I watched the NFL combine very closely for two of Seattle's biggest needs, linebacker and defensive line. I don't want to break that down further to OLB and DE, because there are options that I think have to be considered.
First for linebackers - why have we heard nothing of free agent David Hawthorne? There hasn't been much from Pete Carroll or John Schnieder on talks with him. I've heard more mention of John Carlson and retaining him than I have with Hawthorne. Second, 'We need to get faster at the linebacker position.' That was one of Carroll's statements. Not faster at WILL only, which is important. Third and ironically enough, 3rd strike for Leroy Hill. He's looking at suspension of four games to start the season, he's a FA, and most likely wont be back next season.
A focus on defensive line and not just defensive end: I have to admit, I think I was wrong here. I've been saying in some comments in blogs that we will not draft a pass rushing DT. Brandon Mebane and Alan Branch are solid run defenders with somewhat hefty contracts and if you are looking for a pass rushing specialist from DT position, that guy would be a rotational player that is there for 3rd and long only. Why exhaust a pick for a guy who maybe plays once every three downs?
First, because you can have a run stopper and pass rushing DT with one player. Second, we need depth at DT. If Mebane or Branch get injured, I don't want Bryant to have to move inside, where he isn't as effective. Lazarius Levingston and Clinton McDonald are okay in a pinch, but not who you want to start multiple games for you. Third, and most importantly, I think the new breed of DT, in some cases, can move along the line in our defense and play DE, he can play 5 tech if Red gets hurt, or can play 3-tech to give us pass rush on 3rd down. A DT doesn't have to be a DT only, on our line.
Now before I get into the Combine results, let me explain how I view the it. I obviously can't be in the meetings where they are asked about schemes and such. Some guys don't and didn't show well in this kind of environment, and that's okay. Schneider and Carroll are not going to stay away from a guy because of the Combine, likely. That said... I doubt they are going to draft a guy based on the combine either.
Rob Staton replied to on a question I asked him regarding the combine and its point, and he said basically that they may have a feeling about a guy - whether good or bad - maybe he has bad hip action or maybe on some film his footwork is hard to make out. They'll use a Combine to get a better idea of the answers to those questions, and then go back and watch more film with the new information in mind. The other thing about the Combine, which I didn't realize until this year, is the fire that some of these guys played with. A lot of these guys wanted to be out there to compete for the love of the game. Sure, they wanted to impress and improve their draft position as well, but for some guys it just seemed to be more than that. Some of the players that were interviewed as well mentioned competing which I'm sure Carroll loved to hear. So lets jump in with the players that did well:
Dontari Poe DT - Memphis - This guy is HUGE. He was projected as a NT, but after his performance, you can see his versatility. He's measured in at 6'4" 346lbs. What the most impressive thing about him is that for his size, he ran a 4.98 40 time, which is truly remarkable!! You'd hope a player his size would run in the 5.4s or 5.5s. Alameda Ta'amu ran a 5.34 and that is normally considered very good for a player of that size.
So, he has speed for a big man inside, when I saw him I immediately thought Red Bryant. He could play 5-tech if Red gets injured or you could even start him at 3-tech, although that may not be a pressing need with Branch doing so well there for us. With his strength and speed, he could get into the backfield and disrupt better than Branch would. He also impressed everyone with his strength - 44 reps of 225lb on bench press - that is eight more reps than anyone else. Impressive display. Probably mid-late 1st, early 2nd round grade. See him here.
Bruce Irvin DE - West Virginia - Ok, you want speed from DE, why not the fastest 40 time for DE - a 4.5. 4.5! For a DE, lets put that in perspective: there were 25 WRs that ran a slower time than he did.. 25! Of the six events he entered, he was a top performer in four of them. That is amazing considering the company he's in. He was best in 20 yard shuffle and the 3-cone drill as well, which measures foot quickness. He would be an option as a 4-3 DE for pass rushing, although he needs to develop his run defense. He has a 2nd round grade. His interview and highlights here.
Nick Perry DE/OLB - USC - He's here for his skills, not the Pete Carroll connection. I like this kid. He's very well spoken and is a solid option for DE in our 4-3. He ran the 3rd fastest 40 time at 4.64, which is impressive. He was also a top performer in vertical jump and broad jump. Vertical was best by far 2.5 inches higher than anyone else. It is good for two reasons, could disrupt passing to flats on screens and if beat at the line, still can get up and bat the ball at the line. Mid-late 1st round grade. Value pick. Clip here.
Mychal Kendricks - MLB - Cal - Remember this name. I'll be honest, I didn't know much about this kid, but he is one of those fire guys I mentioned above. He was there to compete. Fastest LB in the 40 at 4.47. He was in five events and finished as a top performer in four of them. If we decide not to resign Hawthorne or he decides to leave, this is the kid that can replace him. After watching the combine I went and looked at some of his game film and his skills translate to the field. 2nd round grade. See his 40 here.
Demario Davis - OLB - Arkansas State - This kid kept showing up and made a good impression as well. Finishing in the top performers in four of the seven events he entered in, 40 time was one of them. 60yd shuffle was another, which shows foot quickness. The knock on him, though oddly enough, is his quickness, in that he has a tendency to overrun plays at times and has to recover. He's a project in pass defense but is a solid run defender and a hard hitter. He has a 5th round grade.
James Michael-Johnson - MLB/OLB - Nevada - Small school kid with a lot of upside. He only finished as a top performer in one of seven events, but he was right in the thick of it. He played two years at OLB and two years at ILB, which shows his versatility, which we know Carroll likes. He was the leader of their defense, is excellent inside the box and fills the gaps quickly against the run. He is a good solid football player. He has a 4th round grade.
I could go on about a few others, but I wanted go over some of the performances I was not impressed with. Some names have been tied to us, but again, even if they had a bad performance at the combine, it doesn't mean they are bad football players, just that it didn't translate well at the combine.
Sean Spence - OLB - Miami - I was really looking forward to seeing this kid perform, but I almost wish I hadn't. I heard a lot about his speed, but he came in at 4.71 - which isn't horrible, but not the speed I was expecting (that time was good enough for 13th among LBs. He also only managed 12 reps of 225lbs on the bench press - the worst among LBs (best was 36, and 2nd worst 15). That said, if you watch the film on this kid, his instincts on the field are very impressive, he closes well, tackles well for an undersized LB and would fit well as a WILL. He currently has a 2nd round grade.
Michael Brockers - DT - LSU - He just didn't look interested. He ran a very slow 40 time - 5th worse among DL at 5.36, he was the worst among DL in bench press, where I personally think a big DT should shine, he had only 19 reps of 225lbs. The man is 6'5" 322lbs. I was expecting to see a projected top-10 pick in some mocks outperform and separate himself from the other DTs but he just didn't do that. Interview and results here.
Vinny Curry - DE - Marshall - I expected to see him explode in some of these drills, but it just wasn't there. He was a top performer in the 3-cone and did show flashes on something to build on, but he was slower than you'd expect from a pass rushing DE. His 40 was 4.98. He didn't participate in bench press so tough to see strength there. He has potential, and will be a solid football player, but he may need a little time. He has a 2nd round grade.
Vontaze Burfict - LB - Arizona State - To me, if you have a questionable label with work ethic or off the field issues, this is the place where you try and dispel some of those labels, but he fed them. He only participated in three drills and did horrible in all of them. He had the slowest 40 time among LBs at 5.09, he had the 2nd worst vertical jump at 30", and worst broad jump by 3" at 104". If you didn't want to be there, you should have stayed home. Carroll, please stay away from this guy. I've seen him mocked to us in the 2nd round a few times, but I just don't think he mixes well with our guys.
Well there you have it. Some of the better results and not so good results from a Seahawk point of view. Granted, a couple of the guys, Dontari Poe for example, is only a realistic option if Bryant isn't retained or Carroll decided to use him as a 3-tech and let Branch go or use Branch as 3rd on depth chart, but he was impressive to say the least. Tell me what you thought of the combine. Who stood out well or who didn't? I should note that Zach Brown had the flu and didn't do as well as he himself expected to, but it does show you a bit about his competitiveness. I like that. Thanks for reading.