The ideal choice
Georgia's Alec Ogletree might be the most talented defensive player eligible for the 2013 draft. He'd also look pretty good in Seattle's defense. He's a former safety turned linebacker - and it shows. ESPN lists Ogletree at 6-3, 232lbs, the exact same physical statistics as Kam Chancellor. Prior to the 2012 draft, Tony Pauline at Draft Insider.net speculated that Seattle would consider drafting Alabama safety Mark Barron with the idea of moving Kam Chancellor to linebacker. John Schneider poured cold water on the suggestion, but it wasn't a completely ridiculous proposal.
Chancellor played some linebacker at Virginia Tech and fell during the 2010 draft in part because he was considered too big to feature in the secondary. It's easy to forget he ended up a fifth round pick, despite early projections to go in round three. We never got to find out whether the Seahawks were serious about moving a Pro Bowl safety to linebacker, but Ogletree's potential presence in next year's draft is intriguing. He has Chancellor's size, but he's an even better athlete.
Two weeks ago Ogletree put in a flawless display against Ole Miss. On one occasion he flashed speed off the edge to beat the left tackle and force a huge sack on third down. He forced a turnover on downs after reading a WR screen, sprinting from the right hash mark to the far left side of the field and delivering a crunching hit inches from the first down marker. He made a 25-yard drop in coverage to make a leaping interception. And in the closing stages of the third quarter he forced a safety by sealing the edge and exploding to hit the running back in the end zone.
In that one game, Ogletree flashed an entire repertoire of elite skills. Speed, recognition, field IQ and execution. He can rush the passer, he can drop into coverage. On tape, he is the very definition of a top-ten NFL draft pick.
However, there are some concerns. He was suspended for four games at the start of the season, along with team mate Bacarri Rambo, after failing a drugs test at spring camp. It's something teams will look into particularly given it's not his first flirtation with trouble. He was also suspended in 2010 for one game after a bizarre arrest following an incident involving a stolen scooter helmet.
If the character concerns force a fall in the first round, he becomes a more realistic option for the Seahawks. That should be considered a dream scenario for this team. At times this season Seattle has struggled to get off the field on third down. The Seahawks actually play a lot of nickel coverage on third down, taking the WILL linebacker off the field. Ogletree could allow the defensive staff to use more base defense, as he provides untapped potential as a pass rusher and good coverage skills. If they still want to use a lot of nickel, Ogletree could line up off the edge (especially useful for the future when Chris Clemons eventually moves on) or even remain in one of the two linebacker spots due to his athleticism and covering ability.
Ogletree has the potential to be a difference maker at linebacker - in the same way Julian Peterson was an X-Factor for so many years. There aren't many ways to upgrade a defense that is already moving towards elite status, but drafting this guy would do just that. If you're going to pine for any player this year, I'd recommend Alec Ogletree.
Options on offense
Seattle has finally found a quarterback capable of leading its football team for a generation. If Russell Wilson is going to keep developing and turn into the player everyone hopes (expects?) he's going to need further help.
Pete Carroll's vision for the offense is clearly based around the run, with the passing game acting more as a quick-hitting compliment. Only Arian Foster (221 attempts) has run the ball more times than Marshawn Lynch (212 attempts) this season. No other player in the NFL has over 200 carries. Russell Wilson has attempted just 253 passes so far - 55 fewer than fellow rookie Ryan Tannehill, 109 fewer than Andrew Luck and 83 fewer than Brandon Weeden. All three quarterbacks have been asked to contribute more than Wilson, but Robert Griffin III has been similarly paced acting behind a productive ground game in Washington. He's played a game less than Wilson and has still thrown nine more passes in 2012.
While you expect Wilson's work load will grow as he develops, this will always remain an offense built around the run. You're never likely to see a ten-catch performance from a receiver or tight end. It might always be 2-3 catches for 60 yards and a big score, spread out among a couple of players. That's just the way this offense is being built.
Receiver is considered much less of a need these days with Sidney Rice and Golden Tate both enjoying an increase in production. However, there's still room for one more receiver on the roster. Tennessee's Cordarrelle Patterson may just fit the bill.
A former JUCO transfer, Patterson has found multiple ways to score touchdowns this season. He has 638 yards through the air and four receiving touchdowns. He has 270 rushing yards and three scores. He even boasts 553 return yards for the year and a 98-yard kick off return for a touchdown. The video below highlights his biggest plays from games 1-6 this season.
Of course, you don't learn everything from a collection of highlights. There have been times when Patterson has looked raw or lacked concentration. A guaranteed touchdown against Georgia was wiped off the board when he dropped a catchable downfield bomb from Tyler Bray. A lack of effort and a poor route led to a pick-six against Akron. He had a run of five straight games this season without more than three catches in a game, or more than 31 receiving yards.
Considering he'll be lining up mostly at receiver at the next level, those are some concerning facts. In fairness, four of those 'unproductive' games were defeats to Georgia, Mississippi State, Alabama and South Carolina - four of the toughest teams in college football this year. In those games he still managed two explosive touchdowns (one as a runner, one on a kick return).
The team that ultimately drafts Patterson will have to live with the knowledge he's not the most polished receiver or route runner. He's simply a pure home-run hitter. He'll make you one or two big plays in a game, rather than six or seven solid plays. He's 6-3 and 205lbs and could run a 4.4 at the combine. And he might be perfect for Seattle.
You can't expect to turn this guy into a production machine. He is what he is. Let him run downfield and find separation so you can hit him on a play action pass. Have him run a reverse and maybe even give him a throwing option. Let him return kicks and punts. Cordarrelle Patterson scores cheap points. He's a threat to score any time the ball is in his hands. If you make things easy for him and utilise his athletic qualities, you could end up with a real playmaker on offense.
Some people will read this and cringe. There's no getting away from the fact he has bust potential. Drafting a receiver early has gained a degree of notoriety, mainly due to the number of bad picks made by Matt Millen during his time in Detroit. The reality is Patterson has the opportunity to be one of the most dynamic players in the NFL, as well as a titanic bust. Sound familiar? You probably heard people say the same about Bruce Irvin last April - another former JUCO transfer.
This team is unlikely to ever carry that consistent go-to receiver because that's not how the offense operates. You'll continue to see a lot of play action. You'll see downfield attempts to pick up big yardage. You'll see the trick plays. Drafting a guy like Cordarrelle Patterson isn't so much a risk in this offense, it's simply giving yourself a better chance to make those big plays. And that's what Pete Carroll appears to want from his passing game.
Plenty of depth at defensive tackle
One of Seattle's biggest needs could emerge at defensive tackle. Alan Branch is a free agent in March and so is Jason Jones. Branch helps anchor the line on early downs, using his 325lbs frame to provide solid run support. Jones is the pass rush specialist who acts as a more natural three technique on passing downs. The Seahawks have noticed a tangible drop in pressure when Jones has been unavailable through injury.
If the front office wants to re-sign these two players, they have the capacity to do so. Branch is unlikely to garner huge interest on the open market, while Jones hasn't generated much hype despite a quietly effective season. We could see more from rookies Jaye Howard and Greg Scruggs before the end of the season and this could be an area that is pretty much tied up long before the draft.
Even so, this is looking like a good class of defensive tackles. Seattle could see an opportunity to upgrade even if they re-sign Branch and Jones. That opportunity could emerge in round one.
Missouri's Sheldon Richardson doesn't generate as much hype as Utah's Star Lotulelei, but I think he's a more rounded prospect. Few players eligible for 2013 carry Lotulelei's upside, but he's proven wildly inconsistent during the last two years. The USC game this season was a great example - he dominated in the early exchanges, getting into the head of half-healthy center Khaled Holmes and forcing two quick turnovers. Yet in the second half, he was completely anonymous. There's no doubting Lotulelei's potential to be one of the game's great defensive tackles, but will the explosive side of his game translate enough to the pro's in order to mask some of his streaky play?
While not quite as explosive, Richardson has a more lasting impact in games. Even against Alabama's dominating offensive line he was breaking through to make plays. He's a 100% effort player every single down - he'll chase low percentage situations, run across the field to join in a gang tackle, follow the ball carrier on the off-chance he can make a play. That all-out effort is matched with a great burst off the snap and an ability to penetrate into the backfield. He has a nice pass-rush repertoire and at times this year he's looked as good, if not better, than Gerald McCoy when he was at Oklahoma.
There is a downside unfortunately - and like Ogletree it could push him into Seattle's range. He's quite an intense character and it might rub some coaches up the wrong way. Richardson is expected to miss the game against Syracuse this weekend through suspension for violating team rules. There's no information on what's provoked that suspension, but it's a little concerning given the Tigers are one game from Bowl eligibility and face a team that recently defeated unbeaten Louisville.
I suspect both Lotulelei and Richardson will be off the board before the Seahawks pick, so what about some of the other prospects available? I think perhaps the most likely alternate for Seattle is Alabama's Jesse Williams. He's playing nose tackle this year after previously playing 3-4 end for the Crimson Tide. He's a former Australian rugby player and looked a little sloppy physically in 2011, but he looks every bit a first round pick this year. He's well suited to the nose and while he lacks the bulk of a Jonathan Jenkins at Georgia, he's incredibly strong and nimble at around 6-3 and 320lbs.
Williams is a fun player to watch - an effort guy with athleticism to match. He's a terror in the run game, taking on two blockers to make a play for a short loss time and time again this year. He's shown some pass rushing skills largely thanks to a natural jump off the snap and he has the potential to improve in this area. Williams is a warrior who fits into that Red Bryant mould of player - he'd fit in perfectly to the character of this defense. He's perhaps not the natural three-down three-technique this team is looking for, but he'd be a slight upgrade on Branch as a pass rusher while maintaining high standards on run defense. If the team can re-sign Jason Jones, they could do a lot worse than adding Williams in the draft.
Another player to keep an eye on is North Carolina tackle Sylvester Williams. You could say he's the 305lbs version of Bruce Irvin. Check out the similarities:
- He's a JUCO transfer who will turn 25 during his rookie season.
- He turned his life around after a difficult time in high school, including a difficult upbringing.
- He's an explosive pass rusher.
There are enough previous concerns about Williams' attitude and lifestyle to put off some teams. But as we saw with Irvin, the Seahawks are more likely to concentrate on his talent. If he was a normal three year starter on a good team, people would be talking about this guy as a top-ten lock. I'd recommend reading this detailed piece by Ryan Fagan if you want to learn more about his background.
One defensive tackle I'm not so keen on is Ohio State's Johnathan Hankins. He's got more potential than most defensive players in college football right now, yet he always leaves you wanting more. You rarely see an athlete like this at 6-3 and 335lbs, but he doesn't make the most of his outstanding physical qualities. He's a classic 'leaner' and lacks technique as a pass rusher. He'll get by sometimes because he's simply better than some of the weaker offensive lineman in college, but he'll have to raise his game at the next level. He could be a top-20 pick if he wants to be, but I suspect he'll stick around into the late first or early second round.
What positions are unlikely to be targeted?
Pete Carroll and John Schneider have spent two first round picks on offensive lineman (Russell Okung & James Carpenter). They also added John Moffitt in round three. I think it's unlikely they go back to this unit in round one in 2013. The single most important trait for a good offensive line is consistency. Don't just take my word - here's the thoughts of David Diehl, two-time Super Bowl Champion guard for the New York Giants: "People forget playing together for a long period of time is what makes you the best... When we had our best years here, it was when the five of us played together during that one long stretch. That's what you have to have to have an effective offensive line. You have to have a lot of game experience together because there is so much continuity, fitting next to each other, being on the same page, being able to communicate when you can't hear because of the noise."
Eventually, you need to put five guys on the field and let them play. Not many teams have matched Seattle's level of draft investment in the offensive line. Aside from Okung, Carpenter and Moffitt, the Tim Ruskell regime also spent a second round pick on center Max Unger. Breno Giacomini has cut out the penalties in recent weeks and isn't a critical problem for the Seahawks. And if you think this team is alone in fielding a non-elite right tackle, think again. Here's Mike Shanahan's take: "Everybody says we don't have a good right tackle. I say show me who does?"
Tight end, likewise, seems an unlikely option in round one. The 2013 class is fronted by the two Stanford tight ends (Zach Ertz & Levine Toilolo) with Notre Dame's Tyler Eifert also highly rated. A lack of production at the position has led many to wonder if an upgrade will be sought, but Zach Miller hasn't been asked to do an awful lot in the passing game. Miller averaged 61 receptions per-year between 2008-10 for the Oakland Raiders. He has just 32 targets in ten games for the Seahawks this season. According to Advanced NFL Stats, there are 27 tight ends in the NFL who have received more looks.
This is a scheme issue rather than a talent issue. Rather than spend a first round pick on the position, keep an eye on a player like Gavin Escobar at San Diego State. He's 6-6 and 255lbs and the prototypical modern tight end. Basically, an athletic pass catcher who doesn't do a great deal of blocking. As teams look for the next Jimmy Graham, there could be a lot of interest in Escobar during the post-season.
Rob Staton created Seahawks Draft Blog in 2008 to provide reports and analysis to the 12th man community.