On March 11, the Seattle Seahawks made their biggest move since hiring Pete Carroll and John Schneider when they deal three picks to the Minnesota Vikings for wide receiver Percy Harvin. Seattle had a pick that wasn't especially high, in a draft that the didn't feel was especially good for their needs (at least not at pick 25) and so instead they acquired perhaps the best player available on the NFL market in quite some time.
Especially considering that Harvin is only two or three years older than most rookies. But he also didn't come without some red flags:
- Harvin was coming off of a season with an ankle injury that eventually landed him on injured reserve.
- While he has mostly played through injuries and migraines, he does have a history of those things.
- He likely landed on injured reserve at least in part due to the fact that he could not get along with Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier.
- He wouldn't just cost draft picks, but he required a new contract. Harvin is the third-highest paid wide receiver in the NFL, both in total value and average annual cost, but he's only ranked 19th in guaranteed money. It certainly seems like his contract is more favorable than the one the Miami Dolphins gave to Mike Wallace.
Though the total value of Harvin's deal is $4.25 million more expensive, it is for one more year and with nearly half the amount of guaranteed money.
Still, it is much more expensive than what a rookie 25th overall pick would cost. (Though interesting enough, because of the new CBA rules, Tavon Austin's guaranteed money is only slightly less than Harvin's because Austin's entire contract is a guarantee.)
It seems smart to take a gamble on someone like Harvin because for awhile in 2012 it seemed like he was the best player in the league. And this is coming from a guy who was teammates with a dude that rushed for over 2,000 yards last year. And then things started to go south and Harvin was excommunicated from Minnesota and the first big news he really made in Seattle was that he was going to need hip surgery and be out awhile. It now appears that Harvin is ready to return, and fittingly enough it will likely be against his former team.
But acquiring Harvin isn't just a matter of valuing him for what he is but for who he isn't. Harvin didn't just cost an arm and a leg, he cost six arms and six legs. The three picks that were sent off to the Vikings for the right to pay and play Harvin against them in Week 11, and most importantly, the guy that they don't have right now that would have been their 2013 first round pick.
It's far, far too early to judge the 2013 NFL draft class on what they will become but it's never too early to look at someone and tell them what they already are. The Seattle Seahawks are 9-1 but they aren't perfect. They could have used some help in some areas to start the year and right now. If they hadn't used that pick on Harvin perhaps they could have used the pick on one of these guys that now has some NFL experience. Guys that we already have a better idea of who they are as pros.
Is there even the slightest hint of regret for not using the pick on one of these players and instead on a guy that still hasn't been active for a game in over a year?
Let's take a look back and find out what Seattle could have had instead:
You could have traded up
With a first round pick, a seventh round pick, and a mid-round 2014 pick, it was viable to think that Seattle could have moved up three or four spots at most. A seventh round pick isn't that valuable. For the Falcons to move up from 30th to 22nd to select Desmond Trufant, they had to send the Rams the 30th pick, a 2013 third round pick, and a 2013 sixth round pick for the 22nd overall pick and a 2013 seventh round pick.
At most, I would say that having these picks in a deal to move up would give the Seahawks an added advantage of maybe the previous four players drafted. That includes: TE Tyler Eifert, CB Trufant, DT Sharrif Floyd, DE Bjoern Werner.
That's the most I would expect out of what Seattle traded away, but of course, they had more negotiating power if there was a player in the draft in the top 20 that they really wanted. Clearly, there was not.
The Seahawks current needs
Well, it just so happens that Harvin will be filling the most one of the biggest needs on the team right now. With the season-ending injury to Sidney Rice, there's an opportunity for targets and touches to go around. However, Harvin isn't exactly your typical "wide receiver." And he's not the kind of player that Rice is.
Truthfully, this team is 9-1 without Harvin and without a receiver that's going to get 1,000 yards. Certainly you would look at this team as it stands and envision that going into next offseason, they're going to try to find someone to play the position in the way that Rice plays it when he's healthy. They could use a player like that, which is exactly why Rice got one of the biggest free agent deals in the John Schneider and Pete Carroll era.
Seattle did opt to use their first round pick on a wide receiver. Perhaps just as important, they acquired a receiver that shouldn't show any signs of aging during the life of his contract. Even if Harvin has already missed 10 games, injury isn't the same as "getting older."
The Seahawks didn't acquire a player that was 34 and try to squeeze his last two seasons out of him. Whether it was Harvin or a draft prospect, getting old wasn't going to be an issue.
Still, Seattle still has an apparent need for receiver in the mold of Rice and not Harvin. Rice is a 6'4, 200 lb player that can make highlight catches, Harvin is a 5'11 200 lb player that can make highlight moves with the ball already in his hands.
The only receiver that was drafted before the Seahawks would have picked 25th was Tavon Austin. Not only would Austin -- drafted eighth overall -- cost a lot in any trade, but he's a Harvin, not a Rice.
It's certainly possible that if Seattle was picking in the top 10 that they would have went with Austin, but Harvin is basically a slightly-older, proven version of Austin. Not to mention, 25 pounds heavier without losing a step. Every other receiver in the draft was available to the Seahawks if they wanted to stay in the first round of the draft at 25. The two most relevant:
You didn't take DeAndre Hopkins
Hopkins is a 6'1, 215 lb receiver out of Clemson.
Presently, he's filling the void opposite of Andre Johnson in Houston that the Texans have been looking for since they drafted Andre Johnson. In nine games, Hopkins has 37 catches for 539 yards and two touchdowns. He's stayed mostly consistent this year production-wise, only putting up duds against the Seahawks and 49ers.
Only 10 games into his career, it's possible that Hopkins is already one of the top 20 wide receivers in the NFL. The last person to catch a pass in a Houston Texans win was Hopkins, making a difficult end zone catch in overtime to beat the Tennessee Titans. Hopkins is 21st in DYAR and 19th in DVOA among wide receivers and he's caught 62% of 59 targets for a little less than 10 yards per target. You could also argue that Johnson is playing so well this year because of Hopkins, but in reality he has been putting up these numbers for a long time.
Hopkins is certainly a candidate for Offensive Rookie of the Year, but I will also say that it's interesting to see which wide receivers might actually be having better seasons. Rookie Keenan Allen of the Chargers (76th overall) is 10th in DYAR, rookie Kenny Stills of the Saints (144th overall) is 16th in DYAR, and rookie Terrance Williams of the Cowboys (74th overall) is 47th in DYAR.
I don't have any regrets of seeing Harvin instead of Hopkins, a player that still doesn't fill the shoes of Rice and might be more redundant to a player like Golden Tate, but I'm kinda bummed that Carroll and Schneider didn't find a way to snag Williams, Stills, or Allen. I was really pulling for Keenan Allen on draft day.
(And truthfully Williams might be my favorite rookie in the entire NFL this season.)
You didn't take Cordarrelle Patterson
Patterson is a 6'2, 215 lb receiver out of Tennessee
While his work as a receiver is still coming along (18 catches for 168 yards) he is already perhaps the best kick returner in the NFL. That gives him at least some hope of becoming one of the top 10 receivers, in the mold of a taller Steve Smith or something along those lines. Basically, this guy can fucking move -- let's see if he can learn to catch too.
Patterson leads the NFL with 845 return yards, two return touchdowns, 35.2 yards per return.
It would be hard to say what Patterson would look like on an offense without three of the worst quarterbacks that anyone could have, that anyone could have, that anyone could have, but it's entirely possible that he'd be a fun part of this offense. Or that he'd have 18 catches for 168 yards. I do know this:
The kick return unit could use him.
Jermaine Kearse has returned 12 kicks for an average of 22.1 yards per return, which is 28th in the NFL. Tate has returned two kicks for 42 yards and Jeremy Lane has return two for 47. Having a kick returner isn't the biggest of deals, especially for a team that has Seattle's defense, but can you imagine how much deadlier this team would be if you also had the best kick returner in the league?
Oh right, Harvin has been the best kick returner in the league in each of the last two seasons.
Harvin had 32.5 yards per return in 2011 and 35.9 yards per return in 2012.
You didn't take Justin Hunter
Hunter is a 6'4, 196 lb receiver out of
Texas Tennessee also
One would think that at least from a size perspective, Hunter is the perfect comp to Rice.
However, Hunter has not made an impact during his rookie season and you'd have to question if he would have had an impact on the team this season. He just had his career-best game, a two-catch, 51-yard performance against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Going into the game, he had 71 yards on the year.
You'd think that Hunter might be the type of player that Seattle targets in the offseason to supplant Rice, but even if Seattle had him right now, it doesn't seem like he'd be ready to take on that role.
There were two tight ends available around the time the Seahawks drafted and they would have had to trade up to get one of them.
You didn't take Tyler Eifert
Eifert is a 6'6, 250 lb tight end out of Notre Dame
On the surface, Eifert's numbers look pretty good for a rookie tight end: 28 catches for 339 yards and one touchdown. So why then does Football Outsiders rank Eifert dead-last in DYAR among 46 qualified players? Eifert has -56 DYAR due to a 61% catch rate on 49 targets and being ranked 42nd in DVOA.
By comparison, Vernon Davis has also been targeted 49 times and he also has a 61% catch rate, but he's turned those targets into 520 yards and seven touchdowns. Davis is third in DYAR.
Which player is 21st in DYAR among tight ends?
You didn't take Zach Ertz
Erz is a 6'5, 250 lbs tight end out of Stanford
Ertz was a player that a lot of people were mocking to the Seahawks early on when they still had a first round pick. He's a big tight end that made some huge catches for the Cardinal, but his draft stock seemed to slip every day as it got closer. Finally, the Eagles picked him 35th overall, which was still pretty good but definitely not as high as once thought.
He has 19 catches for 243 yards and is 30th in DYAR. It seemed like the Eagles were going to be "the tight end team" after they signed James Casey and drafted Ertz, but Bleeding Green Nation wrote recently about how Philadelphia actually hasn't used Ertz or Casey much at all. They rarely put out two tight ends at the same time, but the idea may be to eventually have Ertz as a hybrid TE/WR that keeps defenses guessing about which base defense they can keep out there as Ertz progresses and is trickier to cover.
I still think we are better off with Willson at a much, much lower cost.
I think that a lot of people give Carroll and Schneider a reputation of spending high picks on offensive lineman, perhaps too high, but the evidence lately would not support that in the slightest. In the 2013 NFL draft, they didn't take an offensive lineman until Ryan Seymour and Michael Bowie in the seventh round. The only lineman they drafted in 2012 was not-offensive-lineman Who Shot J.R. Sweezy in the seventh round.
It's only because they drafted James Carpenter and John Moffitt with their top two picks in 2011 (neither was a very high pick, Moffitt was a third rounder, didn't draft any other lineman that year) and Russell Okung in 2010 that people believe that Carroll and Schneider are just doing Tom Cable's bidding.
In reality, they barely have given Cable much at all since he arrived in 2011. The lineman that they draft are more like his special projects instead of anything you can just plug onto the line and expect to work right away.
Ideally speaking, the Seahawks knew they were set at left tackle and center going into the 2013 NFL Draft. They would hope that James Carpenter locks down left guard and Breno Giacomini can hold his own on the less-important position of right tackle. What has happened:
Sweezy has played 99% of the offensive snaps, by far the most of anyone on the team. From what I can tell, he's been "okay" but inconsistent. Perhaps even bad, but I'm not the best judge of that sort of thing beyond what I hear cursed on Twitter.
Carpenter has played 90% of the offensive snaps. Having forgotten that Carpenter is on the team, that's a good sign for any offensive lineman that plays most every down.
Paul McQuistan has played 88% of snaps, often at left tackle. That's bad.
Bowie has played in 72% of the snaps, which is not ideal, but perhaps we're lucky that it's helped him grow into a decent right tackle while still being 9-1 as a team.
Max Unger has played in 64% of the snaps, and there's not really anything you can do about that. You would never have a Pro Bowl center and then also invest in a good backup center. You need just the one and if he gets hurt, you deal with it. We're dealing with it.
What Seattle perhaps could have used from the draft was a long-term stud at right tackle or guard. It's not something that you would draft in the first round unless it was really something special. Was there anything like that?
You didn't trade up and take Kyle Long
Long is a 6'6, 313 lb guard out of Oregon.
For many, the Offensive Rookie of the Year in the first half was Long, mainly for the fact that Jay Cutler -- yes, Jay Cutler -- was hardly ever sacked to start the year. The Bears have long been known as having perhaps the worst line in the league, and Long is actually really good. A major change of pace for Chicago lineman.
But the Bears took Long 20th overall, which is one spot ahead of Eifert. That means that the Seahawks would have not only needed to trade up, but probably juice the pot even more than they did to acquire Harvin.
Long instead of Sweezy at guard is probably a significant upgrade for the guard position. But it's the guard position.
Harvin was arguably the most valuable player in the entire NFL when he was healthy in 2012.
That'll never be said about a guard.
The next lineman selected was center Travis Frederick (not a need) and then tackle Menelik Watson with the 42nd overall pick. Watson has been healthy basically never for the Oakland Raiders, and thinking that he'd be a major upgrade over anyone on Seattle this season seems farfetched.
With the Seahawks second round pick, rather than trade up for a player like Watson, they traded down with the Baltimore Ravens and took Christine Michael plus two later picks. They used those two picks to trade into the fourth round and select DT Jesse Williams.
A guy that might never play in the NFL.
But, it was certainly worth the gamble and you got Michael.
You didn't take Sharrif Floyd
Perhaps by moving up with the Vikings two spots instead of trading for Harvin, the Seahawks could have taken a player like Floyd. With the impact that rookies Sheldon Richardson and Star Lotulelei are having on their current teams (Jets and Panthers are two of the top five run defenses in the NFL) so why not Floyd?
I don't know. Why not, Floyd?
He's played in just about a third of the snaps on defense this year for Minnesota and apparently not doing so hot against the run. That's what the Seahawks would need a defensive tackle for at this point, as they rank first in DVOA against the pass by 14th against the run.
Lotulelei? Richardson? Abso-lutely. Floyd? Not today. Maybe not ever.
You didn't take Sylvester Williams
With the 28th overall pick, the Denver Broncos select Sylvester Williams.
While Denver is surprisingly-okay against the run this year, it's hardly due to Williams. He has played in six games, suffered a neck sprain earlier in the year, has five tackles, and playing in about 13% of defensive snaps.
You didn't take Cornellius "Tank" Carradine
Carradine is a 6'4, 275 lbs 4-3 DE out of Florida State
A lot of fans want their team to take a chance on the player with the significant injury and tremendous upside. That's what the 49ers are for! Not only did they grab Marcus Lattimore knowing that he wouldn't play in 2013, but they used the 40th overall pick on Carradine -- a player that tore his ACL the season prior at FSU.
This could turn into a great pick, but would it have helped the Seahawks during their 9-1 start? Clearly not as Carradine was only recently activated to the 53-man roster and has yet to make his NFL debut.
You didn't take Kiko Alonso
Alonso is a 6'3, 238 lb linebacker out of Oregon that also might be the best rookie in the NFL.
The Bills selected Alonso with the 46th overall pick. Imagine if the Arizona Cardinals, perhaps the top defense in the NFL right now, and a team that took LB Kevin Minter 45th overall, had instead taken Alonso. In only 10 games, Alonso has 99 tackles.
And that Jay-Z joke is so obvious, son.
He's also got two sacks, four interceptions and a forced fumble. But what use do the Seattle Seahawks, a team that already has Bobby Wagner, have for Alonso? Every team that's a good team has something for players like Kiko Alonso.
You don't turn down talent like that if you can get it.
And that's what the Seahawks did -- they did what they had to in order to acquire premium NFL talent.
There were 45 opportunities to take Alonso but nobody knew how good he'd be, or he would have gone much higher. What Seattle had instead was intimate knowledge of a player that they already knew was an NFL star and that's the guy they used their first round draft pick on.
Maybe he hasn't helped Seattle up to this point, but I'd argue that even in the most ideal, realistic scenario there is, even not having Harvin up to this point hasn't been much more of a detriment than not having any of the players that they could have drafted instead.
Either way, they're 9-1. Except now they're about to get back a player that could very well be more valuable than everyone in the 2013 NFL Draft. Not just today, but for a very long time.