There is a difference between "instant reaction" and "instant grading" and I think that it would serve a better purpose if more people called out the talking heads of national media for confusing the two. The instant reaction to the selection of Bruce Irvin by the Seahawks at pick 15 was "What?" and understandably so. Nobody saw this pick coming.
It was surprising to most of us because almost nobody in the national media had been giving Irvin a first round grade. "People" saw him as a 2nd or 3rd round pick because of his "one-dimensional" defensive game and his off-field issues with the law. And when I saw "people" I mean it in the general term of "us, the people that don't actually work in NFL front offices."
Clearly there was at least one set of people in NFL front offices that did see Irvin as a first round pick and several reports after the pick claimed that as many as seven front offices saw Irvin as a first round pick. It's a reminder that our perception of the draft in the months leading up to it is significantly skewed by what people like Todd McShay and Walter M. Football* tell us about the perception of the draft.
*M. stands for Moron.
So our instant reaction was shock and awe but it probably shouldn't have been because while we perceived Bruce Irvin as a "2nd round pick" the reality of the situation is that he wasn't and now our perception of Bruce Irvin should be that his "value" in the draft as actually as a first round pick. The only reason we were confused was because of all of those talking heads that just didn't know as much about how teams saw Irvin as the teams did.
We don't know how Irvin's career will turn out yet, but you don't have to look far for examples of players that were considered "considerable reaches" in the draft that turned out to be inaccurate projections by Mel Kiper and others. Lofa Tatupu was considered to be a "3rd or 4th round draft pick" at best and Seattle moved up to draft him 45th overall. The pick was ridiculed by many... Now we know that Tatupu is considered to be one of the best draft value picks in the Seahawks history after an immediate appearance in the Super Bowl with a defense that was led by Tatupu.
I would not put that kind of pressure, the pressure of living up to the impact and presence of Tatupu, on Irvin or anyone else but it should help to ease the worry that a players future is determined on draft day. The early returns from draft day 2011 show that Seattle might have drafted a player worthy of a high first round pick - and they actually got him (Richard Sherman) at pick 154. Of course it's still too early to give realistic grades to Sherman, Doug Baldwin, K.J. Wright, or any other player that Seattle drafted or acquired as rookies last season, but at least one season of data is better than no seasons.
Giving a grade to draft picks during the draft is like grading English papers based on which students have the hottest asses.
It's a completely pointless and unfair exercise. You don't have any tea leaves that are going to tell you which players will be great and which ones will be busts. Aaron Curry wasn't only the fourth overall pick in 2009, he was considered to be one of the best defensive physical specimens in draft history and two seasons later he was benched for a guy picked 99th.
Just imagine how many heads would have exploded, how many cities would have come crumbling down, how many death threats would have been sent, if the Cleveland Browns had selected Tom Brady with the number one overall pick in 2000.
"Holy shit, the Browns have just made the worst pick in DRAFT HISTORY AND IT'S NOT EVEN CLOSE!"
"I don't know what the Browns were thinking, they take a guy that has a 6th or 7th round grade as the first pick and pass on a future Hall of Fame defensive end in Courtney Brown." - What Mel Kiper would have said.
Of course, you can't change history and expect the same results. We don't know what Tom Brady would have become in this scenario. The chip on his shoulder from going 199 certainly had something to do with his success, as did Bill Belicheck, but the point still remains that we can't give passing judgment on a draft pick before Bruce Irvin even puts a Seahawks cap on. I trust that Irvin will use the chip on his shoulder, from being called a "reach," as motivation to break the will and the necks of opposing NFC West quarterbacks.
Maybe I should be thanking the talking heads for doubting him.
More thoughts after the jump.
People Can Mature and Get Better When You Give Them a Chance
For anyone that reads my other blog, you know that I don't mind getting personal and living my life as an open book. I am not ashamed of who I am and I don't mind telling a story that might apply to the Seahawks or the NFL if I think that it's relevant, even if it's indicting.
When I was in high school, either 16 or 17, I got a job at Target. Like most teenagers, I didn't really have a high sense of moral ground, but I would never doing anything to hurt anyone else. I don't consider Target to be a person, more like a mega-corporation with billions of dollars, so I had nothing stopping me from going into work every day empty-handed and leaving work every day... not-so-empty-handed.
I worked there with my best friend and we both were just "runnin' the game" as if we were up-and-coming criminals on The Wire or The Sopranos. We just wanted to be "bad-asses" that weren't scared of the law, living by our own set of rules. "Yeah, look at this Montell Jordan CD I just swiped, son!"
"This is how we do it!"
Up until the day that I walked into work empty-handed and was fortunate just to walk out of work without my hands in cuffs.
I was immediately taken up to a private room behind the two-way glass that sits above Customer Service and asked if I had anything I wanted to tell them. I knew that they were serious because the guy that was questioning me, while not a cop, was not a person I had ever seen at the store before. He was the undercover security.
I didn't even deny it and I wasn't too stupid to realize what was going on. I was honest, I told them everything that I took because I had seen the proof of the hidden cameras, and I was simply told to pay them back. I was obviously unhappy that I had lost my job, that I had been caught, that I had to see the look of disappointment on my mother's face, but I also just felt like I was given a second-chance and given an opportunity to break the law (dozens of times over a couple of months) and not be charged with anything or have anything on my record.
I paid Target back and never shoplifted or stole anything again. My life of crime was over.
Of course, not everybody is like this. Some people are lifelong criminals and some people live by their own set of rules for their entire lives, determined to disobey authority until they die. I grew up in the middle-class neighborhoods of Bellevue, not in a rough neighborhood in Atlanta like Bruce Irvin did. I would never pretend to compare our specific situations and think that just because I lifted some DVDs at Target that it's anything like what Irvin had to do to survive and maintain a decent livelihood in a bad area of Atlanta.
But it does serve as an example that people change when they're given a second chance. People grow as they get older and are given new opportunities. People better themselves when other people show that they believe in them.
Pete Carroll and John Schneider have shown Bruce Irvin that they believe in him. Carroll is no stranger to working with young men that have grown up in rough neighborhoods and dire situations. He has spent most of his life helping these young men become grown-ass adults that take responsibility and use their power for good and not evil. There isn't another person in the NFL that I would trust more to take care of a person with a troubled background than Pete Carroll.
I believe in Irvin, I believe in Carroll, and I believe that his future with Seattle and what he does when he's not at practice or with the team, is bright.
Now all Irvin has to do is prove us right for that belief.
Does this look like a bad guy?
Players Get Better On the Field, Too
I have been writing for over ten years but I was a pretty shitty writer when I was 19. Some people will still tell you that I am a shitty writer. People that read this very website! And maybe I am but I am a hell of a lot better today than I was ten years ago, five years ago, and five weeks ago. We get better, we improve, with hard work we might even become good or great, but through time, preparation and practice we get better.
Athletes are a funny breed in this respect because they rely on what their body allows them to do so unless you're Jamie Moyer you will not get better as an athlete with each passing day. It's a bell curve. You peak. You will eventually start to go down at some point.
But Bruce Irvin and most other prospects not named Brandon Weeden aren't sitting at the top of that bell curve. They might be close to the top but they also might be far away. Either way, many of them are on the way up.
As of today, Irvin is a "situational pass-rusher" that could only play third downs. He's been rated as a player that's going to struggle in coverage and struggle against the run, so most people don't expect him to be on the field for "running downs" and that's probably a fair assessment based on what we've already heard from Carroll.
That doesn't mean that he's never going to be a more complete player. Irvin is
22 24. He's physically gifted to the point where his ceiling probably includes a few aspects to football that he doesn't have yet.
I sort of expect that when Irvin's career is done, he will have more than one "position" assigned next to his name. Terrell "Muddy May" Suggs was the 10th overall pick in 2003 and in his first season at "LB" he started one game and had 12 sacks, 1 interception, 3 pass deflections, five forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries and only 18 solo tackles.
An exceptional pass rusher and a force to be reckoned with if Suggs, one of the best pass rushers in college football history, was able to get his massive arms around you.
But by his next season Suggs had already become a more complete player and as he's moved from LOLB to RDE to ROLB, Suggs has emerged as more than a pass rusher and become one of the best defensive players in the NFL. I would never put those kind of expectations on Irvin, but it just sets an example that "situational pass-rushers" can also become the most valuable player on your defense.
Don't judge Irvin based solely on what he is, but on what he could become.