Before I begin: I'll refer to pSPARQ, simScore, and other things that may be unfamiliar. Please refer to the FAQ posted at my blog if you have any questions. I've also posted extensively on the subject of SPARQ here at FieldGulls. If you're interested, all SPARQ rankings for the 2015 class can be found here.
I wrote about roster mirroring last August, and then again last week when the Philadelphia Eagles' GM spoke publicly about a similar process. Seattle often likes to acquire athletes very similar to ones they've selected before, and it's possible to profile the 2015 class through the lens of current LOB members. We'll take a little look back at past Seahawk draft picks and see who in the current crop of draft DBs seems to fit the Seattle M.O. While players like Byron Jones and Eric Rowe are personal favorites and fit the Seahawk profile well, they won't be available at 63. I'll mainly focus on those with at least an outside chance at making it to 63.
Seahawk defensive backs are typically unique in profile, even if their overall athleticism places them in in the middle of the pack. I define this uniqueness by UQI, explained here. There aren't many corners who fit the athletic profile and fulfill the height and length requirements.
A brief aside on the length requirement: arm length measurements vary substantially by source. It's possible that someone with a 31.5" public measurement is listed at 32" or great in Seattle's database. We have no way of knowing. We do know that all Seahawk corners drafted in the Carroll and Schneider era have had public arm length measurements of 32" or greater.
There are no significant comps for Kam Chancellor or Byron Maxwell in this class. Walter Thurmond was injured in the pre-draft process and doesn't have the numbers necessary to make an athletic comparison.
Richard Sherman, 5th round, 2011
Comps: Curtis Riley
There are three basic ways to emphasize text in Microsoft Word: underlining, bolding, and italicizing. Sure, there's highlighting, changing the font color, etc., but those three are really the foundation. Curtis Riley's name should be bolded, underlined, italicized, and written in 40-pt font. This is a Seahawk corner, the epitome of a Seahawk corner.
Richard Sherman is good at football, and obviously not all of it is down to his athletic profile. Much of his success is due to his freakish ability to digest information, recognize patterns in offensive formations and plays, and WR-esque ball skills. Still, his athleticism is fairly underrated, as he's a very good athlete relative to other NFL corners. His best traits are his great jumps, 3-cone, and length, all of which combine to make him effective both in the slot and outside. He possesses the length and vertical ability to completely shut down fade routes while also drawing critical third-down assignments against Tavon Austin-types in the slot. He's good at football.
Curtis Riley is Richard Sherman minus 2.5 inches of height, and his Seahawk-iness doesn't stop there.
Jeremy Lane, 6th round, 2012
Comps: Curtis Riley, Alex Carter
Curtis Riley, underlined, bolded, italicized. 40-point font. Riley is projected as a 6th-7th round draft pick.
Sherman and Lane aren't themselves significant athletic comparisons, but Riley exists between the two. He moves like Sherman while being built like Lane, and is in the same athletic range as both. This is the Seahawk corner, the 32" arms, athletic profile that significantly matches Seattle's two best 2015 cornerbacks, and likely ability to play both inside and out.
Of course, the ability to play football is important. There's only limited tape available, but both Jared Stanger and I agree that what's out there is promising. It's a case of missing data, and we don't know nearly enough about Riley's psychological evaluation or have enough game tape available to judge on Riley's potential. However, the data that we do have leads me to believe that they'll be very interested.
Alex Carter won't turn 21 until after the start of the 2015 season. He's young, talented, and projected to go on the second day of the draft. I'd guess that he starts at boundary corner but may eventually be able to move inside, like Maxwell and Sherman. This selection seems less likely as Seattle would probably have to invest one of their first two picks on Carter.
Lane has a few more player comps, but P.J. Williams and Ronald Darby don't meet the typical 32" arm length requirements.
Tharold Simon, 5th round, 2013
Comps: Julian Wilson, Tray Walker
I almost hesitate to bring Simon up. He's a bit of a lightning rod for Seahawks fans after the Super Bowl, when he was burned repeatedly by Julian Edelman. There are a few points that are relevant here:
- Tom Brady and Julian Edelman are good.
- Tharold Simon was drafted in the 5th round. Just being on the 2015 roster is better than a lot of 2013 5th rounders. Seattle's hit rate on late corners has been insane, and Simon struggling doesn't mean the profile is necessarily bad or that the strategy is poor. It's one individual, and our expectations are skewed from the incredible success of Sherman and the gang.
- We don't know that Tharold Simon is a bust. He was 23 in XLIX; Byron Maxwell was 26 when he began active service in the LOB.
With that noted, there are two safeties and two corners who closely resemble Simon. Julian Wilson is the first key name here, an Oklahoma cornerback with the speed, length, and vertical ability that Schneider and Carroll value in their outside corners. Wilson has repeatedly been described as "imposing" by draft writers. He's big, fast, and projected as a 7th rounder or undrafted.
Tray Walker is also interesting, his 33-5/8" arm length ranking first in the class at corner. Though he weighs less than Tharold, his body type and athletic profile are strikingly similar. This feels every bit like a 5th-round Seahawk boundary corner. Hat tip to Jared Stanger for finding Walker back late last year.
Earl Thomas, 1st round, 2010
Comps: Kyshoen Jarrett, Steven Nelson
I really like Steven Nelson, so I figured I'd include ET when I saw this comparison pop up. While Seattle isn't looking for a new starting free safety, they did bring in the athletic comp I noted last year in pre-draft, so it wouldn't be overly surprising to see them do the same with Nelson or Jarrett. Nelson is projected to go in the 3rd or 4th and Jarrett the 6th.
Steven Nelson is also a significant athletic comp for Mark Legree, drafted by the Seahawks at free safety in 2011. It's a profile the Seahawks have hit twice in the draft, and Nelson offers the cover ability to function as a nickel/safety hybrid. With the acquisition of the short-armed Marcus Burley last September, Seattle's restrictions on inside corners may be relaxed from a few years ago, when the highly-wingspanned Lane and Thurmond were drafted. The success of Seattle corners has certainly been influential in the draft process, and the influx of Edelman-type receivers and steeper cost of long corners could result in a change in Seahawk philosophy.
Other Possible Fits
There are other corners who fit the loose requirements of Seahawk-iness without conforming closely to a specific Seahawk. The following table shows the players who meet the typical parameters, sorted by NFLDraftScout.net's projected draft position.
Jalen Collins, LSU
Projected Round: 1st-2nd
The Seahawks traded the 31st pick for Flight End Jimmy Graham, so Collins is a long-shot. I include him as there were rumors of multiple failed drug tests at LSU that surfaced last week. The timing of the leak makes me believe that it's someone trying to drive his value down, but if he were to fall, it's an obvious pick at 63.
Adrian Amos, Penn State
Projected Round: 2nd-3rd
Amos played both corner and safety at Penn State and is an obvious Seahawk candidate. He has length, a solid build, and ranks among the elite DB athletes in the class. If Seattle does spend an early pick on a DB, Amos offers the athleticism and hybrid inside/outside ability that could justify the higher cost.
Ryan Murphy, Oregon State
Projected Round: 7th-UDFA
Ryan Murphy played safety at OSU, so it's a projection to put him at outside corner. As someone who watches a lot of Oregon State football, he's excellent at football while also testing as one of the better athletes in the class.
Robertson Daniel, BYU
Projected Round: 7th-UDFA
Robertson Daniel is awesome. A possible VMAC visitor, the 6'1"/209/32-1/4" profile is picture perfect for a Seahawk corner. While bench press is not something that I view with great significance, the 24 reps he put up is impressive and indicative of his physique. He's a freak and currently projected in the 7th round.
Among the others, Akeem King visited Seattle recently and like profiles as a boundary corner in Seattle. Nick Marshall was Auburn's quarterback for the 2013 and 2014 seasons, but played defensive back earlier in his college career and meets all criteria. I know nothing about Brian Suite except that the Seahawks have drafted from Utah State before and he ticks all the boxes. Travis Lee is 172 pounds but still might be a camp body type.