Kevin C. Cox
Following a season where four of the six highest single season passing totals were set, it's easy to see where the NFL is headed. As the 22nd ranked passing offense, with 220 yards per game in 2011, we were on the wrong side of history. The quarterback position was an issue and the competition level has been boosted with the additions of Matt Flynn and Russell Wilson...
What? You were expecting more passing game improvements? Nope. That was the end of the paragraph. So you're thinking, What the hell Pete? Improving the QB competition is the best you could do? You said you wanted touchdown-makers! This draft was filled with touchdown makers and you passed!?!?
After all, the quarterbacks who produced those record setting totals were all great quarterbacks before 2011. The offenses exploded. Not the quarterbacks. The Saints with Jimmy Graham and Darren Sproles. The Patriots with Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. The Giants with Victor Cruz. The Packers with Jordy Nelson.
So why Pete no draft a TD-maker? Or three?
One might speculate that so long as we lack a top tier quarterback, investing in wide receivers will limit return. This theory was originally posited by the brilliant physicist and football mind, Albert Einstein. He proposed that Elite Quarterbacks = Maximum return on Catchers^2 (now known as wide receivers). I think the 'squared' part is math-speak for "get as many impact WRs as you can." I'm not a physicist though so I can't be sure.
The only problem is, Pete Carroll thinks Albert Einstein is full of it. Lacking a franchise QB didn't keep us from drafting Golden Tate in the second round and Kris Durham in the fourth round. To Pete, a quarterback is a quarterback and a touchdown-maker is a touchdown-maker. TD-makers will always be highly valued by this front office.
Could we be content with the talent already on roster? Sidney Rice, Doug Baldwin, Golden Tate, Mike Williams, and Kris Durham should all make the team. Assuming we carry six receivers again, that leaves one roster spot open for competition. Deon Butler and Ben Obomanu both deserve a fighter's chance at winning it, as do the practice squaders and undrafted free agents. Ricardo Lockette has to be the favorite though.
In the day 3 draft presser, John Schneider says he would've graded Ricardo Lockette at the "top of the fifth round" if he were in this year's draft. Schneider gave Lockette a sixth round grade last year and didn't draft him so maybe an early fifth round grade would've made him one of our seventh round picks. I'm certainly not ready to bet many chips on Lockette developing, and apparently Schneider isn't either, but he has considerable upside and has performed better than one could've hope thus far with limited looks.
Do I think Ricardo Lockette is the reason we passed on wide receivers? No I do not. Pete and John have repeatedly said they want the roster so deep that draft picks must compete for a roster spot. That doesn't sound like a philosophy where we would pass on a TD-maker for a Ricardo Lockette. In that same day 3 presser, Schneider says they viewed this wide receiver class as "average." That was surprising since by most accounts, this was a very strong receiver class. Is this just another example of the Seahawks going against the grain? Or can we glean some hidden insight on our front office's WR preferences?
I'm really out on a limb here but the most notable uniting theme for this WR class is it's size. Former acquisitions of Rice, BMW, and Durham seemed to indicate an tendency toward size. But maybe that tendency is more of a role recognition. The 5-10 Golden Tate was our highest WR draft pick after all. Pete Carroll wants big receivers but he values other traits highly as well. Perhaps we are happy with our size at WR and the size of this year's class ended up spoiling any opportunities for mid-late round value.
The limb hasn't broken yet so I'm venturing where many ten year olds have ventured before. I found it interesting that we hadn't heard the term "touchdown maker" from Pete Carroll before this season. It caused quite a stir among people like me who read too far into such things. Continuing this trend, what if there's a reason why Pete said "touchdown-maker" instead of the more commonly used, "playmaker"?
Playmakers can gain yards and not score many touchdowns. They can also be big WRs who score touchdowns but don't gain many yards. When taken literally, a touchdown-maker is a player who can make touchdowns, presumably from anywhere on the field. Under such context, the attraction to Golden Tate becomes obvious. It also might help explain the average grade we gave this receiver class. There was some scattered explosive talent but not a lot. Schneider used the word "frayed."
This regime has vehemently attacked need areas with our first two picks in each of it's first three drafts. After that we've been bargain shoppers, very successful bargain shoppers. We were comfortable with the WR competition, depth, and upside already on roster entering this year's draft. We were still willing to draft one in the mid-late rounds but the value wasn't there. Pete is hoping to cash in on the young WR talent we've been developing. That is essentially my theory why we passed on TD-makers.
If you're still growing worry-warts with Hugh Millen and the other Kelly (yuck), consider this - last year we walked away from the draft wondering if pass rush would ever be addressed. Now I'm seeing a vocals coach to make sure my "BRUUUUUUUCE" is in tune. Perhaps at this time next year the Seahawks will have themselves a shiny new touchdown-maker for our emerging quarterback to target.