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On John Carlson's Draft Position, Value And Seattle's Need For A True Tight End

Even when you're very young, a year isn't so long. But, damn, does it change everything. Had John Carlson left college in 2007, he might be a Bear now. Widely considered the best tight end in college football and fresh off his finest season, Carlson could have flashed the combine the high-hat top prospects are entitled. Made a token showing at Notre Dame's pro day and effortlessly stood atop 2007's modest draft class. Instead, Carlson finished school, Greg Olsen zipped past Zach Miller thanks to Olsen's 4.51 40 and, moreso, Miller's 4.87. Carlson's numbers dropped on a horrendous Irish offense, scouts took notice, he bombed at the combine and plummeted down every two-bit mock draft worth two-bits. Did Carlson make a colossal mistake? Has he really fallen as far as the 4th?

No, April Fools was yesterday. Despite their very different 40s (and little else), Miller and Olsen had very similar rookie seasons. Similar yardage, touchdowns and DVOAs on similarly crappy pass offenses. Pre-Combine, most saw Miller as the better overall prospect. Post, Olsen shot up slightly. Slightly. Because, despite all the silly prognosticating, the pundit waggery claiming Miller might fall into the second day, he was drafted just 7 picks after Olsen.

Likewise, I suspect most NFL teams with an interest still have Carlson atop their tight end boards. Like Miller, the 40 is the only drill Carlson really performed poorly at. He finished in the top ten in the vert and at both shuttles. And depending on how you see Dustin Keller, no other tight end did enough to truly distinguish themselves. Keller may have improved his stock, but only so far as from certain second day pick to possible second-rounder.

So, then, if Carlson is still likely atop most team's board, or close behind Martellus Bennett or Fred Davis, and is still unlikely to slip into the second day, the question is less where Carlson slots, but more is he worth Seattle's second round pick? Seattle isn't totally strapped for a tight end, having two starter ready options in-house, Jeb Putzier and Will Heller, and Joe Newton on their practice squad. Should Seattle ever wish an H-back, they have Leonard Weaver ready and several fullbacks to take his place. In reality, the Seahawks only need a tight end because a) no one on roster is a complete blocking/receiving tight end, and b) none project as anything better than a serviceable player; A stopgap. Therefore, tight end is not so much a need as a position Seattle can readily upgrade.

Among the top receiving tight ends, Carlson is widely considered the best blocker. He's worked in a pro style offense, one in which he actually played tight end. That's an important distinction that's often lost, tight end is not a player but a position on the field. When a player labeled tight end is split wide, he is not a tight end but a slot receiver. Blocking might be Carlson's strongest argument. Among his class, only Bennett is anything close to Carlson as a blocker. Within Seattle's roster, Putz doesn't block and Heller does little else. Drafting Carlson would give Seattle a starting tight end that can and actually does play tight end. Of the top ten tight ends, only Carlson, Bennett, Kellen Davis and, maybe, maybe, Brad Cottam can claim that. I'll say right now, I'm way down on Brad Cottam. Cottam struggled to climb the Volunteers depth chart and recorded 21 receptions in three seasons. His final five, also known as his senior season, took 12 attempts to reach. I'll examine the other two, and provide a full scouting report on Carlson in the next few days.

But to answer the question posed in this post, is Carlson worth a second round pick? Yes. Once upon a time, when Mike Holmgren was Seattle's general manager, it was common knowledge how important the tight end position is in Holmgren's offense. In his last season as GM, Holmgren selected super-toolsy tight end, and all-around argument for Hobbs' State of Nature, Jerramy Stevens. It was among Holmgren's greatest failures. Stevens bombed for all sorts of reasons, but if Holmgren's eye for talent (or character) failed him, his knowledge of the West Coast didn't. Ever the traditionalist, Holmgren knew a top tight end could be invaluable. Stretching the seam and opening space for the short routes the WC is built upon and providing the kind of versatility as a blocker and receiver to explode through the run game and capitalize through play action. Be it Bennett, Davis, Cottam or Carlson, a top, true tight end would improve Seattle's offense across the board. Not many second round picks can claim that.