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
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?
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...