Month: December 2018 (Page 1 of 2)

Instant reaction: Seahawks win, finish 10-6

Perspective is important. This was an ugly game but let’s just remember a few things, now that the Seahawks have beaten the Cardinals 27-24:

1. When the Seahawks beat the Cardinals in Arizona in week four, Pete Carroll played that game exactly the same as this one. They were facing a rookie quarterback playing behind a bad offensive line. Trust the defense and running game to win it for you. Accept a close game and trust in the process. Seattle did win both games in almost identical fashion. Job done.

2. The Seahawks play a tough, physical brand of offense. It’s very difficult to play at maximum intensity when you know, consciously or sub-consciously, the most important thing today was to avoid injuries.

3. It’s even tougher to play your tough, physical style of offense missing your starting left guard, your starting right guard and your backup right guard. It’s even worse when you have to kick your right tackle, who is returning from injury, into the right guard slot and start a guy who’s been playing tight end at right tackle. That’s a lot to take. So yes, the offensive line was bad today. It’s hardly a surprise.

4. The Cardinals have given Seattle fits for years with creative blitz packages. Throw that into the mix too. But here’s the thing — the Seahawks also recorded six sacks in this game. Both D-lines dominated overmatched O-lines missing key players.

5. It’s better to have a special teams nightmare today than next week. Two blocked punts (one returned for a touchdown) and too many returns. That can’t happen in Dallas. The Seahawks need a clean game in all three phases to beat a Cowboys team that has won a lot of games in the second half of the season and been consistent winners at home.

6. Instead of focusing on the negatives, embrace how well Frank Clark, Jarran Reed and Chris Carson continue to play. Clark is destined for the franchise tag. Reed will almost certainly get a contract extension in the off-season. The new core is emerging to go with the starting O-line, Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner.

7. No major injuries occurred in this game.

8. Give the Cardinals some credit. They didn’t mail it in like a lot of other teams in week 17. Win one for Larry Fitzgerald? For Steve Wilks? For pride? Whatever it was, they came to play on defense. Sometimes it’s easy to forget there’s actually another team playing the game. So while Seahawks Twitter provided the usual in-game running commentary, overreacting to every single negative, maybe just take the win and congratulate the Cardinals for making it a game?

This is a Seattle team that won 10 games and made the post-season against the odds. The offense was highly productive. The defense has been fun. The whole team has entertained us a lot more than they did a year ago. The Seahawks aren’t flawless and they can improve. We’ll have plenty of time to discuss that in the off-season.

For now, it’s onto the playoffs.

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Updated mock draft with trades: 27th December

It’s difficult to predict how teams will view Jeffery Simmons.

It’s also a challenging conversation to have.

Simmons was filmed punching a woman as she lay on the floor. The incident occurred in High School.

Rick Cleveland at Mississippi Today notes in this article:

“…three years ago when, between high school and college, Simmons was found guilty of simple assault and malicious mischief for striking a woman repeatedly. If you’ve seen the video, you know: It was ugly.

“Then-Mississippi State athletic director Scott Stricklin, now in the same position at Florida, stood by Simmons amid much criticism. Stricklin talked to community, church and school leaders in Macon. He talked to Simmons. In short, he determined that Simmons was a good kid who had made a terrible mistake.”

Opinions will be mixed on how Simmons should be judged as he prepares to enter the NFL. I don’t think there’s a right or wrong way to look at this, personally. If you believe he doesn’t deserve a chance in the NFL — or that he at least doesn’t deserve to be a high draft pick — that’s a thoroughly plausible position to take.

Equally, it’s understandable if you see Simmons as a man who has worked to make amends and shouldn’t be judged eternally for one regrettable and horrific act.

Here’s more from Rick Cleveland:

“Simmons has been – and this is no exaggeration – a model student-athlete. He has achieved better than a 3.0 GPA in human development and family science. He has landed on SEC Academic Honor Roll twice. He has participated in all sorts of community service, speaking at camps, schools and serving as a mentor in Macon. He won Mississippi State’s Newsom Award last spring for his work on the field, in the community and the classroom. His is a story of redemption.”

It’s a complex situation. A few weeks ago I didn’t want to discuss Simmons and left him out of my mocks, projections and articles. After studying the situation more, I think that was a wrong position to take. Because there is at least some evidence that Simmons is a changed man. There is evidence that he’s worked to make amends. That doesn’t mean teams will readily draft him (some will, some won’t) but a conversation is at least warranted.

The video above, posted after he made the decision to declare for the NFL Draft, shows a level of maturity that you witness every time Simmons speaks. To listen to his interviews and those of team mates discussing him as a man, you couldn’t have imagined what happened in that video.

On Christmas Eve, Pete Carroll was asked about Frank Clark. The Seahawks took Clark in round two despite the fact he had been dismissed by Michigan following an allegation of domestic violence. It led to several weeks of criticism in the media, with John Schneider and Pete Carroll attempting to justify their decision. They claimed they’d done their homework and investigated the situation. That, for some, wasn’t enough of a justification.

Here’s Carroll’s answer from Monday about giving Clark a chance when others were unwilling to:

“I think it’s more of a philosophical outlook and also a confidence that you can help guys and if you can sense they’ve got the stuff that it takes, then, you know, obviously you take risks sometimes on guys because of their background. But because a guy’s a young guy and he has some challenges or concerns or whatever doesn’t mean that’s who he is or that’s what his life is going to be like. It’s an easy way to kop out on going for it. When you have people who have the potential and you can sense it in them and you get that feeling then it’s a matter of working through it but staying with them and being there for them and giving them the opportunity to do something really special. A lot of times people get labelled and they don’t get an opportunity to do the special things they’re capable of doing and I like to think we’re always looking for those opportunities because once you connect and you attach a guy to what he really can become, some of the greatest stories come out of it. We’ve been witness to those. It’s all about giving a guy a chance.”

When I heard this answer, I immediately thought of Simmons. My own study is admittedly limited. I don’t have access to private investigators or meetings with coaches and team mates like NFL teams do. But you genuinely, honestly, get a sense that Simmons has turned his life around. That there is some potential in him to be great off the field, not just on it.

Carroll’s answer above felt totally applicable to Simmons.

So from now on, I’m going to consider him as an option for the Seahawks and other teams in round one. I will, however, totally respect anyone who disagrees strongly with that thought. I hope others will likewise respect all views in this challenging discussion.

Why would he fit as a player in Seattle?

I’ve watched six Mississippi State games, focusing on Simmons. As noted in previous articles, in all but one game (vs Alabama) he faced near constant double teams. It limited his ability to make plays as a pass rusher. As a consequence, he only had one sack in 2018. However — he often controlled the LOS and handled the two blockers. He’s difficult to move and very capable of planting the anchor to force runs outside.

He also shows a great ability to work down the line with lateral agility to make plays in the running game. At 6-4 and 300lbs he’s very light on his feet and able to shift down the line to stretch plays out, find lanes and attack the ball carrier.

Simmons ended the season with 14.5 TFL’s. That’s how good he was at controlling the LOS and making plays against the run. In comparison, Jachai Polite had 16.5 TFL’s in 2018. Clelin Ferrell had 17 TFL’s. They had 11 and 10.5 sacks respectively. Simmons made a similar amount of TFL’s with nowhere near the sack numbers. That’s highly impressive and indicative of his ability to be a great run defender.

That’s not to say he’s a mere two-down nose tackle. He has a frame similar to Ndamukong Suh. He’s tall and thick but carries minimal bad weight. He also looks a bit like Jonathan Allen in his build. Matched up 1v1 he might be a more dynamic pass rusher at the next level. There certainly won’t be any need to take him off the field on third downs.

A Simmons/Reed duo with Clark rushing the edge would be a terrific looking base D-line (with a possible free agent addition completing the quartet). The Seahawks might prefer to seek out raw speed off the edge and find a way to plug in a veteran defensive tackle (as they’ve often done) but it’s worth remembering how enamoured they were with Malik McDowell in 2017. They wanted a partner for Jarran Reed and someone who could control the LOS and still make plays in the running game. A Calais Campbell type. Simmons has the potential to do that role too.

It’s highly possible that as this process plays out, teams satisfy themselves with Simmons’ character and he leaves the board before Seattle’s pick. If he falls into the 20’s because of the High School incident, I think it’s likely the Seahawks will consider selecting him. And it’s very easy to get excited about a line that includes Simmons, Jarran Reed and Frank Clark.

Generally I think they’ll be big fans of the Mississippi State defense. They’re tough, fast and physical. Tony Pauline is reporting they’re interested in cornerback Jamal Peters. It equally won’t be a surprise if they admire Simmons’ interior ability, Montez Sweat’s raw speed off the edge or the physicality of Johnathan Abram at safety. There are other names too. It’s a good group.

One other quick final note for now — Kyler Murray is #1 overall in this latest mock. Get ready for this to develop into a more common theme as the process plays out, especially if Murray keeps the NFL option open until mid-January. Murray is legit and, for me, the most dynamic and special player eligible for the 2019 draft. If I needed a quarterback I’d be plotting a move to land him. Forget the size. He is a fantastic talent worthy of the top pick — even if you have to trade up.

First round mock draft with trades

#1 Denver trades up to select Kyler Murray (QB, Oklahoma)
The Broncos have a good team (#12 DVOA) but lack a Championship caliber quarterback. Kyler Murray is a phenomenal talent and if he declares, could end up being the top selection. The Cardinals collect a bounty of picks to move down.

#2 San Francisco — Nick Bosa (DE, Ohio State)
The 49ers, courtesy of the Broncos trade, see Bosa fall right into their laps.

#3 New York Jets — Rashan Gary (DE, Michigan)
The Jets need someone who can work the edge. Gary, the former top recruit in High School, will be highly coveted despite a middling college career.

#4 Oakland — Quinnen Williams (DT, Alabama)
The Raiders try to fill their Khalil Mack void with Alabama’s dynamic one-year wonder.

#5 Miami trades up to select Dwayne Haskins (QB, Ohio State)
With Justin Herbert opting to return to Oregon, the quarterbacks are in short supply. Teams might be aggressive to get the best available.

#6 New York Giants — Clelin Ferrell (DE, Clemson)
Ferrell has great size and length and wins with technique and speed.

#7 Buffalo — Dexter Lawrence (DT, Clemson)
Lawrence is incredible and the PED issue shouldn’t be a problem. He’s huge, athletic and will be a high pick.

#8 Tampa Bay — Devin White (LB, LSU)
Once considered the next Leonard Fournette in High School, White has developed into a terrific linebacker.

#9 Jacksonville — Christian Wilkins (DT, Clemson)
Wilkins will excel at the combine and teams will love his personality.

#10 Washington trades up to select Drew Lock (QB, Missouri)
The Redskins have massive guarantees tied to Alex Smith. They need a cheap rookie QB to provide long term security and short-term insurance.

#11 Atlanta — Ed Oliver (DT, Houston)
Oliver is highly talented but what is his NFL fit? He’s too small to be an every-down DT and he lacks the length and size to play the five-tech or DE.

#12 Arizona — Cody Ford (T, Oklahoma)
After trading down with the Broncos, Arizona makes a much needed investment in the O-line.

#13 Philadelphia trades up to select Raekwon Davis (DT, Alabama)
The Eagles move up to select a player who can anchor their D-line for years to come.

#14 Green Bay — Josh Allen (LB, Kentucky)
Allen is an excellent pass rusher but has issues defending the run, meaning he is scheme specific and needs to operate as a 3-4 OLB.

#15 Detroit — Derrick Brown (DT, Auburn)
After trading down with the Dolphins, the Lions select a complete defensive tackle. Brown is the real deal.

#16 Houston trades up to select Greedy Williams (CB, LSU)
Williams is overrated but the Texans need a corner and make a bold trade into the top-20.

#17 Cleveland — Marquise Brown (WR, Oklahoma)
Hollywood Brown has the quickness to separate and make plays at every level. Baker Mayfield gets his answer to Antonio Brown — Marquise’s cousin.

#18 Cincinnati — Mack Wilson (LB, Alabama)
After trading down with the Eagles, Cincinnati drafts a replacement for Vontaze Burfict.

#19 Pittsburgh — Devin Bush (LB, Michigan)
Bush has limitations but there are teams in the NFL who need help at linebacker.

#20 Tennessee — Jachai Polite (EDGE, Florida)
If Polite lasts this long it’ll be a steal for the Titans. He beats double teams and plays with a relentless motor.

#21 Minnesota — David Edwards (T, Wisconsin)
Edwards is tough, physical and a consistent force in the running game.

#22 Indianapolis — Zach Allen (DE, Boston College)
The Colts luck-out again with a player who played so well in 2018 and was unblockable at times.

#23 Oakland — Dre’Mont Jones (DT, Ohio State)
If the Raiders seriously want to upgrade their pass rush, Jones can be a real interior force.

#24 Baltimore — D’Andre Walker (LB, Georgia)
The Ravens might lose Terrell Suggs in free agency. Walker is underrated and warrants first round talk.

#25 Seattle — Jeffery Simmons (DT, Mississippi State)
Simmons has done a lot to prove he’s a changed man and I think, it’s possible, that will resonate with teams and he’ll go in round one.

#26 Carolina — Taylor Rapp (S, Washington)
Tony Pauline says the Panthers are focused on the safety position. In this mock the Panthers trade down twice to get into range for their guy.

#27 New England — Jaylon Ferguson (EDGE, Louisiana Tech)
Ferguson needs technical refinement but is loaded with potential and had major college production.

#28 Oakland — Rodney Anderson (RB, Oklahoma)
The injury history is a concern. However, Anderson is a massive talent and could still go early.

#29 LA Chargers — Jerry Tillery (DT, Notre Dame)
Tillery was recruited as a left tackle but has shown to be a dynamic interior defender.

#30 LA Rams — Byron Murphy (CB, Washington)
The best cornerback in the draft falls to the fortunate Rams.

#31 Kansas City — Jabari Zuniga (EDGE, Florida)
The Chiefs might require a replacement for Dee Ford.

#32 Green Bay — Jonah Williams (T, Alabama)
I don’t think he’s a first round prospect.

The trades

#12 Denver moves up to #1 Arizona
The Broncos give up a bounty to go up and get Kyler Murray with the top pick.

#15 Miami moves up to #5 Detroit
With limited quarterback options in this class, the Dolphins also make a big aggressive move to go and get Dwayne Haskins.

#16 Washington moves up to #10 Carolina
Alex Smith faces a difficult recovery from a broken leg but the Redskins are paying him a fortune in guarantees. They move up to draft Drew Lock as cheap insurance. The Panthers are happy to move down and collect picks while getting into range to draft a safety.

#18 Philadelphia moves up to #13 Cincinnati
The Eagles often focus on the trenches in the draft and sense an opportunity here with the highly talented Raekwon Davis still on the board.

#26 Houston moves up to #16 Carolina
The Panthers again move down because they’re in the safety market. The Texans see Greedy Williams drop and decide to move up to get a much needed cornerback.

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Instant reaction: Seahawks beat Chiefs, make playoffs

I was invited onto the Seahawkers Podcast immediately after the game to record this instant reaction debate. check it out…

This was a significant victory.

Written off by many as a floundering team destined for a top-10 pick, the Seahawks have shown they’re anything but the Titanic.

They’re far from perfect. There are still improvements to be made. Yet here they are, in the playoffs and with another winning season.

Pete Carroll truly does deserve coach of the year recognition.

Look at some of the other long-standing coaches in the league. Look at the peaks and troughs of Sean Payton’s time in New Orleans, Mike Tomlin in Pittsburgh or John Harbaugh in Baltimore.

They’ve all won one Super Bowl, just like Carroll. They’ve also had to repair or rebuild a roster. Not completely. They’ve consistently had the same quarterback. But they haven’t maintained a level of consistent winning like Carroll.

Payton, for example, had three consecutive 7-9 seasons before last year. He had four 7-9 seasons in five years, in fact. The Ravens went 5-11, 8-8 and 9-7 before this year. Tomlin, perhaps the most maligned of the three, has faired better. He had a pair of 8-8 seasons surrounded by a heap of wins.

Carroll just keeps winning.

Look at the issues he’s had to deal with too:

— The fallout of that Super Bowl

— Russell Wilson’s ‘injured’ season in 2016

— The complete collapse of the running game in 2017

— A legendary but ageing (and in some cases malcontent) defense being replaced

Despite all of this, it’s been one winning season after another.

That deserves some form of recognition because only Bill Belichick has been able to win with any kind of similar regularity. And the Belichick Patriots have never had to share a division with a team anywhere like the Harbaugh Niners, the Arians’ Cardinals or the McVay Rams.

A lot of credit also has to go to the quarterback. On a highly entertaining night, he watched Patrick Mahomes do what he does. And for a moment in the fourth quarter, this started to feel like the Chiefs/Ravens game from week 14. Baltimore dominated and were on the brink of victory several times. Mahomes refused to be beaten.

Tonight, Russell Wilson was the man refusing to be beaten.

Mahomes is clearly the NFL MVP (in my opinion) and a player who will likely win multiple Super Bowls in a career already destined for greatness, Wilson has already achieved greatness. This was merely the latest example.

The Seahawks officially have earned another winning season. They’re 9-6 with only a home game against the Cardinals to come. They’ll have the chance to decide how long they want to play their starters against an opponent preparing to fire its coach and gain the #1 overall pick in the draft.

Will they treat it as a pseudo-bye week? With so many injuries mounting, we might see a lot of backups next week. Dallas awaits in the Wild Card round.

Some other quick notes…

— Russell Wilson + Doug Baldwin is a combo you dream about when you don’t have them. Any talk of moving on from either is absurd.

— Credit to Mike Solari and the offensive line (again). No Germain Ifedi, J.R. Sweezy leaves the game and D.J. Fluker is nowhere near 100%. They don’t have Jordan Simmons either. They still delivered another huge day in the running game and gave Wilson enough time to work his magic in the second half against some talented pass rushers.

— Akeem King had a fantastic game, mostly lining up against Travis Kelce.

— Why weren’t the Seahawks prepared to pay top dollar for Earl Thomas? Three reasons defensively — Frank Clark, Jarran Reed and Justin Coleman. All at a good age, all played very well again tonight. All needing to be kept or extended this off-season. Seattle doesn’t have as much cap room as you think. Only a couple of teams have fewer players contracted for 2019. They’re going to need to add bodies in free agency with only four draft picks. They absolutely can’t afford to lose a trio of players who are a huge part of the new core. They’re going to need to make every penny count this off-season.

— Sebastian Janikowski has now missed five field goals and three extra points this season. We’re living in an era of football where expecting perfection is unrealistic. Even the leagues established best kicker, Justin Tucker, cost the Ravens a game this season by missing a late extra point. It’s also worth acknowledging that Janikowski hit game-winning kicks against Arizona and Carolina. That said, at the very least they need to re-open the competition in the off-season. They need to find their answer to Robbie Gould. A seasoned veteran, completely consistent. It’d be worth paying a little more money for too. Janikowski can still be that man — but he surely can’t afford to miss any more. Especially in the playoffs.

Merry Christmas to all.

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Report: Seahawks eyeing Jamal Peters

If you’re not following Tony Pauline’s ‘Draft Analyst’ website & podcast, you should be. Tony is the #1 source for draft info and has accurately named a number of Seahawks draft targets over the years.

Today, he is reporting they are enamoured by Mississippi State cornerback Jamal Peters.

He’s a former four-star prospect who was recruited by Alabama, Auburn and Clemson before opting to stay in Mississippi. He’s listed at 6-2 and 220lbs — so he has the size they look for at cornerback. I haven’t studied his tape but will be taking a long look this evening.

Peters hasn’t been the most productive player with zero interceptions this year and only three in four years in the SEC.

Adding more depth and competition at corner is vital this off-season. Tre Flowers has had an excellent rookie season and Shaquill Griffin has started every game in his second year. If either were to get injured, there would be issues. Seattle is used to having strong depth at corner. That isn’t currently the case.

Pauline says Peters was being discussed as a second round talent in pre-season but is now viewed predominantly as a third rounder. The Seahawks only have picks in rounds one, three, four and five.

It won’t be a major surprise if they target defensive line help in round one and then cornerback competition with their second selection. Peters is definitely a name to remember.

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New mock draft with trades: 18th December

#1 Arizona — Nick Bosa (DE, Ohio State)
Having drafted a quarterback early a year ago, the Cardinals take Bosa to pair with Chandler Jones.

#2 Oakland — Quinnen Williams (DT, Alabama)
A one-year wonder who’s still a teenager, Williams has emerged as a nailed-on top-five pick.

#3 New York Jets — Rashan Gary (DE, Michigan)
Gary had an underwhelming college career but he was the #1 recruit for a reason and has enormous potential.

#4 TRADE w/SF — Denver — Kyler Murray (QB, Oklahoma)
The Broncos make a big move from #13 to go and get Murray — arguably the top draft eligible prospect. Fantastic talent.

#5 Jacksonville — Dexter Lawrence (DT, Clemson)
Back in the day, Lawrence was #2 only to Rashan Gary in the recruiting rankings. An exceptional talent worthy of a top grade.

#6 Atlanta — Clelin Ferrell (DE, Clemson)
Ferrell would be a high pick in any draft. He has ideal length and the ability to win with speed or power.

#7 TRADE w/DET — Miami — Justin Herbert (QB, Oregon)
So far I haven’t included Herbert because there’s a feeling he won’t declare. This week he’s in. Miami moves up to get him.

#8 New York Giants — Cody Ford (T, Oklahoma)
Ford has exceptional feet for a man with his size. If nothing else he’ll be a top guard.

#9 Tampa Bay — Devin White (LB, LSU)
A brilliant athlete once touted as the next Leonard Fournette, White switched to defense and never looked back.

#10 Buffalo — Christian Wilkins (DT, Clemson)
Ideal three-technique who will test well at the combine and wow teams with his personality.

#11 Green Bay — Josh Allen (EDGE, Kentucky)
Allen could have issues defending the run so a 3-4 scheme suits him best.

#12 TRADE w/CAR — Philadelphia — Raekwon Davis (DT, Alabama)
The Panthers might look to move down to get into range for a safety. The Eagles could target one of the top defensive linemen.

#13 TRADE w/DEN — San Francisco — Jachai Polite (EDGE, Florida)
Polite was superb this season, beating double teams and playing with relentless effort.

#14 Cincinnati — Ed Oliver (DT, Houston)
The issue for Oliver is size. He’s about 275lbs but lacks the length and style to play defensive end. Is he an every-down defender?

#15 Cleveland — Derrick Brown (DT, Auburn)
Even this early, Cleveland would be getting a steal with Brown. A complete defensive tackle.

#16 TRADE w/MIA — Detroit — Byron Murphy (CB, Washington)
Murphy is the best draft eligible cornerback. Sudden, aggressive and tough.

#17 Washington — Drew Lock (QB, Missouri)
The Redskins can’t afford to sign another veteran QB because of the huge guarantees due to Alex Smith. So they almost have to draft one if Smith can’t go in 2019.

#18 TRADE w/CAR via PHI — Houston — Greedy Williams (CB, LSU)
The Texans need a corner. With the (somewhat overrated) Greedy Williams still on the board, they move up.

#19 Indianapolis — Jaylon Ferguson (EDGE, Louisiana Tech)
Ferguson is raw and needs refining but there’s talent and potential to work with.

#20 Tennessee — Zach Allen (DE, Boston College)
Allen is big like a five-technique but quick like a defensive end. He had a great 2018 season.

#21 Minnesota — David Edwards (T, Wisconsin)
We’ll see if he declares but teams will like Edwards’ competitive nature and character.

#22 TRADE w/SEA — Oakland — Marquise Brown (WR, Oklahoma)
The Raiders need an offensive playmaker. They move up to land ‘Hollywood’ Brown, the cousin of Antonio.

#23 Baltimore — D’Andre Walker (EDGE, Georgia)
Walker looks like an ideal AFC North defender. Strong, tough, quick and productive.

#24 Pittsburgh — Dre’Mont Jones (DT, Ohio State)
A possible five-technique or interior rush specialist, Jones is slippery and consistently gets into the backfield.

#25 TRADE w/OAK — Seattle — Jabari Zuniga (EDGE, Florida)
Zuniga quietly had a fantastic season and if he tests well at the combine he could sneak into the top-40.

#26 New England — Daniel Jones (QB Duke)
The Patriots have to think about the future and Jones has some of what they like at the position.

#27 Oakland — Damien Harris (RB, Alabama)
Explosive, physical, breakaway speed and great in pass-pro — Harris can be a feature back at the next level.

#28 Kansas City — Jerry Tillery (DT, Notre Dame)
He was recruited as a left tackle but switched to defense. Tillery is tall, long and can create pressure.

#29 TRADE w/HOU — Carolina — Taylor Rapp (S, Washington)
The Panthers reportedly want a safety but none are worth taking early. They can trade back and get Rapp in this range.

#30 LA Rams — Jonah Williams (G, Alabama)
Williams plays tackle but needs to kick inside. He’s overrated but could provide a solid option at guard.

#31 LA Chargers — Greg Little (T, Ole Miss)
Little is a bit stiff at tackle and might need to move inside to guard — just like Jonah Williams.

#32 Green Bay — A.J. Brown (WR, Ole Miss)
Brown can line up in the slot and compete for the ball as an outside receiver. Is he athletic enough to go earlier than this? Debatable.

The trades included…

Denver trades with San Francisco to move from #13 to #4
Miami trades with Detroit to move from #16 to #7
Philadelphia trades with Carolina to move from #18 to #12
Houston trades with Carolina to move from #29 to #18
Oakland trades with Seattle to move from #25 to #22

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Updated ranking list: Kyler Murray & Nick Bosa at the top

Cody Ford has every opportunity to land in the top-15

We can all do with moving on from yesterday, so here’s an updated tier list. Several new names have been added today — including Cody Ford the left tackle at Oklahoma and Iowa tight end Noah Fant.

I re-watched three games to get an angle on Ford and was blown away by his footwork. He’s listed at 6-4 and 338lbs. Despite that, I couldn’t believe how easily he moved as a blindside blocker. He attacks pass rushers with a wonderful set, keeping balanced throughout and quickly getting into position. He never extends too far allowing the inside counter. His size and foot-speed make it incredibly difficult to find a way past him with a conventional 1v1 rush.

In the running game there were multiple examples where he squared up, kept his hands inside and plowed the defender backwards to create space. This is especially useful in the red zone where he often drove the LOS into scoring position on the left side of the line.

He doesn’t have conventional tackle size. We’ll need to see how he measures. In fairness he looks like a big guard — the type Seattle would love to plant at right guard in their current scheme. I don’t see this as much of an issue though. If anything it provides some security. You can try him at left tackle and if it doesn’t work, you’ll likely get a very useful interior lineman with a quality skill set.

I’m not sure I can recall a guy with this size moving with this quickness and balance to get into a pass-pro set. It’s a unique quality he has and in a down year for offensive linemen in round one — there’s no doubt at all Ford has a big opportunity to go in the top-15. Even if he doesn’t look like a conventional tackle and might find a long term home at guard.

Tier 1 — the top of the class

Kyler Murray (QB, Oklahoma)
Nick Bosa (DE, Ohio State)

There’s no reason to hold back. Kyler Murray might be the best draft eligible player for 2019. He’s an exceptional talent. He’s an accurate passer making a wide range of throws at different levels of the field. He’s a dynamic athlete capable of improvising and breaking off big gains as a runner. He’s one of the most exciting prospects I’ve studied since starting this blog in 2008. If I need a quarterback and I have the #1 pick this year (and he chooses the NFL over baseball) — I consider taking him first overall. That’s no knock on Nick Bosa either. He’s a complete pass rusher with the quickness, power and motor to be every bit as good as his brother Joey. With the Cardinals having the inside track on the #1 pick, Bosa appears likely to be the top selection.

Tier 2 — likely top-10 picks

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

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. 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 love this pair. They will go early. Clelin Ferrell has ideal size and length and would be a high pick in any draft. Christian Wilkins is a phenomenal player with fantastic athleticism, prototype three-tech size, excellent character and technique. Ignore his critics. 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. Raekwon Davis is a monster built like Calais Campbell.

Tier 3 — possible top-15 picks

Devin White (LB, LSU)
Jachai Polite (EDGE, Florida)
Derrick Brown (DT, Auburn)
Cody Ford (T, Oklahoma)

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. 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 facing 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 makes an impact as a pass rusher too. Cody Ford looks like a guard but has the footwork and balance to play tackle.

Tier 4 — possible top-20 picks

Zach Allen (DE, Boston College)
Josh Allen (EDGE, Kentucky)
David Edwards (T, Wisconsin)

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. We’ll see if he declares as a junior.

Tier 5 — Top-40 talent

D’Andre Walker (LB, Georgia)
Dre’Mont Jones (DT, Ohio State)
Byron Murphy (CB, Washington)
Marquise Brown (WR, Oklahoma)
Damien Harris (RB, Alabama)
Jerry Tillery (DT, Notre Dame)
Rodney Anderson (RB, Oklahoma)
Brian Burns (EDGE, Florida State)

We’ve been saying all season that D’Andre Walker is underrated and it took a big performance against Alabama to finally gain some recognition. 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. Dre’Mont Jones is slippery and quick and consistently finds his way into the backfield as a pass rusher. 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. Marquise Brown is sudden and a fantastic playmaker. He’s Antonio Brown’s cousin. Damien Harris is highly explosive and the complete running back. 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. Rodney Anderson will not go early due to injury concerns but in terms of pure talent — he’s right up there. Explosive, great size, tough. An excellent prospect who just needs to stay healthy. Brian Burns had a terrific year and could be listed higher but there are legitimate concerns about his weight (is he really playing in the 220’s?).

Tier 6 — best of the rest

Noah Fant (TE, Iowa)
Kaden Smith (TE, Stanford)
Drew Lock (QB, Missouri)
Chauncey Gardner-Johnson (CB/S, Florida)
Jaylon Ferguson (EDGE, Louisiana Tech)
Taylor Rapp (S, Washington)
Jeffery Simmons (DT, Mississippi State)

Noah Fant was under-utilised at Iowa but reportedly jumps a 42-inch vertical and runs a short shuttle of 3.95 seconds. If he manages that at the combine he’ll go in the top-45. Kaden Smith has great agility for his size and has a shot to develop into a complete tight end. Drew Lock could easily be the first quarterback taken and could’ve been a first rounder this year. Chauncey Gardner-Johnson switched to nickel corner from safety in 2018. He’s extremely physical and plays with personality and attitude. He can be boom-or-bust. Jaylon Ferguson had major production in 2018 but plays with raw technique. With a good combine, some teams will believe he’s worth selecting early to develop. Taylor Rapp is athletic with the ability to leave an impression and could be the first safety off the board. Jeffery Simmons didn’t have many splash plays this year but he regularly had to battle double teams and played well against the run.

Still intriguing

Gerald Willis II (DT, Miami)
Jabari Zuniga (EDGE, Florida)
Johnathan Abram (S, Mississippi State)
Christian Miller (LB, Alabama)
Steven Montez (QB, Colorado)
Austin Bryant (EDGE, Clemson)
Benny Snell Jr. (RB, Kentucky)

Gerald Willis will need to explain to teams a bizarre college career that started at Florida, appeared to be going way off the tracks and then ended with a fantastic year of production in Miami. He’s undersized and might be a specialist rusher but he plays with supreme agility and will test well in the short shuttle. Jabari Zuniga doesn’t get as much attention as Jachai Polite but he had a terrific 2018 season and is a good combine away from a big rise. Johnathan Abram is a playmaking safety but there are concerns about his athletic upside. A big combine performance could push him into the top-40. Christian Miller will test well and has developed into a more complete player in 2018. Steven Montez isn’t expected to declare for the draft but if he changes his mind could still provide an intriguing alternative to the big name quarterbacks. Austin Bryant is a pure pass rusher who will make plays in a rotation. Benny Snell ran with toughness and authority all year for Kentucky.

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

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

Greedy Williams will likely be the first cornerback off the board, possibly in the top-15. However, he still needs a lot of work and shares some of the same issues as Deandre Baker when tracking the ball in the air. Williams has the size and looks the part but might underwhelm at the next level. I think he’s overrated and generally projected too early. 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 to guard.

Deionte Thompson is a long, lean safety. He isn’t rangy or particularly fast. He might run in the late 4.5’s or 4.6’s. He’s physical but I don’t understand the first round hype. The Seahawks could view 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. A.J. Brown competes for the ball in the air but how athletic is he? Is he just another Laquon Treadwell? 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. Dwayne Haskins has talent and production. There were also a lot of easy throws to a long list of highly explosive and athletic playmakers. Personally, I think he’s a day two pick with some potential.

Players I’m still unsure about

Daniel Jones (QB, Duke)
Devin Bush (LB, Michigan)
Jawaan Taylor (T, Florida)

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. Devin Bush is not bad player at all. However, there are some concerns and I don’t see a first round prospect. Bush was asked to be very aggressive by Michigan. He had two key roles — attack the LOS to try and make plays in the backfield and cover passes to the flat. That’s not his fault but it makes for a difficult evaluation. There wasn’t too much in the way of read-and-react, discipline vs the run and zone coverage. In one game I saw him attack the LOS leaving a simple outside cut for the running back to break off a big gain. He needed to be less aggressive and simply force the runner back inside. He has energy and speed but it’s hard to get a sense for how his game translates to the next level watching Michigan play. Todd McShay included Jawaan Taylor in the top-20 of his first mock draft. I haven’t studied Taylor and intend to in the coming days.

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Instant reaction: Seahawks struggle, beaten by Niners

After four straight wins all but secured a place in the playoffs, the Seahawks enjoyed a week of media hype.

They’re the team you don’t want to meet in the post-season

Seattle will be a tough out when, all being well, they do finally qualify for the playoffs. This game, however, was a disappointing let down.

Is it a wake-up call? Perhaps. That would take away credit from the 49ers though. San Francisco were inspired, well coached and had a plan on offense and defense to limit Seattle.

They also had some help. The Seahawks were sloppy. They struggled to cover the tight ends early, missed an extra point and then immediately gave up a kick-return touchdown. They gave up 14 penalties for 148 yards (apparently a franchise record) — including three 15-yard penalties in one single drive.

And with two opportunities to win the game on offense (at the end of regulation and start of overtime) — holding flags snatched away any chance to get the job done.

It never felt like Seattle deserved to win. San Francisco did — playing the cleaner game, making more plays and feeling in greater control throughout.

It might not be the worst result if it focuses a few minds. A four game winning streak created talk of a finish reminiscent of 2012 or 2014. The reality is this is a very different group. It started the year looking like a seven, eight or nine win team. The chances are it will end that way — with a tough game against the Chiefs next week followed by a home closer against Arizona.

The Seahawks are not a tier one team alongside the Saints, Rams, Chiefs and Chargers. Today showed they have a ways to go — even if in totality this has been a positive year.

It’s fair to wonder if this loss takes the gloss off the feel good factor. It won’t extinguish it completely but losing to Richard Sherman’s 49ers, a division rival, ending a 10-game streak against San Francisco and possibly finishing the year an unexciting 9-7 is a difficult one to take. More so because the Niners prevented the Seahawks from qualifying for the playoffs today.

Momentum can be regained quickly if they beat Kansas City next week. They still get two more shots to secure their post-season berth and a winning season. They won’t want to limp over the line in week 17 against the Cardinals, however.

A few specific thoughts on the game and the future…

— Seattle’s offensive line has been a big positive this season. That wasn’t quite the case today. They provided some nice runs for Chris Carson who had another excellent day. Yet overall there were too many costly penalties and it never quite felt like they had the better of San Francisco’s bevvy of first round picks on the D-line.

— The Seahawks won the turnover battle (+1), comfortably handled time of possession (+7:34 mins) had a 34-yard advantage, were just under 50% on third downs (9-19) and ran for 168 yards. It goes to show how much they had to bust to lose this game. That’s what happens when you miss an extra point, give up a special teams touchdown and set a franchise record for penalty yardage.

— The Seahawks still need an influx of talent on defense. They clearly have some very good players. Jarran Reed has taken a big step forward, Frank Clark will be re-signed one way or another and Bobby Wagner is the best middle linebacker in football. Bradley McDougald has had a terrific year. They also have a young group that’ll hopefully develop with time. They need more, however. In the past they were able to call on great depth in the pass rush (Bennett, Avril, Clark or Clemons) and an elite secondary. They have neither at the moment. It’ll be easier to solve the D-line issue in the upcoming off-season with both the 2019 draft class and free agency looking deep for defensive linemen.

— Kyle Shanahan called an excellent game and didn’t put Nick Mullens in a difficult environment. As much as this was a disappointing performance for the Seahawks, it was also a reminder that the Niners have an excellent Head Coach who will be a problem in the division if his best players can stay healthy.

— People will pick out individuals and point the finger. For me this was a collective disappointment with only a few bright spots (Chris Carson, Doug Baldwin, Jarran Reed, Poona Ford, Michael Dickson). No one individual lost this game for Seattle. They simply weren’t anywhere near their best and didn’t deserve to win.

The Seahawks will likely make the post-season. If nothing else the Cardinals game provides a free-hit against the Chiefs. That’s not to say it’s a gimme in week 17 (especially against that particular opponent in Seattle). It’s one they will expect to win and win handsomely, however.

Today reminds us of the reset nature of this 2018 team. It’s been a lot of fun. There’s been some great moments mixed in with some bitterly disappointing games too. They can make some noise in the playoffs but it might be a flute solo instead of an orchestra.

They’re generally trending in the right direction but there’s a lot more work to do.

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Friday notes: Murray, Jones, Simmons, Fant

— After tonight I’ve watched every Oklahoma game from 2018, focusing on Kyler Murray. I think he’s arguably the best draft eligible prospect for 2019. He is an incredible talent — underrated from a NFL perspective purely because of his size and the uncertainty over whether he’ll choose baseball over football. I’m struggling to find limitations. Watch the throws he makes. Downfield shots with perfect accuracy for big touchdowns. Touch-passes over the middle, fitting the football between defenders to find a tight end running the seam. Quick-hitters in the redzone to capitalise on a certain coverage. He extends plays, improvises, makes good decisions, he’s a dynamic threat as a runner. Kyler Murray is the complete package and any team in the top-10 needing a quarterback should consider drafting him (if he declares). Nick Bosa is near enough a complete defensive end prospect. Kyler Murray is right up there in terms of talent. What a player. One of the best we’ve seen in college football in recent history. It will be a shame for the NFL if he doesn’t turn pro and if he does — one team is going to be extremely lucky. There is no doubt in my mind he’s a top-10 talent even if he goes later. Absolute stud.

— I’ve been a little harsh on Ohio State’s Dre’Mont Jones. It’s true there are some issues with run defense. He’s 6-3 and about 285lbs. His calling card is an athletic pass rush. He’s slippery to block, capable of winning with great quickness and get-off at the snap. He creates a lot of pressure in the backfield. He recorded 13 TFL’s in 2018 — a lot for a non-edge rusher — and 8.5 sacks. None of this is new — he’s long been a well-regarded interior pass rusher. My concern was run defense. There are times when his aggressiveness gets the better of him. There are also several examples where he’s too easily jolted off balance creating running lanes. I think I’ve overstated how much of an issue it is, however. I went back and watched three more Ohio State games yesterday, including a review of the crazy game against Maryland. It wasn’t as much of an issue as I recall. And after all, he’s not a 300-310lbs space eater who absorbs double team blocks and dominates in the run. If you’re drafting Jones, it’s likely to act as an inside/out type. Put him at the five-technique on early downs and kick inside as a pass rusher for the rest. There were concerns in High School that he disappeared in games too often. There’s been a bit of that at Ohio State too (and 2018 is really his only one year of production). That said, there are things to like here and I’ll give him a boost in future projections.

— I also spent a bit of time watching Mississippi State’s Jeffery Simmons. ESPN’s Todd McShay mocked him to the Seahawks earlier this week. We discussed the likelihood of the pick here, given Simmons’ incident pre-college where he was filmed beating a defenceless woman. Teams will investigate, question and study the situation since that incident occurred. Some likely won’t include him on their final draft board. It’ll be a highly charged topic during the draft season. Simmons has, really, had his second chance in college and seemingly taken advantage of the opportunity. Others will consider what the ramifications of his previous actions should be. Does he deserve to be an early pick? Does he deserve to be drafted or play in the NFL? Or does he deserve to progress with his career, if indeed teams discover that he truly has learnt his lesson and made amends in college? I watched more of his tape over the last 24 hours. Simmons had to handle a number of double teams last season. In a lot of games he had to fight and try and control two blockers. It made for quite a frustrating watch. On the one hand, you were waiting for a play where he flashed something special — found a way to shake off a double team and make a sack or TFL. It never really happened — yet he still did an admirable job holding his position against two linemen. You don’t see a ton of splash plays. He only had one sack in 2018. This is probably due to the attention he received inside — there just wasn’t the space to swim/rip, take on a 1v1 or shoot a gap. He couldn’t even really get a proper bull-rush in because of the double teams. You’re kind of left wanting a bit more. Let’s see something special. That said, he did record 14.5 TFL’s. And that plays to his ability to be strong against the run and handle those blocks up front. There aren’t many explosive highlight-reel plays. There are examples of containing, reading the play and dropping the running back for a loss. So while he hasn’t been that penetrating sack-artist like Quinnen Williams and doesn’t quite have the upside of a Derrick Brown, Dexter Lawrence or Christian Wilkins — there’s certainly a player that teams might decide can provide some solid every-down reliability with the potential to be more of a playmaker when he isn’t having to deal with double teams.

— I tried to find some tape of Iowa tight end Noah Fant today. He’s long been considered a potential early pick at tight end. It’s a difficult position to project. All of the top TE’s in the league are a little bit different. You have dynamic athletes, glorified slot-receivers and players who do a bit of everything well. Travis Kelce, Zach Ertz and Rob Gronkowski may share a tendency or two but they’re all very different at the same time. And then you have a guy like Evan Engram running a 4.4 and going in round one — but George Kittle, arguably the best performing tight end in 2018, lasted until round five despite an equally brilliant combine. So onto Fant. He’s intriguing because of the physical profile. Bruce Feldman listed him at #6 on his annual ‘freaks’ list this year. Feldman noted he was able to jump a 42-inch vertical and a short shuttle of 3.95 seconds. He can also, apparently, run a 1.48 10-yard split. These are freakish numbers at an estimated 6-5 and 243lbs. That said, Mike Gesicki also had a terrific workout at the combine in 2018 and lasted into round two. So there’s no guarantee here for Fant. The tape was a frustrating watch at times. The quarterback play at Iowa wasn’t good this season and it means in several games Fant is simply ignored or a total non-factor. He had one catch for zero yards against Northwestern and one catch for 12 yards against Nebraska. Fant had seven games where he had fewer than 35-yards receiving. He did, however, score seven touchdowns to go with the 11 he had a year ago. There’s some fluidity and mobility in his routes to the second level. When they get him in motion and then sprinting across the middle — you really see that 10-yard speed. He’s dynamic and able to separate. It’s just a shame Iowa didn’t endeavour to make more use of it. Fant’s very effective in the red zone but it’s more down to his quickness than his size. He doesn’t really box-out defenders and win 50-50 passes in the red zone. He runs precise routes and creates separation with his speed. At the next level he’ll be a threat any time you can get him lined up against a linebacker. His blocking appeared to be pretty good although nothing spectacular. When combining with a tackle to drive a defensive end out of position in the running game he had some success. There aren’t many TE’s with his speed and quickness and he separates better than a lot of the highly touted receivers in this class. For that reason I suspect he’ll have a shot at round one if a team is looking for a receiving threat at the position.

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Comparing mocks: SDB vs ESPN’s Todd McShay

ESPN analyst Todd McShay posted his first 2019 mock draft today. It’s behind a paywall but if you don’t have an ESPN+ account, a Reddit user has posted the list in full. So that’s an option if you want to check it out. You can also start a free trial of ESPN+ by clicking here.

I thought this would be an opportunity to post my own updated mock draft and compare it to McShay’s.

Seahawks Draft Blog mock (draft order via Tankathon):

1 San Francisco — Nick Bosa (DE, Ohio State)
2 Arizona — Quinnen Williams (DT, Alabama)
3 Oakland — Rashan Gary (DE, Michigan)
4 Atlanta — Ed Oliver (DT, Houston)
5 New York Jets — Clelin Ferrell (DE, Clemson)
6 Buffalo — Christian Wilkins (DT, Clemson)
7 Jacksonville — Dexter Lawrence (DT, Clemson)
8 Tampa Bay — Raekwon Davis (DT, Alabama)
9 Detroit — Greedy Williams (CB, LSU)
10 New York Giants — Kyler Murray (QB, Oklahoma)
11 Cincinnati — Devin White (LB, LSU)
12 Green Bay — Josh Allen (EDGE, Kentucky)
13 Cleveland — Derrick Brown (DT, Auburn)
14 Washington — Drew Lock (QB, Missouri)
15 Carolina — Taylor Rapp (S, Washington)
16 Philadelphia — Cody Ford (T, Oklahoma)
17 Denver — David Edwards (T, Wisconsin)
18 Miami — Jachai Polite (EDGE, Florida)
19 Indianapolis — Jaylon Ferguson (EDGE, Louisiana Tech)
20 Tennessee — Zach Allen (DE, Boston College)
21 Minnesota — Greg Little (G, Ole Miss)
22 Baltimore — Damien Harris (RB, Alabama)
23 Pittsburgh — Jerry Tillery (DT, Notre Dame)
24 Oakland — Marquise Brown (WR, Oklahoma)
25 Seattle — D’Andre Walker (EDGE, Georgia)
26 Oakland — Kaden Smith (TE, Stanford)
27 Houston — Byron Murphy (CB, Washington)
28 Los Angeles Chargers — Noah Fant (TE, Iowa)
29 New England — Daniel Jones (QB, Duke)
30 Green Bay — A.J. Brown (WR, Ole Miss)
31 Kansas City — Dre’Mont Jones (DT, Ohio State)
32 Los Angeles Rams — Jonah Williams (G, Alabama)

Players included by SDB but not by McShay

Kyler Murray (QB, Oklahoma)
Drew Lock (QB, Missouri)
Taylor Rapp (S, Washington)
David Edwards (T, Wisconsin)
Damien Harris (RB, Alabama)
D’Andre Walker (EDGE, Georgia)
Kaden Smith (TE, Stanford)
Byron Murphy (CB, Washington)
Daniel Jones (QB, Duke)

Players included by McShay but not by SDB

Justin Herbert (QB, Oregon)
Dwayne Haskins (QB, Ohio State)
Montez Sweat (EDGE, Mississippi State)
DeAndre Baker (CB, Georgia)
Jawaan Taylor (T, Florida)
Devin Bush (LB, Michigan)
Jeffery Simmons (DT, Mississippi State)
Michael Deiter (G, Wisconsin)
Deionte Thompson (S, Alabama)
Johnathan Abram (S, Mississippi State)

Notes on the differences

— I think Kyler Murray is by far the best draft eligible quarterback for 2019. Ignore the size. Just watch the way Murray plays compared to Drew Lock, Dwayne Haskins and even Justin Herbert. You will see every kind of throw, to all areas of the field, with accuracy, touch and precision. Murray has zero limitations as a passer. He’s also highly dynamic and athletic — capable of extending plays, throwing on the run and breaking off huge gains as a runner. Murray deservedly won the Heisman. McShay possibly didn’t include him due to the uncertainty over whether he’ll choose football over baseball. I’m going to include him until he officially rules out the NFL. Murray is a spectacular prospect with limitless talent and potential.

— I included Drew Lock because he was considered a possible first round talent this year before opting to return to Missouri. He’s long been on the NFL’s radar and has a skill-set that can be developed. A team with uncertainty at the position and needing a cheap option (eg the Redskins) could look at him. I didn’t include Dwayne Haskins and don’t consider him a top NFL prospect. A lot of his throws are out to the flat or check-downs to an arsenal of fantastic talent at the receiver and running back positions. Ohio State are loaded with explosive skill players and Haskins was given a lot of easy throws to get the ball into their hands. Compared to Kyler Murray it was night and day. Murray throws into difficult windows over the middle, manipulated defenses and threw receivers open. Haskins doesn’t show anywhere near this range. I think he’s a day two developmental prospect.

— It’s good to see McShay include Rashan Gary and Dexter Lawrence in the top-10. Both players will go very early. Gary had an underwhelming college career and Lawrence has been unfairly critiqued at times. Here’s the thing though. In a year lacking obvious top-10 quarterbacks, left tackles and cornerbacks — the league will tap into major potential on the D-line. Gary and Lawrence were considered by many to be the best defensive tackle duo to ever appear in the same recruiting class. Ever. They were freakishly good in high school and remain difference making athletes. The upside with both is off the charts. They could easily end up being two of the best in the NFL. Teams will recognise that and feel comfortable drafting them early.

— Taylor Rapp at #15 overall in my mock is a little rich. However, according to Tony Pauline the Panthers have identified safety as a key target in the draft. Tapp, for me, is the best available. A lot of people talk about Deionte Thompson at Alabama. He ran in the 4.7’s at SPARQ, didn’t make a ton of plays in 2018 and has a long, lean frame. He looks like a Seahawks day three corner convert — not a rangy free safety or a towering strong safety. Rapp has quickness and agility plus the ability to make plays in space. The Panthers might try to trade down once they’ve identified which safety they want. I didn’t include trades in the mock.

— McShay has the Seahawks taking Jeffery Simmons at Mississippi State. As a player he’s exactly what Seattle needs. Simmons can play any down or distance at defensive tackle. He’s a tremendous run defender but also provides some dynamism as a pass rusher. He’s quick and physical and has taken a leadership role on the defense. A player with his talent could create a fantastic trio with Jarran Reed and Frank Clark. I’m still not convinced he’ll be drafted by the Seahawks. This video (warning — it’s not nice) is the reason why. Someone will draft Simmons, just like someone drafted Joe Mixon. Will the Seahawks go down that road? Be prepared to deal with the reaction? Not sure. A mistake shouldn’t be the end of your career but it does require a lot of investigation. How accountable are you to the mistake? How have you made amends? How have you changed? What lessons did you learn? These are all questions NFL teams will be asking.

Here’s another video about Simmons that offers an insight into his character:

— I don’t plan to mock D’Andre Walker to Seattle every time. I think he’s a fit as a physical and explosive EDGE with the ability to play the run, operate in space and offer some pass rush. He showed against Alabama that he’s one of the top defenders in this class. Unfortunately a lot of the possible alternatives are off the board. It’s one of the reasons I posted the piece about Kyler Murray yesterday — and why it might be an option if he chooses to play football and lasts into the late first round. If the Seahawks continue to win and progress beyond the wildcard round of the playoffs, they will work their way out of range for the best defensive linemen. And then they have a choice to make. Roll the dice on an undersized player like Brian Burns (supposedly playing in the 220’s this year), consider someone like Gerald Willis II (who has had a weird college career but will destroy the short shuttle at the combine) or keep trading down to restore stock in days 2-3. It’d be great to imagine what a Derrick Brown, Christian Wilkins or Jachai Polite could do for this team. All three are likely to be off the board very quickly, however.

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An argument for the Seahawks drafting Kyler Murray

Firstly, there are four things to point out:

1. No, the Seahawks shouldn’t trade Russell Wilson

2. I don’t buy into the argument that you need a cheap QB to succeed

3. It’s unclear whether Kyler Murray will even pursue a NFL career

4. This is an argument for drafting Murray, not a statement that it should happen

Let’s address each point.

1. The Seahawks shouldn’t trade Russell Wilson

Wilson is a perfect fit for Pete Carroll’s offense. The scheme is also perfect for Wilson. Brian at Hawkblogger wrote a superb article to highlight this.

Furthermore, the Seahawks appear to be on the brink of another 3-4 year journey. The offense is stronger than it’s arguably ever been under Carroll. The offensive line is finally fixed. The running game is productive and physical. With a few exceptions, Wilson has been more efficient and explosive than ever. Everything is clicking.

With a few upgrades on defense, this team could be a legitimate contender again in 2019 or 2020. They’re close. It makes no sense whatsoever to move the franchise quarterback and potentially scupper the progress made this year.

Wilson is 30. The team has two realistic, sensible options. Let him play out 2019 and then franchise tag him. Or extend his contract for another four years. Why risk wasting a second Championship window with Carroll?

2. I don’t buy into the argument that you need a cheap QB to succeed

The success of teams like Philadelphia, Kansas City and Los Angeles (Rams) has led to a growing feeling that there’s a competitive advantage when you’re not paying a veteran quarterback +$30m a year.

It’s logical. The rookie pay scale in this CBA changed the game forever. Instead of having to pay Sam Bradford $50m guaranteed, you get to pay Baker Mayfield $32m. Lamar Jackson’s contract only contains $7.5m guaranteed. If you’re paying less for your quarterback, you have more to spend on the rest of your roster.

That said, talent is still the biggest factor in the NFL. It always will be. The teams with the best quarterbacks are going to be the most competitive. It’s why the same three AFC quarterbacks played in the Super Bowl every year for the last 15 years — Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger and Peyton Manning (with a cameo by Joe Flacco).

The quality of your quarterback is what matters, not the cost.

You don’t have to be big spenders in free agency. After all, when the Seahawks were paying Russell Wilson a tiny third-round rookie salary, their best moves were the value moves (Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril) not the big splurge (Percy Harvin).

If you have a QB who isn’t getting it done (eg 2018 Joe Flacco), turning to a cheaper rookie makes sense. When your quarterback is legitimately one of the best 5-6 in the world and having a career season — you ride that wave. Not swim to shore and look for a new board. It’s up to the Seahawks to make it work.

And while things are currently looking good for the Chiefs and Rams, it’s not really because of the saving they’re making at QB. The Rams are great because the Head Coach has proven to be an exceptional talent in his own right — and he inherited a team that had Aaron Donald and Todd Gurley. Kansas City’s defense is horrible. They succeed because of quality coaching and the blossoming career of a possible generational QB talent.

The Rams and Chiefs will pay to keep Jared Goff and Patrick Mahomes one day. And so they should.

3. It’s unclear whether Kyler Murray will even pursue a NFL career

Murray’s baseball agent insists he’ll report to spring training with the Oakland A’s. If you’re unaware, Murray was the ninth overall pick in the MLB draft.

The player himself hasn’t ruled anything out, opting to say he’s merely concentrating on the College Football Playoffs.

Financially, the NFL has to appeal. As PFT’s Michael David Smith highlights, the riches are in football:

“If Murray is a first-round pick, he’ll make anywhere from $10 million (if he goes at the end of the first round) to $35 million (if he goes first overall) on his four-year rookie contract. And if Murray develops into one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, his second contract would be massive. Even if Murray doesn’t become a great quarterback, plenty of not-so-great quarterbacks make a lot of money in the NFL. Matt Cassel has made $60 million in his career; Mark Sanchez has made $74 million.

“In baseball, Murray is guaranteed $4.6 million if he goes to the A’s, but beyond that he wouldn’t get a big payday for five or six years, and he wouldn’t hit free agency until he’s 29 or 30 years old.”

Winning the Heisman Trophy possibly opened Murray’s eyes. Is there more success to come in football? Can he make this work? Is he starting to consider how Baker Mayfield rose to the #1 overall pick?

We’ll likely find out quickly after Oklahoma’s season ends. This feels like it’s trending one way, though. Towards the NFL.

4. This is an argument for drafting Murray, not a statement that it should happen

The 2019 NFL draft is loaded with defensive linemen. Seattle’s biggest needs are on defense. If the intention is to take a big step towards contending for a Super Bowl, the best move would be to add to the D-line with their first pick.

However, the top players will go early and often. If the Seahawks make the post-season, they won’t pick earlier than #21 overall. If they win in the Wildcard round, they can’t select earlier than #25. If they avoid a late-season collapse, they might not be in range for the top D-liners. And that’s part of the consideration here. What’s an alternative plan? Especially if they keep winning?

It’s also worth noting how good the free agent class could be for defensive linemen. Cameron Wake, Brandon Graham, Clay Matthews and Terrell Suggs are all experienced free agents. Anthony Barr, Grady Jarrett, Dante Fowler and Dee Ford are out of contract in the new year. Presumably Demarcus Lawrence, Jadeveon Clowney and Ziggy Ansah will get big money — but they too are all reaching the market.

And with a strong D-line class in the draft, there could be some value to be had here.

So what would be the plan if they did draft Kyler Murray?

There are two key things you gain:

1. A proper developmental quarterback to work with for the first time since drafting Russell Wilson

2. An insurance policy

The first point is simple. For years Seattle wheeled out Tarvaris Jackson, Austin Davis and then traded for Brett Hundley. They’ve only drafted two quarterbacks in the Carroll era — Wilson and seventh rounder Alex McGough.

Drafting a young, developmental quarterback can pay off. Green Bay planned for life after Brett Favre. New England drafted Jimmy Garoppolo in round two and were able to trade him for a high pick.

Both the Patriots and Packers were in a very different position to the Seahawks. Favre and Brady were a lot older than Russell Wilson is currently. It’s also worth noting that the Packers also spent a second rounder on Brian Brohm as they were planning for life after Favre. That didn’t work out as well as the Aaron Rodgers pick.

That said, there’s some logic in bolstering your quarterback ranks — especially for a dynamic playmaker. Kyler Murray has a special quality.

So that brings us onto the insurance policy aspect of this. And a brief history.

When Russell Wilson and the Seahawks began negotiations over a new contract in 2014, a quick deal seemed inevitable. Other highly paid quarterbacks had set the market. Wilson and Seattle were a winning match. Why would there be any drama?

Instead, one of the most tedious episodes of the Carroll era occurred. Wilson’s agent, Mark Rodgers, drove a hard bargain. By the time he started appearing on the radio, you knew things were bad. Deadlines were set. Playing the 2015 season without a new deal became a reality. Then at the last minute, both parties came together.

It felt like an avoidable saga.

Who knows what will happen this time? Wilson is only contracted until the end of the 2019 season. You would expect negotiations to begin again in the off-season. And once more, the market is set. Aaron Rodgers has been paid. Everything works off his latest deal.

It’s possible history will repeat. That the two sides will be locked in negotiations all summer and not come away with an extension until deep into the summer (if at all). It wouldn’t be a big issue. The franchise tag would keep Wilson in Seattle until at least the end of the 2020 season. After that? Who knows.

Preparing for any potential issues would be sound planning. It’s better to have an alternative at hand. It can help in negotiations, it certainly helps if you have to part ways. It’s better to have a solution in place one or two years in advance rather than having to react to any future drama.

Spending a high pick on an insurance policy would be expensive. However, it could be important for two reasons:

1. If there’s one position that retains or increases value, it’s at quarterback. You might get a return on your investment 2-3 years down the line if you decide to trade Murray.

2. If you do have to part ways with Wilson after 2020, at least you’ve got a player who’s spent two years on your roster and knows the offense — rather than trying to scramble for an expensive veteran stopgap or start a rookie.

There’s also a scenario here that includes extending Wilson’s contract and still drafting Murray. Wilson is now 30. If he receives a four-year contract extension, that’ll take him to the age of 35. A first round rookie contract lasts for five seasons.

If you draft Murray in 2019, you have a quality backup for the rest of Wilson’s third contract and then you can make the same kind of decision as the Patriots in 2017. They had to choose between keeping Jimmy Garoppolo or Tom Brady. They chose Brady and traded Garoppolo for a high pick.

So there’s some of the reasoning. I’m not trying to argue this is something the Seahawks should do. I’m just bringing up the conversation.

And as noted in our piece on Murray published last week, he’s a special player:

He’s an accurate passer with great feel and understanding in the pocket. He can improvise and extend plays when required. He has a terrific arm and can make the big plays downfield. He’s even more impressive when he throws with touch — and watching multiple games in the last couple of days there were clear examples where Murray delivered a beautiful touch pass. One in particular stood out — the tight end ran to the sideline on a scramble drill and Murray looped a pass over the head of one defensive back but kept the ball away from the safety. It was inch perfect.

He’s also a tremendous athlete capable of breaking contain and making big gains with his legs. He throws well on the run — whether that’s downfield or finding a check-down. There’s a lot to like.

I’ve watched two more games since publishing that piece. Murray’s footwork and comfort in the pocket is of the highest level. He’s equally comfortable moving to buy time and he can throw from numerous angles. His downfield throwing ability is exceptional. He’s not just got the arm strength — he’s incredibly accurate on his deep throws. He has terrific range, can make plays at every level of the field and there is clear evidence of Murray running through progressions.

Then there’s his dynamic athleticism. If he finds a crease or a running lane — he’s practically unstoppable. He accelerates and glides away from defenders and he’s even more of a dynamic dual-threat than Lamar Jackson.

Forget the size. Kyler Murray is legit. He is, in my opinion, by far the best draft eligible quarterback for 2019. And if the Seahawks end up taking him in the first frame as a long-term insurance policy, developmental quarterback and potential future starter — it will be a fine pick.

They’d need to be busy in free agency to upgrade the defense. With only four picks, this would have the feel of a ‘luxury’. It’d be an investment, not an impact pick. With a potential new Championship window opening, the wise money is on more of an ‘impact pick’ with their first selection in 2019.

Keep this idea in mind though. It’s worth a discussion at the very least. And if it were ever going to happen — Murray’s the type of player to go and get.

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