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7 is the new 5

The best college players you've never heard of and why the Hawks will draft them in the 7th round.

2012 7th round pick-Greg Scruggs
2012 7th round pick-Greg Scruggs
Andy Lyons

We’re five days in to the week-long festivities that are the Senior Bowl buildup, and there is so much talk and speculation on which of these guys (and the draft-eligible juniors not invited) will become 1st round draft picks, not to mention the whole spectrum of landing spots for each player within the 1st. But I’m a big fan of counter-programming, so I’m not going to talk 1sts. In fact, I’m not gonna write about Senior Bowl players AT ALL. In a roundabout way, I wrote my Senior Bowl preview 2-3 weeks ago when I did my 7-round mock. But, with many of those players getting buzz at this week’s practices, and other players returning to school for their senior years in 2013, my mock is getting shot to hell. My 6th rounder is looking like a 4th, my 4th is looking like a 3rd, etc.

Instead, I would like to talk about the 7th round of the draft, and highlight as many quality players that I’ve found deep-down on draft big boards (but high on college stat sheets), that aren’t being included in any published 7-round mocks, nor being discussed on twitter or any of the multitude of draft sites. Because I haven’t heard any chatter on any of these players, I can do my own version of the Pepsi challenge, and give unfiltered/untainted views on a handful of true sleepers. Originally, I wanted to focus entirely on FCS players, but many of those players simply don’t have enough film for an amateur draftnik to study, and I don’t want to recommend players I haven’t put eyes on.

Let’s start at DE or, more specific to the Hawks and Pete Carroll’s scheme, the LEO (aka Elephant). If we’re talking about PC’s LEO, it’s good to keep in mind one of USC’s greatest graduates and NFL success stories from the LEO position: Clay Matthews. Matthews came to USC in 2004 as a non-scholarship, student walk-on with a dream in his heart and a chip on his shoulder. Matthews remained non-scholarship through his freshman and redshirt freshman years. Then, in 2008, after gaining weight, muscle, and stamina, “defensive coordinator Nick Holt, Carroll and (Ken) Norton decided to try using Matthews in a hybrid ‘Elephant’ position, where Matthews would stand in the position of defensive end, but use the speed and tactics of a linebacker.” Matthews became the 6’3”/240lb/4.67 prototype of the position, finishing ’08 with 9.0 tackle-for-loss, 4.5 sacks, a couple pass breakups, and a couple forced fumbles, and a first-round draft selection.

The guy I like as a LEO stands 6’2”/255lbs, with 4.65 speed, and a senior statline of: 15.0 tackle-for-loss, 12.5 sacks (4th-best in FCS), 4 pass breakups, and 8 forced fumbles (EIGHT! Best in all of FCS). On the defensive production grid, this DE would have a 13-game score of 94.8 (a score that bests Damontre Moore and Jadeveon Clowney). Clearly, his production was against weaker competition (as most players in this article will be), but then we turn on the little bit of film we can find on him and Montana State’s Caleb Schreibeis does this:

Well??? Remind you of anyone? Here’s the kicker: has him as their 36th rated DE (406th overall), and and don’t have him listed at all. Basically, people that should know better than I, all (universally) presume/project that Schreibeis goes undrafted. Well they’re wrong, cause someone’s drafting him.

The fact that he came in to Montana State as a walk-on, but ended it as a team captain speaks volumes. It also speaks volumes that his D-line coach (Bo Beck) said this about Caleb regarding his ascension; “He wanted to prove that he belonged without showing it on the outside. He had a chip on his shoulder, but never let it affect his personality. His inside fire and drive probably burned stronger than anyone I've ever been around.”

This quote from Schreibeis himself says it even more clearly; “Earlier on in my career I always thought there are two things I can control. The first is, I can always control how hard I hit the guy in front of me. I can control that. And the second is running to the ball. You can be the worst football player in America and you can still play whistle to whistle. So I figured I can excel in those two areas to make up for other areas I was deficient in.” He’s got “Always Compete” written all over him.

If the Hawks were to look at a WR from a small school in the 7th, it might be tough to find a better upside player than local product Brandon Kaufman from Eastern Washington. He’s got “big play”, and perhaps “big slot” written all over him. Standing at 6’4”/214, Brandon could have benefited from staying in school for his redshirt senior season to work on adding a few pounds of muscle, but I also don’t blame him for leaving now, after the season he just had. With season totals of 1850 receiving yards, 16 TD’s, and 19.89 ypc, Kaufman not only led all of FCS in receiving, but he also bested Terrance Williams (1832) for the national lead across both FBS/FCS divisions.

Kaufman is not quick, you may not even find him fast, yet watching his tape he was regularly underthrown on plays where he had out-run the DB. His catch radius is pretty ridiculous (#fact). He isn’t the best run-after-catch WR in terms of moves and elusiveness, but he is one of the best I’ve seen at running after (or through) contact. Kaufman isn’t an easy tackle. I’d like to see more footage of him running/catching a more diverse route tree (his tape is a lot of 9-routes). I see Kaufman struggle at times with hands-catching, but almost simultaneously shows amazing concentration to catch his own bobbled passes. One time he even volleyed a ball with his feet to make a catch.

Kaufman is currently #230 on the draftscout board, unranked for drafttek, and unranked by draftsite, and could make a nice accompaniment to a speed receiver drafted earlier. Kaufman could very nicely fill the role the Hawks tried to get Kris Durham to play.

If we keep the focus of this piece on possible 7th round draftpicks, we can find some interesting value/upside picks that come from big(ish) schools, but whose stock has plummeted due to injury. A couple of those guys I’ve mentioned before (DT Kapron Lewis-Moore and DE Quanterus Smith). Smith doesn’t seem like his injury will knock him down this far, but I have seen him placed in the 7th by some sites. KLM might be overly optimistic to think he gets drafted at all after his knee injury in the BCS Championship game. Then there’s one more…Cincinnati’s Walter Stewart. I found Stewart early in the 2012 season and really liked his game tape. But then came the news that Stewart would have to retire from football due to a spinal condition he has, that was discovered after he was injured in a game. If memory serves, he has the same spinal stenosis condition that Jarvis Jones has.

The original thought was the condition was too severe for Stewart to continue playing, at risk of paralysis. But somehow, in December, after further evaluation, it was determined that Stewart could continue to play. He began training for the scouting combine. I hope the medical “second opinion” is true, and that Stewart can play because I think the dude is electric:

The list of players that are currently projecting in the 7th round includes some at positions the Hawks may not necessarily need, but that are really good players. If Seattle doesn’t resign Steve Hauschka, Caleb Sturgis would be a great replacement at kicker out of Florida. For the other specialist position, LSU’s punter Brad Wing has declared early and is receiving some projections of getting drafted (Ryan Allen of LaTech is better). Also, Nick Clancy has had a great year as replacement at ILB for Boston College (following Luke Kuechly), finishing 4th in the country in total tackles (148), but hasn’t seen projection much above a 7th.

Other names that jump out at me in the 7th, but with less film study done on, include: CB Kahlid Wooten (16 passes defended out of Nevada), CB/S Dax Swanson (18 passes defended from Sam Houston State), SS Cooper Taylor (huge 6’4” safety depth from Richmond), SS Brooklyn Fox (6’3” with 6 INT this year at Eastern Kentucky), OT Jordan Mills (LaTech-recently got a callup to the Senior Bowl), DE Sean Progar (8.5 sacks from N Illinois), DT Chris Jones (12.5 sacks from Bowling Green), WR Mike Rios (6’2” with 23 ypc and, strangely, 7 career blocked kicks), and RB Miguel Maysonet (1964 yds/21 TD/7.36 ypc for Stony Brook in a ZBS). The 2:30 mark is my favorite:

Finally, we get to, perhaps, the most exciting position to draft in the 7th round…Quarterback! I’m not even kidding. If you think it’s sick the way John Schneider pulled Russell Wilson out of the 3rd round, wait till you see who he can get out of a 7th. I have two suggestions for backup QB’s.

The first is the QB that led all of FCS in completions/gm (32), finished 2nd in completion% (69.4), went 3rd in total passing yards (3729), and added 28 TD (passing) and 7 TD (rushing) with a 144 passer rating and only 10 INT. When I watched him I initially saw a bit of Ben Roethlisberger (not as tall though), and then Matt Erikson (@SeattleDoorMatt) suggested he had some Tony Romo to him (that may be an even more apt comparison).

Romo was an UDFA out of Eastern Illinois in 2003 after posting a line of 3165 yds, 63.4%, 34 TD, 16 INT, and a 148.4 rating. Before you get too upset about a “Tony Romo type”, remember we’re only talking about a QB to backup Russell Wilson. And Romo would be pretty capable of winning a game or two, if needed.

Anyways, this is Casey Brockman:

To get an idea of how Brockman looked versus upper-level competition, I tracked down some tape of Murray State playing Florida State to open the year. FSU is one of the best defenses in all of FBS, and they made Murray State look BAD. But I think Brockman held his own despite an O-Line that couldn’t keep him upright, and WR’s that couldn’t get off the press coverage (Xavier Rhodes is no joke). Brockman’s draft projections: draftscout-472, draftsite-UDFA, drafttek-400+. Translation: undrafted.

The second QB is the one I’ve become completely obsessed with. I talked about Ryan Aplin in an earlier post, but since that post I’ve watched even more film on him, and you guys…I think this dude is IT. To avoid redundancy, I won’t talk a ton about his stats, save for a reminder that Aplin led college football in INT% (he makes good decisions with his throws). I stumbled on a series of highlight tapes of Arkansas State games that were put on youtube by tWARMACHINE2013 and I highly recommend them. I specifically suggest the A-State/La-Monroe game. Note the play at the 4:30 mark:

Have you ever seen a jump-pass travel 30 yards in the air?? And that’s after he switches the ball from his left hand to right, and has the wherewithal to jump BEFORE the line of scrimmage. Then, in the A-State/MidTenn game, Aplin demonstrates so many things that remind me of RW (they both even wore the same college jersey #: 16). Aplin throws a great deep ball (and hits WR’s amazingly in-stride), plays the zone read, has a great pump-fake when on the run (occasionally fakes out the cameraman), throws nicely off his back foot, etc.

Just like I did for Brockman, I tried to find Aplin’s tape versus an elite opponent. A-State opened the 2012 season in Oregon, facing the Ducks. Another tough watch. Oregon put up like 29 points in the first quarter. But…Aplin fought back, and ended the game completing 66% for 300 yds, 3 TD, and an INT (some of it against second-string D). But considering Oregon was the second best offense in the country, and many teams probably added scores against the Oregon backups in garbage time, Arkansas State still managed to put up the second highest total that Oregon allowed all year (34…behind USC), and almost two TD’s more than Oregon’s season average for pts allowed (21.6).

Aplin is ranked lower than Brockman on draftscout-481, while draftsite has him at 231, and drafttek undrafted, and I probably prefer A over B. Regardless of whether Matt Flynn is a Seahawk in 2013 or not, it would be a tremendous benefit to have either of these QB’s on the roster going forward…especially at these bargain-basement prices.

There’s my list of 7th rounders. I don’t actually expect most of these players to still be on the board in the 7th. Although they are, apparently, not on the radar of draft journalists/sites currently, I imagine many of these athletes have registered in the minds of ACTUAL scouts and GM’s. And much like the 6th turned 4th, the UDFA will become a 7th , and the 7th will become a 5th. But if things go as Seahawk drafts have gone these last three years, the April “reaches” will become the December “steals”, the December steals will all be Hawks, and the 12s will become One…

One Wing to rule them all, One Wing to find them, One Wing to bring them all and in the draftroom bind them, In the Land of Tanzania where the Seahawks fly!