Hi fellow 12s, welcome to my first ever mock draft! I hope you find my ideas useful/interesting, if you don’t then please tell me what I did wrong. Also, I want to get my excuses in early, and my main excuse is that I’m British. That is all. Furthermore, the usual caveats apply; this is just a mock, we haven’t even seen combine results etc etc etc. That’s enough waffle, let’s talk football! (The kind with the egg-shaped ball)
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.
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 the RB corps. There is also a huge question mark on the right side of the OL in the form of Breno Giacomini. 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 but realistically he needs to be replaced, particularly as his ineffectiveness exposes J.R. Sweezy unnecessarily. 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 DT 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 lineman 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.
The only other player I could see on the ‘Hawks radar in FA is Pats RT Sebastian Vollmer, who is a very accomplished player, but realistically will be staying in New England.
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 at the top of my list at this point as it is the only spot that we don’t have a clearcut starter (sorry Malcolm Smith) and is also extremely important within the LEO defense. 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: tmy main motivation whilst doing this mock was 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.
Alec Ogletree, OLB, Georgia
I am so stoked about Alec Ogletree. This guy will do absolute wonders for the ‘Hawks in the base set, with solid coverage skills (he used to play safety), good pass-rush ability and a great nose for the ball in the run game. He’s still kinda raw overall but has Pro-Bowl potential and is physically ready to be a Day One starter. Luckily for Seattle there are a few other guys ahead of him in the draft, and he should fall to us with the 25th overall pick. If Ogletree is not available at this point (which he should be) I can see the FO trading back and filling this spot with either Khaseem Browne (2nd round) or Jelani Jenkins (3rd).
Markus Wheaton, WR, Oregon State
Whilst a future starter at DT or a nickel corner may be more pressing at this point, I think Seattle should be looking to take their Z receiver with this pick as there is simply not enough talent either side of the second round to pick higher/wait for another round.
Enter Wheaton, who is a solid receiver with great hands, solid footwork and, most importantly, great top end speed. Some people compare him to Mike Wallace, which I feel is inaccurate as Wallace is faster and Wheaton is a more polished route-runner. He is also a very willing and able blocker downfield. The thing that makes Markus Wheaton my must-have guy at WR, however, is his awareness; he shows a great ability to react to plays breaking down and will often get himself open on improvised routes if the QB is forced out of the pocket.
There is a chance that Wheaton is gone at this point in the draft, as he is one of the only true deep threats in this years WR class and I can see teams like Pittsburgh, KC and Jacksonville (amongst others) taking a shine to him, and there may be a run on WRs in the end of the 1st/beginning of the 2nd. In this case, look no further than Da’Rick Rogers out of Tennessee Tech, who will almost certainly still be available due to red flags over character concerns and a season playing against lesser schools, neither of which bother me or JS.
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 Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina
Williams has potential to be a very good 3-tech and has some great tape but there are serious (and legitimate) concerns about his motor and a bunch of more talented guys above him, which will see his draft stock slip. He will offer the Hawks an interior pass-rush threat and I can see him as the guy to take over from Starks/Mebane on passing downs to keep the line fresh. My favourite thing about this guy, though, is his background; he was a JUCO transfer who used to work in a factory making radiators for trucks. In interviews he is very obviously a hard-working, driven guy with a passion for the game and an outstanding work-ethic. Those traits are key for a guy of his size, who will have to work hard to drop some timber and improve his conditioning, not to mention his technique, to be an NFL starter.
With their second pick of Round 3 the ‘Hawks should go with fellow Tar Heel Brennan Williams, OT, North Carolina.
Brennan Williams is a very good player who unfortunately got injured back in October but before that was a potential first-round pick. When he was playing back in 2011 the Tar Heels averaged over 4 YPC despite a very tough schedule, including games against Virginia Tech and Clemson and two blowout losses that forced them to pass A LOT. This season, prior to his injury, UNC rushed for an average of 220+ YPG, excluding blowout victories over two lesser schools and saw that average drop to 168 after his injury against a similar level of opposition. On tape Williams looks good, showing decent lateral speed and aggressiveness at the point of attack, with a great physical skill set in terms of size and strength. His overall pass-block technique does need some work as he struggles to contain inside rush moves at times, but luckily he’ll be working with Tom Cable, who is pretty damn good at straightening out that kind of thing.
Some might argue that this is the place to draft a nickel corner, TE or a second pass rusher on the defensive line, but there is plenty of talent below this spot at those positions and not enough quality players available, with the exception of TE but I would prioritise replacing The Godfather over adding a 4th/5th receiving option.
Lavar Edwards, DE, LSU
This pick looks like a pretty big reach considering Edwards plays a reserve role at LSU and is projected by most as a 5th round guy at the earliest but with a solid performance at the Senior Bowl, as well as registering the team’s second-highest sack total in 2012, Edwards may just turn out to be an absolute steal in the fourth round. The other reason that I have him in the fourth is that both the Lions and the Saints like him a lot, but have some other needs to address at this spot in the draft, but pick before us in the fifth.
Edwards has a ton of natural ability as a pass rusher, with good speed and strength to go alongside his long, thick frame. He has a variety of moves to get around blockers, which he showed off on a couple of occasions whilst lining up on the inside on passing downs. Edwards will serve as competition for Irvin, especially with Clem potentially out for the first half of the season and I believe he already has an edge over him as a run defender due to his block-shedding ability.
Tyrann Mathieu, CB, LSU
Is there really anything else to say? This guy is a great pick for Seattle here because he provides excellent value in every sense (potential, need, ability) and will fit in nicely with our current corps at DB. He also allows us to cut Leon Washington and his $2 mill/year contract, which is an awful lot for a guy who basically only plays special teams. Throw in a penchant for creating turnovers through picks and fumbles and you have a no-brainer.
Joseph Fauria, TE, UCLA
I’ll admit that Joseph Fauria started out as a "box-score scout" for me, but once I actually did my homework, I was blown away. Again, he might look like a reach because he’s listed elsewhere as a 7th/UDFA and doesn’t really fit the mold of a "joker" TE, but trust me, if this guy falls to us here you’ll see how quickly PC and JS can run the 40. Fauria fits the "basketball-player" prototype in terms of size and speed and displays the ability to catch well in traffic, though he does lack a substantial YAC ability. There are other TEs who will get more hype than him and a lot of my fellow 12s have been clamouring for us to take a speedier TE in the 3rd/4th round, but given the difference in potential and ability I say we sit tight and content ourselves with a player who is a beast in the red-zone and on post routes and hope that he learns how to block from Zach Miler and Anthony McCoy.
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
"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.
Dennis Johnson, RB, Arkansas
Dennis Johnson was a bright spot on a pretty terrible Arkansas team this season, going for over 900 all-purpose yards from scrimmage, as well as over 300 yards on kick returns . He did as well as you could possibly ask against conference rivals, averaging over 75 yards per game, 5.7 per rushing attempt. The tape backs up the box score, as the limited footage I’ve seen of him shows a fast, shifty back who can catch the ball and has the ability to make guys miss.
If Johnson is not available here then some serious consideration should be given to Kerwynn Williams out of Utah State, Robert Turbin’s former understudy who has a similar skillset.
Marquess Wilson, WR, Washington State
Marquess Wilson is a solid player, with the potential to be a contributor 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. He’ll need to add some muscle to his very lean frame, but I’m not sure where he’ll put it.
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 replacement to the declining Red Bryant and projects well as the RE in the LEO package as he has the ability to set the edge in the run game and punish teams that don’t at least attempt to slow him down with a chip-block or double team when rushing the passer. 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: Alec Ogletree, OLB, Georgia
2nd: Markus Wheaton, WR, Oregon State
3rd: Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina
3rd: Brennan Williams, RT, North Carolina
4th: Lavar Edwards, DE, LSU
5th: Tyrann Mathieu, CB, LSU
6th: Joseph Fauria, TE, UCLA
7th: Nick Florence, QB, Baylor
7th: Dennis Johnson, RB, Arkansas
7th: Marquess Wilson, WR, Washington State
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)
Drew Schaefer, C, Washington (UDFA)
Kwame Geathers, DT, Georgia (5th)
A.J. Francis, DT, Maryland (UDFA)
And finally, our roster needs and the players to fill them:
Will ‘backer: Alec Ogletree
Nickel corner: Tyrann Mathieu
Pass-rushing DT: Sylvester Williams
FS: John Boyett (UDFA)
DL: Lavar Edwards, Kapron Lewis-Moore
TE: Joseph Fauria
QB : Nick Florence
WR: Markus Wheaton, Marquess Wilson
RB: Dennis Johnson
RT: Brennan Williams
So that’s just shy of 3000 words on what I think the ‘Hawks should do this offseason. I have plenty more to add, but your boss might have noticed that you’ve stopped working, so I’ll leave it there. 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 =]