Pretty quickly after watching the Hawks’ week 1 preseason game I took to the internets to watch a lot of tape on college offensive lineman. It was such a staggering, glaring problem. I mean: 7 sacks allowed, plus 13 QB hits, AND Tarvaris Jackson given a nice high ankle sprain. It was bad. And it was bad 1’s vs 1’s, 2’s vs 2’s, 3’s vs 3’s.
Now, the team already took action to shore up the line before the KC game. Justin Britt has been moved inside to LG, Garry Gilliam gets a bump up to 1st team RT, and Alvin Bailey is now looking like he’s back to swing OL. I like all of these moves, and I thought the line looked improved on Friday. There’s also the matter of Evan Mathis, who may still be in negotiations with Seattle as I’m writing this.
Even if these moves solidify the line for 2015, we still have to face the issue of 2016 free agency; where Okung, Sweezy, Jeanpierre are UFA; and Bailey, Lewis are RFA. We’re going to need reinforcements. As of today, I’d like to see PCJS give Tom Cable two picks out of our expected 4 in the first three rounds.
It’s tough for me to predict which of the spots will get re-upped. Cable seemed to love Sweezy at the town hall this year. Okung has been a pro bowler a couple times earlier in his career and will be the toughest to replace from outside free agents. Lem, Lewis, and Bailey could be cost effective re-signs. So I’m just going to cover the entire OL.
As the highest-paid, highest-drafted spot on the OL, it only makes sense to start here.
Ole Miss’ Laremy Tunsil and Notre Dame’s Ronnie Stanley seem to be concensus top two guys. I will skip over them because, if that holds true, they will be gone before Seattle drafts.
The next two names: Taylor Decker (Ohio State) and Jack Conklin (Michigan State) are currently projecting middle of the 1st round (18-21 overall). It’s possible Seattle drafts there, but then that means they haven’t made the playoffs for the first time in Russell’s tunure here. If, for some crazy reason, Seattle implodes and doesn’t make the playoffs, Conklin would be my preferred target middle of the round.
Conklin has the right size 6’6"/318, the right length, the right temperament, and enough athleticism, but what really sold me on him was his tape vs Ohio State. Ohio State finished 2014 with the 7th-most team-sacks in the FCS. Joey Bosa was their best pass-rusher and currently projects as a top-two pick in 2016. Conklin held Bosa to 0.0 sacks, 0.0 TFL, 1 QBH, 1 tackle.
I find very little flash in Jack’s tape (though I do like how he finishes plays a little nasty), but instead he’s just rock solid steady. He’s not an immaculate prospect, but he avoids the big mistakes. Plenty of power in the run game. Solid hand placement and punch. Changes speeds well. Adapts in-game. At one point, Steve Miller owns Conklin with a rip move, but Conklin comes back and shuts Miller down the rest of the game.
Conklin is only a Junior, so he may not be coming out this year. Profootballfocus.com recently ranked Conklin as the top returning OL in college…ahead of Tunsil and Stanley.
The next two names at OT for draftscout are Texas A&M’s Germain Ifedi and Oregon’s Tyler Johnstone. Johnstone was recently carted off of practice with an undisclosed injury. This follows two separate ACL tears. I’m really not expecting him to be a factor in the draft.
Ifedi is a question mark for a different reason. He’s moving to LT this year after spending 2014 at RT. Until I’ve actually seen him play at LT, I’m projecting him as what I’ve seen him play: RT.
Jason Spriggs from Indiana is an interesting name at LT that ranks #84 overall on nfldraftscout’s first rankings of the year. 6’6"/305 and rumored to be SPARQ’d to the rafters. He might be this year’s Lane Johnson: a 3rd rounder all the way up to the combine when he spikes a 1st round selection.
I love his feet, but I’m just not sold on his upperbody strength. This might be a guy that needs to play RT at the next level.
As this point, it starts to become clear that the Seahawks really do NEED to re-sign Russell Okung. The true LT are not going to be available by the time Seattle drafts, and the veteran LT’s like Solder and Castonzo likely won’t actually make it to the free market.
As I was just saying about Spriggs moving to RT, many of the names I like at LG will also come from the ranks of guys playing 2015 at LT for their respective college teams.
Spencer Drango is Baylor’s returning LT. Listed at 6’6"/310, Drango seems like he’s been around forever, and has forever looked like a guard conversion. Draftscout has him at #68 overall, while PFF thinks he is the 25th best returning college player. PFF states an 84.4 run-blocking rating and only 2 sacks allowed last year as reasons. At times Drango has projected as a 1st round player…which seems high, but #68 overall seems low. I would guess he settles in at the 50-60th pick range of the 2nd round.
I like Drango much better when he’s attacking inside at the DT, as opposed to when he’s trying to hand-fight with Shilique Calhoun in this video:
When Drango gets his hands on the defenders’ body, it’s really over. I mean, his grip looks impressive.
Cody Whitehair is Kansas State’s returning starter at LT. He’s 6’4"/309, draftscout has him at #41 overall, and PFF lists him as an 86.0 rated run-blocker that only allowed two sacks last year. But I just didn’t see it when I watched him. Everything he did seemed plodding and a degree slower than we’ve grown accustomed to seeing from the Seahawk OL athletes. A player to monitor, but just not someone I’m sold on currently.
A new discovery for me while researching this piece is Boise State’s LT Rees Odhiambo. Listed at 6’4"/305, though he looks solid at LT, both draftscout (#103 overall) and my viewing says that this is a really good LG prospect. I love this guy’s run-blocking, and his size is more appropriate for guard.
Rees shows good lateral movement with his feet, and the strength in his hands to latch on and redirect defenders out of running lanes. It doesn’t hurt that he helped block for the nation’s 5th highest rusher, either.
The top names here from draftscout are USC’s Max Tuerk, Wisconsin’s Dan Voltz, and Notre Dame’s Nick Martin (brother of Zack Martin). The earliest entrant is Tuerk, who doesn’t appear until #32 overall. This is an important thing to note because, really, there is maybe one Center per year that gets drafted in the 1st round. And, usually, a team can still get the 3rd center overall off the board deep into the 3rd round.
This is important because it suggests a Center can be waited on until after addressing some combo of OL, RB, DT, and then look at Center with the Byron Maxwell comp pick late-3rd.
Some of the names that show up farther down the Center projections include: Michigan State’s Jack Allen (#145), Mizzou’s Evan Boehm (#163), Texas A&M’s Mike Matthews (#241), and Temple’s Kyle Friend (#391).
Matthews is the next in line from the Bruce Matthews lineage, and has probably the best movement skills of any OC in this class. Question is: at 6’2"/290, is he gonna hold up vs NFL defensive tackles?
Friend is a weight-room juggernaut with decent tape that pops up regularly on "freaks" lists.
Boehm is a guy that I would like to like, but whom I want to see improve in his senior year.
Allen is tentatively my favorite Center. His size is functional 6’2"/298, his technique is very good, I don’t see him favoring either run-blocking or pass, and I think he’s growing as a leader within the locker room.
Then there’s the wildcard.
My guy, Joe Dahl from WSU. He is my absolute favorite OL in this class. I’ve watched his tape at LG, I’ve watched his tape at LT…I’d happily let him play either of those spots. I’ve been slotting him in as a LG in prior stories that I’ve included him in.
BUT….this past Saturday, I started thinking, "I wonder what he’d look like at Center?"
At 6’4"/303, Joe probably shouldn’t be a pro LT…he’s not the 320lbs that we’ve seen Cable prefer at LG…but he’s very close to the 6’3"/301 of Jeanpierre and the 6’3"/300 of Drew Nowak, our two current Seahawk Center frontrunners.
Then I started thinking about Max Unger. Max is 6’5"/300…started 13 games at LT for Oregon in his sophomore year, maybe some LT as a freshman, plus a couple games at LT his senior year…was drafted into the league as a Center, but found playing time in his first two professional years primarily at Guard.
Watching tape of Dahl, even back to his sophomore year…he’s on the line making protection calls just like a center normally does. I’m not sure why I didn’t think of this before, but I think it’s genius now.
Dahl has an opening projection of #653 overall from draftscout. I can only assume the people who make such lists have never watched Dahl. Because that is silly.
I would sincerely spend a late first-round pick on Dahl, but if he’s available later…so be it. Ideal, really. It'd be like getting a franchise QB in the 3rd round. As if that ever happens...(wink).
I’ve really only seen two guys’ tape while they’re actually playing at RG and put them on my list. The rest are currently playing defense. I kid. But not really.
The first is Mizzou’s Connor McGovern, who we will get to momentarily.
The second is Oklahoma’s Nila Kasitati.
Nila is listed at 6’3"/315, came to Oklahoma as a tightend, and started 6 games last year at RG.
I really like Nila’s combination of movement skills, push at the point of attack, and the way he finishes plays. I've only seen one other draft writer even noticing him, and Draftscout has him at #587 overall. I’d target him, similar to Glowinski, in the late-4th to 5th round range.
As I said earlier, I think Germain Ifedi is a RT until he shows me on the field he can play LT. I like Ifedi, but even as a RT, I think his projection of #29 overall is too high for a guy that shows up so much better as a pass-blocker (and he is a GREAT pass-blocker) than as a run-blocker. I need to see a more complete game from him. Otherwise, he should be in the 2nd round.
Connor McGovern, 6’4"/305, is a bit of a question mark positionally, currently. He played RG in 2013 when Britt was Mizzou’s LT, and Mitch Morse was their RT. Last year, he began the year playing RT before returning to RG. This year, with Morse gone, he is projecting as the Tigers’ starting LT.
I’ll be watching all year to see if he can hold down the spot at LT, but my hunch is, like with Britt, he’s going to be pushed back to RT, or guard, in the pros.
In the meantime, let’s just stand in awe of what McGovern can do in the weight room:
Squats 690lbs five times
Max squat of 785lbs
Reps 225lb bar 40 times on the bench
Has run a 4.9 forty
In this game, McGovern is starting at RG (also note Evan Boehm at C).
That’s REALLY good RG tape; plenty of power at the LOS to handle the big DT’s, very fluid moving to the 2nd level and finding work…everything you hope those weight room performances would show, he’s putting into action on the field.
So pencil in "stud RG" as McGovern’s floor, in my opinion. But then hope that he has the upside to man RT. Draftscout currently has Connor as the #254 overall player. There are 256 picks in any given draft. A steal.
Final OL picks:
LT- Jack Conklin (#21)
LG- Rees Odhiambo (#103)
OC- Joe Dahl (#653)
RG- Nila Kasitati (#587)
RT- Connor McGovern (#254)