Thursday, 31 December 2009

Any Volunteers? Part 2 of 2

Tennessee has quite a bit of legitimate NFL talent on their roster, including the monstrous (6'3 327lb) defensive tackle Dan Williams. Williams, like Hardesty, enjoyed a breakout year in 2009, though Williams started 9 games in 2008 and was a solid performer then as well. While Eric Berry gets all the accolades, and rightly so, any team sleeping on Dan Williams was in for a nasty surprise.

Oddly enough, Williams projects as a better pass rusher than run stuffer in the NFL. While possessing the prototype build to occupy two blockers, Williams does not anchor terribly well at the point of attack. Against Alabama, there were times when Williams was pushed five yards off the line of scrimmage by two blockers. While Alabama is a great running team, things aren't going to get easier at the NFL level for Williams, so it's concerning that he couldn't hold up at the point in college. It wasn't just against double teams either - while he didn't get pushed back 1 on 1, he wasn't wreaking the backfield havoc that a team would want a 1st-round defensive tackle to cause, either.

If Williams were your typical tub-of-lard 327lb defensive tackle, the above paragraph would be enough to relegate him to the late rounds. However, Williams has a lot of things going for him. He combines above-average athleticism with a solid motor, chasing down runs away from him consistently - one of the few big DTs who is an asset on runs away from him. He's a good tackler and a surprisingly good pass rusher - he applied all sorts of pressure in the two games I graded. He has a nice swim move, works to keep hands off of him, and is capable of shrinking the pocket(something Seattle has sorely lacked this year).

Something about Tennessee seems to create good players who's game may not translate terribly well to the NFL. Eric Berry is one of the best defensive players in college football, but he is going to have to answer questions about his size and tackling to go as high in the draft as his play warrants. Montario Hardesty is an overall solid back who does a lot of things well, but may spend his career as a backup and spot starter. Williams is a 327lb defensive tackle who can pass rush but (in limited plays, I definitely wouldn't make a decision on Williams without watching more games) struggles to hold up at the point of attack. I didn't know what to expect from Williams when I started scouting him, but this was not it. What's more frustrating is that I can't pinpoint exactly why he struggles - he has a strong lower-body build, good motor, clearly is a smart player who understands technique... it's mystifying why he isn't destroying the guys lined up in front of him.

Unlike Hardesty, who I think I understand reasonably well (at least as a runner), I am not totally sold that I've seen the real Dan Williams. Maybe I've just had the luck to catch him in two games where he didn't excel. Depending on how the offseason progresses, I'll most likely take another look at Williams (once I've obtained more games), but from what I've seen so far I'm not sure where I'd take Williams. It certainly wouldn't be in the first round, but his size, athleticism, pass rushing technique, and motor is not something you come across too often. I'd consider Williams a high risk, high reward player at this point, because if he can improve his anchor in the running game he could go on to have a very long, productive NFL career.

Final mock draft of 2009

First of all, happy new year and thank you to everyone that has visited the blog over the last year. It's been a pleasure working on this website mainly due to the great feedback we get from you guys and the interaction we've been able to have with Seahawks fans and NFL fans in general. Please continue to spread the word, send in your emails and most of all - best wishes for 2010 and let's hope the Seahawks have better fortunes next season.

Here's my final mock draft for 2009. The draft order is accurate ahead of the final week of the season. Let me know your thoughts in the comments section.



#1 Ndamukong Suh (DT, Nebraska)
There's no obvious quarterback candidate to go first overall, so St. Louis take the best player with the opening selection. Suh is a dominant force with elite potential.



#2 Gerald McCoy (DT, Oklahoma)
Jim Schwartz had a lot of success in Tennessee thanks to an elite defensive tackle. McCoy is 1B if Suh is the best player in the draft. He could go first overall.



#3 Anthony Davis (OT, Rutgers)
Davis could be the next Ryan Clady. Kansas City have shown they'll draft to fill a need, even if it's a bit of a reach.



#4 Derrick Morgan (DE, Georgia Tech)
This pick could change if Bill Cowher ends up in Tampa. If the Buccs stay with a 4-3, this pick makes the most sense. Morgan is the clear outstanding end in this draft.



#5 Sam Bradford (QB, Oklahoma)
The Redskins will start 2010 with a new GM and a new coach - probably Mike Shanahan. The pick will likely be a quarterback or an offensive tackle.



#6 Dez Bryant (WR, Oklahoma State)
Mike Holmgren inherits a great offensive line, but he needs some playmakers and direction at quarterback. With Bradford off the board, he takes Bryant.



#7 C.J. Spiller (RB, Clemson)
Spiller is a 'love it' or 'hate it' pick, but when he runs a 4.2 at the combine he'll be a top 10 pick. The Seahawks need that kind of game changer on offense and with another first round pick to come, they can address other needs too.



#8 Russell Okung (OT, Oklahoma State)
I think Okung's a little over rated and realism alongside his recent knee injury (how serious is it?) could push him down the board. At the same time, there's a premium on offensive tackles and that could keep him near the top.



#9 Bruce Campbell (OT, Maryland)
Bruce Campbell, Taylor Mays and Carlos Dunlap. Pick your poison, because we all know how Al Davis drafts.



#10 Rolando McClain (LB, Alabama)
Can we start saying the Broncos got the best out of that Jay Cutler deal? McClain is an absolute steal for a 3-4 team like Denver.



#11 Joe Haden (CB, Florida)
Haden has top ten talent but slips because of needs elsewhere. The 49ers luck out again - just like they did when Crabtree fell into their lap.



#12 Brian Price (DT, UCLA)
The Jaguars would love Haden and could trade up to get him. Their next biggest needs are at defensive tackle and receiver. Price fits the 4-3 as a three technique.



#13 Everson Griffen (DE, USC)
The Titans will likely invest in their defensive line next April. Carlos Dunlap's stock is going downwards fast, helping guys like Griffen.



#14 Bryan Bulaga (OT, Iowa)
Not many teams have drafted better than the 49ers over the last couple of years. The trade to get this pick was pure genius. Bulaga will be a top right tackle for years.



#15 Dan Williams (DT, Tennessee)
This is a bit of a reach, but the position is so important to a 3-4 team I'm going to predict this for now. Damian Williams would be better value and just as much of a need.



#16 Eric Berry (S, Tennessee)
The Steelers would be a good fit for Berry. He needs to be on a team that has a good defense to excel. They'll love him alongside Polamalu.



#17 Jason Pierre-Paul (DE, USF)
The Falcons have big needs at cornerback and on the defensive line. Pierre-Paul is raw but with massive potential.



#18 Earl Thomas (S, Texas)
Hometown favorite who fills a need. He could be the most complete safety in this class - he tackles better than Berry but has similar ball hawking instincts.



#19 Damian Williams (WR, USC)
The Ravens will almost certainly look at receiver this off season. Williams is a superb prospect who could have an instant impact. This is a value pick, the Ravens always seem to find value.



#20 Trent Williams (OT, Oklahoma)
The Jets could use an addition to their offensive line. Williams is a pure right tackle at the next level, he's not performed well on the blind side this year.



#21 Mike Iupati (OG, Idaho)
If the Seahawks stay with a zone blocking scheme next year, Iupati would fit nicely whilst still offering much needed size and power. He could go earlier than this. Want to see what all the fuss is about? Click here.



#22 Jermaine Gresham (TE, Oklahoma)
Gresham's injury has hurt his stock, but he's still a top 15 talent. If he's healthy, the Giants get an absolute steal here.



#23 Charles Brown (OT, USC)
The size issue is the only reason Brown falls this far. If he can get up to 310lbs for the combine and maintain his athleticism, his stock will soar.



#24 Ricky Sapp (OLB, Clemson)
Sapp really impressed me this week. Arizona are still piecing together their 3-4 scheme and Sapp could be a stand out OLB.



#25 Arrelios Benn (WR, Illinois)
Bad quarterback play has hurt Benn's stock, but this is still a guy touted as a top 15 pick at the start of the year.



#26 Taylor Mays (S, USC)
This seems like a very good fit. If Mays makes it past Al Davis (and reports are already saying the Raiders love Mays) then he probably won't fall past Dallas.



#27 Jerry Hughes (OLB, TCU)
The Patriots need to find a pass rush. Hughes is a perfect fit for 3-4 teams like New England.



#28 Ryan Mallett (QB, Arkansas)
Will Brett Favre be back next year? Will Tavaris Jackson get another chance? If Mallett declares (and it looks like he will) this might be the range he'll go. Teams could trade up to get him.



#29 Carlos Dunlap (DE, Florida)
Dunlap's stock is low right now, but it could easily rise up again after the combine, interviews and work outs. On paper, this could be a steal for Philly.



#30 Brandon LaFell (WR, LSU)
The Chargers are my AFC pick for the Superbowl, so I think they'll pick later than this. Receiver is somewhat of a need and LaFell deserves first round consideration.



#31 Bruce Carter (OLB, North Carolina)

I'm a huge fan of Carter - when I watched NC earlier this year he stood out. If he declares, he could go much earlier than this.



#32 Travis Lewis (OLB, Oklahoma)
I wanted to get Lewis into the mock somehow. It's maybe not Indy's biggest need, but Lewis is talented enough to warrant this pick.

No Jimmy Clausen?
I still can't find a place for Clausen in my first round mock draft. I wrote about this in greater detail back in November, but I remain unconvinced he'll be a top pick in 2010.

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Thank you Idaho & Bowling Green

It's been a rough year for Seahawks fans. In a weird way, the game between Idaho and Bowling Green was for us. Brilliant from start to finish, prospects worth scouting and a superb ending that gave the Vandals a fitting victory. Robb Akey coaches with a smile, doesn't take himself too seriously and watching him celebrate amongst the fans at the end certainly made me forget about that Green Bay game last weekend.

All eyes were on stand out guard Mike Iupati. He didn't disappoint - this was a thoroughly dominant display from the top senior guard of the 2010 class. Iupati consistently over powered every opponent he faced on the night. It was men against boys stuff for the most part. In fact the biggest challenge in scouting Iupati is to decipher whether he's going to hold that same advantage over NFL opponents and when things are more evenly matched - can he still dominate?

The first thing that stands out is how well he moves for someone listed at 6'6" and 330lbs. He spent most of the game pulling wide, showing the kind of athleticism and footwork that made Branden Albert a tackle prospect come draft day and an early pick. The funny thing is - despite his already considerable size - there's probably room on that frame to get even bigger and not lose his footwork. Like Albert, I think some might start talking about him as a tackle. But for me he's strictly a guard and potentially a very good one at that.

He'd be a perfect fit whatever scheme Seattle go with next year. He's nimble enough to move around and work in the zone blocking scheme, but he has the ideal size if they switch to more of a man system in 2010. So let's look at the two aspects that impress the most - his speed and power.

With 7:50 left in the first quarter, Idaho are driving to score their first touchdown of the day. Iupati starts at left guard but glides into the backfield to block the left defensive end. He's so quick to pull, react and put himself into position to make the block. There are starting right tackles who wouldn't have been able to do what Iupati did there - and he took the snap at left guard. It helped a fair bit that he got away with a blatant hold that probably would've been flagged in the NFL - but we'll let that one go for now. It did help the quarterback find his receiver at the back of the end zone.

I've not seen a guard pull as much as Iupati did in this game. It seemed like 80% of his snaps he'd launch over to the right side, with the running back just following him forward and usually picking up a nice gain. On one play with 3:01 left in the second quarter, Iupati pulled right as usual and located a linebacker to hammer. Whilst doing this, he held out his right hand and managed to block a second linebacker using a hand for both defenders. Whilst blocking both guys - he managed to push them forward four yards as the running back made a ten yard gain. You can't find that kind of second level blocking in college football usually.

When he stayed in position at left guard, we saw flashes of that raw strength and power. When Idaho scored to make it 28-14 with 5:30 left in the third quarter, Iupati opened up a huge hole through the middle that a bus could've driven through. He hit one defensive lineman so hard on that play his head jolted backwards - so much so it ended up forcing another lineman out of the way to make the hole even bigger.

Clearly this is a specimen. This is someone who most certainly warrants first round consideration. The size, the agility, the complete package - it's like watching Ndamukong Suh but at guard. Of course you want to see Iupati against better competition - I'd have liked to have seen Idaho's games with Boise State and Washington this year. You also want to see him against the elite teams, the best defenses in the nation. We're not going to get that. If Tim Ruskell was still GM, we wouldn't be talking about Iupati as a potential Seahawk for those reasons. Now - we can talk about him, we can praise him and we can hope for him. However, rest assured that fans from all 32 teams watching that game will be saying the same things on blogs all over the internet.

I have to say, Iupati wasn't the only impressive prospect on show. Ruskell was against taking guys from small schools and this game for me showed one of the big reasons why his successor cannot hold the same philosophy. Bowling Green wide out Freddie Barnes set a single season record during the game, registering 155 catches for the year. It's not hard to see why he's achieved that. His hands reminded me of Michael Crabtree - everything was caught with his hands. He was beyond reliable in that sense. He found ways to get open and when the ball was thrown his way, he'd catch it. Barnes ended the game with 219 yards from 17 receptions and three touchdowns.

The fact he'll only run a 4.6 at the combine will put some off. He isn't going to be a #1 go-to-guy in the NFL. He isn't the answer to Seattle's desperate need for a playmaker. But heck - he warrants some looks. It's no fluke he's put up the numbers he has (1770 yards, 19 TD's) - he's a Biletnikoff finalist this year. I can think of worse things to spend a 5th round pick on.

Overall the game (which was won by Idaho 43-42 thanks to a last second two point conversion) was a joy to watch. The fact there was legitimate NFL talent on show only added to the spectacle. If the Seahawks are turning over a new leaf post Ruskell - they cannot afford to ignore the small school guys anymore. There's some gems out there, they just won't be on ESPN and CBS every week.

Wednesday notes - Iupati, Mallett & Okung

I'll be taking a rare opportunity to watch Idaho this evening - they're facing Bowling Green in the Humanitarian Bowl and I've got access. The main focus of my attention will be guard Mike Iupati - someone who's become increasingly highly rated. Rob Rang was the first person I noticed touting Iupati's qualities, putting him in the middle of round one in some of his earlier mock drafts.

"Iupati is a road-grader in the running game. He uses his rare size and strength to simply overpower most defenders. What makes him so unique, however, is how light on his feet he can be. Iupati can pull around the edge and hit the roaming linebacker at the second level. He can adjust in pass protection to surprise blitzes. At this point, Iupati remains a work in progress technique-wise. He is so used to dominating his opponents with just his size and strength that he fails to move his feet laterally and lets smaller DTs get their hands into his chest and bullrush him." - Rob Rang, CBS Sportsline

It's worth checking out our resident scout Kyle Rota's thoughts on Iupati. Rota: "All in all, Iupati is a prospect I am very excited about. His size and athleticism, combined with a fairly nasty demeanor and a great ability to adjust to linebackers, makes him a top prospect. If Iupati is available with Seattle's second pick, I'd run to the podium to make the selection. If Seattle can find a partner desiring a top ten pick, I'd consider trading down as well to take Iupati with Seattle's first pick."

I'll have some thoughts on Iupati's performance against Bowling Green on the blog later, so stay tuned for that.

Another story that's rearing it's head this week is the future of Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett. He's long been the X Factor of this draft since Jake Locker made his position clear that he'd be returning to Washington. Mallett has first round tools - big arm, size. He hasn't got first round polish and I've got serious reservations about his accuracy - it's been very inconsistent this year particularly against the better opponents.

Mallett was late to a team meeting recently and all the talk at the moment is that he's destined to declare for the draft. I've consistently said on this blog that I expected one of Locker or Mallett to do so. Question marks remain about Sam Bradford's ability to stay healthy, I don't think Jimmy Clausen warrants top of round one consideration and after that - there's not much else. The opening is there for a quarterback to step in and potentially make themselves a lot of money.

Now - that won't necessarily happen for Mallett. He's a project - his footwork is poor and he wouldn't be able to take snaps under center today. He needs to prove he can make the simple shot yardage throws to go along to the big bombs downfield. But essentially he has what NFL teams have started to look for in first round draft picks.

Chris Low from ESPN's SEC Blog says he expects Mallett to declare. Chris Bahn reports that the former Michigan signal caller has sought opinion on his potential draft stock and may be leaning towards turning pro. I think it's basically a matter of time now until Mallet makes his decision. Would the Seahawks show any interest?

There's some interesting news out of Tulsa today - Russell Okung (OT, Oklahoma State) has injured his knee and will likely miss the Cotton Bowl. Okung hasn't suffered any serious injuries in his career to date and it's unknown just how bad this one is. If it's bad news, it could be a very unfortunate injury to suffer just one game prior to the end of his college days. I've previously suggested I think Okung is slightly over rated and worthy of only mid-late first round consideration. Knee injuries will make that more likely to happen rather than the top ten pick a lot of people suggest. However - we'll have to wait and see how bad this issue is and whether it will have any impact on his draft stock.

Finally, don't forget to check out two previous articles from the last 24 hours - news on the Seahawks potentially checking on Tennessee safety Eric Berry and some premature talk on what the team might do in the 2010 draft under a new GM.

*UPDATE* - Brian Price just announced he'll declare for the 2010 draft. No surprises there. I watched him in action last night and clearly he has some value as a pure three technique. I'd be surprised if Seattle invested a first round pick in him simply because he's too similar to Brandon Mebane without having the elite potential of a Suh or McCoy. He spent a lot of time yesterday leaving the field with injuries - that could be a concern - and he is inconsistent (unblockable sometimes, easily dealt with on other occasions). I think he's a mid first rounder.

Berry to declare? Seahawks watching

Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin admits he fully expects Eric Berry to declare for the 2010 NFL draft after Thursday's Chick-fil-A Bowl against Virginia Tech. It's not much of a surprise - popular opinion is that Berry will be a high pick next year (something I don't necessarily agree with).

"Eric's played man-to-man coverage, we've blitzed him, he's played back in the middle and he's played down. So to be able to do all those things and then also to play on our special teams as many snaps as he has, he's created a lot of draft value for himself. I would think he'd go extremely high -- whenever he leaves. I would anticipate him probably not being with us next year."

"I told him from my perspective he's done everything he can do. If he wants to go, this is the time to go. I would never want to hold someone back from that, because it would be real hard to live with yourself if you tried to convince someone to stay and then something happened to him injury-wise and they weren't able to get what they had worked so hard for." - Lane Kiffin

The Seahawks will send scouts to the Vols game tomorrow, according to Scout.com's Chris Steuber. He reported on his twitter page yesterday that Seattle, Dallas and Houston will have representatives at the game. It's not difficult to imagine who their focus of attention will be. I've voiced my concern for Berry's tackling qualities a number of times on this blog and I maintain that I'll be surprised if he goes as high as most people appear to think. On October 25th I wrote this article raising the issue, and in September I spoke about why I believe Berry and fellow safety Taylor Mays have been over rated in most quarters.

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Seahawks, the future and the draft

With a week left in the 2009 season, for the second successive year we're talking about the draft at the end of December and not the playoffs. However, this time round there seems to be a level of desperation about the situation. Injuries aren't being blamed as much, there's talk of major repair work. Tim Ruskell has departed and the franchise will soon appoint a new General Manager. The year 2010 could essentially be renamed 'year zero' as the Seahawks embark on a new chapter - moving on from former heroes and veterans and looking for the next Walter Jones, the next Matt Hasselbeck and the next Shaun Alexander.

The fact Seattle owns two first round picks will help lay the foundations for the future and that must be the target over the next 12 months - set things up for the long term. The greatest needs are the positions of greatest importance - long term quarterback, get better on both lines and find playmakers. So how do you go about things? It's difficult to make any kind of accurate projection until we know who the new GM is and what changes he initiates, but here's an early look.

Obviously free agency will have some say in what the Seahawks do on draft day. Former GM Ruskell would look to fill up needs with big money additions - whilst that could still be the case with his replacement - you have to believe Seattle will rely less on ageing, expensive veterans in the future. Assuming all the major needs remain after free agency, here's what the Seahawks could do.

Option 1 - Fill your needs

When the Seahawks selected Aaron Curry fourth overall last year, it was described as the 'best player available' pick. The assumption was Seattle were better than their 4-12 record and getting the best guy on the board would be a bonus to an already loaded roster. That obviously hasn't proved to be the case.

It could lead to a change in philosophy next April - draft the guy in the biggest need area. The two could coincide - there's a desperate need for a dominant pass rusher on the defensive line. The Seahawks will likely pick in the 5-7 range - potentially giving them a shot at a guy like Derrick Morgan (DE, Georgia Tech). That could make the decision of the new GM very easy.

Alternatively, they might have to reach a little. Guys like Joe Haden (CB, Florida), Dez Bryant (WR, Oklahoma State) and C.J. Spiller (RB, Clemson) might be higher on the board - but if the Seahawks are determined to find a long term answer to their offensive line - or just get bigger - they may opt to draft the best available lineman. Russell Okung (OT, Oklahoma State), Bruce Campbell (OT, Maryland), Bryan Bulaga (OT, Iowa), Anthony Davis (OT, Rutgers) and Charles Brown (OT, USC) may not warrant a pick in the 5-10 range - that can be debated. However, if the new GM decides like many fans that the offensive line must be addressed - he'll have a chance to draft for the line.

Option 2 - Go with talent

Alternatively, having two first round picks puts Seattle in a favorable position. Picking in the top ten comes with a hefty investment in a rookie. Do you just go with the most talented guy on your board first, then make moves later to fill needs? That would put the Seahawks in position to possibly draft a guy like Joe Haden - someone who plays a position that you can never have enough talent. They could still find a way to invest in either the offensive or defensive line in round one - albeit later on at a lesser cost when a reach could be more justifiable.

Option 3 - Focus on one area

Having so many needs, would it be wise to target one area and aim to improve it specifically? For example, spend that first round pick on a bigger left tackle like Anthony Davis or Russell Okung. After that, draft a big interior lineman like the increasingly highly rated Mike Iupati (OG, Idaho). It's a lot of investment in the offensive line, but you've also sorted the left side of your line for the next 10 years all being well. With Max Unger settling in nicely at center - and with Rob Sims, Ray Willis and Sean Locklear in the mix on the right hand side - you've potentially made a significant upgrade to your offensive line.

Having an early second round pick offers the chance to add to another position - possibly a running back like Jahvid Best (RB, California) or maybe a defensive lineman like Corey Wootton (DE, Northwestern) or Greg Hardy (DE, Ole Miss). These are just examples, but considering this isn't likely to be a quick fix - improving one area this year would lay foundations for the future.

Option 4 - New front office, new QB?

We've all seen so often when new coaches or GM's arrive - they look to stamp their identity on the team by selecting their own quarterback. Without doubt, the Seahawks need to start looking for options post-Matt Hasselbeck. He has one year left on his contract, will be 35 in 2010 and has endured back-to-back disappointing seasons - even if that's not been all his fault. The fact there's no 'stand out' candidate at QB to go first overall, the chances are Seattle might have their pick of the bunch.

It would certainly be a long term pick. Throwing a rookie into this offense would be suicidal - both for the QB and your investment in his success. Having said that, with no viable alternative to Hasselbeck on offer - they have to start looking at Sam Bradford's 2008 tape and preparing to attend his work outs. The alternatives aren't all that great - Jimmy Clausen is vastly over rated, whilst Tim Tebow and Colt McCoy will likely leave their best form in the college game. The X-factor could be a guy like Ryan Mallett leaving early - clearly a project but someone who has the tools and would be worth consideration with Seattle's second first round pick if he declares.

Option 5 - Copy the Dolphins

Make what you will of the current Miami Dolphins and Bill Parcells, but the job they have done in turning that franchise from 1-15 to respectable is quite outstanding. They knew they had a huge job on their hands - cut a lot of guys, traded others. Parcells brought in guys he knew and built an identity. They've drafted core positions early - LT, QB, DE, CB. They found an identity with the wild cat and used it to get the best of their playmakers like Ronnie Brown.

I'm not proposing Seattle does exactly the same thing when it comes to game plans and X's & O's, but they might be best served looking into some of the things Miami did. Jake Long was taken first overall - a great run blocker but average pass blocker. He's still become the unquestioned starter on the blind side. They added a highly rated defensive end in Phillip Merling and a quarterback for the future (who's started this year in Chad Pennington's absence). Core positions, laying foundations, finding an identity. It was hard work, but it came with instant results. This year hasn't been as easy going - but there's something to build on for the long term.

It does mean being very specific with the kind of guys you want to draft and sign though. The Seahawks would have to establish what kind of team they want to be to put themselves in position to be that selective.

Tuesday links

Jimmy Burch reports that Jevan Snead is still considering the possibility of entering the 2010 NFL Draft. The Ole Miss quarterback endured a disastrous 2009 season despite being touted as a potential first overall pick and possible Heisman winner. There's not one stand out candidate to be the first QB off the board next year, which could help Snead if he did declare. However - his play was so bad this season it's almost unthinkable that he'd turn pro rather than try and leave on better terms next year.

Gary Klein takes a look at the USC prospects that might declare. Everson Griffen has already stated he'll turn pro in 2010, whilst it's a near shoe-in that receiver Damian Williams will do the same. Joe McKnight presents an interesting discussion point - he ended the year controversially but would possibly be the third running back off the board in 2010. Will he return to SoCal for his senior year? He has a young family to consider.

Chris Foster contemplates the potential declaration of UCLA defensive lineman Brian Price. I'll be scouting the Bruins tackle when he takes on Temple in the Eagle Bank Bowl later today. He's the PAC 10 defensive player of the year having registered seven sacks in 2009. I think it's safe to say he'll be in the NFL next year. Where he goes is unclear at this stage - Mel Kiper ranks him 10th on his big board but others are less glowing in their reports - questioning his consistency.

Matt McGuire publishes a new mock draft. He has the Seahawks taking Sam Bradford (QB, Oklahoma) and Bryan Bulaga (OT, Iowa) in the first round. It wouldn't surprise me if the Seahawks take a very serious look at Bradford in off season work outs. I'll be very surprised if Jimmy Clausen goes before Bradford - let alone first overall like we see in McGuire's mock.

Monday, 28 December 2009

Rob Rang's latest mock draft

Rob Rang has updated his mock draft on CBS Sportsline. The Seahawks select Russell Okung (OT, Oklahoma State) with their first pick and Ryan Mathews (RB, Fresno State) with the second choice. Personally, I don't like the Mathews selection. Having watched him recently against Wyoming, there was nothing on view that suggested he'd be worthy of a first round grade. Mathews has one big year of production but lacks elite breakaway speed or size. He'll take what's on offer and shows nice cutback ability but not enough to suggest he can be a big playmaker. As a third or fourth round pick I think you'd be getting par value for Mathews. If he goes in round one I'll be surprised, but then who was talking about Donald Brown this time last year?

Friday, 25 December 2009

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to everyone from Seahawks Draft Blog.

Prospect archives

Jimmy Clausen (QB, Notre Dame)
9/30
11/30
11/16
1/4

Jevan Snead (QB, Ole Miss)
9/26
9/6
10/10
11/30
1/2
1/7

Ciron Black (OT, LSU)
9/24

Russell Okung (OT, Oklahoma State)
9/18
11/21
12/30
1/2

Eric Berry (S, Tennessee)
9/14
10/25
11/15
12/30

Taylor Mays (S, USC)
9/14
10/19

Joe McKnight (RB, USC)
9/13

Sam Bradford (QB, Oklahoma)
9/12
10/19
9/5

Tim Tebow (QB, Florida)
9/12
10/19
10/17
10/11
11/30
11/25

Colt McCoy (QB, Texas)
9/12
10/19
10/17
11/30

Derrick Morgan (DE, Georgia Tech)
9/11
11/18
11/10
6/12
1/6

C.J. Spiller (RB, Clemson)
9/11
10/6
11/17
6/12

Jonathan Dwyer (RB, Georgia Tech)
9/11
1/6

Bryan Bulaga (OT, Iowa)
10/31
11/7
1/7

Ed Wang (OT, Virginia Tech)
10/30


Charles Brown (OT, USC)
10/27
11/14

Jason Fox (OT, Miami)
10/24

Rodney Hudson (OG, Florida State)
10/23
11/9

Gerald McCoy (DT, Oklahoma)
10/17
11/7

Trent Williams (OT, Oklahoma)
10/17

Tony Pike (QB, Cincinnati)
10/16
10/2
11/30

Mardy Gilyard (WR, Cincinnati)
10/16

Jason Pierre-Paul (DE, USF)
10/16

Carlos Dunlap (DE, Florida)
10/14
10/11
12/1

Selvish Capers (OT, West Virginia)
10/12

Jarrett Brown (QB, West Virginia)
10/12

Joe Haden (CB, Florida)
10/11

Brandon Spikes (LB, Florida)
10/11

Ndamukong Suh (DT, Nebraska)
10/9
10/8
11/22
11/7

Ryan Mallett (QB, Arkansas)
11/30
11/19
12/30
1/2
1/3

Toby Gerhart (RB, Stanford)
11/29
11/5

Earl Thomas (S, Texas)
11/27

Brian Price (DT, UCLA)
11/25
11/24

Anthony Davis (OT, Rutgers)
11/13
12/19

Jahvid Best (RB, California)
11/8
1/2

Dan Williams (DT, Tennessee)
12/31

Mike Iupati (OG, Idaho)
12/30
12/30
12/24

Freddie Barnes (WR, Bowling Green)
12/30

Bruce Campbell (OT, Maryland)
12/23

Charles Scott (RB, LSU)
12/5

Dez Bryant (WR, Oklahoma State)
9/5

Dan LeFevour (QB, Central Michigan)
1/7

Kyle Calloway (OT, Iowa)
1/6


Kip Earlywine's Pick of the day archives (POTD):

Toby Gerhart
Mardy Gilyard
Mike Iupati
Charles Brown
Earl Thomas
Brian Price
Bryan Bulaga
Jason Pierre-Paul
C.J. Spiller
Bruce Campbell
Eric Berry
Anthony Davis
Derrick Morgan
Corey Wootton
Gerald McCoy
Ndamukong Suh
Joe Haden
Dez Bryant
Everson Griffen
Dan Williams
Damian Williams

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Mike Iupati, OG, Idaho

I've finally had some time to sit down and get some scouting done, and decided to use what little footage I had to look at Mike Iupati, the monstrous (6'6 330lbs) offensive guard from the University of Idaho. I had the chance to watch two games of Iupati, against Colorado State and San Diego State.

It should be noted that this is the first time I have seriously scouted a player from a non-BCS school. More importantly, this is the first time I've scouted a player who is playing against comparatively weaker competition. Hopefully, my estimates as to the talent difference are accurate.

Athletically, Iupati is a specimen. I actually question if he is really 330lbs, because he has a very svelte frame and quite honestly looks like his lower body could get even bigger without losing quickness. Of course, his lower body strength (and upper body) are already well above average. He's a powerful drive blocker and has the anchor in pass protection to stop defensive tackles in their tracks. He also moves exceptionally well for a guard, a natural runner with good explosion.

As a run blocker, Iupati is exceptional. The biggest problem he has is that he moves so well, Idaho feels compelled to move him around on a lot of their running plays (lots of "power" runs to the right side, where Iupati pulls). While he does this quite well, Iupati is best when he is allowed to block straight ahead, either moving a defensive tackle backwards or getting a linebacker on the second level. In Seattle's zone blocking scheme, Iupati is as good as anyone I've scouted at adjusting to linebackers on the second level. His combination of size, athleticism, and ability to adjust lead me to believe he will be a great run blocker in the NFL. He hustles to block for WRs on screens and plays through the whistle on many runs.

Pass protection is not quite as glowing. In general, Iupati did quite well. He had a really poor quarter against Colorado State where he struggled to keep his man away from the quarterback. The root of the problem seemed to come when Iupati stopped moving his feet after making contact, which is something that can be coached. I was impressed by his ability to get into his stance quickly off the snap, not once did his man beat him off the snap. Iupati generally plays with good leverage, which is important since he is quite tall for a guard. He also has good footwork and can slide with a stunting tackle easily.

This ability to move his feet has lead to many NFL scouts suspecting that Iupati could play tackle in the NFL. I'm not quite sold on the idea, myself, as I could see some of the freak athletes beating Iupati. He does seem a little awkward in space, from what little I've seen, and personally his value as a guard seems so great I'd probably just keep him there.

All in all, Iupati is a prospect I am very excited about. His size and athleticism, combined with a fairly nasty demeanor and a great ability to adjust to linebackers, makes him a top prospect. If Iupati is available with Seattle's second pick, I'd run to the podium to make the selection. If Seattle can find a partner desiring a top ten pick, I'd consider trading down as well to take Iupati with Seattle's first pick.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

The Draft Lab analyses Bruce Campbell

One series I've regularly referred to this year is ESPN's 'Draft Lab' with K.C. Joyner. This week, Bruce Campbell (OT, Maryland) was under the microscope. Joyner had previously diagnosed Anthony Davis and Trent Williams to be 'over rated', so what would he say about Campbell? You'll have to be an ESPN Insider to read the article in full, but here's the assessment:

"If I were to grade the three left tackles reviewed thus far in the Draft Lab series, I would rate Campbell No. 1, Davis No. 2 and Williams No. 3. I plan to focus on Oklahoma State Cowboys OT Russell Okung in an upcoming edition as well. Campbell is just as -- if not more -- adept at guarding the blindside as the other two and there is every reason to think he could develop into a dominant NFL run blocker. That doesn't seem to be the consensus perception of his skills and that disparity means that he receives a TFS seal of approval."

It's interesting, because Scout.com's Chris Steuber voiced a different opinion on his twitter account: "I think Maryland OT Bruce Campbell needed another year to develop. He has upside, but is raw. He will be a 2nd round pick, not a 1st round pick." It's important to take into account Campbell's injury problems - he's suffered turf toe and MCL issues this year. In a down year for offensive lineman at the top of round one, will team's take prospects earlier than value suggests? After all, the left tackle position has taken on a status in the NFL only beaten by quarterbacks.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Seahawks would be picking seventh

If the 2009 season ended today, the Seahawks would own the seventh overall pick. Four teams share a 5-9 record, but Seattle's strength of schedule is significantly weaker than the others around them. In fact, only five teams have an easier schedule, with Green Bay (who would be picking 23rd overall) the nearest on the board. That kind of sums up the Seahawks season I guess.

Meanwhile as expected, Anthony Davis announced he'll enter the 2010 draft today. The news broke shortly after Rutgers defeated UCF at the weekend, but the decision is now official. He could be the first offensive tackle taken in the draft, in what is generally considered a down year for the position.

Elsewhere, Ndamukong Suh was voted the AP player of the year today - the first defensive player to receive the acknowledgment. He'd already won four awards - Nagurski, Bednarik, Lombardi and Outland - and remains a firm favorite to go first overall in 2010. The fact he also finished fourth in the Heisman voting goes to show how good this year has been for the Nebraska defensive lineman.

Mel Kiper published has final big board of 2009. Suh and fellow defensive tackle Gerald McCoy fill out the top two, although I'm sceptical about the next two prospects on the list - Eric Berry and Jimmy Clausen. I'm yet to be convinced Berry justifies the hype he's received, his tackling is a major concern. Clausen just doesn't look like a first round pick.

Monday, 21 December 2009

Monday notes

I had a chance to watch Fresno State vs Wyoming this weekend and the main focus of my attention was running back Ryan Mathews. Reports today suggest he'll declare for the 2010 draft. He was productive on Saturday, notching 144 yards from 31 carries - scoring two touchdowns but fumbling once too. His career totals stretched to 3280 rushing yards and 39 scores in the process.

He showed nice hip swerve and an ability to make good cuts to create a lane. But the big concern is his lack of breakaway speed. He's shifty at best, but he isn't going to torch a defense. That would be ok, but he's also not the biggest or most physical guy either. He has durability issues and left the game at one point nursing an injury, but returned later on. It's only one example, but overall I just felt slightly underwhelmed. He may have some value in the fourth or fifth round and his production could warrant consideration slightly earlier - but when a guy isn't the most physical and doesn't have elite speed and playmaking ability, you can only rank him so highly.

Meanwhile, a Seahawks running back has been bigging up the draft prospects of Jahvid Best (RB, California). Justin Forsett is a former Golden Bear and had some nice things to say about Best this week: "He has that 'Wow!' factor with his speed. Somebody's going to get a real good gift come draft time if he decides to come out."

One prospect that has divided opinion recently is Anthony Davis (OT, Rutgers). He is expected to announce his decision to declare at a press conference tomorrow. I opened up the debate yesterday and Michael had mixed feelings in the comments section, praising Davis' skills in pass protection and good footwork, but voicing concern about his willingness to block downfield.

Ivotuk was more critical, "He looked absolutely lost when going to the second level. He wouldn't touch anyone on the first level and guys would run right by him. It's like he zeros in on one thing and does only that one thing."

Kevin Wiedl at ESPN was more complimentary: "Davis has rocketed up draft boards this season and he showed against the Knights exactly why he's being talked about at a high first-round pick. He had a strong game against Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year Bruce Miller, displaying his entire skill set - natural feet, strength, balance, power and ability to recover. We'd like to see Davis play a little lower as a run blocker, but otherwise he has all the tools to succeed as a left tackle in the NFL. He has rare athleticism for a player his size, plays well in space, shows power in the running game and his hands are extremely strong. He looks like a lock to be a top-15 pick at this point and could surpass Oklahoma State's Russell Okung as the top offensive tackle on the board."

For more on Davis, check out this article I wrote last week.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Anthony Davis set to declare

The big news following Rutgers 45-24 victory over UCF yesterday was the announcement by Anthony Davis that he'll hold a news conference on Tuesday. Reports suggest the 6'6", 325lbs left tackle will reveal his intentions to enter the 2010 draft. This follows quickly after another underclassmen, Bruce Campbell (OT, Maryland) also said he'll be heading for the NFL. In a down year for senior lineman, it's a boost to the position overall. Both Davis and Campbell could be the first two off the board at their position. Elsewhere, senior Jason Fox (OT, Miami) will miss the Champs Sports Bowl against Wisconsin to have surgery.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Bruce Campbell will declare

This could set a trend - Bruce Campbell (OT, Maryland) says he'll declare for the 2010 draft. A junior left tackle, Campbell has struggled with injuries during his college career. His task now is to prove to scouts and GM's that those struggles are behind him. This could have an influence on the decision of some other underclassmen on the offensive line - namely Anthony Davis (Rutgers) and Bryan Bulaga (Iowa). For more on Davis, check out today's earlier article.

Re-addressing Anthony Davis

Back in mid-November I had a chance to scout Rutgers left tackle Anthony Davis. Tim Ruskell was still Seahawks GM at the time and my initial assessment was that he was unlikely to end up in Seattle. Aside from being an ill-fit for the zone blocking scheme, he was also an underclassman with some commitment issues (arriving at camp well over weight and being forced to work with the second team as a result).

However, a lot has changed since then. Ruskell is no longer part of the franchise and some of his philosophies have likely followed. We still don't know who the next GM will be, but there's always a chance the new guy will be more willing to invest a high pick in a junior who isn't necessarily the model student. It can't have gone unnoticed that head coach Jim Mora has openly criticised the attitude and toughness of his offensive line. Others have questioned scheme and size. If the Seahawks wanted a bigger guy on the line, at 6'6" and 325lbs - Davis could be more of an option now.

The weight issues are well publicised these days. As mentioned above, he's had some trouble maintaining a target weight. When I watched him earlier in the year, he had good definition and certainly looked the part of a NFL lineman. It could be a case of a good coaching staff taking him under their wing, making sure he works hard and maxing out the benefits whilst restricting the potential to let go.

In my original assessment, it was hard not to be impressed with his one-on-one combat. He was virtually unbeatable against USF, against two of the better opponents he'll face in college football (George Selvie and Jason Pierre-Paul). His pass protection was certainly above average, when he locked on to a guy he was consistently able to drive them out of the play and keep the quarterback on his feet. However, he showed little determination to block off or progress to the next level and played with very little ferociousness.

It reminded me a little of Eugene Monroe at times. Very good in pass protection when he's asked to block one guy, but not really interested in getting to the second level to hammer a linebacker. Like Monroe, Davis is probably better suited playing on a bigger line in a man scheme. The Seahawks would have to be prepared to adjust their zone blocking scheme to incorporate a lineman like Davis and get the best of his abilities. It's not impossible - Ryan Clady wasn't an obvious choice for the ZBS, but has enjoyed his first two years in the NFL playing in Denver's scheme.

One series I've enjoyed reading this season has been KC Joyner's 'Draft Lab' on ESPN Insider. Using a system to dissect plays whilst scouting, Joyner determines if a prospect justifies the hype or is over rated. This week his subject was the Scarlet Knight's lineman, so here's some select quotes:

"In the Cincinnati game, Davis didn't look NFL-ready; in fact, he looked like he should be benched. He gave up four splash plays (defined as when a defender does something to negatively impact a passing play) and was defeated on two of the five blocks he made at the point of attack (POA) of a run.

Now contrast that to his performance against South Florida defensive end George Selvie. Davis completely dominated him. He did not allow a single splash play in the 15 one-on-one pass rush situations between these two. Selvie tried eight different pass rush moves or move combinations and Davis was able to neutralize every one of them. This performance was more indicative of Davis' overall play in the other four contests where he gave up only four splash plays.

This inconsistency also showed up in Davis' run blocking metrics. The plus side is that Scarlet Knight runners gained 5.5 yards per carry when Davis was among those blocking at the point of attack. The minus side is that if penalties and blocking mistakes are included into the total, Davis had nine POA losses in only 55 blocks. That equates to an 83.6% POA win percentage, a total that would have ranked 17th among NFL left tackles last year. If Davis can only manage that mark in college, it stands to reason the percentage could drop at the professional level.

The scouting eye indicated a significant issue with Davis' ability to block downfield. Rutgers play calls often had Davis releasing to engage a linebacker at the second level and he was very quick to get to where he needed to be. Once he got there, however, Davis had a bad habit of not moving his feet. He would run to get in front of the linebacker and then plant himself and the linebackers would often get around him quite easily because of this.

That weakness can be coached out of him, but it's really a microcosm of Davis' entire game. He has the ability to be a truly great player but he's inconsistent in some ways and raw in others. Pair him up with the right offensive line coach and he could be the next Ryan Clady. Pair him up with the wrong coach and he could be a complete bust.

The Football Scientist lab result: This is one of the hardest Draft Lab calls of the year but seeing as how he'll likely be a top 15 pick despite being a coaching project, the pendulum has to swing towards overhyped." - KC Joyner, ESPN Insider

In my next mock draft, I'm going to include Davis as a top ten pick. Our resident scout Kyle Rota has already given him such a projection. At this stage, despite the inconsistencies, I think Davis has greater potential than the over rated Russell Okung. The X-Factor could be Charles Brown - a lineman who has impressed me more than any other in 2009, but simply cannot progress into the NFL weighing at 290lbs. If he can add 15-20lbs before the combine and maintain his athletic qualities in work outs, he could be this years Jason Smith.

Friday, 18 December 2009

Gerald McCoy will declare

Not surprising news, but nonetheless Oklahoma defensive tackle Gerald McCoy will declare for the 2010 draft. Second only to Ndamukong Suh in most people's rankings, McCoy has elite potential as a 4-3 three technique and has been compared to Chicago's Tommy Harris. It's still early days, but he looks like an absolute certainty for the top five and an outside candidate to go first overall.

McShay & Kiper talk Bradford & Clausen

Thursday, 17 December 2009

If not Holmgren, Who?


By Kyle Rota...
"If not Holmgren, who?" is a pretty common question in Seahawks Nation. While it's extremely difficult to know who is a riser and who is not, I've asked around and done a bit of research. By no means is this list comprehensive, but the names are highly recommended and have good track records. NOTE: The order is not ranked by preference, just by the order I remembered the names.


Steve Keim, Director of Player Personnel, Arizona Cardinals:
He played offensive line for NC State but never really made much impact professionally. He's a younger guy, mid-late thirties (graduated college in 1995). Gets a lot of credit for the big draft picks Arizona has made, has a really good reputation. The Cardinals are doing quite a bit with very little ownership support, so it might be worthwhile to see what he could do with the resources Seattle could offer. Articles I've read have painted him as good with people, which is of key importance IMO. He's never been "the man", working under Rod Graves, but most of the guys on my list are "fresh faces", just the way the recommendations turned out. Talks about not reaching for need as being a major philosophy, FWIW. The downside is that he bears a striking resemblance to Bill Bavasi.

Steve Malin, Scout, New York Giants:
Feel like taking a risk? Then Malin is your guy. The former scout I know says that Malin is "the best scout I know of". Another young guy (not sure on exact age, but saw a picture and he looks pretty young), he has a bit of a coaching background (very minor, SMU was the biggest name where he was an assistant coach). In truth, probably not the pick I choose just because there isn't much known about his ability to run a franchise. Supposedly extremely thorough and a hard worker, and if he is as competent at running a franchise as he is at scouting he could be a great pick. Sounds like a guy in need of a promotion, at least.

Lionel Vital, Assistant Director of Player Personnel, Atlanta Falcons:
So if you feel like finding a guy who has learned from the most successful franchises out there, Vital may be your man. This might be my favorite choice. He's a little risky as he hasn't had the experience of, say, Keim or some names further down the list. He's worked under Bill Belichick, Ozzie Newsome, Bill Parcels, Scott Pioli, and now Thomas Dmintroff. Vital has a lot of experience, played RB for a few years (never very good), heck he even played professional baseball. He's certainly had the opportunity to learn from the best, though some Seattle fans may hesitate to grab the "Next Big Thing" out of Atlanta. Haven't been able to find much in the way of articles, but he came very highly recommended. Has experience looking at players from a 4-3 and a 3-4 perspective, which I personally like as it means the team wouldn't be "locked" into one defensive mindset just because the GM has grown up with it (Ruskell and Tampa 2).

Eric DeCosta, Director of Player Personnel, Baltimore Ravens:
This is the "superstar" pick. DeCosta gets his name thrown out a lot, as far as these things are concerned. I'm not sure how keen Baltimore would be to let him get away, but you almost have to try to book an interview with him. He views OL, S, and RB as "easy" to scout in an interview he did, which is something we could use the help me. He's been with Baltimore since the Ravens/Browns moved there. Another younger guy, he's 38 or so if my math is decent. Baltimore doesn't always get their picks right, but they sure manage to get enough of them to remain relevant in most years.

Kevin Colbert, Director of Football Operations, Pittsburgh Steelers:
He's been running things for Pittsburgh for a while, so he has the experience. I wouldn't have put him on here except that, according to my source, he might be willing to relocate for a "President" role like Seattle gave Ruskell, even if it was largely just a glorified GM job. Pittsburgh speaks for itself and Colbert has been de-facto leader for years there, so he's more of a known quantity. (Mike Gorscak is another name from Pittsburgh, he's a scout there so very high risk, but my source seemed to have a high opinion of him)

Dave Razzano, Unemployed:
Formerly worked as a scout with the Arizona Cardinals. Has been in the NFL for 21 years before being fired this year by AZ. No idea why he was fired, bears looking into but good luck finding it online. Has the experience, pedigree (his father was a major pioneer in scouting), and the recommendation from my source. Not sure I'd be all over this move, but my source seemed to think he was a possibility when teams go looking for GMs, so I figured I'd include him.