahawks started a sixth round rookie on their O-line in 2016 — along with possibly two other rookies if Germain Ifedi and Rees Odhiambo hit the ground running.