I posted my first horizontal board in mid-November and since then, the depth of the class has been decimated by transfers and players opting not to declare.
For example, I had 21 quarterbacks graded in November. That’s down to 13 with the likes of Devin Leary transferring to Kentucky to replace Will Levis, Michael Penix Jr and Bo Nix opting to return to the PAC-12 and Spencer Rattler deciding that a red-hot end to the 2022 season was tempting enough to return to South Carolina.
This stretches to other positions too and it’s had a big impact on the 2023 draft.
The depth isn’t as good — creating a ‘double whammy’ effect where it’s not a thick class but it also lacks quality in round one.
Quite early in the process we identified that this wasn’t going to be a year with loads of legit blue-chip players. By that I mean players who would go in the top-10 ‘most years’. Even the bigger name defenders — Will Anderson and Jalen Carter — would typically be taken in the #5-10 range. Instead they’re almost certain to go in the top five.
As a consequence everyone’s going to get a bump. We’re going to see players with second round grades taken in the top-20. That won’t just be on my horizontal board, that’ll be in the league too. The second round is going to be littered with players who will receive third or even fourth round grades by some teams.
By the time you get to day three, the options are going to be sparse. A year ago you could see what a thick draft it was, stretching deep into day three. That will not be the case this year at all.
I don’t know how the league will approach this. It could mean moves in the veteran trade market before the draft, with teams willing to part with fifth and sixth rounders to rent veterans and fill holes.
We also might not see a lot of pick-hording for the later rounds by teams.
Anyone looking to trade down is more likely to want 2024 stock and unless a team is trading way up for a quarterback, they’re not typically inclined to cough up future picks.
I think we could also see some big veteran trades again this year. In 2022 we saw Davante Adams and Tyreek Hill moved before the draft, then A.J. Brown and Hollywood Brown were dealt during the first frame. The value in the 20’s and 30’s is going to be fairly mediocre and we might see some deals once again.
This probably doesn’t sound like great news for the Seahawks — with picks #20, #38 and #53 following the fifth pick overall. I wouldn’t worry too much about it because there are options that make sense for Seattle and you can build a board of players you like. The simple fact is when you have so many high picks — you’ll almost always come out of a class thinking, ‘that’s a really nice haul’. If the Seahawks didn’t have Denver’s picks and simply owned #20 and #53 — we’d be having a very different conversation. It would be quite challenging for this team to take a step forward.
The positive news for this class is it’s a far better QB group at the top end than a year ago and there’s decent defensive line depth in the top-50.
I want to continue along this strand but enough talking for now, here’s the actual board (click to enlarge):
As you can see there are a lot of players I haven’t watched and, as always, the Shrine Game and Senior Bowl will highlight prospects to check out. I think, however, this is a reasonable reflection of what this class is — even if you disagree over certain individual grades.
The first thing I want to talk about is overrated players.
There are many.
Regulars will know I’ve struggled with Clemson pass rusher Myles Murphy and have put him in round two, a slight relegation from my fringe first round grade last time. There’s simply not enough on tape to warrant a higher grade. If it wasn’t for the well known physical tools that he’ll show-off at the combine, he’d be even lower. He gets a round two grade purely due to physical upside. Most mocks will happily place him in the top-10 and call him a home-run pick. To me, that isn’t the case at all. I thought his Notre Dame tape was really concerning (and indicative of the issues he might face at the next level against physical trench opponents) and his 10% pressure rate in 2022 is a red flag — especially with his athletic talent and playing on such a loaded Clemson D-line.
Peter Skoronski is another player you often see mocked in the top-10. On tape I see a lineman with short arms who struggles handling the edge. He can be over-powered and driven backwards. I like his footwork at times and he has some athletic qualities, as you’d expect from a former four-star recruit. Even then, he’ll get into position and be driven backwards and end up hugging defenders to survive — risking a holding call. He rarely re-sets his hands to regain leverage and control. He can’t extend his arms and play inside-out with a sound kick-slide like a natural tackle.
As such, Skoronski will need to kick inside to guard. I’m not all that convinced he’ll fair any better in the leverage battle there and I’m worried about his hand-placement and lack of power. It’s very hard to project him as much more than a mid-rounder until we see proper testing results. If he shows to have great athletic upside, I’m happy to move him up a round.
Broderick Jones is in a similar boat. Does he have the size and length to play tackle? I suspect not. There’s an even bigger flaw I see with him on tape though. He dips his head all the time as he makes contact with the defender. Until he rectifies this, pro-pass rushers will just swim by him or rip down and use his forward momentum against him. You can’t re-adjust your hands or counter if you’re looking at your opponents’ shoes.
I remember watching Isaiah Wynn at Georgia and he was just so in control of his technique at tackle despite having guard size — so it was easy to project how he could handle the next level. When I watch Jones I just feel like he needs a lot of work. Again — if he blows up the combine I’ll review the grade and adjust because when your physical upside is high — it’s easier to make technical adjustments and improve on the fly. Traits help during growing pains.
Paris Johnson Jr looks like a fairly standard college tackle to me. Unexciting. I don’t see a dominating left tackle destined to come in and take the league by storm. I prefer Ohio State’s other tackle — Dawand Jones — who is a hulking, enormous blocker with great feet and he could easily be one of the gems of this draft. Darnell Wright shut-down Will Anderson for Tennessee and likewise is a superior player in my opinion.
Kelee Ringo has great size and speed but just gets beat too often to deserve a higher grade than round two. He will need the right coaching at the next level or he could end up being nothing more than a pretty-looking liability.
Bryan Bresee has rare quickness for his size but he’s simply missed too many games in his college career, had a lot of different injury issues and his play is far too inconsistent. I’m also wary that he looks like he has short arms — a problem at defensive tackle (and an issue that could also temper Mazi Smith’s stock — although he’s a far more consistent player).
Jaxon Smith-Njigba lacks the pure speed to feel excited about his next-level potential and a year out with a hamstring injury doesn’t help either. He’s basically a #3 in the NFL. How early are you prepared to take that if he’s not running a great time at 200lbs? Golden Tate ran a 4.42 at 199lbs, won the Biletnikoff Award in his last season at Notre Dame and still lasted to pick #60. Smith-Njigba only ran a 4.64 at SPARQ at the same weight he’s listed at now.
Isaiah Foskey is often mocked in round one but what are his measurables? Is he quick and twitchy enough to be a true edge threat? Does he have the length? He had 11 sacks in 2022 which is decent but he only had a pressure percentage of 9.9%. That’s a worry, especially compared to other players such as Laiatu Latu (22.6%), Tyree Wilson (16.7%) and Andre Carter (15.7%).
O’Cyrus Torrence had a good season for Florida but talk of him in round one doesn’t make much sense. He’s a pure guard who will not test well at the combine. He has a fairly sloppy frame and doesn’t appear to have much athletic upside. In certain schemes that call for size and power up front, he will carry some appeal. I just don’t see a player who typically goes in the top-50. Damien Lewis was a better athlete as a pure guard and had better tape and he lasted to round three. When you watch tape, you also see Torrence benefitted from a lot of double-teams with the right tackle. I’m not against drafting him but I think a reality check is required on his stock.
Siaki Ika seems to be everyone’s favourite player on Twitter. I’ve watched games where he flashes impressive quickness for his size, he’s bursting into the backfield and providing a surprising level of pass-rush threat. However — is that likely to translate at 358lbs to the NFL? And if you’re drafting a player of that size — he has to hold up against the run. I was really surprised by how bad Ika’s run defending is at times. If he can’t anchor as a nose and just absorb blocks, what’s he going to do for you? His effort is far too inconsistent and while there’s some athletic potential there — he’s not the kind of plug-in-and-play nose tackle some people think.
Then there are players who are underrated but are finally starting to get some recognition in the media.
Calijah Kancey is the closest thing to Aaron Donald since the man himself. He will light up the combine and have people rushing to the tape — with a hype train starting to build when his numbers pretty much match everything Donald did in his testing session. He had the top pass-rushing grade in college football per PFF (92.4) and the only thing letting him down is size. A good team will take him to be part of a deep rotation, not an every down grinder. He could be a sack-artist in that role.
Keion White just got better and better as the 2022 season went on. By the end he was blowing up plays, wreaking havoc and looking like the real deal. I’ve never seen a 285lbs defender cover a wheel-route before. White doesn’t just do it — he ran step-for-step with players like Kenny McIntosh. There are no questions about his conditioning or attitude (unlike Jalen Carter), his motor is relentless and it shouldn’t surprise anyone if he’s the player who gets into the league and becomes a big time disruptor with his size and ability to play different spots on the line. His pass-rush win rate was 19.9% in 2022 — a fantastic number given he’s not an edge.
Drew Sanders is the kind of forward-facing, aggressive linebacker Seattle badly lacks. His ability to fly to the football at 6-5 and 230lbs is impressive. He can easily stick on another 10lbs. It’s weird that in an era where Micah Parsons is such a dynamic force — Sanders hasn’t gained mass publicity. He isn’t as twitchy as Parsons but he showed in his one year at Arkansas that he can work the edge to the tune of 9.5 sacks, while predominantly playing as an orthodox middle linebacker. Sanders provides so much juice to a defense with his hitting, heat-seeking missile style and the way he covers ground hints at a top-combine display.
This is a class with four really good quarterbacks at the top of the board. The mainstream media is racing to criticise them but all have high upside and are worth taking a chance on to be a long-term franchise starter. Again — the top QB’s in the NFL currently all entered the league with flaws (with the exception of Joe Burrow, who was a one-year wonder). It’s rare to have four players like this in one class — three of which carry prototype size, arm strength and plus athleticism.
There’s great depth at running back and a lot of edge options. I think the running back group will provide more predictable production — there are some excellent players here. At defensive end there’s a lot of upside types who are a bit boom or bust. Even so, the chances are a couple of the edge defenders in this class will turn out to be quality players.
The depth at linebacker is poor, ditto at safety. It’s also a top-heavy class at tight end.
There are a few players on the new horizontal board that I haven’t touched on before and I want to get into.
I was really impressed by Ole Miss left guard Nick Broeker. I’ve not seen a guard who can pivot and change direction in space like he does. His movement skills are fairly remarkable for his size (6-5, 315lbs) and the way he gets out and pulls is top notch. Ole Miss used him a lot to get on the move, reach to the second level and find targets.
He’s a former four-star prospect and he previously played left tackle. He was kicked inside due to sub-33 inch arms which will be an issue for some teams — including potentially Seattle. That said, while I was watching him I just kept thinking — this is the type of guy who works at the next level.
It’s not just his clear athleticism and movement. Broeker has the ability to extend his arms and hold position. He can create subtle running lanes by turning a defender to create an opening. He recovers well — with evidence on tape of a defender getting the initial jolt in with a violent punch to his chest — yet he sticks in there, battles and regains leverage and control.
Nobody’s going to call him a powerhouse who drives people off the ball but I did see some push in the running game and on short-yardage situations I thought he did well. He definitely plays with an edge and will always go and find someone to hit. He had impressive reps against Alabama and Auburn and didn’t look out of place.
There are zero durability concerns — he didn’t miss a single game in college.
I’m eager to see how he gets on at the Senior Bowl. I especially want to see if the recovery skills translate to 1v1’s (which are always weighted in favour of the defender). Can he handle power and anchor down? Will he be able to reset his hands and stick without being able to play in a phone booth?
I really liked his tape and could well imagine a kick inside to center as a possibility. He has the quickness and agility to fit in Seattle’s blocking scheme and they do like tackle converts. I think there are some similarities to Austin Corbett, who played for the Rams in this system.
So far, Broeker’s the one big-school guard other that Steve Avila that really got me going since Cooper Beebe opted not to turn pro.
Two smaller school players also really caught me eye on the O-line. Nick Saldiveri is another tackle convert who played right guard in 2022 and his combination of size, aggression and athleticism was incredibly impressive. I watched him after Jim Nagy highlighted him during our conversation and came away imagining him playing for Seattle. Likewise Cody Mauch is just a classic, old-school offensive lineman — all fire and brimstone, bringing it every single down. Very active, loving what he’s doing, getting up to the second level. Aggressive, tenacious. His tape hints at athletic quality so let’s see how he tests.
A lot of people want the Seahawks to go after the big name offensive linemen but I’d be content checking on the Senior Bowl and combine performances of the names above and waiting until the middle rounds for one of these guys.
I absolutely loved watching Tulane running back Tyjae Spears. He’s only 5-10 and 195lbs so the chances are he won’t be on Seattle’s radar. However — what a combination of speed, suddenness and electricity. He’s powerful and a true X-factor playmaker. He has great contact balance to break through tackles and stay on his feet. He’s incredibly shifty when assessing how to attack, then he can explode through openings to create big plays. He’s patient at the line to let blocks develop and then able to make people miss at the second level. As a pass-catcher in the open-field he’s a huge weapon. He runs good routes and has excellent hands for a running back. Despite his lack of size he’s proportionally thick and capable of playing a feature role. I think he can start in the NFL and is one of the better players in the draft. He is a fantastic talent.
Keep an eye on Andrei Iosivas during the Senior Bowl too. He has a long torso with exceptional agility and speed. He can contort his body in the air to adjust to the football and he catches the ball away from his body superbly. I’m looking forward to seeing how he handles 1v1 duties in the receiver drills. He could be a standout. Jonathan Mingo has also been a blog favourite for some time and his size, quickness, soft-hands and experience playing outside or as a big-slot could have real appeal for a team like Seattle.
The one thing a board like this does is help you set out a realistic plan. It’s very easy to just say, ‘draft this position at #5, get O-line at #20’. You see that kind of thing all the time. It doesn’t work like that. You need to review what’s actually available.
Here’s how I would break this down for the Seahawks.
At #5 they’ll have an enticing option because one of the top four quarterbacks or one of the top-two defensive linemen are guaranteed to be available. For all the talk of trading down — if you do this, you’ll likely move into an area where the value is poor unless you’re willing to consider drafting Bijan Robinson with your top pick.
Thus, trading down only makes sense if you’re essentially writing off this draft and trying to get stock for next year. I am not convinced, at #5, the Seahawks will get the kind of offer that would make this attractive. Anyone wanting to move up for a QB is likely to want to get ahead of them, rather than make a deal with Seattle. As such, Arizona at #3 are probably going to get the calls John Schneider wanted to receive to make moving down a serious consideration.
At #20 you will be able to draft a good defensive player you feel comfortable with. This is a good area to select a high-upside defender. If you did take a quarterback at #5 — you can still add young talent to your defense in round one. You won’t miss out.
In round two there are going to be good skill players available but the defensive talent pool will also remain strong at #38 — although by this point you’ll be rolling the dice on potential. I wouldn’t rule out BPA being a running back, tight end or receiver though and drafting for talent worked a year ago.
Although tight end isn’t an immediate need — just keep the names of Michael Mayer, Luke Musgrave, Dalton Kincaid and Tucker Kraft in mind. They are four of the best players in the draft. Colby Parkinson and Noah Fant are out of contract next year and Will Dissly has just picked up another injury. If they really are prepared to think BPA — a tight end being taken between #20-40 could be the 2023 version of the Ken Walker pick. That worked out alright in the end.
By the time you get to #53 — defensive end might still provide some options but that could be the point where you consider options on the offensive line.
#5 — Quarterback and D-line options are clear
#20 — Defensive options will remain attractive
#38 — Skill players could provide value, plus boom-or-bust defenders
#53 — Could be an area where you think about interior O-line
I will update the horizontal board after the Senior Bowl.
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