Month: November 2019 (Page 1 of 3)

CFB week 14: Rivalry weekend provides entertainment

This was a bad look for Xavier McKinney

If you missed yesterday’s piece on Hunter Bryant check it out here.

The Iron Bowl is rarely dull and Alabama and Auburn played out a 48-45 classic today. It’s unfortunate the end came down to a missed kick and an illegal substitution to decide it. The game, which swung back and forth throughout, deserved a better finish. It’s strange that Alabama won’t be in the playoffs too. This feels like a three-horse race. LSU, Ohio State and Clemson are the challengers. One other team will be in the playoffs simply to make up the numbers.

Auburn did very little on defense. They struggled to contain Alabama’s talented receivers and Najee Harris had one of his best games. Yet Derrick Brown still looked like the best defender on the field. He consistently created pressure, provided none-stop effort to chase down ball carriers and looked like a clear top-10 talent.

His physicality is incredible. Very few defensive tackles are capable of dominating the POA and providing stoutness and toughness while also being that quick athlete able to penetrate and create pressure. Brown was a highly-touted recruit, he’s deadly serious and all-football. He could’ve declared a year ago and been a high pick. He returned this year, won the Iron Bowl and was the defensive player of the game.

Aside from him most of the other draft highlights came from Alabama’s offense.

Jaylen Waddle would’ve been the MVP had Alabama won through. He had four total touchdowns including a brilliant 98 yard kick return and a wonderfully high-pointed reception in the end zone. Waddle will almost certainly be a high pick in 2021 with his range, speed and ability to make plays in a variety of ways.

Henry Ruggs was healthy again and it showed with six catches for 99 yards and a touchdown. His speed and dynamism are clear. His ability to provide a deep threat opened up multiple back-shoulder opportunities for backup QB Mac Jones. He reportedly runs in the 4.2’s. With his catching technique, electric speed and production — it’s impossible to imagine him not being a high pick.

DeVonta Smith had another big game with five catches for 80 yards. He remains incredibly underrated. He had a big reception on a key third down in the third quarter — running a great crossing route to create easy separation.

Jerry Jeudy had another quiet game with five catches for 26 yards. Sometimes there’s just too many mouths to feed in this offense. Jeudy is very talented. Yet he’s had some rough games in 2019. In this one he had a bad drop in the third quarter. He’s had too many concentration drops this season and it’s something to consider.

Najee Harris was his usual hurdling self with 146 yards on 27 carries and a touchdown. He also had 26 yards on four catches. Harris is extremely talented. He has everything. You just want to see some consistency in terms of the physicality. Today was his best effort. He was smashing into defenders, stiff-arming one literally out of the game with a devastating forearm blow. When he plays like this he looks like a guy you can build around. There’s just something that gives you pause for thought with Harris. He’ll go relatively early in the draft (first three rounds) and he can be a lead-back. If he can find a level of consistency he could be really good. There are very few limitations.

I’m struggling to buy into the early round talk for Alabama’s Xavier McKinney. He got absolutely battered trying to defend a fourth quarter TD (see the image at the top of the piece). He struggles to contain against the run and he’s at his best simply blitzing into the backfield. He was fortunate to be credited with a forced fumble today on what was essentially a lucky play on a whiffed tackle.

— Not a lot went right for Michigan in another chastening defeat to rival Ohio State (56-27) yet Cesar Ruiz was a highlight. The more I’ve watched of him, the better he looks. He was controlling blocks all afternoon, showed great feet to pull to the right to help out against Chase Young and absolutely looks the part of a top pro-center. He opened up a huge lane for Hassan Haskins on a 33 yard run. I paired him with the Seahawks in my updated mock this week but I’m starting to wonder if they’d be lucky to have a shot at Ruiz. He’s the best center in this draft and looks like a first round talent. He did have one wayward snap which led to a fumble by the QB — but really Shea Patterson should’ve still handled it.

J.K. Dobbins had a huge day for Ohio State and equally deserves a lot more early-round talk than he’s getting. He’s highly explosive, fast, patient to allow runs to develop and he’s the type of runner the league favours these days.

His second touchdown was a great example of his athleticism and patience. He took the hand-off in the gun and assessed the blocking. No gaps were created up the middle so he bounced the play outside with fluidity and no wasted motion. As soon as the cut-back lane opened up he stuck his foot in the ground and exploded into the end zone.

On the first play of the third quarter he found the edge and sprinted away from numerous defenders for a huge gain. His fourth touchdown was very similar. If he gets to the edge in space he’s incredibly difficult to stop. On one huge play he was a little bit fortunate to fumble the ball, have it bounce right back into his hands and basically allow him to continue running in stride.

He finished with 211 yards on 31 carries and four touchdowns, plus 49 receiving yards on two catches. He’s not a physical, pounding runner who will get the tough yards and grind down an opponent. For a creative offense willing to scheme plays to put him in a position to get the ball in space — he can be a massive weapon as a receiver and runner.

Chase Young was kept relatively quiet with no sacks and only two QB hurries. I want to refer back to my post last week. Destroying Will Fries at Penn State is fair enough. He’s not going to be facing many players like Will Fries in the NFL though.

— D’Andre Swift was injured in a 52-7 win against Georgia Tech. He seemed concerned and emotional on the sideline, with team mates saying prayers with him. Yet after the game Kirby Smart said it was a mere shoulder contusion and that he should be fine. Hopefully that is the case. Swift had 73 yards on 10 carries in the game. He also fumbled twice. Georgia’s two book-end tackles are just incredible. Everyone talks up Andrew Thomas and rightly so. It’s time more people talked up Isaiah Wilson. For me he’s a top-15 talent. He does everything well and was terrific again in this game as both a pass and run blocker.

— Penn State are nowhere near TCU’s level when it comes to a bad passing game. Jalen Reagor has been dealing with a horrendous QB situation for weeks — hammering his potential to put up big yardage and really bolster his draft stock. K.J. Hamler still doesn’t get much help from Penn State. He was under-thrown on a potential big play in a mediocre 27-6 win over Rutgers. The other receivers on the team struggle to make plays. Hamler finished with only five catches for 22 yards and one run on an end-around for six yards today. He did have a 34 yard kick return and a 24 yard punt return. Yetur Gross-Matos didn’t play in the game and was stood on the sidelines with his arm in a sling.

— Wisconsin hammered Minnesota 38-17 to earn the opportunity to lose to Ohio State in the BIG-10 title game next week. Jonathan Taylor had 76 yards on 18 carries and two rushing touchdowns. Jake Ferguson had yet another quiet game with only one catch for 20 yards. For Minnesota, Reshad Bateman was again excellent with 147 receiving yards on six catches and a touchdown. He looks the part of a high pick in 2021. Tyler Johnson had eight catches for 89 yards and a score.

— It’s going to be really hard to project Justin Herbert to the next level. The Oregon offense doesn’t do him any favours. He’s a big-armed, improvising force who can make improbable throws and the modern NFL will love that. Yet Oregon plays everything so conservatively. The offense doesn’t suit him and isn’t allowing him to flourish. At the same time — an ultra-conservative offense should enable a QB to master things fairly comfortably. Has he ever reached a high level? Or at least the level you’d expect from a top-10 pick? Oregon were largely unimpressive in a 24-10 win against Oregon State that was close until the end. Herbert finished 18/30 for 174 yards and a touchdown. It’ll only take one team to buy into the size, arm and playmaking for him to go early. Yet his stock-range is really difficult to gauge.

— Clemson’s Isaiah Simmons had 10 tackles, a sack and two TFL’s in a 38-3 win against South Carolina. Tee Higgins had two touchdowns to go with three catches for 101 yards. Travis Etienne also had two touchdowns, 51 rushing yards on 15 carries and 37 yards on three receptions. He also had 50 yards on two kick returns.

— Another quarterback who will be difficult to project is Jordan Love. He similarly has the arm, the improv skills and the size. Going into today’s game against Nevada he’d thrown more picks than touchdowns though (14/15). In a 38-25 win he threw three touchdowns and one pick to get back into the black (172 passing yards). The best thing for his stock might be to grad-transfer to a team like Oklahoma. If that’s not an option and he turns pro, it’ll be interesting to see if teams buy into the upside after a poor final year in college (just as Buffalo and others did with Josh Allen at Wyoming).

— Joe Burrow continued his march to the Heisman and the #1 pick in the draft in a 50-7 win against Texas A&M. He finished 23/32 passing for 352 yards and three touchdowns. Burrow has been the real deal this season and kudos to him for taking a big step forward and elevating LSU. Clyde Edwards-Helaire had 87 yards on 18 carries and a touchdown while adding 49 receiving yards on four catches. Grant Delpit had a straight forward interception in the game.

— Utah clobbered Colorado 45-15 to stay in playoff contention. Laviska Shenault had 43 receiving yards on four catches plus an extra 25 yards as a runner. Keep an eye on Nate Landman the linebacker who had 10 tackles and a TFL in the game. He’s extremely talented and flying under the radar.

— Ceedee Lamb mysteriously took himself out of the Baylor game recently and it seems to have impacted his season. Against Oklahoma State he had only four catches for 36 yards and a further eight yards on two runs. He’s lost some momentum. Oklahoma won 34-16 and will meet Baylor again in the Big-12 Championship game.

— There are serious questions about the athletic potential of Jon Greenard at Florida and that will significantly impact his stock. He has produced at a high level this season though. Against Florida State he had three sacks in a 40-17 win.

— Arizona State has two very intriguing skill players. In a 24-14 win against Arizona, Eno Benjamin ran for 168 yards on 34 carries and scored twice. He also had three catches for 14 yards. Brandon Aiyuk had five receptions for 67 yards and ran once for eight yards. Both players are worth monitoring during the draft season.

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Why the Seahawks might be interested in Hunter Bryant

Hunter Bryant helped the Huskies win the Apple Cup today

Washington won the Apple Cup again for the seventh straight time today.

John Schneider, unsurprisingly, was in attendance.

It’s not exactly headline news that the local NFL GM took in the game. It’s an easy opportunity to get a look at some of the pro talent particularly on the Washington roster.

Nick Harris is an underrated center who could be an off-season riser as the process develops. Trey Adams will get a shot somewhere — although his medical checks will determine how early he goes.

The player the Seahawks might be most interested in though could be tight end Hunter Bryant.

Husky fans will be quick to mention his drops. That is an issue that warrants consideration. Yet there are a significant number of positives to mention too.

Short-area quickness

A lot of people will tell you Bryant isn’t ‘fast’. Admittedly at SPARQ he ran only a 4.82. If you’re expecting him to test like Evan Engram (who he’s occasionally compared to) you’ll be disappointed. Engram ran a 4.42 at the combine at 234lbs. Bryant isn’t going to be in that ball-park.

Where he should test well, however, is the short shuttle. At SPARQ he ran an excellent 4.35.

There’s evidence to suggest the Seahawks pay a lot of attention to the short shuttle at the tight end position:

Luke Willson — 4.29
Will Dissly — 4.40 (8th best in 2018)
Nick Vannett — 4.20 (2nd best in 2016)
Anthony McCoy — 4.57
Zach Miller — 4.42
Jimmy Graham — 4.45

These are all excellent times for the position with the exception of McCoy (who was a sixth round pick). This is the benefit of being able to study a front office for a decade. You can pick up on trends.

Will Dissly only ran a 4.87 forty at his combine but has shown plenty of ability as a pass-catcher due to his short-area quickness, execution on routes and body control. Bryant might not run a 4.42 like Engram or even a 4.52 like George Kittle or a 4.61 like Travis Kelce. There’s at least some history suggesting a good short shuttle time — which we know he’s capable of — could get him on Seattle’s radar.

Explosive plays

Coming into the Apple Cup, Bryant had 14 receptions of +20 yards or more. That ranked #1 in college football among tight ends. It also compared favourably to some of the top draft prospects at receiver:

Ceedee Lamb — 19
Jerry Jeudy — 18
DeVonta Smith — 18
Tyler Johnson — 17
K.J. Hamler — 16
Brandon Aiyuk — 15
Hunter Bryant — 14

He’s also the only tight end in the country to register enough +40 yard plays to make the list (three). He also has one +50 yard play and five +30 yard plays.

In the Apple Cup he added to his total with a 39-yarder and ended with six catches for 96 yards. For the season he has 52 catches (second most in programme history) for 825 yards and three touchdowns. He averages 16 YPC.

He is proving he can be a X-factor as a receiver.


The Seahawks want tight ends who can block. Yesterday I watched three Washington games specifically to study his blocking.

The first thing to point out is it’s actually a rare positive to see him doing some blocking. Most college TE’s barely have any blocking responsibility these days. When I went to study Stanford’s Colby Parkinson recently — it was practically impossible to judge his blocking. He spent most of his time as an outside or slot receiver. And that’s at Stanford — a team known for it’s desire to run the ball.

Bryant actually has some fairly frequent blocking duties and he does a good job overall. He’s not T.J. Hockenson driving defenders onto the turf in the running game. You’re not likely to see him operating as the ‘sixth lineman’.

However — whether he’s working the edge or being asked to get up to the second level on screens or quick-hitters, Bryant did a perfectly adequate job. His hand placement and control is good. When he’s blocking bigger targets he generally stays in position to execute. When he does get overmatched he often finds a way to cling on just enough to get the job done. His ability to locate and latch onto second-level targets on the move was impressive.

That’s really all you can expect. He’s not going to be drafted for his blocking. Saying he’s not a liability might sound like dabbing him with faint praise. Yet there are barely any classic Y-tight end’s in college football. The fact Bryant does block, executes at a decent level and offers move than a mere ‘move TE’ is a big positive.


Bryant lines up in a number of different positions and can be shifted around to create mismatch opportunities.

In the Apple Cup on one snap he lined up as an outside receiver and was still given a significant cushion by the cornerback. He ran to the sticks, caught a slightly overthrown pass by Jacob Eason at full stretch and then turned upfield for a nice gain (it took several defenders to halt his progress).

On another snap he lined up in the slot and settled into the soft-zone to provide a nice target between two defenders.

On his long reception they lined him up in a more orthodox position and cleared out underneath by having the receivers run downfield. It’s poorly played by the defense but on a team with several deep threats like Seattle — you can see why having another dynamic target to handle the middle/underneath could be useful in these situations.

On one snap they had him line up in a 2×1 look to the left sideline. It’s a nice play design to fake the receiver screen with Bryant shaping to block and the other wide out sitting in position. Instead Bryant gets the release and flies by the two defenders sucked into the static receiver. He’s wide open and Jacob Eason has a horrendous overthrow on what should’ve been an easy touchdown.

Again — we’ve seen D.K. Metcalf execute some effective WR screens recently. Having Bryant line-up next to him as either a lead blocker or an option to run downfield on the fake would be a useful.

They also used him on a quick-crosser and he did a good job catching the ball in traffic for an eight yard gain.

The Seahawks need a tight end

Whatever happens between now and the end of the regular season, the Seahawks need to add a tight end. Dissly has suffered his second serious injury in just over a year. Ed Dickson is a certain cut after he missed the entire 2019 season. They’ve already traded Nick Vannett away and are currently ‘getting by’ with Jacob Hollister and Luke Willson.

Hollister has shown more than enough to warrant some faith and an extended run. Even then — they need one more at least. This is a position they’ve placed a lot of importance on over the years. They spent a first rounder on Jimmy Graham. They paid Zach Miller a fortune. Vannett cost them a third rounder and Dissly a high fourth.

One way or another they’ll make a move. It doesn’t have to be via the draft. Perhaps Tampa Bay will consider dealing O.J. Howard for example? And there might be some appealing veteran options?

Yet with the need to retain some key internal players and bolster the defensive line — the available cap space might need to be spent elsewhere.

With three high picks in the 2020 draft, it won’t be a surprise if they target Bryant. There’s still a lot to be determined of course. We need to see him test for a starter — plus he’d need to declare as a junior.

Yet this isn’t a particularly good looking tight end class. Byrant is a strong contender to be the best available who is eligible to turn pro.

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2020 mock draft #4: Seahawks target Cesar Ruiz

Michigan center Cesar Ruiz is highly impressive

The objective of these mocks is always to run through different scenario’s.

#1 Cincinnati — Joe Burrow (QB, LSU)
The performance against Alabama confirmed he’s the best quarterback in college football.

#2 New York Giants — Chase Young (EDGE, Ohio State)
In nine games he has 16.5 sacks and 19.5 TFL’s.

#3 Miami — Andrew Thomas (T, Georgia)
Supremely balanced and consistent, his footwork is superb and he anchors brilliantly.

#4 Washington — Jeff Okudah (CB, Ohio State)
He will destroy the combine and was a 142.56 athlete at SPARQ.

#5 Denver — Jerry Jeudy (WR, Alabama)
Jeudy is extremely consistent, athletic and pro-ready.

#6 Atlanta — Grant Delpit (S, LSU)
He’s legit but he’s played hurt for most of the season.

#7 Detroit — Derrick Brown (DT, Auburn)
A tone-setting defensive lineman with the stoutness and quickness.

#8 Arizona — CeeDee Lamb (WR, Oklahoma)
Kyler Murray is reunited with his favourite target.

#9 Jacksonville — Isaiah Simmons (S, Clemson)
Reportedly he can jump a 40-inch vertical, an 11-0 broad and run in the 4.4’s.

#10 New York Jets — Trevon Diggs (CB, Alabama)
Competitive cornerback who does an excellent job tracking the ball and breaking up passes. Stefon Diggs’ brother.

#11 LA Chargers — Isaiah Wilson (T, Georgia)
He’s highly underrated and for me the second best tackle eligible for 2020.

#12 Tampa Bay — Javon Kinlaw (DT, South Carolina)
He’s +300lbs but carries minimal body fat. He dominated Alabama’s O-line a few weeks ago.

#13 Philadelphia — Jalen Reagor (WR, TCU)
Raegor reportedly runs a 4.29. He also jumped a 38.5 inch vertical and can squat 620lbs.

#14 Miami (v/OAK, CHI) — Tua Tagovailoa (QB, Alabama)
The Dolphins jump above several QB-needy teams to take a chance on Tua.

#15 Cleveland — Prince Tega Wanogho (T, Auburn)
Huge, physical and athletic but destined to play right tackle in the NFL.

#16 Carolina — Henry Ruggs (WR, Alabama)
Ruggs reportedly runs in the 4.2’s and has excellent catching technique.

#17 Oakland — Shaun Wade (CB, Ohio State)
A former 5-star recruit who’s playing exceptionally well.

#18 Indianapolis — Raekwon Davis (DT, Alabama)
He can anchor the interior of a defensive line for years to come.

#19 Tennessee — KJ Hamler (WR, Penn State)
Not their biggest need but Hamler is just too dynamic to pass up.

#20 Jacksonville (v/LAR) — Kristian Fulton (CB, LSU)
A physical cornerback who tracks the ball almost as well as Trevon Diggs.

#21 Dallas — Laviska Shenault (WR, Colorado)
We’ve not seen him anywhere near his best so far but he’s a swiss-army knife who can score points as a runner, receiver or returner.

#22 Oakland (v/MIA) — Dylan Moses (LB, Alabama)
Would be a top-10 pick had he not tore his ACL.

#23 Kansas City — Kenneth Murray (LB, Oklahoma)
Incredibly quick and physical — helps set a tone.

#24 Minnesota — DeVonta Smith (WR, Alabama)
Extremely underrated and very dynamic.

#25 Miami (v/HOU) — D’Andre Swift (RB, Georgia)
Productive and shifty — his combine will determine how early he goes.

#26 Buffalo — Walker Little (T, Stanford)
Ran a 4.40 short shuttle at SPARQ and scored an overall 107.25 (the top score by an offensive lineman in 2016).

#27 Washington (v/GB) — Alex Leatherwood (T, Alabama)
After trading Trent Williams, the Redskins do what they always do and draft a player from Alabama.

#28 Seattle — Cesar Ruiz (C, Michigan)
Tough and leading the charge for Michigan. 97.92 SPARQ tester (#1 for center’s in 2017).

#29 Baltimore — Tyler Biadasz (C, Wisconsin)
He loses balance/control at times but he’s physical and solid.

#30 New Orleans — Justin Herbert (QB, Oregon)
Better quarterbacks have dropped into this range.

#31 San Francisco — Tyler Johnson (WR, Minnesota)
Testing is key but Johnson has played so well in 2019 and could be coveted.

#32 New England — Austin Jackson (T, USC)
The Pats are not afraid to take a chance on O-line upside.

The trades explained…

Miami trades #22 to Oakland for #14
It’s impossible to say with any confidence what’ll happen with Tua Tagovailoa but it’s possible he will fall a bit and then someone will make a move to get him.

Green Bay trades #27 to Washington for Trent Williams
The Redskins will trade Trent Williams at some point. The Packers were physically hammered by the 49ers and that performance might linger into the off-season. Green Bay has a move pro-active front-office these days and Aaron Rodgers turns 36 next week. They need to help him as much as possible.

Seattle’s pick explained…

In this scenario the top receivers are off the board. I think it’s very realistic we’ll see a big run on wide outs early. They’re all good enough and aside from Jerry Jeudy and Ceedee Lamb, all underrated. Receiver might not be a hot suggestion among Seahawks fans yet this team has consistently tapped into the ‘strength’ of a class and in 2020 that’s receiver. They will never have ‘too much’ support for Wilson either. They need a tight end this off-season and, if possible, another dynamic receiver. If Germain Ifedi and George Fant depart, right tackle also becomes a striking need.

The pass rush is going to need to be addressed in free agency or via trade. This is not a good D-line class. They’ll almost certainly be preparing to pay Jadeveon Clowney. They might need to make another big splash to properly support him and it’s also possible they’ll seek to retain Jarran Reed.

This will clearly cost money. Keeping Clowney and Reed then adding someone like Dante Fowler or Everson Griffen might not be possible. If they want to make moves like this they’ll need cap space. They’re currently projected to have about $65-70m. To spend big on the D-line they might need even more.

Cutting Justin Britt would save just under $9m in cap space. That’s a big chunk. Ideally they would keep Britt. His knee injury this season has come at a bad time for player and team. Now they have a choice to make. Do you keep him with a near $12m cap hit in 2020? Or do you part ways — albeit grudgingly — and then use the money to help your D-line?

This is a decent draft for center’s with Michigan’s Cesar Ruiz, Washington’s Nick Harris and Wisconsin’s Tyler Biadasz all possible early-round options. I projected Ruiz here after watching him closely for the first time against Indiana. He anchors Michigan’s line and looks the part. At SPARQ he managed a 97.92 score at 321lbs which is no mean feat. He was the top tester at the center position in 2017 and has explosive qualities. Plus we know Carroll and Schneider like their Michigan guys.

Of course they could retain Britt or cut him and go a different route. He could be re-signed at a cheaper price. They could go for a veteran like Alex Mack (who’s expected to be cut in the off-season). They could re-sign Joey Hunt and let him compete with Ethan Pocic (although I wouldn’t expect that to be likely).

In this mock I have them replacing Britt with Ruiz and using his salary to really get the pass rush rolling for 2020.

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What the stats say — Bradley McDougald is having a year

Bradley McDougald is having an exceptional 2019 season

Individual stats don’t tell the full story. They can, however, highlight strong performers and illustrate improvement. This week’s collection say a lot about Seattle’s secondary and much talked about base defense.

The Seahawks celebrated the signing (and re-signing) of Bradley McDougald as a major move. The advanced stats show that in 2019, he is having a quite exceptional season. He’s playing better than I think most people realise — even if he’s one of the more respected players on the team.

He’s now ranked fourth in the NFL for passer rating when targeted.

Here’s the top five:

#1 Justin Simmons (Denver) — 25.4
#2 Earl Thomas (Baltimore) — 27.7
#3 J.C. Jackson (New England) — 29.0
#4 Bradley McDougald (Seattle) — 29.4
#5 Devin McCourty (New England) — 30.6

Stephon Gilmore is ninth on the list (40.6) and Richard Sherman is 13th (50.8).

Essentially the Seahawks are getting top-level play in coverage from McDougald.

McDougald is now ranked tied fourth in the NFL for yards per target (4.0) — level with Minnesota’s star safety Harrison Smith. Earl Thomas is conceding 5.1 yards per target. He also has the third best completion percentage in the league at 45.2% (again, ahead of Thomas’ 52.9%).

His interception against the Eagles highlighted his playmaking quality too. He now has five picks and five forced fumbles in the last two seasons.

For all the talk of Seattle’s unwillingness (or inability) to pay Thomas the $13.75m a year — McDougald is playing the best football of his career on $4.5m a season and is making a major contribution in 2019.

It’s also worth highlighting the play of Seattle’s other defensive backs.

Shaquill Griffin’s completion percentage when targeted is 50.9%. Here’s a list of cornerbacks with a higher completion percentage:

Stephon Gilmore — 51.6%
Marlon Humphrey — 53.1%
Darius Slay — 53.3%
Marcus Peters — 54.5%
Marshon Lattimore — 55.9%
Tre’Davious White — 56.1%
Jaire Alexander — 56.9%
Richard Sherman — 60.8%
Jalen Ramsey — 64%

Tre Flowers, for what it’s worth, has a completion percentage of 58.2%. That’s a really good score given he’s been targeted 67 times — 14th most in the league.

For both of Seattle’s young cornerbacks to be keeping this company — among the league leaders in completion percentage — is indicative of their continued progress.

With the addition of Quandre Diggs, it seems the Seahawks have a quartet they can build around. Along with the improved play of the three experienced linebackers, the second level of Seattle’s defense no longer looks like a glaring weakness.

There’s been a lot of hand-wringing about Mychal Kendricks essentially acting as Seattle’s hybrid linebacker/slot. Pete Carroll has repeatedly talked up his 4.47 time at the combine. It’s also worth noting his short shuttle (4.14) and three cone (6.68) times were better than most defensive backs.

For example — Darnell Savage ran a 4.14 short shuttle this year. Ugo Amadi ran a 4.19. Chaucney Gardner-Johnson ran a 4.20.

Kendricks’ short shuttle would’ve been the third fastest by a defensive back at the 2019 combine, behind only David Long (6.45) and Marvell Tell (6.63).

Who knows whether Kendricks, now 29, can still run these times? Yet for all the clamour for Ugo Amadi — Kendricks had a far faster three cone (Amadi ran a 7.21) plus a marginally faster short shuttle and forty (Amadi ran a 4.51).

In terms of the stats, Kendricks is giving up six yards per completion — good enough for sixth best in the league. In comparison, Justin Coleman is giving up 11.5 yards per completion as the slot corner in Detroit. Chris Harris in Denver is conceding 18.1 yards per completion.

Kendricks’ yards per target is also strong at 5.1. That’s the same as Earl Thomas and good enough for tied-25th in the entire NFL. Stephon Gilmore is giving up 5.2 yards per target. Jamal Adams gives up 5.3 yards per target.

He’s only given up 135 yards after the catch — a similar number to Jaylon Smith in Dallas (134) and a better mark than Fred Warner (156) and Devin Bush (162). Tre Flowers has given up 163 yards after the catch.

Kendricks has also given up 30 receptions — as many as Marcus Peters, two fewer than Bobby Wagner and Jalen Ramsey and three fewer than Stephon Gilmore.

The return to base defense caused a lot of discussion earlier this season but things appear to have settled down. Now that he isn’t missing as many tackles (see below), Kendricks appears to be the perfect player for the system Carroll is utilising. The numbers don’t show a liability — they show a player who is performing at a pretty high level.

For a large part of the season Kendricks led the league in missed tackle percentage. He has been making steady progress for several weeks now. He’s dropped from 25% missed tackles to 21.1% and he’s now only ranked 14th. Strangely enough the player ahead of him on the list is Calais Campbell (21.6%). Who would’ve guessed that?

What about team defense overall? The Seahawks now have 10 interceptions — tied-sixth in the league. They’ve forced 14 fumbles — tied first in the league with Pittsburgh. Their 24 total turnovers is the third best tally behind New England and Pittsburgh. They also have the third best turnover-per-drive percentage (17.7%) and they’re only giving up the 11th most penalties on defense (75).

As encouraging as the last two games have been though — they’re still among the leagues worst teams in terms of pressure. Their 82 total pressures is sixth lowest in the league. Their pressure percentage is 17.3% — the lowest in the entire NFL. They force a QB hurry 8.2% of the time — the eighth weakest percentage. They also have 20 quarterback knockdowns — the fifth worst record.

Hopefully the last two weeks are a sign they’re heading in the right direction. These numbers are indicative though of just how bad Seattle’s pass rush was prior to the San Francisco game.

That said, Rasheem Green’s performance in Philadelphia has now taken him to 10 pressures, three sacks and seven hurries for the season. He’s now only two pressures behind DeForest Buckner (although Buckner does play inside). Clelin Ferrell, the #4 pick in this years draft, has only eight pressures and 3.5 sacks. That might say more for Ferrell than Green but there have at least been some encouraging moments this season after an anonymous rookie campaign.

Quinton Jefferson has played a lot of snaps working inside. He has 12 pressures for the year. That’s as many as former first-round pick Jonathan Allen at Washington, one fewer than Vic Beasley, Cameron Wake and Bruce Irvin, four fewer than Ndamukong Suh and five fewer than Yannick Ngakoue.

If you missed yesterday’s reaction podcast to the Eagles game, check it out below:

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Instant reaction: Seahawks defense dominates Eagles

The Seahawks under Pete Carroll have always attracted chaos. So many games are close (sometimes unnecessarily so). They’ll frequently raise their game for top opponents and play down to weaker teams.

It makes for exciting (albeit tense) viewing.

It’s also noticeable how different and unique their ‘weird’ games tend to be. This was another example.

With Jadeveon Clowney ruled out with a hip/core injury — this 100% felt like a day for Russell Wilson and the offense. The Seahawks played as if that was the case. Long-developing pass after long-developing pass was called. It felt like Seattle tried to score early in every drive.

Whether it was the wind, poor execution, Philly’s excellent defense or simply an off-day — it was a really poor performance from the offense.

In fact it was a mess.

Even without Clowney — and then eventually Jarran Reed who left with an ankle injury — the defense raised up and won the game for the Seahawks. Philadelphia was without Lane Johnson and most of their skill players. Losing Clowney and then Reed was no small deal for Seattle either.

The defense stood tall, built on the 49ers game and answered the call.

They had three sacks, six TFL’s, two interceptions, five forced fumbles, numerous pressures and played arguably their best game of the season. It’s in the running considering who they were missing up front.

Ziggy Ansah, Rasheem Green, Shaquem Griffin, Al Woods, Quinton Jefferson, Tre Flowers — all stepped forward to supplement the key defenders by making big plays. We’ve talked for weeks about how underrated Bradley McDougald is. He had an interception and no doubt improved his top-10 passer rating on targets per game. Quandre Diggs has slotted in seamlessly. The linebackers are starting to become a force again. Shaquille Griffin has had a great 2019.

It was all vital too. The offense had only 14 first downs, they were 5-14 on third down, there were 12 penalties and the run game took a complete back-seat to deep shots that mostly didn’t work.

Nothing sums up the situation better than this sequence:

— The defense forces a fumble (collected by Quinton Jefferson)
— The offense is penalised twice for a false start and a delay of game
— Joey Hunt is penalised for tripping
— On third and long, now well out of field goal range, Wilson throws a pick

The Seahawks defense made a huge play and the offense couldn’t capitalise, took points off the board and kept Philadelphia alive. It felt like it happened numerous times.

On another day this could’ve been a repeat of the 42-0 hammering from 2005.

Ultimately though, the Seahawks found a way again. The flea-flicker from Wilson to Malik Turner was perfectly executed. Rashaad Penny’s rumbling 58 yard score was clinical. Two explosive plays, combined with this defensive performance, was enough.

They’re now 6-0 on the road. They’re 9-2 overall and in contention for a playoff bye. This team has exceeded expectations, found a way to stack wins and they deserve immense credit for that.

There are still some lingering concerns. Metcalf needs to learn to track the ball and high-point to realise his massive potential. Chris Carson fumbled again — but recovered — and had the bizarre botched hand-off for a turnover on the next play. The injuries to Reed and Clowney are concerning. They need those two players in a big way.

Yet the defense has now put together back-to-back fantastic games. We know the offense can play better than this. If the defense continues to perform at this level then the Seahawks will be a dangerous opponent and yes — a contender.

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CFB week 13: Chase Young is great (but some perspective)

Chase Young was getting major hype on Twitter after Ohio State defeated Penn State 28-17. That’s understandable. He had three sacks and four TFL’s in another terrific display. There’s no doubting he’ll be a high pick and he’s not suddenly emerged on the scene in 2019. We could all see how good he was last year too.

However, with Young constantly being presented as the clear #1 talent eligible for the 2020 draft — I think some perspective is needed.

Firstly, he was playing a turnstile at right tackle for Penn State. If Will Fries had been holding a matador’s muleta his performance would’ve made more sense.

Young consistently got to the point of contact before Fries had even dropped into his set. That’s to Young’s credit and speaks to his quickness. However, Fries just looked so lethargic on the kick-step. On the first sack he had ample opportunity to drop and get his hands up and he just leaned into Young, riding his coattail into the backfield.

On one TFL Young had a simple bench-press into Fries’ chest to jolt him off balance. On another TFL Fries squatted into position and showed feet of stone as Young simply cut back into the B-gap to fly to the running back.

One of Young’s sacks also came about because the quarterback dropped the snap and was scrambling backwards to retain possession.

I’m not for a second trying to suggest Young isn’t good or won’t be a top-five pick. I just think we need to remember the situation in this game. And let’s be right here — there are some minor issues he needs to address.

Young’s run defense and ability to contain his side of the field was an issue last year and I’m not sure Ohio State has played anyone yet to test that. They will receive that test — either in the playoffs or when they face Michigan. He’s such a good pass rusher that it’s not something that’s going to define his grade but it has to be noted if we’re talking about him as the next great defensive end.

Secondly, Young only ran a 4.94 at SPARQ despite only weighing 226lbs at the time. His vertical jump was 30 inches and his overall score a quite poor 92.31. This doesn’t mean he can’t or won’t massively improve on those numbers at the combine. Watching his short-area quickness it’d be shocking if he didn’t run a lot faster at the combine. Again though — it’s something to note. Everyone’s going to expect a great combine performance based on what they’re seeing on tape. He might not test as well as some imagine. We need to wait and see for that.

I also think the ‘Chase Young is the best player in the draft’ campaign also sheds light on the way we under-appreciate left tackle’s. Andrew Thomas is a phenomenal player. Possibly the cleanest left tackle prospect I’ve written about since starting this blog over a decade ago. Why doesn’t anyone ever talk about him being the best player in the class? Simply put — it’s because he doesn’t have the stats as a tackle or the big highlight plays to create a buzz on Twitter.

If a defender like Young has a bad snap — it never gets pulled up because you can point to all the sacks and TFL’s. If a left tackle has a bad snap, it’s seen as a problem. We hold tackle’s to a different standard and expect near perfection. For defensive ends — as long as they splash enough the negatives are often forgotten.

Young might be the best player in the draft. It might also be Andrew Thomas or Joe Burrow or a fully healthy Grant Delpit. I don’t think it’s a clear cut choice.

Looking at the other feature players — Yetur Gross-Matos had his most productive half of the season with two sacks and 3.5 TFL’s in the first two quarters. On one sack he rushed to the outside and controlled the contact against the left tackle with good hand-placement to the left shoulder-pad. He then worked back inside, rag-dolling the tackle out of the way to hammer the quarterback. YGM has always flashed excellent hand-use you just want to see more plays like this (because we know he’s capable). He left the game on a couple of occasions and had a club on his hand.

J.K. Dobbins again flashed a great ability to get to the outside with fluidity and ease. He also has the speed to break big runs and showed physicality to finish with his first touchdown, carrying defenders into the end zone. For his second score he received good blocks from the right guard and tackle and found the hole to finish for the score. Dobbins also had the ball ripped out on a fumble in the backfield at 21-7 to make a one-sided game interesting. It was a good play by the linebacker Micah Parsons (one to watch for the future as a former coveted 5-star recruit and 110.17 SPARQ athlete).

K.J. Hill received a perfectly placed touchdown pass. Hill has some inconsistent games but possesses high athletic upside and some potential. He could be a later round steal. He ran a nice route here, separated and showed good concentration to catch over his shoulder.

K.J. Hamler had a quiet game. He started off with a decent 26 yard kick-return but was restricted by Ohio State’s extremely talented cornerbacks. He finished with three catches for 45 yards. Shaun Wade almost picked off one of Hamler’s receptions and is one of the few college cornerback’s able to stick with him in coverage. Wade later made an incredible play on the ball while covering Hamler on 4th and 12. We’ve been talking him up all season and finally the national media are giving Wade some attention. He’s one of the most talented players eligible for 2020 and should be squarely in the top-25 conversation.


— Minnesota threw for 211 receiving yards in a 38-22 win against Northwestern and all but one eight-yard reception went to Tyler Johnson or Rashod Bateman. Johnson has been in our top-50 from the start and he finished with seven catches for 125 yards and a touchdown. Bateman, however, might be an even bigger talent (although he’s not eligible for 2020). He finished with seven catches for 78 yards and three touchdowns. Johnson’s touchdown was a beautifully tracked and high-pointed 18 yard reception to the right corner of the end zone. His body control and hands are on-point. Testing will be big for Johnson but he’s incredibly polished, competitive and consistent.

— Alabama rolled to a 66-3 win against Western Carolina. DeVonta Smith scored two touchdowns including a 57 yarder where he danced around half the defense to hit a home run. The opponents were clearly overmatched but it was a great example of Smith’s speed, quickness and ability to create. The second score was a quick hitter to the flat and he just beat the defender to the sideline for an easy TD. Smith is massively underrated and fully deserves to be talked about as a first round talent. Jerry Jeudy also had two catches for 66 yards, Henry Ruggs didn’t play and Xavier McKinney had two interceptions. The first was floated into coverage and he did well to track it with his back turned (though the pass was begging to be picked). He had to recover because initially he misread the play and was running up to the LOS. A better opponent would’ve capitalised on that. His second came on a tipped pass and led to a 78 yard return for a touchdown. Najee Harris had 14 carries for 66 yards and a score, plus a 12 yard touchdown reception.

— I recorded the Georgia game to watch later this weekend. The main area of focus will again be Isaiah Wilson, who I think is hugely underrated and possibly the second best draft eligible tackle behind team mate Andrew Thomas. D’Andre Swift ran for 103 yards on 19 carries and added 29 yard on four catches.

— Stanford tight end Colby Parkinson had four catches for 60 yards in a 24-20 loss to California. It’s really hard to judge Parkinson. Stanford put him at receiver a lot, ask him to try and block in acres of space on receiver screens and don’t do enough in-line blocking with him to properly judge him in that area. He can run to the seam but he’s often let down by poor quarterback play and a lousy offense.

— Today was my first proper opportunity to study Michigan center Cesar Ruiz. For a few weeks Tony Pauline has been reporting that some scouts view him as the top draftable center. Today’s performance in a hefty win against Indiana showed why. Ruiz fits 6-4 and 319lbs into quite a compact looking frame — ideal for a center. He very easily gains leverage and control off the snap. He’s not long-limbed and he’s sturdy. His footwork is very impressive and he does a good job switching blocks on stunts and working in small areas to handle rushers. There’s plenty of desire to get to the next level when possible. He’s powerful and strong. There’s a lot to like here. Along with Nick Harris and Tyler Biadasz there are some good center’s in this class. Josh Uche left the game with an injury in the second half but earned a sack/fumble with a power rush against an overmatched freshman left tackle. He also had a nice TFL on a blitz, plus a further TFL and two QB hurries. The announcers highlighted the issue with Uche though. In their words, he doesn’t have a position. They line him up in areas to make plays. He’s small and doesn’t have an EDGE frame. He looks like a linebacker who rushes in sub-packages. He’s good at what he does but his pro-upside is a question mark.

— Wisconsin ran for 403 yards in a 45-24 win against Purdue — with Jonathan Taylor adding another 222 on 28 carries to continue his strong season (with one touchdown). Taylor is so smooth on cuts and has good speed. He has virtually no wasted movement and we saw that today on a gliding 51 yard score. He also fumbled just before half-time. Testing will determine how high he goes in the draft. Tight end Jake Ferguson had two catches for 30 yards.

— Jalen Reagor has been hamstrung for most of the year due to poor quarterback play and that was the case again in a narrow 28-24 loss to Oklahoma. Reagor had one catch for nine yards and one run for 16 yards. On one snap Reagor blew by the cornerback on a deep route and created miles of separation and an opportunity for a big play. The quarterback delivered a terrible pass on a horrendous overthrow. He was also the victim of poor refereeing on an uncalled hold at the end. It was a weird game because Ceedee Lamb also had a quiet day for the Sooners (two catches, 16 yards, one score, one run for 21 yards).

— Oregon’s Justin Herbert hampered his stock with a two-interception performance in a loss to Arizona State. It was another strange game. On one long early drive the Ducks didn’t throw once, marched downfield and came away with no points. Why are they so hesitant to let their QB run the show? Herbert flashed the ability that will have some teams marking him in the top-10 — nailing an incredible downfield pass while scrambling to his left and throwing from an improbable angle. Yet the picks were equally eye-catching. One was lobbed straight to a defender on a throw that was never on (what was he seeing?). The other was just so careless as he moved to the right and threw straight to the corner. On both occasions he just locked onto his primary target. It was poor from Herbert and they were the kind of plays Joe Burrow would never make. With Tua’s injury, Jordan Love throwing picks galore, Jacob Eason struggling and now Herbert creating question marks — the QB class is in flux (aside from one player). Plus — the PAC-12 continues to be awful. It’s got even worse this year. That said, two Arizona State blog favourites played well. Eno Benjamin ran for tough yards and tricked a defender into the turf on a reception. Brandon Aiyuk scored the game clinching touchdown on a deep ball (poor coverage from Oregon). Both players are worth monitoring.

— Clyde Edwards-Helaire is a diamond. He looks like a mix of Michael Turner, Darren Sproles and Maurice Jones-Drew. He’s smaller and squatty but plays with great power, physicality, consistency and speed. His performances get better and better. In a 56-20 win against Arkansas he ran for an 89 yard touchdown — darting around and sprinting away from defenders. He had 188 yards and three touchdowns on only SIX carries. Six! He added 65 yards on seven catches. CEH is a great talent and it’ll be fun to see him at the next level. Joe Burrow again flashed poise, accuracy and surely he has the inside-track on being the top pick in 2020. He finished 23/28 for 327 yards and three touchdowns. He had four runs for 24 yards.

— Regular readers will know I’ve had doubts about Jacob Eason all season and his play isn’t getting any better. Yes — he will throw a dazzling pass or two per game to flash his amazing upside. He isn’t elevating Washington though. After their latest loss to drop to 6-5, he now has five interceptions in his last three games. He has no touch, he overthrows, he can’t improvise on the move. I’m not sure returning next year will improve his stock because he’s a poor fit for this offense. I’m also not sure how any team can spend a high pick on him based on what we’ve seen so far. He finished 21/34 for 206 yards a pick and a score. Laviska Shenault continued his return to form for Colorado with 100 receiving yards and a touchdown on seven catches, plus 17 rushing yards on three carries. Washington’s talented tight end Hunter Bryant had 82 yards on five catches. Bryant is explosive and has excellent short-area quickness. It’d be intriguing to see him in Seattle’s offense. Keep an eye on Nate Landman the Colorado linebacker he’s an underrated player.

— Curtis Weaver has dropped from 300lbs to play EDGE and has had a really productive career at Boise State. He had another sack against Utah State. It’ll be interesting to see how Weaver tests because he looks like a guy who has slimmed down. His 10-yard split and overall twitchiness is a question mark to be answered. Jordan Love finished 21/26 for 229 yards a pick and a score in the 56-21 win for Boise State. He now has 14 touchdowns and 15 interceptions on the season. Rather than turning pro he might be better off making a graduate transfer to Oklahoma.

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Tony Pauline’s latest mock draft

Tony Pauline — friend of the blog and undisputed #1 draft insider — has posted a new mock draft today.

It’s a brilliant piece of work, especially considering he has the Seahawks in possession of the #32 overall pick.

There are several points where Tony really hits the mark. Like me, he doesn’t see A.J. Epenesa as the sure-fire top-10 lock many others do. Epenesa isn’t included in the first round and I’ve not had him in any of my top-50’s.

Tony’s top-20 contains a lot of familiar names. There are also some differences. Tristan Wirfs is listed in the top-five. I’m not a huge fan of Wirfs but understand why he could go early due to his physical profile. Tony has frequently reported and noted that Wirfs currently is leaning to returning to Iowa next season. Jacob Eason is listed in round one and I can’t make that leap based on what we’ve seen so far (although, again, you can’t rule it out due to the physical skills Eason possesses).

There are also a lot of names I’ve suggested might go quite early that are available to Seattle at #32 in this mock. I want to spend some time running through those players today.

Players available to the Seahawks in Tony’s mock

Jalen Reagor (WR, TCU)
I think Reagor is a top-15 talent. He’s reportedly capable of running a 4.29. At SPARQ in High School he ran a 4.41 so that’s pretty much a worst case scenario. He mixes speed with incredible explosive traits (38.5 inch vertical and can squat 620lbs). He has the long speed to get deep and the leaping ability to high-point the football in the red zone to win contested-catches. Reagor has special qualities and if he’s available in the late first he’d be a fantastic value pick for the Seahawks.

Henry Ruggs (WR, Alabama)
Like Reagor, Ruggs has exceptional speed and has reportedly been timed in the 4.2’s. His catching technique is excellent — plucking the ball away from his body with extended arms. He has high football character and would have greater production if it wasn’t for the fact he’s among a loaded group of talented receivers at Alabama. Speed and suddenness is the order of the day in the NFL and if he runs a 4.2 forty — he won’t last deep into round one.

KJ Hamler (WR, Penn State)
The more I watch of KJ Hamler the more I liked. He’s incredibly shifty and dynamic. While Reagor and Ruggs have elite speed, I think Hamler has a quicker first-step and can create easy separation. Get him the ball in the open-field and he’s incredibly difficult to tackle. Penn State lacks weapons on offense and Hamler sticks out like a sore thumb as their best player.

Prince Tega Wanogho (T, Auburn)
This is Tony’s pick for the Seahawks at #32. If Germain Ifedi and George Fant both depart, they’ll need a solution at right tackle. I’m not convinced they’ll entertain a rookie starter and recently they’ve moved towards veteran replacements. However — they seem to favour ‘touchdown makers’, D-line and O-line in the early rounds and this will clearly be an option if they lose starters in the off-season. ‘The Prince’ as Tony calls him has great size and good athleticism, he’s very powerful and I think he’ll work into a top-20 grade come April.

DeVonta Smith (WR, Alabama)
Tony recently suggested Smith had top-50 potential and that’s the first validation of what we’ve been saying all season. Smith is incredibly sudden and electric and every bit as good as the other ‘bigger name’ receivers at Alabama. He dominated on slants with easy separation and he’s a threat to score every time he gets the ball in space. He competes superbly at the red line and has the speed to take the top off a defense. Smith is excellent and warrants a lot more media attention.

Shaun Wade (CB, Ohio State)
I like everything about Wade. He’s playing slot corner this year but you could easily imagine him lining up outside. He’s a former five-star recruit with height, length and incredible ball skills. His interception last week was stunning — tracking the ball in the air then grabbing it with one-hand off-balance. Wade is a potential stud and if he declares could be a major riser.

J.K. Dobbins (RB, Ohio State)
The next two players are running backs. I don’t expect the Seahawks to draft a running back early. Even if they trade Rashaad Penny in the off-season, there’s enough depth in this class to wait on the position. The only way it seems possible is if Chris Carson continues to fumble and loses trust. D’Andre Swift is the #23 pick in Tony’s mock. Dobbins was the SPARQ king in 2016 with an overall score of 146.76. He’s well sized, very fast and highly explosive.

Jonathan Taylor (RB, Wisconsin)
Taylor reportedly is capable of running very well in the 40 and that will likely determine how high he goes in the draft. On the field you see sharp cuts, home-runs, mass production and tough yards. He looks the part but we need the testing to validate his upside. It’s very easy to imagine him leading an offense at the next level.

Tee Higgins (WR, Clemson)
He’s having a strange year — a bit like Clemson’s offense in general. They’ve had some surprisingly average performances this year. Trevor Lawrence hasn’t been given a passing mention for the Heisman. Higgins has had several games where he’s barely registered. Yet he’s well sized, fast, consistent when targeted and like most Clemson receivers he’s well-coached, technically sound and knows his position.

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Tuesday notes: Thoughts on the receiver class & Tua

Every mock draft is a waste of time now

The Tua Tagovailoa injury is a crushing blow for the player and it feels necessary to highlight that before reflecting on the impact on the draft.

However, it’s also ruined every mock between now and April.

It’s impossible to project what happens. The injury is severe enough to question whether he’ll play or again or ever reach the level he showed previously. The injury itself is bad enough. How do you go back onto the field and take hits after this?

We’re going to enter a really tiresome and annoying period where countless people constantly go over what happens next. You’ll hear numerous reports claiming various things such as ‘he’s 100% healthy’ or ‘teams are worried’.

All the while nobody will really have the answer. Not for a long time anyway.

You can project a player’s stock based on tape, a combine, a pro-day, his athletic profile or scheme fit. It’s impossible to project how an unusual injury like this will impact Tagovailoa and the teams willing to consider drafting him.

As a consequence this affects all the other quarterbacks in the class. People mocking Justin Herbert in the #8-20 range now have to decide whether they move him into the top five. With Miami winning their way out of the #1 pick, you have to make a call on what they do with their selection assuming Tagovailoa isn’t in a healthy enough position to be considered in the top-five.

Of course it won’t stop people arguing on the internet. Miami fans seemed particularly invested in Tua as their great hope so expect many to argue aggressively for still taking him early — even when we have no idea if he’ll be able to play again.

It’s a mess of a situation which will, for the most part, zap a lot of the usual enjoyment out of the draft season. And as I said, none of this really matters because a player’s blossoming career has been jeopardised by a freak injury. I’m just reflecting on the impact it’ll have on draft coverage this year.

This receiver class is legit

For weeks we’ve been discussing the strength of the 2020 draft likely being the receivers. We also know the Seahawks have regularly tapped into a perceived strength of a class during the Carroll/Schneider era.

It’s still far too early to project with any certainty what they will or won’t do in the off-season. The Seahawks are in a promising position at 8-2. There are a lot of unknowns such as the long term futures of Jadeveon Clowney, Jarran Reed, Germain Ifedi and Justin Britt. Seattle also has a reasonable amount of cap space to spend in free agency to fill key needs.

Yet receiver feels like a position they could target. History suggests it’s very possible:

2010 — Selected Golden Tate in R2
2011 — Spent big money on Sidney Rice
2013 — Traded for Percy Harvin
2014 — Selected Paul Richardson with their first pick
2015 — Traded up for Tyler Lockett
2017 — Selected Amarah Darboh in R3
2019 — Traded up for D.K. Metcalf

Pete Carroll has always sought touchdown makers. Along with both lines, receiver is the position they’ve invested a lot of money and picks.

The sheer quality of options in the draft add further weight to the suggestion. I’m starting to wonder, however, whether some of the players are too good to last to the late first round.

The thing that could prevent Seattle taking a receiver with their first pick might be the top players being out of range.

Jerry Jeudy will go very early with some reports suggesting Dave Gettleman in New York views him as the perfect receiver for Daniel Jones and the Giants. Ceedee Lamb could be next off the board after his fantastic 2019 season. Those are the two players you’ll see projected early in most mocks.

However, I think the next crop are being highly underrated by the media.

The league loves speed, suddenness and the ability to create easy separation. Look how early John Ross landed after he ran a 4.2 at the combine. There are a number of players who will perform superbly at the combine next year.

Jalen Reagor ran a 4.41 at SPARQ in High School but reportedly is capable of a 4.29 now. He also jumped a 38.5 inch vertical and can squat 620lbs. When you watch his tape you see everything you want in a receiver. He’s competitive, he can get deep to make huge plays and yet he wins 1v1. I was shocked how natural Reagor was operating in the red zone. He high points the ball, dominates taller cornerbacks and has fantastic, explosive leaping ability.

Henry Ruggs is also touted to run in the 4.2’s at the combine and you see that speed on tape. His catching technique is the best I’ve seen in the draft. He extends his arms to catch away from his body, cupping his hands to the ball. Ruggs, like Reagor, is also better than expected on short-range and red zone throws. He can get deep for the big play and run away from defenders. He’s also competitive and if anything suffers from the vast array of options to throw to in the Alabama offense.

It’s incredible how little attention DeVonta Smith receives. Again, that might be because of the other big name players he’s lined up with. Smith is an absolute maestro on slants — with the quickness to create separation and the long speed to run away from defenders and make massive gains. He wins with speed at the red line, can provide a safety net on crossing routes and he’s been a consistent force all season. He broke Amari Cooper’s Alabama receiving records against Ole Miss.

K.J. Hamler is incredibly dynamic and I spent last night re-watching his tape. His ability to find soft spots in zone, juke his way around tacklers, run downfield to get deep and set-up receivers early in the route to enable him to exploit openings with his speed is top-notch. He’s a vital, crucial playmaker for Penn State and their offense would struggle mightily without his input.

All four players have the speed and suddenness to create easy separation and are very much the modern day receiver. The league isn’t really looking for the big possession receiver types as much these days. It’s all about speed, savvy, getting open and the ability to make plays at every level. The Antonio Brown type is favoured ahead of the Alshon Jeffery.

I’m not sure any of the four players above will necessarily make it to the Seahawks whenever they pick in round one. I think they’ll all have major appeal. Testing will be important of course. If Laviska Shenault shows up at the combine and puts on a clinic, it’ll impact all of the names above.

Yet a lack of first round options on the D-line in this class and the question marks surrounding the offensive linemen will likely mean receivers and cornerbacks going early and often.

There are still a lot of things to play out but don’t be surprised if the NFL loves this receiver class and we see a large number of good players going very early.

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CFB week 12: A weekend dominated by injuries

Tua Tagovailoa left the Mississippi State game with a hip injury

Alabama’s easy win at Mississippi State turned into a nightmare. Tua Tagovailoa left the game with a hip injury that left him down on the turf shouting in pain. It was difficult to watch.

According to Jim Nagy from the Senior Bowl it could be a serious hip fracture. David Chao believes it could be career threatening. It’s incredibly sad news and hopefully he will make a full recovery.

Massive defensive tackle Raekwon Davis was also carted off after being helped to the sideline. He wasn’t putting any weight on his left leg and apparently has a sprained ankle. Henry Ruggs also took a big hit and landed awkwardly. He left the game and didn’t return with a rib injury.

If Tua has suffered a hip fracture, that will have a big impact on the NFL and his potential pro-career. People are comparing it to the injury that ended Bo Jackson’s career.

The game finished 38-7 to Alabama with Jerry Jeudy excelling with seven catches for 114 yards. DeVonta Smith added six catches for 92 yards and Ruggs had three catches for 39 yards before the injury. Najee Harris had four total touchdowns while running for 88 yards and receiving a further 51 yards.

Harris has a particularly rounded skill set. Nothing really stands out. He’s not a top-level athlete, a punishing bell-cow or an electric speed runner. Yet he can do a bit of everything to a high level. His receiving score flashed a polished wheel route. His first and second rushing touchdowns required some physicality and a strong finish. His final score was all about patience and feeling the blocks in front.

DeVonta Smith ran a wonderful red-line route to the left sideline on his best play. In man coverage he just ran by the defender and beat him deep with speed. The angle of his route created a nice throwing window for Tua. Smith was gliding as he attacked the sideline and then made a great adjustment to catch the slightly under-thrown pass. It’s amazing how very few people in the draft media talk about Smith.


— K.J. Hamler left the game as Penn State beat Indiana 34-27. He was seemingly injured on a kick return. He had a great 44 yard reception and finished with two catches for 52 yards. The big catch was all about easy separation. For some reason Indiana left a safety to cover him from the slot. He just burned him off at the stem and created an enormous throwing window to the right sideline. He’s quickness and suddenness, like several other receivers in this class, is exceptional and will be appealing to the Seahawks. Pass rusher Yetur Gross-Matos had a sack, a TFL and a hurry in the game. He now has 6.5 sacks this season (4.5 of which came in two games against Purdue and a 79-7 win against Idaho).

— Again I want to discuss easy separation and this wide receiver class and Jalen Reagor showed a great example of that on a 55 yard touchdown against Texas Tech. He ran a post route and just ran away from the corner. It was an easy downfield throw for a big score. Reagor finished with three catches for 83 yards and the touchdown as TCU won 33-31. Pete Carroll spoke after the Niners game about how noticeable it was when Tyler Lockett wasn’t on the field. This is another reason why they may well target one of these dynamic, sudden receivers with an early pick. It’s not just insurance for Lockett but also a compliment.

— CeeDee Lamb did not play for Oklahoma against Baylor due to what was described as a vague ‘health issue’. There was nothing in the build up to the game that hinted at anything and ESPN ran a piece about him earlier in the day. He was compared to a magician in the feature. You wonder if this was a Tua influenced disappearing act with one eye on the pro’s? Without Lamb, Oklahoma came behind from a big deficit to end Baylor’s unbeaten run.

— Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor made an incredible one-handed catch against Nebraska but then fumbled the ball as he tried to turn up-field. As a runner he had 204 yards on 25 carries plus two touchdowns. One was well supplied by center Tyler Biadasz reaching the second level to connect with a linebacker. Both scores flashed Taylor’s finishing ability and he looked smooth and patient on the second run. Tight end Jake Ferguson’s production has regressed again as he finished with one catch for 14 yards in a 37-21 win.

— Florida’s Jonathan Greenard had two more sacks, an astonishing five TFL’s and a QB hurry in a 23-6 win at Missouri. Despite some recent injury issues, Greenard has been one of the more positive stories in college football this season. I plan to spend some time studying him over the coming weeks to get a better angle on him and see what his true potential could be.

— Clemson hammered Wake Forest 52-3 and it was a big day for receiver Tee Higgins. He had four catches for 63 yards but hauled in three touchdowns. Travis Etienne continued his streak of mass-production with 121 rushing yards on 16 carries plus a touchdown. He also added 37 yards on three catches.

— Ohio State rolled to another easy win, this time against Rutgers (52-14). J.K. Dobbins had 89 yards on 17 carries plus two touchdowns. Binjimen Victor also had two touchdowns along with 68 yards and five receptions. K.J. Hill managed 62 yards on four catches and a touchdown. Blog favourite Shaun Wade also had an incredible interception. The quarterback threw to the slot receiver and Wade stays tight in coverage. He tracks the ball superbly and somehow tips and controls the ball with one hand before bringing it in for the pick. It’s an unbelievable play and a great example of his top-20 potential. Jeff Okudah forced a fumble in the game.

— I haven’t spent any time studying Stanford tight end Colby Parkinson but I will do soon. He’s 6-7 and 251lbs. Against Washington State he had five catches for 80 yards. The Cougs won 49-22.

— Minnesota lost their unbeaten record today in a 23-19 loss to Iowa but Tyler Johnson had another huge day. He finished with nine catches for 170 yards and a touchdown. He did have a bad drop on a fourth down play that was somewhat costly. He ran an excellent route for his 28 yard score. He also made a really difficult catch over the middle — creating separation but the pass was floated and Johnson was hammered as he completed the catch (and somehow held on). He also climbed the ladder on a really good red-line route to the left hand sideline. Johnson’s been in our top-50 throughout. Team mate Reshod Bateman made another incredible high-pointed catch in the game. He’s a serious talent to keep an eye on for the future (he’s not draft eligible for 2020).

— Georgia’s offensive tackles are incredible. Jake Fromm threw a 51 yard touchdown thanks mainly due to the time he had in the pocket to let the route develop. Everyone knows about Andrew Thomas but Isaiah Wilson the enormous right tackle had to drop so deep in his set to seal off the outside rush and he handled it with ease. His mobility, athleticism and power is top-level and for me he’s a top-15 talent. Georgia defeated Auburn 21-14 but Derrick Brown had another strong performance to highlight his top-12 credentials. D’Andre Swift had 106 yards on 17 carries.

— Joe Burrow had another excellent performance against Ole Miss, albeit with a minor wobble late on. He threw two uncharacteristic interceptions — one a delayed, hesitant throw to the sideline and another a blind throw after an attempt to hold the safety in centerfield. He still threw for five touchdowns, looked mostly assured in the pocket and threw with his usual poise and accuracy. He just looks like a pro. He finished 32/42 passing for 489 yards and added another 26 as a runner. Clyde Edwards-Helaire also made another statement about his pro-prospects with 172 yards on 23 carries and a late score. His touchdown was a 49-yarder where he showed patience, a great cut and breakaway speed to finish. He’s a real talent and is emerging as a player who can have an impact at the next level. LSU’s defense was awful in this game though and they kept getting gashed by variations of the same quarterback run. John Rhys-Plumlee somehow ran for 212 yards and scored four touchdowns with pretty much a carbon copy of the same run over and over again. Grant Delpit had a nightmare game. He took bad angles, kept biting to lose contain and on Ole Miss’ final touchdown he whiffed on a tackle. He’s been hurt most of the year and looks nowhere near his best. Even so — games like this hurt his stock.

— Oregon’s Justin Herbert had a terrific performance as Oregon rolled Arizona 34-6. On a flea-flicker he fired an inch-perfect pass downfield for a 53 yard touchdown. The throw had everything and was a real ‘wow’ moment. He’s flown under the radar a bit this year — partly due to the emergence of Burrow and the media obsession for Tua. Some teams will love what Herbert brings to the table. It won’t be a surprise if he rises to the top of the QB charts, despite Burrow playing superbly this year. Herbert could land in Miami. With Tua’s injury and now uncertain future, he could be the second quarterback drafted at the very least.

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Friday notes: correcting Seahawks stats

On Tuesday I posted an article detailing a number of stats following Monday Night Football. It seems that although Pro Football Reference updated some statistics (eg sacks) they didn’t update others (pressures, hurries, passer rating). So I wanted to correct a few errors today.

Jadeveon Clowney’s exceptional performance has now promoted him to #9 in the league for pressures (27). That’s as many as Nick Bosa and Chandler Jones, it’s two more than Dante Fowler and three more than Myles Garrett.

He’s also tied fifth for QB hurries (14). That’s the same number as Joey Bosa, one more than Nick Bosa and six more than Myles Garrett.

The fact he only has three sacks is deceiving relative to his overall performance. You only have to look at the players ranked at the top for pressures and hurries to see how indicative both statistics are. Khalil Mack (22) and Aaron Donald (21) are first and second in the league for hurries. Mack (31) and Donald (33) are also in the top four for pressures along with T.J. Watt (35) and Joey Bosa (32).

What makes this all the more impressive is the way Clowney is creating his pressure. The 3-4 teams have a bit more room to be creative. T.J. Watt’s league-leading 35 pressures coincide with the fact he has blitzed 41 times in 2019. Khalil Mack has blitzed 36 times. Clowney has been used on a blitz just once all year.

He’s never been a sack specialist. Unlike Mack, Donald, the Bosa’s and Garrett — Clowney’s not a speed rusher. He’s the quintessential base end who can move along the formation and create mismatches. He’s a radioactive Michael Bennett.

He’s also a truly unique player — the type the Seahawks will never get a chance to draft while ever they’re a long way off the #1 overall pick. They cannot allow him to move on in the off-season. The D-line has to be built around Clowney. It’s impossible to imagine how they would replace him.

The question shouldn’t be, ‘will they pull out all the stops to extend his contract?’. It should be, ‘who are they going to sign to play on the opposite side?’.

Without wanting to go over old ground too much — the names cropping up near the top of the NFL for pressures, hurries and sacks are Everson Griffen and Dante Fowler. Unless an unexpected name emerges or a trade is made out of the blue, these are the two having the biggest impact this year who fit the bill. Griffen is older but has history with Pete Carroll at USC and would potentially hold the fort until younger options emerge in future drafts. Fowler is at a great age, runs a 1.59 10-yard split and would provide the speed needed to compliment Clowney.

It’s vital that the Seahawks add a partner in crime. Practically all of the players at the top of the rankings for pressures are part of a double-act:

T.J. Watt (#1) & Bud Dupree (#26)
Aaron Donald (#2) & Dante Fowler (#14)
Everson Griffen (#5) & Danielle Hunter (#19)
Josh Allen (#6) & Calais Campbell (#20)
Za’Darius Smith (#7) & Preston Smith (#12)
Cameron Jordan (#8) & Marcus Davenport (#22)
Nick Bosa (#10) & Arik Armstead (#33) & Dee Ford (43)

There are only four obvious cases of a top pass rusher performing mostly single-handedly…

— Joey Bosa is ranked #3 for pressures but the next best performer for the Chargers is Uchenna Nwosu (#41). Melvin Ingram is tied 65th.

— Khalil Mack is ranked #4 but the next best pressure rusher for the Bears is Roy Robertson-Harris at #48.

— Jadeveon Clowney is ranked #9 and Seattle’s next best for pressures is Quinton Jefferson at a tied #65.

— Chandler Jones is ranked at #11 and his next best placed team mate is Terrell Suggs at #63.

One way or another they have to find someone — interior or EDGE — to provide some consistent support. If they can do that, Seattle’s defense could be as fearsome in 2020 week-to-week as it was in San Francisco on Monday.

The stats update also impacted the defensive back and linebacker numbers I provided too. Marquise Blair didn’t feature against the Niners but his generous 126.6 passer rating when targeted is now the 15th instead of the 17th worst mark in the league (and likely a big reason why he’s no longer in the line-up).

Bradley McDougald’s number rose slightly after the Niners game — going from 38.6 to 42.8. That’s still an excellent mark — the eighth best defensive back in the league per passer rating.

Shaquill Griffin’s fantastic game means his passer rating improved from 80.0 to 73.9. Tre Flowers saw his number rise from 76.7 to 77.5.

McDougald’s yards per target numbers improved. He now only gives up four yards per target instead of 4.2. Earl Thomas gives up 4.8 per target. Shaquill Griffin is at 5.6. Seattle’s core defensive backs are not playing badly at all this year. With more pressure up front — as we saw on Monday — this defense can be highly productive.

Bobby Wagner is third in the league for tackles (97) behind only Blake Martinez (102) and Jordan Hicks (99). K.J. Wright is sixth on the list with 85. There’s something very important to consider here. Our perception is Seattle hasn’t tackled well. Their two linebackers are ranked in the top-10 for tackles in the NFL. Now look at their missed tackle percentage compared to the rest of the top-10:

Blake Martinez — 11.3%
Jordan Hicks — 11.6%
Bobby Wagner — 7.6%
Joe Schobert — 10.7%
Budda Baker — 7.6%
K.J. Wright — 5.7%
Rashaan Evans — 15.5%
Luke Kuechly — 8.9%
Jaylon Smith — 10%
Landon Collins — 13.2%

Only Budda Baker comes close to matching their consistency as high-volume tacklers.

Seattle has one glaring issue when it comes to missed tackles and that remains Mychal Kendricks. However, maybe things are improving. Last week he was the NFL leader in missed tackle percentage. Now he’s only ranked #7 with 24.6%.

Kendricks is the only Seattle player ranked in the top-100 for missed tackle percentage. The next highest are Shaquill Griffin and Quinton Jefferson (both #107) with 14.3% missed tackles. Tre Flowers and Bradley McDougald (14%) are just behind. In comparison, Aaron Donald has missed 13.9% of his tackles this year.

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