Sometime on the evening of April 26th, the Seattle Seahawks will probably have a brand new, shiny player that we can all hang our hats on as part of the core of the future of our team. And about three hours after that, I'll probably be drunk after celebrating the fact that we no longer have to speculate on who that guy will be.
Sort of like "Peyton Manning Watch" or getting to the series finale of LOST, I get tired of all of the rumors and speculation and I just want to it to be over with. We've got another seven weeks and change of speculation though, so I might as well join in on the fun.
My preparation today will be more about the possibilities than talking about one certain player, or one scenario. I'm not going to do a mock draft today, because that's only one of the ways that it could go down. With 100% certainty I can say that nobody will properly predict how the first 12 picks of the draft will play out. Rather than be completely inaccurate with a single version of the draft, I'll just try to deduce what could be there for the Seahawks at 12, assuming they don't trade up or down, which of course is going to be the thing that happens and then ruins all of the speculation anyway.
Still, we have to work with what we've got, and what we've got today is certain needs that haven't been filled through free agency yet and eleven teams picking ahead of us. As of today, how exactly could the dominoes fall?
Here are three possibilities:
To begin with, let's start to do some elimination. First, let's look at all the players that are possibilities to go in the first eleven picks:
Andrew Luck, QB
Robert Griffin III, QB
Matt Kalil, OT
Justin Blackmon, WR
Morris Claiborne, CB
Riley Reiff, OT
Trent Richardson, RB
Melvin Ingram, DE
Jonathan Martin, OT
Quinton Coples, DE
Dontari Poe, DT
Courtney Upshaw, DE
Fletcher Cox, DT
Devon Still, DT
Michael Floyd, WR
Whitney Mercilus, DE
Nick Perry, DE
David DeCastro, OG
Luke Kuechly, LB
Michael Brockers, DT
Janoris Jenkins, CB
Ryan Tannehill, QB
Dre Kirkpatrick, CB
I've named 23 players for 11 picks, giving me a lot of room for movement.
Now, which of these players are top ten locks with a basic zero chance of being available at 12? Luck, Griffin, Kalil, Blackmon, and Claiborne seem like locks for the top six, let alone top ten. They're aren't going to be on the board when Seattle drafts at 12, if that's where they stay.
In addition to that, I have a hard time seeing Reiff, Coples, and Richardson as being available. They have worked their way up to near locks for the top eleven. Of course, there's possibility there if Coples work ethic question marks cause him to fall, or if no team feels they need a running back that badly and Richardson slips.
Many "Big Boards" will list these players as the top eight in the draft. That only leaves three picks between the top eight and Seattle, leaving the door open for a Richardson to fall, but it doesn't seem very likely at this point.
The top five of the draft won't really affect Seattle at all. In some movement or fashion, with it being almost certain that the Rams will trade the pick to either Cleveland or the highest bidder, the top five or six is already decided. Where Seattle's fate is up for grabs is in the 7-11 range of the draft.
Those teams are:
10. Buffalo Bills
What those five teams decide to do will ultimately be the deciding factor in who Seattle is able to draft in the first round. The main cog in all of that, the aspect of the draft that could mess everything up, is that all of those teams could have a desire to move back just as the Seahawks may like to move back.
Without a solid player available in this position, many teams will feel that they can get "their guy" in the middle of the first round, while picking up additional picks. I mean, if a player like Blackmon slips out of the top six, then the Jags should not hesitate to draft him. But if they're looking at Floyd, they might think he's not exponentially better than Kendall Wright or Alshon Jeffrey.
We need to assess these teams needs and assume that the top five is: Luck, Griffin, Kalil, Blackmon, and Claiborne, because that seems highly likely. The Redskins could be the wild card here, because they absolutely want a quarterback and might be players for Griffin, but if they don't trade up will they address another need or reach for Tannehill?
For this exercise, let's start with the Redskins at six and take those top five players off of the board. How could it play out?
6. Washington Redskins draft Ryan Tannehill, QB
Feeling the pressure of finding the QBOTF, Washington reaches on Tannehill because they decide that if they trade back there are too many teams between them and the middle of the first round that could take him. He's not an elite prospect, but he's a very good one.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars draft Riley Reiff, OT
Eugene Monroe (#8 pick in 2009) has been considered "inconsistent" throughout his career, but he does well enough in pass blocking to be considered a decent-to-good option at LT. Reiff will step in at RT and give the Jags a much better all-around line and when you have very little talent at WR and a young QB, the best thing you can do is give him more time in the pocket.
8. Miami Dolphins draft Quinton Coples, DE
If we're living in a world where the Dolphins have signed Matt Flynn, then they've filled one need. Another need they should address at some point is wide receiver, but that would be a reach at this point. (Something they'll probably look at in FA) The one need that everyone will be talking about though is the move to a 4-3 defense and upgrading the defensive line at multiple spots. They go with the top-end athlete in Coples.
9. New York Jets (via trade with Carolina Panthers) draft Trent Richardson, RB
A trade! (The fun thing about my scenarios is that I have more opportunity to do trades, because this is my world) As Richardson slips a bit from early draft-season predictions, teams start to consider the possibility of moving up to get him. The Panthers have no need for him and they have several needs on their defense so they make a trade with the Jets to pick up extra selections (2nd round, for starters) while the Jets decide to do the Jets thing to do. Which is, make a big move to pick up a big name player.
Shonn Greene is good, but he's not that good. Ladainian Tomlinson is very old. The Jets need to get back to a team that leads the league in rushing while playing defense, and relying less on Mark Sanchez.
10. Buffalo Bills draft Courtney Upshaw, DE
Everyone is almost in universal agreement that the Bills will take a pass rusher. Upshaw is the best one available at this point.
11. Kansas City Chiefs draft David DeCastro, OG
He's a real OG and the Chiefs upgrade an offensive line that was not nearly effective as it had been in previous years. It's early for a guard, but it's hard to argue with drafting a player that could immediately be a Pro Bowl/All-Pro level-talent at his position. And at this point, no players really slipped to them that will immediately fill a major need for them, so they just go with the best player available.
12. Seattle Seahawks draft Melvin Ingram, DE
Hey, we're finally here!
So, this scenario gave Seattle a number of defensive line options. Namely: Ingram, Michael Brockers, Fletcher Cox, Dontari Poe, Nick Perry, and Devon Still. No matter how many times I run through this, Seattle will have the choice to take one of these players. They'll need to decide which they like best if they decide to go for a pass rusher or interior d-lineman, because they will certainly have their options there.
One of Seattle's top three needs is finding a pass rusher. They also like players that show versatility (like moving Red Bryant to DE in 2010) and Ingram has played all over the defensive line and is seen as a possible outside linebacker in the NFL. Ingram has said he's ready to play wherever he's asked to play in the NFL and his athleticism and versatility combined with his ability to get to the passer (21.5 career sacks) will make him an attractive option for any team needing help on their defense.
It's only ONE of those possibilities and there are things to like about each of those players on some level. How much emphasis will they have on Poe's outstanding, mind-boggling combine and will it fit their needs to find another player to put on the interior? Or Fletcher Cox for that matter?
The point behind this scenario: No matter what, Seattle will have more than three choices for a d-lineman that should be worthy at 12.
6. St Louis Rams (via trade with Washington Redskins) draft Justin Blackmon, WR
How did this happen? The Browns signed Matt Flynn and the Redskins offered this pick, a 2nd rounder and a 1st in 2013 (plus change). The Bucs drafted Richardson at five and the Rams still got the player they wanted in Blackmon, giving Sam Bradford a weapon to grow
old late-twenties with. If the Bucs or Browns draft Blackmon, I could still see this pick being Richardson because of the miles on Stephen Jackson which still makes the top six players drafted the same.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars draft Riley Reiff, OT
8. Miami Dolphins draft Michael Brockers, DT
Kind of a similar pick to before, the Dolphins seem very likely to address the 3-4 issue. However, with the Browns signing Matt Flynn, it means the Dolphins didn't. It means that unless they signed Peyton Manning, they are still going with Matt Moore. Is that really that bad? Is it worse than Tannehill? Did you know that the Dolphins actually... weren't that bad? They finished the season 6-3 over their last nine games and Moore was the QB in all of those victories. New coach means new franchise players and all that, but the Dolphins are getting very old on defense.
9. Carolina Panthers draft Quinton Coples, DE
Charles Johnson is a good defensive end on one side, but Greg Hardy was second on the team in sacks with 4.0. They draft the guy that everyone compares to the best player in their defense's history, Julius Peppers, and all of a sudden the Panthers have a pretty good team.
10. Buffalo Bills draft Courtney Upshaw, DE
11. Kansas City Chiefs draft Jonathan Martin, OT
It's sort of the same as the DeCastro pick, but with higher upside because he plays a more important position. The Chiefs need upgrades at several positions on the offensive line.
12. Seattle Seahawks draft Ryan Tannehill, QB
So, I felt like this was a possibility that had to be addressed. If the Redskins and Browns fill their needs at QB, and if the Dolphins either fill their need or decide to go with Matt Moore, then Seattle might have to make the choice of Tannehill at 12. I know a lot of people don't like that, but we have to at least address it.
As we get closer to the draft, the stock on Tannehill continues to rise as everyone starts to universally agree that he's the the only player in the gap between Luck/Griffin and the rest of the group. If this is how it played out, it would mean that Seattle is drafting him over Ingram, Brockers, DeCastro, Luke Kuechly, Cox, Upshaw, and all those other guys. It would mean that they either didn't fall in love with the Brock Osweiler/2nd round-3rd round group or that they felt comfortable enough with Tannehill to not go with a safer choice like DeCastro or Kuechly.
Tannehill is a guy that may be raw and may be a risk, but at the same time will be coming into a situation where: He can sit for a year and also is going to have a good offensive line and good weapons around him. Many QB prospects fail simply because they are in shitty situations. This isn't a shitty situation for a rookie. This is one of the better situations you can fall into because there's not going to be any pressure in 2012 and by 2013 we hope to be fully healthy and experienced on the offensive line and skill positions. If Seattle drafts Tannehill, it will be because they really like this kid and so, then, will I. It's something that could happen.
6. Washington Redskins draft Riley Reiff, OT
The Redskins, never afraid to make big free agent moves, have signed Peyton Manning. So they fill a need on the offensive line and protect Manning's non-blind-side (movie coming soon) with Reiff.
7. Cincinnati Bengals (via trade with Jacksonville Jaguars) draft Trent Richardson, RB
Feeling like they have house money with Oaklands #17 pick, the Bengals use that and more to move up and take the successor to Cedric Benson. Richardson will combine with A.J. Green and Andy Dalton to give the Bengals a very nice, young core. Meanwhile the Jags just want to draft a WR, but nobody is worthy at 7 after Blackmon is gone.
8. Miami Dolphins draft Ryan Tannehill, QB
The Dolphins missed out on free agency (let's call it Manning to Washington, Griffin to Cleveland, and Matt Flynn to Seattle) so they take Tannehill. The best QB available in the draft.
9. Carolina Panthers draft Dontari Poe, DT
They need an interior lineman more than Coples, so Poe or Cox or Brockers could all land here. I just picked one.
10. Buffalo Bills draft Quinton Coples, DE
Now he's the best pass-rusher available for Buffalo.
11. Kansas City Chiefs draft Melvin Ingram, DE
Did you know that Tyson Jackson (#3 pick in 2009) has two career sacks? I haven't watched enough Kansas City games to really declare if he's a bust (maybe he's been more of a Red Bryant on their defense) but it stands to reason that the Chiefs could go defensive line (where they've struggled to find consistently good players at the top of the draft) just as much as they draft offensive line. They'll probably draft in the trenches unless Trent Richardson falls.
12. Seattle Seahawks draft Luke Kuechly, LB
Available players that they passed on: Brockers, DeCastro, Cox, Upshaw, Still, Perry, others....
It doesn't seem on paper like the Seahawks struggled in their linebacking core in 2011, but neither David Hawthorne or LeRoy Hill are elite players. Hell, neither is K.J. Wright but we like him because he wasn't Aaron Curry and he could be very good in the future. Which leaves us with this: will we really re-sign Heater and Hill? Probably not. Seattle will have a need to fill and they can do it in the first or they could very well wait until later.
Here's what I know about having a solid middle linebacker: They don't usually make the big plays. They aren't the guys that get sacks. They aren't the guys that rack up interceptions or touchdowns. Few of them will ever be as hyped or as famous as Ray Lewis. They're also probably the most underrated players on the defense, in many cases. We underrate them for the fact that they're rarely exciting, but how can we forget the importance that Lofa Tatupu played on this team in 2005? As a rookie, leading the entire defense by example and pushing his way up there from being a second pick that was called at the time as being "a reach."
Kuechly is one of the most prolific tacklers in the history of college football, and then he ran a 4.58 40 at the Combine. Forget his Combine numbers (though they're nice) and just focus on the fact that when you see this defense, you see a potentially elite secondary and a potentially very good defensive line (edit: that indeed needs upgrading, but Brandon Mebane, Chris Clemons and a potentially re-signed Red Bryant isn't a bad start.) But the defense still needs a player that's going to take care of the in-betweens, for every running back that gets past that first line of defense, for every tight end (of which Seattle was among the worst in the NFL in defending) that comes across the middle, the Seahawks do need the elite player in the middle.
He might be that guy. If Seattle has filled its need at QB anyway (and it pained me to write that Seattle signed Matt Flynn, but it is still possible that it could happen and right now I'm only running through possibilities) then there's other areas to cover: pass rush, interior defensive line, and MLB. Let's not underrate that need for a middle linebacker and ignore the fact that just because Kuechly doesn't seem like the most exciting pick, he could be the best. I also know he's very smart based on this:
And those are three ways that it could go down.