The selection of Kris Durham in the 4th round was another in a line for Seahawk fans on Draft Weekend that had people scratching their heads initially rather than jumping up and down in joy. For most people, it wasn't because they thought it was a terrible pick; instead it was mostly because they had to take a few minutes to google the name and try and figure out how they were supposed to feel about it. I actually knew the name and was pretty stoked when I saw "Kris Durham" running along the bottom of my TV screen- I had done a 'Sleeper Watch' article on Durham and I remember thinking to myself when I was writing it how much this guy fits what the Hawks were supposedly looking for at wide receiver.
Now, in my piece, I had mentioned that he would probably be a 6th or 7th round pick so I was a bit surprised, but unbeknown to most people outside the NFL, he had been quietly creeping up draft boards and with good reason. He's prototypical in size and speed for a receiver and has very dependable hands. He's a good downfield blocker and is a competitor. He averaged over 20 yards a catch over his career and does a good job of consistently getting behind defenders - something the Seahawks desperately need. He's versatile in that he can also play the slot, which he did his first three seasons at Georgia. He's good at finding the soft spot in the zone, looks to be a solid route runner, and based on limited tape reviews, he appears to have that 2nd gear that makes him very dangerous in YAC as well.
I had the opportunity to catch up with Kris, and when I asked him what his goals were for year one, he didn't mince words, answering: "I want to come in and contribute to the team by making the receiving corps one of the strongest, not only in the conference, but also in the entire league."
He's an extremely athletic and fearless receiver that will go up in traffic to pull down a catch. A guy that can stretch the field vertically to open up underneath routes for guys like Mike Williams and Golden Tate, in theory. Personally I love this pick - obviously time will tell, but the potential as a big play, field stretching deep threat and red zone monster that can also move to the slot and run routes effectively to keep the chains moving is going to create mismatch horrors for opposing defenses. This type of player opens up opportunities for the receivers around him and Durham has the opportunity to make a big impact on the Seahawks' offense by doing just that. No doubt he'll need to develop and with receivers it is rarely instantaneous so I don't want to overhype the guy, but I believe that given time he could really become a good weapon.
Now, it's actually a little foggy as to where the Hawks see him playing - when I asked him if they had given him any indication, he replied,
"Not really. I haven't really been able to speak with them since the draft due to the lockout. Charlie has had me line up at different positions while we have been training to give him looks and to help me run routes from the slot and the different outside positions."
On where he'd rather play though?
"I just enjoy playing the game and competing. I learned early on at Georgia that the more positions I know the better chance of playing early on because the coach could throw me in anywhere. Each position is different and you have to approach them differently whether you're inside or outside. Inside is different because sometimes you can get matched up with a linebacker or safety. So my goal is to expose his weakness to get the ball. Outside is where I prefer to play because I believe I can use my abilities and size to a bigger advantage."
I tend to think that the outside is ultimately where he'll be utilized but like he said, the ability to play anywhere is how you earn snaps. He's got the speed for the outside though, and his size and ability to go up in traffic and bring down a pass make him a good candidate for that role. More importantly, it's something that the Hawks need. He mentioned working out with Charlie so I asked him to talk a little bit more about how that was going. He said:
"We all have gotten together a few times to throw and go through a route tree and other specific routes that we throw in Seattle. Charlie and I mainly work together as a package, but he's been also throwing to Chad Hall (Eagles WR), Ben Hartsock (Jets TE), Shaun Chapas (Cowboys FB), and AJ Green (Bengals WR). We generally workout together 4 times a week and throw together 2-3 times a week after the workouts."
I love this type of initiative and I think it should pay dividends for both Whitehurst and Durham once the lockout ends and teams are allowed to start OTAs and training camp. It's good to see Durham getting some work in with some fellow rookies and a few veterans like Whitehurst and Matt Stafford (who he mentioned in a separate radio interview). The true test will come once training camp starts and he starts to match up against top level corners and safeties.
The SEC provided a good environment to learn though, as he went up against some of the top guys in Division 1 football. When I asked him who the toughest corner to play against was, he replied with a guy that might surprise you, considering he was in the same conference as LSU's Patrick Peterson.
Durham said, "(Janoris) Jenkins from Florida was probably the best corner that I faced last season because of his speed and reactions to routes. But over the course of my career I think I've faced a lot of great corners and safeties by playing in the SEC."
Is there an NFL (either former or current) WR that he looks up to or tries to emulate?
"I try to watch receivers and speak with current/former players to find out what has worked for them. No receiver is exactly the same so I don't try to compare myself with anyone else. I look to take what's impressive from someone else's game and implement that into my own "toolbox." I have even spoken with defensive backs as well to figure out what works against them and what they see. It's all a give and take. If something works then you may try to practice it, and see if it works for you. If it does then you use it if not then go back to the drawing board."
Sounds like a student of the game and that type of outlook and initiative will take him far. As for this season, hopefully, until things get back to normal he'll get more chances to work out in Georgia with the guys mentioned above and maybe even Stafford's main target and Georgia Tech alum Calvin Johnson. Ideally though, things with the lockout will wrap up in the next month or two and he'll have a chance to come work out at the VMAC with the team. Durham is a Southern kid who grew up following the Georgia Bulldogs. His dad ran track there and Kris was a lifelong fan. He was given the opportunity to play there in his college career so he has not had a lot of exposure to the Pacific Northwest or our teams. So how does he feel about being a Seahawk?
"I'm extremely excited about the opportunity to be a Seahawk. I've been reading up on the history of the organization and how amazing the fans are (the true 12th man). To play for men like Pete Carroll, Darrell Bevell, and Kippy Brown is better then I could have dreamed. I feel that they will help my game reach the next step and allow me to fulfill all of my dreams and expectations."
Big thanks to Kris for taking the time to answer all my questions and I know I speak for a lot of fans when I say we're excited to see what he can do in the next few years.