The annual Senior Bowl invites 106 of the country’s most accomplished seniors to a week of determined practice under the constant and ever analytical eye of dozens of NFL scouts and personnel.
Then follows the game, which for the players can help to relieve some of the stress induced by the week-long process, and for the NFL personnel, helps to educate. Some surely, will excel in the game and others, won’t.
For every NFL team, it is an important week, nearly as much so as it is to the prospects. Whether a team is coming off of a 12-4 playoff season or a 2-14 dreadful campaign, scouting the Senior Bowl — and other games like it — is paramount to the future success of the franchise.
The Seattle Seahawks are no different. After an 11-5 campaign that saw them reach the playoffs as a wild card team only to eventually fall to the Atlanta Falcons in the divisional round, holes, while scarce, persist. First and foremost amongst them is that of the defensive line. Providing a pass rush and providing support against the run, is of great concern to the Seahawks, especially after losing reigning sack leader Chris Clemons to an ACL and meniscus tear that will keep him out well into training camp if not longer.
Without Clemons, the team could not accrue one sack against the Falcons, and even with him, struggled to the 23rd most sacks in the league over the course of the season. It also yielded a disappointed 103.1 yards on the ground after being around 80 yards per-game for much of the season. The Falcons ran for 167 yards, the most they had all season, against their defense in the final game of the season.
So both positions on the defensive line — tackle and end — will be a primary focus for improvement both in free agency and the draft. Expect the offensive line (where starters McQuistan, Giacomini and Sweezy grade out poorly) as well as a playmaker at wide receiver to also be a focal point.
With that in mind, here are some Senior Bowl prospects who stood out and could interest the Seahawks.
Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU — An extremely raw talent out of BYU by way of Ghana, Ansah has incredible story that will be told countless times during the draft process, but to be succinct, just understand that he has incredible physical talent (6’6″ 270 pounds with sprinter’s speed) and plays with a high motor. Should be available near the latter third of the first round when the Seahawks pick.
Kawann Short, DT, Purdue — Short showed power and quickness while dominating the interior line of the South during the Senior Bowl. He made a number of plays behind the line of scrimmage in Saturday’s game.
Datone Jones, DE/DT, UCLA — Jones was the other unblockable force for the North, showing well all week including the game. At 6’4″ and 280 pounds Jones has the size to play inside but is quick enough to play on the outside as well. He’ll come off the board sometime in the latter part of the first round and could still be in play for the Hawks.
Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan — Fisher showed to be the best lineman at the Senior Bowl, dominating all week to raise his stock from probable first round pick, to definite top 10 pick.
Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma — Johnson has quick feet and long arms, good assets that served him well as a tight end, and 6’6″ frame that can carry more weight than the current 305 he is listed at. He’ll be a late first round pick that will only get better as he plays the position more.
Larry Warford, G, Kentucky — Warford didn’t come into the Senior Bowl amid much fanfare but that wasn’t the case when he left. A beast at 6’3″ 343 pounds, Warford carries his weight well and punishes at the point of attack. He wasn’t beat all week and dominates in the run game. He could be a round two steal.
Quinton Patton, WR, Louisiana Tech — Patton, 6’2″ 195, created a lot of buzz during the Senior Bowl week by showing a consistent ability to get open and flashing great hands and dynamic play-making ability in the endzone. He would be a steal in round 3.
Connor Vernon, WR, Duke — Vernon left Duke as the program’s all-time leading receiver and showed a consistent ability to get open and make tough catches at the Senior Bowl. He reminds me of an Eric Decker type, perhaps not the dynamic play-maker the Seahawks will seek but a good wide receiver nonetheless. Probably a 3rd to 5th rounder.
Marcus Wheaton, WR, Oregon State — Wheaton is a burner with good hands and at 6’1″ 182 pounds he has the size to be a playmaker in the NFL. He had a very good week and should be a Day 2 pick.