Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Developing the mock - further thoughts

I published my first 2010 mock draft yesterday and it sparked some debate in the comments section. The blog was alive yesterday so thanks to all for taking part and please always feel free to contribute on anything to do with the Seahawks and the draft. Today I want to look a little bit further into the two first round picks I gave Seattle - Charles Brown (OT, USC) and Rodney Hudson (OG, Florida State).

For starters I want to point out that I'm not the kind of person to preach about heavy investment in the offensive line. I don't share the belief that first round picks are tantamount towards a successful line and that any long term recovery will always depend on top picks being spent at tackle or guard. I also don't agree with those who think lineman are less likely to bust - I think you have to take each prospect on his own merits and not look at how people in the past have fared.

To read the rest of the article, select 'read more' or click here.

Even so, I gave the Seahawks two lineman in the mock. The first pick (Charles Brown) is someone who could fly up the draft boards over the next few months, similar to what happened to Jason Smith last year. If you recall, most were touting Smith as a raw, mid-first round pick during most of the college football season. He was considered a little light, playing at around the 290lbs mark and he featured in a spread offense.

However, he turned up at the combine a picture perfect 307lbs and the extra weight gained didn't have an adverse affect on his athleticism in work outs. That is the same challenge that faces Charles Brown. He's listed at 285lbs right now which is clearly just not enough. As a converted tight end (like Smith) he needs to add a few pounds whilst maintain that sharp agility. If he manages that, it's not a stretch to believe Brown could go even higher than the #11 overall pick I currently have him at. Remember - this is a weak draft for lineman. It's crying out for a top O-liner to make a move up the boards considering the premium value on the left tackle position these days and this Trojan could be the man.

Let me explain why I think that could be the case. I broke down the tape of Oregon vs USC from the weekend. There were two plays that really struck me that I wanted to mention. The first - Brown gets his hands on one of the Ducks defensive lineman and with little effort, brandishes a forceful punch to the chest visibly knocking the guy backwards to the extent his head jolts around. This was the first real evidence I've seen that Brown possesses that kind of strength in the upper body and it's something we rarely see from young offensive tackles. It also shows that despite his low weight, he's still very powerful.

The second play flashed his intelligence and ability to diagnose - crucial when working in a zone blocking scheme. Matt Barkley takes the snap behind center and is looking for his tight end on a crossing route. Brown initially combats the right defensive end, but instantly recognises the threat of an outside linebacker. He jolts the DE backwards before blocking off - doing enough to allow the guard to come across and cover. He then quickly repositions himself using superb footwork to take on the linebacker face on and it's lights out. Barkley completes the pass thanks to some beautiful pass protection.

As a prospect he fits the Tim Ruskell mantra. He's from USC - a school Ruskell has drafted from previously (Lawrence Jackson, Lofa Tatupu). There's no character red flags and he's a senior prospect - something that seems to count in the first round with Seattle's GM. Sean Locklear is signed to what could be described as a 'left tackles' contract and certainly was touted by the team to fill that role with Walter Jones absent. The injuries to Locklear may have forced them to consider other options - they simply cannot afford to have a revolving door at left tackle for much longer.

If I was a betting man I'd suggest Tim Ruskell would like to tap into what constitutes an amazingly talented defensive line class this year. At #11, Seattle has just missed out on the top prospects. They also miss out on the top four quarterbacks. We've seen this team trade up or down when needs be in the past, so I wouldn't rule it out on the day if that's how the board actually fell. However, in this very premature suggestion - if they stayed put the Seahawks would surely have to consider the talented Brown.

The second pick however, has caused much debate. Would Ruskell draft two lineman in round one, let alone an interior lineman? Will Rodney Hudson even declare as a junior prospect? Is he good enough to justify the first round grade?

I have to admit, I've not seen a single mock draft out there that has Hudson in round one. Compare this to last year when nearly every mock had Duke Robinson going in the first - a prospect who to me at least always looked like the late 5th rounder he actually became. Part of the justification for putting the Seminoles lineman in there is to try and see if his stock will ever get that high. I think it could do and I want to see if I'm right later in the year.

Admittedly, some will be put off Hudson's lack of size - he's 295lbs and 6'2". Some won't be put off - like Seattle - who favor smaller, agile lineman and that's why I paired him with the Seahawks in the mock. He's a perfect scheme fit, just like Charles Brown. The thing about Hudson is, sure he's a bit small and he's more athletic than powerful. However - he's surprisingly strong. Watch some Florida State tape, particularly run plays, and watch Hudson drive his man back 5-6 yards to create a hole... it's a thing of beauty.

The situation at left guard has been a cause célèbre ever since Steve Hutchinson left for Minnesota. Rob Sims has suffered injuries and inconsistency, whilst the Mike Wahle project didn't last very long before his retirement. That for me, is a critical area of the team that needs tying up. Now, like most people I'd express some surprise at any guard going in round one who is essentially flying under the radar. But I truly believe Hudson is good enough to justify the praise and isn't the first round all about getting guys who can be cornerstones of your team? I genuinely believe Hudson could be plugged in from day one and left there for 10 years, barring any poison pills of course.

When I next compile a mock draft, things could change. Undoubtedly some prospects are going to move up the board as we close out the college season and some more will appear after the senior bowl and combine. The mock yesterday was more to get a feel for things and the kind of situation the Seahawks could be faced with. Yes - two lineman is perhaps unlikely. But in the right circumstances, if the board falls a certain way, it isn't impossible.


germpod said...

I am not a football pro, so I can only go by what I hear, but I hear all the time that great offensive lines are built from consistency as well as talent. A line that plays together for a few years does much better then the same players who are playing together for the first time. For that reason I think there is value in drafting two offensive line players in the first round. The two players would likely be playing next to each other for at least five years. I would love to go back to the glory days of a dominate line.

Brendan Scolari said...

Hey Rob,

I am not a Seahawks fan but I enjoy reading your blog, it seems like your pretty knowledgeable and you bring a different opinion than most.

With that said I'm curious as to the seemingly large difference in how you rate the offensive tackles and how most other draftniks do.

On other draft sites it seems like most people think the OT class is pretty strong. It seems like at least 8 guys could go in the first round (Okung, Bulaga, Brown, Trent Williams, Anthony Davis, Bruce Campbell, Selvish Capers, Jason Fox) based on what I have read elsewhere. Now certainly they won't all go but the first 5 guys on that list seem to have nearly consensus first round grades. It seems like that makes for quite a strong class.

To use an example from a site I respect, Mocking Dan at mockingthedraft.com just recently published his top 100 players list (here: http://www.mockingthedraft.com/pages/mocking-the-drafts-2010-top-100) and he has Okung, Bulaga, and Anthony Davis all ranked in the top 15 in the whole country.

He also just wrote a post (here: http://www.mockingthedraft.com/2009/11/3/1113977/okung-solidifies-himself-as-top-10#comments) about how Russell Okung's great performance against the Texas edge rushers solidified him as a top 10 pick and the bass offensive tackle in this year's draft class. This looks funny when compared to your recent mock draft where you said Okung will go 20-30 spots higher than he should.

Obviously everyone has a different opinion, that's what makes stuff like this interesting, but there seems to be a stark difference in the evaluations here. What would you chalk that up to, are most people just overrating the offensive lineman? I've read your individual evaluations on many of the offensive lineman but it still seems curious that many people would call offensive tackle one of the biggest strengths of the draft class and you call it weak. I look forward to hearing your response and please keep up the great work.

Rob Staton said...

Hey Brendan, thanks for stopping by.

I can't give a definitive answer as to why other draft sites write certain things. For example, nearly every site seems to think Eric Berry is a shoe in for the top ten and is an almost faultless prospect. I've watched Berry closesly this year and simply don't agree - he has some major flaws that (in my opinion) will keep him from going in the top ten.

With regard to the offensive tackle class, it's very clear to me that it isn't a good class. Kyle Rota echoes those sentiments. At the start of the year many expected Okung and Williams to be near the top. I wasn't that much of a fan of Okung's anyway and this year he's not done enough to convince me he warrants a top pick. I think he's a mid-late first rounder. The lack of elite talent at the position might push him up the board, something I've shown in my latest mock draft. But I see a guy who doesn't really show much desire to get to the second level, only average athleticism. Pass protection is pretty good, but he's a step down from Jason Smith and Eugene Monroe who went top ten last year.

Williams moved from RT to LT this year but for some reason has decided to gain a fair bit of weight. His play has been borderline sloppy this year and he's taken a couple of knocks during games that he's had to leave the field for. In all honesty, it wouldn't surprise me if he fell out of round one completely, he's had such a dissapointing year.

Bryan Bulaga will probably stay at Iowa for his senior year, but I did get a chance to scout him properly at the weekend. He relies on his strength to dominate at a college level but he won't have that same kind of advantage against NFL defensive lineman. I expect he'll be tested rather too often against the elite speed rushers at the next level and to me he projects as a 10 year starter at RT but not a blind side blocker.

I believe Bruce Campbell has suffered a lot of injury problems and this will likely have a big effect on his stock. Anthony Davis I know little about in all honesty, but I've seen positive reviews from people I usually trust which is why he's on the mock.

Neither Sevlish Capers or Jason Fox are first round picks.

Essentially I think there's a lot of people right now reporting on guys they probably haven't had a chance to scout properly and it's leading to a lot of prospects being over rated. I usually look and see if a guy has Colt McCoy ranked as a first rounder in either a mock or ranking to judge whether that's the case - because no way does Colt McCoy go in round one and someone who has scouted properly would come to that assesment.

Overall this isn't a great offensive line class and it's weak compared to recent years. There isn't an elite prospect who will go at the very top of the board - although personally I think Charles Brown has the potential to surge up the draft boards like Jason Smith did last year if he can get up to 300lbs and show well at the combine.

Left tackle has come to be known as a premium position in the NFL these days and for that purpose, it could be that some draft sites are acknowledging that by putting certain prospects in their mocks and rankings. No doubt some teams will reach to take lineman because having a good offensive line is often defined as being crucial to long term success. We could still see 3-4 guys go in round one, which on paper doesn't look all that bad. Whether a couple of those guys warrant first round picks is another question mind and I do think the Okung's and Williams' of this world are certainly a little over rated.

War_Hawk said...

Hey Rob, I love the blog. You should follow Chris Steuber's Twitter feed from Scout.com (http://twitter.com/chrissteuber) he's reporting what games some teams scouts are attending. He's reported a scout from Seattle will be at the Oklahoma v Nebraska game and Florida State v Clemson game this weekend.

Rob Staton said...

War_Hawk - thanks for the heads up. I'll check it out. Interesting which games they'll be at - there's plenty of pro-prospects available at both of those games. It's not really surprising to hear that Seattle will have a presence there. If Rodney Hudson puts in the same performance that I saw last week he should catch some attention.

Anonymous said...

Great STUFF as always!!

Anonymous said...

I love Brown, but if he shoots up the board as you say, won't he go too high for Seattle to grab him? I don't think we'll be drafting in the top ten again this year.

Also, I don't think Rob Sims should be dismissed yet. He's made huge improvements as a run blocker this year and was already solid in pass pro. The O-line wasn't great against Dallas, but Sims' return did show a difference.

Anonymous said...

Brim over I assent to but I think the brief should secure more info then it has.