Oh, hi there. I'm Chris. You might know me from other Seahawks blogs such as Seahawk Addicts or Thirty Acre Fortress, or from various redacted WikiLeaks cables. EIther way, I'm new around these parts and happy to be joining the best Seahawks blog on the web (arguably one of the best NFL blogs, period). Thanks to Danny for having me on board, and thanks to you for reading. Assuming you're still reading. If not, ya'll's face is busted anyway.
One of the most difficult things about football is projecting a player's real-world potential in the NFL. It's why guys like Akili Smith and Mike Williams bomb-out early and Tom Brady and, er, Mike Williams end up as success stories despite being written off. Scouts are good, necessary even, but it's impossible to actually capture all the relevant attributes to determining what the true upside of a player can be. That said, I wanted to take a look at some of the Seahawks' bubble players, and do exactly that. I'm a glutton for punishment (and cold pumpkin pie). Speaking of gluttonous pursuits of that-which-we-should-avoid...
Golden Tate: The donut caper himself is probably not actually on the bubble, but to most fans right now, he is. When you spend a second round pick on a speedy skill position player, you typically like to think of something other than deep fried dough and frosting when you mention his name. But, hark, disgruntled fans, and take a look at Mr. Tate's upside:
Percy Harvin (MIN). Steve Smith could be the easy choice here, because for the last decade every short WR has been compared to Smith, and unlike most of them, Tate is actually built similarly to Smith (which is to say, strong). However, the key difference is that Steve Smith is an every down type of player and Golden Tate doesn't seem to have that in him. Like Harvin, Tate needs to be used for what he's good at, which is to say, tomfoolery. He was a high school running back, college reciever, and by George, he was even floated as a wildcat QB option when drafted. Tate is not as talented as Harvin, but the basic toolbox is the same, plus a bit of added upper body strength.
Doug Baldwin: Let's stay with the wide-outs, shall we? Doug B. Fresh is something of an enigma. He's good, that much is clear, and in reality Baldwin may end up seeing more regular season snaps than his more lauded counterpart above. Still, he's small, he was undrafted, and, while fast (4.45-4.50 second 40-yard dash), he's not a burner. A realistic upside for Baldy?
Jason Avant (PHI). Avant is among the best slot recievers in the NFL, but his is not a name that pops up often when people talk top WRs. This is not a guy you draft unless you're in a 16-team fantasy league, in other words. Avant has better size than Baldwin, but only just, but the thing that separates these two is their route running and solid hands. I don't expect to see Baldwin too often over the first two or three seasons, but I do expect him to have a great first-down to reception ratio.
Josh Pinkard: Another guy, like Tate, that we'll see from time to time, but not as an every down player. Pinkard profiles as a guy who can step in to play either safety position, or move up in nickel situations to cover the slot. He has the speed and nose for the ball to blitz, but his injury history suggests the team is unlikely to rely too heavily on him as more than a role player early on. Upside?:
Sam Shields (GB). Now, to be fair, Shields is a CB, not a safety, so this is a bit of a stretch, but Pinkard did play CB in college under Carroll. Like Pinkard, Shields was an undrafted player in 2010, who showed up and surprised many during training camp. He spent the year as the Packers' primary nickelback, and when given a chance, flashed. Shields ended the season with two interceptions and 29 tackles, but in the playoff game against the Bears he doubled his interception total, recorded a sack and a forced fumble. To me, that's the quintessence of Pinkard: he will make plays when you give him a shot.
Malcolm Smith: Coming off a knee injury really didn't do any favors for Smith, but looking at recent history, he could be poised to join a long line of good-to-great USC linebacker products. Smith has excellent speed (4.48 at his pro-day), a sick vertical (39 inches), and above average coverage skills. Smith looked like a star in 2009, but his draft stock plummeted due to injury and a very rare eating condition in 2010. Smith's upside?:
Will Briggs. Which is to say, a hybrid of Will Herring and Lance Briggs. I think Smith's upside is significantly higher than Herring's ever was, but his size and athleticism remind me of a poor man's Lance Briggs. Don't hear me wrong: Malcolm Smith won't be the next Lance Briggs. However, with above average cover skills like Briggs, and decent play against the run this pre-season, I think Smith could profile to a starter in the league. Unfortunately, Smith's elite athleticism comes with only average strength for a linebacker. He has trouble getting off his blocks, and doesn't appear to have great pass rushing skills. We'll find out if Leroy Hill ever gets injured, though.
Josh Portis: Because we Seahawks fans are in dire need of hearing something -- anything -- positive about our quarterback position, I figured I'd cover Portis, too. Portis looks like an incredible athlete with a sick arm. The verdict is still out beyond that. If he can learn to make reads and stay healthy (always a risk for such an athletic QB), he has a very high ceiling.
Daunte Culpepper. Do me a favor and ignore the last five years of the NFL. Okay, now, cool. Whoa, Daunte Culpepper two!? On OUR meek football team? Sign me up, yo! So, Culpepper has become the football equivalent to both athlete's foot (unsightly, disappointing, sad when it affects you) and Tinactin commercials (John Madden mentions him from time to time, funny when it's not affecting you). Before that, he averaged around 245 yards per game through the air, 5.5 yards per carry rushing, 63% completion percentage, a 1.74-to-1 TD to INT ratio, and a metric assload of fumbles. That's not too bad, and if you can sell Josh Portis like that to a couple of teams, his true upside might be a 1st or 2nd round pick in the 2014 NFL draft.