Month: March 2019 (Page 1 of 4)

Sunday thoughts: Ben Banogu, D-line & trade scenarios

Ben Banogu does a good job working in space

Thoughts on Ben Banogu

It was a little surprising recently to see Tony Pauline suggest Banogu could be drafted in the #40-60 range. Although he had an outstanding combine, he really isn’t much of an edge rusher at all. He lacks technique or any kind of repertoire. A lot of his best plays are incidental (he makes the right choice, an opponent runs in his direction). There’s barely any evidence of any hand placement, speed-to-power conversion or dynamic speed off the edge.

He looks more like a linebacker convert than a productive defensive end or LEO.

Banogu’s a massive project. He’s the very definition of an athlete rather than a football player. He’ll need time and major work to become a sack artist. With so many other DE’s in this class it’s hard to imagine him going as early as round two.

There is one aspect of his game I want to highlight though…

The Seahawks face the Rams twice a year. Los Angeles runs a bunch of sweeps, end-arounds and misdirection. Seattle’s somewhat conventional defense sometimes struggles to come to terms with this. New England shut down the Rams by playing safeties off the edge in space to try and combat the trickery they use and it worked a treat. We’ll see if teams cotton on to that gameplan in 2019 (and it might be one reason why the Seahawks are meeting with so many safeties — to have the option to play multiple safety looks against these high-powered offensive teams).

Banogu excels when he’s playing off the edge then reading and reacting. He’s exceptionally quick to cover ground, can sprint to the sideline and shut down any stretch plays and sweeps surprisingly well for a man his size. Time and time again you watch him cover one half of the field simply playing off the edge in space. It should be an ideal 1v1 matchup for a smaller running back or receiver against a 250lbs defender. Not against Banogu. He plays with great discipline to let the play develop then quickly reacts and makes a tackle. Not many players can do this.

This is one of the reasons why he might be better off working as a linebacker at the next level or at the very least a SAM/LEO.

You’re not likely going to take him in round two just for this one positive. He’s so raw as a pass rusher — he’d need to show more in that sense to warrant a top-60 grade. He could be a useful weapon vs the Rams however. Especially if you’ve got Banogu on one side and some extra safety help on the other.

Seahawks setting up a D-line draft

Whether it ends up being their first pick or not, the Seahawks are clearly setting up for a heavy D-line draft. That’s no surprise given the class. Yet they’ve been completely inactive in free agency. They’ve lost one player (Shamar Stephen) and shown no sign of wanting to keep another (Dion Jordan). They met with Nick Perry and a couple of defensive tackles. Anyone who signs at this stage isn’t a lock to make the roster.

Considering the pass rush and run defense both need help — we could see as many as three picks spent on the defensive line in this draft. They need a Tony McDaniel type or at least a strong, early down defensive tackle to rotate in and help against the run. Armon Watts at Arkansas has the anchor, length and size to adapt to this role (with some ability to rush the passer too). Albert Huggins is extremely powerful. Those are two examples of possible day-three run-defense targets.

In terms of the pass rush — Trysten Hill is too athletic to last too long and presents an opportunity to get an athlete with as much upside as the top-15 prospects albeit at a cheaper cost (although many regard him now as a sure-fire second rounder). Daniel Wise is a smaller, really disruptive pass rusher who impacts games. He could be brought in as a specialist three-technique. They could roll the dice on Ben Banogu or Justin Hollins’ athletic profile. Or they could spend their first pick on a dynamic inside/out type who can provide a perfect partner across from Frank Clark. There are a cluster of attractive five-technique or inside/out rushers.

Either way — their total lack of D-line additions so far is an enormous nod towards their draft intentions. They’re going to stock up on defensive linemen one way or another.

Why the Seahawks probably won’t trade Frank Clark before the draft

Ever since Jay Glazer tweeted teams were calling about Clark (including the Bills, who later disputed the report), there’s been a lingering thought that he might be dealt. A deal doesn’t seem close at the moment. With four key players out of contract next year (Clark, Russell Wilson, Bobby Wagner, Jarran Reed) — something has to give. Losing Clark for a 2021 compensatory pick wouldn’t be good value if he reaches free agency next year and leaves Seattle.

However, I don’t think a trade before the draft is likely. Here’s why…

I don’t believe the Seahawks have any intention of losing any of their ‘big four’. Pete Carroll feels they have a competitive roster and a new core. I suspect they will exhaust all possibilities to keep their key players before even thinking about a trade. They are still a long way off having exhausted anything with Clark.

He has until mid-July to sign his franchise tag or opt to hold out. That is a reasonable deadline for both parties. Seattle can make its best offer just before July 15th and apply some pressure. They can put Clark in a position to choose guaranteed wealth and security vs gambling on reaching the market fully healthy and off the back of a great 2019 season. Faced with a ticking clock, it’s hard to turn down guaranteed cash.

In order to create this environment for a deal, however, they need that July 15th deadline. You might say — why not just set a pre-draft deadline? Clark and his agent would reject it. As far as they’re concerned if the Seahawks trade him, they’ll be trading him to a team willing to give him a massive new contract. So actually this would accelerate the process for Clark and he’d be better off financially to be traded pre-draft. The Seahawks setting an April deadline doesn’t come with any consequences or pressure for Clark.

If the team felt an extension was impossible or highly unlikely he probably would’ve been traded by now. Instead it seems like they’re willing to let this process play out, create a realistic deadline from which all parties can reasonably come together and work towards a deal.

If a trade is going to happen now it’ll probably be heading into camp. If Clark doesn’t sign an extension and refuses to play on the franchise tag, the Seahawks might end up dealing him before the season rather than enduring any drama in camp while facing the prospect of losing him for very little in the way of compensation. However — right now we just don’t know how likely that situation is. My gut feeling is Clark wants to stay in Seattle and if the Seahawks make a fair offer in July — he’ll likely agree terms to remain with the team rather than risk playing on the tag.

As with the Wilson negotiations — patience and time is probably the key factor.

A trade scenario that makes sense

The Seahawks need picks so trading down twice to fill out their board is more likely than not. Here’s a trade scenario I might use for the next seven-round projection.

Note — all trade value data came from this chart.

The Seahawks trade #21 to Kansas City for #29, #93, #167 & #214
The Chiefs seriously need to consider drafting a wide receiver given the recent news on Tyreek Hill. D.K. Metcalf’s sensational forty yard dash and ability to run a great go-route makes him an ideal fit with Patrick Mahomes. Parris Campbell’s 4.31 speed and Marquise Brown’s electricity could also appeal. The Ravens are reportedly after a receiver so Seattle’s pick at #21 could become a target for a team like the Chiefs.

According to the chart the value of pick #21 is 261 trade points. Kansas City’s four picks add up to 256 points:

Seahawks — #21 (261)

Chiefs — #29 (203), #93 (42), #167 (8), #214 (3)

The Seahawks trade #29 to Buffalo for #40, #112 & #131
If the Bills draft an offensive tackle at #9 they’ll be keen not to miss out on the top receivers with their second pick. If the run starts at the end of round one — they’ll need to act. Funnily enough if the Seahawks trade out of #21 to allow another team to draft a wide out, they could kick start the run on the position — making it easier to trade down for a second time. In this scenario the Bills move up for Marquise Brown — jumping ahead of the Green Bay Packers (also in the receiver market).

According to the chart the value of pick #29 is 203 trade points. Buffalo’s three picks add up to 192 points:

Seahawks — #29 (203)

Bills — #40 (149), #112 (26), #131 (17)

In both cases the Seahawks give up some value. They might have to this year with great depth in rounds 2-4 and only a few ‘legit’ first round prospects.

These two trades leave the Seahawks with nine picks. They have to move down 19 places to get from four to nine but that might be an inevitable compromise in order to have a proper draft this year.

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Why are the Seahawks meeting with Rashan Gary?

The list of known VMAC visitors is growing. In the last week or so the media has revealed the following players have visited or will visit Seattle for an official-30 visit:

Parris Campbell (WR, Ohio State)
L.J. Collier (DE, TCU)
Dre Greenlaw (LB, Arkansas)
Darnell Savage (S, Maryland)
Juan Thornhill (S, Virginia)
Darwin Thompson (RB, Utah State)
Rashan Gary (DE, Michigan)
Corrion Ballard (S, Utah)

Tony Pauline also reported the Seahawks had met with Chauncey Gardner-Johnson but it’s unclear if this was a VMAC visit or a workout/meeting.

A lot of the names aren’t surprising. The likes of Collier, Savage and Thornhill are expected to go in a range Seattle will trade into. They’re always looking for great athletes to take in the later rounds or UDFA and Ballard, Greenlaw and Thompson fit that bill.

Then there’s Rashan Gary.

Despite a lot of negative reports among some Twitter users and bloggers, Gary is a likely top-10 pick.

He was a former #1 recruit in the country and described by some High School scouts as one half of the best D-line duo to enter college football at the same time (along with Dexter Lawrence).

He has an unbelievable physical profile. Think of all the positive press Ed Oliver’s had this week for his pro-day. Rashan Gary is a similar size (277lbs) but he’s faster (4.58), more explosive (tested better in the vertical and they had the same broad jump) and their short shuttle’s are in the same range (4.22 vs 4.29). The difference is Gary doesn’t have short arms or a frame that’s difficult to place in a full-time starting role (nobody’s touting him for a switch to linebacker…).

People talk about his lack of production but schematically he was asked to play a certain role that didn’t involve screaming off the edge as a speed rusher. Even so — our article earlier this week highlighted his pressure percentage was better than pure-speed rusher Ben Banogu’s (15.5%).

Perhaps more impressive than anything though was the way he performed at the combine. Teams had him run the linebacker drills to show off his athleticism. His movement, change-of-direction and agility at 277lbs was unbelievable. He performed better in the drills than most of the 240-250lbs OLB types. Gary looked like a natural working in space (he couldn’t catch a beachball though):

In a loaded class of defensive players, he’s #1 for upside and ceiling. He’s incredibly versatile and can line up as a base-end, he can kick inside, he can play the five technique, you could look at him as a full-time three-technique and he could even work in space on some snaps to rush and contain. He’s a phenomenal talent.

If he had more production — he’d be in the running to be the #1 pick. It’s the only missing piece and again — that was down to scheme more than anything.

Here’s what one of Bob McGinn’s scouting sources said about Gary:

“Looks pretty good to me… Can do a lot of things. Athletic, tough, strong, versatile. Some of that (minimal production) was how he was used schematically. You just have to go by the eyeball test. Just watch the tape. You see everything.”

He won’t be there at #21 and he definitely won’t be there after they’ve traded down. So what gives? How come the Seahawks are meeting with him?

You could have some fun speculating that the Seahawks might be about to acquire a high pick. Mike Garofolo was recently interviewed by Brock Huard. Garofolo said Frank Clark would be worth a high first round pick if the Seahawks decided to trade him. Put two and two together and you’ve got one Michigan defender replacing another albeit at a cheaper cost.

In reality there’s very little to say the Seahawks have any ambition to trade Clark. Pete Carroll said numerous times ‘Frank will be with us’ before he was franchised. Things might’ve changed since but it’s more likely Clark will either sign an extension or play out his final year in Seattle on the franchise tag.

Whether that’s a wise stance to take is up for major debate. Clark has been a consistent producer for Seattle but is yet to turn into the game-wrecker that might warrant a +$20m a year contract. The Seahawks would also be risking losing any meaningful compensation by letting him play on the tag.

However — that’s where the precedent takes us. The Seahawks, under Carroll, have never traded a player in his prime to get optimal value. They’ve consistently tried to keep core players together — even going above and beyond with contract extensions. Is that likely to change now? I’m sceptical — even if you can make a compelling case for a trade this year.

You’ve also got to wonder whether anyone would truly be willing to give up a high first round pick for Clark. It’d probably need to be a top-10 to get Rashan Gary. Even though Clark is only 25 (he turns 26 in June) — it’d be a hefty price to pay given the strength of the draft is defensive line. Dee Ford only gained Kansas City a 2020 second rounder. Clark is a superior player — but is he so much better to warrant a top-10 pick? Probably not.

When Jay Glazer linked the Bills to Clark I thought a fair deal might be swapping #21 for #9 and the Seahawks gaining Buffalo’s second round pick (#40). That gets you into the top-10. But even then — how many big trades like that actually happen in April rather than the first flush of free agency?

So back to Gary’s VMAC visit. What is it likely about?

It’s a boring answer but it’s probably intel for the future. The Seahawks aren’t just planning and preparing for the 2019 draft. They need information on these players for years down the line.

Look at the 2013 class. The Seahawks didn’t even pick in round one because of the Percy Harvin trade. You still need to do your homework on the top prospects because years later they ended up signing or acquiring the following:

Luke Joeckel — #2
Dion Jordan — #3
Barkevious Mingo — #6
D.J. Fluker — #11
Sheldon Richardson — #13
Arthur Brown — #56
Eddie Lacy — #61

If Rashan Gary became available in a few years time — it’d pay to have a dossier of information about him.

Why him over some of the other top prospects? Simple. He’s exactly the type of player the Seahawks love. Former top High School recruit. Extremely good athlete. Ideal length, agility, explosion, speed. Versatile. Fits exactly what they want from a DE who can kick inside. Has shown discipline to work within Michigan’s scheme and get on with the job (important if you’re playing in Seattle’s front seven).

If they get a chance to sign him in the future, they’d probably seriously consider it.

So the VMAC meeting is probably less about a dramatic imminent trade and much more about putting together a complete profile for a player who could be their #1 ranked prospect in the class.

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Pressure percentages for the 2019 draft class

Pete Carroll made reference to ‘pressure percentages’ in a recent interview

In an interview with John Clayton this week, Pete Carroll talked about pass rushers and delivered the following quote:

“We’re just looking for activity and problem-makers. Usually you can look to that pressure percentage; how many times when they rush do they affect the quarterback?”

PFF record quarterback pressures and pressure percentage. I’ve combed through their free-to-read articles and tweets to find out what I can.

Note that the data is far from complete:

Total pressures


Brian Burns — 66
Sutton Smith — 65
Jaylon Ferguson — 64
Ben Banogu — 60
Zach Allen — 59
Josh Allen — 57
Clelin Ferrell — 56
Maxx Crosby — 55
Oshane Ximines — 55
L.J. Collier — 54
Joe Jackson — 54
Anthony Nelson — 53
Chase Winovich — 53
Montez Sweat — 48
Jalen Jelks — 43
Justin Hollins — 41
Jachai Polite — 41
Christian Miller — 39
Jamal Davis — 38
Charles Omenihu — 38
Jordan Brailford — 37
D’Andre Walker — 32
Kinglsey Keke — 31
Porter Gustin — 28
Rashan Gary — 24
Nick Bosa — 14

Defensive tackles

Quinnen Williams — 55
Dre’Mont Jones — 52
Jerry Tillery — 47
Christian Wilkins — 47
Greg Gaines — 45
Khalen Saunders — 35
Daniel Wise — 35
Jeffery Simmons — 34
Dexter Lawrence — 33
Trysten Hill — 26
Ed Oliver — 26
Gerald Willis III — 26
Armon Watts — 24
Terry Beckner Jr — 23

Pressure percentage

Josh Allen — 29.1%
Anthony Nelson — 23.5%
Oshane Ximines — 23.5%
Jaylon Ferguson — 23.4%
Joe Jackson — 21.7%
Chase Winovich — 21.7%
Montez Sweat — 20.2%
Brian Burns — 19.7%
L.J. Collier — 19.2%
Clelin Ferrell — 18.5%
Jachai Polite — 18.4%
Sutton Smith — 17.6%
Zach Allen — 17.1%
Justin Hollins — 16.8%
Quinnen Williams — 16.7%
Rashan Gary — 15.8%
Ben Banogu — 15.5%
Christian Wilkins — 14.0%
Jalen Jelks — 12.3%
Greg Gaines — 12.2%
Jerry Tillery — 12.2%
Dre’Mont Jones — 11.4%
Ed Oliver — 9.6%

So what can we take from this?

The first list highlights pressures and it’d be very easy to compliment Brian Burns and Ben Banogu at the top end of the list. According to PFF, both players created a lot of pressures in 2018.

However as we see with their pressure percentages, they don’t score as well as some other players. Burns still fares well at 19.7% but Banogu is at 15.5%.

What I would take from that is — Burns and Banogu did record more pressures but they were also afforded more opportunities to make plays as pure speed rushers off the edge. In Burns’ case he still achieved a degree of consistency but Bangou didn’t.

Who impresses the most?

Clearly it’s Kentucky’s Josh Allen. I’ve been trying to work out for a while why he’s seemingly developed into a top-five lock among those with contacts in the league. It was difficult to watch him getting blown up by tight ends and his combine was good not great.

These stats, however, paint a glowing picture. He had a high number of pressures (57) compared to the other draft eligible prospects. Yet he was also by far the most consistent rusher with a pressure percentage of 29.1%. For teams using analytics (I suspect all do these days) this will jump off the page.

LA Tech’s Jaylon Ferguson is also a notable performer (64 pressures at 23.4%). I think these are the players who stand out:

Brian Burns — 66 / 19.7%
Joe Jackson –54 / 21.7%
Jaylon Ferguson — 64 / 23.4%
Josh Allen — 57 / 29.1%
Oshane Ximines — 55 / 23.5%
L.J. Collier — 54 / 19.2%
Anthony Nelson — 53 / 23.5%
Chase Winovich — 53 / 21.7%
Montez Sweat — 48 / 20.2%
Clelin Ferrell — 56 / 18.5%
Zach Allen — 59 / 17.1%

What else do we need to consider?

Competition matters. Josh Allen recorded his pressures in the SEC. That’s a lot harder than the opponents faced by Oshane Ximines and Jaylon Ferguson.

We don’t have all the data. This is all I could find after a couple of hours of combing the internet. PFF doesn’t include the pressure percentages in their draft guide but they do have a ‘pass-rush productivity’ score. They describe it as a calculation to reflect the frequency of pressure generated. All sacks, hits and hurries are added together and broken down on a per-pass-rushing-snap basis.

Here are some notable names and their scores:

Josh Allen — 30.3
Jaylon Ferguson — 26.6
Christian Miller — 24.1
Joe Jackson — 23.1
Montez Sweat — 22.1
Clelin Ferrell — 21.3
Jachai Polite — 20.4
Oshane Ximines — 20.1
Quinnen Williams — 19.7
Anthony Nelson — 19.2
Brian Burns — 18.5
Chase Winovich — 18.2
L.J. Collier — 18.0
D’Andre Walker — 16.6
Christian Wilkins — 16.4
Rashan Gary — 16.2
Ben Banogu — 16.0
Dexter Lawrence — 14.6
Jerry Tillery — 14.3
Dre’Mont Jones — 13.3
Zach Allen — 13.4
Greg Gaines — 13.0
Armon Watts — 12.8
Trysten Hill — 12.2
Jeffery Simmons — 11.8
Khalen Saunders — 11.5
Ed Oliver — 11.4
Gerald Willis III — 10.0
Charles Omenihu — 10.3

Run-stop percentages

Improving the run defense is also a priority for the Seahawks. Here are some key defensive tackle run-stop percentages per PFF:

Quinnen Williams — 14.2%
Christian Wilkins — 11.9%
Gerald Willis III — 11.7%
Jeffery Simmons — 11.4%
Dexter Lawrence — 11.2%
Khalen Saunders — 11.1%
Terry Beckner Jr — 10.7%
Greg Gaines — 9.8%
Ed Oliver — 8.8%
Trysten Hill — 8.7%
Armon Watts — 7.4%
Renell Wren — 6.3%
Daniel Wise — 5.8%
Dre’Mont Jones — 5.4%
Jerry Tillery 3.6%

Here are some of the EDGE/DE run-stop percentages:

Montez Sweat — 12.7%
Chase Winovich — 11.8%
Jonathan Ledbetter — 10.9%
Rashan Gary — 9.9%
Jachai Polite — 9.8%
Jamal Davis — 9.8%
Jalen Jelks — 9.6%
Kinglsey Keke — 9.8%
Maxx Crosby — 8.5%
D’Andre Walker — 8.4%
Zach Allen — 8.4%
Josh Allen — 8.2%
Jaylon Ferguson — 8.2%
Charles Omenihu — 8.0%
Christian Miller — 7.8%
Anthony Nelson — 7.8%
Oshane Ximines — 7.8%
Ben Banogu — 7.7%
L.J. Collier — 6.3%
Clelin Ferrell — 5.7%
Brian Burns — 5.4%
Joe Jackson — 5.0%
Justin Hollins — 4.7%

Other interesting PFF information

— Arkansas linebacker Dre Greenlaw, who will visit the Seahawks, missed only 5% of his tackles (ranked #1 among SEC linebackers).

— Clemson’s Dexter Lawrence had 33 pressures on just 254 pass-rush attempts — giving him 99 total pressures over his three-year stint at Clemson. Not bad for a +340lbs defensive tackle.

— Texas A&M tight end Jace Sternberger, another VMAC visitor, tied first in receiving grade among tight ends as he led the nation in touchdowns and finished second in receiving yards.

— Arizona State’s N’Keal Harry scored a touchdown on 22% of his deep targets.

— Virginia’s Juan Thornill, also making a visit to Seattle, was the only safety in the country to finish with 80.0-plus overall grades in run defense, tackling, pass-rush and coverage while taking at least 15 snaps as a blitzer, at least 200 snaps in run defense and at least 200 snaps in coverage.

— Florida’s Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, who met with the Seahawks in the last couple of days, had an 89.9 coverage grade (ranked ninth in the country). He limited receivers to 8.4 yards per reception –- ranking 17th among all cornerbacks targeted at least 25 times in 2018. His 45.6 passer rating when targeted from the slot ranked sixth in the country.

— Only 24 cornerbacks had +250 snaps in the slot in 2018. Of the 24, Iowa’s Amani Hooker ranked fifth — allowing 0.98 yards per snap in coverage.

— Kansas State’s Dalton Risner hasn’t allowed a sack since week five of the 2016 season against West Virginia. That’s a span of 942 pass-blocking snaps without conceding a sack.

— West Virginia quarterback Will Grier averaged the fourth-highest YPA at 9.7 while throwing more deep pass touchdowns than any other quarterback with 20. According to PFF, “he goes down as arguably the best deep-ball thrower over the past two seasons as he’s thrown for more yards (2,850), more touchdowns (36) and more big-time throws (54) on passes targeted at least 20 yards downfield than any other quarterback since 2017″.

Whatever your view of PFF — teams are paying attention to information like this.

VMAC visitors

We can add three more names to the list today. Reports say Virginia safety Juan Thornhill is making a VMAC visit and so is Utah State running back Darwin Thompson and Michigan defensive lineman Rashan Gary.

Here’s the full reported list so far:

Parris Campbell (WR, Ohio State)
L.J. Collier (DE, TCU)
Dre Greenlaw (LB, Arkansas)
Darnell Savage (S, Maryland)
Chauncey Gardner-Johnson (Nickel/S, Florida) — could just be a meeting
Darwin Thompson (RB, Utah State)
Juan Thornhill (S, Virginia)
Rashan Gary (DE, Michigan)

One of these names is not like the rest. Gary is too athletic and has too much potential to fall out of the top-10.

Ed Oliver’s pro-day hysterics

Everyone’s getting a bit carried away.

That’s not to say Oliver hasn’t had a superb pro-day. He has. Running in the 4.7’s and then managing a 4.22 short shuttle and a 7.15 three cone. Those are all really good marks and he should be a top-15 pick.

However — some context is required.

Ian Rapoport called Oliver’s forty an ‘insane’ time. I replied and noted that Rashan Gary, at a similar size, ran a 4.58 at the combine. There’s a 4lbs difference between the pair and Gary ran at the combine — not a pro-day with a hand-time.

In 2011 Adrian Clayborn ran a 4.13 short shuttle at 281lbs. His forty yard dash was a 4.83 at his combine. Oliver chose not to run at the combine and they often say add 0.10 seconds to a hand-time at a pro-day. So they’re similar athletes.

Henry Anderson was listed at 6-6 and 294lbs at his combine in 2015. He ran a 4.19 shuttle. He didn’t get quite the same publicity.

And then there’s Frank Clark. At 270lbs (about 10lbs lighter than Ed Oliver) he ran a 4.05 short shuttle. Which is incredible really.

I’m not trying to argue that Oliver’s pro-day wasn’t a great success. Clearly he’s an outstanding athlete. Some of the reactions though suggest he’s set a new bar today. When in reality he’s a comparable athlete to Adrian Clayborn.

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Seahawks meet with Chauncey Gardner-Johnson

The Seahawks are doing their homework on the safety class. Maryland’s Darnell Savage has a visit scheduled. Now Tony Pauline says Florida’s Chauncey Gardner-Johnson met with the Seahawks over the last two days…

Make sure you check out Tony’s pro-day reports and his fantastic weekly podcast. Unmissable content from the best in the business.

Gardner-Johnson switched to nickel cornerback last season, playing most of his snaps in the slot. This is a trend among the top safeties in college. Budda Baker played a lot of nickel. This year the likes of Gardner-Johnson, Amani Hooker and others played as a ‘big nickel’ or hybrid.

This is the way the league is going. Seattle played predominantly nickel in base last season with Justin Coleman taking 67.8% of the snaps. With the 2019 group of safeties excelling at the combine (many running in the 4.3’s or 4.4’s) it’s very possible the Seahawks are looking for a safety hybrid to replace Coleman.

That would also make sense financially. A player who can drop back to safety if needs be or play in different defensive formations is a better use of resources than a specialist cornerback who can’t play outside or at safety.

Gardner-Johnson is bigger than he looks on tape at 5-11 and 210lbs. He ran a 4.48 and a 4.20 short shuttle. He has an incredibly energetic personality and character. He loves to talk on the field. He’s known to take risks which has been an issue at times. Yet he’s also one of the better playmaking DB’s in the class — as we saw with his MVP performance in the Bowl game against Michigan.

The Seahawks clearly like their existing safeties a lot more than the fans and media. This is still too good a safety class to ignore the position. Especially if you can get a dynamic ‘big nickel’ type with versatility.

In yesterday’s tiered grades I listed Taylor Rapp (S, Washington), Amani Hooker (S, Iowa), Marvell Tell III (S, USC), Johnathan Abram (S, Mississippi State), Darnell Savage (S, Maryland), Marquise Blair (S, Utah) and Chauncey Gardner-Johnson (S, Florida) in round two. Deionte Thompson (S, Alabama), Juan Thornhill (S, Virginia) and Nasir Adderley (S, Delaware) were listed in round three.

The challenge for the Seahawks is to trade down from #21 and try to have at least three picks in rounds 2-3 to tap into the talent available. This is a strong draft at receiver, defensive line, safety and tight end in that day two range. Those are the areas the Seahawks will likely target if they can gain some extra picks.

Reported Seahawks visits so far:

Parris Campbell (WR, Ohio State)
Darnell Savage (S, Maryland)
L.J. Collier (DE, TCU)
Dre Greenlaw (LB, Arkansas)
Jace Sternberger (TE, Texas A&M)
Chauncey Gardner-Johnson (S, Florida)

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2019 Draft grades: First, second and third round tiers

It’s a deep class at D-line, tight end, safety and receiver (such as Terry McLaurin)

I’ll keep updating this list before the draft. This is a first attempt having watched the players listed. There are some I still need to watch.

Legit first round (10)

Kyler Murray (QB, Oklahoma)
Quinnen Williams (DT, Alabama)
Nick Bosa (DE, Ohio State)
Rashan Gary (DE, Michigan)
T.J. Hockenson (TE, Iowa)
Devin White (LB, LSU)
Devin Bush (LB, Michigan)
Dexter Lawrence (DT, Clemson)
Ed Oliver (DT, Houston)
Montez Sweat (EDGE, Mississippi State)

I’ve felt for a long time that Kyler Murray is the most talented player in the draft and should be the #1 pick. Very little separates the top defensive prospects. Quinnen Williams and Nick Bosa are the best but the upside of the others is top level. I’ve added Devin Bush and Montez Sweat to this group following the combine. Traits matter in the NFL and both players tested well enough to warrant a first round grade.

Borderline first/second round (4)

Andre Dillard (T, Washington State)
Clelin Ferrell (DE, Clemson)
Christian Wilkins (DT, Clemson)
Josh Allen (EDGE, Kentucky)

All four of these players will go in the first round but I wanted some separation from the top tier. Andre Dillard is the best left tackle in the class. I marked Clelin Ferrell and Christian Wilkins down after the combine because neither tested as well as I expected. Josh Allen is a consensus top-five pick in the media but I still can’t shake seeing him handled by tight ends.

Injury flags — first round (2)

Jeffery Simmons (DT, Mississippi State)
Rodney Anderson (RB, Oklahoma)

Both Simmons and Anderson would be first round picks if it wasn’t for injuries. Simmons tore his ACL training for the combine and will miss the entire 2019 season. Anderson suffered a similar injury during the 2018 season. Neither player is expected to go in round one as a consequence but both possess first round talent.

First round analysis

Most people appear to be projecting between 10-15 legit first round prospects in this draft. Much will depend on how you view the quarterbacks. Some teams will have Drew Lock and Dwayne Haskins ranked very highly. The likes of the Clemson trio, Andre Dillard and Devin Bush will also receive fluctuating grades. This draft class provides quality depth at various positions but there’s not a strong pool of first round prospects. What does that mean? A lot of teams in the 20’s will want to move down and players drafted in the late first round will carry similar grades to the players drafted in the 40’s.

Second round (42)

Dru Samia (G, Oklahoma)
Chris Lindstrom (G, Boston College)
Kaleb McGary (T, Washington)
Jawaan Taylor (T, Florida)
Cody Ford (T, Oklahoma)
Garrett Bradbury (C, NC State)
Erik McCoy (C, Texas A&M)
Elgton Jenkins (C, Mississippi State)
Jonah Williams (C, Alabama)
Marquise Brown (WR, Oklahoma)
Parris Campbell (WR, Ohio State)
D.K. Metcalf (WR, Ole Miss)
Deebo Samuel (WR, South Carolina)
Terry McLaurin (WR, Ohio State)
Emmanuel Hall (WR, Missouri)
A.J. Brown (WR, Ole Miss)
N’Keal Harry (WR, Arizona State)
Drew Lock (QB, Missouri)
Dwayne Haskins (QB, Ohio State)
Will Grier (QB, West Virginia)
Noah Fant (TE, Iowa)
Irv Smith Jr (TE, Alabama)
Josh Oliver (TE, San Jose State)
Dawson Knox (TE, Ole Miss)
Kahale Warring (TE, San Diego State)
Josh Jacobs (RB, Alabama)
Jerry Tillery (DT, Notre Dame)
Trysten Hill (DT, UCF)
Dre’Mont Jones (DT, Ohio State)
L.J. Collier (DE, TCU)
Zach Allen (DE, Boston College)
Brian Burns (EDGE, Florida State)
Justin Layne (CB, Michigan State)
Greedy Williams (CB, LSU)
Byron Murphy (CB, Washington)
Taylor Rapp (S, Washington)
Amani Hooker (S, Iowa)
Marvell Tell III (S, USC)
Johnathan Abram (S, Mississippi State)
Darnell Savage (S, Maryland)
Marquise Blair (S, Utah)
Chauncey Gardner-Johnson (S, Florida)

There will likely be a run on receivers between picks #20 and #40. There’s a chance for the late first and early second round to be dominated by wide outs.

It’s possible none of the safeties will be taken in the first round. If that happens, things will pick up on day two. Many of the top safeties ran in the 4.3’s or 4.4’s. Teams will look at this group and see range and versatility. The ‘big nickel’ is a vital position these days and a lot of these safeties either played nickel full time in college or split their time.

The other position that could kick into gear is tight end. We could easily see Noah Fant, Irv Smith Jr and others (including Josh Oliver) go in the first frame. The earlier those three leave the board, the greater the chances of several other tight ends finding a home in round two. Dawson Knox could very easily be taken in this range and with many teams needing a tight end, some of the third round prospects could be pushed up a round.

There are a few names on the list I want to talk about briefly. Dru Samia the guard at Oklahoma is extremely physical and squares everything up. Watch his performance against Alabama. I think he’ll go a lot earlier than many are projecting. Utah’s Marquise Blair has the athleticism and quickness to excel at nickel and packs a punch as a tackler/hitter. He too might go a bit earlier than the consensus is predicting. Trysten Hill remains devastatingly underrated despite arguably the best combine workout at any position and Justin Layne could easily go in the first round (and could even be the first corner drafted).

Second round analysis

This is an excellent draft in rounds 2-3. Seattle’s challenge is to try and find a way to turn #21 into multiple day two selections. If they manage it, they’ll have plenty of options at several positions of need.

Third round (41)

Damien Harris (RB, Alabama)
Justice Hill (RB, Oklahoma State)
Miles Sanders (RB, Penn State)
Gary Jennings (WR, West Virginia)
J.J. Arcega-Whiteside (WR, Stanford)
Miles Boykin (WR, Notre Dame)
Hakeem Butler (WR, Iowa State)
Jace Sternberger (TE, Texas A&M)
Drew Sample (TE, Washington)
Trevon Wesco (TE, West Virginia)
Kaden Smith (TE, Stanford)
Greg Little (T, Ole Miss)
Isaiah Prince (T, Ohio State)
Bobby Evans (T, Oklahoma)
Dalton Risner (T, Kansas State)
Michael Jordan (G, Ohio State)
Connor McGovern (G, Penn State)
Daniel Jones (QB, Duke)
Christian Miller (EDGE, Alabama)
Jaylon Ferguson (EDGE, Louisiana Tech)
Jachai Polite (EDGE, Florida)
D’Andre Walker (EDGE, Georgia)
Chase Winovich (EDGE, Michigan)
Charles Omenihu (DE, Texas)
Joe Jackson (DE, Miami)
Anthony Nelson (DE, Iowa)
Renell Wren (DT, Arizona State)
Gerald Willis III (DT, Miami)
Ed Alexander (DT, LSU)
Khalen Saunders (DT, Western Illinois)
Mack Wilson (LB, Alabama)
Joejuan Williams (CB, Vanderbilt)
Michael Jackson (CB, Miami)
Trayvon Mullen (CB, Clemson)
Lonnie Johnson (CB, Kentucky)
Rock Ya-sin (CB, Temple)
Isaiah Johnson (CB, Houston)
Deandre Baker (CB, Georgia)
Deionte Thompson (S, Alabama)
Juan Thornhill (S, Virginia)
Nasir Adderley (S, Delaware)

Plenty of these names are borderline second round prospects. You could easily make a case for the receivers listed to go in round two. Miles Boykin had an exceptional combine, Hakeem Butler performed better than expected and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside boxes out defenders better than any receiver I’ve watched in college previously. Gary Jennings is underrated. They all have size.

The athletic potential of offensive linemen Chuma Edoga, Isaiah Prince, Michael Jordan and Connor McGovern could push them into round two on some boards. It’s also very possible Dalton Risner and Greg Little go earlier than I’m projecting here — it’s just a personal preference.

Jachai Polite I have falling due to a lack of size, length, speed (needs a good run at his pro-day) and some emerging character question marks. Mack Wilson is about as natural in coverage as you’ll ever see by a linebacker but a lack of great testing numbers and mediocre tape around the LOS has him lasting in this projection.

It wouldn’t be a surprise at all if Charles Omenihu, Gerald Willis and Ed Alexander carried second round grades by some teams. Many of the defensive backs listed could be graded a round earlier.

Third round analysis

As with the second round, this list really shows off the value you can expect in rounds two and three. The Seahawks will have plenty of options at receiver, D-line, tight end and safety/nickel after they inevitably trade down from #21.

Players not included

Riley Ridley (WR, Georgia) is a player I’ve found it very difficult to get excited about. His tape always felt underwhelming and his physical profile is average at best. I need to watch more of Tytus Howard (T, Alabama State). He received a lot of praise at the Senior Bowl despite that rep against Montez Sweat. I also want to watch more of Dax Raymond (TE, Utah State).

Max Scharping (T, Northern Illinois) is a player that some people see as a possible high pick but he didn’t stand out at the Senior Bowl. I really liked David Edwards’ (T, Wisconsin) 2017 tape but he didn’t test well and just doesn’t seem to have any momentum. Yodny Cajuste (T, West Virginia) failed to build his stock by not working out at the combine.

It was tempting to include Daniel Wise (DT, Kansas) in round three.

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Monday notes: Jace Sternberger & Nick Perry

Add another name to the visit list

Texas A&M tight end Jace Sternberger will be travelling to the VMAC on April 11th according to Jared Tokarz.

So far the other reported names visiting Seattle are Parris Campbell (WR, Ohio State), Darnell Savage (S, Maryland), L.J. Collier (DE, TCU) and Dre Greenlaw (LB, Arkansas.

Sternberger is a terrific pass catcher from the tight end position. He’d not been on my radar for the Seahawks because he’s not the best run blocker and he lacks length. If you’re drafting him it’s to be a move-TE who can get down the seam, exploit zones and provide a reliable target. He’s only 6-4 and 251lbs with 32 inch arms. That’s not exactly a Y-TE profile.

That said, he had a good game as a blocker against Kentucky and he is a weapon in the passing game. His short shuttle time (4.31) matched Drew Sample’s as the sixth best at the combine and was a bit quicker than Irv Smith Jr’s 4.33.

(Trevon Wesco at 267lbs — considerably heavier — ran a 4.38 short shuttle and has to be a name to watch)

It really comes down to what they’re looking for. Nick Vannett and Will Dissly are both long, big tight ends. Sternberger isn’t. If they’re looking for a different type he’s an option. In a deep class at the position, however, there are plenty of good blocking TE’s who can make plays in the passing game.

Sternberger doesn’t have exceptional traits or speed (he ran a 4.75, the 11th best forty by a tight end at the combine). He does make some very difficult catches look easy though. He’s a natural running routes and does an excellent job shielding defenders to gain position to make a play. He’s very good at contorting his body and adjusting in the air. He always finishes runs and he’s tough to bring down. There’s just nothing outstanding about his athletic profile even if his tape as a pass catcher is excellent.

He’s a fun player to watch and he certainly makes up for the lack of pure speed and size with quick, technical routes and he’s fluid enough to latch onto mismatches at the second level and win as a big slot. We’ll see if he’s a fit in Seattle but as a prospect — in the right scheme — he can be a weapon at the next level.

Nick Perry is visiting the Seahawks

According to Jason La Canfora the meeting will take place this week. Perry is an old Pete Carroll recruit at USC who’s been with the Packers since entering the league in 2012. He had some productive seasons without ever really threatening the leagues best. He has 32 career sacks.

Athletically it’s not a big surprise Seattle chose Bruce Irvin instead with their first round pick. Perry had an explosive workout (38.5 inch vertical) and ran a good forty yard dash (4.64 at 271lbs) but his 4.66 short shuttle wasn’t good at all. That’s a key test for Seattle EDGE rushers and defensive linemen.

Perry was cut by Green Bay so won’t impact Seattle’s 2020 comp picks. For that reason he’d be a decent addition. They’re scraping the barrel now for available pass rushers and anyone who comes in will likely get a low salary. This will be Perry’s first visit and might be his only option. He’s only 28 (turns 29 in April) so there’s time for a career resurrection. A one-year contract to prove he’s healthy and can be productive could rejuvenate his earning potential in 2020.

It feels like the Seahawks will add a receiver and a pass rusher before the draft (and possibly a defensive tackle). We’re in ‘draft hedge’ territory now though. Clearly D-line and receiver are big targets in the draft. Tight end and safety/nickel too — plus they’ll get a cornerback at some stage after trading down to accumulate more picks.

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The Russell Wilson contract prediction

Russell Wilson is entering the final year of his contract

I’ve gone back and forth on what I think is happening — and will happen — with the developing Russell Wilson contract saga. After a lot of thought, here’s my assessment of the situation and some predictions.

We’ll see how close it ends up being to the truth.

1. Mark Rodgers wants at least $120m fully guaranteed on a three year extension

That’s what I think Wilson’s agent would be pitching for if negotiations began today. That’s how much Wilson is guaranteed to earn if he plays on the exclusive rights franchise tag for three years. His salary would be approximately $31m in 2020, $37m in 2021 and $53m in 2022. While it’s unlikely he’d ever see the third tag in Seattle, the threat of him leaving as a free agent after the 2021 season is the carrot here. So they’ll ask for what they’re owed to stay for as long as Seattle can physically keep him. That’s their starting point. Added together that’s a fully guaranteed $121m. With a new CBA projected to bring new money into the league (especially with the introduction of legalised gambling) it’s likely Rodgers would want to test the market again in 2022 or 2023. So a loaded three-year extension could be their aim.

2. The Seahawks are not talking for a reason

Multiple reports say negotiations are yet to begin. The Seahawks will have an idea on Rodgers’ demands for his client. According to Mike Garofolo, they were asking for ‘huge’ sums in 2015 when talks began. Then with a training camp deadline set to get a new deal done, the parties found some common ground on a contract that didn’t reach a league-high amount. If Seattle starts talks now, they just elongate the discussion window and exacerbate the situation. They really need a deadline and a short window to create some pressure and leverage to strike a deal. At the moment there’s no incentive for Wilson to negotiate. That won’t be the case when training camp draws close. It’ll be very difficult for Wilson to walk into a locker room of 90 guys — many on a minimal salary — and lead them having rejected the chance to become the highest paid player in the league. Especially when every single one of those players saw Matt Ryan and Aaron Rodgers act in a very different way.

3. The Seahawks will seriously consider drafting a quarterback

Nothing will be resolved before the draft. Even if they set up the right kind of environment to get a deal done later this year — there’s still a chance Wilson won’t agree terms. They need to plan for a possible divorce. For that reason, they’ll seriously consider drafting a quarterback with an early pick. It’ll depend on how they view the quarterbacks in this class and whether the player or players they like are available in the right range. I think there’s a chance Will Grier could be a target. They need some insurance just in case things turn sour with Wilson. So if the right player is available, they may well draft him. And why not? The difference between a successful or disappointing 2019 season will not be one rookie. It’d be a sensible and worthwhile pick to plan and prepare ahead.

4. Wilson will face a very difficult decision

When the Seahawks eventually speak with Wilson and his camp in a likely shortened window with a deadline for talks to conclude, he’ll need to weigh up two things. I suspect he intends to stay in Seattle for the rest of his career or at least most of his career. He will want to lead the team properly and develop his leadership credentials, not undermine them. There’s also something to be said for becoming the highest paid player in the NFL. He’d likely carry that position for at least a year. It’s unlikely Ben Roethlisberger, also a free agent in 2020, would top Wilson’s mark at age 38. Philip Rivers is in a similar position. Tom Brady, if he continues to play after 2019, has never been a player to top this list and likely won’t aged 43. So there’s no immediate threat to Wilson as the highest paid quarterback. At the same time, his greatest ability to max out his earnings will be via the franchise tag. Either by guaranteeing himself $68m in 2020 and 2021 before reaching free agency, or by being traded to a team willing to pay him mega money. As the ultimate competitor, this will also be tempting for Wilson. The idea of him betting on himself is not exactly a stretch.

5. What will he decide?

I think it’s more likely than not that he will be willing to compromise and a deal will be struck. At the moment that seems a ways off. All of the talk is about +$40m a year deals and Wilson’s motivation to play on the tag. When he’s presented with a chance to be the highest paid player in the NFL, eliminate any drama that comes with playing in a contract year and make a commitment to the Seahawks — I think he will take it. Does he want to have to justify his decision to the rest of the team? Does he want to answer questions about his future at every press conference? I don’t think so. The Seahawks might have to compromise on a three or four year contract so that he can negotiate another deal under the new CBA. However, they would have club control for further seasons and this would at the very least secure Wilson’s prime years in Seattle.

6. What happens if he doesn’t agree a new contract before camp?

It wouldn’t guarantee the end of his career in Seattle after 2019. They could still find some common ground down the line. It’d make things difficult though and if they do draft a quarterback this year, they could start to make plans to move on rather than handle the year-to-year drama of the franchise tag. So while nothing’s guaranteed — if he doesn’t agree a deal before the season, the chances of a trade in 2020 increase.

7. Why don’t they just set a deadline before the 2019 draft?

It wouldn’t have the same impact. The moment Wilson steps foot in camp having rejected the chance to be the highest paid player in the league it creates avoidable drama. He knows it’ll be talked about by everyone on the team. The media will never stop talking about it. It’ll be a PR disaster with fans. His future will be a cloud hanging over the team for a whole season. That’s the leverage Seattle needs to get this done. They need Wilson to feel that. None of this exists in April. Wilson and Rodgers can just say — we reject the deadline, talk to us in July/August. And then what are you going to do? Trade away a franchise quarterback simply because you’re unwilling to let a complex negotiation play out? Your intention here is to get a deal done, not trade Russell Wilson. That requires some patience and a process. Forcing an April deadline wouldn’t result in a deal, would damage your position and with limited time to orchestrate a trade — other teams would take you to the cleaners.

8. What’s the final prediction in a nutshell?

Here it is. Mark Rodgers would ask for ridiculous money if talks began now. Therefore the Seahawks won’t start talks for a while yet. They will strongly consider drafting a quarterback with a high pick in April. Eventually a training camp deadline will be set. Both parties will find common ground rather than face a season of drama — but they need the pressure of a deadline to move the needle. If a deal isn’t struck before camp it’ll increase the chances of a Wilson trade in 2020.

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Mike Garofolo on Russell Wilson’s future, Seattle’s draft

Mike Garofolo has been talking about the Seahawks a lot this week. His latest piece might be the most revealing…

1. The Seahawks, at least for the time being, are not readily willing to make Russell Wilson the highest paid quarterback and might be hoping to get him to agree to a deal below Aaron Rodgers’ $33.5m a year.

2. Garofolo touts the possibility of Seattle looking at the draft and maybe drafting a quarterback early — preparing for a potential life without Wilson.

3. He also says Wilson and his agent, the notorious Mark Rodgers, asked for ‘huge’ numbers last time the two sides negotiated before finally settling on the deal they accepted before training camp in 2015.

Here are my takeaways…

Garofolo has broken stories about the Seahawks fairly regularly. He was the first to report Kam Chancellor’s season was over in 2018 due to his neck injury and the first to suggest it could be career ending. He reported a full day before Richard Sherman was cut that it would happen. He broke the news that Ken Norton Jr was returning as defensive coordinator. He revealed Tyler Lockett’s contract extension and he had the story about Pete Carroll speaking to Roger Goodell about Mychal Kendricks’ suspension.

There are various other reports too from a Seahawks perspective — including what they were hoping to get in trades for Marshawn Lynch, Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas.

There’s enough evidence to believe that Garofolo has a hotline to someone important within the inner sanctum of the VMAC.

This might be the first proper insight into how Seattle is approaching this negotiation. Rather than just being willing to part with $35m a year and make that an opening gambit of sorts, instead they appear to be trying to put on a squeeze. This doesn’t mean they’re totally against offering $35m (or more) a year but they might be trying to dissuade Wilson and his camp from any thoughts of +$40m a year.

After all, according to Garofolo this worked last time. Wilson wanted ‘huge’ money in 2015. A deal was eventually struck that was significant but it wasn’t the richest contract in the NFL.

If Wilson is seeking a deal to re-set the quarterback market — Seattle’s tactic currently (no talks while subtly dropping out their thought process via the media) could be to manage expectations and provide some sensibility to the eventual discussions.

If this is the case, it should be seen as reassuring news for Seahawks fans. It’s a game plan that makes sense. All the talk so far has been about mega money, +$40m and using the franchise tag (ala Kirk Cousins) to make astronomical numbers. We’ve seen ‘sourced’ rumours about interest in going to the Giants and media appearances set up on Jimmy Fallon to discuss such rumours and the possibility of a big new contract.

Seattle would be right to try and extinguish this by taking a modest starting position in direct contrast to this highly ambitious and aggressive approach. From there they can potentially set a deadline (eg the start of training camp) and put the onus on Wilson. ‘How badly do you want to be here?’ is a question they can ultimately ask.

They can also make him an offer — for example $35m a year — and make it very clear if he rejects it that he’s ‘turned down’ the chance to be the highest paid player in the league. Such a headline could be damaging for Wilson’s image in Seattle. It’s the kind of PR the player won’t want. This kind of approach would only work with a looming deadline though. Play this card now and it’ll be batted away without much of a fuss. Play it the week before camp when you need your franchise quarterback to be committed, all-in, a leader and the guy the fans look up to and it can have a devastating impact.

Wilson would be conscious of the reaction among fans and the players he’s trying to compete with.

Garofolo mentioning the draft is interesting too because it touches on something we’ve been discussing since January. He suggested in the video above they might have to consider spending a high pick on a quarterback, something we’ve been talking about for weeks.

Why is that a distinct possibility?

As I wrote here, they need a ‘Plan B’ for a worst case scenario of a divorce from Wilson. After all, this matter is going to be nowhere near resolved by the draft. They can also use it as some form of leverage in discussions.

It’s easier to turn to Wilson’s camp in August and say — ‘we want you as our quarterback but we’ve drafted this guy now… so here’s our highest offer and it makes you the highest paid player in the league… if you’re not interested, we’ll prepare to move on’.

Again, the onus is on Wilson. That is what they need to do here. Put it on him while being totally reasonable with your approach and offer.

If Wilson refuses to compromise — which I personally think would be unlikely if the Seahawks play their cards right — you’ve at least invested in a Plan B.

Of course that would depend on there being a quarterback available. This isn’t a fantastic QB class in 2019. Yet we identified two players — Kyler Murray and Will Grier — who could be of interest. Murray is certain not to be available. Grier, on the other hand, could easily be a very realistic target for the reasons noted in this January piece and this follow up a few weeks ago.

Some would argue it would be a wasted pick and wouldn’t help the Seahawks take the next step in 2019. That would be the wrong way to look at it.

The worst case scenario would be you re-sign Wilson and end up with a somewhat highly drafted backup quarterback. Even that would come with the carrot of having a trade-chip on your roster and a cheap long-term backup (something they’ve needed for a while).

The best case scenario is you properly insure yourself against a parting that could potentially rock the franchise.

This is why we suggested a high quarterback pick after the Dallas playoff game and it’s why Garofolo is talking about it now. It’s a distinct possibility. Ultimately they may not have a chance to draft Grier. Or they might not rate him enough to warrant the pick. Or things could change with Wilson before the end of April. As we stand here today though, a quarterback pick is an option. It’s just smart team management.

Seattle’s chances of contending in 2019 do not rest solely on the one man they select with their first pick in the draft. Many of their higher picks struggled to make a significant impact as a rookie anyway (Paul Richardson, Frank Clark, Rashaad Penny etc).

It’s a deep draft on the D-line and at receiver, nickel/safety, tight end and cornerback. They’ll be able to find their guys provided they’re able to trade back and accumulate more picks. It’s often been those mid-round or day three types that have come in and had an instant impact in the Carroll era.

We’ll have to wait to see how this situation plays out but this info from Garafolo — while not extensive — offers some insight into the way both parties might be approaching things.

For the first time in a while, it’s encouraging news because we can see a plan that makes sense. Some clarity was required I think. It’s also a refreshing antidote to the recent rhetoric about Wilson being unlikely to agree a new deal and that he’s seeking game-changing money.

Tracking the players visiting the VMAC

It’s been revealed through the media that four players have visited or will be visiting with the Seahawks before the draft:

Parris Campbell (WR, Ohio State)
L.J. Collier (DE, TCU)
Dre Greenlaw (LB, Arkansas)
Darnell Savage (S, Maryland)

We’ll keep updating this list as new names come in.

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Thursday notes: L.J. Collier, pass rushers & Seattle’s future

TCU’s L.J. Collier will take a trip to the VMAC

Seahawks meeting with TCU pass rusher

L.J. Collier is a highly enjoyable prospect to watch. He had a fantastic Senior Bowl. He’s a terrific pass rusher with great length and an ability to work to create openings. His hand use, ability to convert speed-to-power and variety of moves is impressive. You can see him planning two-or-three snaps ahead to set up a blocker. He’s not all about technique though and he bullied several big name linemen at the Senior Bowl. He’s a refined brawler.

There are only positive things to say about his character too. He’s a bit of a self-made man and lacks some of the traits you see in the top draft prospects. Yet you can’t fault his effort, intensity and the way he performs on the field.

It was revealed yesterday that Collier will be having an official visit to the VMAC:

It’s pleasing that he could potentially be on Seattle’s radar. Based purely on the tape there’s some base-end/five-technique/inside/out quality to Collier. He’s not going to wow anyone with freaky athletic skills but as a book-end for Frank Clark and a player who can play any down, he has some value.

Admittedly though he’d go against some of Seattle’s previous trends. He has the length they like with 34 inch arms and a near 82-inch wingspan. That’s unusual for a player of his relatively modest height (6-2).

However, the Seahawks have also valued agility and quickness at defensive end. His 4.78 short shuttle is, to put it bluntly, pretty awful. It’s in the 12th percentile for players at his position. Here’s how it compares to some of Seattle’s previous D-line additions:

Rasheem Green — 4.39
Quinton Jefferson — 4.37
Jordan Hill — 4.51
Jaye Howard — 4.47
Malik McDowell — 4.53
Bruce Irvin — 4.03
Frank Clark — 4.05
Cassius Marsh — 4.25
Obum Gwacham — 4.28

As you can see, it’s a test they pay a lot of attention too. Even their defensive tackle picks have excelled in the short shuttle. It’s why we’ve singled out Trysten Hill as a potential target (he ran a 4.38 at 308lbs). Players who do really well in the agility testing with great size and explosive power — that’s a winning combination and increases the likelihood they’ll be drafted by the Seahawks.

If they select L.J. Collier, they’ll be going against this trend. Some of his other tests were also underwhelming. A 4.91 forty yard dash was pretty average at 283lbs, he only had a 30 inch vertical and his three cone (7.71) wasn’t much better than the short shuttle.

The one area he did excel was the broad jump. He managed a 9-10 which was the third best among defensive linemen and is comparable to Rashan Gary and Ed Oliver (both 10-0). It’s possible the Seahawks want an explosive base-end. Considering they’ll be well out of range for Gary and probably Oliver, Collier might be seen as an alternative. That wouldn’t say much for Rasheem Green though — who has the size to play that role with a far superior athletic profile.

Collier’s performance at the Senior Bowl and good tape could’ve secured a place in round two. If the Seahawks want him, it might need to be with their first pick. He’d be a strong selection, albeit a different one for Carroll and Schneider. He’s a very accomplished pass rusher with a varied repertoire. Collier plays with great effort and intensity. He just has some athletic limitations.

Here’s a quick prediction based on the news of this visit — Texas’ Charles Omenihu will travel to the VMAC too. He’s taller (6-5) than Collier but has similar size (280lbs). He has incredible 36 inch arms. He also tested a lot better in the short shuttle (4.36), vertical (36.5), three cone (7.48) and he matched Collier’s 9-7 broad. Omenihu’s tape isn’t necessarily as good but he has all the traits Seattle is looking for in a DE/five-tech type.

Meanwhile, Arkansas linebacker Dre Greenlaw is also set to visit Seattle. He’s a former safety who didn’t run at the combine. He’s projected to have the kind of speed Seattle wants at the position.

Justin Houston is out of the equation

The Seahawks didn’t have the money to make a big splash in free agency. The franchise tag for Frank Clark, keeping key players (Fluker, Kendricks, Wright) plus the addition of Mike Iupati and a new kicker has chewed up most of the cap. There’s about $15m remaining but a portion of it has to be saved for injured reserve and the practise squad.

They were never going to be big spenders.

Even so, it was fair to imagine they would find a way to bolster the defensive line. Instead they’ve lost Shamar Stephen. Dion Jordan is a free agent and could be moving on. They’ve made no subsequent additions.

Perhaps they’re just setting things up for the draft? The strength of the class is, after all, the defensive line.

However, they’ll need to find some contributors in April because the options on the open market are quickly running out.

Justin Houston was an appealing option because he wouldn’t have impacted Seattle’s 2020 comp picks. They were never going to be able to compete with an offer of $12m a year (which the Colts offered before signing him today).

Ziggy Ansah remains surprisingly available but you have to question whether they’ll show interest. If Houston is getting $12m a year, Ansah can expect that too. If they were to sign him even for $8m — it’d cost them a comp pick (and they appear to be trying to protect those after back-to-back years of minimal stock).

Apart from that you’re looking at Shane Ray, Nick Perry, Adrian Clayborn, Aaron Lynch and Derrick Morgan. None are particularly appealing. They might be better off waiting for the draft and making the D-line a priority target.

Will Grier pro-day reports

According to several people, Grier had a solid workout:

He’s pretty much a forgotten man in the draft media. Grier didn’t have a particularly great Senior Bowl and was underwhelming at the combine. However, it’s likely some teams will rate him a lot higher than outsiders.

Grier excels throwing the deep ball — a trait all teams look for and admire. He helped elevate West Virginia. There are mechanical flaws that impact his velocity at times and that will need to be worked on at the next level. Overall though, he’s a much more interesting prospect than many people are projecting.

Here’s a reminder of what PFF said about his college production:

Grier was once again tremendous for the Mountaineers in 2018, finishing the year as the nation’s third-highest graded quarterback. He let it rip with the best of them, sprinkling in deep shots with great accuracy just as quick as he’d hit a crosser over the middle or perfectly lead his targets away from coverage with relative ease. In total, he averaged the fourth-highest yards per attempt at 9.7 while throwing more deep pass touchdowns than any other FBS QB with 20. He goes down as arguably the best deep-ball thrower over the past two seasons as he’s thrown for more yards (2,850), more touchdowns (36) and more big-time throws (54) on passes targeted at least 20 yards downfield than any other quarterback since 2017.

It shouldn’t be a surprise if a team like the Giants passes on quarterbacks at #6 and #17 in favour of selecting Grier at #37 (if he makes it that far).

Mike Garafolo on Wilson, Clark and Baldwin

The NFL Network reporter is an underrated member of the ‘insider’ group breaking all the main NFL news. He also has a track record of good Seahawks info — so what he says carries some weight.

Garofolo was interviewed by Brock Huard for 710 ESPN today. They only played three short clips on air (promising to play the rest tomorrow) but it was all quite interesting. Fast forward to 26:56 here if you want to listen. Here are the highlights:

1. Frank Clark would net a high first round pick via trade

2. On a Russell Wilson contract: “I don’t see an extension any time soon… my prediction would be that he enters the last year of his deal

3. There’s been some talk behind the scenes about Doug Baldwin retiring and he hasn’t decided yet what he wants to do

Huard added he wasn’t sensing/hearing any momentum for a Wilson contract extension.

Whether it’s impatience on my behalf or an inability to get an angle on what the plan is with ‘the big four’ — I’m starting to wonder what the intention is here.

What exactly is the plan for Wilson if they know there’s little chance of an extension this year? Is it just to play it by ear and save some money in 2020 and 2021 by not extending his contract and have him play on the tag? Do they want the rest of the league to help set his market when he’s franchised and can speak to other teams?

And if they know they can’t franchise Clark, Bobby Wagner or Jarran Reed in 2020 because Wilson will get the tag — are they going to start signing extensions now? Free agency is pretty much over. At least in terms of the big moves. Markets have been set. They know what it’ll likely cost to keep Clark, Wagner and Reed beyond 2019. They have cap space in 2020.

How will this play out? Will there be some clarity soon?

You can be forgiven for thinking it’s a little disconcerting — even if in reality there’s a rock solid plan within the walls of the VMAC.

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Russell Wilson on the tag, Baldwin’s future and Ohio State WR’s

Do the Seahawks want Russell Wilson on the tag?

Jason La Canfora offered these thoughts on the Wilson contract situation today:

“I’ve long chronicled the looming contractual conundrum facing the Seahawks over Russell Wilson, and am well on record that the time to go all out to extend him was last offseason. At this point, I frankly don’t see much happening between the sides. I’m not sure there is even a deal that could be done, or a deal, if I was representing that player, that I would much consider signing, even at $40M per year. He’s been remarkably durable, the franchise tag money in 2020 and 2021 would be huge and with this such a unique time in the history of the game – broadcast rights back on the negotiating table in a few years; a new CBA needed in a few years; the NFL about to embrace gambling money in a way unfathomable even a few years ago – I would be in no rush to even really talk about a new contract at this point. From everything I’ve gathered, this process hasn’t even started and there’s been no dialogue.”

It fits with some of the things we discussed on Monday. The big issue facing the Seahawks is Wilson’s likely willingness to play on the tag, bet on himself and maximise his earnings. Which is a perfectly understandable position to take for many reasons (including the changing face of the NFL as La Canfora discusses).

So if a deal is unlikely this year, what are the Seahawks going to do?

Here’s an idea.

Maybe, just maybe, the Seahawks want Wilson on the franchise tag. At that point he can go and negotiate with other teams. If he agrees a contract somewhere else, he will sign an offer sheet and the Seahawks will have two choices:

1. Match the contract
2. Gain two first round picks

Maybe they need the rest of the league to help set Wilson’s market? And that will in turn enable them to make a decision.

Of course it’s possible other teams won’t step forward. Yet with a price of only two first round picks to acquire Wilson, that would tempt many teams to make an offer.

As I wrote on Monday — both parties are facing a crossroads and both can go in a number of different directions. We have to wait and see what happens but the sheer fact that this already appears to be in some kind of a stalemate simply highlights the dilemma. Something’s got to give.

Doug Baldwin considering his future?

According to Garafolo, Baldwin is set for sports hernia surgery in April. It’s a six week recovery. The surgery itself won’t put Baldwin’s 2019 season in doubt but it seems he’s still considering his future. He’s already had surgery to repair at least two other injuries this off-season.

There was plenty of talk on twitter and on some of the radio shows about Baldwin at the end of the season. It seems at least possible he’ll retire.

This speaks to what we discussed yesterday. Unless they believe they have to prioritise the quarterback position because of this Wilson situation, it seems very likely that defensive line and receiver will be the two key draft targets.

Which position is drafted first will be about value. There will be some attractive D-line options in the 20-40 range. But that could also be where the run on receivers begins. For that reason, it would be perfectly plausible for the Seahawks to take a wide out with their first pick.

The Seahawks have preferences at a lot of positions. At receiver, they seem to want 4.4 or quicker speed and explosive qualities (good testing in the vertical). We know they like to take shots downfield.

This draft class is loaded with really fast, explosive receivers. Eighteen wide outs ran a 4.4 or faster. You can just reel off the long list of potential targets.

D.K. Metcalf, Parris Campbell, Marquise Brown, Terry McLaurin, Deebo Samuel, N’Keal Harry and A.J. Brown are all expected to go early. Emanuel Hall is an electric downfield target who could go in rounds 2-3. Hakeem Butler has his admirers, while Miley Boykin likely jumped up a couple of rounds after his outstanding combine. Gary Jennings is rising (and rightly so) while Mecole Hardman, Darius Slayton and others could be on the radar.

There might not be a clear top-20 talent at receiver this year but there’s plenty of depth.

Our early round draft focus for the Seahawks is narrowing. We’re getting some clarity on the positions they’ll likely consider with their first selection.

Ohio State receivers and the Seahawks

Parris Campbell will make an official visit to Seattle…

This isn’t a surprise at all. Campbell’s 4.31 speed and running back size will be intriguing to any team looking at this receiver class. He fits every team in that regard.

Urban Meyer used him in the Percy Harvin role — lot’s of screens, bubbles and extended hand-offs. A lot of very talented receivers struggle to shine in the high-percentage offense Meyer uses (and a lot of quarterback inflate their own stats).

Campbell clearly has an outstanding physical profile but there will be question marks about whether his speed can translate. He very much looks like a converted running back. Can he play with suddenness to match the straight-line speed? I think he can make it and wrote about some of the positives here.

You’ll need to have a plan and a role for him. The Rams would have a field day with him. He’s in the Harvin mould — minus the character problems and with a larger frame. Campbell also has good catching technique having spent a considerable amount of time with the jugs machine before the 2018 season.

Meanwhile Doug Baldwin tweeted this earlier…

McLaurin’s agent also says he’s been told to expect a call during round one.

Firstly, it needs to be pointed out that Buddy Baker — McLaurin’s agent — is also Doug Baldwin’s agent. So it’s not a major coincidence that Baldwin is shining a light on a fellow Baker client.

That said, McLaurin really does fit the Seahawks. We talked about him during the college season (including this review here). He excels on special teams and as a blocker. He’s incredibly quick and sudden. He’s a downfield threat but can win at every level.

Listen to any of McLaurin’s interviews and he breaks down plays, defenses, the scheme. He sounds a lot like DeAndre Hopkins when he was at Clemson in that regard. He grew up watching the Colts (had season tickets) and has a clear passion for the game.

He could easily end up being Seattle’s first pick. He’s definitely a name to consider. However — they won’t be the only team interested.

Jon Gruden coached McLaurin at the Senior Bowl and spent considerable time on the final practise day speaking to him. You could see Gruden took a big shine to McLaurin and it won’t be a surprise at all if the Raiders take him at #24 or #27.

The Colts also need more at receiver and McLaurin is from Indianapolis. He’s the type of player you can imagine Chris Ballard having interest in.

So he’ll have options, including the Seahawks, and could easily go in the first frame.

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