GAINESVILLE, FL - OCTOBER 01: Jordan Reed #11 of the Florida Gators is tackled by Dont'a Hightower #30 of the Alabama Crimson Tide following a reception during a game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on October 1, 2011 in Gainesville, Florida. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
Finally, draft day. I have no doubt that over the next few days the analysis, predictions, joys and resentments about teams' picks will be flying each and every direction. I could see Seattle going in a number of directions at pick 12, simply because their flexible nature as an organization allows it. At one point or another I feel like Seattle has been associated with taking players at nearly every position on a mock here or there, and as a fan I like that there is such a wide variety of opinion about what they could do.
It's no secret the idea of trading down to acquire picks is an appealing one, but there is also a chance it won't happen. In making this list some of the guys near the bottom you could consider targets for that scenario. It's been documented that the Patriots and perhaps even Bengals have inquired about pick 12, which would put Seattle in the bottom half of the round. That could bring a lot more players into the equation. For a little bit of background; what have John Schneider's teams (when he was a member of the front office of each club) done in the first round? From 1993-2011 they have taken 7 offensive linemen, 4 defensive backs and linebackers, 2 receivers and defensive linemen, 1 for the remaining positions (no special teams' picks).
I generated this list based off of a combination of need and who I think is simply the best player. I am fully aware it's possible none of these guys get picked, as I did not have Carpenter on my board last year, but given the limited resources in terms of legitimate tape and such this is the crop I have whittled it down to. I am also assuming a player like Justin Blackmon, Trent Richardson, or Morris Claiborne doesn't fall to here.
Melvin Ingram: I've been beating the Hightower drum for a while, and this was a change based off the nearly double digit hours of film I've watched in the past day. Ingram is talked about so often as a rusher, but I think one of his greatest assets is his ability to move backwards; at the combine his feet moved through the bags and in his drop with fluidity and explosion on a different level of "wow" than any other front seven player I saw. He had an interception on fake field goal at 3:25 here and check another interception at 4 here. Also, he's a touchdown maker on defense and special teams, and Carroll made it no secret anyone that is a "touchdown maker" will be high on their board. Ingram brings pass rush from all spots along the line as he can slip between or under a double team, or has the power with his size to win 1 on 1.
His patented spin move I'm not sure how much it translates, but it's potentially nasty and I like how well he's able to move off blocks with it, not to mention he can bounce off cut blocks well. He's not the best head on tackler - misses a lot of tackles 1 on 1 when not approaching from the side - doesn't make many plays coming down the line, doesn't force fumbles, his motor turns off every so often (though that's me nitpicking), and slips a little too much for my liking at times. I think the questions as to why he didn't see the field more early in his career are valid, and not something I can speak for. What I see in Ingram is untapped potential to play a much more versatile role than as just a pass rusher, which is why he snuck up the board to here. If he isn't used in such a way, however, I think his value is diminished and I wouldn't see him as my top guy.
Dont'a Hightower: Ideally Seattle could trade down and take him. I've become increasingly enamored with the tough, smart, versatile leader over the past six weeks. He has a legitimate presence on the field, plays the run well, has underrated pass rush ability from the left defensive end spot - sometimes stunting from there as well - and can come through the middle, is a strong tackler and though he doesn't excel in deep coverage he can make key stops when the play remains in front of him and even if the play is made behind him, it's often contested.
I believe he ended the season looking stronger than earlier in the year (based on the available tapes) and am hopeful he can continue to become more explosive, now more than a few years off the knee injury. My general worry here is his stiffness and trouble with cut blocks. I like the combination of size and versatility pairing him with K.J. could bring to this defense. The next few players are much closer to him in terms of my ranking than I anticipated, not to mention he was supposed to be number one...
Luke Kuechly: I think taking him would signal Seattle will be looking to other places than the mike backer for pressure, as David Hawthorne was asked to blitz quite a bit. Luke looks so comfortable in his drops and can be a factor well down the field. He has legit range as a run and hit guy, but also makes a lot of tackles in intermediate-deep coverage in front of safeties, and makes plays downfield that middle linebackers generally aren't in on. I think his lack of presence behind the line of scrimmage has given him a reputation as a not physical player, but he is a plenty strong tackler on the second and third level and you often see him latch on to guys and even wrestle them backwards.
He's still young and I wonder how much room he has to grow; if there is a chance he can turn into more of a beast, then I think that makes the chances of him becoming a Seahawk just a little higher. Admittedly, I have warmed to him over the draft process, but I simply can't nudge him above Hightower. Maybe if there was another day to watch tape...but there's not!
Shea McClellin: This man shot up my board when I watched him in comparison with other rushers, and he's hot on the trail of the previous two guys. He's got a ton of pass rush utility and is solid at the point of attack - more so as a linebacker than an end in my opinion - as he's got average strength. When you put on the tape he can get to the quarterback in a variety of ways because of great lateral agility and body control: As an end around the corner, wide end stunting inside, as an inside backer' on a timed rush and I think his most impressive move is when he lines up over a gap and right after the snap takes a step back, moves right and explodes through the other side of the line (check 1:22 and 3:30 here); his ability to stay skinny inside is great.
Him and Jason Jones working together on stunts, man oh man. He has a motor that runs constantly, but sometimes it gets him out of the play, something he'll have to refine in the NFL to make up for lack of strength. Coverage ability is not something I have a good feel for, but he had almost a handful of picks in his career. Also, he forced three fumbles in 2008 but from what I can tell none after that. These are just questions that come to mind here. If the concussions aren't an issue, I'd take a strong look at him. Maybe he's a bit high on the board, but he simply does things as a pass rusher that I didn't see in most/all of the other candidates.
Michael Brockers: He's the wildcard, not the top pick. He's young, still maturing, and his upside is as a beast. Already stout against the run the question is whether or not he can develop into a pass rusher. Maybe I undersold it a bit yesterday, but he does flash a repertoire and I think has more upside as a rusher than both Bryant and Branch - not saying much, but for comparison sake - and given that he "patterns his game" after Julius Peppers and Jevon Kearse, I believe he is committed to working on becoming a multi-dimensional big man. Seattle is yet to invest an early pick on the defensive line, a group that is mostly veterans, and would be smart to get a potential monster they can groom into a specialist if the opportunity comes along. To me, taking and developing a player like Brockers makes sense coming from that perspective.
Fletcher Cox: Cox is a bit "undersized" but he plays strong, he's very quick and light on his feet, and he's an up and down the line player that doesn't really have scheme limitations. If he's on the board and Seattle wants a pass-rushing defensive tackle to pair with their bigs, Cox would be the guy. However, I don't see Cox as dominating presence that can consistently negotiate double teams or beat guys with heavy hands or a pass rush repertoire. You want him shooting gaps, using his quickness one on one on the first rush and with his counter spin/on a stunt, and he has a strong bull rush when he can get under lineman's pads. He'd be a solid pick as you know what you're going to get and he could upgrade Seattle's line no doubt, though I wonder if it's a bit redundant after signing Jason Jones. At the least, the 3-tech would potentially have a whole new look in 2012.
David Decastro: He's my safest pick, as noted a few weeks ago. I think he's s super solid lineman that, in conjunction with the other pieces, can fortify the inside of this line for years to come on the inside. He's from the area and would love to play in Seattle. No breakdown here, just a rock solid pick that Seattle couldn't go wrong with.
Mark Barron: I like him, I do. But my issue is we took Earl "deuce" Thomas at 14, and even though I never watched tape of Earl I don't see quite the same flash in Barron and am constantly comparing. Maybe that's my own problem. What I do see is a safety that makes physical plays in the box and can cover, and his range seems to fit the bill. I'd take him over a corner because my perception is he can play inside, and I haven't seen/there isn't enough tape on Stephon Gillmore for me to feel totally sure on making an opinion one way or another - he's extremely physical which I absolutely love and think fits, but he made some bonehead plays and wasn't as strong in man to man coverage as I had hoped if he was the guy at 12 - and I think Barron's utility breaks the tie here. Gillmore is not on this board, but I wouldn't be shocked if Seattle moved down and took a corner that fell to them. Though, I'm personally in favor of letting this front office do their thing and find corners in the later rounds.
Chandler Jones: There are only two tapes on him, so I find it hard to make a true assessment as three is usually the number I watch to simply get a "feel" for a guy. That's my big issue here. Yesterday I said I'd be surprised by round one (more like at 12), but I could be off. In comparison to a lot of other guys he's moved up the list a bit, but I don't see the level of utility in his game as he's limited to mostly a right side player and an end at that.
My questions on him: Can he rush from the other side and as a stand up guy - comparing him to, say, Whitney Mercilus - and can he improve his rush repertoire; how is his consistency against the run, as one game he looked good and made a few plays coming down the line and one game wasn't as strong? How well does he against double teams on the outside rush, and how often can he beat one on the inside rush - I've seen success and fail in the two tapes. A lot of uncertainty for me here, but I understand why there is potential; not to mention his bloodline is great.
Whitney Mercilus: To be completely honest, it's pretty much a tie between him and the man above. Merciulis offers more in terms of rush versatility - playing both ends, both tackle spots, capable of standing up and has flashed on stunts from both sides of the line (the Arizona State tape is impressive in this regard). He flashes as a penetrator against the run, but is often washed out of the play when holding the edge as an end and doesn't make the down the line plays like Jones does in the few games of his. I like Mercilus' power and speed combination, and he's a hard worker. I love that he was a fumble forcing monster last year. I think he's in the conversation, I just don't know where because of his spotty play against the run.
Courtney Upshaw: I see Upshaw and think football player. He absorbs contact well, plays with nasty - I love the old school ear slap - and is strong one on one. He can play end or stand up, but he's not a guy that brings versatility with his rush (from what I've seen) in terms of stunts and such. He's an individual battle winner with his power and savvy, but not a guy that has the utility of a Shea McClellin. I still think he's a good player but after comparing him to some of the other guys on this list, I think Seattle could find someone that is similarly solid and has more upside. That is why he dropped to here and admittedly I could see the argument for putting him higher.
Vinny Curry: I know, I know....I know, the curse of Curry. But, Pete Carroll mentioned he wants someone who has a "knack" for rushing the passer, and of all of these players I think Curry has one of the strongest "knacks." He has a great jump off the ball, can play the run, and is mean on the field. I know level of competition is a factor and the tape on him is limited, and I'll admit I wasn't as keen on him at first, but I've warmed on him over time and he has production to back it up. I think this would be a pick to watch if Seattle moved to the end of the first round. Another player I wish there was more tape on...my sentiments are similar to Jones above in terms of wanting to see more.
That's 12 guys, but there are some more to keep your eye on that I think could come into play. Consider these fringe first rounders (or lower) that could go in the first: Bruce Irvin, Andre Branch, Lavonte David, the host of defensive tackles mentioned yesterday, an offensive lineman that falls, Coby Fleener, Doug Martin, Rueben Randle, Kendall Wright, a first round corner that falls (Gillmore, Kirkpatrick, maybe Janoris Jenkins), and yup, even a quarterback. Wouldn't that generate some discussion...
The draft clues game
Pete Carroll did the usual, tweeting clues to the 12th man. Not to make much of this, but I did watch them and came away under a conflicting impression; the two people I thought of first, Dontari Poe and Quinton Coples (a BEAST in the second half here), are not on my list. I came to this conclusion because there are many wide, shorter guys in the clips and I see a constant theme of working harder to achieve. Two others that came to mind were Luke Kuechly (obvious given the Tommy Boy clip) but also Chandler Jones because of the martial arts in the TB clip, and Jones' brother being a martial arts fighter. I also thought Brockers because of Zach Galafinaks' beard in the final clip. Aren't you glad I saved this ramble for last? In all seriousness, though, this is why I love this front office; so many clues, so many options, so hard to get a true pulse as an outsider. For all I know, this whole list could have missed and if so, I'll be back to try again tomorrow.
HAPPY DRAFT WATCHING!