I've had my breather. Now onto the sprint to and through the draft.
Tim Ruskell had an unmistakable blueprint for drafting. He was easy. He probably wasn't so easy in 2005. Every brain trust has its beliefs, habits and hangups. They are laid bare after a draft, but can be quite opaque beforehand. This is my current best guess for Pete Carroll and John Schneider. I will explain my thinking as I go. That process made this long and long winded, so I split it into two parts. The first two picks are familiar, but with a twist.
The goals I think Seattle wishes to accomplish during the 2010 NFL draft are:
1. Trade for Brandon Marshall.
2. Draft a starter-capable safety to replace Deon Grant.
3. Remake the offensive line.
4. Fill out positions of need: Defensive line, linebacker, corner, wide receiver, running back, quarterback, etc.
I will attempt to explain everything else as I go.
Seattle wants Brandon Marshall. I can not see them leaving the draft without Marshall. The question is: Who will win this standoff? It's hard to bet against Seattle. Giving Schneider the minimum benefit of the doubt, he has leverage and resources, and no other team, at least publically, is courting Marshall. At the same time, the Broncos should expect a decent return. Everyone will want to get this trade done, and I think we finally see what the terms are on draft day.
This seems sensible to me: Seattle trades its sixth overall pick, sixtieth pick in the second round and Deion Branch for Marshall and Denver's 11th overall pick. The Broncos move into the top ten, where a potentially elite talent might fall, say, Jimmy Clausen, but not one that directly fits within the Seahawks system. I think system, and system constraints will be a big part of this draft. By the draft value chart, the total value exchanged is 550 + Branch. I don't think Seattle wants Clausen. I'm undecided about Berry, but think Carroll would prefer an intimidator with presence in the box, and with Ndamukong Suh, Gerald McCoy, and Russell Okung likely selected, the Seahawks will be in a spot where their pick might be more valuable to another team.
Part of the attraction for Seattle is that the 11th overall pick is paid far less than the sixth overall pick. That money would then be invested in Marshall. Seattle would move out of the absolute upper crust of the draft, but still have two picks within the top 15. Green Bay has been an active trader on draft day and I think Schneider will adopt that strategy.
6. Brandon Marshall: Seattle considers Marshall part of its draft class, and pays him like a top ten pick.
11. C.J. Spiller: Seattle may attempt to trade down after spending its second round pick, but that will require two things I do not anticipate: demand, and flexibility for the Seahawks. The offensive line has one presumed starter, Max Unger, one potential starter, Sean Locklear, two long shots, Ray Willis and Chris Spencer, and as many as four openings. If tackles start flying off the board, Seattle may wish to move down from 11 but be trapped into the pick fearing it might lose out filling a critical need.
I think the shortlist of players Seattle will target in the first round to play left tackle comprise: Russell Okung, Trent Williams, Bruce Campbell and Charles Brown. From that group, Williams makes sense and could be had early. I think Okung is a pipe dream. Campbell and Brown are cut somewhat from the same cloth. Both can be projected to be better players than they currently are. I am not sure either has the nastiness Gibbs desires. I see nastiness as on par with physical athleticism as a Gibbs pre-rec.
Instead Seattle might give Gibbs freedom to mine deep into the depth of the draft and use its high-end picks on other needs. It has a ton. Pencil in Williams, but for sake of a hunch, I will look at what direction Seattle might go in if it doesn't find a satisfactory left tackle.
It might seem crazy, but unless Seattle sees Jordan Babineaux as a long term solution, it could need to fill out both safety positions. That could make an Earl Thomas-Taylor Mays first round possible. It could also give itself a ton more flexibility on its defensive line by drafting a defensive end. Right now, it has Lawrence Jackson and the remains of Patrick Kerney, and though Carroll might use Curry as a standup end, he might not. He might play him in that role, but want a fallback. He might want an end like Derrick Morgan who could start over Lawrence Jackson and man the end spot in nickel 4-2 formations. The point is: Trading Darryl Tapp does not preclude Seattle drafting an end. If it sticks with a more traditional 4-3 look, it would have fewer needs at linebacker and defensive tackle, or at least less pressing needs.
If I had my druthers, Seattle would select Branden Graham, I think the single best pure pass rusher in the draft, and move Curry to inside linebacker. David Hawthorne would become a super sub and Leroy Hill's stand in. However, I think the truth is that Seattle is committed to making Curry a kind of end. So I will work from the assumption that the front seven is somewhat set, with some flexibility at second interior linebacker and defensive tackle.
So, working through who Seattle won't select, we can move to who Seattle does select: C.J. Spiller. USC recruited Spiller, so there's familiarity and connection. Specifically, Lane Kiffin recruited Spiller. Kiffin was the offensive coordinator and recruiting coordinator at USC in 2005. Spiller would have been the designated replacement for Reggie Bush.
I think Spiller would also fit Gibbs needs. He is reminiscent of Steve Slaton. Slaton weighed in at 195 at the 2008 NFL Combine. Some did not think Slaton could carry a full workload, but Gibbs defied that idea just as he did with Warrick Dunn and Clinton Portis. Somewhere between all three is Spiller. Spiller is not purely a one-cut-and-go back, but it's within him. He adds a ton of value for a team that is trying to win now, but is far from it. Gibbs has a reputation of selecting players later in the draft but turning them into stars, but I think that is because he differently values players and not because he simply does not think a running back is very valuable. Like any position, should the talent be sufficient, the value is sufficient.
14. Taylor Mays: Sure to delight some and anger others, Mays is an atypical and polarizing player. Seattle is pretty desperate for a day one starter at safety, and for good or ill, Mays is the type of player to start week one and hold the position throughout his rookie contract. Mays overcomes some bust concerns with his outstanding health. He is also young and that should give him a long window to develop in.
Most importantly for this mock is not how good can Mays be, but why Seattle might select him. Youth, health, connections and mutual respect between Mays and Carroll should contribute. I think it's realistic that Carroll sees Mays as an easy top ten talent and will consider his selection at 16 an absolute steal. Mays is from the area, and should be a fan favorite. Some believe that because cover is not his strongest skill, he is likely to bust, but lest anyone forget, quite a few of the players considered top safeties are not strongest in cover skills. The model for Mays might be Adrian Wilson. Wilson only had three interceptions in college, but like Mays was considered an enforcer. Wilson has the same basic build, but is a little less fast, a little less freakishly athletic. Wilson has succeeded because he has played a type of rover position.
Secondary coach Jerry Gray will also contribute to the Seahawks making this pick. Gray himself was considered an enforcer when he played, and coaches tend to like kind. He coached secondary in Buffalo from 2001 to 2005. One of the first additions to the secondary under Gray was Coy Wire, a linebacker in college that converted to strong safety in the pros. Wire was, you guessed it, a big hitter. He broke in playing the 46. When Wire lost his job the next season, it was to Lawyer Milloy. Milloy is a big...
Gray also coached the Redskins. There he inherited Sean Taylor, and Taylor enjoyed his first of two consecutive Pro Bowl seasons under Gray. Washington had few draft picks to spend in 2006 and 2007, but spent high on LaRon Landry. Landry is not defined by it, but can lay the wood now and again. He is big, and transitioned to playing in the box more after Taylor's death. The significance of that move is both the personnel, and the emphasis on strong safety.
The trend is clearly towards big, physical safeties that can intimidate and rove within the box. I think that Carroll's preference towards that type, his choice of Gray to be his secondary coach, and Gray's own playing history of and preference for that type suggests that Mays, perhaps the greatest pure in-the-box talent to ever grace the NFL, has a hell of a chance of coming home.
Those two picks stated and reinforced, and Brandon Marshall shoehorned into the arrangement, let's see how the rest of the picks play out.
The Seahawks have added three presumed starters, but had enough holes at the start of the offseason and managed to blow open a few more, and now must aggressively target positions of need. I assume Sims will be traded, and for the sake of optimism, traded for a fourth round pick straight across. That would Seattle give three picks in the fourth round, but I think they will package two and move up to draft...
66. Ed Wang
Seattle needs an offensive tackle, and it should be picking from pool that looks like this:
1st Round: Okung, Williams, Brown, Campbell.
2nd Round: Jared Veldheer.
3rd Round: Ed Wang.
4th Round: Selvish Capers.
6th Round: Derek Hardman
7th Round: Chris Marinelli, Dennis Landolt.
Not selecting a left tackle in the first puts Seattle in a pickle. That pickle could grow to a calamity if a run on linemen forces Wang into the second. Wang and Capers form a line after which Seattle risks leaving a position unfilled if the player drafted does not work out. Of course, that risk exists if any tackle prospect struggles, but I think the chances of that increase greatly after Capers and Wang. I will settle on Wang.
Wang has the right mix of athleticism, smarts, squatty build and desire for Gibbs. He's a former tight end and a bit unrefined, and I think that seduces Gibbs ego. Wang has one major injury, but it's a broken bone and so there's no chance of recurrence. I think he profiles a lot like the player he replaced: Duane Brown.
In the move up, I figure Seattle trades the 127 and 100 picks, the latter acquired from Detroit for Robs Sims, for whatever spot is needed to grab Wang. That leaves it with a 104 pick.
To be continued.