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2015 NFL Draft: Jared's Gems - The LEO Diamonds

Video and analysis of the 2015 draft class of edge rushers.

QB gets Mauldin terrible wildlife encounter
QB gets Mauldin terrible wildlife encounter
Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

Much like the Seahawks, the Gems took a bye last week. But we’re back.

It took me a while to decide what/who I wanted to write about this week. I don’t have a ton of new names that have cutups to show you. But, as I meander around the latest videos, I do notice a bit of a theme: there are a whole lot of good edge rushers coming this year. The 2015 class of RB has been fairly well hyped, but this class of DE is a pretty close second.

And, coincidentally, "second" is an important qualifier. You see, contrary to a lot of what you’ve seen and heard, the broad majority of edge rushers you know of already this year; the ones various draft analysts will argue about where they belong in the first round; likely don't belong in the 1st. The truth is, most of them should be (and might be) second round picks.

Draft media makes the mistake of subconsciously over-valuing certain positions, and therefore projecting those positions with more 1st rounders than we ever actually see. Lord knows we always see about three TE given 1st round status all year, but without fail, come draft day, know how many go in the 1st round? One. 2014 it was Eric Ebron. That’s it. ASJ, Jace Amaro, Troy Niklas were all taken in the 2nd round.

So what is the number for DE? As of today, nfldraftscout projects 7 DE and 1 rush LB (8 combined) in their top 32 overall. In 2014, know how many edge rushers were drafted in the 1st? 2 DE (Clowney/Ford) and 3 rush LB (Mack/Barr/Smith)…and including a few of those names as edge rushers is debatable at this point in their careers. In 2013 the actual number of edge players taken in the 1st was roughly 6. In 2012 it was six again (depending on what you classify Shea McClellin, Melvin Ingram, and Nick Perry as).

I think this class of edge rushers is deep. Like upwards of 20 quality players deep. BUT…I really struggle to see many of these guys as the 1st round talents that many outlets are claiming. My estimation: this class is about 8 guys thick in the 2nd round.

Let’s start with the two I have no doubts are in the 1st: Leonard Williams of USC and Vic Beasley of Clemson. Both very different kinds of edge rushers, but both extremely talented.

After that, the names go: Randy Gregory, Shawn Oakman, Dante Fowler Jr, Shilique Calhoun, Arik Armstead, Shane Ray. Those are the draftscout 1st-rounders. The second tier (not 2nd round) includes: Lorenzo Mauldin, Mario Edwards Jr, Bronson Kaufusi, Devonte Fields, Bud Dupree, Hauoli Kikaha, Zach Hodges, Trey Flowers, Frank Clark, Markus Golden, Cedric Reed, Za’darius Smith, and my sleeper pick (who is also now leading the nation in sacks); Nate Orchard. I may add in a couple more underclassmen: Danielle Hunter and Eli Harold.

That’s a lot of flavor. We go from the 298lbs of Leonard Williams to the 235lbs of Beasley and Hodges. We go from 6’9" Shawn Oakman to the 6’2" of Fowler Jr. The sweet spot historically for the Seahawks has been 6’3"/255. Basically, exactly what Chris Clemons was. But we also have to account for the most current Seahawk formulation, which puts one edge rusher at 260lbs and the other at 275lbs. One is a deviation above the average player at the position SPARQ-wise, the other is slightly below average. It makes it tough to know what they’ll target in 2015.

I always keep it honest with you, and part of my honest belief is that it’s less enjoyable to talk about and criticize players I don’t like. It’s also part of my honest belief to tell you I don’t care for them…but I’ll do it quickly and move on. Actually, I won’t even say I don’t like them as much as I don’t rate them as high as they’re generally perceived. We’ll do it quick…like pulling off a bandaid.

Randy Gregory- a top 10 projection (#8 overall) makes it easy to say overrated. Athleticism is definite, but his snap anticipation is average, and he’s far too often eliminated from plays by running back cut blocks. Gregory is like that massive cake firework you get at the reservation and are so excited to set off, but once it’s lit it turns out to be 25-minute fountain.

Shawn Oakman- I like Oakman a lot, but there is no way I’m taking him top-10 where he is currently projected. I can see 1st round because he is just such an anomaly physically, but he will take 2-3 years to develop. Flashes of dominance but also long stretches of being just a guy. Plus there are some off-field redflags.

Dante Fowler Jr- Awesome get-off and surprising long speed, but a seeming lack of pass-rush technique if he doesn’t win with simple speed rush or his backup club move (which he just swings flailingly to and fro). But there is a Dan Quinn connection.

Shilique Calhoun- It seems like he’s been a top-5 DE for two years now, but his tape gives me a vague remembrance of Jackson Jeffcoat; long-time hyped, consistent production, but somehow just an average player. Jeffcoat fell all the way out of the draft and I won’t be surprised to see Calhound drop at least two rounds.

Arik Armstead- Really haven’t been able to see any extended film on him. Not commenting yet.

Shane Ray- Probably one of the buzziest names currently, which will make my evaluation highly unpopular. Ray reminds me so much of Anthony Barr from UCLA in last year’s draft class. Pound for pound, Ray gives you THEE MOST pass rush moves per snap of anyone in this class. But it’s like the guy with all of the sword skills in Indiana Jones, who Indy proceeds to just slow-draw on and shoot down. I’d rather have a guy that uses his head and the one RIGHT move. I didn’t love Barr but he still went top 10, so Ray may not even be a possibility for the Seahawks if the Barr/Ray comp holds true.

That concludes the 1st round portion of the class. As you can see, I don’t like any of those guys at those prices. Now we’ve come to a point where the talent level has only dipped slightly (arguably, not at all...perhaps even some superior talent to follow), but the value has increased. NOW the price is right, Bob.

Lorenzo Mauldin- The former rush counterpart to Marcus Smith, and also formerly in the same South Carolina recruiting class as Jadeveon Cloney, Mauldin starts off the year with a very respectable 2nd round projection (38 overall currently). He’s listed at 6’4"/243 but looks thicker to me. Mauldin possesses some of the strongest hands I’ve seen from a 243 lb’er (his ability to redirect blockers with the wave of his hand is Obi-wan-esque), and the speed will sneak up on ya. One of the things I like best about Mauldin, is that he seems to approach each snap with a plan. He’s not out there free-styling. There are moves with countermoves, and there is calculation is showing one pattern early as a setup to go opposite later in the game.

One of my favorite things to see when studying DL (or least favorite when studying OL) is that one moment when a guy gets his blocker to take that one off-balance, "are you sure you’re not drunk?" step. Because when you see that, you know OL is toast is and DL is coming at your QB’s ribs. Mauldin gets both UVA tackles a couple times in that clip.

(Also worth noting #8 on the Louisville defense in the above clip. Gerod Holliman is only a sophomore but the 6’2"/213 safety is leading the country in INT’s. And he has some boom.)

At this point I’m skipping some names (for injury, for huge red-flag, for looking entirely too much like a player the Seahawks just drafted in Cassius Marsh, etc.) and jumping down to the #64 overall player per draftscout…Bud Dupree.

(The 64th overall selection…why does that sound so familiar?! Oh yeah…that’s where the Seahawks picked in the 2nd round after winning a Super Bowl. Just sayin’.)

Alvin "Bud" Dupree- Dupree is a guy I’ve liked for a while, but unfortunately he’s having a down year production-wise. After averaging 0.64 sacks, 0.86 TFL, and 5.55 tackles per game in 2013, all of Bud’s numbers are down: 0.30 sacks, 0.50 TFL, and 4.40 tackles per game. Watching tape, it’s certainly clear his sack numbers are down due to playing more traditional LB this year. I would also venture to guess that teams are game-planning away from him. There is still high anticipation that Bud will show out at the combine and prove the SPARQ-monster status Zach tells us is coming.

Hau’oli Kikaha- A year after finishing tied with Vic Beasley as the 3rd most sacks in the country, Kikaha has kept it going in his senior year. In fact, Hau’oli has upped his sack/gm average from 1.00 in 2013 to 1.40 so far in 2014. He’s got the ideal size for a Leo and is currently under-valued to the tune of #89 overall.

Nate Orchard- A player I stumbled upon over the summer while looking for Leos; Orchard popped on the limited tape I could find on him. The tape is (currently) still limited, but a longer edit should be coming soon now that Orchard is leading the country in sacks after destroying Brett Hundley. Here are some single-snap videos:

Orchard should be a decently SPARQ’ed up guy, and with a projection currently in the 6th round (#213 overall), the value could be fantastic. I’m not completely sold on him yet in terms of drafting before day three (need more tape), but I’ll continue to monitor where he’s at.

Lynden Trail- This guy was brand new to my eyes as of Tuesday night. Again, I’m looking at sack leaders, I’m looking at preliminary 40-yard dash times, whatever can get me some intel on players. I also like to look at players that transferred down from Division 1 schools to lower levels. And a guy that transferred from Florida, during the Dan Quinn years, is going to pique my interest.

Trail is listed at 6’7"/260 and has put up full seasons of: 12.5 TFL, 8.5 sacks, 8 passes defended, 5 forced cumbles in 2013, and 17.0 TFL, 6.0 sacks, 4 passes defended in 2012. Really nice numbers even at a small school like Norfolk State. That’s the good news. The bad news is, it appears while at Florida; Trail never even suited because Quinn didn’t think he practiced well enough to earn the right to dress. So that will be a huge question for him going into combine/pro day/private workouts: has he matured and fixed his work ethic? From what I can tell from interview footage, he indeed seems to have refined his character. He comes across very personable.

On tape, Lynden shows a lot of versatility: DE, DT, LB, CB, ST gunner, and even spotted some WR/TE work. I like his stack-and-shed. I like his long speed. But it’s tough to judge his pass-rush from this tape where he’s getting free-runs at the QB an absurd amount. That’s LOC though. Trail is currently listed as draftscout’s #232 overall player.

In the mental mock-draft that I constantly have in the back of my mind, I’m currently not wanting to slot a DE into the 1st round. I’d rather take a higher demand player from a position group of lower supply like TE or CB (neither of which have the Hawks ever drafted that early), splash on a stud RB perhaps before the second tier of RB start to come off the board, or improve our depth/hedges at LT (a position often drafted early).

But, in the 2nd round I’m all over DE. As such, I tend to lean toward the group of Mauldin, Dupree, Kikaha as best fits for Seattle. And based purely on tape, Mauldin is my current front-runner.

Before I go, I do want to talk a little bit on cornerback, as this will be a huge need this draft. I’m still struggling to find/enjoy many CB prospects this year. Sunday night though, I did dig up a couple that have some promise.

At pure nickel CB, I found Memphis’ Bobby McCain. Listed at 5’11"/190, McCain is a very quick, intuitive player that also contributes as a returner on Teams (26.50 yards/return on kickoffs). Bobby is only ranked as #506 overall.

At outside CB, I found South Alabama’s Montell Garner. A JUCO transfer last year, Garner is listed at 6’1"/185 and cannot be found on draftscout’s list of 1000 players. A true sleeper. On the year, Garner has 2 INT, 6 PBU, 21 tackles, and 2 TFL. I watched Garner via a full game clip of USA vs MissState on youtube Sunday, and since I doubt you want to spend 2 hours watching youtube, I thought I’d instead post a hyperlink to a highlight reel of Garner’s work at his JUCO.

Not the smoothest, not the fastest; needs to get on that Maxwell yoga program, but Montell has great mirror technique and good instincts. It’s the kind of tape I think could be coached up by the Seahawks great secondary coaches.