Archive for November, 2018

Separating the 2019 draft class into tiers

Thursday, November 29th, 2018

Christian Wilkins & Dexter Lawrence will both go early in the 2019 draft

We’re near the end of the college football season, so time for an updated tier list.

I’ll keep updating this as we go along.

If you missed yesterday’s Google Hangout, listen here.

Tier 1 — the top of the class

Nick Bosa (DE, Ohio State)

There’s a clear #1 in this class and it’s Nick Bosa. As long as there are no major health concerns before the draft, he’ll be the first overall pick. I believe he deserves a tier on his own. He’s the complete defensive end — with the quickness and rare agility to be a dominant speed rusher, the power to manhandle offensive linemen and the size/toughness to work against the run. In a year without a top quarterback prospect or offensive tackle, Bosa goes #1.

Tier 2 — likely top-10 picks

Quinnen Williams (DT, Alabama)
Clelin Ferrell (DE, Clemson)
Ed Oliver (DT, Houston)
Rashan Gary (DE, Michigan)
Dexter Lawrence (DT, Clemson)
Christian Wilkins (DT, Clemson)
Raekwon Davis (DT, Alabama)

Yes, all eight players listed in tiers one and two are defensive linemen. This is the reality of the 2019 draft class. Quinnen Williams has been a dominant force for Alabama but there will be some mild concerns about his age (19) and the fact he’s a one-year wonder. Clelin Ferrell has ideal size and length and would be a top-five pick in any class. Ed Oliver is extremely dynamic but there will be some questions asked about his fit at the next level due to his lack of length and size. Rashan Gary and Dexter Lawrence wowed High School recruiters and were the #1 and #2 top prospects in the country. One scout for Rivals called them the best defensive tackle duo he’d ever seen in one single class. They’ve long been destined for the pro’s and NFL scouts will be all over this pair. They will go early. Christian Wilkins is a phenomenal player with fantastic athleticism, prototype three-tech size, excellent character and technique. Ignore the critics. Raekwon Davis is a monster built like Calais Campbell.

Tier 3 — likely top-15 picks

Devin White (LB, LSU)
Jachai Polite (EDGE, Florida)
Derrick Brown (DT, Auburn)

These three are a notch below the names in tier two but are still likely to be off the board quickly. Devin White was once considered the next Leonard Fournette. He was projected as a running back in High School, then he added a lot of bulk and lost some speed. Recruiters started to project him to full back, believe it or not. Then he slimmed down at LSU and became an elite college linebacker. Physical, tenacious, productive, consistent and a leader. Jachai Polite’s motor never stops. His effort is incredible. He lacks length and size but he’s extremely quick and aggressive as a pass rusher and has been productive despite a number of double teams in 2018. Derrick Brown is a complete defensive tackle. He controls the LOS, shows excellent discipline in the run game and has an impact as a pass rusher too.

Tier 4 — likely top-20 picks

Zach Allen (DE, Boston College)
Josh Allen (EDGE, Kentucky)
David Edwards (T, Wisconsin)
Drew Lock (QB, Missouri)

Zach Allen has been a force all season. He’s big and looks like an interior rusher but still wins with get-off, speed and his hand use and technique is on-point. The combine will be big for him but he has a legitimate chance to secure a place in the top-20. Josh Allen has been a consistently effective pass rusher all season. He’s probably best suited to playing as a pure 3-4 OLB in a scheme like Pittsburgh’s. Georgia had success running right at him and Vanderbilt’s tight end also handled him. Even so, he gets to the QB and makes plays. David Edwards is a pure right tackle but teams will like his attitude, consistency and toughness. At least one quarterback will be taken early and if Justin Herbert stays at Oregon the most likely candidate is Drew Lock — a player who could’ve been a first round pick in 2018.

Tier 5 — the best of the rest

D’Andre Walker (LB, Georgia)
Byron Murphy (CB, Washington)
Jerry Tillery (DT, Notre Dame)
Damien Harris (RB, Alabama)
Brian Burns (DE, Florida State)
Marquise Brown (WR, Oklahoma)
Kaden Smith (TE, Stanford)

D’Andre Walker is very strong against the run despite his linebacker size. He’s capable of rushing the passer as a defensive end, dropping into space and he always plays with a high intensity. He leads Georgia in sacks. Byron Murphy flies to the ball-carrier and looks like a naturally gifted defensive back. He plays cornerback for Washington but I’d love to see him tried at free safety. Jerry Tillery was recruited as a left tackle before switching to defense. He’s as big as Raekwon Davis and provides an alternative later in the top-40. Damien Harris is highly explosive and the complete running back. Brian Burns is having a terrific year and could be listed higher but there are legitimate concerns about his weight (is he really playing in the 220’s?). I’m buying into Marquise ‘Hollywood’ Brown. I like his speed, ability to separate and the way he catches the ball. Major talent. Kaden Smith is a very athletic, productive tight end who will star at the combine, especially in the short shuttle.

Overrated players (or players who might go earlier than they should)

Greedy Williams (CB, LSU)
Dre’Mont Jones (DT, Ohio State)
Jonah Williams (G, Alabama)
A.J. Brown (WR, Ole Miss)
Greg Little (T, Ole Miss)
Deionte Thompson (S, Alabama)
Deandre Baker (CB, Georgia)
Montez Sweat (EDGE, Mississippi State)
N’Keal Harry (WR, Arizona State)
J.J. Arcega-Whiteside (WR, Stanford)
D.K. Metcalf (WR, Ole Miss)

Greedy Williams will likely be the first cornerback off the board, possibly in the top-12. However, he still needs a lot of work and shares some of the issues Deandre Baker faces in Georgia when tracking the ball in the air. Williams has the size and looks the part but might underwhelm at the next level. Dre’Mont Jones looks great at times as an interior pass rusher. He’s quick and fluid and gets into the backfield to make plays. He also disappears from games (an issue stretching back to High School) and is a liability against the run. He doesn’t play with his hair on fire. Jonah Williams plays left tackle at Alabama but is a pure guard, lacking the length and foot-speed to play outside. He’s best blocking head-on 1v1 and has limitations. I wouldn’t consider him a round one prospect, especially at tackle. Greg Little similarly looks a bit stiff handling the edge and might need to kick inside in the NFL.

Deionte Thompson is a long, lean safety. He isn’t rangy or particularly fast. He might run in the late 4.5’s. You can’t fault his commitment or his physicality but he looks somewhere between a free and strong safety. The Seahawks would probably look at him as a day-three corner convert based on his frame. Deandre Baker lacks size, struggles to track the ball and might not test particularly well at the combine. There are character flags lingering over Montez Sweat according to Tony Pauline and while he’s a capable college pass rusher, he’s very lean and his success might not translate to the next level. N’Keal Harry wins plenty of contested catches and has YAC ability but struggles to separate. J.J. Arcega-Whiteside is merely a useful redzone target and jump-ball specialist. He might be a day-three pick. D.K. Metcalf has a ton of potential. However, he has a serious neck injury. He’s declared to set the wheels in motion for a pro-career, rather than spend 2019 sitting out at Ole Miss. His long-term future is still a question mark. He likely just wants to get into the league. I doubt he’s expecting to be drafted early.

Players I’m unsure about

Jeffrey Simmons (DT, Mississppi State)
Jaylon Ferguson (DE, LA TECH)
Daniel Jones (QB, Duke)
Austin Bryant (EDGE, Clemson)
Taylor Rapp (S, Washington)
Chauncey Gardner-Johnson (S/CB, Florida)

Jeffrey Simmons is a good player. He was also filmed beating up a defenceless woman. Many teams won’t have him on their board. I’ve listed him here simply to avoid having to answer questions in the comments section about where he fits. Someone will draft him, probably in the top-50. I can live without it being the Seahawks. Jaylon Ferguson has been one of the most productive defensive players in the country this year. He looks incredibly raw, there’s some frustrating tape but also some things to like. I want to see his combine numbers. Daniel Jones has shown flashes of quality at Duke and could slip into the 20’s. I need to do more study before confirming that thought. Austin Bryant is so productive and fun to watch at Clemson. I just wonder what his ceiling is at the next level. Taylor Rapp equally is very fun to watch. I want to see testing numbers though. What is the upside with Rapp and Bryant? It could be the difference between a top-25 grade and a second round projection. Chauncey Gardner-Johnson switched from safety to nickel in 2018. There’s a lot of potential here at either position — and he’s seen as a leader. How does the league view his potential and his best position?

Players who could rise

Christian Miller (EDGE, Alabama)
Gerald Willis (DT, Miami)
Colton McKivitz (T, West Virginia)
Steven Montez (QB, Colorado)
Joe Jackson (DE, Miami)
Johnathan Abram (S, Mississippi State)

Christian Miller is a fantastic athlete and a productive edge rusher. This year he’s also become a much better run defender and he looks the part. Expect a big combine performance. Gerald Willis has phenomenal agility. The hype will build when you see his short shuttle result. He also has 17 TFL’s this year but will need to answer questions about a bizarre college career. Colton McKivitz is the best tackle on the West Virginia line. Can he test well to push himself into a top-40 grade? Steven Montez has everything you want in a quarterback prospect but needs time and development. He could be a steal for somebody. Joe Jackson has had a solid year for Miami and he’s well sized. A good combine could push him into the top-40. Johnathan Abram is a former four-star recruit who is having an excellent year for Mississippi State. There are concerns about his athletic upside. A good combine could push him high up the board.

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LIVE Google Hangout — watch now!

Wednesday, November 28th, 2018

Here is today’s Google Hangout. Topics discussed include the current state of the Seahawks, why 2018 is so much better than 2017, a thorough look at the defensive line class in the draft and a Q&A to finish. Check it out…

Monday notes: Jaylon Ferguson and Marquise Brown

Monday, November 26th, 2018

2019 was already going to be the year of the defensive linemen. Now, Tony Pauline has highlighted another first round candidate — LA Tech’s Jaylon Ferguson:

“Graded as a potential first round pick entering the season, he’s considered one of the best pass rushers from the senior class but has rounded out his game this season and developed into a terrific run defender. For the season Ferguson has totaled 59 tackles while amassing 23.5 tackles for loss and 15 sacks. Though I have my concerns about his instincts there’s no denying Ferguson’s tape is impressive and will push him into the early part of the draft.”

Before today I hadn’t studied Ferguson, which was a mistake. He leads the country in sacks and is second for TFL’s. He should’ve been on the radar.

I found one game on Youtube plus some highlights videos. It’s not enough to make a firm projection but it is enough to see the potential.

He isn’t Marcus Davenport. There’s a reason why the Saints spent two first round picks to get him. Davenport absolutely dominated at a small school level, looking like a grown man playing a bunch of High School opponents. Ferguson still flashes though. He’s incredibly quick lining up in a wider position and sprinting to the QB. He has a knack for forcing the ball out (six FF’s in the 2016 & 2018 seasons combined). He has quality length and ideal size. He can work in space with the agility and footwork to read a play and make a difficult tackle (handy in the modern NFL with all the sweeps and motions).

There was one snap where he did a tremendous job bending the arc with perfect lean and balance to straighten and get to the quarterback. Quickness off the snap, the athleticism to turn the corner and explosion to finish. It was a big time play. On another snap he beat the right tackle with ease, just shimmying past him to get into the backfield and recover a fumble. There’s evidence of a neat push/pull move. Sometimes he’ll lock-on and control an offensive tackle to seal the edge. There’s plenty of power in his punch.

There are areas he needs to improve too. His reading of certain plays is poor. There are times when he’s too aggressive. You seem him slam into the left tackle with a thunderous punch — but he ends up battling with the LT in a wrestling match instead of using the jolt to disengage and look for the ball carrier. His gap discipline suffers because of his aggression. Sometimes he gets his head down and tries too hard to attack a gap, even when the play doesn’t call for it. Then at times he seems a little bit hesitant — an odd contrast to the times he’s a little too aggressive. On one occasion in the game I watched (vs FAU) he was easily handled 1v1 by a running back.

On first viewing there’s plenty of potential here. Ideal size, great power, some hints at top-end quickness and twitch. There are technical flaws that need fixing. As always, his combine will be interesting. Can he copy another LA Tech D-liner Vernon Butler and have a great Senior Bowl to secure a day one grade?

Ferguson is another name to add to the list of possible first rounders.

And it’s a truly ridiculous list.

All of the following could easily go in round one:

Nick Bosa, Ed Oliver, Clelin Ferrell, Quinnen Williams, Christian Wilkins, Raekwon Davis, Derrick Brown, Rashan Gary, Dexter Lawrence, Jachai Polite, Zach Allen, Josh Allen, Brian Burns, Dre’Mont Jones, Jerry Tillery.

I think there’s at least a fair chance D’Andre Walker (a personal favourite) and Austin Bryant find a home in the first frame too. There are likely other names who could come into contention. Miami’s Joe Jackson for example — or Gerald Willis. Or Florida’s Jabari Zuniga. I wouldn’t even completely eliminate Alabama’s Christian Miller as a possible top-50 alternative.

It’s remarkable really. In a year with so little in the way of quarterbacks, cornerbacks, offensive tackles and other positions too — there’s this enormous list of quality defensive linemen.

Wherever the Seahawks pick — and it’ll be no earlier than #21 overall if they make the playoffs — they should be able to identify someone they like. And after the last few weeks, it’s clear the defense needs some help in 2019. Whether it’s an athletic EDGE, a monster at defensive tackle or an inside/out rusher — the options are there.

It’s always possible they’ll trade down, of course. After all they only own four picks.

I’m not just going to hammer the D-line point home for the next five months and never consider any other alternatives. So here’s one today. If they trade down aggressively and perhaps miss out on the top defensive linemen, is Oklahoma’s Marquise ‘Hollywood’ Brown an option?

For years people have talked about Seattle’s lack of (or need for) a big target for Russell Wilson. They flirted with it when they traded for Jimmy Graham. Then they spent two years trying to make him a complete tight end, before reducing his role to basically ‘red zone specialist’. Aside from that, Wilson has always seemed more comfortable with a dynamic, quicker receiver than a jump-ball specialist.

Wilson is naturally quite conservative as a thrower. He picks his moments. He’s not a gunslinger. The offense calls for a point guard and Wilson handles the role very well. He’s explosive and can make the big plays — he merely endeavours to do it at opportune moments.

He’s never really been one to throw multiple targets to a well-covered big receiver and let them go and make the play. It doesn’t mean he never takes those chances. It just feels like he prefers to see clear daylight in coverage or an obvious mismatch. Just look at the success he’s had with Doug Baldwin — adept at getting open and creating separation.

Have the Seahawks noted and identified this? Perhaps. Carroll himself has admitted his love for a dynamic big target. He’s even more or less suggested he’s been hunting for one in the past. Yet look at their draft history over the years:

2013 — traded for Percy Harvin
2014 — drafted Paul Richardson with their first pick
2015 — drafted Tyler Lockett with their second pick

There’s a trend. Harvin, Richardson and Lockett were all smaller, dynamic and sudden receivers. Playmakers.

When Richardson departed in free agency this year, they went out and replaced him with Jaron Brown. At the Clemson pro-day in 2013, Brown ran a 4.40 and had great numbers in the vertical (35.5 inches) and broad (10-4). He’s a bit bigger (6-2) but in the same ballpark. Quick, lean and sudden.

If the Seahawks add another receiver it could easily be another smaller, extremely dynamic target. At the end of the day, the Seahawks want to run the ball but they also want explosive plays in the passing game. Downfield shots — major yardage. Receivers like Marquise Brown provide that.

John Schneider attended the Oklahoma vs West Virginia game on Friday.

If you’re averaging 150 yards a game with the run and you’ve got two dynamic downfield threats at receiver — plus the brilliance of Baldwin and David Moore — that’s a good looking offense.

And having planted that thought in your brain, I’ll finish with this. Their priority should still be to improve the defense. They tried to close the circle with their running game this year. The defense is keeping the circle open. Too many explosive plays conceded, inconsistent run defense, not enough pass rush. It’s been too easy for opponents in some games.

Improving the defense has to be the priority in the off-season. This draft is set up for doing just that. I like Brown but he’d be a luxury with the defensive needs.

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Instant reaction: Seahawks beat Panthers, move to 6-5

Sunday, November 25th, 2018

Seahawks vs Panthers. A rivalry that ages like a fine wine.

A classic red, made in 2012.

It goes down a treat, especially with the Seahawks winning their last four regular season games in Charlotte.

This latest episode was another classic. It ebbed and flowed, with both teams taking turns to gain the upper hand.

The Panthers cut through Seattle’s defense to the tune of 220 rushing yards. They made chunk plays, moved the ball with ease and both Cam Newton and Christian McCaffrey were near top form.

In response, Seattle modified their game plan and made the necessary adjustments to put points on the board. This was a game for Russell Wilson. The Seahawks struggled to run the ball with any consistency. Carolina were missing two starters in the secondary. This had to be a day for Wilson.

In similar encounters he didn’t deliver. Not at the end anyway, when it mattered. The two Rams games, the Broncos game, the Bears game. Today needed to be different.

And it was.

It had to be too. A porous defense and a stymied running game weren’t going to win this one. With the Seahawks trailing by seven in the fourth quarter, he delivered a downfield strike on fourth down to tie things up. And after a rare stop on defense and a missed kick by Graham Gano, Wilson delivered again with a big third down deep shot to win the game.

339 yards, two touchdowns, no turnovers. Another come-from-behind victory.

Seattle’s greatest ever quarterback and a future Hall-of-Famer, pulling out a vital win.

Now the season opens up for the Seahawks. They have tiebreakers against Carolina and Green Bay. The Redskins lost their starting quarterback to injury and they face the Vikings at home on Monday Night Football. If Dallas doesn’t win the NFC East, Seattle has a tiebreaker there too.

Win the remaining NFC games and they should make the playoffs.

San Francisco (H)
Minnesota (H)
San Francisco (A)
Arizona (H)

That’s the path to the playoffs. The other game is against the Chiefs at Century Link. That could be a free-hit because of the win today. A chance to make amends if they drop one of the four above.

To be in this position during a reset year with several injured or banged up key players is testament to the players, the staff and Pete Carroll.

There are still big improvements to be made, of course. This team has potential. They also need another off-season to keep building.

Today showed, yet again, most of the work needs to happen on defense.

That’s not to be overly negative of the unit. Nobody can fault their effort. Just look at the two redzone stops to start the game. They forced FIVE fumbles (none recovered) and got their first turnover in weeks with a fantastic interception from Bradley McDougald. The stop on Carolina’s final drive can’t be underestimated either.

However, the pass rush continues to be milquetoast, Cam Newton was barely touched all day, they give up too many big (easy) plays and the run defense was flat out bad.

If fixing the run on offense was all about closing the circle, it’s still not closed. Limiting the explosive plays on defense, defending the run properly and takeaways are just as important. The Seahawks are struggling in all three areas.

It’s clear to the point of exhaustion that the strength of the 2019 draft class is the D-line. They probably need at least a couple of quality additions to the defensive line. That’s possible with this class and a relatively good looking free agent group.

Other things, such as another dynamic target, could be intriguing to some. For all the talk of a ‘big target’ — Russell Wilson seems to work better with quicker, sudden receivers with dynamic speed and an ability to separate. DeSean Jackson is probably a better fit for this quarterback than a jump ball specialist.

They did draft Paul Richardson and Tyler Lockett in back-to-back drafts after all — and traded for Percy Harvin the year before selecting Richardson.

When John Schneider was watching Oklahoma vs West Virginia on Friday, he might’ve noted the electric Marquise Brown (cousin of Antonio) and seen a fit for this offense.

It’s a nice thought. The offense could well benefit from a player like that. Yet while ever the Seahawks are giving up huge chunk plays and struggling to lay a finger on opposing quarterbacks consistently — that surely has to be the priority?

If they want to play their brand of football at the most effective rate, they have to improve on defense. That should be the priority in the off-season.

That’s a focus for another day though. Today is about enjoying this win. A great win, that places the Seahawks right in the hunt for the playoffs.

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CFB week 13: Alabama ease by Auburn in the Iron Bowl

Saturday, November 24th, 2018

Firstly, what happened to the college football season!?! It’s practically over already.

Secondly, SDB was featured in this piece looking at a collection of draft opinions on the internet. Check it out if you want. And thanks for reading.

Notes on Auburn vs Alabama

Another day, another comfortable win for Alabama. Clemson are the only team with a realistic shot at beating them. It’d be an excellent Championship game.

This wasn’t a highlight reel for the big names today. Quinnen Williams had his quietest game in a while. He had a shared sack nullified by a face-mask penalty. He wasn’t noticeable in the first half but made some plays in the second, including a nice stunt to the outside to force Jarrett Stidham inside and into the waiting arms of another Alabama defender.

Raekwon Davis was all over the field. He didn’t have a big play to put an exclamation point on his performance but he was excellent. His motor never stopped. On one play he identified a screen and sprinted downfield to make a touchdown-saving tackle. He was active to work across the line making stops against the run. He often broke into the backfield and just missed making a big play. Davis is a fantastic talent with unique size and could easily join Williams in the top-12 of the draft.

I’ve written a few times about Christian Miller this year. He’s extremely athletic with a 124.17 score at the SPARQ combine including a near 39-inch vertical and a 4.18 short shuttle. He’s effective as a pass rusher. This year, he’s developed into a more complete player. His run defense for his size has really come along. In this game he consistently contained his side of the field and defended the run superbly. On one play he actually worked across the line to make a stop for a TFL on the opposite side. He keeps his frame clean with good hand placement and is strong enough to control the block and keep his eyes upfield.

Miller also forced an interception with a pressure on play-action, forcing a bad throw by Stidham. He’s someone to keep an eye on in the next draft. He has a place in the NFL — either as an EDGE or as a DE/LB hybrid.

Auburn’s Derrick Brown pancaked Jonah Williams with two minutes left in the first quarter, dumping him on his backside. He also had a really good rush on 3rd and 9 with just over 3 minutes left in the first half. Brown used power and quickness to pressure from the B-gap and force Tua Tagovailoa out of the pocket. The quarterback attempted to make the first down with his legs but came up a yard short. Brown plays the pass and run equally well, competes with intensity and should be a high pick next year (the top-15 is possible).

Isaiah Buggs left the field in the opening five minutes with an injury. It looked bad. An Auburn blocker tried to cut-block Buggs and his knee bent back awkwardly. He had to be helped off the field and it didn’t look good. Thankfully he returned to the game but he didn’t look anywhere close to 100%. It’s something to monitor.

I’m still not convinced Jonah Williams and Deionte Thompson are as good as everyone else is saying. Williams to me looks like a clear guard prospect with limitations. Thompson is fine. He’s physical and lays a decent hit. He’s not a rangy free safety though and he lacks the size to be an intimidating strong safety. It’s worth remembering he ran a 4.71 at his SPARQ combine. What’s special about his play? Ronnie Harrison was a late third round pick. I can’t put Thompson in round one. For me, he’s a day two pick like Harrison.


— You’ll notice in the article I linked to at the top of the piece that I’m labelled the ‘ultimate contrarian’ for, among other things, really liking Christian Wilkins. I’m not sure what the big deal is here. Wilkins is outstanding and has been for ages. He’s perfectly sized to play as a modern interior rusher. He has outstanding athleticism and will have a great combine. He’s extremely productive. He has great character. He’s a top-10 talent. Against South Carolina he had another offensive touchdown on a toss play (!!!), blew up the interior O-line with a brilliant swipe move before exploding to the QB for a big sack. Austin Bryant also had a big sack when South Carolina, for some reason, matched him up with a tight end. Bryant also had two TFL’s. Jake Bentley, the South Carolina quarterback, is a junior worth keeping an eye on next season.

— D’Andre Walker had a sack and led Georgia in tackles during their big win against Georgia Tech. For some reason nobody talks about Walker. The Senior Bowl could change that. He now has 6.5 sacks for the season (a team high) as a hyrbid DE/LB.

— Ohio State hammered Michigan to make the BIG 10 Championship game again. Devin Bush left the game with what looked like a serious thigh injury. Chase Winovich and Rashan Gary both had TFL’s while Dre’Mont Jones only recorded a QB hurry. One of last weeks highlighted players Terry McLaurin had a quiet day (one catch for 12 yards) but fellow receiver Parris Campbell — a possibly second day pick — had five catches for 114 yards and a touchdown. None of Ohio State’s receivers will likely go in round one but they have a handful of players capable of forging a decent pro-career.

— I’ve got the Florida vs Florida State tape recorded and ready to watch tomorrow. Jachai Polite had a big day with 2.5 sacks and 3.5 TFL’s. Jabari Zuniga also collected a sack. Brian Burns had two QB hurries but didn’t record a sack or TFL.

— Boston College were well beaten by a handy Syracuse team today. Zach Allen only contributed half a sack. I have the first half recorded to watch back this week.

— Josh Allen had yet another sack for Kentucky in an easy win against Louisville. He now has 14 for the season with a Bowl game still to come.

— Jerry Tillery had a sack for Notre Dame against USC. It came on a well designed blitz that opened up the interior O-line using rushing linebackers, allowing Tillery to work to the quarterback in space.

— Devin White highlighted his top-10 credentials with a big game in the seven-overtime 74-72 contest with Texas A&M. White had a sack, four TFL’s, 17 total tackles and forced a fumble that was returned for a touchdown. White is a fantastic talent.

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Thanksgiving Day mock draft

Thursday, November 22nd, 2018

Happy Thanksgiving to the SDB community. Here’s an updated mock draft. Plus don’t forget to check out the ‘Tasteful Profanity’ podcast appearance if you missed it earlier in the week.

#1 San Francisco — Nick Bosa (DE, Ohio State)
It’s hard to imagine anyone knocking Bosa off the #1 spot. He’s a complete pass rusher and looks even quicker than his brother.

#2 Arizona — Ed Oliver (DT, Houston)
Teams will be split on whether Oliver’s frame and play translates well to the next level. A fantastic combine, however, could secure a top-five grade. He has 13.5 TFL’s this season.

#3 Oakland — Clelin Ferrell (DE, Clemson)
Ideal size, length, attitude and production. A high pick in any draft, Ferrell has 10.5 sacks and 16 TFL’s in 2018.

#4 New Yok Jets — Devin White (LB, LSU)
The Jets could use a pass rusher but might look to free agency for a big splurge. If that’s the case, the ultra-consistent and highly athletic Devin White is a fit here.

#5 New York Giants — Quinnen Williams (DT, Alabama)
He was unstoppable against LSU. He has 15 TFL’s this season. He might last to #5 if teams are concerned about his one year of production and age (he’s 19).

#6 Buffalo — Christian Wilkins (DT, Clemson)
Fantastic player. Like Deshaun Watson, familiarity is breeding contempt. He has the ideal frame to play inside and rush. Great character, expect a great combine.

#7 Tampa Bay — Rashan Gary (DE, Michigan)
So far he hasn’t played up to his recruiting hype or physical potential. In this draft, however, someone will gamble early on his tremendous upside.

#8 Jacksonville — Derrick Brown (DT, Auburn)
Incredible talent. Brown bosses offensive linemen and put in a star turn against Texas A&M recently. A complete defensive tackle who plays the run well and gets after the quarterback.

#9 Cleveland — Raekwon Davis (DT, Alabama)
Davis is an absolute monster. Huge size (6-7, 316lbs) and very quick. He can control things from the inside and still get after the QB. There aren’t many humans like this.

#10 Detroit — Greedy Williams (CB, LSU)
Williams is far from the finished product but he’s the cornerback with the most upside in this class. Someone will take him early.

#11 Atlanta — David Edwards (T, Wisconsin)
There isn’t a top-12 left tackle prospect this year. David Edwards is a cerebral individual — a typically hard-nosed, Wisconsin right tackle. Very solid, if unspectacular.

#12 Denver — Dexter Lawrence (DT, Clemson)
Lawrence was superb against Duke last weekend, making numerous plays in the backfield and showing he’s more than just a nose tackle. Another top talent in a loaded D-line class.

#13 Philadelphia — Jachai Polite (EDGE, Florida)
Polite has two things going for him — a relentless motor and speed. He regularly faces double teams and still has 8.5 sacks and 12.5 TFL’s for the season.

#14 Green Bay — Josh Allen (EDGE, Kentucky)
Is he a pure 3-4 OLB? Will teams run right at him if he plays up at the LOS? These are fair questions but Allen can get after the QB. He has 13 sacks and 17.5 TFL’s in 2018.

#15 Indianapolis — Zach Allen (DE, Boston College)
He’s taken his game to another level this year. Allen is a bigger bodied DE or inside/out rusher with surprising quickness and agility. He has 14.5 TFL’s.

#16 Miami — Greg Little (T, Ole Miss)
He’s a bit stiff at times and struggles against speed. I’ve been saying since the summer he could kick inside to make better use of his obvious physical qualities.

#17 Oakland (via Dallas) — Dre’Mont Jones (DT, Ohio State)
Jones’ play against the run is a concern but there’s no denying his ability as a penetrating force. He has 12.5 TFL’s and 7.5 sacks in 2018 — a big improvement on last year.

#18 Tennessee — Brian Burns (EDGE, Florida State)
I read recently he’s playing in the 220’s this year. Ouch. That’s a concern. He’s thin and wiry. He’s also very quick with 15.5 TFL’s and 10 sacks. The weight issue could put some teams off.

#19 Seattle — D’Andre Walker (LB, Georgia)
Walker is underrated. He’s extremely strong and capable of playing the run as an EDGE. He can rush the passer. He’s very comfortable dropping in coverage and he’s extremely physical. Watch the video at the top of the page to see what he’s about.

#20 Cincinnati — Jeffrey Simmons (DT, Mississippi State)
Someone will end up taking Simmons quite early. That team will probably be the Bengals. It’s always the Bengals.

#21 Baltimore — Jerry Tillery (DT, Notre Dame)
Tillery has incredible size and he’s a force when he gets going. He has seven sacks and 9.5 TFL’s this season as a 6-7, 305lbs interior defender.

#22 Minnesota — Byron Murphy (CB, Washington)
Murphy glides to the ball carrier with excellent quickness, he’s a hard hitter and he covers ground quickly. Could he be tried at safety? Maybe.

#23 Washington — Drew Lock (QB, Missouri)
The first quarterback off the board. Lock has a strong arm but he can be inconsistent. It’s not a year to go searching for a solution at QB in the draft.

#24 Houston — Damien Harris (RB, Alabama)
Harris is a superb player who deserves to go earlier. He does everything well — run, receive, protect. He’s extremely explosive and tough. Like him a lot.

#25 Carolina — Taylor Rapp (S, Washington)
Rapp ran a 4.09 short shuttle at the SPARQ combine and you see his combination of agility and quickness on tape. He could easily sneak into the back-end of round one.

#26 Oakland (via Chicago) — A.J. Brown (WR, Ole Miss)
The first receiver off the board. Brown makes plays and competes for the ball but is he a good enough athlete to go earlier than this?

#27 Los Angeles Chargers — Kaden Smith (TE, Stanford)
Smith can develop into an all-round tight end capable of blocking and providing an X-factor in the passing game. He ran a 4.30 short shuttle at 6-6 and 242lbs during SPARQ testing.

#28 New England — Daniel Jones (QB, Duke)
Even in a defeat, Jones was impressive against Clemson. He has the look and feel of a Patriots quarterback. It’d be a good fit.

#29 Pittsburgh — Austin Bryant (EDGE, Clemson)
Bryant started slowly but has really started to perform for Clemson in recent weeks. He lacks size but screams off the edge to make plays in the backfield.

#30 Green Bay — Jonah Williams (G, Alabama)
Williams lacks the length to play tackle at the next level and really could do with kicking inside. I’m not sold on him as a first round pick.

#31 Kansas City — Colton McKivitz (T, West Virginia)
When you watch West Virginia, McKivitz is the O-liner who stands out. He does get beat from time to time but with a need for linemen, someone might take him to play right tackle.

#32 Los Angeles Rams — Elgton Jenkins (C, Mississippi State)
Jenkins had a really rough afternoon against Quinnen Williams but he’s highly regarded and could be the first center off the board.

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Podcast appearance on Tasteful Profanity

Tuesday, November 20th, 2018

This week I was invited onto the Tasteful Profanity podcast (Beast Pode) to discuss the Seahawks season so far, the future and the 2019 draft. It was a lot of fun so be sure to check it out below…

Monday draft notes: Speed for the Seahawks?

Monday, November 19th, 2018

A possible target for the Seahawks this off-season

The chances are they’ll do what is expected and draft a defensive linemen. Most teams picking in round one will. It’s going to be the clear strength of the first frame. There’s also a dearth of alternatives at positions like quarterback, receiver, offensive tackle and defensive back. Fighting the board, especially if the D-line is a need, would be an odd decision and go against Seattle’s approach in previous drafts.

That said, there is another position they could realistically consider early. They could use some speed on defense. That could come in the form of a top EDGE or even an interior rusher. Speed at linebacker could also be a priority.

We’ll need to see what happens with K.J. Wright and Mychal Kendricks. If one or both are re-signed, it’s less likely to be an option. With Bobby Wagner and Barkevious Mingo also under contract, it wouldn’t make much sense to draft depth at linebacker in round one or two (if they trade down). It might be something they look at later on.

With the Rams’ creative and fast-paced offense a big problem for the rest of the NFC West, finding a really fast and productive WILL to pair with Wagner could be a target. Someone capable of competing against an offense that has Todd Gurley but also contains a variety of sweeps, motions and attempts to create space for the ball carrier.

That’s not to discount Shaquem Griffin who they clearly like. His best role might simply be as a key special teamer and occasional nickel linebacker.

When the combine comes around it’ll be interesting to see who performs well in the forty and the short shuttle. Wagner reportedly ran a 4.46 forty and a 4.28 shuttle. He was also highly explosive with a 39.5 inch vertical and a 11-0 broad jump. They might not find someone with that sensational profile — but can they find a linebacker with the physicality to match-up against the run and have the speed to be a counter against a team like the Rams?

And make no mistake — the Seahawks need to find ways to combat LA’s offense. Turning those two losses into wins has to be a priority in 2019. They can’t afford to give up 36 and 33 points when they face the Rams.

We’ll likely need the combine to discover what options are out there. I’ve started watching Michigan’s Devin Bush. So far this season he has five sacks, 9.5 TFL’s and five pass break-ups. I’ve only watched two of his games and need to see more. There are things I like, some things I don’t. I’ll reserve judgement until I’ve done a bit more work. However, it’s worth noting that Jim Harbaugh described him as, “one of the fastest linebackers I’ve ever been around or seen.” That’s something to consider.

I suspect speed in the front seven, just as it was in 2012, will be a big focus this off-season.

Thoughts on Miami’s Gerald Willis

Willis is an interesting player. He was dismissed by the Florida Gators in 2015 for what reports called a ‘string of on and off-field incidents’. He’s now with Miami and there’s a bit of buzz about his stock.

Willis has 17 TFL’s this season. To put that into perspective, Kentucky’s ultra-productive Josh Allen has 17.5. Quinnen Williams has 15 and Zach Allen 14.5.

Willis certainly impacts games. Of the three I watched last week, you could make a really decent highlight video. The overall tape, however, hints at some limitations too.

He’s capable of working down the line, hand-fighting to disengage and making plays in the backfield. When he shakes off a block or has a route to the QB you really see his speed. Willis covers ground quickly to create pressure and you’ll always want someone blocking his path to the QB. He absolutely hammered one of the LSU running backs for a big TFL when unblocked. He clearly has fantastic agility and it won’t be a surprise if he posts a good 10-yard split at the combine.

He had a sack vs LSU swimming away from the guard and exploding into the backfield. The swim seems to be his go-to move. He used it on a second TFL vs the run against LSU and also to get free and pressure the LSU QB in his own end zone (he was also blatantly held as he broke free and it should’ve been a safety).

On the other hand, he was mostly handled by Boston College. His TFL in that game came on a 1st and 20 run with the Eagles leading 27-14 and trying to run out the clock. They practically sent an email to Miami pre-snap telling them it was a run. Sometimes he goes to the swim too often. Blockers adjust and anticipate it. You’d like to see him mix things up and show a better repertoire. There’s no real evidence of a bull rush. He’s a quicker rusher rather than a guy who bullies linemen at the LOS.

And that’s OK. The league needs quick interior rushers. He’s listed at 6-4 and 285lbs so you wouldn’t expect him to be Quinnen Williams or Dexter Lawrence. He’s probably always going to be the type of player you bring onto the field in certain scenarios as part of a rotation. That might limit his stock. If he’s viewed as a role player and if he’s not overly convincing when discussing the end of his time at Florida, he might last into the middle rounds.

One thing could change that. An outstanding workout.

It’s possible.

Willis was a four-star recruit. At the SPARQ combine, he had the following performance at 6-3 and 275lbs:

Forty — 5.16
Short shuttle — 4.32
Vertical — 31 inches

The fastest short shuttle by a defensive lineman at the 2018 combine was a 4.32 run by Sam Hubbard.

Here are the top-five short shuttle times:

Sam Hubbard — 4.32
James Looney — 4.37
Rasheem Green — 4.39
Bradley Chubb — 4.41
Marcus Davenport — 4.41

So despite being a 275lbs high school defensive tackle, Willis still achieved a similar short shuttle time to the best EDGE rushers in the 2018 draft.

Willis is now listed at 285lbs so he might not run quite as fast with an extra 10lbs added. Even so, he has a shot to match or beat the top times from the defensive tackles in the last draft:

Taven Bryan — 4.48
Harrison Phillips — 4.50
Foley Fatukasi — 4.53
B.J. Hill — 4.53
Nathan Shepherd 4.53

His vertical jump of 31 inches is also similar to Da’Shawn Hand’s (31.5), Harrison Phillips’ (32), Breeland Speaks (32.5), Rasheem Green’s (32.5) and Marcus Davenport’s (33.5).

I think if you take Willis in round one hoping he will play most of your snaps at defensive tackle, you might end up disappointed. If you can get him a little bit later as a specialist interior rusher, you could be onto a winner.

Updated draft order

With Oakland defeating Arizona yesterday, the San Francisco 49ers are now at #1 overall. With both the Niners and Cardinals struggling, there’s an increasing chance Nick Bosa finds a home in the NFC West. With Arizona in the #2 spot — we could also see one of Quinnen Williams or Clelin Ferrell in the division.

The Seahawks are at #19 after beating Green Bay.

Top-20 (courtesy of Tankathon)

#1 San Francisco
#2 Arizona
#3 Oakland
#4 New York Jets
#5 New York Giants
#6 Buffalo
#7 Tampa Bay
#8 Jacksonville
#9 Cleveland
#10 Detroit
#11 Atlanta
#12 Philadelphia
#13 Denver
#14 Green Bay
#15 Indianapolis
#16 Miami
#17 Oakland (via Dallas)
#18 Tennessee
#19 Seattle
#20 Cincinnati

I’ll be doing an updated mock draft this week. I’ve also been invited on the Tasteful Profanity podcast tonight so stay tuned for that.

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CFB week 12: Ohio State/Maryland game a highlight

Saturday, November 17th, 2018

This was a fun game offset by a difficult viewing experience. A lot has happened at Ohio State this season. I’m not going to go into it here. It seems it’s taking its toll on Urban Meyer.

Throughout the game he looked visibly unwell — massaging his temples, squinting his eyes and generally looking ill. Meyer has a history of health issues and it was uncomfortable to witness every time the camera panned to the sideline.

On the field, it was compulsive viewing. Maryland’s redshirt freshman running back Anthony McFarland was outstanding. He was explosive, quick to shift through the gears, tough to bring down and looked terrific. He finished with 298 rushing yards and two touchdowns. He’s one to monitor over the next few years.

The same can be said for J.K. Dobbins the Ohio State running back. He had 203 rushing yards himself (plus a touchdown). He’s perfectly sized at 5-10 and 214lbs and at the SPARQ combine had an unreal workout including a 4.44 forty, 43 inch vertical, 4.09 short shuttle and an elite overall score of 146.76. He’ll play at the next level (he’s currently a true sophomore).

I spent some time focusing on the Ohio State wide receivers. They’re a bunch of relative unknowns — at least not many people talk about them, which is a surprise considering who they play for. One in particular stood out here.

Terry McLaurin left the game with an undisclosed injury (he’s apparently fine to play next week) but still recorded four catches for 118 yards and a touchdown. I want to watch more of this guy. He scored on a 68-yard catch-and-run. The pass was badly under-thrown by Dwayne Haskins. McLaurin generated so much separation with his break. Haskins made him work for the score but McLaurin still finished.

He just looks quick and explosive with the ability to get open. He has decent size (listed at 6-1 and 205lbs). At the SPARQ combine he ran a 4.41 forty, jumped a 42-inch vertical, had a 4.13 short shuttle and an overall score of 141.96. Anything above 140 is considered elite.

I did a quick scan online to see what I else I could learn about him. These plays stood out…

Look at the way he accelerates after the catch:

He’s a fierce and willing blocker:

McLaurin’s a senior so he will be in the 2019 draft. If he attends the Senior Bowl he could pump his stock up with a good performance. As a value receiver with the potential to develop into a role player, he’s one to keep an eye on.

He’s not the only one though. Parris Campbell had a relatively quiet game but Binjimen Victor made a 38-yard grab and added a redzone score. He showed good body control on his route and high-pointed a back-shoulder throw from Haskins nicely. He too is considered a good athlete and might provide some value later in the draft. Campbell is a senior, Binjimen a junior.

Defensively it was a poor performance by Ohio State. They struggled to contain the edge against the run all day and weren’t particularly disciplined on the inside runs either.

As a pass rush threat they cause problems. Chase Young could be a very high pick in 2020. Dre’Mont Jones, as we’ve discussed so many times this year, has round one athleticism and pass rush skills. So often though he’s a liability against the run. For that reason, I’m sceptical of him as a round one prospect.

We’ve seen so many players like this. Quicker than college offensive linemen and therefore able to show some pass rush and get teams excited. Yet the thought of him coming up against Seattle’s current O-line, for example, is a scary thought.

Jones is too upright in his stance and struggles mightily with leverage. This isn’t a problem as a rusher because his go-to move is a club/swipe — creating separation from his block so he can use his great quickness to explode into the backfield. He also likes to use the spin-move or simply shoot a gap. All of these things play to his skillset and don’t require him to engage/disengage or win with leverage.

At the next level though, he’s going to need to use his hands. He’s going to need to be able to plant the anchor, hold position and read the play. Sometimes he’s just going to have to hold down a gap or two (depending on scheme) and make a stop. There’s virtually no evidence of him doing this. He gets jolted off balance because he’s too high and driven out of his gap. It looked like Maryland were offering him a gap — knowing full well he’d just put his head down and rush and not read the play, allowing a free lane on the other side.

In assessing Jones’ fit at the next level, you have to consider two things. Can he develop into a non-liability vs the run and how quickly will it take? And what range are you willing to take him if he’s merely a specialist interior rusher? Because at the next level, teams will run right at him time and time again with his current technique. That’s a problem.

On the plus side, in this game he had a fantastic inside rush with just under 10 minutes left in the third quarter and collected a sack on the final play of regulation, working to bring down the QB who was scrambling to set up a Hail Mary attempt.


— Florida’s former safety and now nickel corner Chauncey Gardner-Johnson had a pick six in an easy win against Idaho (it’s cupcake week for a lot of teams). Jachai Polite also had one sack (9.5 for the season) and two TFL’s.

— Kentucky pass rusher Josh Allen recorded two more sacks vs Mid Tennessee. He’s now at 13 for the season. Teams will have to decide if he’s more than a pure 3-4 OLB. Can he fit into a 4-3? If he tests well, he has the production to go early. Like Dre’Mont Jones, his run defense could be a concern if he plays up at the line.

— Alabama made hard work of their cupcake game against The Citadel. Quinnen Williams collected another sack. He has six in his last six games now. If he declares, he goes in the top-10.

— Michigan’s Rashan Gary had 1.5 sacks in a win against Indiana. Devin Bush had half a sack and 1.5 TFL’s, with Chase Winovich also collecting a TFL.

— Despite a disappointing loss against struggling Florida State, Boston College’s Zach Allen had a sack, a TFL and a tipped pass to continue his productive season. He now has 6.5 sacks. FSU’s Brian Burns had a sack and two TFL’s, taking his sack tally to 10 for the season.

— Clemson hammered Duke and it was another huge day for the defensive line. Christian Wilkins had a sack and 1.5 TFL’s, Clelin Ferrell had two sacks and 2.5 TFL’s and Dexter Lawrence had two TFL’s. All three are going to be high picks. Ferrell now has 10 sacks for the season.

— LSU linebacker Devin White led the team in tackles against Rice while recording a sack, a TFL, a QB hurry and a pass deflection. White is a stud.

I will update this piece in the morning with some notes on the late games. Also, check out Friday’s piece on the Seahawks philosophy, future and Albert Breer’s big board if you missed it yesterday.

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Friday notes: Seattle’s style, draft talk & more

Friday, November 16th, 2018

If you missed the instant reaction piece, posted minutes after the Green Bay game, check it out here.

Seahawks continue to prove they’re on the right track

“You’re just a man. We’re a team. You’re a single man. We’re never going to let just one man beat us. It’s not about one man. If they’ve got eleven players out there executing their offense then they’re a hell of a team. One man cannot just beat a team.”

These are the words of a pre-heel turn Richard Sherman, shortly after beating Tom Brady and the Patriots in 2012.

That quote has always stuck with me. It perfectly encapsulates Pete Carroll’s setup. This is a team. Everything connects. The running game to the defense, both units to the special teams, the explosive plays on offense and the turnovers on defense.

A complete circle is the aim.

It’s not about putting it all on one guy — a quarterback, for example.

As the Seahawks rose to prominence from 2012, we all celebrated this vision. In the superstar quarterback era, here was something different. A band of brothers. Tough, physical. And not relying on one man to be the be-all and end-all.

For some reason a lot of people have forgotten about that. While the NFL samples and experiments with college spread concepts and is, without doubt, more creative than ever — there are still major similarities between the 2012 and 2018 environments.

The Patriots weren’t trying to ram the ball down your throat in 2012. They weren’t playing especially great defense. Neither were the Packers, the Steelers or the Broncos. They weren’t using completely orthodox offenses, there were some spread concepts (especially in New England and Denver). Brady and Peyton Manning put up huge numbers.

They were winning with their quarterbacks.

The Seahawks did things differently. They built a foundation with everything connected. And they won. They showed, emphatically, there is more than one way to win in this league.

Not much has changed since. There are still prolific passing quarterbacks. The Seahawks are still trying to complete the circle. And when it clicks, as Sherman stated, one man cannot beat a team. That was evidenced yesterday.

It’d be wrong to suggest Green Bay were exclusively Aaron Rodgers vs the world. They weren’t. Kyler Fackrell showed all the promise that had us all excited before the 2016 draft. Davante Adams is a production machine. Yet clearly Rodgers was the key.

The stats bear that out:

Green Bay — passing (332), rushing (48)
Seattle — passing (225), rushing (173)

The Seahawks were far from flawless. Russell Wilson had a strange game — mixing maddening errors with typical flair and quality. The defense was like a hot knife through butter at times — but still, somehow, limited Green Bay to three second half points and collected five sacks. No doubt the off-season plan will be to help the defense reach the next level. Achieve that and Carroll will have a heck of a team.

Watching the game, it’d be easy to pick flaws. People love to find fault these days and miss the positives. Here’s the reality though:

— The Seahawks have by far the most productive and best running game in the league. They are now averaging 154.3 YPG. Second on the list are the Rams with 144.8 YPG. Third are the Niners with 133.6 YPG. The difference between Seattle and even the second and third ranked teams is significant. And this isn’t stat-padding with Wilson scrambles anymore. This is a prolific ground attack featuring a terrific offensive line and talented running backs, making life miserable for opponents.

— Wilson might look uncomfortable, inconsistent and a bit frustrating at times — but look at the numbers. He’s on track for 37 passing touchdowns (would be a career high). He’s on track for a passer rating of 110.2 (would be a career high). If you’d said at the start of the season — the Seahawks would have the BEST running game in the league by far and Russell Wilson would be on for career highs in passer rating and touchdown passes, you’d have been delighted. Yet people still question the philosophy, the scheme, the coordinator and the Head Coach. Madness.

— Frank Clark has 10 sacks. Aaron Donald, who’s played the same number of games, has 12.5 and leads the NFL. The Seahawks have a pass rusher to build around. And with a draft rich in front-seven defenders, they will have a big opportunity to build up their D-line. The franchise tag appears likely for Clark.

— The Seahawks can now legitimately do two things. 1 — ram the ball down your throat for an 8-minute opening drive for a touchdown. 2 — ram the ball down your throat to close out a game with four minutes to go. The Packers defenders looked shattered and submissive at the end. On the final, deciding run — Mike Davis ran right behind D.J. Fluker, Germain Ifedi and George Fant to the right hand side. What a beautiful sight. The Packers said, ‘no thanks’ and slumped back to the locker room. I’d recommend watching the last four minutes accompanied by this song. Because that’s what happened.

— The reason I watch football is because it’s not like a lot of other sports. It has some brutality. A bunch of grown men hammer each other for a few hours. And while I enjoy explosive passing plays as much as anyone — I think some people forgot how fantastic it is to watch your team kick somebody’s ass. The Seahawks are in a reset year. They don’t win every game. Sometimes it’s a bit frustrating (eg the Chargers game) but that’s par for the course. They’re still a kick ass team. And I like that. If I didn’t and wanted to just obsess about numbers and probability, I’d watch baseball. We wouldn’t sit here living through 3-4 hours of beautiful agony with this team, or spend three months obsessing about which college players they might draft. I want to see the Seahawks win more than anything and don’t really care how they do it. But I do enjoy watching them play this way. How can you not love this?

Thoughts on Albert Breer’s big board

The national media are starting to turn their attentions to the draft, with the college football regular season close to a conclusion. Albert Breer at published a big board this week after consulting with sources — and he confirms a lot of what we’ve been saying on this blog:

If you root for the Jets or the Bucs or the Browns, or another team hovering on the fringes of prime draft position, you may be tempted to root for some post-Thanksgiving losses. In some years, especially those with bumper crops of quarterbacks coming, there’s real validity to the idea. Our advice to those good people: Don’t bother, not this year.

That doesn’t mean that the 2019 draft is bereft of talent. It’s not 2013 or ’15 at the top, and it does have depth that, as scouts see, should last into the fifth round. It’s just that, unless you have the first or second pick, this might not be the best year to be high in the draft order. Evaluators across the league will tell you: When it comes down to it, this is one of those years where there isn’t much separating the fourth pick from the 14th.

We’ve been suggesting this for a few weeks now. It’s not a class where having a top-10 pick is necessarily a coveted thing. The distinct lack of quarterbacks, left tackles and skill players is an issue for bad teams looking to take forward steps. It is, however, a very deep and thick looking D-line class for round one. The thing is, the player you draft in the teens might get a similar grade to the guy taken at #5 overall. So there’s very little benefit to tanking and picking as early as possible (unless you’re hunting for #1 overall to select the brilliant Nick Bosa).

Breer goes on to add:

“The first round is full of land mines,” says one veteran AFC exec.

“This is not a top–10 type of draft,” adds an AFC college scouting director. “To me, there are a lot pass rushers and D-linemen, but I don’t know that there’s anyone that compares to, say, Bradey Chubb, if you take [Nick] Bosa out of it.”

That sets the backdrop for you. This year’s class is light on the skill positions, and heavy on defensive linemen, with a shaky group of quarterbacks mixed in.

None of this is surprising but it validates what we’ve been saying. There is a clear strength in this class (D-line) and clear weaknesses (distinct lack of QB, OL, skill player talent).

So how does Breer stack things up?

Here’s his list:

1. Nick Bosa (DE, Ohio State)
2. Quinnen Williams (DT, Alabama)
3. Ed Oliver (DT, Houston)
4. Devin White (LB, LSU)
5. Rashan Gary (DE, Michigan)
6. Clelin Ferrell (DE, Clemson)
7. Josh Allen (LB, Kentucky)
8. Jeffrey Simmons (DT, Mississippi State)
9. Greedy Williams (CB, LSU)
10. DeAndre Baker (CB, Georgia)
11. Christian Wilkins (DT, Clemson)
12. Dexter Lawrence (DT, Clemson)
13. Justin Herbert (QB, Oregon)
14. Jonah Williams (T, Alabama)
15. Derrick Brown (DT, Auburn)
16. Montez Sweat (DE, Mississippi State)
17. Raekwon Davis (DT, Alabama)
18. Dre’Mont Jones (DT, Ohio State)
19. Deionte Thompson (S, Alabama)
20. Devin Bush (LB, Michigan)

Here’s what I like about the list:

— Completely agree with some of the early listings. In our first mock draft posted last week, a lot of the names at the very top were projected early — Bosa, Williams, Oliver, White, Ferrell.

— It’s good to see Devin White recognised for the clear top-talent he is. For some reason you see a lot of mocks with White lasting into the late teens. It won’t happen. He’s too good, too athletic and too consistent for that.

— A lot of the mock drafts on the internet seem deliberately contrarian. Whether that’s for clicks or just to be different, I don’t know. But you often see Christian Wilkins and Dexter Lawrence knocked for whatever reason and undeserving wide receivers listed in the top 10-15. It’s nice to see Breer via his sources rightly credit both Wilkins and Lawrence for the terrific talents they are. And for those who’ve question how we’re judging this receiver class — Breer doesn’t have any in his top-20.

— This is the range where I see Dre’Mont Jones. He’s a nifty pass rusher and has really upped his production in 2018. However, his run defense is problematic and teams will have to think about how he fits into their defense. Can you trust him not to be a liability vs the run? His gap integrity and POA strength just seems lacking. A lot of these athletic interior defenders enter the league and flame out. He’s a talented player — but there are question marks.

— I was harsh on Rashan Gary in my first mock, listing him at #14. I suspect that won’t happen and he will go in the top-10. Due to the lack of deserving top-10 talents this year, someone will take a punt on his massive upside. He’ll be seen as a safer bet than a Brian Burns (for example). I’ll correct this next time.

Here’s what I didn’t like about the list:

— It baffles me why Jonah Williams gets rated as highly as he does. I wrote about this last weekend. It’s pretty clear he has to kick inside to guard. He lacks the length and frame to play inside-out and he doesn’t have the foot-speed and kick-slide to wall-off against the speed rush. He gets beat with inside counters and really, he looks like a square-up blocker you want taking on interior defenders head-on. We often see Alabama offensive linemen get overrated and I think this will be the case here. For me, he won’t go in round one and if he does — it’ll be in the back third of day one to play as a guard.

— I’m also not sold on Alabama safety Deionte Thompson as a first round pick. He’s tall and lean but not a fantastic athlete. Coming into the year, Tony Pauline noted he had him graded as a fifth round talent. Thompson ran a 4.71 at the SPARQ combine and hasn’t shown to be a twitchy free safety. Too me he might be best suited acting as a strong safety or even big nickel. He’s a decent player but nowhere near the talent of future top-10 pick in 2020 Grant Delpit of LSU.

— I’m not convinced Jeffrey Simmons or Montez Sweat warrant a place in the top-20 ahead of prospects like Jachai Polite (who garners double teams every week and still makes plays), Zach Allen (having a sensational season for Boston College) or Brian Burns (dominating despite playing for a bad Florida State team).

— DeAndre Baker is competitive, can be physical and he had a fantastic end to the 2017 season. Is he a difference maker at corner? Not convinced. Greedy Williams has the size and athleticism to work into a very viable NFL starter. Baker, to me, looks like he could be an average combine tester with below-average length and size. Washington’s Byron Murphy looks like a better option for CB2 in this class.

— I like Josh Allen as a pass rusher. He’s having a tremendous year. I’d be very wary of him in the top-10 though unless he has a surprisingly explosive combine. Georgia ran at his side of the line with great success recently. It makes you wonder whether he’ll ever be an EDGE or LEO and whether he’s strictly suited to featuring as a 3-4 OLB. Georgia’s D’Andre Walker, however, provides pass rush, he can drop to play linebacker and he’s tremendous at setting the edge vs the run despite playing at about 245lbs.

Check out this article about Rashaad Penny

Mike at Tasteful Profanity sent this along to me. Having tired of the arguments against the Penny pick over the last few weeks, I found this to be an entertaining counter.

College games on my schedule this weekend

Arkansas vs Mississippi State
Ohio State vs Maryland
Missouri vs Tennessee or West Virginia vs Oklahoma State

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