Rob Staton at Seahawks Draft Blog was the first I noticed. Most of you probably follow him (and should be) and have seen his protests of the raging criticism and groupthink that have dogged Mallett for months. Yet in all that time he hasn't actually pegged Mallett as a good candidate for the Seahawks, which should tell you something about his objectivity. The fact that Staton looks for positives on the guy says less about his opinion of Mallett and more about his desire to balance out the hype machine.
Well, this week Staton took the plunge, mocking Mallett to Seattle at #25. It got interesting when he was joined by Rob Rang of CBS Sports, Don Banks of SportsIllustrated.com, NFL.com writer Steve Wyche, and even NFP's Wes Bunting, who helped contribute to the negative publicity on the Arkansas QB. All are currently projecting Ryan Mallett at #25.
The convergence is probably coincidence. Nobody quoted any sources or illuminating new scraps of information on why Mallett might be destined for Qwest Field. Sometimes hunches just come together...although it's not uncommon for such "collective hunches" to be noticed, expanded upon, and turned into a hype wave of its own. That's how Mallett's stock started to drop in the first place.
Here's what they said:
Rob Rang, 3/14:
Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas: Mallett's character questions and slow feet make him an odd choice for Seattle and its West Coast Offense, but the Seahawks appear to be very intrigued with the Razorback's strong arm. GM John Schneider was on hand for Mallett's pro day, another indication that the Seahawks may not have been overwhelmed with the performance of Charlie Whitehurst in his limited playing time. Should the team be unable to come to an agreement with Matt Hasselbeck, finding a quarterback with the physical ability and experience in a pro-style offense (like Mallett) to compete immediately could trump any and all other concerns.
Don Banks, 2/17:
It's nothing more than my solid hunch at this point, but Mallett has the kind of arm that intrigues NFL decision-makers, and his poor footwork can be improved on with steady coaching. I don't get the feeling Pete Carroll is sold on Charlie Whitehurst as his team's quarterback of the future, but Whitehurst would buy Mallett some time to develop.
Steve Wyche, 3/15:
This might seem like a surprise, but unless a trade for Kevin Kolb materializes, Seahawks select most pro-ready QB in the draft.
Wes Bunting, 3/16:
With a potential franchise quarterback prospect sitting at 25, it’s going to be tough for the Seahawks to pass on Mallett at this stage. His big arm makes him a perfect fit spinning the football through the nasty Seattle weather.
And ESPN's Mel Kiper, who had Mallett at #25 for a while, mentioned this in January:
Everything about Mallett's arm screams top 10, but he could fall a bit as a player who needs to develop footwork and the willingness to bite off only as much as he can chew. That said, Mallett's game progressed in 2010. He showed improved accuracy and a willingness to move around and consider the dump-off passes he often passed up as a younger player. With a year of development, he could be a good value here and a long-term answer for the Seahawks. It'll be asked, but my sources tell me the Seahawks prefer him to Washington's Jake Locker -- at least right now.
Take what you will from these guys - every one of them has a different reputation as far as the reliability of their mocks.
What this may indicate is people starting to notice a convenient first-round niche for Mallett that people seem to have glossed over. Some focus on his accuracy, arm strength, and aptitude for reading defenses (not to mention the rampant QB needs amongst the Top 16 teams) and mock Mallett at or prior to Jacksonville at #16. Others zoom in on footwork and speed issues, or continue to hang on to the vague character concerns that most teams ignored at the Combine (by all accounts of the private interviews), and aren't willing to place him any higher than the early 2nd.
Between the early 1st and early 2nd is a long stretch of playoff teams that are set with their QB's and probably won't draft one - except for one island with a very unsettled future at the position: the Seahawks. If Mallett can get past Jacksonville, he is home free to fall to Seattle.
None of the inconsistencies between Mallett and Pete Carroll are as massive as you might think. QB's can be coached up. They can be adapted to. Despite what you may have read, the Seahawks are not going back to pure West Coast Offense - they will be largely retaining last year's playbook, and it will be used by a new offensive coordinator who has plenty of experience with the deep passing game. And Mallett may be imperfect, but he gets high grades where it actually counts - accuracy, field ability, velocity, good competition in college. Cam Newton and Jake Locker can't get past the first item.
Another interesting read on Mallett comes from NFL.com's Pat Kirwan, who sat down with the QB and came away with some independent impressions.
Everyone's mock drafts will drift away in other directions next week, and who knows where Mallett will end up then. For now, mocking him to Seattle isn't an unrealistic suggestion. But if you do see more and more mocks trending towards this outcome, don't interpret it as the produce of some privileged information. It's just common sense, and to a larger degree, mocks influencing each other. That's the draft for you.