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2016 NFL Draft- Jared's preseason Gems

An ahead-of-the-pack look at the 2016 draft.

Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

Last week, we took a look at some of the running backs potentially headed toward the 2016 draft; this week we’re going to take a look at the general spectrum of players/positions coming up next year. While RB’s are recommended to come out early, most other positions are harder to project as early declares (especially in May), so I don’t do much of it.

Even if you think a player has probability to declare after their Junior season, in May the only tape we could have on that player is from when he’s a sophomore. Which a) isn’t often easy to find, b) isn’t often far enough along in their development to project from. There are some exceptions (skill positions being the obvious ones), but for the most part, at this point in the year, I try to just focus on the incoming Seniors.

This week I just started attacking position groups alphabetically, starting with Center, to see where some of the classes stand. I’ll try to give you a couple names from each group to prime you for the season. Every year I will reference "overall projection"…I always use nfldraftscout’s ranks (as used by CBS.com) just to maintain consistency. This early in the process, 2016 players do not have overall ranks; they simply have position ranks (and even those are limited to a "top 5" per position).

Center

Center opens with 1) Max Tuerk- USC, 2) Isaac Seumalo- Oregon St, 3) Mike Matthews- TAMU, 4) Jack Allen- MSU, 5) Jake Brendel- UCLA as the draftscout top 5. Four of those five open the year listed under 300lbs – including three at 285lbs - so I’m already skeptical of those. The lone 300-lb’er is Jack Allen (6’2"/300). I know from studying the numbers last year, Michigan State allowed the 4th fewest sacks in the country in 2014…sounds like a logical starting point. Let’s take a look at some Allen tape (#66):

I intentionally chose this Ohio State game because Ohio State had one of the best DL in the country last year, and Allen will be matched up against guys like Mike Bennett and Adolphus Washington. At 2:50 we see a lot of what we want to see from OL. You kind of want to see them being a persistent pest. Allen gets Washington off balance during his spin move, takes him to the ground, and then just keeps blocking him.

Notice Allen repeatedly swatting the DT’s hands down off of him. This is awesome technique. I can’t remember ever seeing a Center do this so consistently to good DL. Now, because that tape was actually cut to feature Connor Cook at QB, it neglects to show much of the MSU run-blocking. I won’t link to a tape showing Allen’s run-sets, but I did watch tape of it, and he’s really sound. He’s athletic enough to pull from Center, he’s strong enough to seal off bigger NT’s, and he has good feel for when to chip LDT vs RDT in 4-3 allignment sets.

Allen’s biggest flaw in my first pass watching him, was his tendency to whiff on blocks more when he enters the second level. He lunges too much, and quicker linebackers send him to the ground with an Ole.

The other Center I really like from 2014 tape is the guy that forced, if you will, Mitch Morse off of the Center spot for Missouri: Evan Boehm. Listed 6’3"/315, Boehm shares many of the qualities I like in Allen: quick off the ball, able to pull, little bit of a dirty player. Here is 2013 tape with Boehm as a sophomore at C (#77) and Justin Britt at LT.

Cornerback

Cornerback has been tougher to find Senior talent that I really like. Well…"tougher" because I keep getting distracted by guys that are Juniors. I’m probably going to list a Junior today anyways.

Cornerback, like RB for Seattle, is in many ways an easy position to start scouting early, because we can identify so specifically a body-type to look for. Let’s start with 6’0"/190lbs at CB and look at all those player’s tapes.

Interestingly, draftscout’s top two CB for 2016 are both over 6’0"/190, but I didn’t like either’s tape (Fabian Moreau- UCLA, Jordan Lucas- Penn State).

Juston Burris of NC State (6’1"/207) played well for much of the game I watched of him versus FSU, but then he’d have two or three pretty major bad beats.

Danzel McDaniel is a JUCO transfer to Kansas State (6’1"/205) who is probably the biggest hitter I saw in this first pass through the CB class. But his cover skills are pretty rough. Probably needs to play Safety.

Taveze Calhoun is a player I’ve been tracking for about a year and a half, and he’s finally going to be a Senior this year. Listed last year at 6’1"/184, he’s a little under the 190 benchmark, but so was Tye Smith entering the start of 2014. We’ll presume he can add 6lbs (if he hasn’t already).

Draftbreakdown has one video edited for Calhoun but it’s from 2013. In effort to show some of his more-recent play, I’m going to borrow from an edit for another player. Calhoun will be #23 in white jerseys, playing primarily RCB:

I watch Taveze and I’m reminded of that tape of Richard Sherman coaching up some draft prospect on that personal trainer reality TV series a couple years ago - tips like the importance of patience in your release in press coverage. It’s crazy how much insight I get into a CB’s ability simply from watching his release. It’s not EVERYTHING I need to see from a corner, but it’s more often than not enough to tell me he "gets it".

Taveze also reminds me of Sherm when he’s at LCB at 1:40 mark, and plays the post fade-throw to perfection for the INT. Another nice PBU at 1:53.

This 2014 tape vs Ole Miss doesn’t showcase it as well as Calhoun’s 2013 tape vs Ole Miss, but Taveze is a really nice tackler for a Corner. He shows good decision-making of when to bring some thump, and when to simply wrap up.

The next CB that I’m really interested in is going to have to come from the Junior ranks. FSU is reportedly moving Jalen Ramsey to CB this year, and I’m very excited to see him there. Xavien Howard of Baylor will look to continue building on his nice resume in his Junior year. We saw 8 underclass CB drafted in the 2015 class, so it’s not unheard of that a few of these guys will declare early.

From Tennessee, with 3 INT, 13 PBU, 4 TFL in 2014, while also housing one punt return in 14 tries, this is Cameron Sutton (#23 primarily at RCB):

More raw, in my opinion, than Calhoun (as you’d expect being a year younger), but Sutton still shows the pure movement skills, with the perfect size that I look for at CB.

Edge/DE

I’m really not pleased yet with the 2016 Edge class (which is somewhat to be expected after a REALLY good 2015 DE class). I like Deforest Buckner, Shawn Oakman has shown some flashes, but those are the top two guys by pretty much all outlets - add in the Juniors Bosa and Ogbah - and after them it's a huge dropoff.

One interesting name I’ve dug up is a guy that had awesome production last year, on top of already-existing awesome intangibles off the field…we go right back to Rocky Top to find OLB/DE Curt Maggitt (pronounced like "legit"). Listed last year at 6’3"/251, Maggitt put up 11.0 sacks, 15.0 TFL, 5 QBH a year after missing the entire season with a 2012 ACL injury. Maggitt is #56 for the Vols and can be seen sacking Blake Sims in the video above. (Tennessee is actually looking like a pretty stacked roster overall, with Sophomore Derek Barnett also an interesting Edge rusher to watch going forward.)

Another potential future LEO option is Virginia Tech’s Dadi Nicolas (6’4"/231). Built more like Randy Gregory, Nicolas will need to continue to add weight to his good frame, but with 71 tackles, 18.0 TFL, and 8.5 sacks in 2014, he’s already showing strong flashes of ability. His motor is certainly undeniable. But he does need to get stouter against the run:

Keep in mind with Nicolas that VT is not using him the way Seattle would. Most often, Dadi lines up inside the OT, whereas Seattle would likely put him outside the OT and even the TE, in a wide-9 position. I’m also not mad at the opposite Edge rusher in that video; Corey Marshall (#96). Go back to the 1:28 mark and watch Marshall’s acceleration as JT Barrett hits the edge on a keeper. Intriguing.

Defensive Tackle

I’ll start at DT with a guy I thought might have declared last year…in part because he just won a National Championship…Ohio State’s Adolphus Washington. At 6’4"/295, Dolph put up 48 tackles, 10.5 TFL, 4.5 sacks, 3 PBU as a Junior. Pretty much any time I put on tape of Mike Bennett, Dolph was making huge splash plays.

This isn’t the best tape to scout for level of competition, but it’s a good starter on Washington:

I also really like Louisville 3Tech Sheldon Rankins (6’2"/305). Even with a 2014 season of 53 tackles, 13.5 TFL, and 8.0 sacks, Rankins is still fairly under the radar going into the new season. Watch #98 at LDT attack the RG in this clip:

Low man wins. That RG needs to get his ass down. Here’s the entire video of Rankins vs BC:

Offensive Tackle

I’ve skipped ahead of my alphabetical position order, but we’ll hit some of the bigger potential "need" positions for Seattle.

Draftscout opens with a top 5 OT list of: Taylor Decker- Ohio State, Spencer Drango- Baylor, Tyler Johnstone- Oregon, Le’Raven Clark- Texas Tech, Tyler Marz- Wisconsin. I didn’t like any of those guys, so I looked ahead to draftscout’s 2017 listing: Ronnie Stanley- Notre Dame, Germain Ifedi- TAMU, Jack Conklin- MSU. There they are. (Although, I’m not sure why Stanley isn’t listed in 2016. He is now a Senior per the Notre Dame website. Also not sure why Laremy Tunsil isn’t listed in 2017 rankings.)

I think Germain Ifedi and Jack Conklin are two of the best OL prospects we’ve seen come around in the last 3-4 drafts. Ifedi joins the esteemed list of recent A&M high-profile OL draftpicks that includes Cedric Ogbuehi, Jake Matthews, and Luke Joeckel. That’s a 1st rounder for three consecutive drafts. And Ifedi might be better than all of them. Listed at 6’5"/325, Ifedi carries the weight really well. Watch most 2014 tapes of Ogbuehi, and Ifedi will be opposite from him at RT (#74).

Those are some of the most balanced, technical pass-sets you’re ever likely to see. Make no mistake…Ifedi is a tackle, and should probably be drafted by a pass-heavy team. I’m not as much in love with his run-blocking, but neither is the league in love with running. Conklin (6’6"/303) is more of a well-rounded OT, to me. I pointed out MSU’s sacks-allowed stat earlier, which gives some idea of their pass-pro, but they also run-blocked Jeremy Langford to a 1500-yard season on the ground.

Since I used a QB tape above to showcase MSU’s pass-blocking, here, for Conklin, I’ll use a RB tape to showcase both "Jacks" in the run game:

I love the way Conklin seals the edge. It’s also pretty easy to see the difference between Conklin and Ifedi when both get to the second level. Conklin is far more assured in who to block, and he actually gets there timely and makes the block.

Both Ifedi and Conklin are known entities for whichever draft they enter - which means they will be harder to acquire for a playoff team like Seattle. We need to find that Justin Britt type guy that might be available a little later. I found one I like…he’s gonna be a Junior, and I kinda doubt he declares. But here’s an early look for 2017…Justin Senior (6’5"/295…from Canada…#58 at RT):

Tightend

Coming off a really bad class of TE, we can hope 2016 will be better. I haven’t watched many of them yet, but this is one guy I noticed last year who I’m VERY high on already. Steven Scheu is the ideal TE specs of 6’5"/250, caught 39 passes for 525 yards and 4 TD in 2014, and the guy is sharp mentally.

He may not be a SPARQ monster, but he looks more athletic than Zach Miller. His hands are legit, too.

Wide Receiver

The 2016 WR class is going to need a lot of help from its underclass members if it is to live up to the quality that 2014 and 2015 supplied. The Seniors will include Duke Williams, Josh Doctson, Nelson Spruce, Alonzo Russell, Leonte Carroo, and Quinshad Davis, but the elite guys will be Juniors declaring early and could include: Hollywood Higgins, Corey Davis, Corey Coleman, Tyler Boyd, Mike Williams, Corey Robinson, Isaiah Jones, De’Runnya Wilson, and Travin Dural.

The Seahawks have recently given the hard-sell on their desire for a big WR; only to end up drafting guys that were at the Combine as 6’0"/175 and 5’10"/182. Does that mean anything? Tough to know.

If they stay on that trend, Corey Coleman would be a really interesting name to monitor. At 5’11"/190, Coleman reminds me of Phillip Dorsett. Coleman’s a bit bigger, probably a bit slower (Dorsett was a 4.33 guy), but Coleman probably gets the nod as better receiver. If the Hawks go off trend, and finally target that big…umm…target, a guy that I really like is UMass’ Tajae Sharpe. Tajae is 6’4"/200, finished 9th in the country in receiving YPG last year, and has that AJ Green smoothness about him.

I love those catches Sharpe makes while getting DPI’d. Another comp we could make for him is a familiar name around these parts: Sidney Rice. Sidney came out of SC at 6’4"/200…the exact same measurements Sharpe had last year. If Tajae gets the small-school discount like I am guessing he will, he would be a really nice value in the 4th round.

Lastly, and this will be my biggest sleeper of this early edition of the Gems, I spotted this next guy while watching his more-hyped teammate. His teammate sort of bores me (plus he has some redflags), but I really liked things I saw from the "understudy" in limited reps.

So here is the tape. Watch it once for De’Runnya if you’d like, but make sure to watch it a second time to track #8 Fred Ross. Note Ross’ ability to actually catch a slant and take it for positive yardage:

Ross is only a Junior, probably doesn’t have a big enough profile to declare early, but I really like the things he’s already showing. At 6’2"/205, Ross is what I’ve always considered the ideal size for a WR. Not too big, not too small.

On a team that ran the ball 12 times more than they passed per game, Ross didn’t have many opportunities. But in his 30 catches, he averaged 16.3 YPC, and made it to the endzone once every 6.0 catches. Pretty good efficiency numbers. Ross is probably not a WR1 or WR2, but he’d be the type of guy I’d look to replace Jermaine Kearse with in time.