There are good centers in this draft
I don’t necessarily expect the Seahawks to draft one, mind. The Rams have a ‘type’ for their blocking scheme. It was Austin Blythe and now it’s Brian Allen. Smaller frame, wrestling background etc. It’s no surprise Seattle recently brought back Joey Hunt who also fits the bill.
The ‘plus’ version of Blythe and Allen was Tyler Linderbaum in the 2022 draft and the Ravens took him before Seattle had a chance to seriously consider him.
The centers in the 2023 class are bigger, more powerful blockers. I’ve not studied the Rams blocking scheme to any great extent so I can’t say why they favour this type of center. It could be adaptable. They might think the position is fungible.
I guess what I’m saying is I wouldn’t rule anything out — but my advice would be don’t get your hopes up too much as I/we spend some time talking about good centers in this class. My guess is they’re more likely to find ‘their guy’ later on who fits a profile — or simply retain Blythe. People won’t like that but they haven’t particularly shown any great desire to invest in a center.
As I’m starting to build my 2023 board, I’ve got four players with tentative second round grades.
Minnesota’s John Michael Schmitz is an incredibly powerful, often brutal interior blocker who drives people off the line of scrimmage. He’s 6-4 and 320lbs but moves surprisingly well laterally. His hand placement appears to be extremely effective and he can drop the anchor when needed in pass protection. Watching him is a lot of fun and while he might have testing limitations and a lack of positional flexibility (he has played center exclusively in college) — he looks like a clear plug-in-and-play type. One note — he will be a 24-year-old rookie.
Wisconsin’s Joe Tippmann has similar size at 6-6 and 323lbs but he’s expected to test extremely well and that could easily promote him into the first round mix. Reportedly he runs a 1.65 10-yard split and a 4.31 short shuttle. He’s also incredibly strong — recording a 455lbs bench press and a 635lbs back-squat. Tippmann is another powerful, impressive blocker who locks onto his target and finishes. He’s not just a great athlete — his power is impressive and you’d expect an explosive testing performance. The only downside is his height and it means he loses the occasional leverage battle. But I like the way he initiates contact and then benches to extend and win blocks.
Arkansas’ Ricky Stromberg is another massive center with impressive athletic skills. He’s 6-4 and 320lbs but ran a 4.46 short shuttle at SPARQ at the same weight. His overall SPARQ score was a 103.86 which is remarkable for a man of his size. Funnily enough despite that great agility testing I think his footwork lets him down at times. He can be a bit flat-footed when engaged but in the running game he has some highly impressive reps. I like his hand placement and I think you can get him on the move to be creative to spring gaps.
Michigan’s Olusegun Oluwatimi might actually be the player I’ve enjoyed watching the most. He possibly lacks the top-level athleticism of the players above and therefore some of the same upside — yet his tape is the most consistent. It’s extremely hard to find bad reps. While he doesn’t necessarily wow you with explosive power or quick feet — he gets the job done. If you need him to pull and get on the outside, then lock on to someone in space — he’ll do it. If you need a couple of yards in the running game, he’ll smash his guy at the LOS and get you your two yards. Michigan has some creative run concepts and sometimes Oluwatimi has to snap then run to the edge and block the defensive end being giving a free run to the backfield.
He does everything well.
He’s 6-3 and 310lbs. In the NFL physical traits do matter and we need to see how he tests. Athletic limitations do get exposed at the next level when you’re not playing for the defending BIG-10 Champions against overmatched opponents, while being coached by a NFL Head Coach who has been to a Super Bowl. Yet everything I’ve watched from Oluwatimi makes me want him. I’m sure he’ll do a great job when one of the AFC North teams take him instead.
I’ve also got Ohio State’s Luke Wypler currently marked in round three, with Notre Dame’s Jarrett Patterson and Alex Forsyth of Oregon in round four. I still have more players to watch, too.
Again — I’m not sure the Seahawks are going to be in the center market in 2023. But the players are there.
Darnell Wright is the real deal
I’ve not really needed to talk about Tennessee’s right tackle so far because let’s be right — the Seahawks are not going to be in the market for one next year. However, Wright is such a fantastic player and is down as a fringe first rounder on my board.
He handled Will Anderson against Alabama. I don’t mean he did well against him. He dominated 1v1. There were multiple reps where he locked-on to Anderson, completely controlled him and took him out of the play.
On one snap he dumped Jah-Marien Latham on his backside. He passed defenders off with ease despite all of the stunts Alabama throw at opponents. He’d clearly done his homework and had an answer for everything. His feet are good for his size, he moves to get into position well, his hand-placement is very good and he finishes.
He’s a very different body type to Abraham Lucas who, by all accounts, had a left tackle body just with exclusive right tackle experience. They are different players but there’s an excitement level with Wright that deserves more attention. For me, he is far better than Paris Johnson Jr and Peter Skoronski — the two offensive tackles often mocked early in round one. I have Johnson Jr in round two and Skoronski as a guard convert.
I think it’d almost be a waste to take such a talented tackle and shift him to right guard but I’m also not saying I wouldn’t consider it for the Seahawks if they want to keep bolstering their O-line. He has the size and skills to make that an easy transition. Although I do think he’ll end up being a first round pick and I’m not sure that’d be the best use of resources — especially when this is a scheme that has been able to plug in later round tackle converts in LA.
TCU safety impresses again
The Seahawks made some big calls last off-season — trading Russell Wilson and cutting Bobby Wagner.
They need to do the same in the up-coming off-season.
Quandre Diggs is not playing anywhere near well enough to justify an $18.1m cap hit in 2023. So many people in the media and the fan base keep saying the Seahawks have loads to spend next year. They don’t. They’ve spent most of it already on players like Diggs. They have $32m in effective cap space and have only 33 contracted players next year — including zero quarterbacks.
They need to be spending their money in the right areas.
Designating Diggs as a post-June 1st cut will allow the Seahawks to spread the dead money out, paying $4.1m in 2023 and $4.1m in 2024. It’s a waste, obviously, but such is the ham-fisted way they’ve botched their cap situation over the last few years.
Nevertheless, they need that $14m to go elsewhere. Maybe even to Geno Smith.
They should then focus on drafting young, fast, dynamic players for the safety position. It’s just a shame they’re handcuffed to Jamal Adams for another year. Cutting him after June 1st would save you $11m in 2023 but would cost you $14m in 2024.
It’s not a blistering safety class but there’s some nice depth types later on (John Torchio, Larry Brooks, Hunter Reynolds) and there are two players I would circle to be drafted a bit earlier.
The first is Georgia’s Christopher Smith. He wears #29 — a nod to a certain somebody, no doubt — and he has the range, hitting and playmaking qualities Seattle needs in a young free safety. I think he’s a second round pick.
I’d then target Abraham Camara of TCU if he declares.
I love the way he plays the game. He’s not the biggest player or a traditional strong safety. He lines up a lot in the nickel, he lines up deep, he has some snaps outside or covering the slot. He’s a very versatile weapon.
However, the guy packs a tremendous punch. He is a big-time hitter. He leaves a mark and does provide a fear-factor.
He again flashed in the win against Oklahoma State. Camara had a touchdown saving tackle on the first defensive drive of the game. He had an absolute sledgehammer hit on the second drive which had the fans in the stadium gasping. There was another huge hit with 3:47 left in the third quarter. There was also one play where he had a brilliant read in coverage, flew to the ball-carrier and delivered a textbook tackle.
Camara is also a bundle of energy and emotion. He’s animated, he’s passionate. I think he’s a tone-setter. His grading in coverage is superb this season and he led the Big-12 in QBR when targeted in the first month of the season.
He gets around the field, makes plays and he can hit.
Ventrel Miller warrants attention
I’ve watched all of Florida’s games this season and every week he has stood out. When he missed a game through injury, it left a gaping hole in UF’s run defense.
Miller isn’t a brilliant athlete and given Seattle’s preference for great athletes at linebacker, it might put them off. However — I’ve seen enough from the linebackers this year to think maybe having someone who just gets the job done and can lead at a young age is something to desire.
In the loss to LSU he had a brilliant TFL — knifing into the backfield to hammer the running back. He showed speed and anticipation to read the opportunity and go for it.
Laterally he is going to have some issues. He is not a flying linebacker who’ll race sideline-to-sideline and string out plays. You don’t want him in coverage and you do want him playing downfield.
Yet there’s such an intensity to his play and he has been impactful this year with five TFL’s and five QB hurries.
He doesn’t get much support either. Florida’s defense is bad. After a difficult start to the third quarter, Miller stood up on the bench and was shown on the TV copy giving a passionate speech to the rest of the defense. According to the sideline reporter, it was such an emotive speech the crowd behind the bench gave Miller a standing ovation.
Just run a good short shuttle, Ventrel. I want to love you.
Mazi Smith is the best defensive tackle eligible for 2023
I’ve watched all of the big names now and Smith is the best. Week after week he is producing pressure, even if the sack numbers (0.5 in seven games) aren’t there. He is just so impressive.
He’s 6-3 and 326lbs and yet his movement and agility is top-notch. He swims away from blockers to penetrate, he can dart through gaps and create immediate pressure. When you need him to absorb double-teams he can to plug holes vs the run. Not every snap is a roaring success but it never is. Smith is a terrific player.
Given he is also reportedly capable of a 4.41 short shuttle, a 9-5 broad jump, a 6.95 three cone and he’ll do a ton of reps on the bench — he has everything required to be a top-15 (if not a top-10) pick. Especially in this class when the alternatives are so thin.
Is Smith going to be a game-wrecker? No. Is he the next Quinnen Williams? No. Can he pretty much fit into every scheme and provide rare athleticism, quickness and size at defensive tackle? Yes.
He should be the first defensive tackle drafted, based on what we’ve seen so far.
A quick word on Quinton Johnson
The TCU receiver has finally broken out after a slow start to the season. He looks terrific again — combining outstanding size, speed and general athleticism to impact games. Reportedly he can run a 4.4 and jump a 42-inch vertical.
The thing I want to note about him though — his body type reminds me so much of Richard Sherman. A slightly quicker version. But that’s what his frame looks like. He’s also a very good player who will go no later than the second round and could easily go in the first frame.
Alabama vs Tennessee
This was very much a contest between two big name quarterbacks but I want to start by talking about defense. In particular, Alabama’s inability to do anything well.
I can’t remember the last time a ‘Bama unit looked this inept. Especially in the secondary. They looked slow, pedestrian and incapable of impacting the game. They were consistently beaten on short and long range routes in the secondary and the pass rush was ineffective.
It was another disappointing showing from Will Anderson. He only had half a TFL in this game but that barely tells the story. As noted above — he consistently lost to right tackle Darnell Wright.
Let me be clear — Anderson is a very good player with a bright future. He is a lock to go in the top five, possibly the top three. His 2022 season probably warranted the Heisman — it’s a shame that award so often goes to the most productive quarterback. He could and should come into the NFL and provide an immediate presence off the edge.
Is he a game-wrecker though? That’s where I have my doubts. In a game like this you want to see him make an impact. Alabama’s secondary was struggling, they needed someone up front to step up and make a key play.
Like I said, Anderson will be a good player. Alabama’s struggles weren’t on him. But if he’s going to be a Bosa brother at the NFL level, or Myles Garrett, or Von Miller — you want to see him do more in a big game like this.
Onto the quarterbacks and Hendon Hooker will get most of the headlines because Tennessee won. I’ll talk about him in a moment but generally, I thought this was more of the same from Hooker. A continuation of what we’ve seen all year. Some good, some bad. But you have to credit the way he leads Tennessee.
I thought Bryce Young, though, was sensational.
This was Young at his creative best. Alabama trailed 21-7 after the first quarter and there was a feeling they had to keep up or this was going to get ugly. Young kept them alive and dragged them kicking and screaming into a three-point game.
Yes it helped having the brilliant Jahmyr Gibbs in the backfield. He looks, incredibly, like an even better version of former Alabama and Tennessee runner Alvin Kamara. Yet Young himself threw for 455 yards, completed 35/52 passing and scored a couple of touchdowns.
His processing was practically perfect in this game. He consistently made the right decision — when to leave the pocket, when to let plays develop, when to try and create. There were no limitations despite his recent should injury as he threw with plenty of juice. He had a classic Russell Wilson-esque play on one snap — avoiding two tackles to evade pressure, keeping things alive for what felt like an age, then throwing to the end zone to draw a questionable DPI penalty to extend a drive on third down.
He had to work hard for his touchdowns, unlike Hooker who benefitted from some nice lay-up opportunities.
There’s just something naturally brilliant about Young. His feel, his instinct, his athletic qualities. His manner on the sideline is competitive yet measured. He looks like a player people will gravitate towards. He looks like the kind of player you want on your side when the game is on the line, or when you need someone to keep you in a contest after a bad start.
I do wish, however, we could just accept the fact that he is uniquely sized at about 5-10 and 185lbs and there’s nothing wrong with teams (or bloggers) having reservations about that. I can well imagine we’re going to have a lot of chest-beating comments on twitter about the ‘ridiculous’ NFL focusing on his size.
It’s very easy to feel that way when you’re merely commenting on the internet and not putting your job, reputation and an owner’s money on the line.
We’ve never seen anyone like Young before. For that reason, it’s easy to imagine him succeeding with his natural talent and ability. It’s also easy to imagine him struggling to handle the physical demands of the NFL or playing far less successfully without the benefits that come with being the Alabama quarterback.
Someone will take the chance on him working out. He could be a top-three pick. He could last well into the first. He has quite a broad range in terms of stock. And that’s OK. I like him and would be comfortable drafting him. I also embrace the risk factor of selecting a 5-10, 185lbs quarterback. But this game showed he has a magical quality to his game and this was a top performance.
Hooker deserves immense credit for the way he has played this year too. Tennessee has been a clown-show for years and they’ve finally returned to credibility. Hooker is a big part of that.
However, my thought that he’s probably a third or fourth round type with plus-backup potential hasn’t changed after watching this game.
Josh Heupel might look and sound like adult Bobby Hill is running a college football team but there’s no doubt he’s very good at his job. He has created an offense that is dynamic, well executed, attacks opponents and is capable of out-scoring anyone.
Hooker benefits from that but he also makes things tick with his skill-set. He is very good at throwing downfield which helps create those big shot-plays. He can execute when the play is there. The scheme doesn’t demand he run through progressions, read the defense at the LOS and adjust. When things are clicking and on-time — he’s adept at getting the job done.
However — he has almost a perfectly balanced ratio of great plays and ‘urgh’ plays. Even in this game.
For example, his first long touchdown was a beautifully placed pass in behind two flat-footed defenders. It’s not an overly challenging play to make — it was a quick play-action from the gun, one-read and throw downfield. Yet the velocity and timing was perfect. It was a very pretty touchdown. He’s had a fair few of those this year.
Off-setting this is the streaky nature of his intermediate throws and the massive inconsistency in his accuracy. He started off very well throwing over the middle with plenty of poise but things became muddled as the game went on.
He threw high on a short pass over the middle which was tipped into the air and nearly picked off. He had a wide open receiver with 12:44 left in third quarter after the defender fell over. Hooker somehow still overthrew him despite the ‘shooting fish in a barrel’ nature of the play. It should’ve been six.
He felt pressure with 3:15 left in the third quarter and threw a high, inaccurate pass that was intercepted. He was very fortunate not to throw what could’ve been a game-losing interception with just over three minutes to go. He delivered an underthrown pass, it was tipped and picked off then ran-back deep into Tennessee territory. Hooker was bailed out by a DPI in the end zone and the Vols scored on the next play.
Underthrown passes and throws that are just ‘off’ creep into his game too much. The gaudy numbers don’t indicate this but sadly, the tape does.
He also had a botched exchange leading to a fumble recovered for a touchdown.
Yet, again, you have to give him credit for the plays he did make and he had an incredible big-time throw at the end to set up the game-winning field goal.
I suspect teams will like him especially because he has good athleticism and the ability to move around, throw downfield and he is elevating his team with his play. Although my expectation is he won’t ultimately be a consistent NFL starter — it won’t be a shock either if someone falls for him, takes him early and it might even work out.
My guess is his pro-play might end up fluctuating just on a grander scale. In the NFL I could imagine a player capable of great quality but also highly frustrating moments. If I sound more negative than positive — let me stress I admire what he’s achieving and have enjoyed watching Tennessee this year. But I do want to be honest about his draft stock — which for me should be marked lower than the likes of Will Levis, C.J. Stroud and Young. And I don’t think he has the upside of Anthony Richardson — even though he is suffering plenty of growing pains at Florida.
Hooker benefitted from an incredible performance by receiver Jalen Hyatt. He had six receptions for 207 yards and five touchdowns. I’m looking forward to studying him closer but Alabama’s secondary was a hot mess.
Tyler Van Dyke is getting there
He still needs to transfer at the end of the season and go to Kentucky (or somewhere similar). But he had a good performance against Virginia Tech until Mario Cristobal started getting in the way again.
Miami came out and attacked the Hokies with their passing game. TVD took a wonderful downfield shot, he scored some pretty touchdowns and he was the focal point. It felt a lot like watching 2021 Van Dyke.
Yet having accumulated a handsome lead, Cristobal then reverted to type. Out came the ultra-conservative stuff again. They took their foot right off the gas and allowed Virginia Tech back into the game. They almost nicked it at the end.
TVD was forced to convert two huge 3rd and 8 players to seal the win — one with his arm and another as a runner. He flashed first round potential in this win.
I’m sorry though — Cristobal is awful. He seems obsessed with creating a certain type of team he simply doesn’t possess with Miami in year one. ‘We want to be physical’. ‘We want to run the ball’. “Let’s make every pass an extended hand-off’. Just put the ball in TVD’s hands and play up-tempo. The offense stinks when they don’t.
Van Dyke finished 29/46 passing for 351 yards and two scores with no turnovers. It’ll be interesting to see what he does at the end of the season.
Tanner McKee is…
Mike Glennon. That’s who he reminds me of. A lot of teams liked Glennon because he flashed a great arm to go with a slightly awkward, taller frame. McKee is very similar.
I thought he played well against Notre Dame and he continues to feature in an offense that doesn’t suit him. I think, like Glennon, he will have his admirers. I think he’ll go in the third round like Glennon did. And I think they’ll probably end up having similar careers.
Anthony Richardson makes magic happen
I know he’s inconsistent. I know sometimes he throws a 100mph fastball when touch is required. I know his touchdown/interception ratio sucks.
I also know there aren’t many quarterbacks capable of an 81-yard touchdown run and a 51-yard touchdown throw in the same game.
Richardson has superstar potential. He just needs time and development. It might never work out for him. He might always be a rough diamond. But what if it does work out? And wouldn’t you love to be the team who drafted him if it did?
Don’t be surprised if he does actually declare for the 2023 draft after all and goes a lot earlier than people think.
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