Mariners international prospects

By Jared Stanger

The opening of the MLB international signing period isn’t until July 2nd, 2017 but as the least suspenseful piece of any sports’ amateur-to-pro process; this is more set in stone, and more of a report than a projection.

MLB recently made some changes to their international process, which are mostly beyond my interest to study up on. Suffice to say; Seattle began with a signing bonus pool of $4.75 million (the minimum). Jerry Dipoto traded an international slot worth approximately $320K to Tampa in exchange for MILB pitcher Bryan Bonnell about a week ago. So let’s call Seattle’s pool $4.43 million now.

MLB.com currently has their top-30 international player rankings up, and I think I counted 27 of those already understood to have agreements with respective major league teams. Seattle is associated with 3 of the top 30 (which is more than they have gone after international targets recently).

The highest-ranked player connected to the Mariners is R/R, Dominican OF Julio Rodriguez who comes in at #9 for MLB.com. MLB has him listed at 6’1″/170 lbs with his best tool his bat, while other sources say he’s now more 6’3″/200-205. There’s a bit of an odd timing mechanism early in his swing (like one of Cal Ripken Jr’s least-successful stances), but Rodriguez seems to have enough bat speed to compensate for it.

Oddly, though he’s ranked much higher than Seattle’s other two top-30 INTL’s, Rodriguez is actually my least favorite.

Ranked #26 in this class, my favorite of Seattle’s expected signings is Venezuelan IF Juan Querecuto. MLB has him at 6’0″/155 lbs and listed as a shortstop. Something about my limited view of him tells me he’s more of 2B (maybe 3B if the bat plays up more as he grows). I love how free and easy Juan’s swing is:

MLB says he’s got a 60-grade arm, which could also suggest 3B in the future.

Finally, at #29, MLB is connecting Venezuelan OF Stir Candelario to the Mariners. Listed 5’11″/170 lbs with 60-grade in both power and arm-strength; from the video, I’m actually wondering if Stir isn’t a potential future pitcher. Arm looks REALLY live.

I didn’t specifically count the number of players in the top 30 from the Dominican vs Venezuela (the two primary signing bases), but with the well-documented struggles MLB has had finding safe ways to scout players in war/crime riddled Venezuela; it’s interesting that Seattle found 2 of their 3 guys there. It made me wonder if Seattle has made a more concerted effort to risk going to VZ than other teams.

It also made me wonder if Seattle is the mystery team behind any of the players currently not reported as attached to any one team. The #6 player for MLB.com is from Venezuela (OF Raimfer Salinas), as is the #8 player (C Antonio Cabello). Both unattached and, in fact, both of those kids are trained by the same man: Francisco Ortiz. There is also #24, SS Osleivis Basabe from Venezuela without an attachment.

I think Cabello is the most interesting of the three. Honestly seems undervalued at #8 because he looks like a young Ivan Rodriguez to me. I like him behind the plate, and I REALLY like his swing. Super athletic kid.

Getting 4 of the top 30 (and moreso 2 of the top 10) seems far-fetched, especially for a team that now has less than the minimum international bonus pool, but who knows…maybe kids are eager to come to the home of the King of Venezuela: Felix Hernandez.

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Mariner Mock

By Jared Stanger

Believe it or not, I’ve actually already started working on the 2018 NFL Draft. Very soon, I’ll be posting some early work on guys that already have 1st round buzz, and/or that caught my eye last year.

But, in the meantime, I’m also a pretty big fan of the MLB Draft. I don’t know that I’ll do many pieces on Mariners draft possibilities, but I have enough of a sense to do one piece that will equate to about a 6-round mock draft.

A brief history of my track record on the Mariners draft:

I’ve never had any clue on any picks outside of the 1st round. Due to signability issues on HS/College underclassmen, as well as guys signing under slot in order to go over slot on early-rounders; it’s very tough to know the direction an MLB franchise will take in the draft. This is mostly for fun.

I’ve done pretty well guessing the 1st rounders, though. I didn’t guess Kyle Lewis last year because he was a projected top-5 pick that ended up falling to Seattle at #11. Instead, I wanted Pittsburgh high school OF Alex Kiriloff. Kiriloff began his pro career as an 18 year old hitting .306/.341/.794 with 7 HR, 33 RBI in 55 games of rookie ball.

In 2015 I absolutely nailed the pick of Nick Neidert at #60.

Here is a tweet from the night before the draft:

And this tweet was right when Seattle went on the clock:

2014 draft:

Later in that draft season I would have preferred Seattle draft Aaron Nola. (Anybody notice that AJax is hitting .301 with 9 HR, 23 RBI in 28 games for the Braves affiliate? Might still be some upside left in him.)

2013 draft:

I don’t know what to make of DJ’s career so far. Injuries have definitely hurt his progression, and I wonder if he ever fully recovered psychologically from when his jaw was broken by a stray pitch.

(Sidenote: Logan Shore didn’t sign out of HS, but instead attended University of Florida where he posted a 30-11 career record, 2.42 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, led the Gators to consecutive CWS berths, and ended up drafted 2nd round, #47 by Oakland. Currently 2.84 ERA, 28 SO in 25 IP, 1.11 WHIP in High-A ball.)

2012 draft:

Obviously Correa ended up going #1 overall. Plawecki was drafted in the 1st round compensatory picks at #35 overall.

So what are we looking at in the present? Seattle drafts at #17 overall this year (followed by 55, 93, 123, 153, etc. After the 3rd round just add 30 to each pick.).

My sense on the overall draft class is that it’s very thin in college bats. Pretty good crop of college arms. Good group of HS arms. The common thought is that Jerry Dipoto prefers college players. In his first draft with Seattle, Jerry and staff went college in the 1st round, HS in the 2nd round, and then 13 consecutive college players before going HS again in the 16th round.

It’s pretty strong evidence going 15-1 in favor of college players that a GM has a preference for the more-developed minds/bodies of college players to the upside in a high school projection.

Assuming presumed top-2 pick Brendon McKay is drafted as a pitcher; the top three college bats per Baseball America are:

UVA 1B Pavin Smith (reminds me of Ackley…buyer beware)
Vandy OF Jeren Kendall
UVA OF Adam Haseley

All three of these rank in BA’s top 13 overall. So, we may not see any fall to Seattle. The top two college bats ranked AFTER #17 are Missouri State’s 3B Jake Burger (#19) and UC Irvine 2B Keston Hiura (#20).

Burger has a ton of power (hit 21 HR in 2016 over 56 games…4th in NCAA with 19 HR, 53 RBI this year in 46 games). Showing improved plate discipline this year with 34 BB to 26 SO. Burger reminds me enough of DJ Peterson to cause some pause, though.

Hiura is hitting .417 with an insane .561 OBP. 43 BB to 26 SO. Some pop with 8 HR, 33 RBI. Wish he had more speed, though (4 SB in 9 attempts). Similar to Kyle Lewis, Keston has an odd foot tap to long horse stride in his swing.

I don’t love either bat at 17.

Interestingly, BA has listed two college LHP on either side of the M’s pick at #17: Oregon’s david Peterson at 16 (MLB.com has him at #31), Houston’s Seth Romero at 18 (MLB.com has him at #20). Both guys rank in the top 10 in the country in SO/9 (Romero #1 at 15.24, Peterson #7 at 12.96).

Romero has been a guy with some redflags. First, there were issues with his weight exceeding team expectations, and then last month Seth was suspended by the team, which was his second such suspension. I prefer to stay away from this kind of player.

http://www.baseballamerica.com/draft/houston-suspends-ace-seth-romero-indefinitely/#5Vcdd1rFBeQ434XE.97

Peterson, on the other hand, is 9-2 with a 1.94 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, and leads the country in SO/BB with his mark of 17.83 (107 SO and 6 BB in 74.1 innings this year). Peterson goes 6’6″/215lbs, and works with a FB, CB, CH setup with the FB touching 94-95mph.
recently struck out 20 to only 1 walk over 9 shutout innings vs ASU last week.

The most impressive part of that video is Peterson’s ability to hit his spots. His catcher sets up low-in: he hits low-in. Sets up middle-out: hits middle-out. The strikeouts are great, but the NCAA-leading 0.73 BB/9 is Peterson’s best attribute.

If he’s there, I think Peterson would be Jerry’s preference for the pick by Seattle at #17.

Other potential college arms in the 1st: UCLA’s Griffin Canning, LSU’s Alex Lange, Missouri’s Tanner Houck.

If Peterson is NOT there, I hope Jerry considers a HS arm. My preference is Colleyville Heritage RHP Alex Scherff. BA ranks him only #52 overall right now (MLB at #51). Roughly 6’2″/215lbs (sometimes listed up to 6’4″), Scherff was working 94-95mph last summer with a really good 85mph changeup with good arm action and pitch movement. Alex shows very advanced command of both FB and CH for a high schooler. The slider was his 3rd pitch in 2016, and not terribly impressive.

Video from 2017 suggests Scherff has developed a pretty nasty curve. Either that, or he’s getting his change to drop off the table. I don’t know, but it’s nasty like young King Felix. Report is also that the FB is up to 97-98mph this year, and Scherff has been damn near unhittable in his HS league. Most recent stats I could find on Scherff had him at 69 SO to 4 BB (17.25 SO/BB), and only 1 earned run allowed as of April 10th. Signability concerns might exist with his commitment to Texas A&M.

#17- RHP, Alex Scherff

After a pretty long wait to get to Seattle’s second pick at #55, I think the pick goes college bat. BA has Wake Forest 1B Gavin Sheets at #57, Louisville 3B Drew Eillis at #61, Arizona 1B JJ Matijevic at #63, and Mississippi State 1B/OF Brent Rooker at #64. Quick boxscore on each:

Sheets: .315/.403/1.052, 15 HR, 63 RBI, 27 BB, 23 SO, 0 SB, 0 CS

Ellis: .394/.490/1.229, 13 HR, 45 RBI, 31 BB, 28 SO, 4 SB, 0 CS

Matijevic: .392/.436/1.066, 7 HR, 47 RBI, 14 BB, 31 SO, 8 SB, 0 CS

Rooker: .404/.502/1.387, 19 HR, 65 RBI, 31 BB, 39 SO, 17 SB, 4 CS

Sheets is L/L, Ellis is R/R, Matijevic is L/R, and Rooker is R/R. So Sheets is the only one I’d lock in as 1B/DH only, making him the least interesting of the four.

Here’s a quick highlight featuring Drew Ellis going deep from earlier this year:

Really quiet hands with tremendous bat-speed. Defense looks fine at 3B.

Matijevic has a beautiful left-hand, line-drive swing. He’s currently #2 in the nation in doubles with 22. Arizona has him at 1B, but I think his preferred projection might be left field.

Rooker is an interesting study. He’s 6’4″/215 lbs, studying pre-law at MSU, #3 in the country in HR, #1 in RBI, #1 in doubles, #6 in hits, #6 in batting average, #7 in OBP, #1 in slugging, #1 in total bases, and top 40 in SB. He gets pretty nice loft on batted balls with a slightly uppercut swing.

I don’t know much about his defense, but the stolen bases suggest he’s mobile enough to play some corner OF. The power suggests he could be a pretty athletic 1B, maybe a la Cody Bellinger.

I’m not sure how/why BA has him rated as low as #64 overall (MLB has him at #49), but I’d be thrilled to get him at #55. That’s my first choice for the 2nd round, followed by Ellis, then Matijevic.

#55- OF, Brent Rooker

The next pick is pretty easy for me. I spotted him while looking over the college leaderboards where he ranks 3rd in the nation in SO/9 at 13.66. I watched some tape of him…liked the stuff…saw that BA ranked him as the #104 overall. If you don’t get LHP Peterson in the 1st, LHP Zac Lowther is a great fit in the 3rd.

3-3 on the year with ERA of 3.05, WHIP of 0.98, only 5.08 hits allowed per 9IP. Biggest negative is a bit of control issue, allowing 3.77 BB/9. He works primarily FB/CB right now touching 91mph, with a plus curve at 78mph.

#93- LHP, Zac Lowther

The 4th round seems to be overloaded by HS players, which feels more of a stretch for Jerry than taking one in the 1st like I’m projecting. Last year, at about this same range, Seattle took Alabama LHP closer Thomas Burrows. I’m actually going to stay in the SEC, but go across Alabama to Auburn where RHP Keegan Thompson is 5-3 this year with a 2.08 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 4.64 K/BB this year. Solid stat-line. Decent stuff on the tape.

Listed 6’2″/209 lbs…I like how he works down in the zone.

#123- RHP, Keegan Thompson

For the 5th round I was trying to target 1) a bat, 2) a bat that plays up the middle. So we’re talking C, SS, 2B primarily. This range of the BA top 200 prospects is almost entirely RHP. But if I fudge a bit and look just earlier than the #153 draft slot, I find St Joseph’s catcher, Deon Stafford at #144.

Hitting .276 this year, but with a very respectable .464 OBP, and .984 OPS, 7 HR, 17 RBI, 37 BB to 26 SO. But then I dug a bit deeper and saw in 2016, Stafford hit .395/.486/1.188 with 18 HR and 49 RBI. Hmm…

#153- C, Deon Stafford

I found 6th round pick Jesse Franklin simply by curiosity of him coming from Seattle Prep. I put on some tape and really liked his swing.

#183- OF, Jesse Franklin

First six rounds:

1-RHP Alex Scherff
2-OF Brent Rooker
3-LHP Zac Lowther
4-RHP Keegan Thompson
5-C Deon Stafford
6-OF Jesse Franklin

I feel like my list is short on a middle-infielder, but that’s also what the top 100/top 200 lists look like. Especially from college. I also really feel like the pick will be David Peterson in the 1st. But this is the way I’d make the picks if my guys stayed available till I was on the clock.

Smart. Tough. Reliable.

By Jared Stanger

Here it is. My final 7-round Seattle Sea-Mock for the 2017 NFL Draft. I’m preemptively saying none of these picks will happen cause I really think Seattle is going a different direction this year. This is more for posterity and the thought that three years down the road I bet my picks will stack up as a really good group of pro’s for whoever takes them.

I’m going with a lot of trades, though they will be tougher to make outside the hypothetical. I’m not giving a lot of scouting breakdown…at this point we know most of these guys.

Let’s get to it.

#26 – TRADE BACK

Of course. Let’s start to get our picks up. I would love to do a deal with Cleveland here as I think you could add two picks by dropping to #33, but it sounds like the Browns might take their QB at #1 overall. So my next hope is the Saints try to move up in front of the Chiefs in order to get a QB with their second pick of the 1st.

26 = 32 +103

t-32 – Defensive Back, University of Washington, Budda Baker

I can’t shake some of the things Schneider said in his pre-draft press conference about UW, about re-evaluating the way they scout, and about guys with short arms. If not Budda, I’d watch for one of the other short-armed, hybrid safety-corner-nickel players: Adoree Jackson or Chidobe Awuzie. I went with Budda as he seems to be the one that allows you to trade back.

58 – TRADE BACK

I think I can get another chunk of value dropping down 6-7 spots and still addressing a need with the guy I want. This time, I’m gonna make the Cleveland trade happen as they’ve got a million picks.

58 + 210 = 65 + 108

t-65 – Cornerback, Colorado, Ahkello Witherspoon

With the first pick in the 3rd round; I have Seattle getting a player I think is only a hair less value than Kevin King but at about 40 picks discount. Ahkello was a VMAC visitor. He’s a top 10 SPARQ performer at his position. He’s got great technique, really good ball-skills, and a very strong intellect. Kello needs to work on his tackling, but I believe that he can and will.

The other strong consideration for me here was USC WR Juju Smith-Schuster. Most of the intel I have points to Seattle trying to get a big-bodied WR at some point. They’ve been connected to Deangelo Yancey, Chad Williams, Trey Griffey, and a rumor about Zay Jones. Juju is a similar profile to that group, and Pete was at USC pro day.

90 – Defensive Line, Illinois, Dawuane Smoot

From all recent projection; this is an aggressive reach for Smoot. And I might be wrong about the specific player but right about the TYPE. Brock Huard put out a mock Wednesday (that I actually really liked) that had Seattle going with Demarcus Walker at 58. I prefer the CB earlier and going for the hybrid DL a little later. If Walker dropped to this range he’d probably be a steal.

Other names that are in this “type”: Daeshon Hall (*VMAC), Johnathan Calvin (*VMAC), Jeremiah Ledbetter, Trey Hendrickson, Keionta Davis, Tarell Basham. Of that group, Ledbetter has played the most at 3tech. Davis looks like he could.

Smoot is just the best blend, for me, of Edge pass rush, game tape at 3tech, intangibles, and body type. He shows more of the traits I look for in a pass-rusher than the rest at this range. 6’3″/264 lbs (so you’d want him to add another 6-8 lbs), 33 1/4″ arms. Only 5.0 sacks in 2016 (after 8.0 in 2015), but added 15.0 TFL and 10 hurries. If you believe in “pressure is disruption” or whatever that saying is; Smoot was very productive this year, and still has upside coming.

After trades, Seattle is now in position to draft four times in a seven pick stretch. I think move one of those back to fill out the 4th and 5th rounds. The order of the next three picks isn’t super-important.

102 – Tight End, Iowa, George Kittle

We needed to finally hit on some offense. This draft is stacked with TE’s. Seattle is going to be running into a bit of a TE problem after this season. They need to draft 1-2 this year. I’m probably only going to mock them one, with the hope they can get the second in UDFA.

3sigmaathlete.com recently updated this year’s TE SPARQ and it came out that, after pro day, Kittle was the #1 TE. So he’s super-athletic, he’s the best blocking TE I’ve seen in this class, and he’s shockingly under-valued because he caught only 22 passes in Iowa’s run-heavy scheme. Everything about him sounds like a blend of Luke Willson and Nick Vannett. Oh, and don’t sleep on how well he catches the ball.

t-103 – Wide Receiver, North Carolina, Mack Hollins

If I can’t have the Russell Wilson of receivers in the 2nd round (Zay Jones); let me get a guy that could someday be Russell’s running mate in the 3rd.

I’m putting it on Mack that he’s a cross between Ricardo Lockette and Martavis Bryant. Not super clean catching the ball, but gets so open he’s generally uncontested. 6’4″/221 lbs, ran a 4.53s forty while pulling his hammy (IIRC). Mack was the 2015 national leader in yards per catch and he’s a special teams stud. His pet dog is even named “Gunner”. Very cool player.

106 – Safety, Boston College, John Johnson

This is BY FAR the toughest spot for me to choose. I’ve got interest in a RB like Samaje Perine here. I think this could be the spot for a double-dip at CB (Shaq Griffin or Brandon Wilson). This could be the last chance to get one of the big safeties that project as S/LB hybrids that Seattle has been looking really hard at all pre-draft.

But, in the end, I just like John Johnson better than all those guys. (Well, I like Brandon Wilson too, but this is high for him.)

JJ didn’t test amazingly (but 65th percentile is no shame). He doesn’t have crazy size (6’1″/208lbs). He didn’t have any one particular standout stat (77 tackles, 2.5 TFL, 1.0 sack, 3 INT, 9 PBU, 1 FF). He does play special teams very well. He has played CB a fair amount. All of that together, plus his intangibles, makes him such a solid, high-floor pick. At the end of the 3rd round, he’s what Ozzie Newsome would call a “double”.

t-108 – TRADE BACK

You could trade either 106 or 108. Very little difference. But you start with 108 and negotiate up if you have to.

This is a trade with Washington, who have 10 picks (including two 4’s, and two 6’s).

108 = 123 +154

t-123 – Kicker, Arizona State, Zane Gonzalez

I happen to think there is no way Blair Walsh is the 2017 kicker. I happen to think Gonzalez has some insane numbers. Literally the best college kicker ever, statistically. I think a lot of people will cringe at a 4th round kicker. Many think Zane goes in the 5th. But that’s why I’m taking him in the 4th. Unlike Roberto Aguayo; Gonzalez does not have trouble with distance kicks (made 13×15 from 40+ yards…both misses from 50+).

t-154 – TRADE BACK

Move back another few spots and recoup the 6th rounder we lost in the 2nd round trade. This is a deal with Tennessee (for no apparent reason).

154 = 164 + 214

t-164 – Defensive Tackle, Southern California, Stevie Tu’ikolovatu

Seattle has spent a lot of time looking at Nose Tackles. Many of whom are very underrated: Tupou at Colorado, Grover Stewart from Albany, Glen Antoine from Idaho. But I think the move is Stevie T. I like his tape the best as a true Nose, with balanced ability to anchor vs the run but also push the pocket vs the pass. He could be Vince Wilfork for Seattle.

I’m not sure Tupou has much pass rush. I think Grover is actually miscast as a NT, but should instead play base 3T a’la Alan Branch. And I think you can get Antoine in UDFA.

t-214 – Outside Linebacker, Colorado, Jimmie Gilbert

It was very tempting for me to take one of the two similar, high SPARQ, OTTO type OLB early in the draft (Watt and Bowser). They’re both more obvious Bruce Irvin types thanks to their testing and sack-rates. But the guy that has similar skillsets, that is completely going overlooked, but still had decent testing and good production; is Gilbert.

People will be concerned about his size. He looks really skinny on tape…reported to the Shrine Game at 223 lbs…that’s his “defect”. But by his pro day he came in at 234 lbs (pretty normal for an OLB), and thinks he will be in the 240-245 range when he is drafted.

That would put his measurements at 6’4″/240lbs, 34 1/8″ arm length, with a 4.61s forty, 37″ vertical, 10’00” broad jump which he completed with a tweaked hamstring.

More than anything, I just LOVE the way he plays football. I mean, he put stuff on tape that doesn’t even make sense in the context of him playing 2016 at 220 lbs, going up against 315 lb offensive tackles. He compensates with immaculate technique. He knows angles and leverage unlike pretty much everyone in this draft.

His final stat line was: 62 tackles, 14.0 TFL, 10.0 sacks, 3 PBU, 7 QB hurries, and 6 forced fumbles (#2 in the nation). That’s better than the Senior season Bruce Irvin put up.

226 – Offensive Tackle, Alabama State, Jylan Ware

Day Three picks are often about upside from athleticism, so I think a pick from the likes of:

RB Aaron Jones
FB Algernon Brown
TE Tyler Scalzi
DB Brandon Wilson
DB Jason Thompson
OG Kofi Amichia

…would make sense. I really, really wanted to make B Wilson fit in somewhere here because of his ability to play DB, return kicks, AND play some running back. Similarly, Scalzi can play FB/TE/LS. Those two guys in particular would lengthen your roster dramatically.

I went with Jylan Ware because he’s absolute prototypical OT build at 6’7″/317 lbs. He ran a 4.99s forty with 29″ vert, and 9’05” broad. And the limited tape I saw on him was pretty solid.

UDFA

The above list is a good place to start if any of those names should fall far enough. Also:

CB Xavier Coleman, Ryan Lewis
S DJ May
FB Tim Cook
QB Dakota Prukop, Eli Jenkins, Tommy Armstrong
OL Dustin Stanton, Cam Keizur
TE Andy Avgi
DL/FB Tueni Lupeamanu
LEO JT Jones
WR Tim White, Trent Taylor

I think my mock is missing a QB cause I don’t expect Boykin to return. I think I’m missing a WR that can return punts/kicks cause I think Lockett needs to NOT do those anymore. I think I’m missing a running back cause they need to add one of those every year. And I think I’m missing a fullback cause I think they are looking for one. But…those are ALL positions where Seattle has found 53-man roster members from the ranks of their UDFA classes in years past. Calculated gambles this year, too.

Final draft: 4 trades, 10 picks.

DB Budda Baker
CB Ahkello Witherspoon
DL Dawuane Smoot
TE George Kittle
WR Mack Hollins
DB John Johnson
K Zane Gonzalez
DT Stevie Tu’ikolovatu
OLB Jimmie Gilbert
OT Jylan Ware

If the goal is finding smart, tough, reliable players; I think this is a group that is exactly that, top-to-bottom.

Thanks for following along all year on twitter, for reading the blog throughout the inaugural season on the new site, and for patience in general. Hope we get some gems this weekend. See you in May for the 2018 class!

-J

Fan on fan crime

By Jared Stanger

Today’s embarrassing 9th-inning collapse by the M’s has reopened a lot of old wounds, and it’s given me pause to think about how people fan in the social media world.

I get the part of the fan-base that is calloused and jaded from how many years now without making the playoffs, and go about their springtime pessimistically. I get it if that’s your starting point. I get it if you quickly regress there after starting 1-6. I, personally, moved back to that neighborhood this week.

I get the side of the fan-base that is optimistic, patient, and don’t want to react too soon. I don’t relate to that side of the fan-base, only visit it on holiday, but I recognize it and assume they’re lovely people. They’re a sort of miracle to me…to be admired like nurses and teachers. Probably people I’d like to be friends with. They’d, in theory, be understanding of my frequent lack of social etiquette and argumentative nature. “He’ll be better tomorrow.”

But there-in lies the catch. It seems a lot lately that the latter of those two sides of the fan-base AREN’T particularly patient, optimistic, or understanding of the FORMER part of the fan-base.

When it comes to the franchise that is DOING the failing; the optimists are optimistic. But when it comes to the fans that are judging the failing; the optimists are pessimistic. The optimists judge the judgers rather than judging the root of the problem: the franchise’s failures. A mind fuck, right?

If you’re really secure in your stance; why feel so threatened by the other side? It’s almost as though the optimism is projection; a fragile facade of denial hiding the same sadness in a rudderless franchise that the pessimists have.

Admittedly, I know these rolls reverse when the team goes on a really solid winning streak, and the pessimists just won’t let the optimists bask in the thrill of hope rewarded. Which is fucking absurd.

The greater sin is being wrong. Being up when the team is down is ridiculous. Being down when the team is up is ridiculous.

The truth is: most of the fan-base is in the middle. We’re up when the team is up; we’re down when the team is down. But right now, the team is down…and we should allow the wallowers to wallow. And we should let the pessimists back on the bandwagon when the ship rights itself.

And if you’re actually HAPPY that the team is doing poorly, then you’re not a fan. Please set your twitter filters/mutes accordingly, and GTFOH.

Thank you, and Go M’s.

March 2017 SeaMock

By Jared Stanger

Time for a little post-combine, pre-free agency mock draft. I sketched most of this out Sunday night, before the DB’s actually tested on Monday. I made one alteration Tuesday night…see if you can guess which pick.

In addition to my mock, I’m also going to point out who I think Seattle actually drafts. So it’s “who I would draft” and then “who they WILL draft”. Plus I’ll sprinkle in some trips down memory lane.

I’m beginning (again) by trading back. I noticed recently that pick #32 plus #96 matches pretty exactly to the value of the #26 pick, and 32/96 are both owned by the Patriots. This trade maximizes the value on the 3rd rounder, while keeping you within the 1st round (for 5th year option rights).

#32 – Kevin King, Cornerback, UW

Having him right in my backyard I’ve long been tracking Kevin, and after his combine performance and placing first in corner SPARQ, I think he’s truly shown my faith in him was deserved. He’s got the length for boundary and the world class agility to play nickel. As far as I’m concerned he’s been destined to be a Seahawk forever. It would just make so much sense.

Now, having said that, I kinda don’t think Seattle goes there. My guess is they try to go for one of the corners that have been holding 1st round buzz all year. Somewhere between Marlon Humphrey, Cordrea Tankersley, maybe Gareon Conley. Who am I kidding…it’s probably Obi Melifonwu and I throw up all over myself on draft day.

#58 – Zay Jones, Receiver, ECU

Another case of a guy I’ve really enjoyed all year who made money at the combine. A record setting college career, the #2 SPARQ performance of all WR at the combine, and the kind of intangibles that will blend perfectly with Russell Wilson, Tyler Lockett, etc.

Although primarily used in the slot at ECU, I think Zay has shown through the Sr. Bowl and combine that he has the size, speed, and ability to line up anywhere on the field.

My actual guess for Seattle’s pick at the 58 would be a TE. They’d love to get near Njoku, but won’t. My hunch is it’s Jordan Leggett, but I’d feel better about that if he had tested a little bit better and ran the 40.

#90 – trade back

In an attempt to balance out their draft from five picks in the first 106 overall followed by zero picks in the next 104; I’ve got another trade back. I’m swapping #90 with Denver for their #101 and #127.

#96 – John Johnson, Safety, BC

Primarily a safety for Boston College, Johnson has several games worth of experience at CB in 2015, and measured in at 6’0″/208lbs with 32″ arms…acceptable Seattle CB size.

John didn’t run a great 40 at the combine (4.61s), but players like Johnson’s former BC teammate Justin Simmons and some guy named Richard Sherman both ran combine 4.6’s which they both later improved to identical 4.53’s at their respective pro day’s. Even without a good 40, John still posted the 3rd-best safety SPARQ of the day, with a 55th percentile NFL athleticism.

What the actual pick is here is not as clear. I think “defense”, but could be Edge, could be a different safety, or maybe a SAM. Josh Jones could be in play, maybe Derek Rivers, maybe Tyus Bowser. I’ll say Josh Jones with the caveat that the 6’1″/220 lb safety that ran a 4.41 forty might be a linebacker project for Seattle.

#101 – Dawuane Smoot, Defensive End, Illinois

I vacillated between Smoot here and Jojo Mathis. I think both have 2016 redflags for differing reasons (production vs injury), but both have put on tape better pass rush technique than quite a few guys that will be picked before them.

I think Smoot has a floor of Cassius Marsh, but he has enough upside that he could recapture the form that saw him finish 2015 with 8.0 sacks and 15.0 TFL.

Would you believe the ACTUAL pick here goes to Smoot’s teammate, and higher SPARQ finisher, Carroll Phillips? 4.64 forty and kind of a consolation if Derek Rivers is already gone.

#102c – Aaron Jones, Running Back, UTEP

Thanks to the trade back, Seattle ends up with consecutive picks in the compensation pick cluster at the end of the 3rd round.

I’ve been coveting Aaron Jones forever, and when he tested as the 2nd highest SPARQ amongst RB, it was decided for me.

He’s a little smaller than we’ve seen from most Seattle RB, but still runs really tough. He catches really well out of the backfield and even deep routes. And he’ll play special teams for you.

I’m guessing the pick is a bigger RB that I don’t like as much like a Jeremy McNichols or Brian Hill.

#106c – trade back

I don’t know if Seattle shoots for 10 picks this year. Having five on day 2 might be more appealing. But I like how my board looks moving this back in a trade with Minnesota for their #121 and #160.

#121 – Ahkello Witherspoon, Cornerback, Colorado

I’m actually seeing Kello projected WAY earlier than this since he tested on Monday and came out as the #4 CB athletically. Maybe that means sticking at #106? Maybe that means Ahkello at #102 and Aaron Jones at #121? For now, I’m leaving it as I drew it up on Sunday.

Witherspoon finished 2016 as the 2nd-most passes defended in college football with 22. He’s 6’3″/198 lbs with 33″ arms and ran a 4.45 with a 40.5″ vert. I mean…and there’s this:

Ahkello

He struggles a fair amount with his tackling, but I’ll put his cover technique on par with pretty much any of the 1st round guys.

I’m actually gonna keep Ahkello as the Seahawks pick. If he’s there, I think they can work with him.

#127 – Cole Hikutini, Tight End, Louisville

I have no research to suggest Hikutini is high on Seattle’s TE priority list, and he hasn’t yet tested, but I just like his tape-to-value ratio the best out of all of this year’s TE. If his athleticism is close to what I think I see on tape, he’ll be close to a Gerald Everett level (approx. 1-sigma). Decent production, decent number of TD’s, decent blocking, very good hands.

Historically these 4th-6th round picks have come from very athletic flyer-types. But with SPARQ kind of being public knowledge now, I’m wondering if Seattle is having to adapt and look for other things on day 3. Let’s call the real pick another Seattle 4th round WR: Josh Reynolds. 6’3″ with 63rd percentile athleticism and 12 TD’s this year. Could also see SPARQ leader Robert Davis. Either would be a future Kearse hedge.

#160 – Harrison Butker, Kicker, GTech

I think the target is ASU’s Zane Gonzalez, the presumptive #1 kicker this year. But I think earlier than you’re willing to pay for a kicker.

I think that Butker will be a late riser. A guy that hasn’t even begun to tap into his potential. He’s 6’4″ (just like Hauschka). He hit 8×8 from 40+ this year, while going 15×17 overall, and finishing 6th in the country in touchback percentage.

The real pick: OL Aviante Collins. Collins probably needs to be higher since he just ran a 4.81 forty at 295 lbs, but Draftscout has him at #228 overall, so this is my compromise. Aviante played RT for TCU…has just barely enough arm length to stick there…but could also become a guard. Either way…this is, historically, what Seattle likes.

#210 – Victor Salako, Offensive Tackle, OkSt

I’m going the opposite of Seattle’s trends and taking my OL flyer on a guy that wasn’t invited to the combine. I have no idea of Salako’s actual athleticism…I noticed him early on in the 2016 season, then forgot about him until he weighed in at the Shrine game at pretty ideal OT specs: 6’5″/315 lbs, 34 1/4″ arms.

Above was when I first noticed him watching Oklahoma State in real time. Upon revisiting him recently:

The real pick: maybe a flyer on a 3tech. I’ve got Chunky Clements as a possibility. He has upside if a coach can focus him. Did not test at the combine though invited.

#226 – Jimmie Gilbert, Linebacker, Colorado

This is my purely self-indulgent, “I like this guy better than everyone else seems to”, “it can’t be worse than drafting Kiero Small” draft pick.

Gilbert is tragically underweight (6’4″/223 lbs) and wasn’t invited to the combine. But if he can put together a decent pro day, he could resemble 2011 Seahawk UDFA Mike Morgan (6’3″/226 lbs).

I love Gilbert’s tape and the way he is absolutely maximizing every ounce of his body, if not exceeding. With 34 1/8″ arms, Gilbert has great length and technique for rushing the passer. He’s also shown ability to drop in coverage.

If Jimmie can run anywhere under 4.6 he will put himself ahead of all the Combine LB’s except for Duke Riley. But I don’t think he can get close to Morgan’s 4.46.

The real pick: it actually might be Harrison Butker. Also could see one of a few fullbacks: Algernon Brown or local product Darrin Laufasa.

Combine Preview: CB, S

By Jared Stanger

And now, the headlining performer of the 2017 NFL Draft…defensive backs.

Arriving in Indianapolis last on Friday, with field testing on Monday March 6th, this year’s combined class of cornerbacks and safeties is soo loaded that, whether it was coincidence or not, it deserves the title of headliner. This is pure candy.

Cornerbacks

I don’t have concrete facts to back it up, but on eye test, this looks like the biggest class of CB’s I can remember. Not by volume…by height. I think I counted 22 unique CB in the combine that are preemptively listed over 6’0″, including six over 6’2″.

Although, currently, I only count a few that have been recorded with 32″ arms from the all-star game weigh-ins (Rasul Douglas, Marquez White, Treston Decoud, Brian Allen). A lot of the big names weren’t at the all-star games, though (Lattimore, Tabor, Humphrey, Jones, Tankersley, King, Conley, Wilson, Witherspoon, etc). Additionally, some that were at the all-star games may get Combine arm length bumps.

In terms of testing; there are so many guys that could really pop. It’s tough to predict a top 5 SPARQ group. Marlon Humphrey is a track guy that has fantastic make-up speed on tape. Adoree Jackson should run fast, but his lack of weight might bring down his SPARQ. I’m reading reports of lesser-known Shaquill Griffin running really good times, but I’ve only seen one game of him (from 2015). Fabian Moreau is a pretty athletic guy.

But I’ve got my money on my hometown dude: Kevin King. Jumps for days, exceptional agility, and I think people are comatose to what his true 40 speed is. I think Kev makes the most money at the combine for his position.

I don’t get the sense that the Florida CB’s or guys like Douglas and Tankersley are blazers. But a fast 40 isn’t always prerequisite for a Seattle CB. Richard Sherman ran a 4.60 at the combine, and later lowered it to a 4.53 at his pro day. Tye Smith was a 4.60 and then a 4.56. Byron Maxwell was a 4.52. Tharold Simon was a 4.51 and then a 4.47. If you’re looking for benchmarks; try to note the guys under 4.55 with a 10’04” broad jump…cross-reference with 32″ arms…and triple-check back to the game tape.

Keep those numbers in mind especially when all of the Pac12 corners test. Decoud, Allen, Witherspoon, Moreau, and King. Also because, though I think Seattle might go CB earlier than ever this year, they might also stick to historical pattern of 4th round back. King may not last that long, but the other four might. Those names could also qualify for the back end of a double-dip (two scoops of CB in one draft).

Safety

I don’t have a great sense for the athleticism tiers in this safety class. I know Jamal Adams and Budda Baker are both up there. I think Marcus Williams might run the fastest 40 of the group. Malik Hooker has to be up there, too. And I like John Johnson’s overall athleticism as a sleeper.

But there’s a whole gaggle more that I have no real sense for. Justin Evans, Josh Jones, Shalom Luani, Montae Nicholson, Tedric Thompson, Xavier Woods. I don’t think I’ve seen any one flash more than another…I don’t think any have ever embarassed themselves looking slow/unathletic. This is probably the best example of a position group where guys will legitimately be “breaking ties” with their athleticism. This will definitely be the combine testing that sends me back to the tape on the most individual players.

Combine Preview: DL, LB

By Jared Stanger

Group 7, 8, and 9 of the 2017 NFL Scouting Combine arrive in Indianapolis on Thursday and will have their primary field testing on Sunday. This consists of two groups of DL, and one of LB’s.

This will be the much-hyped 2017 Edge group. A group that draft media really has zero consensus on after Myles Garrett. We’ve got athletes with no production, we’ve got producers without outstanding traits, we’ve got big-bodied DE/DT tweeners, we’ve got undersized DE/LB tweeners, and we’ve got guys that are just straight up B- across the board. It’s either a mess or a pass-rushing smorgasbord.

Let’s start with the big boys. Jonathan Allen is somewhere top 3 picks, depending on if someone wants a QB. Solomon Thomas should be somewhere top 10. After starting the year very near the top of many big boards; Malik McDowell has been in a bit of a free fall…no production, missed three games, talk of character redflags. And Tanoh Kpassagnon is the biggest of the bunch, with good production at a small school and rumored excellent athleticism, but lacking great edge traits. Arguably all four of these could/should play predominantly interior DL at the next level.

The smallest of the small-bodied guys is Pittsburgh’s Ejuan Price. We’re talking sub 6’0″. And that size deficiency was evident pretty much anytime an opponent double-teamed Price with as much as a RB/TE chip. But he was 5th in the country in sacks. Haason Reddick is almost assuredly a stand-up LB in the NFL, but he’ll go to Indy in the DE group. Same story for Pita Taumoepenu. This group should test very well, however.

Demarcus Walker and Jordan Willis were guys with a ton of production that many don’t expect to test well. Dawuane Smoot had a dip in production under Lovie Smith’s coaching, but should test above average.

The best athletes from the 7th and 8th DL groups should be: Myles Garrett, Solomon Thomas, Haason Reddick, Takk McKinley, and Charles Harris. I’ve got Jordan Willis as the sleeper to sneak into the top 5 Edge in SPARQ.

Then, there are also guys that will test as LB’s on Sunday, but could play some hand in the dirt DE as pro’s. This is the Ryan Anderson, Tyus Bowser, Jojo Mathis collection. Of those three, Mathis feels the most mis-placed off the ball, as his 260 lbs and pass-rushing traits deserve to be in the DL group. Bowser is correctly placed, but should get 3rd down passrush reps wherever he gets picked.

The rest of the traditional LB’s would feature great testing from Jarrad Davis and Reuben Foster if they were healthy enough to compete. Bowser is a very nice athlete and should perform well across the board. And Zach Cunningham should have a great day.

Overall, it’s not a great group of standup LB’s this year, and certainly not very deep.

Speaking of the groups more challenged of talent…this is a bad year at DT. It makes some sense that it is bad after the quality we saw in 2016, but still. It’s especially rough for interior passrushers.

I think the DT passrush group (outside of the aforementioned DE with DT versatility) begins and ends with five names: Davon Godchaux, Jaleel Johnson, Vincent Taylor, Treyvon Hester, and Chunky Clements. And one of those is kind of a flyer-only based on flashes of upside.

But there are another handful of names that have shown potential to be solid rotational DT. I like Dalvin Tomlinson as a run-stuffer. Both Notre Dame DT (Isaac Rochell and Jarron Jones) hold some intrigue if allowed time to learn on the bench. Similar line of thinking on Nazair Jones. Carlos Watkins had a very productive year, but watching his tape I always ended up wondering if he was often just in the right spot to clean up the work done by Clemson teammates: Dexter Lawrence and Christian Wilkins.

In terms of elite DT athletes…I don’t have a great sense that any are like Dontari Poe level athletes. I think Jaleel has shown the most raw athleticism of the group. But the sleeper has got to be Elijah Qualls. The former fullback with tumbling skills could do crazy things in agility and jumping tests.

Combine Preview: WR, TE

By Jared Stanger

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Groups 4, 5, and 6 of this year’s NFL Scouting Combine arrive in Indianapolis on March 1st, and will be comprised of the QB’s, WR’s, and TE’s. For purposes of a Seattle Seahawk draft blog, I won’t be talking about the QB’s.

Wide Receiver

After hosting 42 WR in 2016 and 45 in 2015; with 58 invited in 2017, what this class lacks in top end WR1’s, it might be trying to compensate for in volume. I hope the combine organizers have lined up additional throwing QB’s.

With 58 receivers participating, they are a plethora of pretty much every type of wideout imaginable. Tall ones, short ones, fast ones, slow ones, slot ones, outside ones.

Tall ones: Ricky Seals-Jones, Kenny Golladay, Bug Howard, Mike Williams, Corey Davis.

Short ones: Greg Ward, Jesus Wilson, Artavis Scott, Speedy Noil, Gabe Marks.

Fast ones: John Ross, Shelton Gibson, Curtis Samuel, Victor Bolden, Mack Hollins.

Slow ones: well, let’s not throw them under the bus. Even some of the slow ones are intriguing this year.

Slot ones: Cooper Kupp, Zay Jones, Trent Taylor, Ryan Switzer, Fred Ross.

Outside ones: Chad Hansen, Chris Godwin, Juju Smith-Schuster, Taywan Taylor, Josh Reynolds.

Five per category with no repeats, and that’s not even half of this class. I mean, where do you even start to talk about this many WR?

In terms of pure SPARQ; I think Mack Hollins (if healthy) has a chance to put up testing somewhere around a Martavis Bryant or Tyrell Williams. I can’t wait to see UW’s John Ross test…would love to see him win the 40. I could see Cooper Kupp having an overall top-5 WR SPARQ score.

Historically, wide receiver SPARQ hasn’t been a strong predictor of Seattle’s interest in a player. Kenny Lawler ran a 4.63 forty, Chris Harper ran a 4.55, Kevin Norwood ran a 4.48 but didn’t show much in the vert, shuttle, or bench. But they also drafted SPARQ freak Kris Durham for pretty much ONLY that reason.

In a general sense, I’ve long been eyeing the 3rd round as the sweet spot this year, but my current sense is that the group of Kupp, Jones, Carlos Henderson, Taylor are looking strongly 2nd round guys.

I think Kupp will surprise people. I think Taywan is a fairly well-documented SPARQ’d up guy. I don’t have a great sense for where Zay is at purely physically…I wouldn’t be surprised if he had a combine like Jordan Matthews did a couple years ago when people thought Jordan was slow…I also wouldn’t be surprised if Zay is an average runner (I lean toward Zay being faster than expected).

In a Seattle sense, if there are questions about Tyler Lockett’s health, Jermaine Kearse’s rebound from a rough 2016, getting out a year ahead of Paul Richardson’s impending free agency year, or a combination of any-of-the-above; your first time to really consider WR is in the 2nd round with that group. So those are a handful of guys to watch for in the testing.

If Seattle is looking more towards filling a specific role, a couple things to watch for are: 1) special teamers, 2) big targets.

  1. Lockett’s timetable is a mystery, but even if he’s back fully for preseason I have to wonder if they look to lighten his load on special teams in order to allow him to focus more attention on being WR2. Carlos Henderson is the top WR kickoff returner in the combine (UNC running back TJ Logan is ahead of Carlos if including all positions). Isaiah McKenzie, Trent Taylor could be some names to watch as punt returners.
  2. During, and since, the 2016 season; Seattle has acquired some big-bodied WR slash TE types: 6’2″/225lb Jamel Johnson, 6’6″/230lb Tanner McEvoy, 6’5″/225lb Rodney Smith, 6’4″/218lb Marcus Lucas, 6’5″/220lb Chris Briggs. So, during the weigh-in, I will be interested to see names that pop at 6’2″-plus/220lbs-plus. Pre-emptively: Jerome Lane, Noah Brown, Juju, Seals-Jones, Golladay, Howard, Hollins. Slightly below those specs, but perhaps having the intended skillset: Darreus Rogers. Watch his gauntlet closely.

And, then, that big WR list will be blended with some of the small TE. Which leads us to…

Tight End

WHAT A FUN GROUP THIS WILL BE TO WATCH!!

Right off the top; David Njoku and OJ Howard should test insanely well. The big guy from Ashland, Adam Shaheen, has shown some crazy athleticism for 277 lbs on the limited tape I’ve seen of him. Jordan Leggett can move, Cole Hikutini is a great runner, Evan Engram, Gerald Everett, Eric Saubert…they just keep coming. Oh…I’ve seen Darrell Daniels run a 4.4 forty, so put him somewhere top 5 pure TE athlete in Indy.

Then, in terms of known quality blocking TE’s, would love to see some of these guys also test well athletically: George Kittle, Hayden Plinke, Mike Roberts.

If I put together a vertical short-stack at TE; I’d target one of these four in the round indicated:

3rd- Leggett
4th- Hikutini
5th- Roberts
6th- Plinke

With depth like this, it’s tough for me to see enough value to go TE in the first two rounds. Start in the 3rd (after addressing something more needy in the 1st-2nd).

Roberts is easily the best redzone threat in this class. The rest of my list are tied-2nd, or tied-7th in touchdowns by a TE in the country this year.

Redzone, redzone, redzone. All signs point toward improving redzone with another big body target (plus Luke Willson is probably walking).

Wide receivers and tight ends will take their field-testing on Saturday, March 4th.