SEATTLE, WA - DECEMBER 1: Zach Miller #86 of the Seattle Seahawks is tackled by Kurt Coleman #42 of the Philadelphia Eagles at CenturyLink Field December 1, 2011 in Seattle, Washington. Seattle won 34-14. (Photo by Jay Drowns/Getty Images)
Well, with one day until the draft, I've got about 36 hours to push out the remaining roster inventory pieces that I've so neglected. There's no time to waste. To recap, I've gone through and will take a look at the current roster members, the players the Seahawks have shown interest in, have been connected to, or have had out to the VMAC for a visit, and then I'll give my take on some players I think the Seahawks should target, both in the early rounds and later on.
Next up, tight ends.
The Seahawks tight end group, in my estimation, is neither a weakness nor a great strength - the depth is a bit tenuous but having Zach Miller as your starter is never a bad thing. With the amount of two tight end sets the Seahawks run in their offense (something around 30-40% of the time toward the end of the year or abouts), Anthony McCoy, Cameron Morrah, John Nalbone, or a draft pick/trade acquisition figures to be a pretty big part of the offense even if Miller stays healthy all year.
Anthony McCoy is more known for his drops from last year than anything else, but he was pretty good as a blocking end in 2011 so he certainly has value. I doubt the Seahawks have given up yet on his ability to shake the dropsies and his ability as an in-line blocker would be that much more valuable if he could become dependable running routes. If not, I think you can start questioning whether he'll retain that valuable roster spot going forward. I noticed towards the end of the year, after Cameron Morrah came off the PUP list, that McCoy was ceding snaps to the more athletic California product.
Why? Well, simply, because Morrah is much better in running routes as a receiver, or a joker or 'move' tight end. I highlighted this a bit here, and it's no secret the Seahawks have been looking for one of these types of players now that John Carlson has left in free agency to pair with Miller in two tight end sets (which almost become 3WR sets, in effect). I don't see Anthony McCoy doing much moving around on the wing at this point, though it will be interesting to see what they do in training camp and preseason.
Here's the rub though - McCoy makes a much better 'backup' to Zach Miller because he's more adept at in-line blocking and can do the nitty gritty things that the Seahawks' offense calls on Miller to do the 50-70% of the time he's not releasing on routes (or whatever the number is - don't quote me). Can Cam Morrah be relied upon to pull block, trap, seal, and release downfield to block like Miller does so brilliantly? Probably not.
I do believe that McCoy is probably more valuable in this area. However, Morrah has the edge in versatility for his receiving skills and athletic ability; he's a nice weapon to use to create mismatches on the outside and up the seam, so he certainly has value as well.
Here's my conclusion on which tight ends the Seahawks will go with - I don't know?
Final Roster Spot Projection:
Right now, my guess is Zach Miller as TE1, Cameron Morrah as TE2, and Anthony McCoy TE3. John Nalbone is the wild card here, and Pete Carroll talked highly of him after the season he had on the practice squad, but there's just not much there for me to work with. If he makes the team, it will be an interesting development.
As for the draft - I wouldn't be super surprised to see the team to out and pick a 'touchdown' maker, but with only six picks I'm not banking on it. If the Seahawks do trade back once or twice to accumulate some picks, I certainly would expect they'd look at the tight end group, however weak it is this year.
Seahawks' Draft Interest:
The Hawks, thus far, have shown interest in late-round to UDFA H-back/tight ends like Alabama's Brad Smelley, Beloit WR/TE/HB Derek Carrier, Cincinnati TE Adrien Robinson , Oregon TE David Paulsen, and Morgan State TE/HB Lamant Bryant. They were also visibly present at the Pro Day for Stanford's Coby Fleener.
You could put these guys into two groups. Brad Smelley and David Paulson are sub-elite in athleticism but have that air of reliability about them. Catch everything that comes their way, makes blocks happily, and has enough versatility to line up on the line, on the wing, or in the backfield. However, their lack of athleticism is exactly why they'll probably go undrafted and why they likely wouldn't scare defensive coordinators.
On the other hand, Derek Carrier, Adrien Robinson, and Lamant Bryant are in the Jameson Konz mold of H-back. Fast, extremely athletic movable chess pieces that could be relied upon to run solid routes as a receiver and provide and create exploitable mismatches, can lead block/run block adequately, can flash in the zone underneath as a check down option, can run shallow out routes and catch release passes as a fullback - you name it. Their athleticism and speed make them dangerous to opposing coordinators, who have to worry about matching up with these guys and accounting for their ability to run the seam routes. This is not as easy as it would seem, and that's why guys like Oakland's Marcel Reece and Houston's James Casey emerged as bona fide weapons on offense this year for their respective teams.
Players to Watch:
I pretty much laid it out above, but I think Derek Carrier and Adrien Robinson are names to remember. Fleener is the wild card, and if the Seahawks were able to secure an extra 2nd round pick somehow, he might be an option. The strength of the tight end class is poor, which leads me to believe the Hawks might get better value late, probably in the undrafted rookie ranks. James Hanna of Oklahoma is a name to watch - he's a guy that scored off the charts in athleticism and speed, and at 6'4, 250 reminds me of Houston's Casey in physical makeup. He wasn't thrown to much in Oklahoma's offense, but his 4.49 40, 4.11 short shuttle, 6.76 3-cone, and 36" vert make him a prototypical late-round option for the Hawks.