Seahawks Draft Primer: 2016 Senior Bowl


The bad news is the 2015-16 Seahawks season is over. The better news is the future still looks bright with many of the team’s better players still in their prime. The best news is that there will be young, talented blood added to the roster via the 2016 NFL Draft, and many of the players available will get together for a week’s worth of head-to-head competition at the Reese’s Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama the last week of January.

While the top needs of the team are still to be determined by what happens with free agent additions and defections later this spring, this organization is a firm believer in welcoming new, hungry players looking to prove themselves and much of 2016’s draft eligible players have been recruited by Senior Bowl executive Phil Savage to compete with one another in front of each NFL team’s executive brass.

You can bet GM John Schneider will have an up close and personal view of all of them, so let’s discuss some of the players that may look particularly interesting to the Seahawks.

Below is a list of the players participating in the Senior Bowl I’ve highlighted for one reason or another appear to be guys that could attract Seattle’s attention. Remember- we’re looking for guys with grit (or “dog”, as Sherman would say) and/or would appear near the top of a SPARQ analysis. They look for special traits in players and emphasize superior athletic ability with their very early and very late picks. Knowing this, let’s take a look at some possible draft targets that will compete in Mobile.

QUARTERBACKS: Brandon Allen, Jacoby Brissett, Jake Coker, Jeff Driskell, Kevin Hogan, Cody Kessler, Dak Prescott, Carson Wentz

Focus On: Brisset (6’3”, 235 lb, NC State)

Obviously the Seahawks are set at QB1 with Wilson, but backup spot will be up for grabs as Tarvaris Jackson is likely to move on after acting as a human insurance policy the last few years.   Brisset brings similar qualities to the position as Wilson including the ability to escape a collapsing pocket and throw accurately on the run. With no pressure to save a franchise and all the time in the world to develop his skill set with Wilson as a mentor to emulate, Brisset- currently rated as a 7th round prospect by is an ideal candidate for Seattle to target on day 3 of the NFL Draft. Look for evidence of leadership skills (or lack of) from Brissett during the week of practices.

RUNNING BACKS: Kenneth Dixon, Kenyan Drake, Tyler Ervin, Aaron Green, Chris Swain, Jonathan Williams

Focus On: Williams (5’11”, 223 lbs, Arkansas)

A foot injury sadly robbed Williams of his entire senior season and while the medical reports of his recovery will prove vital in the days leading up to the draft, we’ll assume he is 100% healthy for 2016 and beyond. Clearly, the Seahawks have a body type and attitude at running back that they prefer, and Williams checks off both boxes, showing in 2014 the ability to break through arm tackles, yet nimbly maneuver traffic between the tackles. Known as a selfless player, Williams’ long rehab from injury shows he has the grit and perseverance to excel at the next level. He is a bargain right now as the 119th ranked player overall and would be a great player to add with the 3rd round compensatory pick afforded by the loss of Byron Maxwell. Though the supernova known as Thomas Rawls returns in 2016, Marshawn Lynch likely will not and the Seahawks will need to add talent to the running back stable. Williams would slot in very well as a RB2 behind Rawls, initially.

WIDE RECEIVERS: Aaron Burbridge, Leonte Carroo, Josh Doctson, Jay Lee, Kolby Listenbee, Paul McRoberts, Braxton Miller, Malcolm Mitchell, Chris Moore, Jordan Payton, Sterling Shepard

Focus On: Burbridge (6’1”, 208 lbs, Michigan St)

Doctson is easily my favorite player in this group but you’d have to use your first round pick on him if he’s even available and this team has more pressing needs at other positions. Burbridge is another guy ranked in the 4th round area at this time and could be another candidate to use the 3rd round comp pick to select. He would bring elements to the offense that Baldwin and Lockett do not provide- size, physicality and high-point ability in the red zone and an already impressive blocking skill set to the run game, which this team demands and appreciates from the wideouts.

TIGHT ENDS: Jerell Adams, Glenn Gronkowski, Tyler Higbee, Henry Krieger-Koble, Jake McGee, Nick Vannett, Bryce Williams

Focus On: Vannett (6’6”, 260 lbs, Ohio St)

In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit an unhealthy need to see the Seahawks send Cooper Helfet back into the world of male modeling and away from the football field. Helfet is not an NFL talent. Far too light to block effectively and far too soft to make catches in traffic without being injured, Helfet has somehow defied Powerball-like odds by clinging to the active roster as this team’s third tight end. It’s hard to believe considering the fact that this team, more than any other, wants to run the ball more than they throw and typically the third tight end is nothing if not a strong inline blocker. Helfet, however, is a liability in every measurable way when he steps on the field.

With Luke Willson evolving into a decent 2-way tight end and of course the hopeful return of Jimmy Graham at some point next season as the primary pass-catching weapon at the position, TE3 is not necessarily a primary hole to fill but it is an important one because an upgrade over Helfet is very much required. Vannett has enough experience and toughness to contribute in limited snaps right away in 2016 and would make the running backs that much more of a threat in this steadily improving offense. He is seen currently as a 3rd round talent but I’d be surprised if he wasn’t available in round 4 due to his lack of eye-catching receiving numbers at Ohio State. I would gladly select him then.

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OFFENSIVE TACKLES: Vadal Alexander, Willie Beavers, Le’Raven Clark, Joe Dahl, Taylor Decker, Spencer Drango, Joe Haeg, Kyle Murphy, Jason Spriggs, John Theus, Cole Toner

Focus On: Beavers (6’5”, 312 lbs, Western Michigan), Haeg (6’5”, 300 lbs, N Dakota St), Spriggs (6’6”, 305 lbs, Indiana)

Frankly, you’ll want to watch EVERYBODY in this group, as some guys will stay at tackle and some will kick inside to guard in the NFL. Truth is the Seahawks could use all the help they can get to fortify the o-line. It needs an influx of next-level talent at nearly all spots.

Beavers and Haeg are again in that 3rd-4th round range if the team elects to spend its highest draft capital on other positions. They come from smaller schools and get a golden opportunity to show that their skills hold up against the best college players in the country and translate to the NFL. These are guys that shouldn’t be asked to take on Aaron Donald in week 1 next year but may flourish under Tom Cable’s tutelage in time.

We’ve made it to our first player under consideration as a first round selection. Spriggs has loads of experience at left tackle and is very likely to find himself at or near the top of the SPARQ results when the Underwear Olympics are completed in Indianapolis next month. He will show natural mirroring ability in pass sets and an ability to get to the second level with ease. The kind of “mover” Tom Cable talks about needing to make his zone blocking scheme work. The elephant in the room for Spriggs will be proving his worth as a run blocker. His tape shows more of a reacher and grabber than a physical pile-mover, but the week of Senior Bowl practices will afford him the opportunity to reveal a mean streak if there is one hiding inside.

GUARDS: Josh Garnett, Connor McGovern, Sebastian Tretola, Christian Westerman, Cody Whitehair

Focus on: Dahl (6’4”, 303 lbs, Washington St), Westerman (6’3”, 302 lbs, Arizona St), Whitehair (6’4”, 309 lbs, Kansas St)

I stole Dahl from the tackles list because he is likely to kick down much like Zack Martin and Joel Bitonio before him to guard. His pass protection is already next-level quality and he would immediately afford Russell Wilson more time to survey targets downfield than he currently gets. Like Spriggs at tackle, questions about being an effective run blocker need to be answered by Dahl. He seems to have the temperament to get that job done, however, and that’s a good place to start. Currently ranked the 228th best prospect in the draft by, getting Dahl late on day 3 of the Draft would qualify as grand larceny. Expect that overall ranking to quietly be pushed way up the board between now and April. He’s far better than a 7th round prospect.

Westerman intrigues me because he’s being tutored by former NFL lineman LeCharles Bentley, who I consider as much an offensive line whisperer as George Whitfield is for quarterbacks. Westerman plays mean, mauls people in the run game, and is athletic enough to hold his own in pass protection. Currently seen as another prospect in the 3rd to 4th round, he could be an immediate contributor if Seattle loses J.R. Sweezy to free agency or wants to upgrade the guard spot currently occupied by Justin Britt. Cable would love to get the chance to mold this bad boy.

Whitehair is another consideration for the Seahawks first round draft pick if they want to go that route. A left tackle at Kansas State, Whitehair is another candidate to move to guard, be a day 1 starter and immediately improve upon the play of Britt.

CENTER: Jack Allen, Evan Boehm, Nick Martin

Focus On : Boehm (6’3”, 320 lbs, Missouri)

Some will bristle when they see Boehm attended the same school as Britt, who to this point has been…underwhelming, let’s say. Don’t let the school color your view of a prospect. Each individual is different and frankly, Seattle’s 2nd round pick last year probably would have been used on the previous center for Missouri- Mitch Morse- had he been available at pick 63. If Boehm is available as expected in the 4th round, he would be a nice player to develop for a year behind the current starter at center, Patrick Lewis. He’s a mauler.

DEFENSIVE ENDS: Jason Fanaika, Bronson Kaufusi, Carl Nassib, Dadi Nicolas, Shawn Oakman, Sheldon Rankins, Noah Spence, Charles Tapper, Lawrence Thomas, Jihad Ward

Focus On: Spence (6’3”, 261 lbs, Eastern Kentucky)

If there was ever a player that could be looked at as a replacement for Bruce Irvin, who is likely to cash in and leave Seattle via free agency, it’s Spence- both on and off the field. After a litany of off-field issues involving drugs, Spence transferred from Ohio State to EKU and has since improved upon his reputation as a player and person. He flashes traits becoming of an effective edge rusher and we know the Seahawks are willing to give guys a second chance to be exemplary members of the organization and community if the player is willing to make the effort. If Spence tests out as athletic as tape would suggest, you can be sure the Seahawks will do a deep dive on his past and be very intrigued by the quarterback harassment. Like, Day 1 intrigued.

DEFENSIVE TACKLES: Vernon Butler, Sheldon Day, Matt Ioannidis, Quinton Jefferson, Austin Johnson, Adolphus Washington

Focus On: Washington (6’4”, 290 lbs, Ohio State)

The Seahawks don’t take big, 1-Tech run-stuffers early in drafts, rather electing to use modest free agent pickups to do the dirty (but important) work in the middle of the scrimmage line. Washington is more the long, knifing type of 3-Tech tackle the team happily deploys against offenses. His ability to make plays in the backfield and be a nice rotational player could entice the team to use a 2nd round pick on a position where both starters (Mebane, Rubin) are unrestricted free agents.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS: Shilique Calhoun, Kyler Fackrell, Jordan Jenkins, Deion Jones, Joshua Perry, Joe Schobert, Eric Striker

Focus On: Fackrell (6’5”, 250 lbs, Utah State)

Fackrell is another player that may be able to perform the SLB/EDGE duties that Irvin has admirably performed for the Seahawks. He moves well enough to cover space a SLB and has ability to rush the passer when asked to do so. Fackrell will need to prove he can set an edge when needed, however, and his ability to hold his ground in practices will go a long way in determining whether he has that in him. Another early Day 3 prospect to keep an eye on in Mobile.

INSIDE LINEBACKERS: Kentrell Brothers, Josh Forrest, Nick Kwiatkowski, Blake Martinez, Tyler Matakevich, Antonio Morrison, Jared Norris

Focus On: Morrison (6’1”, 229 lbs, Florida)

One of my favorite players in the upcoming draft. There is never a question who the most intense player is on the field when Morrison is part of it. He plays every down like it’s his last. He is a leader on the field and I want this man on my defense. However, measurables get in the way here. At only 229 lbs, he is not a prototypical middle linebacker. He would need to be kept clean by the guys in front of him to succeed between the hashes, but if that can be done, Morrison will clean up any and all messes and he is afraid of nothing and no one. His value is currently that of a 5th rounder. I would trip and fall several times sprinting up to the podium in round 5 to take this guy. He will force a coaching staff to find a place on the field to put him.

CORNERBACKS: James Bradberry, Maurice Canady, Sean Davis, Deiondre’ Hall, William Jackson III, Cyrus Jones, Jonathan Jones, Harlan Miller, Jalen Mills, Eric Murray, Kevin Peterson, Tavon Young

Focus On: Hall

Of all positions, I feel cornerback is the one where players making the jump from small school to the pros seem to have the best chance to succeed. Good corner skills translate well regardless of level of competition and are often bargains on draft day (see: Norman, Josh). One of the more intriguing watches during Senior Bowl practices will be the one-on-one battles between WR and CB that involve guys like Hall and Harlan Miller. What is tantalizing about Hall, in addition to the basket full of interceptions on his cover letter, is his willingness and ability to tackle- a very , very important trait to have in order to get playing time in Seattle. A possible 3rd round gem.

SAFETIES: Kevin Byard, Jeremy Cash, KJ Dillon, Deandre Houston-Carson, Miles Killebrew, Jordan Lucas, Tyvis Powell, Darian Thompson

Focus On: Cash (6’1”, 208 lbs, Duke), Killebrew (6’2”, 223 lbs, Southern Utah), Thompson (6’2”, 210 lbs, Boise St)

This grouping is loaded. Cash and Killebrew are more strong safety types while Thompson is so talented he may able to play both strong and free safety. Cash and Thompson will cost early round draft capital, while Killebrew is a very interesting mid-round option that at times reminds me of Brian Urlacher when he came out of New Mexico as a runaway freight train of a safety.

In studying Killebrew, you see a guy that sometimes fails to wrap tacklers and aims too high at times on hits. Luckily for him, there’s this cool DVD in the meeting room that teaches players how to use a rugby-type tackle that is both safety-conscious and wildly effective. At other times, you see a guy with impressive closing speed and a thirst for contact that often separates man from ball. He tries to rip the football out a carrier’s grip a lot and that’s a good thing. There a lot of positive athletic attributes here and they just to be harnessed. What better group of comrades to assist with that than the LOB? We’re talking about a possible heir to the Chancellor throne here who can inflict similar pain to an offense.

PUNTERS: Just kidding

I’ll use this space as a tribute to the great Jon Ryan. His contract is expired and based on his “older Willie Mays” exploits in Minnesota that featured a 4-inch vert and a broken nose after one of his worst statistical regular seasons on record, I think he’d be the first to a tweet a picture of himself being wheeled into a glue factory by his funny girlfriend. It was a great run, Jon, and I’m glad you get to clumsily ride off into the sunset with a Super Bowl ring on one of your Canadian fingers. You were a treat.

There is a specific trait in a punter and kicker that I look for, however. He must be well-versed in kicking a football in horrific weather. These dome guys and California kids don’t interest me. Whoever replaces Ryan next year should be able to effectively kick in adverse conditions. The punters in this game are from Syracuse (dome) and Wake Forest (beautiful Carolina), so I have no interest.

So, there you have it. Brush up on the prospects featured above and when you watch the Senior Bowl practices, look for them. You could be witnessing the next great Seattle Seahawk!