Notes: Why Chip Kelly will be more ‘pro-style’ than you think

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Why Chip Kelly will be more ‘pro-style’ than you think

Reports are coming out today that Oregon’s Chip Kelly will be the next Head Coach of the Cleveland Browns. It’s a good fit for Kelly, who will inherit a talented roster with plenty of potential. What’s more, the AFC North isn’t quite as intimidating as it’s been in the past. The Browns can be competitive going forward. Mike Holmgren and Tom Heckert didn’t do a terrible job recruiting talent, but their time in Cleveland shouldn’t be viewed as anything close to a success.

Firstly, they made a complete mess of the coaching situation, to the point where Holmgren would’ve been better just taking the gig himself. They made Eric Mangini a lame duck before turning to Pat Shurmur after a less than high-profile search. All the while you kind of wondered if Holmgren was itching to get back out there. Would a big-name coach take the position with the Walrus judging everything from close by? Doubtful. How can you work for a successful former Head Coach like that? Which is why Holmgren was better off doing it himself. After all, he clearly wants to coach again.

They drafted two quarterbacks early in Colt McCoy (2010) and Brandon Weeden (2012). McCoy lacked anything like the necessary tools to be an effective pro-passer, while Weeden turned 29 during his rookie season leaving very little room for progression during his career. One of Holmgren’s big remits would’ve been to use his vast experience to help identify a legitimate starting quarterback for the long term. He (and Heckert) failed to do so.

I think you can call the Julio Jones trade a big mistake with hindsight. The two first round picks they got in return for Jones turned out to be Phil Taylor (DT, Baylor) and Weeden (QB, Oklahoma State). Given Cleveland’s dire need for a receiver over the last few years, they probably should’ve just drafted Jones themselves. He isn’t just one of the more physically impressive receivers in the NFL, he’s also a workaholic without an ounce of diva about his personality. Basically, the kind of playmaker Cleveland has needed for a long time. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but with a little more shrewdness they could’ve had an offense that featured left tackle Joe Thomas, Julio Jones and Trent Richardson. That would’ve made life easier for whoever was the quarterback.

Essentially their inability to get a trade done with St. Louis for Robert Griffin III will be listed as the main reason why they lost their jobs. However, it’s more likely a new regime just wanted their own guys all along and needed an excuse. Who can blame them? The Browns are going in a new, exciting and unpredictable direction with their front office set-up and Kelly coaching the team.

So what about the soon-to-be former Oregon coach?

Here’s what I don’t understand. I go on Twitter minutes after the Kelly-to-Cleveland news breaks and there’s a ton of Tweets linking Tajh Boyd to the Browns. Forget that Boyd’s father is still maintaining he’s likely to return to Clemson for the 2013 season, what is it about Kelly that strikes you he’d make this move? Nobody has been touting Tajh Boyd as a top ten pick or even a first round pick this year – and with good reason. A great performance against LSU in the Chick-fil-A doesn’t change a great deal unfortunately – he still has issues with deep accuracy and velocity, his decision making is inconsistent, he’s mobile but not electric as a runner and he’s not particularly evasive. He’s solid. He can throw with some velocity on shorter routes, his accuracy is fine on the short-to-intermediate throws. He’s a fairly good college quarterback.

But nobody has touted him as an early pick before this week’s game against LSU, or before Kelly emerged as a presence in the NFL.

If it’s not Boyd, you can guarantee it’ll be E.J. Manuel being linked. Or some other quarterback with plus athleticism. It reminds me so much of the early days of Pete Carroll in Seattle. Suddenly the Seahawks were going to trade for Reggie Bush, draft Taylor Mays, sign any free agents who ever played for USC. All presumptions based on nothing but a lazy thought process.

What is it about Kelly that makes you think he’ll try and re-create Oregon’s offense in the NFL? Or that players like Tajh Boyd are even remotely close to the players Kelly has been working with? Is he really just going to draft any old quarterback who can move around in the first round of his first draft? Come on!

This is a coach who lists guys like Carroll and Bill Belichick as friends. He watches their teams practise, he asks questions. He studies, he learns. The pro-coaches equally spend time looking at his Oregon team and try to use some of his more fascinating concepts. Kelly might not have any previous NFL experience, but he probably has a good idea what works. That’s why he surrounds himself with winners from the pro’s.

If he does end up in Cleveland, rather than go out and immediately draft whichever quarterback runs the quickest forty yard dash, he’ll probably put tape of the Patriots on. See what they do well. Then look at the New York Giants. And the San Francisco 49ers. And the Seattle Seahawks. And the Cincinnati Bengals. And the Denver Broncos. What are these teams doing well? How can I use this to make Cleveland a winning franchise? In fact he’s probably done all of this already. Several times.

People are getting excited about seeing the Oregon Ducks playing the Pittsburgh Steelers. I suspect that won’t ever happen. Kelly will undoubtedly keep some of his concepts – his penchant for speed and a quick tempo offense. But he’ll modify it for the pro’s and do whatever it takes to build a winner. Cleveland aren’t appointing Kelly because they like the Ducks offense or their jersey combo’s. They’re appointing Kelly because he builds teams, gets praised by the best coaches in the NFL and understands you have to adapt to survive.

In all honesty it wouldn’t surprise me if he went out and drafted a guy like Matt Barkley with the #6 overall pick, trolling 95% of the media in the process. And then asked Barkley to hand off 60% of the time to Trent Richardson. That’s the brand of football that has won football games in the AFC North for a generation. Rest assured that’s what Kelly is going to be dreaming of – winning in the AFC North – not putting the ultimate spread offense together to get beaten up by Haloti Ngata.

Jarvis Jones to turn pro

One of the players that could be on Cleveland’s radar in round one will be Georgia’s Jarvis Jones. The Bulldogs announced his intention to declare for the 2013 draft today. He has enough pure talent to be a top-five pick. However, in November I wrote a piece questioning whether his spinal stenosis condition could impact his stock. The issue was serious enough to end his time with USC, although Georgia were pretty emphatic in their decision to let him continue his career in the SEC. Jones has missed some games, but there doesn’t appear to be any lasting problems so far.

The big question is whether or not those issues will emerge in time. The condition has cut short many blossoming careers. Teams will have to decide whether they want to take the risk on Jones being a possible five-year player. He’ll go through a whole gambit of tests at the combine and front offices will seek every form of expertise and reassurance before pulling the trigger. It’s anybody’s guess what could happen, but Jones could easily be a top five pick in round one… or he could be set for a big fall.

The Browns do need a pass rusher so Chip Kelly could consider Jones with the #6 pick. I went that way in my latest mock. It’ll also be interesting to see if Kelly entertains the possibility of drafting Dion Jordan that early. He’s been touted as a top-ten prospect due to his athletic prowess. If he dominates at the combine, expect to see a lot of Jordan-to-Cleveland projections. Given the Browns’ need for a pass rusher, would it be a cautionary note if Kelly goes for a defensive end but passes on his former player? Similar to when Pete Carroll opted for Earl Thomas over Taylor Mays? That would be an interesting dynamic if Jordan proves worthy of top-ten consideration.

Why not a three-technique?

I mocked a wide receiver to the Seahawks this week. Some have questioned how likely this is given Seattle’s extreme need to improve their pass rush on base defense. I’ve ‘banged on’ about why I think upgrading the three-technique is the teams greatest need, but I’ve also been hesitant to mock the position to the Seahawks in round one.

Let me explain why.

I do not think the defensive tackle class of 2013 is quite as good as first anticipated. Star Lotulelei didn’t quite make the giant strides in terms of consistency that we’d hoped to see. Kawann Short had a mediocre season and went from a potential first round pick to seemingly a range in rounds 2-3. Johnathan Hankins really disappointed me when I watched Ohio State, while further study left me wondering whether Jesse Williams and Sharrif Floyd are better fits in the 3-4.

The three players that impressed me the most were Sheldon Richardson (a pure three-technique who completely looks the part), Jonathan Jenkins (a nose tackle from Georgia who weighs +350lbs) and Sylvester Williams (a big, pass-rushing tackle from North Carolina). I’m going to watch more LSU tape over the next couple of weeks to get a better angle on Bennie Logan, who at least has the size to act as a three-technique.

The Seahawks are going to be picking in the #21-32 range in April. Barring any unforeseen character issues, it’s a major stretch to think either Richardson or Lotulelei will be available without trading up. The likes of Jenkins and Hankins could be around but are too big and aren’t good enough pass rushers to fill this role. The options end up being quite limited, where you either buy into Jesse Williams or Floyd working inside or draft Sylvester Williams.

He’s an older defensive tackle as a former JUCO transfer. I’m not sure that has any impact, it didn’t for Bruce Irvin. Pete Carroll did have previous with Irvin though and he fits the teams LEO position perfectly. Williams is 320lbs which is pretty big for a three-technique and I wonder if he’s better suited to the one-technique. He really just abuses college lineman at North Carolina – which he won’t be able to do as regularly in the pro’s. And while I really like Williams’ swim move, I can’t help but think his size is better suited in the one. Having said that, the Seahawks have used big Alan Branch at the three-technique for the last two years. Isn’t this the issue though? Don’t the team need to get smaller and quicker at this position?

Either way, unless I’m going to project Williams as Seattle’s first round pick every week, I find it hard to solve this problem in my mock drafts. People have questioned why I go for a receiver or WILL linebacker so often in these projections, but I do see those two positions as the second and third biggest needs. Plus, the value at receiver and linebacker looks quite strong in the late first round at this early stage.

Things can change. They often do. But as we stand here today, I still believe Seattle’s best options to solve this problem are to target key free agents (Randy Starks, Henry Melton) or to continue to try and find the next Darnell Dockett or Geno Atkins in the middle rounds. This has been a breeding ground for undersized three-techniques in the past who don’t fit every scheme. The Seahawks drafted Jaye Howard last year I believe with the intention to see if he could be their guy. I’m tempted to say he won’t be given how little he’s featured this season, especially after the injury to Jason Jones.

Players like Kawann Short, Will Sutton and Bennie Logan might be available outside of the first. There’s also been quite a lot of first round busts among interior defensive lineman in recent years. So this is how I justify not addressing the teams biggest need in the first round of my mock drafts. It might not be a problem the Seahawks can solve with that early pick.

John Simon game tape

Someone requested game tape of Ohio State’s John Simon recently. He’s one of my favourite ‘underrated’ players. I think he’s a late first round or early second round pick. I’ve added his performance against Wisconsin below:


  1. stuart

    Rob, I was watching a game recently where South Carolina rushed 4 DE’s, that got me to thinking about our front line moving forward. PC moved big Red to DE from DT. Doesnt that also mean you could move a DE to DT? Our goal with the 3-tech is to apply pressure right? What is the ideal size of this player we need for DT?

    This can give me an indication on what to look for size wise. Are there some successful DT’s that started off as DE’s? I am really curious to read your answers to these questions, thanks Rob!

    • Rob Staton

      Whoever plays that role needs to be big enough to face rushing downs in base defense. Seattle already has a disadvantage playing a lighter ‘LEO’ defensive end in Clemons. If you get too cute with size on that side of the line, the Seahawks are going to get gashed every single week. You accept Clemons’ run defense being an issue because he’s such a terrific pass rusher. But part of the plan of using Alan Branch alongside him in my opinion is to try and off-set his poor run-defense with extra size in the middle. What Seattle needs is someone who can play well against the run, but also act as a natural three-technique. This is why I keep touting Randy Starks as a free agent signing. He’s about 305lbs and plays so well against the run. But’s also a dynamic interior pass rusher.

      In terms of DE’s who could move inside, I don’t see it as a permanent move for the base defense. They’ve looked at Jason Jones and Greg Scruggs in that 270-280lbs type frame to come in for third and obvious passing downs. They may go that route again if they don’t re-sign Jones, but it’s doubtful they do that in round one of the draft.

      • Jlkresse7

        You guys had an earlier post about the idea of having alex okafor play a Jason jones role on passing downs. Where is he projected to go? I like the idea of picking in the 3-4 range for a three technique. Haven’t heard much about will sutton or Bennie Logan on other sites. What are your thoughts on the two? Another player in curious to hear your opinion bout is TE Brandon Ford from Clemson

        • Rob Staton

          At the moment I have Okafor going in round two. Sutton is a very productive interior passer but I have quite strong concerns about his ability to play vs the run in base. Logan I’m set to study more over the next fortnight. I have about five LSU games saved. Brandon Ford I like a LOT as a mid-late round TE depth option. Great pass-catcher at the TE position.

          • Jlkresse7

            I agree I’d love it if we took Ford in the mid rounds. Brandon Williams is a DT from Missouri Southern who could be a late round option. He’s 325 lbs and had at least 8 sacks in each of the last three years

    • Phil

      Stuart – Richard Seymour has played DE in a 4-3 defense and DT in a 3-4 and has been to the Pro Bowl playing both positions. He’s listed as 6’6″ and 315 #. He was the number 6 pick in the first round when drafted. He’s a free agent, but too bad he’s 33 years old and has some injury issues.

  2. SunPathPaul

    Nice angle on the Chip Kelly to Cleveland news… If they had a few new playmakers from the draft and added a sound quick tempo-quick strike offense even with Weeden, they might do just fine… They can fill some holes on D and be pretty strong, and YES that Division is aging and shifting.

    What do you think about them possibly going after Vick?? Drafting a QB also, and then letting it fly!?

    • SunPathPaul

      Maybe Colin Klien, the Big running QB later…

    • Rob Staton

      I think Vick is probably unlikely. I think he’ll draft a solid QB and try to build an offense that funnily enough, looks quite similar to Seattle’s. Run the ball.

      • GH

        the idea of vick and richardson running a zone read option is pretty dang intriguing.

  3. stuart

    Roughly how big are the following players?

    -Geno Atikins?
    -Darnell Dockett?

    Are there any DT’s out there you might be aware of that are young and we could trade a 3rd or 4th for that could be big imact players, players that were hyped up out of college or have done well so far in the pro’s?

    • Rob Staton

      Geno Atkins – 6-1, 300lbs
      Darnell Dockett – 6-4, 290lbs
      Henry Melton – 6-3, 295lbs
      Randy Starks – 6-3, 305lbs

      There is a dearth of talented three-techniques in the league. It is one of the hardest positions to fill.

      • A. Simmons

        Doesn’t Darnell Dockett play a 3-4 DE? So does Justin Smith and J.J. Watt. They would both be ideal as the pass rushing DT in our scheme. We’re like a 4-3/3-4 hybrid. What we’re basically looking for is pass rushing 3-4 end. That’s the exact type of player that fits this scheme. A guy that is strong against the run, but provides some pass rush and pocket collapsing capabilities. We’re not necessarily looking for a traditional pass rushing three tech.

        Our main focus on defense is run stuffing to create third and long. Then on third down we send in a pass rushing line. Red, Mebane,and Branch are bad at rushing the passer. We need someone in the 4 to 6 sack range who can absolutely beast stuff the run as well, possibly attracting double teams. We want to overload opposing offensive lines giving Clemons one on one opportunities and driving the QB outside the pocket. So I think we’ll defniitely look at 3-4 DE types with pass rush ability.

        • Rob Staton

          I don’t agree. Dockett is a three technique who is just such a good player that he transcends scheme. You wouldn’t play Justin Smith at the three technique. We use a 4-3 under scheme by the book… It is not a 3-4 hybrid. And the 4-3 under requires a traditionally three technique. The role of a 3-4 end is completely different to the role of a three.

          • A. Simmons

            I just looked up what Pete wants from his 3-tech. And you’re right.

            Here is his description of the 3-tech he wants:
            “The other defensive tackle the 3 technique player should be your premier interior pass rusher. He is going to get a lot of one on one blocks as it is hard to double team him because of where he lines up.”

            So this is what Pete is looking for that he hasn’t been able to procure yet. This is most likely John Schneider’s target. What a hard player to find. Branch is nowhere near this description. Jason Jones is ok for this position, but still not great. If Pete can find a high caliber interior pass rusher, we’re probably looking at a top 3 defense for the next three or four years.

            • Rob Staton

              One of the hardest positions to fill – there are so few pure three techniques in the league of any real quality. A great challenge to solve for this front office.

  4. stuart

    This information is very helpful to understand, thanks Rob.

  5. rrsquid

    Given the injuries this year, I’m wondering if drafting OL late in the first round would be some benefit. Someone versatile like Barrett Jones. One thing is for sure, expect the unexpected. I’m trusting PC/JS will get good talent where ever they draft.

    • rrsquid

      PS snagging Henry Melton without breaking the bank would be an ideal scenario.

    • Rob Staton

      Certainly expecting the unexpected is the way to go. However, I disagree with the Barrett Jones suggestion. I think he’s shown this year that he belongs at center – and the Seahawks are comfortable there. At guard, the Seahawks aren’t going to want to write off Carpenter just yet and they have McQuistan, Moffitt and Sweezy also at guard. Is another really required? And the offensive line – St. Louis game aside – has played very well this year. I just don’t see it as a first round need.

      • pqlqi

        and even with the St. Louis game, it’s really only the 1st half that they regressed. Seemed to get it into gear in the 2nd half. Watching tape of Buffalo, SF, and StL, I think Moffitt at LG and McQ at RG was our best performing set all season. I wonder why Moffitt has not played recently – is there any news about an injury? What was up with his elbow? Sweezy looks great blocking at the second level, but is so overmatched at the LOS I am unsure why he is seeing so many snaps.

        Think Sweezy will really improve next year, and if we keep McQ around, Carp and Rishaw Johnson is really nice set of players along the OL. I expect we will bring in a late round pick to develop…

        • Rob Staton

          I suspect they’re sending a message to Moffitt. Not activating him looks like a wake-up call more than anything, because they could’ve used him in that St. Louis game last week. Is he pulling his weight? There’s no way of knowing. In the Real Rob Report videos he comes across as an engaging character, but also makes numerous jokes about not working out all that much. He seems to be a bit of a ‘class clown’ type. Again, that’s mere speculation. But if he’s not performing up to scratch, if his attitude flies in the face of the other lineman and this team, if he’s not putting in the extra hours and if Sweezy is just showing too much potential and wants it more, then it’s easy to see what could be going on here.

      • A. Simmons

        Not to mention Cable has show the ability to find quality offensive lineman that fit his scheme in later rounds and coach them up. At this point three of our five o-lineman are late round guys. Only Unger and Okung are high round picks.The long, heavy, athletic build Cable looks for in an offensive lineman should be possible to find later in the draft.

  6. Kip Earlywine

    Really minor quibble, but Cleveland also got Greg Little and Owen Marecic from that trade, and had an additional 4th rounder that they used to move up for Trent Richardson.

    I think that trade would have been a win for Cleveland, if they had not wasted one of those firsts on Weeden. If they were smart, they would have used their first pick on Blackmon and their 2nd pick on Muscle Hamster Martin, which was a very common projection for them before the draft.

    • Rob Staton

      I was aware of the other parts of the trade but ultimately a full back and Little don’t change a great deal. Julio Jones has three times as many touchdowns than Little so far, plus he nearly had as much yardage in 2012 as Little has in two seasons. Obviously a better situation for Jones, but then he also has Tony Gonzalez and Roddy White absorbing stats. Julio’s a stud and will be a superstar for me – and he was a high percentage bet to achieve that entering the league. Trading away the rights to that guy was not a good move and I felt that at the time. Even though I liked Phil Taylor.

  7. pqlqi

    Rob. I have a crazy thought. I really liked Dontari Poe in last year’s draft, and though I haven’t watched tape on Jenkins, I like the idea of an even bigger 1-tech than Mebane. Mebane seems to have a good, not great, explosion at the snap, and usually gets a decent push despinte being mostly double teamed – how would a line of Red-Jenkins-Mebane-Clem/Bruce looks as a base set? It’s unorthodox, but the increased size would improve our run defense in a division where SF has a pretty huge OL (Pete says the most important thing is to win your division), and Mebane seems like he’d be a helluva load as a 1 gapping 3 tech if Jenkins was at 1 tech and demanding a double from the center and guard. After this season, Mebane will only have 3 years left on his contract, and we need to find his replacement now.

    Is Jenkins ready to plug in week 1? Does he have burst anywhere near Dontari Poe (arguably more raw than Irvin, but just a sheerly dominating force)? Is he the kind of passionate and disciplined player that PC and JS like?

    • Rob Staton

      I think Jenkins is fundamentally sounder than Poe, but has a much lower ceiling. He’s harder to move, but he isn’t going to run crazy times at the combine. Poe was a sensational athlete despite his size, but had bad tape. Jenkins has good tape, but isn’t anywhere near the same kind of athlete. The concern I have about moving Mebane to the three is he’s played that position before and been ineffective. Plus, when they signed 330lbs Alan Branch, they put him at the three despite his size and moved Mebane back to the one. I think that says a lot about where they want to use Mebane.

      I’m going to post tape of Will Sutton vs Navy tomorrow from the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl. It’s insane really, because he has barely any impact on the game until the end then gets four sacks in a matter of minutes. It’s like someone flicks the switch and suddenly he turns into a dominating interior pass rusher. Prior to that – nothing. I’d love to know how much he (Sutton) weighs.

      • Turp

        Sutton is supposedly 6’2, 270lb. Seems like a lighter version of Atkins (probably a reach to make that comp).

  8. GH

    thanks for the clarification on mocking the WR. makes sense.

    • GH

      though, as you’ve stated before- citing first round busts at the position isn’t reason for avoiding drafting the position in the future. I imagine the success rate of mid round WRs and mid round 3 tech DT’s is roughly equal. In the end, if they go with who they deem best player available at any position in the first round, I think it’s a legit pick.

      • Alex

        With everything being equal, I would not take WR in the 1st round unless it’s an elite, elite talent in the mold of a Fitzergald, Andre Johnson, AJ Green, etc. These usually go within the top 5. If a WR falls out of the top 5, it’s usually because of some sort of weakness be it size, speed, hands, etc. These receivers have historically had a higher bust rate than the other positions.

        It’s not so much about citing first round busts as the % of bust relative to other positions.

        This blog once cited a statistic that showed the “success” rate of every position (about 2 years ago in the Okung draft). It always stood out to me that WR was among the positions with the greatest chance to bust. In comparison, CB was among the most successful positions.

        With that being said, I would be ok with a WR in this draft because aside from bust rate, we also need to look at value at where we’re picking (i.e. BPA). Based on mock projections, it would seem the greatest value in the 20s range are DT, LB, and WR, which all happen to be positions of need. OT and OG, which has been advocated by some, is NOT a position of great value in the range where the Hawks will pick.

        • Rob Staton

          I always say – history cannot dictate anything that happens in future drafts. If 99 receivers bust, it doesn’t mean the 100th won’t be a first ballot hall of famer. If we look at the last 3-4 drafts, the success rate on first round receivers is very high. It’s all about making good projections and decisions. A cluster of bad picks in the early 2000’s seems to have earned the receiver position an immovable reputation.

  9. kenny

    So when you look at Bennie Logan, also take a look at Josh Downs, who I believe plays right next to him. I can’t find any tape on him specifically but he did have more sacks than logan and seems to fit the size that most 3 techs fit at around 290 and is between 6’1-6’3 depending on where you look.

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