Month: December 2017 (Page 1 of 3)

Top 50 prospects for the 2018 NFL draft

I’ve posted two pieces today — this article on the draft and the usual instant reaction piece which can be viewed by clicking here.

With the regular season complete, here’s an early look at the top-50 prospects eligible for the 2018 draft (and it’s early, so this is subject to major change).

The Seahawks own the #18 overall pick after finishing 9-7.

The players are listed position-by-position:

Quarterbacks (6)

Sam Darnold (USC)
Josh Rosen (UCLA)
Baker Mayfield (Oklahoma)
Lamar Jackson (Louisville)
Josh Allen (Wyoming)
Drew Lock (Missouri)

It’s a decent crop of quarterbacks. Sam Darnold and Josh Rosen have both declared. It’s possible as many as five quarterbacks go in round one with 3-4 potentially going in the top-15.

Running backs (9)

Saquon Barkley (Penn State)
Damien Harris (Alabama)
Ronald Jones II (USC)
Kerryon Johnson (Auburn)
Nick Chubb (Georgia)
Bryce Love (Stanford)
Royce Freeman (Oregon)
Rashaad Penny (San Diego State)
Sony Michel (Georgia)

It’s a loaded class at running back. Barkley will probably go in the top-five and the rest of the names will likely be gone by the end of round two. Several could go in round one including Harris, Jones II, Chubb and Johnson. Derrius Guice misses out here — I think he’s in the R2-3 range.

Wide receiver (5)

Calvin Ridley (Alabama)
Courtland Sutton (SMU)
James Washington (Oklahoma State)
Anthony Miller (Memphis)
D.J. Moore (Maryland)

It’s a down year in terms of the first round at receiver but there are some interesting mid-to-late round options (eg Javon Wims at Georgia). Ridley isn’t particularly big or fast but he gets open and he’s consistent. Sutton is a big bodied Alshon Jeffrey type. Washington, Miller and Moore could go in the 20-40 range.

Tight end (0)

As things stand, there’s a chance we won’t see a tight end go in the first two rounds of the draft. It’s almost certain there won’t be a first round tight end.

Offensive line (9)

Quenton Nelson (G, Notre Dame)
Billy Price (C/G, Ohio State)
Orlando Brown (T, Oklahoma)
Mike McGlinchey (T, Notre Dame)
Isaiah Wynn (G, Georgia)
Frank Ragnow (C, Arkansas)
Braden Smith (G, Auburn)
Will Hernandez (G, UTEP)
Coleman Shelton (C, Washington)

It’s a decent crop of interior linemen but a weak looking tackle class. Nelson could go in the top-10 and Price isn’t far behind. Brown and McGlinchey are expected to be first round tackles. Expect the rest to go in the late first or second round.

Defensive line (12)

Bradley Chubb (DE, NC State)
Clelin Ferrell (DE, Clemson)
Marcus Davenport (DE, UTSA)
Vita Vea (DT, Washington)
Tim Settle (DT, Virginia Tech)
Christian Wilkins (DT, Clemson)
Taven Bryan (DT, Florida)
Arden Key (DE, LSU)
Derrick Nnadi (DT, Florida State)
Maurice Hurst (DT, Michigan)
Austin Bryant (DE, Clemson)
Ogbonnia Okoronkwo (DE, Oklahoma)

This is a really good looking D-line group. Chubb, Ferrell, Davenport and Vea could go in the top-12. Others will be competing for places in the second half of round one. There’s a bit of everything here — speed, power, length, size.

Linebacker (6)

Tremaine Edmunds (Virginia Tech)
Roquan Smith (Georgia)
Leighton Vander Esch (Boise State)
Rashaan Evans (Alabama)
Lorenzo Carter (LB, Georgia)
Keishawn Bierria (Washington)

Edmunds is the outstanding linebacker prospect and could easily go in the top-15. Smith, Vander Esch, Evans and Carter are equally capable of going in the first frame.

Cornerback (0)

It’s not a good looking cornerback class. Iowa’s Joshua Jackson has major production this year with eight interceptions and a pair of touchdowns. He could sneak into the first round. Ohio State’s Denzel Ward is another possible high pick.

Safety (3)

Minkah Fitzpatrick (Alabama)
Derwin James (Florida State)
Ronnie Harrison (Alabama)

The safety’s are a bit overrated but Fitzpatrick is likely a top-15 pick, James could go between 15-30 and Ronnie Harrison could be a late first or early second round type talent.

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Instant reaction: Seahawks lose, own pick #18

I’ve posted two pieces today. This instant reaction piece and a top-50 players eligible for the 2018 draft article. Check out both.

This was a fitting conclusion to the 2017 season. The end it deserved.

Back-to-back abject home loses to division rivals.

The Seahawks came into the season with hopes of winning the Super Bowl. A playoff berth was a bare minimum. They finish 9-7 and miss the post season for the first time since 2011.

Now the only thing to look forward to is an earlier draft pick. #18 overall.

Seattle again started poorly, a common trend this year. Every single time it puts them on the back foot. This is a team that sets out with the intention of controlling the ball and playing solid defense. When you’re constantly 10, 14, 20 points behind early in the game — how can you hope to achieve this?

Seattle figured out a counter in the second half but gave themselves too much to do. As was the case so many times this season.

Bruce Arians boasted last week that this was essentially Arizona’s home field. Yet again his team dominated both lines of scrimmage. He had the ultimate answer to stymie Russell Wilson. Creative blitzing, perfect contain, keeping Wilson bottled in the pocket lacking an easy out.

This was about more than just the performance of the offense though. The defense struggled early too. Special teams, aside from Tyler Lockett’s return touchdown, were poor again. Jon Ryan, Seattle’s longest serving player and a hero for this team over the years, appears to be nearing the end. Blair Walsh isn’t just done in Seattle. He’s probably done in the NFL.

This has been the least enjoyable season of the Pete Carroll era. In 2010 there was an unlikely playoff appearance and the Beast Quake. 2011 saw the emergence of a team that was ready to compete. 2012-2016 speaks for itself.

Now, this is a major step back. And the future is uncertain.

What happens next?

— Michael Silver, Danny O’Neil, Ian Rapoport and Jay Glazer, all connected journalists, have touted significant change to Seattle’s defense. Silver specifically quoted the terms used by the front office to describe the change: “It’s something the front office has refrained from referring to as a rebuild, instead preferring the word transition.” There’s too much smoke here. Change is inevitable. It has to be after the Arizona and Los Angeles home games.

— Getting younger on defense is inevitable too. The Seahawks are spending an incredible amount on a defense that is now older and increasingly susceptible to injury. They cannot hope to transition without freeing up cap space and that means moving on from some big names. It’ll be a sad day when the Legion of Boom is no longer a feature of the Seattle sports world. Ditto the likes of Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril. But that day appears to be here.

— Will they change the run game coordinator as many have asked for? Tom Cable was yesterday linked to the Colts by Michael Silver. That could be ideal for both parties. It would give Cable another shot at being a Head Coach. It would give the Seahawks a fresh start with their running game after two disappointing seasons. The last few games have shown Seattle struggles to rely on its passing game. It needs balance and a run game to turn to. Wilson is majestic when he’s on top form. When the magic isn’t happening, or teams successfully contain him, we see games like this and Seattle struggles to move the ball especially in the first half. With the defense not what it once was, this is more important than ever.

— The most troubling thing about this home game and the last one vs LA is surely this — how can they come out so flat, so bad and so seemingly unprepared for two vital must-win games against NFC West rivals? They are familiar with these teams. And on both occasions, miserable starts. How does that happen?

— The Seahawks lost four games at home this season. Their record was better on the road. Let that sink in. They were 4-4 at Century Link.

— If there’s a positive for the future, it’s the way Shaq Griffin, Justin Coleman and Byron Maxwell finished the season.

We’ll get into this more down the line. This was not what anyone hoped for or expected in 2017. Unfortunately, this is where we’re at — asking questions like the one below…

How do the Seahawks avoid the Carroll era just fizzling out like the Holmgren era?

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Friday draft notes: Marcus Davenport is legit

— Yesterday I watched three UTSA games to have a closer look at pass rusher Marcus Davenport. He is legit. The Baylor and Texas State games have me convinced he could go in the top-10. He isn’t just another hyped up smaller school prospect. He has a rare skill set. You don’t see many defensive ends with the quickness to close in space, the strength to one-arm bull rush an offensive tackle into the back field and the get-off to dominate with a speed rush. He is sudden and aggressive — playing with a high intensity and a violent edge. Davenport looks like Demarcus Ware in terms of size and athleticism. Ware, who attended Troy, was the #11 pick in 2005. With a good Senior Bowl and combine that’ll be the range Davenport lands too.

If you want to watch the Baylor and Texas State games, here are the links: Baylor, Texas State.

Tony Pauline this week suggested new Browns GM John Dorsey isn’t exactly Josh Rosen’s biggest fan. Another report suggested Dorsey might take Josh Allen with the #1 overall pick. Either way, get ready for an interesting top pick in 2018. Allen, Baker Mayfield or Sam Darnold appear more likely than Rosen (who voiced his disinterest in landing with Cleveland last week).

— A couple of big name safety’s are a little bit overrated. Alabama’s Minkah Fitzpatrick is a decent prospect and could well land in the 10-15 range in round one. He’s a good coverage safety in the short game (red zone) and he’s well respected as a guy who leads by example for ‘Bama. He’s not a physical tone-setter though, not quite as versatile as advertised and isn’t better than Malik Hooker (taken #15 overall a year ago ). Derwin James equally is a bit overhyped. Someone may well take him in the 10-25 range but he has limitations. He’s a box safety and a thumper but not the most agile in space. He hasn’t made a lot of plays this year. He’s more Eric Reid than Eric Berry. The other Alabama safety, Ronnie Harrison, is a good player but not particularly special. He changed the course of the SEC Championship with his big hit on Kerryon Johnson in the Iron Bowl. He could go in the late first or early second. It’s not a particularly exciting safety class this year.

— It’s been a pretty mediocre Bowl season so far with numerous draft prospects opting to sit out and avoid any unnecessary injuries. Oklahoma State vs Virginia Tech was interesting last night, however. A spread offense vs the Hokies’ defensive talent. Tremaine Edmunds flew around the field making plays. He’s a sure tackler in space and just looks like a pro. He stands out. Tim Settle was often left absorbing double teams and didn’t manage any splash plays. Oklahoma State’s James Washington arguably did the most to improve his stock. He’s a smaller, stouter receiver with long arms. He’s dynamic and makes plays downfield. He’ll likely go in the 20-40 range.

— The USC vs Ohio State game is the most intriguing Bowl game so far. My focus will be on one guy specifically — Trojans running back Ronald Jones II.

— I haven’t watched Stanford vs TCU yet. Bryce Love ran for 145 yards (5.6 YPC) and two touchdowns. The combine is going to be big for Love. He’s only listed at 5-10 and 196lbs. That’s Steve Slaton-esque. He would need a big-time performance at that size. Christian McCaffrey ran a 4.48 at the combine this year and Love ran a similar time at the SPARQ Nike Combine. The thing is, McCaffrey had a sensational workout during the catching drills and an explosive testing performance. Love is unlikely to wow people with his slot-receiver skills so he’ll need to run and jump well to allay some of the size issues. A safe projection right now is early second round.

— Pete Carroll’s comments after the Rams debacle (‘they were faster than us’) remain a key point I think. The Seahawks have been the bigger, faster, stronger team for many years. And now they’re not. If they do make some big changes to the roster to get younger — expect a big focus on speed.

— If you missed my piece on the top prospects eligible for the draft, check it out.

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Strength of the draft & best ten players for 2018

Tremaine Edmunds is without doubt one of the best players eligible for the 2018 draft

What is the strength of the 2018 draft?

It’s still early but increasingly it’s looking like the following positions:

Defensive front seven
Running back

All three areas contain depth and first round talent.

There are numerous potential first round picks at defensive line and linebacker. Bradley Chubb could/should be the first defensive player drafted. Clelin Ferrell and Vita Vea won’t last long either. Tim Settle, if he declares, is another big talent. The depth is significant too with Christian Wilkins, Taven Bryan, Derrick Nnadi, Maurice Hurst, Harrison Phillips and Da’Ron Payne all possible top-50 types.

The depth at DE/EDGE isn’t quite as good but there are a few names that jump out including Austin Bryant and Marcus Davenport. Arden Key is talented but with baggage while Harold Landry is quick but had a fairly disappointing season.

The linebacker group is highlighted by Virginia Tech’s brilliant Tremaine Edmunds. He is legitimately one of the best players eligible for 2018. He should be the first linebacker taken if he declares with Leighton Vander Esch, Roquan Smith, Rashaan Evans and T.J. Edwards all possible top-40 picks.

It could be a glorious crop of running backs. Saquon Barkley is the headliner but Ronald Jones II, Damien Harris, Kerryon Johnson and Bryce Love could find a home in round one. Royce Freeman might not be a great fit in Seattle’s scheme but he’s worth a second round pick. The sky’s the limit for Nick Chubb if he tests well at the combine and checks out medically.

Then you run down the depth. Derrius Guice is limited physically and possibly won’t go as early as some are projecting — but there’ll come a point where he’s a value pick. Rashaad Penny, Sony Michel, Bo Scarborough, Kalen Ballage, Kamryn Pettway and others provide the depth.

Quarterback likely won’t be a position the Seahawks target early but if Sam Darnold declares there’s a realistic prospect of five QB’s going in round one. Josh Rosen, Baker Mayfield, Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson and Drew Lock have a chance while Mason Rudolph also has his backers. Luke Falk ended the season disappointingly but will be worth a shot in the middle rounds. Auburn’s Jarrett Stidham could be a wildcard and several teams will be interested in trying to develop Memphis’ Riley Ferguson.

The weaker positions appear to be offensive tackle, secondary and tight end. It’s possible no cornerbacks will be graded in the first round — unusual for such an important position. It’s also possible no tight ends will be drafted in the first two rounds. There are long standing issues with offensive tackles and while two or three could go in round one — it’s not a great class for the position.

Below are my ten best prospects eligible for the 2018 draft as of December 27th. I haven’t included quarterbacks because Seattle are one of the few teams with a Championship-winning franchise QB:

1. Saquon Barkley (RB, Penn State)
An incredible talent. Big, fast, versatile, great character, kick return skills. One way or another Barkley’s going to impact a game. He scored 116.79 in SPARQ at the Nike combine in 2014. He could be the #1 overall pick, easily. The only thing to keep an eye on is his speed. He ran a 4.63 in 2014 at 208lbs. He looks faster but it won’t be too surprising if he proves to be more sudden than a sprinter.

2. Quenton Nelson (G, Notre Dame)
Possibly as good a pure guard prospect as you’ll see entering the league. He has great size at 6-5 and 330lbs but moves well. He pulls nicely, he loves to get to the second level, he plays with an edge and he’s physical. Nelson’s got it all. It’s very difficult to identify flaws in his game. He deserves to go in the top-10.

3. Bradley Chubb (DE, NC State)
He’s the cousin of Georgia’s Nick Chubb. Nick famously had a sensational SPARQ combine, scoring an elite 143.91. Bradley is basically the 6-4, 275lbs version. He’s a difference-maker with the kind of charismatic personality often reserved for quality defensive linemen. He’s a great edge rusher but he’s strong with the ideal size to set the edge vs the run. Chubb has an incredible 25 TFL’s in 2017, having recorded 21.5 last year.

4. Clelin Ferrell (DE, Clemson)
Listed at 6-5 and 260lbs, Ferrell looks and plays big. He’s an inside-out rusher with the ability to attack from different positions. He could be the best defensive lineman in the class. It’ll be interesting to get official weight and height numbers to see how he compares athletically to the other top defensive linemen. He does play in a star-studded Clemson front. It’s been suggested he could end up as a three-technique. Ferrell has 17 TFL’s in 2017.

5. Vita Vea (DT, Washington)
I don’t think you can fully appreciate Vea until you’ve seen him live. When you see a 6-5, 340lbs defensive lineman sprinting to the sideline, roaming the field and chasing down runners — it’s an incredible sight. Vea could be Haloti Ngata. He can rush the passer, hold the point and anchor and move around with unreal mobility for his size. Despite suggestions to the contrary, I’ve seen little evidence of him taking snaps off. He plays very hard and he’s immensely powerful.

6. Tremaine Edmunds (LB, Virginia Tech)
There are things Edmunds can work on if he starts at middle linebacker at the next level. Sometimes he misreads the play, or he’s slightly out of position. The thing is, I wouldn’t keep him at middle linebacker. He’s 6-5 and 236lbs, flies around the field, apparently is set to run in the 4.5 range and push 40 inches in the vertical. He’s a Bruce Irvin. He can play any spot at linebacker and rush the edge. His run defense is excellent in short yardage situations, he’s super quick and constantly plays in attack mode. Fantastic prospect.

7. Tim Settle (DT, Virginia Tech)
When you know to look for Settle and Edmunds, it’s fun to watch Virginia Tech’s defense. One moment Edmunds appears from nowhere to close on a running back or receiver in space to make an open-field tackle. The next there’s this 6-3, 328lbs monster moving like a 290lber rushing the interior and beating blockers with quickness and a swim move. He had 12.5 TFL’s in 2017 which is unusual for a player this big. Settle is extremely underrated.

8. Ronald Jones II (RB, USC)
Some players just have ‘it’. It’s hard to describe but when you watch skill players on offense, the good ones just have a star quality sometimes. Odell Beckham Junior had it. Ezekiel Elliott had it. Mike Evans had it. Ronald Jones II has it. He plays with fantastic physicality despite weighing in the 200-210lbs range and will often break tackles and gain extra yardage. He’s also a home-run hitter if he finds a crease or the edge. The comparisons to Jamaal Charles are fair and Jones II just carries himself like a future stud. Look at the picture below. Jones II scores a touchdown on this play:

9. Damien Harris (RB, Alabama)
Harris is pretty close to the complete back. He’s a good size (5-11, 221lbs), he was a 126.93 SPARQ athlete at the Nike combine (where he ran a 4.48), he is a home-run hitter in the open field but also plays with great physicality. Harris pass-protects like the season is on the line every snap. There’s a legit feeling he might not declare for the draft. This year he averaged 8.2 YPC. Here’s a list of Alabama’s famous running backs over the years and their YPC’s:

Mark Ingram 2009 (Heisman winner) — 6.1 YPC
Mark Ingram 2010 — 5.5 YPC
Trent Richardson 2009 — 6.3 YPC
Trent Richardson 2010 — 5.9 YPC
Eddie Lacy 2012 — 6.5 YPC
T.J. Yeldon 2012 — 6.3 YPC
T.J. Yeldon 2013 — 6.0 YPC
T.J. Yeldon 2014 — 5.0 YPC
Derrick Henry 2014 — 5.8 YPC
Derrick Henry 2015 (Heisman winner) — 5.6 YPC
Bo Scarborough 2016 — 6.5 YPC
Bo Scarborough 2017 — 4.6 YPC
Damien Harris 2016 — 7.2 YPC
Damien Harris 2017 — 8.2 YPC

10. Billy Price (C, Ohio State)
Urban Meyer raves about Price. It’s worth remembering that Meyer has coached great interior O-line talent, including both Pouncey brothers. Price is in that mould. He can play guard or center and he combines edge, physicality and footwork to dominate up front. He’s really tough and plays like his hair’s on fire. Very active, very aggressive with the mobility to move to the second level. The type of player who helps set the tone and settles into the NFL quickly. He’s not too far behind Quenton Nelson.

#11 would be UTSA’s Marcus Davenport.

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There’s No Magic Bullet for the Seahawks

There may be no one solution for the Seahawks except the long, hard slog of slowly getting better.

That is not a statement you want to read.

It’s disheartening.


Ambiguous and without a fruition date.

And it feels like letting the coaching staff off the hook – something nobody wanted to hear as Seattle was shellacked by the Rams, their playoff hopes (and the credibility of some idiot’s Super Bowl predictions) diminished to a sliver.

But it may be true.

I have a rule: our willingness to accept an explanation for our team’s problems varies directly with the perceived ease of fixing it. In other words, the simpler a perceived fix, the more interested we’ll be in pointing fingers there.

At the top of our popular “blame list”, therefore, usually sits Seattle’s coaching staff and offensive line. Perhaps that’s not entirely for no reason. The narrative of late is that Pete Carroll has lost the team, and the Jaguars and Rams losses have done little to stem the tide. Pete’s philosophies have downsides, like any philosophy does, and they are on full display at the moment. Yet the fact that Seattle’s coaching staff and offensive line are perceived by fans as being easiest to replace, doubtless plays a role in their status as Least Popular Elements of the Seahawks.

At the bottom of the blame list, typically, are injuries, execution, and Russell Wilson.

Not because they haven’t played a role, but because they’re harder to do anything about.

Nobody wants to hear the idea, especially, that Russell Wilson is partially responsible for the team’s struggles. That leads inevitably to the question of whether Wilson might need to be replaced (even though he doesn’t), and even the hint of going back to the awful, dark, years-long stagger of searching for a new franchise quarterback is repellent. Even in an ice-cold objective, by-the-numbers breakdown of Wilson’s play, all some folks hear is “Wilson will not lead us to another Super Bowl”, even if that’s the opposite of what’s being said. So we stick to the “easier” ideas, like switching out coaches (even though doing so isn’t necessarily easier).

I’m talking, of course, about scapegoat mentality. It plays a great role in subconsciously guiding our pointed fingers.

But it isn’t productive to ignore the myriad of factors that have played into Seattle’s almost-failed season.

1. Drops

How many drives have ended with brutal third-down drops by Seattle receivers? Jimmy Graham, touchdown machine that he became for a while, is responsible for seven or eight this year. C.J. Prosise and Tanner McEvoy shared two each in the loss to the Packers. Paul Richardson had three in a game. It doesn’t seem so bad until you learn to equate a drop with a stalled drive. When you do that, our offensive struggles this year take on a different character.

2. Injuries

Old? Overpaid? Over-the-hill?

How about injured?

It’s amazing the amount of talk about how the game has passed by a Legion of Boom that isn’t even on the field. People say Kam Chancellor has lost a step, but watch them pine for his return when he’s out for a few weeks. People jaw about how Richard Sherman has been giving up more in-breaking routes. Bet they want him back after watching quarterbacks no longer afraid to throw at Byron Maxwell and Shaquill Griffin (decent as they’ve been).

Injury also robbed Seattle of the most potent piece of Pete Carroll’s philosophy – the running game. Chris Carson won a 7-way starting competition in the preseason the same way Wilson won his back in 2012 – decisively. He was dynamic, complete, and the first sign of a true workhorse since Beastmode left town. 4.2 YPC before his injury. If anything was supposed to break this offense open, it was him.

And nobody talks about his injury as the top contributor that it is. Given the comical flop of our running game this year, could there have been a bigger contributor? How can you win winter games, or close, brutal, official-sabotaged contests, with no running game at all?

It isn’t satisfying, promising, or heartening to describe 2017 as an injury year. But there’s a very good case that that’s exactly what it is. Add K.J. Wright and Bobby Wagner to that equation against the Rams. You cannot overestimate the impact of these injuries piling on.

3. Russell Wilson

Russell Wilson is still a fantastic and special player, still holds the potential to win more Super Bowls, and should not be challenged as the franchise quarterback.

I’m getting that out into the open because, again, Wilson cannot be criticized without some people inevitably and instinctively worrying that his head is being called for. It’s not.

But Wilson absolutely deserves some criticism for his play since his master-class against the Eagles. Pete Carroll said as much today to Mike Salk, and Wilson himself has never been one to shy away from his culpability.

Slowly emerging into the blogosphere – very slowly, though a few national commentators have been on this point for years – is discussion of Wilson’s play against man coverage and Cover-4 schemes. It really shouldn’t be news that Wilson doesn’t consistently throw near coverage. Jacksonville and Los Angeles ran Cover-4 schemes against Wilson. Washington also played heavy man. So did Tampa last year. While the popular narrative is that these were all “comedown” losses for Seattle following exhausting emotional victories, they have one other thing in common: those opponents had the speed and quality at DB to discourage the conservative Wilson from a lot of passes and win the contested throws he did attempt. Those discouraged passes end up in the pressures-allowed and sacks-allowed column. It’s going to be worth examining (and I hope to get to it in the offseason) whether teams are actually regarding their secondary, not their front seven, as the key to defeating Wilson – especially a Wilson without a running game.

Again…none of this is satisfying right now.

Nobody wants to read that drops, injuries, Wilson, the offensive line, the lack of a running game, Pete Carroll’s philosophy, miscalculated trades, and simple on-field errors have all played a role in Seattle’s dropoff from their 2014 xenith.

Because there’s no fixing all that in one game.

There may be no one solution for the Seahawks except the long, hard slog of slowly getting better.

And while it’s a slog for us as well, it might be the truest explanation for the current state of the Seahawks.

Thoughts on the Earl Thomas ‘come get me’ comments

Merry Christmas to everyone!

In case you missed this after the Dallas game, sports media has given a lot of attention to some comments from Earl Thomas directly to the Cowboys Head Coach Jason Garrett:

Personally I think it’s a big fuss over nothing.

Mike Silver’s article a week ago speculated that Thomas’ time in Seattle could soon come to an end:

Thomas, who turns 29 in May, suffered a hamstring injury in a late-October victory over the Houston Texans and missed the next two games. His contract runs through the 2018 season, and sources familiar with the All-Pro safety’s mindset believe he may seek a raise that will put him at or above the $13 million annual average commanded by Chiefs counterpart Eric Berry, who signed a six-year extension in February.

The Seahawks could sign Thomas to a long-term deal, but if they balk and anticipate a potential holdout, they conceivably might look to trade him after the season.

Part of me wonders if Earl has read this piece and anticipates change. He’s a player who says what he thinks. He doesn’t hold back.

I can’t find the direct quote but I remember when he signed his current contract in 2014. He made reference to Seattle’s ability to start late round cornerbacks. He said it was possible because of ’29’.

It was bold and brash and kind of true.

Last year he tweeted he was contemplating retirement. Only last week he was getting into a minor dispute with Bobby Wagner.

Earl is unique.

This is Seahawks football in the Pete Carroll era. The drama is part of the show.

The 2014 season was dominated by talk about Marshawn Lynch’s future. They had to trade Percy Harvin. Richard Sherman was in the news every week during the last off-season with his future in question. Kam Chancellor held out in 2015.

Seattle has accumulated a collection of gritty, sometimes angry, passionate and outspoken players. This is going to happen.

Earl grew up a Cowboys fan and initiated what he believed to be a private conversation. I don’t blame him for one day wanting to play for the team he probably dreamed of playing for.

If he read Silver’s piece and feels like he might be available soon — I equally don’t fault him for thinking about what his next move might be. At the very least he’s a year away from being a free agent. One way or another something has to give in the next 12 months. Either he’s traded, he’s a free agent or Seattle re-signs him.

I don’t see this as disrespectful. Stuff like this probably happens a lot, we just don’t see it.

Personally I wouldn’t deal Thomas for anything other than a kings ransom. He’s a future Hall-of-Fame player. There are clearly other good safety’s in the NFL — there just isn’t anyone quite like Thomas.

Yes he’s 28-years-old now. The Seahawks parted with a first round pick for Jimmy Graham when he was 29. A first round pick is the bare minimum Seattle should be looking for.

For starters they’d need an opportunity to draft another defensive stud. Virginia Tech duo Tremaine Edmunds and Tim Settle are really good. Bradley Chubb, Vita Vea, Clelin Ferrell. There are others, especially in the front seven. A second rounder won’t get one of the top defensive prospects. Neither will a pick in the late 20’s. This has to be a top-25 type of deal.

Seattle stood tall over Sherman earlier this year. You would imagine they’d do the same with Thomas. They won’t give him away. Whether they’d receive an offer akin to Thomas’ value, however, is debatable. So a trade feels improbable.

But this all seems like a storm in a tea cup anyway. Thomas is just as likely to sign a new contract in Seattle, finish his career with the Seahawks and go down as one of the top players to ever play for the franchise as he is to suddenly land in Dallas.

If he signs a new contract — or simply continues to ball out for Seattle — nobody will be dwelling on a very brief conversation with Jason Garrett.

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Instant reaction: Seahawks win, Seahawks alive

After a week of talk ranging from trading half the team, firing multiple coaches and starting afresh, this was the perfect response to the worst performance of the Pete Carroll era.

The Seahawks went to Dallas on Christmas Eve, ended the Cowboys season and extended their own.

The reaction to last week was going to be fascinating. Do they fold? Do they come out fighting?

There’s absolutely no doubt which option they chose.

Now they’re a win against Arizona and a victory for the Panthers over the Falcons from making the post season. They were a late Cam Newton touchdown away from just needing to win next week to be in the playoffs.

It might be a step too far. But they have a chance. And if they get in, you just never know. This has been a strange season.

They might even get another shot at the Rams.

Back to today though. Immediately after the game I put out a tweet throwing shade on the supposed demise of Pete Carroll’s team. I had this response from a Seahawks fan:

“They didn’t play well Rob”

I couldn’t disagree more.

This was supposed to be Ezekiel Elliott’s moment. He was going to run for 200 yards, he told Eric Dickerson. The Cowboys had won three in a row. They were the hot team. They were going to be the ones sneaking into the playoffs.

Seattle’s defense rejected that notion, tore it up and tossed it away.

Elliott ran for 97 yards on 24 carries. That’s just over four yards per carry.

He didn’t score a touchdown.

They forced Dak Prescott to provide balance by playing classic Seahawks football. Bend but don’t break, physical, hard hitting. Prescott was hammered on multiple occasions, Earl Thomas notably delivered a jarring hit on Elliott.

This was a throwback performance. Classic Carroll defense.

The offense wasn’t great. But here’s the thing — when they needed a drive, they delivered. Russell Wilson turned K.J. Wright’s interception into a vital touchdown to Doug Baldwin. A nine point lead to essentially seal the win.

The Seahawks converted all three of their turnovers into touchdowns. The Justin Coleman pick six speaks for itself — but Wilson also found Jimmy Graham for his tenth touchdown of the season after Byron Maxwell’s fumble.

Brilliant offense? No.

Clinical? Certainly.

Did Dallas make a host of mistakes? Sure. That just makes the win even more fun. There’s something particularly satisfying about ending the Cowboys’ season in their own backyard. Jerry Jones’ face was a picture at the end.

Hopefully he’ll get a new party bus or something tomorrow to make up for it.

One more game to go. And now — it’s a game that actually might matter.

That’ll do for Christmas this year.

Have a great time everyone.

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Speed on defense & thoughts on Marcus Davenport

UTSA’s Marcus Davenport appears to have freakish athleticism

Here’s a quote from Pete Carroll, speaking to Brock & Salk on 710 ESPN, the day after the Rams hammering:

“It seemed like they were faster than us, and that’s what we like to pride ourselves on, that we play faster than the teams that we play.”

It’s probably something to remember when the off-season begins.

The Seahawks haven’t looked particularly fast on defense this year. Even when healthy, the game against Tennessee sticks in the mind. They had some really tough, physical performances. Early in the year they propped up a stalling offense. They’ve had some clunkers too. And Carroll’s point on speed was an interesting one.

There are exceptions of course. Earl Thomas and Bobby Wagner clearly are very fast for the two positions they play. Overall though?

If the Seahawks do look to make significant changes to the defense in the off-season, raw speed is likely to be at the forefront of their thinking. Carroll stated ‘speed in the front seven’ as a key need before the 2012 draft. They selected Bruce Irvin and Bobby Wagner with their first two picks. Irvin ran a 4.50 at 245lbs and Wagner a 4.45 at 241lbs.

That could be the starting point for a reshaping of the defense. Speed. Whether that’s in the front seven or at defensive back. The Seahawks set out to be bigger, faster and stronger. They might be about to focus on the ‘faster’ part in the 2018 off-season.

On that note, I want to spend today’s piece looking at Marcus Davenport. He’s a small school prospect at UTSA. He received attention from draft writers during the season — with some even including him in first round projections.

Over the years I haven’t written a lot about small school prospects. Tape access is limited. It’s also very difficult to get a feel for their potential playing a lower level of competition.

It really comes down to whether they absolutely dominate at the level. They need to if you’re going to imagine the huge jump to the NFL.

There are quarterback success stories. Carson Wentz is a recent example. Joe Flacco played at Delaware. Tony Romo at Eastern Illinois. Akiem Hicks, the brilliant defensive lineman at Chicago, attended Regina in Canada.

Generally though it seems like small school prospects get talked about a lot but many fail to get anywhere near the level of the names above. Davenport, however, might have a shot.

He will clearly benefit from a pro-weight training regime. He looks like he can actually become more physically impressive — which is saying something considering his size.

Tony Pauline wrote this about Davenport in October:

If your team needs a pass rusher in the offseason, remember the name Marcus Davenport. Entering the year graded as a priority free agent, Davenport has made scouts take notice with his dominant 2017 campaign. Six games into the season he’s recorded 32 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks and has also broken up four passes. During the weekend victory over Rice, he led UTSA with 11 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss and two sacks. Measuring in over 6-foot-5 and 255 pounds, Davenport plays quick, explosive football and makes plays behind the line of scrimmage as well as out in space. Versatility is key and Davenport offers potential as a one-gap defensive end or a 3-4 outside linebacker. I would expect him to receive an invitation to a January All-Star game then attend the combine and eventually end up in the early part of the draft’s final day.

He did receive an invite to the Senior Bowl. He will be a fascinating player to observe in Mobile.

I’m going to go through some clips here. Firstly though, a quick point. Davenport is going to look like peak Jadeveon Clowney in some of these videos. He looks very impressive. He’s an intriguing prospect. So was Margus Hunt at SMU, drafted in the second round in 2013. He measured at 6-8 and 295lbs. His college tape, at times, was ridiculous. He looked like a monster. He’s had a pretty average NFL career though.

That doesn’t mean Davenport faces the same fate. That’s not the point I’m making. It’s merely that sometimes these devastating clips look amazing — but the next level is a giant leap.

Now let’s look at why Davenport is freakishly good:

There are not many defensive ends with Davenport’s size and this level of mobility in space. He chases the ball carrier down like a defensive back and does just enough to force him out of bounds for a huge loss.

The clip lists him at 6-7 and 255lbs. He’s actually 6-5 and 254lbs. You don’t see many draft prospects with that level of mobility and agility at that size.

Here’s another example:

Look at him work to the sideline. The quarterback isn’t the best athlete but Davenport barely breaks into a sweat controlling his movement and delivering a sledgehammer hit.

At times UTSA pretty much used him as a roaming/blitzing linebacker. He doesn’t just work well laterally, his closing burst is exceptional too:

On this evidence you’d expect a great 10-yard split.

One of the plays in the video above shows him lining up at DE and sprinting to cover the running back in the flat. Small school opponent or not — that’s impressive.

How is he as an EDGE rusher? Violent:

Look at his bend for the size, the explosion off the snap, the ability to just overpower blockers and hammer the quarterback. This is where you want to see him dominate. He’s facing inferior blockers. And Davenport takes their lunch money.

Watch him 17 seconds into this video. Not a great idea trying to block him with a running back:

Why not try a double team? In fairness this is a terribly executed double but Davenport just barges his way through, combining power and speed:

Here’s a full game of his snaps against North Texas:

If the Seahawks do set out to get younger and faster on defense, switching the identity of the franchise in the process, I’m not sure they’ll go after a small school D-liner to launch the re-tool. Davenport might be the type of player who needs time to deliver on his athletic potential.

Having said that, let’s see how he gets on at the combine. There’s a lot of potential and a lot to like. Davenport’s mobility and size isn’t common and he can clearly feature in a number of different roles.

If they want bigger, faster, stronger — he could be an option. As noted earlier, size and particularly speed could easily be the focus on defense in the off-season.

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Leighton Vander Esch declares for the draft

Anyone who watched the Las Vegas Bowl would’ve noticed #38 for Boise State. Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch forced a fumble sprinting to the left sideline to demolish a WR screen, had a sack blitzing up the middle and recorded three TFL’s and 12 total tackles.

Now he’s turning pro.

It had been believed he would return to Boise State but today he declared for the 2018 draft:

“It has been the honor of my life to play for the team I always grew up following. I would have given anything to have had this opportunity. Because my love for Boise State runs so deep, this was the most difficult decision of my life. I feel now is the best time for me to pursue another childhood dream – playing in the National Football League.”

He was named MWC defensive player of the year for 2017, recording 141 tackles. He’s 6-4 and 240lbs and according to Tony Pauline, is set to be an early round pick:

Scouts believe Vander Esch is the player people are sleeping on at the linebacker position, as many have compared him to former NFL star Brian Urlacher — another Mountain West product. There is a belief Vander Esch could end up sliding into the bottom half of Round 1. As we reported back in November, the Week 11 riser was described by many in the scouting community as a special player at the next level.

Brian Urlacher is quite a complimetary comparison. He was the ninth overall pick in 2000, running a 4.57 at 258lbs and a 10-2 broad jump. Pauline thinks Vander Esch could post similar numbers:

I’m told Vander Esch could run as fast as 4.6s in the 40 at the combine and post a vertical jump near 37 inches. On film Vander Esch is everything an NFL team wants in a starting linebacker. He’s tough, instinctive and versatile and can stay on the field for any situation.

Considering how important this draft could be for the Seahawks, the more quality prospects that declare the better. They only have one pick currently in the first three rounds and need one of two things:

1. To draft an impact player in round one
2. Attractive trade down options to make up for the lost picks

In our mock draft published this week we suggested an impact defensive player or a quality running back was attainable from this draft class. Players declaring that fit either bill can only be good news.

Whether Vander Esch is an option for the Seahawks is debatable. He looks like a classic middle linebacker. He appears to have the range to play outside too — but this is one of the positions where the Seahawks have a legit MVP candidate. Tremaine Edmunds is a little different because he can roll down to the EDGE and play some LEO. Vander Esch is more of a Bobby Wagner type linebacker.

Still, he’s a fun player to watch and a nice addition to the 2018 draft class.

This is looking like an increasingly strong class for linebackers. It’ll be interesting to see how the Seahawks view the group. Pete Carroll talked a year ago about adding to the position. They didn’t draft a linebacker and instead brought in veterans on one-year contracts.

Aside from Vander Esch, we’ve talked about Edmunds at Virginia Tech and Roquan Smith at Georgia. Wisconsin’s T.J. Edwards might not tear up the combine but he’s a really active, tough, physical player. Eventually I’ll get around to watching Uchenna Nwosu at USC (word on the street is his stock will depend on his forty) and Texas’ Malik Jefferson.

Today I’ve been watching a bit of Rashaan Evans. He is very intriguing. Take a look:

I’m going to spend the rest of today watching more of Evans.

Here’s an article from earlier this year detailing what the Seahawks have looked for in a linebacker previously.

There’s also a group of defensive lineman and EDGE types I want to delve into (Sam Hubbard, Marcus Davenport, Lorenzo Carter). This is on top of the continued focus on the running back class.

Whoever the Seahawks bring in during the off-season, the modus operandi has to be to regain the physical edge Seattle had from 2011 onwards. They were big, strong and beat opponents up. They haven’t been that team since 2014. That’s the type of player I think we’ll end up focusing on for the defense. A younger defense and improved running game could easily be the off-season plan.

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The sky is not falling: Off-season plan & new mock draft

Three days on, I’ve settled on a conclusion for the 42-7 Rams hammering.

It was a nightmarish day, uncharacteristic of this team under Pete Carroll. It does hint towards some changes that need to happen. It’s also a sign that they can’t rely on some of their ageing stars anymore.

I also thinks it’s worth making a few points. This was a perfect storm for the Rams. They were healthy and hungry, the Seahawks banged up across the board and missing a colossal number of players. Seattle contrived to do everything wrong on all three sides of the ball. Two weeks ago the Seahawks handled the NFC leading Philadelphia Eagles. A few weeks ago a much healthier and in-tune Seahawks team beat the Rams in LA. They forced five turnovers and could’ve (should’ve) won more handsomely than they did.

When the two teams meet next year at Century Link — even while acknowledging the Rams are a greatly improved team — it will be a contest. That’s assuming the Seahawks don’t give LA fantastic starting field position for every possession, lose multiple key starters and lay an egg on all three sides of the ball again.

It was a highly embarrassing loss. Yet not quite as cataclysmic, in my opinion, as we thought during and immediately after the game.

Here is what I believe the Seahawks need to do to get back on track in 2018 — because the playoffs are now highly unlikely this season.

Re-establish Pete Carroll’s vision

Tough defense and a big-time running game. It’s not as difficult as it sounds. They have talent on the D-line, at linebacker and in the secondary. They need more talent to aid the running game.

They will have some cap room. Not tons, but some.

They probably won’t get back to their best immediately. It might take two off-seasons. But it’s achievable.

This is how I would plan to do things right now:

1. Prioritise the free agents
Who do you need moving forward? Who best helps you achieve your desired identity? Sheldon Richardson might be costly but he’s also most likely to help you achieve a tough, physical defense that defends the run very well. We’ll see how they feel about Luke Joeckel but they might think consistency up front is worth more than a further change. Either way — identify who best helps achieve this strict identity and don’t think twice about releasing the players who don’t fit.

2. Be smart in free agency
Bradley McDougald was a good move. In the past they’ve used the veteran market to their advantage. The Chris Clemons trade. The value additions of Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril. They didn’t hit a home run in free agency a year ago but they’ve done it in the past. They’re capable. We know that. If possible, add a blocking tight end and make the moves that will help establish the running game.

3. Target two key areas in the draft
For me, looking at this class, a solid plan would be to draft either the best defensive player in round one or the best running back. Adding a defender who can be part of the next core would be a huge boost for the future and help the defense reload in 2018. There is enough defensive talent in this draft (see below) to feel good about that opportunity. Failing that, add one of the really good running backs to inject talent at that position and finally get someone you trust and want to feature at RB. It’s unfortunate they don’t have their second round pick to be able to aggressively target these two areas. Maybe they can get some picks back?

4. Get the late round magic working again
Kam Chancellor, Richard Sherman, K.J Wright. Core players added between rounds 4-7. They’ve had a stretch now without a major defensive hit in that range. Time to put that right. Again, we know they can do it.

5. Add talent to the staff and/or front office
In the past they’ve used former GM’s to enhance the front office. That’s not to suggest John Schneider is incapable. Some of the criticism levelled at Schneider is silly. But they’ve had Scot McCloughan and Jeff Ireland on board in the past. Is there someone of that ilk they can bring in to get all hands on deck for this important draft? And are there a couple of established coaches out there willing to come in and add to the staff? I don’t believe firing coordinators is necessarily the answer. I think adding even more knowledge, experience and quality could be. I’d also look at the college ranks to see if there’s anyone to poach. For example — Washington State defensive coordinator Alex Grinch (sorry Coug fans). Sell him the idea of being the next Dan Quinn and make it worth his while in terms of salary. Dan Quinn went from Seattle’s D-line coach to Florida’s defensive coordinator, then in charge of Seattle’s defense before becoming the Head Coach in Atlanta. Add coaching talent.

None of this is reinventing the wheel. It’s not as outrageous as the ‘trade Russell Wilson’ takes (sigh) or suggesting a whole new staff is required.

It’s a recommitment to what made this team work in the past.

Now onto a mock draft with trades, with some Seahawks thoughts at the end…

Note — I didn’t include Sam Darnold. There’s enough talk about him staying at USC to believe that is likely.

NoteDraft order courtesy of Tankathon

#1 Cleveland — Josh Rosen (QB, UCLA)
With accuracy, a great release, the ability to make a range of throws and ideal size — Rosen has every chance to become a very good NFL quarterback.

#2 New York Giants — Saquon Barkley (RB, Penn State)
Yes they need to think about the future at quarterback. But how do you turn down the prospect of Barkley, Odell Beckham Jr and Evan Engram on the same offense for the next however many years?

#3 Indianapolis — Bradley Chubb (EDGE, NC State)
Bradley is Nick Chubb’s cousin. Nick had one of the best SPARQ workouts imaginable in 2013 at the Nike combine. Bradley is a 6-4, 275lbs version of Nick. Fantastic player.

#4 Cleveland (via Houston) — Clelin Ferrell (DE, Clemson)
Ferrell can play inside or out and would be a nice compliment for Myles Garrett. The Browns can learn a thing or two from the Jaguars and their fearsome D-line.

#5 Arizona (trade w/49ers) — Baker Mayfield (QB, Oklahoma)
The Cardinals, needing a long term answer at quarterback, trade up to make sure they get their guy. Baker Mayfield belongs in the top five.

#6 New York Jets (trade w/Bears) — Josh Allen (QB, Wyoming)
With the top two quarterbacks off the board the Jets, who reportedly like Allen (per Tony Pauline) make their move and find a willing trade partner in Chicago.

#7 Tampa Bay — Vita Vea (DT, Washington)
The Buccs could go in a number of directions but Vea is a rare talent and would work perfectly next to Gerald McCoy. Vea could be the next Haloti Ngata.

#8 Cincinnati — Quenton Nelson (G, Notre Dame)
Probably the second best player in the draft behind Saquon Barkley. He lasts a little longer due to the rush on quarterbacks. This would be great value and fill a big need.

#9 Denver — Minkah Fitzpatrick (S, Alabama)
Very reliable defender with the versatility to be a modern day defensive back. Fitzpatrick will go in the top 10 or 15 picks — whether he goes earlier than this will depend on his workout.

#10 Chicago (trade w/Jets) — Calvin Ridley (WR, Alabama)
Ridley is adept at getting open and he’s consistent. He isn’t big but the Bears might settle for a reliable go-to target for Mitchell Trubisky.

#11 San Francisco (trade w/Cardinals) — Courtland Sutton (WR, SMU)
The Niners have their quarterback it seems — now it’s time to make his life easier with some weapons. Sutton can do it all, has great character and looks like an early pick.

#12 Oakland — Tremaine Edmunds (LB, Virginia Tech)
Wow — what a talent. He can play inside or outside linebacker, drop down and play the edge. He is going to go early — and Tony Pauline thinks he’ll run in the 4.5’s and jump a 40 inch vertical. Tough, physical, great closing speed. Brilliant.

#13 Washington — Roquan Smith (LB, Georgia)
Might be a bit small for some teams but he absolutely flies around the field and he’s been the standout player on Georgia’s SEC Championship defense.

#14 Miami — Billy Price (C, Ohio State)
We’ve talked a lot about Price and Quenton Nelson. There’s not much between the two. They are exceptional prospects. Urban Meyes loves Price and he coached the Pouncey’s.

#15 Los Angeles Chargers — Orlando Brown (T, Oklahoma)
Huge tackle with NFL bloodlines. Likely a right tackle but that would suit the Chargers. He can bookend Russell Okung. Considered by many to be the best of a bad bunch at tackle in 2018.

#16 Green Bay — Tim Settle (DT, Virginia Tech)
At times he looks like Warren Sapp. Huge size but moves so well. A rare player with the size to defend the run and the quickness to be a pass rusher.

#17 Baltimore — Mike McGlinchey (T, Notre Dame)
Had a really good performance against Harold Landry of Boston College. Worked well with Quenton Nelson. Would make a nice right tackle in Baltimore, working across from former Notre Dame team mate Ronnie Stanley.

#18 Detroit — Christian Wilkins (DT, Clemson)
The Lions could’ve had Ndamukong Suh and Aaron Donald playing next to each other. Instead they drafted Eric Ebron and fudged Suh’s contract. They need an interior playmaker.

#19 New Orleans (trade w/Seahawks) — Drew Lock (QB, Missouri)
Drew Brees is out of contract and while he probably stays in New Orleans, the Saints need to think about the future. They move above Buffalo here to get rising prospect Drew Lock.

#20 Dallas — Derwin James (S, Florida State)
More Eric Reid than Eric Berry and that’s why he might last. Looks the part and is physical but lacks the great range and athleticism to go earlier.

#21 Tennessee — T.J. Edwards (LB, Wisconsin)
Edwards’ combine will severely impact his stock but he’s shone for Wisconsin and could easily sneak into the back end of round one.

#22 Buffalo — Damien Harris (RB, Alabama)
Underrated, complete running back who is a much better athlete and playmaker than people realise. Great in pass-pro, electric at the second level and tough. He will be good. Might not declare though.

#23 Atlanta — Taven Bryan (DT, Florida)
Big Taven Bryan fan here. Not the finished product but the Gators struggled so much it was never going to happen in 2017. Expect a great combine performance. He will move up boards.

#24 Seattle (trade w/Saints) — Ronald Jones II (RB, USC)
The Seahawks trade down with the Saints to get back some of their draft stock and take a player who looks so much like Jamaal Charles and can rejuvenate their running game.

#25 Buffalo (via Kansas City) — Maurice Hurst (DT, Michigan)
Had a really strong season in a middling Michigan defense. The Bills could do with re-stocking their defensive line after dealing Marcell Dareus.

#26 Jacksonville — Arden Key (EDGE, LSU)
Off field mystery and a couple of injuries will lead to some concern about Key and he could drop out of round one. That said — he is very talented and a good team could take a chance on his talent paying off.

#27 Los Angeles Rams — Austin Bryant (EDGE, Clemson)
One of a number of star performers for Clemson this year. Is probably helped by the loaded interior D-line he plays next to but Bryant has had a really strong 2017 season with 14.5 TFL’s.

#28 Carolina — Ronnie Harrison (S, Alabama)
Physical, tone-setting safety who hits with a bang. His tackle injured Kerryon Johnson and changed the face of the SEC Championship game.

#29 Pittsburgh — Denzel Ward (CB, Ohio State)
This is not a good draft for cornerbacks — a complete reverse of a year ago. Denzel Ward has shown enough to think he might be the best and it’s likely one of the CB’s will go in the first round.

#30 Minnesota — D.J. Moore (WR, Maryland)
A playmaker with great toughness, capable of making grabs downfield, exploiting screens and breaking tackles. Shifty. Combine will determine how early he goes.

#31 New England — Rashaan Evans (LB, Alabama)
I watched him after Tremaine Edmunds and intend to watch more. Evans has the potential to go in the first round but his combine will be important.

#32 Philadelphia — Bryce Love (RB, Stanford)
I prefer Kerryon Johnson but there’s two reasons why I went with Love here. Firstly, no injuries. Secondly, he looks like a Philly back and would compliment Jay Ajayi.

Not included:

Kerryon Johnson (RB, Auburn)
May suffer due to the injuries he’s had but would provide value in round two along with the other running backs still available (eg Royce Freeman).

Anthony Miller (WR, Memphis)
Tony Pauline has reported some potential injury red flags and others suggest he’ll run in the 4.6’s. He’s a really good player but he might not go as early as I originally thought.

Connor Williams (T, Texas)
There’s increasing buzz that Williams isn’t as highly regarded by teams as he is in the media. There’s always a demand for offensive tackles, however.

Thoughts on the Seahawks

In the plan earlier in the piece, we discussed targeting the best defensive player available or the best running back.

In this mock scenario (it’s still very early) a lot of the top defensive talent is off the board at Seattle’s pick (#19). Tremaine Edmunds is gone for example. There were alternatives but the likelihood of a trade down is relatively high considering Seattle doesn’t own a second or third round pick.

They deal with the Saints who might be looking to target a quarterback of the future to develop. Using this updated trade chart, the Seahawks could net a third rounder. The thing that makes the trade unlikely is the Saints are already without their second round pick (dealt to get Alvin Kamara in the 2017 draft). However, they might be more inclined to be aggressive given their successful season so far.

With the #24 pick they take Ronald Jones II, who we talked about in more detail here. He isn’t like a lot of the running backs they’ve drafted previously but he’s immensely talented and looks a lot like Jamaal Charles. The Seahawks probably need someone they crave to feature at running back. It kept them on track in the Marshawn Lynch days. Jones II is the type of player you can’t keep out of the game.

There’s a lot of debate about whether it’s the running backs or the O-line preventing Seattle from running the ball. It’s probably a bit of both — but here’s the reality of the situation. Chris Carson averaged 4.2 yards per carry before his injury. Mike Davis averages 3.9 (he was above 4.0 before the Rams game). J.D. McKissic is on 4.2 YPC.

Thomas Rawls and Eddie Lacy are both at 2.6 YPC.

Now let’s compare Carson, Davis and McKissic to some of the top performing running backs in the NFL:

Le’Veon Bell — 4.0 YPC
LeSean McCoy — 4.1 YPC
Todd Gurley — 4.6 YPC
Leonard Fournette — 4.0 YPC
Melvin Gordon — 3.8 YPC

If it was true that Seattle’s offensive line was completely inept at run blocking we wouldn’t be seeing Carson, Davis and McKissic recording a similar YPC to the names listed above.

Talent at running back is an issue. When Carson got hurt they simply couldn’t rely on Rawls and Lacy and thus didn’t feel like they could properly commit to the run. They’ve been able to do that more with Davis.

If they have talent at running back — it stands to reason they will feel confident featuring the running game as much as they desire. Carson could still be the guy for the long term. Adding another RB, especially with the talent in this draft, would provide insurance and truly help the Seahawks’ attempt to regain their preferred identity.

Going back to the mock, they could trade down again and still get a good back. That’s the beauty of this class. They can move around and still address certain issues. There are some good offensive linemen slated to go in rounds two and three (Braden Smith, Will Hernandez, Frank Ragnow, Isaiah Wynn, Coleman Shelton). If they drop into round two the likes of Damien Harris, Ronald Jones II, Kerryon Johnson and Royce Freeman could be available. There will be defensive options. They might be able to gather a nice haul and address their needs.

So it’s not all doom and gloom.

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