Month: February 2022 (Page 1 of 3)

The ultimate Seahawks combine preview 2022


The 2022 NFL draft lacks blue-chip talent, meaning teams selecting in the top-10 will be less enthused about their picks than you’d typically expect. However, what it lacks in elite big name stars, this class makes up in depth.

This is a loaded draft for the middle rounds. Players taken in round four might have second-round grades on some boards. The depth is also spread across numerous positions. Defensive ends, linebackers, receivers, running backs, tight ends, tackles.

The one area it is weak, however, is the most important position. Quarterback. How this impacts the off-season will be fascinating. It could lead to drama in the veteran trade market and it could mean players are taken far higher in the draft than their talent and potential warrants.

This could be the most important combine in years. The lack of top-10 talent means a good testing performance could elevate players up boards. With so many prospects graded closely, your physical profile could be especially significant in 2022.

Changes to the combine

With no event in 2021, it’s easy to forget what changes were made the previous year. It’s now a Thursday-to-Sunday schedule rather than Friday-to-Monday. The workouts take place later in the day to cater for a primetime audience.

The full schedule is listed below.

Adjustments were made to the drills — again to try and increase viewing figures. The ‘gauntlet’ drill for receivers and ‘W’ drill for defensive backs were timed so fans can compare how the players perform.

A ‘smoke route’ for quarterbacks and receivers involving a one-step hitch (which has become popular in RPO’s) was introduced and also timed. There was a ‘screen pass’ drill for offensive linemen to see how quickly and comfortably they can reach the second level. The mirror drill was different with the removal of a ‘rabbit’ running in front of the participating offensive lineman.

For defensive linemen there was a ‘figure eight’ drill (players also did this at the Senior Bowl). This is timed by teams. Sleds were used rather than coaches holding a bag for certain drills in 2020 but they didn’t operate properly and were replaced. We’ll see if the sledges return this year.

One big change is players will do the bench press on the same day as testing and on-field drills. I am not a big fan of the bench press anyway and would prefer a powerball toss — a better test of explosive upper-body power and not ‘cardio’ for the big linemen. There’s a chance many will skip the bench press this year due to the change.

Measurements also now take place on the day of testing.

One thing to remember

The short shuttle is important at every position. A lot of the focus is placed on forty times, explosive testing, drill performance — and rightly so. Yet the ability to change direction quickly with agility is vital across the board. You’ll notice how often it’s discussed in this review and how much value the Seahawks seem to place in it.

Unfortunately, with the NFL shifting the workouts to the evening for TV viewing figures, many players two years ago opted not to run the short shuttle. It was so late in the day by the time they’d run a 40 and participated in on-field drills, they skipped further testing through tiredness.

I fear this will be the case again. It’s why I think there should be financial ‘bonuses’ offered to players for a full workout.

Horizontal board

Here is how I have graded well over 150 players going into the combine.

Click the image to enlarge:

Workout schedule

» Thursday 3rd March (4-11pm ET): tight ends, quarterbacks, wide receivers
» Friday 4th March (4-11pm ET): offensive linemen, running backs
» Saturday 5th March (4-11pm ET): defensive linemen and linebackers
» Sunday 6th March (2-7pm ET): defensive backs, special teams

Groups 1-3 (TE, QB, WR)

Arrival: Monday 28th February
General medical exam: Tuesday 1st March
Media & NFLPA meeting: Wednesday 2nd March
Measurements, bench, drills: Thursday 3rd March

Jeremy Ruckert should excel in the short shuttle & vertical

Tight ends
Seattle has drafted five tight ends under Pete Carroll — Nick Vannett, Luke Willson, Anthony McCoy, Will Dissly and Colby Parkinson. They also traded for Jimmy Graham in 2015 and signed Zach Miller to a big contract in 2011. In the last two years they have signed Greg Olsen and Gerald Everett to one-year deals.

One thing links all nine players.

It appears the Seahawks view agility testing (short shuttle, three cone) as vital:

Luke Willson — 4.29 (ss), 7.08 (3c)
Will Dissly — 4.40 (ss), 7.07 (3c)
Nick Vannett — 4.20 (ss), 7.05 (3c)
Anthony McCoy — 4.57 (ss), 6.99 (3c)
Zach Miller — 4.42 (ss), 7.01 (3c)
Jimmy Graham — 4.45 (ss), 6.90 (3c)
Greg Olsen — 4.48 (ss), 7.04 (3c)
Colby Parkinson — 4.46 (ss), 7.15 (3c)
Gerald Everett — 4.33 (ss), 6.99 (3c)

Tony Pauline also linked the Seahawks with interest in Atlanta’s free agent Austin Hooper before he signed with Cleveland. He ran a 4.32 short shuttle and a 7.00 three cone. It was also speculated that they really liked O.J. Howard in the 2017 draft. He had the top short shuttle in his class (4.16) and a fantastic three cone (6.85).

Short-area quickness and agility appears to be important for any prospective Seattle tight end so pay close attention to the short shuttle and the three cone.

Key tests
Short shuttle, three cone, vertical

Ideal size
6-5, 250-265lbs, +33-inch arms, +10-inch hands

Positional assessment
This is the deepest and best tight end class in years. We could see 10 players drafted before the end of day two. There isn’t a Kyle Pitts type, destined to go early in round one. Yet there’s rich depth at the position with plenty of rounded prospects, capable of contributing early in their careers.

Interesting note
The last time we had a strong tight end draft was five years ago in 2017. The Seahawks, unexpectedly, passed on the position. They drafted seven players before George Kittle was selected in round five by the 49ers — despite his good combine and dynamism as a blocker. Seattle even spent five picks in rounds 3-4 without taking Kittle. Given how much attention they place on agility, it’s possible Kittle’s 4.55 short shuttle played a part in that decision.

Best drill to watch
Catching technique is always important so look for how a player uses his hands. Is he cupping them to the ball? I always like to see TE’s who can move naturally on seam routes and change direction during drills.

Five names to watch
Jeremy Ruckert, Greg Dulcich, Trey McBride, Jake Ferguson, Jalen Wydermyer

Potential standout
Jeremy Ruckert scored a 114.27 at SPARQ, including a 35 inch vertical and a 4.40 short shuttle. However — keep an eye out for Jake Ferguson performing better than expected. He once ran a 4.15 short shuttle.

Importance to the Seahawks?
Will Dissly and Gerald Everett are free agents. The only tight end on the roster is Colby Parkinson. Unless the Seahawks retain or replace both Dissly and Everett, there’s every chance they’ll draft a player from this class — perhaps in round four.

Desmond Ridder is expected to run in the 4.4’s or 4.5’s

This likely won’t be a positional group that intrigues Seahawks fans this year. It’s a mediocre class and short of a dramatic Russell Wilson trade, there’s unlikely to be any picks spent on the position.

Key tests
Deep throws

Ideal size
+6-1, 220lbs, +9.5 inch hands

Positional assessment
It’s well known by now that this is a weak quarterback class. I’m torn between Malik Willis and Desmond Ridder being the best of a bad group. Willis has the physical tools but can’t read the field. Ridder is a born leader with great athleticism but he shows erratic accuracy and decision making. Any player drafted in round one will be a reach. There will be a lot of attention placed on Kenny Pickett’s hand measurement. He’s said to have 8 1/4 inch hands.

Interesting note
The Seahawks have only drafted two quarterbacks in the Pete Carroll era — Russell Wilson (third round, 2012) and Alex McGough (seventh round, 2018).

The best drill to watch
Everyone wants to see the top QB’s throw the deep ball. They’re not facing a defense. They’re just standing in shorts and throwing the football. You learn very little from the QB’s at the combine outside of meetings and interviews. The only real reason to watch the drills is to see which players stand out throwing downfield with power and precision with reasonable mechanics.

Five names to watch
Desmond Ridder, Malik Willis, Matt Corral, Kenny Pickett, Kaleb Eleby

Potential standout
Malik Willis is a terrific athlete but Desmond Ridder is expected to run in the 4.5’s, potentially nail a 4.00 short shuttle and jump well in the broad/vertical. Due to the Senior Bowl measurements, we already know Ridder has +10 inch hands.

Importance to the Seahawks
At the moment, not at all. It’s possible they spend a last day pick on a QB to develop as a backup but aren’t they better off just rolling with Jacob Eason? It is peculiar that they’ve only drafted two quarterbacks since 2010. Yet with needs at various positions this off-season and the Seahawks seemingly in a hurry to return to contention, it seems unlikely they’ll spend a significant pick on a quarterback.

Treylon Burks has been compared to A.J. Brown

Wide receivers
Pete Carroll has only drafted three receivers who haven’t run a 4.4 forty or faster:

Kenny Lawler — 4.64
Chris Harper — 4.50
John Ursua — 4.56

The rest all cracked the 4.4’s:

Paul Richardson — 4.40
Golden Tate — 4.42
Tyler Lockett — 4.40
Kris Durham — 4.46
Kevin Norwood — 4.48
Amara Darboh — 4.45
David Moore — 4.42
D.K. Metcalf — 4.33
Freddie Swain — 4.46
Dee Eskridge — 4.38

We have enough data now to say definitively — unless a player runs a 4.4 or faster, the Seahawks are unlikely to consider them until the later rounds. Clearly they value speed and suddenness at the position even if you’re a ‘bigger’ receiver.

The entire NFL acknowledges the need for speed. The days of the classic ‘possession’ receiver are over. Teams are utilising tight ends in a variety of creative ways to get a sizeable mismatch target on the field. For receivers playing outside or in the slot, quickness is the desired trait.

The ability to separate is vital whatever your size. Watch the forty, the 10-yard split, the three-cone and short shuttle. It’ll provide a clear indication on which players have the quickness and agility to create openings.

Positional assessment
The way the game has evolved means college football regularly churns out talented receivers. There might not be a Ja’Marr Chase in this class but we’ll likely see multiple first and second round receivers — with depth stretching deep into rounds three, four and five. It’s another chunky receiver class.

Interesting note
Carroll’s Seahawks don’t really have a ‘range’ where they take receivers. They’ve drafted four players in round two (Tate, Richardson, Metcalf, Eskridge), two in round three (Darboh, Lockett), three in round four (Norwood, Harper, Durham), one in round six (Swain) and three in round seven (Moore, Lawler, Ursua). They traded a first round pick for Percy Harvin. They’ve also had a degree of success with UDFA’s. The best non-FA athlete Seattle has acquired in the Carroll era was an UDFA — Ricardo Lockette. He ran a 4.41, had a 39-inch vertical and a 6.76 three-cone. He was also well-sized at 211lbs with 33.5-inch arms.

Key tests
Forty, vertical, catching drills (proper technique)

Ideal size
Just run a 4.4 forty or faster

The best drill to watch
Any drill that clearly shows catching technique. It’s extremely important. You want to see a receiver cupping his hands while presenting to the ball. No alligator arms, no fighting the ball or snatching at it. Watch the downfield throws too and see who is good at high pointing the football, showing body control and tracking over the shoulder. Who is a natural hands catcher?

Five names to watch
Treylon Burks, Jalen Tolbert, Alec Pierce, Kyle Phillips, Wan’Dale Robinson

Potential standout
Treylon Burks has 10 3/4 inch hands which is incredible. There are mixed noises on how he’s performing in training for the combine but he has the potential to run a fast time for a bigger receiver.

Importance to the Seahawks
After spending another high pick on Dee Eskridge a year ago, it’s likely not a position they’ll target early again this year. If the right player is available on day three, it’s a possibility. If the Seahawks want another receiver, they should seek value in the veteran market and save the picks for other positions unless they’re presented with a can’t-miss opportunity.

Groups 4-5 (OL, RB)

Arrival: Tuesday 1st March
General medical exam: Wednesday 2nd March
Media & NFLPA meeting: Thursday 3rd March
Measurements, bench, drills: Friday 4th March

Cameron Jurgens should be among the explosive O-line testers

Offensive linemen
For the last few years we’ve used a formula called TEF to measure explosive physical traits. It proved to be an accurate way of predicting which offensive linemen the Seahawks might be targeting. When Tom Cable departed after the 2017 season we wondered if TEF would be as useful moving forward (due to his influence on the system). Yet the Seahawks drafted Phil Haynes in 2019 — the second best TEF scorer in the 2019 draft — and Damien Lewis — another explosive lineman — in 2020.

It’s unclear if this will change after the Seahawks replaced Mike Solari with Andy Dickerson. The Rams did not place as much emphasis on explosive traits. For example, here’s a run down of several of their linemen and how they scored in TEF:

Brian Allen — 2.63
Austin Corbett — 2.55
Rob Havenstein — 2.36
David Edwards — 2.19
Joseph Noteboom — 2.62

Andrew Whitworth, their ageing left tackle, scored a 3.14 at the 2006 combine.

There’s no real rhyme or reason to the way the Rams selected their players. Noteboom and Corbett are both very athletic — testing particularly well in the short shuttle. Yet Allen, Edwards and Havenstein ran times you’d expect from a random member of the public.

We may well discover this year that the preference for explosive linemen is a Pete Carroll thing, rather than anything specific to the coaches he’s hired.

After all, Pat Kirwan — a confidant of Pete Carroll — tells us why in this piece:

Every time a ball is snapped to start a play there is a critical element of explosiveness that takes place. When two players collide in an attempt to physically dominate each other, the athlete with the edge in explosiveness has the best chance to win the confrontation. It could be a blocker vs. a tackler, a tackler vs. a ball carrier, or many other examples of winning at the point of contact.

Explosiveness is defined in the dictionary as a violent release of energy, a sudden outburst. Football is a series of explosions. How do you measure it in athletes trying to play NFL football?

Take the vertical jump, standing broad jump and the bench press test results and add them together. If the combined score is over 70 there is a reason to consider the candidate at some point in the draft process for his explosiveness.

Kirwan’s formula is flawed because it diminishes the impact of the broad jump. A superb 9-7 only achieves a 1.2 point advantage over a below par 8-5. That’s why TEF was created — to do what Kirwan intended and measure explosive traits equally and emphasise their combined importance.

I sense, based on what Kirwan wrote about, that Carroll believes in the importance of explosive traits up front. The NFL tends to agree. Increasingly we are seeing explosive testers drafted early.

Four years ago, only seven offensive linemen scored an optimal 3.00 or higher in TEF. Of the seven, Quenton Nelson and Kolton Miller were both high first round picks. Braden Smith, Connor Williams and Will Hernandez were second round picks.

In 2019, only eight players scored an optimal 3.00 or higher. This included Chris Lindstrom, Garrett Bradbury, Andre Dillard and Kaleb McGary (all drafted in round one). Erik McCoy and Elgton Jenkins were also top-50 picks.

In 2020 there were only eight ‘explosive’ testers scoring a 3.00 or higher. Tristan Wirfs, Cesar Ruiz and Austin Jackson were all first round picks. Ezra Cleveland was a second round pick and Matt Peart was taken in round three.

Last year, although there was no combine, we collected TEF data from pro-day events. Penei Sewell, Rashawn Slater, Alijah Vera-Tucker and Alex Leatherwood were all deemed to be top-level explosive testers and all went in the top-20. Teven Jenkins, Liam Eichenburg, Sam Cosmi, Dillon Radunz and Creed Humphrey were second round picks. Brady Christensen, Kendrick Green, Spencer Brown and Quinn Meinerz went in round three.

It’s not a coincidence that the most explosive offensive linemen are being drafted early. Expect that to continue.

Jumping a vertical at 320lbs is considerably more challenging than jumping a vertical at 275lbs. Thus, we created a second formula (weighted TEF or wTEF) to account for weight:

Weight x TEF x 0.1

We can give each player a score that sufficiently emphasises their unique size. For example:

Germain Ifedi — 324 x 2.97 x 0.1 = 96.1

Phil Haynes scored a 103.7 for example. For more information on weighted TEF, click here.

TEF is not an attempt to determine who is a good or bad offensive linemen. It’s merely a calculation to judge explosive traits. While that’s only one part of any evaluation — it’s clear the league pays attention to it.

For a full breakdown of the TEF calculation, click here.

Key tests
Vertical, Broad, Bench

Ideal size
6-3/6-5, 305-320lbs, +33 inch arms, +31 inch vertical, +9’ broad, +30 bench reps

Positional assessment
There are a collection of intriguing offensive tackles in this class but the depth in the interior is lacking. It will be far harder to find an immediate starter at center although the likes of Cole Strange and Cameron Jurgens offer hope. Most of the guard prospects are converted tackles. The premium nature of the tackle position plus the continuing desperate need across the NFL could mean several players really promote their stock with a good combine. If Seattle needs a tackle at #41, there’s a reasonable chance a good one will be available.

Interesting note
For a long time we’ve been discussing the league-wide problem of the athletic discrepancy between college O-lines and D-lines. At the last five combines there were a total of 116 ‘explosive’ defensive linemen (explosive = a TEF score of 3.00 or higher). In comparison, there were only 32 explosive offensive linemen. This remains a big problem for NFL teams.

The best drill to watch
The mirror drill and kick-slide. In the mirror, two linemen used to stand opposite each other, with one acting as ‘the rabbit’. He’d move around and change direction and it’s up to the participant to stick. Now they don’t use the ‘rabbit’. It’s an important test of footwork, agility, mobility, balance, control and stamina. It’s also a good gauge of pass protection skills. In the kick-slide, it speaks for itself. How well do the offensive tackles get into position, how athletic do they do it, what’s the footwork like?

Five names to watch
Guard — Evan Neal, Ikem Ekonwu, Zion Johnson, Kenyon Green, Bernhard Raimann

Center — Cameron Jurgens, Tyler Linderbaum, Cole Strange, Zach Tom, Luke Fortner

Tackle — Abraham Lucas, Rasheed Walker, Obinna Eze, Tyler Smith, Nicholas Petit-Frere

Potential standout
Evan Neal ranked #1 in Bruce Feldman’s freak list for 2021. Cameron Jurgens ran a 4.98 at SPARQ and jumped a 32 inch vertical. Abraham Lucas ran a 4.30 short shuttle at SPARQ.

Importance to the Seahawks
Duane Brown and Brandon Shell are both free agents, so tackle could be their #1 priority by draft day depending on what happens over the next few weeks. Ethan Pocic is also set to test the market. It’s clear the Seahawks need to add and/or retain players on the O-line. With a number of potentially attractive pass rushing options in free agency — they could address their defensive front with a big veteran addition (or two) and wait on the draft to bring in a new tackle. There’s a lot of work to be done up front and the trenches are key to the future success of this team.

Dameon Pierce will have a workout to remember

Running backs
The Seahawks have a type at running back. They’ve consistently drafted players with a similar physical profile. It’s made it fairly straight forward to figure out who they might like. Here are the players we identified from the 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2020 combines as probable targets:


C.J. Prosise — 6-0, 220lbs, 35.5 inch vert, 10-1 broad
Kenneth Dixon — 5-10, 215lbs, 37.5 inch vert, 10-8 broad


Christopher Carson — 6-0, 218lbs, 37 inch vert, 10-10 broad
Brian Hill — 6-0, 219lbs, 34 inch vert, 10-5 broad
Alvin Kamara — 5-10, 214lbs, 39.5 inch vert, 10-11 broad
Joe Williams — 5-11, 210lbs, 35 inch vert, 10-5 broad


Saquon Barkley — 6-0, 233lbs, 41 inch vert DNP broad
Kerryon Johnson — 511, 213lbs 40 inch vert, 10-6 broad
Bo Scarborough — 6-0, 228lbs, 40 inch vert, 10-9 broad
Nick Chubb — 5-11, 227lbs, 38.5 inch vert, 10-8 broad
John Kelly — 5-10, 216lbs, 35 inch vert, 10-0 broad
Lavon Coleman — 5-10, 223lbs, 33 inch vert, 10-0 broad
Rashaad Penny — 5-11, 220lbs, 32.5 inch vert, 10-0 broad
Royce Freeman — 5-11, 229lbs, 34 inch vert, 9-10 broad


Jonathan Taylor — 5-10, 226lbs, 36 inch vert, 10-3 broad
Cam Akers — 5-10, 217lbs, 35.5 inch vert, 10-2 broad
Deejay Dallas — 5-10, 217lbs, 33.5 inch vert, 9-11 broad
AJ Dillon — 6-0, 247lbs, 41 inch vert, 10-11 broad
Zack Moss — 5-9, 223lbs, 33 inch vert, DNP broad
James Robinson — 5-9, 219lbs, 40 inch vert, 10-5 broad
Patrick Taylor — 6-0, 217lbs, 34 inch vert, 10-3 broad

They drafted a player from each of the groups — Prosise, Carson, Penny and Dallas. They eventually added Bo Scarborough too and admitted significant interest in James Robinson as an UDFA (John Schenider recently said he was on the brink of signing with the Seahawks, before opting for Jacksonville).

In 2019 we identified Alex Barnes, Damien Harris, Alexander Mattison, LJ Scott, Miles Sanders, Dexter Williams and Tony Pollard as possible options. Running back was an unlikely target though with the depth they had at the position. With a strong emphasis on special teams improvement they selected Travis Homer in round six mainly because he was considered to be one of the top special teamer’s in the draft.

Simply put — Seattle has a type and it’s not particularly difficult to work out who could be on their radar.

Key tests
Vertical, Broad

Ideal size
5-11, 220lbs, +35 inch vertical, +10 broad

Positional assessment
There are no first round prospects this year but there’s a ton of depth. Florida’s Dameon Pierce screams ‘Seahawks’ and should have the size and explosive testing they love, not to mention the running style and physicality. There will be tremendous value between rounds 3-6 at running back and the Seahawks should look to tap into the options available.

Interesting note
The Seahawks prefer explosive traits over straight line speed. Christine Michael (4.54), C.J. Prosise (4.48), Robert Turbin (4.50) and Chris Carson (4.58) were explosive rather than fast. Rashaad Penny wasn’t quite as explosive but ran a 4.46. It’s probably not a major shift in terms of the type of player they like — rather it was an attempt to find a fast, versatile runner with size who can provide a similar option to the Seahawks that LA was getting with Todd Gurley.

The best drill to watch
The footage will be limited but absolutely it’s the coverage of the vertical and broad jump. Explosive traits are key. It’s nice to see the running backs cutting against pads while showing body control and quickness in the open field. However, explosive power and the ability to run through contact is vital at the next level.

Five names to watch
Dameon Pierce, Tyrion Davis-Price, Brian Robinson, Kenneth Walker, Breece Hall

Potential standout
It has to be Dameon Pierce. He can bench 390lbs. He runs a 4.50. He jumps a 37 inch vertical and he has just 6% body fat.

Importance to the Seahawks
Great importance. Some teams can get by with the running back (and running game) being an afterthought. It’s become increasingly clear that with the way the Seahawks operate, they need a dynamic star runner. For too long they’ve relied on the horribly injury prone Chris Carson. Rashaad Penny — if he returns — has to prove he can stay healthy too. Travis Homer and DJ Dallas are not capable starters. With Penny’s future uncertain, Carson’s injury concerns lingering and the need for an X-factor in the backfield — the Seahawks need to address this position properly. There have been too many seasons over the years where the running game has been at best inconsistent and at worst absolutely dreadful. That cannot happen again.

Groups 6-7 (DL, LB)

Arrival: Wednesday 2nd March
General medical exam: Thursday 3rd March
Media & NFLPA meeting: Friday 4th March
Measurements, bench, drills: Saturday 5th March

Boye Mafe will be a star performer at the 2022 combine

Defensive line
The Seahawks went against their established preferences when they selected L.J. Collier in the first round in 2019 and you could argue that is what cost them. A year later they drafted Darrell Taylor — a far more dynamic athlete — and they have been rewarded after a lost rookie season due to injury rehab.

For defensive ends or LEO’s they’ve sought twitchy athletes with great burst. Bruce Irvin and Cliff Avril ran 1.55 and 1.50 10-yard splits respectively. Anything in the 1.5’s is considered ‘elite’. In terms of defensive tackles or inside/out rushers, Rasheem Green, Quinton Jefferson, Jordan Hill, Jaye Howard and Malik McDowell all tested superbly in the short shuttle (4.39, 4.37, 4.51, 4.47 and 4.53 respectively). Alton Robinson also ran an excellent short shuttle (4.32).

Collier ran a 4.91 forty with a 1.75 10-yard split. He followed it up with a 4.78 short shuttle. His selection was a major outlier and his lack of success possibly means they’ll never make that mistake again.

Let’s call it the reverse Malik McDowell. He was 295lbs with great height (6-6) and length (35 inch arms) and ran a 4.85 with a 1.69 split. His three cone (4.53) was the same as Dalvin Cook’s. If they were swayed by the incredible traits on display with McDowell in 2017 — they might’ve adjusted their approach to account for character and grit a little too much. Collier’s struggles likely mean a return to coveting outstanding upside and traits.

So what should we look for? If we’re talking about a possible LEO or EDGE then you need to be keeping an eye out for the 1.50-1.59 10-yard splits. The splits are also important for inside/out rushers or interior pass rushers. Malik McDowell ran a 1.69 split at 295lbs. Rasheem Green ran a 1.65 at 275lbs.

Bruce Irvin (4.03) and Frank Clark (4.05) both ran incredible short shuttles. Cassius Marsh’s 4.25 and Obum Gwacham’s 4.28 were also really good. As noted earlier, many of their defensive tackle or inside/out rusher picks have also excelled in the short shuttle. Arm length is also important and they’ve consistently sought defensive linemen with +33 inch arms with Alton Robinson, a fourth round pick, the only notable outlier (32 3/8 inch arms).

Key tests
Vertical, Broad, Bench, Short Shuttle, Three-cone, 10-yard split (forty)

Ideal size
DL — +6-2, 300-310lbs, +33 inch arms, +31 inch vertical, +9’ broad, 4.50 ss
LEO — 6-4, 250lbs, +33 inch arms, 1.50-1.59 10-yard split

Positional assessment
This draft is overflowing with pass rushers. It’s an excellent looking class with several players destined to excel at the combine. On my horizontal board, I have 27 defensive linemen graded between rounds 1-3. If you want one, you can get one in the first two days. The Seahawks need to bolster their pass rush and it won’t be a surprise if one of their top two picks are spent on a defensive end or defensive tackle. Expect fireworks from this group in Indianapolis.

Interesting note
The Seahawks have selected a defensive lineman with one of their first two picks in six of the last seven drafts (Darrell Taylor, L.J. Collier, Rasheem Green, Malik McDowell, Jarran Reed, Frank Clark). With a strong D-line need this year, the chances are they’ll do it again in 2022.

Best drill to watch
Just absorb everything. The D-line drills are the most entertaining, most fan-friendly of all the combine events. The bag drills, the swim/rip drills, the club, the working in space. Football on a stick. It’s a real show of the most explosive athletes in college football competing in one venue.

Five names to watch
DT — Jordan Davis, Devante Wyatt, Travis Jones, Perrion Winfrey, Matthew Butler

EDGE — Boye Mafe, Myjai Sanders, Sam Williams, Dominique Robinson, Arnold Ebiketie

Inside/out — Josh Paschal, Logan Hall, DeMarvin Leal, Zach Carter, Dante Stills

Potential standout
Jordan Davis is going to shock everyone with the way he performs at 340lbs. His agility, quickness and mobility at that size has to be seen to be believed. His team mate Devante Wyatt is also expected to run in the 4.8’s. Boye Mafe has jumped 40.5 inches in the vertical and 10-6 in the broad, plus he can run in the 4.5’s. Josh Paschal jumped a 39 inch vertical at SPARQ and ran a 4.30 short shuttle at 253lbs.

Importance to the Seahawks?
Massively so. It’s their biggest off-season need, depending on what happens at offensive tackle. Pete Carroll has already publicly identified improving the pass rush as the key priority. This draft class aligns with that need.

Channing Tindall once referred to himself as a ‘freak of nature’

The Seahawks tend to look for two types of player at linebacker — freakish athletes and players with great short-area quickness and agility.

Kevin Pierre-Louis, Korey Toomer, Malcolm Smith and Eric Pinkins all ran between a 4.44 and a 4.51 in the forty. Shaquem Griffin topped the lot with a 4.38. Pierre-Louis, Smith and Pinkins all jumped +39 inches in the vertical. Bobby Wagner was a 4.4 runner at his pro-day with a 39.5-inch vertical. Of the five players they’ve drafted with a +140 SPARQ score, Wagner, Pierre-Louis and Bruce Irvin are included. Jordyn Brooks was described as being a great tester in terms of speed and agility — although he was unable to do much testing at his combine due to injury.

They’ve also targeted players who performed especially strongly in the short shuttle. Here are the top-15 short shuttle times run by a linebacker since 2010:

Jordan Tripp — 3.96
Nick Bellore — 4.00

Ben Heeney — 4.00
Mike Mohamed — 4.00
Nick Vigil — 4.00
Kevin Pierre-Louis — 4.02
Stephone Anthony — 4.03
Cody Barton — 4.03
Dakota Allen — 4.03
Von Miller — 4.06
Josh Hull — 4.07
Dorian O’Daniel — 4.07
Avery Williamson — 4.07
Shaq Thompson — 4.08
Ben Burr-Kirven — 4.09

The players in bold have been either drafted or signed by the Seahawks during the Pete Carroll era. A third of the players.

Admittedly, Nick Bellore was signed as a full back. Even so, this isn’t a coincidence. It’s something I wrote about originally five years ago.

If there’s a linebacker who runs a great short shuttle, there’s a decent chance he will be on Seattle’s radar.

Key tests
Forty yard dash, short shuttle, vertical, broad, three cone

Ideal size
+6-0, 230-240lbs, 4.4-4.5 forty, 6.70 three-cone, +10’ broad, 4.00-4.35 short shuttle

Positional assessment
This is an incredibly deep draft at linebacker. As with other positions, there’s no Devin White-type who goes in the top-10. However, I have nine linebackers graded in rounds 2-3 with another seven listed in round four. Several of the players are expected to test superbly, such as Channing Tindall at Georgia and Leo Chenal of Wisconsin. As with the defensive linemen, this could be quite a show. If the Seahawks want a more aggressive front-seven in 2022, this is the draft to make it happen.

Interesting note
For years the Seahawks had Bobby Wagner and KJ Wright take virtually all of the defensive snaps. Wagner tallied 99.35% of the snaps in 2016, 93.08% in 2017, 93.34% in 2018, 98.32% in 2019 and 99.13% in 2020. Last season, he played 89.1%. Jordyn Brooks played 87.4%. I’m not sure this is indicative of anything but neither linebacker had the same workload in 2021 as the peak Wagner/Wright years.

Best drill to watch
Due to the importance of the short shuttle — look how the players work in space, backpedal and read/react. Quickness and change of direction is vital at linebacker.

Five names to watch
Channing Tindall, Leo Chenal, Quay Walker, Brian Asamoah, Damone Clark

Potential standout
Channing Tindall once told a press conference he’s a ‘freak of nature’. He ran a 4.19 short shuttle at SPARQ and jumped a 40 inch vertical. Keep an eye on Leo Chenal too — he’s said to have managed a 4.00 short shuttle.

Importance to the Seahawks?
They have a decision to make on Bobby Wagner. They can’t justify his $20.35m cap hit this year. They save $16.6m by cutting him. The right thing to do is to release him, let him test the market and have a conversation before he makes a final decision on his next move. If you move on — so be it. He played with hesitancy in 2021, didn’t make anywhere near enough impact plays and increasingly appears to be avoiding contact. I would prefer to save $16.6m, spend that money in the trenches and then draft a young, aggressive linebacker from this impressive draft crop and let them compete with Cody Barton and Ben Burr-Kirven.

Groups 8-10 (DB)

Arrival: Thursday 3rd March
General medical exam: Friday 4th March
Media & NFLPA meeting: Saturday 5th March
Measurements, bench, drills: Sunday 6th March

Tariq Woolen will run and jump better than anyone else in Indianapolis

For years everyone knew what the Seahawks liked in a corner. You had to have 32 inch arms. That changed a year ago, when Seattle drafted Tre Brown in round four. He was small (5-10, 186lbs) and had 30 3/8 inch arms. Carroll and Schneider talked about changing their approach following the success of D.J. Reed (another shorter corner lacking the typical arm length).

Reed continued to prosper in 2021 and Brown, before his injury, was viewed as a potential long-term starter.

The Seahawks still likely prefer tall, long cornerbacks. However, it’s clearly not a deal breaker any more. With Clint Hurtt also talking about the introduction of more man-coverage this year — that might be the key regarding any potential draft pick. How are your skills in man-coverage might be the bigger question rather than ‘how long are your arms?’.

Thus, speed could be vital here. Slower cornerbacks are better suited to zone, quicker cornerbacks are typically targeted to play man. You’re often facing 1v1 challenges where you have to sprint great distances, matching the receiver. You need good recovery speed. Size isn’t as important and physicality is just a bonus. I suspect, however, the Seahawks will still seek a physical edge at the position (as they did with Brown).

Keep a closer eye on the forty yard dash this year and which cornerbacks have fluidity, suddenness, smooth hips and an ability to change direction easily during drills.

It is worth stressing that the Brown pick was another day three selection at cornerback. Carroll still hasn’t taken a corner any higher than the very end of round three (Shaquill Griffin). So his/their approach in terms of physical profile might be adapting but there’s no evidence they’re more likely to draft a cornerback any earlier.

The short shuttle is again important at cornerback. In a now deleted visual demonstration of the drill, Mike Mayock explains why it’s so vital:

“It’s important for literally every position. Why? For the little guys it’s obvious. Quickness, acceleration, change of direction. How about the big guys? Can they bend? Are you a natural bender or are you a heavy-legged waist bender? A great time for a defensive back is a 4.2.”

If a great time for a cornerback is a 4.2, it’s fair to assume anything quicker than a 4.00 is exceptional.

Since 2010, only five CB’s have run a sub-4.00 short shuttle and measured with 32 inch arms:

2021 – No combine
2020 – No qualifiers
2019 – No qualifiers
2018 — Jordan Thomas (3.94)
2017 — Kevin King (3.89)
2016 — DeAndre Elliott (3.94)
2015 — Byron Jones (3.94), Tye Smith (3.96)
2010-2014 — No qualifiers

The Seahawks drafted Smith and signed Elliott. Short-area quickness and great length is a rare combination so any possible day three prospects with these physical traits will likely be on the radar.

Here are the known short shuttle times for drafted/UDFA cornerbacks in Seattle:

DeAndre Elliott — 3.94
Tye Smith — 3.96
Jeremy Lane — 4.14
Shaquill Griffin — 4.14
Deshawn Shead — 4.23
Brandon Browner — 4.24
Richard Sherman — 4.29
Tharold Simon — 4.31
Byron Maxwell — 4.49
Tre Flowers — 4.34
Tre Brown — 4.27

What about the nickel corner position? Justin Coleman was their last truly successful nickel. He was only 5-11 and 185lbs at his combine with 31 1/4 inch arms. He did, however, run a blistering short shuttle (3.98) and jumped a 37.5 inch vertical. It’s worth considering highly athletic nickel corner candidates, especially with Marquise Blair’s injury history and Ugo Amadi’s poor 2021 season.

Key tests
Short shuttle, vertical, forty

Ideal size
+5-10, 195lbs, +32-inch arms, 4.40 forty, +35-inch vertical

Positional assessment
There are some excellent cornerbacks in this draft and with the growing desperate need at the position, several could go in the top-20. Derek Stingley, Sauce Gardner, Kyler Gordon, Trent McDuffie and Tariq Woolen could all be early picks — with a handful of others close behind. Stingley, Gordon, McDuffie and Woolen could blow the roof off in Indianapolis with their testing numbers. This could be a superstar workout day. I have 13 cornerbacks graded between rounds 1-3. There are plenty of very attractive options here and the Seahawks — with two early fourth round picks — should be able to find a corner they like.

Interesting note
Despite being lauded for their ability to draft and develop cornerbacks in the early Carroll era — the Seahawks have surprisingly only drafted one in the last four drafts. They converted Tre Flowers from safety and have used Amadi as a nickel. They’ve also struggled at the position. So none of this makes sense. In fairness — they showed something of a return to form in 2021. Reed and Sidney Jones performed well and a collection of no-name backups filled in admirably. It’s encouraging.

Best drill to watch
The backpedal drill. Watch to see how the cornerback transitions and whether it’s effortless. Do they have loose hips and do they explode out of their break? Is their footwork smooth or clunky? Are they laboured in any way or does it just look natural?

Five names to watch
Tariq Woolen, Kyler Gordon, Montaric Brown, Josh Williams, Akayleb Evans

Potential standout
Tariq Woolen could run in the 4.2’s. He’ll also excel in the jumps. Derek Stingley could’ve beaten him though as a former 142.74 SPARQ leader but it was revealed today he won’t compete at the combine as he continues to recover from a Lisfranc injury. Kyler Gordon could also make waves — he’s capable of a 42.5 vertical and has clocked a stunning 3.87 short shuttle at Washington.

Importance to the Seahawks?
It depends what happens in free agency. At the moment, Tre Brown is the only contracted cornerback on the roster and he’s recovering from a serious injury. If they re-sign Reed and Jones and retain ERFA’s John Reid and Gavin Heslop they boost their numbers. Richard Sherman also linked them to man-coverage dynamo Stephon Gilmore last week. They need to do something here, that’s for sure.

Daxton Hill is a former SPARQ star and top HS recruit

After hitting on Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor in 2010, Seattle hasn’t had much success at the safety position. Ryan Murphy, Winston Guy, Mark LeGree, Tedric Thompson and Delano Hill have come and gone. Marquise Blair has had injury issues throughout his NFL career. The less said about the Jamal Adams trade the better.

Thankfully, the Quandre Diggs trade worked out.

There’s a real mix of physical profiles in the players they’ve taken, making it a difficult position to project. Murphy ran a 4.48 at his pro-day with an impressive 39-inch vertical and Blair ran a 4.48 with a 35-inch vertical but Legree (4.59) and Guy (4.70) didn’t run fast times (Legree only had a 31-inch vertical too). Hill ran a 4.47 but Thompson managed only a 4.60.

Diggs has 29 5/8 inch arms and ran a 4.56. Adams also ran a 4.56 but excelled in the short shuttle (4.13) and had +33 inch arms.

Overall it’s hard to describe a Seahawks ‘type’. The only safety they’ve drafted in the first round (Earl Thomas) was a tremendous athlete. He ran a 4.37 at his pro-day after pulling a hamstring running the forty at the combine (while still managing an official 4.49). Blair, their next highest pick at the position, was also athletic and hit like a sledgehammer.

Of all the positions, this might be the one without a clear established physical ideal. It could be the position where scouting or attitude influences things the most.

Key drills
Forty yard dash, Three-cone, Vertical, Broad

Ideal size
+6-0, 200-220lbs, 4.4 forty, +39-inch vertical, +10-5 broad jump

Positional assessment
It’s top-heavy. Kyle Hamilton will be a top-10 pick as a rangy, tall field-general. Daxton Hill is expected to be a top-tester and could end up with first round grades. I think Jaquan Brisker is a bit overrated but he too is expected to test well. There are a cluster of players I really like — the rangy Kerby Joseph, the physical Lewis Cine, the all-round qualities of Bryan Cook and Nick Cross. Others prefer Jalen Pitre. After those names — the position falls off a cliff.

Interesting note
Both Earl Thomas and Tedric Thompson had a lot of interceptions in their final college seasons and both were drafted to play free safety. Thomas had eight picks for Texas in 2009, Thompson had seven for Colorado in 2016. Looking at this draft class, Verone McKinley III had six interceptions in 2021 and Kerby Joseph had five. Montaric Brown, who I really like at cornerback, also had five. Some have suggested he transition to safety (I’d keep him outside).

Best drill to watch
Any of the drills requiring the safety’s to close in space and show off their open-field quickness and range.

Five names to watch
Daxton Hill, Kerby Joseph, Lewis Cine, Bryan Cook, Nick Cross

Potential standout
Don’t be surprised if Daxton Hill tests so well that people discuss a switch to cornerback. At SPARQ he ran a 4.30 forty, a 4.13 short shuttle, jumped a 44-inch vertical and finished with an overall score of 143.76. He could be the star of the whole event this year.

Importance to the Seahawks?
The Seahawks have pumped resource into this position and it hasn’t worked. It’s time to shift money and investment from safety and linebacker into the trenches. They need to be prepared to move on from Quandre Diggs if he’s too expensive, having already spent (wasted?) $17.5m a year and a kings ransom of picks on Jamal Adams. Draft a cheaper replacement or sign a cheaper veteran unless the market comes to you. Diggs is good but he’s not ‘great’.

Assessing 2020’s ‘names to watch’

Typically I like to look back on the previous year and check back on the names we highlighted. However, with no combine a year ago, we’re left to reflect on the 2020 draft.

Here’s the first name I listed for every position group:

Hunter Bryant (TE) — He ran a 7.08 three cone and a 4.46 short shuttle so performed well. Injuries impacted his stock, though, and he ultimately went undrafted.

Justin Herbert (QB) — He showed off his extreme physical talent at the combine and has since proven to be one of the NFL’s blossoming stars.

Brandon Aiyuk (WR) — He only ran a 4.50 forty but added a 40 inch vertical. The 49ers traded up to select Aiyuk with the #25 overall pick.

Damien Lewis (G) — A blog favourite who had a reasonably explosive testing performance and was drafted by Seattle in round three.

Cesar Ruiz (C) — A brilliant testing performance secured a first round placing. It was a surprise New Orleans took him at #24 having already drafted Erik McCoy the year before and Ruiz has struggled after switching to guard. He needs a fresh start (nudge nudge Seattle).

Isaiah Wilson (T) — Character issues ruined his career before it even began. What a waste. He was taken in round one after a strong combine.

Jonathan Taylor (RB) — He ran a 4.39 forty, jumped a 36 inch vertical and had the perfect running back frame. He was taken with the 41st pick by Indianapolis and has become a star.

Raekwon Davis (DT) — He had a Calais Campbell frame but he had middling testing results including a 28 inch vertical. He was the #56 pick, taken by Miami, and had a 36.5 PFF grade in 2021.

Julian Okwara (DE) — He didn’t do any testing during the pre-draft process and fell to round three. He’s suffered injuries with Detroit but had five sacks in 13 games in 2021.

Willie Gay Jr (LB) — He ran a brilliant 4.46 at 243lbs, jumped a 39.5 inch vertical and an 11-4 broad. He also ran a 4.30 short shuttle. Terrific performance, helping to secure a spot in round two. Jordyn Brooks was third on my list.

Trevon Diggs (CB) — He always had the talent but fell to round two after an indifferent final season in Alabama. Diggs also didn’t test pre-combine. He was taken with the 51st pick and has 14 interceptions in two years for Dallas.

Grant Delpit (S) — Early in his career, Delpit looked like the next superstar safety at LSU. For some reason it has never happened. He dropped to round two and hasn’t really impacted the NFL.

The week ahead

Throughout the combine I’ll be producing a live blog as events unfold, followed by a reflective piece at the end of each day. I’ll also be delivering regular live streams to offer thoughts and observations. My podcast partner Robbie Williams is attending the combine and will also provide his own reaction from Lucas Oil Field.

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New live stream — Seahawks free agency & more

Today I was joined by Robbie Williams & Adam Nathan to discuss all the big topics surrounding the Seahawks, free agency and more. Watch the video below.

I’ve posted a number of new articles this week — be sure to check them all out and let me know your thoughts in the comments section.

Danielle Hunter, cap casualty targets & extending Russell Wilson

Danielle Hunter could be cut by the Vikings

Danielle Hunter could be in play for Seattle

The Seahawks have suggested in the media that they intend to add to their pass rush, perhaps in a more aggressive way than they have over the last few years.

One player not currently available, who could be, is Minnesota’s Danielle Hunter.

Per the terms of his contract, Hunter is due an $18m roster bonus on March 20th.

With the Vikings currently $20m over the cap, they need to make a significant saving somewhere.

Hunter’s cap hit in 2022 is an enormous $26.1m. It’s highly unlikely they will commit to paying him the bonus or retaining the cap hit. Cutting him over the next month is plausible because they would save $14.6m.

Either way, something’s definitely going to happen. A cut, a trade, a restructure or an extension.

He could be appealing to Seattle. He’s 28 this year, so not too old. He had a PFF grade of 80.8 in 2021 and had six sacks in seven games.

The problem is, those seven games are the only times he’s featured in the last two years. Durability is a concern — especially if you end up needing to pay him a fortune.

He is a name to monitor, though. Reports in Minnesota have suggested a cap-lowering extension is an option and Ed Donatell has already talked up Hunter’s fit in his defensive scheme.

They need to save money somehow, though. Hunter might be a cap casualty and a potential target for Seattle.

Other potential cap casualties or trade targets

A year ago Seattle traded for Gabe Jackson to avoid him being cut and entering the open market. This year, there are some potential options again.

The Bills are currently $9m over the cap. They can save $7.5m by cutting center Mitch Morse, or $8.5m by trading him. He’s approaching 30 — not too old — but only had a 63.4 PFF grade in 2021. Even so, he’s the kind of experienced center Seattle has been missing since Max Unger.

His base salary is just $6.9m so it would be a cost effective trade for Seattle. You could even sign him to an extension (he has one year left on his deal) to lower that cap hit further.

Eddie Goldman has familiarity with Sean Desai in Chicago. Once a highly rated defensive tackle, his form has dipped significantly. In 2021 he received a horrendous 39.8 PFF grade. Is it the beginning of the end or just a blip? Desai will know.

Goldman has only just turned 28. His trade value will be paltry but his base salaries of $8.8m and $8.3m for the next two years are tolerable if you still believe he’s capable of his best form.

The Packers would clearly like to keep Za’Darius Smith but they’re $42m over the cap and scrambling around to manipulate contracts for Kenny Clark and Aaron Jones to have any shot of retaining Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams.

Smith has a $27m cap hit and would save $15m if he’s cut or dealt. With only one-year left on his contract, he could also be extended.

His base salary is just $14.5m so a trade wouldn’t be costly. It’d be a one-year rental. He missed most of last season through injury but remains productive and he’s not too old at 29.

Frank Clark seems like an inevitable cut for the Chiefs. They have just $8m to play with and now have to contend with the increasing cost of Patrick Mahomes over the coming years.

Clark’s cap hit of $26m is unsustainable and cutting him saves $13.4m. He’s practically un-tradable due to his base salary rates of $19m and $20m for the next two seasons. Nobody is going to commit to that.

His PFF grade was just 54.3 in 2021 and he’s approaching 29-years-old. If he is cut — the Seahawks could do a lot worse than bring him back to Seattle, given he’s unlikely to break the bank.

Richard Sherman, NFL insider

According to Sherman on his podcast, he expects Stephon Gilmore to sign with the Seahawks or 49ers in free agency. I’m not sure if this was a sourced report or an opinion but it’s interesting.

He turns 32 in September so he’s not a long-term fix. However, after being dealt to Carolina, he still earned a PFF grade of 77.1.

In his best season (2019) he was hailed for the way he played in man coverage — something Clint Hurtt has already talked about playing more of this season.

Whether it’s to replace D.J. Reed or slot in across from him — Gilmore would be an ideal fit. It’s also possible, given his age, he might be available at a reasonable cost for a year or two.

If the Seahawks are serious about being aggressive — adding a top pass rusher and Gilmore at cornerback would be a real statement.

Time to s**t or get off the pot with Russell Wilson

The last few days have been interesting.

As we approach the combine, it feels like things are starting to ramp up. Aaron Rodgers’ decision is forthcoming. That is the first domino to fall of the NFL off-season.

What happens after that is highly unpredictable. With so many teams primed to try and mimic the Rams by acquiring a veteran quarterback — and with a bad QB draft class — this could be quite a dramatic couple of weeks.

However, the situation with Russell Wilson is positively tame at the moment.

Think back a year ago. Brandon Marshall was talking about Wilson being done in Seattle. Colin Cowherd was voicing similar things. There was the Adam Schefter tweet about the four trade destinations. The story was alive and dominating the news cycle.

It’s a huge contrast to this year.

Cowherd predicted this week Wilson will play for Seattle in 2021. Ian Rapoport told Pat McAfee today the straight forward message that without a replacement, he can’t see Seattle trading him.

Let’s go back to Cowherd. If he’s predicting Wilson stays — you can pretty much take that to the bank. He’s clearly connected to the Wilson camp. If that’s what he’s hearing, that’s what is happening in all honesty.

I suspect it’s what we’ve been saying for weeks. Carroll is 70, he’s under pressure to win now due to his age and job security after last season. There’s no obvious replacement out there. If left up to John Schneider, he might embrace a rebuild. That clearly isn’t Carroll’s mindset.

Whether the Seahawks should be letting a 70-year-old dictate their long-term vision is a question worth asking. Yet ultimately, it appears that’s the case.

Thus — there’s no point Wilson kicking up a fuss. He’ll simply make a lot of negative headlines, spoil his reputation in Seattle and for what? To return in training camp with his tail between his legs?

A lot of people take comfort in Wilson’s couched language in interviews which are a mix of ‘hoping’ to be in Seattle, expressing some interest in staying but also keeping his options open. The truth is if he was 100% bought-in and happy he’d say he is definitely staying and that’s that. He has a no-trade clause. He dictates whether he stays or goes. There’s no ‘hope’ needed.

It seems obvious to me Wilson is open to a change of scenery. You’d have to be naive to think otherwise after the last 12 months.

But if he can’t make it happen without forcing the hand of the Seahawks and making an aggressive trade request — then he has no choice but to stay.

Wilson is very image conscious. I get the sense if he leaves, he wants it to be a Matt Stafford-style departure where everyone parts as friends and Seattle continues to root from him from afar. Those situations are incredibly rare.

I’ll maintain that the only thing that I think changes this situation now is a bad free agency for Seattle. If they swing and miss in the first week of the market opening, he might decide it’s time to act. Public opinion could be sympathetic to Wilson if the Seahawks fudge this. He won’t want to waste another season.

And frankly — if they miss out on top pass rushers, suddenly a deal that presents (for example) a ton of picks and Chase Young might seem more attractive.

So basically — have a positive free agency. That’s the key. We should all hope Seattle is active for once. The consequences could be severe if not.

I’ll finish with this though. A year ago I said the Seahawks should trade him or extend him. One way or another, this drama could hang over the franchise like a dark cloud.

They tried to brush it off, embarrassingly, as a ‘media creation’ and simply insulted everyone’s intelligence. The situation has lingered and it isn’t healthy. It could easily impact Seattle’s pulling power in free agency if the situation isn’t properly resolved.

The one way to do that is to sign Wilson to a new deal in the next two weeks. That ends this, once and for all. It can also give you a chance to lower his cap hit this year and create extra money to stack the roster.

Putting your fingers in your ears and blaming the media isn’t the answer.

Trade him or extend him.

Commit to each other and make it happen. Or part ways.

From the quarterback — either be prepared to negotiate and commit, or just get on with it and request the trade.

Resolve the saga, once and for all.

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Looking at options based on Zierlein & Pauline’s grades

This could be the most unpredictable draft in years

Opinions were always going to be all over the place with this draft class.

With so few legit top-10 picks and a significant amount of depth in the middle rounds, a variety of views was to be expected.

I never expected it to be this varied, though.

For example, I think Abraham Lucas is a top-15 talent. He has a fantastic, ideal tackle frame. He ran a 4.30 short shuttle and a 5.03 forty at SPARQ, speaking to his agility and athleticism. He has good tape against players like Kayvon Thibodeaux. He had a couple of iffy reps at the Senior Bowl but for the most part excelled greatly.

Yet if you look at various ‘big boards’ he’s often graded in the third or fourth round, if not later.

I asked Jim Nagy, another Lucas admirer, why this was:

I agree with Jim. The lack of buzz doesn’t make sense. Particularly when I keep seeing this quarterback class being graded — not mocked, graded — in the top-40.

I’ve put together my own ‘horizontal board’ and I’ll keep adding to it and tweaking it as we go along. By the combine I’ll add an ‘undrafted’ range and will look to reduce it down to about 100-120 viable, draftable prospects for the Seahawks.

Here is the latest update (click on the image to enlarge):

Based on this board, a lot of players I really like won’t be there for Seattle at #41. Yet obviously just because I project a player in a certain range, doesn’t mean they’ll go that high.

I don’t want to eliminate players from the conversation for Seattle, purely because of my own personal opinions.

For that reason, I had a look at two other boards of people whose opinions I greatly respect. I might not agree with every projection Lance Zierlein and Tony Pauline make. I do know, however, that they put in the work.

Lance’s collection of draft profiles is an annual tour de force. Tony constantly offers year-round opinions and grades and begins watching tape again almost immediately after a draft concludes.

Neither gets enough respect or attention for that. There are a lot of ‘blaggers’ in the media pontificating about the draft who get a lot more focus.

Lance posted his exhaustive list of profiles this week (click here). I wanted to look at players he has graded within range of Seattle’s first four picks. The results were very interesting.

I limited this review to players graded within five slots of where Seattle picks. So for pick #41, I looked at the range of #36-65. For pick #71 I looked at #66-101.

Here are some of the players Lance ranked within range for Seattle’s top pick, suggesting they would be good value at #41:

Trey McBride (TE)
Joshua Paschal (DE)
Daxton Hill (S)
Dameon Pierce (RB)
Sam Williams (DE)
Travon Walker (DE)
Travis Jones (DT)
Tyler Smith (T)
Channing Tindall (LB)
Jeremy Rucker (TE)
Quay Walker (LB)
Cole Strange (C)

This list intrigued me because it aligned with a lot of the players we’ve talked up. Yet it also presented prospects I’ve assumed would be gone — such as McBride, Hill or Quay Walker.

At pick #72, the options on Lance’s board were even more eye-catching:

DeMarvin Leal (DE/DT)
Nicholas Petit-Frere (T)
Lewis Cine (S)
DeAngelo Malone (DE)
Logan Hall (DE/DT)
Max Mitchell (T)
Matthew Butler (DT)
Greg Dulcich (TE)
Perrion Winfrey (DT)

A lot of these players — Leal, Petit-Frere, Cine, Hall, Dulcich, Winfrey — I’d happily consider at #41. I’ve not had a chance to discuss Matthew Butler yet but I watched him this week and was extremely intrigued by his athleticism, upside and ability as an impactful interior lineman.

The intrigue continues into Seattle’s two picks in round four (#107, #114):

Myjai Sanders (DE)
Jalen Wydermyer (TE)
Drake Jackson (DE)
Tariq Woolen (CB)
Chad Muma (LB)
Abraham Lucas (T)
Montaric Brown (CB)
Obinna Eze (T)
Rasheed Walker (T)
Kerby Joseph (S)

I could’ve added more names but felt this was enough. Players, again, who I’d consider at #41 — available two rounds later.

Based solely on Lance’s rankings, you could draft Channing Tindall, Perrion Winfrey, Abraham Lucas and Jalen Wydermyer.

I’ve said a few times that I really like this draft class. This is why. I might be right about some players being very underrated but I’ll be wrong about others. At the end of the day, Seattle has four picks between rounds 2-4 and a huge opportunity to draft a quartet who can be part of a younger foundation moving forward.

Now let’s do the same exercise with Tony’s board.

With the top pick at #41, he has the following players graded in range:

Iken Ekonwu (G)
Rasheed Walker (T)
DeMarvin Leal (DE/DT)
Myjai Sanders (DE)
Brian Asamoah (LB)
Jeremy Rucket (TE)
Leo Chenal (LB)
Sam Williams (DE)
Daxton Hill (S)
Devonte Wyatt (DT)

Again, there are a whole host of players here we’ve written off as ‘out of reach’. Tony currently has Wyatt graded at #63 overall. I know he updated his board recently but I’m not sure if this was pre or post Senior Bowl. He would be fantastic for Seattle.

It’s also interesting that both Lance and Tony grade a player like Sam Williams in round two (as do I) yet he receives almost no national buzz.

Here are the options at #72:

Perrion Winfrey (DT)
Abraham Lucas (T)
Greg Dulcich (TE)
Drake Jackson (DE)
Trey McBride (TE)
Bryan Cook (S)
Trent McDuffie (CB)
Jake Ferguson (TE)
Lewis Cine (CB)
Kyler Gordon (CB)

The two Washington cornerbacks, often mocked in round one, would both be available on Tony’s board in round three. As would a whole host of players I’ve assumed would be long gone.

Now for the picks at #107 and #114:

Quay Walker (LB)
Tariq Woolen (CB)
Cam Taylor-Britt (CB)
Boye Mafe (DE)
DeAngelo Malone (DE)
Kerby Joseph (S)
Bernhard Raimann (T)
Chad Muma (LB)
Cameron Jurgens (C)
Montaric Brown (CB)

Another strong list of players, four of which I’ve been mocking in round one.

The combine next week will provide some clarity. I’ve been saying since September that I think the combine, this year, is going to be more important than ever. Players have an opportunity to propel themselves up boards with a good testing performance — because of the close proximity of grades and a lack of clear ‘blue chip’ players. I’ll be posting my extensive combine preview in the next few days.

The 2022 draft is going to be highly unpredictable. I know who I like and I have my own opinions. I suspect, though, that players I’ve more or less written off as potential targets could be attainable. And that’s exciting.

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Leo Chenal is an aggressive, attack-minded linebacker

Before getting into today’s piece on Leo Chenal, if you missed it earlier — check out my conversation with the brilliant Rob ‘Stats’ Guerrera, discussing plenty of Seahawks, 49ers and NFL topics. It’s well worth a listen…

Trying to determine fit, potential and value is challenging with some players.

Wisconsin linebacker Leo Chenal is a classic example.

He wasn’t asked to do much more in college than chase downfield and attack. He was a force of nature as a blitzer. Equally, he works through traffic with ease and explodes to the ball carrier.

Listed at 6-2 and 261lbs — Chenal is one of the most aggressive, physical and impactful players in this class. He is surprisingly elusive considering his size, enabling him to avoid blocks and keep himself clean. From there, he’s always thinking ‘attack, attack, attack’.

Punishing hits. TFL’s galore. Sacks. Any team wishing to play downfield and moving forwards on defense (ahem) is going to love Chenal.

How does this translate, though, outside of the more blitz-happy schemes?

According to PFF, Chenal had just one interception and one pass break-up in three years at Wisconsin. Compare that to the 18.5 TFL’s and eight sacks he had in 2021 alone and you get a good idea of the type of player he is.

Is it a scheme thing? Wisconsin seemed to just ask him to read and react. Watch the QB. Watch the runners. There was a lot of freedom for Chenal to play what he sees. On tape, you just see him attacking the LOS time and time again. I can’t recall seeing a linebacker used this aggressively before. He rarely dropped and sat in coverage. It was always forward motion — attacking a gap or absorbing a block as he blitzed away.

The thing is, he’s really good at it. He’s a forceful, physical player. He delivered jolting hits to running backs. He would blow up plays in the backfield and shut-down short yardage situations. Opponents surely knew what to expect and yet he still made plays.

At the next level I’m not sure he can do this. He’s not Micah Parsons, moving to the edge and taking some rush snaps. He’s a pure blitzing linebacker. I sense most teams will attack his area of the field if he plays this aggressively in the NFL. I wouldn’t want to see a team isolate him with, say, George Kittle and force him into coverage.

I also think, though, that a creative defense that keeps an extra defensive back on the field can cover for his aggression — enabling him to be an extra rusher more often than not. It would be interesting to see, for example, Seattle use him and Jamal Adams to disguise which blitzer attacks. If the Seahawks really want to be ‘moving forward’ on defense this year — taking some more risks with players like Chenal and Adams would be a way to do it.

When he attacks linemen he shoves them backwards and impacts plays. He is a tone-setter and physical phenom. Personally I just love the idea of a bigger linebacker with his attitude and aggressive nature who still has the athleticism to avoid contact and work well in space.

And this is why I think the Seahawks might have some interest.

When I publish my combine preview next week, we’ll run through in detail what the Seahawks look for at every position. At linebacker, they’ve often sought high-end athleticism and agility.

It’s said that Chenal has been timed running a 4.00 short shuttle.

The Seahawks made a point of drafting Cody Barton and Ben Burr-Kirven due to their agility testing. Barton ran a 4.03 and BBK a 4.09. They were both among the top-15 combine testers at linebacker since 2010.

Jordan Tapp, who ran a 3.96 (the fastest time) also landed in Seattle. As did Kevin Pierre-Louis (4.03), Bruce Irvin (4.03) and Nick Bellore (4.00).

Linebackers who run freaky short shuttle times often are targeted by Seattle.

Regardless of what he shows on tape, it’s possible the Seahawks see major potential and fit within Chenal due to this agility testing. Reportedly he’s also capable of a 10-1 broad jump and he’s been recorded running at 20.95mph on the GPS. He benches 420 and cleans 385. This is the kind of profile Seattle typically drafts.

It’s unusual for Wisconsin players to declare early with minimal buzz, yet that is the decision Chenal came to after careful consideration. That suggests the league views him differently compared to the media.

Frankly I’d be completely happy with the Seahawks drafting him. I’ve given him a second round grade going into the combine. The idea of having an impactful, TFL machine at linebacker who plays downfield and offers aggression, intensity and bad intentions is what this team needs. I think the Seahawks have become too soft and easy to play against on defense. They need to be more physical and aggressive.

If that means taking a few more risks, so be it.

Chenal, for me, can be a Demario Davis type impact player. Davis had 13 TFL’s in 16 games in 2021, among the league leaders. Matt Milano in Buffalo had 15. Roquan Smith had 12 playing in Sean Desai’s defense. Nick Bolton had 11 for the Chiefs.

Jordyn Brooks had 10 for Seattle in 2021. Pretty good.

Do you know how many Bobby Wagner had?


Three TFL’s.

This is why there’s no room for sentimentality. As mentioned in the stream with Rob Guerrera, you need to be prepared to move on when the time comes. That time has come with Bobby Wagner.

There are some excellent linebackers in this draft who can create a potentially devastating, aggressive dup paired next to Jordyn Brooks at a fraction of the cost of Wagner.

When I think of Darrell Taylor in a front seven with Brooks, Chenal and potentially Chandler Jones — that, to me, is a scary prospect for opponents in 2022.

Retaining the increasingly hesitant (and expensive) Wagner and not having someone like Jones is a recipe for the same passive defense, struggling to impact quarterbacks.

Chenal, if he tests as expected, could and should be a day two consideration for the Seahawks.

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All signs point to Chandler Jones being a Seahawks target

When the season ended, Pete Carroll made it clear what the priority was.

They had to improve their pass rush.

Clint Hurtt took it to another level, recently revealing in a radio interview that adding a game-wrecking edge rusher was necessary.

Then there was Jake Heaps, revealing on 710 ESPN that the Seahawks landed Sean Desai by reassuring him over personnel additions.

On top of this, there’s plenty of talk about a more aggressive defense next season. Not to mention increasing pressure to win now for various reasons, including Carroll’s age and a hotter than usual seat after a 7-10 season.

In the past the Seahawks have been able to trust in their process because they were making the playoffs. After all, it’s easy to have an ‘ah shucks’ attitude about the loss to the Rams a year ago that ended the 2021 season. It was the wrong thing to do, because clearly there were bigger issues building (as we came to find out). Yet the fact the Seahawks were 12-4 in the regular season was a useful counter.

There’s no such security blanket now. Another year like 2021 and Carroll probably won’t get another off-season.

It all points towards a different, less conservative approach to team building.

I suspect Chandler Jones will be the target when free agency begins.

He’s a good fit for the Vic Fangio scheme, which the Seahawks are leaning towards. He has a proven track record as a top-tier pass rusher. At his best he’s a game-wrecker. He’d be an excellent complement to Darrell Taylor and Carlos Dunlap.

This would be the big splash move to galvanise fans and — just as importantly — the franchise quarterback.

The key question is — are the Seahawks willing to do what it takes?

A year ago they dipped their toe in the water with the likes of Joe Thuney and Kevin Zeitler, before settling on Gabe Jackson (trading for him just as he was about to be cut by the Raiders).

In 2020 they talked about retaining Jadeveon Clowney as a ‘priority’ — only to fail to meet his demands and be left pivoting to Benson Mayowa and Bruce Irvin.

Can the Seahawks deliver a top free agent? Are they prepared to go out of their comfort zone and take a risk?

Or will they once again stick to their principles, miss out and be left searching in the bargain bin?

For me — this is the key question of the off-season. Not Russell Wilson’s future. Because if the Seahawks make a statement early in free agency, Wilson’s future will be a moot point.

Take a chance. Spend the money to land someone like Jones. Structure the deal with a low year-one cap hit — just as the Rams did with Leonard Floyd, the Bears did with Robert Quinn and the Cardinals did with J.J. Watt.

If it doesn’t work out for whatever reason — his play drops off, he gets injured — at least you’ve tried. The Seahawks are at a point now where trying and failing is much more attractive than doing the same thing every year and it never working.

Relying on the 2022 version of Kerry Hyder, Mayowa, Irvin or Aldon Smith deserves criticism. Rolling the dice on a proven stud, and it simply not working, does not. That will simply be misfortune.

Aside from unpredictable injuries, I wouldn’t be worried about production. Desai just coordinated a defense where Robert Quinn bounced back to record 18.5 sacks. Jones is only three months older than Quinn. I think this is an ideal match for the coaches, the scheme and it addresses Seattle’s biggest need.

Of course you can’t make a player sign for your team. It’s possible Jones ends up being too expensive or simply doesn’t want to cross the NFC West divide. That’s understandable. Yet the Seahawks need to be ready to pivot and go after a proper alternative if that happens. They need a great Plan B.

A year ago, Cincinnati’s priority was to retain Carl Lawson. When he chose to sign for the Jets instead, they quickly snapped up Trey Hendrickson for a similar price.

If Jones isn’t possible — they need to make sure they land a Von Miller or Harold Landry. They can’t come away empty handed, sifting through what’s left after a few days of the market opening.

There’s another reason for taking this approach.

Although the pass-rushing options in this draft are strong, there’s a chance none of the top names will last to #41. Certainly Aidan Hutchinson, Kayvon Thibodeaux, Jermaine Johnson and David Ojabo won’t be there. I am convinced Boye Mafe will go in the first round too.

After that, there’s nobody quite with the same exciting profile.

Likewise, I wouldn’t expect Jordan Davis or Devonte Wyatt to be there for Seattle.

Thus, if improving the pass rush is the priority, it’s probably best to make a big splash in free agency and address that need right off the bat. Then in the draft, you can keep your options open.

It might be that you still want to go for a defensive lineman. You can make a strong case for Travis Jones or Perrion Winfrey at #41. I think Josh Paschal would make sense as an inside/out rusher.

You don’t have to force things, though, if you land a top pass rusher in free agency. You have more options. There’s a reasonable collection of offensive tackles, for example. There are good cornerbacks and linebackers slated for day two. Dameon Pierce is a blog favourite who fits everything Seattle looks for in a running back. You might want to tap into a rich pool of tight ends.

Heck — with more and more people underestimating Abraham Lucas, I’m starting to think he might just last to Seattle.

Either way, you’ll have some great options at #41 and #72. If you can avoid having to address desperate needs with those two picks by having a much improved free agency period — all the better.

It all starts with that big move to begin a pivotal season.

I suspect Chandler Jones will be the prime target for the Seahawks.

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Kentucky’s Joshua Paschal is one to watch

Josh Paschal is a heck of a player

This is a good draft class.

It’s been described as the opposite for a long time because it simply doesn’t have legit top-10 prospects at the top of the board.

Yet the depth of talent available is attractive and value will be available going into day three. You can build a foundation from this class.

Kentucky defensive lineman Joshua Paschal is the latest example as to why.

I would describe him as a violent, aggressive run defending specialist who could develop into a league-leader in that regard. He is not a twitchy, dynamic EDGE using speed to attack offensive tackles and threaten quarterbacks with bend or balance. If you want someone to play the run on early downs, dominate their 1v1 match-ups, set the edge, fly to the ball and then provide some interior pass rush on third down — Paschal ticks those boxes.

He’s a running backs’ nightmare. So often on tape before they’ve even had a chance to read their blocks he’s in the backfield making a tackle. It’s highly impressive.

You need warrior type players. People who complement your athletic freaks. Paschal is that type. I can’t vouch for him solving Seattle’s pass-rush issues. Yet I want him on the team as an extra. A bonus. To elevate the physical toughness of this team, make them harder to play against and pair with the athleticism of Darrell Taylor.

He’s incredibly explosive, perhaps the most explosive defensive linemen I’ve watched so far. There’s so much power in his frame — backed up by a 39-inch vertical jump at SPARQ and an overall score of 120.24, complemented by a 4.30 short shuttle.

Those kinds of numbers put him in a rare category.

He is just so powerful and there are no concerns about him shifting inside.

His Georgia tape is excellent at times. He was physically imposing, knocking around Georgia’s line in a way few managed last season. He dumped Justin Shaffer on his backside on one snap. You see this quite a lot. He’s simply far more explosive than most opponents. Bigger offensive linemen bounce off him. Against Florida he was violently abusing the tight end trying to contain him and seal an edge. He is constantly in attack mode.

Paschal has a really underrated feature in his profile. He’s so explosive that he can engage and hold position extremely well. It means he can focus on keeping his eyes on the ball-carrier, reading the play and two-gapping with ease. He can read any stretch runs or misdirection, let things develop then just throw off a block to attack the area he needs to get to.

He’s also quick to knife through gaps against Georgia and break into the interior. He does this against everyone though. That 4.30 short shuttle time shows up in the subtle way he dodges blocks from the interior and just ends up in the backfield time and time again. For a player who plays like a bull on the loose — he’s got the burst and agility off the snap of a leopard.

If you give him a shot at the ball-carrier he chases them down, stalks them, like the T1000.

There is some stiffness and he’s not a bendy pass rusher. His hips are tight and there’s not a great deal of flexibility changing direction. Running in a straight line — he’s excellent. I’m not sure his three-cone will be that impressive though. That will provide a challenge working the edge but you’re not drafting him to be Darrell Taylor.

His frame is a curious one. He’s 6-3 and 278lbs. I’d like to know his arm length but the sense I get is it’s not going to be good news. He’s more of a compact ball of power and quickness. He’s a run-defense / TFL specialist who can make plays from the interior on passing downs rather than someone who notches 8-10 sacks consistently as a defensive end.

His college production backs that up. He only had 5.5 sacks in 2021 and that was a career high. He did have 15.5 TFL’s though. He had only one sack in 2020 with 6.5 TFL’s. In 2019 he had 9.5 TFL’s and 3.5 sacks.

Still, those TFL numbers are worth noting. Since 2019, he had by far the most TFL’s or tackles for no gain in college football (per PFF):

Josh Paschal — 37
Yasir Abdullah — 29
Kayvon Thibodeaux — 27

There’s no real evidence of speed rush or natural EDGE production. Even L.J. Collier could rush the edge effectively at TCU. Paschal’s more of a powerful destroyer — which means you’ll need to be creative to move him around the line and accept that as a pure EDGE he’s going to have limitations.

He’s maybe a little bit undersized to play five-technique but he could be a natural inside/out rusher. Kentucky moved him across the line and he’s had success in space and working through the interior. There are snaps where he drives interior lineman backwards and there are snaps where he plays the run brilliantly at defensive end or slightly off the line operating in space.

His first-step quickness really flashes. He regularly crosses the face of a tackle from end to attack the B-gap and just flies into the backfield. He can catch slower, bigger linemen off guard. He also shows evidence of an effective swim move from the interior and I’ve seen a good push-pull operating from the edge.

Paschal fights off blocks as an edge setter vs the run and is a real warrior to disengage and fight to the ball-carrier. There are no concerns about him as a run-defender and he’ll handle those duties at defensive end with aplomb.

His motor is relentless and his tackling impressive. He sets a physical tone and has the potential to become a ‘heart and soul’ type on a defense if he can develop into a starter.

If I was going to use him it’d probably be as a bulldozing chess piece. I think he needs to operate in an attacking front where he’s moved around the line to seek out opportunities. He can probably play power end on early downs then on third down he can kick inside and provide dynamic interior rushing.

He could be what Seattle hoped Collier was going to be.

Paschal was diagnosed with malignant melanoma on his foot in 2018 but has since undergone treatment and been cleared. So he’s also faced a degree of adversity and battled to make a success of his time at Kentucky. He was recently named the ‘Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year’ for 2021.

I’ve put him in round two on my horizontal board, with the idea he might be available later and provide value.

The Seahawks need to go and land another dynamic EDGE in free agency for me — plus a defensive tackle who can legitimately create pressure. However, someone who can do what Collier was supposed to would also be a benefit to this defense.

Put Chandler Jones, Calais Campbell and Josh Paschal on this D-line and you might have the most aggressive, bullying line in the NFC. I wish Seattle had more picks because clearly there are other really attractive trench players in this class that would also add even more. As I said, you can build a foundation in this draft.

Paschal is a player to watch at the combine. Length will be important — we know Seattle doesn’t draft D-liners with sub-33 inch arms. If he passes that threshold, he could be the kind of powerful inside/out rusher they lack.

A final quick thought for today. It’s been revealed that around 150 players, many of them top prospects, are threatening to skip the combine due to the NFL’s rules on creating a strict ‘bubble’ at the event.

The Super Bowl has just been played out with thousands huddled together for a week — including players, media, fans and people just looking for a good time. They literally had an enormous concert on the field at half-time.

If you won’t let players have a trainer with them to do their best at the combine, then the league is a total and utter disgrace.

The NFL wants the combine to be a primetime event. It needs to start listening to the players and drop this ridiculous notion of a bubble immediately.

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The impressive O-line options keep on growing

Obinna Eze — one of the more underrated players in this draft

It’s very clear there are healthy pass rushing options in this draft class, particularly at defensive end. It’s a top-heavy group at defensive tackle — but if you want an ‘EDGE’ you can get one even on day three.

However, the more I study this class — the more attractive the offensive line options are becoming too.

Here are further notes on three players…

Obinna Eze (T, TCU)

A blog favourite for some time, I originally wrote an article about Eze when he was at Memphis two years ago.

In 2020 I thought he had first or second round potential as a pass-blocking stud who was light on his feet despite his great size. Here’s what I wrote in the piece:

The first thing that stands out on tape is his really light feet. In terms of pure agility and mobility — there aren’t many college tackles who can move like this. He drops with ease, there’s no labouring in his movement and his feet are so smooth he wouldn’t wake a baby with his kick-slide.

When he’s asked to defend a speed rush he drops with suddenness to wall off a route to the quarterback. He surprises defensive ends with his ability to mirror and often they’re forced too wide and deep — making it really hard to work back to the quarterback. He’s not troubled or fazed by speed in the slightest and that’s a good start for any prospective left tackle.

On the negative side — he needed technical work (he was more of a ‘catcher’ than a lock-on, attacking blocker) and his run blocking wasn’t a plus. He also needed to refine his frame.

As I’ve been putting my horizontal board together, I’ve been watching a lot of Eze’s 2021 tape to see what kind of developments he’s shown. It’s been tremendously impressive.

Some of the same issues remain. You’d never mistake him for Trevor Penning in the aggression stakes. A lot of his run blocking duties were to force his opponent inside to try and create an edge. At the next level, he’ll face a much more varied challenge and I wanted to see more evidence of him getting off the ball and really driving his defender off the LOS — or subtly turning his man to create lanes.

Nevertheless, the positives are evident. There simply aren’t many players with his combination of size and athleticism.

For that reason I’m giving him a second round grade.

He’s 6-6, 327lbs and has 36 1/8 inch arms and an 86.5 inch wingspan according to Shrine Game measurements. He is huge — and would feel at home playing either tackle spot or kicking inside to guard in some schemes.

The immediate thing that stands out is how easily he slips into his set and looks comfortable handling the edge rush. I love the way he plays inside/out — a challenge a lot of tackles struggle with. When you have +36 inch arms — make your opponent take the long route to the quarterback. Don’t let them counter inside and shorten the journey. Eze often begins his rep by reaching out his right arm to touch the left guard, shutting off the inside. From there, his kick-slide is smooth and athletic. He can wall off against speed and handle everything that comes his way.

These are basic skills he does very well.

When he locks on and engages he’s incredibly hard to shake off. I felt more at ease with his less-attacking style watching him for TCU. If you can manage the inside counter, get into position well and just hold your position — you can do your job at left tackle. He doesn’t give up a lot of edge pressure. That’s what you’re after.

In fairness, he man-handled Oklahoma’s undersized pass rush. How he’ll fair against the Nick Bosa types is another challenge. You can only judge what you see on tape though. Eze’s combination of length, athleticism and experience showed well enough to believe he has a legit shot for the next level.

Adding to that — and this is always good to see — he combo blocks very well. He is often blocking his man initially then shows awareness to pass that defender off if the opportunity arises and seal a second block. He would progress from block A to B in a way that was very satisfying to watch. It’s something Jack Conklin did very well at Michigan State and Eze is impressive in this area.

For me he’s a highly underrated prospect.

Testing will be key. If he struggles in the vertical, broad and bench — it will limit his stock. Teams across the league value explosive traits. An athletic run in the forty or strong agility testing might help — but more than anything, teams want explosive offensive linemen. We see it in the profiles of early draft picks every year.

Here’s a quote from Florida State coach Mike Norvell on Eze, when they were both at Memphis:

“Obinna is going to be successful no matter what he does… He can play this game for a long time. Whenever the last day of football comes, he’ll continue to have success, because of the drive he has in every aspect of his life.”

He’s a player worth keeping on your radar when the combine begins.

Nick Petit-Frere (T, Ohio State)

When NPF was being mocked as a top-15 pick all over the internet, I pushed back and called him overrated. It’s funny how this happens a lot. The ‘draft media’ types get a lot wrong during the season — then they adjust, for whatever reason, and provide more realistic analysis.

Take Roger McCreary, for example. It’s not that long ago one analyst (who generates a lot of traction online) declared he was a ‘top-20 lock’ on Twitter. A well known former NFL scout chimed in to say he hadn’t spoken to a single team with a higher grade than round two. Low and behold, when said analyst posted a top-100 prospects list recently, McCreary was at #43 — one spot below average mid-round lineman Darian Kinnard (who is listed 33 spots higher than Boye Mafe).

I do not have all the answers in the slightest. I am a bloke with a blog and a comparatively tiny audience. But come on. This is absolute rubbish.

Kinnard (#42 overall) was tried at guard at the Senior Bowl and is limited strictly to the right hand side, where he’ll get tight end support, or right guard. I think he’s a fringe third or fourth round pick. In this top-100 list, he’s 41 spots higher than Abraham Lucas and 47 spots higher than NPF.

Anyway, enough complaining. You watch the tape and make your own minds up.

When a player is promoted well above their station, you end creating a dislike for no real reason. I didn’t like NPF in the top-15. But now he’s being talked about as a late third rounder, I feel obliged to flip and say he’s become underrated.

Yes, you can linger on the Michigan game. Unlike Rasheed Walker (see my Friday piece), he had a torrid time against Aidan Hutchinson. It flagged some issues.

Unlike Eze he doesn’t do a good enough job playing inside/out. There are inside counters he concedes that are easily avoidable. He needs to engage better with his hands. The hand placement is poor or at times, non-existent. He doesn’t attack blocks well enough and he’s just too passive and defensive.

You fear a little bit if Hutchinson can get after him so easily, what will other quality rushers at the next level do?

However — his Oregon tape was a lot better. His Minnesota tape was somewhere in the middle

NPF is very good at dropping into his set and you can see he’s very athletic. You can see why he was a five-star, #13 overall recruit. He blocks superbly on the move and his kick-slide eliminates the speed rush threat. I think he’ll do a better job against the quicker edges where he can match-up as an athlete. He needs to be able to show he can do a better technical job against the more brutal power ends. That could be a case of tweaks to his technique and some extra strength training.

I want to see his length measurements at the combine. The inside moves are a concern and while Eze trusts his length, NPF is the opposite. Is there a reason for this?

Even so — he clearly is a tremendous athlete with left tackle potential. And whenever you talk about players with his apparent profile and upside — you have to remember how desperate the league is for this type of player.

All of the tackles in this class have warts. Charles Cross doesn’t bend his knees properly and has played in a pass-friendly offense for two-years which has called for a very limited set of tasks. Trevor Penning showed he has a fair bit to work on with his technique after a very hit-and-miss Senior Bowl. Bernhard Raimann struggled in Mobile.

You are not going to draft the perfect tackle in 2022. Whoever you go for, they will present a set of challenges. They all need development.

The Seahawks are likely going to need to add at least one tackle this off-season. I’m not convinced they’ll retain both Duane Brown and Brandon Shell. They might view Stone Forsyth as an option but he’s a sixth rounder who generated little buzz in year one. Nobody on the staff talked him up publicly as a 2022 starter.

There will be options for Seattle at #41 and #72. While it’s a tackle class with a lot of rough diamonds — it’s also a class that could provide great value and a ton of upside.

Cameron Jurgens (C, Nebraska)

I know I wrote about Jurgens on Friday already but I felt obliged to share more after watching a couple more games. There’s a reason why I’ve put him in gold on my horizontal board.

His aggressive playing style is beyond enjoyable. Watching him play is a treat.

When I put together a mock off-season for the Seahawks and had them paying Brian Allen a small fortune, that was before I properly studied Jurgens. Frankly, he’s a far cheaper, viable alternative.

I love how he pulls and blocks on the move. He can snap quickly, drop and pivot to the left hand side and actually block the edge in space, while moving laterally. His athleticism is incredibly impressive. Everything is controlled. It’s controlled violence.

There was one block against Minnesota where he got on the move after the snap and I can’t believe he got across as quickly as he did to take on the unblocked defensive end. Not only that, he still managed to get his hands inside for the perfect placement, he anchored and stoned the rusher. You just don’t see many center’s do this.

On the next snap he literally did the same thing to the right side. How many teams have their center peel out to block edge rushers in space, on the move?

It’s interesting that they occasionally pulled him into space so quarterback Tyler Martinez could roll out. Jurgens was basically his personal protector on the move. You couldn’t help but wonder if some designed bootlegs for Russell Wilson, with Jurgens wheeling out to the right, could work for Seattle.

He’ll gladly progress to the second level when given the opportunity. He plays to the whistle, often looking for someone to hammer if there’s no direct responsibility in front of him. When he turns defenders he gets them on skates, driving them off the spot to create interior rushing lanes.

There are viral clips online of him progressing to the second level and running defensive backs out of the play 40 yards downfield, before throwing them to the turf:

On some snaps he’ll hit three different defenders. It was like watching Gimli recording kills in Lord of the Rings.

Again against Minnesota he engaged a defensive lineman, blocked him out of the play with a powerful turn — then identified a stunting linebacker looping around. He passed the D-liner off to the right guard and slammed the door shut on the linebacker.

Look at this pocket — and look who’s holding position from the interior, not allowing any interior pressure:

Check out the power and movement he creates:

Everything about Jurgens is impressive. The athleticism, the power, the attitude, the agility. He has a BAMF vibe.

At SPARQ he ran a 4.98 forty and jumped a 32 inch vertical which suggests he’s explosive. That will help his stock. I really hope he has +33 inch arms but even if he doesn’t — I want the Seahawks to consider drafting him. For me, he’s the right combination of physical profile and tone-setting ability. He is a similar size to Brian Allen — who excelled in the Rams’ blocking scheme.

I’m putting Jurgens in round two on my board. He’s seriously underrated and one of the more exciting players to watch in this class.

Horizontal board

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Friday draft notes: Walker, Jurgens & updated board

Penn State’s Rasheed Walker is an enigma

— Penn State left tackle Rasheed Walker has the potential to be one of the better left tackles in the NFL. We need to see how he tests at the combine (his SPARQ testing wasn’t good) but on tape there are reps that are highly impressive — particularly against Michigan where he faced off against Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo.

He didn’t win every 1v1 but I’d say he won most of those battles. He’s light on his feet, can control blocks when engaged and he anchors and holds position well. He combatted the edge speed of Ojabo and handled the power and physicality of Hutchinson. It was an ideal tape to watch to get an angle on his potential.

However, if some of that performance screamed top-10 pick — there are other reps where you’re simply left scratching your head. His effort and body language is highly inconsistent. There are occasions where he doesn’t seem to know what he’s doing. Like he doesn’t understand the call, or he just gives up. It’s weird that a player who is willing to ‘celebrate’ a block by doing this also doesn’t play with a frothing at the mouth aggressiveness.

Squaring that off vs what he does well is going to make for a tricky evaluation. It wouldn’t be a surprise if in 3-4 years time Walker has established himself as a legit starting left tackle, claimed at a bargain price on day two. It also wouldn’t be a surprise if you had to get on him every training camp to play with a level of consistency and fire.

The combine will be huge for him. If he tests well in the bench, vertical and broad and can show teams a degree of effort and work-rate to prepare for Indianapolis — it might calm any fears. He’ll also have the physical profile of a first round pick if he pulls that off. If he underwhelms at the combine, then he could sink down boards. In that scenario I’d still wonder if he’s worth a flier. There is definitely something there.

— I know I talk about Boye Mafe a lot but it still baffles me to see him graded in the middle rounds while other players (particularly the quarterbacks) are being discussed as potential top-40 players.

He’s going to show at the combine that he’s the complete package. Size, length, natural athleticism, quickness, power, repertoire of moves. He’s a top-20 pick and the Senior Bowl was all the evidence people needed to propel him into that range.

I’ll say this though — if he somehow lasted to pick #41 — Mafe and Darrell Taylor could be the best, young pass-rushing duo in the NFL. They would have the potential to be a special pairing. If the Seahawks still had pick #10, I’d be writing an article about the prospect of taking Mafe there or after a small trade down.

— In previous years players I’ve really liked have risen through the process. That hasn’t happened yet. Whether it’s Abraham Lucas, Dameon Pierce, Channing Tindall, Montaric Brown, Kerby Joseph or a whole bunch of others. Things might change at the combine but I’m starting to wonder if an opportunity is emerging here to get untapped talent, just as Seattle managed in 2010, 2011 and 2012. There are quite a few overrated players being pumped up in the media and a lot of better prospects continue to fly under the radar.

— I have updated my horizontal board having studied new players over the last week:

I will continue to review and assess but there won’t be any dramatic changes like you see in the national draft coverage where suddenly a player rises to #15 from no ranking in a top-50.

— One new name I’ve added to the board, with a gold highlight, is Cameron Jurgens the Nebraska center. He’s slightly undersized at about 6-3 and 290lbs but to me he might be a cheaper alternative than going after someone like Brian Allen. I really like the way he pulls and gets on the move, locating blocks and creating running lanes. I think he does a good job with his anchor and stays square. He’s a physical blocker who really competes and there were some good reps on tape against players like Perrion Winfrey.

At SPARQ he ran a 4.98 forty and jumped a 32 inch vertical which suggests he’s athletic and explosive. I really liked watching him and he doesn’t get talked about much. I’ve put him in round three but wouldn’t be surprised if he goes a bit earlier if he tests as expected and has 33 inch arms. If the Seahawks want to draft a center — Jurgens has the experience there, the potential athletic profile for this blocking scheme, he’s explosive and you’re going to get a really good player. Keep Jurgens on your radar.

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