Hello again fellow 12s and welcome back to my take on the Hawks ideal offseason including FAs, trades and, of course, a full 12-pick draft. This is an update from my previous blog based on some recent roster updates, scouting and a general change in my overall thinking. This has been partially motivated by comments from other writers like Danny Kelly, Jared Stanger and Matt Erickson as well as a lot of the feedback from my last post, most notably who will be available when the ‘Hawks are on the clock. Some of it, though, remains unchanged so if you notice a few recurring themes and a bit of repetition, I apologize. So here we go.
The logical first step for me is identifying needs on the ‘Hawks roster and generally speaking I agree with Danny Kelly’s assessment of the current roster. Here’s a quick look at the team’s current FAs and who I think should be re-signed:
Steven Hauschka – Re-sign
Frank Omiyale – Re-sign
As you can see we’ll be losing quite a few guys to FA, creating depth issues at a number of spots, notably DL, nickel corner and Will ‘backer. A quick note on letting Branch, Jones, Trufant and Hill walk: these guys will command a higher salary than they merit and should be released due to a dip in production, as well as their age. I could maybe live with giving Jones another shot on a one-year deal, other than that these guys shouldn’t be on the roster next year. There has been one change to the roster since my last post, the addition of Will Blackmon, a cornerback / kick returner with four years experience in the league, including a spot on the Super Bowl winning Giants team of 2011. His presence on the roster brings some extra competition for the nickel corner spot, de-prioritising the position a little in my eyes as I feel either he or Jeremy Lane will serve as a decent starter in the nickel packages.
So that leaves us with the following needs:
The ‘Hawks would also be wise to bring in a true “Z” receiver, as well as depth at wide-out, and a “scat-back” to add some variety to RB corps. There is also a huge question mark on the right side of the OL in the form of Breno Giacomini at RT and JR Sweezy/John Moffitt at RG.
I’m definitely not sold on Giacomini, who is inconsistent in the extreme, frequently struggles in pass protection and is very penalty prone. His play improved in the latter half of the season, so I think he should be given the opportunity to compete for his starting job. However, with his contract coming to an end next season he needs to be replaced, particularly as his ineffectiveness exposes the already questionable RG spot unnecessarily. On Moffitt/Sweezy, I’d like to see one of these two guys make huge strides in the off-season, and whilst many like J.R, my money is on Moffitt. O-linemen tend to take a few years to get up-to-speed against stronger, faster DTs once they join the NFL and Moffitt has been dinged up since his rookie year. If fully fit, he could step up and play up to the potential that the FO saw in him when they drafted him in the second round.
There is also the TE position to consider. As it stands Zach Miller is likely due to miss training camp and the first month of the season due to the injury he sustained in the Atlanta game. His absence creates serious concerns for a Seattle team which is looking to make a quick start to the 2013 season and will be relying on Anthony McCoy to play 85% of the offensive snaps until Miller is healthy enough to return full-time. On top of all this, Miller is the best-paid TE in the league this season and McCoy is in the last year of his contract.
One final point I’d like to address is the need for more targets for RW in the passing game. Personally, I’m not sure that the diminutive QB needs more targets, but simply that he needs open targets. The starting trio of Rice, Tate and Baldwin, alongside a TE, are good enough for me. Whilst I admit that being an injury away from starting Jermaine Kearse is troubling, I also think that giving the passing game more time to develop is more conducive to its success than simply piling in another player. As such I think that upgrading the O-line should be more of a priority for the offense as a better line gives you more time to pass, as well as a more dangerous running game to PA off of. That’s not to say that WR depth isn’t an issue, I just don’t think it’s the most important. Finally, if anyone points out that we were the 27th overall passing offense last year let me remind you of two things:1) The offensive playbook was limited in the first third of the season while the coaching staff assessed exactly what Wilson was capable of. 2) We ran the ball more than anyone else in the league last year. That means fewer pass attempts. It's basic mathematics.
There are also a few players who should probably be cut in the off-season. Specifically, I’m thinking about Ben Obamanu and Leon Washington, both of whom have higher contracts than their very limited roles deserve, particularly given the wealth of talented possession receivers / kick returners available in the later rounds of this year’s draft.
Whilst that does create A LOT of demand for new players, the ‘Hawks are in a great position moving into FA and the draft, with $19 mill cap space and 12 draft picks, including 4 seventh-rounders. There are also some viable options on the trade block (I’m looking at you Matt Flynn). So without further ado let’s look at what Seattle should be doing in FA.
Free Agency and Trades
In terms of big-name free agents, I expect Seattle to make one splash this off-season, in the form of Dolphins 3-tech Randy Starks. Starks is coming off a pro-bowl season for the ‘Fins, is a perfect fit for PC’s “Leo” scheme and would actually represent an immediate upgrade over Alan Branch. Starks and Branch are around the same age, though Starks is a little slimmer, weighing in at about 305lbs, but is a much more consistent player. In terms of box-score stuff, he’s good for 3-4 sacks a season and holds joint 1st place among fat guys for career INTs (4). Starks is also a very tough guy, having started every game of his last 4 seasons. His biggest strength, though, is the stuff that doesn’t show up on the stat sheets. Starks is an extremely disruptive tackle and does a lot of the nitty gritty of the 3-tech well; he collapses the pocket with an explosive first step and constantly commands double teams. Whilst Henry Melton might be the #1 DT available this offseason, Starks is the guy that the ‘Hawks go for, as he will come cheaper due to his seniority. Starks will probably garner a 3-4 year contract at roughly $5 mill a year, which I would expect the FO to front-load to make Starks a more viable trade option in the latter half of his contract.
There are a few other players I could see on the ‘Hawks radar in FA. Pats RT Sebastian Vollmer is top of my list, but realistically will be staying in New England. Other potential signings include Kaluka Maiva to man the WILL backer spot and Jared Cook, a promising young TE who could come in and potentially take over from the injured Zach Miller as well as serving as an upgrade over Anthony McCoy in the medium-term and a cheaper replacement for Miller in the long-term. Despite this, though, Seattle is unlikely to spend money on free agents at these spots due to the strength and depth of this year’s draft.
So, now to Matt Flynn. There is a ton of speculation as to where Matt Flynn should go (if he should be traded at all) and what Seattle will get for him. Personally, I can see Flynn re-structuring his contract to make himself a more appealing trade target and ending up in either KC or Buffalo in return for a 3rd rounder, along with our fifth round pick. Both these teams have numerous holes across their entire roster and should really be looking to Day 2 / 2014 to draft their franchise QBs whilst trading back in this draft to gain some extra picks from the likes of the Jets, Tennessee, San Diego and Arizona. This gives us a higher pick and an extra hole to fill on the roster.
After a fairly quiet, but game-changing, free agency period, here’s where we stand in terms of roster needs at this point:
That’s a lot of holes. Twelve, to be precise. In terms of priority, I have Will ‘backer and TE at the top of my list at this point as they are the only spots that we don’t have a clearcut starter (sorry Malcolm Smith and Anthony McCoy). Following that is pass-rush DT, Z receiver, nickel corner, RT, backup QB and the rest become pretty much interchangeable.
Before I give my mock draft I would like to make one thing clear: the most important part of drafting is VALUE. Value is determined by need, ability, potential etc but also by comparable availability i.e. is player X worth a first round pick when player Y is available in round 4 and we like him just as much? That’s something that this FO recognizes and has influenced my selections throughout. Disclaimer over.
Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame
So, I’m prepared for a lot of abuse about this. Just hear me out. As previously stated, Zach Miller played 85% of the Hawks offensive snaps last season. That’s a whole bunch of offense. Eifert is basically a younger, cheaper Zach Miller. Yes, his blocking isn’t amazing, but it’s as good as any TE in the draft that can also play flexed out and run a complete route-tree.
If anything, Eifert is kind of a boring pick. He isn’t electric in the open field, he doesn’t run a 4.6 but he is the best fit of all the players likely to be available at #25 on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball. Not a revolutionary pick, but it does give the team something just as important as innovation: continuity. With Eifert on the roster, Darren Bevell can call the exact same plays on opening day as he would with Miller healthy. Think about all the great plays Miller made, particularly in the post-season. Now think about having a guy that’ll do that for the next five years at a third of the price and is less injury prone. That’s short- and medium-term benefit from a player who, barring injury, is one of the safest choices on the board. Not very JS/PC, I’ll admit, but that’s why they run the franchise and I blog about it.
I also want to address the guys that I’m NOT taking in the first round, in anticipation of your furious comments.
DJ Fluker won’t be available, Chicago will not pass up the opportunity to seriously upgrade the OT position and give Jay Cutler a chance to play all season, whilst Jonathon Hankins and John Jenkins don’t provide enough pressure in the pass rush.
Kawann Short is a guy that I’m (mentally) wrestling with on a daily basis. I love some of what I’ve seen from Short but I’m really concerned about his high-bust potential. He had some stellar outings last season, and performed well at the Senior Bowl, but I don’t consider a lot of the competition he faced to be even close to pro-ready. My concerns come from watching him against better teams like Michigan, Wisconsin and Notre Dame. In those games I saw him get beaten on half the snaps he played against guys who are projected to go 3-4 rounds lower than him and, whilst he got consistent pressure and penetration, a lot of the time his over-aggressiveness gave opposing QBs clean passing/rushing lanes. If he falls to Seattle in the second, I’m thrilled, but with so much talent available at the same time, I’m just not willing to take the risk in the first round.
Finally, I just don’t think WR is a big enough need to warrant a first-round pick, though guys like Terrence Williams would be a great sight in blue and green.
That’s enough about who I won’t take, let’s move onto round 2.
Menelik Watson, RT, Florida State
Over the last few weeks I have been watching a lot of Florida State games, scouting guys like Rodney Smith, Tank Carradine and Xavier Rhodes. Whilst watching these guys I was consistently impressed by Watson. A bruising tackle with excellent athleticism and fantastic measurables, Watson has absolutely buckets of upside. He’s only played 20 games in his entire life and as a result is far from the most complete tackle in the draft, but he has already developed well. He’s definitely a work in progress and clearly needs to improve his technique, but with Tom Cable showing him the ropes, I’m confident that Watson will develop into one of the best tackles in the league. He will give Breno a run for his money this season and can take the reins from him in 2014, providing a long-term solution at RT. An athlete like Watson will help the offense to ground and pound with best of them, whilst keeping DangeRuss on his feet in the passing game.
With two picks in the 3rd, one in the top of the order thanks to the Matt Flynn trade, this is where I see Seattle picking up a couple of steals.
First they take Jelani Jenkins, LB, Florida
Jenkins is a perfect fit for the WILL spot on the Seahawks defense: lighting-quick with good instincts and great tackling technique, Jenkins is a talented run-stopper, particularly for someone of his size. What’s more he has above-average coverage skills for a linebacker, showing the kind of football IQ you love to see. My favourite aspect of Jenkins’ game, though, is his pure athleticism. He can blow through or around blockers against the run and can keep up with the athletic TEs in pass coverage as well as contesting the catch afterwards. The only slight on Jenkins in my mind is his injury issues; he played dinged up for much of 2012, though none of his ailments were serious and he still played to a high standard despite being hurt. I just hope he doesn’t prove too brittle to play full time in the NFL.
With their second pick of Round 3 the ‘Hawks should go with Devin Taylor, DE, South Carolina.
Taylor is a huge 6’7 and plays with surprising speed and agility for someone his size. His upside is massive. Whilst 2012 wasn’t an amazing year for Taylor statistically, every time I’ve watched him I’ve been impressed with his ability to beat his man around the edge against both the run and pass. He displays an explosive first step, has a good variety of swim and spin moves to get after the passer and is strong enough to stretch run plays then disengage to bring down the rusher. Taylor is a particularly exciting prospect when I think about playing SF twice a year; his athleticism and length will make stopping their zone-read game much, much easier.
The biggest knock on Taylor is that he was blocked one-on-one a lot due to the presence of Jadeveon Clowney opposite him, but this doesn’t bother me given that the LEO scheme would be designed for him to get one-on-one blocking. Taylor will provide competition for Bruce Irvin and could initially replace Clemons in the Hawks base packages.
Bennie Logan, DT, LSU
I watched A LOT of LSU games over the past couple of days because they’re a good benchmark to judge OL/RBs/TEs against. Bennie Logan is a big reason for that. A big, solid run stuffer in the middle of the defense, Logan displays excellent strength from his base and upper body. Whilst Seattle is in need of pass-rusher in the interior, Logan isn’t going to rack up double-digit sacks. However he is tenacious, has a good bull rush, uses his long arms and quick burst to beat interior linemen and can shoot the gap well, forcing opposing QBs into the arms of the M&Ms all season.
When watching Logan, I saw a smart player who can see plays developing and reads O-linemen well. He has other good intangibles too, as he is a natural leader in the locker room and on the field and turns up in big games (Florida, Texas A&M, Alabama). I also like the fact that, even if Logan doesn’t pan out as a 3-tech, he could very easily be Brandon Mebane’s replacement at the 1-tech spot. The prospect of Jaye Howard and Bennie Logan teaming up to bully opposing O-lines for years to come is freaking awesome.
Phillip Steward, LB, Houston
You guys probably know as much about Phillip Steward as I do, thanks to the outstanding work of Field Gulls own Jared Stanger. I probably don’t need to tell you that Steward has seriously eye-popping tape (against UCLA) and is pretty much overlooked by everyone who doesn’t use this site. You gotta love having your own secret weapon and Steward (and Stanger) is ours. Steward isn’t perfect but he is pretty damn good; he’s a solid tackler, top-notch coverage man for his position and moves like a sidewinder missile. He also had a great year statistically, racking up picks (3), tackles (128), sacks (11) and forced fumbles (5) like they were going out of fashion.
The only concerns I would have about him are the levels of competition he faced and his relatively quiet Senior Bowl. Otherwise, I’m stoked about this kid. In terms of a scheme fit, Steward projects well as a WILL backer, but his versatility could see him playing on passing downs in place of KJ Wright, as he is a fantastic blitzer off the edge and can play man coverage against TEs and speedier slot receivers.
Marquess Wilson, WR, Washington State
Marquess Wilson is a complete steal in this round, with the potential to be a day one at the NFL level, but has seen his draft stock take a dive after quitting the team three games before the end of the season in protest over his treatment from the coaching staff. He’s quick enough to stretch the field and presents a threat downfield due to his height and jump-ball ability. This vertical threat means defenders give him plenty of cushion and he often draws extra attention from the safety, opening up team-mates underneath. Wilson displays fantastic hands, open-field quickness and he also powers through contact surprisingly well for such a slight guy.
There are a couple of issues which have led to this guy dropping from his former first-round projection. Apart from the aforementioned character concerns, Wilson runs some fairly limited routes and occasionally struggles to bring down jump balls due to less-than-ideal body positioning, allowing defenders to get their hands on the ball.
With a mighty 4 picks in round 7, JS and PC are in great position to do what they do best: find diamonds in the rough. There is also the potential to package together a couple of picks to trade up in some of the middle rounds to get their guys, in which case I’d expect them to look at some of these players as UDFAs. So, in no particular order, here’re my round 7 picks.
Nick Florence, QB, Baylor
n.b. This is Nick florence passing to Terrence Williams as there is no footage available of just Florence.
“Finally, a backup QB!” I hear you cry. Your patience will be well rewarded my friends, as Nick Florence is a great pickup this late in the draft. He set all kinds of crazy records this season and operated a Baylor offense that had to deal with losing RGIII well. He makes some poor decisions on occasion and is nowhere near as fast as his predecessor, but with a decent spiral and solid downfield accuracy he will be able to do an adequate job as a backup should Wilson get hurt.
Kerwynn Williams, RB, Utah State
We took two guys from Utah State last season, including Williams’ predecessor Robert Turbin. Williams fits the bill of a scat back perfectly, showing great acceleration and speed, good hands and open-field elusiveness. He finished last year with five receiving touchdowns and fifteen rushing touchdowns, averaging almost 7 YPC rushing and 15.5 YPC receiving. This guy has home-run potential written all over him and brings a change of pace to the Seattle backfield, not only making the offense more varied, but also prolonging Beast Mode’s career by limiting the number of downs he has to play.
DJ Hayden, CB, Houston
Hayden is another player that Stanger highlighted recently. He is a great prospect who will fall down the draft boards due to a combination of injury and playing at a small school. All I want you to do is watch the tape, because this guy is off the charts. Hayden would be a perfect fit at the nickel spot this year and with BB’s contract coming to an end in 2013, he could line up outside as soon as 2014 and I would not worry in the slightest. His combination of size, speed, instincts and excellent tackling make him a joy to watch. My favourite aspect of Hayden’s game was his tackling, which is particularly important for a NB who will face a lot of run support duties; in the UCLA game he made 7 tackles against, receivers TEs and RBs and didn’t miss one. Yes, the pick was impressive, yes he shows a good understanding of how a play will develop, but a corner who can tackle anyone is a very rare thing my friends. Houston is this years Utah State.
Kapron Lewis-Moore, DE/DT, Notre Dame
This is very much a case of saving the best for last. KLM is a potential starter at the NFL level. He has played on a championship-calibre defense with ND (stop sniggering) and recorded six sacks this season, including games against Stanford, BYU and USC. For Seattle he represents a low-cost, long-term replacement to the declining Red Bryant and projects well as the RE in the LEO package. Whilst his play against the run would need to improve before he became an every-down player, KLM is able to punish teams that don’t at least attempt to slow him down with a chip-block or double team when rushing the passer. He could also play DT on passing downs from day one, adding to Seattle’s nickel and dime depth. A torn ACL in the season-ender against USC means KLM is unlikely to get picked up outside of UDFA, but with a plethora of seventh-round picks Seattle is in great position to pick up a guy who could be a contributor this season and a starter the season after.
So, here’s our 2013 draft round-up:
1st: Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame
2nd: Menelik Watson, RT, Florida State
3rd: Jelani Jenkins, LB, Florida
3rd: Devin Taylor, DE, South Carolina
4th: Bennie Logan, DT, LSU
5th: Phillip Steward, LB, Houston
6th: Marquess Wilson, WR, Washington State
7th: Nick Florence, QB, Baylor
7th: Kerwynn Williams, RB, Utah State
7th: DJ Hayden, CB, Houston
7th: Kapron Lewis-Moore, DE/DT, Notre Dame
There are also a bunch of noteworthy value picks which Seattle could take this season, depending on how the draft pans out, as well as players who are forecast to go to FA that plug some holes and add competition throughout the roster. Here are just a few of them:
John Boyett, FS, Oregon (UDFA)
Michael Mauti, WLB, Penn State (UDFA)
Kenny Stills, WR, Oklahoma (3rd)
Reid Fragel, RT, Ohio State (4th)
Jordan Mills, RT, Louisiana State (5th)
Brian Schwenke, C, California (3rd)
Drew Schaefer, C, Washington (UDFA)
Kwame Geathers, DT, Georgia (5th)
A.J. Francis, DT, Maryland (UDFA)
Dexter McCoil, FS, Tulsa (UDFA)
And finally, our roster needs and the players to fill them:
Will ‘backer: Jelani Jenkins
TE: Tyler Eifert
Nickel corner: DJ Hayden
Pass-rushing DT: Kapron Lewis-Moore
FS: Dexter McCoil (UDFA)
DL: Devin Taylor, Bennie Logan
QB : Nick Florence
WR: Marquess Wilson
RB: Kerwynn Williams
RT: Menelik Watson
Any questions, comments etc please don’t hesitate to hit me up and I’ll reply as best I can; bear in mind I’m like 9 hours ahead of you guys so I probably won’t respond straight away =]