(Since you asked, yes yes, I have spent the last couple weeks introducing my 13-year-old to Douglas Adams.)
Joking aside for one sentence or two, what lies ahead is a pair of very different evaluations of the Hawks' 2016 draft. One's done from a pessimist's angle. It presents some good points. One's from the vantage point of an optimist. Obviously, all its points are good. I mean, come on, we just had Christmas in April, with 20 pretty, pretty presents deposited in our pantsless laps. How could you not be excited!
Easy. John Schneider hasn't given me a reason to be excited since 2012. Look at the list of selections we can legitimately call "Seahawk starters" from his 2013-14-15 drafts:
- Tyler Lockett
- Justin Britt
A) One of these things is not like the other. B) It's a short, sad, scary list, folks, because it's three years' worth of picks.
And don't get me started on the quality of the offensive linemen he snatched last week. Germain Ifedi is not polished, but we spent 1.31 on him. Rees Odhiambo can't stay healthy for a full season in the Mountain West, but we spent 3.97 on him. Sixth-round center Joel Hunt (6-1, 299) is smaller than Max Unger, who was often considered too light at 305 pounds. Defensive linemen aren't exactly getting smaller and slower, you know.
It's possible, maybe probable, that not a single one of these guys wins a starting job in 2016, on one of the neediest position groups on the team. I'm not sure the OL got immediately better this offseason.
Heck, Schneider took as many running backs as offensive linemen. That will replenish the RB room, for sure. It also provides me an opportunity to point out that no running back drafted by this front office has ever amounted to anything special. Robert Turbin, Christine Michael, Spencer Ware, Kiero Small -- only the third name is something of a star, and that's with the Chiefs. The others are just guys. So why waste three selections on runners when your best backfield acquisitions have been through trades and free agency? Especially in an era when teams will pass on RBs time and again, because fungibility? Especially when you've shown you can get a Thomas Rawls in Stage 2?
If you're going to overdraft three running backs at least make sure one of them can play fullback, maybe? Oh, no, you're not going to do that either. Mmm.
Another negative: nobody bothered to use the draft to restock an aging defense. Just two defensive players selected? So the Hawks led the league in scoring defense (by the doink of a Week 17 field goal) for the fourth straight season. That was a historic achievement. That was a Big Deal. Only now all the guys who led it there will be one year older this fall, and they'll be carrying around an injury history that just keeps growing. Because human bodies. And cells and mitosis and stuff. We don't last a Trillian years.
It's practically unconscionable to not take a pure pass rusher when your bookend DEs are already both 30 years old.
Topping all that off, it was a DB-free draft, just like in 2014. Guess which position group was in such bad shape last year that Cary Williams had to be mis-acquired, and mis-paid, for his constant misplays? That poor situation can be traced right back to poor 2014 decisions. Plus, it's not like the DB stable is all that impressive after Richard Sherman. Jeremy Lane hasn't played a full season as the starter in the slot. Tharold Simon gets hurt every year. Tye Smith couldn't see the field in 2015. Mohammed Seisay and Marcus Burley were non-factors. Kam won't last forever, not playing the way he does. Brandon Browner's back, as a shell of himself. If he even plays cornerback, that is.
Drafting a TE at 3.94 is a reminder that Jimmy Graham's health is fragile and Luke Willson hasn't turned into the difference-maker we'd hoped for. Nick Vannett might be the real deal. But at best he'll be replacing lost talent. Graham was good for 605 yards in his partial season as a Hawk. That's somehow more than the 585 Vannett finished his college career with. So Vannett has a reputation for being a good blocker. Good, because the raw tackles are going to need it.
I can be fair: We got some gifted athletes in the UDFA free-for-all. I'll even grant that Carroll and Schneider have made Seattle a destination for the best of the rest. But there's a reason those guys weren't drafted in the first place -- they are not premium prospects. Every team passed on the UDFAs an average of seven times. If these undrafted guys were that desirable, they would've been desired by someone.
You don't have to remind me Doug Baldwin and Thomas Rawls and Jermaine Kearse came to us undrafted. For that matter, same for Tharold Simon, Mike Morgan and others who figure to play a larger and larger role. There are jewels to be found after round seven. I'm a pessimist, not a stupidist. But hang on to this Deep Thought: jewels are precious because they're rare. Don't count on the undrafted saving this year's class. Maybe count on one diamond in the trough.
So when I grade Supposed Draft Guru Schneider in three categories, it isn't going to be pretty.
|Immediate need||C||Three OL is nice enough, 2 interior DL too. But the goods are damaged.|
|Long-term need||D-||Zero defensive backs. 2015 lesson not learned. Zero pure pass rushers. Not enough defense, period.|
|Process||C||Gave away this year's and next year's fourth. Got good value in trading down and on the defensive side but reached for at least a couple of the offensive players.|
Averages out to a low C-. That's not the quality of draft that sets up "winning forever."
(Caveat: Reserving the right to upgrade the grades, if one of Ifedi and Reed becomes a multi-year star and saves this draft.)
Can I stop biting my tongue and holding my breath?
John Schneider Jedi'd the draft again. His plan worked to Hannibalistic perfection: use the UDFA period to claim athletes who in any other year would've been fifth- and sixth-rounders.
While everyone else is stocking up on defense because of how rich the draft is on that side of the ball, he spends 8 of 10 picks on offense -- and still gets highly regarded DT's at 2.49 and 5.147. Not only that, he acquired the guys he specifically anted, using superfluous picks as assets to move up before anyone else could claim them.
Let me remake my entire point: the guys he would've picked any other year in the fifth and sixth round were available in free agency, right after the last pick. He didn't ignore needs, like linebacker, safety, quarterback, and others. He just calculated that enough of them would fall past the seventh round. Then they could go anywhere, sure -- but more on that in a few paragraphs.
Rob Staton had mocked Jarran Reed to Detroit at 16, calling him on the most recent 3000 NFL Mock Draft podcast "a top 10 talent." Yes, in the whole draft. To get him at 49 is a level of larceny that could get rival GM's fired.
Schneider traded down and traded up; he proactively kept this year's third-rated quarterback out of the hands of the QB-starved Cardinals by sending the pick out of conference. All of the team's moves telegraph one important message: this was a draft executed with purpose, with proactive moves to get in position for the guy(s) they wanted. Pete and John most emphatically did NOT let other teams dictate when they would pick and who they would pick. Lots of GMs will speak of the beauty of "letting the draft come to them." Lots of those GMs are now paid studio analysts.
Also to their credit: the FO didn't kick the OL can down the road. Three linemen were drafted. Need: fucking addressed. Everyone's favorite subject: officially brought up.
That unit is better today that it was a week ago. And it's better in pass pro, too. Odhiambo was an all-conference honoree known for his pass-blocking skills. Hunt allowed 10 total pressures in his final two seasons. Combined.
Ifedi is the big unknown. Literally. The 6-6, 324-pound man with 36' arms has all the physical tools. If he has the mental ones, he'll be great. Let's just do a spot of quick armchair psychoanalysis to ascertain if he'll hold up menta--
Getting three rookie linemen also keeps the line cheap, in this new era of "RW Gettin Paid." Speaking of which, two mobile Russell Wilson understudies are coming in to camp as free agents. Duck Vernon Adams and Frog Trevone Boykin. The Hawks like Boykin -- his total compensation of $30,000 is considered aggressive recuitment by UDFA standards.
Which brings me neatly back to the oft-overlooked UDFA phase. That pool's where the Hawks needed to fish for linebackers, backup QBs, defensive backs and assorted other footballers. And in order to land the big ones, they'll need to travel across space and time to retroactively establish the Seahawks as a post-draft destination for free agents.
Or they could have actually spent the last six offseasons building that reputation. Then, no Improbability Drive required!
Proof: the Longa story. Rutgers linebacker Steve Longa told his agent he didn't want to get drafted by just anyone in the late rounds. Instead, he said if the "fitth round is over and my name doesn't get called, I don't want to get drafted. I want to pick and I want to pick Seattle."
If you believe he's the only one who thought like that on Saturday, maybe you'll be more at home in the Pessimist's section.
The list of confirmed UDFA signings can be found here, courtesy of the excellent Bob Condotta, who produces admirable content, considering he was sold into indentured servitude to masters at the undead Seattle Times newspaper.
Nick Vannett's ceiling is Zach Miller.
Lastly, the running backs. Because the league has started recently to devalue RB in the draft as a whole, college stars are more likely to fall to needy teams. And the Hawks are a needy team. Beast Mode is gone, Thomas Rawls is not yet healthy and not yet established anyway. Christine Michael played for three teams last year.
In the midst of a playoff push, Seattle once started something called a DuJuan Harris and backed him up with a random spare Bryce Brown. I'm guessing they don't ever ever want to do that again.
Enter C.J. Prosise, Alex Collins and Zac Brooks. Read Jacson rave about Prosise here, read Rob do the same for Collins here, and just use your imagination for Brooks. You know, like you might've used it for Rawls 12 months ago.
I'm seeing the perfect execution of a draft-day strategy, the addresssing of needs both immediate and long-term. No need to be a paranoid android. Reassuring grades are merely seconds away.
|Immediate need||A-||Replenished both lines for cheap after guys left for not-cheap. RB room is refurbished.|
|Long-term need||B+||Had to get Vannett for the post-Graham era. Now the OL is young and hungry.|
|Process||A||Traded down in first to pay for later trades up. Used the assets at their fingertips to get exactly who they wanted exactly when they felt it necessary to act. Even dipped into 2017 because of comp pick surplus. Cashed in on organizational reputation to attract top-flight UDFAs.|
Averages out to a solid A-. That's how you win forever -- by kicking ass throughout the entire draft process.
So long, and thanks for all the clicks.