Month: March 2020 (Page 1 of 4)

An interview with Jim Nagy

This week I’m going to be publishing two interviews. Tomorrow you’ll hear from Louisiana-Lafayette offensive lineman Robert Hunt. Today, it’s Senior Bowl Executive Director (and former Seahawks scout) Jim Nagy.

I asked Jim about several of the players who competed in Mobile. We also talked about the impact of Covid-19 on the 2020 draft.

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Why I think Jabari Zuniga could be a top-45 pick

Jabari Zuniga had a superb performance at the combine

By now you’ll be well aware of the impact Covid-19 is having on the NFL draft.

Pro-days are cancelled. Medical checks are on hold. More players than ever chose not to compete at the combine so teams are missing vital physical information.

The players who did test — and performed well at the combine — are likely to receive a boost. Especially if their medicals checked out too.

One such player who could benefit is Jabari Zuniga.

It wasn’t a good combine for the defensive linemen. Very few players enhanced their stock. Zuniga, however, did have a strong performance.

He ran a 1.61 10-yard split. Anything in the 1.5’s is considered excellent for a 250lbs speed rusher. To get close to that range at 264lbs is impressive. He’s one of the few edge rushers in the class with genuine burst.

His 4.64 forty was very good too and he had a highly explosive workout in the bench, vertical and broad. Based on our TEF formula, he’s the third most explosive defensive lineman in recent history behind only Myles Garrett, Ben Banogu and Solomon Thomas. In terms of weighted TEF (which accounts for weight + testing) he’s in the same range as Michigan center Cesar Ruiz and Boise State left tackle Ezra Cleveland.

Unfortunately he didn’t do the agility tests. Moving the combine to prime time was essentially the death knell for the three cone and the short shuttle. With players running much later in the day, they were being asked to do these two vital tests at about ten o’clock at night. Next year they can’t make this mistake again and they need to ask the players to perform these tests earlier in the day before the forty runs, on a different day altogether or they need to give the players a financial incentive to do a complete set of tests.

Fortunately, we do have some information on Zuniga.

He was included in Bruce Feldman’s freaks list for 2019. In the report he’s said to have run a 7.03 three cone at Florida.

A repeat performance at the combine would’ve given him the second fastest time among defensive lineman behind only Derrek Tuszka.

Unfortunately we don’t have information about the more important short shuttle. There’s some correlation between a good short shuttle and the Seahawks drafting defensive linemen. The same isn’t the case for the three cone. Even so, it’s all we have. So how does it compare to recent first and second round picks, Seahawks draft picks and other relevant players?

Derek Barnett — 6.96
Montez Sweat — 7.00
Brian Burns — 7.00
Ben Banogu — 7.02
Jabari Zuniga — 7.03
Preston Smith — 7.07
Cassius Marsh — 7.08
Frank Clark — 7.08
Ziggy Ansah — 7.11
Josh Allen — 7.15
Shaq Lawson — 7.16
Taco Charlton — 7.17
Marcus Davenport — 7.20
Rasheem Green — 7.24
Clelin Ferrell — 7.26
Jadeveon Clowney — 7.27
Yannick Ngakoue — 7.35
Bradley Chubb — 7.37
Demarcus Lawrence — 7.46

As we can see — a bad three cone doesn’t necessarily mean a bad NFL career. Demarcus Lawrence and Yannick Ngakoue have done well despite testing at the bottom of this list. Equally, Derek Barnett at the top has not had much impact for the Eagles despite being taken with the #14 pick in 2017.

The list does prove how athletic a 7.03 three cone is, however. If teams are willing to take it on face value then it’s another string to his bow to go with the 10-yard burst and the explosive testing results.

Zuniga has been inconsistent at times. This was on show at the Senior Bowl. He had some nice wins in the 1v1 drills where his quickness off the edge and ability to dip and straighten were on show. He was also stoned several times and on a couple of occasions ended up on the turf.

The coaches seemed to like matching him up inside against LSU’s Damien Lewis and had them run three reps back-to-back a couple of times. That was unusual given these are one-rep scenarios. It’s perhaps indicative of how both players are being underrated in the media (I think Lewis is a second round pick).

I thought Zuniga faired well in this matchup. On one rep he drove Lewis into the pocket. He was handled quite easily on the second rep and the final rep he won with initial quickness but it’s a nice recovery from Lewis:

He would often kick inside to rush the interior at Florida. He has some success doing it too. He might be better served as a pure EDGE at the next level who moves inside only on very obvious passing downs. He can still do it, however.

In a class full of flawed pass rushers though, his highlight reel has more exciting flashes than most:

His pass rush win percentage is also strong at 20%. That’s comparable to Zach Baun (20.1%), Bradlee Anae (20.2%) and Curtis Weaver (22.9%). It’s superior to Yetur Gross-Matos (18.9%), A.J. Epenesa (17.5%), Marlon Davidson (16.2%) and K’Lavon Chaisson (13.1%).

That’s why I think he’ll go earlier than most expect. Yes there are inconsistencies and he’s not going to come into the league and be Bradley Chubb. Yet he ticks a lot of boxes — quickness, size, explosive traits, pass rush production.

A lot of people are very happy to mock Gross-Matos, Epenesa and Chaisson in round one. Yet how many boxes have they ticked? Chaisson chose not to do anything at the combine and his pass rush win percentage is the worst among any pass rusher in the class. Gross-Matos chose not to do any running at the combine despite doing all the on-field drills. Epenesa ran in the 5.0’s.

In this weird draft full of missing information — Zuniga benefits from the knowledge we actually have. For that reason, I think he’ll go earlier than a lot of people are currently projecting.

Thoughts on two other defensive linemen

I spent time watching Marlon Davidson and Terrell Lewis again yesterday. I can’t say my opinion changed much on either.

Davidson looks like a three technique playing end. It’s to his credit that he had as much success as he did rushing the edge despite his big frame. He’s uniquely bendy for a man who looks like a prototype defensive tackle.

It’s well known though that he was spelled on rushing downs. Initially it’s not obvious why. You’d think with his size he’d be an ideal run defender at defensive end. Not so. Re-watching the tape revealed part of the problem.

He’s so aggressive. Too aggressive. He can’t set an edge. He’ll often drive his man off the spot with his head down but that’s not what he’s supposed to do. It leaves the edge wide open. You never see him extend his arms, keep his frame clean and read the situation. You need to be able to connect, jolt, disengage, tackle. He doesn’t. He’s a head down attacking force.

The other thing he does is he’ll rush the edge and leave inside contain open. Watching Auburn vs LSU — it felt like they always had a run option to his side.

It also made me question his fit as an interior defender. If he’s this aggressive as a defensive tackle it won’t work. You’ve got to box clever inside — contain your gaps first and foremost and use your skill and physicality to win as a rusher. You can’t just put your helmet down and charge.

There’s no doubt his frame is better suited inside. I wonder if teams will question his ability to play within a scheme and stick to assignments?

That said, he has tremendous physical potential and quickness as mentioned earlier. He has excellent upside. The questions will be — what’s his full time position and how long will it take him to settle into a role, play within the scheme and maximise those physical skills? If a team buys into his potential he could be a top-50 pick. Otherwise he could last into round three.

On Terrell Lewis, I really came away underwhelmed. In fact during the Alabama vs Auburn game I actually started to drift off he was having so little impact.

He certainly looks the part. He’s long and lean. He had a 37 inch vertical at the combine so he has explosive traits. He also does a good job against the run. You’ll see him extend, read and stay clean enough to make a tackle. He also has a good variety of ways to win at the POA. You see a push-pull, you see a straight arm, you see a bull rush. There’s absolutely no doubt that Lewis will see the field quickly in his career. He won’t be a liability in the running game and he’ll be able to play early downs.

What I didn’t see, however, was any semblance of rushing ability. I watched three games and didn’t see a single win off the edge. There were no examples where he wins with get-off, quickness, great bend and dip or hand use. Too often he will engage with the offensive tackle and look to dip back inside. It became predictable and made me question why he didn’t trust the edge rush more often. Why was he so keen to go inside? Why can’t he just win with speed?

That’s not to say he doesn’t flash athleticism. When he lined up in space and had to read/react to a ball carrier he does it very well. He can chase down runners and quarterbacks with great fluidity. He can shift around the field, he can drop in coverage. The only thing that’s missing are some easy wins off the edge.

That shows up on the stat sheet too. He had only six sacks in 2019.

His injury history will also be a concern. He’s exactly the type of player teams would want their medical staff to check over before the draft. Plus he didn’t do any of the runs or agility testing at the combine. I could see a team like the Steelers or Ravens taking a chance on him as an outside backer. I’m not sure he’s dynamic enough as a rusher for Seattle as a possible LEO.

D-line value is late in the second

One thing I’ve noticed spending as much time as I have on the superb Pro Football Network simulator is the value area for defensive linemen appears to be between picks 35-75.

There’s a real dearth of first round options. Yet a cluster of players are projected in the 35-75 range. Then you get a huge drop off that never really recovers.

If the Seahawks need to go into this draft building up their D-line (and that’s very much the case at the moment) — then there appears to be some clarity in how they can do it.

For starters, having picks #59 and #64 gets them into that range. Those two picks could be saved for a pair of D-liners. The first pick at #27 could be used to trade down aggressively to also get into the 35-75 range. It’d also be beneficial to fill the gap between #64 and #101 by adding another third round pick via trade down.

However — having the two late second rounders does buy some flexibility. So if they wanted to draft an offensive lineman first, tap into the strong receiver class or select a perfect prototype fit at running back (Jonathan Taylor) they have the ability to do that.

Of course, you could equally make the case that they need to spend all three of their early picks on the D-line given how bare the cupboard is currently.

We’ve often talked about it being a weak D-line class. That’s very much the case. We’ve also talked about the flawed nature of the prospects available. Yet the one glimmer of hope is that there are some players who might be available in a range that works for Seattle.

Whether it’s Jabari Zuniga who we talked about earlier or players such as Julian Okwara, Joshua Uche, Curtis Weaver, Yetur Gross-Matos, Bradlee Anae, Marlon Davidson, Terrell Lewis, Raekwon Davis, Justin Madubuike, Zack Baun or Rashard Lawrence — there are options. It’s possible the likes of K’Lavon Chaisson and A.J. Epenesa last longer than people expect. It’s also possible they’ll have more interest in Jordan Elliott, Ross Blacklock and Alton Robinson than I’m currently suggesting.

They’re not all ideal physical fits for the Seahawks. We’re not talking prototypes in terms of speed, length, power. Some of the names on the list didn’t work out at the combine too.

They’re options though and are likely to go in the kind of range the Seahawks will be picking. Whether a bunch of rookies will be able to upgrade Seattle’s bad pass rush is another question altogether.

So a possible plan will be to trade back from #27 to get into the #35-40 range and acquire another third round pick. They’d then have four picks between #35-75. That would give them an opportunity to draft at least two defensive linemen. They’d be able to draft an offensive player — either a lineman (Robert Hunt is the player I’m focusing on at the moment), a receiver from this great class, a running back or someone like Hunter Bryant.

Tony Pauline has been reporting the Seahawks will focus on the lines early and often. That’s worth paying attention to — even though there are many enticing skill players in this class.

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Sunday notes: Covid-19, Bob McGinn’s grades & Clowney

Problems for Tua (and everyone else)

Something starting bubbling in the media last week.

Firstly, it was revealed that Tua Tagovailoa was unable to visit the Dolphins before the NFL shut down travel due to the coronavirus.

That’s a big deal. Tagovailoa has a serious and uncommon sports injury. He needs to be thoroughly checked before you commit $30m in guarantees and the future of your franchise to him.

Then, Jim Nagy tweeted that the Bengals should accept three first round picks from Miami for the #1 pick if offered.

Next, Adam Schefter noted how Tagovailoa was now the NFL’s biggest medical question mark because teams cannot properly look into his injury.

Finally, Lance Zierlein projected Miami will trade up to #1 to select Joe Burrow in his latest mock draft.

There was always going to be a leap of faith involved in drafting Tua. Now it’s a blindfolded leap over a lake full of alligators.

Having spent big in free agency and with two more first round picks next year, Miami preferring to move up for the safer option of Joe Burrow would make a lot of sense.

Of course, there’s no chance Cincinnati would agree to it. Even if Burrow insisted he wont play for the Bengals — they’re the last franchise who would cave. They’d stubbornly draft him even if he said he’d sit out the whole year and re-enter the draft in 2021.

Even so — it wouldn’t be a shock if Miami is trying to create some media momentum here.

What does this also tell us? Don’t be surprised if Tua suffers a fall. There’s too much of an unknown and if teams can’t do any proper medical checks before the draft, it’ll be a concern.

This could also be an issue for several players. Either those with injuries or those who couldn’t test at the combine. Teams have incomplete profiles on so many players. Those who actually did everything at the combine might get a boost.

Insider draft notes

Every year Bob McGinn publishes a series of articles that provide an insider view on certain draft prospects. Last week he posted notes on 50 players. You can read the articles in full here (defense, offense) but you’ll need to be signed up to the Athletic.

It was a reassuring read overall with the league insiders sharing many of the same thoughts we’ve discussed.

A month ago I wrote a piece about Clyde Edwards-Helaire being one of the top players in the draft at any position.

Here’s a section of the piece:

He’s the definition of grit and determination and even though he’s undersized — it doesn’t really matter. You can win with him. He’s so explosive, so tough, so athletic. He plays beyond his frame in the same way Maurice Jones-Drew did. The other name that springs to mind watching him — and I’m deadly serious about this — is Barry Sanders. I’m not for a second suggesting he will get anywhere close to Sanders’ NFL career. However, they do share similar qualities, physical profiles (Sanders played at 5-8 and 203lbs and had similar testing numbers) and there are ‘Sanders-esque’ flashes on tape.

When you make a comparison to Barry Sanders you’re always going out on a limb. However, here’s what McGinn’s anonymous league sources had to say:

“He’s my favorite back to watch,” one scout said. “He’s the best receiver of all of them. They killed people on that Texas route. He’s so quick. Natural hands.” He was regarded as a poor man’s Barry Sanders by another scout. A third said he was reminiscent of Maurice Jones-Drew. He ran the 40 in just 4.59 seconds but posted a vertical of 39 1/2 inches. “Short, rocked-up, strong, really good balance, can be elusive,” said one scout. “He’s not 4.3 but he’s fast enough.” He also returned kickoffs for three years, averaging 21.9 yards per return. “Against Nick Saban’s defense, he scored four touchdowns,” said another scout. “The guy is totally amazing. When he’s in traffic, they can’t find the guy. If he was taller, he’d probably be the best back. I’ve got absolutely no negatives except his height. He pass blocks. He returns kickoffs. They put him out (wide) and he runs routes.”

I firmly believe Edwards-Helaire, based on pure talent, is a top-20 player in this class. Whoever takes him is going to get a steal because he won’t go that early. If you want a physical tone-setter who will energise your sideline, create big plays, can do it all in the running game and provide possibly the best and most consistent receiving threat at the position we’ve seen in years — this is your guy. All you’ve got to do is believe and look beyond the height.

It was good to see McGinn’s sources validate that view. I don’t think the Seahawks will draft Edwards-Helaire because of their size preferences and greater needs at other positions. Yet his physical style and pass-catching ability would be a fantastic addition to the offense and he’d be a terrific hedge against Chris Carson’s contract situation and Rashaad Penny’s injury. I suspect it’s more likely they’ll wait and see if a player like Cam Akers is available later on or merely add a free agent at some point.

The scouts are also very positive about three other runners:

D’Andre Swift:

“Special in the passing game… Not just good. Special. And he’s a really good runner, too. He’s a really well-rounded player.”

Jonathan Taylor (who I think will go in the top-20):

“Don’t let the 40 make it seem like he was invented… He’s a good runner. Knows how to run and set up his blocks. Finds the right hole. Runs hard.”

J.K. Dobbins:

“Justin Fields got all the honours but, if they don’t have Dobbins, Justin Fields is nothing to me.”

This is a good running back class.

One of the weirdest things about this draft season has been the analysis of the top offensive linemen. For me, Andrew Thomas has always been #1. It’s not even really that close. Some of the criticism has been weird at times — such as Daniel Jeremiah calling him a guard and questioning his balance (which seems excellent to me).

McGinn’s scouting sources tend to agree:

“There’s not one negative about him,” one scout said. “He’s my third-best player in the draft. The guy’s just special, and he’s big, too. There’s a big difference between him and the rest. He’s more like (Jonathan) Ogden than (Walter) Jones or (Willie) Roaf. He’s not as good an athlete as Jones or Roaf. He’s tougher than both those guys were. He doesn’t have Ogden’s height.” He ran 5.17 seconds. “In any other year you’d say, ‘5.22 at 315, that’s killer,’” another scout said. “He’s patient. He redirects. He positions easily in the run game and stays on players. Light on his feet.”

I’ve equally thought Jedrick Wills was a bit overrated. To me he looks like an explosive, useful interior lineman — not the brilliant tackle many have him pitched at. Here’s McGinn’s sources:

“Jonah Williams is an all-star compared to this guy,” he said. “Awful. He’s upright. He’s a stiff guy.” He ran 5.06 seconds. “I’m not crazy about him but people love him,” said a third scout. “Every time I watched him, I didn’t see a really good athlete. Worked out well. I just don’t see the movement, finish, talent of a first-rounder. I do not think he could play left tackle.”

We’ve also spent a lot of time talking up Isaiah Wilson as a first round pick despite contrasting views elsewhere. Here’s Wilson’s blurb:

“He is one tough, nasty guy,” one scout said. “He’s the right tackle but I guess you could play him on the left and get by. He needs to learn to use his hands more. He’s strong and really nasty.” He ran the slowest 40 of the top linemen at 5.37 seconds. His arms measured 35 1/2 inches. “I think people are asleep on him,” a second scout said. “He could play on the left side. He’s enormous. He’s just not as clean of a package as Thomas. Thomas is a cleaner kid. But there’s film of Wilson where he looks every bit as good as Thomas.”

One of the reasons Seattle has been pro-active adding free agent offensive linemen is probably because players like Wilson might not last until pick #27. People assume he will. There’s no guarantee. He’s a really good prospect and the league is desperate for O-liners.

McGinn’s sources are also very positive about Jalen Reagor…

“Holy (cow), he’s exciting… He was one of the guys I got most excited about. He’s an explosive playmaker.”

… and Brandon Aiyuk…

“Each game the guy improved. He’s much better than (N’Keal Harry) the guy last year that went in the first round. That guy was a jumper; this guy is a separator.”

These are the two receivers we’ve talked about the most. They’re both really good. It’ll be a shame if the Seahawks can’t consider either (if available) because they might have to focus on D-line additions.

On defense I thought there were some interesting validating notes too. One scout suggests Chase Young didn’t work out at the combine because he knew he wouldn’t run well (we’ve mentioned that a lot). Another scout is much higher on K’Lavon Chaisson than I am (“He’s not the biggest guy in the world, but his athleticism is freak level. He’s either a small rush end or a 3-4 outside guy“) but another suggests he’ll only go early because “there’s no-one else“.

I’ve never been a fan of A.J. Epenesa and while one scout suggests he’s very much a top-20 talent, another said he’d put him on an ‘all-overrated team’ and that he wouldn’t take him in the top-50 (I agree). I’ve voiced reservations about Yetur Gross-Matos (“Lacks that second effort, desire, toughness that you want to see. He’s an athlete, not a football player.”) and they list Grant Delpit as the only safety in the top-50 (I think Antoine Winfield Jr warrants consideration but Xavier McKinney — who’s often mocked in the top-20 — does not and is overrated).

Just so this isn’t too much of a back-patting session though, one scout calls Isaiah Simmons, “not a tough, physical football player. He’s not a hitter. Doesn’t break down well. I don’t get it. Down in and down out, he’s not a factor or a difference-maker.” Obviously I’ve voiced a very different opinion on Simmons.

Clowney waiting until camp?

According to Bob Condotta, some people wonder if Clowney could wait until training camp to find his new team.

So far they’ve lost Quinton Jefferson and signed Bruce Irvin. They appear to be trying to wait it out with Clowney. Who knows what the plan is beyond that because even with Clowney the pass rush would virtually be the same as a year ago when it was statistically one of the worst in the league.

Surely they won’t drag this out for months?

Seattle’s inactivity on the D-line remains confounding.

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Friday notes: Could the Ravens go after Jadeveon Clowney?

We’re now 12 days into free agency. Bruce Irvin is still the only move so far to try and fix Seattle’s pass rush.

One player in (Irvin) and one player out (Quinton Jefferson).

There’s still no sign of a breakthrough with Jadeveon Clowney. Everson Griffen is no closer to joining a new team. Nobody’s traded for Yannick Ngakoue or Matt Judon.

It’s strange that the market has ground to a halt with so much yet to be resolved.

It’s tempting to say this could benefit the Seahawks. They’re one of the teams still actively needing to fix a glaring weakness and some options actually remain.

Yet it’ll only take one tweet to send the off-season spiralling into a crisis. ‘Clowney signs with… another team‘. Josina Anderson noting she just got off the phone with Jadeveon and he says it was the best move for him. Etc Etc.

Then a mad scramble presumably to bring in Griffen and set up book-end 33-year-old pass rushers. Hardly the recipe for better defending the perimeter and stretch run.

It might force them to be aggressive in a trade for Ngakoue. Yet if they’re not willing to pay Clowney or Frank Clark top money — why would Ngakoue be any different?

Everything seems to hinge on Clowney and whatever money they’re left with.

I’ve been considering one scenario today.

What if Baltimore rescinds the tag on Matt Judon and signs Clowney?

Earlier they broke off their arrangement with Michael Brockers. Clowney is a very different player. You might think they’ll do something in light of the Brockers news, however.

Judon’s tag is $15.8m. Would they be willing to give Clowney $16m for a season? Essentially pass Judon’s tag to him? There’s no doubt in my mind who’s the better player and Baltimore could be an attractive proposition. They are primed for a Super Bowl run and use an attacking, aggressive defensive scheme.

It could be the ideal scenario for Clowney to re-enter the market in a years time.

That could potentially allow the Seahawks to make an offer to Judon — although he probably wouldn’t be cheap and wouldn’t be the same quality of player.

The Ravens could also put out the message to send your best trade offer for Judon and they’ll just take what they can. They might prefer to do right by the player though and let him choose his next destination and contract.

I’m starting to wonder how long Clowney will wait this out. All the way to the draft? It’s not like more money will emerge down the line. Have teams asked him to be patient until they can do a medical?

There might currently be some sense in Seattle waiting and hoping he decides to stick around. Yet they also can’t go into the draft without clarity here. You also wonder if Clowney will develop any resentment considering they’re the one team with the medical info and they’ve not stepped up to get this sorted — yet equally haven’t signed anyone else or moved on.

It’s also a little strange that of all the positions they appear hesitant to spend it’s the pass rush. They seem to be rejecting the rapid market increase at the position. That’s fine if you can still find solutions. But if you’re getting guys like Ziggy Ansah trying to penny pinch — all you’re going to do is waste another season.

They can’t afford to do that.

What will be the bigger regret in five years? That they spent money on a quality young pass rusher and it didn’t quite work out — or that they didn’t add that piece and the lack of pressure cost them during Russell Wilson’s prime years?

Tomorrow I will video another simulation that involves a trade for Ngakoue. I’ve also got some interesting things lined up this week so stay tuned.

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Video: A full seven round draft simulation

Yesterday I posted a seven round Seahawks mock draft using the fantastic Pro Football Network simulator. Today I’ve done another projection but this time in video form (see below).

I talk through the thought process, make a couple of trades and try to focus on certain targeted players (I don’t get them all). Let me know what you think.

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Seahawks seven round mock draft

Pro Football Network’s mock draft simulator is the best on the internet. Not only does it include trades but the rankings are a lot more realistic (and that matters a lot).

I did a seven rounder for the Seahawks last night.

This mock assumes they’ll at least make one key addition to the D-line before the draft. They have to. Whether that’s Jadeveon Clowney or Everson Griffen. Really, they need more than one addition. They need both.

They could still trade for Yannick Ngakoue (although why they’d be able to agree a contract with him and not Frank Clark or Clowney remains to be seen). Remember Tony Pauline’s reporting this off-season. He said they would prioritise Jarran Reed and they did. He reported they were interested in Ngakoue too. The deal pitched was a second rounder and then swapping #27 for #42. I’ll reflect on how that would potentially change this mock at the end of the piece.

First round (#27)
Trade with the Indianapolis Colts
Jordan Love was still on the board so I made a deal with the Colts. In return for pick #27 the Seahawks received #44, #75 and #193. Why make the trade? I had a small group of players in mind for the first pick and I knew one or more would last to #44. I also needed #75 to target a specific player early in round three.

Second round (#44)
Julian Okwara (DE, Notre Dame)
The Seahawks need speed in their pass rush and they’re unlikely to find it with what’s left in free agency. Okwara couldn’t work out at the combine as he recovers from an injury and that’s not ideal. You want a complete profile to consider. However — his pressure percentage of 19.1% led all draft eligible defensive ends in 2018/19 and his pass rush win percentage last season was 23% (behind only Chase Young and Joshua Uche). He also has 34.5 inch arms, ideal size and great strength and quickness. Had Okwara not been available I would’ve been forced to consider Uche or Curtis Weaver (or even Bradlee Anae despite his physical testing). That’s the situation at the moment. They need pass rush and the options are so thin in this class. If they don’t take one early they’ll miss out.

Second round (#59)
Raekwon Davis (DT, Alabama)
Not only do the Seahawks need to add a pass rusher they also need more at defensive tackle. Al Woods has moved on to Jacksonville. I had two targets in mind at this spot — Justin Madubuike and Raekwon Davis — and both were available here. I like the idea of slotting someone in with great size and traits to play next to Jarran Reed. Davis has first round physical skills. Despite being 6-6 and 311lbs he plays with tremendous leverage. He’s excellent versus the run but can also play across the line. His pass rush production tailed off at Alabama but there’s untapped potential there. They’ve been looking for a Calais Campbell type for a long time and Davis could be it. He’s available here due to his poor sack production and some character question marks but the Seahawks need to take some chances to add talent. However, I have to acknowledge that they’ve veered away from players with character question marks. Madubuike had a superb combine and is a true one-gapper with a 14.9% pass rush win percentage (third in the class behind Jordan Elliott and Javon Kinlaw). He doesn’t have Davis’ traits but he does have 33 inch arms and he might be seen as a nice compliment to what they already have.

Second round (#64)
Robert Hunt (T, Louisiana-Lafayette)
I want to throw some curveballs into this mock because that’s what the Seahawks tend to do. Hunt feels like he could be one of ‘their guys’. He’s 6-5 and 323lbs with 33.5 inch arms and massive 10 3/4 inch hands. Louisiana-Lafayette had one of the most productive running games in college football last season. He’s played multiple positions on the offensive line. He’s incredibly physical and gets after opponents. With Brandon Shell’s contract indicating he’s more of a veteran hedge rather than a long term fixture, the Seahawks will probably draft a right tackle at some point. If they miss out on the first wave, Hunt could very much be in the frame and they might make sure they get him in this kind of range.

Third round (#75)
Cam Akers (RB, Florida State)
With over 10 years of data to study we’ve been able to clearly identify the type of physical profile the Seahawks look for in a running back. It enabled us to project C.J. Prosise, Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny as probable targets. This year there are two names that really stand out — Jonathan Taylor and Cam Akers (although I’d love to think they’d consider Clyde Edwards-Helaire too). Akers is right in their ballpark at 5-10 and 217lbs with explosive traits (35.5 inch vertical) and great speed (4.47) and footwork. The Seahawks need someone who can be a three-down compliment to Carson and that’s what Akers is. He has great potential that was somewhat wasted on a lousy Florida State team. The trade with the Colts was partly inspired to get into this range to select Akers. He was the target all along.

Third round (#101)
Devin Duvernay (WR, Texas)
This is a great receiver class but there’s a point where there’s a significant drop in talent. This is the latest I think you can consider adding one or you risk missing out. I have mixed views on Duvernay but he was the best option left on the board. At Texas he received more receiver screens than any player in college football in 2019. There’s a lot of short-stuff on tape that leads to somewhat manufactured production. However — he’s incredibly mature and likeable, he’s tough and he ran a 4.39 then jumped a 35.5 inch vertical. The Seahawks love speed and grit at the position and he has it.

Fourth round (#133)
Bryce Hall (CB, Virginia)
I took a punt here for the future. Hall suffered a horrible looking injury during the 2019 season and might not be fully ready for 2020. For that reason he might last into day three. The opportunity to try and get some value is too good to turn down here. He’s one of the few cornerbacks in this class with Seattle size (6-1, 202lbs, 32 1/4 inch arms). Bring him in, redshirt him and see if he can be a potential starter down the line considering the uncertain long-term futures of Shaquill Griffin and Quinton Dunbar (both free agents in 2021).

Fourth round (#144)
Shane Lemieux (G, Oregon)
The offensive line depth in this draft is really something. It’s superb. And even with the Seahawks collecting veteran O-liners recently — the options are too good to pass compared to the other positions. In recent drafts they’ve been very active in adding day three linemen to draft and develop. I couldn’t not take Lemieux. He’s incredibly physical at left guard and had his team mates frequently energised with some highlight-reel blocks. He’s well known to be very intelligent and a team leader. He’s more of a run blocker than a pass protector and he has solid size at 6-4 and 310lbs. Let him compete with Phil Haynes at left guard.

Sixth round (#193)
Kevin Dotson (G, Louisiana-Lafayette)
Again, the O-line options are too strong in this draft to pass up. Dotson combined superbly with Robert Hunt to produce massive results in the running game. They were a great force together. Dotson received PFF’s highest run-blocking grade in 2019 ahead of LSU’s brilliant Damien Lewis and Kentucky’s tone-setting Logan Stenberg. Let him compete with Chance Warmack for a spot on the roster.

Sixth round (#214)
#214 — Josh Metellus
I thought Metellus had a really good combine workout and showed some flashes at the Senior Bowl. He’s a terrific run defender who finishes his tackles. That’s a big deal given Seattle were poor in both areas in 2019. He could compete to be a big nickel or strong safety with special teams responsibilities. He’s a confident personality and will add a bit of juice to camp. He moved well at the combine.

The class in full

#44 — Julian Okwara (DE)
#59 — Raekwon Davis (DT)
#64 — Robert Hunt (T)
#75 — Cam Akers (RB)
#101 — Devin Duvernay (WR)
#133 — Bryce Hall (CB)
#144 — Shane Lemieux (G)
#193 — Kevin Dotson (G)
#214 — Josh Metellus (S)

There’s a good balance to the class with five offensive players and four defenders. With the need to focus on the D-line early the first two picks at least provide upside and a possible first year contribution. I wanted to tap into the receiver and running back classes before the end of round three and I wanted to make the most of a strong O-line class.

For the most part I also think I hit on players that ‘fit’ the Seahawks preferences. And I tried to do the mock with some kind of plan based on the simulator rankings. Where would I need to pick to get the guys I want? From Okwara to Hall I was able to work the board early and with the last three picks it was all about value.

If the Seahawks traded for Ngakoue (which feels unlikely because, again, I’m not sure how they get a deal done with him and not Clowney or Clark) they’d essentially be swapping him for Okwara in this projection. If they were able to bring in someone like Everson Griffen to play the five technique, that would at least be a more competent looking bookend pass rush. Ngakoue’s also an alpha at a good age (he only turns 25 in March).

As we’ve discussed a lot though — they’ve used a ton of cap space padding the middle class. Whether they’d be able to make two moves is a question mark now. It’s a lot harder to project. And if they add Ngakoue and don’t sign a five technique they might be inclined to take a closer look at Jabari Zuniga (who at least has played some inside/out for Florida). They could even ask Raekwon Davis to play that role (they’d need so sign another defensive tackle though). Either way they’re almost forced to look at D-line early unless they do something soon to fix this glaring issue.

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Seahawks sign Phillip Dorsett

A third consecutive day with a signing announcement — but still no news on Jadeveon Clowney or the pass rush.

In the build up to free agency we discussed the possibility of Seattle waiting out the receiver market and making a move. In particular, we discussed Dorsett as an option.

The Seahawks love speed. They want to be physical in the running game and take shots downfield. Dorsett ran a 4.33 at the 2015 combine and was drafted by the Colts in round one.

He never quite turned that quickness into NFL production. Despite playing most of his career with Tom Brady and Andrew Luck he’s never had more than 528 yards in a season. His five touchdowns in 2019 were a career high.

None of that really matters though. He’ll be judged in Seattle by his ability to contribute big plays. He won’t be mass production. He’ll be competition, depth and a potential X-factor if he makes the roster.

This is just another draft hedge really. It’ll be a major surprise if they don’t take a receiver from this excellent class. Dorsett’s worth having just in case.

The Seahawks have spent a lot of time over the years signing former first round busts. They fill out their middle class with players like this. Dion Jordan, Luke Joeckel, Barkevious Mingo, D.J. Fluker. Now they’ve added Chance Warmack, Cedric Ogbuehi and Dorsett.

None of these signings have really amounted to anything so far, with the possible exception of Fluker.

And this brings me back to the rather confusing nature of this off-season.

Seattle needed stars. Russell Wilson made that very clear at the Pro Bowl:

“I think we need a couple more,’’ Wilson said in an interview with ESPN. “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 Carroll, 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.”

Instead of adding star power, the Seahawks have filled out their middle class with unproven players. For the last couple of years Seattle hasn’t had enough quality and their second tier talent has been poor. They’ve been left with a team carried by the quarterback, a small collection of others and a terrific culture. In order to become a proper contender they needed an injection of real talent.

With so many draft picks they had a chance to fill out their depth with younger prospects. That would allow them to potentially zone in on 2-3 big additions in free agency. Instead, they seem to be adding veteran depth players while also failing to address the biggest position of need.

The cap space is now reducing at a rapid rate and yet can anyone say for any certainty that the Seahawks are any better for it?

There’s a real danger here that at best the likes of Brandon Shell and B.J. Finney will be as good as the players they’re replacing. The likes of Warmack and Dorsett might not even make the roster. And then there’s this from Sheil Kapadia earlier today:

“Last season, the Seahawks produced a sack or QB hit on just 14.4 percent of opponents’ pass plays — the worst rate of any defense.”

Just throw that stat onto the pile with how lowly they ranked for pressures, sacks, hurries, missed tackles and run defense.

Whatever the plan is, it’s not obvious.

I’m starting to fear they’ve decided they feel they can coach up another rag-tag cast of characters and turn water into wine. They’ve done it with other players before. More recently though, they haven’t. This re-set hasn’t been as painful because of the likes of Russell Wilson, Duane Brown, Chris Carson, Bobby Wagner, Tyler Lockett, Frank Clark and Jadeveon Clowney. Not because of the middle class. The depth hasn’t been good enough.

This needed to be an off-season where a big step forward took place. The third year of a re-set with cap room and picks to work with.

We’re nine days into the new league year and a lot of the cap space is gone. Obvious cap casualties strangely remain on the roster. They’ve only added Bruce Irvin to the pass rush and they might lose Clowney. The alternative D-line options are thin with a weak pass rush draft class on the horizon.

I’ll say it again. I’m struggling to work it all out.

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Seahawks trade for Quinton Dunbar

This is a classic Seahawks move.

They do their best work hunting for trade value. Jadeveon Clowney for a third rounder and two fringe players, Quandre Diggs for a fifth.

The original golden deals were adding Chris Clemons for a ham sandwich and dealing day three stock for Marshawn Lynch.

Trades like this help build a winning football team. Players with a point to prove, at a good age, discarded by other clubs and with talent that can be harnessed.

You build a foundation through the draft and supplement your core with trades and key free agent additions.

Dunbar is 27 (he turns 28 in July). He ran a 4.44 at Florida’s pro-day in 2015. He’s 6-2 and 202lbs.

The Seahawks badly needed an addition like this. The options in the draft are paper thin. There are barely any cornerbacks with +32 inch arms (their benchmark) and there aren’t any obvious safety converts either.

They weren’t going to be able to draft and develop a fifth round corner prospect from this class. Yet they seriously needed competition at the position.

Dunbar provides that.

This doesn’t mean the end of Tre Flowers. They needed a choice and some options. They couldn’t go into the next season with Shaquill Griffin and Flowers as unchallenged starters again. Now there’s a third legit name to throw into the mix.

So how good is Dunbar?

PFF ranked him #2 for cornerbacks in 2019, second only to Richard Sherman. He had four interceptions last season.

None of this guarantees he’ll be a top five corner for the Seahawks but at least they’re adding a player with pedigree. Now he’ll have to adapt to Seattle’s scheme. That has been a challenge for some veteran cornerbacks in the past.

Even so, this is a positive move. They had to do something for the defense.

I didn’t anticipate them being this restrained at the start of free agency. The pass rush was a glaring need. The defense in general needed a significant injection of talent.

I feel obliged to remind people of the stats:

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.

Two things seemed obvious to me.

Firstly — they had draft picks and cap flexibility that they’ve not had for many years. There were no restrictions on their ability to be pro-active. It was more a question of what they were going to do, not if they were going to do anything.

Secondly — the draft and free agency were aligned perfectly. They could be somewhat aggressive in the veteran market to acquire defensive talent. The draft was stacked at receiver, running back and the offensive line.

I won’t go over old ground too much. The need to upgrade the defense was paramount. Seattle has a top-five offense per DVOA. They have an outstanding quarterback, weapons and a left tackle. You can win a lot of games with those pieces.

The inability to create pressure, complete tackles and defend the perimeter run is pretty much the only thing that cost them a serious tilt at the Super Bowl. They won eleven games. They were an inch away from wining twice against San Francisco and claiming the NFC West.

Yet being as successful as they were in 2019, relatively speaking, shouldn’t mask how poor the defensive performance was. It’s so bad that for stretches last season — even when they were winning — it was hard to take Seattle seriously as a true contender.

With the greatest respect to Bruce Irvin, who we all like, Dunbar is the first splash.

Now it’s time to (finally) fix the pass rush.

Retaining Clowney merely maintains the status quo. Swapping Ziggy Ansah for Irvin isn’t enough. It’s still very possible they’ll lose Clowney. You could end up with Everson Griffen and Irvin — two players who both turn 33 this year — propped up by draft picks from a poor D-line class or low level free agents.

That would be concerning.

The stalemate with Clowney doesn’t seem to be any closer to being resolved. It needs to be — as soon as possible. They’ve been hamstrung by it for too long. The only update today is that Miami offered him $17m a year when the market opened and he said no. According to the local Seattle media, the Seahawks have been willing to go to $18.5m.

Clowney should only be the first domino though. Pairing him with Griffen and Irvin would be an improvement if hardly an answer to San Francisco’s fearsome defensive front.

They also need to add a defensive tackle at some point given Al Woods, a 2019 starter, is a free agent.

I’ve been studying the 2020 draft class again this week with the Clowney saga dragging on. I’ve re-watched all the Senior Bowl practises and the game plus various other games saved on my system.

The best way to describe the class is every player lacks something.

Take Utah’s Bradlee Anae for example. His pass rush repertoire, hand-use and technique is about as good as you’ll see from a college rusher. He’s clearly worked at his craft and benefited from all the games he played for Utah.

He’s also a 4.93 runner at 257lbs and has 32 1/8 inch arms.

How can you invest faith in a pass rusher who is that limited athletically and physically? You want to buy into him. The grit, the attitude, the relentless motor, the production, the technique.

Yet how is his physical profile going to go up against a guy like Lane Johnson? He runs as well as an offensive or defensive tackle. His short shuttle is 4.43 — that’s similar to Jaye Howard’s back in the day.

Then you look at Jabari Zuniga. He’s a Rolls Royce 35% of the time. He glides off the edge and can win with pure speed and fluidity. His physique is like a Roman statue. He ran a 1.61 10-yard split, is one of the most explosive testers to enter the league in the last decade and he has major upside.

Then you watch the tape and he’s on and off like a hot tap. You see a big flash on one down and then you’ll see nothing for five snaps. Clearly he has major physical talent. Yet at the Senior Bowl he was engulfed a couple of times in 1v1’s and ended up on the deck.

If you put Anae and Zuniga together you’d have a great pass rusher. Apart? You run the risk of disappointment.

That runs right through the class.

It illustrates why they’ve got to come up with some veteran answers pronto.

The addition of Dunbar is still a step in the right direction though.

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Seahawks sign Chance Warmack

The 2020 draft has three main strengths.

There’s real quality and depth at receiver. There are a lot of good interior offensive linemen and several offensive tackles will go in the first round. It’s also quietly impressive at running back.

On the other hand, the defensive line options are much weaker than a year ago and it’s really hard to find Seattle-style cornerbacks.

So of course, nearly a week into free agency, the Seahawks have signed four offensive linemen and the only addition to the unit of highest priority (pass rush) is Bruce Irvin (who turns 33 this year).

It’s important to remember that none of the offensive line additions carry any long term commitment. They can take a look at the group, see how they potentially fit into the roster for this year and make a call.

They could also be replaced by any rookies they add next month.

Chance Warmack will probably be on a veteran minimum contract after a year long sabbatical. Let’s assume that. Even though few would’ve predicted Cedric Ogbuehi’s backup role in Jacksonville would warrant a jump in salary from $750,000 to $3.3m.

The Seahawks have depth across the board now at every O-line position. Whether the depth is any good remains to be seen. None of these new additions are what you’d call proven quality. They also have younger players on the roster who need to show they belong too.

Warmack is the seventh player from the top-15 of the 2013 draft class to be signed by Seattle. It’s also one of the worst draft classes in recent history. There’ll be very little pressure on Warmack to stick but he won’t have to go too far to top the contributions of Luke Joeckel, Dion Jordan, Ziggy Ansah and Barkevious Mingo.

His addition is a perfectly plausible shot to nothing. Warmack at Alabama was seen as a sure thing. He was physical and dominating. People expected he would be what Quenton Nelson has been — that’s why he was the #10 overall pick as an interior lineman. He has good length (near 35 inch arms) and ideal size. He’s a good fit physically for Mike Solari and the Seattle offense.

This also continues their more recent philosophy of signing veteran offensive linemen at a certain cost to fill holes while also drafting to develop. For the last two years they’ve plugged in guys like D.J. Fluker, J.R. Sweezy and Mike Iupati. They’ve then used picks on players like Phil Haynes and Jamarco Jones on day three. With Germain Ifedi, George Fant and Iupati moving on — they had a few holes to fill this year. So they’ve simply continued with their plan. They’ve added veterans. It’s plausible they will now also draft to develop behind them.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this signing. If it works out — it’s a bargain. If not — he gets cut. Most of the moves they’re making on the O-line are unlikely to have a significant say in whether Seattle challenges for a Super Bowl or not in 2020.

What is going to have an impact on their ability to contend is fixing the pass rush and injecting much needed talent into the defense. So far — they’ve swapped Ziggy Ansah for Bruce Irvin, watched Quinton Jefferson move to Buffalo and that’s it.

They’re still trying to smoke out Jadeveon Clowney, who may or may not re-sign. If he moves on, they’ll lose the one X-factor player on a terrible D-line from 2019. Many of the alternative options have signed with other teams.

It’s time to start signing some pass rushers. The defense needs major work in general. It’ll be strange to see the Seahawks forced to tap into the D-line draft looking for impact when it’s one of the weaker D-line classes in recent memory. Particularly for edge rushers.

If they land Clowney for a much cheaper price than expected and are then able to surround him with others (because don’t forget — keeping Clowney merely maintains the status quo of what was a bad line in 2019) — then we’ll all look back on this period and laugh at our impatience.

The alternative — losing Clowney over a few million, limiting the alternative options or additional options and/or not doing enough to sufficiently improve a bad defense — could mean we’re sat here in a year talking about the same things all over again. Missed opportunities, wondering are they going to waste Russell Wilson’s best years, saying that they need to be pro-active in free agency. That can’t happen.

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