Monday, May 2, 2011

Straight Shots on Seattle's Draft, Part 1

Seattle's 2011 draft will probably please the typical Seahawks fan, who still believes that the offensive line is the foundation of a good offense. And a good defense. And a good special teams. And William and Kate's marriage. And the continued rotation of the earth about its axis.

It will also please you if you're content that our current starting QB is Charlie Whitehurst and our current starting 3-tech DT is Barrett Moen.

You're probably not so giddy, however, if you believe the swelling evidence that NFL success is tied to the quarterback much more strongly than it is the offensive line.

The Seattle Seahawks did their best in the 2011 draft given their position, but failed rather conspicuously to address the team's greatest needs with the most assured offseason mechanism - high draft picks - available to them. They didn't demonstrate the savvy sense of value they showed last year, and they didn't supply the team with the immediate impact that a fortunate-to-be-7-9 team requires.

It's easy to appeal to free agency at this point, but we don't know when free agency will begin. We don't know that Matt Hasselbeck, Carson Palmer, Nnamdi Asomugha, Brandon Mebane, or anyone else will be available or even interested to sign with Seattle once it does. Seattle has risked its 2011 season on a complete unknown. That's a gamble no matter how you slice it.

All this on the altar of a very specific vision that grows clearer by the moment, but has yet to be validated at the NFL level. At least there's a vision.

Let's go through this one round at a time.

The Backdrop

The draft was largely decided when Seattle sneaked into the playoffs last January, and then into a win over the Saints. That sequence of events dropped Seattle's draft position into the late first round.

The late first round is generally the domain of reliable but lesser talent, often scheme-specific or pushed down by some red flag, left over from the Top 15 picks that usually have more power to turn a franchise around. It's also the neighborhood of legitimate playoff teams who are more established and can afford such "maintenance picks". Seattle, on the other hand, was a bad team who rightfully should have been drafting right where Tennessee selected Jake Locker. They would have been drafting there had the St. Louis receivers been able to catch passes in Week 17.

So let this be the context of all else: John Schneider was stuck in an uncomfortable place to draft. The late first round wasn't going to readily serve Seattle's needs. The man deserves a break in that sense, and we honestly should have seen that disconnect coming.

The First Day

It kinda looks like Seattle's draft plans revolved heavily around their intention to trade down from #25. According to Schneider, three separate deals fell through, two of them backed out of by the other team. If that's the case, and OT James Carpenter was honestly Seattle's target all along, Schneider may have been forced to pull the trigger on him sooner than he wanted. Had Schneider not taken him there, rumor is that Baltimore, Pittsburgh, or Green Bay would have.

Now, the fact that Carpenter was coveted by those three teams is instructive. They're good evaluators of talent, which suggest Carpenter is a quality player. Indeed, the more I read about him, the more he looks less like a reach and more of a prospect that simply flew under most experts' radars.

But again, those three teams are also true playoff teams with franchise QB's who can get away with less urgent picks. Rob Staton projected Carpenter to go at #23, but #23 was Philadelphia - another legit contender.

For a rebuilding team like Seattle, a right tackle in round one isn't the best value. The position simply is not that important. Sean Locklear was awful last year, but he's not been the foremost reason for the team's failures the last three years, not by a long shot. Struggling teams need more of a jolt in the first round than a right tackle can provide, especially when solid road-graders are found in rounds 2-4 all the time.

Another aspect of the Carpenter pick was the presence of Stacy Andrews. He was bad as a guard, but if you're dismissing him at right tackle, make sure you're familiar with his record at that position. He has a solid history at right tackle. John Schneider has a solid history of deflating heavy Seattle contracts like Andrews'. And Tom Cable, the proponent of the Carpenter pick, has a history of getting fired. (I've spoken to Raiders fans who credit Hue Jackson for Oakland's improved O-line, not head coach Cable.)

James Carpenter. Good player? Yes. Good pick for Pittsburgh? Yes. Good pick for Seattle? Eurgh...harder to justify.

Who else could we have gone with? In order to answer that, we'd need to know the reasons why Seattle was determined to pass on top-15 talent like Ryan Mallett, Jimmy Smith, and Da'Quan Bowers, or other good talent like Marvin Austin or Justin Houston. It's pretty easy to guess why on each one (character, character, medical, character, character). But I thought we were all tired of "safe picks" a la Tim Ruskell? I'm pretty sure that's the case, but nobody quite put it together that in order to avoid safe picks, you have to make unsafe picks. You have to take risks.

I'm fighting a losing battle with some people on this point. I don't have the information John Schneider had. But I didn't have the information Tim Ruskell had either, and he's gone now. So we're in a tough spot to judge that pick - hard to judge, but also hard to accept.

The Second Day

Once #57 arrived, Schneider finally managed to shove a deal through. The Seahawks dropped down 18 spots, acquired Detroit's fourth-rounder (#107), and scooted their 5th and 7th-round picks up by a few selections. (Seattle's trade history with Detroit could fill a small book by now.)

In doing so, Seattle again passed on Mallett and Houston - this time permanently - as well as appropriately graded talent like WR's Torrey Smith and Randall Cobb, DT Terrell McClain (okay, maybe not), and a number of starting LB prospects.

We'll never know whether Seattle was willing to take Mallett with the #75. As fellow contributor Scott Williams superstitiously predicted, Bill Belichick proved our bane once again, as New England snatched Mallett right out from under our noses. That he was taken with the second of two consecutive picks could be interpreted as a very intentional message from Belichick to the Arkansas QB: "Get over yourself."

The pick was G John Moffitt. He's not exactly a world-beater, from what I'm reading, but with the #75 pick he doesn't have to be. I'm hearing a lot more about his "Tobeckian personality" than his leverage or his hand usage or his fluidity in the second level...apparently he's supposed to run-block with his sense of humor...but whatever. He'll do.

Not to define a pick by the guys Seattle passed up, but while we're in the category of collateral losses, Moffitt was the most painful. By the time Seattle's next selection came up, the board had been emptied of a number of prospects that provided a great intersection of need, value, and talent. S Chris Conte. WR's Leonard Hankerson and Austin Pettis. LB Mason Foster. And most crucially, DT's Jurrell Casey, Drake Nevis, and Kenrick Ellis, all of whom it's hard to imagine NOT impacting the Seahawks defense right away. Carroll and Schneider themselves have acknowledged the late-third-round run on DT's that occurred because the league knew of Seattle's needs there.

All for a guard who isn't much different than Clint Boling...who was available at #99.


Carpenter and Moffitt will not necessarily have an impact right away, but they will have an impact. The running game should improve somewhat in 2011, and Seattle has invested in its running back stable in preparation. Even RB hybrid Golden Tate could benefit from this line. Also benefiting will be the passing game, just by freeing the tight ends to run routes instead of block all the time.

Eventually, I think Seattle will be glad that these guys were taken, though it won't be this year. Any QB we sign (and there will be one) or draft in a later year (there had better be one) will be walking into a better situation than they would have with Chester Pitts and Mike Gibson manning the guard spots and Marshawn Lynch trying to run behind them.

Speaking of QB's...judging from post-draft pressers, the mysterious #1 QB on Seattle's board must have been Jake Locker. The UW star was taken right where Seattle would have picked had they missed the playoffs. Because of that guest playoff appearance, Seattle had little draft capital, and they also had no prior free agency to give it context. The lockout gave QB-equipped teams the luxury to pick how they wished, and left QB-hungry teams to swing in the dark. And if Ryan Mallett is as unworkable a player as his draft-day fall suggests, there really was no good option left at that position. We have to be somewhat forgiving of the front office's failure to draft a QB - especially if there's a solution lurking in free agency, as has been rumored.

It's not correct to affirm or bash a pick based on who wasn't taken, let me make that clear. Nevertheless, some of the alternatives lost to the picks we made are tough to swallow. As with every draft. Only time will really tell.

To be continued...


  1. Nice post. The second-round drop for Moffitt especially mystifies me. It's almost as if Schneider decided to trade down no matter what, and when he couldn't in the first, he did in the second. But whereas a drop in the first would have netted at least one quality pick (probably a third, maybe early fourth) in addition to a lot of choices in the second round , the drop in the second took the team out of contention for any starters of consequence. You make do with what you have, but in this case instead of making lemonade the Seahawks took their lemons and made a sh*tburger with it.

  2. Yeah, I think Seattle was trying too hard to amass starter-level picks. People love it when their team trades down and adds more picks, but there's always a cost in terms of the available talent. However, the trade procured Kris Durham, who is actually the second most intriguing player in this draft to me.

  3. To get meta for a moment, I appreciate that despite people bitching at you for being so negative (and honestly I'm optimistic, too, but this is your blog), there was still some nuance to your conclusions and you didn't let the complaints distract you in either direction.

  4. Good post. You write well. Don't let the nattering nabobs of negativism deter you.

    The pickers stumbled w/ Moffett and never really recovered. Moffett may be such a good road grader that he'll be working for the county in 3 years.

    Last year they got rid of Simms (didn't fit the new zoned blocking scheme) to mollify Gibbs who quit anyway when they brought on Andrews (Not a Gibbs kind of guy.

    This year they appear to have picked a not so great guard because he was Cable's guy. Appeasement at its finest. Call it the kiss Tom Cables butt pick. Will Cable last to the beginning of the season?

    My great black and white hopes are Legree and Durham.

    Carpenter will be ok in a couple years.

    Overall the Seahawks have upgraded their special teams for the 2011 season.

    Thanks for your Blog.

  5. I disagree about Moffitt. He isn't bad by any means, and he actually has ZBS experience. It is what they run in Wisconsin. He just isn't a Gibbs fit. But who cares. Gibbs is gone. As far as if Cable gets the credit or the blame for a poor running game in Oakland, I don't know how you figure out who did what in that model of disfunction. Hue Jackson said he could straighten out Jamarcus, didn't, and how he is in charge. If anybody here remembers how this offensive line stood around and did nothing while Dockett was elbowing Hasselbeck into the turf for a second and third time a couple of years back, then you are aware that all those soft fellas had to go, and now it looks like mission accomplished. (I have never forgiven Spencer, Sims, Locklear, and Willis for that) Andrews doesn't strike me as having any nasty either. I still would take Casey at 75 over Moffit, but he looks a little like a Mebane clone, which hasn't been the best scheme fit either, so what do I know? I personally think in a year or two he will be the center after Unger can't handle the task anyway.

  6. I just don't buy this idea that Carpenter was hard to justify. Yes, Seattle needs a quarterback. But the only real option Seattle had was Kaepernick, and he's a long term project and a big reach at #25.

    Seattle was put in a terrible situation and under the circumstances made quite possibly the very smartest pick possible in Carpenter. For all the talk about taking a right tackle later on, those mid round guys wouldn't be able to fill in at left tackle very well, and would have higher risk with less ability to contribute immediately.

    Late 1st round picks shouldn't be thought of as 1st round picks but more like glorified 2nd round picks because its generally a 2nd round talent pool in almost every draft starting around picks 20-25. In my mind, Seattle paid a high 2nd for Carpenter- and by the way, this is an excellent place in the draft to find value at tackle. Look at some of the tackles taken in the late 1st in recent years: Bulaga, Oher, Staley... its a pretty damn good list. SF traded a 2nd, a 4th, and fuure 1st, which ended up being the 7th overall pick to get Staley. That's a ton! And yet you never hear people 2nd guessing that trade. That's how nice of a pickup Staley's been.

    Now obviously, SF sucks and Staley can't change that alone, just like Carpenter won't for us. But SF has been afforded multiple chances at real franchise QB prospects, which really hasn't been true for us. Jimmy Clausen and Tim Tebow don't really count.

    I'll post a scouting report on Carpenter later today at SDB, but I'll tell you right now that I'd take Carpenter over Bulaga and I was fine with taking Bulaga at #14 last year and that was in a better tackle class. Seattle got a much better player than I think most realize.

    If Seattle had passed on Gabbert or Locker to make this pick, I'd be right there with you in your righteous indignation. But Seattle didn't. They passed on several players I was begging them to pass on (guys like Dalton, Houston, Wilkerson and even Smith) to draft Carpenter.

    I will agree with you slightly on Moffitt. It was a good value pick, but I personally would have drafted Nevis or Casey there. Both are equally huge needs and Seattle got a good player. The offensive can be loaded with talent and still be undermined by one terrible player, so I don't mind the added investment there.

  7. *Offensive line* in that last paragraph.

    Also, about the Moffitt pick, there were still 4 bit name DTs on the board when Seattle picked at #75, and they felt they had an excellent shot of still getting one 24 picks later. Not a bad decision. They just got burned taking a fairly safe risk. Their luck was awful in this draft, and I try not to hold them to the fire for tough breaks.

  8. Kip, I'm with you on Carpenter. I have no major problem with him. Actually, I do like Carpenter-plus-Moffitt and the DBs-by-cluster-bomb approach in that when you have an inferior draft position, trying to hit on one position with multiple picks is better than the grab bag, "let's hope we hit on all eight picks at different positions" approach that Ruskell seemed to do. Our DBs and OL should be better.

    But second round to third is generally a drop from starter to bench, and to fourth, practice squad. Even the best talent evaluators are going to see the odds drop in what they can do with a late-rounder. And hoping a talent-deep position like DT will hold up really misses a defining nature of the draft, which is that runs on deep positions are more likely than not. All said in hindsight, of course.

  9. Perhaps they planned to go trade down and go OT/OT/DT with three 2nd/3rd round picks. When that didn't happen, they had to put off DT until #99 and hope one would be there. Either way, it's clear they were putting OL first.

  10. @Kyle Your 2nd to 3rd drop in quality is generally true, but Moffitt will start this year, which makes him a good 3rd rounder, at least by that measure.

    I know why they banked on a DT being there, so many went early that the assumption is the run is over at that position.

    This is the prototype draft for Schneider, last year was a 2 picks in the top 14 exception to the rule. I talked to a GB fan today, asked him about his draft, and he said he didn't many of the guys Ted took either, but so what, he didn't know who Tramon Williams was when they took him either.

    All that said, there is a possibility we have nearly as crap a QB situation as Arizona did last year. Except our suckage will be from Vets, not two rookies.

  11. Interesting point, Kyle.

  12. Hey Brandon:
    Nice write-up. In your analysis about drafting a QB, you neglected one important point; what happens to a young QB who plays behind a crappy O-Line. More often than not, it isn't pretty.

    Examples can be seen from Jim Plunket in the 70's, to David Carr and Joey Harrington. The delicate little psyches of these guys were damaged beyond repair. Plunket finally reached his potential with the Raiders (two Super Bowls) after washing out with the Patriots and the 49ers.

    If Alex Smith had been drafted by the Packers, and sat behind Favre for three years, and Arron Rogers was drafted number one by the 49ers, which one would be on top of his profession right now?

    It's hard to say, but it sure is food for thought.

  13. I don't believe a rookie QB should be incapable of taking sacks. We tend to zoom in on the David Carrs, but plenty of rookie QB's have succeeded despite iffy O-line talent.

  14. First, I love the site and check in daily. Keep up the good work. Have to respectfully disagree on both Carpenter and Moffit picks. Based on info from Rob Staton over at Seahawks Draft Blog, Danny Watkins would have been the pick had Philly not taken him at 23. Hard to argue that guard is more important than right tackle, and a right tackle who can move to the blind side if/when Okung goes down is huge. Let's not forget that Locklear played guard in college, was drafted to play right guard and only moved out to right tackle when Womack went down in pre-season. That's how thin we were on the O-line even back then. I too thought the plan was for Andrews to get a shot at right tackle, but maybe Cable didn't like that plan. Andrews is pricey and perhaps he is on his way out along with Locklear and Spencer. I also don't get the hate on Moffitt. It's not the dog in the fight, it's the fight in the dog. I love high effort scrappy guys like that, especially on the O-line. The Wright pick in the 4th did have me scratching my head, until I did a little surfing and saw that some had him with 3rd round grade. I thought we were pretty set at LB, but perhaps they want to light a fire under Curry, or maybe they'll be trading him for a 2012 pick. He was a Ruskell pick and hasn't lived up to expectations yet.

  15. I've been thinking about the Wright pick like that too. Hopefully it makes Curry pull his head out of his ass! Or just maybe, Curry gets traded for a 2012 pick that we then use to package and trade up for our long awaited QB. Sounds like a smart plan to me!!! If we truly want a franchise QB next year were gonna need some leverage to secure it. The question is how much is he worth??? If some team gave up a potential high/mid second for him I wouldn't complain...

  16. Curry's #4 contract makes him pretty much untradeable.

  17. These lineman could be great for us, but it's really hard to swallow that we missed out on all the Defensive Tackles available. Casey, Nevis, McClain, Ellis.. all of them could have impacted our defensive line immediately. We need a DT badly.