Thursday, 29 July 2010

Mel Kiper, Seattle and Rodney Hudson

By Rob Staton
Mel Kiper has been taking a look at all the teams' efforts this off season as we build up towards training camp. His review of the Seahawks is favorable, praising the new regime's determination to improve competition by bringing in fresh faces (particularly at defensive end). However, Kiper made one point that really stood out. Speaking of newly drafted left tackle Russell Okung, Kiper suggested pairing him with a long term addition at guard. Ben Hamilton has been signed as a veteran presence in year one - but long term what is the plan?

One prospect I rate particularly highly is Florida State interior lineman Rodney Hudson. Last October I wrote this piece on the Seminoles guard and suggested he could be a first round pick. If I were to recommend watching anyone closely in 2010, it's Hudson. With the Seahawks investing in Alex Gibbs as line coach, Hudson is the prototypical guard for his zone blocking scheme. He's not the biggest at 290lbs, but he's quick, strong and smart. Without doubt nobody impressed me more than Hudson last year.

In Kiper's team review of Seattle he has a section called, "Next April's pick, now". For the Seahawks he suggests Hudson: "He's a guard, so he probably doesn't go early, but Hudson is my early best in the class at that position. He'd look great next to Okung for the next decade."

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Seahawks & Tate agree to terms

By Rob Staton
Only two of Seattle's 2010 rookies remained unsigned after Golden Tate agreed terms with the Seahawks today. The deal is reported to be worth $3.26m over four years and was first announced on Tate's twitter account. The Notre Dame playmaker will be available for the start of training camp and leaves just Earl Thomas and Russell Okung awaiting to reach a deal. As with Aaron Curry last year and John Carlson before that, it appears unlikely either pair will be signed for the start of camp. As things stand, only two first round picks have been signed as teams wait for others to 'set the market'. A short delay is fine, however both are slated to start and play large roles this year. They can't afford to miss too much time.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Prospect preview: Ryan Mallett, QB

By Rob Staton
One of the prospects I'm most looking forward to watching in 2011 is Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett. I had a chance to watch the Razorbacks a few times last year and knowing there was a possibility he'd declare early, kept an eye on Mallett. Regular visitors will know I've been equally critical and praiseworthy of his performances to date. Consistency has been an issue and he's yet to truly pair touch and finesse to his obvious physical talents. A rocket arm and above average size (he's a well built 6'7") will interest scouts, but he still has a lot to do to really put himself in top ten reckoning (although he's fully capable of that).

A great game to watch if you can is last year's Florida vs Arkansas encounter. In all honesty, the Razorbacks should've won the game and ended Tim Tebow's dreams of an unbeaten season a lot earlier than the SEC Championship defeat to Alabama. Mallett was wildly inconsistent on the day. On one play, he delivered a picture perfect long bomb downfield for a huge touchdown, catching his receiver in stride. I'm not sure any other college QB right now could've landed that play. However, on a closer venture into the Gators red zone, he over shot a wide open full back in the end zone for a sure-fire six points.

You just got the feeling in a close game that ended 23-20, Mallett left some points on the field that day.

Indeed it was the big games he struggled in mostly last year. Against teams Arkansas were expected to dominate, Mallett enjoyed a solid completion percentage and racked up the bulk of his 30 TD's. Against the like of Florida, Alabama and Ole Miss - he registered completion percentages of 44.4, 34.3 and 35.3 respectively. That has to be better in 2010.

Mallett's also still recovering from a broken foot which has kept him from working out fully this spring. Arkansas and Mallett will deny the impact this has had on his growing development, but only results will give us a defining answer.

Sean Bartlett has featured the Razorbacks QB in ESPN Insider's most recent prospect review: "For all Mallett's ambition of becoming a complete, cerebral QB like Peyton Manning, there will still be hints of instinctive, Favre-like gunslinging in his game, so long as his arm will allow him to put balls in windows other QBs wouldn't even consider. If he hits on just a few more of those bombs this season, Mallett won't have to wait long to shake Roger Goodell's hand on draft night."

A good year could put Mallett in the top ten reckoning. He's very much in any discussion that involves Jake Locker, Andrew Luck or any of the other big name quarterbacks expected to be part of the 2011 draft. None are a lock and Mallett is no different. If he can become more consistent and find that level of touch to compliment the cannon, he'll go early next April. Whatever happens, the tools (rightly or wrongly) might stop him falling too much - but he has plenty to work on.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Marcell Dareus inleligible for 2011?

By Rob Staton
Potentially huge news out of Alabama today - defensive lineman Marcell Dareus has reportedly been ruled ineligible for the 2011 college season, according to The Tuscaloosa News. The same report says Alabama will appeal the decision. However, CBS Sportsline's Dennis Dodd put the issue to coach Nick Saban at the SEC media day and received a negative response. "That's not true" stated Saban, bluntly. The revelation follows further concerns that a number of UNC prospects (including Marvin Austin) were in danger of missing the season after interacting with agents. Losing Dareus would be a major blow for the Crimson Tide and would deny scouts and fans the chance to watch one of 2011's top draft prospects before next April.

Jonathan Baldwin 'will declare' for 2011

By Rob Staton
One of the prospects I'm most looking forward to watching in 2010 is Pittsburgh's Jonathan Baldwin. At 6'5" and 225lbs he fits the bill as the type of bigger receiver the Seahawks have been looking for this off-season. He registered 1111 yards and 8 touchdowns as a sophomore last year. Chris Steuber, now writing at CBS Sportline, takes a look at the Panthers prospect with one noticeable quote:

"I'm just going to do what I got to do, and I know that those guys are trying to accomplish the same thing I'm trying to accomplish. I may not be as highly touted as Julio and A.J., but I think I'm just as good, if not better than them. And, if I produce similar numbers or better than the ones they post, there's no question that I'm leaving early [for the NFL]." - Jonathan Baldwin

This isn't a major revelation because a lot of receivers and running backs do declare early. Baldwin is certainly worth watching in what could be a decent class of receivers in next year's draft.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Final Thoughts on Russell Okung

By Kip Earlywine
I was hoping to break down a full four games before giving my final opinion on Okung, but sometimes things don't go as planned. A couple days ago, my computer broke down, for good. I'm extremely poor, and my computer was made in 2000 with probably a fraction the hardware you'd find in a PSP. It really should have died about 2 years ago if not for all the times I've taken it apart and tweaked it to keep it going.

When the magic purple smoke had finished escaping my computer case, it wasn't just a problem of finding a new computer somehow, but I also lost all my games for Okung and Thomas in the process. So that's why I won't be able to break down that 4th game, or cover anyone else from this draft with real scouting reports.


When the 6th overall pick arrived and Seattle had to make its choice, my preference given the talent available, the historical scarcity of finding talent for certain positions (like QB), and the team's needs, was for the team to select Derrick Morgan, or failing that, Jimmy Clausen. Okung probably would have been my 3rd choice. Morgan is not a super-elite talent but thanks to his large pass-rush repertoire, production, and athleticism, profiled him to be a relatively low-risk, above average DE prospect- which given the value of the DE position and the scarcity of good DEs, makes him pretty valuable. Clausen was riskier certainly, but was the only real franchise QB prospect Seattle had a shot at- and Seattle badly needs a young QB with more than a ~10% chance of becoming a pro-bowler, which is about where I'd peg Whitehurst given his career to date and the success rate of 3rd round QBs (and never mind the fact that Whitehurst turns 28 in a couple weeks).

After those two, Okung was probably the most valuable option left. And if the team felt "locked in" on selecting a tackle very early in the draft, as was rumored (the rumor being that Gibbs was "lured" here with the promise of getting a top LT prospect), then you could easily consider Okung a "slam dunk" draft selection by Seattle. And in the minds of most experts, given Okung's status for pretty much the entire pre-draft run-up as the #1 OL prospect, you could easily argue that Okung was BPA, as measured by conventional wisdom, at the time of Seattle's first pick. I successfully predicted that Okung would go to Seattle at #6 before the draft, basically because I felt that Schneider would probably be more of a BPA type drafter and I felt pretty confident that Okung would reach #6, making him the consensus best player available at a premium position and area of need.

But did Seattle do the right thing going BPA? After all, Greg Oden was once widely considered BPA over Kevin Durant (albeit by a hair), as was Aaron Curry over Mark Sanchez or Michael Crabtree (or any of the other LBs from that stellar LB draft class).

Barring the kind of injuries that have put Oden's career in jeopardy, I don't think Okung will bust. But I also think he will probably never be a true top-tier left tackle, either. The reason being, Okung is already pretty close to a finished product, a good player with elite tools, but his problems, though few in number, are the kind that are typically uncorrectable.

Starting with the good, first and foremost, Okung is legitimately elite physically. He had the longest arms at the combine as I recall: 36 inches. He's 6' 51/4", considered to be the perfect height, or rather, the prototypical height for an elite NFL tackle. Okung weighed in at a modest 307, and the lack of bulk helps him move side to side quickly and with ease. He has quick feet and really shines at turning DEs inside on rushing plays. He could probably bulk up to 320 or so without losing almost anything, given that he can be very quick with seemingly low effort levels and his body type which doesn't look maxed out. I'm not sure if he really even needs to add weight though. In the games I watched, Okung was never once beaten on a bull rush, thanks mostly to the advantage his monstrous arms afford him. For the most part, Okung stayed step for step with edge rushes and inside moves, thanks mostly to Okung's quick feet and explosive backpedal. I'd say pass blocking was clearly Okung's area of greatest strength- more because of his arms and feet than instincts or intangibles.

...Which isn't to say that Okung lacked in those areas. Okung is smooth in his movements and showed a good deal of polish. Charles Brown was the most polished tackle in the draft, and Bryan Bulaga was up there too, but Okung was not far behind either of them, at least in terms of the smoothness of his physical movement.

Okung's negatives aren't lengthy or serious, but they are worth mentioning. A minor negative for Okung is that he just isn't a great short yardage run blocker. Okung may have arms and feet through the grace of the almighty that allow him to beat skilled pass rushers simply by not screwing up, but his lower body strength is below average and his run blocking attempts very frequently turn into stonewalls. He is also pathetically bad at 2nd level blocking, partially because his inline speed is surprisingly slow (given he had a very respectable 40 time) which combines with a total lack of instincts. Okung runs (slowly) into the 2nd level without a lot of thought about taking angles or homing in on his target. Often times, he just runs to the second level and does nothing. Second level blocks are tough because linebackers are inherently faster than tackles, so intercepting them is not easy. Still, Okung had only 1 or 2 successful second level blocks in the 3 games I watched, out of roughly 15 or so attempts. And he just looked completely lost doing it. Okung has nimble feet and is adept at angle blocking, overall, I'd consider run blocking a slight weakness.

Another minor problem is Okung's "nastiness" or intensity level. He showed some intensity in the Ole Miss game and turned in a very impressive performance, but usually, he seems almost bored or depressed out there. I hope we get to see Okung's nasty streak more. Its one of the few areas where I feel Okung could realistically improve, because his feet aren't getting any faster or his arms any longer.

Okung's biggest problem was his penchant for mental lapses. Okung had 2-3 mental lapses a game- every game- that I watched. This is what I worry about, not only because of the ramifications in pass protection/QB health, but simply from a PR standpoint. Chris Spencer developed a horrible reputation for errors in his first few years with Seattle, which not only turned many fans against him but even drew the ire of Mike Holmgren and Jim Mora. But in reality, Spencer probably only had about a half dozen meaningful lapses per season, which is fewer than Okung had at Oklahoma State. Experience, motivation, and focus may help Okung reduce the number of these mental mistakes, but I don't know if they can ever fully be coached out of him. Football is played at a high rate of speed and some people are simply more error prone than others. Just ask Seneca Wallace, who for all his hard work and development, still can't remember to throw the ball away half the time when he's running out of bounds 5 yards behind the line of scrimmage.

Overall, I see Okung as being close to a finished product. In no way did he strike me as raw or under-developed. He's already a superb pass protection specialist, and a mediocre at best run blocker, and I just don't see much room for improvement in either area. Okung achieved good results in college largely by relying on his physical gifts and using the minimum amount of effort to win. Hopefully the challenge of playing in the NFL, and some tough love from Alex Gibbs will motivate Okung and bring out a higher effort level. I don't think the mental errors are going away, although if Okung increases his effort and is fully motivated, I would expect his focus to increase as well, and a more focused Okung would probably make fewer mistakes.

I expect Okung to be a good, but not elite NFL tackle. He could very well end up one of the best pass blocking tackles in the game, but I don't see him ever reaching that level with his run blocking barring a pretty stunning transformation. That's ok though, because pass blocking is far more valuable than run blocking anyway, at least in my opinion. The mental lapses may never go away, and I implore you all to expect them and have patience. Chris Spencer (or Matt Hasselbeck in his prime, for that matter) has proven that you can make mistakes sometimes and still be a decent (or very good) player.

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Weekend links

By Rob Staton
Pete Carroll appeared on the NFL Network this week and spoke openly about the Seahawks as we edge closer to training camp. Amongst the issues discussed - the 2010 draft and the suggestion that the rookies will be given their chance to start this year. It's worth watching and good to see the Seahawks again featuring in the Network's coverage.

One of my favorite prospects for next year's draft is Iowa senior defensive end Adrian Clayborn. Ben Fawkes takes a look at the guy who stood out in the Orange Bowl against Georgia Tech.

Fawkes: "Clayborn posted such gaudy numbers over the course of last season -- 70 tackles, 11.5 sacks and 20 tackles for loss -- that he earned consensus first-team All-Big Ten honors and was named the 2009 College Football Defensive Performer of the Year at the College Football Performance awards. Some of the players that he beat out for the award? Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy, the second and third picks of the 2010 NFL draft, respectively."

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Carroll on USC sanctions

Seahawks show no interest in Unga

By Rob Staton
The Seahawks opted against adding running back Harvey Unga in today's supplemental draft. The BYU runner was one of just two players taken (the other being Josh Price-Brent, who was selected by Dallas). The Chicago Bears spent a 2011 seventh round pick to take Unga, with the Seahawks deciding against making an offer.

New Look for the blog

Seahawks Draft Blog has a new look - what do you think? Feel free to post your thoughts in the comments section. However - due to a concerning increase in spam/scam postings I've had to install a message verification system for the time being. Further changes to the blog are forthcoming so stay tuned, but let me know what you think of the current design and layout.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Seahawks showing interest in Unga?

By Rob Staton
The supplemental draft takes place on July 15th and one of the prospects I've been asked about is BYU's running back Harvey Unga. My knowledge of him is limited - I had only one opportunity to watch BYU last year in the first week of the season. Jay Drew from the Salt Lake Tribune reports that the Seahawks were one of a number of teams keeping tabs on Unga in a recent work out. He was listed at 6'1" and 244lbs as the scouts looked on and would offer the Seahawks a size option at the position. He ran in the 4.64 range.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Gil Brandt on 2011 prospects

By Rob Staton
Gil Brandt has begun his early look into the top 2011 senior prospects by breaking down the quarterbacks, running backs and receivers/tight ends. The obvious names are present - no surprises that Brandt ranks Jake Locker (QB, Washington) as a top ten pick. It's perhaps more interesting that he has Christian Ponder (QB, Florida State) as a late first rounder. I've seen Ponder ranked in the third round area, I've seen him as high as the top ten too. He's one to keep an eye on because his stock has such a large margin. It's not surprising that it's not a rich list of seniors at the skill positions due to the tendency for those prospects to declare early. There is some potential amongst the underclassmen though.