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NFL Draft 2019: Jacob Martin, Jim Nagy, and the importance of pre-draft visits

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

After former Seattle Seahawks scout Jim Nagy responded to a question of mine on Twitter, I got to thinking about the franchise’s draft approach. John Schneider and Pete Carroll place a heavy emphasis on the character of each prospect; pre-draft visits and interviews therefore seem massively important.

Jacob Martin

Jacob Martin exceeded expectations for a 6th round, undersized pass rusher—he even earned himself a Madden picture in November. (A great honor if the game wasn’t so TURRBILE) Martin’s get off and speed rush was enough to beat mediocre tackles. His high motor was valuable in clean-up duty. Though he lacked bend, particularly for his size, his excellent hand usage compensated nicely.

Building on an impressive preseason of dominating third-strong offensive lines, Martin’s confidence visibly grew. Towards the end of the year, he even started trying to add different pass rush moves and his pass rush plan developed. He finished with 8 quarterback hits, 3 sacks, 2 forced fumbles and 2 tackles for loss.

In 2018, Jethro Franklin was appointed as Assistant Defensive Line Coach after Defensive Line Coach Clint Hurtt was appointed Assistant Head Coach. Since Hurtt’s 2017 arrival, there has been a noticeable shift in Seattle’s approach towards the d-line. This was part-necessity given a lack of resources but also appeared to be a wider philosophical evolution.

As defensive line expert @cmikesspinmove said to me:

“So far Hurtt, as the DL coach, seems to be the type to harness strengths and maximize them rather than improve upon weaknesses. Frank Clark and Jacob Martin are becoming caricatures (in a good way) of their positives coming out.”

The coaching focused on accentuating positive traits rather than trying to add different elements. Martin wasn’t made to bulk up, risking losing his dynamism. Instead, he focused on refining his current technique. It would be nice if Martin did yoga to add flexion—he probably does already—but if he can add some effective counters and keep his hand usage excellent, he’s going to become an even more effective pass rusher.

Jim Nagy

Jim Nagy was an NFL scout for 18 years. He was most recently with the Seattle Seahawks, where he served for five seasons as the Southeast Area scout. Now, Nagy is the Reese’s Senior Bowl executive director and his talent evaluation skills proved valuable for the resounding success of the 2019 event.

What’s been particularly refreshing about Nagy’s career change has been the level of insight his Twitter account provides. The Senior Bowl scouting process became more transparent, with interesting nuggets about prospects tweeted out.

Nagy has also been a responsive Twitter user. His relative transparency has extended to other subjects, including the Seattle Seahawks. Last week, with the NFL world glued to the NFL combine, Nagy shared an illuminating tidbit about the Seahawks’ draft strategy in 2018.

Pre-Draft Visits

It was interesting to hear from Nagy the importance of Martin’s pre-draft visit to Seattle. Seth Wickersham at ESPN wrote how teams would prefer a week of interviews rather than the current NFL combine. Players test as well as their tape showed. Interviews are limited to 15 minutes. The media circus laps it up, but execs are growing tired of Indy.

This corroborates with Nagy. Seattle, like any functioning NFL team, is guarded about most things. Yet they clearly want to gain an idea of who, and what, a prospect is. For Pete Carroll, overcoming adversity is a huge deal. Meanwhile, the comments of General Manager John Schneider at the combine podium revealed he is back to looking for nasty, confident, alpha competitors. “We have to get to that point where we’re bringing in players that are willing to take somebody’s job,” said Schneider. Mistakes—as he himself admitted—happened when Schneider failed to find that mentality.

Looking for who visits the Seahawks’ facility pre-draft can be a giveaway. That also means such information is tricky to discover. Teams are allowed 30 in-house visits with draft prospects. With local prospects—Washington and Washington State in Seattle’s case—they’re allowed unlimited visits. While teams are permitted to give the prospects physicals and interview them, they can’t work them out. Last draft cycle, of the visits we know about, only Poona Ford and Martin finished as ‘Hawks. Simeon Thomas eventually landed in the Pacific Northwest too.

Kentucky corner Lonnie Johnson immediately put himself on Seahawks’ radar after meeting the 32” arm threshold (6ft 2, 213lbs with 32 5/8” arms). Though the corner didn’t press much in college, I’m starting to think that’s a preferable trait for Seattle, given there are no bad habits to unlearn and the prospect is instead a moldable ball of clay. Instead of looking for sound press reps; Seattle seeks aggressive, ball-hawking tendencies. Johnson’s tape and Senior Bowl showing is full of that.

Johnson reached Field Gulls’ attention after revealing Seattle challenged him to a staring contest, something the Seahawks did with Michael Dickson before picking him last year. Yet teams meet with pretty much every player at these events. Furthermore, 15 minutes at the NFL combine is unlikely to dig deep into the psyche of said prospect. A visit to Seattle though? Where the coaching staff can get a better idea of his personality? That will do it.