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Unheralded draft prospects part II: Seahawky linebackers

Which under-the-radar players entering the 2016 draft fit Seahawks positional prototypes? My investigation into the linebacker ranks highlights several interesting characters.

Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Part I of this series examined some overlooked defensive linemen whom the Seahawks might take a chance on in a later round of the draft or as undrafted free agents. Part II (of what’s now becoming a 5-part series due to my wordiness) looks at selected linebackers who appear "Seahawky"—a certain blend of athleticism, size, ability, and attitude that could make them targets in this draft.

As with part I, other criteria for these prospects include relatively little coverage, the expectation that they’ll last into day three (rounds 4-7) of the draft or go undrafted, and enough of the unquantifiable mojo known as "upside."

In these articles I refer to SPARQ, an acronym for Speed, Power, Agility, Reaction and Quickness, the name for a formula developed by Nike to assess overall athleticism in several sporting fields. Zach Whitman over at 3sigmaathlete has effectively reverse-engineered the formula for American footballers and has done a great job compiling all the figures and explaining what those mean.

(Note that height is expressed in the following standard format: the first digit is feet, the next two digits are inches, and the fourth digit is fraction of inches in eighths—so 6013 equals 6’1 3/8", 5117 equals 5’11 7/8", and so on. Also note that some of the player highlight vids have explicit lyrics, so mute as needed.)


The Seahawks have two of the best linebackers in the NFL with Bobby Wagner in the middle and K.J. Wright mostly patrolling the weak side, but will look to replenish the ranks with the departure of Bruce Irvin, who mostly played SAM (strongside) linebacker as well as pass-rushing defensive end on passing downs.

Stephen Weatherly, Vanderbilt

One of my favorite players in the whole draft, Weatherly plays six (or seven, depending on the source) musical instruments, loves math and chess, and began high school with the dream of building robots for NASA. His coaches have commended him for his intelligence, humility, and dedication. His grandmother graduated from both MIT and Harvard. When it comes to character, football IQ, and just regular IQ, Weatherly has to rank near the top of this draft class.

Position-wise, Weatherly played DE, OLB, and rushed the A-gap (between the center and guard) on some passing downs; in the draft he’s usually listed at LB and should offer versatility in the pros. Across his three seasons at Vanderbilt (he redshirted his freshman year) he played with remarkable consistency, totaling 120 tackles (71 solo), 27 tackles for loss, 11.5 sacks, 4 passes defensed, 3 forced fumbles, and 3 fumble recoveries in 37 games.

He has the superior length that the Seahawks like for an outside defender, standing over 6’4" with 34.5" arms and a 83.25" wingspan. He tested as the 7th most athletic EDGE defender at the NFL Scouting Combine, just behind Joey Bosa. Though Weatherly doesn’t have Bosa’s level of talent—if he did, he’d be rated much higher than a 5th or 6th round pick—his size, length, and overall athleticism are remarkably similar.

Considering his strength and athleticism, Weatherly should play with more explosiveness, though he flashes it at times, such as in the Ole Miss game in 2015 when he had a sack, a couple of QB hurries, a batted pass, and at least two tackles for loss. He does look a bit stiff at times and needs to learn more pass-rush moves if he’s to start many downs on the line of scrimmage, but as a late-round pick he makes sense—in last year’s draft the Seahawks took Obum Gwacham in the 6th round, and Weatherly is a more refined and productive player than the very raw Gwacham (gwah-come) was.

Weatherly's combine summary:

Height, weight: 6043, 267
Arm length: 34.5"
40-yard dash: 4.61 seconds (1.59 10-yard split)
Short shuttle: 4.42 seconds
Three-cone: 7.07 seconds
Vertical jump: 31"
Broad jump: 9’9"
Bench press reps @ 225 lbs: 23

Will Ratelle, North Dakota

Ratelle looks like he’s carved out of a solid chunk of muscle. Standing below 5’10" but weighing around 250, he plays like a heat-seeking bowling ball, with running backs, quarterbacks, and tight ends the unlucky pins. He's a smart dude, having been named to both the All-Big Sky Academic Team and the FCS ADA Academic All-Star Team.

In terms of power and athleticism, Ratelle is to this year’s linebacker class what Justin Zimmer is to the defensive end class—Ratelle might not be top SPARQ guy in his positional class like Zimmer is, but he’s got terrific speed (4.57-second 40), agility (6.92 seconds in the 3-cone drill), explosiveness (36" vertical jump, 9’10" broad jump), and raw strength (36 reps at 225 lbs, tops among all LBs).

Ratelle became a full-time starter his junior season (2014). In 23 starts over the last two seasons, he put up excellent numbers: 124 solo tackles (216 total), 18 tackles for loss, 6 sacks, 9 QB hurries, 3 passes broken up, and 1 INT. In 2015 versus North Dakota State (and Carson Wentz), Ratelle had 11 tackles and one sack against a very good offensive line.

How would he fit on the Seahawks? In college he was middle linebacker and on special teams, though at his pro day he participated in fullback drills, which is what makes him that much more intriguing—the Seahawks are one of a dwindling number of NFL teams who regularly use a fullback and value the position. As a special teams gunner (who the hell would want to block him?), potential über-fullback, and backup LB, Ratelle seems like a prime candidate for a priority undrafted free agent signing.

Ratelle’s pro day summary:

Height, weight: 5095, 251
Arm length: (no data, but probably on the shorter side)
40-yard dash: 4.57 seconds (1.59 10-yard split)
Short shuttle: 4.34 seconds
Three-cone: 6.92 seconds
Vertical jump: 36"
Broad jump: 9’10"
Bench press reps @ 225 lbs: 36

Tyrone Holmes, Montana

Like North Dakota University’s Will Ratelle, Holmes is a member of the I’ve-sacked-Carson-Wentz-in-2015 Club. Although Holmes is listed at defensive end on University of Montana’s football site, he looks like a versatile OLB/EDGE hybrid, so I’ve put him in the LB category for this exercise.

A native of Eagle Point, Oregon (just north of Medford) and a 4-year player at University of Montana, Holmes is a true Pacific Northwesterner who would seem right at home with the Seahawks. What else would make him a good fit for the ‘Hawks? How about 18 sacks his senior campaign, tops in FCS (Football Championship Subdivision, formerly known as Division I-AA), including single-game totals of 4, 3, and 3. In four seasons he accrued 34.5 sacks, 214 total tackles, 42 tackles for loss, and 5 forced fumbles. How about a terrific pro day in which he excelled in every category, including an absurd 37 1/2" vertical jump for a 253-pounder.

In many ways, Holmes is like Stephen Weatherly—primarily a defensive end in college who offers versatility, raw pass-rushing ability, very good athleticism, and smarts (Holmes earned academic honors and has a 3.6 GPA). Also like Weatherly, Holmes projects as a 6th round prospect.

Holmes’ pro day summary:

Height, weight: 6023, 253
Arm length: (no data)
40-yard dash: 4.60 seconds (1.59 10-yard split)
Short shuttle: 4.28 seconds
Three-cone: 7.1 seconds
Vertical jump: 37.5"
Broad jump: 9’5"
Bench press reps @ 225 lbs: 28

Chris Edwards, Idaho

Edwards provides a change of pace from the first three linebackers on this list. He’s much more of a safety-linebacker hybrid and fits nicely as a small and speedy WILL (weakside), which is usually the fastest and lightest of the linebackers on the field.

At Idaho he started all 12 games as a senior in 2015, and in two seasons there (18 games total, after transferring from a junior college), Edwards amassed 76 total tackles, 9 tackles for loss (8 in 2015), 4 passes defensed, 3 pass breakups, 3 interceptions, 3 QB hurries, and 1 sack.

What makes Edwards stand out are his pro day numbers, which indicate an elite athlete: he ran a 4.54 40-yard dash with an incredibly fast 1.53 10-yard split, better than all linebackers and almost all safeties who performed at the combine. His short shuttle was respectable at 4.32 seconds, while his three-cone time was excellent at 6.86 seconds. He also demonstrated ample explosiveness with a 37.5" vertical jump and a 10’ broad jump.

Edwards is the kind of player who could provide special teams help and depth at linebacker and safety, and should be available in the undrafted pool.

Edwards’ pro day summary:

Height, weight: 6011, 218
Arm length: (no data)
40-yard dash: 4.54 seconds (1.53 10-yard split)
Short shuttle: 4.32 seconds
Three-cone: 6.86 seconds
Vertical jump: 37.5"
Broad jump: 10’0"
Bench press reps @ 225 lbs: (no data)


Part three of this series will cover safeties and cornerbacks.