Here we go, round by round grades. For each pick, I’ll list the players I saw as the best value available, with consideration for overall talent but also the premium of the position and the upgrade from existing talent for Seattle. As always, this is my opinion. I try to make it as informed and supported as I can, but this isn’t meant as gospel or an attempt to shout down disagreement.
28: Lawrence Jackson
Best Value: Kenny Phillips, Lawrence Jackson, Phillip Merling, Brian Brohm
It would have warmed the cockles of my heart for Seattle to draft Philips and be done with Brian Russell, but it’s clear Tim Ruskell drafts his defenses from the inside out. In his 4 drafts and 30 picks, Ruskell has only drafted two DBs. It’s not that I think he devalues the secondary, only that he values experience. Merling is an excellent athlete, but his résumé pales compared to Jackson’s. Given their comparative health, experience, character and level of competition, Jackson was definitely the safer pick.
Notes: Seattle traded their 25th pick for Dallas’ 28th, 163rd and 235th picks.
Defensive end is a premium position, and given Patrick Kerney’s age and Seattle’s defensive scheme, this pick satisfied my every criteria: Value, Need, Fit and Downside. Jackson is lot like Kerney, actually. Both aren’t considered top flight edge rushers, but both are non-stop, smart and have the size and strength to anchor against the run as well as rush the passer. Adding Jackson has fringe benefits, too. Darryl Tapp is the team’s foremost edge rusher, but comes with scheme disadvantages. Namely, he vacates outside containment with Freeney-like gusto. In a reserve/rotation role, Tapp is an excellent situational pass rusher and has headache inducing versatility playing the short zone in Fire Zone blitzes.
38: John Carlson
Best Value: Trevor Laws, DeSean Jackson, Brian Brohm
Carlson just misses the cut, mostly because tight ends as a rule have a limited period of effectiveness. I graded Carlson as a solid first round talent, though, so it’s debatable. Folks around here know my fondness for Laws' game, but Seattle found better value at DT in the 4th – not that we knew this then. I still can’t believe Jackson’s slide. Funny how groupthink pervades the NFL. I saw Jackson as a top 5 talent and think Philadelphia found an absolute steal in the mid-second round. It’ll be interesting to see how he functions in Andy Reid’s somewhat Holmgrenesque offense and wonder what could have been. Seattle didn’t see WR as a need and I don’t blame them. Brohm fell to Green Bay. The Packers loaded up on offense, though their defense is more in need of young talent.
Notes: Seattle traded their 86th pick to Baltimore to move up from 55.
Certainly the most controversial pick, I don’t doubt Carlson’s ability, only if he was worth both a second and third round pick. That third round pick likely cost Seattle an offensive tackle. It could be argued that Carlson is the best tight end Mike Holmgren has ever coached. Odd, then, that we might finally see just how valuable the position is in his final season coaching. I might grade this pick lower, it’s hard to stomach the value lost in moving up, but with New Orleans eyeing Carlson at 40 and Craig Stevens off the board a pick before Seattle’s selection in the 3rd, missing Carlson could have meant trotting out Jeb Putzier and Will Heller in week 1. Though I don’t know that Ruskell knew Tennessee would take Stevens, I imagine he’s still close with Titans GM Mike Reinfeldt and had some sense how much they valued him. I started by giving this pick a C, but the more I think, the more I think Carlson will be a special player for Seattle. His route running is superb. He aces my criteria of Need, Fit and Downside, and though I’m not fond of trading picks, Carlson is likely the best tight end talent to enter the draft since Heath Miller. When one considers that, Carlson’s polish and ability to contribute immediately to a franchise thinking "win now", his relative value becomes apparent. It’s been a slow process coming around to this pick, but one I don’t think I’ll regret.
121: Red Bryant
Best Value: Red Bryant, Tashard Choice, Keenan Burton, Frank Okam
I was obviously very high on Bryant, listing him as my best value defensive tackle of the 3rd round – but not for every team. I’ll elaborate on that in a second. I fully believe that Tashard Choice will end up more valuable than the Cowboys’ first round pick, Felix Jones. Keenan Burton is (another) great example of how much more volatile mock drafts are then the real thing. Burton became a favorite value pick for bloggers the world over after more than one "expert" predicted he would fall as far as the 7th, but c’mon. He’s polished, played in the SEC and blew out the combine. Okam is a great talent that has concerns about his effort. Many organizations would prefer a miscreant to a loafer.
Frank Hughes described Bryant as country. Read: Naïve. Bryant was a model of inconsistency at Texas A&M, easily neutralized against Texas, but drawing true triple teams against Oklahoma. Previewing Bryant I wrote:
Bryant and Atkins have something very much in common, great talent. Atkins is a project both because he exited college lax in his prep and play and because he lacked (lacks) great football skills. Bryant is a little farther along. Both could be starters, and damn good ones, by 2010.
163: Owen Schmitt
Best Value: Chauncey Washington, Barry Richardson, John Sullivan
It’ll be interesting to see what becomes of Washington. It shouldn’t be forgotten that it took injury and luck for Ryan Grant to finally start. Washington is six feet under the Jags depth chart and will have to do everything right in training camp, preseason and make an impact on special teams to even make the roster. Kinda stupid, really. Richardson was once considered a first round talent. I still don’t know why he fell so far. Sullivan is a fine center if you accept that’s all he’ll ever be.
That’s a prove-it-to-me "C". I don’t like picks whose hype trumps their accomplishments. I’d rather one that I know will contribute, not one with a cool nickname, good quote, good story and raucous nightlife. I think Schmitt’s got a shot, a shot to be real good, but I’m not convinced. And I certainly don’t see how fullback trumps offensive tackle, wide receiver, center or linebacker for upgrade over existing talent. It seems like Ruskell has been chasing a fullback forever. Leonard Weaver may not be the blocker Schmitt is, I don’t know not having seen much of Schmitt, but I’d imagine he’s a better rusher and receiver. For those who argue that it’s the fifth round and nabbing a starter at all is something, one, Schmitt’s a fullback, and, two, there’s no guarantee he’ll start. Nevertheless, despite my profuse critiques, I want Schmitt to succeed. I like the guy and his potential as a blocker definitely exceeds Weaver’s.
Pick 189: Tyler Schmitt
Best Value: Washington, Jonathan Hefney, Ali Highsmith
This would have been a hell of a time to grab depth at safety and linebacker.
Anything great ever done was once heckled, and for a second I’ll impersonate the mob. Every team in college employs a long snapper of some kind. This summer, literally dozens will graduate and nearly every one would sell their siblings into slavery for a shot at the NFL. Schmitt might be the greatest long snapper ever born, with a mechanized arm and a laser guided sight in his ass, but he still isn’t that much more valuable than any one of those dozens who won’t require a draft pick. It’s inconceivable, as in outside the limits of my imagination, that Schmitt will do anything so extraordinary for Seattle’s special teams to merit this pick.
Back to me. In the NFL, serviceable talent at linebacker and safety can be signed through free agency. Those players are almost without exception better than the talent available in the 6th round. San Diego State had only 13 punt returns despite punting the ball 73 times. They’re punter isn’t considered a special talent and like most fringe 1-A teams, they’re special teams isn’t particularly stacked. Regardless of his position, Schmitt is a talent that simply would not be available outside of the draft. Every year, games are won and lost because of special teams play – and not just the flash. Sound punts, good holds, good directional kicking and clutch field goals. This pick is about stocking Seattle’s roster with top talent at every position. Last season, the DVOA difference between the league’s top special teams, the Bears (9.1%), and the league’s worst, the Colts (-6.1%), equaled the DVOA difference between the Cowboys rushing attack (5.3%) and the Seahawks (-9.9%). Chew on that. Remember, everyone derides the kicker, punter, long snapper, until they need him.
Pick 233: Justin Forsett
Best Value: Highsmith, Hefney, Kirk Barton
Highsmith signed with the Cardinals. Cuntishy buncha Buzzsaw mothe…
I like Forsett. Some might think calling him a very late career Edgerrin James is a slight, but I disagree. James can play and Forsett retains a good bit more speed. It’ll be interesting to see what the pint-sized power back can do in the preseason. The simple fact that his game should translate elevates him above the Marquis Weeks and Reggie Bushes of the world. Rescued of regular duty, he might even see an uptick in speed.
Pick 235: Brandon Coutu
Best Value: See Above
I maintain convinced that Coutu is not an improvement over Olindo Mare. But I understand insuring against a collapse. Collectively, Mare and Coutu gives Seattle a very good shot at a very good kicker. That’s nothing to scoff at. I just wish it didn’t cost a pick that could have been used elsewhere.
Final Grade: A
My initial grade was an "A-". I decided that I’d drop that a whole letter grade if Seattle failed to sign an offensive tackle. I think now that Seattle really just needs depth at tackle and that doesn’t require a draft pick. Now, if I were drafting, I would have found a developmental tackle somewhere. That’s not an appropriate way to evaluate a draft, though. The closest thing to a peer Walter Jones has is probably Willie Roaf. Roaf played at a very high level until he was 36. Should Jones plateau at his current ability, that would give Seattle 3 more seasons of stability at the blindside. Maybe by then Will Robinson will look more like a tackle than a tight end. Anyway, depth at tackle can be acquired through free agency, or, and this will sound absurd coming from me, Floyd Womack should he join the cause and hit the weight room. He’s only 29.
My final grade is an "A". My reasoning is really quite simple. Seattle was able to attain 3 first round talents, a high upside fullback, a can’t miss long snapper, a pro able running back and strengthen their kicking game. Lawrence Jackson was so good for so long he became a bit of a forgotten man at USC. I believe his intelligence and total package athleticism could propel him into the upper echelon of defensive ends in the NFL. Aaron Kampman/Jared Allen territory. Where another team might have seen defensive end as a non-need, with their starting ends combining for 21.5 sacks in 2007, Seattle correctly evaluated Kerney’s probability of decline and Tapp’s potential as a non-starter regular. In the second round Seattle drafted a surefire first round talent whose stock had been devalued for all the wrong reasons. Antonio Gates couldn’t have produced on Notre Dame’s miserable excuse for an offense. Carlson wasn’t just the best talent at tight end in this draft, he’s the most talented tight end to enter the NFL since Heath Miller. Holmgren never needed a top tight end to get production out of the position, but I’m excited to see what he can do now that he has one. Red Bryant might be wasted on almost any other team in the NFL. The gee-shucks kid from places small and dusty could have been a Bengal or, God forbid, Cowboy. Another wasted 4th round pick. But in Seattle, with a class bunch of guys, Bryant’s silly athleticism - a little greater than what Kentwan Balmer is fabled to possess - will be alloyed with a peerless strength and conditioning program and honed by great coaches and the good kind of peer pressure. Owen Schmitt has much to prove and somewhat suspect athleticism, but venerable work ethic and epic ferocity. I’m not sure Seattle needed him, but hope he proves me foolish for doubting. Tyler Schmitt might just be a long snapper, but repeat that to me when the Hawks are wracking up safeties. Justin Forsett will be around long after faster, more hyped backs have faded and Brandon Coutu could be everything you want in a kicker, cheap with a strong leg. Like last year, it’s not how I would have drafted, but then, it’s better.