Just a few thoughts on players I’ve been watching this week…
Shaun Wade (CB, Ohio State)
Sometimes a player just jumps off the screen and wows you. Wade had that impact for me. He’s essentially Ohio State’s #3 cornerback and plays in the slot. That’s no review of his performance though. The outside spots are occupied by likely top-12 pick Jeff Okudah and Damon Arnette (who could also go in the top-45).
He’s only a redshirt sophomore and with Okudah and Arnette heading to the NFL in 2020, he might prefer to stay another year for an opportunity to be the #1 corner on the team. However, based on what he’s shown already in his young career, he looks like a future high pick.
Wade’s well sized at 6-1 and 194lbs. He looks every bit the former elite 5-star recruit from 2017. It’s a shame he didn’t do the SPARQ workouts. Okudah (142.56) and J.K. Dobbins (146.76) both excelled. Indeed Ohio State have loaded their team with top SPARQ testers recently and it’s showing with the way they’re outclassing teams in terms of speed and explosive ability.
He’s exceptional in coverage even when he’s assigned difficult 1v1 tasks in space. He absolutely hammers as a hitter when he’s given an opportunity. As a freshman he had three interceptions. This year he’s added some blitz ability and he’s a sure tackler — recording a sack and two TFL’s. Wade has a fantastic combination of short-area quickness, recovery speed, ball-tracking and he can be physical.
It’s incredible to think Ohio State might have three first round cornerbacks on their roster. Everyone hope for a playoff game between Alabama and Ohio State. Imagine Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs and DeVonta Smith vs Jeff Okudah, Damon Arnette and Shaun Wade — with the likely #1 overall pick throwing the passes.
Wade may or may not declare but I’m putting him in the top-20 of my next mock.
Ashtyn Davis (S, California)
I’ve been searching for safety’s this year. It’s a weak crop. LSU’s Grant Delpit could go in the top-five. Clemson’s Isaiah Simmons could be a high pick too (although some teams might move him to linebacker). After that there’s a real dearth of alternatives.
The Seahawks could use a playmaker in the secondary. We know they don’t spend big on cornerbacks so the likelihood of a big addition (free agent or high pick) is unlikely there. They’ve invested plenty of picks at safety without any real long term solutions emerging. Hopefully Marquise Blair can grow into a starter. Bradley McDougald remains their best tone-setter, leader and playmaker in the secondary.
Adding a ball-hawk with range and proven production would be a boost this off-season.
Their best bet honestly might be a trade. The more I search in this draft class the harder it is to find options. Players could still emerge. The team might have their eye on someone. I recently had a look to see if Ashtyn Davis was an option but I came away unconvinced.
There’s no doubt he has flashes of quality. He had a couple of really athletic interceptions against Colorado last season. He had four picks in total in 2018 but is yet to get his first in 2019. There are also some decent hits when you look through his highlights videos. Certainly if you watch the best-bits you’d come away excited. However, on tape I thought he looked passive for the most part. He’s quick rather than rangy and there’s little evidence that he’ll be a big tester at the combine. There wasn’t a great deal to get excited about.
This isn’t to say he shouldn’t be applauded. He’s gone from being a walk-on to a starter at California and that deserves major credit. You need a bit more than just that to become a quality, playmaking NFL safety though. There just aren’t that many in the league. Try and name ten great safety’s currently playing in the NFL. It isn’t easy. I’m not sure Davis is much more than a late-round flier in the next draft, despite a lot of positive publicity recently.
DeVonta Smith (WR, Alabama)
Everyone talks about Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs at Alabama but it’s time people started talking about Smith. Especially Seahawks fans. Watching him you can just imagine Seattle’s front office loving his competitiveness, quickness and catching technique.
Every time I’ve watched Alabama this season he’s stood out. He’s practically unstoppable on slants. He’s an excellent hands-catcher. He has a burst of acceleration to separate and when he has the ball in his hands he can round corners and explode away from potential tacklers.
On Saturday I noted that he set a school record with 274 receiving yards. He broke Amari Cooper’s record from 2014. He also scored five touchdowns — another school record. With the five scores he also showed off his range of abilities. Smith took a slant 74-yards for a score. He had TD’s on a crossing route with some YAC and a pass into the flat. His fourth touchdown was a deep post. His final score was a great sideline grab running towards the end zone.
This was a message to the NFL — ‘I can do it all‘.
At SPARQ he ran a 4.13 short shuttle and jumped a 35-inch vertical. I’m not sure he won’t work his way into the first round discussion. At the very least it’s time to start talking about him in the top-50. He’s a very talented receiver. And as I mentioned earlier — don’t be surprised if he ends up on Seattle’s radar. With a first round pick and two second round picks, it makes sense that at least one of those selections goes on a receiver or tight end (Hunter Bryant anyone?).
Lamar Jackson (CB, Nebraska)
I had initially planned to write a glowing review for Jackson. He currently leads the nation with ten passes defended. He has an interception, three TFL’s, a sack and a forced fumble. He’s 6-3 and 215lbs. He’s a former four-star recruit and he jumped a 36-inch vertical at SPARQ.
When you look at him it’s hard not to be impressed. There are certainly plays on tape where he flashes some playmaking quality and he uses his size and length very well. However, just before I was ready to write that this was the guy we need to focus on for Seattle in the later rounds — I watched a couple of BIG-10 contests in detail. There were some turn-off moments too.
For starters — it’s great being 6-3 and 215lbs in some ways but at that size it’s inevitable there’s going to be some stiffness. In coverage at times he’s just not quick enough to stick and everything might have to be played in front. Teams will target him with faster receivers knowing he either offers a huge cushion or he might get beat over the top.
Secondly, there were a few moments where he got mixed up in coverage and appeared indecisive. There were also a couple of missed tackles. I was hoping at that size to see a few Brandon Browner-style hits to compensate for the extra size and the stiffness. It never really came.
Clearly he’s playing the ball well and making plays. I would urge all Seahawks fans to check him out if you can watch Nebraska. Yet to warrant serious consideration for Seattle he’s going to need to run at least in the 4.5’s and test reasonably well in the short shuttle. I fear he’s more of a 4.6 type if not slower. He has the numbers — physically and in terms of production. He’ll need the speed to match.
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