The Seahawks' front office had the media and a fair amount of Seahawk fans scratching their heads after Day 1 and 2 of the 2012 NFL Draft. It’s difficult for many to grade Day 3 picks because there are many unknown names that carry little background information. In total, the Seahawks drafted 10 players, with seven on defense and three on offense (counting a converted guard). The run on defensive picks gives me the initial impression that we’ll have very good depth at every position on defense, though I’ll examine that closer. The offensive picks have given us an intriguing QB prospect and hopefully a backup running back.
Before I want to break down this year’s draft, I thought it would be useful to take a look back at Pete Carroll and John Schneider’s first two drafts, and how the picks have panned out so far. By explaining previous picks and their impact on the team so far, I hope to break down my thinking to help explain how this year’s picks will fit on the team and what to expect out of them going forward.
Going into their first draft with the Seattle Seahawks, Pete Carroll and John Schneider knew they had a lot of work to do. They inherited an aging roster that was starting to rely more on stop gap players than core of the team from their Super Bowl run. Some of the biggest needs included a left tackle to take over for All-Pro Walter Jones and a safety to lead the secondary. Although they picked up the unknown Charlie Whitehurst and had Matt Hasselbeck heading into his final season under contract, finding a quarterback of the future also seemed to be a major need.
Round 1, pick 6: Russell Okung, OT
The Seahawks had a big need at left tackle going into the draft and knew they’d have a shot to get one of the premiere tackles in the class in either Trent Williams or Russell Okung. Okung was a stud All American offensive linemen at Oklahoma State with good athleticism and great run blocking skills. When healthy, Okung has shown flashes of being a top tier left tackle. His torn pectoral last year was unfortunate but he’s also had multiple ankle injuries the last two years. If he stays healthy, this pick has given the Seahawks an anchor on the offensive line for the future.
Round 1, pick 14: Earl Thomas, FS
Another glaring hole on the Seahawks roster going into the 2010 draft was safety, a critical position in the defense Pete Carroll was bringing to Seattle. Thomas was raw and somewhat undersized coming out Texas, having a breakout season as a redshirt sophomore. However, he showed great instincts with playmaking ability along with outstanding speed and range. Thomas flourished last year with the Seahawks and earned a trip to the Pro Bowl. He should lead the Seahawks secondary as one the elite safeties in the league, making this an extremely valuable pick.
Round 2, pick 60: Golden Tate, WR
Carroll made it known that he wanted a playmaker on offense and chose Golden Tate out of Notre Dame. Wide receiver was a position that needed more playmakers for the Seahawks, so this was another valuable pick as Tate has elusive running back-like skills when he has the ball in his hands. He struggled to find playing time his rookie season, but got more looks in his second year. He was a raw player who needed to be developed, and he seems to have made good progress thus far. If he keeps progressing he can be a dynamic playmaker for the Seahawks offense. However, if he doesn’t improve this season, it may be close to the end of Tate’s time with the Seahawks.
Round 4, pick 111: Walter Thurmond III, CB
In this pass happy league, corner backs with coverage skills are always in demand. Many believed Thurmond had first round skills, but coming off a knee injury caused him to fall to the fourth round. Thurmond is another player to have some injury issues with the Seahawks, but he’s another player who looks promising when healthy. Thurmond may still have the skills to be a starting corner back, but he’ll need to become fully healed and work at it. He can be a good slot corner when healthy, which is an increasingly important position.
Round 5, pick 127: E.J. Wilson, DE
Wilson was drafted to play the 5 tech DE position in the new defense brought in by Pete Carroll. The Red Bryant experiment hadn’t even begun, so it’s possible the Seahawks were looking for Wilson to step up and play it. However, Red Bryant thrived in the position and we never heard much about Wilson as he was released by the team during minicamp. Consider this a miss by Pete Carroll and co. in this draft.
Round 5, pick 133: Kam Chancellor, SS
The Seahawks needed depth in the secondary and Chancellor was brought in for just that. Known as a hard hitting safety and linebacker tweener, he didn’t have very good coverage skills coming out of college. Chancellor sat behind Lawyer Milloy his rookie season while rotating in some nickel packages as the season progressed. In his second season and first season starting, Chancellor emerged as one of the hardest hitting safeties in the league but also showed playmaking ability with three interceptions, earning a trip to the Pro Bowl with Thomas as an alternate. Chancellor seems to perfectly compliment Thomas in the secondary and they look like the top safety tandem in the league for many years to come. Finding a star safety in round 5 gave us a glimpse of the value the front office can find in the later rounds.
Round 6, pick 185: Anthony McCoy, TE
Besides John Carlson, the Seahawks lacked quality depth at tight end. Carroll was familiar with McCoy coming from USC and knew he was getting a player with decent blocking skills but was somewhat inconsistent catching the ball. He’s seen limited playing time with the Seahawks, but hasn’t really shined when he’s on the field. He’s still inconsistent in catching passes but has seen most of his time on the Seahawks blocking in two tight end sets. McCoy is still on the team, which is good, and while you don’t expect 6th rounders to be great starters (but Tom Brady was picked 6th round!) he hasn’t been a huge factor for the team, so the jury is out on this pick.
Round 7, pick 237: Dexter Davis, DE
Finding a pass rusher was important for Seattle as they had only brought in Chris Clemons to try out at the LEO postion. Davis was an undersized defensive end / outsider linebacker coming out of Arizona State but appeared to have some skill rushing the passer. He’s been a non-factor thus far for the Seahawks, but Carroll mentioned him going into this offseason as a player to look at making a contribution in the pass rush next season. I guess we’ll wait for this season to see how he plays.
Round 7, pick 245: Jameson Konz, TE(/DE)
Konz was an athletic freak coming out of college and Carroll wanted to see if he could maximize that athleticism. However, Konz went on the injured reserve for the 2010 season and never saw the field. He came back for the 2011 season, but because of numerous injuries among the defensive line, Carroll decided to give Konz a shot at defensive end rushing the passer. Apparently, Konz looked good and even recorded a sack in the preseason. However, Konz was released then re-signed to the practice squad. We’ll see if Konz can make an impact as a pass rusher as he’s purely been a project to this point.
We’ve seen three quality starters come out of this draft and make an impact in Thomas, Chancellor, and Okung. Tate has shown flashes of playmaking skills at wide receiver and when healthy, Thurmond has been a good cover corner. McCoy has also been in the rotation at tight end, but seems to only stay around because of the lack of depth at the position. Davis and Konz have been nonfactors, but Carroll has said to look at them this season for pass rush. E.J. Wilson (who?) was cut coming out of training camp. To put the numbers on these picks:
Total picks: 9 (Player followed by round selected)
Quality starters: 3 (Okung, 1; Thomas, 1; Chancellor, 5)
Contributors with Potential: 2 (Tate, 2; Thurmond, 4)
Fringe Players: 2 (Davis, 6; Konz 7)
Cut: 1 (Wilson, 5)
The 2011 draft was a peculiar draft because of the approaching lockout and lack of free agency. However, that didn’t stop the Seahawks from having needs and areas to address in the draft. The offensive line was aging with stop gaps and the Seahawks needed fresh blood at this position. Carroll said the top priority of the offseason was to bring back Matt Hasselbeck. Whitehurst never shined, even with his opportunity in the final regular season game against the Rams. But finding a quarterback of the future was still a need for this draft. Wide receiver, defensive line, and cornerback needed an upgrade with the draft as well. This was also the first draft Schneider and Carroll had extensive time to work together on putting their big board together.
Round 1, pick 25: James Carpenter, OT
The Seahawks wanted a right tackle to bookend the line since Okunk looked promising at left tackle. Carpenter was a quality left tackle at Alabama, but many only saw him as a guard with good run blocking skills in the NFL. Draft pundits considered Carpenter a reach, but the Seahawks saw him as the best tackle left on the board and had a plan to upgrade that position in the first round. Carpenter also had the "tough" attitude Carroll wanted to establish in the trenches.
Carpenter started the 2011 season slow, but that could mainly be attributed to the super shortened offseason courtesy of the lockout. Carpenter seemed to be improving to a quality right tackle before suffering a freak season ending injury during practice. Carpenter has a long way to come back after his injury, but if he can pick up where he left off and continue to improve, he seems to be a solid right tackle for the future.
Round 3, pick 75: John Moffitt, OG
The Seahawks looked to double up on offensive linemen with their first two picks as the line was in dire need of young talent. Moffitt was an experienced guard with 1st Team All American credentials coming out of Wisconsin, a school known for developing big, road grading linemen. Moffitt stepped in at right guard day 1 and looked the part of a starting NFL guard. He was progressing and many saw him as a better lineman than Carpenter (though tackle is a more difficult position to play than guard).
But, just like Carpenter, Moffitt got hurt and had to sit out the second half of the season. If he heals nicely, he should be a quality guard to help hold down the right side of the offensive line.
Round 4, pick 99: KJ Wright, LB
Although Seattle had Tatupu, Hawthorne, and Curry for what seemed to be a rock solid linebacker unit, depth was needed. Carroll may have known Tatupu wasn’t coming going into the draft, but he was still on the roster and the presumed starter. Wright was a big, tough, linebacker coming out of college, but was viewed as too lanky to be an impact all-around player. Wright impressed coaches with his football savvy early in training camp; enough so that they felt comfortable trading Curry early in the season to allow KJ the chance to start.
He did and was a solid starter last season, collecting 65 tackles, 2 sacks, and a forced fumble. Wright also has good versatility, with the ability to play MIKE or SAM on defense. A quality starting linebacker in the 4th round makes this a great pick.
Round 4, pick 107: Kris Durham, WR
Mike Williams leading the Seahawks in receiving during 2010 was a nice story, but it also showed their need for depth at the position. Durham was a tall, athletic receiver coming out of college, but didn’t have the production to prove it. His size and speed were attractive and he looked to have the potential as a deep threat receiver. Durham was banged up during the 2011 season and didn’t get many looks when he was healthy. He seems like an intriguing wide receiver that, if healthy, could be a nice option for this offense. We will have to wait and see.
Round 5, pick 154: Richard Sherman, CB
With an aging Trufant and little depth behind him, cornerback was a position of need. Sherman was a wide receiver converted cornerback at Stanford that didn’t seem athletic or fast enough to play well in the NFL. But he was tall, physical, and was good at playing the ball in the air, qualities that helped him excel his rookie season. After Trufant and Thurmond went out with injuries, Sherman stepped in and looked like the Seahawks best cornerback. With Thomas and Chancellor behind him in the secondary, Sherman looks like a great starting corner able to match up against a team’s best wide receiver for the foreseeable future.
Round 5, pick 156: Mark LeGree, FS
The Seahawks knew they had a rising star safety in Earl Thomas, but looked for depth and a player that could play in nickel situations. LeGree was a playmaking safety in college with good range, but played at a lower level of competition at Appalachian State. Carroll had envisioned LeGree to step in for Thomas during nickel situations so that Thomas could play the slot corner position. We never got the chance to see that happen, though, as LeGree was cut during camp. This is the second miss by Carroll and Schneider in their drafts.
Round 6, pick 173: Byron Maxwell, CB
Still looking for quality corners, the Seahawks took another big one in Maxwell. Maxwell was fast and physical, but didn’t show great coverage skills in college. He was outshined by Sherman in camp, but stayed on the team and looked like a good contributor on special teams when healthy. He may have the size and speed to play in nickel packages as a "big nickel" but for now he’s a special teams player.
Round 7, pick 205: Lazarius "Pep" Levingston, DT
The Seahawks didn’t have much at defensive tackle outside of Mebane, so upgrading the position looked important. Levingston was coming out of LSU, a school well known for their defensive stars. However, Levinston wasn’t a huge contributor to the defense when he started his senior season. Carroll actually believes he has the versatility to play the 5 tech defensive end and defensive tackle. Levingston started the season on the practice squad, but got the call up mid season. Carroll believes he’s a penetrator but we haven’t seen much from him yet. Expect him to get in the mix for playing time or get cut this offseason as more depth has been collected along the defensive line.
Round 7, pick 242: Malcolm Smith, OLB
While the Seahawks had good starting linebackers going into the draft, they were in need of more athletic linebackers for the unit. Smith brought just that with 4.5 speed at the linebacker position. However, Smith was somewhat undersized and many questioned if he could hold up against bigger NFL linemen. Smith did get banged up his rookie season, but played in some nickel situations and on special teams. If he can stay healthy and add another 10 pounds, expect Smith to challenge for the starting WILL spot and bring needed athleticism to the unit.
Four players picked in the 2011 draft started for the Seahawks in their rookie season. Although they were put on the IR for the second half of the season, James Carpenter and John Moffitt were improving and look to have the ability to anchor the right side of the line. Even if Breno Giacomini starts at right tackle over Carpenter going forward, Carpenter has the ability to kick inside and play left guard; he would likely have an easier time at that position but I have the feeling Carroll wants to give him another shot at right tackle when he recovers from his injury. Wright and Sherman didn’t start until later in the season because of incumbent starters, but looked like very solid starters for this team going forward. Durham went on the IR as well, but he looks to have good size and speed to develop into a factor for the offense. Maxwell, Levingston, and Smith all made the team but weren’t big factors either. LeGree was cut.
Total picks: 9 (Player followed by round picked)
Quality Starters: 2 (Wright, 4; Sherman, 5)
Starters with Potential: 2 (Carpenter, 1; Moffitt, 3)
Depth with Potential: 2 (Durham, 4; Smith 7)
Depth on the Fringe: 2 (Maxwell, 6; Levingston, 7)
Cut: 1 (LeGree, 5)
Before going on to the 2012 draft, I want to pause and clarify some things I’ve said. First, I know that with a lot of picks it’s a wait-and-see process that is very subjective to grading. I’m more optimistic than most in hoping that any player we choose can contribute, and contribute well, even though I know that’s not realistic. Another factor along with this wait-and-see is IF the player can stay healthy. Some are like Okung, who never faced major injuries in college but has been banged up a lot; others are like Smith, who was hurt often during his career at USC and roughed up some during the season. The point is, any of the players could recover nicely and contribute a strong, full season; or they could end up on the IR again. Either way, their ability to stay healthy going forward will be a big reason why they stay on the roster or not.
Another point I wanted to bring up is having more time to grade 2010 picks than 2011 ones and why that causes me to create different categories of picks. With the 2010 picks, more players have defined roles and fringe players have less time to make the roster. The 2011 picks were difficult, because the rookies who started looked promising, but Moffitt and Carpenter went down for the year. They were learning to mesh together on the right side and showed promise. But their injuries are notable and Carpenter’s was a nasty one.
I wanted to create a separate category from "Quality Starters" for them to note that they were immediate starters, but didn’t have a large enough sample size to judge. Durham, Smith, Maxwell, and Levingston may all be on the fringe this year, but I believe Durham and Smith are in a better position to contribute now than Maxwell and Levingston because of the current starters at wide receiver and linebacker compared to cornerback and defensive line.
Comparing those 2011 picks was more difficult than 2010 also because I believe a player from 2011 could break out in their sophomore season like Chancellor did last season. My best guess now: Malcolm Smith will challenge Hill for the starting WILL spot and beat him out. The reason I think it will be Smith is because he would bring needed athleticism to the linebacker unit and he sat behind a veteran, Hill, during his rookie season, much like Chancellor sat behind Lawyer Milloy.
If a late round pick from 2011 does step up and start well this season, there’s more credit to Schneider and Carroll for finding starter quality in later rounds and we have more reason to believe it will happen with a late round 2012 pick. I would say Tate and Thurmond are at a better place than Durham and Smith because Tate and Thurmond have actually made some solid contributions on offense and defense, whereas Durham and Smith have barely seen the field past special teams (for different reasons of course).
This got much longer than I anticipated so I will go on to my thoughts on the 2012 draft class in another article. But I believe using these first two drafts as a framing device to predict the success of this draft class is important.