Here is Part 1 of my write-up. I originally included both of these articles as one writeup, but decided to break it down because it's nearly 7000 words. Here, I will go over the 2012 draft and what we can expect out of the players selected; but it's important to read the first part, so you can understand the train of thought. My initial thoughts on the Seahawks draft class is that the team will net one defensive starter, two impact situational players on defense, a backup running back, and a quarterback of the future.
OK, now a draft that's fresh in my mind. Carroll made it known that he wanted to add pass rush and speed to the defense this offseason. He also said he wanted a touchdown maker (wide receiver or running back) on offense. Schneider noted that this class had many intriguing quarterback prospects and a lot of us felt the need for a quarterback of the future, despite signing Matt Flynn in free agency and holding on to undrafted free agent Josh Portis. A lot of us felt the need to go after a pass rusher in the first round, however not many players looked to have the build to play on in our hybrid defense. Letting Hawthorne sign elsewhere proved that we liked a dozen linebackers in this class. It was undecided who and where we would look for a quarterback, especially with the signing of Matt Flynn.
Round 1, pick 15: Bruce Irvin, DE
The Seahawks' biggest overall need on defense was pass rush, after finishing with only 33 sacks last season, and a third of those from LEO Chris Clemons. Before the draft, many thought Irvin was a second or third round prospect because of his size and notion to believe he's a "one-trick pony". But the Seahawks took him at 15 with the idea of developing him into the future LEO of this defense. Behind free safety, you could argue LEO is the second most important position on this defense as they're relied on the most for pass rush, but also must hold an edge against the run.
Irvin is a similar build to Clemons, with Clemons outweighing him by 10 pounds, but he's still played the run well at LEO; so there's reason to believe Irvin could succeed and even greatly surpass Clemons's production at LEO because of Irvin's rare burst and speed to beat offensive tackles and eat up quarterbacks. I love the pick because I look past his "character issues" like Carroll and Schneider have and see a great kid who wants to play football and work hard to eventually dominate at the LEO position; this should prove pundits like Mel Kiper Jr. wrong. For what it's worth, reports were circulating that seven teams had Irvin rated as a top-15 talent.
Round 2, pick 47: Bobby Wagner, ILB
Barrett Rudd probably isn't who Carroll is looking for to lead the defense at MIKE linebacker. Hawthorne played decently at MIKE last season, but he looked slow and struggled against speedier backs and tight ends in coverage. This may be attributable to a nagging knee injury or his overall athleticism, but either way Seattle needed to get faster at linebacker. Wagner brings sub 4.5 speed and good overall athleticism to the MIKE and still has the best football ahead of him. He didn't start playing football until his junior year of high school and steadily improved his tackle count every season at Utah State.
He's not the biggest linebacker at 6'1 240, but that's a similar size to Hawthorne with a lot more athleticism, so he has a chance to improve play at the position within the next year or two. Like Irvin, Wagner was considered a reach by many pundits because of his level of competition and size. However, Seattle had a need at MIKE and with steady college production and good athleticism, Wagner is a player Carroll views as an immediate starter with the best football ahead of him.
Round 3, pick 75: Russell Wilson, QB
For their first time with the Seahawks, Carroll and Schneider drafted a quarterback. Russell Wilson was the most efficient passer in the nation and put up great statistics on a pro style offense in his first season at Wisconsin. He came in at the beginning of summer after playing baseball and football at NC State and quickly mastered the offense while becoming a strong leader on offense. Wilson is an accurate passer who throws with good zip and can make all the necessary throws in the NFL. But like we all know, Wilson is short for a quarterback at 5'11", which explains the drop to the third round. Like Jon Gruden brought up in his QB Camp, Wilson will have to be mentally tough and really become a student of the game to get past his height deficiency.
I believe Schneider will follow the Green Bay strategy in developing quarterbacks and let Wilson sit for at least two years to really master the offense and get a feel for the game at the NFL level. This should benefit Wilson even though he's a quick learner and will probably pick up Seattle's offense fast. However, Wilson could use some time to really understand what defenses are trying to do and how to beat them. This was a point Gruden brought up when he explained Wilson didn't audible enough to handle blitzes and instead relied on hot reads, so this is an area he can improve at with a lot of time in the film room. This is another part of his game that could help Wilson overcome his height. The Seahawks have to believe he can do this by picking him in round 3, making him the quarterback of the future.
Round 4, pick 106: Robert Turbin, RB
Finding a backup for Marshawn Lynch who has the ability to step in for him in case of an injury had to be important for the Seahawks in their pursuit of a dominating run game. Robert Turbin had a breakout season last year with Utah State after being hampered by injuries his first two seasons. He's a thickly built running back who can get an extra yard or two falling forward after tackles.
He also has good hands to catch passes out of the backfield and can block well enough. He also has good speed for a runner built as thick as him, running a 4.5 40. I expect Turbin to back up Lynch and help wear down defenses late in games, getting 5-10 carries a game. If Lynch shows any signs of slowing down in the next year or two, Turbin could eventually split carries with Lynch to ease the load and create a menacing one-two punch.
Round 4, pick 114: Jaye Howard, DT
Carroll wanted to improve interior pass rush as well in the draft despite picking up Jason Jones in free agency. He chose the penetrating Jaye Howard out of Florida to improve that and bring depth to the position. Howard was disruptive in the backfield in his last season at Florida, collecting 10 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks from the defensive tackle position. If he can continue to penetrate NFL offensive lines, he could be brought in on nickel situations and may step up to be an effective 3 tech for the Seahawks. He'll have time to develop behind the Seahawk's experienced and run stuffing defensive line.
Round 5, pick 154: Korey Toomer, OLB
We heard Schneider say he liked a dozen linebackers in this class, so it wasn't difficult to guess they were done picking them after Bobby Wagner. I played football in high school and a teammate and good friend of mine now plays defensive end at Idaho and described Toomer as a "beast" and "Team MVP". He said he's very athletic and fast, which is why he was put in at fullback at times in addition to starting at multiple linebacker spots. Carroll said Toomer will play SAM but has the versatility to move around, so we can assume that this was a depth pick to back up Wright. Toomer's 4.5 speed should be a help on special teams this year. That is, of course, if Toomer can break the trend of 5th round picks being cut (Wilson and LeGree from previous years).
Round 6, pick 172: Jeremy Lane, CB
The Seahawks have two quality starting cornerbacks in Sherman and Browner, but with Thurmond and Trufant coming back from injuries, depth is needed in case the injury bug hits the secondary again. I heard many call Lane a sleeper in this draft because while he had good length, press, and coverage skills, he's only 180 pounds and didn't play against a high level of competition in college.
He was noted to have stepped up and play well against LSU, showing he might have a chip on his shoulder like other picks before him. Lane has the frame to add weight and increase his physicality, but he has decent enough coverage skills to contend for the nickel corner spot as well. Running a 4.5 40 doesn't hurt either, and he should find playing time on special teams this season.
Round 6, pick 181: Winston Guy, SS
Carroll needs depth behind Chancellor and Thomas at safety, as the ability to kill big plays comes from Seattle's talented tandem in the secondary. Guy was a physical safety / linebacker in college who played in the box often, showing his toughness and physicality. He's not known for having the best coverage skills or range, but is known for playing the run well in the box.
Guy can do well sitting behind Chancellor to improve his footwork and learn how to play deep balls well with his long arms. Although he clocked a 4.7 40 at the combine, he looks to have decent game speed much like Chancellor. Carroll thinks the way he was used in college resembles what the Seahawks did with Atari Bigby last season, so the hope is that he can work his way into nickel packages. He should be able to make an immediate impact on special teams as well.
Round 7, pick 225: J.R. Sweezy, OG
Letting go of Gallery after a year and having Moffitt recover from injury shows that the Seahawks are comfortable with who can play at guard for them. However, depth is needed at the position as it seems injuries are inevitable for the Seahawks offensive line. Sweezy was an athletic defensive tackle in college, with good strength and leverage. However, the Seahawks weren't satisfied with the athletic ability of the offensive linemen later in this draft and looked to Sweezy with the hope to turn him into a guard.
Tom Cable worked him out as a guard in a pre-draft workout and apparently looked really good. Sweezy will be a project a lot like Konz is, so he should have a year or two to develop and provide depth at the offensive guard position. Expect him to start the year on the practice squad.
Round 7, pick 232: Greg Scruggs, DT
Finding a penetrating defensive linemen to increase the pass rush proved to be a priority in this draft. Scruggs is an athletic defensive lineman with the athleticism to play at 3 tech or kick outside to 5 tech. However, he lacks ideal size for the position and may not hold up well against the run. He can challenge for time in nickel situations to rush the passer a lot like Jaye Howard will. With the defensive line already established, Scruggs will likely find time on special teams unless he really shines in camp and bulks up more.
Now is the fun part: trying to project which players will immediately make an impact, who will stay on the team to develop and provide depth, and who won't make the cut. By cutting a player picked in the 5th round the previous two seasons, there's reason to believe at least one player from this class cut between rounds 5 and 7. Will the Seahawks keep the trend going and cut a 5th rounder, Korey Toomer?
My friend (our mutual former teammate?) has me convinced otherwise because of the athleticism and versatility Toomer will bring to the linebacker unit. Will it be one of the defensive backs selected in the 6th round? Lane is entering a crowded cornerback unit even with the injury to Thurmond, but I believe the chip Lane carries on his shoulder will help him fit in on the team; and he has the coverage skills to compete for the nickel corner spot.
Jeron Johnson and Chris Maragos are the only depth behind Chancellor and Thomas at safety, so I expect Guy to beat out one of them with his experience playing in the box; he could be a contributor in the nickel package as well. I believe the draftee to be cut will come from the 7thround. The coaching staff will work on Sweezy at guard and he will likely be put on the practice squad to develop at that position. With Mebane starting, Jones and Branch rotating in, and McDonald and Levingston as depth behind them, I expect Scruggs to be cut out of training camp. It may come down to Howard and Scruggs, but I think Howard has the size and strength to help him beat out Scruggs.
Who is the KJ Wright or Richard Sherman of this draft class? No defensive linemen drafted by Carroll have shined, and with the exception of Irvin at LEO, I expect that trend to continue, somewhat, with this draft. Let me explain. The interior defensive line is established with Mebane, Branch, and Jones. However, it's not out of the question for a rookie to push them and even get some playing time in pass rush situations. I expect that rookie to be Jaye Howard. That's why I don't expect him to shine as a starter a la Wright or Sherman, but rather challenge for some playing time and get some valuable playing time.
Furthermore, if Mebane or Jones get hurt, a player like Howard would likely be called upon to step in. Howard has the size to play right away, and if he is able to make his way into backfields when asked to start, he could easily be the surprise rookie of the Seahawks draft class. Although Toomer is versatile enough to play either outside linebacker spot, I expect Wright to stay healthy and either Malcolm Smith or Leroy Hill to man the WILL this season. A late round pick I expect to step up and make plays this season is Jeremy Lane at cornerback. Even though Sherman and Browner are the established starters, I expect Lane to be featured in a lot of nickel packages and make some big plays.
I believe Lane will have the coverage skills and physicality to make his way on the field for valuable playing time this season, and even though he wouldn't be starting, Seattle ran their nickel package on nearly 40% of plays last season. Carroll has shown the ability to find good secondary players late in the last two drafts in Sherman and Chancellor, so I expect another this draft, and that player will likely be Lane stepping in during nickel situations.
Now what can we expect out of the picks from days 1 and 2? We know Irvin is the future LEO and will be featured in about every pass rush situation this season. Carroll said he expects Irvin to play 600 - 750 snaps this season, which is more than Aldon Smith but less than Von Miller. However, he's rawer than both these players. But if Irvin can learn behind Clemons and develop a swim and spin move, his rare athleticism should allow him to pick up at least 12 sacks this season.
Apparently this makes Irvin a "one-trick pony" worthy of a second round grade. But really, what other second round players have the ability to pick up that many sacks their rookie season? The truth is no player taken in the second OR first round has the talent of to rush the passer like Irvin. His run defense isn't appreciated enough in my opinion - he played end in a 3-4 (or 3-3-5 in many situations) and actually held down his side decently well considering his size. Playing on a 4-3 with run stuffers around should help him; and studying how Clemons has played the run should benefit Irvin even greater, to eventually mold him into an every down sack artist.
The thing that bugs me most about critics' analysis of this pick is that they don't take Carroll's 4-3 LEO scheme into account like I just explained. If they really looked at Seattle's defensive scheme and the LEO position, they'd see how Clemons has thrived in the role after barely seeing the field in Washington and Philadelphia. In steps Irvin, who Carroll believes can take the position to the level Clay Matthews played it in a dominant year at USC.
Another player who will not only make an impact, but most likely start, is Bobby Wagner. Considered another reach by the Seahawks because of his size and level of competition in college, Wagner has a chance to have a strong rookie season. Carroll said he wants to start him in the middle, but he has the versatility to play outside as well. Wagner is a similar build to Hawthorne but is more athletic. Although he doesn't have the experience or football savvy of Hawthorne, he can have just as good of a season, if not better, in his rookie year.
It might be a lot to think he can have a better season than the Seahawks leading tackler for three straight years, but Wagner won't be asked to do a lot at MIKE playing behind a big line and great secondary. In fact, every linebacker position on this defense is somewhat fungible, meaning a star player isn't necessary to get good production out of the position. Wagner should also have an opportunity to play in nickel packages because he's shown the ability to rush the passer in college as well as play adequately in coverage with his good speed. So Wagner really has the ability to be a very productive and valuable linebacker for the defense.
Carroll also accomplished his goal of getting faster in the draft. They picked an explosive 4.5 defensive end (Irvin), two 4.5 linebackers (Wagner and Toomer), and a couple defensive tackles with 4.7 speed (Howard and Scruggs). As we've seen with the Raiders, speed doesn't always translate to talent. But, Carroll has been great at getting the best out of his players and should use these draft picks' speed to improve the defense going forward.
Russell Wilson will likely see the field the least this season out of every other draft pick. Wilson has the athleticism and football IQ to excel in the Seahawks offense. He ran a lot of play action at Wisconsin and really excelled at it. This part of his game could be another factor to help him overcome his height. But John Schneider is a disciple of Green Bay's front office, which is known for sitting and developing quarterbacks before giving them a chance to play.
Although Wilson doesn't have the luxury of to learn behind an experienced veteran like Aaron Rodgers did, his mastery of two offenses in college shows how high his football IQ really is. This exceptional football IQ gives him the ability to master the Seahawks offense without the veteran presence of a Brett Favre on the team. I expect Wilson to sit for his rookie season at a minimum; and unless Flynn fails miserably or suffers a major injury in Wilson's second year, he'll probably end up sitting two years before getting a shot to start in his third season.
Now here are the numbers on my thoughts of the draft picks' contributions for this season:
Quality Starters: 1 (Wagner, 2)
Impact Players: 2 (Irvin, 1; Turbin, 4)
Depth with Immediate Potential: 2 (Howard, 4; Lane, 6)
Depth to Develop: 3 (Wilson, 2; Toomer, 5; Guy, 6)
Project: 1 (Sweezy, 7)
Likely to be Cut: 1 (Scruggs, 7)
Like I explained how it's harder to judge 2011 picks than 2010 picks, it's even harder to predict these 2012 picks and it seems that each warrants their own category, unlike previous drafts.
That about wraps up my thoughts on this year's draft. I don't think we'll see as many early contributors as years past purely because players are establishing starting roles on this team and there are less holes to fill. However, this draft class has the ability to be the best draft yet by Carroll and Schneider if Wilson is able to develop into a great starting quarterback and Irvin becomes one of the league's top sack artists. Or it could turn out to be terrible draft if Wilson's shortcoming gets the best of him and Irvin proves too small and weak to be an every down LEO... But like I said, I'm more optimistic than most.
I'm always trying to expand my knowledge of the team and the game of football so please share your thoughts!