I was lucky enough to speak with Kyle Rota from College Talent Scout this week and I had a chance to put some questions to him. Some of the readers have asked me about the safety class, offensive line prospects and the quarter back talent and I wanted to get an expert's opinion. To see the question and answer session, click here.
Q1/A lot of readers believe safety is a big need. Is this a deep draft at the position and could you recommend any prospects?
I think Safety is a huge need for Seattle, and would've loved to have taken one in last year's draft. This draft has very little legitimate first round talent - Mays is the only player who deserves to go in the first round (should he declare), and reports on him are all over the place. I've heard good things about Mays, but haven't scouted him myself. I've scouted Curtis Taylor, Nic Harris, and Rashad Johnson (LSU, OU, and ALA respectively) for the safety position and Johnson is significantly better than Harris or Taylor, especially for Seattle. He's very instinctive and a team captain, which Ruskell will love, and he has great speed. He's pretty light (190lbs) and misses some tackles, but he does represent an immediate, huge upgrade over Brian Russell.
One thing to consider is that Seattle may be splitting from the Cover-2. For those who have too much of a life to follow X's and O's, Cover-2 is a coverage scheme where the two safeties split the deep part of the field. While it is an oversimplification to say Strong Safety and Weak (or Free) Safety are interchangeable, it is mostly true. Of course, Seattle runs more than just Cover-2, but it's the main coverage of the defensive backfield and picking the wrong type of player results in disasters like Michael Boulware. Tim Ruskell has been a Cover-2 guy for a long time, but I've heard reports (haven't verified them) that Mora uses more of a traditional strong/weak safety setup. That drastically changes things, because then a player like Patrick Chung (who I am scouting right now) becomes a very possible selection in the second round. I might add, after one game Chung impresses me a lot with his tackling (best form tackler I've seen). A slower, more physical safety like Nic Harris, William Moore, or Kevin Ellison might make sense for Seattle. Whether or not Mora keeps the Cover-2 as Seattle's primary coverage call will be huge in Seattle's safety strategy.
Q2/Why are running backs not getting much attention this year in the first round?
At this point, the top RB in the draft is Knowshon Moreno. He lacks the prototype size and speed NFL teams look for. It may sound extreme, but witnessing selections like Chris Henry to Tennessee in 2007's draft has convinced me that at least some NFL teams look at size, speed, and nothing else in a running back. Nobody yet in the draft really shows off that size/speed combination that makes a team (foolishly) fall in love with a player. Chris Wells, should he declare, does have a chance to be that freak - he could run a 4.4 flat weighing 235+lbs. To answer the question more directly, there may be some great runners in this draft, but they're not elite athletes, and NFL teams want an elite athlete with their first-round pick.
Q3/You currently have Michael Oher going to the Hawks in your mock draft. What would Seattle see in him to spend their first round pick?
With Oher, you're taking him for his elite athleticism. Oher is a 325lb with rare athleticism - even in the NFL, you're talking rare athlete. He's going to be the best looking top OL in shorts (frame is already NFL-ready, unlike the skinny Jason Smith or the blubbery Andre Smith), and he plays with good hand technique. His learning problems, childhood upbringing, etc are well documented and a real concern to teams, but in the end I think his potential as a franchise LT is going to be too much for teams to pass up. There are some concerns about his nastiness, but in Seattle's zone-blocking scheme I don't think that is a very big concern.
Q4/From the prospects you've scouted, which O-Line talent has impressed you the most (at any position)?
The most impressive OL I have seen so far is easily Andre Smith. At 340lbs, he could end up with one of the fastest ten-yard dash times amongst the OL. Watching him play for Alabama is pretty fun, because he fits their system perfectly and can just collapse an entire defensive line some plays. His physical talent is incredible, and he puts on quite a show. (And, since I know someone will ask it, he is impressive in college and deserves all the accolades he has received as the best OT in college. He just doesn't show the footwork or hand technique to be a LT in the NFL, which is why I prefer Oher.)
Q5/If you had to choose between Sam Bradford and Matt Stafford who would you go with and why?
This question is going to be argued right down until draft day, and actually, people will argue it years after the draft as well. Bradford is the better college player because he is in an offense that suits his strengths perfectly and minimize his weaknesses.
However, I believe Stafford will be the better pro. (It's worth noting that I haven't graded Bradford yet. He might wow me and earn an even higher grade than the 6.9 I gave Stafford. I don't expect it, but I wasn't planning on giving Stafford that high a grade either!)Stafford really has the tools to be the total package. Arm? Check. Size? Check. Toughness? Check. Reads? Needs some improvement, but who doesn't at college... Check. Mobility? Should lose a few pounds and it'll help, but he's not a complete statue... Check. He really does remind me of Jay Cutler coming out of Vanderbilt, except I think he has an edge in intangibles and reads. Yes, Stafford forces passes when down by a lot (Gunslinger mode) and when throwing deep, but I have to believe that is correctable. I'd rather teach reads than drop back or throwing motion.
The nice thing about Stafford is that even if he doesn't mature a lot, he'll still be a borderline starter for a long time in this league (Kerry Collins is the low-end projection, Brett Favre is my high-end... all depends on how he improves his reads).
Bradford has just as high a ceiling. He has the height, mobility, accuracy, feel for the rush, and, yes, arm strength to excel. Unfortunately, due to his skinny frame, poor throwing mechanics (footwork), and inexperience dropping back he's a much bigger risk to become a bust. It isn't that he will become a bust, but a coach will have a lot more to teach Bradford than Stafford before Bradford is ready for an NFL defense.
One interesting thing to note is that you'll hear some people say Bradford's arm strength is a question mark. Mark them as people who don't know what they're talking about. Bradford doesn't throw many bullets, and rarely (really rarely) throws down field, but if you watch his throws on post and seam patterns his tosses have great velocity despite his bad throwing mechanics. There's a lot of arm strength to work with.In the end, I believe in getting the guy with as few problems as possible. They can make an impact much, much sooner and less things need to go "right" for them to excel. Stafford is definitely the guy with less problems, though, Bradford has the physical ability to be great if he is taken by a smart, responsible team.