The 2014 NFL Draft is two months away, and just because the Seahawks are finally picking 32nd, it would be foolish to think they couldn't still have the best class in the entire league. I'm not saying that it's going to happen necessarily or even that they have the best shot at it happening, but draft position has correlated very little to future success when it comes to the John Schneider/Peter Carroll regime.
Take a look at their first draft in 2010, when Seattle had their best draft position in the last four years.
Yesterday I was looking back at a buttload of 2010 mock drafts and it's incredible to think about the number of different possibilities that could have happened with the sixth and 14th pick of that year. I believe that the only person to get it right -- Russell Okung and Earl Thomas, of course -- was actually Mel Kiper. But it wasn't always that way.
In Kiper's first mock that year in January, he had the Seahawks taking Derrick Morgan and C.J. Spiller. In the months leading up to the draft, a large number of drafts had Seattle taking Spiller, whether it be at six or 14, and plenty more had them taking Morgan. Other possibilities included Eric Berry, Bryan Bulaga, Dez Bryant, Trent Williams, Jason Pierre-Paul, Brandon Graham, and Taylor Mays, and while some of those players are great (and others would have been a complete disaster) I don't believe that any combination results in a 2014 Super Bowl victory.
Except for that one combination.
But that would not have been enough that year to build a potential dynasty. The Seahawks needed far more than just two good players. Carroll and Schneider also added Golden Tate in the second, Walter Thurmond in the fourth, and Kam Chancellor in the fifth. They may have had a huge miss with E.J. Wilson in the fourth -- as they have been wont to do in the fourth round -- but that's why this front office compiles as many picks as they can without losing out on the players they desperately want.
Thomas is one of only four players from that draft to make three Pro Bowls, and one of just three to have at least two All-Pro appearances. (NaVorro Bowman -- once thought to be a first rounder that slipped to the third -- has three.)
Seattle, San Francisco, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati were the only teams from that draft, so far, to draft two players that have made multiple Pro Bowl appearances.
In 2011, a surprise playoff appearance and postseason win had the Seahawks picking 25th, and they whiffed on James Carpenter, but they'd find Richard Sherman in the fifth: One of only three players from that class to make two first team All-Pro lists. K.J. Wright has thus far outperformed his draft status, as has sixth round pick Byron Maxwell and seventh round pick Malcolm Smith.
Of course, 2012 brought the One True God, and we have yet to really see what benefits the 2013 class could reap but I get the feeling that it's a lot more than we've seen so far.
So as it stands, the Seahawks are picking last in every round and don't have a third rounder as of now, but that hardly means they won't come away with elite talent. The names they pick might not be like "Clowney" or "Bortles" -- but is that such a bad thing?
Rob Staton at Seahawks Draft Blog is the smartest NFL draft expert that I know. I sent him five questions about the upcoming draft and he was nice enough to give me the only kind of answers he knows:
1. Which quarterback has a present draft value that is the furthest away from his future NFL value? Whether it's as a bust or a steal, which QB is being completely misjudged right now?
I think the quarterback who's being misjudged the most is Johnny Manziel. For whatever reason, conventional wisdom is still rampant throughout the league. It's like certain big name pundits and decision makers are scared to death of anything different.
I keep hearing concerns about missed receivers downfield and trying to do too much. Remember Russell Wilson rejecting the option to throw to a wide open deep receiver against the Cardinals in week 16? Or his long run against the Redskins in the 2012 playoffs despite Sidney Rice being all alone forty yards upfield? Unfortunately, this kind of thing happens with a scrambling quarterback. These players are not perfect. But you know what?
They do so much to compensate.
Too many people are focusing on what Manziel can't do, and not what he can do. All of the questions you have about Manziel should be answered in the interview room and through your research on his background. If you believe he's going to be the driven, football obsessed leader every team craves -- you don't waste any time thinking about the time he missed a few easy reads. You think about him doing to Nick Saban's secondary what no other quarterback has done to Nick Saban's secondary. You watch that Duke Bowl game. If you spend your life looking for Peyton Manning prototypes you'll end up waiting a long time. You only pass on this guy if you don't trust him as a leader.
I specifically asked Rob about Teddy Bridgewater, whom he had dropped to 11th overall and going to the Titans. That's as low as I've seen Bridgwater projected so far, but if Rob predicts a possible slide, I tend to believe it. Every year at least one quarterback -- from Matt Leinart to Aaron Rodgers to Brady Quinn to Jimmy Clausen to Matt Barkley and Geno Smith -- goes down further and further as January turns to April.
I dropped Teddy Bridgewater a little (and #11 is still a very high pick) because I think he's a low ceiling, high floor type of quarterback. Blake Bortles and Manziel have the potential to be better players in the long term. Bridgewater can be a slightly better Andy Dalton for someone. Basically the top three quarterbacks can go in any order. It just depends what you're looking for.
Bonus Question: Is there a QB that you think the Seahawks should draft if he were available in rounds 5 through 7?
I liked Tom Savage at Rutgers and while he's bounced around a little, he has a skill set you can buy into. He's a developmental guy you can groom over 2-3 years. He'd be a really nice choice. It wouldn't surprise me at all if he went a little earlier than some of the bigger name players. I also think Logan Thomas will go earlier than people expect. Connor Shaw is worth a camp if you get the chance.
Savage is a 6'5 QB that played at Rutgers, Arizona and Pittsburgh that's likely going to slide in the draft because... he played at Rutgers, Arizona and Pittsburgh. (He never played at Arizona, only staying for one year and redshirting due to NCAA rules before Rich Rodriguez was hired and had no use for a "prototypical" quarterback.) He was a four-star recruit out of high school and a huge get for then-coach Greg Schiano, and Mike Mayock referred to him as a "wild card" of this draft.
Not that Savage will eventually turn into a star, but if you're wondering how great quarterbacks can be had in later rounds, this is one of the ways that it happens.
2. Which first round pick is the total dud? Every single first round has at least one player (usually more) that turns out a near-zero performance at the NFL level. Who could that guy be in 2014?
I think it could be Anthony Barr.
He was vaunted as this outstanding athlete all year and a shoe-in to be a top ten pick. I was never completely convinced. His technique is all over the place, he doesn't know how to shed a block. His hand use is appalling and his upper body strength is a cause for major concern. There are a lot of games where he doesn't do anything on tape.
And yet he did look like an excellent athlete. So I kept him high, thinking someone would see him as a raw pass rusher with insane upside ala Ziggy Ansah. But that was the only reason I had him going in the top-15.
Now we know he's a 4.66 runner with a mediocre vertical and broad jump. He's got length, but he had a really disappointing combine. It wouldn't surprise me if in a year or two Barr's already struggling for playing time. There's a misconception that receivers are a high-risk pick in round one. Look at the pass rushers drafted in the first frame over the last ten years. There's a lot more busts.
Barr needs to improve in so many areas -- he needs to get stronger, show better technique and learn how to counter. That's a heck of a lot of work.
I recall Barr being a player that was mocked as a possible top-three pick in January, and he's been sliding fast ever since. Staton has dropped him 19 spots from his January mock draft to his February mock. It would be interesting to see if he's still a first round pick come May.
In continuing that theme, I tracked all of Staton's differences over that time frame and asked him about some of the "fallers" in the draft. That includes: Cyrus Kouandjio (once thought to be a possible top-15 pick, some reported failed physicals could have him going in the later rounds), Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Antonio Richardson, Louis Nix, Allen Robinson, CJ Mosley, Jace Amaro and Brandon Coleman.
All of those players, with the exception of Mosley and the possible addition of Barr, could have some interest to Seattle's needs.
3. Who is the best "Faller" of the 2014 draft as of now?
I think there's some value to be had for sure. This is going to be a draft where quite a few of the bigger names take a slight tumble. I think we'll see teams going after needs even more aggressively than usual -- knowing the depth is good enough at most positions to get a decent player at pretty much any position.
Out of those names I like Coleman the most. It'll take him a year to get going but after that -- watch out.
Allen Robinson is a limited athlete but a high character, big effort receiver. Kouandjio's knee issues are a major turn off and he could sink like a stone. ASJ needs to can the attitude, while Richardson (injury) and Amaro (average) just didn't do anything to help themselves at the combine.
Other players jumped above these guys, with the exception of Coleman who I've always rated higher than most people. So for that reason, he'd be the one I'd see most value in taking. He has Josh Gordon-style potential if he gets time.
"Josh Gordon-style potential"??? Well hello there. Why don't you come up and see me some time? Woof. Hubba hubba. A-wooooooooga!
Coleman is another player out of Rutgers, another player that's dealing with questions about his knee. But he's 6'6 and his 4.56 40-yard dash is plenty good for a player of his size. Brandon Marshall ran a 4.52 at 6'5, 229, and was rated as the 26th-best WR in his class by NFL Draft Scout. Right now nobody has Coleman going as high as Rob does (he last dropped him from 32nd to Seattle to going 43rd overall -- still higher than anyone else) but he could see his stock rise as the draft process continues.
Mayock isn't as high on Coleman as Rob is, but does find him to be "interesting."
So while Rob may see him as a "faller" based on how he views Coleman, he might actually "rise up" to see himself taken by the Seahawks in the second round.
Speaking of which (I love it when a transition comes together), I flipped the question around a bit for my follow-up:
4. Who is the worst "Riser" of the 2014 draft as of now?
Staton had seven guys in the first round of his latest mock that he didn't have in January: Aaron Donald, Kony Ealy, Morgan Moses, Ryan Shazier, Brandin Cooks, Jimmie Ward, Chris "Al" Borland, and Stephon Tuitt, whom he had going to the Hawks.
Out of that group I'd say Ealy. I don't like his tape. But I think someone is going to be enamoured by his other-world three cone time (vital drill for pass rushers) and the idea he can be Michael Bennett. I'm not a huge fan.
On tape I think Shazier at times gets caught in the storm -- we often don't see just how good an athlete he is because he's not especially good at directing traffic. But wow, what an athlete and what potential to work with.
If anyone puts Cooks ahead of Odell Beckham Junior because he ran slightly faster, that'll be a mistake in my eyes. In future mocks I might drop all three of those players a little.
Donald is one of the best prospects in the draft even though it took me a while to properly get into his tape. Once I did that, there was no going back. Stud.
Moses can play left or right tackle. Ward might be a better safety prospect than Calvin Pryor. Borland is just a guy you want on your team badly and Tuitt's reported 4.8 at 303lbs the other day is intriguing.
I'm not the draft expert that Rob is, or even that Kevin Costner is, but when I saw that Cooks went from a second round pick to a first round "lock" for a lot of mock drafters after running a 4.33, that was an immediate "overrated" red flag for me. It also makes me wonder, much like Chad Jackson of Florida from 2005, whether he's actually much of a lock at all.
Finally, the question you've all been waiting for:
5. Who are some players that you would start working the phones for if they slipped to around the 25th pick in the draft and would be willing to trade up to get?
Aaron Donald, Mike Evans, Odell Beckham Jr, Kelvin Benjamin, Marqise Lee. Can you tell I like this receiver class? I wouldn't move up for any offensive lineman because Nevada's Joel Bitonio is as good as anyone not named Greg Robinson.
Rob took a closer look at Bitonio after he had an excellent combine performance, and came away even more impressed than he was by just looking at his impressive measurables. Drafting a tackle that could slide into the spot on the right side but possibly show enough promise to be an above-average left tackle would be a huge get for Seattle. Though Alvin Bailey and Michael Bowie have flashed promise in that respect, you can never have too many options at offensive tackle.
Well, I suppose you could have like 91 options or something. That would be too many. You can't have that many tackles in camp, it just wouldn't work you guys. Get your heads on straight.
It would be very surprising to see Evans fall to the twenties but in a class with so many impressive receivers, you just never know which teams will fall in love with certain players and maybe Evans slides a bit.
Wanna feel old? There are now players coming out of USC that weren't recruited by Pete Carroll.
Wanna feel older? There are babies being born today... I mean, they're probably a lot younger than you.
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