Aloha! Today we'll be discussing the approach Pete Carroll and John Schneider have taken to fill out the Seahawks offensive line. Both have been quoted several times expressing their concern that college football is no longer producing plug and play caliber players. The emergence of the spread offense means that collegiate OL are no longer asked to do the same things they once were. The result of this is that the highly ranked OL coming out of college still have a lot to learn, and teams don't even know if they'll be able to adapt and acquire the skills it takes to compete at the next level.
For a team like the Seahawks, with a solid O Line coach in Tom Cable, it just makes more sense to draft for athletic qualities and measurables rather than production. It's why they move a J.R. Sweezy from DT to OG after drafting him. It's why they're trying the same with Kristjan Sokoli. Gilliam is set to compete for the left tackle spot, and he was a college TE convert from DL. They believe that with the low level of experience in the traditional pro style offense coming out of college, they'd have to basically start from square one with any OL they draft. So why burn a high pick on player A when they can get player B, who has similar measurables, in round 5?
While I understand the rationale behind this mindset, I must admit that we haven't seen it consistently work out. Our OL seems to always be one year away from gelling, and each year a key player has left via free agency. But you only need to look at the rest of the league to see that teams who thrust their highly drafted rookie offensive lineman into starting roles have several problems.
The first, and most obvious problem, is that the rookies struggle. Almost all rookies in all positions have their growing pains, but OL seems to be the biggest drop off and slowest climb back up to quality play. Year after year we see all the player comparisons for rookie tackles and guards. Year after year we hear the draft pundits talk about how this player or that player will be a perennial pro bowler. And once the season starts, those same players seem to fall back down to earth. The athleticism is there, but they just look lost. There are, of course, exceptions to this, but those exceptions are typically drafted far higher than the Seahawks have been able to draft in the PC/JS era. They come at the expense of making the playoffs the year before.
The second, and less quantifiable problem, that teams who draft their OL high have is supporting talent. Take Dallas. They have for several years been regarded as the standard for a high performing OL. While they struggled a bit last year, they were still in the top half of the league based on Football Outsiders metric. Unfortunately, on the defensive side of the ball, they were 17th against the pass (often playing from behind so teams had less need to throw on them) and 29th against the run (burn that clock, baby). If you watched any Cowboy games over the past couple years, you'll hear the color commentator heap praise upon them for spending so many high draft picks on their offensive line. "That's how you build a great offensive line" they exclaim. It's also how you build a bad overall team.
For every high pick a team spends on an offensive lineman, they are missing out on picking a talent at another position. Given college football's trend of producing OL that aren't prepared to make an impact their first couple seasons, it seems prudent to draft other positions that will have an immediate impact early and wait until later to draft project OL. Would you rather have Tyler Lockett (pick 69) or Hronis Grasu (pick 71)?
It's easy to look at the sacks given up last season, coupled with our free agency losses of incumbent starters, and assume that we should use any resource necessary to bolster the OL. Looking at the games where we had the most problems, it was against the Aaron Donalds and Kawann Shorts of the league. Our problem wasn't on the edge, it was inside penetration made by pro bowl players. While I personally think that Gilliam will be a step down from Okung this year, I do also think he's serviceable enough to protect Russ long enough for him to do his scramble thing. What we need is more help between tackles, and there is plenty of depth for that area in later rounds. There are draft gurus who will tell you that there are fewer OG to be had later in the draft, but keep in mind that PC/JS like their OG to have played OT in college. So, a draft deep at OT is deep at OG as far as the Seahawks are concerned.
I'll probably still be pulling my hair out come draft day, because that's just what I do. We have this tendency to take what we're told by draft gurus as infallible truth, and base our immediate reactions of who we draft vs who else was available on their draft boards. After this many successful seasons, this FO has earned our trust. I want that stud left tackle to combine with a cerebral and solid center, and hey, maybe throw in an agile mauler at left guard. Maybe one of those players is available in round one. But I'll say this: if we pass on OL with our first pick, I won't panic.
Thank you for reading. Hope everyone has a great day!
And now...to the links!
TEF follow up: 2015 class & thoughts on the center position | Seahawks Draft Blog
Are the Seahawks really letting Tom Cable pick his guys? Or are they looking for explosive athletes to combat the likes of Aaron Donald?
Seattle Seahawks mock draft: with no early offensive linemen!
A Seattle Seahawks mock draft that looks at the scenario where the team decides not to address the offensive line until the very end of the third round.
NFL Draft News & Notes: April 8th
Less than three weeks before the NFL Draft kicks off and there’s plenty of news to catch up on.
Bobby Wagner and Richard Sherman get into "Twitter beef"
Seahawks teammates Bobby Wagner and Richard Sherman faced off against each other at Emerald City Comiccon, as they divided up teams to play Call of Duty: Black Ops 3. (Editors note: I would pwn both of them)
Chris Clemons will have to compete for Seattle Seahawks roster spot
Little of Chris Clemons' contract with the Seattle Seahawks is guaranteed, meaning that the veteran defensive end will have to earn a roster spot.
Seattle Seahawks Rumors: Could 2016 NFL Draft Surprise Fans?
New Seattle Seahawks rumors about the 2016 NFL Draft suggest that none of the analysts really know who Pete Carroll wants to take in the first round.
WFNY’s 2016 NFL Draft Coverage: Joe Gilbert’s Top Five Interior Offensive Linemen - Waiting For Next Year
A list of the Top 5 interior OL for the 2016 NFL Draft.
2016 NFL Draft: Grade A beef at tackle, but guards, centers lacking - CBSSports.com
Ole Miss left tackle Laremy Tunsil and Notre Dame's Ronnie Stanley lead an impressive batch of offensive tackle prospects in the 2016 NFL Draft. Need a guard or center? Better act early.
2016 NFL Draft: Exclusive Q&A With Sleeper DT Justin Zimmer
Division II defensive tackle Justin Zimmer is the most exciting sleeper prospect in the 2016 NFL Draft. Let's learn more about his game.
Which SEC defensive lineman should go earliest in 2016 NFL draft?
Which SEC d-lineman will be the first off the board -- A'Shawn Robinson? Jonathan Bullard? Jarran Reed? Chris Jones? Robert Nkemdiche? You make the call.
WFNY’s 2016 NFL Draft Coverage: Joe Gilbert’s Top Five Offensive Tackles - Waiting For Next Year
With the NFL Draft approaching, WFNY's Joe Gilbert takes a look at Laremy Tunsil and 2016's top offensive tackles.
Talented tight end prospect arrested | ProFootballTalk
Tyler Higbee of Western Kentucky, who's considered one of the top tight ends in the 2016 NFL Draft, is facing multiple charges after an early Sunday morning arrest in Bowling Green, Ky.
Ex-Browns safety Donte Whitner visiting Rams - NFL.com
Donte Whitner was released by the Cleveland Browns last week but the safety has already yielded interest from one club. The LA Rams will host Whitner for a visit this week, NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reports.
Arbitrator upholds NFL's use of paid leave for players under personal conduct policy
An arbitrator has upheld the NFL's use of paid leave in disciplining players under the personal conduct policy.
Best draft move for every NFL team since 2011
J.J. Watt and Russell Wilson were easy choices, but NFL Nation dug deep into the past five drafts to find the top selections for all 32 teams.