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The First 74: A look back at a 1st round without Russell Wilson

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Two years after the Seahawks grabbed perhaps the best mid-round pick in franchise history, it's not too early to start to re-evaluate the players taken ahead of him.


It behooves me to tell you two things: A) That Rolling Stone is covering the upcoming NFL season, which will be their first time doing so. B) I'll be one of their writers that is doing just that. On Monday, I made my debut at, with this article on the Top 5 QBs in the NFL. If you enjoy what I do here, then I encourage you to check out what I'm doing over there and share it with a friend. People may not be fully aware yet that we're (I just said "we" about me and Rolling Stone) covering the NFL and want to get the word out so that I can keep doing that. Thanks very much!

Pete Carroll has been an NFL head coach for seven total seasons, and was possibly the most dominating coach in college football for nearly 10 years, but still I think that Russell Wilson is the most special player of his career. Despite how much the Seahawks 2013 championship has to do with what Carroll has done on defense, I don't believe any of it is possible without a player of Russell's caliber leading the offense. Without Wilson, Seattle may resemble a team more like the late-80s Vikings that Carroll got his NFL start with as a defensive backs coach.

Good, historically great in some areas, but not great-great. Everyone's always keeping tabs on who the "elite" quarterbacks are and few will acknowledge that Wilson could be in that category, but I contend he's at least "great-great" so far. Carroll will probably never win a Super Bowl without Wilson but I do believe Wilson will win a Super Bowl with another coach besides Carroll.

Of 12 quarterbacks to win a Super Bowl within their first five seasons, seven won it again. Four of them won it a third time. But not many people thought that he would ever get to be great, let alone great-great, during the 2012 draft.

He was the 75th player taken overall, the sixth quarterback, the third player out of the University of Wisconsin, went after former NC State teammate T.J. Graham, and also punter Bryan Anger. But two years later, Wilson has more PFR CareerAV than any other player in the draft. Out of all the players taken that year, he's first in passing touchdowns and fifth in rushing yards.

Wilson does benefit from playing with a great defense that keeps every game close, but if it wasn't for his second half heroics, Seattle would still be a team that probably loses a lot of close games and almost certainly does not win the Super Bowl.

This isn't a post about how all these teams are stupid for not drafting Wilson (though at times it is an article about how the Browns were stupid for various reasons) but rather just an opportunity to review the 2012 draft and how things are shaping up for these players and teams after two seasons. Focusing on just the first round in this part, we see that a number of players have already changed teams and more could be quickly on their way out. People often refuse to believe that the guy their team took first will be bad, but getting drafted is only the infancy of a player's NFL career.

And often, cute infants eventually grow up into idiot adults.

Some of these players are arguably as good to have as Wilson is. Some of them are just really nice. Some of them may have been as laughably bad then as they are now (Brandon Weeden is the one. It's Weeden.) But none of them, I repeat none of them, are Russell Wilson. And that's a problem for almost all of these teams.

Because he's great-great-great.

Here are 32 players that aren't Russell Wilson, a look back at the 2012 draft and whether or not those teams would benefit greatly from having the great-great.

1. Andrew Luck, Stanford - Indianapolis Colts

From the moment that the Colts had locked up the number one pick, there would be no lack of lock for Luck to land in the number one spot. That's right, they didn't slack on clock to pluck Luck from Stanford's stock. I've been told by at least one Indy fan that Robert Griffin would have never gone to Indianapolis and no matter what reason you want to use, what's a better one than this:

Why would you ever replace Peyton Manning with anyone other than Manning's closest comp since he entered the league?

I know that I've been especially hard on Andrew due to the fact that he's really the only thing standing between my guy and the "Best Young QB" label for most people, but I can admit the truth: He's phenomenal. As far as phenoms go, he's one of them.

Luck is the only reason that Ryan Grigson won Executive of the Year in 2012 and it's certainly questionable as to whether or not Bruce Arians would have been Coach of the Year and current head coach of the Arizona Cardinals if not for Luck. (And if it wasn't for Chuck Pagano missing most of the year, obviously.)

Two seasons, two Pro Bowls, two playoff appearances, a 22-10 regular season record, and all with a rather pedestrian supporting cast. If there is one player in the 2012 class that you could take ahead of Russell right now, it's Andrew. But I still say this:

The only real goal every year for every team is to do something that eventually helps you win the Super Bowl. Now that Wilson has done that, what regret could you possibly have in selecting him?

Need a QB? No

2. Robert Griffin III, Baylor - Washington Redskins

If all things were equal in regards to health, then Griffin, Luck, and Wilson would pretty much keep all things equal in terms of who you'd want to start your franchise with. But I don't think it's an overreaction to be legitimately concerned that Griffin will never be the same after tearing up his knee against those very Seahawks in the playoffs.

Need a QB? Wellllll

3. Trent Richardson, Alabama - Cleveland Browns

Despite rushing for just 3.3 yards per carry in his NFL career, Richardson has already cost two teams a first round draft pick. And somehow he still wasn't Cleveland's worst pick in 2012.

Need a QB? Only time will 'Ziel.

Get it??? Only time will "ZEIL"?!?! JOHNNY MANZIEL.

4. Matt Kalil, USC - Minnesota Vikings

A Pro Bowler as a rookie, Kalil took a step back in 2013 due to injuries and inconsistency.

Need a QB? Yes

5. Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State - Jacksonville Jaguars

While Blackmon's production seems to have surprised some that thought he was a reach at five (I personally thought he'd make a pretty good NFL receiver) his future in the league is murky. Overall, the Jaguars come away pretty bad in this draft, and that's usually how a team winds up 11-37 over the last three years.

In 2011, Jacksonville drafted Rod Issac 147th overall. That's notable because Issac was the 30th defensive back selected in that draft and the 31st was Richard Sherman. Issac "played" three games in his career, recording no stats.

Need a QB? Only time will Bortles.

6. Morris Claiborne, LSU - Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys traded up to get Claiborne, and they're reportedly considering more trades involving him. He could become the second player in the top six of this class to be dealt within just two years of draft day. Unfortunately for Dallas, it's probably too late to get much value here.

Need a QB? Not since they signed Brandon Weeden, am I right?

7. Mark Barron, Alabama - Tampa Bay Buccaneers

I know that some people don't care for Pro Football Focus's grades, but I'd at least rather they see a player graded positively than negatively. Barron has ranked 75th and 59th among safeties in PFF's grades in his first two seasons, respectively. He appears to be an atrocious pass defender.

He had knee surgery in the offseason and may not be at 100%. The Bucs chances of rebounding in 2014 won't be quite as good if Barron is only playing at 70% of the 70% he's been producing so far.

Need a QB? McNown? More like McYeswn.

8. Ryan Tannehill, Texas A&M - Miami Dolphins

The third quarterback taken, it would be a shame to call Tannehill's career as "adequate" but this is the age of young quarterbacks that we live in. Despite the fact that he's arguably been a top-15 QB over his first two years, and has made the transition to the position unlike most ever have, nothing about Tannehill seems to scream "star."

In 2012, the competition for Matt Flynn came down between Seattle and Miami. While the Dolphins wound up with Tannehill and Matt Moore, the Seahawks landed Flynn and Wilson. Seattle came away with both the biggest dud and biggest stud in that equation.

Need a QB? Not as much as some other things. I think the Dolphins will be very bad.

9. Luke Kuechly, Boston College - Carolina Panthers

A lot of people mocked Kuechly to the Hawks in the first round, though many argued that he was being overrated based on tackles at BC and that his success wouldn't translate to the NFL level. The Panthers blog Cat Scratch Reader even noted that "Drafting Luke Kuechly would be a mistake."

We don't know if the Seahawks would've taken Kuechly had he been available, but it certainly wouldn't have been a bad selection: Kuechly won Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2012 and then Defensive Player of the Year in 2013. While many bemoaned the fact that he won that award, a second look shows that he was tied with NaVorro Bowman for fourth in Pro-Football-Reference's AV stat with an 18.

Peyton Manning, Broncos guard Louis Vasquez, and Richard Sherman tied for the league lead with a 19. (Wilson posted a 16.)

Of course there were plenty of good players drafted ahead of Wilson, and Kuechly is one of them.

Need a QB? No, and Kuechly was the best they could have done, probably. This was the 2-seed in the NFC last year, after all.

10. Stephon Gilmore, South Carolina - Buffalo Bills

There's certainly hope for the future of Gilmore, but we aren't there yet in the present.

Need a QB? Yes

11. Dontari Poe, Memphis - Kansas City Chiefs

A player that like Kuechly, gained a lot of notoriety on defense in 2013. One of five players in the top 11 to have already been named to a Pro Bowl. However, only two of the next 63 players (picks 12-74) have been named to a Pro Bowl as of 2014.

(The writer would like to point out that being named to a Pro Bowl is far from the indicator of what makes a good player -- Lavonte David, like Sherman before him, was named as an All-Pro before he was named as a Pro Bowler -- but it's an interesting start as far as finding "standout" players like Luck, Kuechly and Wilson.)

Need a QB? Hell yeah, especially in 2012. Though that could've been ugly for Wilson

12. Fletcher Cox, Mississippi State - Philadelphia Eagles

The first player that the Seahawks really "passed on" when they traded down from 12 to 15 with Philly. Cox has been a good defensive tackle by all appearances.

It's easy to forget the number of needs that Seattle had on defense in 2012, and that included: DT, ILB, OLB, DE, and for all we knew before the emergence of Sherman, CB. Rather than use a first rounder on a DT or LB, they added Bobby Wagner in the second, brought back LeRoy Hill and Marcus Trufant, and signed Jason Jones. This allowed them to move down, add a few extra picks.

Need a QB? Yes, and they waited until the third round to draft one too

13. Michael Floyd, Notre Dame - Arizona Cardinals

Even as much as I liked Blackmon, Floyd was my favorite receiver in the 2012 class. Many thought he could go to Seattle, but the Seahawks passed on him and traded down from 12. Floyd's coming off of a 65/1,041/16.0 YPC season, while Seattle got Irvin, Jaye Howard and Jeremy Lane in their move from 12 to 15.

Need a QB? Yes

14. Michael Brockers, LSU - St. Louis Rams

The Rams moved down from two to six and then from six to 14. I'd say that their move from two to six was necessary and a good way to secure two future first round picks and an extra second, but so far their move from six to 14 isn't panning out: While the "Brock Attock" is a good defensive tackle, their added picks weren't spent wisely. They picked up the 45th overall pick from Dallas and traded it to Chicago for the 50th and 150th overall pick. The 50th pick was Isaiah Pead, who we'll get to, and the 150th was Rokevius Watkins, who we won't.

The 45th overall pick was Alshon Jeffery.

Go Rams.

Need a QB? Despite Bradford's still-present potential, yes.

15. Bruce Irvin, West Virginia - Seattle Seahawks

Once you re-adjust your expectations of Irvin from where he was seen on draft day -- the "best pass rusher available" -- then you can start to better appreciate how far he came along in 2013. As an outside linebacker, he had some dominating games. There was a time when I thought, "Oh, he'll be like Aldon Smith and get 20 sacks" but that's probably not going to be the case.

On a stacked defense, perhaps he was the most underrated. Irvin was pretty good last year and in a different role yet again in 2014, maybe he'll finally start to stand out.

Need a QB? hehehe

16. Quinton Coples, North Carolina - New York Jets

Coples and Irvin are arguably on the same path, same level of value through two seasons.

Need a QB? Hahahaha

17. Dre Kirkpatrick, Alabama - Cincinnati Bengals

Certainly not the biggest dud of the first round, he's still pretty bad so far. He was fourth on the team in snaps at cornerback for Cincinnati last season, and PFF graded him as the 98th-best corner in football in 2013.

Need a QB? They were certainly set at the time, entering the second year with Andy Dalton. People are a little less sure right now, despite his franchise-record numbers.

18. Melvin Ingram, South Carolina - San Diego Chargers

There were people that thought old "Dinosaur Arms" would never succeed in the pros. Those people seem right.

Need a QB? I really don't think so and the Chargers are abysmal on defense. They need to take defensive players, just better ones.

19. Shea McClellin, Boise State - Chicago Bears

It's early yet, but the 2012 class of defensive ends seems to be a dramatic drop-off from the class of 2011.

Need a QB? They need a good backup, which Wilson would be if he weren't a Super Bowl-winning stud supreme.

20. Kendall Wright, Baylor - Tennessee Titans

Had 94 catches in 2013, making him one of only 12 players in the post-merger NFL era to have at least 90 catches in one of his first two seasons. The list contains some great players like A.J. Green, Isaac Bruce, Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin, Rob Gronkowski, Jimmy Graham, Marques Colston, and Brandon Marshall, and Terry Glenn, who turned out to be a pretty good player.

But Wright had only 11.48 yards per reception, which was 11th-best out of 12. The player ranked 12th was Eddie Royal, who has been a big disappointment since his rookie year. Also, Wright had just two touchdowns last year, which was the lowest on this list by far.

It's hard to say if Wright has a bright future ahead of him or not at this point. There's certainly something to build on, but I like Wright a lot less than some writers, scouts, and experts.

Need a QB? Sorry, but yes, they do.

21. Chandler Jones, Syracuse - New England Patriots

He's charting into that "top 5" territory for 4-3 defensive ends and together with Rob Ninkovich, forms one of the top pairs at the position in football.

Need a QB? Some people still think that Ryan Mallet is one of the young QBs in football, and Wilson would be right where Mallet is now if he had been selected by New England: On the bench or on his way out. That didn't keep the Patriots from shying away from Jimmy Garoppolo in the second round of this year's draft or working out Brady Quinn.

22. Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State - Cleveland Browns

The fourth quarterback taken, there have been far bigger disasters and flops when it comes to first round picks. The truth is that his awfulness may even be overhyped a bit, but even saying that, this was a complete waste of a pick. And that's even what most people were saying on draft day.

I remember advocating for Weeden to the Hawks, but as someone you take later in the draft and put on a team where he's not asked to do as much. Weeden wouldn't have been "the guy" in Seattle, he would have just been the guy handing off to Marshawn Lynch and that's only if he had beaten out Flynn in a competition. In Cleveland he was being asked to do a whole lot more than that, and he's simply not talented enough to take over immediately and not young enough to build around.

The Browns have been such an awful franchise since re-inception.

Need a QB? Nah, they're totally set.

23. Riley Reiff, Iowa - Detroit Lions

It's always good when you can get a starting left tackle outside of the top 15.

Need a QB? They're probably okay.

24. David DeCastro, Stanford - Pittsburgh Steelers

A distinct possibility for the Seahawks to pick him. Missed most of rookie season, but for all intents and purposes had a fine second year and will likely be very good. Still just a guard.

Need a QB? Ben is still only 32, but backup Landry Jones isn't very compelling.

25. Dont'a Hightower, Alabama - New England Patriots

Possibly a linebacker on the level of KJ Wright, which means that either the Seahawks should be praised for getting an OLB of that caliber in the fourth round, or the Patriots should be criticized for spending a first on one. Probably a mix of the two.

26. Whitney Mercilus, Illinois - Houston Texans

He's fine, I guess. Could see a significant increase in sexy stats with the implementation of Jadeveon Clowney on the other side.

Need a QB? Ch'ya think?!

27. Kevin Zeitler, Wisconsin - Cincinnati Bengals

Many draft pundits overlooked Wilson based on the fact that he wouldn't be able to look-over NFL offensive lineman. This, despite the fact that Wilson followed two of his own Wisconsin lineman in the draft -- Zeitler at 27 and Peter Konz at 55. Wilson was already playing behind NFL offensive lineman.

28. Nick Perry, USC - Green Bay Packers

A few players from this first round have already switched teams, and Perry could be the next. Some fans thought that Carroll would favor his former USC star, but he ain't no fool. Perry has missed 15 games in two seasons due to injury and has been mostly-ineffective in the 17 games he's appeared in.

Chalk this up as another bad choice over Russell.

Need a QB? Ch'naht really, but Wilson as their backup would've been scary.

29. Harrison Smith, Notre Dame - Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings came out of the first round with a good offensive and defensive player, then made the 2012 playoffs. So what's to complain about? They went right back to a losing record in 2013 because they refuse to believe that having a good QB might be kind of a big deal.

30. A.J. Jenkins, Illinois - San Francisco 49ers

This is my dubstep song for the 49ers picking A.J. Jenkins in the first round:


[then a drumbeat comes in like] lol-lol-lo-lo-lol


[then a woman's voice comes in]

"We are all Lol's in this Lolol World, and I am just a lol-lol Girl"



"We can lol all day, and lol all night, but lolololol, AJ Jenkins, am I right?"

[then the beat drops]



Need a QB? They're lol-right

31. Doug Martin, Boise State - Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Would have been an Offensive Rookie of the Year in almost any other season, was disappointing in his second year before missing the final 10 games. Another good example of why I would almost never draft a running back in the first round, but at 31, it's excusable.

32. David Wilson, Virginia Tech - New York Giants

The first round finishes off with a Wilson, but definitely not the right Wilson. David Wilson fought against the doghouse in 2012 and fought against injuries in 2013. The Giants aren't counting on him as a player that will necessarily play for them in 2014. (Note: The most recent update is that Wilson likely won't play again, which is unfortunate.)

That essentially puts him in the same camp as Richardson, Blackmon, Claiborne, Weeden, and Jenkins in respect to how they are presently viewed by the teams that drafted them just two years ago:

Non-existent or close to it.

A recap of the 32 players in the first round of the 2012 draft, grouped by how great-great or not-great they are.

Ten Awful:

Richardson, Blackmon (if you literally can't play, what good are you), Gilmore, Kirkpatrick, Ingram, McClellin, Weeden, Perry, D. Wilson, Jenkins

Six Worrisome:

Claiborne, Barron, Irvin, Coples, Wright, Mercilus

Four Injured:

Griffin, DeCastro, Smith, Martin

Four Decent:

Tannehill, Cox, Reiff, Zeitler

Six Good:

Poe, Brockers, Kalil, Floyd, Jones, Hightower

Two Great:

Luck, Kuechly

Zero Russell Wilson: