Seahawk futures: Determining need

In my Previous article on Seahawks draft board and methodology I started the explanation and analysis with my estimation of need when coming into the draft. If you are generally a Seahawks draft newb you will say things like "maybe they will just go BPA this year because they have a deep roster", in which case you should reread the previous article that explains why a comment like that makes you a newb :-P

However if you accept for a second that need is part of the equation in how the Seahawks construct their board then analyzing need is a critical step in attempting to make an educated guess about the big board and maybe even who they will pick at #32 or which positions they will be looking for in general.

Some skeptics will attempt to point to Christine Michael as a proof that the Seahawks do not draft for need as RB was not really a need last year given he never really made it onto the field. this is a great point which I will come back to at some point to make a deeper point about need. However to answer this at a superficial level, and as explained in the previous article the draft grade wins out over need, but need is the tiebreaker. Christine Michael was simply their highest graded prospect when they were up to pick in the second round. If there was a position of greater need with an equally high grade on the prospect they would've chosen that player instead.

Breaking down need

Need is more than just filling gaps on the roster, and in fact the Seahawks are very diligent about going into a draft with no roster holes, such as when there are just generally no players realistically that could compete for a spot. This is drafting to fill a gap, when you know the player you draft is going to be starting. This is not generally what they do. Their mantra is you will beat somebody out of a job to get a chance to start and ideally that somebody is a really decent player who's going to go start for someone else.

Need then is broken down into a few categories:

  1. Improve competition at a position group relative to the existing roster
  2. Improve competition at a position group relative to future roster risk
Earlier in the roster building process the primary motivation was category #1, these days it's increasingly about future roster risk. It's not just about improving the current roster it's about introducing players who can incentivize the front office to not re-sign their own free agents because the drafted player is just as good and cheaper.
I called out 4 position groups in the previous article that were of the highest need
  • Wide receiver
  • Offensive line
  • Leo
  • Linebacker
Each one of these has specific future challenges, though the most interesting in this space is actually the linebacker position group because the existing roster is arguably very strong, however both Malcolm Smith and KJ Wright are both free agents after this year.

This brings us to a very interesting and important question: Will we sign one or both of these players to a second contract? I don't think the front office knows the answer to that question right now, but let's present some of the data points they will be looking at to frame the decision and get an idea ourselves where this might go.

To do that we have to look at the salary cap situation next year. Of course this means we also have to take a few guesses about Thomas and Sherman's deals, but that's not too hard to do.

2015 Contract view of roster and long term starters

  • WR1 13 Harvin
  • LT 7 Okung
  • C 6 Unger
  • TE1 4 Miller
  • RB 9 Lynch
  • QB 6 Wilson

Total 45

  • CB1 12 Sherman
  • FS 10 Thomas
  • SS 6 Chancellor
  • DL1 8 Bennett
  • DT1 6 Mebane
  • DT2 3 McDaniel

Total 45

  • K1 3 Haushka
  • P1 2 Ryan

13 paid positions for 95 mil, another 40 positions average about 700k or 28 mil to equal a total of 123 million in 2015 projected. Total cap of 133-140 depending on where we land in 2015. There is probably only room to put another good contract in there once you consider cap space for IR, etc

Who gets that money? M.Smith, Wright, Avril, Wagner, Baldwin? Does Lynch get cut?

You can see this is a difficult decision, that presents the likely possibility that one or maybe both outside linebackers will be allowed to walk. There is no way the Seahawks go into next year with that much weakness in that position group in terms of potential starters if both were to walk or even going into free agency with that big of a need while negotiating a contract.

The bearing of need on this 2014 draft

Let's get back to the Christine Michael point. If you are buying what I'm selling so far, then rather than viewing this pick as BPA you will likely come to the conclusion that this is about making it difficult to feel like we need to payout or extend Lynch when he is due to make 9 mil next year, because we have a younger cheaper player in development at a key position long before we need him to contribute on the field. This is how both BPA and need come together to form the Seahawks draft methodology.

I predict this may happen again at the linebacker position, and I would not at all be surprised to see them pick a guy like Ryan Shazier with the #32 pick of the draft. If Malcolm Smith and or KJ Wright are to get second contracts they better play 2014 like they are in the top five of 4-3 outside linebackers in the NFL.

This is why players like Tate, Browner and Giacomini didn't get their next contract from the Seahawks. Another team will always be willing to pay that 4-6 million-dollar range to get these type of players. I don't think we will going forward.

In summary, everyone is clamoring for offensive line and wide receiver, (myself included) but don't be surprised if when the higher graded athletes at those positions of need are off the board the Seahawks pull out another Christine Michael type pick. This of course will start all of the arguments about BPA which will probably cause me to get nauseated and close my browser to remain ignorant of the ignorance.

There is a very good article about Ryan Shazier over at if you are interested. Also his combine numbers were outstanding, and he apparently ran a 4.3 40 at his pro day:

  • Ryan Shazier, OLB, 6'1 237, Ohio State, 32.5" arms, 25 b, 42" v, 4.21 20s, 6.91 3c
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