Drinking up the Fifth

Ron Chenoy-US PRESSWIRE

Why the 5th round of the NFL Draft has been, and will continue to be, so good to the Seahawks.

I don’t know if John Schneider has done it on purpose, but he has turned the 5th round of the NFL Draft into the “ugly duckling” round. It’s this magical little round where unwanted, misunderstood, miscast, misfits turn into glorious Pro Bowl/All Pro swans. The list is short, but it is sweet: 2010 - Kam Chancellor, 2011 - Richard Sherman (2011 was also Mark Legree, but who cares…it was Sherm), 2012 - Korey Toomer. Now, the book is still out on Toomer, but go back and look at his pro day numbers, compare them to this year’s linebackers, and tell me he doesn’t still look intriguing in an upside kinda way. Basically we’re already at 50% boom-rate in the 5th during JS’ tenure. One other thing I think we can say about Schneider: he hedges all bets. He hedges draftees with veteran talent in FA, and he hedges early-round needs with late-round fail-safes.

This is why I spend a lot of time thinking about, looking for, and finding killer 5th round candidates. During the college pro-day period, is a GREAT time to scout for late-round players; guys that aren’t the high-profile, combine-invitee types. The Hawks seem to agree with that assessment as they’ve been at about 90% of all pro-days in the first week. Seattle has two picks in the 5th this year (one of them a high 5th from the Raiders) and history suggests that odds are even that one of those picks is gonna be the biggest steal of the draft.

So where will the Hawks go with those two picks? I have pretty strong opinions of where they will target in the first four rounds, and that can inform what will still be needed from the 5th on. Actually, that’s only a partly-true statement. In actuality, finding really interesting players that are projecting 5th round (or later) FIRST, can then take the pressure off of what positions are true “needs” in the first four. Sort of like when you find a franchise QB in the 3rd, you can draft for high upside or freak/unique attributes in the 1st.

Let’s start at LB. There are two players that I’ve found that fit the Hawks’ current molds of weakside LB. By that, I’m talking LB’s similar to the undersized, but speedy, Malcolm Smith (6’0’/226). The first candidate (Phillip Steward) I highlighted earlier this year in this Field Gulls scouting report. The second candidate is a guy I noticed while scouting Dri Archer, Logan Ryan, and Khaseem Greene during the college season when Kent State played Rutgers. His name is Luke Batton, and versus Rutgers he posted 13 tackles, a sack, and an interception.

Further research after that game revealed that Batton was (at that time) leading the nation in tackles. He finished the season 5th overall with 143 total tackles (for perspective: Bobby Wagner, in 2011, was 4th in the country with 147), but, perhaps more impressively, he also helped lead the Golden Flashes to an 11-3 record, and nearly a berth in a BCS bowl game (that spot went instead to NIU…more on NIU later). The rest of Batton’s 2012 statline reads: 8 TFL, 3.5 sacks, 2 INT, 5 PBU, 1 forced fumble, and one 83-yard fumble return for a TD (a fumble return where Batton, incidentally, looked a little like Mike Alstott). This all looks great and begs the question: “Why isn’t Batton projecting higher than an undrafted free agent?” Answer: one part small school, one part 5’11”/230lbs/4.67. He is undersized. And not in the Malcolm Smith/Mychal Kendricks/ “electric speed” kind of way.

Batton took part in Kent State’s pro-day on Wednesday and his 40 was timed at 4.67 and 4.77. Smith and Kendricks are both 4.4 guys. BUT…Batton did also put down a 4.29 short shuttle and a 6.88 3-cone drill. Those times, if run at the Scouting Combine, would have been better than higher-touted players: Alec Ogletree, Sio Moore, Jamie Collins, Keith Pough, and Ty Powell. In fact, the 6.88 3-cone would have been bested by only Zaviar Gooden and Barkevious Mingo. More importantly, Batton’s film is pretty damn good. He is a form-tackling clinician with great instincts and the slipperiness to get through the wash and make stops. According to College2pro.com’s twitter feed, Batton has received primary interest from three teams, including Seattle.

Another position I’m trying to target in the 5th round is the big WR/move TE. I have a feeling the Hawks will hit on WR in the 2nd round, but that may be a smaller/burner type. In the 5th it will be someone between a Kris Durham/Braylon Edwards/Evan Moore/Kellen Winslow. I could see that being San Jose’s Ryan Otten, FSU’s Rodney Smith, EWU’s Brandon Kaufman, or, my recent favorite: Rutgers' Mark Harrison.

Harrison has sort of gone under the radar this year, both nationally and on the Rutgers’ roster, because he played on the same team as sophomore WR Brandon Coleman. But his 44 catches, 6 TD’s, and 6’3”/230lb frame got the attention of the combine invite committee. Harrison proceeded to shred the combine to the tune of a 4.46 forty, 38.5” vertical, 10’09” broad. By comparison; Kellen Winslow went 4.55/33.5”/10’01” while measuring 6’4”/247, and Aaron Hernandez ran 4.64/33”/9’03” at 6’2”/245. I’m using the measurables of TE’s on purpose. Although Harrison has been playing WR, I would ask him to put on like 10 lbs and then use him as a TE/H-back a la Dalanie Walker (6’1”/240/4.49/36.5”/9’10”).

I think he would be a matchup nightmare inside against LB’s and nickel corners. NFLdraftscout.com has Harrison rated in the 7th round (even after his combine), which I think is really low. I’m gonna hope the rest of the league has him in the 6th, and then run to the podium if he’s there in the 5th. We’ll find out March 13th if the Hawks are in attendance for Rutgers’/Harrison’s pro-day.

Now, if the Hawks go TE in the 2nd round, they may be in need of a “burner” here, in the 5th. I found one I was instantly infatuated with Friday morning after seeing his Texas A&M pro-day results start trickling across my twitter feed. First the jumps: 39.5” vert and 10’10” broad. Wow! I didn’t see his ht/wt/length measurements, but referring to other sources he’s somewhere between 5’11” and 6’1”, about 194 lbs. Not bad. Then across came his 40-time: 4.49 (A&M website says 4.40). Great! Especially if he’s that upper-end height. Had to check the video…this is what I found for Uzoma Nwachukwu (I’m gonna start calling him Uzi…I can pronounce that! Plus he’s a weapon!):

Instant reaction: “poor man’s Markus Wheaton”. And that’s not a statement of his ability. That’s a statement of his price…his draft stock being currently valued at a 7th round pick. Why is he a 7th round pick? I can only guess it was his production: only 26 catches for 485 yards (a pretty healthy 18.65 ypc though) and 7 TD. Quick math: over a quarter of his catches went for TD.

Here’s the interesting thing about Uzi coming from A&M…they may be one of the college teams most comparable to the current Hawks’ offense:

Johnny Manziel = Wilson (undersized QB with accuracy and good running ability)

Mike Evans = Rice (#1 WR…6’5” w/82 catches, 13.48ypc)

Ryan Swope = Tate (smaller slot guy with sub-4.42 speed and 72 catches, 12.68ypc)

Christine Michael = Marshawn (5’11”/220)

Thomas Johnson = Baldwin (another 5’11” guy w/30 catches, 11.30ypc)

While Uzi isn’t much bigger/faster than Tate and Baldwin, the evidence of his 18.65 ypc suggests he does a better job taking the top off a defense. Oh, and there was one more jaw-dropping number that came out of Uzi’s pro-day: he benched 225 lbs TWENTYFIVE times! That is better than 18 or 19 of the linebackers, 14 of the D-lineman, and ALL of the DB’s (minus Shamarko and two others) that tested at the combine! Sidenote: Uzi actually put up 152 career receptions at A&M, which is an average of 38 per, and a peak of 50 last year with Ryan Tannehill throwing to him. So the 26 number this year is actually his worst year. Let’s watch his tape again:

You still want more, huh? That’s a good thing!

As we talked about earlier, the 5th round has been gold for the Hawks in the defensive backfield. If they look to go that way again with either of their picks I’m going to recommend a couple guys.

At CB there is Northern Illinois’ Rashaan Melvin. I’ve been tracking him all year because he fits the PC/big CB profile to a T! He measured in on Friday at 6’2”/192 at the NIU pro-day where the Seahawks were present.

Melvin also had a top-10 finish, in the country, this season in terms of total passes defended (19…for reference, Dee Milliner was tied for 1st with 22). Unfortunately, his game tape is not great. He’s very stiff, he gets beat on double-moves regularly, and his press technique kinda sucks. But when the predecessors at the position are BB and Sherm…two guys that were pretty raw themselves coming out of college…you can give some benefit of the doubt that Caroll can coach Melvin up. Incidentally, Melvin ran somewhere between a 4.44 and a 4.38 (which stunned me!), and he jumped 38” and 10’6” respectively. There is explosive upside within.

Then, at safety, I’m going to bite a name from our esteemed colleague: Davis Hsu. He tipped me off to Idaho’s Gary Walker a couple days ago and I’m really happy that he did. Idaho ran their pro-day this Thursday and it is not believed that the Seahawks attended. But…the Hawks can invite Northwest players to their own prospect camp before the draft.

That is how the Hawks found fellow Vandal; Korey Toomer last year. Back to Walker…I couldn’t find any measurables on him from the poorly-attended Idaho pro-day, so I’ll list him as 6’0”/199 (according to the Idaho website). No speed listed, but his film shows he has some nice click-and-close. He also seems to have a knack for hurting guys. Count the number of players that get up really slowly in this clip:

Walker has been one of the more productive Vandals this year, clocking 99 total tackles this year, after registering 109 in 2011. He also had 1 INT, 6 PBU, 1 FF, and 2 TFL. Honestly, Walker may be the type of guy that will be on the board a little farther than the 5th round. He’d be a great last-resort if none of the Hawks’ other safety targets don’t fall to them where they hope.

If the Hawks haven’t addressed O-line by the end of the 4th round, I have a couple names that I’m really digging and could pick with one of the 5’s: West Texas A&M’s Manase Foketi looks really solid, both of the Virginia Tech OT’s (Nick Becton and Vinston Painter) seem to have nice upside, and Jamaal Johnson-Webb…the first player from Alabama A&M ever to be invited to the combine.

JJW first caught my eye AT the combine when I saw that he had almost 36” arms. If not for DJ Fluker and Rogers Gaines, JJW would have been included in my story on the combine players of unusual length. Although I have yet to see him in game action, it has been documented that the Seahawks attended AAMU’s pro-day (along with only two other teams).

The only other possible true prospect at the AAMU pro-day would have been RB Kaderius Lacey (who would have been a great inclusion in my piece on the best names in the draft, and whom Danny Kelly highlighted this week in his study of the Hawks’ RB tastes).

And that brings us, nicely, to the RB’s. I’ve talked before about Utah State’s Neo-Sproles: Kerwynn Williams, and I like him about the 5th round range (Hawks did attend Utah State pro-day).

I like the back from Middle Tennessee; Bennie Cunningham, but he is still coming back from a tough knee injury and can probably be taken in the 7th round, if not UDFA.

But my current favorite is Winona State’s Rayon Simmons. Danny’s story had a couple of the good tidbits on Rayon’s interaction with the Hawks at his pro-day, so I will just add one thought:

Simmons may seem a bit slow.

At first blush, that was my thought (4.67 at 5’9”/223lbs). But then I went to comp. him to RB’s from the recent past and found these: Alfred Morris-5'10/219/4.63, Trent Richardson-5'9/228/4.61, Mark Ingram-5’9”/215/4.62, Steven Ridley-5'11/225/4.65, Arian Foster-6'1/226/4.68. I like the Alfred Morris and Arian Foster comps best of all, as one of those guys was drafted in the 6th round and the other wasn’t drafted at all. It’s also worth noting that the Redskins (Morris) and the Texans (Foster) run Zone Blocking Schemes.

It’s also worth noting that Rayon can pop tags cause this is fucking awesome:

There ya go. Those are some of my favorite players to target in round 5. Lots of position variety. Did you notice which areas were glaringly lacking? And THAT should inform the first 2-3 rounds more than anything.

Many of the players mentioned here, the Hawks have already been connected with in the draft rumor mill. Who would you like to see them target? Since the Hawks have two selections that round, you get to take two big swigs of that 5th! Cheers!!!

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