2014 NFL Draft: Seahawk combine preview

How's my wingspan? - Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Taking a look at some of the defensive players to watch for at the NFL Combine.

The NFL combine starts today in Indianapolis. Well…technically. Today is a day for the players to arrive, go through orientation, a physical/medical exams, and some preliminary interviews.

Thursday we will start getting useful data from the OL and TE (and kickers) groups when they conduct the body measurements portion of their combine.

Each successive day we will add a new group while the prior group moves on to different levels of the tests and drills.

Friday the QB’s, WR’s, and RB’s will be measured, Saturday we will see measurements of the DL and LB’s, and Sunday it will be all of the DB’s. Each of those sections will remain grouped together through the entire 4-day process.

The groups will proceed like this: Day 1) physicals, day 2) measurements, day 3) psych test/bench press, day 4) timing tests/on-field drills.

So that’s the cliff notes of what to expect, but that’s not why you called…here is a little taste of WHO to expect:

Both personally and situationally (as a Seahawk fan) I don’t get terribly excited about the highly touted, 1st round prospects’ test numbers. Drafting at #32 overall, most of the combine "freaks" are going to get snatched up well before the Hawks hit the clock. Seeing how Clowney and Barr, or Watkins and Lee test will mostly be anecdotal. Of the 1st rounders, I’m probably most curious what the big Gopher; Ra’Shede Hageman will do. There has been talk since early in the season of the 6’6"/318 DT having a 40" vertical. He DID have 8 passes and 2 FG’s knocked down this year.

I’ll be most interested in how the guys with current 2nd round (and below) projections end up testing. Does Davante Adams jump out the gym and out of the 2nd? Will ASJ show enough explosivity to blow up his 2nd round stock? Will ANY running back test well enough to skip a grade and actually put a RB in the 1st round after none were drafted there last year? It seems a silly thing for guys to rise/fall entire rounds based on the combine, but it happens. Teams like Seattle put huge emphasis on measurables and how they relate to SPARQ, so a great combine can turn a 4th round RB like Christine Michael into a 2nd round pick.

Another reason I like the combine is for new intel on players I may not have had cause/opportunity to study prior to their measurements/testing. When you have an idea of what your team looks for; their size/shape/speed preferences, you will often find new guys enter your radar based simply on an arm length.

And, of course, arm length is a pretty important trait in most recent Seahawk-drafted players. It has been fairly common across most position groups. Arm-length may be the single, most-prominent reason Greg Scruggs (and his 35" arms) became a Seahawk. Arm-length may be why Walter Thurmond III was picked even though he didn’t fit other aspects of the "big CB" profile the Seahawks have become famous for.

Actually, it’s kind of interesting…the Seahawks have gone and made big CB the new trend. But I sort of look at the CB class in this draft and think, because of this trend toward big CB, guys like Stanley Jean-Baptiste (6’2"/215) and Keith McGill (6’3"/216) are going to be players other teams reach on in a major way. What those other teams may not be realizing is: A) how good SJB and McGill may or may not be, and B) the Seahawks may be more interested in a CB who simply has over 32" arms that is available after the 4th round.

Although the size aspect gets most of the press, the value aspect might be the reason Sherm/Max/Simon became Seahawks. Are the Seahawks more interested in a 6’2" corner, or in a 5th round steal? And sometimes counter-programming, going against trend…even a trend you started, is the best way to find value. Especially when the trend has been mislabeled ("size" when it should be "length").

Since the PCJS regime came to town, the list of CB drafted here looks like this:

Sherm- 6’3"/195/32.00"arms

Max- 6’0"/202/33.50"arms

WT3- 5’11"/189/32.75"arms

Lane- 6’0"/184/32.25"arms

Simon- 6’2"/202/32.75"arms

As you can see, there’s a fair range of weight and height numbers, but it’s pretty easy to spot the minimum number on those arms. So that’s one thing I definitely look for, with the second being a CB forty time under 4.55 (Sherm was the slowest of the group at 4.54). With that in mind, and a few CB already measured in at college all-star games, I will direct you toward paying attention to: Pierre Desir, Bennett Jackson, and Rashaad Reynolds this weekend. All have over 32" arms, and 2 of 3 are over 6’0". Reynolds is a bit undersized, technically measuring 5’9.6", but if the Hawks are planning to replace WT3 at the nickel, Reynolds continues to look like a pretty remarkable match.

CB’s we have no official measures on but look the part on tape: Bashaud Breeland, Antone Exum, Jabari Price, and wildcards being either of the Florida CB’s (Purifoy or Roberson). I also have questions on a corner named Walt Aikens, but he was not invited to the combine and currently rests on his Senior Bowl weigh-in of 6’1"/205/32.25"arms.

In terms of the Safeties in the DB group at the combine, the arm length would appear to be less relevant if the Hawks are looking to replace Maragos as Earl’s backup. Earl’s arms were 31.25" and Maragos’ arm measurement I couldn’t find. Both guys stand under 5’11" and ran sub-4.5 forties. I’ll be watching Kenny Ladler (6’0"/200) and Marqueston Huff (5’11"/198), with both having over 31" arms.

Interestingly, a guy that could fit any number of roles in the defensive backfield; a guy that looks a little bit like the next Deshawn Shead, is NCState CB/S Dontae Johnson. Already measured at 6’2"/199 with 31.5" arms, Johnson literally played both Safety and CB for the Wolfpack this year, including some slot CB, and his versatility is really appealing. I do, however, wish his arms were a bit closer to matching Shead’s 33’s.

Remaining on the defensive side of the ball, I’m very anxious to get a look at some of the measurements of the DE’s and LB’s. I pointed this out earlier this year, but according to the official roster on Seahawks.com, literally every DE/Leo they had on the 53 and shadow roster was listed at 6’3": Bruce, Cliff, Boat, Clem, Benson, Scruggs, and OB (and technically Mike Morgan if you consider him a DE). I don’t think that it’s accurate that all of those guys are 6’3", but that is what the team proclaims. The weights on DE vary from about 245-260lbs. So that’s two quick, easy things to look for in a DE. Another is arms over 33". And that actually applies to the LB group, as well (Bobby-33.00", KJ-34.88", Bruce-33.38", Scruggs-35.5").

Another thing to look for from a LB would be their broad jump. I’m actually a big fan of studying both the combine jump numbers; standing broad and standing vert. This is one of the easiest ways to get an idea of quick-twitch explosivity. Our roster of LB have broad jumps that look like this:

Bobby-11’00"

Toomer-10’10"

Smitty-10’05"

Bruce-10’03"

KJ-10’00"

Other than that, there aren’t a whole lot of common traits in our LB group. KJ was slow (4.71), Smitty was light (226), Bobby was short (6’0"). But each also had an elite trait…KJ was long, and Bobby/Malcolm were fast (ironically, if you really wanted to draw up the guy that fit dead-center in the median of all of the LB, it would probably be Korey Toomer at 6’2"/234/4.53). But they are all explosive.

Some of the names that are pre-qualified ones-to-watch at the combine will be: Lamin Barrow (6’1"/229/33"arms), Jeremiah Attaochu (6’3"/252/32.88"arms), Marcus Smith (6’4"/258/33.25"arms). The players with total unknown measurables I’m curious on are Kasim Edebali, Howard Jones, Demarcus Lawrence, Jonathan Newsome, Kevin Pierre-Louis, James Morris, Preston Brown, and Avery Williamson. Some of those guys I’m hoping are taller than expected, some I hope have added weight, some I hope run well. Some of them I hope the Seahawks ignore SPARQ and just draft based off of film.

Lastly, on defense, I don’t really have any specific numbers that I’m looking for from a DT draftpick. The Hawk’s D-line is so rotational and sort of "schemed to order" that I get the sense they can find use for guys of all shapes and sizes. I’m more interested in watching specific players.

There always seems to be a Pacific Islander that comes to the combine and just destroys the bench press; this year that could be Tenny Palepoi (a player I featured in the Gems EARLY this season).

I’m also very intrigued by the buzz starting to build on Princeton’s Caruan Reid. If you get a chance to see a pic of Reid’s weigh-in, try to note the size of the dude’s quads.

Similarly, there is some nice support building for Justin Ellis, a guy I championed months ago. I still question whether or not he’s a fit for Seattle, but I don’t question whether or not he’s the second-best true nose tackle in this class.

George Uko is a player I could see as a Michael Bennett protégé/replacement but I’d like to see some decent speed/agility numbers from him, as he appears to be a bad-body type.

Zach Kerr could be an unheralded, late-round player with Kawann Short upside who I’d like to see cut like 10lbs.

And finally, at DT, I’m curious what kind of weekend Ryan Carrethers will put together. Coming from a smaller school, he really has been tough to study thoroughly.

Looking at the clock now and realizing I’m pushing midnight on Tuesday…I’m anxious to get this up and formatted on Field Gulls for the morning, so I think I will make the editorial decision to split my preview in half, and I’ll take a look at the offense for Thursday morning. Deal?

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