Dueling mock drafts? Oh heck yeah. Doug started the final big push to Saturday, and who am I to argue with genius?
Here's a Tim Ruskell habit we haven't covered: reach picks. Ruskell is regularly raked over the coals by post-draft analyst for reaching on too many players. And he does reach, too. I mean, BigRoxHoxBox has Sam Baker falling into the third. I mean, pre-draft rankings aren't a bogus echo chamber almost devoid of insight. I mean, every team does make their selections after consulting the NFL Draft Splog Ultra Mock Draft DataBase, right?
One of my regular outlets (and I would say ace in the hole) when the pre-draft hype reaches a fever pitch and I'm suffering the muscle cramps and fugue associated with the condition is 2009 mock drafts - from last year. It's a good place to wonder aloud what the heck happened to Cullen Harper and what rock was Aaron Curry under? It's also a great place to get grounding and a long-view on draft prospects. Ruskell likes his reach picks, and he likes picks that looked like value picks 12 months ago. Players like Leroy Hill, John Carlson, and Brandon Mebane whose down senior seasons hurt their stock. It translates to free agents too. Patrick Kerney, Julian Peterson, Julius Jones and TJ Duckett were all once-accomplished players Seattle signed after a disappointing season.
Let's add those two things to our Tim Ruskell Rube Goldberg. Now we have: high character + high production + major conference + great tape + team leader + great team performance + reach pick + potential value because recent decline. Malcolm Jenkins saved his swoon for the NFL Combine. But what a swoon. You couldn't find an English language mock draft from 2008 that predicted Jenkins outside the top ten. Now it seems fait-accompli that he falls to the first team that can hold its nose long enough to give Goodell the card, like a dirty dollar bill that even the bums pinch by thumb and forefinger, pinkies protectively out.
Jenkins is an eye-popping athlete, that's extremely skilled, played at a football factory and for a top ranked defense, that was extremely productive, is young for his level (not 22 until December 20) and plays the position the NFL franchise tag system deems the most valuable on defense - and plays a position Seattle is desperate to upgrade.
Ruskell has been aggressive about upgrading failed units. Part of Seattle's secondary failing was the pass rush, but in an unending chicken-and-egg argument, some of the pass rush's failing was the secondary. The secondary allowed third down completions. Lots of `em. It allowed long completions. Lots of `em. It dropped coverage on broken plays after the front seven penetrated and caused disruption. Every damn game. And if you were to take a microscope to the unit's media portrayal, one player was never lauded: Kelly Jennings. And only one player was benched: Kelly Jennings.
Jennings has two years left on his rookie contract. His current trade value is nil, but he also counts only a little over a million against the cap, so his cap impact is nil too. The team can't trade him, but doesn't need to. He's cheap and good depth at a position where depth is essential.
Gus Bradley wants to implement more Tampa 2 principles in the secondary. That means corners that can press. Marcus Trufant has a decent press, but Jennings is a non-starter, and for all his deceptive strength, so is Josh Wilson. Jenkins excels at it. He's scheme versatile. He won't be embarrassed by taller receivers. He improves multiple positions, is both a value pick and a need pick, and gives Seattle a legitimate post-Trufant #1 corner. Jenkins not only makes Tim Ruskell sense, I've almost convinced myself he makes actual, real-world sense, too.