The world didn’t get much of a look at safeties Delano Hill or Tedric Thompson in 2017, but opportunities to prove themselves are opening up at Seahawks OTAs this week. With Earl Thomas skipping OTAs and Bradley McDougald, Mo Alexander nursing injuries, Hill and Thompson are gaining snaps with the starting defense, something that should be really beneficial to the team finding out what they have in the midround picks of a year ago.
Here’s what Pete Carroll had to say about the pair, as reported by Bob Condotta:
“It’s big camp for these guys,’’ Carroll said Wednesday. “Both of them were kind of introduced (last year) and now they need to go. And there is a chance for these guys. They are both really accomplished athletes, they are both smart kids. They run well, they fit well, they get it you know? And so it’s how far can they take it, and that’s going to be about instilling confidence in them and teaching them really well and (defensive backs coach) Andre (Curtis) and (secondary coach) Nick (Sorenson) are really digging into those guys and hoping they can really take them and make the big jump that guys can make sometimes and give them a chance to compete for starting time. So we’ll see how it goes.’’
The decision to draft two safeties has befuddled some in the Seahawks community but this time for Hill and Thompson to play as if they are starters (and “compete for starting time” per Carroll above) should at least bring to light if they could be starters.
I don't know whether the 2016 3rd round or using two 2017 mid round picks on safeties is more depressing— Ben Baldwin (@guga31bb) January 4, 2018
Perhaps Seattle’s decision to draft Hill and Thompson while they had Thomas, Kam Chancellor, and McDougald last year had something to do with the continued devaluation of the position. The Seahawks did not trade Thomas or cut Chancellor, so they clearly still value their two All-Pros, but maybe they see that time in the near future where they decide they can no longer pay $20 million annually to their two safeties — especially when guys like Tre Boston, Kenny Vaccaro, and Eric Reid remain free agents.
Much like with running backs, if teams are devaluing the position on the free agent market, it stands to reason that they could also be devalued in the draft and potentially great ones are available after the first round. Look at Budda Baker falling to round two last year, and the LA Rams picking up John Johnson at pick 91, one after Seattle selected Shaquill Griffin, and four picks ahead of Hill. Johnson quickly picked up the starting job for the Rams and played extremely well for a rookie.
Eddie Jackson went 112th overall, after Griffin, Hill, and Thompson, and started all 16 games for the Chicago Bears, recording two interceptions, one forced fumble, and three fumble recoveries. Could the Seahawks have gotten just as fortunate with their selections of Hill and Thompson at picks 95 and 111? It’s possible, given that Seattle didn’t avoid playing Hill or Thompson, they simply didn’t have those opportunities available.
When Thomas missed two games, McDougald stepped in and provided a more experienced option to start at free safety. When Chancellor missed seven games, McDougald again provided the more experienced option at a time when the Seahawks were trying to make the playoffs. Seattle did re-sign McDougald, pushing Hill and Thompson slightly further away from additional snaps on defense, but I’m sure they just really liked what they saw from him in 2017 and they sincerely did not know if they’d be trading Thomas and losing Chancellor for good.
McDougald’s three-year deal pays him $3.33 million this season but if Hill had a wildly good offseason, then it sounds like Carroll is committed to letting it be an open competition for anyone who wants those starting reps. We don’t have much evidence at all to support the idea of Hill or Thompson being good, nor do we have much reason to believe they are bad. They just needed the opportunity and this is certainly one of those.
We should have a better idea soon of how good or bad those picks really were.