Author: Kip Earlywine (Page 1 of 13)

Further thoughts on Seattle’s 2013 draft

I was going to write a post for the Seahawks draft in a similar style to the other NFC West draft writeups, but I didn’t get far in before I started to realize that it read like a re-run.  So instead, I’m just going to throw up a few quick additional thoughts that I didn’t express in my immediate post draft reaction.

Spencer Ware is a player I really want to see make it here long term

I don’t know if Spencer Ware is going to make our roster, but I really hope he does.  The more I researched him after the draft the more impressed I became.  Ware has speed that I’d compare to Justin Forsett, but more than makes up for it with Marshawn Lynch type agility and outstanding resilience/balance on contact.  If Seattle has ever drafted someone worthy of a Marshawn Lynch comp, it’s Spencer Ware.  For one game at least, Matt Waldman once opined that Spencer Ware was a better back than his then teammate Stevan Ridley.  Stevan Ridley, the guy who just rushed for 1200+ yards in New England last year.

Ware probably won’t make the team as a traditional running back, but can you imagine if he became a quality fullback with that kind of versatility as a pass catcher and runner?  It’s a lot of fun to think about.  Especially in Seattle’s offense where the fullback is a versatile position and is a major part of the offensive game plan, even in the passing game.

I hope Seattle doesn’t rule out Ware as a runner, either.  If given a chance to carry the football, I could see him as being a slower yet more elusive version of Chris Ivory.

Seattle didn’t draft a kicker

For the second straight offseason, the Seahawks let Steven Hauschka twist in the wind during free agency before eventually signing him to a cheap one year deal.  The Seahawks waited so long that I began to wonder if the draft might have been “plan A” for the kicker position.  In a surprise move, Seattle signed Hauschka back just a few days before the draft, then didn’t even bother adding another kicker from the draft process.

Steven Hauschka has done a terrific job with the Seahawks.  Under fifty yards he was perfect last season:  23 for 23.  From fifty plus he was 1 for 4.  The NFL average for fifty plus is around 50%.  If Hauschka makes just one more long kick he’s at the NFL average.  You don’t have to be a statistician to know that 4 attempts is a small sample size and shouldn’t be taken all that seriously.  Tim Tebow completed 75% of his passes last season in just 8 pass attempts.  See what I mean?

Josh Brown regularly nailed 50+ yard attempts while struggling for distance on kickoffs.  Hauschka has plenty of leg on his kickoffs so I don’t think there are any physical limitations in play.  Remember too that Pete Carroll once trusted Hauschka with a 61 yard attempt to decide a game.  He failed miserably, but Pete wouldn’t have made that choice if he didn’t at least think Hauschka had a strong leg.

Some have pointed out that Seattle had a very high number of punts inside the opponent’s 40 yard line last season.  That and Hauschka’s very low number of 50 yard attempts does seem to hint at a lack of confidence, doesn’t it?  Seattle arguably lost a game last season (at Rams) because of the difference in kicker range, and that game would have been the difference between a wildcard and a bye.  Amazing how little things add up, isn’t it?

Those concerns are fully valid, though I think it has more to do with Pete Carroll’s new found conservative approach to decision making.  “Big Balls Pete” has been burned more than a few times, and every time it happens he becomes more and more hesitant to take chances.  Statisticians frequently point out that going for 4th downs is actually a very smart thing, and I can’t imagine that opting for a punt at the 35 yard line is ever optimal as a long term approach.

Pete Carroll’s position is as secure as it gets in the NFL right now- I think it’s time he put his fears behind him and brought “Big Balls Pete” back.  Ironically, it’s that overly conservative trait that has helped Hauschka remain in Seattle.  Going 23-23 from under fifty goes a long way for a coach that progressively seems to be more and more risk averse.

The Seahawks are a great team with high expectations, and in my opinion Steven Hauschka deserves to be our kicker.  Given his phenomenal short range accuracy, distance on kickoffs, and small sample size on long kicks, I see plenty of evidence that suggest he could be a good kicker from longer range in the future, should the team put more trust in him.  Seattle needs to punt less from inside the forty, but I think that’s a lot more on Pete’s shoulders than Hauschka’s.

No quarterback was drafted and no quarterback was added from the post-draft process

Nothing shocked me more than hearing John Schneider casually mention during a post-draft press conference that the team had decided to not draft any quarterback this year, and that decision was made before the draft took place.  That’s pretty crazy when you consider Seattle’s current backup situation and the kind of value that fell into day three (and undrafted free agency) for the position.  Now we know why Seattle kept passing on Matt Scott and others.

For a guy that came from Green Bay, where they preach drafting a quarterback every year, John Schneider has been anything but.  Sure, he’s stocked up on quarterbacks, but nearly all of them came from trade or free agency.  The only quarterback to actually be drafted during this regime is Russell Wilson.

So I guess the next question is “why?”  The most logical answer is that they really like their current group of young veteran backups.

Brady Quinn has been a terrible NFL quarterback, but he’s also a former 1st round pick and isn’t without talent.  Seattle briefly brought in former 1st round pick JP Losman in 2010 who was a similar story.  They courted former first round pick Matt Leinart and allegedly had discussions behind closed doors regarding former 1st round pick Tim Tebow.  They went hard after Chad Henne last year.  Henne just missed being a first rounder.  So I think in Seattle’s mind, they are always looking for quarterbacks with talent, even if they were miserable washouts elsewhere.  I imagine that Blaine Gabbert’s agent will probably get a call from Seattle in the next few years.

While I hate missing out on Matt Scott, I also appreciate that he is a highly injury prone player who played at just 210 pounds.  He’d be a big risk for injury every time Seattle ran a read option play.  Jerrod Johnson offers a similar package of mobility and arm talent in a body that’s 40 (!) pounds heavier.  Johnson had a terrific junior season before crapping the bed in his final year at Texas A&M.  And though he only threw 21 passes last preseason, those 21 passes added up for a preseason YPA of 11.2 and a preseason passer rating of 136.2.  His lowest passer rating in any of those appearances was 118.8.  This was a small sample size compounded by preseason competition, but it’s not nothing.

And he’s only a year older than Josh Portis.  Imagine how we’d react if Josh Portis had  been that impressive last preseason.

Johnson gives a surprisingly good interview as well.  He may not have a ton of future trade potential, but I don’t see why he couldn’t be at least another T-Jack.

That leaves us with Josh Portis, who kind of got railroaded by a quarterback competition last year that left him almost no reps and threw him into a Raiders game with nowhere near adequate preparation.  I think the staff took the lesson of last preseason to heart and decided that four preseason quarterbacks is enough.  That might have been a factor in the decision to not draft a quarterback as well.

Other thoughts

I get that Seattle wants to get Jesse Williams on the field this season, but giving him the Alan Branch role is not going to end well and given Pete’s willingness to adapt I suspect it will only be temporary.  Jesse Williams is a fantastic run defender but has short arms and showed essentially zero pass rush ability in college.  He’s a pure nose tackle, and should be used as such.  That said, he has the tools to replace Red Bryant as the run defense 5-tech specialist, and quite honestly I think that’s the politically incorrect reason that they actually drafted him for.  Going out and announcing such right now in the open would be bad for relations with Red Bryant and given his leadership role on the defense it could cause locker room divisions.

So I get it.  Williams will “officially” be our 3-tech until some future undetermined time that Seattle opts for a new direction with Red Bryant.  Seattle has done a good job keeping these intentions (real or not) away from the noses of the press.  Even still, I hope Williams only sees action at the 3-tech when it’s very likely to be a running play by the opponent, because those are the only plays you’ll want to see him out there barring a revelation from Dan Quinn.

Chris Harper is the one pick I just can’t get excited about.  In a way, he’s a little like Landry Jones the receiver.  Both are guys with the kind of size and physical talent to be high picks, but both have games that are so bad you wouldn’t be blamed for taking them completely off your draft board.  Chris Harper’s performance against Baylor was almost unwatchable, and it’s not like his struggles were isolated to just that one game.  He gives up on plays, stabs at the ball with poor catching technique, frequently looks clueless when the ball is in the air, fumbles often, and struggles to separate.  When I scouted him over three games the negatives overwhelmed the positives.

That said, the Seahawks know perfectly well what Harper’s issues are and they drafted him anyway.  When most other front offices do this, I’d unflinchingly call it a mistake, but when Seattle does it they always do so with a specific plan in mind for how they will address that player’s weaknesses and problems while getting the most out of his unique strengths.  Maybe their plan fails and Harper ends up a miserable bust, but you can’t say that Seattle made this pick on the seat of their pants or without knowing what they were doing.

Harper is pretty unique.  He’ll be one of the NFL’s heaviest receivers on day one, and of that list of heavy receivers, not many stand 6’1″ or less.  That bulk will help Harper defeat press attempts better than most, and given the direction the league is going, we’ll probably see a majority of teams running press coverage within a few years.  Harper wouldn’t have been my choice, but if you just wanted a guy that can beat press, Harper was the best there was in this draft class.

I really hope Tharold Simon can stay focused and motivated here in Seattle.  He wasn’t perfect at LSU by any means, but when he looked good he looked very good, and like Richard Sherman he’s got a bit of a “cocky” streak in his personality that makes him fun to watch.  John Schneider clarified that he traded up for Simon, not Williams.  Clearly, he was a player they felt they needed to get.

Last thought.  After the 2012 draft John Schneider talked about how the two players he felt he had to walk out of there with were Bruce Irvin and Russell Wilson.  Recently John invoked that anecdote when discussing 5th round tight end Luke Willson, saying that Willson was the one player this year that they felt they needed to leave the draft with.  It’s not every day you hear that kind of talk for a guy that was selected 158th overall and was the backup tight end for Rice.

But you don’t find 251 pound tight ends that run a 4.51 forty every day.  Those numbers are almost identical to Saints’ tight end Jimmy Graham.  And when you do find specimens like that, they usually have almost no experience or skated by on athleticism instead of intelligence.   Willson was a 3 year player at the position with some production before 2012, and he gives such a professional interview that you’d be forgiven for thinking he was a coach.

Similar to Chris Harper, Luke Willson may not be an all-world player on film, but for just one unique purpose he’s tough to beat.  Tight ends that run a 4.51 are really tough to defend and will likely force defenses to run more nickle packages.  Expect Willson to lead the team in yards per catch, because when he does get targeted, it will usually be on a deep route while being covered by a linebacker.  If Wilson finished with more than 20 catches next year, I’d be surprised.  But those catches could easily add up to 300 yards and could force defenses to make adjustments when he’s on the field.  Even if he’s not targeted, should his presence force the defense to use a nickle package or take a safety out of the box, that means Willson is adding value to Seattle’s running game.

That ability to stretch a defense matters even more with Percy Harvin on board.  Harvin’s bread and butter in the bubble screen.  Considering how much of Seattle’s offense is built around short yardage plays, it’s easy to see why such a high premium was placed on a player that can stretch the field from an area that the previous version of the team could not threaten deep from.

The San Francisco 49ers draft class of 2013

I'd bet that Marcus Lattimore will bounce back, but will he dominate?

I don’t know if any team drafted a higher number of “big name” prospects last weekend than the 49ers.  If you thought Jesse Williams was the best pick Seattle made, you’d love the 49ers draft, as it’s filled with similar draft decisions.

Regarding the Jesse Williams pick, I mirror Rob’s thoughts on it.  The selection of Jesse Williams isn’t some stroke of genius that required keen talent evaluation or deep insight.  Drafting a nobody like Richard Sherman coming out of Stanford and turning him into one of the NFL’s top players is what a stroke of genius looks like.  Everyone in the NFL knew how talented Williams was.  Seattle was just the first team to be in a comfortable enough position to gamble on Williams’ health.  It was a business decision that happened to cost a draft pick.

Maybe that’s why I’m just not that taken aback by the 49ers draft.  Think about Seattle’s amazing success in the draft, then think about how many of those players were not household names before those drafts.  The Seahawks go mining for hidden gems.  I’m not seeing anything like that in this 49ers draft class.  To me, it’s just a series of business decisions for well known commodities, most of them with high risk.

Round 1:  Eric Reid, S, LSU
Round 2:  Cornelius Carradine, DE, Florida State
Round 2:  Vance McDonald, TE, Rice
Round 3:  Corey Lemonier, DE, Auburn
Round 4:  Quinton Patton, WR, Louisiana Tech
Round 4:  Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina
Round 5:  Quinton Dial, DE, Alabama
Round 6:  Nick Moody, OLB, Florida State
Round 7:  BJ Daniels, QB, South Florida
Round 7:  Carter Bykowski, T, Iowa State
Round 7:  Marcus Cooper, CB, Rutgers

Eric Reid was one of the most notable late risers in the 2013 draft process.  Whenever you see a guy that’s a late riser, it’s almost always a player with questionable tape that “tested” well (at the combine or pro-day).  I put on Reid’s compilation against Texas A&M from last season, and the negatives stack up while the positives are few and far between.  He lacks instincts, lacks timing, clumsily drew unnecessary penalties, takes on blocks poorly and often appeared apprehensive about taking on contact or making tackles.

Ironically, the hype for Reid originates from a league wide trend to emphasize upside with players this year, especially with players that fit a “Seahawk” blueprint.  Standing 6’1″, 213 pounds with the longest arms and the best vertical/broad jump among the 2013 safety group, and having no shortage of issues to nitpick him on, Reid looks quite a bit like a typical “head scratcher” Seahawks pick that turns into a star.  Clearly, this pick was made not because of the player Reid currently is, but what evaluators hope he might become.  It’s a lot like the Rams selection of Alec Ogletree.

Whether the Reid becomes worthy of his draft stock is on Harbaugh’s shoulders as a talent developer.  I wouldn’t be surprised if Reid makes a future pro-bowl on draft reputation, ala Patrick Peterson, but I don’t expect him to be a player that causes opposing coaches sleepless nights.

I was never a big fan of Cornelius Carradine, at least not in the role he played at Florida State.  Carradine did not participate in speed tests this winter as he’s recovering from a knee injury, but it’s been estimated that he has 4.90 speed and the eyeball test backs that up.  Carradine is no more of an edge rusher than Jesse Williams is.

What Carradine does do well is defend the run and never give up on plays.  He uses his 35″ arms well to control gaps while anchoring well.  Occasionally, he’ll take advantage of poor pass protection and use his arms to turn the corner.  His package of skills and size is a little bit like Courtney Upshaw, though he’s slower than Upshaw and lacks the intangible “spark” to his game that Upshaw had.  Another comparison might be Lawrence Jackson, who was good at everything in college but was too reliant on strength as a pass rusher and who’s sacks were nearly always of the “cleanup” variety, rarely forcing pressures for others.

I don’t buy the talk that Carradine was a top 15 pick before his injury.  His measurables and tape just simply don’t add up that high.  Not for me.

Though I’d probably grade Carradine in the 3rd round, I don’t think he’s going to bust for the 49ers, unless his knee problem resurfaces.  He’ll provide most of his value in run defense, while getting a few hustle sacks here and there.  What he’s not is a good replacement for Justin Smith.  Justin Smith’s arm combat makes him a pain to block- and makes him a much rarer talent- which is why he was taken 4th overall in the 2001 draft.  If the 49ers ever do find a good replacement for Justin Smith, it probably won’t be with a second round pick.

Vance McDonald is the one pick I’m not sure how to react to.  On tape, McDonald doesn’t look as fast as his impressive forty time, he struggled badly with drops, and he comes from a lower level of competition.  On the other hand, McDonald has the tall yet somehow bulky bowling ball type build to run over would be tacklers with ease.  He has the upside of becoming another Rob Gronkowski, himself a second round pick.  If McDonald so much as becomes a poor man’s Gronk, he could easily be considered the best pick the 49ers made when looking back in a few years.  Vance McDonald wasn’t necessarily a favorite of mine, but I respect this pick for what he could become.  Even if he became no more than TJ Duckett the tight end, he could be a nifty NFL contributor and worthy of this kind of investment.

My favorite pick the 49ers made was Corey Lemonier in the 3rd round.  Lemonier struggled with production down the stretch last season, but he tested extremely well at the combine and I thought looked the most fluid in drills of any pass rusher.  Lemonier’s explosiveness off the snap is about as good as you’ll find, and he combines that athleticism with one of the more complete pass rush repertoires in this draft among the more athletic prospects.  Had Seattle not gone crazy in free agency, I’m pretty sure Lemonier would be a Seahawk right now, as he fits their LEO profile very well.

I wasn’t a big fan of Quinton Patton before the draft, as I think he’d need to carve his niche out as an elite possession receiver in the NFL to justify his media hype, and that would only be possible if he landed with the right kind of quarterback.  If Colin Kaepernick ends up being the same passer that he was last season, I don’t think Patton landed in an ideal spot.  Kaepernick locks onto receivers and forces passes.  He’s still an athlete playing quarterback who achieves success through pure physical ability.  I expect Kaepernick to grow next season, but I don’t really see him turning into a surgeon on offense any time soon.

Still, it’s hard to argue with a well rounded talent like Patton in the 4th round, especially one with the kind of competitive intangibles that make you think he’ll be an NFL over-achiever.   This was a solid pick by the 49ers; their first pick in the draft that I wouldn’t label a “high risk” selection.

Marcus Lattimore is no stranger to injury at South Carolina, and he saved his most brutal injury for last.  You have to be impressed with the character Lattimore has shown through this whole experience, and the incredible work he’s put into his recovery.  Lattimore’s running style reminds me a little of a poor man’s Marshawn Lynch, and it seems both have a big heart for the game as well.  Betting against Lattimore based on his intangibles alone seems like a fool’s errand.

Marshawn Lynch comparisons are passe, but Lattimore earns them much more than most runners do. Both are runners who have top shelf agility, power, balance, and resilience with NFL average speed.  Both excel as first down rushers for possession oriented offenses and both only rarely create explosive plays.  You put on the tape and you see a lot of five yard runs, but hardly any rushes that go for 15+.  I think Lynch is better than a healthy Lattimore for a few reasons: he’s a better athlete overall and he’s more consistent week to week.  Lattimore’s game log looks like Shaun Alexander’s, huge numbers one week and then quiet numbers the next.

Of course, if Lattimore does recover, he’s still a massive injury risk going forward.  The 49ers team is built in a very similar manner to Seattle: primarily around the running game.  How would you feel building your entire offense around a guy with Lattimore’s injury history, being backed up by a pair of 3rd down running backs (LaMichael James, Kendall Hunter)?  This could end up being a great pick by the 49ers, but it doesn’t get much higher risk than this for a 4th rounder.

Even if Lattimore does turn into a good player long term, it doesn’t worry me much as a Seahawks fan.  The Seahawks have done very well against physical backs in the recent past.  I think Lattimore is likely to be a solid pro more than the star that his fan reputation belies.  A common forecast among the more enlightened fanbase is a Willis McGahee career path.  The more I think about it, the more that projection feels right.

Quinton Dial impressed me with what little I saw of him before the draft.  He moves very well for a big man and would be an ideal prospect for a Red Bryant type role.

There isn’t much out there for Nick Moody.  He’s a converted DB who possesses Khaseem Greene type speed.  He’s said to be strong in coverage and every video I find of him shows him to be a big hitter.   This is the first pick the 49ers made that I hadn’t heard of.  I don’t know much about Moody, but on the surface he seems to have all the tools he needs to be an NFL starter at linebacker.

BJ Daniels was my favorite late round quarterback for a read option offense.  This was the one pick the 49ers made that felt like a gut punch.  Of course, Daniels has a steep mountain to climb and is more of a fun prospect to follow rather than a guy who’s likely to be the next Russell Wilson.

Carter Bykowski is a flier pick in the late rounds.  Possessing a Tom Cable lineman type height/weight ratio (6’7″, 306), it’s a little surprising to me that Bykowski ran only a 5.30 forty.  There isn’t any tape available, unfortunately.  Like Seattle’s late round picks at O-line, Bykowski is presumed to be fighting an uphill battle to make the 49ers’ roster.

You would think that standing 6’2″ while running a 4.45 at corner for a solid program like Rutgers would get you drafted before the 7th round, but that’s where Marcus Cooper (a projected UDFA) wound up.  Cooper will probably be the 49ers’ equivalent of Byron Maxwell and contribute mostly on special teams.

Overall impression:

The 49ers most successful draft in recent years was headlined by two “head scratcher” picks in Aldon Smith and Colin Kaepernick.  Since then, the best player Trent Balke has pulled out of the draft was Kendall Hunter in the 4th round that same year.  The 49ers were the NFL’s only team to log zero rookie starts last season.

In previous years, Trent Baalke drafted under the radar prospects with mixed results.  This year, he loaded up on several well known, big name prospects with high risk.  My quick takeaway is that the 49ers just drafted a bunch of NFL average players, with a handful of wildcards mixed in such as McDonald, Lemonier, and Lattimore.  I’m not particularly bullish on the 49ers’ performance on days one and two, but I thought they had a fairly strong day three.

Last year I had no doubt that the Seahawks had the best draft not only in the division, but in the NFL.  To say I was a huge fan of the Wilson pick would be an understatement, and I was thrilled by the addition of Irvin too, even if it was much earlier than I anticipated.

This year, I honestly have no idea which team fared the best.  I think in five years time we’ll probably see at least one pro-bowl caliber player drafted by each NFC West team from this draft.  All four teams drafted players I was very high on before the draft.

I think this was a solid draft by the 49ers but it kind of feels like a draft that Mel Kiper could have made.  The only “off the radar” pick they made with much potential to excite is Nick Moody or perhaps BJ Daniels, and both will probably be long term backups.  Actually, I guess I should count Corey Lemonier as being off the radar since most people who do not frequent this blog are likely to be unfamiliar with him.

For the most part, this draft felt more like a series of calculated business decisions more than talent evaluations.  Time will tell how those calculated gambles play out.

The St. Louis Rams draft class of 2013

In a couple of ways, Tavon Austin's controversy reminds me of Russell Wilson's

Much like the San Francisco 49ers, the St. Louis Rams were highly active movers on draft day and drafted mostly “big name” prospects.  Of the Rams’ seven selections, only two of them were originally owned by the Rams.  The pick used to get Tavon Austin was originally owned by the Bills before the Rams struck a deal to move up.  That deal also involved swapping 3rd round picks.  The Rams traded down from #22 and acquired three picks from Atlanta (and gave up a 2015 7th rounder).  The Rams traded their final two picks (both in the 6th round- one of them from Atlanta) for the Texans’ 5th rounder.

The Seahawks drafted 11 players, 4 of which I had never heard of before and 3 of which I was only faintly aware of.  I recognized every player the Rams drafted.  I think any fan that follows the draft decently well probably would recognize most of their picks.  Drafting big names is a great way to earn draft day awards in the media but isn’t a particularly good long term indicator, as the Arizona Cardinals have proven for years.  Big name players like Barrett Jones, Jesse Williams, Quinton Patton, and Ryan Swope dropped into the later rounds for a good reason, a reason that all 32 teams agreed to as evidenced by not drafting them.  Jesse Williams has 1st round talent, but that does not guarantee that he’s a 5th round steal.  There’s more to it than that.  Just because you recognize a lot of the names drafted, don’t be fooled.  Seattle’s best late round picks in the current regime were all players that made fans say “who?” on draft day.

There is a growing sentiment that Seattle’s long term adversary is not the 49ers, but the Rams.  I find that idea more than a little dismissive of a massively talented 49ers team, but I get it.  The Rams were tied for the NFL lead in sacks last year, they play very tough defense, and they almost went undefeated in the division last year.

But just as important, the Rams have something the 49ers and Seahawks do not have:  areas for potentially significant improvement.  Sam Bradford’s career passer rating is almost identical to Christian Ponder’s.  The Rams offensive line has never truly solidified.  They had an over-the-hill and perhaps unmotivated running back as the focal point of their offense last year.  The Rams best receiver was well below the NFL median in yards per target, could never stay healthy, and departed in free agency.  Yet despite all those issues, the Rams offense last season still somehow ranked 15th in Football Outsiders metrics (The Seahawks ranked 1st, amazingly.  No team threw fewer passes last year than the Seahawks).

Add a couple of playmaking receivers, solidify the offensive line, upgrade the running back spot, and suddenly the Rams offense becomes a group that could surprise people.  The team added Jake Long in free agency to pair with Roger Saffold.  They’ll have last year’s late round steal Daryl Richardson compete with this year’s hopeful steal:  Zac Stacy.  Either one would likely be an upgrade over what Steven Jackson gave them last year.  They drafted two of the best receivers in the draft.  They also signed the physically talented tight end Jared Cook.

The media got it wrong.  The NFC West “arms race” wasn’t between Seattle and San Francisco.  It was between Seattle and St. Louis.

Thankfully, the Rams have invested quite a bit around a quarterback that has been below average in his first three seasons.  Bradford has only thrown 4 total touchdowns in 6 starts against Seattle; throwing an interception in all six contests.  He managed just six points against Seattle’s 32nd ranked defense in 2010 (Football Outsiders weighted defense), dropping what would have been a division winning, playoff clinching 6-16 contest.  Bradford was out-dueled that night by Charlie Whitehurst.

The moves the Rams have made are impressive, though it reminds me of buying a lemon on the used car lot.  You might think you got a deal at first, but the car repair bills quickly add up and you end up with a vehicle that is both expensive and undependable, built around a faulty core.  You’d expect Bradford to improve statistically next season, but don’t expect miracles.  We know what Bradford is and isn’t.  He isn’t an elite quarterback, but I could see him being elevated to average with a better supporting cast.

Imagine the Rams with RG3.  Most people might react to that by saying it’s unfair to expect the Rams to have been such radical forward thinkers in 2012.  But in today’s NFL, you have to be a radical forward thinker to be the best.  If Griffin can learn to protect his body and refine himself as a pocket passer, I suspect many people will question the Rams making that trade in a few years time.  The Rams got a long list of talented players in return, but so did the Browns when they dealt the pick that turned into Julio Jones.

The Rams 2013 draft:

Round 1:  Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
Round 1:  Alec Ogletree, LB, Geogia
Round 3:  T.J. McDonald, S, USC
Round 3:  Stedman Bailey, WR, West Virginia
Round 4:  Barrett Jones, G, Alabama
Round 5:  Brandon McGee, CB, Miami
Round 5:  Zac Stacy, RB, Vanderbilt

My least favorite cliche during the 2013 draft:  “Tavon Austin is just another Dexter McCluster.”  This has been repeated by even some very intelligent football minds.  I get the basis for it.  They compare Austin to McCluster because of usage.  I still think it’s a bullshit comparison.

Dexter McCluster ran an official 4.58 at the 2010 NFL combine.  This time was considered a “head scratcher” by people that assume you must be fast if you returned kicks for touchdowns in college and made the occasional defender miss.  An observer with a keen eye could have told you before that combine that McCluster would run close to a 4.60.  On tape he wasn’t exploding for big runs, and he wasn’t separating from pursuers.  He’d make guys miss and all that, but he had precious little room for error.

Contrast that with Austin, who ran a smooth 4.34 at his combine (including a couple of unofficial times in the 4.2s) and has Barry Sanders type moves in the open field.  John Schneider believes that longer arms improve a player’s forty time in coverage.  In a similar sense, I’d argue that making defenders miss without dropping many MPH is an enhancing factor for speed on offense.  Barry Sanders is not the fastest player in NFL history (among those faster:  Tavon Austin).  What Barry Sanders can claim is that he was the NFL’s most elusive runner of all time.  I think Austin’s speed and elusiveness is in the same discussion with Barry Sanders.  Comparing him to Dexter McCluster, from an athleticism perspective, is ridiculous.  If you are itching for a McCluster comp, set your cross-hairs on Ace Sanders instead.

Austin will play in the slot for the Rams and could move around the formation ala Percy Harvin.  Austin probably won’t rush for over 300 yards in a game like he did against the Oklahoma Sooners last season, but I’m sure the Rams will experiment in various ways.  I do not think Austin is some kind of specialist.  I don’t think NFL teams think that either.  You don’t draft Dexter McCluster type specialists in the top 10 picks, and the Rams were not the only team to consider doing so.

I think the most compelling counter argument against Tavon Austin is the one Rob made comparing him to DeSean Jackson.  Both Austin and Jackson have nearly identical speed and both are excellent “moves” runners with outstanding instincts.  Jackson isn’t particularly durable and might not be the biggest competitor.  That’s where I see the difference.  The next bone crushing hit I see Austin take will be the first.  He has a great sense for avoiding contact and sensing danger over the middle.  I think as long as Sam Bradford has the sense to not hang Austin up to dry, he should be fine.  Press him at the line?  How’d that work for Seattle against small, ultra quick receivers such as Danny Amendola and Wes Welker last season?  Austin is a big time competitor too and I think that probably played a role in the Rams’ decision to also draft Stedman Bailey.

Ultimately, I’ve always viewed Austin as a top ten talent in a small body.  I figured that his stature would drop him into the 2nd round from the same kind of size bias that hurt Russell Wilson last year.  With Wilson you heard a lot of people saying that he’d only be a backup in the NFL, as if to suggest that height wouldn’t be a problem if he only played in short stretches of the season.  I always thought that was odd.  With Austin, you have people suggesting he can’t be a full time player because of his size, even though there are already full time players at his size in the NFL.

I can’t promise that Austin will be a megastar.  He was more of an attraction than a foundational piece even in college.  He was more flash than pure production.  I could very easily see Stedman Bailey beating Austin in yardage, as Bailey did in 2012.  That said, I do think it’s very likely that Austin will be the Rams version of CJ Spiller, Reggie Bush, Chris Johnson or DeSean Jackson: he may not be a rock in the offense, but he’ll get them cheap points when they desperately need them and help them win games that they wouldn’t have won otherwise.

Further, Seattle has struggled against ultra quick players in the recent past.  Seattle’s secondary is not designed to counter them.  Reggie Bush, CJ Spiller, Stevie Johnson, Wes Welker, Danny Amendola, Titus Young (who had just 383 yards last season but had 100 against us), Frank Gore, Adrian Peterson, and Brandon Marshall.  Those were the skill position players who gave Seattle’s defense the most trouble last season.  Gore struggled in his second meeting.  Peterson and Marshall dominated the entire league and Seattle was no different.  The rest were ultra quick players who enjoyed enhanced success against our defense or were consistently productive week to week and were not slowed by our big defensive backfield.

If players like those are a pain for our defense to handle, imagine Austin.  It wouldn’t surprise me if Austin had his two best games of the 2013 season against Seattle.

Some might argue that Austin isn’t worth the investment the Rams made.  Even as someone who thinks Austin is undervalued by many, I understand that argument.  However, the Rams are gunning for the top of the division, and to do so they must build a team capable of exploiting the weaknesses of the alpha franchise.  The Rams already seem to have the 49ers’ number somehow.  Now they just need to solve the Seahawks.  Austin is a potent tool in their arsenal to that end.

Alec Ogletree wasn’t the athlete we thought he’d be when he tested at the NFL Combine, and he lost fans when deeper tape study revealed a player who shies from contact and lacks natural instincts.  Ogletree has a Kam Chancellor type build but otherwise they are nothing alike.  I didn’t like the value with this choice either, as Arthur Brown is at least arguably a better prospect and he went a full round later.  Alec Ogletree also had an arrest for DUI during the week of the NFL Combine, which whispers Koren Robinson levels of poor judgement.  I think the Rams are in for an unpleasant surprise with this pick.

TJ McDonald was a bit like the Rams’ version of our Jordan Hill pick.  Both have modest measurables and on paper should only be NFL average starters, but both have a lot of polish and effort which makes them strong candidates to be NFL over-achievers.  McDonald sometimes lacks in the physicality department, but he has good instincts in run support and his man-coverage skills were a bit of an eye-opener for me when I gave him a second look.  He almost reminds me of a safety version of Bobby Wagner.  I doubt McDonald makes a pro-bowl in his career, but I could see him being one of those good component players that slips under the national radar.

A technician at receiver who is almost indistinguishable from Robert Woods or a young Bobby Engram, Stedman Bailey was one of the bigger steals in the draft  when the Rams took him in the 3rd round.  Bailey is one of the draft’s best receivers at making his first cut.  He runs smooth routes, has dependable hands and has a nose for the endzone after the catch.  He’s sticks to his blocks well.  He has the tools to continue being a very good possession receiver in the NFL.  It wouldn’t shock me if he proved to be more of a core piece in the offense than his West Virginia teammate.

Someone who’s thoughts I often borrow compared John Moffitt’s blocking style to a forklift.  When I watch Barrett Jones, I see that same exact trait.  Jones is always pushing the defender’s pads up with his arms in pass protection, and relies on similar technique in the running game.  Jones might be slightly below the NFL average as an athlete and chooses to win with technique instead.  I like Moffitt more than most, and I’d consider him to be NFL average; he’s a player who narrowly avoids disaster often and who makes touchdown springing blocks with no margin for error to spare.  Moffitt came from a team that’s an NFL lineman factory.  Barrett Jones is the same story.

As John Schneider would say, Brandon McGee “tested well.”  His results across the board were on the better side of the combine median for corners, with the exception of arm length and broad jump, and neither were bad scores.  Only four corners ran a better forty time and all four went much earlier than McGee did.  McGee’s ten yard split was the best among the entire corner group.

It is a bit of a challenge to watch McGee’s finesse style of play, frequent use in loose man coverages, and lack of ball hawking tendencies and not think about Kelly Jennings.  The fact that McGee wears #21 and played for the Miami Hurricanes probably isn’t helping matters.

Another 5’8″ running back, Zac Stacy continues a trend among our NFC West rivals of adding short running backs.  Stacy weighs just four pounds less than Chistine Michael and both were among the running back leaders on the bench press with 27 reps.  Stacy has NFL average speed, but makes up for it with just about everything else.  He reminds me quite a bit of “complete” college running backs like Chris Polk or Cierre Wood.  Good pick.

Stacy, McGee, and Jones all profile as NFL average players.  I think Bailey will end up as an above average possession receiver.  McDonald is a bit of a Tim Ruskell type defender.  I think he’ll help that team as long as he remains cheap.  Ogletree is the big risk in a draft full of safe picks.  Tavon Austin will be more of a pest than a foundational piece, though unfortunately I think that’s enough for the Rams to present a problem in future head to head matches.

Overall impression:

If you just want starters and reps, I’d probably nominate the Rams as having the best draft in the NFC West, based on what I can determine at this stage.  All seven picks are pretty likely to make the Rams’ roster and I could see several of them starting in 2013.

That said, other than Austin at the top, very little about this draft worries me.  The Rams’ draft is tilted towards safe picks and not upside selections, and the Rams aren’t going to catch the Seahawks by bunting the runner to 3rd base.  Drafting for safer, less dynamic players was a bit of a trend for the Rams last year too, and it shouldn’t be surprising that their best pick was the riskiest one they made (a pick I really liked for the Rams, as I thought Jenkins was clearly the draft’s best corner and character concerns are often blown out of proportion during draft season).  If the Rams want to catch Seattle, they must strive for more than a roster that settles for average starters at most positions.

The Arizona Cardinals draft class of 2013

Arizona is where good prospects go to die. Will Ryan Swope be an exception?

Last January the Cardinals cleaned house, firing 11 year general manager Rod Graves and head coach Ken Whisenhunt.  Arizona has been a troubled franchise for most of it’s history, so you’d think they would have opted for as big a change of scenery as possible.  Remarkably, they instead opted to stay in house for their next GM hire, promoting vice president of player personnel Steve Keim.

Keim has been with the Arizona franchise for 15 years, and has been part of several dubious drafts and offseason overhauls.  Imagine if Tim Ruskell had lasted over a decade before being fired, only to be replaced by his deputy Ruston Webster.  That’s basically what Arizona did this past winter.  They also fired a quality head coach in Ken Whisenhunt and replaced him with a coach that’s drawn comparisons to Dick Jauron.  (<— Great article, by the way.)

Regardless, Arizona has turned a new leaf even if it looks uncomfortably familiar for Cardinals fans.  Steve Keim was one of four finalists for Seattle’s GM opening in 2010.  He must have impressed on some level to gain this opportunity.  Let’s see how he did:

Round 1: Jonathan Cooper, G, North Carolina
Round 2: Kevin Minter, ILB, LSU
Round 3: Tyrann Mathieu, CB, LSU
Round 4: Alex Okafor, DE, Texas
Round 4: Earl Watford, G, James Madison
Round 5: Stepfan Taylor, RB, Stanford
Round 6: Ryan Swope, WR, Texas A&M
Round 6: Andre Ellington, RB, Clemson
Round 7: D.C. Jefferson, TE, Rutgers

Jonathan Cooper is worth the hype.  It’s not often you see a great technician at guard who also boasts top shelf athleticism.  Even hyped guards like Chance Warmack and Mike Iupati were not as polished as Cooper is, and I would argue that Cooper is a much smoother athlete.  Cooper may not have the ultra-rare power that Warmack and Iupati possess, but he doesn’t lack for strength and can move defenders.  This is the highest a guard has been taken in a very long time, but Arizona’s line has been in bad shape since pretty much the dawn of time.  Cooper was part of an unprecedented early rush on lineman in a historically good o-lineman class.

Kevin Minter has NFL-average athleticism and had as many negative plays as positive ones when I scouted him, missing tackles and misreading the run.  I don’t think I would have wanted Seattle to draft him in any round, but if you forced me to put a grade on him for the league I probably would have said 5th or 6th round.  The linebacker class this year was one of the weakest I’ve ever seen- full of slower linebackers with sloppy tape.  That caused some flawed talents to end up being overdrafted.  Minter among them.

Tyrann Mathieu is over-valued because he made some big plays during a 2011 season when his team nearly ran the table for a national championship.  His size, measurables, and the “luck factor” of his tape lead me to think he’ll be an average NFL player at best.  It appears that he may not yet have beaten his demons off the field.  This pick reminds me a bit of Maurice Clarrett in 2005, the big difference being that Mathieu seems like a better person- the kind you want to root for despite his problems.  It’s rare to see a 3rd round pick not make the initial roster.  Clarrett didn’t.  Mathieu probably makes Arizona’s roster, but if his problems continue, it’s conceivable he might not.

The fourth round feels about right for Alex Okafor, despite the fact that he has second round measurables and a surprisingly good pass rush repertoire.  Where Okafor lacks is speed, and he wasn’t really a dominant force at Texas.  I think that’s what scared teams away- the fact that Okafor felt like he was just getting by instead of dominating.  Cerebral analysis tells me that Okafor deserved to be drafted much earlier than this, but my instincts tell me he’s probably fool’s gold.  Okafor is a classic 4-3 end, so it’s surprising that he was taken by a 3-4 team as an outside linebacker.  I think this would have been a solid pick normally, but I think Okafor is miscast in a 3-4 defense.

Earl Watford was one of four players drafted this year out of the sub-division I Colonial Athletic Association (Seattle’s Jared Smith was one of the others).  There isn’t a ton of stuff on Watford out there, but one thing I noticed about him is how trim he looks- he’s almost like a tight end at guard in terms of his physique and athleticism.  Watford’s measurables are very similar to JR Sweezy, and Sweezy is one of the NFL’s most athletic guards.  One thing Sweezy has in his corner though- Tom Cable’s coaching.  The success of this pick is firmly on the shoulders of Bruce Arians’ coaching staff.

Stefan Taylor reminds me of Nick Foles in a way.  Both are players that looked great in college when you see them with a casual eye, but when you put the tape on and view with a scouting lens, a host of problems appear.  Taylor has quick feet and can sometimes make players miss, but his balance was surprisingly lacking and he had no resilience as a runner (meaning that he was usually dead to rights at first contact).  The lack of resilience is a little surprising given his bulk (214 pounds).  He’s also short (5’9″) and slow (ran just a 4.70 at the combine).  His size, speed, and lack of resilience reminds me of former Pac-12 rusher Justin Forsett, though Forsett was more explosive and had better vision.

I’ll have to assume medical concerns caused a drop for Ryan Swope.  I’d argue that his multiple concussions don’t scare me very much given that he played through them without issues or missed time.  That said, I’m not running an NFL team and most general managers view draft picks as business decisions.  Business decisions weigh risk very heavily, I would say too much so.  I’ve said my piece on Swope and I think that if he stays healthy he’ll be one of the biggest steals in the draft.  Matt Waldman recently had an article that echoed similar sentiments and even claimed that Swope might have a more productive career than Tavon Austin.

Arizona isn’t exactly deep at receiver and you can expect a talented young quarterback to arrive there a year from now.  In the meantime, Carson Palmer may not be a good quarterback anymore, but he can still rack up a ton of yards.  Oddly enough, Arizona might have been a better landing spot for Swope than Seattle would have been.  That would be a worrisome thought, if there wasn’t a gulf separating those two franchises now and for the foreseeable future.

Andre Ellington was the centerpiece of my favorite play from the 2012 college football season.  I like that Arizona is grab-bagging running backs to address their running back need.  This is a league where an average running back can be productive in the right situation, see Stevan Ridley or BenJarvis Green-Ellis.  You don’t have to spend a high pick to get solid results.

I like Ellington’s talent more than Taylor’s.  Both runners are 5’9″ and have quick feet, but Ellington is tougher, more resilient, faster, has better balance and has more power.  The only bad thing I can say about Ellington is that he’s shocking bad as a pass blocker, despite being so strong as a runner.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find much on D.C. Jefferson.  What I can tell you is that he only ran a 4.97 forty at 6’5″, 255 pounds.  Seahawks 6th round pick Luke Willson ran a 4.51 at 6’5″, 251 pounds and he plays the same position.  I’d guess that Arizona brought Jefferson in as a blocking specialist or perhaps a special teams player, but I’d be guessing.

Overall impression:

I’m not saying Arizona had a great draft, but the feel of this draft is surprisingly different than Cardinals’ drafts of years past.  The Cardinals are famous for loading up on big names during draft weekend and earning top honors when draft grades are handed out, only to have those drafts look incredibly overrated in retrospect.  The only player Arizona drafted this year that I’d consider a “big name” pick was Tyrann Mathieu, and he was only a 3rd round investment.  I guess I’d argue Stefan Taylor as a “name” pick in round five, too.  I think they drafted a few over-rated prospects (Minter, Mathieu, Taylor) but they had some really solid picks too (Cooper, Ellington).  Swope in the 6th, if he stays healthy, might be the biggest steal in the entire draft.  Watford and Okafor have the tools to be above average players, though both have obstacles to overcome.

If Cooper and Swope have the careers I think they’ll have, they could make this draft on their own.  Their other 6th round pick could end up starting games at running back, too.

Day III preview

Wanna get away?

Last year, I wrote a fairly massive post in the hours before the start of Day III covering all the good remaining players.  I thought about doing that again today, but then I looked over the remaining talent and was amazed by the sheer amount of it.  There are roughly 75-100 players that I consider at least arguably worth a 3rd round grade or better, and I expect many of them to remain when the draft is over.  Considering that Seattle has ten picks coming up, it makes for the most exciting Day III that I’ll ever experience in my lifetime, most likely.

Consider- this is already the best Seahawks roster in team history.  This is one of the deepest drafts many people have ever seen.  We have a front office that is considered to be the best in the league at nailing late round picks.  And we have an incredible ten picks to use in the late rounds.  The term “perfect storm” feels like an undersell.

When I returned to the blog back in January and talked about my excitement for this draft, I was essentially referring to today specifically.  I knew all the way back then that we’d have an unbelievably loaded late round draft this year, and it appeared Seattle would have a lot of picks too (though I wouldn’t have guessed we’d have this many).  Now is when the fun really begins.  Especially if you’ve done your homework.

If you’ve followed this blog the last few months, and if you read my recent draft visit series, you should be fairly well equipped for many of the names we’ll see later today. With that in mind, I’d just like to cover some basic things that I think might happen.  Having called the Christine Michael pick in round two, I’m on a bit of a roll, so might as well see how far I can push things.

John Schneider intimated in his Day II press conference that defensive tackle was the only true need for the team in this draft.  With the selection of Jordan Hill in round 3, that need is dealt with.  From here on out, all bets are off.  That being said, I expect Seattle to continue to target the weakest areas of the roster with a degree of preference.  On the whole though, I think Seattle will be on the hunt for the best athletes available, guys like TE Chris Gragg, T Luke Marquardt, WRs like Denard Robinson or Terrell Sinkfield (among many others), QB Matt Scott, FB/TE Kyle Juszczyk, FS Earl Wolff, SS Cooper Taylor, or CBs like Demetrius McCray, Tharold Simon, or Sanders Commings.

With that said, here are my thoughts on the positional breakdown for Day III.  Remember, this isn’t meant to be an exhaustive list- I’m sure there are plenty of players the Seahawks love that are either off my radar or won’t be mentioned here.

Tight End:

I think Seattle will look at this position, perhaps with their next couple picks.  Remember though, Seattle grades for athleticism first, and Seattle’s current #3 Tight End is a terrific athlete from South America.  Upgrading on his athleticism could be very tough, and even the best athletes of the bunch would only break even with Anthony McCoy.

The most likely candidates at tight end for Seattle are Chris Gragg, Nick Kasa, and Ryan Otten.  Otten visited with Seattle.  Kasa was linked to Seattle by Tony Pauline.  Chris Gragg is by far the most athletic tight end in the draft, though he has the build of a receiver.

Offensive Tackle:

There is some very impressive talent still on the board at tackle.

I’m a huge fan of Luke Marquardt and would have probably drafted him at #87 if the pick were mine to make.  He has Nate Solder type measurables, athleticism, and nastiness.  I don’t know if David Bahktiari fits Tom Cable profile well enough as he’s more of a finesse tackle, but he really impressed me on tape and I wouldn’t mind getting him anywhere in the draft.

David Quessenberry had better tape than I expected and has a lot of power.  I think he has fringe second round talent athletically.  He met with the Seahawks, too.  And then you have Jordan Mills, the Louisiana Tech left tackle that was rumored to draw heavy interest from Seattle back in February.

Interior lineman:

I’m not really expecting Seattle to add a guard, but Lemuel Jeanpierre is a free agent next season and prepping a cheap alternative at center could make some sense.  I don’t think Seattle would add an interior lineman under normal circumstances, but they do have ten picks to use.


I don’t think Seattle will bring in another classic running back, unless they feel he has fullback versatility (Kregg Lumpkin and Vai Taua were RB/FB hybrids last year).  Kyle Juszczyk is a player I am highly intrigued by.  A converted tight end moving to fullback, this Harvard grad has a little bit of Gronk to his game, beastmoding through tackles like it’s nothing.

He’s a unique player and a great athlete.  I have to imagine he’s at least on Seattle’s radar.  Oh that’s right, he is on their radar.  He had a team visit with the Seahawks.


I’ve never seen a 4th round this loaded with quarterback talent before.  I don’t need to rehash the names, but I would keep an eye on Matt Scott and Tyler Wilson with one of those 5th round picks.  Matt Barkley would be something, though I feel for the guy and hope he lands somewhere with a real chance to start.

Wide Receiver:

As expected, an incredibly strong and deep receiver class remains loaded heading into Day III.  My favorite player, Ryan Swope, remains available, as does Rob’s, Quinton Patton.  There are seriously fifteen or so receivers I’d be excited to get.  It’s crazy.  And though I think Da’Rick Rogers is probably another Titus Young, everything else about him is very Seahawk-like.

I think Seattle will strongly favor receivers over 6’3″, namely Marquess Wilson, Mark Harrison, Marcus Davis, Rodney Smith, Tyrone Goard, Courtney Gardner, Greg Herd and the guy who I’ve probably jinxed into being a Seahawk by not talking about him…

Brandon Kaufman from Eastern Washington.  Not only is Kaufman basically a better version of Kris Durham, but he had 10 catches from 140 yards against the Huskies when he played them.  He was covered in that game by first round pick Desmond Trufant.


Tharold Simon and Sanders Commings are still around.  I’m not totally shocked, but whoever gets them is getting incredible value at this stage.  Both are big corners that run well and have good tape.

Marc Anthony was a projected second rounder by a consensus of anonymous executives, yet still remains available, and he comes from the Pac-12.

Demetrius McCray has awful tape but awesome measurables- the kind of specific measurables John Schneider really goes for (long arms, etc).

Don’t forget about Brice Butler, the Richard Sherman type project with connections to Pete Carroll.  It should be interesting to see if Seattle drafts him or if they chance using their connections to get him in undrafted free agency.

And then there is my favorite late round corner- Micah Hyde.  I wouldn’t be shocked if Hyde somehow went undrafted, but he’s just a great football player.  In many ways, he’s a poor man’s Dee Milliner.


Look for someone with speed.  Earl Wolff is still out there.  Fantastic athlete.  Ditto Shamarko Thomas.  Jakar Hamilton is a player I like a lot with one of those 7th rounders.  I like him more than the guys he competed with at Georgia:  Shawn Williams and Bacarri Rambo.  Duke Williams visited Seattle and has great speed to go with his big hitting ability.


I’ve always been lukewarm on Khaseem Green’s tape.  I know that he had good stats, but he seemed to me to be more of a damage control linebacker than a playmaker.  I had a 4th round grade on him and felt confident he’d end up in the 4th round, and that was when I was assuming he’d run a forty time in the 4.5s.  He’s not fast on tape, but he also looked like he was holding back.  I don’t really care about his decent pro-day time, as players usually improve on those.  His combine time was in the 4.7s.  No thanks.  If Seattle does draft him, it means they don’t value speed as much as I thought.  I’d be a little surprised if they did.  I guess we’ll see.

Cornelius Washington, who isn’t even a true linebacker, is the only remaining linebacker to run a forty time under 4.7 seconds at the NFL Scouting combine.  Think about that.  This clearly wasn’t the year for Seattle to grab a linebacker with a significant investment.

Later on, much later on, I would make a case for Jayson Dimanche, Craig Wilkins, Michael Clay, John Lotulelei, Ty Powell and AJ Klein. I kind of hope they avoid Jelani Jenkins, especially after the forty he ran.  If Seattle doesn’t take Khaseem Green, I think there is a very decent chance they wait for undrafted free agency.  The speed at linebacker just isn’t there this year.

Defensive line:

If Seattle only had a few picks left, I wouldn’t really expect them to add more linemen on the defense.  But with ten picks to spend, you can probably assume that defensive line is still in play.  Some of my favorite remaining options include Stefan Charles, Armonty Bryant, Rufus Johnson, Abry Jones, Jesse Williams, Alex Okafor, Brandon Jenkins (a natural LEO), Quinton Dial, Montori Hughes, Joe Kruger, Lavar Edwards, and of course John Simon.

I’m not a fan of Devin Taylor, but I’m keeping an eye on him as he has athleticism that nearly rivals Ezekial Ansah or Margus Hunt.

Day two reaction, fewer GIFs this time

Christine Michael, my reaction in GIF form:

For those that didn’t see it, I mocked Christine Michael at #56 in my final “what I think will happen” mock draft posted a few days ago.  Michael was a player that was quickly becoming one of my favorites in the entire draft the more I evaluated him.  Though I wrote an article a while back touting Ryan Swope and John Simon as my favorite players regardless of draft stock, in recent weeks Michael had climbed up to #3 on my personal wish list which I’ve mentioned a few times in the comments here at the blog.

Of course, what I think doesn’t matter.  What matters is how he grades for Seattle.  Back in February, John Schneider revealed that his team grades for athleticism first before grading for anything else.  Seattle entered this draft without a true immediate need, so it stood to reason that they’d draft the highest graded player available.  I could count on one hand the number of running backs I’ve scouted with Michael’s burst and athleticism.  I can scarcely say I was surprised when I later learned that Michael set the vertical jump record for a running back (43″).  He also finished #1 this year in the 3-cone and 20 yard shuttle among the running backs.  And he did that in a 220 pound body.

Michael was the only running back I covered on this blog this draft season, and in that article I mentioned that he was my favorite high ceiling running back in this draft.  I was more than a little excited to hear about his undercover trip to the VMAC a few weeks ago, which might have gone undiscovered until Michael decided he couldn’t contain his enthusiasm for the Seahawks via twitter.  I even commented a few days ago that Seattle probably hoped to keep that visit on the down low, because Michael wouldn’t have been that excited to be a Seahawk before the draft if Seattle wasn’t excited about him first.

As far as my thoughts on Michael, you can read my scouting report on him in the link above if you didn’t see it last month.

As far as my reaction?  I loved this pick.  Last year my two favorite players in the draft regardless of draft stock were Bruce Irvin and Russell Wilson, so yeah, that draft was rewarding to say the least.  When the #62 pick arrived this year, my 2013 favorites John Simon and Ryan Swope were available, but a wave of last minute self-hype over Michael left me hoping for Michael the most.  His upside is the highest of the three and his opportunity to achieve it is the greatest.  Shouts and high fives erupted as soon as I heard “Chris…”

I fully appreciate that Michael has risks.  He’s had two serious leg injuries (though the Seattle regional scout responsible for this pick said Michael checked out medically).  I’m not really worried about the dischord Michael created with the 2012 Texas A&M coaching staff as it seems those fences have been mended since then.  The head coach himself admitted that his status as a new coach with a harsh approach played a factor and he didn’t seem to hold any kind of grudge against Michael at all.  Further, Pete Carroll has created the kind of team atmosphere that is perfect for players that are competitive to a fault such as Percy Harvin and Christine Michael.

The reason I’m so jazzed about this pick is because Michael has the athleticism, size, and physical upside of Adrian Peterson.  He even looks like AP a little bit.  And as I found out today, they both spent time doing offseason workouts together in Texas.  Peterson has better lateral agility and doesn’t have a fumble problem, but in terms of physical dominance, Michael’s potential is sky high.  I think Michael has 1800+ yard potential during a career year.

Again, he’s high risk, high reward.  I was once super high on Jahvid Best and that looked justified after he had a stellar debut in Detroit.  Then he got hurt the next week and he’s never been the same since.  The same could happen to Michael.  But similar to the Wilson pick last year, if Seattle hit on this pick, it’s out of the park.  You might have noticed too that Seattle has done pretty well on their home run swings to date.

Jordan Hill, my reaction in GIF form:

Jordan Hill was a player I really liked a ton early in the process, but drifted away from once I noticed that he’s more of an “effort” DT than a physically imposing one.

Back in January I liked him more than most and for a brief time I thought he deserved to be in the conversation with the draft’s top defensive tackles (Floyd, Sly Williams, Short, etc). In fact, when I wrote my DT article back in late February I included Jordan Hill in my analysis of the top DTs even though most sites had him listed as a late rounder.

I eventually cooled on Hill and stopped talking about him once I realized that he’s essentially a poor man’s Sharrif Floyd, and I was NOT a fan of Floyd’s, essentially considering him the Aaron Curry of defensive tackles. (Or perhaps a more accurate comparison would be him as a Floyd/Short hybrid: He has Sharrif Floyd’s two-gapping ability and lack of pass rush combined with Kawann Short’s quickness and gap slipperiness but also Short’s poor run anchor and lack of strength).

Here is what I wrote about Hill two months ago:

Jordan Hill:

Hill isn’t very big nor does he anchor well, but he is probably good enough against drive blocks to be a non-specialist defensive tackle. He partially makes up for this by being consistently very fast off the snap, and keeps a good pad level.

Hill’s uses his arms a lot like a 3-4 defensive end would, excelling at disengaging via extension, not unlike Greg Scruggs but with shorter, weaker arms. He has excellent backfield vision and tracks the ball well. If I had to highlight Hill for being the best at anything out of this group, I think he might have the best short area quickness. He can cover two yards side to side very fast, and despite being weak to interior drive blocks he’s actually an asset against slower developing stretch runs because he can disengage and cover short areas of grass very quickly. Not only is he very quick, but he’s exceptionally instinctive and knows where to move to keep a runner in front of him while keeping his shoulders square.

Unfortunately, Hill can’t seem to use his shed ability to actually swim past defenders, which I theorize is from a lack of functional upper body strength. If he had it, I think he’d be using it. He also lacks lower body strength and is impotent as a bull rusher.

Hill is a bit like Kawann-Short-lite as a 3-tech. He can sometimes slip through exploitable mistakes but he doesn’t force guards back. He could be a serviceable 3-tech, but not a star. I like him more as a 3-4 defensive end, where he can use his quickness around the edge more and will get more mileage out of his talent for two-gapping and reading the football. Then again, Hill stands just 6’1″ and doesn’t appear to have the longest arms, so he’d be a bit of a gamble in such a role. Those factors might explain why he’s expected to be drafted in the mid to late rounds despite having some talent.

Bottom line, I think Hill is a high floor, low ceilling option at defensive tackle that might make a nice option for the Red Bryant role in the future while manning either defensive tackle spot in the short and intermediate term (1-tech in emergencies).  He’s good for a few nifty plays a game in the backfield, but he’s not a dominant force. In terms of upside, there were many other DTs who are better that Seattle passed on for Hill. In fairness, Stefan Charles may have the highest upside of them all and he could last into the late rounds, and it’s not inconceivable that Seattle could draft a second defensive lineman with a late pick.

I don’t think John Schneider is immune to reach picks. I don’t think Irvin was a reach, and I don’t think Carpenter was a reach and I absolutely didn’t think that Wagner was a reach. That said, I felt EJ Wilson was a big reach in 2010 as was Kris Durham in 2011. I wasn’t wild on the value of the Jaye Howard pick either. Though I like Hill, I think I’d feel safe calling this pick a reach. I feel pretty good about Hill reaching the 5th or 6th round, and even if he didn’t, there were better options available when Seattle picked him.

Not a horrible pick, but I think in four years time every Seahawks fan (if not every NFL fan) will know Christine Michael’s name, but only the dedicated among the Seahawks faithful will know who Jordan Hill is, because I think he’s pretty likely to be an NFL average player.

Now that I’ve said all that, Hill was a player I liked a ton early in the process, so part of me smiled a bit with this pick.  There isn’t a ton that separates Jordan Hill from Kawann Short and Short was a player I was hoping for in the late second but didn’t make it that far.  Short is much better at penetrating the line but both have very similar strengths and weaknesses and Hill brings consistently high effort whereas Short is known to take plays off.  There are probably 40-50 players I would have preferred over Hill in the late 3rd round, but in an ordinary draft Hill would be essentially a BPA type talent in the late 3rd.  It’s not terribly fair of me to hold it against him that he came out in a historically deep draft.

Overall, I think Jordan Hill will be a John Moffitt type 3rd round pick. John Moffitt is not a star but he’s a perfectly adequate NFL starting guard in my view. The reason he’s struggled for playing time is because Seattle values upside (rightfully so), and that is an area where Moffitt lacks. I see Hill getting playing time and being a rock solid contributor, but never a star. That’s a good return for a 3rd round pick, though I felt Seattle could have done better with the options that were available at #87.

The 2013 NFL draft GIF edition

The Rams move up for future pain in the ass Tavon Austin

Yeah I know, I’m blatantly plagiarizing someone else’s brilliant idea from last year, but I thought this might be fun (also included: my thoughts on round one).

Everyone please say a quiet prayer for Rob’s server.  Okay then, here goes:

Be you warned, for here there be GIFS…

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