Lately I've noticed a few buzzwords that are being commonly used when referring to the Seahawks. The most common of those are "The Seahawks grade their draft picks by their high ceiling" and "The SB champions have lost players and will not be as strong in 2014 as they were in 2013".
Both are interesting because they are wrong. Those are wide spread misconceptions IMO and usually come from those who did not take the time to look closely at the Seahawks and what they do.
Here is my take on both:
"The Seahawks grade their draft picks by their high ceiling" – NO, it's actually the opposite. The Seahawks grade their draft picks mainly by their floor.
"High ceiling" is a very vague term. It is usually used to describe players with impressive athletic attributes of speed, strength, size etc. that have so far failed to play up to their physical capabilities. (in other words – their tape is less impressive then their combine stats)
The idea behind the "high ceiling" label is that if those players will learn to play the game perfectly they could make use of their superior physical attributes to be better then others who are less athletic but more skilled right now. There are many players who ended up reaching their high ceiling, being great starters and pro bawl selections, once they had the benefit of the right coaching and scheme fit. There are also many players who did great without outstanding size or speed. Combine stats are very easy to get and grade in a neat table and when you look at it you find that for every top round pick on that table there are 2-3 other "high ceiling" athletes. Most of those will be a total bust. You don't get to the combine without showing your craft over years of college play. If you didn't make it on the field in college there is usually a reason for it.
If you look at what the Seahawks are after you can see 2 parameters used – conditions and grades. There are certain conditions used to pick players. Failing to meet those conditions will make them avoid a player no matter how high he is graded by everyone else. They adapt those conditions from year to year as they go along. The 2 main conditions are – High ceiling athletically (a special attribute - speed, size etc….) and mental compatibility with the team philosophy and manpower (character, grit, competitive attitude etc.). Failing to comply with either of those will cause immediate rejection.
Once the list has been narrowed down, it's being graded by the players' floor. The "floor" is another vague term. If you take into consideration that we are talking about players with high ceiling and character compatibility – their floor is defined by their production in college (i.e. – great athlete but not a great football player so far), physical deficiencies (i.e. - yes he is fast and tall but fragile or he is big and strong but not very fast etc.) or medical issues. Obviously the players with high ceiling, mental compatibility and no floor issues are picked at the top of the first round. When the Seahawks get to pick there are always some floor issues. Some of those issues like Richardson fragile frame are deemed a higher floor then say Norwood lack of special speed/size hence he was graded higher. Britt's experience and proven play at SEC level makes his floor higher then say Scott from Marshal or Gilliam.
We look for high ceiling and character candidates and we grade those players according to their floor. We swing for the fences and grade against busts.
As for the other prediction - "The SB champions have lost players and will not be as strong in 2014 as they were in 2013" – This is an automatic knee jerk type of response. It has always happened in the past. SB champions are being stripped of their assets, pick later in the draft and are not as strong the following year. Many such champions get to be champions by boosting their roster with "Win now, pay tomorrow" deals that affect the future negatively. It's a fact and it should apply to the Seahwaks just like it did for every SB champion in the past. But is it true?
Not really. Two main factors work for the Seahawks unlike any other SB champion in the past decade – Minimal roster lose combined with a horrendous championship year injury list.
When you look at the projected 2014 roster and compare it with the 2013 roster group by group you can see that most groups are either "as good" or better then they were during 2013.
Here goes –
RB- The gang is back, Lynch is at least a year or two from decline, Michales may show potential for improvement, the young HB's are healthy and a year smarter. As a group they are as good if not better then 2013.
TE – McCoy is back, Willson should make the 2nd year jump, Miller is back and healthy. As a group they are as good if not better then 2013.
QB – Quarterbacks take a few years to mature and learn the game. 2014 RW should be better then 2013 RW. T-Jack is a safe backup. As a group – slightly better then 2013.
OL – We lost Breno and McQ. None of them was a top10 or 20 in his position. This group was decimated by injuries all year. At times we played without both tackles and center. The rest of the line was Carp out of shape after missing the whole pre season with injury and Sweezy – a 2nd year defensive lineman. Just having a healthy Okung and Unger is a big improvement over 2013. Sweezy looks bigger and stronger and should keep improving. Carp looks in shape and hungry. Bowie and Baily will benefit from the 2nd year quality jump. Britt may be a contributor. Without a new injury epidemic this group should be a lot better then 2013.
WR – We lost Tate. A healthy Rice or Harvin are far better then Tate. Both healthy plus Richardson/Norwood/Matthews are by far superior to the 2013 WRs.
Offensive summery – All groups are at least as good as the 2013 roster. RW should get better; OL and WR should greatly improve. The 2014 offensive roster should be BETTER then the 2013 one. WOOOOW.
DB – The legion is alive and well. Thurmond and Browner were not starters by the end of the year. Max should improve. PC is a secondary genius. The depth may be shallower but as a group – as good as 2013.
LB – Everybody is back. As good as 2013.
DL – This is the only questionable group. We lost Clem, Red and McDonald. We have healthy Jesse, Hill and Scruggs and hungry Brooks, Boatright and Mayowa. Add a few rookies and we should work it out but it's not a sure thing.
Defensive summery – DB and LB should be as good as the roster of one of the best defenses to ever play the game. The DL is a question but with key players like Mebane, McDaniel, Avril and Bennett it should be almost as good at worse. The best defense in the league in 2013 should at least be one of the best in 2014.
Overall summery – The 2014 Seahawks should see an improvement on offense with a minor to none decline on defense. Not bad for SB champions.