CINCINNATI OH - DECEMBER 04: Jabaal Sheard #97 of the Pittsburgh Panthers tackles Zach Collaros #12 of the Cincinnati Bearcats during the Big East Conference game against at Nippert Stadium on December 4 2010 in Cincinnati Ohio. Pittsburgh won 28-10. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Rob Staton is a draft expert that runs the Seahawks Draft Blog - a respected and invaluable resource for anyone interested in the draft, but especially for Seahawks fans as he concentrates on the Hawks quite a bit. He's agreed to provide some draft coverage for Field Gulls, and in a weekly segment, I'll ask him five questions that may be on the forefront of your (read: my) minds.
DK: There have been more rumors heating up as of late that Carson Palmer or Kevin Kolb are real options for the Hawks via trades. If the CBA doesn't get worked out before the draft, do you think the Hawks' draft strategy is changed? Ie, do they still draft a QB early anyway to develop down the line, or do the go elsewhere position-wise and bet on being able to get a trade done later?
RS: I suppose that's the million dollar question. If free agency was active as normal, you could make a case for saying the #25 pick for Kevin Kolb would be a realistic move. He cost the #36 overall pick in 2007. Andy Reid believed he was the long term future in Philadelphia before injury gave Michael Vick the opportunity to forge a comeback. His trade stock is really high at the moment, although I'm a little bit sceptical personally. He's shown good and bad in the league, but he's also had the chance to play on an offense that includes one of the most dynamic players in the NFL (DeSean Jackson) a second-year receiver who had close to a 1000 yard season and scored ten touchdowns (Jeremy Maclin) and a running back (LeSean McCoy) whose pass catching stats are comparable to Seattle's best receiver in 2010.
Let's say the CBA isn't sorted before the draft, or at least the possible injunction doesn't force some activity. Do you trade a future first round pick for Kevin Kolb? A trade such as this demands some element of instant gratification. If Kolb struggled in year one, the cost of his acquisition increases with each defeat. Are you comfortable firstly with that pressure to perform on what is still a 7-9 team with offensive line issues and a lack of playmakers, and secondly with the prospect of investing a possible top-ten pick on a 27-year-old quarterback? I'm not sure. I suppose if you really believe in Kolb you don't worry about those things.
Palmer is more of a stop-gap option and one they're probably more likely to explore if the draft doesn't come up with the answers. I suspect it may be playing some part in the team's draft strategy. Investing in a quarterback for the long term has to be the priority. Maybe they have to start exploring moves up the board? Maybe they expand the search and start to look more closesly at the second tier prospects? Either way they need an answer at quarterback as soon as possible.
DK: You've got Marvin Austin going to the Hawks at #25 in your latest mock draft. Can you give us a little more about why you like Austin for the Hawks and where he fits into their plans? Is he a day one starter or someone that you work in spelling for other guys? Is he a reach at #25?
RS: Austin is a guy with all the athletic and physical attributes to be a special player. However, he never extended himself at college. When I watched North Carolina tape in 2009, I gave Austin a grade in the late second round. The effort and consistency isn't there. Missing the whole of 2010 was a major concern and you start to wonder if this guy wants to be as good as he could be.
Then he turns up at the Shrine game and puts on a clinic. His performance at the combine was sensational and he followed it up at the UNC pro-day. You start to remember the potential - if only the light would remain switched on. Perhaps missing a year was the wake up call?
The Seahawks have taken calculated chances on prospects in the last twelve months. Golden Tate wasn't a polished receiver, but they invested a second round choice in his playmaking potential. Brandon Marshall and Vincent Jackson were both courted despite some character concerns. Mike Williams got a fresh start and they traded for troubled Marshawn Lynch and Kentwan Balmer. Even the Leon Washington trade was a bit of a gamble considering his return from serious injury.
Austin would be a similar gamble. He needs to be motivated and this is a coaching staff who will provide that. If it works you could be looking at a Pro-Bowl three-technique. Based on the athletic qualities alone, #25 is not a reach. He can play in year one and help the defensive line depth. If you think this guy is serious about making the most of his freakish physical ability, you have to consider taking the chance.
DK: Talk for a moment about OT Derek Sherrod. You've stated in the past that you don't see the Hawks going with a OT in round one, and that drafting a left tackle to play on the right is not good value. But if they were looking to improve the right side with their first pick, is Sherrod the guy for them? If not, who do you think would be the best fit to bookend the line at right tackle?
RS: I think drafting a right tackle in round one is a luxury that should only be afforded to good teams. After all, what is a right tackle? Most of the guys playing the position were blind side blockers in college who weren't considered athletic enough to play the same role in the NFL. They get a lot of tight end help and they're covering the quarterbacks strong side. You can find guys like that later on, no question. James Carpenter, Joseph Barksdale, Will Rackley - these guys can start at right tackle. You don't need to have two first round picks playing tackle to be succesful.
The Seahawks have such a dearth of talent at the premium positions (QB, DE, WR, CB, DT) that I think a right tackle is unlikely this year. You'd have to grade a tackle much higher than anyone else on your board at #25. I think Gabe Carimi is a really limited prospect who I graded in the round 2/3 region. Nate Solder and Anthony Castonzo are finesse tackles with great height and struggle with leverage - not ideal for the right hand side.
The two players I would consider are Tyron Smith and the guy you mention Derek Sherrod. Smith has the athletic qualities to be very good, even if he's largely unproven. He won't make it past the top twelve picks. Sherrod could be there at #25. He has sound technique, he's not a flashy player but he'll get the job done. He can play the left and right hand side which is paramount for me if I'm taking a tackle in round one.
There are too many players I grade at a similar level to Sherrod to go in that direction at #25, but he is the one player in that area that I'd at least have in the discussion.
DK: If you had to guess, what are the odds the Hawks stay at #25 and why?
RS: It's impossible to project. Last year I felt sure they'd move around at #14, but then Earl Thomas is available and that's their guy. This year they're going to see names coming off the board because they pick so late. I guarantee there will be at least five names on Seattle's board and when two or three get picked, they'll be anxious. Do they move up? I don't rule it out at all, especially if there's a quarterback they really like. Trading the #25 and #57 could get you as high as #11-#13. Fans hate the idea of trading away high picks, but that would be a good deal to try and tie up the quarterback position long term.
Alternatively if they stay put at #25, there is a very similar talent pool from #25-#35. They may get opportunities to trade down. In both scenarios you need a partner and they aren't always freely available.
DK: Explain to the Field Gulls readers your philosophy of "Quality over Quantity" when it comes to drafting. Many would prefer the Hawks trade down for more picks but you've stated that's not necessarily the best course of action. Why?
RS: It's only a philosophy I carry for the Seahawks' current situation. They're a 7-9 team in year two of a rebuild. Generally I prefer to be pro-active when drafting, but I also understand the value of trading down and accumulating depth. However, you need to have a good core of players to put yourself in that position at the end of round one. I appreciate that teams have found great value throughout every round of the draft and the late first/early second is no exception. Even so, the top-end talent will always go early and really that's the range the Seahawks should be picking in to continue this rebuild.
They made a great start last year drafting a left tackle for the future (Russell Okung) and a playmaker in the secondary (Earl Thomas). They're both top-15 picks. I think I'm right in saying the Seahawks would've picked 15th overall had they played in any other division last season and had the same 7-9 record. In that case, you're looking at potentially having a shot at one of the top-four quarterbacks, one of the high quality defensive ends or cornerbacks. Nick Fairley and Corey Liuget could go in that range. Either way you're adding another key-note player to the roster. When I look at the players touted to go in that #25-35 range, I see a lot of gambles and a lot of 'safe' average players. There's quite a drop-off in quality.
I know that a lot of people hate the idea of moving up and being pro-active to get a better player, but I also think there's a bit of a misconception sometimes with accumulating picks. The draft is rarely about filling multiple needs because it's such a lottery. If you come away with two starters every year, it's a fantastic success for me. Sometimes the quality of a draft can be defined by hitting on one guy. Having 2-3 early picks instead of just one doesn't guarantee you'll find those starters. The question is - can a top-15 player have more of an impact for Seattle in this rebuild rather than 2-3 guys in the early second round?
I don't think the Seahawks can find an answer at quarterback staying at #25. I don't think they'll find a key defensive end unless Jabaal Sheard is available or there's a surprise faller. The top three cornerbacks will be gone.
For the sake of a late second round pick, if I can get that top-15 talent that I think can add to the work started by Okung and Thomas, I make the move. You won't dwell too much on not picking in rounds two or three if you get a player in round one who would never make it to #25. If the Seahawks can add one more premium acquisition to this roster through the draft, that would be a success because there's no quick fix here. The aim is to one day be in a position where trading down and acting like the Patriots is a practical idea. One day you hope depth is the key. Right now, it should be about getting the best possible talent onto this roster even if it costs a little bit extra.
Thanks again Rob, much appreciated!