It was a good day at the NFL combine for UW linebacker Ben Burr-Kirven, and the Seahawks gave another potential draftee the staring contest treatment.
The Seahawks, and the rest of the NFL, didn’t need long Sunday to confirm that this could be one of the best and deepest drafts for defensive linemen in years — in one notable instance it took just 4.41 seconds.
That was the 40-yard time turned in by edge rusher Montez Sweat of Mississippi State, which is the fastest time recorded by a defensive lineman at the NFL combine since at least 2003.
Sweat was hardly alone.
As Tacoma-based NFL draft analyst Rob Rang noted, seven edge rushers posted a 40 time of 4.65 or better, which was the time last year turned by Bradley Chubb, which helped him get drafted with the fifth pick by Denver. He had 12 sacks as a rookie.
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Among the others to wow with their 40s was Brian Burns of Florida State. He’s player who has been ticketed to Seattle in a few mock drafts, but he might be moving his way into the top half of the first round. Burns ran a 4.53 40, which was viewed as particularly impressive given that he also weighed in at 249 pounds (he came in listed at 236), leading Lance Zierlein of NFL.com to write that he is a “lock in the 1st.”
Wrote Rang on NFLDraftScout.com of the DL drills as a whole: “The bigger story was how many phenomenal workouts were recorded Sunday, adding numerical evidence to back up what two-time NFL general manager Scot McCloughan and I characterized over the fall as the best defensive line class either of us have ever seen. ” (McCloughan worked with the Seahawks as a senior personnel executive from 2010-13.)
That’s all good news for the Seahawks, who have a need for a pass rusher even if they bring back Frank Clark. It’s thought the Seahawks want to avoid the franchise tag and are working to try to get a deal done soon with the tag deadline on Tuesday.
Seattle has the 21st pick in the first round, but just four picks overall, which has led to speculation that the Seahawks will trade down to acquire more picks. General manager John Schneider didn’t squelch that speculation when he said last week that he hoped the team wouldn’t have just four picks.
The depth of the defensive line class could help the Seahawks in two ways. It would make their 21st pick that much more enticing for another team, and it could mean that if Seattle wants a lineman it could trade that pick and still get the kind of player it wants.
Not that it was all positive on the DL/edge rusher front. Florida’s Jachai Polite, a player that more than a few have mocked to the Seahawks (including ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr.) had a bad day, running a 4.84 in the 40, which he said was because of a sore hamstring, and he pulled out of later drills. Combined with what were said to be bad interviews lead USA Today’s For The Win to write that Polite might have had “the worst NFL combine of all time.”
Regardless, the Seahawks should have plenty of options to add to the defensive line and to the defense in general. After watching Sunday’s workouts, NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah said he could see as many as 21 defensive players selected among the 32 first-round picks.
UW’s Burr-Kirven shines in drills
Among the standouts in the linebacker drills Sunday was Washington’s Ben Burr-Kirven who had the sixth-fastest 40 time among linebackers at 4.56 and the best three-cone drill at 6.85 seconds.
He did that after weighing in at 230 pounds, heavier than the 222 he was listed at last season at UW.
Burr-Kirven likely helped his stock, but he was already regarded as an elite athlete. The big question is if he has the size to hold up in the NFL; one reason he is considered a likely day three pick (rounds 4-7).
R.J. White of CBSSportsline.com came away a bigger believer in Burr-Kirven, writing: “Washington’s Ben Burr-Kirven is a favorite of our Chris Trapasso, and watching on Sunday it was easy to see why. His 4.56 40 was faster than many expected, and he continued to impress in the drills, doing a good job of getting his hips turned when changing direction and showing nice hands when going after picks. He’s not going to be a high pick, but he could really outpace his draft slot.’’
UW defensive lineman Greg Gaines also took part in on-field drills Sunday. His most important number might have been his 30 bench presses (of 225 pounds) on Saturday, which tied him for fifth among interior defensive linemen.
Another year, another staring contest
In 2018, it was punter Michael Dickson who the Seahawks asked to engage in a staring contest during his 15-minute interview with the team.
Maybe you thought they did it because there might not be a lot to ask a punter. Turns out, maybe the Seahawks just like staring contests.
According to Chase Goodbread of NFL.com the Seahawks asked cornerback Lonnie Johnson of Kentucky to hold a staring contest during his meeting.
Johnson reportedly said it lasted “15, 16 seconds’’ and that he won, though he didn’t know who he beat.
As for why the Seahawks asked Johnson to compete in a stare down? The answer may have come in a tweet from former Seahawks scout Jim Nagy, who is the executive director of the Senior Bowl. In a reply on Twitter, Nagy wrote “grit test.” And Seattle coach Pete Carroll is known for loving grit, having been quoted extensively in a book on that topic by Angela Duckworth.
All of which means that it might be worth it for Seahawks fans to, well, keep an eye on Johnson.
Seattle might well need a cornerback by the time the draft rolls around and Johnson checks a lot of the boxes the Seahawks like. He measured at 6 foot, 1-7/8 inches and a sturdy 213 pounds with an arm length of 32-5/8 inches. The Seahawks have famously favored corners with at least 32-inch arms.