(I wrote this Monday afternoon, before MNF, and way before the news of Sidney Rice’s ACL injury. I’m leaving it exactly as it was, because it’s kind of cool and semi-prophetic...maybe.)
The NFL season is now half over for our Seattle Seahawks. The Hawks are still not firing on all cylinders, or what we think their full potential is, and yet they sit at 7-1 and atop the NFC playoff standings. If the season were to end today, with no playoffs, the Seahawks would hold the 31st overall selection in the 2014 NFL draft, with undefeated KC getting the last pick each round.
Before I begin, I must, MUST stress and remind you that what the Seahawks NEED most is not necessarily what you take in the 1st round. If a draft is deep in QB, or if you’ve isolated a certain player that will drop rounds because he lives on the island of misfit toys (too short QB, too tall CB, etc), you can wait until later to nab him. I point this out because I know the common thinking is that the Hawks should go OL in the 1st. I see your tweets, I read your comments…I get it. But I am not putting the same emphasis on OL as the popular opinion because I happen to think this draft is DEEP on the OL.
I will also preface my mock by explaining that I am not projecting draftpick trades. I think trades are highly likely to occur, but "when" and "with whom" are impossible to predict. I am rolling out a simple, 7-round, 7-pick Seattle draft. We have no 3rd round pick (to MINN for Percy Harvin), and we have two 5ths (from OAK for Matt Flynn). So our current draft looks like this: 1-31, 2-63, 4-127, 5-140, 5-159, 6-191, 7-223. I desperately hope we acquire a 3rd rounder at some point. 3rd round has fantastic talent. Even an extra, early-4th would be helpful.
For me, the first round looks like a battle between DT, OG, and WR.
Most ideal, but least likely scenario: Minnesota DT Ra’Shede Hageman drops to Seattle. Hageman is 6’6"/311 with power and athleticism. In a class with very few desirable DT, Hageman will blow out the scouting combine and become a top 20 pick. But should he fall, this is a must-draft player who would fill the Tony McDaniel role for YEARS to come. Could also eventually play some 5Tech in lieu of Red Bryant.
Most populist, and highly plausible scenario that I hope doesn’t happen: the best available OG. There is a lot of split opinion on who the top Guard is, not to mention how much the league values drafting Guards. My opinion is that the value of Guards is rising. Look at the last three drafts: in 2011 there was only one Guard drafted in the 1st round, and the 5th guard taken didn't come off until #110 overall (**James Carpenter was taken in the 1st but was drafted as a RT). In 2012, we had two Guards taken in the 1st, and the 5th guard taken was drafted at #71 overall. Last year, there were three guards taken in the 1st round and the 5th guard drafted came off at #72 overall. Also, in 2011 and 2012, the first guard drafted came at 23/24 respectively...last year, we had 3 guards drafted in the first 20 picks.
This pattern could be indicative of increasing priority on Guards, or it could simply show a spike in Guard talent. I don't necessarily see that pattern continuing this year. I'd find it tough to believe that we see 3 guards drafted in the 1st round this year. And if we did, the 3rd drafted wouldn't be until around the Hawks' pick at #31.
For me, the top guard is Baylor’s Cyril Richardson, then comes Stanford’s David Yankey (assuming he declares), and then Mississippi State’s Gabe Jackson. Some mocks have Cyril Richardson listed as a Tackle…A) that isn’t the position he’s currently playing, B) it won’t be where he plays in the NFL, C) mocking him as a Tackle only hurts his stock and makes the rest of those mocks less accurate.
I think there is approximately a 15 pick differential between these three guards: Cyril at #15, Yankey at #30, Jackson at #45. Simply based on that, Cyril won’t be available to Seattle, Yankey MIGHT barely be there and would be a good marriage of talent and value, and Jackson would be a reach. If the Hawks are to get a Guard in the 1st, Yankey seems the most likely. I wouldn’t be mad at that pick at all.
Least populist, historically unlikely scenario that I hope happens: WR Jordan Matthews (this could also easily be Odell Beckham Jr). I’d feel much more comfortable with this pick under a trade-back scenario, but I’m not mocking that.
Whereas last year saw a spike in OG drafted early, the WR group was down. We had Tavon Austin drafted at #8, and then didn't see another WR until Deandre Hopkins at #27, followed by Cordarrelle Patterson at #29. In previous years we saw WR drafted at: #5, 13, 20, 30 (2012); #4, 6, 26 (2011); #22, 24 (2010); and #7, 10, 19, 22, 29, 30 (2009)...2008 was the most down year for WR with none drafted in the 1st round.
I could very easily see 2014 shaping up like the 2009 draft in terms of WR. At #7 we have Mike Evans playing the role of DHB (freakish size in place of freakish speed), Sammy Watkins as Michael Crabtree at #10, Marqise Lee as Jeremy Maclin at #19, Odell Beckham as Percy Harvin at #22, Jarvis Landry as Hakeem Nicks at #29, and Jordan Matthews as a much higher character Kenny Britt at #30. Did I just blow your mind?? Kinda cool, right?! It’s not at all realistic, as I doubt Landry fits in that group (and quite frankly, neither might OBJ or Matthews), but isn’t implausible to the extreme. And as that analogy sort of depicts, Jordan Matthews would be the guy available at the 30-32 range.
Instead of showing Matthews’ most-recent tape, I’m going back to 2011 tape. I was scouting QB Jordan Rodgers at the time, and when I saw THE CATCH Matthews made against Florida, it was love at first sight:
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2nd play of the clip…one-handed grab while being DPI’d…I mean it’s just the kind of play that only special players make. And Florida’s secondary is no joke. Everything I’ve seen and read of Matthews since has only confirmed to me he is the most underrated WR in this class.
I love the kid’s talent and intangibles. I love OBJ’s talent more, but I think with Harvin back soon and Golden already rostered, I think Beckham would be more redundant than Matthews. Matthews brings some of the same size that Sidney Rice has and some of the strength we hoped Chris Harper would have. He is a big (6’3"/205) possession target with plenty of explosive ability. I think he gives the team flexibility in terms of Sid’s contract situation, and he would finally help this FO solve their generally bad WR drafting problem. The part of this projection that makes it feel unlikely is that John Schneider has never gone WR in the 1st round in a draft.
While with the Seahawks, the earliest he has gone WR has been Golden Tate in the 2nd. The only other attempts have been Chris Harper and Kris Durham in the 4th in their respective years. Even when JS was with Green Bay, the Packers didn't go WR until Jordy Nelson in the 2nd (36th overall), James Jones in the 3rd (78th overall), Greg Jennings in the 2nd (at #52), Terrence Murphy in the 2nd (at #58)...those are consecutive drafts; reverse chronologically from 2008-2005. If John Schneider did in fact inherit a lot of the Ted Thompson philosophy, it will be difficult to expect the Hawks to take a WR in the1st.
This really HAS to be a trade back spot. Right?? Trade back to early 2nd, add a 3rd (hopefully) which then opens up the rest of the draft quite nicely, and we can still probably pull in Matthews a handful of spots later.
In the meantime, however, I’m giving the Hawks Jordan Matthews at #31.
Wildcard: TE Austin Sefarian-Jenkins. His stock is dropping and other TE (Ebron and Amaro) are skyrocketing…this could create a scenario where ASJ is available to Seattle. I can pass on this, but I know most of the UW/Seahawk locals would probably shun me for that. I just think the 1st is too early for a TE. Studs like: Gronk (2nd), Graham (3rd), Pitta (4th), Rudolph (2nd), Cameron (4th), Thomas (4th), have always been available later in drafts. In fact, there have been a grand total of 3 TE selected in the 1st round in the last 5 years (Eifert, Gresham, Pettigrew...two by the Bengals) and they haven't even been that great as pros. My advice: wait for TE.
Let’s assume that OG Gabe Jackson and Zack Martin have been taken, and that we still don’t have a 3rd round pick; my thought at #63 is to reach on a DT. For the same reason Ra’Shede Hageman would be the dream of dreams as a 1st round pick; a DT is a must in the 2nd because of the simple lack of depth in CFB at the position, and the Hawks lack of picks. The dearth of DT really kicks in around the #120 overall spot…the Seahawks aren’t scheduled to pick again until #127. We’ve got to fire away on a DT right here.
My three favorites are all categorically different types.
1- 6'3"/318 with the versatility to play all three downs at three different positions; 1-tech, 3-tech, 5-tech. 40 total tackles, with 8.5 TFL, and 2.0 sacks.
2- 6'2"/330 nose tackle, 2-down player; absolute stud against the run and double-teams. 54 total tackles, 5.0 TFL, 3.5 sacks.
3- 6'0"/285 high-motor, pass-rushing DT with ability to slide outside to DE (a la Michael Bennett). 25 total tackles, 13.5 TFL, 8.0 sacks, 8 QB hurries, 1 PBU, 1 FF.
Do you have a favorite? The names that go with these descriptions are: DaQuan Jones, Ryan Carrethers, and Aaron Donald. I also really like Kelcy Quarles, but I’m not sure he declares.
I don’t think that Carrethers fits the Seahawks’ hybrid 4-3 system. The current heaviest DT is Mebane at 6’1"/311. Red is bigger but plays DE. Having said that, to put in perspective what Carrethers is doing from a NT position; Marcell Dareus, Buffalo’s #3 overall pick in 2011, measured 6’3"/320 at his combine, and put up a season of 33 total tackles, 11 TFL, and 4.5 sacks in 11 games at Alabama. In 2012, Dontari Poe was drafted 11th overall after he measured 6’4"/346 and posted 12-game totals of 33 tackles, 8 TFL, 1 sack. Even some of the smaller, faster stud DT like Sheldon Richardson topped out in tackle numbers at 6.82 tackles per game (an exceptional number). To illustrate it another way: even UW’s stud LB Shaq Thompson, who is 2nd on the Huskies in tackles, is averaging 6.63 tackles per game. Ryan Carrethers is averaging 7.71 tackles per game. Again, he probably isn’t a "fit" here, but I’m just saying: HUGE VALUE (#pun).
Measurement-wise, DaQuan Jones is actually very close to Bryant, but with better pass-rush (although Red has been better this year). He’s not a very flashy player in terms of get-off or pass-rush repertoire, but he is steady and consistent. I’d rather see him drafted more towards the 4th round.
Then there is Aaron Donald. You may have caught on to my obsession with finding a Michael Bennett type this year. And it’s not because I’m displeased with Bennett himself. I just know his contract is short, and even if he’s re-signed I’d like to get him an understudy to redshirt.
In my search, I’ve gone through Dominique Easley, George Uko, IK Enemkpali, and Mike Bennett of Ohio State. Some of those players I still like. But none have as much polish, with as much consistent production as Aaron Donald. He’s one of those guys you don’t hear much about. It could be the conference he plays in, it could be because of his undersized frame, but it can’t be because he puts out bad tape or bad stat lines:
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In his 4 years at Pittsburgh, Donald has accumulated 3 forced fumbles, 9 pass break-ups, 35 QB hurries, 51 tackle-for-loss, and 26.5 sacks. His TFL per-game averages have gone from 1.23 in 2011, to 1.54 last year, to 1.93 this year. His sack per-game average: 0.85, to 0.46, to 1.14 this year. He presently sits 4th in the country in sacks (8.0) and 3rd in TFL (13.5).
So why is he projecting to get drafted in the 3rd-4th round range? Simple answer: he’s 6’0"/285.
I have a couple thoughts on that. 1) I watch his tape and it looks to me like AD has some exceptionally long arms. I would guess 35" arms and a 6'5"-6'6" wingspan. Length trumps height. 2) as the Seahawks recent draft history has shown: WHO CARES ABOUT HEIGHT?! And if you don't think an exception of small size QB relates to DT, how about the fact that the #4 pass-rushing DT in the NFL this year (behind names like Atkins and Poe), is a rookie who was drafted in the 6th round, then cut by his drafting team before signing with a new one, all after playing his senior year of CFB at 6'1"/293 and accumulating 19.5 TFL (1.46 TFL/game) and 12.5 sacks (0.96 sack/game). I'm talking about the Pats' Chris Jones. Jones, as a ROOKIE, has more sacks than Darnell Dockett, Marcell Dareus, Ndamukong Suh, Randy Starks...not to mention DE's like: Clem, Mingo, Abraham, Cox, Ansah. And Jones has only played in 5 games. I think Donald could have a similar trajectory.
I’ve said it before: when a player shows you what they are; believe them. One more quick video on AD.2, displaying how well he is at playing both the pass and the run:
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I believe in Donald. I want him on my team. I would spend the #63 overall to get him.
I would really like to get a TE here (namely Georgia’s Arthur Lynch), but that could make us miss out on a really coveted OL. I have another TE I’m targeting in the 5th, so for now, without a 3rd round pick, this is an easy choice: Tennessee ROT JaWuan James.
I don’t think we really know the future of ROT for the Hawks. It doesn’t feel like Breno is long for the job. Michael Bowie might be good enough to keep it. If Bowie improves, I have no problem taking this pick back and swapping OT out for Arthur Lynch. But I do think we need to address the OL in a major way and I think James is a steal in the 4th.
I really like the idea of drafting a true right tackle. Although there is value to be found in moving guys from known positions to new spots, it’s always an experiment. That experiment failed moving Carpenter from LT to RT. With JaWuan James, I know the guy can play RT. I’m not sure I’ve seen another RT in NCAA that I prefer over him. Here is James’ latest game against South Carolina.
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He doesn’t get matched up with Clowney (generally Chaz Sutton) until late in the 4th quarter, but when Clowney switches, James flat out stones him:
There is some work to be done with James in his run-blocking; he seems to get lost on what his assignment should be as he blocks into the second level of the defense, but I have a feeling that is coachable and he’ll pick up Cable’s ZBS nicely.
5-140 & 5-159:
5a and 5b could be mostly interchangeable with any combination of TE and DE, and a possibility of doubling down on OL.
At TE, after "missing" on Arthur Lynch in the 4th, I’m targeting Fresno State’s Marcel Jensen in the 5th. Draftscout currently lists him at #156 overall, so either 140 or 159 is in the right ballpark. Jensen is one of the bigger TE you’ll see in this draft, checking in at a very Kellen Davis-ish 6’6"/270. But even at that size he’s still averaging 14.76YPC this year (only 17 catches so far, but Fresno runs a lot of 4-5 WR sets). Last year he averaged just under 17 YPC. So there is some good mobility/RAC there.
Here is a game against Boise State…you have to look carefully to spot Jensen’s 3 catches on 3 targets (7:27-slant up the seam, 11:15-short flat route, 11:25-wheel). Due to Fresno’s spread offense, we don’t see Jensen doing any in-line blocking, so that is left as a question mark.
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More impressive from Jensen, is what I saw live last weekend in the Fresno State win over SDSU: Jensen came from deep behind the LOS on a FG try, jumped like Lebron coming from behind the play on an opponent fast-break, and blocked the kick. Like many of the best TE in football, Jensen’s a former basketball player (forward/center). Rebounders always seem to have a knack for high-pointing passes too. Let’s plan for Jensen at 140, keep our expectations low, that he will be a decent TE3 in the mold of Anthony McCoy, and he will replace Davis short-term, with fingers-crossed for more of the JS 5th-round magic.
At DE, I like Boise State's Demarcus Lawrence as an overdraft from his 6th-round projection. After posting his 4th consecutive game with at least one sack, and a TFL in the 6th of the 7 games he has played, Lawrence now sits at 6th in the country in sacks, and 14th in TFL, plus 45 tackles and 2 blocked kicks. With his character questions, Lawrence probably gets a day-three call.
But the DE I’m currently preferring over Lawrence, is the one I spotted last week and highlighted in the previous Gems: Louisville’s Marcus Smith. I talked about him on Wednesday (10/23) after noticing him in a tape of Louisville safety Calvin Pryor, and Smith proceeded to put up a 2-sack performance against USF three days later. He now stands at 4th in the country in sacks (8), and is tied with Lawrence (and Khalil Mack and Scott Crichton) as 14th in CFB for TFL. The difference between Smith and Lawrence/Mack/Crichton? Smith is projected to go undrafted while Mack is a 1st, Crichton a 3rd, and Lawrence a 6th. So it's not entirely implausible that JS could wait until the 6th on Smith.
If that is true, then the spot at 5-159 could go to a second OL for the Hawks in this draft. I like that idea a lot.
At 5-159 I’m drafting North Dakota State OT Billy Turner. At some point this year, I’m pretty sure Turner was up to a 4th-5th round projection, but then NDSU began their conference schedule and everyone forgot about their upset of Kansas State and the fact they’re two-time FCS national champions, and again ranked #1 in FCS this year, etc. As a result of any combination of those factors, Turner fell to #189 overall. But me? I can’t get the videos of Turner out of my head. I love the way this guy plays.
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Since there aren’t traditional stats on Olinemen, and NDSU plays in the FCS, it’s tough to compare Turner to other draftable OT. I can point out that he is 6’6"/318 and agile as hell (hopefully you noted him hurdling guys as he freight-trained downfield in that clip). I can point out that last week Turner was named the Missouri Valley Football Conference Offensive Lineman of the Week for the second time this year. In the game he played that week against Southern Illinois, Turner graded out at 92 percent with 10 knockdowns, without allowing a sack or quarterback hurry, and was part of an offensive line that paved the way for a season-high 331 rushing yards against the nation's fourth-ranked rushing defense. Those sound like good things, right? Even relative to the competition.
Oh yeah, and since I drafted a RT in the 4th round, and we have Okung already at LT, my plan is to make Turner the neo-McQuistan. I would let him compete for the starting LG job next summer, with the back-of-mind knowledge that he has the ability to play LT in injury situations. Talent upgrade over McQuistan AND salary cap savings under McQuistan…the sexiest double-dip ever.
As previously spoilered, the pick here is DE Marcus Smith (6’3"/252). I’m hoping that taking him in the 6th, when he’s projecting undrafted, will be enough cushion to get him onboard. As bad as JS’ luck has been drafting WR late, I’m supremely impressed with the pass-rush he has found late. From trading for the once-UDFA Chris Clemons, FA re-signing the original Seahawk-UDFA Michael Bennett, to drafting Greg Scruggs in the 7th last year, to Benson Mayowa and Kenneth Boatright as in-house UDFA this year…we can build Leos. I think Marcus Smith has even a stronger foundation than most of the guys I just mentioned.
Watch for #91 on the Cardinals’ defense flashing on plays in this Calvin Pryor cutup:
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A 7th round pick is all about filling out a roster’s gaps with high upside, specific skill-set types. It is also, as last year showed, a place to set up your UDFA targets. Last year we passed on drafting LB knowing we could bring them in as FA, and instead drafted on the OL. This year, I don’t know that we’ll be able to bring in UDFA secondary, and we haven’t touched on CB or S yet, so I’m looking for that here (if we add additional 7th’s, I’d also look for a backup QB like Keith Price).
At CB, two of my previous Gems are still getting 7th round (or later) projections: Nebraska’s Stanley Jean-Baptiste and NC State’s Dontae Johnson. Both are pushing 6’2" and over 200 lbs and could follow in the footsteps of Brandon Browner.
At one point SJB was leading the country in INT and PBU…his projection has since slowed down (it’s possible teams have scouted him and are throwing away from him). Johnson, on the other hand, has actually been moved off of CB and back to S due to injuries. Johnson reminds me a lot of Deshawn Shead, and that versatility could be useful down the road.
For a safety that could be available this late in the draft, my favorite is Northern Illinois’ Jimmie Ward. Only listed at 5’11"/192, Ward carries some serious boom (Note: this is a LEGAL hit. The penalty is for taunting, if anything.):
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Ward’s season line currently stands at: 56 tackles, 5 INT (1st in the country), and 4 PBU. He’s a really nice little player and he comes from the same school that the Hawks found Perez Ashford. That’s another thing we’ve learned about JS…he will revisit the same schools he has drafted from in the recent past. He does keep scouting reports across seasons. My big question on Ward won’t be answered until the combine when we can find out his true speed. I’m hoping he has the speed to play FS more than SS, and can then slide into the Maragos-backup-to-Earl job.
1- WR Jordan Matthews
2- DT Aaron Donald
4- OT JaWuan James
5- TE Marcel Jensen
5- OT/OG Billy Turner
6- DE Marcus Smith
7- FS Jimmie Ward