The league’s scouts and decision makers have descended upon Mobile this week for the annual Senior Bowl. The final college all-star game sees the nation’s best seniors and graduated underclassmen show off their talents in a week of practice, before it culminates in the game on Saturday.
Last year, Rashaad Penny put together a solid week in a loaded running back group on his way to being the Seahawks’ first round selection. Appearing on the same South roster were two future UDFAs signed by Seattle, Poona Ford and Skyler Phillips, as well as Shaquem Griffin.
The Senior Bowl is an important part of the pre-draft process, and it’s when we can start to truly identify prospects who fit into the Seahawks’ mold. Here are nine players to watch in the 2019 Senior Bowl:
(A note: With measurements more widely available at the Senior Bowl, we’ll use the full heights for each prospect. First number is feet, the next two numbers are inches and the last is eighth of an inch. So for example: 6044 = 6-foot-4 1/2”)
Tony Pollard, RB/WR — Memphis (5115, 200 pounds)
Prior to last week’s East-West Shrine Game, I identified Devine Ozigbo, a RB from Nebraska, as a potential target for Seattle because of his skill set as an athletic, space back. The Seahawks scouted this type of RB extensively in the lead up to the 2018 NFL Draft, before ultimately not coming away from the draft with one. Mike Davis filled that role during the 2018 season, while J.D. McKissic and C.J. Prosise battled injuries and misuse on the way to seven combined touches. The search for a long-term satellite back will continue this offseason, and Memphis’s Tony Pollard is another player in that mold.
In three seasons with the Tigers, Pollard split his production between rushing and catching almost evenly: 139 carries for 941 yards and nine touchdowns, while hauling in 104 passes for 1292 yards and nine touchdowns. Add that up and what you get is an athletic mismatch who averaged over nine yards per touch in college. Pollard also tied the NCAA career record for return touchdowns, with seven.
A decent case could be made to play Pollard full-time at wide receiver in the NFL—he lined up at WR on 72.5 percent of his snaps in 2018—but with a solid frame at 200 pounds, Pollard can be used in the backfield or out wide; he’s a true mismatch.
David Sills, WR — West Virginia (6030, 210 pounds)
On the field, Sills has the kind of size and fluidity we’ve seen Seattle chase previously. Off the field, he has the kind of backstory you get the sense Pete Carroll would really connect with. The great Fran Duffy of PhiladelphiaEagles.com has the full story for you here, and I strongly recommend reading it. The cliff notes version:
- Lauded as a quarterback at age 10, when he began working with the same QB coach who had worked with Matt Leinart, among others.
- At age 13, he was offered a scholarship by then-USC head coach Lane Kiffin.
- Suffered a hand injury in his junior year of high school, which practically ruined his throwing motion.
- Kiffin was fired by USC and Sills decommitted, just prior to his senior year of high school.
- Broke his ankle less than a month into his senior year, ending his high school career.
- Urged by Dana Holgorsen at WVU to switch to WR. Sills did, before leaving WVU and attending JUCO El Camino College to chase his quarterback dream again.
- Holgorsen came back around after Sills finished at El Camino College, without a scholarship offer to play QB, and Sills returned to the Mountaineers and the wide receiver position.
132 catches, 2097 yards and 35 touchdowns later, Sills now finds himself working with the wide receivers in Mobile. A receiver with great size, movement, the ability to stretch the field and plus-athleticism, Sills is a tantalizing prospect for a team in search of an outside wide receiver.
Speed Out Return Route from West Virginia WR David Sills pic.twitter.com/cXXFYO0S2i— Coach Dan Casey (@CoachDanCasey) September 4, 2018
The Mountaineer is tearing up practices in Mobile and, if he can test well at the Scouting Combine, could vault himself into the second day of the NFL draft.
Montez Sweat, EDGE — Mississippi State (6060, 252 pounds, 35 5/8” arms)
Don’t need to overthink this one too much. Sweat is one of the best EDGEs in the entire draft class, and a loaded defensive line class should see him available around where the Seahawks are set to pick. He checks Seattle’s height, weight and arm length requirements. If his tape from Mississippi State is any indicator (it is), he’ll crush the athletic thresholds, too.
Sweat hit the ground running upon transferring from Michigan State to the Bulldogs, collecting 22.5 sacks and 30 tackles for loss in two seasons at Mississippi State. With a clean first step and refined hand usage, Sweat is a three-down EDGE prospect without a major flaw in his game. There’s effort and tenacity against the run on the edge, as well. Sweat will probably be restricted to the outside in the NFL, but the Seahawks have their fair share (and will continue to collect) defensive linemen capable of reducing inside.
The edge rusher has continued his dominance this week in Mobile, too.
Zach Allen, DL — Boston College (6043, 280 pounds, 34 1/2” arms)
One of two defensive linemen with outside-inside ability on this list, Allen lived in the backfield during his three seasons playing heavily at Boston College. Over 37 games, Allen amassed 40.5 tackles for loss, with 16.5 sacks. Incredibly, Allen also totaled 14 pass breakups with the Screaming Eagles—his ability to bat down the ball at the line of scrimmage speaks to the awareness in his game.
The one reason for pause surrounding any potential interest Seattle may have in Allen is how well he’ll test athletically. Allen’s strengths are his motor, his technique and a savvy football IQ. He doesn’t win with his first step nor a plus ability to shoot gaps. For a team in the Seahawks that values three cone testing in their EDGEs so highly, he may not end up on their board.
BC EDGE Zach Allen vs. Wisconsin OG Beau Benzschawel.— Gavino Borquez (@GavinoBorquez) January 22, 2019
Beautiful chop move by Allen. pic.twitter.com/MnSItH1e0F
Bobby Okereke, LB — Stanford (6014, 231 pounds, 34 3/4” arms)
Following the Super Bowl, I’ll be writing on the positions of focus for me in the lead up to the draft. Spoiler alert: Weakside linebacker will be one of, if not the top position. K.J. Wright may or may not be back in 2019, and battled injuries all season regardless of his status moving forward. Seattle must find a long-term running mate for Bobby Wagner, whether that player is currently on the roster or not.
Before diving into analysis on Okereke, some quick background on Wright, and the Seahawks’ mold at linebacker. When he was selected in the 2011 draft, Wright hit on just one of their athletic testing thresholds (broad jump). He ran slowly and tested poorly in change of direction. What Wright did possess, however, was exceptional size. The most noteworthy part of that exceptional size was his ridiculous go go gadget arms, measuring in at 34 7/8”. All that is to say: Stanford’s Okereke, though smaller in height and weight, nearly matches Wright’s 98th percentile arm length. And he’s going to blow Wright’s athletic testing out of the water.
While Okereke projects as a potential heir to Wright’s weakside throne, as prospects, they’re almost total opposites. Wright made up for a lack of flashy athleticism with his innate ability to be in the right spots early and finishing when the football got there; Okereke gets lost in traffic and takes false steps, but he has more than enough explosiveness to make up for it. Okereke plays sideline-to-sideline with tremendous speed and aggressiveness.
Early on in the pre-draft process, the former Cardinal has the makings of a classic mid-round linebacker that delivers great value. He doesn’t do anything at an elite level, but he is a solid football player.
And he takes joy in pushing players around.
Rock Ya-Sin, CB — Temple (5116, 189 pounds, 32 3/8” arms)
A one year starter at Temple, Ya-Sin was one of five cornerbacks to measure in with 32+ inch arms in Mobile. The others—Amani Oruwariye, Isaiah Johnson, Sheldrick Redwine and Lonnie Johnson—will surely be covered here in the lead up to the draft. But what sets Ya-Sin apart from the other four, and what will surely draw Carroll’s interest, is his backstory.
Ya-Sin’s former program, Presbyterian College, became a non-scholarship school prior to Ya-Sin’s senior season. And so, Ya-Sin transferred to the Owls and within an offseason, earned one of the famously difficult to earn single digit jersey number. Here’s how a player receives one of the sought after numbers, per Temple Update:
“Each season, the Owls coaching staff hand out jerseys leaving the single digits numbers vacant for its toughest members of the team. These individuals in order to be selected must sustain qualities of leadership and great character both within and outside football.”
After just a few months with his new team and on a new campus, Ya-Sin displayed the character, leadership and toughness needed to be given a single digit number. Add in the cornerback’s great size and length, and you have yourself a Seahawk-y cornerback.
As far as on field traits go, Ya-Sin checks important boxes for Seattle, too. As one would expect of a long CB, Ya-Sin can be dominant in press when he lands his hands. Of equal importance, Ya-Sin is comfortable flipping his hips and running downfield. Though he totaled 12 pass breakups and two interceptions at Temple, Ya-Sin’s ability breaking on the football needs to be improved. Too often he’s a second late locating or playing the ball. Ya-Sin is an attractive prospect in the middle of the draft, should the Seahawks want to add another project to the group.
Nasir Adderley, FS — Delaware (5117, 195 pounds)
Part of the purpose of this list is to highlight a few options for Seattle, should they make their natural selection at 01.21. Sweat represented the most obvious choice, and the next two players would likely require the Seahawks to remain at the 21st pick, as well.
Similar to the 2018 NFL Draft, this year’s draft is low on pure centerfield-playing free safeties. Last year, just Jessie Bates truly fit the mold. This year, it’s Delaware’s Adderley, and an argument could be made for Alabama’s Deionte Thompson, as well. Adderley is one of the best prospects across the board in Mobile, and is without a doubt the best free safety in this year’s draft. Adderley possesses the range and athleticism needed to play as a deep middle safety; a big part of Adderley’s great range at the position is his awareness on the back end—he consistently sees routes before or as they develop.
Adderley was a former cornerback (and spent time there this week at the Senior Bowl), and his experience at the position helps him fit the ideal of a modern safety; capable of coming into the box and matching up with a tight end or a running back, or playing man coverage in the slot.
As far as a fit with Seattle is concerned, I have my doubts as to whether Adderley is big enough. He weighed in at the Senior Bowl at 195 pounds and he doesn’t look a pound heavier than it—he’s wiry. Adderley’s slight frame didn’t have an impact on his run defense in college, as he filled lanes and went into tackles with aggressiveness. We’ll have a better idea on Adderley’s potential fit in Carroll’s defense as the pre-draft process continues.
I'd like to invite everyone to the @NasirAdderley show next week.— Steve Frederick (@_SteveFrederick) January 17, 2019
5 plays that'll make you fall in love with him.
1. Odell INT. WOW
2. Decleats defender. 92-yard TD
3. Range, recovery speed, diving INT
4. HIT STICK. No patty cake.
5. HUSTLE (Again, no quit on Special Teams!) pic.twitter.com/kS6tRPlQsx
Chris Lindstrom, iOL — Boston College (6036, 303 pounds, 34 1/4” arms)
Rounding out the true blue chip prospects on this list is Lindstrom, a four year starter for the Screaming Eagles. Lindstrom was the best player on one of the nation’s most prolific rushing attacks, as Boston College rushed for over 2600 yards in 2018—nearly 190 yards a game. If the Seahawks look to fill one of the holes along the interior with a high selection, they’ll be interested in Lindstrom’s pedigree and history in a run heavy offense.
Lindstrom would also be a fascinating test case for Seattle’s philosophy on the offensive line moving forward. We know their athletic thresholds have changed since Tom Cable’s departure, and an emphasis on pedigree even predated Cable’s firing. However, in the selections of both Ethan Pocic and Jamarco Jones, movement skills remained a valued trait. Jones’ athletic testing was abysmal, but his vertical sets were so clean he negates a lack of athleticism. Lindstrom’s biggest drawback as a prospect is his movement skills. Technically he’s clean, he’s powerful when engaged, but his fluidity in movement doesn’t match the level of prospect he is in the rest of his game.
Charles Omenihu, DL — Texas (6055, 274 pounds, 36 1/2” arms)
At nearly 6-foot-6 and 274 pounds with ridiculous arms, Omenihu is a monster capable of playing outside or inside. Omenihu should be one of the Scouting Combine’s better performers in explosiveness tests and the 40 (and 10-yard split), while his change of direction may be lacking. The former Longhorn has a terrific first step off the edge, and though he can be knocked off balance when he reduces inside, there are just as many instances of him being a total bully along the interior.
Technically, Omenihu is clean, and when he disengages and gets to the football, his outstanding length and strength sees him finish consistently. There will be questions surrounding his fit with the Seahawks because of how he’ll test in the three cone and short shuttle, but his versatility, technical ability and effort should keep him on their radar.
Charles Omenihu (@charless_94) strikes with his hands, executes a snatch/arm over & closes on the QB for the sack. Seven sacks & 11.5 TFL in nine games so far this season! #HookEm pic.twitter.com/KvzhYNKShg— DLineVids (@DLineVids) November 8, 2018
Effort Will Never Betray You: Charles Omenihu (@charless_94) playing with great effort with the game on the line vs Baylor. Pressures/hits the QB twice in ten seconds to seal the win for Texas #HookEm pic.twitter.com/rMZknc0MpM— DLineVids (@DLineVids) November 8, 2018
Following the Senior Bowl on Saturday, prospects will get back to training ahead of the Scouting Combine, which gets underway during the final week in February. After that, it’s pro days up until the draft. College football’s premier all-star game is just a day away, but the pre-draft process is just beginning.