As well as today’s piece, here’s a podcast on the draft prospects in the National Championship game plus some Seahawks thoughts…
I want this piece to feature players who might, realistically, be available.
For that reason I’m not going to include prospects who will obviously be gone.
For example, South Carolina’s Javon Kinlaw would be an ideal addition. His ability to wreak havoc from the interior, win with power and quickness and take over games is exactly what Seattle needs. He’s the only player who bossed Georgia’s offensive line, leading his team to an upset win on the road. He’s the complete package.
He won’t be available to the Seahawks. Especially during a down year for disruptive, playmaking defensive linemen. If they were picking at #10 he’d probably be the first name on the list. Instead they’re picking at #27, so he isn’t.
This group will grow during the process. As always, the Senior Bowl and combine play a huge part in highlighting potential targets. I don’t even really look at cornerbacks until we discover combine measurements and body type.
Cesar Ruiz (C, Michigan)
For me Ruiz is a top-25 talent. Michigan didn’t have a great start to the 2019 season and a big part of their turnaround was the performance of Ruiz next to Ben Bredeson anchoring the O-line.
He was the best SPARQ tester at center in 2017 with an overall score of 97.92. He’s 6-4 and 319lbs. PFF crowned him the best pass-blocking center in college football — he allowed just eight pressures in 447 snaps.
He handled Raekwon Davis against Alabama, is incredibly effective as a run blocker opening up lanes and he has the pass-blocking skills to be a long-term feature in the NFL. He has impressive character and grit having had to deal with the death of his father at a very young age.
The Seahawks may or may not be in the market for a center, depending on Justin Britt’s health and cap hit. Nevertheless, Ruiz is one of the top offensive linemen in this draft and should be a first rounder.
Jalen Reagor (WR, TCU)
This is going to be a draft class defined by the talent at wide receiver. Reagor is one of the best — if not the best. He hasn’t received much hype in part because TCU’s quarterback situation was a mess in 2019. However, he has everything needed to be a top NFL target.
Reagor has extreme speed and quickness. He runs electrifying go-routes and posts but he also creates easy separation on shorter routes. He’s sturdy with a good looking frame at about 5-11 and 195lbs. He ranked second only to Jaylen Waddle for punt return yards (20.80) and scored two touchdowns.
He’s surprisingly good in the red zone, using explosive athleticism (he jumped a 38.5 inch vertical at SPARQ) to leap above defenders to high-point and win jump-balls. He could run in the 4.3’s. I can’t find any flaws. A superb talent who should go in the top-25 but if he didn’t, would be a steal.
Willie Gay Jr (LB, Mississippi State)
Before the college football season I had Gay in my top-50 watchlist. In practically every 2018 Mississippi State game he made a huge play. Interceptions, forced fumbles, sacks, improbable coverage, hard hits. He was a sensational playmaker.
His 2019 season was a disaster. He was ineligible to start the year then suspended for breaking team rules. The Bulldogs floundered, ended up firing their coach and now he’s turning pro.
I suspect his stock will rapidly grow later in the process. He’s too good. He ran a 4.53 at SPARQ and on tape looks like he could crack the 4.4’s. His short shuttle is a 4.26. He jumps a 40-inch vertical. There aren’t many athletes who can do what he does. Find a way to get him and work with his potential.
The Seahawks invested a lot at the linebacker position a year ago but Gay just has an ‘it’ factor about him. Seattle needs playmaker on defense, impact players. I believe he can be one and he could come at a discounted price.
Isaiah Wilson (T, Georgia)
Wilson was one of the first players I properly studied this year and was wowed by his potential. I’m not sure why he’s not being talked about as a high first round pick, considering how much people are rushing to hype up Jedrick Wills and Mekhi Becton.
He’s 6-7 and 340lbs but carries the size superbly. He’s not carrying any bad weight and cuts an intimidating presence on the right side.
When he locks his arms into position defenders can’t disengage. There’s evidence of effective combo-blocks and he’ll drive defenders back in the running game. There are occasions where he gets his drop wrong and loses balance and leverage. He drops too deep against speed and gives faster rushers an opportunity to attack from within the pocket, eliminating space and freedom for the quarterback. He needs to play more inside-out. That said, he has massive potential and I think teams will love him.
Georgia’s O-line performance in 2019 was incredible. Andrew Thomas is a sure-fire top-10 pick. I don’t think Wilson will be too far behind and he declared as a redshirt sophomore which suggests he received a very good review from the draft committee. He’s being severely underrated.
K.J. Hamler (WR, Penn State)
Penn State didn’t have a great collection of skill position players in 2019. They basically had one dynamic playmaker and it was Hamler. He’s incredibly sudden, highly competitive and challenges defender’s at every level.
He also provides a special teams value, averaging 21.38 yards on kick returns. Hamler ran a 4.43 at SPARQ and will likely get into the 4.3’s at the combine. He shares some of Tyler Lockett’s ability to get open across the middle and make improbable catches. Yet he’s slighter and possibly quicker than Lockett.
He will go quite a bit earlier than many are projecting. It’s very possible he will go in the top-25. He’s not as explosive or sturdy as Reagor but speed matters in the NFL. Easy separation matters. Teams will love his ability to get open, impact games and contribute on special teams.
Logan Stenberg (G, Kentucky)
He’s a pancake machine who dominates opponents with extreme physicality. I’ve not seen a guard manhandle blockers like Stenberg in a long time. He connects, locks-on and drives defender’s off the ball. He’s a punishing finisher and will hammer opponents to the turf, judo-toss them to the ground or plough them off the LOS.
He’s a pure finisher who sets the tone and batters defenders. If you like physical, aggressive run-blocking then this is the guy for you. He’s also adept at the turns and twists and good hand-placement needed to achieve easy wins where he doesn’t have to flat-out dominate with power. He allowed only one pressure in 2019.
I’ve seen some people mention a lack of mobility and athletic limitations but there was nothing glaring. Holding penalties were apparently an issue at Kentucky. That said, the Seahawks love physical run blockers with great size. Stenberg looks like one of the toughest players to enter the league in a while. For me he’s a second or third round value pick who could rise.
Bryan Edwards (WR, South Carolina)
He’s a former four-star recruit and you see that athleticism on tape. He can separate with ease despite a bigger frame (6-3, 215lbs). He looks like a very solid 4.4 runner. That wouldn’t be a surprise because he ran a 4.53 at SPARQ and with combine training he can shave a few tenths off.
On top of his straight-line speed he also jumped a 38-inch vertical and ran a 4.31 short shuttle. His overall SPARQ score was an 111.96. He’s mature, determined and he’d fit the culture in Seattle.
He broke records at South Carolina with 234 career receptions, 3045 yards and 22 touchdowns. He’s not the most physical receiver when a defender gets his hands on him but he can work on that. It’s a lot harder to develop foot-speed and a good release which he has. He’s a YAC threat with the ball in his hands, he’s good on screens. He can get downfield with his quickness to deliver the big play. He can win contested catches and had a good win in tight coverage vs Florida’s C.J. Henderson.
Brandon Aiyuk (WR, Arizona State)
Ranked by PFF as college football’s best runner of the post-route in 2019, Aiyuk is massively underrated by the media. Jim Nagy told us recently he was being graded higher than N’Keal Harry in NFL circles. It’s easy to see why.
Aiyuk has electrifying speed. His ability to accelerate away from defenders is quite stunning. He looks bigger than he is (6-1, 206lbs) but he’s big enough to make contested catches and do all of the stuff you’d expect from a player attempting to win at the red line.
However, it’s his ability to take a simple screen 70-yards for a touchdown or run by everyone on a deep route that will really appeal to teams. He’s an X-factor. As a bonus, he also provides special teams value. He averaged 31.86 on kick-off’s, 16.14 on punts and had one return touchdown to go with his eight as a receiver. He will go in round one.
Ben Brederson (G, Michigan)
I mentioned his team mate Cesar Ruiz earlier but Brederson also warrants attention on this list. PFF rated him as college football’s best pass-protecting guard. In 451 pass-protection snaps he allowed just seven hurries with no QB hits or sacks allowed. He only allowed two pressures against Ohio State.
He’s a former four-star recruit who received interest from Alabama and Auburn before opting to go with Michigan. We know the Seahawks like player’s from UM.
He’s not a finesse pass-blocker though. He’s 6-5 and 325lbs and can lay the wood too. There are some very attractive O-line prospects in this class. The focus might be mainly on other areas (Pete Carroll has already talked about keeping continuity on the OL). However, with Mike Iupati a free agent, Justin Britt’s injury situation casting doubt on his status given the cost and D.J. Fluker only on a short-term deal, the Seahawks would be wise to at least look at some of these options.
Anthony McFarland (RB, Maryland)
Maryland ended up being a bit of a hot mess this season and that had an impact on McFarland’s production. However, he’s an incredibly dynamic running back with the quick feet to avoid contact and the toughness and balance to get yards after contact.
He’s only 5-9 and about 205lbs yet he’s just so incredibly dynamic though when Maryland are rolling. He accelerates through contact, breaks tackles, has home-run ability and if he finds a crease he can make a good play a scoring play. He reaches top speed so quickly and yet has a weaving cut-back style that has defender’s reeling. He gets to the perimeter with ease but he’s patient in the backfield and assertive when a lane emerges. He can push the pile in the red zone. McFarland is so difficult to tackle — in fact he might be the hardest and most dynamic and quick running back I’ve seen during my time writing this blog. He has star quality.
Watch the Ohio State game from 2018 for a flavour of him at his best. He’s a former four-star recruit who ran a terrific 4.04 short shuttle at SPARQ to emphasise how good his foot-speed is. He jumped a 33-inch vertical which is good but not outstanding. Overall he was one of the better SPARQ testers in his class with a 112.11.
He also had a 40-yard kick return in 2019 so there could be some untapped special teams potential too.
Nick Harris (C, Washington)
He’s not the biggest lineman at 6-1 and 302lbs but it simply doesn’t matter. When you watch him play his tenacity, power and intensity jumps off the screen. He was the best performer on the Washington line. He shows good leverage, strength and you can’t drive him back.
I recall one game where he pulled to the right hand side, located a man to block yards downfield and delivered in the open space to spring a screen play for a big gain. He’s very capable of reaching to the second level.
I think he will rise during the process. Perhaps not as much as Garrett Bradbury did a year ago. After all, Bradbury had a great combine. If Harris shows well in the agility testing or displays a high degree of power then teams could consider him a lot earlier than the media are currently projecting. He did score a perfectly decent 90.6 at SPARQ.
Rashard Lawrence (DT, LSU)
Nothing particularly jumps out about Lawrence’s 2019 production, even on LSU’s incredible National Championship winning team. He only had 2.5 sacks and six TFL’s. He forced one fumble and broke up three passes.
However, you always noticed him on the field. He was disruptive, rushed from different angles and was able to flash power and quickness to get into the backfield. It was also pretty clear that LSU was getting every ounce of effort from Lawrence. His motor was relentless. Winning mattered to him. Being part of the way they won mattered to him.
He’s well sized at 6-2 and 308lbs. He just looks like a NFL defensive tackle. On top of that he has the first-step quickness to provide a pass rush but his leverage is also good and he doesn’t give up huge lanes in the running game.
I just think he’s a player you take a chance on if he fits. If he has the 33-inch arms and if he can translate the quickness to a good short-shuttle time (a key test seemingly for the Seahawks) then he’s worth a mid-round pick to try and find someone at value who can contribute and help the D-line quickly.
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