Sunday, 11 April 2010

Revising Eric Berry and the Seahawks

By Rob Staton
When I publish my updated mock draft on Tuesday (likely to be the penultimate update before April 22nd) there's a good chance I'll have Eric Berry being selected sixth overall. I've resisted making that prediction in the past. Those that have visited this blog regularly and during the 2009 college season will now I've maintained reservations about the Tennessee defensive back as a top ten pick. When you're drafting a safety that early, I want the complete package. Berry's coverage skills are good, but his tackling is of some concern to me.

A lot of teams would use Berry as a roaming free safety, but the Seahawks would likely use Berry as an unorthodox strong safety alongside Jordan Babineaux at FS. Berry, as he did in Tennessee, would line up a lot at the line of scrimmage. He has the speed and instinct to drop deep into coverage if needs be, allowing Seattle to play eight in the box. However - he lacks true size and a lot will be asked of his run defense. The prospect of a Babineaux/Berry safety tandem sounds good in coverage but not good against the run. I wrote this article about Berry in October when the Vols took on BCS Champs Alabama. My concerns grew when I watched Tennessee against an error-prone Ole Miss offense:

"Having just watched the tape from yesterday's Tennessee defeat to Ole Miss, I'm positively determined that he's going to be a huge liability against the run in the NFL. It's one thing seeing him getting positively blown away why Ben Tate (RB, Auburn) and Tim Tebow (QB, Florida), but having watched Dexter McCluster dance around to the tune of 282 yards is quite another. If he's going to struggle against bigger guys, so be it. You can work on that. But McCluster is 5'8" and 165lbs. He's quick, but then isn't Berry supposed to be quick too?

"For large parts of the game, Berry was anonymous. The Rebels ran the ball with great success and it restricted the need to test the error prone Jevan Snead too much. I was half expecting Berry to have a big game today, just because Snead is usually good for 2-3 big interceptions.

"When questions were asked of Berry, he whiffed. Here's the big problem - he just doesn't wrap up his tackles. He always (and I mean ALWAYS) goes low to make a tackle. This was no more evident than a third quarter play when McCluster took an option to the right. Berry meets the running back in space and dives at his legs. He completely misses the tackle, rolling onto the floor. It allows McCluster to turn a two-yard loss into a ten yard gain and on the very next play, it's a simple touchdown.

"It wasn't the only example of poor tackling by Berry on the afternoon. People rate him so highly because of his playmaking ability. Type 'Eric Berry' into YouTube and you'll find out why people compare him to Ed Reed. Coming into 2009, he had 12 interceptions (three returned for six). But I have to question whether those big plays from the past are clouding judgement today. In three games this year, I've had to watch carefully just to pick up Berry on the field. He has just two interceptions, despite lining up all over the field at cornerback and safety.

"If you take away that ability to make big plays, you're left with a pretty average football player. I dread the thought of seeing him against big tight ends in coverage, or the prospect of watching him trying to tackle a NFL running back. This year - without the big TD returns or interceptions - it's hard to work out what all the fuss is about."
- 15th November, 2009

I also have some issue that the Seahawks would have an incredible amount of stock and salary invested in a linebacker and a safety - with huge question marks remaining all over the offense and the defensive line. I just don't know if you'll ever see the benefit of drafting a talented safety if he's getting washed out by a bad pass rush. Some will disagree, but I do believe Ed Reed has enjoyed the success he has because he's had the luxury of playing behind a consistently good pass rush. Can a safety be an impact player when a quartberack is afforded so much time to throw the ball?

I'm not the only one who has voiced some concern. Resident scout Kyle Rota believes Berry should be drafted as a developmental cornerback. Kyle tentatively compared Berry to a faster Charles Woodson. Mike Mayock ranks Texas safety Earl Thomas higher than Berry. However, if you believe recent rumors the Seahawks are high on Berry and will consider drafting him at #6 alongside Trent Williams.

I've maintained for a while that Washington wouldn't take Russell Okung and would look at other tackles. I see Anthony Davis and Williams as alternative options for Mike Shanahan. If Williams is off the board before Seattle pick, it makes the Seahawks choice perhaps a little easier at #6.

I also want to qualify, from what limited experiences I've had - Berry appears to be an engaging and intelligent individual. He won the Jim Thorpe award, somewhat predictably (might as well have given him it before the season started, but 2009 was his least productive year). He's a Tim Ruskell pick in every manner except he isn't a senior. Ultimately, I think fair value for Berry would come in the 14-20 range. However, it appears somewhat unlikely that he'd make it that far. As we discussed with the possibility of C.J. Spiller (we now understand he isn't an option for Seattle) - if the front office just want Berry badly, why would you risk him being there later? The answer is - you don't.

At the end of the day, my personal opinion is redundant when it comes to making a mock draft. The Seahawks cut Deon Grant and haven't replaced him. Seattle have to find a safety in the draft. They haven't cut Patrick Kerney or Deion Branch. Maybe that's telling? Maybe it isn't? However much I disagree with taking Berry at #6, I have to appreciate that it could happen.


1stHill said...

I don't quite understand why Monte Kiffen moved Eric Berry, who was a ball hawking FS, and had him playing closer to the line of scrimmage this year. IMO Kiffen was overthinking when he decieded to play Berry as a SS/ nickle CB. I don't agree with the thought of moving him to CB, from what I saw of him this year he does not have the man-to-man skills of a top CB to mirror WR's. Maybe, Berry could be a great Cover-2 CB, but Cover-2 CB's are not worth a top-10 selection IMO. If we do take Berry I want him as the FS, where he has proven in the past that he will get a lot of passes broken up and get a handfull on interceptions

Jon said...

If they want a guy who hits hard but is liability in most other areas, Ken Hamlin is available for a fraction of the price.

Anonymous said...

Your wrong on Berry, He is a quality tackler and a very solid top 10 pick if the Seahawks pass on Berry at #6 it will be seen as a mistake for years to come.... Mark my words..

JohnnyB said...

The scouts and coaches have coaches tape on Berry. You don't. The funny thing about safeties is that we don't see a random sampling of their play on TV. We see mostly their failures. If they are doing their job in the pass game, the ball never goes their way, so neither does the camera. Supposedly everyone was avoiding going toward Berry in 09. So he won those battles for his team based only upon his reputation.

The other thing people forget about safety play is that in the open field, a defensive player is at a huge disadvantage trying to tackle a ball carrier. You are criticizing Berry's dive tackling like Moron Morgan used to criticize Brian Russell for his whiffs. He doesn't know football. Both players are making last ditch efforts at long shot opportunities so of course they will often look silly. There is no such thing as a football player who can reliably make tackles in the open field against talented ball carriers. The only way it happens is if the field is made smaller, if the ball carrier is having to avoid other players.

Tim Malone said...

Safety is an injury prone position, let alone for a smaller guy. But I remember the Bears playing Mike Brown at the line after all of his injuries, he wasn't effective, but is the strategy that he would get less big collisions?

If they take an undersized playmaker i'd prefer it be one on offense, like Spiller. I feel like the top of the draft outside of Suh and McCoy is fairly weak, but there is so much depth that it makes up for the drop off after those two. 6 just isn't a very attractive spot in this draft, I'd rather get Thomas at 14 than Berry at 6, but it's all a crapshoot anyway.

Mike said...

For the longest time I didn't want to spend the money and pick on a safety, but I think I'm coming around. If Berry lives up to his potential, he will have as much impact on the defense as a top of the draft QB has on the offense. With that in mind, it doesn't bother me as much. But he has to live up to it since we will be paying him as if he is one of the best safeties in the game. Luckly safeties tend to have a faster learning curve than QBs.

Tanner said...

Rob, it's ok. If Berry is a rare talent, they should have no reservations taking him. It's not like he's only gonna play one year man. If we draft him now, we'll have him for at least 5 years, and the front office will surely try to bolster our pass rush either later in this draft or even next year. No one ever said this was gonna be a one year rebuilding phase. You have to pick for value at the top of the draft..

Kyle Rota said...

1sthill - Don't take this as a shot at you (who I respect from our time on Scout), but I have absolutely no idea where this "Berry shouldn't be near the LOS" talk comes from, I've heard others mention it and I just can't agree. I've talked to two others who have fully scouted Berry (I myself have as well, no report yet as I want to compare him to Haden first), both of whom are professionals, and we all noticed that Berry made the majority of his "good" plays after lining up close to the LOS. I believe they also project Berry as a CB (I know one does for sure), but I'm not confident about that. I even went back to 2008's tape and Berry still looked better when close to the LOS.

Berry played FS, SS, and Nickel Corner (with a couple plays at other positions as well, but mainly those three) at Tennessee. Berry never really struggled with his coverage in any game I watched - I feel confident he could cover at FS. But his angles (including against WRs with the ball) were awful, which makes him look like a dive tackler. He also tends to play very tentatively when he is the last line of defense - which makes sense in that he is trying to limit big plays, but a tentative player is not something you should spend 40 million on.

As a corner, Berry brings a lot to the table. Despite his ridiculously high-cut frame, he's a very fluid player with a great closing burst (when he plays aggressively). He has great ball skills, something that cannot really be taught. He is strong for a corner and should excel at press coverage. He is excellent at taking on and shedding blockers. He can be an aggressive tackler who explodes into the receiver or ball carrier... when he can play aggressively. When he has to be that last line of defense, he becomes a timid, mediocre tackler who takes poor angles - a starter in this league due to coverage, but not a superstar.

As for the scheme, I have reason to expect Seattle to do a lot of what Carroll did at USC. The system does quite a bit of man as well as zone coverage. I have no idea how Berry compares to corners like Haden and Robinson (which is why I haven't given him a grade at CB, I was expecting to scout just safeties), but I think our corners are going to be playing both man and zone coverage, and a corner who deserves to go top-10 in a different system would probably still deserve to go there in this defense. This is just speculation based on some stuff I've heard.

Austin said...

I think Berry's flaws are coachable and he has a chance to be one of the best safeties in the league. For a team with a horrible secondary this can only help. I still think he might be the best player in this draft and would be happy to see Seattle draft him with the #6 pick. Either way great article this is easily the best draft site on the net. Looking forward to your next mock!

Rob Staton said...

Annonymous - I can only go off what I see on tape. In your opinion I am wrong, but simply saying so doesn't make either of us right.

Rob Staton said...

Tanner - I don't think Berry is a rare talent.

Rob Staton said...

Johnny B - last year I refrained from passing too much comment on Taylor Mays because you never saw the guy he was so far behind the LOS. I don't make negative or positive comments lightly. I know I don't own coaches tape, but I have watched literally hours of Berry and feel I've seen enough to pass the comments I have. That doesn't mean people have to agree, but I like to think the opinions expressed on here are at least based off an element of study.

Faubulous said...

why haven't more people suggested Derrick Morgan with our #6 pick? He has great positional value, he immediately steps in at the Elephant, and he has no real red flags. I commented on a previous mock from you that Berry should be our #6 pick but I have to say you swayed my opinion back then.
Safeties should not be taken that high. Blindside Tackles should be, we need one, there are multiple good options that should be there by #14. Pass Rushera should be, we need one, but Morgan appears to me to be in a league of his own this year. JPP doesn't come close and neither does Graham. Morgan more likely that not won't be there at #14 with Jacksonville in between.
We need a safety but wouldn't our #60 used for C. Jones, N. Allen, M. Burnett, or another 3 or 4 that are good value and probably available make a lot more sense?
We can't start Curry across from Jackson can we? Is Henderson or McCoy really intended to get a lot of playing time? If I'm the Niners or Cardinals I'm praying the Seahawks use #6 for a Safety. I'm dreading Derrick Morgan in Seahawk Blue.
What do you think?

Kyle Rota said...

Fabulous - I scouted Morgan for 5 or 6 games and I think he's a stud. I have a couple friends who have both done so as well, and they agree. One is a Lions fan who wants Detroit to take him at #2!

I actually believe Jacksonville would pass on Morgan, though. They have 2 former 1st-day picks (both young) at DE, and they just signed a good LDE in Aaron Kampman. I think Morgan is probably a left end for a 4-3 team, and Jacksonville has plenty of those. I'm more worried about a 3-4 team thinking he could play OLB for them (something I think is possible). I do think he could make it to 14, but he might be too highly rated for a team to pass up.

Otherwise, I pretty much agree with what you said.

Anonymous said...

"As we discussed with the possibility of C.J. Spiller (we now understand he isn't an option for Seattle)"

Could you explain this? I agree but I dont understand how he isnt an option.


Faubulous said...

If Morgan is the pick, how would he fit in and what do you think our front four would look like?

Rob Staton said...

Andy - Amongst well sourced speculation that Seattle were considering Berry/Williams at #6 was also a suggestion that Spiller and Mike Iupati were not options with either #6 or #14. On paper it makes sense considering scheme and physicality.

Fabulous - I am also a big fan of Morgan. Personally, I'd take him above Berry and Williams. He has to be an option at #14 if not at #6. I imagine in the unlikely scenario that Williams and Berry were both off the board - Morgan would be a good shout.

Overdraft said...

All 6 "Top Left Tackles" are shifting and swaying so much, I wouldn't be surprised if Okung is available at #14.

Rob Staton said...

Overdraft - neither would I. Your name is quite apt actually for this subject and I'm going to talk about it more this week. None of the offensive lineman, for me, are worth top five picks. The position will probably dictate that three (at least) will go in the top ten. People talk about Okung like a dominant force - he isn't. I wouldn't be surprised at all if he dropped.

0verDraft said...

The way things are shaping up, it's looking like the first 5 picks will be Bradford, Suh, McCoy, Tackle, Tackle. I have to believe the FO realizes what a steal Morgan is here. Berry is a great pick after the first 10 picks. Any chances Berry slides this year? Though I would still go LT at #14. With all the shifting, the Seahawks would do good to investigate Anthony Davis.

0verDraft said...

Any chance of revisiting last year's draft a year later? Is the potential still there for first round picks? Any homeruns? Any absolute miscues? Still too early obviously but it appears some teams clearly recieved immediate upgrades and downgrades.

Rob Staton said...

Personally, I think KC will go defense. I know a lot of people have them taking a tackle, but I don't think it will happen. They've invested a lot in their interior line already this off season to kick Albert back inside. He's a second year guy who was starting his NFL career learning to play tackle. I know the stats weren't good on paper, but he needs time. I'm not sure any of the tackles in this year's draft are any more likely to fair better in that offense.

I look at Rolando McClain and still see a perfect fit for everything KC want to do on defense. He screams, to me at least, as the pick. They could move down a couple of spots and take him with change. They could take him at #5. Alternatives? Berry and Dan Williams. Maybe even Morgan but would be surprised.

I've portrayed mocks where Berry has dropped out of the top ten. I think that should happen, but would Cleveland take him at #7? I'm not convinced but could see it. If they don't take him, what about Denver, Miami and SF? I can't see him making it to #14, but he could drop out of the top ten if Seattle does pass.

Davis is an option for Seattle I think. If he falls out of the top ten - and I still think he could go at #4 to Washington, #8 to Oakland or #9 to Buffalo - then he is a very strong possibility for the Seahawks if they keep the #14 pick.

Rob Staton said...

Overdraft - absolutely, nice suggestion. I'll have something on the blog about 2009 this week so stay tuned.

Tim Malone said...

I could see Okung dropping, but not out of the top 10, haven't read that anywhere (Except here! Love the site, not trying to be a douche).

Okung may not be dominate, but you can throw him in at LT on Day 1. Some think Williams and Bulgua will be better fits on the right side, Davis has maturity issues and Campbell is a workout warrior and nothing else. I think Okung and Brown have a chance to be the 2 best LT's in this draft.

Vince Mulcahy said...

Rob - Davis won't even be considered for Seattle. He offers almost no scheme fit and is the least athletic tackle of the top two tiers this year. This should be apparent that the Hawks are not looking for football players but scheme fit players otherwise Rob Simms would still be on the team.

Rob Staton said...

Vince - I appreciate that and whilst I've argued in the past that Davis would better suit the man scheme, I think ZBS teams will show interest in him including the Seahawks. He's at least familiar with a variation of the system, he is athletic for a guy his size with major upside. I've made the comparison before to Ryan Clady - who similarly worked in the ZBS up until this upcoming season in Denver. Davis has some developing to do, not unlike Trent Williams. But there's major upside.

0verDraft said...

I look at Anthony Davis as the best pass blocker in this draft at left tackle. Did he look slow and sluggish at the combine - well yeah. To me he is the opposite of Bruce Campbell. Great technique but poor work out habits. If you watch Campbell when he plays he looks out of place and awkward. Watch Davis in a game, he's a natural blindside protector with great technique. You can even watch YouTube footage of Davis and Campbell - watch their kick slides.
Anthony Davis is young and probably a bit immature. Alex Gibbs is salivating at this kid.
5 years from now Anthony Davis may be the only All Pro tackle from this class.

Vince Mulcahy said...

Rob - You can't look at athletic for his size, but in relation to OT's and more importantly DE's. ZBS under Gibbs will be especially harsh and cut blocking does not matter if you are 290 lbs or 350 lbs: if your body does not allow you to successfully do it, you aren't a fit. Otherwise why would Iupati not be even considered draftable at 14 by the Hawks (per the rumor)? Also Davis has shown nothing on film that would suggest his upside will come together, further suggested by his offseason habits.

OverDraft - I have watched four games on Davis and he has been the most unspectacular of the bunch (based on technique + upside, but I don't view Campbell as top tier). His technique is far from great. He is forced to use his momentum to get his weight going instead of "natural" athleticism. Watch his outside foot; you will be able to tell the play call every time based on the depth at which he places that foot. To me such a dead giveaway that he lacks the ability to move well. Also watch for outside rushers to pull inside stunts, he will be beaten (footwork wise) every time doesn't matter who the opponent is. His change of direction is absolutely terrible and he cannot get his inertia under control to mirror a defender.

Also compare Davis to the other elite tackles: Okung, Williams, Bulaga and Brown not to later round talent level. And just because he might be taken in the first round doesn’t mean he has the talent (see JPP).

micah said...

Why wouldn't Berry be FS and have Babs or someone else as SS? All the LOS safeties like Polamalu and Adrian Wilson are more imposing forces. If he's a ballhawk, then why not let him loose as FS and have him read the play? If we want someone who can play in the box, then we should probably take Taylor Mays at 14. If Berry needs to be close to the LOS to make all of his plays, then maybe he's not what we think he is. In the box safeties need to be stout against the run too.

What kind of player are the Seahawks looking for at safety? We have the mold for Oline. We have the mold for rush End. We have the mold for big receiver. Do we want a physical safety or a playmaker?

0verDraft said...

" Watch his outside foot; you will be able to tell the play call every time based on the depth at which he places that foot. To me such a dead giveaway that he lacks the ability to move well. Also watch for outside rushers to pull inside stunts, he will be beaten (footwork wise) every time doesn't matter who the opponent is. His change of direction is absolutely terrible and he cannot get his inertia under control to mirror a defender."

I may have given Davis less credit than deserved. He flashes a Tell with his foot on Every play? With such an obvious advantage given to those "outside rushers" and his complete ineptness, and if you take out the Cinci game he managed to avoid giving up a SINGLE SACK in any other game all last year.

In all honesty I didn't see his foot when he lined up so I can't say what it looked like. But I know he was the keystone in Rutgers line last year and their line was the best part of their team.

Rob Staton said...

Micah - Berry played a lot of SS for Tennessee last year and was playing up at the LOS a lot. He'll do a better job of that than Babs who is essentially a converted corner playing free safety. I think the type of guy they are looking for is one that allows them to stack eight in the box but can also get back and cover when needed. Berry is capable of that, he just doesn't have great size and speed to be a major threat against the run. Someone like Taylor Mays has that size and speed and would be dangerous up at the LOS - he also has the ability to drop perfectly - but his coverage skills are poor.

Vince Mulcahy said...

OverDraft - don't be fooled by stats (especially those of ESPN) they no were near incorporate everything that goes into a play. Davis is one of the strongest tackles (football strength) and was able to save himself from poor technique with those massive arms just shoving defenders.

You have to try and project players to the next level not simply base your opinion off whether or not he was a good college player. No doubt he was good at protecting the blind side at Rutgers, doesn't reflect how he will do in the pros.

0verDraft said...

I would agree that stats aren't everything. But let me ask, if Davis had a great combine performance and Pro Day, would he not be a top candidate for the Lions at #2 overall?
If you say college performance and stats aren't an indication of success in the NFL, I would suggest not putting too much stock in Scouting Combines and scripted Pro Days. Tape doesn't lie. Anthony Davis was as good as any Left Tackle in the league last year and I believe to have a much higher upside than any other talent at that position in this years draft.
Although he projects as a better Man Blocking Scheme lineman, I would not be surprised at all to see him guarding our blindside for years to come.

Misfit said...

I'm still having a tough time with the idea of picking a Safety in the top-6. .

Is Spiller the better pick that will be harder to fill later in the round (or draft)? Are Berry and Spiller Michael Huff and Chris Johnson or are they Darren McFadden and Troy Polomalu?

I think 14 might be too early for any of the other RB prospects. So, w/out Spiller, we could be settling on a 4th round RB - something that would probably piss me off but would learn to accept. Earl Thomas may be there at 14 if we skip Berry for another player at 6. I think Thomas is in the conversation with Berry. I don't think there is another back that can run, return, and receiver like Spiller can. Best may be close, but there are enough questions for him to slide to round 2 where we have the last pick in that round.

That said, I also think we can wait on an OT and fill another position with 6. Perhaps Morgan. Perhaps Clausen. A lot depends on how the team plans to fill the LT spot and also how the first 5 picks fall.

I also think that next year there will be some elite RBs, led by Ingram. It's possible we take a later-round RB and get by this season while building the lines on both sides of the ball and patching the defense. I can see the team not having RB as high of a priority as I would like it to be. There are some great prospects to be had at our first-round slots. If we factor in positional value, Spiller doesn't get taken at 6. Safety might not, either. Morgan and Charles Brown?

Ulsterman said...

Rob I've been logging onto to the site for ages but have never contributed before.

I completely agree with your comments about Berry's tackling. I watched a few Tennessee games on ESPN during the season and he missed tackles in every one - he just doesn't wrap up. I was really looking out for him in the games because of the Seahawks' need for a safety but thought he was really disappointing - the other safety, Denis Rogan actually seemed to make more plays (not suggesting he's a better prospect).
I was left wondering what all the hype was about and I wonder how many people saying he's the next Polamalu or Ed Reed actually watched him play.
Earl Thomas looked the better player in the couple of Texas games I saw.