Derek Stephens created his own Seahawk website, The Blue Bird Herd, and is now a writer at Field Gulls. I have known Derek as a friend of a friend for several years. I had no idea Derek spends hours each week scouting college and pro players until very recently. What a shame.
Derek has a day job doing recruiting, has a wife and a daughter, lives near the VMAC, and watches a lot of film on 2012 NFL draft prospects. He also has some well-formed opinions on most every Seahawk player. Derek has also written for Lindy's, NFL.com's Blog Blitz and you can follow him on twitter. He's also an expert draft contributor, along with Mel Kiper Jr and Rob Rang, at the new draft site FIrst Round Exchange.
We are going to do some podcasts on the Seahawks and the NFL Draft in the future.
This interview took place on September 29th, 2011- a few days after the Seahawk home win over the Cardinals. Derek was on the sideline for the game and had a good vantage point on the action. The loss to Atlanta and the win at New York had not taken place yet at the time of this interview. There have been a few edits/additions by Derek due to the fact that a couple of weeks have passed since the interview. (DK edit: some of you may have noticed this article yesterday --I hid it so Derek could add a few thoughts).
If you know me- I am big on the NFL Draft, and we touched on a lot of Seahawk's related topics on the 2012 Draft below.
Because I interject and tended to lead Derek on rabbit trails- I clumped his thoughts minus my interruptions in the paragraphs below. I did everything I can to leave his thoughts word for word but created some transitions. Enjoy some quick thoughts below-
ON ARIZONA CARDINAL'S QB KEVIN KOLB
"He is better than Tarvaris as a pure west coast passer because does a better job of getting the ball out on the right step, at the right time. He leads his receiver and he seems to be more accurate. Arm strength is not his thing. He is athletic.
The early shot downfield to Larry Fitzgerald was nice- more on a line. He gets some air under the ball. He struggles with pressure though, and it could take him some time to get going with his new team. I was against Seattle spending a high pick on Kolb, simply because I think he's over-hyped."
ON SEATTLE SEAHAWK'S QB TARVARIS JACKSON
"He is a step late to run it or throw it- even on the touchdown that he ran in. There is something to be said about bringing in Tarvaris Jackson. The idea was because of the short camp and short exposure to the offense. It made sense on paper. Pete wants a game manager on offense. Run blocking was way better against Arizona. There was one sack that was a real sack versus Arizona that was the fault of the offensive line. The rest of the sacks were Tarvaris' fault in that game simply because he held the ball too long.
Since the Arizona game though, he's been a completely different quarterback. Working more from the shotgun and Bevell has done a great job of scheming to his strengths. He likes to set his feet and take a hitch before throwing, so there have been deeper drops to suit that. They've opened up the offense and he's done well."
ON STANFORD QB ANDREW LUCK
"There is no one better in this draft than Andrew Luck. Luck is a leader. He inspires confidence in the huddle. His athleticism is also underrated and overlooked. He can move his feet and evade pressure to make the play. A lot like Aaron Rodgers in this regard.
"It was looking like Andrew Luck and Matt Barkley were head and shoulders above the rest of the 2012 quarterbacks. Luck seems to be the most pro-ready, picking up reads and making adjustments pre-snap. He is trusted by the coaches to make the reads himself. He scans the field pre-snap. He takes his time. He doesn't get rushed. He doesn't get panicked. He's calling guys out. He's making adjustments. He's throwing up hand signs that may mean nothing in some cases. He's getting the defense to shift. They may shift from a man to a zone and then that zone may open up.
Crafty and smart. Barkley is a steady, smart QB who does all the little things well. Not a huge arm, and doesn't necessarily have pinpoint accuracy, but he can read defenses and his mechanics are solid. He's an ideal fit for a
west coast type offense where the scheme relies more on timing and precision than a big arm."
ON USC QB MATT BARKLEY
"I didn't think the gap between Luck and Barkley was very substantial initially, but a few weeks into the college season, you can see the divide between the two is significant, mostly due to Luck's superior talent. Barkley has the smarts and instincts, but it's the arm and athleticism that set Luck apart, I think."
OTHER 2012 DRAFT QUARTERBACKS (JONES, TANNEHILL, GRIFFIN, COUSINS)
"Kirk Cousins is overrated. Robert Griffin could sneak into the first round. He is 6-2, 220. I haven't charted him yet. He has a hitch in his delivery. His release is better this year, much quicker than last year. Not sidearm. He drops the ball below his waist sometimes and doesn't need to- he has arm strength. He may have the best bucket toss of any QB that could come out in '12.
Landry Jones has Flacco-type ceiling and has steadily become more consistent as the season has progressed. Big arm and can make all the throws when he gets a chance to set his feet. Needs to be more consistent in this regard as he'll get happy feet and leave the pocket early or not follow through when pressure comes up the middle. I like Jones and think he'll be a solid pro. Is a leader, is tough and has the tools. "
"Ryan Tannehill has a good arm. He has guts. Footwork has improved over last season, quite a bit. I have Tannehill slightly ahead of Jones as the 3rd best QB in 2012, due to the upside. The guy has what, ten starts, and he's improving so rapidly, that you can't help but think he'll pick up whatever is thrown at him.
He could be a pick that the Seahawks consider, based on his athleticism and potential and teachability. Some scouts have him as low as 5th or 6th on their list. I'm sitting here wondering if he may not be worthy of a higher pick than Barkley."
ON UW QB KEITH PRICE
"You can't do better than Keith Price right now as a college QB. He is looking like a potential pro prospect, although it's early and he'll need to show consistency over the next couple of years. Arm strength and size could be issues, but we'll see how he develops as a pocket passer. The key is consistency and fundamentals. How is he performing by the 7th or 8th game this year? Does he taper off when defenses scheme better against him? He's got poise and accuracy and he's a throw first QB despite having the legs (although injured at the moment) to make plays running.
If healthy he can run for 70-80 yards per game- but he is a passer first and keeps his eyes downfield. He has weapons. TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins is his best weapon by far. When they start doubling ASJ, WR Jermaine Kearse is going to get even more opportunities. I'd say he probably compares to someone like Tyrod Taylor in terms of his stature and athleticism, but I still think Price is the better pure passer."
ON OTHER DRAFTABLE UW HUSKIES
"RB Chris Polk is a 2nd rounder in all likelihood. I've got him as my 3rd rated RB for 2012 behind Trent Richardson and Lamar Miller, both of whom, I think are more explosive. But Polk looks the part of a starting NFL RB. Good burst, toughness and commits to the hole. He's decisive, which is something you look for a lot more these days. Doesn't dance.
DT Alameda Ta'Amu could be a 1st or 2nd rounder but he has to be more consistent coming off the ball. He's not explosive in the sense of being able to get a consistent pass rush, and that's fine. He's more of a Nose Tackle, 1-Tech DT who shows good ability to anchor, take up space and close running lanes. He gets upright though, at the line and needs to keep the pads down to generate the type of leverage that he's capable of. Shouldn't fall out of the 2nd round.
Kelemete is a guy who I'm not as high on as some. Todd McShay puts him in the 3rd round. I see more of a 5th round grade at this point. He certainly won't play tackle, he's just not big enough. He's a guard, and has some athleticism, but I think he doesn't get his arms extended or target quickly enough right now. He's inconsistent despite the upside that is clearly there. He needs to prove that he can come off the line consistently, get his hands up and keep his feet moving without doubling over at the waste."
ON 2012 NFL DRAFT WIDE RECEIVERS
"Oklahoma's Ryan Broyles is a mid to late first round pick. USC's Robert Woods, though one of the better WRs in college right now, isn't eligible for the draft until 2013, so he'll have to wait. When I grade receivers (or any position for that matter), I'm always looking at the fundamentals first, then consistency. Do they do the little things well? Run clean routes, catch the ball with their hands and look it in, get a good release off the line? Then, do they do it consistently? Broyles is the most consistent receiver in the crop, hands down.
Guys like Alshon Jeffrey and Justin Blackmon have more talent and are both more the prototype WR, but they drop too many balls and have too many mental lapses. That's not to say they won't both be picked before Broyles. But I like Broyles a lot and think he's an underrated guy.
With Blackmon, think Brandon Marshall upside but Braylon Edwards consistency. Jeffrey is more like a Mike Williams type - big body, long arms, not a ton of speed. All three are starting-caliber at the next level though. I just think this year's crop lacks the A.J. Green-type, big-time play maker. Time will tell."
ON 2012 DEFENSIVE LINE- PASS RUSH PRESSURE PROSPECTS
"DE Quinton Coples and Donte Paige-Moss will not fall out of the first round. A good interior pressure 3tech is Boise State's Billy Winn but I don't think he'll be there for Seattle in round 2. He's explosive and gets penetration consistently. A great guy as well. Vinny Curry is climbing. Brandon Jenkins is a DE from Florida State that plays on the edge that could drop into the 2nd round. He is not active enough with his hands. He is 6-3 268lb- more an OLB in a 3-4 type but could be a LEO. He is bendable and can spin to the inside."
ON 2012 NFL DRAFT CORNERBACKS
"Pete Carroll doesn't need the Cornerback to be 6-2 as long as he is physical. He may go for an Alfonso Dennard (NEB CB) and he is only 5-10 but physical and thick. A first round-caliber guy. Stephon Gilmore is 6-1 out of South Carolina. He has a ridiculous jam and can come up and tackle but is fairly new to the CB position and despite his nice upside/athleticism, may fall into the 2nd round. Maybe later in the draft- this is a deep cornerback draft. It's a position you can never have enough of.
My top corners are Morris Claiborne, Dre Kirkpatrick and Janoris Jenkins. Dennard comes next for me and Gilmore after that. I'm not as high on Chase Minnefield (Virginia) as some scouts, but he's got starting potential at the next level.
Were it not for the off-field woes, Janoris Jenkins may be my top CB. He's so explosive and can play off the line or jam in press. Closes on the ball better than anyone in this class. Reminds of Asante Samuel, but tougher and more physical."
ON THE 2011 SEAHAWKS CORNERBACKS
"The guy they are grooming is Richard Sherman. Higher ceiling than Brandon Browner. He can turn and run better than Browner. He needs to get stronger.
Browner is getting better in press each week. I was behind the Arizona sideline and you could hear Larry Fitzgerald and Browner grunt on press collisions. Browner realized in the 2nd Half that he could jam Larry because Larry is not that fast. Just muscled him and leveraged him to the correct side and kept him out of the play.
Don't be surprised if Seattle takes a CB with a high pick in '12 though. With Trufant wearing down physically, Sherman probably takes over at LCB soon enough and Maxwell, Thurmond, Browner all compete for the other positions. Problem is, none of these guys are proven and you don't pass up an elite corner prospect like a Claiborne or Kirkpatrick if you're not sold on your current crop (which Seattle should not be yet)."
ON THE BEST PLAYERS IN THE NFL IN 2011
"Aaron Rodgers is it. I just don't see it any other way. Would be shocked to see him throw 4 INTs in a game (like Brady did). Tom Brady is still Tom Brady though.
What makes Rodgers so special is his ability to escape pressure and extend plays. Nevermind the rocket arm and incredible composure. If you see a close-up of Rodgers face under pressure- he is so relaxed in the pocket. There is no strain. He senses pressure. He is the QB you want to have for the new NFL. I see Andrew Luck as an Aaron Rodgers type more than Manning or Brady, simply because of the athleticism and escapability.
The best WR right now is Calvin Johnson. The best RB is Darren McFadden. Best D-lineman is Ndamukong Suh. Not sure on CB. Darelle Revis isn't the Revis we saw 2 years ago. Nnamdi either. I love Joe Haden and think he could become the top guy within a couple of years."