The newest 'top-10 talent whose draft stock has drastically decreased due to character concerns' linked to the Seattle Seahawks is DT Marvin Austin out of North Carolina. Rob over at Seahawks Draft Blog has him going to the Hawks in his last mock and I've seen it in a few others over the last few months. He's mostly been in the 2nd round discussion due to the fact he missed the entire 2010 season after being dismissed from North Carolina's football program, but lately he's making his way back into the 1st round discussion and the Hawks are a likely candidate to consider him.
Michael Lombardi of the NFL Network had this to say about Austin recently:
"(He has) the ability to play on all three downs and impact the game. I think if you can get comfortable with the off-the-field issues, which I think a lot of teams have, I think he has top-10 talent based on his production and his skill level. He's a lot closer to Marcell Dareus than most people might suspect."
Mike Mayock, a very respected draft analyst (whose opinion may hold more weight than Lombardi here at Field Gulls), who until just recently had him rated as a 3rd round pick, has now moved Austin to the 24 spot on his big board, and doubts he'll be drafted any later than the late first. This is about where the Seahawks are located if they don't move around, and he'd fill a big need for the Hawks, theoretically.
The main questions of course are whether he's a value at #25 and whether his off-field concerns will rear their head at the next level. Nolan Nowrocky, the same guy that laced into Cam Newton recently in headline grabbing fashion, recently had this to say about Marvin Austin:
"[Austin] has reputation in the NFL scouting community as a ‘finger-pointing, excuse-making con artist' who does not know what it means to lead. [Austin] set a poor example and coasted way too much on his natural talent throughout college. Set back the UNC program by accepting improper gifts and was called "the ringleader" that led to investigations affecting the eligibility of 13 players."
This is definitely cringe-worthy, but again, should be taken with a grain of salt - while these accusations may be true, at the moment they are just rumors. He did get dismissed from North Carolina, which is pretty damning, but we don't know the exact circumstances of that so it's wise not to pass judgement. At the least though, he's a risky pick, albeit a very talented one. A guy with top-10 talent falling to 25 is a good thing for Seattle - and the Hawks may be lucky enough to have the opportunity to choose between three players that have all been described as such - Jimmy Smith, Ryan Mallett, and now Marvin Austin (how about that for a decision - probably won't happen but it's not out of the realm of possibility). It would certainly give them options. Here's what Austin's NFL.com Combine page had to say about him:
Austin has first round talent, but he did not play football last season and there are concerns about his character and work ethic. He appears to be a prototypical 3-technique defensive tackle, as he is a big boy with outstanding athleticism. He has great feet and the lateral agility to move quickly down the line and make tackles on the edge. He uses his quick heavy hands to shed blocks and has the closing burst to make plays in the backfield. Austin's off the field issues may prevent him from being a first round pick, but he could be a major steal in round two.
Strengths: Austin has great size and speed for the position. Explodes off the ball and shows great foot quickness. Possesses superb lateral agility and the range to make plays outside the tackle box. Strong player with a thick lower half that flashes a powerful bull rush to collapse the pocket.
Weaknesses: Plays too high and struggles to fend off double teams. Takes too long to locate the ball and can be engulfed by down blocks. Does not have an extensive repertoire of pass rushing moves. Will take plays off and has a questionable work ethic. Missed entire 2010 season after being deemed ineligible.
So this just illustrates why he's a polarizing figure. 6'2, 309, and talent for days, but will require a system that keeps him in check. Personally, I think the Hawks are the type of organization that can handle that, so I wouldn't count Austin out of the first round picture. If he falls to #57 - to me that's a no-brainer, pick him up and hope he keeps his head on straight. He'd could come in to play 3-tech and fill in at the 5-tech when needed.