2011 NFL Draft Results: 12 Undrafted Free Agents for Seattle Seahawks Defense
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An important part of the post draft process for Pete Carroll and John Schneider is recruiting undrafted players to sign with the Seattle Seahawks.
Earlier in the week, I highlighted 12 offensive undrafted free agent prospects to watch for Seattle.
What about defense?
The Seahawks drafted one defensive lineman, and have as many as six free agents at the position; they need undrafted talent. Furthermore, the Seahawks would surely appreciate another press corner to throw into the mix. Does the undrafted free agent pool hold any solutions?
Let’s take a look at 12 undrafted prospects on the defensive side of the ball.
Darrin Walls (6’0'', 191) DB, Notre Dame
Darrin Walls has the potential to be a play maker with some seasoning.
Walls is an athletic, physical corner that had an up and down career in 34 starts at Notre Dame.
He flashed potential his freshman season in 2006, shutting down Georgia Tech’s Calvin Johnson to two catches for 16 yards in a half. After a strong sophomore season, he was primed to breakout in 2008.
However, he un-enrolled for personal reasons just a few days before the 2008 season. Walls battled to regain his starting job in 2009 and was a full time starter again in 2010, a solid senior season.
He is a physical, 4.42 40, agile corner that is best suited for an aggressive, press scheme. 19 career breakups with five interceptions, two returned for touchdowns, shows he has potential to be a play maker. He can be a solid hitter in space as well.
However, inconsistent hands, high and choppy backpedal, too many guesses on routes, a susceptibility to giving up comebacks and double moves are all areas that need improvement. Walls' missed season in 2008 may have stunted his development-convert to safety?
Walls has the athleticism to play in the NFL and the physicality in his game to be molded into a role on the Seahawks. He fits as another athletic defensive back that can compete for a roster spot if he can improve his skills and continue to work hard. He has the tools to become an impact, sub-package defensive back in the right system.
Mana Silva (6’1”, 212) SS, Hawaii
A good look at Mana Silva.
Silva is a little known strong safety that left home to go to Oregon State, but then transferred back to Oahu. He excelled as a three time academic all-WAC player and plays with attitude.
He has great straight line speed and can come from the back end for run support in a hurry; he is not a lateral player, however, and sometimes goes for the big hit instead of slowing down to wrap on contact.
He is not a vertical cover guy and can be beat one on one, but is good as a jump ball safety. He wasn’t on many draft boards until his explosiveness was highlighted by a 4.44 40 yard dash, 40" vertical and 23 reps at the Hawaii pro day.
He was named first-team All-WAC after a senior season that saw him finish second nationally with eight interceptions and 14 total in his career, 85 tackles, three for loss and seven passes broken up.
Silva would provide the athleticism, work ethic and attitude that would really enhance the competition at the strong safety position, and provide another dynamic defensive back for the Bandit package.
Plus, he wouldn’t be far from home.
Ryan Jones (5’11”, 198) CB, Northwest Missouri State
Ryan Jones interception and return.
Jones is another small school player with big league talent; he just needs the benefit of big league coaching.
Jones appeared in 56 of a possible 58 games, accumulated 199 tackles, 39 pass break ups and 14 interceptions for 270 return yards. He has strong ball skills and the making of a complete football player.
In an optimum scouting interview, Jones acknowledged that playing on the D-II level, his skills still need to improve. “They have better coaches on the D-I level; as for me, I was lucky to have a good coach to get to this level…I can work on my technique and use my athleticism on the next level. I’m willing to do that with any coach.”
Additionally, Jones needs work on recognition/reaction skills and his fluidity in breaks to succeed.
His 4.46 40 yard dash, 40" vertical and 6.84 three-cone drill time shows he has the athleticism, and 19 reps shows he has adequate upper body strength to play press.
If Jones can absorb coaching, his football instincts would be a solid addition to the new depth in the defensive backfield. Jones would provide a little bit of a different profile from what Seattle has brought onto the roster thus far, but he's certainly not lacking the athleticism to compete.
Anthony Gray (5’11”, 330) DT, Southern Miss
No idea if he makes this play...good, stout size inside, however.
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Gray played in 45 games over four seasons, three as a starter, totaling 119 tackles, 24 for loss and 11 sacks.
He maintained consistent production in his final three seasons, with six-plus tackles for loss each year. As a three year all conference player, Gray has flashed his upside as an inside, run stuffing lineman.
He makes up for his stature with stout strength and athleticism. Gray’s 5.16 40 yard dash, 39 reps and 31.5" vertical at his pro day proves he is not just a sloppy body inside. However, he is not a reliable collapse-the-pocket tackle as he fires off the ball, but is often late in his get-off.
The knock on Gray is he’s not a high motor guy and has shown questionable instincts; he has a nasty demeanor when his motor is running.
Seattle will have to determine if he is the type of character whose upside can be tapped if he buys into a program. If Seattle thinks Gray can fit in the locker room, there is potential; likely first as a practice squad player, then as a rotational run stuffer with upside.
Marc Schiechl (6’2”, 252) OLB/DE, Colorado Mines
Absolute beast on the D-II level.
This little known prospect may be the player that can help put some of the grumbles about Seattle’s choice to largely ignore the defensive line to rest.
He was absolutely dominant on the D-II level—running through two blockers on a consistent basis—setting the D-II record with 46 career sacks and finishing fourth in the division's history with 70.5 tackles for loss; runner up for Gene Upshaw D-II lineman of the year in 2010.
Schiechl is more than just stats; at the Air Force pro day he showed his 4.65 speed, benched 38 reps and has a 35" vertical. Additionally, his 7.18 three-cone would have been among the upper third of lineman at the combine.
He has active hands, good lateral movement and is an intelligent player that sniffs out screens and stays home on misdirection; two major weaknesses of the 2010 Seahawks’ defense.
He needs to work on his pass rush repertoire and prove he can adjust to the speed of the game, but Schiechl was almost violent in the way he overmatched D-II competition.
He has versatility, strength, tenacity and a nose for the ball to play multiple positions on the defensive line in Seattle’s sub-package schemes, also as a rotational strong side linebacker.
My inclination is the Seahawks will have no problem creating a role for him attacking the line of scrimmage, or even pairing him side by side on the edge with Aaron Curry; if Seattle is lucky enough to sign Schiechl. He has the potential to make an NFL roster by opening day as a hard working prospect on special teams.
Brandon Bair (6’6”, 276) DL, Oregon
A very productive lineman his senior season at Oregon.
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Bair is a four year player from Oregon, the final two as a starter.
He registered 47 tackles, 8.5 for loss, with two sacks and two pass breakups as a junior. In his senior year, his production sky rocketed: only 45 tackles, but 16 for loss, 3.5 sacks and eight pass breakups.
Bair is not a prototypical defensive lineman; too tall to anchor inside, not explosive enough to rush the passer; his skill set makes him a high motor, rotational lineman that would see the majority of his time at five-technique for Seattle; his ability to bat down passes is a huge plus that slightly softens the blow of his lack of pass rush ability.
He has a quick first step that must be relied upon on the next level, as his big frame and average strength make him an easy target against double teams and bigger lineman after the initial rush.
He’ll have to work on hand technique and create a pass rush repertoire. If he can improve his overall strength and use of leverage, he can make an impact on special teams as well.
The other intriguing fact about Bair; he’s a 26-year-old prospect that seems to finally be hitting his stride.
He’s married with a three-year-old, a vigilant volunteer in the community and is constantly praised by his coaches for his will to improve. His work ethic, character and potential to improve make him a solid prospect.
Kiante Tripp (6’5”, 302) DL/OL, Georgia
Definitely has the athleticism and size to mold.
Tripp is not on this list for his production; Tripp has played defensive end, defensive tackle, tight end and offensive tackle for the Bulldogs, two of them multiple times and others happening as mid-season switches.
Tripp; “As far as moving around, I see it as helping out my team in the best way possible…that’s the only way I could think about it. If I thought of it any other way, it would be selfish of me because it’s all about the team.”
Tripp is obviously extremely raw, to the point where he was again converted to a defensive lineman in 2010, the team also switching from a 4-3 to a 3-4.
Tripp believes he has the athleticism to rush the passer, and weight to be effective against the run; his end position in the Georgia 3-4 was often shifted inside.
His weight fluctuated at Georgia, 263 to 292, and his listed 302 is his heaviest. He was often injured during his college career, some injuries possibly as a result of weight fluctuation.
However, potential NFL lineman and Georgia teammate Demarcus Dobbs called Tripp “one of the best bodies on the whole line, NFL-like.”
Tripp has the size to play inside or outside, and his current skill set is yet to be seen. However, his true team first work ethic and athleticism for size (4.99 40, 34 inch vertical at pro day) makes him an intriguing developmental prospect at Strong Side end for Seattle, especially given Pete Carroll’s work with Red Bryant last off-season.
The practice squad would be a good first step for Tripp, as he would benefit from one more season to adjust to the position. Then, Tripp may be ready to make an impact.
Cobrani Mixon (6’1”, 241) LB, Kent St.
Mixon plays with a serious attitude, #11.
After a redshirt season in 2006 at Michigan, Mixon transferred—an event that NFL executives were possibly leery of during the draft—and started at Kent St. in 2008.
At Kent St., Mixon had very solid production. A two-time first team All-MAC player, he had 190 tackles, 22 for loss, 9.5 sacks, 11 pass break ups and an interception, not to mention he was a constant threat for the strip, in his final two seasons.
Mixon played inside at Kent St, but his 4.68 40 yard dash, 35.5" vertical, 33 reps and 6.99 three-cone drill at his pro day suggest he has the agility and power to possibly play multiple positions at the next level.
He is a quick, violent and explosive player that is tough to shake once latched on. He is not a powerful rusher, but finds creases and displays a slippery pass rush.
Average instincts against the pass in zone coverage, a propensity to get stuck while in traffic and less than ideal size for the middle held Mixon back from being drafted, but the upside is there.
More work on fundamentals, time in the film room and improvement in coverage could pay dividends for Mixon, who has NFL tools.
His athleticism and production would be a welcome addition starting as a special teamer, with the potential to eventually compete at linebacker.
Another violent hitting linebacker who played for Kent St. and eventually made it big in the league; Pittsburgh's James Harrison.
Ryan Winterswyk (6’4”, 268) DE, Boise St.
A Fiesta Bowl sack on Andy Dalton.
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Undersized and lacking the explosiveness to become an NFL pass rusher, Winterswyk has a near elite motor as an end anchor against the run.
He was a three-time first team All-WAC player: 168 tackles, 44.5 for loss and 21.5 sacks, showing he has the tools for production.
His ability to get off and quickness to hold the edge, coupled with good awareness and a nose for the ball, accounted for the majority of his success.
He lacks strength (18 reps) and straight line speed (5.03 40) to be much of a factor shedding blockers in pursuit or closing on the quarterback; he’s not scheme versatile and will need to continue to outwork his teammates, and opponents, to succeed on the next level.
Winterswyk could fit at the five-tech for Seattle; he’d have a ways to climb to see the field in 2011. However, his on field discipline, motor and work ethic could stand out and earn him a practice squad or bottom spot in the rotation.
Three More to Watch
Tough, heady, highest of character players.
The players were previously highlighted in-depth before the draft. Please click the links for more analysis.
Parker could be a contributor for the Seahawks. His career numbers: 288 tackles, 46 for loss, 19 sacks on the FCS level wont be translated to the NFL. Nimble feet, an 80 inch wingspan and good lateral movement along the line of scrimmage would make him a good fit for Seattle as an inside-outside defensive lineman. He has a legitimate chance to make whatever roster he signs on to.
Herzlich was taken in the UFL draft, but that doesn’t mean he falls off the radar. He overcame bone cancer in his leg to return to the field, but his stock dropped from an early round prospect to undrafted. IQ, leadership, awareness and versatility are a combination that any NFL team should covet, but his medical history has gotten in the way. His attitude fits in Seattle.
A combo defensive back that has the athleticism to play in the NFL; however, his off the field profile raises flags. Tarrant does the dirty work on the field, and has the potential to become a playmaker if he puts in the time off the field. This is a proceed at your own risk type prospect, but the potential and versatility is there.