Month: January 2020 (Page 1 of 3)

Would the Seahawks trade a high pick for Calais Campbell?

The Seahawks have been talking about Calais Campbell for a few years.

For example, when they drafted Malik McDowell in 2017, John Schneider was asked about the pick: “We’ve been looking for a pass rushing three-technique since we’ve been here.”

When asked what McDowell looked like at his best, Schneider answered: “Similar to what Calais Campbell looked like.”

Pete Carroll later returned to the comparison during that press conference, going as far as to call it a ‘great comparison’.

That was the off-season that Campbell left Arizona for Jacksonville in free agency. There was a feeling that maybe the Seahawks — with somewhat limited cap space — might be able to convince him to come to Seattle. The Jaguars gave him a four-year, $60m contract worth $15m a season. At the time, that was an incredible deal the Seahawks couldn’t compete with.

It’s possible that they set their heart on Campbell that off-season and the decision to go for McDowell was something of a ‘Plan B’.

A year ago Campbell’s name cropped up again. When asked after drafting L.J. Collier why they were seemingly so determined to add a player who can rush inside and out (with McDowell, Collier and Rasheem Green mentioned), Schneider responded: “It’s a hard spot to find. The Calais Campbell’s of this world are hard to find.”

These quotes alone are not enough to assert a love-in between Seattle’s front office and Calais Campbell. Clearly, however, they’ve not only been looking for a player like him — they also have a massive amount of admiration for him.

So with the Seahawks facing an enormous off-season where the quarterback is already calling publicly for ‘superstars’ to be signed — could Campbell be a trade target?

And what would it take to get him?

He’s had an incredible three years with the Jaguars with 31.5 sacks, 44 TFL’s and 76 QB hits. He anchors the run defense and he creates consistent pressure. He sets a tone physically but has always been a great leader too.

According to PFF, he was the #4 graded defensive lineman in the league in 2019 behind only T.J. Watt, Aaron Donald and Cameron Heyward.

For these reasons, there’s every chance the Jaguars wouldn’t have any interest in dealing him. He’s producing results even if the team has struggled the last two years. His $15m salary isn’t obscene even if it’s pricey.

The Jaguars are also, however, facing a bit of a crossroads. They reached the AFC Championship game in 2017 and entered the 2018 season as one of the favourites to reach the Super Bowl. They had a fantastic defense rich in talent.

Then it all went wrong.

Now they’ve traded Dante Fowler and Jalen Ramsey — two former top-10 picks. Yannick Ngakoue is constantly tweeting his desire to leave and he’s set to be a free agent. Telvin Smith surprisingly retired. Tom Coughlin has been fired yet the GM and Head Coach remain.

They’ve experienced a shocking and sudden collapse. A roster overhaul of sorts is required. Who are they building around for the long term? They added big-signing free agents to supplement their young talent that’s since moved on. Now they’re carrying bloated contracts and they’re projected at $-40,246 in cap space for 2020.

They have a really meaty and overpaid middle-class that will be decimated by cuts. They’ll instantly create $20m in cap space by cutting Marcell Dareus. Cutting A.J. Bouye saves another $11m. Marqise Lee could save them $5m, Brandon Linder $8m, D.J. Hayden $6m, Abry Jones $4m and Geoff Swaim $3.75m.

So while they’re currently forty-grand in the red for 2020, they’ll soon have a fair bit of money to play with depending on who they want to sacrifice.

It also means they’re not under any immediate pressure to trade or cut Calais Campbell. Yet parting with him would save $15m too.

Here’s why they might consider it.

Clearly the Jaguars are going through another transition period. They’ll be looking to build around, presumably, the likes of Josh Allen and Gardner Minshew. They’re not a team that has a look of being one solid off-season away from being right back in contention.

Campbell is only contracted for one more year and he’s 34-years-old in September. If they could get a reasonably high pick for him, that might be better value than carrying him for another year given their current status.

Of course, they could just extend his contract. That would potentially lower his 2020 cap hit and keep him in Florida for the rest of his career.

Yet if a team dangled a high draft pick — that would surely be tempting. The Jaguars need to get younger, sort their cap out and ‘go again’.

Why would it make sense for the Seahawks?

Firstly, there is some precedent here. One of the best trades in the Carroll/Schneider era was to go and get Duane Brown. It wasn’t a cheap trade — costing the Seahawks a second and third round pick. Yet the deal instantly put a stop to the glaring issue at left tackle. Brown has played at a high level since and has offered vital leadership and toughness to the offense.

Brown was 32 when he arrived in Seattle. That didn’t put them off trading two high picks for him and then giving him a new long-term extension.

Campbell is currently 33 — although as mentioned he will be 34 on September 1st. The Seahawks desperately need to address their defensive line this time. Campbell would instantly provide a boost to the pass rush and the run defense. He would also deliver the same toughness and leadership that Brown provided.

Seattle’s D-line struggled far too often in 2019 to win the line of scrimmage battle. Imagine the difference Campbell would make? Not only that — the benefit would be felt elsewhere. Imagine trying to stop a Clowney & Campbell combo? Imagine the impact on Bobby Wagner, being able to play behind such a dominant force up front.

Like Brown, there’s no indication Campbell intends to retire in the near future. In fact when asked at the Pro Bowl about his contract, he discussed his willingness to restructure his deal in the form of an extension.

If he was willing to play for three more seasons, perhaps, would a significant trade be worth considering?

Perhaps the best question is this — is there anyone else out there who could do more for Seattle’s defense than Campbell? The answer is probably no — short of pulling off a somewhat unrealistic trade for one of the top pass rusher’s in the game Khalil Mack-style.

With the Seahawks owning two second round picks this year, they’re in a strong position. Could they repeat the Brown trade by offering Jacksonville #64 this year and a 2021 third rounder?

They’d still have #27. They’d still have #59.

The Jaguars would get two high picks and some cap relief as they prepare to move forward. They’d be taking a hit losing Campbell for sure — but they might be willing to consider long term planning.

The Seahawks need stars right now. They’d take on a non-restrictive $15m cap hit for Campbell with the option to extend his deal and lower that number.

There’s nothing to say Jacksonville would want to do this. It’s difficult to project trades. After all — who would’ve thought the Seahawks could’ve landed Jadeveon Clowney for a third rounder plus Barkevious Mingo and Jacob Martin? Or Quandre Diggs for a fifth rounder?

We’ve said a few times now — it feels like the trade market will be crucial for Seattle. Free agency is very expensive. Acquiring players on existing contracts is a way to get better value for money. Whether it’s Campbell, Stefon Diggs, Everson Griffen, Ryan Kerrigan or someone completely different — it would be surprising if there isn’t some kind of trade at some stage.

I think this proposal at least makes some sense for both teams. And while you never ideally want to give up high picks for 34-year-old players — Campbell is a bit different. He’s like Duane Brown.

They’ve admired him for years. Maybe it’s time to finally bring him to Seattle?

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Why the Seahawks will be aggressive this off-season

Russell Wilson and Stefon Diggs are close

We’re nearing the end of January and we’ve had the Senior Bowl. If, like me, you’re ignoring the Super Bowl in order to spend time contemplating Seattle’s off-season plan, here’s where I’m currently at:

1. The Seahawks are going to be aggressive this off-season
2. Fixing the defense will be the priority
3. They will add at least one new weapon for Russell Wilson
4. Trades are likely

Let’s go through them one-by-one…

1. The Seahawks are going to be aggressive this off-season

Pete Carroll has often talked about closing the circle.

But what does it even mean?

A tough, physical running game. Explosive plays in the passing game. A strong defense that forces turnovers.

Ingredients mixed together to create a winning football team.

However at various times over the last decade the circle hasn’t been closed.

A league-worst running game was holding them back in 2017. The solution was a complete coaching overhaul on offense, a new-style offensive line and a first round pick spent on a running back.

It solved the problem. They appeared to be heading towards becoming a complete team.

12 months on, the circle is incomplete again. This time it’s the defense.

Here’s a reminder of just how bad it was this season:

The Seahawks finished the 2019 season with 28 sacks, second fewest in the league behind only Miami (23). Their sack percentage was 4.5% — third worst overall.

They had only 126 pressures, sixth fewest in the league behind Detroit (125), Oakland (117), Houston (117), Atlanta (115) and Miami (96). Seattle’s pressure percentage was the fourth worst in the league (19.3%) behind Detroit (18.9%), Houston (18.1%) and Miami (16.7%).

Seattle hit the quarterback 68 times — fourth fewest. They had 52 TFL’s — again, fourth fewest.

They gave up 55 explosive running plays on defense, seventh most in the NFL. Yet their explosive run play percentage (14%) was the third worst overall behind only Carolina (16%) and Cleveland (15%).

They also gave up 4.9 YPC — fourth most overall.

The other startling statistic is the sheer number of missed tackles. They had 131 during the regular season — the fourth most.

Pete Carroll and John Schneider will be extremely aware of how big this issue is. It threatens to derail their otherwise textbook reset. They simply need to be better on defense. They need more talent. Ready made talent. Impact players.

There will be a sense of urgency here. 100% guaranteed. There’s no ‘waiting for a draft pick or two to work out’. They will know, fully, the scale of this problem. They are in a Championship window.

They have never been complacent. Even through all those years of porous offensive line play. They spent first and second round picks trying to rectify it.

Not every move has worked, clearly. Yet you can never accuse the Seahawks of sitting on their hands.

Now they’re in a position where they have more cap space than ever during the Carroll era. They also have a means to create more cap room. I suspect they will do whatever it takes to max out their spending potential and that could mean some difficult decisions are forthcoming for highly paid existing players on the roster.

They also have a strong collection of draft picks, including three in the first two rounds.

They are perfectly placed to be aggressive. And they will be.

2. Fixing the defense is the priority

There are other things to be resolved but first and foremost the defense needs to be fixed. This will be the major priority and it will start with Jadeveon Clowney being retained.

There’s very little reason for this not to get done. Clowney has talked about signing for a contender:

“I just want to win… I want to get that Super Bowl, by any means. That’s what I’m looking for. Who’s going to get me there? I’m not looking to get on no sorry team for no money. That ain’t gonna fly.”

Of course it’s very possible Clowney’s definition of a ‘contender’ could be quite flexible if a team offers him significantly more money than anyone else is offering. Yet the reality is Seattle’s perfectly placed to keep him.

For starters, they have an existing relationship. They have Duane Brown. They’re not the Texans. They were one of the teams he was willing to be traded to at the start of the season.

They also have significantly more cap space than any serious contender.

The five teams with more projected cap space are the Dolphins, Colts, Buccs, Bills and Cowboys. Clowney reportedly rejected a trade to Miami during the summer. The Colts have a major question mark at quarterback. The Buccaneers are not on the brink of contending. The Bills are not a particularly attractive proposition even though they made the playoffs. Dallas will be using their cap space on Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper.

Teams like the Ravens, Chiefs, 49ers, Saints, Vikings and Steelers simply don’t have the money to challenge Seattle.

So while it will be expensive — surely their first move will be an extension for Clowney either after the combine, just before the league year opens or shortly after free agency officially begins.

They won’t stop there, though. This isn’t a Clowney plus a draft pick fix. They will need more. That means the addition of at least one more pass rusher and further subsequent moves.

This isn’t a good draft class for pass rusher’s. So if the market doesn’t provide a solution, they might turn to the trade market. More on that in a bit.

3. They will add at least one new weapon for Russell Wilson

Russell Wilson made himself heard at the Pro Bowl, noting his desire for the team to add ‘superstars’. He also made it very clear during his exit-interview in the locker room that he wants to be part of a team that is really pushing for titles over the next five years. He wants to be remembered as one of the best and the current roster will not help him reach that goal.

Wilson would acknowledge that the defense needs help, especially the pass rush. Yet it’s incredibly likely he’ll also be petitioning for another weapon.

It’s an excellent looking receiver draft class and certainly that could be an area Seattle attacks. They’ve often targeted the positional strength of a class in the early rounds.

Wilson was reportedly, however, pushing for Antonio Brown during the 2019 season. They eventually signed Josh Gordon. He’s been asked to do more with less for a lot of his career. And while Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf are extremely talented, I get the sense Wilson feels like he deserves one more proven weapon.

That could be in the form of an established tight end such as Austin Hooper (discussed in more detail here). It could just as easily be another veteran receiver.

We’ll talk more about trade options in a moment but it certainly feels like teams will be listening this off-season. Stefon Diggs for example looks thoroughly disengaged in Minnesota and is close to Wilson.

Part of the aggressive nature of this off-season will include offense. Let’s not forget — in 2013 they didn’t just sign Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril. They also traded for Percy Harvin — when they already had Doug Baldwin and Golden Tate.

4. Trades are likely

Two days after the Green Bay game, I posted a piece discussing the likelihood of a key trade. It feels almost inevitable.

For starters, the cost works in Seattle’s favour. Take Von Miller for example. Due to the dead-cap on his contract, the Broncos would be paying some of his salary in 2020. They’d still make a saving but the Seahawks wouldn’t be inheriting an obscene cap hit. In free agency, you’d almost certainly have to pay more money for a lesser player.

Yes, this would likely mean sacrificing a high pick. Yet the options at #27 this year will be similar to previous seasons.

Ideally there’s a way to find value for money on the open market, address the pass rush, add an offensive weapon and retain a full quota of picks. It’s not always that simple though.

What is clear is they have to be pro-active. With the information they will gather at the combine speaking with teams and agents in Indianapolis, they’ll be able to come up with a plan. That plan could take on many forms depending on what intel they receive.

Whether it’s for a pass rusher, a defensive playmaker or a weapon for Russell Wilson — some kind of trade seems likely.

It also seems like teams are setting the table to do business.

For example, the Ravens are already touting Matt Judon around. They like him and he was productive in 2019 (9.5 sacks). Yet there’s a problem with pass rusher’s in the league currently.

Nobody is really getting value.

If you have to use the franchise tag (Baltimore probably will on Judon) you immediately set the floor for negotiations at about $17-18m. For a Joey Bosa, that’s fine. It’s expected. For the next tier of defensive end’s, however, that can be difficult to accept.

This is the main reason why Frank Clark departed. Seattle was clearly willing to pay Clark. Yet a combination of the franchise tag and DeMarcus Lawrence getting Aaron Donald and Khalil Mack money changed the game. Now he was set to receive elite-level money. The Seahawks didn’t think it was a wise investment and the Chiefs thought the price of the contract and two high draft picks was worth it.

We’ve now seen Mack, Clark and Dee Ford traded in similar circumstances. The chances are there will be another pass rusher this off-season who is in the last year of his contract or on the franchise tag and a team will be willing to listen to offers.

The trade dynamic could also extend to trading up in the draft. That’s unlikely to mean a big move in round one (something they’ve never done). For the right player though (Tyler Lockett in 2015, Jarran Reed in 2016 and Metcalf in 2019) they’ve been willing to trade up in rounds 2-3.

Expect activity. We could see a repeat of 2013 (pass rusher’s signed in free agency and a big splash for a veteran receiver). Or we could see a big-name defensive player brought in for a high pick.

After all — their best three additions in 2019 were Metcalf (traded up), Clowney (traded) and Quandre Diggs (traded). This is a team that has constantly been looking to make trades and acquire talent. Never have they needed an injection of talent at a more urgent rate.

With the draft being relatively strong on the offensive line they can fill holes if needed. There’s still also a reasonable possibility they simply re-sign the existing O-line at a decent price (and Carroll has talked about consistency within this group). George Fant could be the key here. His flexibility provides a hedge at numerous positions. He could even be a higher priority than Jarran Reed — although both are likely to test the market before potentially re-signing.

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Senior Bowl game notes & a podcast

Before I get into the game notes, Brandon and I recorded a podcast reflecting on the week of practise in Mobile. Check it out below…

Senior Bowl game notes

UCLA running back stars

Despite a strong week of practise from the likes of K.J. Hill, Van Jefferson and Denzel Mims, the most impressive skill position player on the field during the game was UCLA running back Joshua Kelly.

He flashed immediately on the North squad’s opening drive. Nick Harris, Ben Bredeson and Hakeem Adeniji all did an excellent job creating a huge running lane, dominating the interior. Kelly showed off his superb acceleration and quick feet with an 18-yard run to take advantage.

With nine minutes left in the first half, he got to the perimeter and exploited good blocking to break off a big run. He scored a touchdown late in the third quarter with a decisive cut, fighting through traffic and finishing in the red zone. It was called back for a hold by Nick Harris but it was no less impressive from Kelly.

He finished with 102 yards on 15 carries. At 5-10 and 214lbs he’s pretty much in Seattle’s preferred ballpark for size. He did a terrific job during the week catching the football and running routes. He could be on the Seahawks’ radar as a potential replacement for C.J. Prosise.

Small-school safety impresses

Lenoir-Rhyne safety Kyle Dugger looked terrific on three impact plays. On one red zone session he matched up against tight end Adam Trautman (reportedly a second-round target for many teams). Dugger prevented Trautman making a difficult catch with tight coverage. Shortly after he delivered a brilliantly timed open-field tackle to prevent Trautman running in for a touchdown. Late in the game Dugger came up to the LOS and hammered Joshua Kelly on a third and 1 short of the line to gain to force fourth down.

Dugger is said to be a fantastic athlete and he thinks he can run in the 4.3’s at the combine. He’s driven, plays with attitude, is a fantastic special teams returner and just has that look in his eye. Don’t be surprised if he ends up being ranked quite highly on Seattle’s board.

The offensive tackles were a mess

Part of the reason why the other skill players were unable to get involved was the truly abysmal play of the offensive tackles — especially on the South roster.

It was painful watching Oregon’s Calvin Throckmorton. He was a late call-up from the Shrine Game but he was beaten like a well-worn drum in this game, putting up barely any resistance. The North-squad pass-rusher’s were likely cueing up to have a go at him. It’s tough to switch straight from one all-star game to another.

He wasn’t alone though. Terence Steele struggled badly too as did Alex Taylor. There was one series where Steele and Taylor might as well have had a muleta on the field facing off against Joshua Uche and Bradlee Anae. I’m sure much of the reaction will be about how well both Uche and Anae played in this game. To be fair, they can only beat what they were up against. Yet had they propped up a pair of tackle dummies bookending the O-line it would’ve been a similar challenge.

The tackles on the south squad virtually destroyed the game for the entire roster. The quarterbacks couldn’t settle, they were hit frequently and nobody had a chance to shine.

At least the guards played well

Strangely though — as badly as the tackles played, I thought the interior line play was very impressive at times. In particular, it was a lot of fun watching Logan Stenberg and Lloyd Cushenberry working together at left guard and center respectively.

With 11:14 left in the first quarter, Stenberg handled Neville Gallimore. He placed his right hand to the outside shoulder and controlled the chest with his left hand, then flipped Gallimore and turned him to create a huge running lane on 3rd and 2 for Lamical Perine to get a first down. Cushenberry on the same snap let Jason Strowbridge take himself out of the play by being too aggressive, knocking him down and using his own momentum to send him to the turf. He then he progressed to the second level and took the linebacker out right at the line to gain. It was superb from both players.

On the next snap, Cushenberry blocked down on a screen then progressed to the second level with LSU team mate Damien Lewis, who sprung the key block. Stenberg handled Davon Hamilton at the LOS. Perine scored on the screen.

Stenberg had a key second-level block with 6:38 left in the first half. Harrison Bryant pulled inside to seal off one defender. Cushenberry had the block at the LOS. Between the three of them they created a huge running lane for a big gain.

With 14:27 left in the fourth quarter, Stenberg and Cushenberry combined again to create a massive lane up the middle. The full back ran through it to reach up to the second level, springing another big run.

Cushenberry in particular appeared in complete control. I’m not sure I saw a bad rep. Stenberg was impressive but seemed to play within himself. There was no hammering finish on any of his blocks like we saw at Kentucky. He did a good job getting to the second level frequently but needs to actually execute when he reaches up. Too often he was in position to make a big second-level connection and missed. Was he told to play with more control this week by coaches? He still played well — it just would’ve been nice to see the nasty edge he clearly has.

Stenberg’s still a player of major interest I think, along with other less-discussed prospects like Anthony McFarland (RB, Maryland), Cesar Ruiz (C, Michigan), Isaiah Wilson (T, Georgia), Willie Gay Jr (LB, Mississippi State), Jalen Reagor (WR, TCU), Bryan Edwards (WR, South Carolina), Rashard Lawrence (DT, LSU) and K.J. Hamler (WR, Penn State). I would’ve added Brandon Aiyuk but he’s received a lot more publicity over the last seven days.

Aside from the holding call that took off the Joshua Kelly run I thought Nick Harris did a lot better in the game than he did in 1v1’s. In fairness to Harris, he also excelled in the scrimmages. He’s not going to block 1v1 at the next level and he looks the part when lined up in a full formation. Hakeem Adeniji had several really impressive blocks at guard. Ben Bredeson, like Harris, looked more comfortable in the game compared to a hit-and-miss time in 1v1’s.

Damien Lewis was impressive playing at right guard. Colt McKivitz looked good when he kicked inside. He absolutely destroyed a linebacker after reaching to the second level with 7:17 left in the game (the running back ended up fumbling on this snap). On the previous play he did a terrific job stoning a defensive lineman on a flea flicker. On this evidence a switch to guard could be a big option for McKivitz.

This week in Mobile has really flashed that there are some good interior offensive line options in this draft class.

Defensive linemen fail to spark

Anae and Uche had the flashy snaps mainly due to the horrendous tackle play — yet the rest of the D-line class struggled to make an impact. There was nobody who really stood out along the interior.

Even if we want to spend time considering Anae and Uche, let’s look at both players. Anae has 31 7/8 inch arms. We know by now the Seahawks don’t target defensive linemen without +33 inch arms. Length at defensive end is vital. Whether he has the quickness or twitch they also value is a major question mark. We’ll find out at the combine.

Uche is very athletic and he also has the arm length too (33 1/4 inch arms). However, we’re talking about a SAM linebacker who is 6-1 and 241lbs. He isn’t going to rush the edge frequently and be the solution to Seattle’s problems. Uche at best would be a situational rusher.

Reportedly he looked very comfortable dropping into coverage when taking part in the linebacker drills. He’s a terrific character and a leader. He’s a really good player. He isn’t going to solve Seattle’s pass rush issues though and taking a SAM linebacker early in the draft seems like a stretch. And before anyone points to Bruce Irvin — he might’ve ended up in that role but let’s remember two things. They drafted Irvin calling him the ideal LEO (speed, frame, length). He moved to SAM to get him on the field because it didn’t quite work out that way. Plus they needed to start Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril.

The Seahawks are almost certainly going to have to solve their pass rush crisis in free agency (where there are some good options) or via the trade market.

Anthony Gordon looks like a project

In terms of natural feel and arm-talent, the Washington State quarterback might’ve only been second to Justin Herbert in this game. He was composed, delivered an excellent scoring drive and has a lot of the tools you can work with. Somebody will take him to develop.

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Russell Wilson wants Seahawks to add ‘superstars’

Everyone knows this is a big off-season for the Seahawks. Pete Carroll said only half-jokingly that he was going to be ‘recruiting’ during the Pro-Bowl (where he’s coaching the NFC players).

Even so, it’s interesting to see Russell Wilson talking publicly about the need to attack free agency.

Wilson told ESPN the following from the Pro-Bowl:

“I think we need a couple more (players)… I think we need a couple more. Jadeveon (Clowney) is a big-time guy that we would love to get back on our football team. He was so good in the locker room. He brought so many, just havoc plays to the field. Hopefully, we can get a few other players there on the defense. Then also on offense, we have a great offense, but I think we can always add more pieces. I think that’s going to be the part that’s going to be great with John Schneider and Pete, as well, in terms of this offseason’s free agency. Free agency is very, very key to getting those superstars on your team and try to get great players that can fill the space.”

The situation is summed up succinctly by Wilson. They need key additions. They’re not a million miles away from being a top contender. Yet they’re missing a blast of quality in key areas. They don’t have a good enough defensive line or pass rush. They might lose their one star on the D-line in Clowney. They could use a playmaker in the secondary. The offense could also do with a bit more help too.

How they go about adding that quality will be the interesting part.

They’ve endured a re-set but it’s time to jump through the Championship window. They have the ability to be bold with a strong cap situation and plenty of draft picks.

It’s a strong looking group of free agents on the defensive line. Among the top-ranked players for pass-rush win percentage in 2019, five are pending free agents (although that includes Jadeveon Clowney) and three (Shaquil Barrett plus Za’Darius and Preston Smith) were reasonable open market signings 12 months ago:

Robert Quinn 33%
TJ Watt 28%
DeMarcus Lawrence 27%
Myles Garrett 26%
Aaron Donald 25%
Joey Bosa 25%
Jadeveon Clowney 25%
Shaquil Barrett 25%
Dante Fowler 25%
Za’Darius Smith 23%
Preston Smith 23%
Grady Jarrett 22%
Chris Jones 19%

Of course, not all of the free agents will be available. Chris Jones is almost certain to be tagged by Kansas City. Reports this week suggested Jerry Jones is determined to keep Robert Quinn and apparently the feeling is mutual.

Fit is also important. Shaquil Barrett doesn’t have the length or profile Seattle usually goes for and while his production was excellent in 2019, he was playing in a much more aggressive, blitzing defense under Todd Bowles. In fact Barrett blitzed more times than any other player in the NFL this season — 176 times. That was 26 times more than second placed Matt Judon and 61 times more than Kyle Van Noy.

There’s a significant difference between Bowles’ scheme and Seattle’s preference to be effective rushing with four.

This is why Seattle needs genuine top talents on their defensive line. For years they had Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril. If they retain Jadeveon Clowney, that will solve one position. He’ll need a partner though. They hoped Ziggy Ansah could be the man in 2019. Now, they need to land someone who will deliver.

Having further studied this draft class during the Senior Bowl, I’m more convinced than ever that pick #27 could be used in a trade. The options at the end of round one do not look particularly strong at this point. As always, the combine can and will change things.

It would be nice to have the option to tap into the strong receiver and O-line classes if possible with the first pick. However, first and foremost they have to solve the pass rush dilemma. If they want to rush with four, they need Clowney and one other. They need their 2020 answer to Bennett and Avril.

The positive with a trade is you might be able to get value for money. We discussed Von Miller as a possibility two weeks ago. Trading #27 for him is expensive yet his salary — $14m in 2020 — would be considerably less than you might have to spend for a lesser player in free agency. Clowney + Miller would be adding the superstars Wilson speaks about and the Seahawks could legitimately rush with four next season.

Such a move could leave enough cap space to re-sign George Fant and add Austin Hooper. You’d have two second round picks, a third rounder and two fourth rounders to address other remaining needs on the defense and at receiver/O-line.

Of course, this would depend on Denver (or anyone else) being willing to trade a star pass rusher. That simply might not be possible.

In that instance you have to look at free agency.

Over the cap has projected salary costs for some of the top free agents. Here’s a collection of names we’ve discussed. The number is the projected APY or, in the case of Jarran Reed, how much he can expect to earn on a one-year prove-it deal.

Jadeveon Clowney — $21m
Yannick Ngakoue — $19.5m
Arik Armstead — $17.5m
Austin Hooper — $10.13m
Karl Joseph — $4m
Robert Quinn — $10m
Jarran Reed — $10m

Interestingly they didn’t provide a figure for Dante Fowler, who we’ve presumed would earn big money. He could be a strong option as a quick pass rusher with the arm length they like. He had a productive 2019 season. We’ve also discussed Arik Armstead as an interior alternative.

Anthony Treash at PFF listed both players in a group of ‘free agents who carry the most risk’:

As said previously, never trust the sack numbers. Fowler had the best season of his four-year career in 2019, producing a 73.4 pass-rush grade that ranks 31st among qualifying edge defenders. Fowler has gathered up the sixth most sacks (15) while ranking 38th in win rate and 20th in pressure rate. Not to mention, he had the second most pressures that were cleanups or pursuits. His pressure rate this year was over three percentage points higher than we have seen from him in a single season. Fowler is likely going to get overpaid based on the 2019 sack numbers, but that’s not to say he isn’t a good player — he’ll be a good addition to a pass-rush unit if a team can get him for the right price.

For the third time now, never trust the sack numbers. Armstead has had a career year in 2019, producing an elite 90.0 PFF grade that ranks third among edge defenders. His run defense has been admittingly great, as his grade in that facet is the fourth best. His pass-rushing has been good, but not quite as good as some may think. His 76.1 pass-rushing grade is a career-high and ranks 25th in the NFL. Similar to Dupree, his 13 sacks has him on his way to earning a projected five-year, $85 million contract with $45 million guaranteed per OverTheCap. Despite producing the ninth most sacks, Armstead ties for 33rd in pressure rate. He has won on 17.2% of his total pass-rush reps, which ranks 17th, but this shouldn’t justify making him the fifth highest-paid edge defender in the NFL. All this being said, Armstead is not on the same level of risk as (Bud) Dupree — he has been one of the top 20 most valuable edge defenders in each of the past two seasons, but again, is not worth what he will be paid. If the cost is high for Armstead — like it’ll almost certainly be — stay away.

In both instances it seems the write-up is weighted negatively to fit a piece that is seeking to identify ‘risky’ free agents. In fact Treash admits it’s not that Fowler and Armstead are bad players — it’s simply a case that they might be overpaid. It’s also perfectly plausible that both players are rounding into a peak. After all, they’re only 25 and 26-years-old respectively.

Are either ‘superstars’ though? When Calais Campbell reached free agency in 2017, to me he was a legit ‘superstar’. The Jaguars signed him, he’s been immensely productive for three years and they came within a whisker of reaching a Super Bowl two seasons ago. How things could’ve been different had Seattle possessed the resources to acquire a player they clearly have a massive amount of admiration for.

If you look at PFF’s free agent rankings, the top defensive line ‘superstar’ is probably Clowney. Chris Jones won’t reach the market. Yannick Ngakoue probably will be tagged, although he might be available via trade afterwards. There’s a lot of depth on the D-line set to reach the market but not many true stars. In fact the ‘star’ talent is probably reserved for Clowney, Amari Cooper, A.J. Green (who will probably be tagged) and maybe Anthony Harris plus the quarterbacks.

For that reason, again, the trade market possibly comes into play.

It also could be that Seattle’s big splash comes out of left field. Who thought they would trade for Percy Harvin and have enough room to add Bennett and Avril in 2013? Who thought they’d be able to land Clowney and Quandre Diggs this time last year for a third and a fifth round pick? It’s worth looking at the teams with cap issues to see potential cuts or possible trade targets.

Minnesota is nearly $10m over the cap for 2020. They will have to make savings, particularly if they want to keep Anthony Harris. It’s almost certain Everson Griffen will be cut. He’s a strong option for Seattle, albeit as a short term measure. It’s not improbable that they’d retain Clowney, sign Griffen and then draft someone like Julian Okwara to try and solve the pass rush issue (whether this would be adequate is another question). Minnesota is a definite team to monitor though. They need to make multiple savings and don’t have much wiggle room even if they cut Griffen. Keep an eye on Stefon Diggs and maybe even Harrison Smith.

Jacksonville is only $34,754 under the cap for 2020. It’d be nice to say that could make Calais Campbell available (they’d save $15m by moving him) but Marcell Dareus ($20m saving), A.J. Bouye ($11m saving), Marquise Lee ($5m saving), Brandon Linder ($8m saving), D.J. Hayden ($6m saving), Jake Ryan ($5.5m saving), Abry Jones ($4m saving), Geoff Swaim ($3.75m saving) and Chris Conley ($2m saving) are all more likely to be cut or traded.

The Saints need cap space and have traded with Seattle before (Jimmy Graham) but there are no obvious targets on their roster that make financial sense for either team. The same goes for the Bears, Steelers and Falcons.

If the Redskins draft Chase Young as expected, they might be willing to consider trading Ryan Kerrigan ($11.6m cap hit in 2020). We’ll also see if the Jets consider dealing Jamal Adams, what the future is for Odell Beckham Jr in Cleveland and whether O.J. Howard and David Njoku become available. Joey Bosa appears to be setting the table to leave the Chargers but it’s extremely unlikely they’d entertain trading their best player just as they move into the new stadium. It’s possible some of the tagged players are targeted but that would be expensive (picks + a huge salary).

Off-season’s have never been boring during the Carroll era. Even over the last two years when they’ve had minimal cap space and hardly any draft picks — they still parted with key players, extended contracts for Wilson and Wagner and traded Frank Clark. They’ve traded for Jimmy Graham and Percy Harvin. At other times they’ve been aggressive to add Duane Brown and Sheldon Richardson and struck gold by trading for Marshawn Lynch. Most recently they traded for Clowney and Diggs.

They will get things done. They will likely heed Wilson’s words this week and add their superstars. We just need to see how the puzzle fits together.

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Senior Bowl day three & thoughts on Austin Hooper

Today’s practise at the Senior Bowl has been moved indoors due to bad weather. The extremely limited coverage on the NFL Network could be non-existent today as a consequence.

For that reason I wanted to spend a bit more time discussing yesterday’s report from Tony Pauline regarding Austin Hooper:

“Austin Hooper is another soon-to-be free agent tight end who is expected to sign a big contract once the frenzy begins. Where could Hooper land?

“Speculation here in Mobile says the Arizona Cardinals, Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks are teams expected to court Hooper. Don’t leave out the Washington Redskins, who may be ready to move on from Jordan Reed who has struggled with injuries.”

It’s not a surprise that the Seahawks are among the teams listed with apparent interest. They will add a tight end at some point during the off-season.

Will Dissly has suffered two serious injuries in just over a year. As talented as Dissly is, they’re in a position now of needing to find out whether he can stay healthy.

Ed Dickson will be cut, freeing up $3m in cap space. Jacob Hollister and Tyrone Swoopes are the only other tight ends on the roster. Hollister is a restricted free agent and Swoopes an exclusive rights free agent. They’d presumably have interest in bringing back Hollister — but not as TE1 or TE2.

Seattle’s offense felt the loss of Dissly. It’s in part why they went out and signed Josh Gordon. They need a safety net and a dynamic target, especially for key third downs.

There are options in the draft but it isn’t a strong class of tight end’s. We’ll need to see how the group measures and works out at the combine to get a full reading of the realistic options. However, this is a strong draft class for wide receiver’s and offensive linemen. It might be wise to try and address other needs (D-line, tight end) in free agency to max out the potential of the 2020 draft class.

The Seahawks have a history of making a splash at the tight end position. They made a bold move to sign Zach Miller to a big contract in 2011. They then traded a first round pick for Jimmy Graham in 2015. It wouldn’t be a surprise if they made another big move in free agency for someone like Austin Hooper.

So why is he a realistic target?

Firstly, let’s talk about the player. At the mid-way point of the 2019 season he was one of the few bright spots for the Falcons. As Oliver Hodgkinson notes, he was performing as one of the top tight end’s in the league by week six.

An injury and missing three games stalled some of his progress but he still finished the season with a strong stat line of 75 receptions, 787 yards, six touchdowns, 96 targets, 313 yards after the catch and 41 first downs in 2019. He only dropped one pass all season and averaged 60.5 yards per game.

He’s been a consistent reliable target throughout his time in Atlanta. You can often learn a lot from how fans feel about a player. Cory Woodroof wrote this piece for the Falcoholic, suggesting it would be a “colossal mistake” to lose Hooper in free agency.

The problem for Atlanta is cap space. They’re currently projected to have $7.5m available in 2020. Yet unlike the Jaguars (who can cut Marcell Dareus and create $20m immediately), there’s no obvious way to create room.

They’ve paid a lot of players but the structure of the contracts is hampering their flexibility. Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Jake Matthews, Deion Jones, Grady Jarrett and Desmond Trufant are all on big money. Yet their middle class is also handsomely paid.

For example, Devonta Freeman’s cap hit in 2020 is $9.5m. Yet the structure of the deal means they’d have to eat $6m in dead salary to cut or trade him. There’s virtually no saving. James Carpenter’s cap hit in 2020 is $5.1m. The dead salary hit is $4.1m. If they cut Freeman and Carpenter they only save $4m and both players would need to be replaced.

There’s nothing wrong with trying to pump up the middle class of your roster — but you have to create contracts that enable you to move on when needs be.

The two big ways they can save money is to trade or cut top center Alex Mack ($8m saving) or cut/trade Keanu Neal ($6.4m saving). Again though — both players would need to be replaced and you’re talking about two players you’d rather keep.

They are stuck in a situation of having to make a judgement call on Hooper. They can’t really transition or franchise tag him because it would cost +$8m or +$10m respectively. So they have to decide is he so good that they can afford to lose a player like Mack or Neal in order to keep him?

I suspect they will move on. Throughout Matt Ryan’s career he’s done an excellent job with any tight end he’s been given to work with — whether it’s a Hall of Fame talent like Tony Gonzalez, Levine Toilolo, Jacob Tamme or Hooper. Considering they have Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley at receiver, they might feel like they can plug in a cheap replacement and succeed without needing to gut their roster.

ESPN’s Falcons reporter Vaughn McClure expects Hooper to leave Atlanta:

“The Falcons, with so much money tied up in top players such as Ryan, Julio Jones, Jarrett, and Deion Jones, will pass on signing Hooper to a lucrative extension and let him sign elsewhere. And Hooper will exceed $10 million per year with his new team. Meanwhile, the Falcons will see what they have in Jaeden Graham, who filled in nicely when Hooper was hurt this past season and is due to make $585,000 in 2020. The Falcons also will look hard at the draft class to find a potential pass-catching threat.”

So while the Los Angeles Chargers have the flexibility to tag Hunter Henry if they wish and keep him from reaching the market, the Falcons will likely allow Hooper to become a free agent.

As mentioned, the Seahawks have placed a high value on the tight end position. Hooper also fits what they look for. He’s a good blocker and a useful receiver. He’s well sized at 6-4 and 254lbs and can line-up in any formation. He has the length they crave (34 inch arms) and he has the agility they like.

The three cone and short shuttle appear to be important tests for the Seahawks and tight end’s. Here’s the evidence based on the player’s they’ve acquired in the Pete Carroll era:

Short shuttle times

Luke Willson — 4.29 at pro-day
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

Hooper ran a 4.32 short shuttle and a 7.00 three cone. Physically he ticks every box and he has the production, versatility and age to appeal as a big free agent target.

It won’t be a surprise if they’re willing to pay a salary towards the top-end of the market — around $10m a year. They will have a limit, of course, and Carroll may well be attempting a recruitment job on Hooper at the Pro-Bowl this week to aid any future negotiations.

It would be a competitive market though. The weak draft class at tight end and the likelihood of Hunter Henry not reaching free agency would make Hooper one of the star attractions. He’s only just turned 25, he blocks well and he’s a dynamic target as a receiver. He might not be Travis Kelce or George Kittle but he’d be in the next tier.

The Cardinals have $51m to spend in 2020 currently but have very little scope to create more. They should focus on rebuilding their offensive line but might feel the addition of a top tight end will do just as much for Kyler Murray’s development. The Packers have $29m to spend but can create $8m more by cutting Jimmy Graham. They could simply transfer Graham’s salary to Hooper.

Pauline noted the Redskins too. Ron Rivera knows the value of a good tight end. Greg Olsen was a huge part of his success in Carolina. Washington has $46m to spend and can easily create more. Cutting Josh Norman would save $12m, trading Trent Williams would save $12.5m, trading Ryan Kerrigan would save $11.6m and cutting Jordan Reed would save $8.5m.

If there’s a team who could really make a big pitch for Hooper — it’s Washington. Whether Rivera is capable of diluting some of the Redskins’ reputation for being a lousy organisation remains to be seen. They are in a strong position to be very aggressive in free agency though, especially as they start a new era.

The Seahawks are in a strong position too of course — with a healthy $69m in cap space projected overall and the ability to create more. They also have the offer of Russell Wilson and a much more positive organisational structure.

Yes — the big need is defensive line. It’s not the only need though. They have the cap flexibility to make multiple moves this year. This isn’t going to be a one or two player fix. Carroll is at the Pro-Bowl for a reason. He knows they need an injection of talent onto the roster and this is likely to be the busiest Seattle has been in a long time in terms of talent acquisition.

If they can add to their D-line and the tight end position before the draft, it’ll free them up to really tap into the strength of the 2020 class. They can get a receiver, some offensive line help and maybe add even more to the defense.

This doesn’t mean Hooper is the only option. Let’s see if a trade market emerges for players like O.J. Howard, David Njoku and maybe even Evan Engram. Howard and Engram would likely cost high picks however plus the inevitable large extension. The benefit with Hooper is you’re not paying out twice (draft + salary) and he has better production and consistency in the NFL.

Amid a likely influx of D-line additions, there is room for a tight end signing. Hooper is a strong option for the Seahawks and one to monitor.

Gregg Rosenthal posted a top-25 list of pending free agents recently. Hooper just missed the cut, along with Dante Fowler and Arik Armstead. All three could be strong options for Seattle.

Don’t forget to check out yesterday’s big review of days one and two at the Senior Bowl. Here are some notes from day two’s drills (video below).

North team

The first rep is a reasonable job by Colt McKivitz. He plays inside/out against Joshu Uche and forces him wide. As a tackle sometimes you’ve just got to make the pass rusher take the longest route to the quarterback and it’s up to the QB to get the ball out.

Neville Gallimore is held at bay on the second rep by Hakeem Adeniji. The two shared another rep later in the video and Adeniji won again. Then it’s the return of the Jason Stowbridge show. He just beats Nick Harris with a swipe to the left shoulder to create separation and then he uses his speed to burst into the backfield. Stowbridge has boosted his stock this week.

Then McKivitz handles Carter Coughlin of Minnesota with a nice punch and control. Darrion Daniels does well to leverage Jonah Jackson back into the pocket before Larrell Murchison beats Matt Hennessy with a nice spin move and whipped him again later in the video. Ben Bredeson’s first rep at 1:15 is reasonable. He could do with planting the anchor though because he cedes too much ground, even if the stays in front and in some control.

At 1:23 Josh Jones is blasted backwards by Alton Robinson. He does well to recover but when you’re driven deep into your own backfield on initial contact you’re clinging on by that point.

Hennessy’s second rep, this time against Davon Hamilton, is better. He keeps his feet moving and balanced and controls the block. Nick Harris struggles on the next rep and is driven backwards into the QB’s lap. Harris struggled in 1v1’s yesterday but looked a lot more comfortable during scrimmage.

Matt Peart’s hand placement is still wrong. He’s too wide and grabbing on the outside shoulder. He will be penalised for holding too often and can’t engage properly with this poor technique.

Charlie Heck has struggled this week and his battle against Joshua Uche was a cake-walk for the Michigan man. Uche set him up with the threat of a speed rush to the outside and Heck gave up the inside with no resistance. His footwork is poor and he doesn’t engage. It’s too easy.

On the final rep, Kenny Willekes beats McKivitz with a nice dip and bend.

South team

Logan Stenberg dominates Robert Windsor (as he has done all week) on the first rep. Stenberg just looks the part and would be a great fit at left or right guard.

Javon Kinlaw slips on the second rep but gathers himself and beats Lloyd Cushenberry on the next go-around. He limped back to the line though. Hopefully it’s nothing too serious.

John Simpson plants Josiah Coatney into the grand on the next rep. They run it again and it’s another win for Simpson, this time controlling Coatney comfortably.

Calvin Throckmorton has just arrived in Mobile after attending the Shrine Game and he gives up an easy inside-counter to Jonathan Greenard on his first rep. Then Jabari Zuniga takes a long path to the QB but still does a good job rounding Terence Steele. They replay the rep and this time Steele wins easily. Zuniga offers no counter and can’t disengage.

Logan Stenberg then demolishes Trevis Gipson. This is such a smart rep from Stenberg. He knows Gipson is light and will try to use his speed. So he anticipates contact. He locks on and uses Gipson’s own momentum to send him to the turf. This is so positive — knowing the situation, what kind of rush to expect, how to handle it and executing.

They then replay the rep and Gipson tries to run to the outside. Stenberg just stones him with power and control. If someone said Stenberg ended up sneaking into round one, I wouldn’t have an issue with it.

Cushenberry has a good rep against Benito Jones to follow before John Simpson loses the rematch with Josiah Coatney. Throckmorton’s second rep against DJ Wonnum is a lot better. He reads the outside rush and runs him out of the play. They give him a second rep and the same thing happens.

Alex Taylor does a good job handling Jonathan Greenard before Damien Lewis equally beats Jabari Zuniga. They replay the Lewis vs Zuniga match-up and Lewis dumps him on his backside. This was not a good look for Zuniga at all. TKO to Lewis. They give Zuniga a third rep and again Lewis handles him. What a beating.

Day three notes

Due to the poor weather in Mobile the practise took place indoors. That meant even more limited TV coverage today. Here are some brief notes.

Houston offensive tackle Josh Jones is a bit overrated. All week people have been hyping him up but his performance on the field hasn’t lived up to the chatter. Today, for the first time, he looked comfortable and talented.

That’s fine, of course. You want to see players reach a crescendo at the end of the week and take on coaching. The two reps below are much better examples of tackle play.

Nobody has done this to Jason Strowbridge this week until now:

For once, at last, someone locks on and connects with Strowbridge and handles him. Strowbridge lacks length and on tape his hand-usage was poor. He’s won with quickness all week but here Jones just gets his hands in the right the place, contains Strowbridge and when he tries to disengage desperately, he’s dumped on his arse.

The next rep was just as good:

Here he mirrors superbly. Strowbridge doesn’t even try to engage. He’s swiping at Jones before contact is even made. All Jones does is sit in position and wait for his moment to strike. Once he lands his hands on the frame it’s over. Textbook. Don’t get me wrong, it’s absolutely rubbish from Strowbridge and highlights a major flaw in his technique and tempers some of the hype he’s received this week. This is the reality with him. Poor hand use and short arms. Yet Jones took him on and showed well.

You need to see every rep though, because here’s Jones kicked into guard versus Neville Gallimore:

Jones isn’t a guard but still. The angles are different but he’s driven backwards fairly easily.

Gallimore has had good and bad moments this week. This is a good rep against Matt Hennessy (who also had good and bad moments):

He’s too quick and attacks the outside shoulder. Hennessy has to play defense and Gallimore has the position to do whatever he wants. Drive the blocker into the QB or try and disengage.

K.J. Hill had the nicest one-handed catch of the week:

Hill has excellent agility and quick feet and will run a superb short shuttle at the combine. The big questions with him are consistency and long speed.

I’ve not seen much of Denzel Mims working out because nobody’s seen much of practise outside of Mobile. However, he’s received rave reviews for his play. He’s a high-point, contested catch specialist:

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Senior Bowl 2020 day two notes

Due to the complete lack of any coverage on the NFL Network, we’re being drip-fed clips via Twitter to be able to analyse practise. If you’re interested though, the NFL Network is today showing a replay of the 1994 contest between San Francisco and Kansas City when the practises are taking place. Unmissable.

Here are some more notes from day one to start. I’ll update this post when the day two action starts so keep refreshing.

Yesterday we highlighted how good Lloyd Cushenberry looked on the clips posted online, especially against top-10 talent Javon Kinlaw. However, Kinlaw actually had the better of Cushenberry on two reps shown on the NFL Network’s inadequate recap show.

On one rep Cushenberry gave up his chest as a huge target and was walked back into the quarterback. On the second he was driven backwards with some late disengagement to finish. The LSU center had some good reps but these balance things out a bit.

Auburn’s Marlon Davidson bossed John Simpson on back-to-back reps. He was just too quick. Simpson’s footwork is even more of an issue here than it was on tape. He appears limited. Davidson also forced Terence Steele to overset on back-to-back reps off the edge:

Davidson was impressive. He’s quite stocky though and lacks great length (32 7/8 inch arms). He’s a bit of a tweener with the appearance of a smaller, quicker defensive tackle. He compared himself to Cam Jordan during interviews this week but Jordan has 35-inch arms. That’s a big difference. His fit probably has to be three-technique and that’ll take some projecting. It’ll be interesting to see how he tests.

***Update*** — Davidson apparently rolled his ankle yesterday and will not work out for the rest of the week in Mobile. He’s wearing a walking boot at practise today.

Jason Stowbridge of North Carolina gained rave reviews for his performance on day one. His motor never stopped and he really went after it. Note the way he sprinted back into position after each rep. He was eager to make an impression.

He wins this rep below but the lack of hand use is troublesome. This is something I detected watching some of his film last night. He doesn’t really engage/disengage or win with his hands. He’s sub 33-inch arms which doesn’t help. Here he just absorbs contact, keeps the legs churning and wins with quickness. That looks good but at the next level he’ll get bench pressed and will need to counter. Leg drive and active feet on contact won’t be enough.

This is a really good rep though:

Here it’s all hand use. He throws off Justin Herron in embarrassing fashion for the lineman. Again, I’m not sure he’s going to be afforded this level of opponent at the next level but you can only beat what’s in front of you.

Ben Bredeson had some nice reps on day one but this is a sign of why +33-inch arms matter:

His lack of length means he has to reach and lean to engage contact. It’s too easy for the defensive lineman to jolt him with a strong punch and knock him off balance. From there he’s being ridden into the backfield.

A year ago Deebo Samuel and Terry McLaurin shone at the Senior Bowl, dominating defensive backs and getting open with exceptional breaks and quickness. Florida’s Van Jefferson had a good start yesterday:

Jefferson isn’t quite at Samuel and McLaurin’s level (it was stunning how good they looked last year). Yet he’s showing very fluid, quick movements and he makes the separation look effortless. This is what you need to see from receivers at this type of event. He has to beat these lower level defensive backs.

His movement is very subtle and deliberate. We’ll need to see how fast he runs because the Seahawks only draft 4.4 or faster. He looks like one to watch though.

K.J. Hill also showed well. He ran a 3.93 short shuttle at SPARQ so short-area quickness and change of direction has never been an issue for him. Long speed? That’s the big question for Hill. I’m not sure he’s more than a 4.5 runner and he’s small with a limited catching radius.

Colt McKivitz unsurprisingly looks very comfortable at right tackle here. He’s 6-6 and 304lbs with 33 1/4 inch arms. He has limited upside but was solid throughout his time at West Virginia. He could be someone who develops into an unspectacular yet capable right tackle.

Day two notes

Jason Stowbridge was a standout on day one. Based on what limited footage we have access to today, he’s started strongly again on Wednesday:

He’s very quick, active and busy. I watched some of his tape last night and there was one game — can’t remember the opponent — where he flashed an inside move that gets you out of your chair. Superb quickness and burst and he was in the backfield instantly. That said, there aren’t a lot of moments like that. He was a classic half-a-tick late on a lot of plays.

I like the motor and attitude he’s playing with in Mobile. I’m eager to see him test. It’d also be helpful if he can measure +33-inches in arm length at the combine having just missed out here.

Nick Harris is not an easy guy to beat. For Stowbridge to flash like he does above is impressive. Here’s an example of Harris’ quickness to get across and wall-off Neville Gallimore:

A lot of people like Gallimore but I think he is what he is — a fairly modest interior defensive tackle prospect. Not particularly special — although he’s said to be a tremendous athlete so let’s see if he backs that up at the combine and if nothing else you can believe in the upside.

Below he’s handled quite easily by Hakeem Adenji. They just end up in a sumo-contest. Gallimore doesn’t use his hands at all. There’s no initial contact, no attempt to stay clean or disengage. He just tries to plough through Adnji and it doesn’t work. He needs to be better than this:

This final clip looks like a terrific rep for Gallimore but it’s mostly on Ben Bredeson. There’s no attempt at all to get his hands of Gallimore and challenge him. It’s basically a free pass into the backfield. Get in there, get your hands on him, put up some resistance. Bredeson is way too tentative here. He’s passive. Let’s see a punch. Gallimore doesn’t need a big old invitation to swipe and swim like this:

A lot of people are going to be telling you what Joshua Uche can be and a lot of it will be wrong, unfortunately. He’s an impressive, driven character. He has good length (+33 inch arms) and he looks athletic and versatile. He’s a talented prospect.

Even so, he’s still a SAM linebacker. He’s 6-1 and 241lbs. The rep below is nice to see but at best he’s a situational rusher and not an impact pass rusher at the next level. He acted as a very aggressive SAM at Michigan and that’s how they use their linebacker’s. Devin Bush was used very aggressively too but more as a blitzer.

Uche could do with showing quickness in the forty at the combine and good agility testing to really give teams confidence of his ability to stick at linebacker. First and foremost that will be his NFL role. The rest is a bonus.

It’s a nice rep for Uche below but Charlie Heck’s footwork is atrocious. You can’t play left tackle like that in the NFL. This is the thing to remember here. Sometimes it’s the luck of the draw who you come up against. Heck looks overmatched at left tackle and Uche won both of these 1v1’s. Look at the second video — the sheer threat of another outside rush leaves the inside-counter wide open. You can’t fear an outside rush and you have to play inside-out.

Tony Pauline highlighted Adam Trautman, a tight end from Dayton, as someone who stood out on day one. Pauline suggested he could work his way into round two. Much of that will depend on how he tests. However, the agility testing for TE’s is vital (three cone, short shuttle). This footwork and change of direction below is encouraging. He’s 6-5 and 251lbs but only has 32.5 inch arms. He might not be to Seattle’s taste but we’ll see:

Below isn’t a good rep for Colt McKivitz against Kenny Willekes. McKivitz is a low-ceiling type so he has to be consistent and at least appear tough to beat. Willekes is a limited athlete with 31 1/4 inch arms. He wins mostly through effort. It’s a clean, clear win for Willekes here though:

Watching the scrimmages for the North team, Antonio Gandy-Golden created great separation on one route but then dropped the easy catch downfield. There were a few drops in the early receiver drills too.

UCLA’s Joshua Kelly looks very interesting at running back. Great size at 5-10 and 214lbs so in Seattle’s range. His burst is impressive and he picks up speed quickly. Apparently he’s good with his hands too so keep an eye on him as a potential C.J. Prosise replacement.

Baylor’s Denzel Mims had a really nice contested catch by the right sideline on a lofted pass by (I think) Jordan Love. He adjusted to the ball superbly and tracked it all the way. Nice high-point and catching technique.

Nick Harris has had some rough reps in 1v1’s but in the scrimmage when needing to anchor the line from center he’s looked very comfortable. He gets low, masters leverage and puts up a wall.

Here’s the OL vs DL drills from yesterday with a breakdown of each video:

North team

The first rep shows Kenny Willekes easily beating Josh Jones. This is the same Josh Jones some have been touting in round one. Not sure why. Horrible footwork. He’s stood in cement. Lunges at Willekes and gives up the inside. Awful.

Ben Bredeson is very passive on the second rep. He waits for contact, perhaps through fear of losing balance while reaching with shorter arms. It’s a decent recovery but not ideal technique at the start.

Nick Harris cedes too much ground on the third rep. He needs to plant the anchor. Neville Gallimore shows some really nice quickness on the fourth rep. He swipes away the hands of the blocker to stay clean and bursts into the backfield. A nice win.

Matt Peart’s hand placement needs a lot of work. On the fourth rep you can see he places his hands to the outside. That’s a holding call waiting to happen and it means he can’t control his block. This isn’t an easy technical flaw to fix.

The Jason Strowbridge show begins at 1:10. It’s a TKO against Justin Herron. Wow. Swipe the hands to stay clean, throw the tackle on his back. Herron will be having nightmares about that for weeks.

On the next rep Davon Hamilton has a win against Matt Hennessy. Easy swim move catches Hennessy flat-footed. Not a good look for the center. Comfortable for Hamilton. Jonah Jackson does a better job on the subsequent rep.

Then it’s Colt McKivitz’s turn vs Trevon Hill. It’s a nice kick-slide by McKivitz to gain position then he keeps his shoulder as square as possible to prevent the inside-counter. Nice inside-out technique. He turns Hill inside and locks it down. Big win for McKivitz.

Alton Robinson then bull-rushes Josh Jones into next week. Again, people — including PFF — have been talking up Jones a lot as a first round talent. What is this based on?

Bredeson’s second go through is a fairly simple task to shadow his defender which he’s good at and he handles this well. Nick Harris again cedes too much ground but he retains some level of control. Then it’s Strowbridge again — winning from the interior. He tried to do this a lot in college and he’ll need better hand-use. He just barges his way through with quickness but that won’t be possible at the next level. He wins this rep but it’s not a great highlight. You’ve got to use your hands to stay clean. Leaning on the shoulder and using hussle to win through won’t work in the NFL.

Joshua Uche is then kept in check by Matt Peart. Again Peart’s technique is suspect but Uche has little answer here. The final two reps are wins for the O-line including Willekes being stoned fairly easily.

South team

This is harder to analyse because of the camera position behind the defensive players. We can’t see the depth or the range in which players are forced backwards.

Lloyd Cushenberry appears to concede a lot of ground on the first rep. He stays in front but generally this would constitute a collapsed pocked and a D-liner doing his job. A pass rusher doesn’t need a clean win to be victorious. He just needs to impact the QB and force him off the spot. This is a win for Benito Jones.

Marlon Davidson easily beats John Simpson on the next rep. Simpson’s footwork is awful and he barely moves. Davidson is on him in a flash and just beats him with a swim. Far too easy. Poor from Simpson, impressive from Davidson.

Terrell Lewis is handled by Ben Bartch on the next rep. He can’t win to the outside so tries the inside-counter but it’s easily handled by Bartch. In a game Lewis would’ve just rushed into a crowd. Then Terence Steele easily defeats D.J. Wonnum.

Logan Stenberg’s first rep is typically competitive. He initiates contact, shows off great balance upon engagement and finishes. He’s too strong, too powerful. He can improve his leverage but he’s 6-6. Stenberg is a bang-the-table prospect along with Anthony McFarland.

The next rep is nicely competitive between Cushenberry and Josiah Coatney. Cushenberry is driven backwards violently upon contact but he recovers, regains leverage and balance and ends up earning a tie.

Then it’s Davidson vs Simpson rep #2. It’s another win for Davidson who is too quick. Last week I highlighted Simpson’s poor footwork and it’s really showing up in Mobile. They ran the rep again and Davidson walked him back into the QB’s lap. Three reps, three wins for Davidson.

Bartch does a good job against Jabari Zuniga. Bartch collected some SEC scalps with Lewis and Zuniga. Alex Taylor easily beats Trevis Gipson (who doesn’t look like he has any sand in his pants).

Then it’s Kinlaw’s first win against Cushenberry. He walks him back into the quarterback with a one-armed bull rush. The only thing missing was a late disengage. This is why Kinlaw is so exciting. He’s not just quick and twitchy — he has great length, power and he controls blockers. The second rep between the two happens at 3:05. Kinlaw initiates contact then disengages with a simple spin move to break free. Another win.

At 4:21 Terrell Lewis troubles Terence Steele with his quickness without ever truly getting free. Steele handles the inside-counter but then almost gives up a second counter to the outside and could’ve been called for holding at the end. They replay the snap and neither player has any juice.

Stenberg’s second rep is against Robert Webster again. Once more, he takes on the challenge with extreme comfort and ease. He just looks the part. Plug him in at left guard and be really happy about it. He looks like Alex Boone.

Cushenberry’s best rep is at 4:54 and then John Simpson has a far better rep against Marlon Davidson, who showed no energy or burst this time. I wonder if he’d already turned his ankle at this point?

Back to today…

For some reason, Logan Stenberg has only faced off against Robert Windsor in 1v1’s. Stenberg has won every battle so far:

Likewise it’s always Kinlaw vs Cushenberry. Prior to this snap Kinlaw tripped and was seen limping. He still took the next rep and beat Cushenberry with a swim move.

Here’s a good rep for Terrell Lewis. He controls the tackle with one arm, puts him on skates and keeps his free hand available to swipe the football loose.

This is a much better rep from John Simpson. Better feet, hand placement and a physical edge to finish:

It’s important to remember that gradual improvement as the week develops is a positive thing. If players struggle at first, take on coaching and then finish the week strong — sometimes that’s better than a comfortable few days where you don’t really learn much about a prospect. Let’s see if Simpson can finish the week strong.

Jabari Zuniga was quiet yesterday so it was nice to this below. Nice burst, keeps his frame clean and a finish to the QB. Terrence Steele is caught on his heels:

Jonathan Greenard had a win on the previous snap but it’s really poor from Calvin Throckmorton. He was a late call-up having participated in the Senior Bowl and he gives up the inside-move way too easily here. Again, play inside-out:

Here’s a quick reminder that Pete Carroll is out recruiting this week at the Pro Bowl…

Finally, Tony Pauline says speculation in Mobile is that the Seahawks, Cardinals and Packers are expected to pursue Atlanta tight end Austin Hooper in free agency. It’s been clear since Will Dissly’s injury that Seattle will have to add a capable tight end at some point this off-season — either via the market or the draft.

They spent big money on Zach Miller in 2011 and traded for Jimmy Graham in 2015. The position is incredibly valuable to the offense and sadly with Dissly picking up two serious injuries in as many seasons, they have to look at what else is out there.

So why would Hooper be a fit? He ticks all their boxes. He blocks well and has been a reliable receiver. He’s 6-4 and 255lbs with 33 3/4 inch arms. Importantly, he also runs a 4.32 short shuttle and a 7.00 three cone. Agility testing is a big deal for tight end’s.

It won’t be a surprise at all if the Seahawks use some of their spare cap space to target Hooper.

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Senior Bowl practises (day one)

I’ve been writing this blog for 11 years. I can’t remember whether I’ve posted notes on every practise week at the Senior Bowl during that time. However, I can’t recall the last time I didn’t.

Sadly, this year almost bucked the trend. The NFL Network decided not to provide live coverage from Mobile. Instead, this is what we got…

— A five minute live interview with Thomas Dimitroff
— Two reps of OL vs DL drills
— A few WR vs DB reps
— Finish

They then cut to a full replay of the AFC Championship game. We can only guess what the audience is for a game replay that would interest only Kansas City Chiefs fans. Yet despite having a full presenting team live in Mobile — not to mention their top two news reporters — barely any live coverage was provided.

The NFL draft has never been bigger or more popular. The Senior Bowl has never been as high profile as it is today. I just don’t understand why, when presented with a free window to provide live, interesting football coverage that they’ve previously covered for years, the NFL Network made the decision not to provide coverage in 2020. Instead all we get is a one hour round-up show at 8pm EST. Let’s hope it has plenty of action from the drills and isn’t just a collection of interviews and analysis.

I don’t know what I’ll be able to provide this year. I’m relying on Twitter. Matt Valdovinos from PFN is very kindly posting some videos of the OL vs DL drills. We can analyse those and try to rescue something from this years Senior Bowl.

It does make me more determined than ever to get out there next year and watch the drills live.

Anyway, this is what we’ve got in 2020…

In my favourite prospects list posted last week, Kentucky guard Logan Stenberg was included. I think he’s fantastic. Physical isn’t a strong enough word to describe him. Stenberg punishes defensive linemen. Hammers them. I suspect off the back of a strong Senior Bowl he could start to really rise up boards and mock drafts.

Look at this rep against Robert Windsor of Penn State:

This is actually a fairly tame rep from Stenberg. In an actual game he would’ve finished the block, buried Windsor into the turf and claimed a soul. You can still see the combination of control and power he plays with. He’s not reckless — he just locks on, drives off a strong base and controls the block.

Now here he is against Ole Miss’ Josiah Coatney — a player with a good get-off and described as a potential third round pick:

He’s moving laterally to the right here but you see the same thing again. He engages Coatney, controls the block, never loses balance and finishes. There’s no escape for Coatney. A rep like this is important for Stenberg. People have questioned his mobility (even though there’s plenty of evidence on tape of a willingness to reach up to the second level or pull effectively). The footwork and control on the move and the execution of the block is all solid here.

We’ll see how the week develops but I think Stenberg is a very solid second round type with room to further move up boards. If he was available in round three he’d be a steal for someone. We’re talking about an Alex Boone type here with even more upside. The Seahawks like big, physical run-blockers. Stenberg looks like the ideal fit.

Perhaps the most impressive performer today based on the limited footage we have is LSU center Lloyd Cushenberry. He measured extremely well with 34 5/8 inch arms, a wingspan of 83 1/8 inches and massive 10 1/2 inch hands. He’s 6-3 and 312lbs. Every box is ticked physically.

This rep is against Ole Miss’ Benito Jones:

Notice how low Cushenberry gets. He’s tall and long but he has the superior get-off, leveraging Jones with pad-level and winning the rep as soon as the whistle was blown. It’s not common to see a player with Cushenberry’s size get this low and win so easily with leverage. Jones struggles to disengage too and there’s a nice finish to this block.

We’re going to get onto the positives for Javon Kinlaw in a moment because he had an incredible few reps and continues to look like a top-10 lock. However, when he faced Cushenberry, this happened:

You can hear the coaches hollering in the background. Again Cushenberry fires out of his stance and gains leverage on contact. He places his hands right under the pads and immediately he has control of the block. Kinlaw initially tries to fight through it but loses control when he can’t disengage. As he turns to try and wrestle off the block, he’s turned, he loses balance and it’s a 15-yard completion downfield. This is the only video posted when Kinlaw didn’t dominate and Cushenberry shut him down.

There might not be a more beneficial rep at practise this week. A clip like this demands a longer review of Cushenberry’s tape. That’s a NFL stud in waiting he just owned. With such great size too, that’s a very exciting start to the week.

Here’s what Kinlaw did to everyone else:

Fantastic shoulder dip, exceptional flexibility, balance and quickness.

Here he is showing up Clemson’s John Simpson:

Look at the slap on initial contact to keep his frame clean and then an easy swim into the backfield. Simpson lunges at Kinlaw and ends up reaching which doesn’t help. His footwork needs major work and that showed on Clemson film. Yet this is Kinlaw showing the kind of freakish athleticism and talent that’ll get you off the board very early in round one. Every team is looking for this.

Can he win with power?

Remember when Logan Stenberg earlier was able to retain balance, lock-on and finish in control? Granted he was facing Javon Kinlaw but look at the difference here. Kinlaw just drives him backwards and he’s hanging on. If that was a stretch or a sweep or a toss — good luck.

Jonathan Greenard was fun to watch at Florida and he’s well sized. Yet there are big concerns about his athletic ceiling. That showed up today. Here he is struggling against Ben Bartch of St. John’s:

On this rep he couldn’t get off Terence Steel of Texas Tech:

Here’s a rep between Matt Hennessy and Neville Gallimore:

Gallimore’s effort wins the rep. He has Hennessy on skates very early and he can’t recover to gain hand-placement and leverage. Gallimore controls him with his right arm and is able to keep his eyes on the QB to adjust to his movement. Although he doesn’t disengage the pocket is collapsed.

Here’s 90 seconds of North drills 1v1:

Nick Harris has a good battle in the first rep. The defensive lineman wearing #91 does a decent job countering inside initially and wins the rep. However, Harris does recover to some extent, walling off the path to the QB and shoving his opponent to the turf. You can hear a coach yelling, ‘get off the ground’ at the defender.

Ben Bredeson wins the second rep, absorbing the contact from Alton Robinson and combating the one-armed jolt to try and disengage. Bredeson locks on and finishes. It’s a shame he doesn’t have +33 inch arms.

Josh Jones loses the third rep to Bradlee Anae. This is a problem for Jones. His initial contact is good and it looks like he’s going to win easily. Then Anae counters and shifts inside. You’ve got to play inside out and make a defender beat you on the longest path to the QB. Jones lets Anae inside here and there’s no resistance. The line coach immediately moved over to speak to him after this rep.

The final rep at the end is a rematch between Matt Hennessy and Neville Gallimore. This time it’s a solid win for Hennessy.

Here’s Tony Pauline’s thoughts on the South practise:

And Tony’s take on the North practise:

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Senior Bowl 2020 Day One (including measurements)

If you missed yesterday’s Senior Bowl preview, check it out here.

I will update this post throughout the day so keep checking back and refreshing.

It’s been revealed that Brandon Aiyuk and Leki Fotu will not work out in Mobile due to failed physicals. Derek Brown, Joe Burrow and Travon Diggs all received invitations but declined to attend. Raekwon Davis was listed on the roster but has pulled out apparently due to an ankle injury. Trey Adams is not taking part and there’s unconfirmed talk that Price Tega Wanogho also won’t practise. They are some significant names. What a shame.

Today’s measurement’s are important. It helps us identify potential Seahawks. For example, by now we know all about Seattle’s preference for long cornerbacks with +32 inch arms. They also, however, have quite strict preferences for running backs (5-10, 225lbs range) and linemen (+33 inch arms).

For a full list of measurements click here. I’m going to note some of the highlights below.

My initial impressions are as follows:

— Javon Kinlaw has been a top-12 lock throughout the process. Don’t be surprised if he rises further after this week. He reportedly delivered a fantastic media session last night and now he’s measured in at 6-5 and 315lbs with near 35-inch arms and a wingspan of 84 inches. That’s incredible. He’s exactly the type of player the Seahawks need but he’ll be long gone.

— Jabari Zuniga, Darrell Taylor and Terrell Lewis all measured in the range for potential DE’s in Seattle. Hopefully they are healthy and have a good week. Bradlee Anae and Kenny Willekes likely don’t have the necessary quickness or athletic profile but neither measured in Seattle’s range today anyway.

— Logan Stenberg and John Simpson both measured sufficiently in Seattle’s ballpark. Phew. Ben Bredeson is a bit short in terms of arm length. UConn’s Matt Peart measured superbly and will be someone to watch during practise. Nick Harris is small as expected — although they used Joey Hunt for a large part of this season at center.

— Harrison Bryant has short arms and a small wingspan. He isn’t likely to be on the radar. It’s also confirmed today that Josh Uche and Zach Baun are SAM prospects and not LEO’s.

— Justin Herbert has prototype size — height, weight, hands.

— We’ve been saying for a long time that Brandon Aiyuk is going to be a high pick. Having 33 1/8 inch arms, a wingspan of 81 inches and 10 inch hands will simply elevate his stock even more.


Jabari Zuniga (DE, Florida)
Height: 6-3
Weight: 253
Arm length: 33 1/8
Wingspan: 79 6/8
Hands: 10

Marlon Davidson (DE, Auburn)
Height: 6-3
Weight: 297
Arm length: 32 7/8
Wingspan: 80 4/8
Hands: 9 1/2

Kyle Dugger (S, Lenoir Rhyne)
Height: 6-0
Weight: 217
Arm length: 32 6/8
Wingspan: 78
Hands: 10 1/8

Javon Kinlaw (DT, South Carolina)
Height: 6-5
Weight: 315
Arm length: 34 5/8
Wingspan: 84
Hands: 10 1/8

Josiah Coatney (DT, Ole Miss)
Height: 6-3
Weight: 309
Arm length: 33 1/8
Wingspan: 76 6/8
Hands: 9 1/2

Darrell Taylor (DE, Tennessee)
Height: 6-3
Weight: 259
Arm length: 33
Wingspan: 80 6/8
Hands: 10

Jonathan Greenard (DE, Florida)
Height: 6-3
Weight: 262
Arm length: 33 1/2
Wingspan: 81 1/8
Hands: 9

Terrell Lewis (DE, Alabama)
Height: 6-5
Weight: 258
Arm length: 34 1/8
Wingspan: 83 1/2
Hands: 10

Logan Stenberg (G, Kentucky)
Height: 6-6
Weight: 317
Arm length: 33 1/8
Wingspan: 79 5/8
Hands: 9 6/8

John Simpson (G, Clemson)
Height: 6-4
Weight: 330
Arm length: 33 6/8
Hands: 1182 6/8

Lloyd Cushenberry (C, LSU)
Height: 6-3
Weight: 312
Arm length: 34 5/8
Wingspan: 83 1/8
Hands: 10 1/2

Prince Tega Wanogho (T, Auburn)
Height: 6-5
Weight: 307
Arm length: 33 1/8
Wingspan: 79 1/2
Hands: 10 1/8

Tyre Phillips (T, South Carolina)
Height: 6-5
Weight: 342
Arm length: 34 2/8
Wingspan: 84 5/8
Hands: 10 5/8

Steven Montez (QB, Colorado)
Height: 6-4
Weight: 240
Arm length: 32 3/8
Wingspan: 76 3/8
Hands: 9 3/8

Jalen Hurts (QB, Oklahoma)
Height: 6-1
Weight: 218
Arm length: 31 7/8
Wingspan: 77 1/2
Hands: 9 1/2

Justin Herbert (QB, Oregon)
Height: 6-6
Weight: 227
Arm length: 33 3/8
Wingspan: 78 7/8
Hands: 10

Eno Benjamin (RB, Arizona State)
Height: 5-9
Weight: 195
Arm length: 30 6/8
Wingspan: 75
Hands: 8 3/8

Lamical Perine (RB, Florida)
Height: 5-10
Weight: 211
Arm length: 31 7/8
Wingspan: 73 1/8
Hands: 9 6/8

Jared Pinkney (TE, Vanderbilt)
Height: 6-4
Weight: 254
Arm length: 32 6/8
Wingspan: 79 1/2
Hands: 10 5/8

Harrison Bryant (TE, Florida Atlantic)
Height: 6-4
Weight: 242
Arm length: 31 3/8
Wingspan: 74
Hands: 9 2/8

Jauan Jennings (WR, Tennessee)
Height: 6-3
Weight: 206
Arm length: 32 7/8
Wingspan: 76 1/2
Hands: 9

Van Jefferson (WR, Florida)
Height: 6-1
Weight: 217
Arm length: 32 1/8
Wingspan: 77 1/8
Hands: 9 1/8

Ashtyn Davis (S, California)
Height: 6-1
Weight: 195
Arm length: 31 3/8
Wingspan: 75
Hands: 9 2/8

Neville Gallimore (DT, Oklahoma)
Height: 6-2
Weight: 304
Arm length: 32 7/8
Wingspan: 78 2/8
Hands: 10

Leki Fotu (DT, Utah)
Height: 6-5
Weight: 337
Arm length: 33 7/8
Wingspan: 79 2/8
Hands: 10 2/8

Josh Uche (LB, Michigan)
Height: 6-1
Weight: 241
Arm length: 33 2/8
Wingspan: 79 7/8
Hands: 9 1/2

Bradlee Anae (DE, Utah)
Height: 6-3
Weight: 257
Arm length: 31 7/8
Wingspan: 78
Hands: 9 1/2

Kenny Willekes (DE, Michigan State)
Height: 6-3
Weight: 252
Arm length: 31 2/8
Wingspan: 78 2/8
Hands: 9 3/4

Nick Harris (C, Washington)
Height: 6-1
Weight: 293
Arm length: 32 3/8
Wingspan: 77 3/8
Hands: 9 1/2

Matt Hennessy (C, Temple)
Height: 6-4
Weight: 302
Arm length: 32 3/8
Wingspan: 79 5/8
Hands: 10 1/8

Zach Baun (LB, Wisconsin)
Height: 6-2
Weight: 240
Arm length: 32 1/8
Wingspan: 78
Hands: 9 5/8

Matt Peart (T, Connecticut)
Height: 6-6
Weight: 310
Arm length: 35 1/8
Wingspan: 86 1/8
Hands: 9 3/4

Josh Jones (T, Houston)
Height: 6-5
Weight: 311
Arm length: 33 5/8
Wingspan: 80 1/2
Hands: 10 1/8

Colton McKivitz (T, West Virginia)
Height: 6-6
Weight: 304
Arm length: 33 2/8
Wingspan: 81 3/8
Hands: 10 1/4

Michael Pittman Jr (WR, USC)
Height: 6-3
Weight: 219
Arm length: 32 3/8
Wingspan: 78 1/2
Hands: 9 1/8

KJ Hill (WR, Ohio State)
Height: 6-0
Weight: 192
Arm length: 29
Wingspan: 72
Hands: 9

Jordan Love (QB, Utah State)
Height: 6-3
Weight: 223
Arm length: 33 3/8
Wingspan: 79 7/8
Hands: 10 5/8

Ben Brederson (G, Michigan)
Height: 6-4
Weight: 316
Arm length: 32 1/8
Wingspan: 78
Hands: 9 5/8

Lamar Jackson (CB, Nebraska)
Height: 6-2
Weight: 206
Arm length: 32 1/8
Wingspan: 78
Hands: 9 5/8

Brycen Hopkins (TE, Purdue)
Height: 6-3
Weight: 241
Arm length: 32
Wingspan: 76 1/2
Hands: 10 1/8

Antonio Gandy-Golden (WR, Liberty)
Height: 6-3
Weight: 222
Arm Length: 32 2/8
Wingspan: 77 2/8
Hands: 9 5/8

Brandon Aiyuk (WR, Arizona State)
Height: 5-11
Weight: 201
Arm Length: 33 1/8
Wingspan: 81
Hands: 10

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Senior Bowl 2020 preview

The Senior Bowl begins this week, with practises starting on Tuesday. The event has really grown in reputation recently. Top prospects want to go and compete, show what they can do and make an impression.

Here’s this week’s schedule (all times are CT):

Tuesday practise
13:00 – 14:30 (SOUTH)
15:00 – 4:300 (NORTH)

Wednesday practise
12:30 – 14:30 (NORTH)
15:00 – 17:00 (SOUTH)

Thursday practise
12:30 – 14:30 (NORTH)
15:00 – 17:00 (SOUTH)

Saturday game-day
Kick off 13:00

The Seahawks pay a lot of attention to the week in Mobile. In 2015 Tyler Lockett was fantastic. That clearly had an impact on Seattle’s move to trade up for him. Russell Wilson, Bobby Wagner, Richard Sherman and K.J. Wright all competed at the Senior Bowl.

Last year, L.J. Collier, Marquise Blair and Gary Jennings all attended. Deebo Samuel and Terry McLaurin stood out and it’s no surprise both players had strong rookie seasons. Tytus Howard and Kaleb McGary propelled themselves into round one contention and several other players really enhanced their stock.

This is a key week. Future Seahawks players will be in Mobile. This is the first big event of a crucial off-season.

So what can we expect?

The South roster is loaded although it’s a shame that South Carolina’s Bryan Edwards and LSU’s Rashard Lawrence and Kristian Fulton are unable to attend.

The big thing for the Seahawks is clearly the trenches. I’d recommend watching the receivers because it’s such a strong class and it’s very likely they’ll draft a wide out at some point (probably in the first three rounds). However, their top priorities are elsewhere.

They might have to solve their key defensive needs in free agency because it’s not a great pass rush draft. It’s still worth watching the D-line groups to see who stands out. Equally, they might need to make savings elsewhere if they spend a lot of cap money on the defense. That could mean needing to reinforce the offensive line via the draft — of which there are multiple top prospects working out in Mobile.

I’ve re-posted our podcast with Senior Bowl Executive Director Jim Nagy at the top of the article. I also wanted to highlight a specific set of quotes.

The best bit of practise is definitely the 1v1 drills between the O-line and D-line. Here, Jim talks us through what scouts look for and offers an interesting insight into what drew the Seahawks initially to L.J. Collier:

When a guy has really heavy hands, whether it’s an O-lineman or a D-lineman, when he places his hands on someone, sometimes you can hear it. When you’re just watching tape you don’t get that stuff.

A lot of it is the mental make-up of a guy and the competitiveness and the mental toughness and you see a guy when he gets beat… and those O-line/D-line drills, they’re designed for the D-line to win. If you’re an O-lineman and you’re locking people up all week — that’s really hard to do. Guys are going to lose. They always take two reps back-to-back and you want to see body language and you want to see a guys face, check their facial expression and how they bounce back in that second rep and how do they battle?

Who’s getting after it? Who’s talking junk and who’s really competitive? I can use this example last year. L.J. Collier the Seahawks first round pick, that’s when Seattle really started to buy into L.J. was down here in Mobile — he was so competitive. Just getting after people. Not running his mouth, just being confident. That’s what Seattle looked for. They want alpha males. They want guys that get after people and have some dog in them and I remember last year L.J. was just getting after the offensive line group and Tom Cable stepped in and said something to him and he barked at Tom Cable and it was awesome. The Seattle guys were all looking at each other like, ‘this guy’s barking at Cable’.

Look out for the alpha’s on the field this week in Mobile.

Here’s a few notes on some of the key players attending the Senior Bowl…

North team

Lamar Jackson (CB, Nebraska)
A 6-3, 215lbs cornerback and former four-star recruit. He jumped a 36-inch vertical at SPARQ. Looks stiff in coverage so needs a good showing in Mobile to convince teams he has a future at corner at the next level.

Ashtyn Davis (S, California)
A former All-American hurdler who won the Pac-12 110m title by clocking a 13.50. He’s a great athlete and might even run in the 4.3/4.4 range at the combine. I thought his performance’s mixed between passive and bad.

Neville Gallimore (DT, Oklahoma)
Canadian lineman who dropped about 25lbs before the 2019 season. He can bench 500lbs and squat 800lbs. Reportedly he can run a 4.76 forty at 305lbs.

Leki Fotu (DT, Utah)
He was graded highly by PFF for his run defense (83.8) and he’s said to be a great athlete. However, teams are reportedly concerned by his willingness to flip the on/off switch.

Josh Uche (LB, Michigan)
Undersized SAM linebacker who had success as a pass rusher in 2019. Some people have gone OTT on Uche and it’s hard to imagine him as anything other than a situational rusher at the next level. That said, this is a good platform for him to excel and he should have a good week.

Bradlee Anae (DE, Utah)
His tape wasn’t particularly exciting and there have to be some concerns about his upside. This is a week for pass-rusher’s to come in and make a name for themselves. Let’s see if he can show something.

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 scored a respectable 90.6 at SPARQ.

Ben Brederson (G, Michigan)
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’s a former four-star recruit who received interest from Alabama and Auburn before opting to go to Michigan.

Zack Baun (LB, Wisconsin)
Similar to Uche in that he gets a lot of love for his pass-rushing but at the next level he’ll likely be a SAM or 3-4 OLB and he’ll possibly only rush in certain situations.

Trey Adams (T, Washington)
He has first round talent and a first round frame. Injuries are the big issue here. The medical checks will likely determine his stock. A good Senior Bowl won’t hurt though.

Jordan Love (QB, Utah State)
He had a pretty horrible 2019 season and this is an opportunity to regain some momentum. Josh Allen propelled himself into the top-10 with a great week in Mobile. We’ll see if Love can do the same. He has first round potential.

Michael Pittman Jr (WR, USC)
He’s a bigger receiver and will be competing in the 2020 draft against quicker, more sudden wide-outs. He needs to show he can create easy separation and not need everything to be contested.

K.J. Hill (WR, Ohio State)
A 126.3 SPARQ athlete thanks mainly to his 3.93 short shuttle, Hill has the short-area quickness to be a real pain in coverage but he can also be inconsistent. He’ll need to show he has long-speed at the combine too.

South team

Jabari Zuniga (DE, Florida)
Had an injury-ravaged 2019 season. He’s 6-4, 265lbs but apparently has 7.5% body fat. He can bench 460lbs and is expected to manage 30 reps at 225lbs. Reportedly capable of a 7.03 three-cone. One to watch if he lasts in the draft.

Javon Kinlaw (DT, South Carolina)
One of the stars of the 2020 draft. Big, explosive, powerful, quick. He’s a disruptive force who can play inside/out and does his best work ploughing through interior linemen to collapse the pocket. A clear top-10 talent.

Raekwon Davis (DT, Alabama)
He hasn’t really taken a step forward in the last two years at Alabama but he’s still a 6-7, 305lbs monster who could really rise up the board with a big week in Mobile. He needs to play tough, win his reps and flash a mean streak.

Darrell Taylor (DE, Tennessee)
He’s had injuries and his tape was pretty mediocre. Yet there’s said to be athletic potential here so let’s see how he performs in the drills.

Jonathan Greenard (DE, Florida)
Had a terrific season at Florida, played through injuries and put up big numbers. However, reportedly he’s not expected to test well at all. Let’s see if he can flash a burst in the 1v1 drills.

Terrell Lewis (DE, Alabama)
Clearly talented but the injuries have taken a toll. He looks the part but health will always temper his stock. Let’s see if he can build momentum this off-season starting in Mobile. It’ll also be interesting to see his measurements.

Logan Stenberg (G, Kentucky)
He’s a pancake machine who dominates opponents with extreme physicality. He’s a punishing finisher and will hammer opponents to the turf, judo-toss them to the ground or plough them off the LOS. One to watch.

John Simpson (G, Clemson)
Very athletic and was even gifted an opportunity to score a rushing touchdown at Clemson. However, his feet are very busy and sometimes he tries to do too much. There’s a lot of athletic upside here though.

Lloyd Cushenberry (C, LSU)
A recent addition following LSU’s National Championship success. He’s steady away if fairly unspectacular. He’s competing against some really good center’s in this draft so needs a good week.

Prince Tega Wanogho (T, Auburn)
From Nigeria and a three-year starter. He’s 6-7 and 315lbs and can bench press 415lbs plus squat 560lbs. He reportedly can run a 4.95 forty and jump a 32-inch vertical. Underrated. One to watch.

Steven Montez (QB, Colorado)
He’s really talented with a great arm, mobility and size. He’s just so inconsistent. He could make a nice developmental QB for someone if he has a strong week here and interviews well.

Jalen Hurts (QB, Oklahoma)
One of the more high-profile players at the Senior Bowl but whether he has a NFL future remains to be seen. It’s hard to gauge where his stock is. It’s a big week for him.

Justin Herbert (QB, Oregon)
I’m not sure anyone can do more than Herbert this week to improve their stock. If he delivers a strong week of football he could turn into a top-10 lock. He has the size, the arm and the innovation.

Kyle Dugger (S, Lenoir Rhyne)
Discovered by Seahawks scout Ryan Florence last March, Dugger can reportedly manage a 40-inch vertical and a 4.4 forty. He has 33 1/8 inch arms and he’s 6-1 and 218lbs. He stood out at Lenoir Rhyne (and he should do) with big hits, highly athletic plays and major special teams value as a returner.

Lamical Perine (RB, Florida)
Played well for Florida but his athletic upside is the question mark. Does a good job fighting through tackles but lacks long-speed and explosive traits.

Eno Benjamin (RB, Arizona State)
Such a fun player to watch. Benjamin is tough, gets the job done and has nifty agility highlighted by a 4.10 short shuttle at SPARQ. He should have a really strong week and a good performance in the game.

Jared Pinkney (TE, Vanderbilt)
Touted by many as a potential first rounder before the season started, Pinkney and Vanderbilt never got going in 2019. This is a chance to regain some standing.

Harrison Bryant (TE, Florida Atlantic)
Named the best run-blocking tight end in college football by PFF. FAU running backs averaged more than 2.0 yards before contact when rushing around the tight end spot this season. One to watch.

Van Jefferson (WR, Florida)
There’s definite talent here and this is a good opportunity for Jefferson. Like everyone else, he needs to show the same ability Deebo Samuel and Terry McLaurin flashed a year ago to get open and make it look easy.

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 in the podcast that he was being graded higher than N’Keal Harry in NFL circles. Fantastic talent.

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Why a good plan can still go wrong & Julian Okwara

The Seahawks have the cap space to be aggressors in free agency, specifically to fill their D-line needs. Pete Carroll has admitted their decision to coach at the Pro Bowl is partly inspired by an opportunity to recruit. It’s not as simple as having the cash in your wallet though.

You can come up with a really solid plan that is logical and makes perfect sense. Then things change.

Take a year ago for example. The Seahawks traded Frank Clark while probably feeling good about the D-line draft class. In the days leading up to the draft the media suggested Rashan Gary could last deep into round one.

Instead Gary was the #12 pick. The rush on defensive linemen started early and didn’t ease up. Seattle’s options at a vital position of need had shrunk by pick #21 — let alone after trading down.

I think a bit too much is made of the L.J. Collier pick. People have called it a ‘panic move’. Teams plan and study so much and spend weeks setting up their boards. You don’t ‘panic’ on draft day. There may have been disappointment in the way the first round shaped up but it’s very unlikely they were caught short, bungled whichever remaining D-liner was on their board onto a slip of paper and made a bad call.

Collier had a rough rookie season. It’s worth noting though that he played very well in his final year at TCU, was one of the stars of the Senior Bowl and while he lacked twitch and speed he was very powerful with solid explosive testing numbers.

He had the grit, fire and determination they were after throughout their draft class. Collier was also seen as an elusive five-technique. They’d been trying to replace Michael Bennett for some time and with no Cliff Avril type available, the pick made sense even if people are piling on because he struggled in year one. Let’s give him some time. Not everything has to be a huge drama.

The wider point I’m making though is Seattle had a plan that if they’d sat you down and talked you through it minutes before they pulled the trigger on the Clark trade, you’d probably have nodded along and said, ‘that makes sense’.

That it didn’t work out perhaps as they fully intended is just how it goes sometimes. It will happen. Nobody is perfect.

John Lynch just won executive of the year and his first two draft picks were Solomon Thomas and Reuben Foster. Thomas looked like a game-wrecker and Foster fell but was seen as one of the most talented players in the 2017 draft. Thomas has seemingly been on the trade block since year two and Foster was cut after numerous off-field drama’s.

Lynch and Kyle Shanahan’s plan was drenched in logic. It just didn’t work out.

It’s impossible for teams to hit every time. You’ve just got to hope you’re right more than you’re wrong. Whatever anyone thinks about Pete Carroll and John Schneider at the moment, they’ve been overwhelmingly right more often than they’ve been wrong.

Together they built a legendary roster. They drafted a franchise quarterback in round three, created a famous secondary, drafted a Hall of Fame linebacker in round two, brought in an iconic running back for a fourth rounder via trade and led the team to two Super Bowls. And while people love to focus on the more recent misses such as the Malik McDowell pick, there are still so many successes that get overlooked. Frank Clark, Tyler Lockett, the Clowney and Diggs trades, moving up for D.K. Metcalf, Jarran Reed, Shaquill Griffin, Chris Carson in round seven, Will Dissly in round four, Bradley McDougald, Michael Dickson.

If the 2019 first round didn’t go according to plan, it shouldn’t have any impact on whether you trust them going forward. Again — no franchise is hitting 1.000 in free agency and the draft. Not Bill Belichick and the Pats. Not the Saints, the Steelers, the Ravens, the Eagles or any other team that has enjoyed consistent success.

The Seahawks will likely enter this off-season targeting moves in free agency to upgrade their defense. I think they will be aggressive too. They have cap space to spend and can easily create more. If they want to make trades, they have the picks to do it. If they focus on the D-line in free agency and are left with holes on the O-line — the draft could provide a solution there given the depth of options.

Yet we might see players paid way beyond their true value on the open market. That’s one thing I don’t think the Seahawks will do — overpay.

They’re not going to be reckless.

The aim will probably be to mimic Green Bay a year ago. They paid a high price for Za’Darius and Preston Smith but not beyond what constitutes reasonable value.

Considering the likely high price to retain Jadeveon Clowney, Seattle can probably afford one more nice D-line signing. Preferably someone with the speed and twitch to rush the edge and fill the massive Cliff Avril-shaped void.

Yet if they were interested in Dante Fowler — for example — and he received offers in the $20-22m range, they’d have to move on. And you run down the list.

This is one of the reasons why a trade could make sense. If you deal for Von Miller as we’ve suggested could be an option, you know what his salary is. You’d be paying $14-15m in 2020. That’s very reasonable. And it might be worth losing a high pick in a trade to avoid overpaying for a lesser player.

A similar option could be to try and trade for Calais Campbell. He’s older but still dominating with 31.5 sacks, 44 TFL’s and 76 QB hits in the last three seasons. Schneider and Carroll have talked about finding their answer to Campbell since drafting McDowell in 2017 (the year Calais left Arizona for Jacksonville). It feels like they’ve wanted him for years. Maybe try and get him then? He’d cost $15m in 2020 and would lift Seattle’s defense to a new level on his own.

The point is you have all these different options on the table and you can have ideal scenarios, Plan A’s and Plan B’s. Yet every situation is dependant on what someone else does. Whenever that’s the case, you’re never completely in control. Not if you want to be sensible.

Hopefully they find their solutions before the draft. It’s possible, however, that they might need to do more work. Perhaps they retain Clowney but then can only add a seasoned, possibly cheaper veteran like Everson Griffen? What if the more preferable options aren’t there? What if teams don’t want to trade away their best players?

You have to play the hand you’re dealt.

Again, this isn’t a good draft class for pass rushers. It’s frustratingly weak actually. There’s a lot of hype about certain players but the reality is quite stark.

For starters, there are a handful of players who are increasingly overrated and not actually a great fit for what Seattle needs. Jim Nagy told us on the podcast recently that Josh Uche and Zack Baun are not LEO types. They’re players who will have to adjust to play SAM linebacker — not an easy adjustment — and then they might be situational rushers. Seattle isn’t short of linebackers and their pass rush isn’t really lacking a part-time contributor. They need a Cliff Avril not a Barkevious Mingo.

K’Lavon Chaisson is similarly better suited to being a SAM or outside backer in a 3-4. His sacks and pressures come mostly on stunts. LSU do a good job finding ways to utilise his athleticism by creating open lanes. He’s not a dominant EDGE and he only had 6.5 sacks in 2019. Two came against Oklahoma — and one of those sacks came when he was being blocked by a receiver.

Curtis Weaver used to be 300lbs and he looks like it. His frame lacks muscle definition and he’s a bit podgy. His tape is impressive but he’s in a category where you need to see how he tests. His frame doesn’t exactly scream ‘twitchy EDGE who can win with speed at the next level’.

Yetur Gross-Matos has a good frame and his hand-use at times is good. He lacks great speed though and his play is so inconsistent. It’s worth noting that he ran a 4.75 short shuttle at SPARQ. He won’t run that slowly at the combine but the tape checks out with the test. He seems like more of a base-end type than a quick-twitch EDGE. Seattle has enough base-end’s already.

The one player who might possibly just be of interest is Notre Dame’s Julian Okwara.

For starters, he has the frame. He’s 6-5, about 250lbs and according to ESPN he has 34 1/4 inch arms. Reportedly he’s been timed running a top-speed of 21mph — a mark usually reserved for the quicker receivers in the NFL.

You do see flashes of speed on film — especially when he’s chasing down a running back from behind. There are examples where he just beats the tackle to the edge with ease. He’s very comfortable dropping or working in open space. He looks twitchy. He can defend the perimeter (something Carroll highlighted as an issue in 2019). You see him shedding blocks, sifting through traffic and finding the ball-carrier on screen’s and end-around’s.

Okwara lacks upper body bulk but still appears to have some power. During recruiting, Rivals noted his natural strength despite possessing a skinny linebacker frame. PFF gave him a 90.4 pass-rushing grade in 2019. He had 93 pressures in 2018 and 2019. He was also a team captain this season.

It also needs to be noted he didn’t shine against Georgia’s top-rated O-line. He does have a tendency to drift in and out of games. He ended the season injured. Virginia was his big 2019 performance where he dominated but there weren’t other examples of that level of play.

To me he would be a compliment rather than a lead dog straight away but that’s OK. We’re talking about a scenario here where the Seahawks have possibly re-signed Clowney but haven’t added a stud to play across from him. They’ve had to box clever, maybe added a short-term solution like an Everson Griffen and now you’re adding another body to the rotation.

I do think Okwara has a good chance to go in the top-40, especially if he tests well. The bad pass-rush class will help him. He ticks a lot of boxes too.

I’ve looked and looked for options but it’s a real struggle to find good pass-rusher’s in this draft. Okwara is probably the one you can make a case for with an early-ish pick. I’m not ready to bang any table’s for him like I would an Anthony McFarland, Logan Stenberg, Cesar Ruiz, Willie Gay Jr, Jaelen Reagor, K.J. Hamler, Brandon Aiyuk, Bryan Edwards or Rashard Lawrence. Give me a 1.5 10-yard split though and I could be persuaded.

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