Are the Seahawks looking for Aldon Smith or Von Miller?

Von Miller had 11.5 sacks as a rookie, but also played well against the run

When I wrote a piece exploring how Courtney Upshaw or Melvin Ingram could be used as a hybrid DE/OLB ‘elephant’, it received a mixed response. Some agreed, others not so much. I still believe the Seahawks intend to draft a pass rusher in the first round, and that they’ll want that player to have an impact immediately. I wanted to look at two successful first round picks from last year to try and determine what it is exactly Seattle is looking for.

I found this article, published by Derek Pease just before week 16. It detailed different statistics for Aldon Smith (7th overall pick for San Francisco) and Von Miller (2nd overall pick for Denver). Neither team runs a defense directly comparable to Seattle’s 4-3 under/hybrid – Denver’s is closer to an orthodox 4-3 while the 49ers are a pure 3-4. Even so, the way the two teams used their first round picks is still interesting.

Smith had 14 sacks as a rookie, just 0.5 away from the NFL record for a first-year pro. He achieved that number playing largely in a nickel role, taking just 446 snaps prior to week 16 compared to Von Miller’s 823. Pease: “Could Smith have challenged Miller for Defensive Rookie Of The Year honors if he was a player with an every-down role? Or have the 49ers maximized his potential by limiting him to nickel situations and not putting him in bad spots (against the run) where he might struggle?”

It’s an interesting concept, and there are similar players in the 2012 draft class who could deal with the same issues. Illinois pass rusher Whitney Mercilus isn’t great against the run, but he showed in 2011 he can get to the quarterback. I’ve had real difficulty working out Mercilus this year – he’s a bit of an enigma. You can’t argue with the production, but the tape doesn’t flash a consistently dominating pass rusher. Yet he still made plays. I’ve seen him struggle at times to disengage against tight ends, but he’s also shown the ability to set up a tackle and work to develop an opening. Very few college pass rushers have that in their locker.

If the Seahawks took a player like Mercilus, they wouldn’t want him playing the edge opposite Clemons – two under sized defensive ends would be asking for trouble. They also want to keep Red Bryant at end, given he’s now the highest paid defensive player on the roster. Just like Aldon Smith, a prospect like Mercilus would be limited as a rookie to nickel pass rushing situations. The big question would be whether he’d have enough snaps to utilise the talent just emphasised – to set up a tackle and work out a way to the QB. Is he explosive enough – as Smith proved – to be an impact pass rusher on obvious passing downs? Would there still be a way for Seattle to manufacture pressure? San Francisco would use Justin Smith to take out two blockers, having Aldon Smith hook around the team’s defensive MVP to exploit 1vs1 match-ups. He dominated in those situations. The Seahawks could try and do the same behind Bryant and Jason Jones, although obviously neither will ever warrant the same attention as Justin Smith.

The NFL has often been described as a copycat league and it makes sense that teams will be hunting to emulate the success the 49ers had in drafting Smith. The Seahawks had a front row seat in the NFC West to watch how San Francisco regularly churned out an elite pass rush, and they were probably jealous. Raheem Brock is unlikely to be retained, opening up a spot for a specialist pass rusher. If the Seahawks are serious about finding their version of Aldon Smith, it opens up the possibility of drafting a Mercilus, a Vinny Curry or an Andre Branch. Whether that’s their intention remains to be seen.

Seattle’s defense is set up to play strong against the run. Drafting a player who won’t be able to play a large number of snaps because of issues in run defense kind of goes against what the team has been preaching. Although Seattle’s main aim is almost certainly to increase their QB pressure in this draft, are they going to go the specialist route? As successful as San Francisco were with their choice last year, it’s still quite an early pick to spend on a prospect who will feature in about half the team’s defensive snaps as a rookie. Trying to copy the 49ers just doesn’t seem like a very Pete Carroll-type move given the Seahawks penchant for being unique. But it could be an option, particularly if the first eleven picks fall a certain way.

Pease’s breakdown (Aldon Smith)

Total snaps: 446

Run defense: 100

Pass defense: 346

Pass coverage: 37

Von Miller was an every down player for Denver, featuring strongly against both the run and pass. According to Pease, he almost doubled the number of snaps seen by Aldon Smith by week 16 (823 vs 446) and was used fairly evenly across the board. While Smith was guarded against the run, Miller defended the pass just twelve more times than the run (365 vs 353). Pease: “Miller is much more than a one-trick pony, playing nearly every down on defense and handling run-stopping and pass coverage duties with equal aplomb. Together with pass-rush demon Elvis Dumervil, Miller has led the Broncos’ defense back to respectability.”

Imagine the Seahawks do draft an Upshaw or Ingram. Von Miller played defensive end for Texas A&M but always projected to linebacker at the next level. Both Upshaw and Ingram played most of their college snaps at end, but could transition to a more versatile role in the NFL. Look at Pease’s final sentence above and subtract Elvis Dumervil for Chris Clemons, and it’s easy to see how the Seahawks might go in a similar direction.

Of course this is the moment people point out that neither Upshaw or Ingram are Von Miller. Neither will be the #2 overall pick. Neither flashed the scintillating combine performance or had the kind of production Miller enjoyed in college. The thing is, the Seahawks aren’t picking second overall. And although many people expect the #12 pick to provide some kind of elite talent, it’s really just a run-of-the-mill mid-first rounder. Seattle can’t expect to find a Von Miller in that range, but they might be able to find a player who can do the same kind of job, just with a different skill set.

It’s interesting to note that of Miller’s 823 snaps prior to week 16 last season, 13% were in coverage situations. Despite the raw athleticism and high potential to play brilliantly in coverage, not even a fifth of Miller’s snaps before the final two regular season games were in coverage. It’s often a point of contention when discussing Upshaw’s (and even Ingram’s) ability to play a similar role. If the Seahawks are looking for someone who can get to the quarterback (like Miller) but predominantly play well against both the pass and the run, then it’s not such a ridiculous idea. For the 10-15% of coverage responsibility Seattle might be looking at, would it not be possible to manufacture this situation to make it less of an issue? To stop a less mobile DE/OLB such as Upshaw being exploited? Or would you just put that responsibility on the player and live with it for the effectiveness vs the run/pass?

Miller, Upshaw and Ingram are all different players. All have different strengths, all have certain weaknesses. But is it such a ridiculous concept to believe all could play a similar position and role at the next level?

Pease’s breakdown (Von Miller)

Total snaps: 823

Run defense: 353

Pass defense: 365

Pass coverage: 105

Again we go back to the copycat nature of the league. Maybe Seattle is looking for their version of Aldon Smith, or maybe they’re trying to find someone who can play a role loosely similar to Miller in Denver? The NFL is becoming less and less about fitting round pegs into round holes. Teams will look for an edge, a way to do things differently and create a match-up problem. Conventional thinking, particularly when it comes to the pass rush and defensive line, is a thing of the past. Why else are the Seahawks using an undersized DE in space in a four-man front with a giant 330lbs behemoth playing the other end position? It’s the main reason why I think we should expect some ‘thinking outside of the box’ in round one for the Seahawks. What some people consider to be poor scheme fits, might be more realistic than you think. We may not truly understand the role of Seattle’s new rookie until he takes the field.


  1. Tanner

    Whitney Mercilus’ and Aldon Smith’s combine numbers are almost identical, and 16 sacks is hard to argue with. I’d be happy with the pick.

  2. MJ

    I gotta say Mercilus scares the daylights out of me. Just doesn’t look like a football player and every time I have seen him play, he seems like a complete liability versus the run. Aldon Smith had a few years of production where Mercilus was literal a no show til last year.

    I’d rather opt for the well rounded player who sees a majority of snaps over a one trick pony.

  3. williambryan

    The more I watch Hightower, the more I think he should be considered in the same breath as Upshaw and Ingram. I think he could play the SLB and provide a nice balance of relentless pass rush and solid Run D and perhaps cover better than either Upshaw or Ingram (This would move Wright to MLB I suppose). I really like both Upshaw and Ingram and would be more than happy with either, although my personal dream scenario now looks like this:
    Trade down from 12, pick Hightower later in first, Doug Martin with the next pick, Kendricks with the next, and then Bruce Irvin in the third, and the best QB available next (Wilson or Harnish if it’s this late in the draft most likely)

  4. Misfit74

    Great read and thank you, Rob.

    A few questions and comments:

    Von Miller lined up at SLB mainly, correct? Is it fair to wonder if we’d be looking for a SLB when a. K.Wright was good in the role with room to grow and b. could either or both Upshaw or Ingram play SLB? So it is nice that Miller made such a contribution but he’s also a different breed of cat than Upshaw is (like you said). Ingram, too.

    Or, would the team look for another Leo and run dual Leo’s at times and thereby potentially investing less draft-capital on a 2nd+ round player or in fact the 12th overall by making players like Upshaw or Ingram into Leos?

    I realize we discussed some of this in the other article, but we can’t just look at snaps of Miller (43 SLB) or Aldon Smith (3-4 OLB) and think either Ingram or Upshaw can plug right it, or if we can: how would that work? Can either guy command enough snaps and fulfill the requirements of an OLB spot in our defense (even situationally) or are Ingram and Upshaw both Clemons rotational players and future(s) at the position there, instead?

    I also like Andre Branch a lot and think he’s one of the better pass-rushers in this class with room to grow. Not a polished Ruskell pick.

    Also on Couples: I’ve read that most project him the strong-side DE in a 43 and NOT the pass-rushing DE in those defenses or possibly a 5-tech for stricter 34 teams. If we’re adding pass-rush, how does Couples really help us in that department?

  5. Mike in OC

    williambryan – although I would very much like to get Upshaw, I’d also be tickled pink to get the kind of draft you just posted! Especially with the Harnish pick toward the end (I still think he’s going to be more successful than he’s being projected).

    I also think that trading back from the #12 pick opens up a lot of other possibilities while getting that extra pick or two.

  6. Rob

    Misfit – Miller, Upshaw and Ingram are all different players, but that’s not to say you have to be Von Miller to have an impact in that role. I think the team has been quite open about how flexible KJ Wright is and can play multiple spots… I’m not sure they wouldn’t be prepared to move him for a #1 pick. I can’t answer for PC though. If they go the specialist route I’d be surprised and I don’t see two LEO’s. But then I wouldn’t rule it out, which is why I touched on it in this article. But the snaps are significant because it breaks down the kind of role Smith/Miller had and we see how much of Miller’s work was vs the run, pass not in coverage. And if the team likes Upshaw/Ingram – what I’m hearing – then I can see why they could believe their positives in pass/run outweigh concerns in coverage. And as opined before, I don’t think the Seahawks have to draft Von Miller or spend a #2 pick to find someone who can do the same role in Seattle.

  7. aj

    the guy to look for is bruce irvin in the the 2nd or 3rd round, this guy is 14 sacks a year pure 3rd down pass rusher. if you want aldon smith its irvin. troubled past has him down in the ranks some, but he is worth the risk.

  8. Doug

    Not to deviate, but this Masters with Bubba and OOze, is awesome!

    This pick is so difficult based on who will be available….

    I’m almost be comng a fan of the trading back for Hightower, but I still think they trade up for coples…

  9. NMD

    I’m fully in on the Donta Hightower at SAM bandwagon giving us one more day 2 pick. Interesting stuff on Von Miller snaps, it definitely reiterates my feelings that any of these guys can be schemed to minimally be used in pass coverage and should be fine at the SAM spot. My dream draft right now is Hightower in the first and Chandler Jones, Chris Polk, and Sean Spence on day 2. If we go Ingram or Upshaw in the first, then I’d like Mychal Kendricks in the 2nd, and Polk or Robert Turbin in the 3rd.

  10. Misfit74

    Andre Branch
    Bruce Irvin


    Pass-rushing draft value with high ceilings.

  11. John_s

    Im sorry I am not in love with either Upshaw or Ingram. Upshaw lacks the explosion that he needs for being a smaller guy. He would fit best in a true 3-4 scheme. With Ingram his short arms are going to give him problems in the NFL. The tackles are going to get into his body and engulf him.

    I really don’t see a pass rusher that merits the 12th pick although Hightower would come the closest.

    I love the possibilities that Fletcher Cox or Michael Brockers brings. They both profile as DT’s but I can see both slide over to the 5tech to give Red a blow.

    Cox is more developed in his pass rush skills as a DT and he has the explosiveness to get up the field. If he gets up to 320-330 he can develop into the same type of interior presence that Kevin Williams has Produced over the past 10 years.

    Brockers can be Alan Branch who offers some interior pass rush skills. He’s young but in the LSU scheme he was often responsible for taking on two blockers or hold the line for the LB’s. I think over time he can develop some skills to rush the passer

  12. Rob

    Do Brockers and Cox really fill a need though, John? Neither are pure three-techniques and asking a guy like Cox to add 20-30lbs is pretty considerable. I’ve not see a great deal of interior pass rush from Brockers on tape, although he does handle blockers. And Red only plays 1st and 2nd downs, so not sure he really needs a blow – especially from a first round pick.

  13. Belgaron

    I believe they’ll go Brown/Irvin 2 and 3, if possible and go BPA in the 1st. Upshaw and Mercilus will go late in the first round; if the ‘Hawks do like those guys, they’ll trade down.

  14. John_s

    They don’t necessarily fill a need but they will be the best available players on the board.

    If they stay at 12 these are two guys who would be intriguing given the fact of they athletic ability and potential.

    Fletcher Cox is quick, explosive, has a great motor and people say he has a high football IQ. Looking at the tapes he does a good job with his hands. Is able to knife through blocks and plays on the other side of the ball. He offers something tht the current DT’s doesn’t offer which is the ability to penetrate the gaps and disrupt up the middle

    Brockers is a big athletic guy. He needs to lower his pad level. And when he does, he has the natural leverage to hold up the blocks and can push his guy back. He doesn’t use his hands as well as he could but that is something that he can get better with over time.

    As for them giving Red a blow. Yes hes a 2 down guy and even though he had a great season, it was his first year playing a whole 16 game schedule and In the upcoming seasons he will be double teamed and chipped and be given a lot of attention he will need to be given some rest at pints in the game. The two prospects would give them a nice rotation and they would offer nice versatility that they can play inside and the 5 tech when needed.

    If they trade down to gain additional picks and draft Upshaw or Ingram I would be ok with that given the additional value of the additional picks. I just don’t see them being effective in the hawks scheme given their limitations. I think if we were running a true 3-4 they would offer much greater value to the hawks.

  15. Hawkfin

    This was a fantastic read….. It’s nice to hear some additional thoughts about Whitney as he’s one of my favorite choices.

    I still don’t agree with the views that he’s a liability vs the run as I saw him do it pretty well. More so then Ingram in my view.

    And I can’t agree that he lacks consistently dominating in pass rush? If anybody dominates in this area, it’s him. Sure, he can’t handle double teams like what was happening in the UCLA tape. But, 1 vs

  16. Hawkfin

    Oops – cont…
    But 1 vs 1 he always seemed to dominate to me.

    Anyway, I do think he could could be a huge force when used and if used right even if it’s limited role.

    Maybe he is a replacement for Clemons someday also though? Not Red. Although I’m not sure I really like having a 320 DE. I’d much rather have 2 smaller guy’s at DE.

    The article was great though. I agree with Hightower over Upshaw.

  17. Attyla the Hawk

    Here’s another thing to consider as well.

    Pete has a self avowed love affair with players with unique talents/gifts. If one looks at the track record of teams trying to get ‘the next…..’ prospect or player, they are generally left disappointed.

    Von Miller is an elite prospect. Even though graded much later, Denver reached significantly for him at #2 and he was worth every bit of it. It probably does no good to try to get the next Von Miller because he’s a rare/unique talent.

    Aldon Smith, I think is a mirage. For different reasons. He was unique in that he was able to line up next to an All pro caliber player who commanded double teams on every play. Kind of like Jared Crick having a lot of success because Suh was taking the focus of the blocking entirely.

    We don’t have Justin Smith to help our situational end. And the guys that can beat blocking on their own consistently like a JJ Watt aren’t in this draft.

    If there isn’t a talent that is elite at any one thing, maybe we get guys that are versatile and can force mismatches that way? Hightower would fit that bill. Obviously I have a guy in mind. But I think there are others too.

    Mychal Kendricks played DE at Cal early. He’s no shorter than Dumervil, and Von Miller only wishes he was as fast as Kendricks. Mychal is an established blitzer and is undoubtedly fast.

    We could take an Upshaw, an Ingram, a Mercilus, or a Branch. I would not be surprised to see one of these guys succeed. But I would be just as unsurprised to see 3 of these 4 fail miserably too. Of course that doesn’t mean we just give up. But in a draft with such quality so deep in the LB corps — why does pass rush HAVE to come from the DE spot?

    If we are already lowering the standards of what we can expect to a situational DE, is that worth more than solving everydown speed at LB. Speed that can be situationally used as rush passers.

    I have come around to see the value of Upshaw at DE. He is a guy that will upgrade the rush in Bryant’s absence. He will retain much of the run stopping ability of Bryant. This means he can play in more situations than pure passing downs. He can also play full time in the event Bryant is injured. Mercilus/Branch/Curry can’t do that.

    I like Kendricks. He has elite speed, and he has the on the field productivity that one would expect from a good player with speed. His tape says he’s fast too.

    I like McClellin. He is a guy that can basically rotate with Clemons/Bryant. He can also play Sam and Mike. He can rush inside and outside. He would be our most versatile player on the roster the moment he enters the VMAC.

    I like Demario Davis out of Arkansas State. At Mike/Sam or Will. He strikes me as a guy that is comfortable lining up at any LB spot filling any role necessary.

    I really don’t see Mercilus/Ingram/Curry or Branch having Aldon Smith’s ability, nor his advantageous environment. Smith’s productivity was dependent on both, to create matchups in his favor.

    We need to take a different approach to that. Being able to move guys around, or have guys that can do lots of things well can both create mismatches in our favor — but also prevent the offense from dictating mismatches on us. Which is far more likely to happen on a play in, play out basis.

    Maybe we get a bunch of guys that all can blitz. And all can cover. And all can set the run. We have to mix it up (not unlike how Pittsburgh does). They don’t have or need a Von Miller or Aldon Smith/Justin Smith). They have a lot of guys that are good at a lot of things and they keep opponents guessing where pressure comes. And they don’t give up mismatches because they are all generically sound at multiple roles.

    This draft seems to have that kind of swiss army knife utility in spades. Load up on what the draft is offering. Don’t be the copycat.

  18. Clayton

    Elite Talent can come anywhere in the draft including the 12th spot. Joe Montana, Aaron Rodgers, Brett Favre, and Tom Brady are all perfect examples and that is just at the QB position. Aaron Curry our number 4 pick a few years ago, was coined a can’t miss talent, a safe pick, and what happened there? Well he didn’t last in Seattle and is barely hanging on to his career in Oakland. The Seahawks have many options with their current 12th pick and their is no true way of determining who is or who is not an elite talent until they start playing in the NFL. Just ask Ryan Leaf, Rick Mirer, Tony Mandrich, Joey Harrington, Heath Shuler and others. All the hype in the world does not make a player an elite talent until they prove their worth on Sunday’s. With that said Seattle is in a great position to take a player that should help them elevate their defense to the next level. Whether that is a player like Q Coples, C Upshaw, M Ingram, D Hightower the potential to be a big time player is there. Now the real question is can they turn their success at the college level into elite player status at the next level whether we go LB or Hybrid DE.

  19. Rob

    Belgaron – If you really like a guy, you don’t tend to get cute trading down. I’m not sure on Mercilus, but there’s no way Upshaw lasts that long. We’ll see that in 2.5 weeks.

    John – Thanks for the additional thoughts. I’m not convinced Cox is quite as good as advertised. When I watched the tape, I saw a player undoubtedly athletic and mobile, but also a little rough around the edge. There was very little technique and polish to his game, he was like a runaway train. As an interior force, there was very little pass rush or for that matter stoutness vs the run. Off the edge, he was more productive and looked ideal as a pure 3-4 end. The combine numbers were very impressive, but IMO the tape doesn’t back it up. He’s OK. He’s capable of being more than OK, but that’s an investment I’d let somebody else chance. But I didn’t see a three-technique. I’m higher on Brockers but mainly due to his ability vs the run and take blocks. He’s tough to move and he plays with an intensity. If Seattle had a pass rush and no run D, I’d be all over that pick. Yet it’s really the other way around. I actually don’t think he’ll offer any more pass rush ability than Branch and when you consider how good Seattle is up front vs the run, it just looks like a wasted pick to me. And while I appreciate Red’s injury history, the team kind of made their bed when they made him the highest paid player on the defense. I have a problem spending a top-15 pick on a player who’s primary impact will be depth in some areas and maybe slight improvements to other capable starters. And that’s not taking into account the signing of Jason Jones – largely to provide more pass rush in the interior and spell Bryant in certain looks. And I think we tend to concentrate too much on what Upshaw/Ingram can’t do, and not enough on what they can do.

    Hawkfin – I can only judge how I see it. Some of his sacks were long developing plans as highlighted which negate consistency but ultimately warrant praise. But in terms of just being a terror off the edge and warranting consistent attention I didn’t see it. I’m not just zoning in on the UCLA tape here but when you have a guy with his production and they’re happy to leave the TE on him, that bothers me. He has some talent and I could see him having production at the next level, but he’s probably the toughest prospect to work out this year. Others have made that same point, getting an angle on him is very difficult.

  20. Hawkfin

    MJ / Or Rob- What game or games did you see where Whitney was a liability vs the run?
    I’d like to go review those again.

    The only time I saw problems vs the run is when he was flying so fast up the field beating his man to the QB. However, they then run a draw or run at his side where he had just left.

    That’s not fair to me – You are asking him to pressure the QB in those situations and the other team just took advantage of it. This happens to Dwight Freeney all the time too, but it doesn’t mean that’s a liability.

    I’ll take that draw run play where he gives up some, if he’s all on the QB time and again.
    Plus you can back cover him with LB’s I’m sure.

    1 on 1 vs the run he can tackle well though. He makes that play.
    The problem that “I think” you are seeing is that he just takes himself out of the play.
    But that his because he’s almost at the QB with his speed, and has beaten his man.

    He’s a true DE pass rusher. I think he’s very capable of being A. Smith or Freeny.

  21. Rob

    Clayton – the point on elite talent really is in answer to the many comments on this blog about X, Y or Z prospect not being good enough for #12. There’s been a lot of ‘not an elite pass rusher… doesn’t have elite measurables’ comments about the #12 pick. The 6-5, 270lbs DE with great production who runs a super fast time doesn’t get past the top-5. And that’s the point really. Seattle might take a guy at #12 that most people are underwhelmed with, they’ll say it’s a reach or act disappointed. And in a year’s time, they may well be saying what a genius decision it was.

  22. Rob

    Hawkfin – I don’t recall saying Mercilus was ever a ‘liability’ against the run: “If the Seahawks took a player like Mercilus, they wouldn’t want him playing the edge opposite Clemons – two under sized defensive ends would be asking for trouble.” That said, DE’s of his size aren’t usually great against the run in the NFL when playing in a front four.

  23. Charlie

    Pretty sure most people thought Aldon smith at 7th overall was a reach, and that’s really robs point… He isn’t considered a reach anymore.

  24. Misfit74

    Found where I recently read about Couples’ run ability being a positive.

    “2. Quinton Coples (6-6, 284), North Carolina. Coples is an excellent power rusher and run defender, but lacks initial quickness off the ball to threaten the corner as a speed rusher.”

    Read more:

    This is one reason to think, along with evaluating our current personnel, that Couples may be ill-fit for Seattle’s defense. I’m not sure we need this guy if he’s not a pass-rush upgrade (1) and doesn’t upgrade our current players in Branch, Mebane, Bryant on the D-line.

  25. Belgaron

    Couples would be fantastic fit for the ‘Hawks D. They’d use him up and down the line, from both ends or in the middle on 3rd and long. If they feel they can keep him motivated, he’d be a great fit. The only questions are–does he make it to 12? and do they like anyone else better?

  26. NMD

    Hawkfin – I don’t see the pass rushing skills from Mercilus that you’re talking about. I’ve watched the UCLA, ASU, Ohio St, Penn St, Wisc, and North Western videos and I just don’t see any domination. Most of his sacks are relentless pursuit with a QB not able to get rid of the ball, not moves to get past the blocker. I saw one impressive rip move vs the NW left tackle but Persa put a nice duck move on him to flip him over. On another sack vs OSU where he looked like he shed the block upon closer review the RT tripped over the RB and Mercilus took advantage. He is decent vs the run, doesn’t really hold the edge but will ride the edge and let that lightning bolt Brown (#45) make the play. I do think he is the exact type of player to develop into the LEO but I wouldn’t count on him having a Clemons like impact for a couple of years. I don’t think he’s worth a top 25 pick right now, and if I’m taking a LEO in the first it’s Nick Perry or waiting till the 2nd for Chandler Jones, Branch, or Curry.

  27. BJA

    hey Rob- why do you keep being worried about the guy opposite Clemons being below average against the run? Thats what Red is there for, and when Red isn’t in it should be a passing situation. And Carrol didn’t say anything about us needing any better run defense, he said we need to improve pass rush.

  28. BJA

    and everyone it is COPLES, no U. If he’s going to be a Hawk we gotta get that right

  29. NMD

    Belgaron – I don’t see the Coples fit because I see no role for him in the base defense. I really don’t think he’s a fit LEO, I think his strength is his strength. Before they re-signed Big Red I could see the defense going more conventional with Coples or even before Jason Jones he could back up Bryant and play 3-tech in nickel and dime but now I just don’t see the snaps for him. I think the 12th pick is too high a price for a 3rd down only pass rusher in this scheme, give me someone who can do more.

  30. A. Simmons

    I’m assuming they want a guy that will replace Hill with more speed and pass rushing ability. Not sure that is Upshaw, but I don’t know who it is. I know we were getting burned in the run game on the edges and QBs were seriously running around on us because of our lack of speed with the front 7. I know for certain they want someone to stop that from happening. When the QB is flushed from the pocket, they want the QB down or contained…period. Whoever can provide that is who we will draft early.

  31. Richardfg7

    I think Carroll knows exactly what he is looking for and will go after that player, or players this year. He’s run this defense for many years and knows it very well. When he gets all his pieces in place it will be as good as any defense in the NFL.

  32. Hawkfaninmt

    We didn’t have, and haven’t had a Smith or Miller in our defense before. So why are we automatically assuming that is what the Hawks are looking for in the 1st? I see Clemmons as a player that nobody thought was worth the price the Hawks paid and he has flourished. Which tells me there is another player out there that can provide pass rush in Carrols scheme that other teams are not looking at, and we may seem to overpay for again. But in the end I feel it will be looked back on as a success, ala Clemmons. With that being said, Bruce Irvin can be a special Leo IMO. He could absolutely be had in the 2nd, and probably in the 3rd. If taken I can see him spelling Red on passing downs and improving his pass rushing skills in time to take over at Leo for Clemmons next year. That leaves our first for BPA. Whether that is Upshaw, Coples, Decastro, or even Floyd.

    I see Upshaw as a guy who would move Wright to MLB and play the SLB, with blitzing capabilities. If nobody is brought in to provide an edge rush I could see him doing that too. I feel like Coples is a bit redundant this year as I see his production as similar to that of Jason Jones. The only exception I would say is that Jones strength in his DT/DE rotation is DT whereas Coples is probably a bit stronger at DE.

    My two main targets at this point in the draft would be Irvin in the 3rd, and Edwin Baker in the 7th. If those two were to happen any combo in the 1st, 2nd, 4th, and 6th (say Floyd, Kendricks, Bergeson, and Kilimente) will be fine with me.

  33. Attyla the Hawk

    @BJA Not to put words in Rob’s mouth, my take:

    “hey Rob- why do you keep being worried about the guy opposite Clemons being below average against the run? Thats what Red is there for, and when Red isn’t in it should be a passing situation. And Carrol didn’t say anything about us needing any better run defense, he said we need to improve pass rush.”

    We’re talking about rush DE’s here. You aren’t going to put him on the 9 gap next to Red on passing downs. That’s where you’d have a Sam.

    If we target the DE position, which is the focus of these discussions, then any guy we get that can’t hold up against the run, basically is a guy that has very limited situational value to us. In addition, he can’t be a medium term injury replacement option either.

    In essence, getting a Mercilus is tracing the Aldon Smith route exactly. Getting a guy who will play on less than a third of our defensive snaps. With that ultra limited participation — what kind of impact does he need to have in order to warrant the #12 pick.

    Really, we can lump in a lot of DEs in this draft in that way: Perry, Curry, Irvin, Mercilus, Ingram, Branch etc. They all are situational guys. Is any one of them so much better than the pile to warrant taking them over any other? Because probably half of these guys will be on the board when we pick in the second round.

    So this discussion is actually very timely. If we are dead set on adding pass rush from the DE spot, then analyzing what kind of impact and limited scope we would see as a result is warranted. Especially as it pertains to guys in round 1 versus round 2. The pool of situational Bryant rotation DEs seems pretty deep and flat.

    It also distinguishes talents like Upshaw and Hightower from the others. Because they have the ability to be on the field more due to greater versatility.

  34. andy

    I see Bruce Irvin or Andre Branch as being the best fits for our future LEO spot. And for now they could fill the Raheem Brock role. Excellent value picks in the 2nd round and frees up the 1st pick for BPA ???? My ideal situation trade back for Hightower. Irvin or Branch in the 2nd and then go LB/RB with your dual 3rds…….

  35. Jazz

    Bruce Irvin sure looks like a mishandled version of Von Miller. I hope we get him to play Leo.

  36. woofu

    Rob or Kip,

    Are you familiar with a poster at Scout named Alumni56?

  37. Rob

    Misfit74 – RE: Run defense… only relaying what I’m told. Some teams consider it to be an issue.

    BJA – I’m saying that a guy like Mercilus would be considered a pass-rush specialist and therefore wouldn’t play a lot of run downs – largely replacing Red Bryant. That’s why we bring it up – we’re not focused on run defense, just looking at why a player would take on a certain role. But the Seahawks are determined to keep improving the run defense at the same time as improving the pass rush.

    Hawkfaninmt – I think it’s just a case of trying to work out how the team would fit in an additional pass rusher to the defense. Because they will draft a pass rusher early.

    woofu – I am not familiar with ‘Alumni56’. Why?

  38. Todd

    If the NFL is now a passing league, why are we set up to stop the run?

    It seems counterproductive.

    Though the only real portion of our team that screams run vs pass is Big Red as an unconventional DE.

    Our secondary is most definitely set up to play the pass as exhibited by the amount of Pro Bowlers and our Passing Defense rank (especially after Sherman came into his own)

  39. Todd

    Oh to add some backing info to my claim.

    Look at the rushing ranks of the last 10 Super Bowl champs:

    Giants – 19th
    Packers – 18th
    Saints – 21st
    Steelers – 2nd
    Giants – 8th
    Colts – 32nd
    Steelers – 3rd
    Pats – 6th
    Pats – 4th
    Bucs – 6th

    So as you can see 6 out of the 10 seasons a top 10 rushing defense won the Super Bowl (I would like to point out that 4 of those 6 run a 3-4). The other 4 times it was won by an 18th, 19th, 21st, and a dead last 32nd ranked.

    My point being that emphasizing run defense isn’t always the most important part of the defense. A pass rush and good secondary plan is really what wins it more.

  40. Jeff M.


    Which one of these archetypes would you see Shea McClellin fitting? In your most recent mock draft you list him as a DE, but Kip had a post on here projecting him to WILL in our system, and I’ve seen other sites that think he’ll be a SAM (he played DE, OLB, and ILB for Boise St), and he was faster at the combine than any non-Brown/Kendricks/Wagner options for OLB, with more length than Upshaw and Ingram. This makes it seem like he could play a bunch of snaps (at an OLB slot in the base defense and moving to DE in the nickle), but depending on who we put around him he might be more of a pure pass-rush specialist.

    My thoughts (if he makes it to our second-round pick), is that it’d be tough to put him at WILL if we take Upshaw or Ingram as a SAM in the first. McClellin-Wright-Upshaw would be tough against the run and on blitzes, but probably too limited in coverage. This would presumably limit him to some sub-package snaps and as a potential fill-in/future replacement LEO.

    However he’s probably a good fit if we took Kuechly (not that I’m advocating this) and needed a strong pass-rushing OLB to put with him and Wright. What I’m not sure about is if we did the oft-pushed for “trade back for Hightower” plan. I like the idea of adding two guys who are both 6’2″-6’3″, 260lbs with 4.6 40s (getting bigger AND faster in the LB core at the same time), instinctive, versatile, leaders on the field, etc., but how do you see a Hightower-Wright-McClellin (or however you wanted to line them up) second level working out?

  41. MJ

    Todd…in fairness, the crappy run defenses that won the Super Bowl were also manned by Elite QB play. Awfully tough to stumble on an elite QB and we are really close to an elite defense. Might as well finish that job then shoot for the moon on a QB (Barkley).

  42. Misfit74

    Rob said: “the point on elite talent really is in answer to the many comments on this blog about X, Y or Z prospect not being good enough for #12. There’s been a lot of ‘not an elite pass rusher… doesn’t have elite measurables’ comments about the #12 pick. The 6-5, 270lbs DE with great production who runs a super fast time doesn’t get past the top-5. And that’s the point really. ”

    To that I’d respond with this:

    Actually, yes it does happen, Rob and others, and very often if you read this:

    Players that qualify as far more than ‘run of the mill’ within our draft range at DE or LB since 2005 include:
    JJ Watt, Robert Quinn, Adrian Clayborn, Jason Pierre-Paul, Brian Cushing, Brian Orakpo, Jerod Mayo, Lawrence Timmons, Kam Wimbley, Haloti Ngata, Chad Greenway, Tamba Hail, DeMarcus Ware, Shawn Merriman, Derrick Johnson.

    This emphasizes something I’ve been saying all along: why reach or settle in a weak class of pass-rushers like 2012’s class is, just because you need one (or more) and think it’s a priority?

    I think at 12 you take an elite prospect who has a chance to become an elite pro. There will only be a couple of guys that fit that bill at 12 and neither are named Ingram or Upshaw.

  43. Rob

    Jeff – I really like McClellin but I’d probably use him as a LEO and therefore as the specialist role in this scenario. I’m going to go back and watch two Boise State games tomorrow and really get into his tape. I do think he’s looking more and more like a R1 pick though if you believe reports. GB perhaps? Would make it difficult to draft him and Hightower.

    Misfit – I take issue with a lot of those names. It’s all well and good saying Tamba Hali, Brian Orakpo, JJ Watt etc were ‘far more’ than run of the mill, but how many of list were considered bona fide elite talents going into the draft? That’s the point. It’s not that you can’t find stars at #12, but that people expecting a great prospect who combines production + measurables + hype, it’s probably not going to happen. You say settle, but a lot of people (including possibly the Seahawks) wouldn’t see it that way. A lot of teams really like this class and don’t describe it as weak. If Seattle thinks they can find another name to add to your list above, they’ll go for it. Courtney Upshaw could be the top name on their board at #12. We need to distinguish between our own opinions and what the team might be thinking.

  44. Todd

    Misfit, the only potentially elite player I can see falling to us is DeCastro (the best guard prospect in 10 years I keep hearing).

    I understand the fans hate the idea of OL in 1st round 3 straight years, but how many Jets fans are still made they draft Mangold and Ferguson a few years back?

    The fact is a good offensive line can make any QB look good, whereas a good pash rush can make a defense look better than it really is (see: Giants, New York).

    I think this team needs a one dimensional pass rusher (ala Aldon Smith) because we paid a lot for Bryant so using a pick on someone who can stop the run and pass rush would be better spent on an OLB. We need someone to pair with Clemons on passing situations and replace him in the future. I think interior rush may be more important because good DT’s make mediocre DE’s look good. Why do you think Andre Carter and Mark Anderson had such good seasons last year when both are past their primes, Vince Wolfork. So I would be for taking a DT in the 1st round as the 12 spot may have the best DT to still be available (since Carolina will probably go with Brockers or Poe neither of which are the best DT in this draft, I would give that honor to either Cox or Worthy)

  45. Rob

    RE: The Jets – Mangold/Ferguson… If a good offensive line can make any QB look good, when are New York’s quarterbacks going to start looking good?

  46. Hawkfaninmt

    I agree with Todd here. Bruce Irvin would be an ideal fit for the pass rushing specialist/ future Leo role IMO and could be had in the 2nd maybe 3rd round. leaving 1st for BPA whether that be Decastro, Upshaw, Ingram, Floyd, or Whomever….

  47. Attyla the Hawk


    Personally, I don’t find total yardage allowed to be that indicative of how a defense plays. There are a lot of things that go with it. However, to use your metric here are the relative passing rankings for those same teams

    Giants – 29th
    Packers – 5th
    Saints – 26th
    Steelers – 1st
    Giants – 11th
    Colts – 2nd
    Steelers – 16th
    Pats – 17th
    Pats – 15th
    Bucs – 1st

    Only 4 of these same teams are in the top 10.

    Most are in the teens. Also, it should be noted, that Seattle’s pass defense was ranked 11th last year in yardage and 6th in pass rating allowed. The current concept of our defense is really REALLY good. It doesn’t make sense to deviate from the concept — but instead to enhance it. Prioritizing players we take to add to both roles helps a lot. Especially since we were particularly vulnerable to passes to RBs (ranked 32nd in the league), indicates the greatest potential upgrades would be made at the Will/Sam positions.

    We should get better by virtue of guys just getting into their second year in the NFL. Beyond that, I see staying a course that clearly is already providing defense at a near championship level is wise.

    In this light, even wanting an Aldon Smith type of player seems a shade counterproductive. We stood toe to toe with SF in both aspects. Increasing speed at LB really should provide the greatest measurable benefit to this team. Especially considering the number of really good blitz and coverage LBs in this draft. It’s really excellent in prospects that can do both at a high level.

    I think overall, the likelihood of getting a DE that can even approach double digit sacks is remote. But we could simultaneously add 2 LBs that could get 5-6 sacks in addition to vaulting into the middle of the pack or better in RB coverage.

    Adding LB blitzing ability from virtually any LB position, plus adding Jones would be an alterior method of increasing pressure. A method that is applicable in any down/distance scenario. We don’t HAVE to follow the yellow brick road paved by Smith and Miller. Speed and blitz ability at LB can have real and lasting value to this defense for 3-5 years.

  48. MJ

    DeCastro wouldn’t “fall” to 12. I’d argue if somebody picks him before 12, then that team will be picking in the top 10 again next year. Why oh why do we think first round picks on the OL equals a great team? Need I remind people that the Dolphins and Browns have done this recently. Same with the Hawks. All picking in the top 12 now.

    Greg Cosell has started to make the argument that even LTs are being over valued now. Once again, Walt/Hutch, arguablythe best duo in 25 years…how many Super Bowls did we in with them? We ave spent more than enough onthe OL. Give these guys a chance to gel. Why must every guy become a superstar on day 1. James Carpenter could very well become a dominant RT or LG in a few years. Heck, everybody wrote of Unger, now he’s a key cog.

  49. James

    Rob, I appreciate your explanation in this article, and the previous one, detailing Pete’s USC elephant defense, and how this might lead to the Seahawks selecting Upshaw to play this position. Correct me if I am wrong, but it appears that the primary difference between the elephant defense, and the previous Seattle defense, is that in the elephant the Sam LB moves up to the line of scrimmage, creating a 5-man line. The theory is that the 5-man line would provide exposive pass rush; the risk is that this line must also stop the run, for the two remaining LB’s must focus on coverage. The elephant must stop the run on his side, and is better positioned to rush the QB, as opposed to the traditional Sam blitz. This formation means the Mike and Will LB’s must cover like de-facto safeties, and may also mean that the elephant has to man-cover the TE. This is the real challenge, to make this work against the NFL passing game, as opposed to college. Does KJ already have the attributes of an elephant? He is oversized, and can stop the run; the question is can he rush the passer as required? If they go with Upshaw, then KJ has to move to Mike, but can he cover well enough? (No way Barrett Ruud could play Mike in the elephant.) The need for a coverage Will would be urgent, and depth behind Clemons at Leo would be the other need on defense.

  50. Hawkfin

    Rob: Thanks for you’re clarification on Whitney’s run support. I thought the article pointed out this was his huge weakness, and I thought you were behind the article.

    NMD: First let me say – I DO love #45/LB – That guy looks good too. He’s all over the place also, much like Whitney. I noticed him as well. I’ll be looking at that kid more in the future.
    So here’s the thing. I look at more then just You Tube highlights of games. I actually look at full games and watch the certain players on each play of those full games. And of course target who’s on our radar as I can’t do everybody. (So Whitney, Upshaw, Hightower, Ingram, etc.)
    This gives me a better feel of what he does throughout a game, his motor, etc.

    This is one of the problems I have with Upshaw when I watch full games/deeper tape. And why Hightower stands out much more then Upshaw. Although, I even see that on the highlight tapes too.

    Anyway, I went back and looked at just the highlights on You tube of some of the games you talked about in you’re earlier post on Whitney. Here is some major key things that I liked just on those:

    Vs ASU –
    :08 – Beat his man, and the announcer say’s only the 2nd sack given up this year so far.
    :56 – Looks good to me
    3:45 – Tips the ball for Int. – This is a game changer play that you’re lucky to even see.
    4:04 – Sack and fumble – Another game changing play
    5:05 – Double teamed him, but look what he did with it.

    Vs Wisc –
    1:48 – Nice Sack which caused Fumble – Game changing play
    2:34 – Blew past the linemen
    5:30 – He was held bad, and IMO beat him easily.

    Vs Ohio –
    :48 – Great sack causing fumble – Game changing play
    1:17 – nice
    3:11 – I like
    3:54 – good

    Vs NW
    Bad tape. I kind of stopped looking

    Vs Penn St
    I think he struggles here. Penn St. ran a lot and never really let them get into any type of a pass rush. They did hold them down Def all game though as a team. Just nothing stood out on this game, not to say he played bad though. DE’s don’t always stand out though. Something that is a key point when drafting them.

    Vs Mich (I don’t think you said this game, which is one of his best I think)
    :13 – SPEED rush – I really like this one
    1:40 – Held the edge well
    1:49 – Sack and Fumble through a double team. He looks like a monster to me.
    2:25 – lined up in the middle (Which they seem to do a lot) weird – Made play
    3:16 – looks good

    Vs UCLA
    I talked about this one in detail on the “scouting report” under his name. Check it out.

    Sum it all up…. You can’t argue with 17 sacks and 8 forced fumbles. That’s big time production. IF he duplicated those numbers again if he stayed in school, he would be a top 5 draft pick easily.
    He’s only a JR. He can get better with more time on the field. He played limited his first two years, and even then made a few plays. This kid has huge potential IMO and worthy of a #12 pick, where there is no studs showing up for us and no production stats to support anybody better.
    Most everybody likes Coples – However, Whitney doubled his production up.

    DE’s don’t typically produce huge stats in college or heck even in the Pro’s really anyway. But, 17 sacks is a BIG number as well as all the forced fumbles/big plays.
    For somebody to stand out like this playing in a true DE spot seems rare to find. And getting a sack a game or cause a turnover almost every game means he’s a huge PLAY MAKER. He did this almost every game at least once, even on you’re games you didn’t like.

    Every tool is there with this guy: Speed, Edge rusher, DE power, Blitz, Can lock the edge if asked too, even some run support, His size and tools, Good Combine, etc.
    To me he looks like a big kid with big arms that can even grow more.

    If there was 1 thing I noticed that he could use some work on, it’s locating the ball in space. Also, getting off blocks sometimes too. But, I also think they are holding him a lot of times. He caused a few whistles that I saw. There is also a ton of double teams on him. This to me is a huge factor too. I’m thinking they are game planning against him, which calls for the doubles. He’s even beating some of these doubles on tape.
    He’s even 15 yards down the field at times. This shows me something about him personally.

    Plus, all the pressure plays that I see that are not even part of this package of highlights. He’s got a motor to me. Way more so then Coples.

    This doesn’t mean he’s the right fit for what we are looking for. The article is good and makes some points. But, if everybody want’s a pressure type player to me this is EASILY the guy we need, and however we decide to use him. Something PC can easily figure out and do, since he’s using a 320 pound DE right now and an under sized one.

  51. Tarry

    Misfits74 – One thing you have to keep in mind is whether or not Ingram or Upshaw are ‘elite’ talents in our defensive scheme. Our D is built differently than most. So what might be considered a reach for some teams isn’t necessarily a reach with us depending on the player.

    That said, I agree with you 100% lol. I know you like Floyd as do I and wouldn’t mind him at all.

    I’m going to address another name and explain why I think he’s a good fit for our D. The name is Donta Hightower MLB Alabama. He becomes more of an option with Barrett Ruud being signed. Ruud is a liability in the run game, but is a good option in the pass defence. Hightower is a beast against the run and would play MIKE on run plays while Ruud mans MIKE on passing downs. On passing downs Hightower would move to DE and replace Red and give us a pass rush… for Alabama he played MIKE, DE, DT and even nickle… he’s the multi-positional guy that Carroll likes. This pick addresses our MIKE depth AND a pass rushing DE. If you want to talk Von Miller or Aldon Smith types, I think Hightower has the skill set to be able to work in multiple schemes. Hightower is not a liability in the pass coverage, he has good instincts and could cover ‘most’ TEs in the league IMO. He’ll go higher in the draft that most think and although 12 may be a tad early, he could be gone in the teens.

  52. Hawkfin

    P.S. – Not a fan of Perry at all, and Curry reminds me of our old Curry. Hate him.
    I wouldn’t take him in the 4th round. Just my view.

  53. Hawkfin

    Glad to see lots of love for Hightower now. I’m on board with that pick also.

    Sure be nice to trade down about 5 or so slots first though:
    Then target: Hightower, Upshaw, Whitney, heck maybe even Luke is still around.

    I like WR in the 2nd way better then the 1st unless his name is Blackmon:
    Ruben Randel, C. Givens, Alshon Jeffrey, Stephen Hill
    (I even like N. Toon and Streeter a little bit too)

  54. SeattleAztec

    Out of everyone in the draft, I think Bruce Irvin can make a similar transition to OLB as Von Miller and have a similar impact as well. My guess is he’d be the WILL in our defense (still not sold on adding an ‘elephant’). He’s got speed that rivals Miller and is only slightly smaller (in weight only, same height). He bursts like a cannon off the line and actually knows how to use his speed to get to the QB unlike many prospects.

    My dream scenario for the beginning part of this draft is trading back in the 1st to get Dont’a Hightower and an additional 2nd rounder; then use the 2nd round picks on Lavonte David and Bruce Irvin. That adds great speed, pass rushing, and run-stuffing capabilities and even some decent coverage skills to the front 7, giving the Hawks an elite D for years to come.

  55. Misfit74

    Some evidence that this pass-rushing class is weak, from Ted Sundquist:

    “I was a bit surprised by the defensive talent pool and the lack of standout performances in general. Using the Landers study of Combine Relevance, no defensive end even met the optimum number of EPA’s (exceeded peer average) of past NFL starters. As on the offensive side, the defense had a number of players opt out of participating in all the attribute tests. To me, that always sent its own message to a club and its staff.”

  56. Rob

    That’s not evidence, rather it’s just one man’s opinion based on something called the ‘Landers study of combine relevance’ which appears to place a lot of faith on who did or didn’t work out in Indy and not tape study. Maybe that’s why Ted no longer works in the NFL?

  57. woofu

    He comments after being in the VMAC and such. You might find him of interest.

  58. Misfit74

    I’m pretty sure Ted has more scouting credentials than most of us, Rob. You included.

    What is said to me is that measurables-wise, this class’ combine attendees did not test well at all – not one standout among the peer groups among defensive ends as compared and contrasted with previous years’ players that are now ‘starting NFL players’. To me that says something – not everything, of course. I realize game-tape will always be the trump card in these discussions. The point is that this class in terms of physical quantifiable traits doesn’t stack up at all vs. past draft classes. The combine numbers are factual. And while some players test well and some don’t I think it’s a meaningful thing that nobody in this DE class – NOBODY – stood out from a measurable evaluation standpoint.

    That doesn’t stand on it’s own, we know that. It’s one tool to evaluate and is weighted accordingly. We also know that. It does however emphasize the concerns some of us (including myself) have been voicing: everyone in this class has a significant short-coming physically. There are no Jason Pierre Pauls or DeMarcus Wares in this draft. I content that no one in this class at DE or OLB is the fool-proof money player that people are making the top 2 or 3 guys out to be, particularly Ingram and Upshaw. This class remains, IMO, weak at the top. Nobody stands out physically when projecting prospects transitioning to the NFL level that can be important – more important than not.

    Sure there are your Aaron Maybins and Vernon Gholstons but they had issues, too, and if you dig around that site you’ll see about them, too.

    I can only voice my opinion, but saying someone with credentials such as his should be discarded as worthless because ‘he doesn’t work in the NFL any longer’ is completely bogus. I suppose you only listen or write about what CURRENT NFL executives are saying? As many McShay, Kiper, Lombardi, Kirwan, Casserly, etc. citations are made on this blog I find that a really lame cop-out.

  59. genax

    the way the defense is setup we need a 3 down lineman/de. having a specialist is a luxury pick.

    however, if the 3 down de is not available and there’s a value pick who can pressure the qb on nickle down situations i think john and pete will pick the guy up.

    but again we need to create pressure or better yet eliminate the time in which opposing qb’s can throw the ball.

  60. FWBrodie

    If the Seahawks are looking for a nickel pass rusher, I’d much prefer Chandler Jones to Mercilus, Branch, or Curry.

    Check out how Jones compares to both Aldon Smith and Jason Pierre-Paul in terms of size, strength, and combine testing… identical. He’s got the pedigree and he’s flashed a more well-rounded game than any of them. Curry has the strength to take on NFL tackles, but is lacking in the explosion and athleticism categories to me. Mercilus is explosive, but does not display impressive one on one athleticism or bend on the edge. His anchor is also mediocre. Branch is all speed and hustle, does not have what it takes to plant and turn the corner against an NFL tackle. If hands are laid on him, he’s out of the play.

    Jones has the strength to engage a tackle and still win the battle, which separates him from the above-mentioned others (in Curry’s case it is more lack of athleticism than strength, but still). I believe that had Jones had a healthy 2011, he’d be a consensus top-10 pick. I also believe that he was playing at below 100% for at least some of the time when he returned from said injury which made his play appear more raw than it should have mostly because his knee bend was inconsistent possibly due to pain. Against Pitt, the inconsistency he showed against WVU (first game back) had faded away.

    Although I’m not sure that the Seahawks ARE looking for a one-down pass rusher, if they are, I would love to see them move down to take Jones in the 20’s of the first round and acquire an extra pick. One other plus point for him is that he has the skill set to fill in or eventually take over the Leo spot for Clemons. He’s more than capable of both crashing down the edge and stringing plays out to the sideline as Clemons does, while also pressuring the quarterback consistently. He controls the outside gap very well.

  61. Rob

    Misfit – Matt Millen has a lot of credentials too. The ‘Landers Study of Combine relevance’ sounds like the kind of thing Al Davis would worship. To decide this is a ‘weak’ class of defensive lineman based on the combine, again, I can’t buy into it. Do you think Pete and John care about studies of combine relevance? Or Bill Belichick? Or Ted Thompson? As you admit yourself, Aaron Maybin and Vernon Gholston probably looked great according to the ‘Landers Study of Combine relevance’. I bet Aaron Curry blew it up. Yet what about the many hundreds of NFL players over the years who wouldn’t have tested well according to this study that have gone on to become elite players? How would the Landers Study of Combine relevance judge Tom Brady’s combine display – a slightly out of shape run-of-the-mill kid who look awkward as hell in shorts and a t-shirt.

    You say there’s no JPP in this class, when nobody was saying JPP would become the talent he has in 2010. A lot of people were very suspicious of JPP. He ran a 4.71 at 270lbs with a 1.65 ten yard split. Jerel Worthy weighs 40lbs more than JPP and ran a 1.62 split. Nick Perry ran a similar forty yard dash at the same weight. So we can sit here and say there aren’t any JPP’s, but is this based purely on a prospect’s ability to have long arms or do a series of back-flips? In two years time we’ll probably be saying there’s no (Insert name of 2012 DE prospect) in the 2014 draft class.

    It just seems like a very, very weak argument to say this is a bad DE class. Some teams do concentrate too much on the combine and they make a lot of mistakes. It sounds like Sundqvist is the type of person who fell into that trap. Yet the evidence we’ve seen from this team so far suggests they spend little time on measurables in terms of combine performance and more so look for unique fits and difference makers based on the tape. And that’s what I’m going to stick to. If Sundqvist writes an article saying he’s watched hours of tape and this is a bad DE class because of X, Y and Z I’ll publish the link on the blog. But not for the ‘Landers Study of Combine relevance’.

  62. MJ

    Rob-Thank you, thank you for that rebuttal. I am getting tired of people using “hindsight” as a means of debate, when we are debating a prospect’s current status. And I am with you,this is a very intriguing class of pass rushers with 2 specifically who seem to fit PC like a glove. Say all 3 of the big DEs are off the board, what direction do you think they go?

  63. Lions Ball

    DE’s don’t typically produce huge stats in college or heck even in the Pro’s really anyway. But, 17 sacks is a BIG number as well as all the forced fumbles/big plays.
    For somebody to stand out like this playing in a true DE spot seems rare to find. And getting a sack a game or cause a turnover almost every game means he’s a huge PLAY MAKER. He did this almost every game at least once, even on you’re games you didn’t like.

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