2017 Mock Draft 3.0

By Jared Stanger

It hasn’t been that long since my last 7-round Seahawk mock draft, but I’ve just been feeling a little different about where the draft is right now. And I also feel a little bit different about individual players. This is a mock where I’ve REALLY dug into each of these guys, and I have a more comprehensive opinion of each.

To find these types of players, I’ve had to make concessions. The primary concession you may notice: I’ve gone away from players that come with the Zach Whitman coined term “SEC tax”, which means in many cases going after smaller school players. This is an abrupt turn from what John Schneider and staff did in 2016…drafting 3 SEC, 1 Pac12, 1 Big10, 1 ACC, etc. And they were from the most successful programs within those conferences, to boot. The smallest school a player was chosen from in 2016 was Rees Odhiambo out of Boise State.

So this could mean my projection will stray from where the Seahawks will actually wind up. Then again, the best draft class of the PCJS’ regime was 2012 when the picks included players from Utah State, Idaho, and Northwestern State. And two of those small school guys have already gotten paid in Seattle, and the third is balling out in San Diego.

Regardless, this is my mock and in my mock I’m ignoring what fucking school a guy is coming from. “What are my eyes seeing? What are my ears hearing?” That’s it. And then, “How late can I wait to pull the trigger and still get them?” The first two questions answer where I value them, and the third question answers (or attempts to) where the league values them.

Let’s begin.

We’re opening with seven picks, I believe (1, 2, 3, 4c, 5c, 6, 7t). I need ten. Sorry folks, we’re trading out of the 1st round. We drop from #29 overall by trading with Chicago for their #2.35 and #4.110. Chicago might be a good trade partner here if they don’t like QB value at #3 overall, but want to move back up into the 1st to still get the 5th year option on a QB later. (The only reason for Seattle to NOT trade back here is if Ryan Ramczyk is still alive when Seattle is on the clock.) At #35 we’re taking the player that Draftscout currently lists as the #300 player overall. I don’t know how they came to that number, but it is fucking clown shoes.

#35- OT Western Kentucky, Forrest Lamp

Lamp is listed at 6’4″/300lbs and he may show up with arms shorter than the generally accepted 34″ that are usually required for a left tackle; prompting most to project him at Guard. Here’s the thing: stop it. Taylor Decker had 33 3/4″ arms last year and he’s been one of the top two rookie OL this year. I also feel like I remember reading one of the elite OT in the league for many years had pretty short arms…I want to say Joe Thomas.

Regardless…isn’t one of the recurring cliche’s of good draft rooms about wanting to focus not on what players can’t do, but what they can do? Aren’t there enough Russell Wilson’s and Aaron Donald’s and Steve Smith’s in the league for us to stop being so conventional about evaluations based on size?

Lamp is one of only two draft-eligible OT right now that I can turn on and watch for an entire game (Ramczyk the other). He is so fundamentally sound. He doesn’t seem to lean heavily-favored to either run-blocking or pass-blocking…he’s good in both. He also doesn’t lean literally…he has that good upright posture in pass sets. Lamp has the best cut-block I’ve seen on tape all year…which no one seems to be able to do any more. There’s enough sprinkling of nasty in there…I think in one game I saw him jawing at a ref, which is good to see. And Forrest has one of the best games any OL has put up against the Bama defense in the last 3-ish years.

The only thing I’m not confident about in this guy is whether or not you can get him later. Cause if you could get him later, even at the native-2nd round pick, that allows the first pick to be a passrusher of degree or two improvement. Like a Solomon Thomas at 35 with Forrest Lamp chaser at 61 would be amazing. Then again, Thomas projecting at #45 overall by Draftscout is well under my grade for him. I think he’s top-25.

From the native-2nd round pick, I again look to trade back. Tennessee, after drafting like 14 times in 2016, may choose to be more aggressive this year with some moves up. It’s a steeper drop than you’d like, but we’ll drop from #61 in the 2nd to #71 in the 3rd, and add #109 in the 4th. Seattle would now hold #109, #110, and a comp pick at the end of the 4th (for Bruce Irvin).

#71- DE Kansas State, Jordan Willis

There are actually a couple names available here (per Draftscout) that I’d be happy with: Willis and Dawaune Smoot. Smoot is currently dropping in projection due to his lack of production, but I still think he’s one of the best pure pass-rushers in the class. But Willis is more in line with what I think the theme of this mock is: S-T-R.

Willis is a 6’5″/258 lb, yoked up, SPARQ’d up specimen of a dude that I’ve been tracking for two years. He’s a little bit of a deceptive player because he is as pinpoint, assignment-sound as you can find at DE. Which isn’t always the sexy tape to watch. But then, just when you’ve been lulled into a false sense of security, Willis JUST. MAKES. PLAYS.

Willis currently has the 8th-most sacks in all of college football with 10.5, along with 45 tackles, 15.0 TFL, 3 QB hurries, 3 PBU, and 2 FF. So there is production to go with athleticism and FBIQ.

#93- RB Pittsburgh, James Conner

Ever since it was pointed out to me, I can’t stop thinking about Pete Carroll telling Brock n Salk that his ideal RB was Thomas Rawls’ attitude in a 6’2″/230-240lb body (paraphrasing). James Conner is listed 6’2″/235.

Conner is also a wonderful pass-catcher and one of the toughest S.O.B’s in the game today. Did you know that he was maintaining a pretty rigorous practice/training schedule with Pittsburgh while he was doing chemo therapy?? He wasn’t allowed contact because of the chemo intubation port in his chest, and he had to wear a surgical mask to protect himself while his immune system was reduced, but otherwise he was practicing.

If this isn’t Rawls beefed up, I don’t know what is.

#109- CB Virginia Tech, Brandon Facyson

I’ll be honest…in this really good class of CB, they are corners with better tape. Or at least more consistently good tape. A Facyson pick is about a) he’s a 6’2″/197lb corner with 11 PBU, 4.0 TFL, and 2 FF on the year, and b) he’s the smartest corner in this draft.

If you give those core traits to the Seattle coaching staff, the rest can be coached up. This is sort of the polar opposite of our faith in drafting/developing OL.

After trading themselves into holding back-to-back picks at #109-110, Seattle trades back the latter to add a 10th pick. Minnesota holds picks #115-116, so we’ll take the front end of that and add the Vikings’ 7th rounder (#210).

#115- WR Mississippi State, Fred Ross

I have a handful of WR that I’m favoring in this draft. I think they all have recent, if not current, special teams return duties. They each also have good route-running and RAC ability. Ross is probably 4th or 5th of my five, but the top three are also off the board before this point. Ross ends up being the best fit of talent and value relative to draft needs.

Fred is listed 6’2″/205lbs (probably smaller when he’s officially measured), and he’s recorded 68 catches for 873 yards and 12 TD’s this year. Decent numbers, but slightly down from his Junior of 88×1007 when Dak Prescott was leading the Bulldog offense.

In the MissSt offense, Ross gets used a lot in screen game, but when allowed to he shows good downfield abilities. Here is a clip of him running a ‘go’ down the redline. Note how he gets open late. Subtle quality.

4th round comp- DT Minnesota, Steven Richardson

This is a bit of a guess in terms of national value because Richardson is a Junior that no one is really paying much attention to. But he’s a 6’0″/300 lb inside pass rusher who has posted 11.0 TFL and 7.0 sacks this year. Either paired with Jarran Reed on early downs or Michael Bennett on 3rd, Richardson would bring a different skillset inside.

5th round comp- TE Louisville, Cole Hikutini

Another player set to climb. Hikutini is listed 6’5″/248 lbs, but he moves more like a 23o lb received like Tanner McEvoy. Cole has 49 catches for 656 yards and 8 TD’s this year. He’s also one of the most impressive run-blocking TE’s I’ve ever seen (haven’t seen him used in pass-blocking much).

Hikutini is a pick I make if I’m planning on not re-signing UFA Luke Willson this offseason. Could be a pretty seamless transition.

#187- SS Michigan State, Montae Nicholson

This is my least certain pick. I don’t know where the club will stand on keeping Kam Chancellor and/or Kelcie McCray. If both of those are back, and Tyvis is in the mix another 3 years, I’d try to move a SAM linebacker into this spot. Could also double-dip on RB here.

But if told safety were a need before next spring, Nicholson and LaTech’s Xavier Woods are two well-rounded DB’s I would look to steal away in the 6th. Draftscout has Woods at #191 overall and Nicholson at #196.

Nicholson is one of quite a few big safeties this year (something Seattle might want to take advantage of), listed at 6’2″/219 lbs. Also one of the most prolific tacklers at safety this year, with 86 total on the year.

#210- OL Kutztown, Jordan Morgan

This is a player I hadn’t even heard of until he was announced as an accepted invite to this year’s Senior Bowl. I dug up some tape on him, and I fell in love. Listed at 6’4″/320 lbs, Morgan’s tape is some of the nastiest OL tape I’ve seen this year. No, it is THEE nastiest. This guy has more pancakes than IHOP. A total finisher, Jordan is doing stuff to whatever level of competition Kutztown faces that looks borderline abusive.

Senior Bowl lists him at Guard, which is kind of standard when a tackle isn’t 6’5″+ or if expectation is that his arm length won’t measure up. But just on the eye test, his arms don’t look that short, and his footwork and movement is all Tackle-esque.

Wherever he ends up, Morgan would be another solid player to add competition to the struggling Seattle OL depth chart.

//www.hudl.com/embed/video/3/1831509/582b85a2dfd8b803b065f290

#219- OLB Colorado, Jimmie Gilbert

Jimmie is a personal favorite of mine, and with Draftscout projection of #268 overall I’d be thrilled to take him in a similar spot to former Seahawk Obum Gwacham (drafted #209 in 2015). Similar players too.

Jimmie is listed 6’5″/230 lbs, and he must hold most of that in his legs because his upper body is pretty slender. Colorado uses him almost exclusively at the LOS, as a passrusher, but I’m projecting him to back up to SAM with some pass-rush duties on 3rd down. Kind of the Bruce Irvin role, but in a Mike Morgan build.

Gilbert is 19th in the country in sacks with 9.0, and he’s 2nd in the country in forced fumbles. And, despite his visually slighter build, on tape Jimmie shows surprising strength; tossing good-sized OL to the side to make tackles.

Final tally:

OT Forrest Lamp
DE Jordan Willis
RB James Conner
CB Brandon Facyson
WR Fred Ross
DT Steven Richardson
TE Cole Hikutini
SS Montae Nicholson
OT Jordan Morgan
OLB Jimmie Gilbert

I think I’m missing a second RB, and perhaps a second CB, but otherwise I really like the balance of this draft. And it certainly is full of guys I see doing well in the ultra-competitive Seattle locker room.

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Running Forwards

By Jared Stanger

The bad news is: the top running back Seattle drafted in the 2016 draft is out (again) with a probably broken scapula, the fan-favorite running back making his NFL debut fresh off the practice squad took an ankle sprain, the second-highest drafted running back in 2016 was inactive (and no one seemed to mind), and Christine Michael is now a Packer.

The good news is: Thomas Rawls came back and showed much of the same decision-making and tough running that we all fell in love with in 2015, AND the 2017 RB draft class is pretty rich.

So while the questions for the immediate future may seem bleak, the answers for the long-term may be very hopeful. Let’s take a pretty comprehensive look at “RB: 2017”.

Most draft outlets have Leonard Fournette and Dalvin Cook the 1-2 backs off the board. We won’t worry about where or which order as their price’s are a little too rich for my blood. The next tier is Christian McCaffrey and Royce Freeman. I’m not wholly convinced that McCaffrey declares early.

Freeman opened the year looking very similar to what he looked like in 2015: 37 carries for 325 yards (8.78ypc), and 4 TD. Then, five carries into his third game (vs Nebraska), Royce suffered a slight injury causing him to miss the Colorado game. After looking fine in game #5, Freeman seemed to get hurt again when he played Washington. In the three games following UW; Royce averaged: 0.67 ypc, 2.24 ypc, 3.80 ypc. Each of those marks were lower than the lowest Freeman had recorded since the 2014-2015 National Championship game against Ohio State.

In his two most recent games, Freeman has seemed to be rounding back into early season form; rushing for 240 yards on 40 carries.

Freeman is a big, sturdy back with good but not great speed. He does most of his damage with power and intelligent cut choices. I tend to think of Freeman as similar to 2015 draftpick, and current Miami Dolphin, Jay Ajayi.

This is Freeman from his very impressive second game of 2016:

Draftscout lists Royce at #35 overall. Not worth taking in the 1st, but too valued to get late in the 2nd when Seattle picks again. Probably not a fit.

Up next is Texas BIG back D’Onta Foreman. This is the RB currently leading the country in rushing while rapidly approaching a 2000-yard season. At 6’1″/249 lbs, Foreman is built like a tank. And as a tank, he’s been one of the healthiest backs in the country all year. Foreman missed week #2 with a groin injury, but has otherwise posted at least 17 carries in every game, with an average of 29.20 carries/game. And Foreman has run for at least 100 yards in every game in which he has appeared this year (low of 124, high of 341).

Foreman (a Junior) has said as recently as November 2nd that he intends to return for his senior season, but perhaps a Heisman finalist and/or the loss of coach Charlie Strong could sway him towards declaring.

Foreman is predominantly an upright stance runner, but that is to be expected at 250lbs. He does his damage breaking tackles with power, but has a good amount of speed and balance as well.

Draftscout puts Foreman at #49 overall…middle of 2nd round. Still pricey.

Draftscout lists Samaje Perine at #72 and Jeremy McNichols at #75…this is a good range for Seattle to really start considering RB (actually in the 60’s), but I have trouble seeing either of Perine/McNichols as Seahawks. The more interesting talent is actually Perine’s teammate Joe Mixon, but his baggage concerns me. Mixon is essentially RB Frank Clark.

If you think the team culture has settled Clark, and could do it again…Mixon is the right size (6’1″/226), the right talent (157 carries, 1080 yards, 6.90 ypc, plus 30 catches, and top 20 in kickoff returns), at the right price. But that’s a big ‘if’. Also a big ‘if’: will Mixon declare as a redshirt sophomore.

Another guy that currently checks off the right size and the right price: Nick Chubb. Draftscout has him at #79 overall. A year and a half ago you would absolutely take Chubb at that value, if he even got out of the 1st round. These days, after a gruesome knee injury and it’s resulting rehab, Chubb hasn’t been quite the same player.

While his 900 yards in 2016 seem pretty good in the context of his recovery; the 4.86 ypc this year is a massive dropoff from the 8.12 ypc pre-injury 2015 and 7.06 ypc as a true freshman.

Whereas Chubb used to have a great mix of power and cutting, now he’s far more “one-cut and get downhill”. The top speed still looks good, but the acceleration isn’t as special.

With Seattle currently dealing with so many RB injuries, I’m less inclined to take this high of a pick on a player with this injury history. If Chubb falls a couple rounds…then you reconsider.

Now we start to come to a pretty interesting tier of backs. By projection these are guys pushing late 3rd round to late 4th round, currently. We’re looking at Wayne Gallman (#89), Elijah Hood (#110), Brian Hill (#127), and I’m making editorial decision to bump Kareem Hunt up (from #153).

Wayne Gallman is 6’0″/210 lbs from Clemson, and has rushed 160×830, 5.19 ypc, and 13 TD’s this year. His only injury this year, to my recollection, was a concussion suffered against NC State. Gallman has the blessing/curse of being the feature back on a team where the QB has 107 carries this year. This means his production looks less impressive, but hopefully his wear and tear is less worrisome.

This tape of Gallman vs Louisville is one of my favorite of any RB this year. The cuts are dope, the pass-blocking is some of the best I’ve seen, and it’s just good all-around play.

This run, specifically, is a lot of what I’m looking for:

That’s the good. The bad are the games I’ve seen where Gallman will go long stretches of game running really timidly, really passively. We can’t have that. That’s part of what got CMike run out of town the second time.

Elijah Hood is 6’0″/220 from North Carolina and should be a pretty profound tester at the combine after posting a 133.47 SPARQ out of high school. In 2016 Hood is at 134×802 yards, 5.99 ypc, 8 TD’s, and 24 catches.

Hood has been strangely inconsistent this year. He had 3 consecutive games averaging over 5.87 ypc to start the year, then 3 consecutive games averaging under 3.62 ypc in the second quarter, and is currently riding 4 consecutive games averaging over 5.77 ypc.

The thing about Elijah is that the tape of him fully healthy has some of the same problems I see with Nick Chubb coming back from knee surgery. There’s a lack of fluidity.

Brian Hill is 6’1″/219 lb runner from Wyoming. He’s currently #4 in the country running for 281×1548 yards, 5.51 ypc, 18 TD’s, and 5 catches. Hill is more of that Latavius Murray/Melvin Gordon/CJ Prosise long-legged strider type of runner. These guys often can be brought down with an ankle tackle like a Star Wars AT-ST, they sometimes need a runway, but the long runs are generally majestic.

Kareem Hunt is listed 6’0″/225 lbs (he was 5’11″/215 as a sophomore) from Toledo. He’s posted 220×1155 yards, 5.25 ypc, 7 TD’s, and 36 catches this year.

Kareem is a guy that I was salivating for after 2014, and especially his end of year bowl game performance of 32 carries for 271 yards and 5 TD’s. Then, in 2015, Hunt opened the year in some combination of hurt and out-of-shape, and really never regained 2014 form. I had kind of written him off.

But, lo and behold, it appears he is turning things around in 2016. I’ve only seen him in a couple games, including one that was mostly fogged over by Mother Nature, but Kareem is most definitely back in the Hunt. (Sorry.)

Click through this hyperlink for a full thread of gifs on Kareem:

For whatever reason, that is the size and style of running back that I am most drawn to. It just looks…right. The current projection has him somewhere around the late 5th round, which would (potentially) make him a guy to target as a SECOND running back draft pick this year, AFTER already drafting someone earlier. (I do have a theory that Seattle will draft 2 RB’s this year that I addressed in an earlier post.)

If Kareem isn’t a fit value-wise for either the early RB pick or the secondary RB pick, here are some other thoughts for the secondary option:

James Conner, 6’2″/235lbs, Pittsburgh. 189×945 yards, 5.00 ypc, 14 TD’s, and 18 catches. His cancer-survivor backstory is also all kinds of Seahawky/gritty. #198 overall.

Joe Williams, 5’11″/205lbs, Utah. 158×1088 yards, 6.89 ypc, 9 TD’s, and 8 catches. His draft stock took a hit after he left the Utes’ team midway through this year. #420 overall.

Aaron Jones, generously listed at 5’10″/215lbs, UTEP. Top 10 in the country at 205×1472 yards, 7.18 ypc, 13 TD’s, and 26 catches. A very well-rounded back, Jones is a personal favorite for how hard he runs. If Jones is as big as he’s currently being listed, he’s totally in Seahawks’ prototypical RB size range. If he’s smaller, there has still been some new precedent set by Troymaine Pope making it to the 53-man this week.

Jones is listed as a 4th-year Junior after taking a medical hardship redshirt after playing only 2 games in 2015.

This is 2016 tape vs Texas:

And the run at 2:06 of this edit from 2014 game is one of my favorite college runs of all time:

Jones is not ranked by Draftscout for 2017 draft.

And, finally, perhaps the longest shot of this story…

Jarred Craft, 6’0″/213lbs, LaTech. Craft is a Junior with basically zero buzz that I don’t think will declare early. This is his first year as lead back after the departure of Kenneth Dixon to the NFL. In 2016: 160×980 yards, 6.13 ypc, 7 TD’s, and 34 catches.

Again, another very well-rounded performer in run game and as a receiver, with a very well-proportioned build. Craft reminds me a little of Zac Brooks in his build, but of course Jarred is seeing far more touches.

Craft also not ranked for 2017.

Now, as for which 1-2 on this playlist to truly target…that’s going to be tougher. A lot of the high-end guys have at least one redflag right now. The mid-to-late round guys don’t have much chatter. The combine will help sort out some of that.

It could also help sorting out who/when to target RB by projecting other team priorities and where to take those. Like, if at all possible, you take an OT in the 1st, then look to pull from the depth of the DE class in the 2nd, then you start to think about RB and CB in the 3rd round. I’d totally splash on a 3rd round CB if I knew, say, Kareem Hunt would still be around in the 4th. And then you double-dip with Aaron Jones in the 6th or 7th. As un-sexy as that might read for many of you, I kinda like it.

Two more horses for the stable. And that is how you keep your running backs running forward.