Throughout the college season, and still now that the season is all but over, as I scout(ed) college players/teams, I gradually began to develop preferences for studying certain teams over others. Sometimes it will only take a player or two to garner my attention (Pittsburgh, Wisconsin, Nebraska), but more often it’s the sum of the parts.
The following is a collection of the top 9 college teams that I currently see the best combination of talent, volume of players, and value of players in draft projections; and that could, therefore, result in the Seahawks selecting players from.
1) Oklahoma Sooners:
First of all, Oklahoma has multiple players in the trenches on both sides of the line of scrimmage. On OL, take your pick between the two tackles Tyrus Thompson and Daryl Williams. Thompson manned LT this year, while Williams was at RT. I prefer Thompson as a player to slide inside to LG should Carp walk in FA, and he’s projecting at #204, while Williams doesn’t hold enough value for me at #115.
On the DL, Jordan Phillips is a huge guy at NT with some nice upside, but a steep #64 price tag (and I actually see him going earlier). Alternately, Chuka Ndulue played mostly a 3-4 LDE, but projects as an early-down 5Tech in the Seahawks scheme. Chuka’s value will rise after the combine, but currently is an awesome value at #446. I’ll slot him as a 5th round value, but I’m worried he’ll go earlier.
Oklahoma also features one of less-than-a-handful of 2015 CB that list at 6’2" or bigger: Julian Wilson. Wilson is a bit stiff at the spot but could rise simply because of demand for his kind of size…currently #269.
#23 WR Dorial Green-Beckham, #101 LB Geneo Grissom, #252 TE Blake Bell
2) Utah Utes:
DE Nate Orchard (#31) is easily the best-known name out of Utah, after finishing 2nd in the country in sacks, but he may not even be the favorite target for Seattle from this squad. There always seems to be a cornerback that makes a late, quote-unquote "surprising" run up in to the early rounds, and this year it could easily be Eric Rowe. Rowe currently stands at #134 (which isn’t even top 3 rounds), but he has a chance to be picked in the top 40.
Utah had a couple of underclassmen recently declare early in RB Devontae Booker and OT Jeremiah Poutasi. Poutasi I still need to study more, but my early thoughts are that his 6’6"/330 frame would look pretty nice in that LG spot. Only downside is his #56 projection. Way too expensive.
Booker I’m much more familiar with and I’m really starting to like as a midround target. There are some conflicting reports about whether he’ll declare, but pretty reliable source Tony Pauline has said Devontae will come out this year. If you can get Booker in the 4th, that’s a perfect spot for a RB hedge.
Others: #110 WR Dres Anderson, Unranked WR/PR/KR Kaelin Clay, #464 TE Westlee Tonga, #570 FS Tevin Carter
This is a predominantly defense-interesting team, highlighted by twin edge rushers Eli Harold (#50) and Max Valles (#152). Many mocks are already placing Harold into the 1st round, which keeps him out of Seahawks hands, but Valles had nearly identical production for an entire three-round discount. Even if Valles has to be picked in the 3rd, that could be one of the better values at DE we’ll see this draft.
Safety Anthony Harris is currently seeing the low-safety-supply bump and getting pushed into the early 3rd round at #67. I don’t see the Seahawks interested in a Safety anywhere near the first four rounds.
Virginia has 3 more players ranked in the top 1000 that are mildly interesting: #751 ILB Henry Coley, #805 OLB Daquan Romero, and #983 WR Miles Gooch. I’d wait on all three for UDFA.
On the other hand, Virginia holds two players currently ranked OUT of the top 1000 that I would actually draft. At WR, Darius Jennings is this year’s Doug Baldwin. Similar size, Jennings perhaps a bit more SPARQ’d up, and Jennings arguably the better return-man (13th in the country at 27.08 YPR). Jennings also has top 15 National marks in yards per catch (19.30). You could make a case for Jennings being a poor-man’s Tyler Lockett in this class. I, personally, love the idea of drafting two WR…I’m open to picking them both in the 4th…Jennings could allow you to get one as late as the 6th.
Lastly, from the Cavs, I think their TE Zach Swanson is an incredible find. 6’6"/250, decent blocker, and made some really nice catches in his limited usage. 5th round is a great spot to look for a TE, and Swanson should definitely be available there.
4) ECU Pirates:
The big name here is WR Justin Hardy (#78), who just became the NCAA all-time receptions record holder. But the bigger human being here is NT Terry Williams. At 6’1"/353, Terry has been nicknamed "Swamp Monster" and he is just a spectacle to behold. With some character redflags (suspensions for off-field stuff as well as missing the ECU bowl game as academically ineligible), Swampie currently isn’t ranked.
OLB Maurice Falls (#310) will test big enough to be drafted, and WR Cam Worthy (#260) is a guy I’d strongly look at around the 4th round…maybe 3rd since Seattle drafts late each round.
ECU has a couple other linebackers that look promising in Brandon Williams (19th in the country in tackles), and Montese Overton. Overton is only a Junior and has not declared, while Williams is a senior and is not ranked in the top 1000. I’d give Williams a gratis pick in the 7th, but he could also be the next UDFA linebacker to make the team (eg: Smitty, Coyle).
Devante Parker headlines this squad, and will be gone by the Seahawks pick, and S Gerod Holliman probably gets over-drafted in the 1st round. Up next, however, will be DE Lorenzo Mauldin. With 16 sacks combined the last two years, Mauldin has shown good consistency getting at the QB. He also has a very nice backstory of overcoming adversity…something the Seahawks have been big on the last two years. Mauldin is also one of the DE’s projecting still available after where Seattle will draft (#43 overall).
After putting three players in the top 50, Louisville then goes quiet until the late rounds when C/OG Jake Smith and TE Gerald Christian come in at #225 and #233 respectively. Smith is actually the perfect blend of talent and value to pick late and develop behind Unger for a year or two. Christian is interesting A) because he’s one of the better in-line blocking TE I’ve seen this year, and B) he’s a transfer from Florida…and, yes, he was there when Dan Quinn was.
I’m sure CB Charles Gaines gets drafted, but at 5’11" he won’t be high on the Seahawks’ lit. The last name to watch for out of Louisville is DT BJ Dubose. 6’5"/263, BJ finished the year with 7.5 TFL and 4 sacks, in a DL that rotates pretty heavily. Both my sense, and the sense of draftscout, is that Dubose can be an UDFA target (#612).
Earlier in the year this team would have probably been top 3. But now, with two of the biggest names projecting to get picked in the top 20 (Shaq Thompson and Danny Shelton), it just feels like the Seahawks will miss out on picking from UW early.
Kikaha (#48) will be the most likely target. He led the country in sacks, after finishing 3rd in 2013 (combined sacks for the last two years: 32 in 27 games), but Hau’oli still seems to get no love in draft circles. But we know this: the Seahawks scouted UW very hard. Maybe they were looking at Shaq/Shelton, but maybe they really like Kikaha.
I’m not sure how much interest the Seahawks will have in Marcus Peters after his dismissal from school, but we have to mention him. Preseason I would have expected Peters price would have been higher than what the Hawks pay for corners, but if his stock falls enough…do PCJS get interested in the 3rd-4th range?
Kasen Williams’ stock has plummeted to #290 overall, which is technically UDFA territory, but I think he gets drafted. Depending on how he tests, Kasen could have Donte Moncrief ability with Jeff Janis prices.
UDFA: #407 OT Micah Hatchie, #480 DE Andrew Hudson, #647 OT Ben Riva. Really nice value in Hudson, especially.
7) Rice Owls:
This is probably my shortest, most concentrated list…but these might be some pretty superb Owls.
I spent an unfortunate amount of time Tuesday night trying to find footage of 2014 Rice games. I wanted to see what DT Christian Covington (#85) looked like before he went down with injury. I've seen his tape from 2013. And when I finally found some 2014 footage, I was extremely pleased. Covington, and this will sound blasphemic, has almost as much attack in him as Aaron Donald.
With AD, you’re immediately struck by the speed and ferocity of his launch…Covington has that. AD was 6’0"/285…CC is 6’3"/300. I won’t compare their season stats because Donald puts Covington (and 99% of all DT’s) to shame. Especially considering Christian only played 7 games this year. But as a Sophomore, CC had a completely respectable season of: 11.5 TFL and 4 sacks (numbers very similar to Jordan Hill’s last year at Penn State). Actually, I might put CC squarely in between Donald and Hill, in terms of ability, and that could also put him squarely between Donald’s 1st round selection and Hill’s 3rd. A 2nd round pick may also be necessary with Seattle drafting closer to #96 than #85.
WR Jordan Taylor gets some buzz for his production and hands wrapped up in a 6’5" frame. Currently #237, but I’d go earlier than that if he runs decently (hopefully, like a 4.58 at worst).
DE Zach Patt is only ranked #853, but he had a 9.5 sack season (23rd in the country) and his 6’2"/240 build is very much in LEO range. With so many DE’s available this year, Patt could be the most productive one available on day 3.
Lastly for Rice, Safety Julius White is one of my highest priority UDFA right now. Not ranked by draftscout, but White caught my eye midseason when I found some old footage of him, and that first impression was confirmed when this tape was published earlier this month:
That’s one of the best pieces of Safety tape I’ve seen this year. Awesome reads, awesome lines to the ball, awesome tackling…all of it makes an awesome value. Seahawks have done well in UDFA safeties in the PCJS regime, and this could be our next.
8) Auburn Tigers:
I had high hopes for Auburn at the beginning of the year, but maybe we should have accounted for a National Championship loss hangover? Anyways…WR Sammie Coates comes in at #40, which is way too rich for my blood on a guy with this many drops.
After an 8.5 TFL/3.0 sack year in 2013, I had high hopes for DT Gabe Wright, but he pulled a Will Sutton…messed around with gaining weight to look more stout against the run, and completely lost his pass rush. He finished at 4.5 TFL and 1.0 sack this year. So now his stock is down to #111 overall. I’m still not terrible excited. Maybe I buy again if he falls to the 150’s.
Perhaps the most interesting draft-eligible Tiger all season has been RB Cameron Artis-Payne. He never got much hype or headline, but CAP quietly finished 13th in the country in rushing yards, with a respectable 5.31 YPC and 13 TD’s in an offense where many carries were lost to the QB. He’s a good sound blocker, good receiver…I don’t think you want him as your bellcow, but he’d be a good 3rd down back. He’s an older player (which sucks at RB), but in the 5th round (or one of the Hawks’ 4th round comps) I could start getting interested.
UDFA: #276 RB Corey Grant (SPARQ # could spike him up), #514 DT Jeffery Whitaker, #792 PR/KR Quan Bray.
9) USC Trojans:
Full disclosure: USC wasn’t one of my favorite teams to watch this year. But…with Pete’s history there, and some of the players they have available, I do think it reasonable to consider them as targets for the Hawks.
DT Leonard Williams will be gone. And how.
The Seahawks first true shot at a Trojan will be WR Nelson Agholor (#65). His projection would put him available with their 2nd round pick, but I just can’t justify picking him there, knowing some of the quality WR names that would still be there in the 3rd round. The only thing that makes Agholor more appealing is his return abilities. But still.
Ranking #87 is RB Buck Allen. He’s not my favorite RB. He’s not even in my top 5. And he’s certainly not a guy I want even at #96 overall. There may be RB I’d be okay taking in the 3rd, but Allen isn’t one of them.
On day three of the draft, teams will be filling out their roster depth and USC will have options. The one that will be most interesting to watch will be CB Josh Shaw. He had the weirdest year, going from elected team captain, to broken feet, to indefinitely suspended for lying about how he broke his feet, to limited playing time in the Trojans’ last three games. Final stats: 3 games appeared, 11 total tackles. That’s it. Not a single PBU. And, of course, very little tape to study.
At the LB spots, USC presents Hayes Pullard at #202 and JR Tavai at #209. I honestly haven’t much LB tape in general, let alone either of the USC guys. But we’ve currently got 2.5 ex-Trojan LB’s in Seattle. I’ll need to check these two soon.
Another player I need to look at more from USC is TE Randall Telfer (#358). Good size, reportedly good speed, but with only 21 catches for 197 yards, there just isn’t much tape to find on him.