The Seattle Seahawks started the 2016 season seeking to be the bully. So far they haven't achieved that, which could lead to a similar plan in 2017; Big, physical, edgy players could be the target, just like their first two picks this year, Germain Ifedi and Jarran Reed.
At the moment the key needs appear to be:
-- Continuing to add depth and talent to the offensive line
-- Finding ways to deliver a more physical, productive and consistent run game
-- Increasing depth and talent in the front seven of the defense
Here's a collection of potential future Seahawks at each possible target position.
Offensive tackle -- Garett Bolles (Utah)
You won't find a more exciting prospect or better fit for Pete Carroll's penchant for physicality, size and athleticism than Garett Bolles. Bolles is the real deal, an absolute diamond from the PAC-12. This guy is really good. All I can say is: Wow.
His backstory is eerily similar to Bruce Irvin's and we know Seattle loves a prospect who battles adversity, shows grit and has lived a little. According to this piece in the Salt Lake Tribune, Bolles had a troubled upbringing, got involved in drugs and was arrested for vandalism. His dad kicked him out and he ended up living with another family. They laid out some strict ground rules and he took a job in garage repair. He turned his life around (now married and expecting his first child) and then turned his life to football.
Like Irvin, Bolles joined a JUCO college. He played for Snow College and received four and five star ratings for his performances. He snubbed all of the top schools (Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Oregon, USC) to stay local.
The turnaround in his life is dramatic. His play on the field is spectacular. He's a special, special talent. The type that college football is crying out for -- and the NFL is in desperate need of. He has the perfect complement of athleticism and control in pass protection, the agility to pull and connect with blocks on the move, the nastiness and edge to finish, the ability to handle counter-moves and stay on a block, the willingness to not only get to the second level but destroy opponents when he gets there.
He'll press a guy and stun with an initial jolt of power and he has the natural ability to set and control the block to finish. When a DE tries to work in a spin move after losing initial leverage or position, he just stays on the block and finishes. He always finishes.
He plays with such an edge, he plays to the whistle and sometimes beyond. He fits the style of a J.R. Sweezy, Justin Britt, Ifedi or Breno Giacomini in terms of attitude.
Bolles plays with fantastic leg drive in the run game but he also has a smooth kick step (could still use a little refinement), he’s plenty agile and looks like a plus athlete who should impress at his combine.
He has a decision to make about his future. Bolles is 25 next May and while he could stay at Utah for another year, he's running out of time to max-out his draft stock. He could be a high first round pick even in his mid-20's. It didn't hurt Irvin, after all. If he declares and the age factor is an issue for a lot of teams, he could be the ideal Seahawks pick as a possible left or right tackle. But Bolles is a surefire first rounder, even if you don't see him on many other mock drafts right now.
Running back -- Elijah Hood (North Carolina)
Seattle seems to have a 'type' at running back. Here are the running backs drafted by the Seahawks between 2012 and 2016:
Robert Turbin -- 5-10, 222lbs
Spencer Ware -- 5-10, 228lbs
Christine Michael -- 5-10, 220lbs
C.J. Prosise -- 6-0, 220lbs
Alex Collins -- 5-10, 217lbs
Four out of the five players are 5-10 in height and the average weight of the group is 221lbs. There's enough evidence here to suggest an ideal size profile for a Seattle running back. Spencer Ware didn't workout at his combine and Alex Collins had an underwhelming performance. The other three were all very similar in terms of athleticism:
Forty yard dash
Robert Turbin: 4.50
Christine Michael: 4.54
C.J. Prosise: 4.48
Robert Turbin: 122 inches
Christine Michael: 125 inches
C.J. Prosise: 121 inches
Robert Turbin: 36 inches
Christine Michael: 43 inches
C.J. Prosise: 35.5 inches
Robert Turbin: 4.31
Christine Michael: 4.02
C.J. Prosise: DNP
Robert Turbin: 28 reps
Christine Michael: 27 reps
C.J. Prosise: DNP
There's a clear consistency here and enough evidence to help us try and project which running backs the Seahawks will consider adding in the future.
Texas runner D'Onta Foreman is getting a lot of attention at the moment but he doesn't really match any of the apparent ideals. He's 6-1 and 249lbs (not a size match), he was only a two-star recruit and he's not expected to have a terrific combine. For Seattle to draft him early, it'd be a real departure from what they've done in the past.
If it's about finding an explosive athlete in the 5-10, 220lbs range, two prospects stand out.
Nick Chubb had a sensational Nike SPARQ combine in 2013 before he joined Georgia. His performance was outstanding -- including a 4.47 forty at 5-10 and 217lbs, a +40-inch vertical and a 4.12 in the short shuttle. His SPARQ score of 143.91 is elite.
Sadly, Chubb suffered a horrific knee injury in 2015 and it remains to be seen if he's still capable of such gaudy numbers. His play has been hit-and-miss this year (a portrait of Georgia's season overall) and the injury report will be as important as his workout in Indianapolis.
North Carolina's Elijah Hood is the second name to mention -- and he might be the more likely target due to Chubb's injury history. Hood also competed in the 2013 Nike SPARQ combine. At 6-0 and 221lbs, he ran a 4.48, jumped a 42.5-inch vertical (!!!) and had a 4.2 in the short shuttle. His SPARQ score is also an incredible 133.47 (anything over 130 is considered pretty special).
He certainly has the physical profile Seattle looks for but he also has an engaging, personable character. He's chatty but not overbearing and likes to talk about the physical aspect of the game during interviews. You see that translate to the field. Hood doesn't opt to go out of bounds voluntarily and seeks to finish runs. That is something the Seahawks have sought in the past. He's capable of hitting the LOS and getting the hard yards but he's quick and sudden to progress to the second level and make chunk plays.
In the last season-and-a-half he has 2,107 rushing yards and 25 touchdowns. Last week he hammered Georgia Tech for 168 yards and three scores with a YPC of 14.
Hood isn't Marshawn Lynch but short of trading up to get Leonard Fournette (I wish) you're not going to find that type of back. He does fit perfectly with the players they've drafted in previous years, he's a special athlete and a tough runner with the production to match. Hood, like Bolles, looks the part of a future Seahawk.
Defensive line -- Derrick Nnandi & Demarcus Walker (Florida State)
What came first, the chicken or the egg? While watching Florida State this year I've often wondered, "Who is responsible for that play, Demarcus Walker or Derrick Nnandi?"
In truth they're both really good and help each other.
Nnandi is just a big ball of power, capable of soaking up interior runs and holding the point. He could be used as a one or three technique. His body type is perfectly matched to handle the interior line of a NFL team. He's incredibly strong, an absolute force working inside. Nnandi's also athletic enough to work across the line and chase, his gap discipline is really good (this is VITAL for the Seahawks' scheme) and to cap things off he's a decent pass-rusher too.
He might not be the smaller, twitchier interior rusher like Geno Atkins or Aaron Donald ... but those players are so incredibly rare. Try and name eight 290-lb defensive tackles in the NFL currently churning out regular sacks. You'll struggle, or add names that don't deserve to be mentioned.
Nnandi's quality comes from his ability to work well against the pass and run on early downs. He can provide a nice swim/rip to break into the backfield and press on first down. He can also defend the run stoutly. You probably don't keep him on the field all that often on third down (unless it's a short yardage play) but he'll help put the opponent in third and long time and time again.
So often Nnandi's pressure up the middle creates a stat-play for Walker rushing the edge. It works the other way too. As a tandem, there are few as fun to watch as this pair. It's a shame for FSU that the talent around them isn't that great in 2016.
Walker will often take Nnandi's place as an interior lineman on third downs and at 280-lbs he's the classic inside/out rusher that is so popular these days. He leads the country in sacks (10.5 in nine games), he has three forced fumbles and he won the game for the Seminoles vs Miami with a blocked extra point to prevent overtime.
He plays an unusually high number of snaps for a college player. That does tend to give the impression he takes plays off -- it's an assertion I made earlier in the year. I think it was unfair. You could just as easily argue he manages the situation and makes an impact at the right moment.
He took over the game vs Ole Miss with 4.5 sacks and a second half performance for the ages. He has violent hands and is adept at engaging contact and getting off a block. He can win with speed off the edge (he had one really explosive burst for a sack vs NC State last weekend) but he's also capable of hand-fighting inside, jolting a blocker with an initial punch and winning with leverage. He's not an elite athlete but he's deceptively quick and smooth. He did a good job containing Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson when he tried to run (hard to do).
Good hand-use is a really underrated aspect for a pass-rusher in a sport so focused on speed. In the NFL you're going to have to find a way to disengage and explode plus convert speed-to-power. Walker's technique, overall skill-set, size and versatility to play inside-and-out makes him a really intriguing prospect.
Both players possess a real edge. Walker is all business -- on the field and during interviews. He's not overtly charismatic -- he's more of a respected, quiet leader. Nnandi is more of a jovial type and a big personality. On the field he plays with a great motor. Nasty, big, physical players.
SAM/LEO -- Marquis Haynes (Ole Miss) or Haason Reddick (Temple)
The Seahawks appear very comfortable leaving Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright on the field in any scenario while flexing in a linebacker (Morgan, KPL, Coyle) or an extra pass rusher (Clark, Marsh) depending on the situation. Bruce Irvin was useful because he fit into both categories. They might look to add another player that can do both jobs.
Haynes has been a playmaker for some time. He has 15 sacks in 2015 and 2016 combined. He also has eight TFLs, seven QB hurries, three forced fumbles and a pick this year.
At 6-3 and 222-lbs you would expect him to be quicker rather than strong. Ask Alabama left tackle Cam Robinson about that. Haynes dumped him on his backside a few weeks ago despite nearly a 100-lb size disadvantage.
He has exceptional quickness and can impact games as a pure speed rusher or by playing a little deeper and working sideline-to-sideline. His effort in pursuit is really good and while he still has room to grow in coverage, he's a good enough read-and-react player to learn on the run.
Reddick has been a production machine for Temple this year. He has 18.5 TFL's in nine games and 8.5 sacks. He has two more QB hurries and a couple of forced fumbles. At his junior pro-day he reportedly ran a 4.47 at 6-1 and around 230-lbs. He also supposedly had a 10-10 in the broad jump and a 36-inch vertical. If those numbers are accurate, we're talking about a guy with great production and a great physical profile.
He's better as a DE/LB hybrid than a pure EDGE. He's not the most consistent rusher and his lack of great size and experience (no great counter, sometimes easily blocked) shows up at times. Yet if he's as athletic as the numbers above indicate, he could be a really intriguing and versatile hybrid.
He also has the gritty backstory the Seahawks seem to love. He's a former walk-on who was told there was no place for him on the team. A change of coaching staff at Temple led to one last chance and he took it and eventually earned a scholarship. There are some character concerns relating to an incident involving Reddick and left tackle Dion Dawkins; The pair were suspended by the team in 2015 facing felony aggravated assault charges for an off-campus fight.
Reddick's attorney, Matt Hagarty, released a statement at the time claiming, "...Two outstanding, hardworking young men with bright futures and no criminal past" had been, "misidentified as the assailants in an assault on a fellow Temple student."
No doubt teams will do their homework -- but Reddick is one to watch for the Seahawks.
Other possible targets
Guard -- Adam Bisnowaty (Pittsburgh)
Former wrestler, basketball player and four-star recruit -- Florida and Michigan both showed heavy interest in taking him. Bisnowaty plays with a real edge, plays to the whistle and doesn't look dissimilar in his frame/appearance to Evan Mathis (they both wear #69 too). Like Mathis, he likely kicks inside to guard at the next level where he won't be as exposed trying to handle the edge. That's not to say he can't play tackle -- he looked very good in Pittsburgh's recent defeat to Virginia Tech. He does a good job blocking in the red zone for the running game. He's also very willing to get to the second level but it'd be nice to see him connect better with those blocks and drive a linebacker or two to the ground (like Shon Coleman a year ago).
Wide receiver -- Jehu Chesson (Michigan)
The great thing about Chesson is his value in multiple facets of the game. He's a terrific gunner with great speed to be a major player on special teams. He scored a touchdown as a returner vs Northwestern in 2015. He's possibly the best blocking receiver in college football and a real asset to the running game. He leaves everything on the field as a blocker -- just throws himself into it and he's big and strong enough to sustain blocks. He also has terrific speed and quickness. If he works on the unnecessary extra steps he takes occasionally coming out of his breaks he could be an explosive receiver. Chesson is the perfect compliment of athlete and competitor. He's a well spoken, personable individual who doesn't complain about his role on the team and does the dirty work every week without much of the reward. He has tremendous football character and a clear love for the game. You could easily picture him in Seattle.
EDGE -- Dawuane Smoot (Illinois)
Smoot doesn't have the big sack numbers people expected this year but his burst off the LOS is incredible. It'll be fascinating to see what his 10-yard split is at the combine. He's a good size for a possible LEO (6-3, 255lbs) and he plays with the kind of intensity and motor you want to see. Violent hands, good length (34 inch arms), elite first-step quickness but no lack of power. Smoot could easily be well out of Seattle's reach in round one but I wanted to mention him anyway. He only has three sacks so far but look at the rest of his stat-line -- 11.5 TFL's, seven QB hurries and two forced fumbles. A quality prospect with major upside.