Archive for December, 2022

I had to do a video reaction to the CFB playoffs

Saturday, December 31st, 2022

Can we be serious about drafting a quarterback please?

Friday, December 30th, 2022

I was listening to a segment on 710 Seattle Sports yesterday where a discussion was taking place as to whether the Seahawks should consider drafting a quarterback with their highest pick in 2023.

No analysis or opinion was provided on the quarterbacks available. It wasn’t even about Geno Smith deserving a long-term extension. It was a discussion on positional preference. It was about not drafting a quarterback unless you think they’re the next Patrick Mahomes.

To me, that’s completely the wrong way to look at this.

People forget that Patrick Mahomes wasn’t close to the Mahomes we’ve come to know when he entered the league.

As I noted in an article earlier this month:

Patrick Mahomes wasn’t even listed in Daniel Jeremiah’s top-50 prospects in his February list ahead of the 2017 draft. That wouldn’t be so bad — but in an updated version in April, Mahomes still wasn’t listed in the top-50.

Deshone Kizer, however, was ranked on both occasions.

In Jeremiah’s April 2017 mock draft, he eventually did include Mahomes in round one — at #27 overall. Deshaun Watson wasn’t included in the first frame. They ended up being the #10 and #12 picks respectively.

Mahomes himself revealed he was given a second round grade by the draft committee.

The excellent Lance Zierlein graded Mahomes at a 6.30 — a lower grade than Drew Lock (6.40). In his report, Zierlein noted:

“Mahomes will be a work in progress, but he’s a high ceiling, low floor prospect.”

If the objective is to pick the next Mahomes, otherwise you should avoid the position altogether, don’t we at least have to acknowledge what was being said about Mahomes before he came into the league?

The truth is if you apply the ‘wait until you find the next Mahomes’ standard, you probably would’ve missed on the original in 2017.

There isn’t some ‘Mahomes grade’ you get to apply to obviously great players. As with nearly every top quarterback, there are flaws you have to weigh up.

We can say the same for Josh Allen — a player who was a meme on the internet during the first two years of his career and mercilessly abused by the Twitterati. Justin Herbert was drafted after Tua Tagovailoa. Prior to his Heisman winning season playing with JaMarr Chase and Justin Jefferson, Joe Burrow was merely seen as an Ohio State reject destined for a late round grade.

Drafting a player like Mahomes requires a belief that you know something other people are missing. The Kansas City Chiefs showed that by trading a future first round pick to move up 17 spots to select him. They have been richly rewarded for backing themselves when many of the pundits in the media saw Mahomes as a late first or second round pick.

I would suggest that if your mentality is to avoid drafting a quarterback unless you’re convinced he’s the next Mahomes — you’ll probably never be the team that actually finds the holy grail. You need to show more bollocks than that. You can’t just sit and wait for perfection to fall into your lap.

As a GM — finding greatness at quarterback should be something you challenge yourself to do every year.

When you think back to the great quarterbacks of the last couple of generations — very few had no physical or mental flaws. From Drew Brees to Cam Newton to Russell Wilson to Tom Brady and Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers. None of these players were ‘factory produced’ ready and waiting to dominate the league. Neither was Mahomes.

A D-line pick is no sure thing either. As good as Jalen Carter and Will Anderson are, I also think they are players who would typically go in the #5-10 range and not necessarily be seen as the key prize in a draft class. Such is the state of the top-10 this year. Neither player jumps out in the way Myles Garrett or the Bosa brothers did. They could become as impactful but I can’t say I feel confident they will be.

Indeed, in another article I wrote recently, I highlighted the mixed results of D-liners drafted early in recent years:

Look at the pass rushers drafted in the top-10 between 2017-2021:

2017 — Solomon Thomas

Genuinely looked the part at Stanford, was drafted third overall and was a complete and total bust.

2018 — Bradley Chubb

Recently traded by Denver to Miami, Chubb is a good not great player and while certainly offering plus ability off the edge, he’s not a particularly feared ‘game-wrecker’.

2019 — Nick Bosa, Quinnen Williams, Clelin Ferrell, Josh Allen, Ed Oliver

Bosa is unquestionably one of the best in the game. Williams has needed all four years of his rookie contract to realise his potential and now looks legit. Ferrell was a bust, while Allen and Oliver are fairly middling players.

2020 — Chase Young

Injuries have stalled Young’s career but there wasn’t that much evidence of ‘game-wrecking’ potential when he was on the field. He feels more like a player who can become Bradley Chubb rather than Nick Bosa.

2021 — None

As we can see, the hit-rate isn’t good. It’s worse than the top-10 quarterbacks drafted that have become excellent players (Mahomes, Allen, Burrow, Herbert). You also have players who have flashed franchise potential (Murray, Tagovailoa) and players who could yet reach that level (Lawrence).

No position is more or less likely than another to produce greatness. There’s no reason to favour one approach over another. Drafting either a defensive lineman or a quarterback makes sense for Seattle.

The defense certainly needs an injection of talent and you can make a fantastic case for drafting Carter or Anderson with the hope they can provide a missing X-factor. However, we’ve also seen Seattle’s defense play badly for too long — with different schemes, coaches and wrinkles all ending up with a similar result despite a massive resource spend. As such, it might not just be a talent problem.

Drafting a quarterback also makes sense because it’s still the most important individual position in any team sport. It’s such a rare opportunity for the Seahawks to select one in the top five. If they see someone they like, they should seriously consider making an investment for the long-term future. Geno Smith, after all, is 33 next October. I don’t think you can criticise a team for planning ahead and insuring itself against Smith being unable to play deep into his 30’s or produce his best play from the 2022 season for multiple years.

Look at the Titans. They turned a Ryan Tannehill career renaissance into a $30m a year contract extension and they had some playoff success. Tannehill was well supported by Derrick Henry and A.J. Brown, plus Jeffrey Simmons provided an X-factor on defense. Yet less than three years on from the day that new deal was signed, the Titans face a situation where they need to find from somewhere a longer term solution. There are injury issues for Tannehill, who is now 34-years-old. There are doubts as to whether he can lead them to the promise land.

Unlike the Seahawks, they won’t pick in the top-three to address the matter.

I actually think Carter, Anderson and the quarterbacks are all in a similar boat.

Take Anderson. He’s undersized at 243lbs. That’s 23lbs lighter than Nick Bosa at his combine. The talent is obvious and he had a fantastic 2021 season but was a little bit less impactful in 2022. His sack numbers dropped from 17.5 in 2021 to 10 in 2022. His TFL numbers nearly halved (31 in 2021, 17 in 2020).

Now let’s look at Bryce Young. He’s undersized at around 5-10 and 190lbs. He won the Heisman in 2021 and put up gaudy number on the way to a SEC title and a National Championship appearance. In 2022, with a weaker supporting cast, he didn’t quite have the same production or success. He had an injury. His touchdown numbers dropped from 47 to 27.

They’re both incredibly naturally gifted but there are some question marks over size and a dip in production. You can imagine both being great but if you’re prepared to be honest, it’s also quite easy to imagine why both might fail to live up to expectations.

Now take Jalen Carter. He only really became a starter in 2022 and has a slightly limited college career. His physical profile is quite brilliant and he’s flashed major moments of quality. His production, however, isn’t anything to write home about. He has six sacks in three years at Georgia. There were recently reports of some character concerns.

Anthony Richardson only became the full-time starter at Florida in 2022. He has an unbelievable physical profile and has also flashed some outstanding moments on tape. His production, though, has been patchy at times and he’s more of a rough diamond than the finished product.

See what I mean?

My blurb for Nick Bosa would’ve simply read: ‘draft this guy’. We could all see how great he was. It was the same for Myles Garrett.

The truth is the top QB’s and the top D-liners for 2023 are all very talented but all carry some question marks. There isn’t anyone who screams ‘you have to take this player’ in this draft. The nearest thing is Bijan Robinson at Texas. He will be the highest graded player on many boards and he does have a complete game — but he’s a running back so that will temper his stock.

I don’t see any reason to prefer one over the other when it comes to quarterback or D-line with the top pick. I’m very open-minded about the whole thing. If John Schneider sees a quarterback he loves, he will probably take him. And so he should.

Equally if he prefers to go D-line, you can understand why.

I’m sure people might argue that a D-liner can contribute quicker. Perhaps. Yet let’s note that Kayvon Thibodeaux only has three sacks this season and a PFF grade of 70.2. He’s played well but he hasn’t walked in and become an unstoppable force. He also benefits from playing on the same line as former high picks Dexter Lawrence (92.0 PFF grade) and Leonard Williams (79.3 PFF grade), while playing for one of the best and most experienced defensive coordinators in the league (Wink Martindale).

Aidan Hutchinson has seven sacks and a 77.0 grade. It’s a really nice season for Hutchinson but it hasn’t stopped Detroit having the fourth worst defense in the NFL per DVOA.

Travon Walker, the #1 pick in 2022, has 3.5 sacks for Jacksonville and a 59.2 PFF grade. The Jaguars have the 27th ranked defense per DVOA.

The Seahawks could spend a top-three pick on a defensive lineman in 2023 and their defense could still be really bad, as is the case with the Jaguars and Lions.

I think a lot of people are kidding themselves if they think the problems are all down to talent. I’d recommend watching this video discussing the issues with Vic Fangio influenced schemes. Seattle has long lasting problems on defense stretching over a number of years that might not be easily solved. In particular the jury should be out on Clint Hurtt after an inglorious first year as defensive coordinator. Pete Carroll should also be challenged given the same problems keep reappearing.

Meanwhile, stashing a quarterback and developing him hasn’t done Mahomes any harm. Creating your own version of an Alex Smith-Patrick Mahomes passing of the torch between Geno Smith and a new, young QB is hardly a situation worthy of hand-wringing.

I also think the quarterback class in 2023 is in danger of becoming underrated. I’ve spoken a lot about all four of the ‘big names’ but there is a lot to like, while accepting there are flaws.

Bryce Young is naturally so gifted with skill, creativity and accuracy. He carried Alabama during the 2022 season and dragged them kicking and screaming into games against Tennessee where they had no right to be competitive. He can deliver the ball with timing and accuracy and his velocity on throws is clear to see. Young is also creative with brilliant mobility and improv skill. His size is a legitimate concern and teams will have to square that circle before drafting him. Nobody can deny, however, that he is a wonderful talent with exceptional character and production.

Will Levis has every physical trait you want in a modern day quarterback. He’s an outstanding athlete with a rocket arm and the ability to throw to all areas of the field. He can create with his legs and there’s a reason why people like Jim Nagy, and others, keep making comparisons to Allen and Herbert. He played behind a painfully bad O-line in Kentucky with hardly any supporting cast and had some rough moments — but any of the other top QB’s would’ve struggled in that situation. Levis also has firm experience in a pro-style offense.

Anthony Richardson is a rare physical specimen with the upside and potential to be special. There simply aren’t many people on the planet with his tools. He has the size to match the likes of Allen and the brilliance of a runner to warrant comparisons to Lamar Jackson. It’s very easy to imagine him becoming a superstar. He needs time and seasoning but many quarterbacks do. His timing is off and he has too many throws that are a little high or behind. Personally I think this will settle down with more playing time and experience, just as it did with Allen in Buffalo.

C.J. Stroud throws some of the prettiest passes you’ll ever see. His ball placement from the pocket or on the run is excellent and he can throw with such amazing touch to areas deep downfield. He has good size and plus mobility and no physical limitations with his arm. The issues come with intermediate accuracy and his inability, so far, to shine beyond the extreme hand-holding that comes with playing in the Ohio State offense. He also needs time and development but he has major upside.

I wouldn’t suggest anyone has to ‘love’ all of these players but I also don’t ‘get’ the lukewarm ‘meh’ responses that increasingly seem to be doing the rounds. Especially when we’re a year removed from people in the media trying to argue that Malik Willis should go in the top-10, or Desmond Ridder in round one. You can’t make those mock predictions at the start of 2022 and end the year shrugging your shoulders at this quartet.

Drafting a quarterback should be very much on the table for the Seahawks. They have so many picks in the 2023 draft, they’ll be able to address multiple areas. I’ll be happy with a QB or a D-liner. I’m not fussed. You can make a case for both based on positional value, team need and the players who are actually available.

Let’s try to remember that before we all go to war over our preferences.

One final point — it might be possible to address both positions in the top-10.

The Seahawks currently own the #3 and #12 picks. In 2021, the Eagles moved up from #12 to #10 to draft DeVonta Smith, giving up the #84 pick. Seattle’s third round pick is currently slated to be #81. If one of the top four quarterbacks last to #10, or one of the better defensive linemen is still available, it wouldn’t be a terrible idea to move up. After all, with two picks in round two, you’ll have ample opportunity to trade down and recoup lost stock.

Let’s take it a step further. I bet some teams will have Bijan Robinson and Will Anderson as the top two players on their board. It’s not unrealistic, if you pick at #3 and #12, to get both. In terms of talent acquisition, imagine getting the two best players in the draft with a further two second round picks still to come. That’d be really something.

It’s why I’m less interested in being the seventh seed in the playoffs, with little hope of achieving anything, and more interested in getting better.

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Scouting notes: Siaki Ika, Dawand Jones & Peter Skoronski

Thursday, December 29th, 2022

— Upon further review, I underestimated Siaki Ika. His performance against Iowa State was first class. He regularly absorbed double teams and drew constant attention in pass-pro. He was aggressive and powerful at the POA. His movement skills were a sight to behold as he twisted away from 1v1 blocks and at one point he pulled out a spin move. There were strings to his bow I hadn’t seen before.

It was interesting to see him stay on the field for a 2nd and 21 play in the fourth quarter and that speaks to his impact. Baylor were weaker up front when he wasn’t out there. On one snap he worked his way to the outside and matched up vs the right tackle. He drove him backwards into the quarterback, shoved the tackle to the ground with disdain and hit the QB leading to an inaccurate pass that was almost intercepted. He anchored consistently in the run and was able to disengage and release not just stick on a block to maintain gap integrity.

It was a tremendous performance that showed what he’s capable of. I’ve moved him up on my board. He’s very much in the ‘can do a job’ bracket’ as a plus nose tackle with the right combination of mobility and strength.

— It’s taken me a while to get to watching him but I was incredibly impressed with Ohio State right tackle Dawand Jones. I’ve graded him higher than team mate Paris Johnson Jr and put him in the fringe first round range (pre-testing).

For a human to move as well as he does at his size is remarkable. His mirror ability in space was shocking at 6-8 and 359lbs. He did a tremendous job tracking speed off the edge, getting into position. When he latches on and engages he’s a pure finisher with the kind of edge you want to see from an offensive lineman.

He’s not just a power merchant though — he knows when to use momentum against a pass rusher to throw him down, he extends to keep his frame clean and finish and he has a good kick-slide for a man this big. I thoroughly enjoyed watching him.

You might ask whether a switch to guard is viable for such an intriguing prospect. Maybe — but with his height I would be cautious about that. I also think it’d be a bit of a waste to see him move inside given how well he handles duties off the edge. That said, there are other players in this class tailor made to kick inside and if the Seahawks find someone they like they should seriously consider taking them. They’ve been so poor in the trenches in the second half of the season, it should remain a priority on both sides of the ball.

— I’ve re-watched Peter Skoronski tape and I’m still a little bit torn on whether he warrants first round consideration as a guard or whether his likely switch inside will keep him on the board longer than people are projecting. He played left tackle at Northwestern and there are some nice reps on tape. I like how he can get on the move and reach up to blocks in the running game. He has a strong back so that when he loses the initial leverage battle or if a pass rusher drives into his frame, he frequently plants the anchor and just stalls any momentum.

His initial step is very impressive. Skoronski gets out of his stance brilliantly and shuts off the edge by closing the space for the rusher to try and build speed. This can be an issue sometimes when you set so dramatically to the outside because you’re susceptible to the inside counter. Some teams might work that out at the next level. However, I didn’t see him giving up anything inside and he seems to have the agility to re-set and adjust. I went back and watched the Michigan game from last year to see him take on Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo and he did a really good job containing the inside against Hutchinson, who struggled to beat Skoronski off the edge.

His feet are choppy and quick when engaged and it means he doesn’t lose balance. Sometimes he splits his legs too wide and you can imagine some issues at tackle if he doesn’t solve that — yet for the most part it wasn’t an issue in college.

There are some rough moments too. Lukas Van Ness buried him with a bull-rush vs Iowa. His lack of arm length can be a real issue in one sense and a plus in the other. For example, a long tackle should benefit from playing inside out, sitting inside and using your length to protect the edge. He has to engage all the time because he can’t lean to the inside and stretch out an arm and mirror. That works though in the NFL sense because if his natural home is guard or center, he’s used to hand-fighting and engaging in combat. The fact he does it well enough on the move at tackle is a feather in his cap.

He has a pedigree. He was Northwestern’s first ever five-star recruit and the grandson of former Green Bay Pro-Bowl offensive tackle Bob Skoronski.

I think he has the capability to be a really good guard. Zack Martin was a five-star offensive tackle at Notre Dame who kicked inside in the NFL and has consistently been one of the best lineman since. He had 32 7/8 inch arms and Skoronski will likely have something similar. If the Seahawks were able to draft the next Martin — of course that would be a really useful thing to do. Martin was rare though — a player who generated very little media hype in college but it was obvious to anyone who really studied him how gifted he was despite his length limitations and a fairly middling testing profile. He dominated opponents with power and intensity, did a great job in pass-pro and looked like a class act snap-to-snap.

Skoronski has some of the technical qualities Martin has but doesn’t look as good or as intense, not that it’s a big issue. At Notre Dame, Martin started 52 consecutive games. Skoronski has played in 33 straight games since emerging in 2020. Martin was seen as a safe, versatile pick and I think Skoronski will end up being viewed similarly.

How early are the Seahawks prepared to draft an interior O-liner? That’s a question that is difficult to answer. If they don’t qualify for the playoffs and end up with a mid-first round pick, it’ll be an interesting talking point. He might be able to tie down a guard spot, like Martin, for the next eight years. There’s something to be said for that — particularly on a team that has struggled at right guard and center this season.

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Tuesday draft thoughts — could Houston take a defender?

Tuesday, December 27th, 2022

If you missed my second mock draft yesterday don’t forget to check it out

There’s something we probably need to be prepared for that we aren’t really discussing.

There are a lot of Seahawks fans who want the team to draft a top defensive lineman with their first pick — currently #3 overall courtesy of the Broncos.

The feeling is picking in the top-three will guarantee one of Jalen Carter or Will Anderson.

There is a scenario where that isn’t the case, however.

After writing my mock draft yesterday I went and had a look at what other teams’ fans are talking about on their forums. The Texans’ forum made for interesting reading. There seems to be a groundswell of support for Houston to take one of Carter or Anderson with the top pick, while adding a ‘stop-gap’ quarterback for 2023.

The feeling is the team is at the start of a massive rebuild. They have very few assets to actually build around. It’s plausible to launch a build with a top pick at quarterback. Yet it might actually be the worst environment for a young signal caller to come into.

If we assume the Texans are going to struggle for at least another year or two, they’ll be in position to add a top quarterback in future drafts.

Further to that — while I think this is a reasonable quarterback class in 2023 with four players worthy of being taken early, none of the quartet has truly separated from the pack. There isn’t a ‘must have’ player to select first overall. Neither, arguably, is there a player worth trading major stock for to get into the top-two picks to select one.

I don’t think it’s beyond the realms of possibility that Carter and Anderson, in either order, go first and second overall. That would leave the Seahawks in a tricky situation if you are rooting for a defensive lineman with the #3 pick.

Despite a lot of hype in the mainstream media, I don’t believe you can justify taking Myles Murphy that early. I watched every Clemson game in 2022 specifically to observe their D-line talent. Murphy plays soft off the edge and you can target him in the running game. He looks like a great athlete who plays in flashes but he’s not someone in college who took over games or ever really dominated.

His frame is unrefined and lacks muscle definition which is an alarm bell for me. I think he’s just a natural athlete who is superior athletically to the competition in High School and college and ‘gets by’. When you get to the NFL, you can’t rely on that. Your power, technique, determination and consistency has to complement your athletic profile.

Murphy didn’t even start some games for Clemson this year because of his play. He was also spelled a fair bit and the hammering at Notre Dame was ugly. I don’t know how anyone can watch that game, where Murphy had his arse kicked for four quarters, and think ‘this is a guy I want to take in the top-five’.

On a supposedly super talented D-line (which so often flattered to deceive) he only had 6.5 sacks in 2022.

In a situation where Carter and Anderson are off the board, you almost have to consider taking the top quarterback. That is probably where the value is. Unless you see Tyree Wilson’s length and size as suitably unique, it’s a hard sell to go for the third D-liner available. While Wilson’s play is very good in flashes — he too is inconsistent and might struggle to be more than ‘good not great’ at the next level.

It’ll no doubt be pointed out that trading down would be a good option in this scenario. Perhaps. If someone isn’t prepared to trade into the top two picks, however, and with Arizona at #4 unlikely to draft a quarterback given their massive financial commitment to Kyler Murray, a great offer might not be forthcoming.

This is the problem with this draft class. There aren’t a cluster of top-10 worthy players. There are basically the four quarterbacks, Carter and Anderson and then two players at lesser positions — Bijan Robinson and Michael Mayer. There are no offensive linemen worthy of the top-five or any receivers or cornerbacks — three positions seen as premium picks in the modern NFL.

In previous drafts it’s probable that players like Carter and Anderson would go between #5-8 in the top-10. Due to the thin number of blue chippers, they could end up being the two ‘must have’ talents.

This is why I’d propose not getting your hopes up for one position or another and keeping an open mind. Don’t pick ‘team D-line’ or ‘team QB’. Be open to either. It’s not impossible for the top two picks to both be quarterbacks — with Houston taking one and then another team trading into #2. It’s also possible that the top two defenders come off the board before Seattle picks.

It might be worth rooting for the Texans and Bears to finish with a flourish. Chicago appears determined to lose out but Houston have somewhat winnable games against Jacksonville and Indianapolis. If they win both and the Broncos lose to the Chiefs and Chargers, the Seahawks will pick in the top-two. Houston has a great record against the Jaguars and the Colts are imploding. So there’s cause for optimism.

Meanwhile, I’ve never been one to root for ‘tanking’. It never interested me this year. It was more a case of if the Seahawks are bad, at least the reward is a high pick. That said, I’ve very little interest in Seattle backing into the playoffs as a bad seventh seed. The NFL has diluted its post-season with this seventh seed nonsense. It’s not just the Seahawks — you could argue the Packers, Commanders and Lions also have no business putting in a late tilt for the playoffs.

I think it’s overblown to think there’s anything to gain from playing in the playoffs. It’s often said the Seahawks have a young roster but in reality they have the 11th oldest roster in the NFL this season.

If they were winning as many as they were losing to end the season, you could probably muster some enthusiasm for a post-season run. Any given Sunday and all that. Yet with the team on a 1-5 run that includes a solitary victory against LA’s backups plus chastening defeats to Carolina and Las Vegas at home and numerous arse-kickings in the trenches, it’s hard to imagine anything other than a potentially embarrassing wildcard loss to the 49ers or Vikings.

Seattle currently has the #12 pick in the draft. Qualifying for the playoffs would mean, at best, having pick #19. I know you’re supposed to sit here and say you want the playoffs etc and be a good old fan. For me, I’d rather have another high pick. The higher the better. This team needs the best possible opportunity to add talent far more than it needs a wildcard game in the post-season for ‘experience’.

Get the ‘experience’ with a better team in the future when you’ve got a chance to actually win something.

Some other quick notes…

— If the Seahawks don’t take a quarterback early I’d be fully prepared to select Dorian Thompson-Robinson in the third or fourth round range. He’s been a blog favourite for some time, he’s a brilliant playmaker who can throw to all areas of the field and be creative with his legs. He’s not the big, tall, strong-armed dynamo that many teams are looking for but I do think he can become a Jalen Hurts type player in the right situation.

— Without wanting to sound like a stuck-record, I couldn’t help but watch the Eagles vs Cowboys game with some envy on Christmas Eve. Two highly competitive teams full of creativity and ideas. Even though both defenses gave up a lot of points, you saw numerous big plays. The Eagles had six sacks and a pick-six. The Cowboys had two interceptions. Both teams had over 400 yards on offense. It was a proper contest full of excitement. Watching it just made me think how boring it’s been to watch the Seahawks at times over the last few years, aside from a few flashes such as the four-game winning streak this season. For all the hand-wringing over Dallas’ lack of playoff success — the Seahawks only have three playoff wins in the last eight years. It was very easy to imagine Jonathan Gannon coming in to be Head Coach in Seattle to bring some of Philly’s philosophy to the PNW, or Kellen Moore coming in to run a dynamic offense with an experienced defensive coordinator by his side. I am so ready to see something different and new in Seattle.

— I think it’s time to consider getting rid of the Bowl games now that the playoffs are being expanded. They used to be much-watch TV — a final opportunity for players to finish a college career on a high or showcase their talents. Now most games are treated like a hindrance at the end of a long year. Top players sit out. Those who do participate often have an eye on the off-season and avoiding injury. I haven’t watched a single Bowl game so far and feel like I haven’t missed out at all.

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Boxing Day mock draft: Seahawks focus on the trenches

Monday, December 26th, 2022

Time for my second mock with the Seahawks currently in a very interesting position with the #3 and #12 picks in the draft.

I’ve included two trades in this latest projection, one involving Seattle.

The focus is very much on the trenches. Since the game in Germany, the Seahawks have been dominated up front on both sides of the ball. They simply haven’t been competitive on the O-line or D-line during this 1-5 run. If that doesn’t change in the future, they will continue to be a mediocre team.

I will post the mock below with a blurb for each pick. I will then include projections for Seattle’s picks in rounds 2-3 before producing the full first round in list-form.

Mock draft #2

#1 Houston — Will Levis (QB, Kentucky)
Levis has the physical tools, the character and potential to be another Josh Allen or Justin Herbert. For those reasons, he has a chance to go first overall. Don’t focus on his 2022 numbers playing behind an O-line that gave up four times as many sacks per game as any of the other top QB’s in this class, while playing in a pro-style offense and not one of the wide-open spread schemes many of the others featured in. Mahomes, Allen and others all had issues in college. The key is to project and Levis projects very well to the league.

#2 Carolina (v/CHI) — Anthony Richardson (QB, Florida)
Owner David Tepper has been seeking ‘special’ at the position for several years. Richardson has special qualities. The Panthers have a good defense, O-line and a talented top receiver. They can justify trading up to try and find ‘the guy’. They give the Bears an attractive package that includes a 2024 first round pick.

#3 Seattle — Jalen Carter (DT, Georgia)
This would be an ideal scenario for the Seahawks. They badly need an interior disruptor. Will Anderson is more of a project as a 243lbs EDGE or OLB and while he would likely be the alternative pick, Seattle already has players like that on the roster that they haven’t been able to develop. Carter’s reported character question marks, per Todd McShay, are a concern and there are no such issues with Anderson. Yet it’s been too long since Seattle had someone who can blow things up from the inside.

#4 Arizona — Will Anderson (EDGE, Alabama)
The Cardinals will likely do cartwheels if Anderson lasts to this spot. They badly need a quicker edge who can fill the void left by Chandler Jones.

#5 Indianapolis — Bryce Young (QB, Alabama)
Being about 5-10 and 185lbs will be an issue for Young and could lead to a slight fall. Yet with so many teams desperate at quarterback he would provide a winners mentality, leadership and natural ability to a mess of a franchise.

#6 Atlanta — Bijan Robinson (RB, Texas)
GM Terry Fontenot has been very consistent so far as a ‘BPA’ GM. He’s also collected skill players in the previous two drafts. Some Falcons fans will hate this pick but Robinson has a truly special skillset, will likely be the highest graded player on some boards and could help create one of the most dynamic offensive rosters in the league with Drake London and Kyle Pitts. He does everything well, a brilliant player.

#7 Detroit (v/LA) — Michael Mayer (TE, Notre Dame)
It might seem redundant to trade T.J. Hockenson only to select another tight end in the top-10. However, Mayer is just an absolutely fantastic player who fits the mentality of the Dan Campbell Lions. He is a complete tight end.

#8 Chicago (v/CAR) — Tyree Wilson (DE, Texas Tech)
The Bears trade down to acquire needed stock for their rebuild. It’s really hard to justify any offensive lineman here and the feeling is the league loves Wilson’s combination of size and amazing length. Chicago has a lot of cap space to improve their O-line.

#9 Las Vegas — Quentin Johnston (WR, TCU)
This isn’t an ideal spot for the Raiders, just missing out on some players they’d probably covet. Johnston will produce an elite combine performance and likely propel himself into the top-15.

#10 Philadelphia (v/NO) — Myles Murphy (DE, Clemson)
He’s an excellent athlete with good size but the truth is he’s a pussycat. He plays in flashes only and you can get after him in the running game.

#11 Houston (v/CLE) — Jalin Hyatt (WR, Tennessee)
His ability to create late separation by going into a sixth gear is extremely impressive.

#12 Washington (v/SEA) — CJ Stroud (QB, Ohio State)
Although this franchise recently wasted a pick on a quarterback from Ohio State, the Commanders are in a desperate position. They are competitive but the constant question marks at QB are an issue. If one of the ‘big four’ starts to fall, they will surely be tempted to make their move. Jobs are on the line unless they find a good QB. They give the Seahawks pick #53 and a third round pick in 2024 to move up.

#13 Tennessee — Peter Skoronski (G, Northwestern)
For me he’s a pure guard rather than a tackle. I think he’s a bit overrated and I don’t think he’ll go as early as some are predicting. With the top two receivers off the board, the Titans pivot to the O-line.

#14 New England — Joey Porter Jr (CB, Penn State)
Great bloodlines obviously but Porter Jr’s personality is the polar opposite to his father. He’s extremely grounded and likeable. I think teams will love his size, competitive nature and ability to recover and play the ball.

#15 NY Jets — Brian Branch (S, Alabama)
He’s a Rolls Royce in coverage at times who can line up in the slot and cover. He occasionally packs a punch as a hitter. He’s a very versatile player who can line-up in a variety of positions.

#16 Pittsburgh — Mazi Smith (DT, Michigan)
Just the kind of player you can imagine the Steelers loving. He will destroy the combine with his testing, he’s incredibly disruptive and can anchor from the nose.

#17 Green Bay — Darnell Wright (T, Tennessee)
An incredibly underrated tackle who deserves far more attention. He shut-down Will Anderson.

#18 Detroit — Christian Gonzalez (CB, Oregon)
The Lions have a ‘type’ and the sparky Gonzalez just fits it like a glove. Very athletic, very competitive.

#19 Tampa Bay — Calijah Kancey (DT, Pittsburgh)
The closest thing to Aaron Donald since 2013. Even so, some teams will be cautious about drafting a 280lbs defensive tackle with short arms. I suspect whoever has the bollocks to draft him won’t regret it.

#20 Jacksonville — Jordan Addison (WR, USC)
The Jaguars are building nicely and can afford to draft a player to further enhance Trevor Lawrence’s chances of becoming a top player.

#21 Seattle (v/WAS) — Sedrick Van Pran (C, Georgia)
The more I’ve watched of Van Pran the more impressed I’ve been. Seattle’s blocking scheme hasn’t called for a big investment at center and I do wonder if that will make this unlikely. They’ve basically written off the position for years, too. However, they need to be better in the trenches. Van Pran has an outstanding combination of power, aggression, an ability to progress to the second level and I suspect he can play in any system. For me, he’s the top center eligible for 2023.

#22 Miami — forfeited
With the season imploding for Miami, this is a big loss.

#23 NY Giants — Cedric Tillman (WR, Tennessee)
Tillman’s body control, size and quickness make for a very intriguing prospect.

#24 LA Chargers — Bryan Bresee (DT, Clemson)
I think a fall for Bresee is possible. He simply hasn’t been able to stay on the field consistently and his play is so erratic. You see great flashes from a brilliant athlete but there’s also a lot of ‘meh’ tape.

#25 Baltimore — Kelee Ringo (CB, Georgia)
Great size, great speed and he had some tremendous plays on tape. He was also beaten far too often in 2022.

#26 Denver (v/SF) — Cam Smith (CB, South Carolina)
A gritty player with good length and an ability to stick in coverage. I think some teams are really going to like him.

#27 Dallas — Devon Witherspoon (CB, Illinois)
Intensely competitive and he put together a very impressive 2022 season. Testing will determine how early he goes.

#28 Cincinnati — Paris Johnson Jr (T, Ohio State)
I don’t really understand Johnson Jr being mocked in the top-10. For me he’s an OK prospect who will need great testing numbers to reach those heights. I have him in round two as a grade. The Bengals need to keep building their O-line.

#29 Kansas City — Zay Flowers (WR, Boston College)
His change of direction ability is unmatched. Flowers is a tremendous player who could do real damage in a prolific, creative passing attack.

#30 Minnesota — K.J. Henry (DE, Clemson)
For all the hype surrounding Murphy and Bresee — it was Henry who was the most consistently disruptive and reliable this year.

#31 Buffalo — Lukas Van Ness (DE, Iowa)
He’s big and strong and looks like a Disney character with his helmet off but there’s something there. How do you judge a flash player though who wasn’t a full-time starter who moved around the line? His testing will dictate his stock.

#32 Philadelphia — D.J. Turner (CB, Michigan)
As the year went on he gave up a few plays but the combine will be a big day for Turner given his excellent athleticism.

Seattle’s day two picks

R2 — #36 — J.L. Skinner (S, Boise State)
Skinner is a player I can well imagine the Seahawks see as a ‘must have’. I’m not one for hyperbole but he’s the closest thing we’ve seen to Kam Chancellor since the 2010 draft. He’s a big, rangy safety with great length who delivers an absolute killer blow in the open field. He will strike fear into the hearts of any receiver tasked with running a crossing route. He sifts through traffic brilliantly before drilling a ball-carrier. His coverage ability is very good too and he had four interceptions in 2022. He screams ‘Seahawks’ and it’s time for Seattle to revamp the safety position and get younger, quicker, healthier and more violent. I did contemplate taking a receiver here for the value — with Jonathan Mingo and Josh Downs being the two players I seriously considered.

R2 — #50 — Jordan McFadden (G, Clemson)
I think he’s such a tremendous player and better than the other offensive linemen being highly touted. He played left tackle in 2022 but his natural home is at guard. He’s only 6-2 and that helps win many leverage battles but he has fantastic length for his height (reportedly around 34 inch arms) which Seattle really focuses on. For me he had a terrific year at tackle and he’d be an excellent option to kick inside. I’ve been thinking the Seahawks wouldn’t spend big on their interior line but it’s played so poorly over the last few weeks I have them taking a center and a guard in the top-35.

R2 — #53 (v/WAS) — Byron Young (DT/DE, Alabama)
This is the pick acquired from Washington for moving down from #12 to #21. As with McFadden, Young is such a massively underrated player. I’ve watched all of Alabama’s games from 2022, as I’ve done with Clemson and their D-line. Young had impact plays every single week. He constantly broke into the backfield to disrupt. He had a couple of games where he threatened to takeover and while his stat line (four sacks, 5.5 TFL’s) doesn’t speak to his impact — it was well and truly there. He played the edge for Alabama at 6-3 and 292lbs and occasionally kicked inside but at the next level he’d be an ideal 3-4 DE or a potential three-technique. Is he ever going to be a game-wrecking dynamo in the NFL? No. What he will bring is consistency, a surprising number of pressures, an ability to hold the point of attack and help defend the run and he’ll attack his gap to move quarterbacks off the spot. I can well imagine him, in this scenario, lining up very close to Jalen Carter and causing chaos as a duo due to the 1v1 matchups he’d receive.

R3 — #81 — Chris Rodriguez (RB, Kentucky)
It feels like the Seahawks need to add a partner in crime for Ken Walker. I seriously considered UCLA’s Zach Charbonnet in round two. I think he’s a player the Seahawks will love due to his combination of explosive traits, size and ability to run through contact. Kenny McIntosh could be another player they covet. A player described, literally, as a ‘BAMF’ by his coach Kirby Smart — McIntosh’s ability as a pass-catcher complements an aggressive running style that would work together as an ideal third-down runner who can spell Walker. However, I think both players will be off the board by this point. Rodriguez wears #24 and idolises Marshawn Lynch. He has tried to copy his playing style and it shows. There are so many games on tape where you sit up in your seat and feel like you’re watching a poor man’s Marshawn. He carries tacklers, drives through contact, finishes every run and would be a tremendous battering-ram partner for Walker.

Seattle’s picks

Jalen Carter (DT, Georgia)
Sedrick Van Pran (C, Georgia)
J.L. Skinner (S, Boise State)
Jordan McFadden (G, Clemson)
Byron Young (DE/DT, Alabama)
Chris Rodriguez (RB, Kentucky)

What are you getting from this group? Reinforcement in the trenches. Increased toughness on both sides of the ball. Aggressive, tone-setting players at positions of need. Players with the potential to be contributors early.

First round in list form

#1 Houston — Will Levis (QB, Kentucky)
#2 Carolina (v/CHI) — Anthony Richardson (QB, Florida)
#3 Seattle — Jalen Carter (DT, Georgia)
#4 Arizona — Will Anderson (EDGE, Alabama)
#5 Indianapolis — Bryce Young (QB, Alabama)
#6 Atlanta — Bijan Robinson (RB, Texas)
#7 Detroit (v/LA) — Michael Mayer (TE, Notre Dame)
#8 Chicago (v/CAR) — Tyree Wilson (DE, Texas Tech)
#9 Las Vegas — Quentin Johnston (WR, TCU)
#10 Philadelphia (v/NO) — Myles Murphy (DE, Clemson)
#11 Houston (v/CLE) — Jalin Hyatt (WR, Tennessee)
#12 Washington (v/SEA) — CJ Stroud (QB, Ohio State)
#13 Tennessee — Peter Skoronski (G, Northwestern)
#14 New England — Joey Porter Jr (CB, Penn State)
#15 NY Jets — Brian Branch (S, Alabama)
#16 Pittsburgh — Mazi Smith (DT, Michigan)
#17 Green Bay — Darnell Wright (T, Tennessee)
#18 Detroit — Christian Gonzalez (CB, Oregon)
#19 Tampa Bay — Calijah Kancey (DT, Pittsburgh)
#20 Jacksonville — Jordan Addison (WR, USC)
#21 Seattle (v/WAS) — Sedrick Van Pran (C, Georgia)
#22 Miami — forfeited
#23 NY Giants — Cedric Tillman (WR, Tennessee)
#24 LA Chargers — Bryan Bresee (DT, Clemson)
#25 Baltimore — Kelee Ringo (CB, Georgia)
#26 Denver (v/SF) — Cam Smith (CB, South Carolina)
#27 Dallas — Devon Witherspoon (CB, Illinois)
#28 Cincinnati — Paris Johnson Jr (T, Ohio State)
#29 Kansas City — Zay Flowers (WR, Boston College)
#30 Minnesota — K.J. Henry (DE, Clemson)
#31 Buffalo — Lukas Van Ness (DE, Iowa)
#32 Philadelphia — D.J. Turner (CB, Michigan)

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Instant reaction: Seahawks lose to Chiefs

Saturday, December 24th, 2022

There’s not a lot to feel about this game. Sure, the Seahawks made Kansas City uncomfortable at times in the second half with the way they ran the ball. Yet ultimately it’s another loss, their fifth in six games, and Seattle never threatened to win.

I’m sure a few moral victories will be claimed by those inclined to seek them out. We saw that after the Niners game too. ‘It wasn’t as bad as I expected‘. The Chiefs were taken to overtime last week by the hapless Texans and the week before that, were severely pushed by Denver in a 34-28 loss. They haven’t been playing that well recently.

Nevertheless, this one never got that close. In the first half, it was like watching a pre-season game played in second gear. The Chiefs sauntered to an advantage they never looked like relinquishing.

It was nice for the Seahawks to come out after half-time and show something but when the score is 17-3 — the damage is done at that point. It’s OK trying to establish a running game when you’re down by 14 points but if Seattle was ever going to win in Kansas City, that had to be something they accomplished much earlier.

To me it just feels like a predictable score. The Chiefs move on. The Seahawks lose again. They’ve taken a promising 6-3 start and gone 1-5 in the last six games. Which, frankly, is really poor.

Curtis Allen’s week sixteen watchpoints (vs Chiefs)

Friday, December 23rd, 2022

This is a guest article by Curtis Allen. After the game tune into the instant reaction live stream which will be available on here and on our YouTube channel

As the regular season winds down, the Seahawks have the toughest game on their entire 2022 schedule looming. A date against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead. The Chiefs have won their division but are still striving for that precious #1 seed in the AFC. Their attention to winning this game will not waver in the slightest.

They currently have the #1 scoring offense in the NFL. Their defense – while definitely not as good as the offense – has gravitated out of the bottom of the league in recent years and risen to middling this year. In other words, good enough to keep the team in balance.

You can see it in their losses. They have three losses on their card by only a combined ten points. They have been in every single game they have played — a credit to Andy Reid and his staff.

It is self-evident that the Seahawks will need to put together their best, most complete game of the season in order to beat the Chiefs. Mistakes and failures to capitalize on any Kansas City mistakes will be costly (more on that in a minute).

Apologies for sounding like a broken record but the only real watch point is once again — can the Seahawks run the ball and stop the run?

It is noteworthy that the Chiefs have run out a 38/62 run/pass split so far this season. They are one of the pass-heaviest teams in the NFL. Only four teams pass more often than the Chiefs. It makes sense. With Patrick Mahomes as your quarterback and weapons like Jason Kelce, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Mecole Hardman and JuJu Smith-Shuster to throw to, what would you do?

However, it would be folly to think the Seahawks’ horrible run defense will get a reprieve this week. Teams with similar pass-heavy attacks have recently decided to feature the run against the Seahawks and have had tremendous success. That includes Tampa Bay, the LA Rams and Las Vegas.

I am truly starting to wonder if the Falcons and Saints modelled how to run effectively on the Seahawks in the early part of the season and the only teams the Seahawks defeated during that four-game win streak either did not have the personnel or the coaching acumen to realize and exploit the weakness.

Well, they have been fully exposed now. The Seahawks are giving up an average of 161 rushing yards per game fourteen games into the season, bad enough for 31st in the NFL. The die is cast. Coach Reid would be foolish to not include a very healthy dose of runs in his game plan.

Taking a detour from their offensive mix is not without precedent. In 2020, they came up against a rising Buffalo Bills team and defeated them 26-17 by running the ball an astounding 46 times for 245 yards. They led the time of possession by 15 minutes – a whole quarter of football. Josh Allen only managed 122 yards passing as they slowly squeezed the life out of the Bills by holding onto the football.

It was a low-stress day for Patrick Mahomes as he was sacked only once and pressured only five times.

It should not shock anyone if the Chiefs devise a similar strategy. That is what I would do if I faced the Seahawks. Run the ball until you cannot anymore and keep their strength (their offense) off the field. And KC has the ultimate advantage: If the run is not working, they just put the ball in the hands of the most dynamic playmaker in the NFL and let him turbo-charge the scoreboard.

If it is working, they have saved some powder for the playoffs by giving Mahomes an easier day late in December.

Here is the challenge for the Seahawks though: do they see the potential for their opponent to come out with a run-heavy approach and will they prepare accordingly? Pete Carroll on Tuesday alluded to the fact that the Chiefs are a pass-heavy team and they will have to be good in that area. Which of course is true. But given what I have referenced above – teams that are traditionally feature passing have run on the Seahawks with great success – they must be prepared and ready for their opponent to do the same.

They cannot afford a coaching performance similar to the one they had against that 2020 Bills team in Week Nine – being completely unprepared for Buffalo to throw the ball as much as they did – when everyone in the NFL could see they were giving up passing yards at a historic rate.

On the other side of the ball, they badly need an effective game from the rushing offense. A return to form for Ken Walker would be most welcome. Particularly if it allows the Seahawks to control the clock a little and opens up the passing game for some shots for Geno Smith.

Perhaps with Tyler Lockett injured, the time has come for Dareke Young to get some attention on offense? He was used in college as a receiver/running back weapon at Lenoir-Rhyne. Maybe they could steal a couple of plays from the Niners’ playbook for Deebo Samuel for him?

I mention this because again on Tuesday, Pete Carroll heavily alluded to a ‘stay the course’ and ‘do what we do and the results will come’ mindset. When you play one of the best teams in the NFL though – with your current standard of play so low – wisdom should move you to consider having a couple wrinkles in your playbook to try and catch them off guard.

Those are once again the big points. But here are a couple other factors that could prove to be pivotal in this game.

Win The Battle of Mistakes

If the Chiefs have a weakness, it is making mistakes. They are an awful -6 in turnover differential (tied for third-worst in the NFL), their special teams have been a mess this year and they have given up 96 more yards in penalties than their opponents.

Take their loss to Indianapolis in Week Three as an example. They lost the game by three points but they left four points on the field in the form of a missed field goal and a missed PAT.

Special Teams cost them seven more points right out of the gate in the first quarter in the form of a muffed punt that Indy recovered inside the 5-yard line and scored a touchdown on. They tried a fake punt that did not work at all.

Late in the fourth quarter with a lead, they sacked Matt Ryan on a third down and were celebrating when a flag went up for unsportsmanlike conduct. Given new life, Ryan drove them for the game-winning touchdown.

And yet Mahomes still had the Chiefs in range for a field goal try late but threw an interception – another mistake – to seal the game.

Last week’s win against the one-win Texans that threatened to shock the NFL world? The Chiefs fumbled three times, lost two of them and again they left four points on the field with a missed PAT and a missed 51-yard field goal try as time expired.

In overtime, the offense stalled and had to punt. Frank Clark strip sacked Davis Mills and the Chiefs recovered to score and deny the upset. They lost some ‘mistake battles’ but won the ‘mistake war.’ The Seahawks need to win both to deliver the upset.

It is really hard to game plan for your opposition to make mistakes. That said, it does appear that mistakes are the Chiefs’ Achilles Heel. The best you can do is to avoid your own mistakes and game plan to effectively take advantage when these opportunities do arise. Aggressiveness needs to be an asset in this game.

The Chiefs are the better team, no doubt about that. Yet if the Seahawks are able to win in this area, this game could end up far closer than any of us expect.

Attack the Middle of the Field in the Passing Game to Set Up the Offense

We talked last week about how good the Niners defend the middle of the field. The Chiefs are at the other end of the spectrum. Every time I watched an opponent move the ball on offense against this defense, it nearly always included a very steady diet of slants, hooks, seam routes and dump offs to players in between the numbers.

I pulled the stats from the NextGen site for throws between the numbers against KC the last 6 games. and they are very convincing. Teams have been 97 for 120 for an excellent 80.8% completion percentage in this zone, with eight touchdowns against only three interceptions.

I also feel compelled to tell you that one of those games was against Bryce Perkins in his first NFL start and he was responsible for two of those interceptions.

Throw Perkins out and teams completed 83% of passes with seven touchdowns and one interception in five games.

This is not as glaring a weakness as the Seahawks’ run defense but if the Seahawks are not targeting this area of the field with regularity, they are really missing out.

How is Geno Smith doing targeting this area of the field? Have a look:

The deep middle is fantastic but the short middle is average and that is fine. I would still take his numbers against the Chiefs’ defensive vulnerability. Particularly in combo with his numbers to the edges of the field.

Is there another reason they should target this area of the field? There is.

The Chiefs have not yet faced an offense with the caliber of tight ends the Seahawks have. It is not even close. Of the top-10 tight end teams in terms of receptions, the Chiefs have only faced one – the Chargers twice – and old friend Gerald Everett had a nice game in the first matchup but missed the second.

With Tyler Lockett out and this scheme and zone advantage the Seahawks have, they really need to get good production out of their tight ends. It keeps the offense on schedule, reduces the pressure on Geno Smith (the Chiefs are one of the biggest blitzing teams in the NFL) and when you are in the middle of the field, the clock keeps running.

There is yet one more reason to keep the middle of the field in mind: it makes the defense more malleable to strikes to your star wide receivers on the edges or deep. The mental aspect of continually drawing attention and help to the middle of the field can only be a good thing for receivers like D.K. Metcalf and Marquise Goodwin in their matchups.

Speaking of Metcalf, the Seahawks badly need a dominant, star-level type of game from him on Saturday. It could be argued he only has two such performances this season: Week Four against Jeff Okuda in Detroit and Week Thirteen against Jalen Ramsey in Los Angeles.

Yes, Metcalf endured a scary-looking injury earlier this year. Yes, dumb penalties and drops have been an issue again as well. And yes, the tight ends, another great year by Tyler Lockett and an occasionally fantastic rushing attack have blunted the need for consistently big, game-altering performances from Metcalf.

Well, they need one from him on Saturday. More than ever. He signed a top contract this offseason and games like this are why.

The Chiefs do not feature a top group of corners. L’Jarious Sneed, Jaylen Watson and Joshua Williams have given up 14 touchdown passes, have been credited with 15 missed tackles and between the three of them are averaging over a 100 QB rating when targeted.

Metcalf needs to meet this moment and deliver on a national stage. He still has plenty of room to reach his ceiling. Rising to this challenge would further cement his place as a receiver that keeps defensive coordinators up at night.

It should not matter if the Chiefs decide to pull extra focus and direct it to Metcalf. If this team is to have a chance at beating maybe the best team in the NFL on Saturday, they will need a top performance from a top player.

Live stream with Jeff Simmons — today 2pm PT

Wednesday, December 21st, 2022

It’s hard to work out how good Tui Tuipolotu is

Monday, December 19th, 2022

Tui Tuipolotu had a big 2022 season for USC

It caught my eye a few weeks ago when Tony Pauline cited a source saying USC defensive lineman Tui Tuipolotu could go in round one.

I’d spoken briefly to Tony about Tuipolotu and we both agreed he was an incredibly difficult player to grade. In my horizontal board I went for round three simply because I was really struggling to balance out the pro’s and con’s.

He’s listed at 6-4 and 290lbs. He had a tremendous 2022 season with 12.5 sacks and 21 TFL’s.

Yet he’s also the reason why the word ‘tweener’ was invented.

There are a couple of players I really want to see testing results for. One is Tuipolotu and the other is Jared Verse the Florida State pass rusher. I don’t think I’ll be able to give a serious grade on either until after the combine.

I did want to share some thoughts on Tuipolotu though after re-watching three games today.

He has a Euro step. He has a cross-chop. He can win with a fake to the inside before exploding back to the edge. He can bend and straighten. There are wins with a bull-rush where he drives the tackle back into the quarterback. His get-off is good enough to put a tackle on skates. He fights through attempted blocks with good hands — swiping away from the tackle and ripping through contact. He converts speed to power. He can crash inside to attack the B-gap and fill in versus the run. His motor is generally good. He does a lot very well and his repertoire is impressive.

There are also inconsistencies on tape. As impactful as he is, there are stretches where he’s too easily blocked or washed out. He can’t press consistently to keep players away from his frame and you don’t see much of a long arm to stay clean and read the play. He plays in bursts. This is indicative of the key question mark.

He’s such an in-between player. He has the build of a smaller, specialist interior rusher but he rushes the edge well enough to play most of his snaps outside. His pass rushing grade per PFF is 80.6. He’s effective and I think he’s a better player at defensive end.

Yet he lacks the traditional long frame to play the edge. His arm length looks short too and I worry about his ability to keep blockers off his body at the next level consistently. He’s so quick at times and he has some bend and flexibility. Maybe his agility testing and burst will signal a unique talent? Yet his frame doesn’t lend itself to defensive end and I’m not sure a permanent move inside would work either.

Then you come back to the production and assortment of different pass rush wins and you want to rate him extremely highly.

He’s one of the hardest players I’ve tried to work out in a long while. I can well imagine him coming into the NFL and being a little bit inconsistent but finding a way to grab 8-12 sacks a season as a versatile piece who moves around the D-line. I can also imagine him being an ineffective tweener who just feasted on substandard PAC-12 teams and while he looked great rushing the edge in college — there aren’t really any players succeeding with his body type at the next level.

He’s a brilliant test case. If he does test well I can see a team taking a chance in the top-40. I can also see him being there in round three.

His brother Marlon plays for the Eagles. Incidentally, the Eagles defensive coordinator, Jonathan Gannon, has been touted as a potential candidate to replace Pete Carroll this week. Benjamin Allbright re-emphasised this week and even doubled-down on his initial speculation, suggesting John Schneider was ready to work with a new Head Coach.

I don’t think a Carroll-led defense would draft someone like Tuipolotu. A different coach might feel differently.

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Thoughts on Pete Carroll’s future & Seattle’s ‘Denver’ pick

Sunday, December 18th, 2022

This is also available via ‘The Rebuild’ podcast streams