Though the state of Washington has a ways to go before ranking with the likes of California, Texas, Florida or Alabama when it comes to producing NFL talent, the quality and quantity of the prospects from local colleges stood out this week at the 2015 Scouting Combine.
Assuming that teams are comfortable with the medical reports, I project the state's seven D-I prospects - Washington's Danny Shelton, Shaq Thompson, Marcus Peters, and Hau'oli Kikaha and Washington State's Xavier Cooper, Vince Mayle and Connor Halliday - invited to the Combine to all get drafted. Eastern Washington safety Tevin McDonald (a UCLA transfer) has a realistic chance at hearing his name called in Day Three, as well.
So who fits best in Seattle? In ascending order of probability, I rank them 8-1 below.
8. FS Tevin McDonald, Eastern Washington
Why he fits: Like his older brother, T.J. (a former Pete Carroll pupil at USC) and father, Tim (a former Pro Bowler in San Francisco), Tevin is a natural playmaker, racking up nine turnovers in 2014, his first season in Cheney following a couple of productive years with the Bruins. He's athletic and aggressive.
Why he doesn't: At just 5-11, 190 pounds, McDonald lacks the bulk Seattle prefers at safety.
Bottom Line: Seattle is relatively secure at safety but could be intrigued by McDonald as a late round pick or if he slips into free agency.
7. Connor Halliday, Washington State
Why he fits: Any passer in Mike Leach's offense is going to put up numbers, but the lanky, strong-armed Halliday isn't your typical spread quarterback. If not for a gruesome ankle injury, I'm confident that Halliday would have been invited to a senior all-star game and built some buzz for himself. He told the media last week at the Combine that he'd already met with several teams, including Cleveland, Dallas, Miami, Philadelphia and Tampa Bay. He has the confidence to compete at any level, though he's as different as Russell Wilson as it gets in the decision-making department, often challenging defenders with reckless passes and doesn't possess much elusiveness.
Why he doesn't: As stated, Halliday is coming off injury and isn't at all like Wilson, who is clearly the present and future of the franchise. With very little experience in a traditional pro-style offense, Halliday would take time to develop in the Seahawks' run-heavy attack.
Bottom Line: Seattle has struggled to justify keeping a third QB on the roster in the past so Halliday is likely to be pursuing his NFL career in another state.
6. Hau'oli Kikaha, Washington
Why he fits: Carroll understands as much as anyone the value of pass rushers and no one was better in this department than Kikaha. He has a nice burst off the ball, uses his hands well and has a great motor. At 6-3, 246 pounds, Kikaha has similar size to some of Seattle's current and past "LEO" defensive ends.
Why he doesn't: Seattle demands great athleticism from its undersized pass rushers and Kikaha hasn't demonstrated that. He struggled when asked to drop in linebacker drills at the Senior Bowl and wasn't able to prove he'd improved in this regard at the Combine due to sickness. He's coming off two torn ACLs.
Bottom Line: Kikaha's production, technique and tenacity will get him drafted if the medicals come through okay. The lack of ideal fluidity and length, however, make him a questionable fit in Seattle's scheme.
5. Danny Shelton, Washington
Why he fits: Shelton is a potential top 10 pick, boasting a combination of size, power, remarkably light feet and tenacity to fit virtually any club.
Why he doesn't: Shelton's tape proves his competitiveness but he has some lazy tendencies, including struggles with keeping his weight in check. He pumped his fist in excitement after checking in at 343 pounds at the Senior Bowl, suggesting that he played even heavier during his spectacular final season for the 'Dawgs.
Bottom Line: Pretty simple -- he just won't be there at No. 31 and Seattle has too many concerns to justify an aggressive trade up to get him.
4. Vince Mayle, Washington State
Why he fits: Seattle's passing game needs help and Mayle offers good size (6-3, 219), surprising lateral agility, improving routes and a terrific catch radius.
Why he doesn't: Mayle doesn't necessarily offer much more than what Seattle already has with Chris Matthews. Concerns about Mayle's straight-line speed were only amplified when he was clocked at 4.67 seconds in the 40-yard dash.
Bottom Line: Mayle is a legitimate NFL draft pick, showing steady development as a route-runner and pass-catcher the past two years. He enjoyed solid performances at the Senior Bowl and Combine but lacks the elusiveness and big play ability Seattle is missing at receiver and returner.
3. Shaq Thompson, Washington
Why he fits: The Seahawks love versatility and no one in this class offers more of than Thompson, who won the Paul Hornung Award for his Swiss Army Knife-like ability. Thompson may never prove a true traditional outside linebacker (or strong safety), but his combination of instincts, agility and ball-skills could make him a defensive "eraser" capable of slowing down the hybrid receivers/tight ends and backs so en vogue in today's NFL.
Why he doesn't: Thompson is a terrific player but there is some finesse to his game. Seattle's defenders are generally longer, faster and more physical than their opponents. Those aren't Thompson's strong suits.
Bottom Line: From a style standpoint, Thompson isn't a great fit for Seattle's scheme. I expected him to dazzle during the Combine workouts and while he wasn't bad, he certainly didn't post eye-popping numbers, including measuring in shorter than I expected. If he was available at No. 31, I'd expect Seattle to look elsewhere given greater needs at other positions.
2. Xavier Cooper, Washington State
Why he fits: Cooper is a better NFL prospect than most realize. He finished first among defensive tackles tested at the Combine this year in the 40-yard dash with a time of 4.86 seconds after measuring in at 6-3, 293 pounds and this athleticism translates onto the football field. He has experience playing inside and out in WSU's scheme and is a developing prospect who played his prep ball at Wilson High School in Tacoma.
Why he doesn't: Cooper doesn't yet possess ideal functional strength to hold up in run support and would project best at a position in which Seattle already has returning young talent in Jordan Hill and Cassius Marsh.
Bottom Line: The Seahawks are constantly refreshing the talent along the line of scrimmage and could see a hidden gem in Cooper. With continued hard work, his best football appears to be ahead of him.
1. Marcus Peters, Washington
Why he fits: Peters is the most talented cornerback in this draft. He's got size (6-0, 197 pounds), ball-skills (11 career interceptions) and is as aggressive and physical in run support as he is against opposing receivers. He plays with the competitiveness to handle the pressure of lining up on the other side of an established star like Richard Sherman.
Why he doesn't: Peters comes with plenty of character red-flags after getting kicked off the team by UW head coach Chris Petersen due to frequent disagreements with the coaching staff. That kind of selfish behavior wouldn't fit in on a club that prides itself on its "team" mentality.
Bottom Line: Simply put, he fills a need, has first round talent and might be on the board at No. 31. Carroll and GM John Schneider have gambled on players with off-field concerns in the past if they saw enough talent (and improving accountability). I believe Peters has both.
Ranking the state's prospects as Seahawks
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