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Positional Value in the NFL Draft

On the heels of my Corey Liuget to the Hawks post, I wanted to both defend my pick regarding the positional importance to the Seahawks, and also point out why it probably won't happen the way I hope.

I came across an article this morning that talks about the changing landscape regarding the value of certain positions in the NFL draft and wanted to point it out to you. The conventional wisdom of drafting would rate quarterbacks, offensive tackles, and speed defensive ends as the most valuable commodities in the field of positions. While that still may be true, interior offensive linemen and defensive tackles are making a push to be included on that list as well. The reason cited in this article by Dan Pompei for the National Football Post is that offenses are changing.

NFL offenses are eschewing the conventional deep drop backs for short dropbacks and quick throws. This puts more value on the interior 3-tech pass rushing position and less so on the outside edge rushing defensive ends. Also, because these players are becoming more important, so are the interior linemen designated to stop their rush.

As Pompei puts it in his article:

If a defensive tackle can penetrate, either through power or quickness, he can force a quarterback to adjust even on a well executed short drop that's intended to yield a quick pass. "Because the ball comes out so quickly so you have to be able to push into the quarterback, take away his ability to step up and force him to stay deeper in the pocket," said one head coach who is considering taking a defensive tackle very high in the draft. "So an explosive pass rusher, whether it's a three technique or nose, who can give you inside push has become more important."

We've seen the impact that Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy have had on their teams in year one and teams aren't ignoring that fact. Defensive Tackle is one of the deepest spots in the draft this year, but Marcell Dareus and Nick Fairley are not expected to get out of the top 10 (or even top 5). This is another reason Corey Liuget (to my despair) is moving up boards as well. Conversely, it's also why guards like Mike Pouncey, Rodney Hudson, and Danny Watkins (as well as Will Rackley and Ben Ijalana) are moving up so high as well. 

When we talk about the prospect of choosing a guard or defensive tackle with our first pick in the draft this is what may be on John Schneider and Pete Carroll's minds. Conventional wisdom would dictate that you take guards later in the draft but that wisdom might be changing. Recently, Warren Moon and Ray Roberts mentioned on Brock and Salk that they'd take an interior offensive lineman or defensive lineman with #25 over any of the QB prospects and any other position (it's a pretty funny clip, check it out). These guys both played the game for a long time so I take their opinions seriously. It's something to keep in mind as we get closer and closer to day one.

So will Liuget fall to #25? Maybe, but the more I think on it, not likely. Phil Taylor, Muhammad Wilkerson, and perhaps a dark horse a la Tyson Alualu will all be taken before him and he'll make it to #25. If he does, I'd say grab him in a heartbeat. But if he doesn't, does that mean that we want to look at the number of really talented guards or tackles that are still available? Do we go with a guy like Muhammad Wilkerson to bolster depth at the 5-tech and hope he can play 3-tech? This is why being the GM is such a difficult job.