Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Roundtable: Six Seattle Prospects to Watch

As the country turns its attention to the NFL Scouting Combine today, 17 Power has grouped together the six first-round draft candidates that are most commonly being mocked to the Seattle Seahawks at #25 in the upcoming draft. These are the guys that seem to make the most sense for the Seahawks on the basis of Best Player Available - the intersection between the most talent available at that spot, and the greatest need for the Seahawks, with neither taking undue precedence over the other.

So we've individually rated all six prospects and come out with an interesting consensus. The players are listed in the order we would draft them if all six were still on the board at #25. Contributing to this nonsense are 17 Power writers Brandon Adams, Scott Williams, and John Campbell, with a guest appearance from Kyle Rota of NFL Draft Reports!

Enjoy - and remember to keep an eye on these guys at the Combine.

6. Brandon Harris, CB, Miami

Kyle: Intriguing Miami prospect with good combination of solid size (5'11 195) and excellent athleticism. Should develop into a prospect with very good man and zone skills. Strong enough to play in the NFL, but does not show a truly aggressive mentality as a tackler. Many pass deflections in college, but has not shown rare ball skills and does not have great hands for the interception. I'm a little concerned about him, but corner is a huge need and Harris looks like, at worst, a decent starter.

John: Harris is hoping to continue the long-standing tradition of Hurricanes being taken in the first round. He's athletic and fast, and sticks to his man. He's not a great tackler, but has very good closing speed. He breaks up passes more often than coming down with INTs, calling his ball skills into question. He's 5'11", got solid intangibles, and.... wait, outside of getting his degree in Business rather than Finance, and weighing about 15 pounds more, it sounds like I'm describing Kelly Jennings, doesn't it? That might not be fair to Harris, but I don't want him, regardless.

Scott: This is not a slight on Harris, who is talented. I just don't think Carroll and Schneider really value cornerbacks highly enough to take them early in the draft unless the talent is "can't miss", which Harris is not. I think that Carroll and Schneider are far more likely to take defensive run stoppers in the first than secondary players. Of course, the Earl Thomas selection says that isn't the case at all. Harris is not a shutdown corner, which is the only way I could see him being selected in the first round by Seattle. Run stopping is just too important to Carroll to take a cornerback like Harris in the first round.

Brandon: Harris is a bit on the shrimpy side for cornerbacks, and doesn't have a reputation as a ballhawk. He does seem to have a precocious feel for the shorter, quicker routes and for run support, which pegs him as an improvement over Jennings. I just don't see Carroll drafting him; he's not tall and isn't well-suited for the zone schemes demanded by Seattle's Tampa 2.

5T. Jonathan Baldwin, WR, Pittsburgh

Brandon: Baldwin will be a mismatch terror purely because of his size and agility, but Seattle could be better served drafting wide receivers with skill sets to complement Mike Williams, particularly speed, rather than copy him. Connsistency concerns also exist. If Baldwin runs a sub-4.3 at the Combine as some are expecting him to, however, he could establish that unique identity: a deep-threat potential and size-speed combination that's impossible to ignore.

Kyle: This Pittsburgh product is a giant (6'5 225lb) target who has had good success in college. Currently, his stock seems to be getting a big boost from rumors that he will run in the 4.3s or low 4.4s during the Combine, however that speed isn't evident on film. That does not change his size, ability to extend for the ball, or box out defenders. However, with mediocre route skills and a lack of explosion, I see Baldwin as a #2 rather than a #1 target.

John: Baldwin is a nice, big WR target in the vein of Mike Williams. His size makes him an attractive option for QBs, but he lacks elite speed to get much separation from defenders. He's not afraid to go over the middle, but his route running has been known to be sloppy, and his catching is a little inconsistent. While I think the Seahawks would do well to add another playmaker at WR, Baldwin doesn't seem to bring enough to the table that we don't already have - I can't see the justification in picking up a flawed player like Baldwin in the 1st round when Seattle has so many other critical needs along the line and at QB.

Scott: I rate him lower because of the boom or bust potential of his position, and also because he will take time to develop. I also suspect that if Seattle really wants a talented wide receiver, they will pick one up in free agency, mostly because they tried to do that a couple of times last year. I really like his physical skills, but without knowing how fast he really is, which will have to wait until the Combine, I have trouble projecting that Seattle will draft another big bodied receiver in the first round unless he is much speedier that Mike Williams.

5T. Phil Taylor, DT, Baylor

John: Taylor had a really nice 2010 season and Senior Bowl. He's got great size and strength, but he's got stamina issues. While it would be very nice to upgrade from Colin Cole and add some talent to the interior of the D-line, I really don't like the idea of spending a 1st round pick on a rotational player. I'll pass on Taylor.

Scott: He is the perfect candidate for Pete Carroll. Run stopper, pocket collapsing all in one. One problem: if he is as good as I suspect he is, he will be gone by the time we pick. If he isn't, I would call this a no-brainer. He would challenge Cole for a starter position right away. I suspect he goes around pick 20.

Brandon: "Taylor from Baylor" (catchyyyyy! I want a quarter every time someone says it) would be an absolute boon for this defense. He has the size and strength to defeat double teams, and the agility and quickness to make plays in the pocket and to demand those double teams in the first place. He won't get a lot of sacks himself, but that's not the job of a nose tackle; it's to collapse pockets and free up others to the QB. Taylor could excel at this. He may need to build some stamina at the pro level, but does that truly kill his value to a league that's relying more and more on rotational defensive lines anyway? (That would be a question for the real experts, I guess.)

Kyle: Simply put, I don't see Taylor as a true first round pick. He does not have the skillset of an every-down tackle, and while his size (6'4 337) is very impressive, he does not bring a ton more than pure size/strength to the field. He isn't a slug, but he isn't quick enough to be a pass-rush threat in Seattle's hybrid defense. When combined with weight and character issues (Taylor was kicked off the Penn State team for weight and discipline issues), Taylor presents a huge risk and I don't see enough reward to justify it.

5T. Rodney Hudson, OG, Florida State

Scott: I think he is as good as Pouncey, only he could play center. I have a bit of a crush on Hudson, so rating him behind Pouncey was difficult, but it will be a year or two before Hudson is playing over 300 pounds. He is a pure technician, and would also start from day 1.

Brandon: Hudson has drawn a few comparisons to Max Unger, whose technique and polish hasn't done much to compensate for his lack of strength and slightly subpar tools. It's commonly said that Hudson plays a lot stronger than his sub-300 pounds, and perhaps that's true; college tape certainly showed him standing out amongst even his own linemates. Still, it's a concern. With Carroll's appreciation of size at virtually every position and a lot of uncertainty about just what kind of blocking scheme Seattle is running right now, it's hard to match Hudson with Seattle just yet.

Kyle: At only 6'2, 285lbs, you would expect Hudson to be a weak technician who uses mobility and hand placement to win battles. While Hudson does have exceptional mobility and hand placement, he also provides much more pop than you'd expect from a player his size. He nearly always wins the leverage battle, which is maybe the most important part of line play. Has a bit of experience at C and could wind up there as a pro. Despite his surprising strength, he's a little small for a 1st round guard and there is some risk that he won't have the necessary mass to anchor against big tackles.

John: Hudson is a nice, athletic prospect, but his size is a bit of a concern. Draftniks think he may be able to excel in a ZBS, but it's unclear whether Seattle will continue to run a ZBS or perhaps some hybrid form of the system that uses larger linemen. Reports on Hudson's play and intangibles are all incredibly positive. However, given his limited appeal to non-ZBS teams and the fact that interior O-linemen are not usually 1st rounders, taking Hudson at 25 might be quite a reach. If Pouncey is off the board, and no other huge-value BPA options are available, I'd be fine with Seattle moving down into the early 2nd round and seeing if they can get Hudson there while amassing more draft capital.

2. Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas

Scott: Forget the character issues, I don't care about them unless they are more than rumors. He is a wonderful quarterback when there is no pressure. He is frankly terrible when there is. I just don't see him ever being more than a Testaverde type player. He has a big arm, but poor pocket presence if hurried or forced to move his feet, and is simply a poor fit for the offense Carroll reportedly will still use even though Bates is not here to call it. That offense calls for a mobile quarterback, which Mallett isn't. His lack of under center snaps, and the fact that he gets into his drops rather slowly hinder his chances of being selected in the first round anyway, I think. Which means he will go in the top 15.

John: Mallett has a lot going for him. Big arm, very good accuracy, excellent height, ability to read defenses and identify blitzes... all things you want in a franchise QB, and Seattle's got a glaring need at the position. But Mallett's red flags are big enough that there is talk of him falling out of the first round altogether. He's reportedly got attitude problems, questionable leadership skills, and will never be confused for Peyton Manning when it comes to time spent in the film room. Plus, while he's a solid pocket passer, he falls apart when forced to scramble. In many ways (both bad and good), he's the anti-Jake Locker. I don't want anything to do with Locker, and I think I feel similarly about Mallett. I know the Seahawks need their QB of the future, but I'd rather they spend a bit of draft capital to move up and get a better prospect than Mallett.

Brandon: No position in the NFL is as important as QB, and no hole on the Seahawks is as big as QB. If the guy's there, you have to at least consider taking a risk on him. Mallett is an underrated prospect whose ability to study defenses, progress through reads, and run an offense could reduce latent pass rush and mitigate concerns about his mobility. His arm, especially in a Bates offense called with balance, will also keep defenses honest - a factor most Seattle fans don't realize how badly they've been missing. And every character and work ethic concern you've heard about is either meatless rumor or entirely fixable at the NFL level. There are plenty of very recent cautionary tales about "lazy" NFL quarterbacks (I'm talking Matt Leinart here, not Ryan Leaf) for Mallett to draw motivation from. He's far more NFL-ready than a lot of people realize.

Kyle: Quarterback is a huge need, we should all acknowledge that by now, and maybe this Arkansas giant is the answer. Mallett has an incredibly strong arm, more touch than you'd expect, solid footwork, and good mental understanding of the game. He still needs mechanical work and he's not fleet of foot, but on the field he is pretty impressive. He is currently suffering from unsubstantiated character rumors, but this week he'll have the chance to show his leadership. If he can lead a team, he deserves a very long look from Seattle.

1. Mike Pouncey, OG, Florida

Brandon: Mike Pouncey has an NFL pedigree and big pluses in every area of offensive line play. His ability to make line calls is a possible concern, and Seattle fans won't want to hear that even though last year was his first year at center. But as a guard prospect, Pouncey's excellent run blocking and nastiness make him a good fit for a Cable line.

Scott: As long as he isn't playing center, where he showed a tendency to shotgun snap at random, he is the best guard in this draft. Some might say, "best guard, meh..." But there is no doubt Seattle needs a good guard or two. I would say he starts from day 1.

Kyle: Pouncey, whose scouting report can be found here, is my top choice. The Seahawks interior offensive line is a major weakness, and Pouncey brings a tantalizing combination of athleticism, upper-body strength, and nastiness to the guard position. Struggled at center, so I see him as a guard, but the potential to fill in at center or even transition to the position exists. I expect him to go before #25, but if he is available Seattle needs to pull the trigger.

John: Pouncey played last year at center for the Gators, but has spent most of his time at guard. He's got very good quickness off the snap, good footwork, a quick initial punch in pass blocking, good hands, and long arms. The interior O-line is not a sexy place to spend a 1st round pick, but as any Seahawks fan can tell you, the interior line becomes pretty damn important when you're putting guys in there who can't do their jobs. Since Steve Hutchinson started wearing purple, the Seahawks have gone through a carousel of less-than-impressive players at the LG position, impacting all areas of the offense. Maybe I value the O-line too much (along with a ton of other Hawks fans), but the idea of having Okung and Pouncey anchor the left side for the next decade sets me drooling.

Individual Rankings of Each Player


  1. I'd go: Mallett, Pouncey, Baldwin, Taylor, Harris, Hudson in that order.

    Of course, if the Mallett rumors turn out to be true then i'd take him off the board altogether.

  2. Depends on what the rumors are, doesn't it? Occasional drug experimentation a year ago doesn't mean much to me, nor will it mean much to every NFL team.