Here are my potential OLB, 5-tech, and MLB targets. I revisited my LEO prospects so check that out before moving on. We've finally arrived at the list I'm sure many of you have been waiting for and my goodness am I excited to bring it to you. More than any other defensive position, a dynamic 3-tech could generate an incremental improvement for our defense.
Alan Branch started at 3-tech for the Hawks in 2011. Branch is huge, powerful defending the run, and occasionally capitalizes as a pass rusher. He is a fine option to start again in 2012. Clinton McDonald should also be noted. McDonald was acquired for Kelly Jennings at the beginning of the season. He is a squatty, athletic DT who pushes the pocket and can also penetrate. He's an excellent rotational player but lacks the bulk to be an ideal starter.
Our 3-tech situation is far from dire. However, we need to improve our pass rush and Pete was not shy about saying we'll look for someone who can provide more interior pressure this off-season in his season ending press conference. Another LEO type player or a blitzing LB could improve our pass rush conditionally but an active 3-tech could improve our pass rush on every snap. The trick is finding a prospect who can also hold up against the run.
Michael Brockers (6-5 306) RS Sophomore from LSU
Michael Brockers decided to make the jump after a Championship appearance by LSU. In a weak DT class he is easily the interior prospect with the most upside and absolutely could be drafted in the top 10. However, there's a good chance he'll still be available at 11/12 if teams are turned off by his youth and raw technique. Brockers is who I hope we end up with in the first round.
Brockers is an outstanding athlete with great length, powerful legs, light feet, active hands, and room to fill out his frame. He is quick out of stance and shows good effort through the play. Double teams have a hard time moving him and he shows excellent awareness of the RB coming through the hole. Brockers doesn't have much by way of pass rush moves but he spins off blocks to separate when the QB breaks the pocket. The knock on him is he can play too high.
Below you can watch him against Georgia earlier this year.
Jerel Worthy (6-3 310) RS Junior from Michigan State
What really turns your head about Jerel Worthy is his explosiveness off the snap. He jumps out of his stance the way you'd expect a pass-rushing DE to. He has an excellent swim move and violent hands that allow him to consistently work past single blockers. He can also penetrate and closes quickly on the QB once free. Worthy is long and strong and uses leverage effectively to hold up against the run.
Teams will wonder about his effort and stamina though. Worthy will give up on plays when he doesn't immediately beat his man and can get worn down over the course of the game. He will be best in a rotation to keep him fresh. The Seahawks won't have any trouble accommodating that need. I would be thrilled to get Worthy with our second round pick.
Jaye Howard (6-3 303) RS Senior from Florida
Jaye Howard is my sleeper for the Seahawks in the third or fourth round. Despite what his height/weight ratio might suggest, Howard is thick and plays low, allowing him to hold up against the run. Howard isn't especially agile but he's quick and looks dangerous on twists. He could add more bulk and retain most of his quickness.
Here is Howard playing a lot of 5-tech against LSU last year. You can see his athleticism but there's nothing especially exciting there. Now contrast that to the performance below against Ohio State in Florida's Gator Bowl victory this year where you see an entirely different player. Howard is now primarily playing 3-tech and is starting to trust his athleticism. You see him clubbing linemen aside with his strength and even anticipating the snap count to burst into the backfield. This guy really intrigues me.
DaJohn Harris (6-4 310) RS Senior from Southern California
If Alan Branch and Red Bryant are the mold then Pete won't hesitate to grab his former USC recruit. I suspect Harris will weigh in at the combine closer to 320 than the 310 he's listed at. His size and strength are immediately evident as soon as you see him play. What Harris offers that Branch/Bryant do not is a surprising burst off the snap, which is further complimented by good quickness to work past blockers. Harris does an excellent job getting his hands up with six pass deflections in 2011.
Harris is a project though. He's overly aggressive and often struggles with leverage. He also doesn't have much stamina and gives inconsistent effort. Ideally Harris will develop into a starting 3-tech but if his leverage and discipline don't improve then he'll make the move out to 5-tech, just like Big Red did.
Marcus Forston (6-3 300) RS Junior from Miami
Marcus Forston is an exciting prospect whose college career was tainted by injuries. He looked primed for a big 2011 season before suffering a non-contact knee injury that ended his season early in the year. When healthy, Forston looked like a disruptive force at times. He's quick and has a high motor. When he jumps the snap he'll slant into the backfield to cause mayhem. His powerful lower body helps him hold up against the run.
Forston really needs to improve his pad level and hand use. If he can play with a lower base then there's nothing preventing him from being a starter as a pro. The Hawks' front office showed they weren't afraid of players with an injury history when they picked Walter Thurmond III in the fourth round of the 2010 draft. Forston plays with some attitude, which I think Pete will appreciate.
Big thanks as usual to DraftBreakdown for the excellent scouting videos they put together. If it wasn't for their hard, unheralded and humble work, we'd be forced to watch those godawful horrible highlight videos with terrible soundtracks all day. So, thanks to Aaron Aloysius, JMPasq, JPDraftJedi, TTN2810, MARI0clp and the whole DraftBreakdown crew.