The first week of college football is in the books, and I don’t know about you, but I love what I’m seeing (much respect to draftbreakdown.com for getting numerous edits up already).
Not that there was much doubt, but 2014 is the year of the running back. I could honestly devote this entire piece to just RB’s. I won’t, but it will be close.
Starting at the top, Todd Gurley (6’1"/232) and Melvin Gordon (6’1"/207) are the clear 1-2. Split them however you want. I prefer Gordon, but it’s tough to argue with Gurley’s 198 on 15 carries (13.20 ypc), 3 rushing TD’s, PLUS housing a 100-yard KR. Here is that tape:
While Gurley was wrecking a quality ACC team, Gordon held his own versus a quality SEC defense. Melvin finished with 16/140/8.75ypc/TD, but he also mysteriously was benched in the second half (reports out yesterday say that Gordon was dealing with a slight hip injury).
I love Gordon’s style: effortless, gliding, fast, strong…all applicable. Gordon (and Gurley) are not expected to fall to Seattle.
The preseason 3rd horse (in my book), Mike Davis (5’9"/225), was initially scratched from South Carolina’s starting lineup due to a lingering rib injury. He eventually did play last Thursday vs Texas A&M, but could only manage 6/15/2.50ypc before re-aggravating his ribs. Davis is not expected to play next week vs ECU. On the one hand, this sucks because I really like Davis, but on the other hand, maybe if he played the whole year healthy he was at risk of being picked before Seattle gets a shot. Maybe this even knocks him down to the Hawks’ 2nd round pick. We’ll see.
The next group of RB I’ll bunch together TJ Yeldon (6’2"/218), Jay Ajayi (6’0"/216), Ameer Abdullah (5’9"/195), Duke Johnson (5’9"/206)…all currently top 10 backs per draftscout, all most likely second round or down.
I’m not a fan of Yeldon (nor of Alabama RB’s in general), but he ran for 126 on 23 carries (5.48ypc) and 2 TD’s vs West Virginia. By comparison, and against the same defense, Derrick Henry went 17/113/6.6ypc/TD.
Ajayi is a player that frustrates me. I see sooo much talent in him. But then I also see so many problems: ball security, an absolute sweetheart blocking pass rushers, and an annoying love affair with his own spin move. The good news is, his receiving skills look improved. Ajayi rushing this week: 20/86/4.30ypc, Ajayi receiving: 12/93/7.75ypr/TD.
Abdullah of Nebraska is not a guy I will focus on much this year simply because he would be a departure from the Seahawks’ tendency toward bigger backs. But, in his opener, he absolutely earned all of the buzz that has him in the top 10 RB’s overall coming into the season: 21/232/11.05ypc/TD.
Johnson is similar to Abdullah in that, as much as he is an exhilarating player to watch, he doesn’t look like a Seahawk RB. His opening totals in his first game back from a broken ankle halfway through his 2013 campaign: 20/90/4.5ypc.
You may notice I’ve skipped over Karlos Williams. I’ve always been hesitant to include him. Maybe it’s the fact that he’s converting from defense, maybe it’s something in his tape, maybe it’s that he gets lost in the crowd of this deep class, but I never seem to get too excited about him. His totals vs OkSt: 23/66/2.9ypc. Clearly a premiere athlete, but is he a runner? I’m not convinced. (It should be noted that Williams, plus Abdullah, are the only Seniors I have mentioned so far.)
At this point, I start to get into some RB’s that are a little bit sleepier.
Tevin Coleman of Indiana (6’0"/210) is a Junior and not listed by draftscout amongst the 2015 draft, but he’s listed 8th for 2016, and we can approximate he’d be 10th in this class. I haven’t done any deep research into this, but Indiana is slowly building a reputation for turning out big SPARQ players. Coleman could soon be following in the steps of Cody Latimer and Stephen Houston (hopefully more the former, as the latter was just cut from Pittsburgh after also being cut from New England). Coleman runs a bit upright, but the speed is legit. This is his 23/247/10.74ypc/2TD performance against Indiana State:
The work that Tevin is doing straight up the middle is impressive. This is tough sledding. Talking with Davis Hsu a couple weeks prior to the season Coleman was on my list of guys to watch:
@DavisHsuSeattle Listed: Karlos Williams-6'1"/219, Gurley-6'1"/232, Davis-5'9"/225, Duke-5'9"/206, Ajayi-6'0"/216, Coleman-6'0"/210, etc.— Jared Stanger (@JaredStanger) August 15, 2014
Not on that list were two more intriguing runners…the first comes from a big, high-profile running team, the second comes from a small school and I’m pretty sure I’ll be the first guy outside of his hometown to drop his name.
Cameron Artis-Payne (5’11"/210, Senior) was basically the 3rd running option last year behind Tre Mason and Nick Marshall for Auburn. This year, Mason is a St Louis Ram and Marshall is working through suspension (and trying not to get Wally Pipp’d by Jeremy Johnson), so it falls on CAP to carry the load. Week 1 he had no problem, dicing up Arkansas for 177 yards on 26 carries (6.81ypc) and a TD.
At this point I’ll remind you that the three current Seahawk running backs are all within one inch of the same height, and 7 lbs of the same weight range. Average size: 5’10.3"/219lbs. This is why I’ve included listed measurements on all of these guys. We don’t know yet if JS/PC have a max size, but there certainly seems to be a minimum size: 5’10"/215. This is my jump-off point. In the formula weight trumps height, and I can tolerate a lighter back if he has more height and a frame that could add the missing 5-10lbs.
My last RB for today…a true sleeper…Bronson Hill from Eastern Michigan (oh, would you look at that…exactly 5’10"/215). One of the methods I use to find these sleepers is simply looking through yardage leaderboards, cross-checking they fit the size specs, and then looking for tape. Hill had a nice 2014 debut against Morgan State hitting 114 yards on 19 carries (6.00ypc). His size is perfect. For tape, I had to dig up some 2013 highlights:
Maybe it’s the Macklemore, maybe it’s how much I like how this kid runs, but that highlight gets me hype! Reminds me of Bishop Sankey, but with CMike’s burst.
Because he’s a small-schooler, I wanted to get a bigger sample size of what he’s capable of…in 2013 he finished with 1101 yards on 196 carries (5.62ypc) and 5 TD’s on the ground, plus 16/175/10.94ypc/TD receiving. In 2012: 905 yards on 140 carries (6.46ypc) and 6 TD’s, plus 17.33ypc (!!!) on 12 receptions. The receiving numbers are especially intriguing. And you can see from the highlight reel, they did line him up outside as a WR occasionally and the hands look soft. Could be a Demitrius Bronson type story with more upside. Could be a straight up 6th round steal.
Alright, let’s look at some other positions.
Last Thursday morning I tweeted out some of my "players to watch" for that night’s games, including this one:
Rutgers vs WSU on FOXS1 7pm, DT Darius Hamilton, DT Xavier Cooper. Weber vs ASU, 7:30 on Pac12, WR Jaelen Strong, OG Jamil Douglas.— Jared Stanger (@JaredStanger) August 28, 2014
Strong proceeded to hit for 146 yards on 10 catches in basically the first half, Cooper had a half-sack and 1.5 TFL against Rutgers, and Hamilton looked really strong coming up with a sack of his own. Listed at 6’4"/255, but I’m guessing he’s way heavier than that, maybe 270, Hamilton was first featured in the Offseason Gems back in June. His 2013 season stats were listed there.
You can see why, with the amount of power Hamilton is displaying, I doubt he is only 255. Certainly he plays a bit too rigid, and I doubt he’s a SPARQ leader, but he will have a productive year and could end up declaring early.
UW's own DT Danny Shelton had a huge game vs Hawaii. Tape isn't cut yet, but many of you probably watched it live. He may be on his way to the 1st round if he keeps this up.
One name that popped this week that I was previously unfamiliar with was Michigan State WR Tony Lippett. Lippett had an insane stat line of 4 catches, 167 yards (41.75ypc), 2 TD’s against Jacksonville State. One of those catches was a completely busted coverage where Lippett was left unmarked and took it over 70 yards for a score. So it’s tough to be completely stoked on him based simply on that game, BUT…at 6’3"/190 Lippett held a striking resemblance to one of my favorite WR from the 2014 class: Devin Street. It begged for further evaluation.
Part of what I found out about Tony is that he began his college career as a cornerback! It’s the ol’ reverse Sherm. Another thing that I found out is that he has a pretty nice arm. Here is his highlight reel:
After that longer evaluation; Lippett has Street’s build, possibly Jarvis Landry’s speed, but also pretty much Jarvis Landry’s hands. Lippett’s work on contested catches is pretty incredible, but the logic is: he’s forced to make contested catches because he’s not getting separation. Not a deal-breaker, but something to consider. Interestingly, even without top end speed, Tony has nice run-after-catch skill. Plenty of missed-tackles forced. Lippett is currently draftscout’s 184th ranked player overall…good for a late 5th round pick.
That 5th round number is key because WR is much more of a late-round consideration this year after picking two in the first 4 rounds last year. TE, on the other hand, may be a bigger priority, and likely an in-line, blocking TE. I have one in mind, but he’s currently hurt and the best tape I have of him is JUCO tape. I’ll be more transparent on him later in the season, but let me bring to your attention a different type of TE in the meantime. This is 6’5"/227 South Carolina TE Busta Anderson.
Busta is 20-30 lbs under what would likely make an acceptable blocking TE, but I really like his athleticism and his character makeup. He opened the year with 3 catches vs A&M for 52 yards (a very nice 17.33ypc). Currently a 5th round prospect at #193 overall.
Last night on Twitter I promised you college football’s biggest hitter for this year, and this is who it is…Mississippi’s Senior safety Cody Prewitt. Cody comes into the year listed at 6’2"/217, but looks a little thicker than that. I first noticed him 8/29/13 when he opened last season by hitting Jordan Matthews so hard that JMatt lost his dinner all over the field. Clean hit too. We’ll take a look at that game first:
Last year Prewitt finished with 71 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 6 INT, 7 PBU, and 2 FF. Nice well-rounded year. This year, Cody has already racked up 8 tackles, 1.5 TFL, and an INT against Boise State. Oh yeah, and I think he killed a guy:
I don’t know where he got a trident. I can already picture the fun our own Drunkard could have writing about Prewitt. Currently a respectably projected 3rd round pick (#81 overall). Not a huge need, unless you need to make NFL owners hate the LOB even more and create more dumb penalties to emphasize against them ("unsportsmanlike display of a roll of silver dollars...15 yard penalty and please don't let my wife see that.")
Lastly today, I am going to have to tease you a little bit. You see, 12 days ago, Davis and I were talking about Seahawk needs going forward (click through the date of the tweet to see the rest of the convo):
2015 Draft Defense- Seahawks need a base DT w length or base NT (starter quality) 1 edge player, 2 Cornerbacks (1 a hybrid nickel)— Davis Hsu (@DavisHsuSeattle) August 21, 2014
In further conversation Davis said that he didn’t think it needed to be an early pick at LEO, that he wanted a player that could rush defensive rightside (QB blindside, vs the LT) a majority of the time, and he wanted him built like Clem. I, for one, love scouting to order, so I went looking for 6’3"/255 rushing defensive rightside that could be had in like the 4th-5th round.
This is where the sortability of draftscout (via CBS) is awesome. Open up the position group you want, sort by height or weight, start watching tape of the guys in the range you’re looking. I found literally only one guy that checked off the size, the round, with tape available to be found, and whose tape I liked if/when found. This was the guy and this was the video I found that night…please jump ahead on the video to the 1:15 mark:
The Offensive Tackle left breathing fumes and picking rubber pellets out of the turf-burn on his face there is Andrus Peat. 6’7"/312, top-10 projected overall pick, Andrus Peat. So that's a fun thing.
I looked back at Orchard’s 2013 year: 49 tackles, 8.5 TFL, 3 sacks, 1 PBU, 3 FF. They’re okay numbers. Granted, he was a junior and I have no idea what his snap counts were. But it wasn’t a noteworthy year…wouldn’t even qualify as a top 100 year in any category (except FF). I was just gonna sit on this name and see how his season went. Well, things change.
Week 1 vs Idaho State: 8 tackles and 2.5 sacks. So I have to stake my claim now before the world catches up. And it could be that he’ll quiet down once he hits Pac 12 schedule. He could be the 2014 Za’Darius Smith…in like a lion, out like a lamb. Or we could have spotted something really cool, really early in the season.