I had a chance to talk to NFLDraftScout.com senior draft analyst Rob Rang about last week’s NFL scouting combine and what the Seahawks might be thinking heading into April’s draft. Rang also gave me his risers and fallers from last week’s combine.
You can check out Rang’s latest mock draft here. He has Seattle selecting Tennessee safety Eric Berry at No. 6 overall, and Seattle taking South Florida defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul at No. 14 overall.
Check out Pierre-Paul’s athletic ability in this video clip of him doing back flips.
Rang said he has Seattle taking Berry because he believes the Tennessee safety is among the three elite players in this year’s draft, joining Nebraska’s Ndamukong Suh and Oklahoma’s Gerald McCoy.
“I think if he’s available at six than he should absolutely be a candidate for Seattle,” Rang said. “With the receivers that are in this division, I think if Seattle is going to compete then they have to get better at the safety position. I think he’ll also help against the running game.”
And on Pierre-Paul at No. 14, Rang had this to say: “I think with Alex Gibbs as the offensive line coach, I think you’re going to see the team have the luxury of focusing on the offensive line and running back positions later on in the draft.”
Rang believes if you’re looking for an elite pass rusher in the draft you have to find them early, and that he could see Seattle taking a bit of a gamble on someone like Pierre-Paul. Rang also said he’s rates Georgia Tech defensive end Derrick Morgan higher than Pierre-Paul, and that Morgan should be someone that the Seahawks consider at No. 6.
Here is Rang’s description of Pierre-Paul: “He has eye-popping athletic ability. He’s 6-5, 260 pounds and runs well. He has real long arms, which certainly with any defensive end you love to have that, because it allows them to keep off the reach of the offensive tackle.
“He’s developing his instincts. He has the agility to not only beat pass blockers with his initial speed rush, but also to kind of jab step outside and redirect inside. He has the type of skills that usually would warrant a top-10 pick. I think if he slides down to 14, that might be too much for Seattle or any other team at that point to let him slide much farther.”
Some people have compared Pierre-Paul to DeMarcus Ware, but Rang believes that comparison is not a great one because Pierre-Paul has not proven he can play out in space as a 3-4 rush linebacker. He believes Pierre-Paul is more like former Tennessee Titans defensive end Jevon Kearse.
Rang also said that he believes Pierre-Paul is more of a weak-side edge rusher, and that Lawrence Jackson should be allowed to continue to develop as a strong-side end.
Overall, Rang says the Seahawks have been harder to read in terms of their strategy heading into April’s draft with Pete Carroll and John Schneider in charge.
“The Seahawks are quite savvy with their expectations of what they’re going to be doing,” Rang said. “By not focusing on any one player or one position, I think the Seahawks have done a masterful job of kind of allowing the board to come to them and not pigeon-holing themselves into one player or position. … I don’t feel like anybody has any type of real feel on where Seattle is leaning at this point.”
Rang also mentioned to watch for Seattle to take a quarterback at the top half of the draft if Sam Bradford or Jimmy Clausen is available.
Rang also offered a few risers and fallers from last week’s combine.
Risers: Rang said that typically most folks get caught up with the guys like Maryland offensive tackle Bruce Campbell, who put up gaudy numbers and garner some attention from the media during the week. However, Rang said typically the guys who boost their stock are players who can prove they are medically fit who may have had medical issues heading into the draft, like Oklahoma tight end Jermaine Gresham or Clemson linebacker Ricky Sapp
“Any player who missed some time due to injury during the year and proved that they are healthy, those are going to be the guys that improved their stock the most,” Rang said.
That said, Rang did offer a couple names he thought may have moved up a couple slots based on performance.
Ryan Mathews, RB Fresno State: “He really helped himself with a strong showing, especially in the 40-yard dash.”
Jarrett Brown, QB West Virginia: “Considering that he was the most impressive quarterback at the Senior Bowl, he also helped his stock.”
Also helping themselves according to Rang were wide receivers Jacoby Ford out of Clemson and Golden Tate out of Notre Dame.
Fallers: Rang said that sometimes guys dropping can be overstated because a very small percentage of the scouting is judged on combine workouts and results. But he believes some players did perhaps drop because of what happened at the combine.
Arrelious Benn, WR Illinois: “A lot of people had him pegged as a possible, first-round pick, but in watching him during the receiver-quarterback drills he struggled with his footwork. And he dropped some balls that I certainly expected him to catch.”
Jordan Shipley, WR Texas: “He also struggled with his footwork and dropped some balls that I didn’t think he would drop.”
Tony Pike, QB Cincinnati: “He sprayed the ball all over the field a little bit during drills.”
Joe Haden, CR Florida: “I think there’s too much good film on Haden to see him slip too far, but he’s going to have improve upon his time, because it wasn’t just the 40-yard dash. It was all across the board. He was much slower and less athletic than a lot of people expected.”