Fiesta Bowl thoughts: Notre Dame vs Ohio State

The Fiesta Bowl was the one I was looking forward to. Notre Dame vs Ohio State — loaded with NFL talent. It didn’t disappoint.

Well, to an extent anyway. In the opening ten minutes Joey Bosa was disqualified for targeting and Jaylon Smith left the game with an ugly knee injury. Two potential top-five picks didn’t even see out the first quarter. Ohio State won the game 44-28.

There was still plenty to enjoy here.

Eli Apple (CB, Ohio State) is a likely top-15 pick — he has everything you want in a pro-corner. Length, athleticism, sound tackling in the open field and most importantly — he just doesn’t get beat deep.

Very few players can cover 1v1 and take away a talented receiver in the NFL. The good CB’s in the second tier generally know how to avoid giving up explosive plays. Limit the damage. That’s Eli Apple. He can give up a decent cushion, read-and-react and make the tackle for a few yards. He can stick in man and run deep. There isn’t a corner with his technical understanding and master of the position eligible for the 2016 draft.

Others have more athleticism (Tennessee’s Cam Sutton for example — another underrated corner) but Apple should find a home in the first half of round one. It’s easy to imagine him fitting nicely into Seattle’s defense but they’re unlikely to have the opportunity to draft him.

It was fascinating to see Apple match-up against Will Fuller (WR, Notre Dame). It happened sparingly — for some reason the Buckeye’s kept leaving him against the other corner Gareon Conley. When Apple covered Fuller, he eliminated the deep ball and took away ND’s best playmaker.

Fuller struggled to have an impact with the Buckeye’s shifting their coverage to keep him quiet and pressing the quarterback successfully. Even so — with just over 11 minutes left in the game Fuller ran a fantastic route against Conley. The corner lost his footing trying to stick with the receiver and Fuller ran away from the Ohio State defense for an 81-yard touchdown.

There isn’t a more dynamic receiver in college football. Fuller is sudden and explosive. He had eight touchdown catches of at least 40-yards this season. 42 FBS teams didn’t have eight passes of at least 40-yards this year. Cornerback’s are petrified by the deep ball but he can use it to his advantage with a little double move to get open. He works across the middle to find the soft zone, he’s a threat on the WR screen and he’ll constantly keep a defense honest because of the downfield threat.

Comparisons to DeSean Jackson are legit — but Fuller is the complete opposite of D-Jax in terms of character. He’s a true pro who won’t cause any issues for the team that eventually drafts him. Fuller could be a fast riser if he chooses to declare. It’ll be a big decision because he’s ready to turn pro and have an impact.

I paired him with Seattle in my last mock draft for several reasons. Jermaine Kearse is a free agent after this season and Doug Baldwin’s current contract expires in a year. Paul Richardson — drafted to offer dynamic speed — hasn’t been able to stay healthy. And Russell Wilson has shown he’s more comfortable with receivers that get open with quickness and savvy than throwing jump balls in tight coverage.

Adding Fuller to Baldwin and Tyler Lockett could give the Seahawks a similar combination of speed and threat to Pittsburgh with Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant and Markus Wheaton. Of course, much depends on the moves they make with the O-line. Fuller finished the game with six catches for 113 yards and the score.

Another receiver Michael Thomas (WR, Ohio State) showed great hands and athleticism on an early touchdown. J.T. Barrett threw behind Thomas but he made the adjustment, dodged a DB and darted into the end zone. He also had a disappointing drop in the second half on a fade to the right corner of the end zone. He’s a nimble, big target — the type teams love to have these days. The double-move he put on Kendall Fuller (CB, Virginia Tech) for a big touchdown in week one lingers in the memory. He’s a first or second round talent and finished with seven catches for 72-yards and the score.

Ezekiel Elliott (RB, Ohio State) ran for 149-yards and four touchdowns and played like a first round pick. The highlight was a 47-yard score where the tight end pulled inside and created a lane. Elliott exploded through the interior and out-ran the defense. He also had a 30-yard catch-and-run and did an excellent job in pass-pro (except for one play where he got blown up by a much bigger D-liner while blocking inside).

He just makes things happen. A playoff team without a ton of needs will seriously consider taking him. In my mock draft this week I put him with Houston. The Texans need some extra playmakers to pair with DeAndre Hopkins. They’re in no man’s land for a quarterback picking between #21-31. If they have to install a rookie (eg Christian Hackenburg, who worked with Bill O’Brien at Penn State) drafted in the middle rounds — helping that player with a runner like Elliott makes a ton of sense.

Would the Seahawks be interested? He seems to have a similar combination of physical power, suddenness and breakaway speed to Thomas Rawls. They could create a fantastic, dynamic duo. Even so — they seem to prefer a lead-runner who is well supported. With a deep class at RB — they might be more likely to wait until the middle rounds to add a partner for Rawls.

Braxton Miller (WR, Ohio State) again didn’t put up massive numbers but just looks like an underused fantastic talent. He’s incredible in space and very elusive. He’s a natural catcher despite starting his career at quarterback. He can take some trick plays as a runner and work downfield or over the middle. There’s a role for him in the NFL and it won’t be a shock if he goes as early as round two. He’s a brilliant athlete. If the Seahawks don’t go receiver in the first round — keep an eye on this guy.

Taylor Decker (T, Ohio State) had a decent overall game especially helping Elliott and the run-attack. He does a good job moving people off the ball up front. He’ll prosper in a system that utilises a lot of orthodox runs. The one concern is Decker’s height — he’s listed at 6-8 and sometimes has trouble with leverage. He’s an underrated athlete though so expect a good combine performance. At the very least he’ll be a useful right tackle and should get the opportunity to play on the left. It won’t be a shock if he goes in the top-15. The lack of good tackles in the NFL has increased the premium on his position.

Ronnie Stanley (T, Notre Dame) also had one of his better days (although I want to go back and watch the game again). There’s a lot of stiffness to his set and when he’s come up against the better pass rushers in college (eg Shaq Lawson) he’s looked ugly. How dedicated is he to the technical side of his game? Does he rely too much on athleticism and not enough on craft? Can you rely on him to be a great pass-protector at the next level? I’m not convinced. For me he could easily sink into round two. He doesn’t show any desire to work to the second level and it’s hard to imagine him in the ZBS (or for that matter, in Seattle).

Darron Lee (LB, Ohio State) had a sack/fumble late in the game to seal it — showing fantastic timing on the blitz. He’s just a really good football player with superb instinct. He won’t test as well as Ryan Shazier at the combine but he might be a better overall player and could easily go in the top-20. That’s not to say Lee isn’t a good athlete. Shazier is just a physical freak. If he runs in the 4.4’s he might be someone to monitor for Seattle — especially with Bruce Irvin entering free agency. He’s a playmaker. I’m not convinced he’ll last into the 20’s in the first round.

Meanwhile, Tony Pauline is reporting that Cam Sutton (CB, Tennessee) and De’Runnya Wilson (WR, Mississippi State) are both expected to enter the draft. We talked about Sutton earlier and he could be a top-20 pick. Wilson could also go in the first round — he draws comparisons to Kelvin Benjamin. Pauline is a must follow on Twitter at this time of year.

A final note on Sutton — check out the background image on his Twitter account:

Screen Shot 2016-01-02 at 00.14.22


  1. Trevor

    So much talent on the field today in that game! Great write up Rob. Would love to see either Apple, Fuller, Thomas or Elliott in a Hawks uni.

    Really hope the injury to Jaylon Smith is not serious he is a marvelous talent and you hate to see an injury like this in a bowl game for a top 5 talent.

  2. Trevor

    Rob looks like the Smith injury is serious. Does he come out and rehab with an NFL team or go back to ND another year? He will likely not play next year either way. Where would he likely go if it is an ACL?

    • CharlieTheUnicorn

      That is terrible if this turns out to be true (major ACL injury). He is a very dynamic player and was a legit top 5 pick in the NFL draft this year.

      • Volume12

        Said to be worse than an ACL tear.

        • Ishmael

          Hideous. Who’s saying it’s worse than an ACL?

          Without wanting to sound too callous, if he drops anywhere near the Hawks do they go up and get him?

          • Volume12

            IDK some doctor. But, it’s rumored to be his MCL and PCL.

            He is my favorite prospect in this entire class. So it’s a little dishearting for me to talk about. But, with the depth of this year’s LB class, which is ridiculously good, might be better to get a guy a notch below him without the injury. That being said, injuries have never seemed to scare off Seattle if they feel he’s a differnence maker.

    • Rob Staton

      Firstly, we need to identify what kind of injury it is. Then it’s about where he gets the best rehab and whether his stock will be impacted significantly either way. He might be better off still declaring and fighting through it.

      • bobbyk

        The Bengals did draft Cedric Ogbeuhi in the first round last year after he tore his ACL in his bowl game. Sad to see a good prospect go down like that though.

  3. Trevor

    Rob one of the guys you thought was over rated Veron Hargraeaves looked bad on a couple of plays today. I think you are right and his stock will fall throughout the draft process.

  4. Volume12

    That’s ironic. I asked on the other thread if Darron Lee could be a possible target.

    How about ND WR Chris Brown? Very Jermaine Kearse like.

  5. CharlieTheUnicorn

    Christian McCaffrey … draft him in 2017… period.

    • Volume12

      Nah. Give me ‘Rolls’ Royce Freeman. Bigger, stronger, just as good catching the ball, and IMO is just as fast as McCaffrey.

      That’s not to say I don’t like McCaffrey, but Freeman has Seahawk size at the RB position, and will turn up come combine time next year.

    • AlaskaHawk

      Tremendous performance today. A first round talent.

      • CharlieTheUnicorn

        A team might view him as a “Tavon Austin” type of player.. and take him top 10. Game changing, explosive, deadly in the open field. I think he has a way bigger upside than Austin has ever had…… but the Rams have totally miss used the guy.

        • Phil

          He reminds me of Darren Sproles — not the same body type, but in how versatile he is. I think his NFL career will be highly dependent on which team drafts him and how comfortable they are building a good part of their offense around him. He will need his touches but can he stand up to the battering he will be subject to?

          • Matt

            McCaffrey was impressive! That dude can can do it all. Reminds me of a more explosive Danny Woodhead, being an instant mismatch where ever he lines up.

    • CC

      The right team has to draft CM – I’m not sure Seattle’s offense would be a good fit. Unfortunately, the best place for CM is NE – he’d excel in that offense.

      • Nathan

        New England was the first team that came to my mind when watching him play too.

  6. CHawk Talker Eric

    Eli Apple had a tremendous game. Will Fuller isn’t the only capable WR on the ND roster. Chris Brown and Torii Hunter can play too. But Apple handled each. I wasn’t convinced about Apple before today’s game, but I am now. Darren Lee also played like a first round pick.

    IMO losing Smith was more significant to ND than losing Bosa was to OH. The Buckeyes have playmakers at each level on defense – DL, LB and DB. But ND just couldn’t stop the Buckeyes from moving the ball. Not sure having Smith would’ve made a winning difference anyway.

    Watching Fuller turn on the burners for that long run was very satisfying. He made it look so easy, as if he had more speed in reserve.

  7. Volume12

    The thing I like about De’Runnya Wilson is the fact that the majority of the time, he wins with quick throws, slants, finding soft spots in the zone. He’s also extremely competitive, and a fantastic run blocker. He’s not a big receiver that only gets the job done on contested throws or passes where he has to box out a defender.

    We also know how much PC/JS like prospects that have a history or background of playing multiple sports.

    • Mike B.

      I like De’Runnya Ovah a lot too–having a tall, fast, athletic WR with good moves and good hands would be the perfect complement for our receiving core.

      Another such WR (who’s received relatively little attention) and could be a steal in a later round is Michigan’s Jehu Chesson. His overall production hasn’t been eye-popping (not a regular starter until this year), but he’s really come on in the second half of the season. I’ve watched him in several games; he’s a super-fast, big (6’3” 207) target who had a monster game versus Indiana this year (10/207/4 TDs). Great in the red zone. He also has a fascinating backstory, as his family fled Liberia during their first civil war and had a tortuous path coming to the U.S.

      • Volume12

        Yeah-Chesson is pretty dynamic. Length, speed, size. And his upbringing is inspiring.

  8. Volume12

    Stanford O-lineman Josh Garnett is just blowing cats off the ball. His power and agility is impressive.

    Does he have the length to play RT?

    • Trevor

      Not sure but he will be a Pro Bowl Guard IMO.

    • CHawk Talker Eric

      Nah, he’s a phone booth brawler. You gotta love his nastiness.

    • CharlieTheUnicorn

      So he is expected to be taken day 2 of the draft round 2-3 range. Very intriguing.

      • CharlieTheUnicorn

        One scouting report said he has trouble getting to the second level to block LBs. If this is true, then Seattle would not pick him. They love guys who can get on people in the second/third level of the defense. He also projects to guard in the NFL.

        • drewjov11

          He’s someone who can win in a phone booth, but they move him all over the place whether it’s pulling on the run or pulling out to fan protect the opposite side. He’s a beast and he’s better than any guard we have on the team now. Draft him.

          • Nathan

            Seems to be getting to the second level OK here.


            Which D Lineman would want to be opposite him in short yardage or on the goal line?

            • Volume12

              IMO he’s the best OG in the draft.

              If Laken Tomlinson can go in round 1, which he never should of, it makes ya wonder how high Garnett will go too.

              • drewjov11

                I completely agree. I was hoping that he would be there one kind two for us, (I think at one point Rang and CBS sports had him almost not even drafted). I’ve followed him since his junior year of high school. He always played left tackle but was rated as a guard going in to college. Athletically he could do it, but I don’t know how long his arms are. He’s a stud and I’m glad that others are starting to join me on the bandwagon. He needs to be a Seahawk.

              • Rob Staton

                He’s a very good guard. But there will be some legit question marks about the success rate of every Stanford OL drafted in recent years (David DeCastro had a slow start too). I like Garnett. I think Seattle liked Tomlinson too last year — but they were looking at round two.

                • Volume12

                  My line of thinking as well.

                  I don’t think Seattle would ever draft a pure guard in round one.

  9. bigDhawk

    Thoughts on Aziz Shittu, Stanford Senior DE, 6-3, 279. Two sacks so far in the Rose Bowl. Looks like he’s chiseld from a quarry. How would he profile in our defense and where is he likely to go in the draft?

    • CHawk Talker Eric

      Shittu looked good tonight, didn’t he?

      Not sure where he slots relative to this year’s DE class. He’s not really a speed rusher, but rather wins with strength and power. Looked solid vs the run. I wonder if he’s too similar to Clark though.

      • bigDhawk

        Clark was the the immediate comparison on our roster that came to mind. But his power-forward style is somewhat reminiscent of Greg Hardy to me. Granted, Shittu is not the player that Hardy was coming out of college, but Shittu might be one of those players that becomes a better pro than college player, and he could have Hardy-like power at his peak. He has the body for it now.

        • drewjov11

          He was a 5 star three technique coming out of high school and he never really grew to DT girth. I think he can swing between a 5 technique and a 3 tech on passing downs. Valuable rotation player for a team like Seattle. We really do need to find a pocket crushing DT.

  10. AlaskaHawk

    Rob, great write up. I’m loving that Alabama team, the next BCS champ. I hope you can do a write up on them. I’m convinced that if we drafted all Alabama it would turn out well. For now I’ll dream of adding Robinson or Reed, two big defensive linemen. I know the Seahawks can’t get Ragland, but what about his teammate Kendell Beckwith as a replacement for Irvin.
    My favorite on defense, and a guy that could be picked in the 4-5th round is cornerback Cyrus Jones. Good coverage and Had a pick against Michigan State.

    Offensively how about Johnathen Allen as a 6′-6″ tight end, you know he can block. Or Ryan Kelly, a great center that could be had in the 5th round. What a backup! Lastly Alexaner the right tackle, and Henry the Heisman winner. They won’t end up with the Seahawks but both could have good careers in the NFL.

    • AlaskaHawk

      Oops I meant to say O J Howard as tight end. Allen is a 290# defensive end.

      • Volume12

        Beckwith plays for LSU.

        I like Allen somewhat. He’s vey slow off the snap though.

        ‘Bama C Ryan Kelly is a stud. Hasn’t given up a sack all year. Has the length and size of a Seattle O-lineman. I bet Seattle will end up liking him. Wouldn’t shock me if he’s a VMAC visitor.

        There’s no way he lasts until round 5. He’s a day 2 kind of talent.

  11. Volume12

    Man, Arkansas RB Alex Collins was a man amongst boys today. Tremendous performance. The power combined with his shiftiness is next level stuff.

    Really like Oregon WR Bralon Addison. Has that undersized, ‘Seahawky’ kind of feel to him. Has deep speec, sudden in his moements/routes, a production machine, and just flat-out gritty.

    • AlaskaHawk

      Oregon is really kicking ass. I wonder if TCU is feeling let down about their season?

      • CharlieTheUnicorn

        TCU: When you lose your starting QB to a bone headed move off the field…. not much of a chance

        • bigDhawk

          So you’re saying there’s a chance?

      • Phil

        “Oregon is really kicking ass.”

        True for the first half until they had the biggest meltdown that I can ever recall seeing in a football game. Sure, their QB got hurt, but blowing a 31-0 lead and then losing in triple OT to a team that was also playing with a backup QB ……. what can I say?

  12. MJ

    Put me on the Darron Lee bandwagon for Seattle. He screams Seahawk and I think he ends up running a sub 4.5. He just plays with an edge and for a “fast guy,” he’s very violent. Not to mention, his coverage and blitz ability would be a thing of beauty on 3rd down. He has a QB background (in HS) which I think is another intriguing asset.

    Lee or Jaylon Smith (if he enters and falls bc of the injury) would be amazing. Ultimately, I do think Lee falls because of his size. His playmaking ability would be too much to pass up.

  13. Rik

    Can we just draft the entire graduating class of Ohio State? Package Apple, Elliott, Lee, Decker, Miller, and Thomas together? I wouldn’t complain about drafting any of them in the 1st or 2nd round. I haven’t seen anyone talking about this, but what about drafting Braxton Miller as a QB to back up Russ? He was Big 10 MVP as QB, and he was QB for an undefeated season. Also a superb runner. He seems like an upgraded BJ Daniels. Something to think about.

    • lil'stink

      Miller’s future in the NFL won’t be at QB, though. If he blows up the combine someone will reach for him. I don’t think he’ll be on our radar unless he somehow drops far into day 3 of the draft.

  14. CharlieTheUnicorn

    I’m warming up to the LB Darren Lee. He seems like someone Seattle could use at a spot where they might be weakened in FA period. I keep seeing speed mentioned, which is something Seattle loves in their LB group.

    Alex Collins also had a nice game. It is not much of a stretch to see Seattle interested in him in the mid rounds of the draft. He had a productive CFB career.

    • bigDhawk

      Lee and KPL are very similar in measurables. I’d like to see if KPL can figure it out at the pro level before we spend a first round pick on his clone.

      • MJ

        Unfortunately, KPL can’t stay healthy and has shown very poor instincts. Theres a reason that he went later in the draft despite freakish athleticism. KPL seems like an awesome dude, but I just don’t think he’s a very good football player.

  15. SunPathPaul

    Matt Forte is a FA this off season. Would you want him to replace Fred Jackson 35yo, and be a veteran presence with Rawls Rob?

    Would Rawls, Forte, ‘Rookie’, Coleman/Tukuafu be a nice RB/FB room?

  16. Matt

    Looking forward to see how Glowinski plays today. Big day for him getting a chance to audition in Sweezy’s RG spot.

  17. nichansen01

    Both Glowinski and Bailey are looking good to me.

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