Archive for March, 2023

Are the Seahawks going to trade up to #3?

Friday, March 31st, 2023

John Schneider & Pete Carroll had a front-row seat for Anthony Richardson’s pro-day

I’ve got my notes on Anthony Richardson’s pro-day coming up but first I wanted to reflect on speculation provided by two separate reporters.

Firstly, Vic Tafur of ‘the Athletic’ posted this in his report from the NFL owners meeting:

But the buzz at Monday night’s NFL party, with owners, general managers, coaches, agents and reporters hitting the open bar, was that all four quarterbacks will be long gone by the time the Raiders pick at No. 7.

That’s relevant assuming the Raiders aren’t blowing smoke and are really interested in the four quarterbacks — given that they just gave Garoppolo $33.75 million guaranteed and a 6-11 team should probably keep all its draft picks rather than try and trade up.

The buzz is that the Seahawks will jump up from No. 5 to No. 3 to grab either Richardson or Levis, as Stroud and Young are expected to go 1-2. The Cardinals can move down to No, 5 and still get the top defensive player, as the Colts are expected to also draft a QB at No. 4.

It’s perhaps telling that Michael-Shawn Dugar, the Seahawks reporter for ‘the Athletic’, also wrote an article titled, ‘Seahawks’ interest in top QBs is no smokescreen‘:

Seattle knows that picking this high in the draft again is unlikely. Since 2011, Seattle’s average native first-round slot has been in the 20s. The Seahawks rarely (if ever) have 20 prospects with first-round grades, which is why they’ve so often traded back in the first round or traded out of the round entirely. Schneider’s history of trading down in the first round has contributed to the belief that the Seahawks’ interest in the top quarterbacks is a ruse. But there’s a notable difference between picking No. 5 and pick No. 25, so Seattle’s previous draft strategies aren’t necessarily applicable this year.

Further evidence Seattle isn’t bluffing about possibly selecting a quarterback: Carroll has already relayed to Smith that it’s legitimately on the table.

Clearly, it seems, there was a theme at the league meeting — accurate or not — that Seattle is in the QB market in this draft.

Friend of the blog Tony Pauline added to this yesterday, reporting:

Speculation from league insiders during Florida’s pro day is the Seattle Seahawks could be the team that leapfrogs the Indianapolis Colts and trades up with the Arizona Cardinals to secure Richardson. Several reasons were given.

The cost to move up won’t be much for the Seahawks, who have another first-round pick — the 20th selection.

Additionally, the general manager and coach who draft Richardson have to be on safe footing. Even Russell Wilson couldn’t get Pete Carroll and John Schneider fired. Finally, Richardson is the type of freaky athlete that the Seahawks have drafted in the past and had success with — think Tariq Woolen and DK Metcalf.

What should we make of all this?

When I listened to Carroll speak candidly to Steve Wyche about drafting a quarterback (see below) it really convinced me that they were prepared to take one. This didn’t feel like a great ruse. It felt like a coach laying out a situation, almost preparing everyone for a possibility:

This doesn’t mean the Seahawks were definitely going to draft a quarterback. I just think it highlighted a situation we’ve discussed a lot. I think they’re comfortable taking Will Anderson or one of the top four quarterbacks at #5.

I must admit though, these latest reports made me think.

It’s possible the wheels are in motion behind the scenes. The Seahawks wouldn’t leak this info to a Tafur or Pauline directly but if they’re chatting to other teams, scoping out what Arizona is actually being offered at #3 to help them determine their next move, that could be brought up at a cocktail party at the owners meeting quite easily.

Or, maybe they’re trying to shift things into gear? Spook a team into trading up to #3, increasing the chances of Will Anderson lasting to #5?

I’m sure people will shape their view based on their own personal preferences.

I then come onto my own personal impression that I don’t think the Seahawks are disinterested in the QB’s and wonder, would they cook-up such an elaborate poker game to avoid taking one? Is Anderson really worth all this effort? If they don’t take a quarterback when they’re in the top-five with a well established ‘top-four’ — when will they? I’m pretty sure the plan isn’t solely to ride or die with Geno Smith.

I’m fascinated by the whole mystery of it all. I’m eager to know what the reality is.

I will say again that I think these quarterbacks are factory made for John Schneider. These are the types of player he goes for. The thought of him trading up to make sure he gets the guy he wants is not as fanciful as some think.

I just remain sceptical about the viability of trading with a division rival. Does Monti Ossenfort, the new Cardinals GM, really want his first big move in the job to be a trade so that a division rival can draft a potential franchise quarterback? That would be career suicide if the player turns out to be great.

Can he risk the Seahawks trading up to #3 and taking Anderson instead of a QB?

What’s the price to move up two spots? It feels like a difficult one to work out. If the Cardinals are moving back knowing they can still get the guy they want, then it doesn’t exactly help their bargaining position because that’s a feather in Seattle’s cap compared to say the Raiders at #7, Falcons at #8 or Titans at #11.

Equally, the Seahawks only need to move up to stop somebody else doing it. So if they end up having to outbid another team, that could get expensive.

I’m torn. The Seahawks clearly want to build their defense and trading up for a quarterback makes that harder. At the same time, this is a rare opportunity to get a potential star quarterback for the long term. John Schneider was supposedly prepared to be aggressive to trade prime Russell Wilson for a chance to draft Josh Allen, plus he was reportedly prepared to draft Patrick Mahomes to usurp Wilson. We know he’s willing to be bold at the position.

It could be a fascinating few days. What I think this does tell us, however, is that we’re on the right track here. Whether they want to move up or just want to sucker someone else to do it so Anderson falls — the four quarterbacks and Will Anderson are likely the players we should focus on. You’re not trading up for Jalen Carter or Tyree Wilson and you’re not hoping for either of those two to last to #5 by shifting Arizona out of the #3 spot.

My prediction is the Seahawks won’t trade up. I think it’d be silly, however, to ignore what’s being speculated — especially when it’s coming from two non-related sources.

Now onto my pro-day notes for Anthony Richardson…

I was listening to Jordan Palmer courtesy of ‘the 33rd team’ this week and he had some interesting things to say about Richardson. Palmer attended the Manning Passing Academy last year. He says people who witnessed that event were referring to Richardson’s physical performance as ‘legendary’ —- with onlookers amazed by how effortless he was launching the ball downfield.

Jim Nagy and Jake Heaps have offered similar sentiments, saying that at an event where Bryce Young was present, Richardson and Will Levis stood out the most due to their strong arms and athleticism.

At the Florida pro-day, you can see why everyone was so awestruck. You will never, ever see a player throw the ball with this level of velocity and power with so little energy exerted to deliver a pass. It’s unique. It’s barely believable. It speaks to the titanic-sized potential Richardson possesses.

Each of the pro-days have been different so far. C.J. Stroud’s was up-tempo and rapid. There was no messing around — he got into his throws quickly and sprayed accurate passes all over the field. Young’s was low-key and almost felt like he was saying, ‘let’s get this out of the way’. Levis showed off his physical qualities and the throwing session was brilliantly designed by the aforementioned Palmer.

Richardson was free and loose. There was nothing mechanical about his drops or footwork. At times it was like he was just playing catch in the backyard. He’d hop around on the spot, then flick his wrist and fire a laser to the target — often deep downfield. He was jogging and then lofting passes 60-70 yards like it was nothing. On several of his throws he was sporting a huge grin on his face. This was not a pressurised environment. If Stroud and Levis were business-like and Young intent on moving on in the process, Richardson was out there having a blast.

There’s nothing technically impressive about Richardson. The whole workout felt like he was saying, ‘bollocks to this — we all know I need to sit for a year or two and develop, so I’m just going to show off my arm’. And show off he did.

I’ve never seen anything like it. Josh Allen is the closest I can think of but his pro-day was a bit more classically designed. Richardson was freelancing today and showed this incomparable ability to generate a frozen-rope level spiral with maximum velocity without exerting himself. He throws with as much tenacity as I might throw a soft-toy to my six-year-old daughter. Yet he still generates a world class, jaw-dropping level of torque and distance.

This is natural, physical ability at its finest.

His release is slightly elongated which is a contrast to the others. It does make me wonder if he’s spent any time gaining technical coaching this off-season. We know Levis has been working with Palmer (along with DTR, Hendon Hooker and Max Duggan). Levis’ release point is high and tight. Richardson does drop his arm and come around, then up, to release. It’s not a massive issue but something worth noting.

You only have to look at Richardson to see he belongs on the front cover of a sports magazine. His frame is incredible. He’s just sensationally built and in proportion. This is what a superstar looks like. I generally think if a player has flaws but has the upside to reach an elite level, provided he has the right application and attitude, they are worth taking a chance on. By all accounts, Richardson has that attitude and application. In the right environment, he can be one of the faces of the league.

He jogged to his left on a couple of occasions, threw across his body and nailed the velocity and placement. I would’ve personally liked to see more structure to the workout at times. Levis was running extended bootlegs and play action, then throwing realistic NFL passes against imaginary situations. The pitch-and-catch nature of Richardson’s session was interesting to an extent but it would’ve been good to see some tougher challenges.

Even so, I enjoyed watching him flex with this display of power.

He threw a couple of lofted mid-range fades which were ‘wow’ deliveries. There was one shot across his body to the right hand side where I can barely believe how easily he threw it 60-yards downfield, with great height and placement, into the range for a receiver to run under. The downfield stuff was effortless.

He quickened the pace after a warm-up and rolled into some five-step drops. The throws came out with reasonable timing but I think he can deliver quicker than this. As on tape, there are some slightly higher throws than necessary on easy layups. Yet he can also launch to the sideline with ease on mid-range outs. On some of those reps he was delivering a ball most players simply cannot.

Richardson threw some 40-yard passes to the right sideline that just exploded out of his hand. He followed it up with some play-action work, mimicking looking off the safety down the middle then with no resetting of his feet, throwing to the left sideline with ideal punch and velocity.

He took some under-center snaps where he fell into a three-step drop. Richardson then showed off a hitch on a slant and go before floating a beautiful downfield shot towards the left sideline.

They had one of the coaches provide some mock pressure. Richardson span out of it, then as he was running to his left, threw across his body and landed a perfect pass 60-yards downfield hitting the receiver in stride. He made it look easy.

Richardson showed off his arm, launching a pass from the 12-yard line to the 18-yard line at the opposite end of the field. He gets great height on his downfield throws. Young’s were quite flat I thought at Alabama but Richardson gets the height necessary for a receiver to track with ease and run under the throw. This was evidenced by the fact he hit the roof on one pass, just as Levis did at his pro-day.

He had another deep shot with an exaggerated play-fake to the left, then he ran back to the right and launched it downfield like he was throwing a 10-yard slant. Loft, precision, velocity. It was a stunning throw, hitting the receiver deep downfield in stride. Masterful.

There are no physical limitations here. For any team wanting an explosive downfield passer, he can be it. He’ll be able to throw from difficult angles under pressure and he won’t need perfect technique to generate an accurate, powerful throw because he’s just so uniquely created physically. I’ve seen defenders hanging off him and he still hits the mark.

I don’t think there’ll be another Anthony Richardson and I haven’t seen anyone like this before. I feel confident saying there may never be a player with greater upside. That doesn’t mean it’ll work out and of course — there’s always a risk factor. There is with any high pick, even the perceived ‘safe’ picks (see: Aaron Curry).

Yet the prospect of it working out for him is well worth not only a top-five pick but also an aggressive move to make sure you get him.

I think someone is going to do it. I’m not sure who. But the chance of four quarterbacks going in the top-four has, in my opinion, become a very real possibility.

The four high-profile quarterback pro-days were fun to watch and highlighted positives with each player. If Trey Lance can have a bad pro-day like he did and still coax a team to trade up for him, I’d say that suggests there’s an extremely strong chance these four will be top-five picks.

If you missed our live stream yesterday discussing this topic in more detail, check it out here:

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New two-round mock draft, trades impact Seattle

Thursday, March 30th, 2023

I’ve not bought into the idea that the Cardinals will trade out of the #3 pick. I wasn’t convinced a team would make an offer good enough to tempt Arizona. After all, they’d be moving off the top defensive player in the draft at a time when they’re desperate for difference makers on defense.

However, I’m starting to think it might happen after all.

The Florida pro-day is the last of the top-quarterback throwing sessions. Anthony Richardson is the star attraction and remains the X-factor in this process. He has everything needed physically to be a future superstar.

Given the right guidance and developed properly, the sky’s the limit for Richardson.

I found the list of teams bringing Richardson in for an official-30 visit interesting. Per Jordan Schultz, they include Las Vegas, Atlanta, Tennessee and Baltimore.

In other words — the teams picking at #7, #8 and #11 plus a franchise potentially set for a messy divorce with their current starting quarterback.

The buzz around Richardson is legit. I think teams are going to end up thinking — why not take a chance on this player becoming brilliant?

As such, I want to do a mock with a team trading up to #3.

I’m going for the Falcons.

Firstly, they’ve done a great job aggressively upgrading various parts of their roster this off-season. They have very few question marks apart from quarterback — with third round pick Desmond Ridder announced recently as the 2023 starter.

I don’t think Ridder is good enough, or has shown enough, to believe the Falcons are completely sold on his long-term starting credentials. Imagine inserting Richardson, after a year of preparation, into a roster with so much talent? By being aggressive on the open market, they’ve also bought a means to be aggressive via draft trade. They can afford to take a chance.

Arthur Blank isn’t a shy, retiring, conservative-thinking owner. He wants to win. He wants excitement. I think he will want Richardson. I have the Falcons trading their next two first round picks to move up from #8 to #3. The Raiders choose not to match, while the Titans would have to give up too much to move up from #11.

This would mean four quarterbacks taken with the first four picks.

You’ll find the mock below with extra thoughts on the Seahawks at the end.

Firstly though…

The trades

Atlanta (#8) trades with Arizona (#3) for the Falcons’ 2024 & 2025 first round picks
The Falcons have built a very competitive roster and can afford to let Desmond Ridder start this year. In the meantime, they trade up for Richardson. If Ridder succeeds in 2023, they can always trade him and recoup some stock. Either way — this is a franchise that needs some electricity and Richardson would provide that.

New York Giants (#26) trade with Seattle (#20) for the #90 pick
The Giants jump ahead of LA and Baltimore to get the receiver they want. The Seahawks get a third round pick in return.

Seattle (#38) trades with Houston (#34) for the #124 pick
The Seahawks want to make sure they get their first choice center and jump ahead of division rivals Arizona to make sure they land their man.

First round

#1 Carolina (v/CHI) — CJ Stroud (QB, Ohio State)
Against Georgia he showed flashes of Mahomes. He’s a sensational talent, capable of handling the pressure of being the #1 pick. A star in the making.

#2 Houston — Bryce Young (QB, Alabama)
Young is a good fit for the offense, would help shape a new culture in Houston and provide an offensive identity to the franchise.

#3 Atlanta (v/ARI) — Anthony Richardson (QB, Florida)
The Falcons trade up to add a player with enough potential to be a MVP candidate in the future. He’d be working with the ideal coach in Arthur Smith.

#4 Indianapolis — Will Levis (QB, Kentucky)
The big-armed Levis screams Chris Ballard pick and his ability to start quickly is a plus.

#5 Seattle — Will Anderson (EDGE, Alabama)
I think the Seahawks are very open to drafting any of the top-four quarterbacks but they’ll also be delighted if Anderson lasts to this spot. He’s perfect for the scheme, would give Seattle a legit edge threat and his A+ character and attitude are exactly what Schneider and Carroll are looking to add.

#6 Detroit (v/LA) — Tyree Wilson (DE, Texas Tech)
I think they will consider Jalen Carter unlike Arizona and Seattle but ultimately they take the safer bet with Wilson.

#7 Las Vegas — Peter Skoronski (G, Northwestern)
Offensive linemen with the explosive testing results Skoronski has go very early in the draft.

#8 Arizona (v/ATL) — Christian Gonzalez (CB, Oregon)
With outstanding physical gifts and a feisty playing style, Gonzalez should find a home in the top-10. The Cardinals are comfortable moving down here, knowing they’ll land one of Wilson or Gonzalez.

#9 Chicago (v/CAR) — Bijan Robinson (RB, Texas)
I don’t think the Bears will be one of the teams prepared to take a chance on Carter. They add one of the legit, blue-chip players in Robinson to create the most dynamic rushing attack in the NFL.

#10 Philadelphia (v/NO) — Jalen Carter (DT, Georgia)
The GM who takes Carter will have money in the bank with ownership, job security and the ability to outlast the mistake if he busts.

#11 Tennessee — Michael Mayer (TE, Notre Dame)
As soon as he ran a brilliant short shuttle and three-cone, I was convinced he deserves to be taken this early. A complete tight end.

#12 Houston (v/CLE) — Jaxson Smith-Njigba (WR, Ohio State)
I remain unsure of Smith-Njigba’s speed but in the Shanahan-inspired system, which runs a lot of quick slants and crossing routes, he should excel.

#13 NY Jets — Darnell Wright (T, Tennessee)
Joe Douglas loves explosive offensive linemen and Darnell Wright is the best tackle in the draft.

#14 New England — Deonte Banks (CB, Maryland)
This feels like a pick the Patriots would make — a good fit in terms of scheme with the chance to develop Banks into a quality cornerback.

#15 Green Bay — Josh Downs (WR, North Carolina)
The Packers troll Aaron Rodgers by finally drafting a receiver in round one and select a player I think is being way underrated.

#16 Washington — Devon Witherspoon (CB, Illinois)
The lack of testing will be a concern but Witherspoon’s tenacious passion for brutal hits will appeal to Ron Rivera and his staff.

#17 Pittsburgh — Dawand Jones (T, Ohio State)
He just feels like the kind of monster you find in the AFC North.

#18 Detroit — Myles Murphy (DE, Clemson)
He’s been overrated for far too long and could last longer than this. He still hasn’t done any testing either.

#19 Tampa Bay — Paris Johnson Jr (T, Ohio State)
This would allow the Buccs to keep Tristan Wirfs at right tackle.

#20 NY Giants (v/SEA) — Quentin Johnston (WR, TCU)
The Giants trade up for a bigger receiver with WR1 potential, leaping ahead of LA and Baltimore — two other teams in the wide-out market.

#21 Miami — forfeited
Naughty Naughty.

#22 LA Chargers — Zay Flowers (WR, Boston College)
Flowers would complement the bigger targets already in LA.

#23 Baltimore — Joey Porter Jr (CB, Penn State)
Not sure how this would go down in Pittsburgh…

#24 Minnesota — Hendon Hooker (QB, Tennessee)
There’s legit buzz around Hooker as a first round prospect and the Vikings have been looking closely at this QB class according to numerous reports.

#25 Jacksonville — Broderick Jones (T, Georgia)
I think he has to fix his technique to stay at tackle but physically he has everything you need.

#26 Seattle (v/NYG) — Adetomiwa Adebawore (DE, Northwestern)
The Seahawks trade down a few spots and select another impact defensive lineman. They’re seemingly after another 280-285lbs defensive end for their 3-4 and at 282lbs, Adebawore ran a 4.49 forty and a 4.26 short shuttle. That’s insane. He’s also explosive with long arms and he has a great Senior Bowl on his résumé.

#27 Dallas — Calijah Kancey (DT, Pittsburgh)
The Cowboys are exactly the kind of team that would take a chance on Kancey and reap the benefits for years to come.

#28 Buffalo — Keion White (DE, Georgia Tech)
He’s a bit older and has some technical issues to resolve but there’s no doubt he’s an enticing player with major physical upside.

#29 Cincinnati — Luke Musgrave (TE, Oregon State)
The Bengals need to keep adding weapons and this would be excellent value.

#30 New Orleans (v/DEN, SF) — Dalton Kincaid (TE, Utah)
The Saints also jump into the tight end market and get Derek Carr a new best friend.

#31 Philadelphia — Brian Branch (S, Alabama)
They lost both safeties in free agency and Branch is versatile enough to play in Philly’s defense where Sean Desai will use a lot of three-safety sets.

#32 Kansas City — Will McDonald (EDGE, Iowa State)
They love dynamic athletes and that’s McDonald — the bendiest, best-balance pass-rusher you’ll find.

Second round

#33 Pittsburgh (v/CHI) — Mazi Smith (DT, Michigan)
The Steelers add some serious beef by taking Dawand Jones for the O-line then adding Mazi Smith for the defense.

#34 Seattle (v/HOU) — John Michael Schmitz (C, Minnesota)
Fearing the Cardinals, the Seahawks jump up four spots and give Houston a fourth round pick to select JMS — locking up the center position. His wrestling background, 4.56 short shuttle and personality are ideal fits for Seattle.

#35 Arizona — Lukas Van Ness (DE, Iowa)
I think he’s become quite overrated. He has great testing and size numbers but let’s not forget he didn’t even start for Iowa.

#36 Indianapolis — Anton Harrison (T, Oklahoma)
A really good run-blocker who is going to go earlier than people think.

#37 LA Rams — Jahmyr Gibbs (RB, Alabama)
Eventually someone is going to snap him up. Incredible potential and he helped drive Alabama forward last season — sometimes on his own.

#38 Houston (v/SEA, DEN) — Nolan Smith (LB, Georgia)
He’s a tweener and it’s hard to work out what his role is at the next level but someone will take a shot to work it out.

#39 Las Vegas — Darnell Washington (TE, Georgia)
His agility testing could get him into round one but his tape is ‘meh’ and I’m not sure he’s a glass-eater like some of these other tight ends.

#40 Carolina — Jordan Addison (WR, USC)
More weapons. Addison would be a nice slot-option for the Panthers.

#41 New Orleans — Keeanu Benton (DT, Wisconsin)
He can play a variety of positions but for anyone who thinks he’s a nose tackle — watch what he did at the Senior Bowl. He can disrupt and is probably better suited to a role that lets him rush the passer more often than he did in college.

#42 Tennessee — Matthew Bergeron (T, Syracuse)
Whether he plays tackle or guard, there’s a lot to like about the athletic Canadian.

#43 Green Bay (v/NYJ CLE) — Derick Hall (DE, Auburn)
The chances are this pick will end up with the Packers in an Aaron Rodgers trade. If so, they get an alpha-dog pass rusher who had fantastic testing numbers at the combine and his pro-day.

#44 NY Jets — Cody Mauch (G/C, North Dakota State)
The Jets need an answer at center and I think Mauch’s tenacity and joyful delight in burying people will secure a top-50 placing.

#45 Atlanta — D.J. Turner (CB, Michigan)
He’s a fantastic, dynamic athlete and he could easily go in round one.

#46 Green Bay — Sam LaPorta (TE, Iowa)
When you just watch highlights of LaPorta — essentially the moments where he’s not bogged-down by the Iowa offense — he looks genuinely exciting as a receiver.

#47 New England — Sydney Brown (S, Illinois)
This feels like such a Patriots pick. Amazing character, stunning athlete, versatile.

#48 Washington — Luke Schoonmaker (TE, Michigan)
It’s such a fantastic tight end class with the testing numbers and we could see a whole bunch go in the top-50. Schoonmaker is another who fits the bill.

#49 Detroit — Drew Sanders (LB, Arkansas)
The testing numbers were not spectacular and his missed-tackle rate could lead to a bit of a fall.

#50 Pittsburgh — Kelee Ringo (CB, Georgia)
Ringo is a mature, well-spoken defender with great straight-line speed but I worry about his change of direction ability. How will he handle anything going over the middle?

#51 Tampa Bay — Zacch Pickens (DT, South Carolina)
He’s so underrated and deserves a lot more attention than he’s getting.

#52 Miami — Luke Wypler (C, Ohio State)
The way he played against Georgia was top level. Teams will remember that.

#53 Seattle — Tucker Kraft (TE, South Dakota State)
It’s not a 2023 need but it’s certainly looking like a critical 2024 need. Kraft has a testing profile to match the best in the game — plus he’s a great blocker and plays with toughness and athleticism. The Seahawks can afford to tap into a great TE class and not solely be driven by need in this draft.

#54 Chicago (v/BAL) — Bryan Bresee (DT, Clemson)
This will be seen as a big drop but remember — he’s missed a lot of time through injury, he lacks length and he’s been really inconsistent. The upside is there but he needs to put it together.

#55 LA Chargers — Cam Smith (CB, South Carolina)
Another player at cornerback who could easily go a lot earlier than this.

#56 Detroit (v/MIN) — Emmanuel Forbes (CB, Mississippi State)
Lots of turnovers and he has a knack for making plays — but he looked like a rake in shorts at the combine.

#57 Jacksonville — B.J. Ojulari (EDGE, LSU)
I wanted to find a way to get Ojulari into the top-50 but it’s hard. Great character and a very capable rusher who can drop when asked.

#58 NY Giants — Julius Brents (CB, Kansas State)
I loved interviewing Brents and his attitude and approach will see him develop and reach a high level. Plus, he has an outstanding physical profile.

#59 Dallas — Tyjae Spears (RB, Tulane)
An electric, dynamic playmaker who compares well to Tony Pollard.

#60 Buffalo — Jalin Hyatt (WR, Tennessee)
I thought his combine was underwhelming and teams might start to wonder whether he’s a product of Tennessee’s wide-open scheme.

#61 Cincinnati — Darius Rush (CB, South Carolina)
They like speed at cornerback and Rush’s name matches his testing profile.

#62 Chicago (v/CAR, SF) — Tuli Tuipulotu (DE, USC)
He’s a bit of a tweener and that won’t help but his rush ability plus the intensity and character he possesses will make him a very likely round two pick.

#63 Philadelphia — Israel Abanikanda (RB, Pittsburgh)
His pro-day performance was exceptional and he just looks like the kind of player you can imagine running riot in Philly’s offense.

#64 Kansas City — Jonathan Mingo (WR, Ole Miss)
For me he’s a top-50 lock in grading but if he lasts to the Chiefs, good luck to the rest of the AFC West.

Seattle’s round three picks

#84 — Byron Young (DE, Alabama)
Reuniting Will Anderson with Young would be a masterstroke. Alabama’s two alpha-male leaders from their destructive D-line, working in tandem. Young is a perfect fit for Seattle’s scheme. He’s adept at two-gapping and reading an offense. He can knife into the backfield to create opportunities for others. He’s disruptive, powerful and strong. He can start immediately.

#90 — Jaquelin Roy (DT, LSU)
The Seahawks need a nose tackle and Roy could go in this range. He’s a character fit for Seattle and the one thing he does that will really appeal is he plays a ton of snaps. They can put a heavy workload on him and he’ll get the job done. Roy’s not a spectacular player but he’ll be very solid.

The Seahawks’ picks in rounds 1-3

Will Anderson (EDGE)
Adetomiwa Adebawore (DE)
John Michael Schmitz (C)
Tucker Kraft (TE)
Byron Young (DE)
Jaquelin Roy (NT)

Thoughts on the Seahawks’ picks

I haven’t delved into a scenario where the quarterbacks go 1-4 before. I think the Seahawks, as I’ve said a few times, are very comfortable at #5. I think they’ll happily take one of the QB’s or, if this situation plays out, Will Anderson. To me it’s a very strong position to be in.

When the season ended in San Francisco there was a lot of talk about what the 49ers have that the Seahawks don’t have. Anderson could be viewed as a player who can close the gap. He is not a Bosa-brother level player but he’s still a very good prospect. You’re getting an aggressive, explosive edge rusher who plays the run well for his size and has shown he can be a production machine at Alabama. He has one of the best character profiles to ever enter the league, ticking every single box from family background to attitude and responsibility to lifestyle and the way he speaks to team-mates and the media. He’s also an alpha who can set the tone for the locker room. He wore #31 for a reason.

If the Seahawks want to create a scary defensive front, imagine putting Anderson on the field with Dre’Mont Jones, Adetomiwa Adebawore and one of Uchenna Nwosu, Darrell Taylor or Boye Mafe. That suddenly looks like a pack of hounds, ready to get after a quarterback. Opponents will not look forward to facing that.

On Adebawore, I do think they are looking for another 280-285lbs defensive end. They recently had a visit with Mario Edwards and were trying to sign Zach Allen to go with Jones. The thing with Adebawore is he’s just such a rare player. You don’t get 6-2, 282lbs linemen who run a 4.49 and a 4.26 short shuttle. Throw in the fact he has +34 inch arms and I actually think it’s possible he has the testing profile to ‘do a Tariq Woolen’ and come into the league and just fit right in.

After addressing the defense with their first two picks, attentions then turn to the offense. Seattle pulls off a ‘trade down, then trade up’ move. A year ago we know they looked into moving up with the #40 pick so it’s possible they’ll target something similar here. They land a center of the future, jumping ahead of Arizona, to get John Michael Schmitz. Fans have long wanted the team to invest in the position and Schmitz — along with Luke Wypler — is a perfect scheme fit.

Having addressed three critical needs with their top picks, now it’s time for some BPA magic. Tucker Kraft will be seen as a head-scratcher for some but with Noah Fant and Colby Parkinson out of contract in 2024 — and with Will Dissly’s long-term future uncertain beyond 2023 — planning ahead could be a wise move. Plus, the Seahawks need to create some cap space. Trading Noah Fant after the draft would save $6.5m. If they take one of the top TE’s in the draft, they might be able to deal Fant to a team that missed out on the position — promoting the rookie into a bigger role and freeing up the money they need.

On Kraft as a player — we’ve revealed how the top tight ends over the last decade have all had the same profile of a great 10-yard split and short shuttle. Kraft ran an elite 1.59 split and a sensational 4.29 shuttle. He also plays exactly how Seattle loves — tough, physical, he likes to block and he’s a dynamic pass-catcher.

In round three the attention returns to defense. Schneider said at the owners meeting they need ‘three or four’ more additions to the unit. By adding nose tackle Jaquelin Roy you fill the most pressing need remaining. Byron Young can also deliver some beef to the defensive front, to complement the dynamism of Adebawore and Jones.

This is a projection that represents Seattle’s uncompromising approach to character, competition and leadership.

With the remaining four picks you could target interior O-line depth, receiver and running back.

Final thoughts

For me, this would be an excellent haul for the Seahawks. You could potentially set-up your defense up for long term success. With the moves they’ve made so far, combined with these players added, you could be looking at a top-level unit.

Seattle’s choice at #5 will come down to Arizona sticking or moving down. That will determine whether the pick is Will Anderson or Anthony Richardson, in my opinion. Either player would be a thoroughly exciting proposition.

I will share my notes on Richardson’s pro-day later today. If a team is going to move up, it’ll likely be because he excelled in Gainesville. This could be a very interesting week ahead.

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Video thoughts on yesterday’s Hendon Hooker at #5 stuff

Wednesday, March 29th, 2023

I’m still on my work road-trip but managed to find time to share a few thoughts on Mike Tannenbaum’s mock draft, which put Hendon Hooker at #5 to the Seahawks:

Pete Carroll on the prospect of drafting a quarterback

Tuesday, March 28th, 2023

Pete Carroll has been speaking to the NFL Network at the owners meeting

I’m on a works ‘road trip’ covering two games in back-to-back days so might not be that active until Thursday. In the meantime, I wanted to share this video. It’s a clip of Pete Carroll being asked about the quarterbacks in the draft at the owners meeting.

I can’t embed the video so here are the quotes:

Carroll: “With all of the quarterback excitement and the great players that are there, and our experience too, Johnny and I have been together a long time, we’ve been working this stuff out. He’s great at it, phenomenal at orchestrating what’s going to happen and predicting and the anticipation and the moves and all the things that we’ve done. This is really fun for him. He’ll be on the top of his game and really excited to see it come through and it’s fun for everybody, for our fans and the players and the coaches and all that.”

Steve Wyche: “Are you going to any pro-days other than the quarterbacks?”

Carroll: “No, that’s my last one, heading to Gainesville (Florida, this Thursday).”

Wyche: “Geno Smith was fantastic last year, you’ve raved about how he’s hung in there… but we’re seeing you with all these quarterbacks, evaluating them as well, what does this all mean? And you just extended Geno as well.”

Carroll: “Well, I told Geno we were doing it. He knows what’s going on. He’s trying to win. Geno knows we’re just trying to win so this is how we compete. I’ve said for years, we’re going to get in every single opportunity that is out there and John’s done a marvellous job of always having his ear to the ground to know what’s going on so that if an opportunity does fit us, that we’re prepared and ready to pounce on it. Well here we are. The number five pick and there’s legitimately four great prospects coming out at the quarterback spot. We may never have this opportunity again, so we’ve got to maximise it and so we’re doing our homework. We’re not going to hold back in doing that. And everybody knows, Geno knows and Drew knows, and everybody knows what’s going on, we’re just got to see what happens and take it as it comes.”

I’m sure this candid answer will be interpreted in a variety of ways. People will call it a smokescreen or a nudge to try and get a team to trade up to #3.

I’m not completely against the suggestion that being so public on the quarterbacks is an attempt to try and persuade someone to trade into the #3 spot with Arizona. I do think they’ll be enamoured by Will Anderson. They ended last season talking about what San Francisco has that Seattle doesn’t. I don’t think Anderson is a Nick Bosa-level player but he’s a very good edge rusher of the caliber the Seahawks simply don’t possess. I think they’ll be celebrating if they get a chance to draft him at #5.

That said, I also don’t think Carroll is speaking dishonestly about the four quarterbacks. I don’t think he and John Schneider are playing some elaborate game of poker, bluffing like crazy because their intention is to go against the words above and select Tyree Wilson, for example. I think this is probably an honest assessment of the situation. The Seahawks like the four quarterbacks and Will Anderson. They pick fifth overall. They attended the pro-days involving Anderson, C.J. Stroud, Bryce Young and Will Levis and will be at Anthony Richardson’s session on Thursday. They’re guaranteed one of this quintet.

For me it seems obvious. They might prefer Anderson at #5 but if he’s gone, they also like the QB’s. It shouldn’t be a big shock because as we’ve noted a few times, the quarterbacks all seem to fit what Schneider likes in a signal caller. As highlighted yesterday, he’s been very prepared to take a chance on a rough diamond.

We may never have this opportunity again” is a quote that speaks volumes. They know this is a rare chance. A bonus, courtesy of the Broncos. Carroll pretty much spells it out. When are they ever going to be picking this early again, with four quarterbacks who are going to go very early in round one?

I don’t want to sound like a stuck record (honestly) but this could end up being fairly predictable. Is someone going to make a late push to get a quarterback, trading ahead of the Colts in a deal with the Cardinals? If so, that likely provides the Seahawks with Will Anderson. If that doesn’t happen, Arizona picks Anderson and the Seahawks are left with the quarterback Indianapolis doesn’t select. I think the Colts are gearing up to take Will Levis because he fits Chris Ballard’s preferences and he’s better equipped to start quickly. I think, for the Seahawks, it’s most likely to be Anthony Richardson at #5 unless the Cardinals trade down.

And frankly, I’d be happy with either pick. Anderson or Richardson.

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Six things I think about the Seahawks’ draft

Monday, March 27th, 2023

Is Tyree Wilson really worth a top-five pick?

— They have to be confident they can land impact D-liners in the draft

Last year they carried six defensive linemen on the roster. Currently, they have three. They also need to create cap space just to afford Bobby Wagner’s contract. The prospect of adding more veteran linemen is fairly bleak without major work to improve the financial outlook in the form of extensions or restructures.

I wouldn’t assume this means the #5 pick will be a defensive linemen because, as regulars know by now, I don’t see any prospect of Jalen Carter being selected. I’m also unconvinced by Tyree Wilson as a top-five pick and will discuss why in a moment. I think they’d run to the podium for Will Anderson — but they’d still need interior linemen even if they selected him.

There are a lot of appealing options set to go in the #20-60 range. They can certainly make hay there. Are they backing themselves into a corner though, when there are potential value picks to be had at other positions?

This is a concern I don’t think should be glossed over. I’m seeing a lot of ‘it’ll be fine‘ or ‘it’s early‘ talk on social media. While there’s certainly no need to panic or overreact, they do need to add three defensive linemen who can carry a significant number of snaps. They have a distinct lack of beef up front, despite running a scheme that requires plenty of beef.

I’m eager to see if they can pull some of the levers Curtis talked about yesterday to provide support, while accepting an all-out worry-fest isn’t necessary because they were always going to draft some D-liners. It seems they want to get younger up front anyway with their moves but I do think they’re a veteran short at the moment.

I’m wary of reaching for need, 12 months after they avoided that and had their best draft in years.

The good news is, there are justifiable players you can take at #20, #38 and #53 without reaching — or if they trade up or down from either spot. Adetomiwa Adebawore, Calijah Kancey, Keion White, Mazi Smith, Keeanu Benton, Zacch Pickens, Byron Young, Bryan Bresee. It might’ve been decided the quality is good enough in this range to feel very comfortable going with a long-term view on the defensive line.

I just wouldn’t want to miss out on a Michael Mayer pick, for example, to fill a pressing need.

Pairing someone who is highly athletic and disruptive like Adebawore, Kancey or White with a big nose tackle like Smith is a very enticing prospect.

— There is one significant thing to note about last year which might be relevant

They didn’t re-sign Duane Brown or any kind of hedge at tackle. With hindsight, it looks like they knew there were three offensive tackles available that they liked and one would make it to #9.

Alternatively, they signed Uchenna Nwosu in free agency and clearly felt comfortable waiting until round two to add another pass rusher (Boye Mafe).

Part of me wonders if their lack of action on the D-line hints at a similar approach at #5? Are they banking on a player being there? I just don’t know who it could be. Anderson is an edge rusher not a big-bodied front player. I’m not going over Carter for the millionth time other than to say I see no prospect of him being taken at #5.

— Are they seriously just going to select Tyree Wilson?

I think it would be a decidedly unexciting move. I went back this week and watched him as part of a revision session, which I do with all prospective targets at various points. It just reminded me why I was initially sceptical of him as a really high pick.

Yes the length and size is incredibly enticing. Look at his frame. The term ‘he’s straight out of central casting’ is perfect for players like Wilson.

His bull-rush is very good and those long vines help him control blocks and create opportunities to pressure. He can play along the line and he’s a very forceful, aggressive defender at times. His best snaps are when he barges his way through blocks, often attacking the B-gap inside to split through and create pressure.

However, he is not twitchy off the edge. He’s not going to beat anyone with speed. There are plenty of occasions where the bull-rush stalls and he doesn’t do a good enough job disengaging. There are quite a lot of frustrating snaps where he just goes through the motions when the initial jolt doesn’t create distance from the blocker. You don’t see a ‘hair on fire’ rusher down in, down out.

Here are some quotes from anonymous scouting sources, courtesy of Bob McGinn:

Scout 1 — “He’s not like glass-eater mean. More of a finesse athlete.”

Scout 2 — “You can see he’s got lots of talent but he doesn’t make plays…You just wish he played more consistently and more physical.”

Scout 3 — “He’s going in the first but I don’t love him at all… He’s kind of like the kid from UTSA (Marcus Davenport) the Saints took a couple years ago (2018) that ain’t done that much.”

Scout 4 — “Slow twitch as far as the mind… Doesn’t see blocks coming. Plays high, doesn’t use his hands. He does flash some power as a pass rusher but that’s all he’s got. No speed on the edge, no plan. Just another big guy you’re hoping for as a project to develop. Similar to Emmanuel Ogbah, and he isn’t any good, either.”

In fairness, one other scout also says, “He’s the best one (DE)… When you see the guy you’re, like, ‘Holy shit, that’s how they design them in the lab.’ He looks like a million dollars. The way that he moves around is pretty unbelievable. I wouldn’t even call him a finished product.”

I think he’s become an assumed ‘next best’ defender because of his frame. His tape is very hit-and-miss. He’s really the polar-opposite to Calijah Kancey. Wilson has only flashes on tape with a brilliant frame. Kancey is a consistent dynamo, making plays in a variety of ways, but he has a questionable frame with a lack of size and length.

We also have no idea on testing and upside. He has been recovering from a significant foot injury and didn’t do anything at the combine. It’s been revealed he’s not ready to perform at the Texas Tech pro-day on Wednesday. He’ll need to have a personal pro-day in April.

Wilson wasn’t included in Bruce Feldman’s ‘freaks list’ so we have no public projection data from the school. He didn’t do any SPARQ testing either in High School, as a former three-star prospect who began his college career at Texas A&M and then transferred to Texas Tech.

I don’t think he’s ideally suited to playing defensive end in a 3-4 either and is far better playing off the edge in a 4-3 and kicking inside on certain downs. He’s an inbetweener for Seattle — not in the 280/285 range to play 3-4 DE and not in the 250-255 range to play 3-4 OLB. He weighed 271lbs at the combine.

I find it hard to get behind Wilson as ‘the guy’ you’re going to spend a rare top-five pick on, believing this is the player who can take you to the next level. I think I agree with Mel Kiper — who had him lasting outside the top-10 in his recent mock draft — and Jim Nagy — who suggested top-10/15 as a range rather than top-five when we spoke before the Senior Bowl.

— I still think they’re going to be a lot more comfortable with this QB class than many people are ready to accept

I’ve always been very clear that I am perfectly happy with a defensive line or quarterback pick at #5. I’ve only done one full mock draft with a quarterback at #5, the rest had defensive linemen. At the end of the season, I noted that Seattle were guaranteed to get a top-three QB or one of Anderson or Carter. The only reason I’ve adjusted that to the top-four QB’s and Anderson is due to the legitimate concerns surrounding Carter and the continued rise of Anthony Richardson as a prospect, to the point where — unsurprisingly — his incredible talent and upside is garnering legit top-five chatter.

I do think a lot of fans (and some media) are entrenched though, which I find a bit confusing. They don’t even want to consider a quarterback pick. They cling to Carter as an option, despite so much evidence to the contrary, or they assume Wilson will be a great pick. Or they think Anderson will last, which feels unlikely. I spoke to a scouting friend recently who said Anderson was ‘hands down’ the top defender taken. Unless Arizona trades out of the #3 spot, they’ll almost certainly select him. I think it’ll take a major haul to tempt the Cardinals away from that selection.

I would’ve thought we’d hear two other viewpoints a bit more often.

Firstly, the history John Schneider has with quarterbacks. This is a man who has often sought traits, even at the detriment of ‘finished product’ status. He traded a lot for Charlie Whitehurst who was a big, strong-armed, athletic backup. He fell for Russell Wilson — a big armed, athletic, shorter QB who had everything but ideal height.

He reportedly was prepared to draft Patrick Mahomes in 2017 despite having Wilson under contract. Then, in 2018, he reportedly was willing to trade Wilson for a shot at Josh Allen.

Because Mahomes and Allen have become big success stories, we’ve forgotten what was said about both when they were about to be drafted. I feel like we should keep reminding ourselves of the following:

— Mahomes wasn’t listed in Daniel Jeremiah’s top-50 prospects in his February list ahead of the 2017 draft or an updated version in April, weeks before he was taken 10th overall. Deshone Kizer, however, was ranked on both occasions.

— In Jeremiah’s final 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.

— 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.”

This is worth remembering when you see and hear people talking about Will Levis and Anthony Richardson as ‘not first round picks’, appearing in mock drafts deep into the first round or ranked low on big boards. Mahomes, the best quarterback in the NFL and a generation-defining talent, wasn’t considered a true first round prospect by many pundits and league sources going into the 2017 draft.

Here’s an article on written by Lance Zierlein, discussing Allen during the 2017 college football season:

The scoop: “He scares me like he scares everyone, but he is easily the most physically talented quarterback (in this class). He will get drafted much higher than the level of his tape.” — AFC director of college scouting on Wyoming QB Josh Allen

The skinny: Listed at 6-foot-5, 233 pounds and with high-end arm talent, Allen is the prototype at the quarterback position. However, Allen’s production has been very pedestrian this season (181 yards passing per game, 55.9 percent completion rate, 12 TDs and 6 INTs in 8 games).

His accuracy and decision making are not where they need to be. In comparison, Carson Wentz had very similar physical traits and ability coming out of North Dakota State. He was the No. 2 overall selection of the 2016 draft, but his accuracy and football intelligence were exceptionally high. Coincidentally, Allen’s coach (Craig Bohl) helped groom Wentz at NDSU before being hired at Wyoming.

Allen might make a substantial leap forward with better talent surrounding him than what he’s working with at Wyoming. However, I’m not ready to say he’s a franchise quarterback at this juncture.

It’s impossible not to connect what is written above to what is being said about Levis and Richardson. That doesn’t mean either player is destined to emulate Allen’s career but it does help to explain why Schneider might be willing to overlook certain tape-flaws to bet on upside as he was reportedly willing to do for Allen and Mahomes.

There are also these quotes courtesy of scouting sources produced by Bob McGinn:

On Josh Allen:

“He reminds me of (Blake) Bortles,” a second scout said. “Bortles lacked consistent accuracy and I see the same thing with Allen. Big-time athlete but really an inconsistent passer. I don’t see (Carson) Wentz. Some people do because they had the same coach (Craig Bohl). Wentz was a very mature, confident person.” Two-year starter. “He looks the part and a good athlete,” a third scout said. “But you talk about lacking in being a winning quarterback. He has a lot of bad tape (even) at that level. Somebody will still take him high. Are we going on what the tape is and the production and the winning? Or are we going on this guy looks like he should be an NFL quarterback and how he throws the ball?”

On Mahomes:

“People are trying to make that comparison because of his arm. He’s got a really good arm, but Favre was not as reckless as this guy.

“He’s crazy. He plays crazy. He’ll do anything. I don’t even think “gunslinger’ is the right word. He’s reckless.”

“He’s in ‘that offense’ and the way he plays, he’s very erratic,” another director from an NFC team said. “You can see the talent but he’s just so streaky and wild and reckless. He put a lot of balls up for grabs where you’re saying, ‘Man, what are you going to get with him?’

“He could (come on) but I don’t see it. I just don’t think he has the necessary qualities. He has no vision, no mechanics. He’s erratic as hell. He makes a lot of mistakes. It’s going to be a long (development).”

“Mahomes is the boom or bust guy,” said one of the two evaluators that expected him to fail. “He carries the biggest upside but he does have a bust factor. He’s just going to be inexperienced doing the things he’s going to do here.
“When you start looking at players that play off the script it concerns you, and a lot of what he does is off-script. In the NFL, when you get off-script is when you make big, big errors. It’s not as easy to make the off-script play on our level as it is at Texas Tech.”

Is any more evidence required to highlight how sceptical people were about Mahomes and Allen before the 2017 and 2018 drafts?

There was a genuine fear-factor with both.

Schneider has been attracted to rough diamonds. We shouldn’t rule out the rough diamonds in this draft as options for the Seahawks.

This also brings me onto the second point. Why aren’t we universally trusting Schneider to get this right? His track record of judging QB talent is fairly exceptional. Yet I don’t often read ‘in John we trust’.

If he passes on the fourth quarterback available at #5, I’d respect the decision of a proven evaluator when it comes to QB’s. If he does take a quarterback at #5, are people going to react in the same way? Will they trust his judgement?

Why are we not hearing more often, ‘Schneider might like one of these QB’s and if he does, he should take him’? That feels like a fair position we can all rally behind.

I see very little reason to rule it out at this point. Stroud and Young are not expected to make it to #5, Levis or Richardson might. I think they look exactly like the types of quarterback Schneider covets. For that reason, it warrants greater consideration than it’s getting in some quarters.

The only other thing to mention is cost. Some have challenged whether the Seahawks would be willing to take a quarterback at #5 because it would mean an overall spend of $20m in 2023 on Geno Smith, Drew Lock and a rookie.

When you consider they’re spending $42.6m on four safeties, I don’t think we need to worry too much about that. It’d be a quality investment at the most important position in football for the present and future.

— Can they still go BPA at #20 or will they be dictated by need?

As noted, the D-line needs, especially up front, feel like they might force Seattle’s hand. If they don’t take Carter at #5 they’d still need to address defensive tackle even with Anderson or Wilson safely in the hutch.

It’d be a shame if they had to force things because there are some really appealing names regularly mocked within range of #20:

Bijan Robinson (RB, Texas)
Undoubtedly one of the best five players in the draft, if not the most gifted. Robinson would take snaps away from Ken Walker but he’s also such an incredible player that Seattle would have one of the best 1-2 punches in league history.

Michael Mayer (TE, Notre Dame)
Notre Dame botched their own press release last week, copying and pasting Jarrett Patterson’s short shuttle time into the Mayer column. He actually ran an elite 4.31 shuttle and a 6.97 three-cone. These testing numbers mean Mayer has the physical profile associated with the best tight ends in recent history. Paired with his reliable catching ability, good blocking and total-football attitude — he is one of the best players in the class.

Devon Witherspoon (CB, Illinois)
Witherspoon is the best hitter in the draft. He absolutely levels opponents. He will help set the tone on defense for the team who drafts him. Furthermore, he’s a heck of a player. He can press, he can stick in coverage, he competes for the ball. He plays with a swagger typically associated with the best cornerbacks in the NFL. He hasn’t tested and that could mean he lasts on the board but whoever gets him will love him.

Josh Downs (WR, North Carolina)
An exceptional talent who is being overlooked by too many, I think Downs is a top-15 player and the best receiver in the draft. He’s a downfield threat, he’s excellent at uncovering on shorter-routes. He high-points the ball brilliantly and has explosive leaping ability. He’s incredibly mature and pro-ready, with NFL bloodlines from his father and uncle (Dre Bly). He reminds me of Tyler Lockett.

Dawand Jones (T, Ohio State)
There just aren’t many humans like Jones. With his insane size and length, he can overwhelm and overpower defenders. He’s incredibly difficult to move or get-around and he could end up quickly becoming one of the best right tackles in the league. His one day at the Senior Bowl was remarkable.

Jahmyr Gibbs (RB, Alabama)
There were moments in 2022 where Alabama struggled for rhythm and impact on offense. They’d turn to Gibbs and the problem was quickly solved. He runs in the 4.3’s, he’s an excellent receiver out of the backfield. He’d be a brilliant complement to Ken Walker.

For many reasons, it’s also very possible the Seahawks will have John Michael Schmitz on their target list in the #20-40 range too. That will be harder to justify if you are feeling pressured to go D-line early and often.

— There is one name to mention at linebacker who could be intriguing

The Seahawks might need to plan ahead at the position with Bobby Wagner, Devin Bush and Jordyn Brooks all out of contract next year. It was brought to my attention by Si Clancy that Pete Carroll got a very close look at Henry To’o’to’o at the Alabama pro-day:

Carroll was supposedly front-and-centre for the entire workout.

It’s something just to keep in the back of your mind.

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Curtis Allen’s salary cap update two weeks into free agency

Sunday, March 26th, 2023

This is a guest post by Curtis Allen…

See a need? Fill a need.

In last week’s update we discussed how little cap room the Seahawks have available and that the period to come would be a litmus test for their determination to dramatically improve the team:

“If the Seahawks are determined to improve in a big way this offseason, they will need to be more aggressive.

That means restructuring players, cutting players you otherwise might not, or having a hard conversation with a player you have invested heavily in, like Jamal Adams.

It also means being aggressive with your salary cap strategy in regards to new contracts.  They can do what other teams do, acquire a big piece that helps them tremendously with very little cap room available and just manage the cap to make it work.”

The Seahawks have impressively answered the call early in the off-season in order to push their roster forward in a more competitive fashion.

Pete Carroll says they need to close the talent gap with San Francisco, particularly with regard to having a defensive line difference-maker? Welcome to Seattle, Dre’Mont Jones.

They need more effective depth on the line? Come back home where you belong, Jarran Reed.

They have questions in the defensive backfield and want to run more three safety sets? A super-versatile player who could hedge Jamal Adams and Quandre Diggs and even plug in at nickel if needed would be terrific. If he has been a defensive leader as well, that would be a bonus too. Julian Love, you’re gonna look fantastic in green and blue.

Moving on from Gabe Jackson and Quinton Jefferson were not difficult choices.

Cutting Shelby Harris and Al Woods were. However, the Seahawks flipped their script and made the best of the situation. Rather than take the cap room gained and spend it on roster-clogging JAGs – as they have done in the past – they went out with determination and brought in young, rising players with real upside.

All this while impressively filling immediate needs with some intriguing stop-gap players (Evan Brown on the offensive line, Devin Bush at linebacker and bringing back Drew Lock), tendering Ryan Neal in a clearly aggressive move – daring another team to set his market but also saving $1.7 million in cap space – as well as bringing back the bulk of their Exclusive Rights Free Agents.

It is not hard to see what the Seahawks are doing: Making this roster younger, with more upside and giving them as much flexibility as possible to maximize their return in one of the most important drafts in franchise history.

Rather than passively letting the market and player agents dictate to them, the Seahawks are striking with purpose and vision. It is a far cry from what we have witnessed in the recent past. Even if every move does not ultimately prove to be a pure stroke of genius, you can see what they are doing, most of it makes sense and you cannot fault them for trying.

There is one move, however, that does fill a need but does not quite match the other moves.

The Seahawks Have Brought Back Bobby Wagner

Yesterday it was announced they’ve brought Wagner back into the fold on a one-year, up to $7 million contract with incentives.

We are still waiting to hear on the structure of the contract but it is clear what the Seahawks want out of this deal. They want to return a fan favorite, to bring some stability to the linebacker position and to avoid being beholden to a draft that is not deep in effective inside linebackers.

The cost does seem prohibitive, though. Since Wagner had a very good year in Los Angeles, the incentives have a very, very good chance of being “Likely To Be Earned” and thus will count against the current year salary cap.

This will move the Seahawks to make sure they have enough room to cover them on their cap and force some corresponding moves, as you will soon see.

Where They Stand on the Cap

We are going to build on what we talked about last week. I took you on a bit of a rollercoaster ride, telling you the Seahawks had no money to spend and then outlined ways that they could find money to improve the team.

They chose to exercise some of those options and were very active in the market early on. While that is fully commendable, we need to talk about the cost of their aggression.

So again, the Seahawks have no money to spend. None. And that is much closer to reality than the last time I said it.

Currently, the Seahawks have $8.918 million of cap room per OTC. If we take the Wagner contract at full face value, they now have only $2.068 million.

Their draft pool will now cost them about $8.981 million, once you adjust for the 10 picks pushing players off the top 51 against the cap. So, their effective cap space will be in the red by about $6.9 million.

Adding to that, they will need their practice squad and injury money cushion. Somewhere in the neighborhood of $6-10 million would work. They need to find room for that contingency money by trimming some cap space from the current roster.

If you want to call that ‘true effective cap space’, they are about $13-17 million over the cap currently.

Before we get into how they can make up that cap room, let’s backtrack a little and re-emphasize the time element we talked about last week.

The Seahawks will not need that draft pool cap money available until they sign those picks. So likely May or early June.

And the contingency money? They can wait until later in the summer to open that money up.

The point being, it is not great that they are in the red currently. But they do have some time to work things out.

It is definitely not a comfortable situation. Particularly when you examine the needs they have on the interior of the defensive line. A veteran running back would also be a nice addition. A veteran wide receiver too, if we are filling out a wish list.

But the Seahawks do have some time to work things out.

Candidates to Gain Some Cap Room

Updating the chart from last week, the Seahawks still have a few options to get back in the black:

Noah Fant and Uchenna Nwosu – it will be interesting to see if the Seahawks decide to make a move on their contracts to save some cap room. They both have played well but 2023 is the last contracted season for both.

The Seahawks also have robust depth around them (for 2023 at least) and the draft class appears to be a good one at their positions.

Therefore, they have options with those two. Wisdom might seem to dictate that they let the rest of free agency and the draft come to them and then gauge their options — be it a trade (in the case of Fant) or a contract extension.

I did add a column for Post-June 1st trades, because the cap gain numbers for Adams, Diggs and Dissly are very healthy there. It would be a surprise though, if any team wanted to trade for those three with their cap numbers and health status.

That $8.44 million for cutting or reworking Jamal Adams seems like a foregone conclusion given they have invested in two other safeties and now are in desperate need for cap space.

So why hasn’t it happened yet? The Seahawks could have designated him a post-June 1st cut by now, finally tying off one of the worst trades in franchise history.

There are the obvious reasons: swallowing a $24 million dead cap hit is painful, even if it is split over two seasons. They just came off a year where they had $26 million of dead cap on their roster for Russell Wilson but that was easily justifiable. Getting a fantastic return in trade and a wholly unexpected great season from Geno Smith at only a $3.5 million salary made that dead cap number far easier to bear.

The Seahawks would have no such public relations buffer to point to if they cut Jamal Adams loose (although maybe the return of Wagner would blunt it a bit).

It could also be that the team has convinced themselves to give Adams one more year to make this investment work. They had him rushing the passer like crazy in 2020, returning to a more standard strong safety role in 2021 and 2022 got wiped out by injury. They could reason that more defensive line strength and less coverage responsibility on his plate could lead to the true ‘weapon’ style season they have been envisioning since they acquired him.

The counterargument to all that though is Adams’ injury history. After enduring serious groin, shoulder and finger injuries his first two seasons, 2022 was not kind to Jamal Adams in the least. He injured his hand badly on the first day of training camp and once again missed a chance to get valuable practice reps with the team. Then he tore his quad in the first game of the season — an injury that wiped out his 2022 and could put a chunk of his 2023 season in question.

I am increasingly beginning to think that the Seahawks are playing the situation smartly. Not unlike what we discussed above — making some coverage moves on the roster, being patient and letting the market, the draft and circumstance work for them.

How so? By hinging their Adams agenda on some key upcoming dates:

The first of course is June 1st. That is when it is most advantageous to cut Adams and save money on the cap this year. They certainly could cut him sooner and still designate him a post-June 1st cut but would any team really be interested in signing him before June 1st? With his severe injury, unlikely. So, they can let it ride.

Other, sooner dates have significance for this situation also — and they bunch together and could determine the Seahawks’ course of action with Adams:

— April 17th has just been announced as the first day of off-season activity for the Seahawks. They will likely have more than just a typical check-in with Adams. They will get to measure his recovery status fully.

— April 21st is the deadline for Restricted Free Agents to sign an offer sheet with another team. Ryan Neal currently counts against their salary cap — having been tendered by the Seahawks — but he is not locked into their roster yet. Not until either Neal signs an offer sheet and forces the team to make a decision, or the deadline passes without another team making an offer.

— April 27-29th is the draft. Rob has gathered some intel that the safety class this year is seen as deep and impressive.

The Seahawks really have no practical incentive to make a move on Jamal Adams – be it outright cutting him, or approaching him about a restructure – until those dates have come and gone.

At that point, they will have a good handle on the bulk of their roster, can have some time to assess how the new acquisitions fit on the team, they will have a better picture of Adams’ health timeline and can make a decision on how to proceed.

They also will have sufficiently built-up pressure to negotiate from. Considering the poor safety free agent market, to their cap situation, all the way to a pure numbers game on the roster, they will have a multitude of reasons to talk Adams into considering a pay cut.

If the Seahawks are to continue the aggressive course they have charted for this off-season, they will at a minimum need to approach Adams about renegotiating his contract. Pragmatically, it is less about the stink of an awful trade and more about assuring that Adams will not make a bad trade worse in 2023 by costing the Seahawks another $8.44 million in guaranteed money if and when he steps on the field without a contract adjustment.

Fant, Nwosu and Adams are the clearest paths to gaining cap room this offseason.

Restructuring Diggs and Lockett by converting some salary to bonus and pushing out the cost to future years are options but should be classed as ‘emergency use only.’

Why? When you convert salary to bonus, that converts non-guaranteed money to guaranteed money, reducing your cap flexibility both in the near term and in the future.

That said, it would not shock me one bit – given how vocal Quandre Diggs has been – if we find out that the Seahawks have restructured some of his 2023 deal already to open up some cap room for Wagner. We will see.

Aside from those options, the Seahawks may choose to utilize void years to make the cap work for them and fill needs this summer. They are loathe to do it but in this case it might be the best option to keep some flexibility with players like Diggs and Lockett in 2024.

Hopefully you see why we stumped so hard for a very aggressive strategy in January, including cutting Diggs before $9.9 million of his salary became guaranteed and dealing with Jamal Adams sooner rather than later in order to pick up nearly $18 million in cap room.

The financial forces are going to push the Seahawks to make some interesting decisions the rest of the offseason, because they will need as much flexibility as possible come next year. Why?

A Brief Look at the 2024 Cap Situation

I am going to give you my same song and dance about the cap. Let me first depress you and then tell you why it is not so bad.

The Seahawks do not have much cap money available in 2024.

Their aggressiveness this year – combined with their as-yet lack of aggression on their two high-priced safeties – is conspiring to keep them from having very much free cap space to splurge on next offseason.

But as always, there is room to maneuver.

What is the current picture like?

They have $54 million with 25 contracted players for 2024 per OTC. Take about $30 million off that for the 2023 and 2024 draft classes and you have about $24 million of room with about 42-45 contracted players.

That room does not include any of the $15 million of roster bonus incentives Geno Smith is eligible to earn. As always, they need their injury and practice squad contingency fund.

So basically, we are back to the Seahawks having zero money.

Now for the uplifting good news: it’s not as bleak as it sounds.

The Seahawks will have two more draft classes primed and ready to join the 2022 draft class to form a dynamic young core. That #5 overall pick this year should have a big impact on the field.

They have already addressed sore needs by adding difference-makers on the defensive line with Jones and Reed and at safety with Julian Love.

They have team control of two potentially key players in Darrell Taylor and Michael Jackson Sr.

They can pick up $20.3 million very easily by moving on from their two expensive safeties.

Another $20 million is available on the contracts of Will Dissly, Bryan Mone and Tyler Lockett.

They can pick up $13.8 million by trading Geno Smith. Or they can renegotiate his contract to keep him and avoid a potential $32-46 million cap hit.

They have options and if the 2022 class keeps ascending and they have a successful 2023 class, the picture will look a lot rosier.

One thing of note: At this point, with their cap situation as it is in 2024, circumstance does seem to be pointing towards the potential of the Seahawks seeking a major, major source of cap relief in 2024 by drafting a quarterback at #5 this year.

Geno’s flexible contract has an easy out in 2024. The ability to cut or trade him before being on the hook for his incentive roster bonus, acquiring a serious talent like Jones on a multi-year contract and then spending themselves into the red in 2023 all could be indicators that the Seahawks are positioning themselves for a handoff of the quarterback spot to a second-year player next season.

Concluding Thoughts

Aggression is good but it needs to be smart and well thought out. Opening up cap room is great. But it has to be married to smart moves with that cap room. It is best when complemented by good drafting.

The Seahawks have mostly done well so far. But they have a very long way to go.

At the moment, we have about 60% or so of the off-season picture for the Seahawks. The draft is critical. Even then, the rest of the offseason will not be loaded with simple bottom-shelf roster moves and scouring for summer free agent bargain finds. They still have a lot of work to do.

Finding cap room while still filling key spots on the team without pushing too much cap burden onto 2024 will be the team’s task going forward. John Schneider and his staff are going to need to be very creative and very sharp in their roster planning.

It is most definitely not going to be a boring off-season.

A lot of things will happen between now and the fall. We will be right here all the way to keep you apprised of what is happening and the impact of the moves they make.

Bobby Wagner is re-signing with the Seahawks

Saturday, March 25th, 2023

It’s been pretty clear since Bobby Wagner’s departure from the Rams that his preference was to return to Seattle. He’s coming home, which will have many Seahawks fans rejoicing. It will be a feel-good story in the city and it means linebacker is no longer a need for the team.

I do have a few reservations to raise though and hope this isn’t construed as raining on anyone’s parade.

In his last season in Seattle in 2021, I thought Wagner looked a shell of himself. He wasn’t attacking gaps with the same vigour. He was riding screen passes downfield. He wasn’t flying to the ball. I’m not sure if he had an injury or felt like it was a bit of a lost cause as things unfolded — but this wasn’t the Wagner we’d come to know.

Seattle didn’t have to cut him a year ago. An extension would’ve lowered his large $20m cap hit and they could’ve kept him around. Perhaps it was simply a really difficult bargaining position to owe that much for 2022 and work on an extension? Especially with no agent involved. That’s very plausible. Either way, I thought the Seahawks made the right call to cut him and jump into a new era.

I thought he looked renewed and refreshed in the three Rams’ games I watched last season — the blowout against Denver and Russell Wilson on Christmas Day and the two meetings with the Seahawks. In particular against Seattle, I thought he looked fantastic. There were many reasons why he would be highly motivated to excel in those games — but the fact is he did play very well.

I can’t speak for the rest of his season but it sounds like he returned to form. I would caution, however, that he did get to play behind Aaron Donald for 11 games. He won’t get that luxury in Seattle.

Indeed, the defensive line currently looks incredibly limited. They have cut everyone and signed just two replacements — Dre’Mont Jones and Jarran Reed. I like both of these signings but for Wagner to excel, I think he needs (and deserves) to have a D-line that can control things up front.

Wagner is 33 in June. He’s coming to the end of his career. It remains to be seen, even with the addition of Jones, whether the Seahawks can be good enough up front to allow him to play free and fast. Is he going to be able to produce, or will we see a repeat of 2021?

Can you create a fearsome D-line with rookies? Or do you need a few more grizzled veterans in there? Do they need the Shelby Harris and Al Woods types to mix in with some young talent?

I also fear that they’re increasingly setting up a situation where they’re going to back themselves into a corner in the draft. Are they obliged to take defensive linemen early and often, regardless of whoever else is available? They’ve spoken about avoiding that situation but it’s hard to know how they’ll steer clear of it now.

According to Over the Cap they have -$746,786 in effective cap space. If Wagner’s contract isn’t incentive-laden, they don’t even have the money currently to sign their rookies. They also don’t have many levers to create more cap space. It’s basically negotiating with Uchenna Nwosu from a position of weak leverage or cutting Jamal Adams as a post-June 1st release. Or they trade Noah Fant in a buyers market, given the quality of the tight ends in the draft.

It’s a big benefit to the Seahawks to have Wagner’s experience and leadership. I sense they’ve gone above and beyond to get this done — knowing the groundswell of desire from fans and the players’ apparent preference to come home.

I do think it’s curious though that they’re spending so much, again, on linebackers and safeties while the defensive line is in the state that it is. The draft will inevitably provide help. Clearly, they intend to be younger up front. That can have big benefits — but can a young, inexperienced line execute the scheme and keep the second-level defenders clean?

I also appreciate this is not a good linebacker class. Now, they can ignore it completely if they wish. They have eliminated a worry and have added character to the locker room.

Some other notes:

— In the last 12 months Wagner’s been cut by the Seahawks and the Rams. On each occasion he has had a ‘let’s wait and see’ market, with teams weighing up their options. If he’s still capable of playing like one of the best linebackers in the NFL, why has he been cut twice and not been a hot-ticket free agent on either occasion?

— One of my big complaints during the 2018-21 period was the resource spend at linebacker and safety, compared to the investment in the trenches. Last year was a great start — cutting money at linebacker then spending high picks on the O-line and defensive front seven. Then they signed Dre’Mont Jones to kick off free agency this year. However, they still have an astonishing $36m committed to Quandre Diggs and Jamal Adams in 2023 on top of also signing Julian Love and retaining Ryan Neal. Now they’ve brought back Wagner and signed Bush for $10.5m. It’s a curious strategy.

— Is there a danger that nostalgia is playing too big a a part in this? Is he coming back because he legitimately is ready to play better than his previous season in Seattle, or are we getting caught up in a nice story? The Seahawks were right to turn to a new era a year ago and launch a fresh start. Is one injury to Jordyn Brooks enough to rush back to the past?

— Are the Seahawks being more aggressive to accelerate their fresh start, are they simply being opportunistic or do they think they are close to contending? I am very comfortable with the first two but I hope they’re realistic about where they are. If they can combine competitive in 2023 with an eye to the long-term through the draft, that would be ideal. I hope, however, they avoid treating the draft like a ‘finishing touch’ with attempted ‘impact’ moves to fill remaining holes. That is the kind of plan, as they have admitted themselves, that has led to mistakes in the past.

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Video: Seven-round Seahawks mock draft

Saturday, March 25th, 2023

Will Levis’ pro-day deserves more credit & attention

Friday, March 24th, 2023

Will Levis had an impressive showing at his pro-day

Before I get into the Will Levis review, a general thought. I think the Seahawks are telling us how the early part of this draft is going to shake out.

I know people are desperately trying to parse everything as a smokescreen at the moment, depending on their personal wants and needs at #5.

But let’s think about this for a second.

Pete Carroll, John Schneider and an entourage of Seattle’s staff attended the Ohio State, Alabama and Kentucky pro-days.

Next week, they’re going to Texas Tech and Florida. Schneider confirmed that.

That covers C.J. Stroud, Bryce Young, Will Anderson, Will Levis, Tyree Wilson and Anthony Richardson.

In other words, the six players who are consistently being projected to be the first six players drafted.

Some mock drafts continue to include Jalen Carter in the top-five but I will just keep repeating what I’ve said for a while, however repetitive or boring it is. There’s stuff teams know about, some of which has already been reported in the media, and it gives me reason to believe there’s little chance he’ll be drafted by the Seahawks.

So while fans rabidly debate the meaning behind numerous selfies with quarterbacks and why the Seahawks are attending pro-days en masse — I think it’s simply this:

1. They are watching the players who are slotted to go in the range they’re picking

2. They have a rare top-five pick and want to get as much info about these six players as possible

They can’t do this level of extensive work when you’re picking 20th. What are you going to do? Attend 30 pro-days as an eight-man travelling band? When you’re picking fifth overall you can narrow the field and make sure you’re at the pro-days you need to be at.

To me, it’s as simple as that.

It remains to be seen if they’ll still go to Texas Tech because it’s been revealed Tyree Wilson won’t do a workout. They may still want to meet with him.

If you don’t think these six players will be the first taken, that’s fine. I’m not suggesting someone else can’t work their way into the mix. Yet even the Panthers picking first overall are having dinner with Will Levis. So the teams at the very top are doing their work on him. The Seahawks are doing the same thing.

Rather than tie ourselves in knots, let’s just embrace that the team is doing the necessary work to get this pick right. That’s reassuring. It’s very possible the players they are watching are simply the consensus players to go early and they’re doing their homework.

Onto the notes on Levis’ throwing session…

He looks in fantastic shape and there’s no doubt he’s a brilliant athlete. I actually think he’s too ripped, though. He looks absolutely jacked. He has a reputation at Kentucky for living in the weight room, which is hardly a bad thing. It’s the polar opposite to certain other players (Carter, J.). However, I’m not sure being this big is a good thing. I think if he took the edge off his workouts it might actually help him be more elusive, nimbler and a better scrambler.

Right off the bat this was a more up-tempo pro-day than Bryce Young’s. Jordan Palmer put the session together so it’s no surprise, he’s well versed in this process. The scripting was excellent and this was a brilliantly designed plan.

I thought Levis’ footwork was better than some of the talking heads suggested. His drop looked very smooth, his base was solid and the ball came out very well. He doesn’t drop his arm on release, it’s a nice compact throwing motion with the ideal release point.

The mock-play-action stuff was nicely executed. I really like the way he set to throw on those deliveries and the ball shoots out 20-30 yards downfield with ease.

Young had a lot of pointless ‘drop, set and check-down for seven-yards’ throws. I much preferred the session Palmer put together. He had Levis stand in the pocket, pretend to go through two reads, then re-set and check down to the running back who had peeled off towards the sideline. This is just a better way of emphasising the same thing.

Stroud’s hardest throws were the ones when he moved to his left on Wednesday. This is typically the case for most QB’s. Palmer designed some very elaborate ‘exit the pocket’ throws for Levis, where he had to scramble a long way to the left and deliver. The accuracy was ever so slightly off here, as they were with Stroud. But bloody hell, what an arm from Levis. To be virtually sprinting to the left and then deliver with that much torque and velocity. It’s impressive. It deserves to be described as a major positive and it’s not like the throws were well off the mark. We’re talking fine margins.

Throws like this were all over Twitter during the session:

There was also one throw where he launched it 75-yards downfield, hitting the receiver in stride. It was a mouth-ajar moment.

Levis was showing off his physical prowess here and he clearly has a bigger arm than Stroud and Young. He lacks Stroud’s perfect touch and consistency but he does have a bigger arm. There were some issues too, though. One 50-yard downfield throw was badly under thrown to the point the receiver had to stop and wait for the pass (which he bobbled). This does show up on tape. I don’t know why his downfield throwing is inconsistent like this. He’s capable of beautiful, crazy downfield bombs as we saw here. But every now and again there’s the odd duck. It must be a technical thing that teams will have to work out.

On a more positive note, I absolutely loved his throws on the move to the right hand side. They were perfectly judged in terms of arm strength, placement and touch. He hit receivers in stride and you can well imagine him in a bootleg offense having a lot of fun on levels and crossers.

He made 25-yard throws over the middle look so easy. He can flick his wrist and the ball shoots out. The way the ball leaves his hand is a thing of beauty. He generates so much pace on the delivery — it’s pretty to watch.

There was one 40-yard seam throw where he dropped, set his feet, added a ‘find the laces’ adjustment and then launched it on the money downfield like he was handing it off downfield. These are the ‘wow’ moments for me, rather than the big bombs. You can attack linebackers on these routes with quicker players and if they can release into these zones quickly off the snap, Levis can attack for big chunk plays with his arm.

There was a mid-range in-cutting route that I thought was wonderful. Three-step drop. Progression read simulation across the middle to two targets, bolt right back to the left hand side and fire with perfect velocity and loft, hitting the receiver in stride. Perfect.

He did the modified ’throw against the grain’ pass we see at a lot of pro-days. As with Young yesterday, he didn’t create as much momentum on his initial run which was good to see. He threw the ball at the 10-yard line, off balance across his body and the receiver caught it at the opposite 17-yard line. That is incredible arm-strength and the throw had good loft — it wasn’t a direct, flat throw as we saw with some of Young’s deep passes.

The NFL Network kept talking about players like Cam Newton and Josh Allen during the session. This isn’t Levis. These are poor comparisons. For me he’s more of a Justin Herbert but even then it’s not an ideal comparison. Levis showed what he does best today. Play-action, bootleg throws where he can get on the move and utilise his arm to varying levels of the field. He is perfect for the Sean McVay offense and it’s why he excelled so much in 2021. He’s not going to play hero ball like Allen or be a big powerhouse like Newton. He’s not a crazy improvisor and he needs to play within structure. He needs the right scheme and the right scheme is McVay’s.

Overall I thought this was a very good performance, brilliantly scripted by Jordan Palmer. Stroud’s pro-day isn’t going to be topped — it was a masterclass in tempo, skill, talent, touch, accuracy and sheer quality. This, to me, felt far more impressive than Young’s which as we discussed yesterday, felt like a box-ticking exercise to get it out of the way. Levis is not the naturally gifted, ‘born to do this’ passer that Stroud and Young are. However, he is an incredibly physically gifted player with ideal character, attitude and dedication to improve and develop.

It leaves me wondering, again, what exactly people expect? I keep hearing criticism of the quarterbacks this year — or at the very least a lukewarm response. I think the top-four deserve a lot more love. I’m not surprised the team with the #1 pick are checking them all out. This is a really good group, better than most years.

It baffles me because the defensive alternatives in round one are nothing to write home about.

I think Will Anderson is a quality player worthy of going #3 overall and he’d be a great selection for Seattle at #5. He’s not a special player though. He is not Myles Garrett, Von Miller or a Bosa brother. He doesn’t have elite get-off or bend around the arc. He’s physical, explosive, he plays the run brilliantly and when used in space, he can fly to the ball-carrier or quarterback. He is not, for me, a game-wrecking edge. I would happily take him at #5 because I think he will provide around 10-12 sacks a season consistently, he’ll lead your defense (if not your entire team) and it’s a safe pick with a high-floor. Anderson is a fantastic scheme fit for Seattle.

There are question marks about Tyree Wilson’s quickness and ability to be more than a big power-rusher. When I interviewed Jim Nagy before the Senior Bowl, he suggested the right range for Wilson would be ‘top-10 or top-15’. He’s now being regularly mocked in the top-five but is it justified? Mel Kiper put him at #11 in his last mock and it does feel a little bit like Wilson’s a good player, with flashes on tape — but how has he become a top-six lock?

I’ve talked about Carter’s issues. Then you have the cornerbacks who are likely to get pumped up due to the premium nature of the position.

We seem to hear a lot about what’s wrong with the quarterbacks but barely anything about some of the question marks on the defenders. Why is that?

I have no doubt that like Herbert, Levis can excel at the next level in a scheme that suits him. I think he would be a good pick for Indianapolis or Seattle. I continue to think the Colts will take him, either in a trade-up to #3 or with the #4 pick.

The Seahawks certainly made sure they got a prime viewing spot for this one:

Don’t underestimate the power of character and personality. Levis is beloved by the people at Kentucky. I know, I’ve spoken to them. I’ve interviewed Levis personally:

He is going to leave no stone unturned to maximise his potential.

While he’s far from the finished article as a passer, let me share some scouting quotes, courtesy of Bob McGinn, on Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes. See if you can find any similarities to what’s being said about Levis and Anthony Richardson:

Josh Allen

“He reminds me of (Blake) Bortles,” a second scout said. “Bortles lacked consistent accuracy and I see the same thing with Allen. Big-time athlete but really an inconsistent passer. I don’t see (Carson) Wentz. Some people do because they had the same coach (Craig Bohl). Wentz was a very mature, confident person.” Two-year starter. “He looks the part and a good athlete,” a third scout said. “But you talk about lacking in being a winning quarterback. He has a lot of bad tape (even) at that level. Somebody will still take him high. Are we going on what the tape is and the production and the winning? Or are we going on this guy looks like he should be an NFL quarterback and how he throws the ball?”

Patrick Mahomes

“People are trying to make that comparison because of his arm. He’s got a really good arm, but Favre was not as reckless as this guy.

“He’s crazy. He plays crazy. He’ll do anything. I don’t even think “gunslinger’ is the right word. He’s reckless.”

“He’s in ‘that offense’ and the way he plays, he’s very erratic,” another director from an NFC team said. “You can see the talent but he’s just so streaky and wild and reckless. He put a lot of balls up for grabs where you’re saying, ‘Man, what are you going to get with him?’

“He could (come on) but I don’t see it. I just don’t think he has the necessary qualities. He has no vision, no mechanics. He’s erratic as hell. He makes a lot of mistakes. It’s going to be a long (development).”

“Mahomes is the boom or bust guy,” said one of the two evaluators that expected him to fail. “He carries the biggest upside but he does have a bust factor. He’s just going to be inexperienced doing the things he’s going to do here.

“When you start looking at players that play off the script it concerns you, and a lot of what he does is off-script. In the NFL, when you get off-script is when you make big, big errors. It’s not as easy to make the off-script play on our level as it is at Texas Tech.”

So far my pro-day rankings for the top-four are:

1. C.J. Stroud
2. Will Levis
3. Bryce Young

If you missed my reports on Stroud’s pro-day check it out here. Here’s my write-up for Young.

A final note for today. I went back and reviewed the safety class after the combine, in part due to a recommendation from a scouting friend who raved about the depth of the group.

One player I adjusted up was Alabama’s DeMarcco Hellams. Then I saw this tweet today:

Hellams isn’t a special athlete but he’s a heck of a football player. He plays with a ferocious nature and he leaves everything on the field. He’s indicative of this class for me. There are some absolute blood-and-thunder ballers available, even if there’s a distinct lack of obvious blue-chip first round talent. And several of those blood-and-thunder types happen to play the safety position this year.

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Bryce Young’s pro-day was a low-key event

Thursday, March 23rd, 2023

Another day, another QB selfie for the Seahawks

If C.J. Stroud set out to put on a show yesterday (read my review here), Bryce Young’s pro-day had a very different vibe. This was never going to be a platform where Young ‘won’ any points over his rivals. He kind of just had to get it out of the way. If Stroud’s was a ‘wow’ workout this was a lot more understated. If the contingent from Carolina travelled to Alabama, a day after watching Stroud, they’ll have come away from this feeling swayed. That would be my feeling, anyway.

Stroud began his workout peppering throws to each sideline like he was a human JUGS machine. In no time at all he was lobbing throws downfield with precision and velocity. It felt like he was puffing out his chest and saying, ‘watch this’ — eager to make a statement and claim the #1 spot in front of the watching Carolina entourage.

Young’s day felt a lot more like a pre-practise warm-up session. The energy was a lot lower. It started with several tune-up throws on a shorter range. This isn’t anything out of the ordinary — most pro-days start this way. Yet the fact Stroud came out flying was noticeable and different.

I didn’t think we really needed to see Young throw a handful of seven-yard check-downs under no pressure in shorts. That kind of set the tone for the workout.

There were still clear positives to highlight. Young throws with a good base and whips the ball out with reasonable velocity for his size. His arm strength is clearly weaker than Stroud’s but not to the point of it being an issue on mid-range throws. He has a stronger arm than Mac Jones and Tua Tagovailoa, two other former Alabama first round picks.

Young delivered some 25-yard outs with a nice zing to them. They were accurate and punchy with good placement. Young also tried the ‘off-platform-across-your-body’ throw that has become common at pro-days. He did it with less momentum on the run so it was more impressive and he got the ball 60-yards downfield (the pass was dropped by the receiver). There was one throw that faded a bit on the mid-range and I think at the pro-level there will be times when Young isn’t able to drive a pass into a tight window when not ideally set. Yet overall he’s accurate, he’s mechanically sound with his feet and shoulders properly aligned and he has enough arm-strength to not feel like you’ll be limited in a way Miami and New England with the other former Alabama QB’s.

He had some nice 35-yard seam throws where he dropped, set and threw very quickly — firing the ball to the target with pace and accuracy.

I really like the way Young steps into his throws. He has a very natural, fluid release and the ball comes out of his hand well. The spirals are excellent on the mid-range. Although he’s not physically exceptional, the ball gets to where it needs to go to most areas of the field.

One slight criticism I have is his deep balls were flat. While Stroud absolutely nailed the loft, velocity and touch on his deeper passes, it did feel a bit like Young was trying to throw as hard as possible and the ball came out without enough air and they were harder to catch. The receivers were dropping passes the Ohio State group were gathering with ease. I also would’ve liked to see a few more deeper throws during the session but I guess he doesn’t want to get into a physical battle with Stroud, Will Levis and Anthony Richardson.

It did feel like a ‘get this out of the way’ experience. He didn’t run a forty or do any other testing, just as he didn’t at the combine. He wasn’t weighed again. This pre-draft process for Young is essentially trying to do as little as possible, tick-off the boxes he needs to tick and crack on. There’s nothing wrong with that because again, he isn’t going to go toe-to-toe with the physical beasts at the position.

The problem with this, though, is he’s leaving the door open for GM’s and coaches (and perhaps more importantly, owners) to be wowed by the other three. He’s relying on teams being comfortable with the size, watching the tape, seeing things like him basically winning a game against Texas in the fourth quarter on his own and having someone say — ‘that’s our guy’. Someone is going to do that early, possibly even the Panthers. If not them, probably the Texans. Yet there was a marked difference between Stroud and Young and that’s in part why this felt like a ‘get it out of the way’ pro-day rather than a chance to flex.

That said, Young is clearly naturally gifted with A+ character. Personally I would draft him early. As much as his frame is a concern in terms of durability, you can’t wait around for the ideal quarterback. Sometimes you’ve got to take a chance on someone and I would take a chance on Young at #5 if he lasted.

The question is, would you take him over the others? Physical tools matter a lot more than I think some people are willing to acknowledge in the modern NFL and Young is a distant fourth among the top-four in that regard. Yet he isn’t a physical liability either and the fact he ticks so many other boxes from mechanics to production to creativity and character will convince teams he’s capable of not just being a franchise quarterback but also a highly successful one.

It is possible, though, that the other three QB’s will turn heads in a way Young simply wasn’t capable of doing during his throwing session. Stroud has already, for me, taken a big step towards the #1 pick with what he showed. Now it’s up to Will Levis and Anthony Richardson to try and stake their claims —- because rightly or wrongly, there will be some trepidation about Young’s size. Rightly or wrongly, teams like traits.

Frankly, we should learn to be comfortable with that. Justin Herbert and Josh Allen were the third quarterbacks drafted in their respective classes. Patrick Mahomes was the second quarterback drafted in his — 10th overall. All were critiqued a lot more than people seem prepared to admit after the fact.

You draft players to develop. Nobody bats an eye-lid when a high-upside, undercooked defensive lineman or left tackle is taken early with the intention of developing them. I’m not sure why, at the most important position in the sport, drafting to develop incredible upside is treated with suspicion and concern.

A GM might lose a job by trying to draft and develop the wrong quarterback. A GM can also become a team legend by siding with the right one. I’d suggest the GM who sits around waiting for the second coming of Joe Burrow to fall into their lap will eventually find it very difficult to justify their position. It’s why I think you’ve got to keep taking shots until you hit. A good owner should be comfortable with that. You need to try and find the Holy Grail.

Seattle’s QB tour is reportedly heading to Kentucky tomorrow to see Will Levis. Again, it’s also worth noting that there are other players to check-in with on these trips. Yesterday, I think it’s almost certain the Seahawks checked out and/or spent time with center Luke Wypler. Today, Pete Carroll was having a good look at Byron Young who I think would be a perfect fit for their defensive front. He also spent time chatting with Will Anderson, who is likely a coveted player for the #5 pick.

Disappointingly Anderson didn’t do any testing today — which means he’ll go into the draft with no vertical, broad, short shuttle or three cone numbers. He has no excuse for this, no injury issues or anything. It’s quite frustrating.

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