Friday, May 6, 2011

Straight Shots on Seattle's Draft, Part 2

Part 1 here.

Draft analysts continue to throw Seattle's draft under the bus as basically one big reach. I'm not exactly amongst them. I have my criticisms, but they're restrained. James Carpenter was a reach as a right tackle, but not as a football player. (You should check out Kip Earlywine's scouting report of the guy, and also Kyle Rota's on this very blog. He looks quite promising.) Kris Durham, a "Who?" pick for most Seattle fans, turned out to be another late riser coveted by other quality teams. The 2011 draft was in many ways a clinic on NFL scouting, and how teams dig up talent that goes unnoticed by most experts.

Seattle's biggest prize from the 2011 draft is a revamped offensive line. With the delayed OTA's and minicamps threatening to delay its development (a slow-burn goal to begin with), this draft will be a delayed-gratification draft for certain. That has to be acknowledged. But all the signs point to Pete Carroll and John Schneider planning to have more than two starter picks available to revamp the lines.

And when that failed to happen, the draft appeared to wobble awkwardly. Finally pulling off a trade at #57, Schneider procured a fourth-rounder (#107) with doubtful starting potential and then took themselves out of the running for some badly needed DT prospects by selecting an average guard at #75. They felt a DT would still be waiting for them at #99.

Some consider that move a "fairly safe risk", but I balk at expecting starting defensive tackles to fall through most of the third round. This is the downside of getting cute in the draft. Deep positions in a draft don't stay deep, they get run on. Sure, a DT might have been there, but there were a number of such simple strategies Seattle could have tried to boost their chances of getting one. To me, they just didn't try that hard. That could say a number of things.

The Fourth Round

Linebacker K.J. Wright was another "Who?" pick for most fans, but it demonstrates one thing: Seattle is aware of the need for pass rush and for linebackers who can cover. That's encouraging, because this is a big problem for our defense. One of my biggest frustrations with the Aaron Curry pick wasn't where he was taken, or the guys we passed up to take him, but that his weaknesses (pass-rushing and zone coverage) precisely coincided with similar struggles of our other linebackers. The selection deepened our defense's liabilities.

Wright can bring those two skills to the table in at least a situational role, but his lack of instincts are probably his biggest knock. Schneider insists, as he does with most of his picks, that Wright was their guy at #99 to the point of turning down a trade-down offer with Minnesota. Good to see some of the trade-down restraint showing up again.

Still, if you'll indulge in my armchair GM'ing for a moment, this is where I would have looked into trading up. Seattle could have packaged both its fourth-round picks to move back into the mid third, which could have gotten them Drake Nevis. They could have used one of the fifth-rounders to promote the #99 to a late third, which would have made Kenrick Ellis available. Or they could have selected Christian Ballard right where they were.

I know - Schneider would probably say that there wasn't a DT that fit well enough in their scheme to be worth jumping up for. If they've proven anything at this point, it's that they value their scheme. But how is it that Seattle just can't seem to find a single DT that really fits, in two drafts heavy with talent at defensive tackle?

In the end, though, trades are ultimately validated not by theory, but by the players they yield. That's why Seattle might come out on top in the #57 trade by procuring WR Kris Durham, who is quickly taking on the appearance of a sleeper pick and the most intriguing guy in this draft haul. I don't know how much of this is the typical post-draft rationalization and how much of it is real. But several draft experts are intrigued by his potential, and it's been mentioned that Kansas City was also coveting the guy. His great size, solid hands, and admirable speed make him one of those "default" WR's - a guy who will inevitably make a few catches right off the bat just by being able to out-reach and out-leap defenders.

Of course, it's open to debate just how valuable those "default" WR's are. Seattle needs a true #1 to stretch defenses and relieve pressure on the offensive line. Durham comes out of Georgia with limited production and a limited array of learned routes. People point to A.J. Green pushing him down the depth chart, and that's true. They point to the poor arm strength of Georgia QB Aaron Murray, and that's true. In fact, Durham made himself look good by adjusting to a lot of underthrown balls. His fearlessness in traffic and in going over the middle - huge assets for a productive WR - are welcome attributes on this team.

Here's how I see Durham: he's raw, but he has a complete set of tools to allow for his growth as a player. How far he'll come is an open question, but his ceiling is high. I certainly can't complain about even a "default" WR when he's a fourth-round flier anyway, so it's a reasonable pick even if he busts. He looks to my hopeful mind as third-round value who escaped the draftniks' notice, but not the teams'.

John Schneider has publicly committed to looking for starters with his late-round picks. Therefore, that extra fourth-rounder is probably sufficient reward for the #57 trade down in his eyes. But most fourth-rounders don't start. That range is right on the borderline of NFL starters and quality depth. The #99 pick is very high in the fourth, to the point where some residual third-round talent often leaks through. Yet rather than (seemingly) going BPA, Seattle made a rather underwhelming need pick that didn't even actually address Seattle's most dire needs.

Then again, depending on whether you believe Scott's harbingers of doom over anything related to Bill Belichick, Wright is bad news. He was the player selected with the pick we got from New England for Deion Branch. The sad thing is, trading Branch for Wright could easily be an even trade in terms of production-per-cost. Branch was that replaceable.

To be continued...


  1. Do you think they drafted Durham as a replacement for Stokeley?

  2. Most likely. The two have been compared.

  3. I'm leaning towards more of a "Joe Jurevicious" mold. I think he's got great hands and funny as it may sound, this white man can jump. I see Durham, at his peak, around the 60+ catches and deadly around 3rd and long.

    As far as Wright, LB wasn't my ideal pick but we do need depth. With Leroy Hill being dropped and possibly Will Herring, in this draft LB wasn't as deep in years past.

    Drake Nevis would have been a nice pickup...

  4. JS clearly wanted to address both OL and DL this draft. Either 1 and 1 or 2 either side. They picked the later and plan to go DL in the next phase this year. My bet would be that in 2012 the draft will be DL loaded and OL refined.

    Mixed in both drafts are core player content which imo gives you a starter/starter back-up and a bevy of special teamers in the mold of your starters, should they go down. Very smart.

    Trading up is not in the JS handbook or verbiage that I've ever heard.

  5. Durham (6'5"/215, 4.46 Combine 40) is Schneider's Jordy Nelson (6'3"/214, 4.47 Combine 40). And Schneider got him at the 107th pick in the 4th round vice 36th in the 2nd.

  6. Nice post. By the end of the draft I'm really OK with most choices, because that's when I do hope GM expertise and insider info yields something from the low-odds pool of remaining players.

    I'm getting to be OK with scheme picks, in theory. The Chiefs have confused and angered pundits and their fan base for a few years with some of their picks, but have used them to build a solid base. However, our scheme raises a few question marks. We can make this the best running team in the league, but that won't help the offense with 8 in the box that our quarterback can't beat. We can trade out all our undersized cornerbacks for oversized cornerbacks, and that won't stop quarterbacks from torching us while having all day. I realize that picking late in most rounds hamstrung us, but that tradedown in 2 just seemed to unhinge the rest of the selections.

  7. I don't have a particular issue with any player they took, getting bent out of shape over any player they take after pick 100 is wasted energy anyway. But the seeming obsession with height at cornerback and size at Dline is puzzling. Letting Lawrence Jackson go to get Kentwan Balmer was symbolic of the quest for size that didn't have on field results. (Though IF LJ thrives in Detroit it will be seen as egg on Pete's face though more directly attributable to a Suh/Fairley DT combo) It seems that 5'11 is short for a Cb in our new system. Yet they took Earl, so obviously they will make exceptions for guys who lack size. So why not Meebs? Why is he for sale?

    Maybe free agency will answer my questions.

    Anyway, I complain, but my problems with Pete and Co are small. They have a couple of profiles I find restrictive, while Ruskell had an entire philosophy I came to find restrictive.

  8. Kyle, I can't agree with the comment about trading down from the two unhinging the draft. Most of the notable players that came off the board between #57 and #75 were corners and WR, players who may not have even interested the Seahawks much. Houston was off Seattle's board anyway and he was the only truly notable DL pick in that area. Seattle's assumed targets, guys like Moffitt, Nevis, or Casey, lasted. In the end they chose Moffitt.

  9. It would have been nice if Seattle had dealt a 5th to move up from #99 back into the 3rd round, but the huge run on defensive tackles caught everyone off guard. I'm a pessimistic guy, and even I was pretty sure we wouldn't see 4 DTs go off the board in 24 picks after only 1 went from #57-#75.

    Overall, this is the kind of classic draft that outsiders will probably look at in 5 years and think "terrible draft, who are these guys", but to close observers it could be a good foundational draft.

    I guess I'd kind of compare this draft to Tim Ruskell's 2007 effort. He was hamstrung both from making the playoffs and having dealt a first rounder for a veteran on offense. Seattle was drafting in a similar area and was missing a 3rd and 4th from adding offensive players. Nobody was excited about the Wilson pick, but he ended up being a very good corner and pissed a good deal of people off when he was later traded. Brandon Mebane was a great player who was overlooked and though Carpenter was drafted much higher and plays a different position, I think he could have a Mebane sized impact while similarly failing to get a lot of attention for it.

    2007's mid-to-late round picks were loaded with misses- including a 4th rounder we got for trading a veteran WR. I suspect this year will be the same in that regard- but it didn't make 2007 any less of a success. I'm very upbeat about Durham. He could be a Will Herring type value (also 2007) as a situational player off the bench.

    So while the players in those drafts were obviously pretty different, I guess the reason I make the comparison is because nobody was "wowed" by the 2007 draft the day after, but it was ultimately the best (in my opinion) draft of Tim Ruskell's career when it was all said and done.

  10. Well said Kip. The more information that comes in, the more I begin to appreciate this draft. Especially the Kansas City comparison I heard someone mention earlier. We may not have a lot of high-upside guys, but there will be a lot of solid contributors coming from this draft, and with so many holes then that will be a welcome addition and give us a core to build on.

  11. I appreciate your optimism, Kip. I just don't buy it, at least not yet. The foundations you speak of miss the DL, which for me is the base of the defense. And I don't see an able-to-run offense really helping a team move up in the standings. However, as you have said before, they have a philosophy and plan and stick to it.

    I stand by Brandon's earlier comment about Moffitt--what is he going to do, block the line with his sense of humor? He may have been Cable's guy, Carroll's guy, Schneider's guy, but he wasn't my guy. I'll be happy to be proven wrong in 3 to 5 years.

  12. If the Hawks get two starters on the O-Line, one starter in the defensive secondary, and three or four guys that make the roster and become solid contributors, this was a very good draft.

  13. Recalling the best draft of Tim Ruskell is pretty faint praise, Kip. ;)

  14. I'd take that draft every year, honestly. Two very good starters who'd be pro-bowlers in New England or Philly and a very good situational LB.

    Unfortunately, his 2008 and 2009 drafts made up for his successes in 2005 and 2007. Kind of interesting isn't it that the years he had the best/worst drafts coincided perfectly with the team having its best/worst seasons.

    Kyle, I agree that the DL is of huge importance, but it was pretty much impossible to fix everything in one draft, especially this one. They took a low risk gamble waiting til #97 and got burned, sometimes smart moves don't work out.

    I can appreciate that Moffitt wasn't your guy, but at that point in the draft, Moffitt was the last guard left whom you could pencil in as a 2011 starter at guard with a decent amount of confidence, compared to about 3-4 DTs you could say the same thing about. I have zero opinion on him, maybe I'll end up hating him like I did Unger after seeing him play. I'm just saying that Seattle was playing the odds and got burned. Which sucks, but it happens.

  15. Watching video of Moffitt, I liked him more than Carpenter. He moves really well and has very active hands. Needs to get stronger, though.

  16. "I appreciate your optimism, Kip. I just don't buy it, at least not yet. The foundations you speak of miss the DL, which for me is the base of the defense. And I don't see an able-to-run offense really helping a team move up in the standings." I disagree!

    1. A stronger OL not only helps the offense in both pass and run ofense, it also helps the defense. Less number of 3 and outs and more time to rest the defensive players between defensive series = a much improved defense.

    2. New blood is added to the team through the draft as well as through free agency. FA signings could be looked upon as being actually better than draft picks in the sense that FA players have some NFL experience. Most (not all) defensive players coming in from the draft are drafted mostly on their potential as they have no real experience in the NFL and most college football teams lack the extent of sophistication found in the NFL.