When you have a result and a defensive performance like we saw against Atlanta on Sunday, I really wish I could offer some positive draft news as a silver lining.
It’s not my intention to instil misery. I wish I could comfort myself, let alone any of you, with some exciting draft talk.
The reality, I’m afraid, is quite the opposite.
I’m going to get onto week four for the quarterbacks in a bit. Firstly though, I want to offer a quick general thought on the 2023 class.
Where are the top-10 picks?
We’ve already had a third of the college football season and I’m struggling to find legit early first round prospects.
I think there are three quarterbacks that could/should go in that range. Alabama’s brilliant pass rusher Will Anderson is absolutely worthy of that kind of rating.
Apart from that, it’s tough sledding.
Texas running back Bijan Robinson is worth a top-10 grade but his positional value plays into this situation. I think, at the moment, it’s likely he’ll go in that range simply because the alternatives aren’t there.
I’m a big fan of Bryan Bresee the defensive tackle at Clemson. Any defensive tackle who can run a 4.21 short shuttle warrants attention. In three games though, he has two TFL’s and half a sack. He’s not necessarily an ‘impact’ pass rusher who blows up games — rather he looks like a player with the athleticism to make plays just not on a game-wrecking level.
Michael Mayer and Jaxon Smith-Njibga are very good but are they worth top-10 picks? There are cornerbacks who could work into that range such as Kelee Ringo and D.J. Turner but so far they’re just not being tested. Linebacker Trenton Simpson is extremely athletic but in four games he has half a TFL and that’s it. For me, Jalen Carter is more of a late first rounder than a sure-fire blue-chipper. Mazi Smith, the defensive tackle at Michigan, looks like he has the athleticism and dynamism to perhaps work his way into the top-15.
Pass rusher Will McDonald, a player the league supposedly rates highly, has 1.5 sacks in four games. Myles Murphy, a player I think is a bit overrated, also has 1.5 sacks in four games. It’s tricky to work out what Nolan Smith even is at the next level (he’s 6-3 and 235lbs) but he too lacks production so far (one sack in four games).
Kayshon Boutte — touted by many in the media as a high pick — has 93 receiving yards in three games and zero touchdowns. Quentin Johnson — who I really like — similarly has just eight catches for 73 yards at TCU with zero touchdowns. Jordan Addison has started very well at USC. I do wonder about his testing results — his combine/pro-day workouts will be intriguing.
At the moment it’s hard to work out who the non-quarterback early first rounders are. At least this year you had some ‘big name’ talents like Kayvon Thibodeaux and Derek Stingley Jr, to go along with three top-10 offensive tackles and some high picks at receiver. Right now — the 2023 class looks quite poor at the top end aside from Anderson and the quarterbacks.
Before the Falcons game I was thinking about this and contemplated the Seahawks being very aggressive to ‘get their guy’ at QB while they had the draft stock to make a big move. I think that might be fairly likely unless their draft position means they don’t need to be aggressive. I’m just not sure what the alternative plan could be.
There will be fans watching the defense on Sunday, pining for additions there. With more people casting their eyes to the non-first round QB’s, I suspect discussions will be had this week online and on the radio about pumping resources into the defense and going with a QB later on. Or at least spending their highest pick on one defensive player.
John Schneider being at the Stanford vs Washington game on Saturday might fuel that discussion, with Michael Penix Jr facing Tanner McKee. It’s important to note, however, that when NFL teams play games close to college match-ups involving two highly rated QB’s — they often arrange their weekends around it. Had the Seahawks been playing at the Titans on Sunday, I’m sure Schneider would’ve paid a visit to watch Hendon Hooker vs Anthony Richardson instead (as the Raiders’ staff reportedly did).
I’m increasingly a big fan on BYU’s Jaren Hall myself and I think he’ll probably be a day-two type. Yet it’s hard to find the defensive pieces — short of Anderson (who could be the #1 pick) — to justify avoiding the high picks at QB to try and flesh out your defensive talent.
After four weeks of college football, this isn’t looking like a particularly blue-chip heavy first round. I would suggest you have Will Anderson, C.J. Stroud, Will Levis, Bijan Robinson and possibly Bryan Bresee or Mazi Smith, on top of maybe Kelee Ringo and D.J. Turner. You might be limited, however, to the first four names on that list.
I wish I had better news.
On to the quarterback reviews…
Will Levis impresses with no help
There are harder (although perhaps not ‘tougher’) opponents upcoming for Kentucky over the next few weeks — but Levis played very well against Northern Illinois despite receiving precious little help.
There was one glaring error, which I’ll come onto, but otherwise this was a fairly impressive display.
Increasingly it feels like Levis’ supporting cast is going to bite him — or cost Kentucky a chance to do something special this season. The offensive line has been dreadful every week and gave up another five sacks on Saturday. That’s 15 sacks for the season now in four games — despite facing Northern Illinois, Miami (Ohio) and Youngstown State.
Ole Miss, South Carolina, Mississippi State and Tennessee (their next four opponents) must be licking their chops.
ESPN described Levis as being constantly ‘under siege’ in the pocket in their post-game report. They weren’t kidding.
Despite this, he started the game with an eight-minute touchdown drive which was methodical, patient and well crafted. His second drive ended with back-to-back sacks. Welcome to the 2022 Kentucky Wildcats.
His third drive produced this incredible touchdown:
— Kentucky Football (@UKFootball) September 25, 2022
What a play. He stands tall in the pocket, knows he’s going to get hammered but just waits that extra second to allow the play to develop. Look at the velocity he generates with just a flick of the wrist. Teams will salivate over a play like that — vision, toughness, arm strength. Wonderful.
On the final drive of the first half, he also showed he can throw with perfect touch. Levis delivered the perfect pass only to see it dropped badly by the receiver.
The start of the second half contained the massive, glaring error.
Levis had a horrendous near interception. He stared down the receiver, had an extra hitch leading to a late throw and had no business throwing the pass where he did. The defender dropped the pick and he was incredibly lucky. His footwork was stodgy and lazy. It was a poor play in every sense and deserved to be punished.
This is something he needs to get together in the coming weeks. Levis’ footwork, base and throwing angles are typically very good. Yet he does have the habit of getting a bit loose at times. Last week it led to a sailed pass and an interception. This one should’ve been picked too.
I’d be more concerned if his technique wasn’t typically very good. It’s also worth noting that C.J. Stroud and Bryce Young have also had plays like this too.
His very next throw was a touchdown for 70 yards. Because of course. NIU were punished for failing to make the big interception. It was a great play design by Rich Scangarello and the execution to exploit a soft coverage was textbook. Levis just had to deliver the ball to his crossing receiver, he did, and it was a big YAC score.
Levis was excellent on third downs in this game. Kentucky converted 10/16 — many of which were throws — and were also 2/2 on fourth down.
He is running a pro offense and there’s so much to like about how he operates within the scheme. You can clearly see him going to three progressions. He converted third downs by going to a check down after running through two initial reads. This cannot be underestimated. He knew the down/distance, he was conscious of what was required to move the sticks, he has mastered the concepts within the offense. It’s why he looks the most prepared to start in the NFL of the 2023 class.
With 11:02 left in the game he had a fantastic deep shot which was dropped. It was perfectly thrown, he flashed his amazing arm and he was sliding to his left which added a degree of difficulty. The throw deserved a 40-yard TD rather than a drop.
He did get another score on 3rd and 12. Again Levis did brilliantly to stand tall despite a ton of pressure on a blitz — delivering a brilliant pass. The receiver made a defender miss and ran it home.
Overall this was a superb display, cementing his placing as a high draft pick. He finished with 70% completions, 303 passing yards and four touchdowns. The one error was a bad one but not a costly one. The next few weeks will be a great challenge and a test of Levis’ capabilities.
A quick aside — Brock Osweiler was commentating on this game and was great in the booth.
Tyler Van Dyke is benched
Mario Cristobal is not a good Head Coach. He didn’t make the most of Justin Herbert in Oregon. His team had their pants pulled down by Utah twice last season. Now he’s ruining talented young quarterbacks with his archaic, predictable, boring offense.
Look, TVD isn’t blameless. He’s been hesitant all season. He’s making mistakes as he did with his first interception on Saturday. Yet look at the second pick. They throw this pass all the time in the Cristobal offense. I’ve been banging on about this since the Herbert years in Oregon. If a random bloke in Rotherham picks up on it — is it any surprise opponents are too?
Middle Tennessee State did their homework and had their defensive lineman get in the predictable passing lane. Tipped, picked, pick-six.
Cristobal has turned a prolific passing QB who sprayed passes all over the field into a quivering wreck. Last season, his first as a starter, he scored 26 touchdowns and threw just six picks. He led Miami into Pittsburgh and out-duelled and beat Kenny Pickett and the ACC Champions.
It’s taken four games to make him look crap in this rubbish offense.
Who knows what happens now? He needs to get away from Cristobal. Either via the draft or via transfer.
Miami made a huge mistake in their coaching decision during the off-season. They and Cristobal deserved to be humiliated by MTS.
Some of the same issues on show for C.J. Stroud
There is so much to like about Stroud. The way he started the game was quite incredible.
His first big throw was beautifully placed in front of the safety, perfectly timed, with ‘wow’ velocity. It was special — the accuracy and the arm strength were different class. His second big throw was placed over the linebacker and in front of the safety. I almost stood and applauded the TV. A lot of players can’t make these types of throws.
His first passing touchdown continued the hot start. There was motion to the left and Stroud himself ran to that side. The defense flowed with the movement and didn’t cover the tight end running to the open space on the right hand side. Off balance, Stroud throws it back across to that side with ease. It’s not easy to execute but he made it look that way.
His second touchdown was an easy play action, he moved to the outside, the TE peels out to the flat. Simple toss once the defenders committed to Stroud running.
He was decisive and made the plays he needed to make.
But then there are the obvious issues we have to keep noting.
He threw an interception before halftime that was just awful. He patted the football unnecessarily and hesitated. Inevitably he throws late and off target. It’s too high and sails over receiver. The Wisconsin defender makes a great catch but it was a bad error from Stroud.
Then with the first throw of the second half he doesn’t read the dropping DE and almost throws a pick six straight to him.
This highlights another issue with Stroud and Ohio State quarterbacks generally. Everything is done for them. Great O-line, great weapons and they receive reads from the sideline. Before every snap he’s basically told what to do. He looks across at the coaches who tell him what the read is and then he gets to try and execute with an elite supporting cast.
For the most part he does a great job bringing it together. This isn’t translatable to the NFL though. And for all his clear physical talent — he isn’t going to have this supporting cast, facing overmatched opponents with coaches holding his hand in the pro’s.
It’s why so many Ohio State QB’s look amazing in college and flame out at the next level.
It took Wisconsin ages to work out a plan. In the second half they started dropping into two deep safety looks and had their LB’s dropping deep to send everything underneath. Stroud threw dangerously into that coverage, had a pass tipped and could’ve been picked again.
But just as it was all starting to get a bit frustrating — he absolutely fires in a slant for a hot touchdown. It was, admittedly, a dangerous throw. The safety was right there to make the pick but there was enough arm strength to force it by the DB. He has a great fastball and is very capable of fitting the ball into tight windows with tremendous velocity.
This is how I would sum up Stroud. Physically, I can’t remember seeing many players with skills as good as his. His ability to throw a laser with accuracy and make ‘wow’ plays is pretty remarkable. When he’s playing well, you just end up shaking your head in wonderment at times. At his best he’s a joy to watch. On top of this I like his base and his throwing motion. Stroud’s technique is a lot better than Justin Fields’ ever was.
Yet the caveat is he does get sloppy, he has got an amazing supporting cast and unlike with Levis — all the hard stuff (reading coverages) is done for him.
He could easily be the #1 overall pick based on talent. He could also need a fair amount of time to learn how to lead and run a NFL offense.
It’s very easy to imagine him being a NFL star or the latest Ohio State QB to flop. Quite rightly, someone will roll the dice on his special qualities. It’ll be interesting to see if it’s as the first player taken, or even the first quarterback.
On a different note — I really enjoyed watching Wisconsin safety John Torchio in this game. Big hits — a brilliant catch on the Stroud interception. He looked athletic, tough and impactful. He’s a senior.
Hendon Hooker vs Anthony Richardson
A lot of people ask me about Hooker — and increasingly ask why I’m not that high on him as a pro-prospect. I appreciate why that’s hard to comprehend with the Vols winning and Hooker putting up big numbers.
I think this game, despite Hooker’s success in it, highlighted what I’m trying to get across.
Several of his big plays were wide open, easy throws. And when I say wide open — I mean no defender in the same postcode as the receiver. He threw a handful of inaccurate passes that were fairly reckless — throwing high or wide of the target. He had a sack/fumble on 4th and 8 where he simply had to know you’ve got to get the ball out. He took far too long in the pocket. He took avoidable sacks.
I’m not completely blind to what he does well. He has impressive athletic qualities. His arm strength is good and he made some nice throws. He had a great improvised scramble for a good gain. He is elevating Tennessee and for the first time in years, they’ve found a productive QB.
I do think, though, that he’s more of a really fun, productive college QB than someone who necessarily will be a high pick. There’s a lot of one-read stuff. His scheme sets the table for a lot of what he does. He’s not always particularly accurate.
This isn’t me saying he’s useless or has no NFL future. I’m just trying to be realistic about his stock. Increasingly now — as soon as a college quarterback puts up great numbers, they get talked about as a high draft pick. We’re seeing it with Michael Penix Jr and others. Yet we’re living in an era where offensive production at a prolific level has never been more common, especially when we see very creative offensive coaches running a lot of college teams.
It’s important to remember that production, however good, doesn’t dictate stock or a projection.
On Anthony Richardson, this was a nice bounce-back game. He made better decisions, made several ‘wow’ plays of the ilk we saw against Utah in week one. This was a marked difference from his previous two outings.
He did fumble on a horrible looking quarterback-keeper that more or less ended the game as a contest — but even then, with time running out, he led a couple of touchdown drives when it would’ve been easy to press and make mistakes. His interception was only on a Hail Mary at the end of the game.
It’s hard to get a read on his stock. He basically has everything physically. He just looks inexperienced and undercooked. In time, everything is there to be special. You’ve just got to let it develop.
It’s very easy to forget that Josh Allen was fairly hopeless at Wyoming. Mistakes galore. Never elevated his team. He had some really ugly games. Now he might be the best player in the NFL — because he’s a physical freak of nature. Once he had time to develop, he delivered on his outrageous potential.
I do wonder if the same thing could happen with Richardson. He runs a 4.4. He has a special arm. He has ideal size. We saw touch passes in this game. He has shown an ability to process within a pro-style offense.
He might need a couple of years to learn but the upside of Richardson is basically unmatched. The question is whether he’ll deliver on the unreal upside or whether he’s just an amazing athlete.
Jaren Hall with another good game
No quarterback has surprised me more, so far, than BYU’s Hall. He looks a different player compared to last season (when he was supposedly playing through an injury).
Wyoming put up a heck of a fight on Saturday and yet, as with Oregon the week prior, Hall’s performance was consistently really strong.
He wears #3 and it has to be said — he does look a lot like Russell Wilson at times. There’s no getting away from that.
He improvises well — twisting and spinning away from pass rushers to extend plays and then throw confidently on the move. His touch and loft passes are so similar to Wilson’s at Wisconsin it’s uncanny. He throws with great base and positioning — with his shoulders consistently square to the target.
He doesn’t quite have Wilson’s arm strength but the more I watch of Hall, the more I like him. As a day two option with major upside — I think Hall is worth monitoring.
Bryce Young’s very easy day
Alabama played Vanderbilt and predictably, it was a walk in the park. Everyone was open. The running backs ran riot in the running and passing game. Young had all the time in the pocket. On one play with 15 second left in the first half, he threw to an area where two receivers were open, next to each other, in the same five-yard radius.
It was hard to learn anything from this game other than to say Will Anderson is fantastic and he remains a very realistic option to go first overall.
If you missed our post-Falcons reaction show, you can watch it here:
If you enjoy the content on Seahawks Draft Blog, why not consider supporting the site via Patreon? (click the tab below)