With free agency in full swing and with Jason Jones and Matt Flynn signed, I wanted to take another look at the draft and possible alternate strategies we may want to consider. I have been nothing short of the biggest advocate for getting our pass rushing DE with our first round pick, and I'm not saying we still shouldn't target it with that pick, but I will be the first to admit that I have not considered much else up to this point. So why am I doing this? The simple answer is because we now have Matt Flynn. I sat back last night and looked at our team from a perspective that has him as our QB and not Tavaris Jackson. Let's face it, they are two different QBs with different skill sets. Tavaris Jackson has better arm strength, like him or don't that's just fact. Flynn has better defensive recognition which is a big factor when you are looking at run blitz formation and you have a run off tackle play called. So I think you have to look at our team and ask if our team is suited for Flynn as is. I don't think so. I think you have to consider your personel when drafting. You will draft differently if you have Peyton Manning at QB than you would with Tim Tebow... same with Tavaris Jackson and Matt Flynn.
First, let's look at our offensive line. If the season were to start today we'd be looking at the following line protecting what we hope is our franchise QB.
LT - Okung - has some injury concerns (high ankle sprains and coming off torn pectoral)
LG - Paul McQuistan - is likely your opening day starter as it stands right now
C - Max Unger - underrated C, pretty solid in the middle
RG - John Moffitt - Should be ready to go shortly after training camp opens, is ahead of schedule
RT - Breno Giacomini - performed very well when Carpenter went down. Carpenter likely not playing in 2012, when able to come back is likely moving to G
Not really confidence inspiring is it? An injury to any one of our starters and we could be in trouble. It's obvious that Pete Carroll will not go into camp with only 3 spare linemen, no NFL team would, but there is a serious issue with our OL depth. In all of our blogs and comments I have not seen anyone consider drafting an OT with pick 12. I have seen David DeCastro's name come up a lot recently but nothing has been mentioned about Riley Reiff OT Iowa or Jonathan Martin OT Stanford. Guard is actually our deepest OL position if you take into account that Giacomini can also play G. Let's play the injury game for a minute... if Okung goes down to injury, McQuistan slides over to play LT and Jeanpierre goes in and plays LG, if Giacomini then goes down we have... Alan Barbre. OT is our bigger need on the OL. If Riley Reiff and/or Jonathan Martin are on the board at 12, I'm taking them over David DeCastro if you are going with a lineman at 12. You will pass a bit more with Matt Flynn maybe 5-10 more times per game than you would with Jackson. If we are being honest, Jonathan Martin or Riley Rieff is a lot better than (a very good back-up) Giacomini.
Whether we take an OL with our pick at 12 or not, it does need to be addressed. If we stick with DE in round 1, who's available from rounds 2-7 at OT? I'll list a couple of names here without write-ups: Marcel Jones - Nebraska 2nd round grade, Tom Compton - South Dakota 3rd/4th round grade, Senio Kelemete - 2nd round grade, Amini Silatolu T/G - Midwestern State 3rd round grade, Dustin Waldron - Portland State 4th round grade... and many many more.
Another option to consider is drafting a WR at 12. Looking at Matt Flynn's game he is very effective short/mid range and our slot receivers Doug Baldwin and Golden Tate are going to play right into his strength. We have Rice who is injury prone and some under performing WRs at times in Mike Williams and Ben Obomanu at our #2, Kris Durham I really like and think he could be a starting #2, but unproven... Lockette is also a wild card. Butler I see more as a slot receiver as well and is good for depth, so does Flynn have enough targets that play to his strength? Perhaps, but a name like Michael Floyd at 12 is a very interesting option. He is an excellent route runner and has amazing hands and is a big play receiver. We have enough weapons for Flynn's short game: Baldwin, Tate, Miller, Lynch and if we get players with the skill sets of Tamme or Bush we are set there. Last season when Rice went down, we struggled a bit in the passing game, and I personally think Floyd as a starting #2 can easily move to #1 receiver if that happens in 2012. Come on you don't think Rice, Floyd, Baldwin and Tate in a 4 WR set would be tempting?
If DE is taken round 1, who's available in later rounds that would fit Flynn's style? Marvin McNutt - Iowa 2nd/3rd round grade, Reuben Randall - LSU (they didn't play at LSU at the same time) 2nd round grade, Juron Criner - Arizona 2nd round grade, Stephen Hill - Georgia Tech 1st/2nd round grade, Nick Toon - Wisconsin 2nd round grade, Tommy Streeter - Miami 3rd round grade
One of our biggest needs right now believe it or not is MLB. I realize that this being here is not a 'Flynn' based option, so I'll keep this brief. Hawthorne is testing the market and we have *gulp* Heath Farwell as our potential starting MLB. I love Farwell on special teams, he's a beast, but as a starting MLB calling our defensive plays? No thank you. Luke Kuechly is the obvious choice to fill MLB in round 1. We've debated him in our blogs and comments and I understand some people's hesitation about drafting a LB again but seriously he's a different player and you cant be 'afraid' of drafting a player when you got burned once early. I believe we need 2 MLBs folks as it stands right now... one early one later that can also play OLB. For the record, Pete Carroll has stated he wants to keep KJ Wright at SAM and does not want to move him to MIKE. This is a real possibility boys and girls. Because I am of the impression we need 2 MLBs we will need to address it in the first 2 rounds and again in the 4th, 6th or 7th (based on no signings in FA).
So if we do address a position other than DE in the 1st round, what are we looking at for DE in the 2nd round? FA has done a lot actually to change draft strategy for teams looking for a DE. Buffalo signing Williams, the Rams getting Langford and 'maybe' the Jags resigning Mincey, who all pick before us and very well could have been targeting DE with their first pick (at least Buffalo and Jax) and the Rams very well could have been targeting DE in the 2nd round. What this does is simply push back the top tier DEs and possibly pushing some DEs to 2nd round picks instead of late first round picks... for example many mocks had Coples going to the Jags and Upshaw or Ingram going to the Bills, but now you could see both players slip as far as 14 or later. With the Dolphins losing Langford they could take DE if in fact Garrard is their QB and not Tannehill. So with that explained you could be looking at the following DEs make it to us in the 2nd round: Andre Branch - Clemson could drop to us in the 2nd round, Vinny Curry - Marshall, Chandler Jones - Syracuse, Jared Crick - Nebraska and Cam Johnson - Virginia.
Now again I don't necessarily think we should bypass our pass rushing DE with pick 12, but I do now think it has to be considered, especially if only 1 DE is off the board by the time we select. With Matt Flynn in mind I think you have to consider better protection. I think you can pass more with Flynn than you can with Jackson, so your OL does become a bigger need. If Riley Rieff or Jonathan Martin are there, RT has to be considered. We lost 3 OL this offseason and with Carpenter likely out, I'd rather not be scouring practice squads for filler. Would this be so bad?
1st - Jonathan Martin - OT - Stanford
2nd - Chandler Jones DE - Syracuse
3rd - Bobby Wagner - MLB - Utah State
Chandler Jones is a very underrated DE and can give a very solid pass rush off the edge. You can get better protection for Flynn at RT with Martin and if Okung goes down can slip Martin to LT and keep McQuistan at his better RG position and Giacomini to RT. I like that better.
Getting Flynn another elite weapon will do wonders for our struggling passing game also has to be considered. Here is another option:
1st - Michael Floyd - WR - Notre Dame
2nd - Andre Branch - DE - Clemson
3rd - Amini Silatolu T/G - Midwestern State
I like this option a lot actually. Flynn to Floyd mid range and watching Floyd break free and use his speed for 6. I changed up the DE in this selection just to give another option if Jones is gone and you could of course take a MLB in the 3rd instead of Silatolu, but I want to show as many options as possible with these examples, and show there are DE options in the 2nd round.
Again going into camp with no real MLBs is a scary proposition, and currently is a bigger need than DE.
1st - Luke Kuechly - MLB - Boston College
2nd - Vinny Curry - DE - Marshall
3rd - Tommy Streeter - WR - Miami
This is gaining momentum with me. 2 big holes filled on D with the first 2 picks and a weapon (or protection) for Flynn in the 3rd round.
Again, I'm not saying we should avoid a pass rushing DE with our 1st round pick, but there are going to be options available to us in the 2nd round to fill that need. Keep your options open.