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2015 NFL Draft: Jared's preseason gems

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Players to watch for the 2014 college football season.

Get him Gabe
Get him Gabe
Kevin C. Cox

Well, hello Field Gulls fam. It’s been a while. Have you been enjoying your offseason and/or watching the M’s be gloriously relevant?! Me too.

As I did last year, prior to the start of the college season, I wanted to get you the names and tapes of some of the players that I will be watching in 2014. I’m primarily focusing on positions that seem shallow on the depth chart, or that will soon face losses to free agency or cap cuts.

One of the positions I’ve found myself pretty disappointed in this preseason has been corner. Specifically, the corner depth. Maxwell will be a free agent after 2014, Davis Hsu believes he will walk, so I’m looking for the next man up. I’ve come up with three players that I like. I’ve got two seniors and a redshirt junior. All three are listed at 6’1" or taller. The first I imagine as a strictly outside corner, second I could see as a hybrid outside/slot guy, and the third looks like a possible corner/safety hybrid (a la Jimmie Ward).

One: Miami’s Ladarius Gunter (Draftscout #138 overall)

Listed at 6’2"/198, Gunter tallied 46 tackles, 2 TFL, 3 INT (one for TD), and 9 PBU in 2013. The first thing you notice about him is his size. The second, for me, is his footwork for a guy his size. His technique is really, really good. In addition, he shows really good instincts for when to stay in his back-pedal and when to flip and run with the WR…excellent mirroring.

Here’s his game versus Virginia. You can more or less ignore the severe-looking injury at the very end of the tape…Ladarius missed the following game, but returned two weeks later.

The biggest downside I’m finding in his tape is his tackling. Gunter has plenty of physicality in his jam at the LOS, but when it comes to tackling he seems tentative. And he doesn’t necessarily always take the best route to get in position to make the tackle.

Two: Wake Forest’s Kevin Johnson (#93 overall)

(Not to be confused with ex-NBA and Sonic C-blocker Kevin Johnson. )

Listed at 6’1"/175, Johnson recorded 58 tackles, 3 INT, and 12 PBU in 2013 (he also had 3 INT and 15 PBU in 2012). He reminds me in a few ways of a defensive version of Paul Richardson. I don’t have a full-game cut-up on Johnson yet, but his highlights demonstrate really good technique in coverage, in tackling, and in jump-ball situations.

You may have noticed in that reel that KJ had some nice plays against guys like Tyler Eifert (winning a jump-ball against a much bigger TE), Martavis Bryant (running stride for stride with a 4.42 WR), Connor Vernon (staying with a more precise, slot-type route-runner), and Sammy Watkins (clean PBU over the back on a slant route). For a little guy, Johnson has got quite a bit of grit.

I could picture Johnson as a roster mirror to Jeremy Lane with hybrid ability inside and out.

Three: Miss State’s Taveze Calhoun

Listed at 6’1"/184, Calhoun registered 45 tackles, 1.5 TFL, 3 INT, and 4 PBU in 2013, his redshirt sophomore season. I profiled Taveze back in June http://www.fieldgulls.com/2014/6/10/5796088/2015-nfl-draft-offseason-gems-2

At the time I wrote that, Taveze wasn’t listed amongst draftscout’s top 48 CB for the 2016 draft. Today, Calhoun is listed as #45 of 48 corners for 2016. But he’s my favorite. For a guy only running 184lbs, Calhoun is muscling up on 6’2"/221 Donte Moncrief, and stroking guys like 6’4"/217 Bo Wallace with a viciousness most suitable for the Legion. Taveze just looks like he wants it more.

Observe:

Mississippi State seems to play an extreme form of zone coverage that makes it tough to judge his man coverage skills, but I have this feeling he’s got something in him.

Switching to the offensive side of the ball…and switching from early rounders to late-round sleepers (it’s not one of my pieces without a late-round sleeper), let’s take a look at a WR. This redshirt junior will be draft-eligible, but may not declare due to attending a smaller school and not getting a ton of targets. There is pretty much no buzz on this guy.

First, size: 6’4"/190. Already sounds like a player that was once a Seahawk and went about 6’4"/200 in college. Second, production: 59 catches, 728 yards, 12.34 YPC, 6 TD’s. Not to mention 55 catches, 953 yards, 17.33 YPC, 5 TD’s as a freshman.

SUCH A CHIPPY BLOCKER!! But in a good way. It’s tougher to gage his straightline speed. He may be more of a Brian Quick than a Sidney Rice. Certainly his routes are crisp, his hands are great, and the catch radius is obvious. Less obvious is that Russell may not be a great lockerroom guy. Interviews give me a bad impression of his potential Seahawky-ness. Draftscout currently has Russell as the 34th ranked WR for 2016. In 2015, the 34th WR is projected in the 7th round. So that gives you some idea of his current status.  One to pocket.

Back to the early rounds.

In the 2nd round of the 2015 draft, one OL that I would strongly consider would be Oregon OT Jake Fisher. Fisher played 2013 at 6’6"/291 on the right side, but news came out Monday that, due to Oregon’s LT Tyler Johnstone missing the season with an ACL injury, Fisher will make the jump to the left side.

I actually think Oregon may find this a blessing in disguise, you see…I first spotted Fisher while I was watching Johnstone and I found Fisher to be the more intriguing player. He moved extremely well at 291…the ideal type of athleticism for zone blocking schemes. Sometimes when he fires off the snap, I momentarily think I’m accidentally watching the TE instead of the OT. But no, it’s an OT. Oh, and his cut blocks are some of the best I’ve seen.

Fisher is now listed at 300 lbs on the Oregon website, and I would like to see Fisher gain another 10-20lbs and move inside to guard. Certainly, after drafting/UDFA’ing three OT in 2014, Hawks will need more depth on the interior line. Regardless of where he plays, Fisher will need to work on his tendency to lunge and waist-bend at DLinemen.

Speaking of OL…earlier this month, I sort of stumbled on this idea…and I’m not even convinced of my own idea, but it’s worth mentioning and monitoring. The idea is basically: are PCJS starting to stockpile shorter interior OL??

Lemuel- 6’3"/301, CJ Davis- 6’2"/308, Greg Van Roten- 6’3"/303, Caylin Hauptmann- 6’3"/300, Alvin Bailey- 6’3"/320. If you exclude the starting trio of Carp/Max/Sweez, 5 of our potential 9 interior linemen are 6’3" or shorter. Is this a sideways ploy to help Russell see better over the middle?? Maybe. Just an idea at this point.

So who could some potential shorter OG targets become? Top of the list (nationally) right now is South Carolina’s 6’3"/318 AJ Cann. Currently draftscout’s #1 OG (#36 overall). We’ll take a look at some of Cann’s film a little later. 36 overall would likely make Cann a reach in the 1st round, or a miss if you wait till the 2nd.

The next three names on draftscout’s list: Texas A&M’s Jarvis Harrison (#109), Duke’s Laken Tomlinson (#121), and Louisville’s John Miller. I’m going to focus on the latter as his game tape will also allow us to check out one of my favorite centers for next year: Jake Smith. Miller is listed at 6’2"/321 and Smith stands 6’3"/312. Neither will wow you with their athleticism, but neither appears out-physical’d. These are just two really technically sound football players.

I watched a lot of Louisville last year, and it’s not often that a center stands out, but in the case of Smith he did.

I sort of have it in my head that the Hawks’ draft next May should go RB, OL, DT, TE/CB, but as of today, I could understand a 1st round OL or DT. It’s never a bad idea to draft LOS early. I tend to think Cable is cool finding under-appreciated guys after the 1st round, so my thought is to project RB and DT as the two most interesting options in the 1st round.

I’ve really been hitting DT videos hard and I keep coming back to the same guy I wrote about in May and June: Auburn DT Gabe Wright. I mean just the other day I sat down to watch Auburn LB Cassanova McKinzy, but instead found my attention drifting up to the LOS to watch Gabe. Here’s what I saw (#90, generally at LDT):

Wright played 2013 listed at 6’3"/296, and offseason reports have him down to 290 or even 285. It’s the inverse of the Will Sutton maneuver and, just like with Sutton, I don’t like the change. You like what guys put on tape, and then they try to change the player they put on tape to fit some kind of presumed body-type preference. If Wright gains speed at the lower weight; fantastic. But if he gains speed and loses power, it was a wasted change. I prefer the Wright that is on these tapes displaying great snap anticipation, a strong interior pass-rush repertoire, and possibly THE strongest punch I’ve seen from a DL in 3 years.

Gabe Wright is one of my two most-wanted (at Seahawk-projected draft position: late 1st) players. Wright is projected at #53 overall.

Of course, I can’t leave the college offseason without giving you some more of my current #1 choice for the Seahawks 2015 #1 choice…South Carolina RB Mike Davis. This is my dude this year like Jordan Matthews was last year and he’s currently ranked #24 overall, which might put him out of Seahawks’ range. The tape is actually a cut-up of Gamecock LT Corey Robinson and the previously discussed LG AJ Cann (#50), but just focus on the run plays from #28 on the first viewing:

That game features, probably, my favorite Mike Davis run from 2013. Can you guess which one it was?