Way back in March 9th, I wrote in great length about the Seahawks' needs with regards to their position in the offseason, as well as what needs they need to be filled through trades, free agency and the Draft. The three main needs that I addressed were as follows: Interior Pass Rusher, Backup LEO, and X Wide Reciever.
Since then, the Seahawks signed Cliff Avril & Michael Bennett, and traded for Percy Harvin. Yowza.
There's been talk with regards to Cliff Avril's role as a LEO, and he's certainly a good replacement/backup for Chris Clemons should he be placed on the PUP to start the year. However, more recently, Avril has talked about having a dual role in playing a little bit on the outside linebacker position, as well as the aspect of standing up. This was a sentiment echoed by both John Schneider and Pete Carroll.
So, if Avril is really to play as a roaming linebacker to the likes of a 3-4 OLB, then Carroll may very well be letting his defensive coordinator Dan Quinn implement some 3-4 aspects to his "traditional" 4-3 scheme. With Red Bryant and Chris Clemons both entering their cap casualty years, Avril may very well be seen as the next LEO or a return to the usual 7-tech.
Then you have Bennett, whose versatility in playing both interior and exterior positions makes me see him as how Datone Jones should/would be used. While I believe that Bennett may be used in the role Jason Jones was used in last year, it's possible with so much mobility and natural quickness on the line that he may very well earn some snaps for both Red Bryant (if a passing situation dictates it or the offense is playing from behind) and Chris Clemons (injury).
Consider that we currently have seven potential starters (with a Branch re-signing) on a rotation that only demands four players. Brandon Mebane is the only "lock" at 1-tech and Bruce Irvin is the 3rd down specialist. After that, it's a mix-and-match extravaganza. We'll see how things turn out as camp approaches and we get a better sense of the young guys' improvement.
Now what about Harvin? At first glance, he's definitely not the "big split-end target with some speed" that I discussed last time. He is, however, the playmaker that completes "the third downs, quick gains and touchdowns on goal line passes" which will, no doubt, expand the Seahawks' offensive capabilities. I also believe we have overlooked Harvin's capabilities, not in terms of what they explain about Darrell Bevell's gameplan but rather what impact it has on the philosophy this team wants to run; numerous articles from Greg Cosell and our very own Daily Norsman have pointed out the ability to stretch the field and confuse defenses with triple options, end arounds, direct snaps, etc. and there's no doubt this will be implemented come September.
But what Harvin excels at is yards after catch and making people miss in the open space. I believe this is all part of the grand plan for the Seahawks' offense to tire their opponents out not only in terms of physicality but also in frustration. With Marshawn Lynch never going down on first contact linebackers and DL must step up and tackle again and again to bring him down. You may shut down Lynch, as hard as it might seem, by gang-tackling and bringing up multiple guys to hit him low. But then you have Harvin, whose pure athleticism is designed to force you stick with fundamentals and open-field tackling. Combine this blunt force to not one, but two guys who makes people miss and does wonders in space, then the defense is bound to be gasping for air when you switch from the two aspects. In turn, when Russell Wilson or the coaches spot a mistake or an opportunity to strike, they have the necessary tools to go for big gains in the middle or deep passes in Zach Miller or Sidney Rice.
So What Now?
With three important needs checked off and the loss of a 1st round pick, there's no doubt that a lot has changed with regards to my viewpoints on the draft. And as close as we think we are to the Superb Owl, I still believe that every team in the NFL has needs and weaknesses, every year.
Yet because PC/JS were so adamant in fixing their pass rush problems I really don't see a need to pick for a specific position in the 2nd round - Seattle's first pick. I do believe that the duo might return to a more BPA (best player available) approach they followed in 2010, rather than the drafting for need in 2011 and 2012. Therefore, this version of my big board will again highlight team needs, but the actual players that I want for the team might simply be available for the best value.
This is the first year that the FO can "splurge" on whatever players they might believe will make an impact on the team without having to sacrifice for not addressing a weakness. In turn, because of this freedom, there really isn't a need for a specific round to be filled by. (I'm also convinced that because teams do make their own big boards, round grades shouldn't matter and will be used only as a method of comparison).
Interior Run Stuffer/3-Tech/3-4 DE: Should Alan Branch walk away from Seattle, I do believe this will be the only highlighted weakness in terms of our defense. Bennett's tape revealed that he may be better at the run game than Jones was inside, but I'm not trusting Bennett yet to take on two gaps, nor man the nose tackle position or the 5-technique/3-4 DE. The one thing that the Seahawks' DL lacks right now is size and strength, and having as many pass rushers as you can get your hands on doesn't do squat when the middle is easily penetrable.
Joker TE: We talked about Zach Miller not being healthy and why this is a need despite having both Anthony McCoy and Sean McGrath on the roster (Cameron Morrah is a free agent). Likewise, because of a deep TE class this year, there are a plethora of options for the Seahawks to take as backups/competitors for the role. The 2nd round has also opened up a potential selection for Jordan Reed or Zach Ertz here. Indeed, I think PC/JS might be looking to double-dip in terms of this position (similar to what New England did in 2010) so that the McCoy-blocker and Morrah-reciever roles are combined into two solid players that they can use on the field at the same time.
DB that can play Slot/Nickel: Last time I addressed a lot of small time DB's that can be easily accessible late because of their limited skills. However, there are still many interesting players to look at despite the huge gap between Dee Milner and the rest of the group. I also think that PC/JS might be looking for a developmental player they can transition into the slot but can also play on the outside if necessary. Again, versatility is the key thing here.
Weakside Linebacker: Avril's hints at playing some snaps at WLB makes it interesting to see if this is really a position of need. My guess is that Malcolm Smith and Mike Morgan will be rotating/fighting for a spot on coverage plays and in turn sharing their snaps with Avril.
Depth and Backups (especially for WR): Because your starter is always one play away from being injured.
-- I think the offseason moves made suggest that PC/JS sees this class as weak in terms of stand-out talent but strong for depth building/development. There really isn't a Bruce Irvin you need to walk away with or a Russell Wilson to covet. This isn't a knock on the class in general, but I think a lot of players taken here will have solid, productive careers that aren't necessarily HOF worthy. This is very evident between the talent "gaps" of players in the same group. I mentioned how Millner separates himself a great distance from Xavier Rhodes and Desmond Trufant, not in the sense that the latter two will fail but Millner's ceiling is higher than whatever both can do. This is the same with Tavon Austin and the WRs and Eddie Lacy and the RBs.
-- Our own Davis Hsu wrote two years ago about the Green Bay model and its philosophy on John Schneider. This might be the year where it will go into practice - not in the sense that the Seahawks will trade down three times and wound with even more picks (though they still could) - but it shows that JS has done his homework and is willing to trust his board to the point where he believes the best players in the draft might be there at #56. This is a sentiment I believe too, as you will see below.
-- Don't be surprised if the Seahawks double-dipped in certain positions like they did in 2011. The classes that are deep here are filled with a lot of good players, and in their position this team can afford to make luxury picks and still be set for the future nor be at risk for overconcentrating a large portion of materials on one group.
Mike's Seahawks Big Board (Top 50 Players)
Should still be avliable by Round 2:
1. Tank Carradine, DE, Florida State
2. Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama
3. Datone Jones, DT, UCLA
4. Jordan Reed, TE, Florida
5. Zack Ertz, TE, Stanford
6. Eric Reed, S, LSU
7. Darius Slay, DB, Mississippi State
8. David Amerson, DB, NC State
9. Jesse Williams, DT, Alabama
10. Markus Wheaton, WR, Oregon State
Should still be available by Round 3:
1. Dion Sims, TE, Michigan State
2. T.J. McDonald, S, USC
3. Gavin Escobar, TE, San Diego State
4. Marquess Wilson, WR, Washington State
5. Sio Moore, OLB, Cincinnati
6. D.J. Swearinger, S, South Carolina
7. Brandon Jenkins, DT, Missouri Southern
8. Travis Kelce, TE, Cincinnati
9. Ryan Swope, WR, Texas A&M
10. Jordan Hill, DT, Penn State
Should still be available by Round 4:
1. Shamarko Thomas, S, Syracuse
2. Jelani Jenkins, OLB, Florida
3. Brandon Jenkins, OLB/DE, Florida State
4. Zavier Gooden, OLB, Missouri
5. Jordan Mills, OT, Louisiana Tech
6. Kyle Long, OT, Oregon
7. Sean Porter, OLB, Texas A&M
8. Levine Tolio, TE, Stanford
9. Nickell Robey, DB, USC
10. Terron Armstead, T, Arkansas Pine-Bluff
Should be available by Round 5:
1. Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina
2. Joseph Fauria, TE, UCLA
3. Xavier Nixon, OT, Florida
4. Matt Scott, QB, Arizona
5. Jake Stoneburner, TE, Ohio State
6. Chase Thomas, OLB, Stanford
7. Mark Harrison, WR, Rutgers
8. Cornelius Washington, OLB, Georgia
9. Chris Jones, DT, Bowling Green
10. Ace Sanders, WR, South Carolina
Should be avaliable by round 6/7:
1. Elvis Fischer, OT, Missouri
2. Sheldon Price, DB, UCLA
3. Denard Robinson, RB, Michigan
4. Ricky Wagner, OT, Wisconsin
5. Walter Stewart, DE, Cincinnati
6. Ray Ray Armstrong, S, Faulkner
7. Montori Hughes, DT, Tennessee-Martin
8. Terron Jones, OT, Alabama State
9. Tony Tatum, DB, Gallaudet
10. Caleb Schreibeis, DE, Montana State