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Seahawks have visit with physically gifted, questionably motivated Malik McDowell

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Furman v Michigan State Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

According to Ian Rapoport, the Seattle Seahawks are holding a visit with Michigan State defensive tackle on Monday. McDowell went into last season high on many radars, with some saying he was a sleeper to work his way up as a top-five pick. However, his junior season was marred with an injury, his production went down, and questions about his commitment and effort began to crop up.

It would seem then that this meeting could be an opportunity for Pete Carroll and John Schneider to find out if they believe there is truth to those questions. Because as a player, there are few guys who seem to have a ceiling as high as his.

McDowell has a massive frame: 6’6, 295 lbs, 34.75” arms, 10.5” hands. Few players in the NFL have arms that long, and those that do often have success. His physical match, strictly on size, is probably Mario Williams. But Williams’ arms are only 33.5”. That being said, Williams ran a 4.66 and McDowell runs a 4.85. As Davis Hsu said on Twitter, Carroll likes “speed” in an edge rusher and “knack” in an interior rusher, with knack probably standing in for hand usage. As a 19-year-old sophomore, McDowell used his hands to the tune of 4.5 sacks and 13.5 tackles for a loss.

There’s a reason so many people were high on him, and continue to be as he doesn’t turn 21 until June. McDowell should still have way more room to grow (as a person and with his technique and perhaps getting stronger) as opposed to his NFL.com draft comp Ezekiel Ansah, who was 24 when he was drafted. As a physical specimen, McDowell is rare, with DRAFTCOBURN noting that he checks almost all of the boxes for a future multiple-time Pro Bowl, All-Pro type defensive tackle.

Is that something he wants to work towards though?

McDowell had the high expectations going into 2016 (as did Michigan State, who went from making the college football playoffs to going 3-9) but recorded just 7 TFL and 1.5 sacks. He missed three games with an ankle injury, but those three games probably would not have been the difference in an All-American type season. How could a player so gifted have such a poor season? There are a million possible factors, but of course “commitment” is always going to be one of them in these cases.

From NFL.com:

SOURCES TELL US

"He has a chance to be a dominant player in our league. I mean dominant. It hasn't turned on for him all the way yet but if it does, he could be like Mario Williams. He's just a little lazy and I worry about whether he is going to be a self-starter." -- NFC North area scout

I always take the “motivation” and “commitment” red flags with a massive grain of salt. If a prospect has character concerns because of a history with the law or the school, I can believe that because it’s on the record. Injury concerns, not something anyone has to prove, the proof is in how many games they missed. Size concerns? Okay, another thing that is tangible. But I think “commitment” is often a word used by anonymous scouts and writers who are trying to understand why a player isn’t doing as good as they thin he should be doing. I’m not saying that McDowell is or isn’t motivated to play football, because I have no idea either way. He might be a total waste of a unique football body.

And I think that’s why this meeting with the Seahawks could be so important.

ESPN’s Todd McShay recently mocked McDowell to Seattle at 26 and had this to say:

“With Malik McDowell, it depends on how you classify him, if he’s going to play inside or outside from Michigan State. He’s tall, long. I think he might be the most talented interior defensive lineman. Some questions about the work ethic and consistency. From a skills standpoint, I think he can become a highly disruptive player.”

This is a notably bad class of defensive tackles, especially ones who can pressure the passer, so that’s one reason why someone like McDowell could be valuable right now and potentially one of the hottest commodities on day one if enough teams believe he is committed to getting better. He was the fastest defensive tackle at the combine in the 40 and had the third-best broad jump. His speed compares to Robert Nkemdiche’s last year at the same weight. He is almost the exact same size as Kristjan Sokoli and McDowell ran the 40 .01 seconds faster.

Maybe the Seahawks won’t be moving this one to center, but they are comparable in that regard and another reason why Carroll and Schneider need a closer look.

His 2014 comp is maybe Stephon Tuitt or Dominique Easley, another player Seattle was said to be very interested in. In 2013, it was probably Sharrif Floyd. In 2011, it was maybe Nick Fairley. Guys his size who run a 4.85 typically go in round one, which is where McDowell is projected to go despite doing almost nothing on the field as a junior. There are of course players of similar size (not usually the arm length, just because that’s so rare) who fail or weren’t that great of prospects. Sokoli being one of those. And if McDowell doesn’t want to put in the work because he was a five-star recruit and has had a national spotlight on him, then it’s never going to work out.

Well, the Seahawks are at least doing their homework on him and this is one of the few known visits they’ve had (along with Obi Melifonwu) with a player who is likely to be drafted on day one. That says a lot.