2012 NFL Draft, Scouting for the Seahawks: Talking Quarterbacks With Rob Staton

Chandler Harnish #12, of the Northern Illinois Huskies.

Most readers here are familiar with Seahawks Draft Blog and have seen Rob Staton and Kip Earlywine's great scouting reports on the '2nd-tier' quarterbacks in this year's class. For the purpose of discussion, I hit Rob up for his opinion on some things as they stand now, assuming things will change between now and Draft day with Free Agency, the Combine, and other factors coming into view.

I asked him some questions that assume the Seahawks are not going to trade up to the Robert Griffin area and instead are intent to stand pat or trade back and accumulate a few more picks. Under this assumption, the Seahawks would hold a mid-late round one pick, a 2nd, a third, and anything else John Schneider is able to finagle through trades. Here are my questions, as we go through a few scenarios:

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DK: First off - how would you rank this year's QB class (the players that have been associated with Seattle, anyway) if you were putting together Seattle's board, and how would you designate them per round, approximately. Who would you leave off completely?

Rob: The first two quarterbacks are obviously going to be Andrew Luck at #1 and then Robert Griffin III at #2. Luck has always been destined to go first overall and he'll have the difficult task of trying to follow Peyton Manning in Indianapolis. Robert Griffin III took a giant leap this season in terms of development. Before the season began, a lot of people had him down as a late round pick or even an UDFA. We can't underestimate the superb job he's done in making himself not only the Heisman Trophy winner, but also a legitimate pro-prospect and a prospective top-ten pick.

After that, I'm looking at players with upside who fit the team's profile and match what Pete Carroll has talked about for the position. The players he's signed so far (Tarvaris Jackson, Charlie Whitehurst and Josh Portis) all have very similar physical tools even if performances at times have been disappointing. The Seahawks want to run bootlegs and make plays outside of the pocket, they want to use developing routes that take time and so the quarterback has to be able to extend plays. Carroll wants to limit turnovers and mistakes in order to facilitate a ball control offense. I've tried to identify players that I think fit the bill, even if they aren't perhaps the names people are talking about the most. I've left certain prospects out of the list, as also discussed below.

#3 Chandler Harnish (QB, Northern Illinois) - a player who came to my attention recently and I've had the chance to study full tape from his games against Ball State, Army, Ohio, Toledo and Arkansas State. He has a real opportunity to make it at the next level. Although ideally you'd like him to be taller (he's six foot one and a half), he's an intelligent passer who can spread the ball around. He's one of the few college quarterbacks I've seen who is capable of rejecting a primary target, going to his second option then returning to the hot read, all the while moving out of the pocket and keeping his eyes downfield.

Technically sound, although he needs to learn to transfer weight onto his front foot throwing downfield to generate more velocity. He'll be a real threat as a runner in the open field and has surprising straight line speed. Harnish is the first player to pass for 3000+ yards and run for 1000+ in FBS history. An exciting player with a lot of pro-potential, I expect he'll go in rounds 3-4. He'll play in the East/West Shrine game.

#4 Ryan Lindley (QB, San Diego State) - an inconsistent and at times frustrating player, but also one with a lot of potential working with the right coaches. Lindley is big, mobile and capable of making big-time downfield throws. On shorter range passes he's flashed real technical quality and at times he looks like a high-round pick. Unfortunately, there's also the occasional baffling decision or bad turnover.

He had opportunities to boost his profile this year but laid an egg against Michigan - a game attended by many scouts. He made up for it a little bit in the Bowl game against Lafayette, with a classy performance that should've won his team the game. Yet you just can't get away from the fact this is a guy who's thrown less than 60% completions throughout his career and that's a big concern, even if he's suffered with a lot of dropped catches. I suspect someone is going to draft him earlier than most people think. I'd happily take the chance in round four, but he could go earlier.

#5 Austin Davis (QB, Southern Miss) - someone I've talked about a lot this season and the heartbeat of a Southern Miss team that achieved so much this year. When I try and think of ideal quarterbacks for the Seahawks system, Davis was right up there. He's not a great downfield passer with a huge arm, but he's a smart player who limits mistakes and generally makes good decisions. He's athletic enough to extend plays, but he'll also run for first downs. On a short and intermediate level he's very accurate, but he needs to make technical tweaks to a slightly elongated throwing motion and continue to work on that arm strength.

The offense he played in has some crossover in Seattle - it's a heavy dose of run and Davis is required to be the 'point guard'. He's not going to be the big play quarterback who throws bombs downfield and opens up a game on his own, but he'll sustain long drives and he's a machine in the red zone. Considering he's expected to go in the later rounds, you could end up with a real bargain in the 5th or 6th.

I left out Ryan Tannehill, a player who hasn't impressed me at all this year. He made too many mistakes, lacked any real spark to his play and featured significantly in some disastrous defeats for Texas A&M. A lot of people want to talk about a lack of playing experience, but only Kellen Moore was sacked less times in the entire NCAA in 2011. He should've done better given that environment and also with the weapons at his disposal. He reminds me of a less spectacular Jake Locker in that he has a similar robotic throwing motion, he's uncomfortable passing from the pocket. The Seahawks want to limit errors, not have their quarterback stare down a receiver with his back turned only to throw it straight to the in-position defensive back anyway.

Tannehill could easily go in the first two rounds in spite of this and a recent foot injury that will keep him out of the Senior Bowl. I wouldn't be prepared to draft him until later.

Brandon Weeden is another player I've left off the board for two main reasons. Firstly, it's very difficult to transfer from the Oklahoma State offense into the pro's, making for a substantial learning curve. Weeden will be a 29-year-old rookie, so how long can you afford to keep him on the sidelines? If you watch the tape, OK St have their quarterback in the gun and still running a five or seven step drop. The line drops too, creating a lot of space underneath. They further spread the field using 4WR sets and often running two go routes to clear out even more space for crossing or underneath targets. It's almost as if they double or triple the size of the field.

With the quarterback dropping so deep, he'll often have the time to let the receiver get open (in this case, first round pick Justin Blackmon) and then it's a case of making a simple completion. Weeden is generally throwing from a deep starting position which is why he needs that strong arm, but he's not making very challenging throws from within his own half or facing much pressure. I like how he's developed into an efficient red-zone passer with a great fade in his locker, but there's more work to be done on his overall game than I think people realise. If he's only going to be ready to start beyond the age of 30 that really limits his stock.

There's a question about Nick Foles and Brock Osweiler coming up, while I do not believe Kellen Moore and Russell Wilson will become legitimate starters at the next level. Moore is a fine and storied college quarterback, but has a lot of technical issues that haven't been discussed including an elongated release and the need to almost spear passes beyond a ten yard range. He's notoriously untouched, enabling him to pick apart many defenses with solid accuracy and timing. At the next level, he'll be under a lot more pressure and will need to make quicker, sharper decisions and throw into much tighet windows.

Then there's the physical limitations and he'll be the first 5-11, 195lbs quarterback to succeed with his skill set. It's a major leap of faith to believe he can make it in the NFL. Wilson is a really fun player to watch, but I think his peak accomplishment would be to become another Seneca Wallace. That wouldn't be a bad thing at all considering Wallace is still around today, but one of the first things Pete Carroll and John Schneider did in Seattle was to trade Seneca to Cleveland for a late round pick, which suggests Wilson may not be on the radar.

DK: I found your recent post concerning the idea of drafting multiple QBs this season, that possess the qualities and traits you're looking for at the position, with a 'competition' point of view, quite compelling. Like you said, and as I've argued recently as well, for John Schneider's Packers, it was, in essence, a 'numbers' game to find their successor to Brett Favre, and the more tickets you scratch the better chance you have of coming up a winner. They Drafted three QBs AFTER drafting Aaron Rodgers and as we've read, Rodgers was no sure thing at the time.

Schneider has said in the past that he likes the idea of taking a QB every year, and that he always wants other teams to want their guys. It's no secret he's a glutton for draft picks, so having tradable QB capital on the team is never a bad thing either. With that thought in mind, name a QB or two (outside the round one discussion) that best fit the following descriptions, and why -

-Highest potential upside (best potential to be an All-Pro style QB with obvious risk-reward implications):
-Lowest floor (i.e., lowest potential for total failure, AKA safest, Andy Dalton esque):
-Most technically sound (most polished):
-Best fit for Seahawks:
-Biggest sleeper this year:
-Biggest darkhorse for unlikely Seahawks' interest (i.e. - anyone out there that no one is discussing that could - surprisingly be picked by the Seahawks):

Rob: In terms of upside, you'd probably have to say Brock Osweiler. He's got unnatural height for the position, yet moves around the pocket easily and can even extend plays and make first downs. He's possibly got the strongest arm in the class, although it's close with Robert Griffin III. There really isn't anyone quite like Osweiler in the NFL, which makes him even more intriguing. The problem is, he isn't an incredibly accurate or consistent quarterback and I've seen him get quite rattled when things go wrong.

Some of that may be sheer frustration - he discovered there was going to be yet another coaching change at ASU during the season and things kind of fell apart after that. He's played basketball and only had one year starting as a quarterback. He needs a settled environment, he needs a good quarterback coach. His upside is very high, but there's also a complete unknown as to whether this type of QB can make it at the next level and whether he can make the necessary improvements.

The safest player is probably Brandon Weeden, even in spite of everything I wrote above. He's been a pro-athlete before albeit in the MLB, so he's going to go into a programme and not be daunted by any challenge that comes his way. Although there is going to be a steep learning curve if he can combat that quickly and maybe be ready to feature aged 30-31 then I think you could end up with a possible bridge quarterback or someone that can manage a talented team.

I don't think expectations are too high for Weeden because of the age factor which limits his bust-potential. I wouldn't draft Weeden expecting a starter, but teams with established NFL quarterbacks may see him as a safe-as-houses back-up for the long term. Back-ups play an important role these days, so even if he costs a third round pick it could be worth it for some teams.

The most technically sound outside of round one is Chandler Harnish. He's already making good reads, being asked to make a range of throws and he does it all with sound (not perfect) mechanics.

As for the 'best fit' for Seattle, it's a difficult question to answer, because it'll seem like I'm advocating this player as 'the guy'. I think the best fit for the Seahawks in terms of what they want to do is one of the three players I listed above - but in many ways I think the two quarterbacks likely to go at the top of round one are 'ideal' point guards for this system.

Regarding the biggest sleeper, again I'd have to go for Chandler Harnish. Very underrated.

If we're talking darkhorses, B.J. Coleman at Chattanooga is a former Tennessee transfer who has put up impressive numbers for the Mocs and has a lot of the physical tools Seattle likes. Big arm, mobile, makes difficult plays downfield. He's very raw and more of an UDFA project, but he's worth bringing to a camp.

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DK: What are your thoughts on two State of Arizona QBs, Brock Osweiler and Nick Foles, both in general and as a prospect for the Seahawks?

Rob: I've talked a little bit about Osweiler earlier and I do think he's going to be over drafted. He's very inexperienced and it shows, while his situation at Arizona State has been a complete mess with all the coaching changes, different playbooks and now an unexpected decision to turn pro. From a physical standpoint I like a lot of what he has to offer. I can see him throwing passes in the NFL, I can see him being succesful in the NFL. But at the same time, I can see a team taking that gamble and using him too early - which would be a bad decision.

He needs time, he needs to settle into an offense and master that playbook. He needs to learn not to trust his arm too much and make better decisions. He's unique in many ways because of the height, mobility and arm strength - in rounds 3-4 I'd consider drafting him as a project. If he goes in the first two rounds, I think you're reaching a little bit too much on the unkown.

I'm not a Nick Foles fan and think he's a late round pick at best. He looks the part when you see the height and the frame, but he's struggled to master a pretty simple offense at Arizona that is designed to make life easy for the quarterback. You want to see a big arm - yet too often he'll float a gimme downfield. He's neither a very accurate passer or a safe, conservative decision maker. He'll regularly chance a pass into double or triple coverage, he'll miss on a simple inside slant or throw a knuckle ball on a basic screen.

Considering he plays in an offense than utilises so many screen and high percentage passes, he shouldn't be forcing so many bad turnovers. A lot of people get lost in the yardage, but it's a similar situation to Landry Jones. Sit down, break down the tape and look beyond the numbers. Are you seeing this guy throwing NFL passes? Are you seeing him fitting difficult passes into a tight window? Are you seeing him extend a play and deal adequately with pressure? Is he improvising from the play call? On each occasion, I have to answer ‘no'.

It'll also look like he's making one, two and even three reads at a time. His head will visibly tilt from one option to the next, but is he actually making progressions or is he trying to fool a defense to set up yet another screen? When I actually got into the tape I realised that he's often not actually scanning the field, it's a hook to break off a screen or WR flat. Two reads across the middle, then back to the receiver in the flats.

You'll see it time and time again. If he was a technically gifted player working a difficult scheme and being asked to do a lot, you could forgive the turnovers - but that's not the case. As you'd expect given his size, he's not great at moving around and getting out of the pocket. He'll never break outside to extend a play, he's always looking for ways to stay in the pocket. This is just flat out inconvenient most of the time and it leads to a lot of missed opportunities and sacks. Foles has been sacked 46 times in the last two years and on too many occasions it was his fault.

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DK: Big thanks, as always, to Rob Staton for taking the time to answer my questions. His eloquent and intriguing responses are always great discussion starters and come tremendously researched, well-argued and backed up. Make sure you check out more of his work at Seahawks Draft Blog and look forward to a post from Rob forthcoming here at Field Gulls.

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