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Updated 2019 draft class tier list: 9th December

Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray is the best draft eligible quarterback

I’m going to keep updating the tier list. It’ll change if players decide not to declare. It’ll change if I study a player and decide they need to be included. That happened this week with a pair of Oklahoma prospects.

Tier 1 — the top of the class

Nick Bosa (DE, Ohio State)

There’s still no challenge to Bosa for #1 overall and he deserves a tier to himself. He’s the complete defensive end — with the quickness and rare agility to be a dominant speed rusher, the power to manhandle offensive linemen and the size/toughness to work against the run. In a year without a top quarterback prospect or offensive tackle, Bosa goes #1.

Tier 2 — likely top-10 picks

Quinnen Williams (DT, Alabama)
Clelin Ferrell (DE, Clemson)
Ed Oliver (DT, Houston)
Rashan Gary (DE, Michigan)
Dexter Lawrence (DT, Clemson)
Christian Wilkins (DT, Clemson)
Raekwon Davis (DT, Alabama)

Quinnen Williams has been a dominant force for Alabama but there will be some mild concerns about his age (19) and the fact he’s a one-year wonder. Clelin Ferrell has ideal size and length and would be a top-five pick in any class. Ed Oliver is extremely dynamic but there will be some questions asked about his fit at the next level due to his lack of length and size. Rashan Gary and Dexter Lawrence wowed High School recruiters and were the #1 and #2 top prospects in the country. One scout for Rivals called them the best defensive tackle duo he’d ever seen in one single class. They’ve long been destined for the pro’s and NFL scouts will love this pair. They will go early. Christian Wilkins is a phenomenal player with fantastic athleticism, prototype three-tech size, excellent character and technique. Ignore the critics. Raekwon Davis is a monster built like Calais Campbell.

Tier 3 — possible top-15 picks

Devin White (LB, LSU)
Jachai Polite (EDGE, Florida)
Derrick Brown (DT, Auburn)
Kyler Murray (QB, Oklahoma)

I’ve added Kyler Murray to this tier. As I noted on Wednesday, I think he’s the best eligible quarterback prospect and a possible first round pick. At least one NFL GM agrees. He’s accurate, exceptionally athletic and simply a fantastic playmaker. If I needed a quarterback in this draft, I’m going to take Murray and roll the dice. Devin White was once considered the next Leonard Fournette. He was projected as a running back in High School, then he added a lot of bulk and lost some speed. Recruiters started to project him to full back, believe it or not. Then he slimmed down at LSU and became an elite college linebacker. Jachai Polite’s motor never stops. His effort is incredible. He lacks length and size but he’s extremely quick and aggressive as a pass rusher and has been productive despite facing a number of double teams in 2018. Derrick Brown is a complete defensive tackle. He controls the LOS, shows excellent discipline in the run game and makes an impact as a pass rusher too.

Tier 4 — possible top-20 picks

Zach Allen (DE, Boston College)
Josh Allen (EDGE, Kentucky)
David Edwards (T, Wisconsin)

Zach Allen has been a force all season. He’s big and looks like an interior rusher but still wins with get-off, speed and his hand use and technique is on-point. The combine will be big for him but he has a legitimate chance to secure a place in the top-20. Josh Allen has been a consistently effective pass rusher all season. He’s probably best suited to playing as a pure 3-4 OLB in a scheme like Pittsburgh’s. Georgia had success running right at him and Vanderbilt’s tight end also handled him. Even so, he gets to the QB and makes plays. David Edwards is a pure right tackle but teams will like his attitude, consistency and toughness.

Tier 5 — Top-40 talent

D’Andre Walker (LB, Georgia)
Byron Murphy (CB, Washington)
Jerry Tillery (DT, Notre Dame)
Damien Harris (RB, Alabama)
Brian Burns (EDGE, Florida State)
Rodney Anderson (RB, Oklahoma)

We’ve been saying all season that D’Andre Walker is underrated and it took a big performance against Alabama to finally gain some recognition. Walker is very strong against the run despite his linebacker size. He’s capable of rushing the passer as a defensive end, dropping into space and he always plays with a high intensity. Byron Murphy flies to the ball-carrier and looks like a naturally gifted defensive back. He plays cornerback for Washington but I’d love to see him tried at free safety. Jerry Tillery was recruited as a left tackle before switching to defense. He’s as big as Raekwon Davis and provides an alternative later in the top-40. Damien Harris is highly explosive and the complete running back. Brian Burns had a terrific year and could be listed higher but there are legitimate concerns about his weight (is he really playing in the 220’s?). Rodney Anderson will not go early due to injury concerns but in terms of pure talent — he’s right up there. Explosive, great size, tough. An excellent prospect who just needs to stay healthy.

Tier 6 — best of the rest

Marquise Brown (WR, Oklahoma)
Kaden Smith (TE, Stanford)
Drew Lock (QB, Missouri)
Chauncey Gardner-Johnson (CB/S, Florida)
Jaylor Ferguson (EDGE, Louisiana Tech)
Austin Bryant (EDGE, Clemson)
Taylor Rapp (S, Washington)

Marquise Brown is sudden and a fantastic playmaker. He was a little inconsistent against Texas in the Big-12 Championship game and then got hurt. He’s Antonio Brown’s cousin. Kaden Smith is the most rounded draft-eligible tight end. Drew Lock could easily be the first quarterback taken and could’ve been a first rounder this year. Chauncey Gardner-Johnson switched to nickel corner from safety in 2018. He’s extremely physical and plays with personality and attitude. He can be boom-or-bust. Jaylon Ferguson had major production in 2018 but plays with raw technique. With a good combine, some teams will believe he’s worth selecting early to develop. Austin Bryant is a pure pass rusher who will make plays in a rotation. Taylor Rapp is athletic with the ability to leave an impression and could be the first safety off the board.

Still intriguing

Gerald Willis II (DT, Miami)
Johnathan Abram (S, Mississippi State)
Christian Miller (LB, Alabama)
Steven Montez (QB, Colorado)

Gerald Willis will need to explain to teams a bizarre college career that started at Florida, appeared to be going way off the tracks and then ended with a fantastic year of production in Miami. He’s undersized and might be a specialist rusher but he plays with supreme agility and will test well in the short shuttle. Johnathan Abram is a playmaking safety but there are concerns about his athletic upside. A big combine performance could push him into the top-40. Christian Miller will test well and has developed into a more complete player in 2018. Steven Montez isn’t expected to declare for the draft but if he changes his mind could still provide an intriguing alternative to the big name quarterbacks.

Overrated players (or players who might go earlier than they should)

Greedy Williams (CB, LSU)
Dre’Mont Jones (DT, Ohio State)
Jonah Williams (G, Alabama)
Greg Little (T, Ole Miss)
Deionte Thompson (S, Alabama)
Deandre Baker (CB, Georgia)
Montez Sweat (EDGE, Mississippi State)
A.J. Brown (WR, Ole Miss)
N’Keal Harry (WR, Arizona State)
J.J. Arcega-Whiteside (WR, Stanford)
D.K. Metcalf (WR, Ole Miss)
Dwayne Haskins (QB, Ohio State)

Greedy Williams will likely be the first cornerback off the board, possibly in the top-15. However, he still needs a lot of work and shares some of the same issues as Deandre Baker when tracking the ball in the air. Williams has the size and looks the part but might underwhelm at the next level. I think he’s overrated and generally projected too early. Dre’Mont Jones looks great at times as an interior pass rusher. He’s quick and fluid and gets into the backfield to make plays. He also disappears from games (an issue stretching back to High School) and is a liability against the run. Jonah Williams plays left tackle at Alabama but is a pure guard, lacking the length and foot-speed to play outside. He’s best blocking head-on 1v1 and has limitations. I wouldn’t consider him a round one prospect, especially at tackle. Greg Little similarly looks a bit stiff handling the edge and might need to kick inside to guard.

Deionte Thompson is a long, lean safety. He isn’t rangy or particularly fast. He might run in the late 4.5’s or 4.6’s. He’s physical but I don’t understand the first round hype. The Seahawks could look at him as a day-three corner convert based on his frame. Deandre Baker lacks size, struggles to track the ball and might not test particularly well at the combine. There are character flags lingering over Montez Sweat according to Tony Pauline and while he’s a capable college pass rusher, he’s very lean and his success might not translate to the next level. A.J. Brown competes for the ball in the air but how athletic is he? Is he just another Laquon Treadwell? N’Keal Harry wins plenty of contested catches and has YAC ability but struggles to separate. J.J. Arcega-Whiteside is merely a useful redzone target and jump-ball specialist. He might be a day-three pick. D.K. Metcalf has a ton of potential. However, he has a serious neck injury. He’s declared to set the wheels in motion for a pro-career, rather than spend 2019 sitting out at Ole Miss. His long-term future is still a question mark. He likely just wants to get into the league. I doubt he’s expecting to be drafted early. Dwayne Haskins has talent and production. There were also too many ‘off’ throws. Personally, I think he’s a mid-rounder with some potential to work with over time.

Players I’m still unsure about

Jeffrey Simmons (DT, Mississppi State)
Daniel Jones (QB, Duke)
Cody Ford (T, Oklahoma)
Devin Bush (LB, Michigan)

Jeffrey Simmons is a good player. He was also filmed beating up a defenceless woman. Many teams won’t have him on their board. I’ve listed him here simply to avoid having to answer questions in the comments section about where he fits. Someone will draft him. I can live without it being the Seahawks. Daniel Jones has shown flashes of quality at Duke and could slip into the 20’s. I need to do more study before confirming that thought. I’ve not studied Cody Ford enough to pass judgement but Tony Pauline believes he could rise into the first frame. Devin Bush is not bad player at all. However, there are some concerns and I don’t see a first round prospect. Bush was asked to be very aggressive by Michigan. He had two key roles — attack the LOS to try and make plays in the backfield and cover passes to the flat. That’s not his fault but it makes for a difficult evaluation. There wasn’t too much in the way of read-and-react, discipline vs the run and zone coverage. In one game I saw him attack the LOS leaving a simple outside cut for the running back to break off a big gain. He needed to be less aggressive and simply force the runner back inside. He has energy and speed but it’s hard to get a sense for how his game translates to the next level watching Michigan play.

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Pete Carroll: Running back “a big focal point”

Pete Carroll wants to add to the running back position.

That was my big takeaway from his two media appearances today — firstly with Brock and Salk on 710 ESPN and then with reporters in his usual press conference.

We have a real formula (for) how we win” stated Carroll. “We’ve been unable the last two years to incorporate a major aspect of that… (it) is to run the football the way we want to run.”

He went on to highlight the resurgence of teams like the Rams, the Saints, the Eagles and the Vikings. Many of the teams in the playoffs are those capable of providing balance on offense.

The Seahawks haven’t had that balance for two seasons. They haven’t been able to run the ball effectively.

In November I wrote a piece titled, ‘Marshawn Lynch shaped hole still gaping in Seattle’. It was clear, I think, even in 2014 when Lynch was still helping the team, that replacing him was going to be the greatest challenge John Schneider and Pete Carroll faced. They either had to find gold somehow as they did drafting Russell Wilson in round three — or it was going to take an early round pick like the ones spent on Todd Gurley, Ezekiel Elliott and Leonard Fournette.

They’re still looking for a guy they crave to feature. A player they can rely on — to provide the tough yards, durability and consistency. It appeared Chris Carson could be that guy. He still could be. You can’t rely on that, however. He only managed a handful of games as a rookie.

So the search has to continue.

Like the Saints and Rams, Carroll believes Seattle can change their fortunes by running effectively:

The critical guys I think are the runners. The runners need to come back to life to us. And that’s Chris Carson and C.J. (Prosise) and Mike (Davis) coming back and whoever else can be part of that thing. J.D. McKissic was a really good positive aspect of our team this year and we need to make that position more competitive. That’s going to be one that we’re focused on because of the durability issues that we’ve faced the last two seasons.”

Carroll later said they would add to the runners, asking, “Who can we add to make it more competitive?” and stating, again, it would be “a big focal point“.

It was particularly interesting when Brock Huard pushed Carroll on the situation. Huard pulled no punches, laying out his concerns about the running game:

“Can you understand from me in this seat or a fan listening when saying, ‘Chris Carson?’ and C.J. — C.J.’s not been able to stay healthy so I can’t count on C.J. and a fan would say, ‘Chris looked really dynamic in the pre-season but I don’t know…’

We’ve gone from Christine Michael to Chris and Rawls and Eddie Lacy and there’s just been so much turnover at that position that a fan, I think, has a hard time saying, ‘man if Chris Carson were running behind that line in the season and with some of the blocking we watched Sunday, that he would be dynamic and be able to close that loop’.”

Carroll’s response?

I think it’s more impacting than you know

Carroll went on to admit the O-line could’ve been better up front. Yet it’s the sentence above I found most telling. He’s essentially spelling out the importance of a quality running back. When Carson was healthy, he ran effectively. He averaged 4.2 YPC and that’s when Rees Odhiambo was at left tackle, not Duane Brown.

They need more at the position. It’s not a cure-all to the problem. The offensive line does need to continue to make progress. They might add a veteran O-liner or two again, as they did a year ago.

But ultimately they need to find their answer to what LA has with Todd Gurley or New Orleans with Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara.

Carroll’s end of season press conferences have provided a good insight into what the team is planning for the draft and free agency.

A year ago Carroll listed the secondary, young depth at linebacker and the O-line as priorities. The Seahawks spent multiple picks on defensive backs and spent a second rounder on Ethan Pocic while adding Luke Joeckel and Oday Aboushi in free agency.

They brought in several linebackers to provide depth.

Before the 2011 season the focus was on improving the running game (they drafted James Carpenter and John Moffitt and signed Robert Gallery). In 2012 the target was speed in the front seven (they drafted Bruce Irvin and Bobby Wagner). In 2013 it was touchdown makers (enter Percy Harvin and Christine Michael with their first two picks).

The comments about the running back position today are enlightening. They’re also not that surprising. There’s a reason why we’ve been talking about college running backs for weeks. It’s also a position of strength and depth in the 2018 draft. This is one of those times where need matches availability perfectly.

The Seahawks don’t have to spend the #18 pick on a running back. They might acquire picks in rounds 2-3, they might trade down in round one. Whatever they do, they’re going to be able to find a running back (or two) that they like.

When I put together an early top-50 for 2018 list on Sunday, ten running backs were listed. That’s ten prospects potentially going before the end of round two. It’s not unrealistic. Some might drop into round three. Alvin Kamara did after all. It speaks to the depth at the position though — and the options available to the Seahawks.

They won’t have a shot at Saquon Barkley but the rest could all be in range. They might wish to consider Nick Chubb, Damien Harris or Ronald Jones II with their first pick. They could find a way to get into round two and look at Sony Michel, Royce Freeman or Kerryon Johnson.

There will be options later in the draft too. It feels like a class where adding two running backs would be a wise move. Take advantage of the depth.

If they had their second and third round picks, they might be more inclined to wait. With only one pick currently — even if they trade down — it feels likely running back will be an early-ish target in the draft.

That’s perhaps backed up by Carroll’s comments later on in his two media appearances. He not only spoke about the positive impact of consistency on the offensive line — he also discussed the “new nucleus” emerging with the likes of Delano Hill, Tedric Thompson, Bradley McDougald and others. He said he’d “love to have” Byron Maxwell back and said he was “really excited” about Dion Jordan — a player who could be a “legitimate factor” in 2018.

Change is imminent on the defense. Too many well sourced reporters are talking about it. Michael Bennett admits he doesn’t think he’ll be back. Carroll suitably dodged a question about Earl Thomas returning, opting to answer by saying he’d had a great season.

Most of the change might come from within. They do have some pieces. Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright will return for sure. Frank Clark and Jarran Reed have become important players while Naz Jones had a great rookie season. Sheldon Richardson could still return while Shaq Griffin, Maxwell, McDougald and Justin Coleman impressed at various points.

A younger, cheaper defense appears to be on the cards. A new era, so to speak.

And that could mean more investment and greater expense on the offense.

That’s not to say they won’t add to the new core on defense. There are some very appealing defensive players eligible for 2018. Carroll’s words today were revealing, however. He knows he needs to repair his running game. They can’t continue to struggle there for a third straight year.

Fixing the run has to be — and will be — a priority.

If you missed it earlier I posted a piece on the recent history of the #18 pick. Check it out by clicking here. Sometimes I will be posting multiple posts in a day, so if you want to follow along click the ‘HOME’ tab in the title bar and scroll down.

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Tremaine Edmunds is a first round talent

Yesterday I sat down to watch Tremaine Edmunds for the first time. He’s a terrific prospect, one of the best I’ve watched so far.

He is destined for the first round. Possibly top-15.

Sometimes you just put on the video and a player ‘wows’ you. I’d previously focused on Tim Settle when watching Virginia Tech — but Edmunds is just as impressive.

He can play inside and outside linebacker — plus he has the length and size (6-5, 236lbs) to play some LEO. He attacks the LOS making numerous plays in the backfield (32.5 TFL’s and 10 sacks in 2016 & 2017). His pursuit is unreal, with ideal closing speed.

Look at how he handles this coverage, allowing the play to develop before the read/react to make the stop:

Now look at his play recognition, patience and finish in coverage:

His ability to read plays, stay clean, knife through traffic and make the play is almost as good as his closing burst:

Can he run to the sideline to make a play? Yes:

Here’s the evidence he can play at the LOS and act as a LEO on passing downs:

It’s very hard to identify holes in his game. He plays coverage well, he’s mobile, he has the size and the ability to play any linebacker position. His run defense is one of his best assets — he’s so tough and physical but he’s no slouch in coverage.

Is he a great athlete? According to Tony Pauline he’s expected to run in the 4.5’s and push 40-inches in the vertical. That’ll do.

To me he’s the type of player that could come in and offer genuine star talent to the defense. He’d compliment Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright. He can fill in inside if needs be. He can offer some third down pass rush. It’d be a move towards further making the front seven the heart of the defense, as they appear to be transitioning from the LOB being the soul.

If the Seahawks want to play great defense and do it Pete’s way — they need better young players coming in. Guys they can count on to launch a new run.

Edmunds looks capable of doing that.

With the Seahawks sadly drifting towards missing the playoffs, this is the type of player who could appear on their radar. That wouldn’t have been possible during the post-season runs.

That’s the positive slant.

Edmunds isn’t just talented on the field after. He seems likeable in interviews and will likely impress teams if he declares.

Star quality.

I also wanted to put this up today. It’s some audio on the draft class overall. Have a listen — there’s some useful information on how the NFL scouts are viewing the class. I’d also be interested in your feedback. I don’t plan on future podcasts just being me talking on and on (we will have guests!) but I wanted to get this out there. If this is too long, too much of one voice or difficult to follow, I’d like to know what you think…

Post-combine mock draft: 7th March

Here we go then — the post-combine, pre-free agency mock draft (including a seven-round Seahawks projection). Trades are included and noted below:

Trade A
Buffalo trades #10, #43 and a 2018 pick to Chicago for the #3 pick
The Bills appear set to move on from Tyrod Taylor and have been aggressive in the past (Sammy Watkins). The Bears welcome the opportunity to trade down.

Trade B
Cleveland trades #12 and #33 to Tennessee for the #5 pick
The Titans are open for business and might be willing to trade down seven spots for the #33 pick in this loaded class. The Browns move up for a quarterback.

Trade C
Tennessee trades #18 to New Orleans for Brandin Cooks
The Titans get a proven, dynamic receiver and the Saints get another pick to help rebuild their defense.

#1 Cleveland — Myles Garrett (EDGE, Texas A&M)
#2 San Francisco — Solomon Thomas (DE, Stanford)
#3 Buffalo (via Chi) — Deshaun Watson (QB, Clemson)
#4 Jacksonville — Malik Hooker (S, Ohio State)
#5 Cleveland (via Ten) — Mitch Trubisky (QB, North Carolina)
#6 New York Jets — Garett Bolles (T, Utah)
#7 San Diego — Jamal Adams (S, LSU)
#8 Carolina — Leonard Fournette (RB, LSU)
#9 Cincinnati — Taco Charlton (EDGE, Michigan)
#10 Chicago (via Buf) — John Ross (WR, Washington)
#11 New Orleans — Haason Reddick (LB, Temple)
#12 Tennessee (via Cle) — Sidney Jones (CB, Washington)
#13 Arizona — Patrick Mahomes (QB, Texas Tech)
#14 Philadelphia (via Min) — Marshon Lattimore (CB, Ohio State)
#15 Indianapolis — Reuben Foster (LB, Alabama)
#16 Baltimore — Jarrad Davis (LB, Florida)
#17 Washington — Jabrill Peppers (S, Michigan)
#18 New Orleans (via Ten) — Marlon Humphrey (CB, Alabama)
#19 Tampa Bay — O.J. Howard (TE, Alabama)
#20 Denver — Forrest Lamp (G, Western Kentucky)
#21 Detroit — Charles Harris (EDGE, Missouri)
#22 Miami — Budda Baker (S, Washington)
#23 New York Giants — David Njoku (TE, Miami)
#24 Oakland — Gareon Conley (CB, Ohio State)
#25 Houston — Ryan Ramcyzk (T, Wisconsin)
#26 Seattle — Kevin King (CB, Washington)
#27 Kansas City — Dalvin Cook (RB, Florida State)
#28 Dallas — Justin Evans (S, Texas A&M)
#29 Green Bay — Adoree’ Jackson (CB, LSU)
#30 Pittsburgh — Derek Barnett (DE, Tennessee)
#31 Atlanta — Obi Melifonwu (S, Connecticut)
#32 New England — Christian McCaffrey (RB, Stanford)

Seahawks seven-round projection

R1 — Kevin King (CB, Washington)
R2 — Tyus Bowser (LB, Houston)
R3 — Isaac Asiata (G, Utah)
R3 — George Kittle (TE, Iowa)
R3 — Shalom Luani (S, Washington State)
R6 — Marquez White (CB, Florida State)
R7 — Chris Carson (RB, Oklahoma State)

Mock draft notes

There’s probably only 2-3 legitimate top-10 picks. There’s approximately 80-90 players worthy of a top-60 grade.

The players taken between #11-20 are going to have a slightly better grade than the players taken at #40-45.

For that reason, it’s a really difficult class to project.

For example — I didn’t intend to exclude Corey Davis (WR, Western Michigan) and Mike Williams (WR, Clemson). I just struggled to find a spot for them.

You might argue it’s unrealistic for these two to drop into the second round — but who are we leaving out to make room?

Is there anyone in that #10-32 range that doesn’t deserve a place in the first round? I’d argue no.

And it’s not like Davis and Williams don’t have their issues. Davis won’t workout pre-draft due to injury and both he and Williams are in the ‘good not necessarily great’ category. What stands out with either player, compared to ECU’s Zay Jones or USC’s JuJu Smith-Schuster (for example)?

Jonathan Allen isn’t included due to injury concerns. News about moderate arthritis in both shoulders is significant. We saw a year ago how long-term injury concerns impacted Myles Jack’s stock. He went from sure-fire top-10 pick to second rounder. There’s no doubting Allen’s tape is excellent — but with so many talented alternatives in this draft, you’re going to really need to believe in him to take a chance on his long-term health. He might be a one-contract player.

It’s very possible Davis, Williams and Allen go in the top-20. The fact is though — some really good players are going to be there in round two.

It’s that type of draft.

Other notes

— Haason Reddick at #11? Why not? He’s a notch behind Myles Garrett in terms of explosive traits. New Orleans took Sheldon Richardson at #12 a year ago because of his explosive testing scores. Ryan Shazier was the #15 pick in 2014 and Reddick’s that type of talent.

— Jarrad Davis at #16? Some teams are going to love Davis’ combination of intensity, closing speed, length and love for the game. He’s occasionally compared to Ray Lewis. It wouldn’t be a surprise if Baltimore sees similarities between the two.

— Dalvin Cook dropping to #27? A cursory Google search reveals significant character flags that need checking out. On top of that, he had a thoroughly underwhelming combine. Cook ran a 4.53 three cone. Eddie Vanderdoes — at 305lbs — ran a 4.39.

— Top-45 picks? Corey Davis, Mike Williams, Jonathan Allen, T.J. Watt, Tre’Davious White, Takk McKinley, Quincy Wilson, Cam Robinson, Malik McDowell, Alvin Kamara, Bucky Hodges, Evan Engram, Chidobe Awuzie, Cordrea Tankersley and Fabian Moreau could be in contention.

Notes on the Seahawks

The pick at #26 came down to two freakish athletes — Kevin King and Obi Melifonwu. One player has the freakish athletic profile needed to persuade the Seahawks to take a corner early, the other is a dynamic defensive ‘chess-piece’ capable of playing ‘Buffalo’ and a variety of other roles.

Reports on Monday suggested there’s a belief Melifonwu is ‘soft’. I’m not sold on that. There’s a tendency sometimes to see a freakish athletic profile and then expect to witness Garett Bolles, Myles Garrett and Leonard Fournette-level intensity on tape.

What you see from Melifonwu are 6-8 plays a game where you see the potential. He’ll run through traffic, explode to the ball carrier and deliver a TFL. He’ll cover a crossing route perfectly and show off that terrific form in the broad jump to knock the ball down. He’ll chase down the running back from behind blitzing off the edge. His tackling form is very assured and he can read/react and close comfortably.

This isn’t ‘soft’ football. What teams need to determine is whether he loves ball. He’s quite a passive character overall. He seems like a nice guy. His coaches admit he’s not a big-time vocal leader although he made some improvements in 2016.

Reports suggest the Seahawks have invested a serious amount of time trying to work him out at the Senior Bowl and Combine. I suspect this is an attempt to get a feel for who he is. Will he come out of his shell sharing a locker room with Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor et al?

After all, Kam developed into the heart and soul of this defense. Other personalities on this team have been developed. Bobby Wagner is a good example of this. He’s right up there now in terms of leadership — but it didn’t happen overnight.

If they believe Melifonwu has gritty aspects to his character — they’ll likely back themselves to bring it out. And if that is the case there’s a very good chance he’ll be a Seahawks target at #26. He will be very enticing for this team and could be their guy — as we discussed yesterday.

However, in this mock I went with Kevin King. Pete Carroll specifically stated cornerback, linebacker and O-line were the priority targets this off-season. Melifonwu is a hybrid, King is a corner.

When you run through King’s physical profile, he might be the dream project for an old secondary coach and his younger defensive-coordinator protégé:

— King’s 6.56 three cone was the fastest among cornerbacks this year and it’s the second fastest in the last five years (beaten only by 5-11 Will Davis in 2013).

— His three cone is the seventh best by a corner in the last 12 years (quicker than Patrick Peterson).

— He had easily the fastest short shuttle this year by any player (3.89) and the fourth best time in the last five years.

— Any concerns about his long-speed were misguided and incorrect. He ran a 4.43.

— He’s explosive, recording a 39.5 inch vertical. He didn’t do the broad jump at the combine but managed a 10-10 a year ago at the Husky combine.

— He has the required size (6-3, 200lbs) and length (32 inch arms) this team covets.

What you have here is a player with the deep speed to cover burner’s downfield, the short-area quickness to handle dynamic slot receivers and the size and length to handle big targets and contest the football.

King has so many similar traits to Richard Sherman, only he’s a better athlete.

The question shouldn’t be whether the Seahawks will have any interest in King, it’s whether he’ll even last to pick #26.

The rest of the seven-round projection handles Seattle’s needs. They select a SAM/LEO in Tyus Bowser. They get extra competition on the offensive line with Isaac Asiata — one of the few O-liners who matches their physical profile in this draft. They tap into the tight end class (George Kittle) and find a replacement for Luke Willson. They get depth at safety with one of the grittiest players in the draft (Shalom Luani) and they finish off with another cornerback pick (Marquez White) and some more competition at running back (Chris Carson).

Alternatively, they could take another cornerback in round three (eg Shaq Griffin) or target a versatile linebacker with the potential to provide depth and cover in a handful of spots (Vince Biegel? Alex Anzalone?). With depth on the D-line too, that could be an option between rounds 3-7.

I’m considering doing a live Q&A on the blog (coveritlive style) this week. Let me know in the comments section if this is something you’d be interested in.

And a reminder that free agency begins in earnest today. Here’s one name to monitor:

In case you’re wondering, Schwenke’s TEF score is 3.04.

Updated mock draft: 31st December

Notes below. Happy New Year!

Feel free to use this as an open thread for tonight’s two college football playoff games.

1. Cleveland Browns — Myles Garrett (EDGE, Texas A&M)
2. San Francisco 49ers — Mitch Trubisky (QB, North Carolina)
3. Chicago Bears — Jonathan Allen (DE, Alabama)
4. Jacksonville Jaguars — Jabrill Peppers (S, Michigan)
5. Tennessee Titans (via Rams) — Reuben Foster (LB, Alabama)
6. New York Jets — Leonard Fournette (RB, LSU)
7. San Diego Chargers — Jamal Adams (S, LSU)
8. Cincinnati Bengals — Solomon Thomas (DE, Stanford)
9. Carolina Panthers — Ryan Ramcyzk (T, Wisconsin)
10. Cleveland Browns (via Eagles) — Dalvin Cook (RB, Florida State)
11. Arizona Cardinals — Marlon Humphrey (CB, Alabama)
12. Buffalo Bills — O.J. Howard (TE, Alabama)
13. Indianapolis Colts — Tim Williams (EDGE, Alabama)
14. New Orleans Saints — Takkarist McKinley (EDGE, UCLA)
15. Philadelphia Eagles (via Vikings) — John Ross (WR, Washington)
16. Tennessee Titans — Sidney Jones (CB, Washington)
17. Baltimore Ravens — Demarcus Walker (DE, Florida State)
18. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Quincy Wilson (CB, Florida)
19. Denver Broncos — Garett Bolles (T, Utah)
20. Washington Redskins — Zach Cunningham (LB, Vanderbilt)
21. Detroit Lions — Charles Harris (EDGE, Missouri)
22. Miami Dolphins — Adoree’ Jackson (CB, USC)
23. New York Giants — Budda Baker (S, Washington)
24. Kansas City Chiefs — Mike Williams (WR, Clemson)
25. Houston Texans — Taco Charlton (EDGE, Michigan)
26. Green Bay Packers — Derek Barnett (DE, Tennessee)
27. Pittsburgh Steelers — Deshaun Watson (QB, Clemson)
28. Seattle Seahawks — Haason Reddick (LB, Temple)
29. Atlanta Falcons — Jalen Tabor (CB, Florida)
30. Oakland Raiders — Christian McCaffrey (RB, Stanford)
31. New England Patriots — Obi Melifonwu (S, Connecticut)
32. Dallas Cowboys — Malik McDowell (DE, Michigan State)

The Seahawks take who?

Yes, after days of talking about the O-line, the running game and interior pass rush — in this mock the Seahawks take a linebacker in round one.

Here’s the thing. A lot of the guys we’ve talked about being possible targets for the Seahawks are rising up the board. Garett Bolles looks like being a top-20 lock. I’d love to continue to pair him with the Seahawks — but is it realistic?

Even if someone like Vita Vea declares — he’ll likely head straight into the top-20 because he might be Haloti Ngata.

I could’ve given them a different defensive lineman or D’Onta Foreman — but I need to see their combine workouts to fully understand if they’ll be targets or not.

Troy’s Antonio Garcia is said to be a big riser according to Tony Pauline. Yet there’s very little tape available online at the moment.

The one thing you can always fall back on with the Seahawks is they love grit, beating adversity, freaky athleticism and production.

Step forward Haason Reddick.

At his junior pro-day he reportedly ran a 4.47 at 6-1 and around 230lbs. He also supposedly had a 10-10 in the broad jump and a 36-inch vertical.

Let’s compare this to Bruce Irvin’s combine:

Forty: 4.50
Broad jump: 10-3
Vertical jump: 33.5 inches

We’ll have to see if Reddick can back up the numbers above — but there’s your comparison.

Now let’s compare the two statistically:

Bruce Irvin’s two years at West Virginia

— 29 TFL’s
— 22.5 sacks
— 5 forced fumbles

Haason Reddick final two years at Temple

— 35 TFL’s
— 15.5 sacks
— 4 forced fumbles
— one interception

Reddick’s a former walk-on at Temple. Here’s what I wrote about him earlier this month:

In High School, Reddick suffered a fractured femur and missed an entire season. Upon his return, he suffered a torn meniscus. With no tape to impress potential landing spots in college, he went to Temple University with the intention of becoming a regular student.

His father grew up in Camden with one of the Owls’ assistants — Francis Brown — and put in a good word for him. He was offered the chance to walk-on.

Even then it wasn’t plain sailing. He was told there was no place for him on the team. A change of coaching staff from Al Golden’s crew to Matt Rhule’s led to one last chance and he took it and eventually earned a scholarship.

The rest is history.

If they’re looking for an impact player with great athleticism that has battled adversity — Reddick could be a target. He’s accepted an invite to the Senior Bowl where he’ll have a chance to bolster his stock.

A few weeks ago we talked about being able to possibly draft Garett Bolles, Haason Reddick and Shalom Luani in the same draft class. They could all end up in the top-50 by the end of April.

I know this won’t be many people’s ideal scenario. That’s not the point though — we’re here to look at different options and possibilities.

Could they trade down?

With two quarterbacks (Trubisky, Watson) off the board there’d be every chance. Some teams will want a shot at Deshone Kizer.

What would this mean in terms of Seattle’s big needs?

They’d still have a second rounder to get an impact player — but if they’re picking someone like Reddick they likely would’ve filled some needs in free agency.

Were they able to land an interior disruptor like Calais Campbell? Some veteran help for the O-line? Add a physical running back?

It’d be a lot of work to do in free agency — but not impossible. And any one of these needs could still be addressed in rounds two or three. The Seahawks are expected to receive an extra third round compensatory pick.

Who might they target later on?

Depending on what they do in free agency, here are some suggestions:

Bradley Chubb (DE, NC State) — he’s 6-4 and 275lbs with the tools to be an inside/out type rusher. He had 21.5 TFL’s this year and 10 sacks. The 21.5 TFL’s are the second best in school history behind Mario Williams’ 27.5 in 2005. He’s the cousin of Georgia running back Nick Chubb. We know Chubb had an explosive performance at his Nike SPARQ Combine so there’s a chance Chubb will have an exciting physical profile too.

Shalom Luani (S, Washington State) — Exciting, underrated safety with the range to cover a lot of ground quickly and the physical toughness to play up at the LOS. His backstory is the definition of grit and he could easily be a fast riser into the earlier rounds. If the Seahawks want to tap into a strong safety class and get some quality depth for Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor, this could be their guy.

Forrest Lamp (T, Western Kentucky) — Probably more of a guard at the next level, Lamp came to prominence with a strong performance against Alabama earlier this year. The Seahawks want intelligent, explosive offensive linemen. We’ll see if Lamp has the physical profile at the combine — but his personality and character will be very attractive to teams.

Adam Bisnowaty (T, Pittsburgh) — He was a highly rated four-star recruit in High School with a wrestling background (something we know Tom Cable likes). He could compete at tackle or guard. He wears Evan Mathis’ #69 and there are some similarities in their style. Tony Pauline has compared Bisnowaty to Ricky Wagner — a free agent-to-be from Baltimore.

Dalvin Tomlinson (DT, Alabama) — Massive, athletic defensive tackle from a system we know the Seahawks appreciate. Great character, has battled some adversity. Talented musician and artist too. Not the best pass rusher but could forge a solid career as a Tony McDaniel type.

Chad Wheeler (T, USC) — At times really looks the part of a future pro tackle. Consistency isn’t always there and he has a tendency to lunge. If he can correct the technical issues he has a skill set worth monitoring. One to watch at the combine.

Elijah Qualls & Greg Gaines (DT’s, Washington) — Reports suggest Vita Vea won’t declare but it’s not clear what Qualls and Gaines intend to do. Both are really disruptive nose tackle types, capable of causing problems in the passing game and not just the run.

You could include others too. Dorian Johnson, Dan Feeney, Caleb Brantley, Chris Wormley, Dion Dawkins, Taylor Moton to name a few. The combine will reveal a lot as usual. We’ll have a better idea of the names to watch.

Derrick Nnadi announced after FSU’s Bowl victory yesterday he won’t be declaring for the draft.

Who moves up in the mock?

Solomon Thomas was outstanding in his Bowl game against North Carolina. He completely dominated throughout, making several splash plays including the game decider. On that evidence he’s going in the top-15. No doubt about it.

Taco Charlton was very productive against Florida State. Missouri’s Charles Harris hasn’t had much attention this year but teams will love his skill set and profile. Both will likely go in the top-25.

I prefer Garett Bolles to Ryan Ramcyzk but won’t ignore the noise that Ramcyzk is highly rated. Bolles’ age might be an issue for some teams (25 in May) but he should still crack the top-20.

Why aren’t you dropping Jabrill Peppers like everyone else?

Myles Garrett had 15 TFL’s in 2016. Guess how many TFL’s Jabrill Peppers (a safety/linebacker) had?


He also had 3.5 sacks, seven QB hurries, an interception, a punt-return score and he averaged 6-yards per touch in the running game on offense.

Peppers was highly involved in virtually every Michigan game. He doesn’t have eight picks like Earl Thomas in his final year at Texas — but he still found a way to have a major impact.

Has lack of commitment to the run hurt Seattle’s O-line?

Have the Seahawks committed enough to their running game this year?

Time for a different angle on all the O-line talk.

I mentioned in the podcast yesterday something that possibly doesn’t get brought up enough. Are some of the problems on the offensive line self-inflicted?

After all, this is a team that for years has sought to be committed to the run. To an extent the players they’ve added were brought here to run block first and foremost — to carve out Seattle’s key identity on offense.

Run, run, run.

Has it ever felt like this team truly committed to the run game at any point in 2016?

The Seahawks have drafted some of the most explosive players in the draft in recent years to play on the O-line. When we put together our Trench Explosion Formula to judge draft prospects, we went back and looked at Seattle’s previous picks. The results showed a concerted effort to target explosive, physically dominant players to compete in the trenches.

Seattle’s guards and center are arguably the most explosive trio of linemen in the league based on their pre-draft testing.

This isn’t a finesse group of guys. They’re made for running the ball.

In the pre-season we saw an interior blowing people off the LOS and creating nice lanes for Christine Michael. We saw clever misdirection plays, big yardage. A group that looked ready to set the tone during the regular season.

And yet here we are, heading into the final weekend of the NFL season and the Seahawks are 19th in the league for total number of runs (378).

The Dallas Cowboys, ranked first, have run the ball exactly 100 more times than the Seahawks. Even the New England Patriots are #3 on the list with 453 attempts.

Alternatively, the Seahawks are #12 in pass attempts. Dallas are at #19.

You’d never imagine these numbers watching the Seahawks between 2012-2014 or listening to the way Pete Carroll talks about his vision for this franchise.

Can a case be made that the Seahawks could’ve made life easier for this young, inexperienced group by dedicating their offense to the run? Emphasising their physical traits and covering up some of their technical weaknesses and lack of understanding?

Have they damaged the confidence and psyche of the unit by asking them to pass protect a lot, considering the widespread criticism that has followed?

Have they abandoned the run too early in games and almost ignored it in others?

There might be reasons for this. Injuries to the quarterback and how defenses have adjusted when playing Seattle. Losing Russell Wilson’s run production. Injuries at running back. The way certain games have flowed (eg needing to come from behind). Have they ever truly trusted the running backs? Christine Michael was cut, Thomas Rawls and C.J. Prosise injured and it took another spate of injuries for Alex Collins to get any kind of significant work.

None of this excuses the poor play in 2016 — but has progress stalled because the Seahawks have not focused on the one thing they’ve done well for years and arguably drafted these guys to do?

There are flashes of talent on the tape. Potential. Tom Cable noted in his press conference yesterday that Germain Ifedi has been ‘fairly dominant’ recently. Look at the way he attacks the second level here:

Also note the way Gilliam drives his man off the LOS to create a nice big lane for Alex Collins.

This was a run play.

Now let’s look at this one:

This is a pass. Ifedi doesn’t know his assignment and has to ask Justin Britt what to do. Britt points at one guy but it’s too late. Ifedi is lost and doesn’t block anybody.

It’s a small sample size of course but it kind of highlights how green this O-line is. They don’t even fully understand what they’re supposed to do. With three first time starters including rookies at right guard and left tackle — this has probably happened a few times this season.

How often do you think Ronald Leary or Zack Martin turn to Travis Frederick right before the snap and ask, ‘Hey, so which is my guy again?’

And yet physically they’re good enough to just get out there and execute a run play against a big, aggressive Arizona defensive front and look really good doing it.

Should they be leaning on the physical upside of these guys instead of trying to master pass-protection?

Should they be committing, universally, to the running game to make life easy for them?

It’s too late now, going into week 17, to really feel the benefit of such a commitment. Had they done this after the Tampa Bay game we might’ve seen a 2014 style ‘slug fest’ end to the season and an offense that at least is not a hindrance (as it has been in several games).

Hindsight is a wonderful thing — but I suspect they’d rather be in the top-five for rushing attempts right now than #19 and live with the results. Maybe they’d be a bad running team still? At least we’d know.

They might actually have an offensive identity. They might actually have a consistent offense.

What they actually have is a hotchpotch of parts. They’re not doing anything particularly well game-to-game. Given everything we’ve heard about the importance of the run to this team since 2010 — it feels like a mistake that with this O-line they didn’t just commit to their physical upside.

What are the consequences? The clamour in the off-season will be for the Seahawks to spend big on the O-line in free agency. Find immediate quality starters in the hope expensive talent will give the team a quick fix.

It’s a shame really because it’s clear there is talent and potential with the existing starters. And the plan, we all believed, was to create an O-line that could grow together and be good for years at an inexpensive price.

It’ll be a hard sell to stand by this group going into 2017. Not just with fans — but also probably with the more outspoken members of the team. 2016 has the feel of a potential lost season. They don’t want to go through this again next year.

And yet you might be giving up on them because of a self-inflicted crisis. They might actually be the answer, believe it or not. Some further investment would be needed of course. I still think Utah’s Garett Bolles could be the ideal first round pick for this team. They might not get a chance to select him — he is that good. There are others though. The middle rounds of the 2017 draft should provide some nice options too.

However, with the 2016 performance so far you imagine they’ll feel obliged to open the cheque book and be aggressive. Or make trades.

Anything to extend the Championship window.

This won’t necessarily be the answer either. According to Football Outsiders, Minnesota’s O-line is 30th in the run game and 19th in the passing game. Their big off-season moves included signing Alex Boone and Andre Smith. Combined the pair cost $11.2m in 2016.

In comparison, Seattle is ranked 26th and 25th for running and passing respectively.

The teams at the top of the rankings are generally sides with home-grown O-lines. Dallas, Pittsburgh, Washington, New Orleans, Tennessee. Units crafted over time with a bit of experience thrown in for good measure.

So while it will be attractive to many to go out and spend, a greater commitment to running the ball in 2017 and further investment via the draft might not be the worst thing for this side. Whether they can justify that — internally or externally — is another thing completely. Especially this team, determined to win now and needing to address other needs too such as the defensive line or a defense in general that is enduring a historically bad year for turnovers.

Seahawks’ draft needs: Running game and D-line

Seattle’s run defense has regressed in 2016

1. Running game

The Seahawks are 27th in the league with 978 rushing yards. They’re averaging 3.7 YPA and 87.8 YPG.

Last season Seattle had the third most productive running attack (2268 yards), averaging 4.5 YPA and 141.8 YPG.

This is a huge, unexpected regression.

Clearly Russell Wilson’s immobility has had an impact here. He’s never had less than 489 yards in a season and last year, during his best ever passing campaign, he still managed 553 yards. He currently has 159 at an average of 3.4 YPC. He’ll do well to top 300 yards for the year.

Losing Wilson’s threat to run discombobulated the offense and that cannot be underestimated. It’s still concerning they weren’t able to run productively with Wilson hampered. You shouldn’t be relying on that one aspect to prop up your preferred offensive identity. It suggests they’re highly susceptible without Wilson at 100% mobility. They can ill-afford to endure such damaging results every time a quarterback as active as Wilson picks up an injury.

The Seahawks’ general rushing attack hasn’t been this bad since it ranked last in the league in 2010. Their inability to run in 2010 provoked the Marshawn Lynch trade and Seattle spent their first two picks in the 2011 draft on run-blocking offensive linemen.

They could be similarly aggressive in the upcoming off-season. It wouldn’t be a surprise if they look to rectify this situation with additions to the offensive line and/or running back.

Thomas Rawls and C.J. Prosise are clearly very talented but so far neither has shown they can stay healthy. Do the Seahawks lack a bell-cow physical runner to compliment the two more athletic/explosive backs?

Do they also need to keep adding pieces to the offensive line? We’ve talked about Utah’s Garett Bolles and how he might be an ideal acquisition for either the left or right tackle position. There won’t be a ton of options in what looks to be a poor draft for offensive linemen.

It seems inevitable that they’ll be active in improving the run game unless there’s a major upturn in performance over the next few weeks.

2. Interior pass rush

In 2013 and 2014 the Seahawks were able to rely on at least one player to provide pressure and production at defensive tackle. In 2015 and 2016, that production has practically disappeared.

2013: Clinton McDonald — 6.5 sacks
2014: Jordan Hill — 6.5 sacks
2015: Jordan Hill — 0 sacks
2016: McDaniel/Rubin/Reed/Jefferson combined: 1.5 sacks

In fairness the EDGE pass rush has never been so productive during the Carroll era. Cliff Avril has 10 sacks (one short of equalling a career high), Frank Clark is already at 7.5 sacks and Michael Bennett, despite missing a few games, also has three sacks.

Yet it was quite telling that Carroll referenced trying to find an interior rush when they concluded the signing of John Jenkins — despite his physical appearance screaming ‘nose tackle’.

The Seahawks don’t necessarily need an Aaron Donald. A 10-sack interior presence in the mould of Donald or Ndamukong Suh isn’t a realistic target without a top-15 pick. They just need someone who can fill that 6.5 sack hole vacated by McDonald and Hill in 2013-14.

Quinton Jefferson might’ve developed into that man before he landed on injured reserve. Jordan Hill was cut after another injury during the summer. The question is now — do they take a chance on Jefferson in 2017 or do they go out and seek another body to try and fill this need?

It could be a pure defensive tackle like Florida State’s Derrick Nnadi. He has underrated talent as a pass rusher, a nice thick, powerful, explosive 6-1/312lbs frame and could be the answer. They might also fill the need with another inside/out rusher — someone capable of playing end in base and kicking inside when needed.

The upcoming draft looks set to be well stocked on the D-line and could provide a solution.

3. Run defense

One of the lesser talked about regressions in Seattle is the run defense. Last year the Seahawks didn’t give up a single 100-yard rusher during the regular season. They also led the league in total run defense.

Look at the difference over the years:

Total run defense (ranking in brackets)

2014: 1304 yards (#3)
2015: 1304 yards (#1)
2016: 1102 yards in 11 games (#14)

Yards per game (ranking in brackets)

2014: 81.5 (#3)
2015: 81.5 (#1)
2016: 100.2 (#14)

You could put it down to the loss of Brandon Mebane although the 2014 Seahawks coped without Mebane after he landed on injured reserved before week 11.

For whatever reason this defense has only done an average job overall against the run. And it’s not like the numbers are influenced by freaky Russell Wilson-esque QB gains. Here’s the list of QB’s they’ve faced this year and their running totals vs Seattle:

Ryan Tannehill: 17 yards
Case Keenum: 5 yards
Blaine Gabbert: 22 yards
Ryan Fitzpatrick: 5 yards
Matt Ryan: 2 yards
Carson Palmer: 8 yards
Drew Brees: 1 yard
Tyrod Taylor: 43 yards
Tom Brady: 7 yards
Carson Wentz: 2 yards
Jameis Winston: 12 yards

Adding to the intrigue is the way Seattle hasn’t given up many ‘explosive’ plays in the run game. They actually rank #3 in the NFL for limiting runs of +10 yards:

1. Baltimore — 17
2. New York Giants — 21
3. Seattle — 22
4. Green Bay — 22
5. Carolina — 25

However, their ‘stuff percentage’ (defined as the percentage of rushes stopped behind the LOS) is only #18 in the NFL at 8.9%. The Dallas Cowboys are stuffing 16.5% of runs on defense, Los Angeles are managing 15% and Green Bay 14.8%.

This seems to be a D-line issue and not a second level problem.

Based on my amateur eye test, I wouldn’t suggest Athyba Rubin, Jarran Reed and Tony McDaniel have played poorly. Yet perhaps needs two and three in this piece mesh together. Do they need a penetrating interior disruptor who not only impacts the passing game but also collapses the pocket and gets into the backfield to impact the running game too?

How often do you see Rubin, Reed or McDaniel pull off a dynamic swim/rip and force the RB to stall and adjust? How often are Seattle’s D-line tackling the runner at the LOS and not in the backfield?

How much is it down to a desire to focus on gap control, sound discipline and prevention of the big play versus being able to go out and actually make the big play as a Seahawks defensive tackle?

According to Sporting Charts, Seattle’s interior defensive linemen have contributed three TFL’s in total. For arguments sake, here’s the top performing DT’s in the league for TFL’s:

Aaron Donald — 15
Geno Atkins — 9
Kawann Short — 8
Timmy Jernigan — 8
Calais Campbell — 8
Kyle Williams — 8
Malik Jackson — 7

Aaron Donald, admittedly a truly elite player in the league, has 12 more TFL’s than Seattle’s collection of DT’s combined. Kyle Williams in Buffalo has personally accumulated five more than Seattle’s group.

It might not be a coincidence that Timmy Jernigan has eight TFL’s and Baltimore currently leads the NFL in run defense.

For the Seahawks to get back to being one of the best run defenses in the NFL — they probably need an impact player working the interior. Someone capable of getting 8-10 TFL’s in the way Jernigan has for the Ravens this year.

Two of the players named above — Calais Campbell and Kawann Short — are free agents at the end of the season. Are they too expensive for Seattle? Do they even reach the open market? Possibly not.

This is one of the reasons why a player like Derrick Nnadi might be intriguing. He has 9.5 TFL’s this year to go with his 5.5 sacks. He looks better, at least in my opinion, than Timmy Jernigan looked at FSU.

Again, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a pure DT. Demarcus Walker is an inside/out type of rusher and he has 16.5 TFL’s this season. Takk McKinley has 18 TFL’s. Solomon Thomas has 13. All three have the size and range to potentially play DE/DT.

If you want a list of the top performing players for TFL in college football, here you go. Note the national leader — Temple’s Haason Reddick — possibly an ideal candidate for the Seahawks to play SAM/LEO if he’s available in the round three range.

Other needs?

I’ve seen people suggesting receiver, SAM linebacker and cornerback recently. I think receiver would be an ideal ‘luxury’ pick if this was either a particularly good draft for WR’s (it isn’t) or the Seahawks didn’t have more striking needs elsewhere.

Fixing the run offense, run defense and finding an interior pass rush are critical needs for future success and for the core identity of the team. These have to take precedence over getting an upgrade over contracted players like Jermaine Kearse or Paul Richardson.

Basically you can live with Kearse and Richardson complimenting Doug Baldwin, Jimmy Graham and Tyler Lockett. I’m not sure you can live with the current running game or D-line performance.

The SAM position is basically a two-down role. The Seahawks keep K.J. Wright and Bobby Wagner on the field in any scenario and prefer to use an extra defensive back or pass rusher on key downs. Unless the player you’re drafting is a Bruce Irvin-style athlete capable of playing SAM and LEO, this is unlikely to be an area the Seahawks attack. It’s why Haason Reddick might be so appealing in the middle rounds.

Cornerback is also a slightly overrated option. The Seahawks have club control over DeShawn Shead in 2017 and they just re-signed Jeremy Lane to a decent contract. Corner hasn’t been a problem area short of a couple of iffy games for Lane and they prefer to develop players who fit a specific body type. It would be a bit of a surprise if the CB position wasn’t given, at best, the round 5-7 treatment in 2017.

If there is one other position they might focus on it could be safety. Not for any particular reason other than this is looking like a superb class for safety’s and they might wish to tap into the goodness. As noted this week, Shalom Luani’s backstory and fight to make a career out of football screams Seahawks. He could be their guy.

New 2017 NFL mock draft: 27th October

1. Browns 0-7 — Leonard Fournette (RB, LSU)
2. 49ers 1-6 — Myles Garrett (EDGE, Texas A&M)
3. Bears 1-6 — Jabril Peppers (S, Michigan)
4. Panthers 1-5 — Jonathan Allen (DE, Alabama)
5. Jets 2-5 — Tim Williams (EDGE, Alabama)
6. Jaguars 2-4 — Malik Hooker (S, Ohio State)
7. Saints 2-4 — Marlon Humphrey (CB, Alabama)
8. Ravens 3-4 — Reuben Foster (LB, Alabama)
9. Colts 3-4 — Dalvin Cook (RB, Florida State)
10. Titans 3-4 — Jamal Adams (S, LSU)
11. Dolphins 3-4 — Justin Evans (S, Texas A&M)
12. Titans via Rams 3-4 — O.J. Howard (TE, Alabama)
13. Bengals 3-4 — Dawuane Smoot (EDGE, Illinois)
14. Chargers 3-4 — Cam Sutton (CB, Tennessee)
15. Cardinals 3-3-1 — Tre’Davious White (CB, LSU)
16. Buccaneers 3-3 — Derek Barnett (DE, Tennessee)
17. Bills 4-3 — Malik McDowell (DE, Michigan State)
18. Lions 4-3 — Marshon Lattimore (CB, Ohio State)
19. Redskins 4-3 — Christian McCaffrey (RB, Stanford)
20. Falcons 4-3 — Jarrad Davis (LB, Florida)
21. Steelers 4-3 — DeShaun Watson (QB, Clemson)
22. Texans 4-3 — Jalen Tabor (CB, Florida)
23. Giants 4-3 — Azeem Victor (LB, Washington)
24. Browns via Eagles 4-2 — Mitch Trubisky (QB, North Carolina)
25. Chiefs 4-2 — Alex Anzalone (LB, Florida)
26. Packers 4-2 — Carl Lawson (EDGE, Auburn)
27. Broncos 5-2 — Evan Engram (TE, Ole Miss)
28. Raiders 5-2 — John Ross (WR, Washington)
29. Seahawks 4-1-1 — Dion Dawkins (T, Temple)
30. Cowboys 5-1 — Demarcus Walker (DE, Florida State)
31. Eagles via Vikings 5-1 — Marcus Maye (S, Florida)
32. Patriots 6-1 — Budda Baker (S, Washington)


— Mitch Trubisky is the best draft eligible quarterback in terms of 2016 performance so far. He is poised, accurate and has shown a clear ability to progress through reads and make good decisions. His arm strength is good and can get better (he has the frame to add muscle) and he’s mobile enough to extend plays. Aside from one game in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew he is avoiding turnovers and he’s led his team to several impressive late wins. He could go a lot higher than this.

— Deshone Kizer needs time on the field, in college. He has a chance to be a future #1 overall pick but he isn’t there yet. Returning to play for Notre Dame next year could be the best thing for his career.

— Running backs are not a trendy #1 overall pick and yes, you can find productive runners in the later rounds or UDFA. Every team is going to get a certain level of production at the position. A 1000-yard rusher only needs 62.5 YPG to get to that mark. The difference between a guy who gets stats and someone like Fournette is — an opponent has to gameplan for Fournette ever week. He’s drawing attention at the LOS on every snap, creating opportunities elsewhere. And even with all of this attention — he’s still going to hurt you (physically and in the stat column). He is the Bo Jackson of his generation. He is Julio Jones at running back. He is truly a generational talent and will provide an offensive identity for the team that drafts him. He’s a superstar, let’s not overthink this. He is that good.

— The Seahawks pick came down to three players:

Nick Chubb (RB, Georgia)
I wrote about Chubb last week and how he matches Seattle’s recent draft history. He is a Christine Michael-level athlete with the toughness and physicality Seattle has lacked at the position at times this year. Quite frankly — he is on a different level athletically to even Fournette and Dalvin Cook. For more on Chubb, click here. The big test will be whether he has retained that high level of explosive athleticism after suffering a serious knee injury a year ago. If he gets anywhere close he could be an early round target for Seattle, either in round one or after a move down into round two.

Demarcus Walker (DE, Florida State)
I suspect the Seahawks would love to add one more inside/out pass rusher. A player comfortable playing DE in base and kicking inside on third/passing downs. Walker is ideally sized for this role at around 280lbs and he showed vs Louisville his ability to set the edge and contain even Lamar Jackson. His ability to hand fight, get off blocks, win with technique (rip/swim) and explode to the QB is impressive and he has nine sacks in 2016 so far. That said — his motor runs hot and cold and that isn’t a habit the Seahawks have entertained under Carroll and Schneider. When he’s ‘on it’ he’s a really intriguing prospect.

Dion Dawkins (T, Temple)
I wanted to check out Dawkins after a recommendation by regular contributors Volume 12 and Kenny Sloth. I had that opportunity in the last 24 hours watching three games. I came away really impressed. He does an excellent job keeping defenders in front of him — he’ll use his length to contain and his footwork is good enough to get into position and plant. On a couple of occasions vs Notre Dame the DE would fake an outside rush and dip inside — but Dawkins recovered well and didn’t give up the inside pressure. He’s tough in the run game and seems to have a power element to his play. He doesn’t do much progressing to the second level but he’s a very consistent, good left tackle and in this mediocre year for OT’s — that could get him into round one. His combine testing will be important (they’re not taking a middling athlete especially at tackle). The league let an athletic monster drop to #31 this year (Ifedi) so it’s not out of the question he could last with a good performance. The Seahawks have scouted Temple this year too:

Seahawks seven round mock using Tony Pauline’s grades

Jihad Ward is 6-5, 295lbs and would add some competition inside

I used Tony Pauline’s rankings to try and piece together a range for each prospect. The idea was to try to enhance the pass rush, the physical toughness/size in the trenches and deliver an edge.

This projection follows a free agency period where the Seahawks let Russell Okung and Bruce Irvin walk. I’ll leave it open for you to decide what happens with the rest. I want to focus on the prospects not necessarily the fate of the free agents in this discussion.

Round 1 — Shon Coleman (T, Auburn)
He’d bring an instant edge to the O-line that has been missing since Breno Giacomini left for New York. He punishes linebackers at the second level and he’s chippy. He’ll have a word in your ear after driving you downfield six yards. There are so many passive college offensive linemen — not Coleman. He has the attitude the Seahawks are looking to re-establish in 2016. They could open up a competition to see who starts at left tackle between Garry Gilliam and Coleman. He has the length and size they like and they haven’t been put off by age in the past (he’s 24, the same age as Bruce Irvin when Seattle took him with the #15 pick).

Pauline has given Coleman a round two grade, meaning he was available to pair with the #26 pick here.

Round 2 — Noah Spence (DE, Eastern Kentucky)
If the Seahawks want to upgrade their pass rush, this could be an option. They generally haven’t drafted bigger, power ends early in the draft. It’s hard to imagine them going after a Shaq Lawson type to play the edge. It’d be equally surprising to see them draft a defensive tackle who doesn’t have unique physical or athletic traits. They have placed a premium on speed and athleticism in their front seven early. Frank Clark was a monster athlete. Spence wouldn’t replace Bruce Irvin at the SAM — but he would replace his role as the extra pass rusher on key downs. He could also be trained to be a long term successor to Cliff Avril, who turns 30 in April.

Pauline has given Spence a third round grade, meaning he was available for the Seahawks at the end of round two.

R3 — Graham Glasgow (C, Michigan)
I’m not totally convinced the Seahawks will look to draft a center early. The red shirting of Kristjan Sokoli suggests they are willing to give that project time. Their decision to start Drew Nowak also indicates they’re keen to have a truly athletic center at the heart of the O-line. They could add a veteran ‘place holder’ for 2-3 years to solidify this position. Glasgow could be moved to left guard. He plays with a real determination and edge. He isn’t going to back down at the next level. He stands his ground, plants his feet and stones interior rushers. He’s capable of driving people off the line and put on a clinic at the Shrine game practises. If the Seahawks want to add tough guys to their O-line, Graham is a good candidate. He could add 10lbs and be close to the ideal size for their left guard preference (they seem to like ‘huge’ at LG). Adding Coleman and Glasgow to the O-line, with a veteran too preferably, would instantly upgrade the toughness of that unit.

Pauline has given Graham a fifth round grade but admitted he improved his stock (possibly by two rounds) at the Shrine game. We’ll say he’s available for Seattle’s first pick in round three.

Round 3 — William Jackson (CB, Houston)
The Seahawks haven’t taken a cornerback prospect this early. Walter Thurmond is their highest corner pick in round four. That said, it might time to replenish the depth of this group and make an investment of sorts. If Jeremy Lane departs it’ll increase the pressure on Seattle to find another gem in this draft. Jackson, who pulled out of the Senior Bowl at the last minute, is 6-1 and 197lbs with long arms. He had five picks in 2015 (two returned for touchdowns). He’s not a speed demon but he’s a fluid mover — Seattle seems to be comfortable with their CB’s running in the 4.5’s. With a nice batch of corners available earlier, it might be possible for Jackson to slip into range for Seattle’s comp pick here.

Pauline has given Jackson a fourth round grade, meaning he was available for this mock.

If the Seahawks decide to do what it takes to keep Jeremy Lane — they might be satisfied with their depth at corner with DeShawn Shead and Tharold Simon returning along with a crop of young players. In that case, this could be a sweet spot at running back. For me the Seahawks need a third down back to compliment Thomas Rawls and compete for #2 snaps with Christine Michael. Perkins has the pass-catching talent to be a dynamic receiver out of the backfield. His blocking needs work but that’s the same for most college RB’s. He also has a fantastic cut-and-run ability with superb balance. He doesn’t go down on first contact either despite a lack of great size. Perkins is also a well-spoken student of the game. He’d look great in Seattle.

Pauline has given Perkins a third round grade

Round 4 — Rashard Higgins (WR, Colorado State)
If Jermaine Kearse joins a new team in free agency, the chances are the Seahawks will draft a receiver at some point. They’ve drafted three receivers in the fourth round since 2010 — Kris Durham, Chris Harper and Kevin Norwood. Although none of those three picks worked out, it’s unlikely to dissuade them going WR in this round again. Higgins has nice college production (something they value) and has shown the ability to separate and play with suddenness (another thing they like). He might not last until the late fourth but there will be plenty of other options.

Pauline has given Higgins a fifth round grade, making him available for this pick.

R5 — Jihad Ward (DT, Illinois)
In this little scenario we’re playing here, the Seahawks maybe lost Okung, Irvin, Kearse and Lane. Which would make some free cash available to make some choice additions in the free agent market. That doesn’t mean a splurge. More likely some savvy veteran experience to bolster the trenches, be it at center, left guard or the defensive line. They’ve consistently found pieces on the interior D-line to their credit — whether it’s Clinton McDonald, Athyba Rubin, Kevin Williams, Tony McDaniel and others. They know what to look for and should be able to enhance their rotation without breaking the bank. This pick might just add to the competition even if the player doesn’t make the team in year one. Ward is 6-5 and 295lbs and built to add some presence. He had 11 tackles (9 solo) against Rose Bowl finalist Iowa. He isn’t McDaniel in terms of persona but he’s similar in size and could turn into a comparable piece of the rotation. The oldest child in a single-parent household, Ward became a father figure for his siblings.

Pauline has graded Ward in the fifth or sixth round.

R6 — Fahn Cooper (T, Ole Miss)
There were two options here. Cooper — who I like a lot and don’t think will be available in round six — and Le’Raven Clark of Texas Tech — who might be one of the more overrated players in the draft. Pauline grades him as a seventh rounder and while that might be extreme — I’d certainly lean more towards that than the current first round projection (to the Seahawks no less) by’s Lance Zierlein. Clark’s tape against LSU was frankly embarrassing and showed a player with almost no future at left tackle in the NFL. He has the footwork, length and agility but almost no punch or counter, his set is inconsistent and he looks like a major project. Cooper is much more polished and accomplished. He held the fort at left tackle for Ole Miss during Laremy Tunsil’s suspension. He’s a born leader who speaks like a pro. I’d want him on my team and if I can get him this late in the draft — even better.

I suspect he will end up going in the middle rounds — yet for now Pauline has him graded in round six so I took him.

R7 — Travis Feeney (LB, Washington)
This follows on from the thought yesterday that the Seahawks might not prioritise filling the SAM spot in the draft if Bruce Irvin departs. Opening up a competition involving a draft pick, maybe an UDFA and the likes of Eric Pinkins, Kevin Pierre-Louis and Mike Morgan might be the way to go. It allows them to focus on upgrading the trenches and other areas. Feeney has had multiple shoulder surgeries and that could be enough to put him into the UDFA pool. That might be the preferred route for the Seahawks and they’ve successfully recruited former Huskies in free agency in the past. It’s unlikely he’d start in 2016 at the WILL but he could see some playing time while contributing on special teams.

Pauline is currently projecting Feeney as a sixth or seventh round pick.

R7 — Ronald Blair III (DE, Appalachian State)
I want to see what this guy can do at the combine. I’m trying to work out how and why he ended up at Appalachian State having seemingly drawn a fair amount of interest from the SEC at High School. He’s a really disruptive pass rusher who can work inside or out. For me his best role might be to gain another 10lbs and act as an orthodox three-technique (not the Athyba Rubin type). His performance against Clemson in 2015 showed he can do it against the best in college football. If you’re looking for a sleeper pick who can maybe act as an interior disruptor — Blair III could be your guy.

Pauline is projecting he will go undrafted.

Senior Bowl weigh in notes

— Vernon Butler (DT, Louisiana Tech) and Adolphus Washington (DT, Ohio State) both have really nice length. Both players are pushing 6-4 in height with 34 inch arms. Butler is 325lbs (!!!) and Washington 295lbs. It’s a bit surprising to see Butler is carrying that much weight.

— At 6-4, 299lbs and sub 33-inch arms, Joe Dahl (T, Washington State) is definitely moving inside to guard or center.

— I’ve never been a fan of Sheldon Day (DT, Notre Dame) but he measured in at 6-0 and 286lbs which is incredibly small and light.

— Le’Raven Clark (T, Texas Tech) has 36 and 1/4 inch arms at nearly 6-6 and 312lbs. He has a fantastic tackle body. It’s just a shame his tape is so disappointing (see notes above)

— Cody Whitehair (T, Kansas State) is best suited to center. That was confirmed today when he measured only 31 and 3/8 inch arms. He’s a T-Rex. He took some snaps in practise today at center.

— According to Tony Pauline, some teams are put off by Graham Glasgow’s height. He’s 6-6 and 306lbs with 33 and 1/8 inch arms. The Seahawks aren’t concerned by height at center. Max Unger is 6-5, Drew Nowak 6-3 and Kristjan Sokoli 6-5. Glasgow could play guard for Seattle too (see above).

— Noah Spence (DE, Eastern Kentucky) has to look electric and fast because he isn’t long. He’s under 6-3 and 254lbs with only 31 inch arms.

— Charles Tapper (DE, Oklahoma) is a shade under 6-3, 276lbs and has +34 inch arms. There’s a lot to like about his ability to rush inside and out.

— Deiondre Hall (CB, Northern Iowa) has nearly 35 inch arms (!!!) at a shade under 6-2 and 192lbs. Intriguing.

Senior Bowl preview & some Seahawks thoughts

Senior Bowl preview

Here’s what I’m going to be looking for from certain players on both squads:

North team

Braxton Miller (WR, Ohio State)
He’s so good in space so let’s see some of that during drills and in the game. He was underused by the Buckeyes — will he get a chance to shine here?

Carson Wentz (QB, North Dakota State)
He’s generating a lot of buzz and rightly so — but this is his chance to cement his placing in the top-15 with Paxton Lynch and possibly Jared Goff. Can he look like he belongs playing next to a better standard of college talent?

Miles Killebrew (S, Southern Utah)
There’s no doubting Miles’ passion for the game, his speed and pursuit. Further tape study showed too many missed tackles and a few bad angles. Can he iron out the wrinkles here? And will he get some looks at linebacker?

Kyler Fackrell (LB, Utah State)
This guy is very intriguing. V12 made a comparison to Jamie Collins and it’s pretty fair. He can rush the edge or be more of an orthodox SAM. His forty time, 10-yard split and overall combine performance will determine how likely he is to be a Seahawk. Could they turn him into a pure edge rusher?

Joshua Garnett (G, Stanford)
Quite simply — what shape is he in? He looks big on tape.

Joe Dahl (T, Washington State)
Firstly — is he 100% recovered from the foot injury? Secondly — where is he used? Does he stay at tackle? Will he be tried at guard and/or center?

Nick Martin (C, Notre Dame)
He’s not his brother but neither is he the total opposite of Zack. There are things to like about his game — the question is will he ever be 100% after a serious knee injury that clearly impacted his explosion. Can he impress enough to live up to Tony Pauline’s first or second round projection?

Jason Spriggs (T, Indiana)
He’s tall and long and looks like a tackle — but will he be comfortable in the 1v1 drills in pass-pro? He needs to avoid the inside counter and use his length.

Aaron Burbidge (WR, Michigan State)
Can he perform as well in the game as Tyler Lockett did a year ago? He moved the chains for MSU in 2015. Can he have a nice, consistent week?

Sheldon Day (DT, Notre Dame)
I was never overly impressed with Day in college but the Senior Bowl is ideal for linemen on both sides of the ball to improve their stock. Can he swim/rip naturally and show some flair?

Adolphus Washington (DT, Ohio State)
He has the potential to go off in Mobile. He’s a terrific interior rusher when he’s on it. The problem is — he’s very streaky. Of all the DT’s here he might be the one who leaves with the biggest boost IF he performs consistently.

Vernon Butler (DT, Louisiana Tech)
Perhaps the most interesting guy to monitor. Is he as good as some will have you believe? We’ll find out.

South team

Deion Jones (LB, LSU)
He’s a terrific athlete and a really fluid runner who would be a natural fit at the WILL. He has limited starting experience — can he prove he’s ready here in Mobile?

Sterling Shephard (WR, Oklahoma)
He has everything going for him — production, the bloodlines, the right attitude. Can he show some suddenness and explosion out of his breaks?

Jacoby Brissett (QB, NC State)
There were flashes in his college career where you could be forgiven for wondering if he was a first round talent. It didn’t happen enough. How will he look next to Dak Prescott?

Dak Prescott (QB, Mississippi State)
Speaking of which — if the Seahawks are looking for a cheap, mobile backup for Russell Wilson — should we keep an eye on Prescott’s performance this week?

Jeremy Cash (S, Duke)
How good is he? I’ve never quite been able to settle on Jeremy Cash. This will be a nice test for him.

Jalen Mills (CB, LSU)
Another player I’ve never quite settled on. How long is he? where do they use him?

Eric Striker (LB, Oklahoma)
How big is he for a start? He always looked undersized but played big. He’s an intense, sparky athlete who makes constant plays. He should thrive in Mobile with a chance to impress.

Cody Whitehair (T, Kansas State)
Do they instantly kick him inside to guard (his natural NFL position) or even center? Or does he get looks at tackle first? He could leave the week with a top-20 grade if he performs.

Connor McGovern (T, Missouri)
The next Mizzou left tackle who is likely to move inside. Justin Britt has flopped but Mitch Morse had a very good rookie season. McGovern likely plays guard or center.

Le’Raven Clark (T, Texas Tech)
His tape against LSU from 2015 is so bad you want to slam down your computer screen. Yet the Senior Bowl is made for long, nimble left tackles to make money. Can he use his natural bend and athleticism — plus his length — to prove he deserves a chance to be someone’s left tackle?

Graham Glasgow (C, Michigan)
Following reports of a productive Shrine week, can Glasgow follow it up here and continue his ascent up the board?

Evan Boehm (C, Missouri)
Teams are going to love meeting with Boehm and his gritty attitude and desire to finish blocks will stick out. He is top-heavy though and pretty squatty, which will put some teams off.

Charles Tapper (DE, Oklahoma)
He has a genuine talent to rush the passer lining up inside or out. This could be a big week for Tapper who doesn’t get anywhere near enough attention.

Shawn Oakman (DE, Baylor)
The forgotten man. Nobody can deny Oakman’s insane physical appearance — but he plays like a pussy cat. That needs to change. Right now.

Noah Spence (DE, Eastern Kentucky)
The most interesting thing with Spence will be to see if reports emerge on how teams feel about his character and background.

Other notes

— In trying to work out what they do at linebacker next year, I did have this thought. What if they just open it up to a competition? They’re unlikely to find another Bruce Irvin so will they bring in some athletes and let them go at it with Kevin Pierre-Louis, Eric Pinkins and Mike Morgan? Rather than going big to replace Irvin, do they give an opportunity to a Travis Feeney (maybe as an UDFA), a Deion Jones from LSU or a safety convert with speed? I’m not convinced this has to be a position where they go big early in the draft, especially if they want to get tougher in the trenches. It might take a back seat.

— We had a nice reminder this week from community member Steve that John Schneider referenced the Seahawks not exactly being ‘the bullies’ of the NFL this year. That’s probably true. They weren’t far off — but a lack of depth on the D-line and maybe a lack of Breno on the O-line is noticeable. So how do they regain that edge with rookies? I still think Shon Coleman is the toughest, edgiest tackle I’ve seen this year (punishes at the second level, talks trash, finishes blocks). This is a really hard-nosed group of centers with several tough guys. And yet what they really need is a left guard with size who can move people off the ball and hold their own 1v1. It’s a bit harder to find those types in college. Is there a veteran who can do it?

— Likewise on the D-line, it’s easy to point to the 2013 group and try to mimic that. It’s worth noting the number of seasoned vets on the team that are no longer in Seattle. Denver’s D-line is fearsome but again — it’s a veteran group. It’s going to be really tough with the team tight against the cap — but it kind of feels like they need to work that old magic by finding value in the free agent market.

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