The PCJS front office has made the Offensive Line a priority in its first three seasons running the Seahawks. The regime’s first draft pick was Russell Okung with the 6th pick in the 2010 NFL draft and James Carpenter was selected with the 25th pick the following year. Max Unger’s contract was extended in 2012, making him the 3rd highest paid center in the NFL.
Tom Cable was not only hired to be the Offensive Line Coach but was given the Assistant Head Coach title as well. The Offensive Line has quickly turned into one of the most dominant groups in the NFL with two Pro Bowlers, Okung and Unger, to show for it. Football Outsiders ranks the Seahawks’ Offensive Line as 3rd best in the league behind the 49ers and the Giants. This ranking is well deserved considering that in 2012 Marshawn Lynch rushed for 1,590 yards and Russell Wilson was sacked 33 times – slightly below the league average of 36.5. These signs all point to that the Offensive Line is not an area of need for the Seahawks.
Although it may not be an area of immediate need, the future of the Offensive Line has some uncertainty. James Carpenter has yet to play a full season due to injuries, John Moffitt couldn’t beat out former college Defensive Tackle J.R. Sweezy for a starting spot, and Paul McQuinstin and Breno Giacomini are entering contract years in 2013. I doubt that the regime has given up on Carpenter as starting caliber Guard and J.R. Sweezy began to impress towards the end of the year – especially considering that guy used to be a Defensive Tackle.
The regime also had high hopes for John Moffitt when they drafted him in 2011 and maybe with a healthy off season he can overtake Sweezy or Paul McQuinstin for the starting Right Guard spot. With four promising Guards on the roster, I doubt the Seahawks would target a Guard in round 2. The position on the Offensive Line that has the most uncertainty is the Right Tackle position because of Giacomini’s aforementioned contract year. This uncertainty, in a position that the Seahawks’ front office values, is why an Offensive Tackle may be drafted in round 2.
An Offensive Lineman is one of the least sexy picks in the draft, very few people jump up and down on draft day when their team selects an Offensive Lineman. Kickers and Punters are the only positions that are less sexy; those guys are so unsexy that they don’t even appeal to GM’s and rarely get drafted. Yet despite however unglamorous Offensive Linemen may be, they are vital to any successful offense and are the safest position to draft with a high probability of becoming successful pros.
In the past 30 years, there have been 64 who played Offensive Tackle in college selected in the 2nd round of the NFL draft; 29 (45.31%) of them went on to start 8 or more games at Offensive Tackle their rookie season, 16 (25%) of them started all 16 games at Offensive Tackle their rookie year, 57 (89.06%) of these players remained at Offensive Tackle during their rookie year and the other 7 (10.94%) were converted to Guards. Of the 7 players that were moved to Guard, 5 (71.43%) started 8 or more games. This brings the total amount of players who started 8 or more games to 36 (56.25%). A player who played Offensive Tackle in college that was drafted in the 2nd round, has become a full time starter their rookie year more times than not.
A deeper dive into the statistics shows that the 64 players drafted averaged 13 game activations and 8 starts (real averages 12.67 and 8.13 were rounded) during their rookie year. Unfortunately, Offensive Linemen are extremely hard to grade since they do not record any stats. To judge the effectiveness of these players, pro-football-reference.com created a rating called approximate value (AV) to rate a player’s impact.
The average AV for a 2nd round rookie Offensive Tackle is 4.13. Since pro-football-reference.com only issues AV in whole numbers, this number will be rounded to 4 for the following comparison. The only Seahawks player to have an AV of 4 in 2012 was Doug Baldwin. James Carpenter, Bruce Irvin, John Moffitt, Michael Robinson and Malcolm Smith all had an AV of 3.
An AV of 4 is someone who contributes the amount of a part time player. On average, 2nd round caliber Offensive Tackles contribute the amount of a part time player. It would not be farfetched to think that if the Seahawks selected an Offensive Tackle in round 2 that this player would get playing time his rookie year year because Seahawks’ Offensive Linemen have a special knack for getting hurt. On a more positive note, this PT will only most likely come as an injury replacement and not an immediate starter because Breno Giacomini is a monster.
Giacomini had an AV of 9 last season; which is much higher than the average rookie’s 4. Also, according to Football Outsiders the Seahawks ranked first in the NFL in average yards per carry to the Right Tackle at 4.87 YPC. At 6’7” 304 pounds, Giacomini is a dominant run blocker.
So if Giacomini is so good why wouldn’t the Seahawks just resign him in 2014? The top 10 Right Tackle salaries average nearly $6 million annually ($5,939,161). A player that leads all Right Tackles in runs to his side is certainly going to at least want top 10 money. Even if he faces a soft market in 2014 like Sebastian Vollmer and Andre Smith did this year, he would at least get paid $4 million annually. With Chancellor, Thomas, Sherman, Wilson, Wright and Wagner all due for hefty raises in the future, the Seahawks are going to have to let some players leave in free agency. A $6 million Giacomini is someone the front office would certainly let walk.
Conversely, a rookie Offensive Tackle selected in the 2nd round would only amount to around $1 million annually. This extra $5 million in cap space alone would cover Earl Thomas’ future $8-9 dollar annual contract. The biggest question is if the Seahawks drafted an Offensive Tackle this year, would he be able to be as good as Giacomini in his 2nd?
Of the 64 Tackles selected in the 2nd round thus far, 47 of them played Tackle in their 2nd year, 4 became full time Guards, 7 of them were rookies in 2012, and 6 of them only played one year in the NFL. Of the 47 Tackles, 30 (64%) started 8 or more games their 2nd year in the league. These starters were highly productive averaging 15 game activations, 14 starts and an AV of 7 (real numbers 15.1, 14.1 and 6.8 were rounded).
This 7 AV is only slightly less than Giacomini’s 9. An average caliber 2nd round Offensive Tackle would cost only 16-25% of the price of Giacomini and would only be slightly less productive. There is a slight chance that this player could be just as productive or perhaps even more in their second year. Four (8.5%) of the 47 Tackles had an AV of 9 or better in their second year – Sebastian Volmer, Marcus McNeill, Khalif Barnes, and Bubba Paris. If just based on past history, the odds are significantly against someone being as productive as Giacomini by their 2nd year.
To sum it up, if the Seahawks drafted an Offensive Tackle that had average 2nd round ability, he would have a likely chance of becoming a starter in year 2. If this player does become a starter then he has a likely chance of being only slightly less productive than Giacomini. It would be highly unlikely that this player would be more productive than Giacomini, leading the NFL in runs to your side is something very hard to accomplish.
However, the negatives of a slight dip in production would be offset by the positives of a huge price reduction. This reduction in price provides the biggest benefit of drafting a Tackle in the 2nd round. Add the high probability of success for 2nd round caliber Offensive Tackles having successful NFL careers to the financial benefits and the PCJS may decide to draft an Offensive Tackle in the 2nd round to become a starter in 2014.