Archive for April, 2012

Russell Wilson, my favorite Seahawks draft pick ever

Saturday, April 28th, 2012

Written by Kip Earlywine

(Be sure to scroll down and check for new content as Rob and I have been posting updates frequently.  If you missed it, Rob gave his day two reaction which you can read here.)

Russell Wilson is not the best Seahawks Draft pick ever.  Russell Wilson wasn’t the biggest Seahawks draft day value ever (obviously).  Russell Wilson could be, but probably won’t be, the greatest Seahawks quarterback ever.   I’m not saying this is the best pick ever, but anyone that’s done a top ten list of their favorite movies probably realized in short order that there is a big difference between “favorite” and “best.”

Russell Wilson is none of those things, but there was no pick I ever enjoyed hearing in the moment more than this one.  I’ve followed the draft as a Seahawks fan for about 20 years, and this was only the second time that a pick made me leap off the couch and scream in celebration.  The other time was in 2007 when Brandon Mebane somehow reached our third round pick and the Seahawks didn’t repeat their mistake of passing on him in the previous round.

So why so much emotion?  Its because, well, if there is one thing that is consistent every year, it’s that the Seahawks never seem to draft the players I want the most.  This was true for so long that I just accepted it- my favorite players would be playing for other teams- that’s just how the world works. The thought of going through this whole draft without getting Rusell Wilson was a painful one for me.  I might be a bigger believer in Wilson than John Gruden is, if you can imagine that.   So as an emotional safety mechanism, I forced myself to assume that he wouldn’t be a Seahawk.  Seattle would wait until the late rounds for a quarterback and another team, probably Green Bay or Philly or even Pittsburgh, would make him their pick somewhere in the mid rounds.

When the 75th pick arrived, I wasn’t even thinking about Russell Wilson, because picks that I would like this much never happen.  The thought didn’t even cross my mind.  Especially since both Lamar Miller and Chris Polk were available (and are still available). Demario Davis was still there too.  We had heard that quarterback was probably going to be a later-than-this priority, and that was before the team signed Matt Flynn.  In that moment, I was thinking about five potential players the Seahawks could be thinking of, and none of them were Russell Wilson.  Hearing his name called was like getting struck by lightning.

Which is weird, because while I had ruled Wilson out emotionally, intellectually I’ve been saying for months that Russell Wilson makes all the sense in the world for the Seahawks.  I initially covered Wilson in part II of my quarterback series back in late December of last year.  In one of the latter installments I added this:  “The more I think about it, the more realistic Wisconsin’s Russell Wilson appears.”  In the next installment after that, I even floated the hypothetical that John Schneider was talking up guys like Tannehill and Osweiler “to help them get drafted before Kirk Cousins or Russell Wilson.”  Back in early March I wrote a “What I think Seattle’s draft could look like” 7 round mock in which I was trying to be as realistic as possible (this was pre-Matt Flynn).  I had Seattle drafting Russell Wilson in round 4.  At the end of my (lengthy) Wilson explanation, I even said that “if it was up to me I’d find a way to draft Wilson even earlier than this.”

Just a few days ago I did a post regarding my top ten quarterbacks and my best guesses for the front office’s top ten.  I had Wilson 3rd on my list, behind only Luck and Griffin, and gave him a 3rd round grade.  Having Wilson that high is controversial to say the least, if not open for mockery.  Maybe it still is, until Wilson shows everyone what I think he can.  I had the Seahawks ranking Wilson 5th, behind Luck, Griffin, Osweiler, and Tannehill, with an estimated front office draft value in the 4th round.

Now that I think about it, I should have at least anticipated the possibility of Wilson at #75.  Teams reach for guys with perceived 4th or 5th round grades in the 3rd round all the time.  The emotional part of my mind and the thinking part of my mind were more than separated, they were divorced.  The kind of ugly divorce where neither side ever talks to the other ever again.  Hearing Wilson’s name being called was surreal.  The most pleasant surprises are often the ones you didn’t suspect the most.  Instantly the safety valves released.  I was able to celebrate the player that I had badly wanted, but wouldn’t allow myself to hope for.  I erupted in a way that I had not since watching the Beastquake come out of nowhere in the Saints playoff game, when just moments earlier it seemed the Seahawks were sinking further and further into certain doom.  It was one of those moments where on the outside I was shouting and high fiving, and on the inside it felt something like this.

I said yesterday that my two favorite players in the whole draft going in (regardless of round) were Bruce Irvin and Russell Wilson.  I figured there was maybe a 10% chance we’d get one of them.  To watch the Seahawks draft both of them… it feels amazing.  I’m just not used to getting players I like this much.

Russell Wilson may not be a lock for the Hall of fame just yet, but he’s got a good chance to be the best quarterback that was actually drafted by the Seahawks.  Since entering the league in 1976, the Seahawks’ history of drafting quarterbacks has been abysmal.  Jim Zorn doesn’t count, he was undrafted (and that was back when the draft went 17 rounds too).  Dave Krieg also went undrafted (12 rounds that year).  Matt Hasselbeck was drafted, but by the Packers.  Warren Moon was a veteran free agent.  Seahawks draft picks at quarterback include Rick Mirer, Dan McGwire, David Greene, and Mike Teel, to name a few.  I think it says a lot when the best Seahawk drafted quarterback of all time is probably Seneca Wallace.

I’m a believer in Wilson’s upside, but even if I’m wrong, Wilson’s floor is a better Seneca Wallace without the problems that limited him, and Seneca Wallace has been one of the league’s better backups for close to a decade now.  Some might say that paying a third for a good backup is too much, but tell that to Chicago, who had a strong playoff run derailed by a lack of a quality backup option.  The difference between a TJ Yates and a Caleb Hanie can define a season.

Regarding the Wallace comparison, it’s important to remember that Wallace wasn’t limited by his height so much as his mind.  He drove everyone crazy by running out of bounds for a loss instead of throwing the ball away.  He didn’t look comfortable running the offense, and often locked onto receivers.  He was mobile, but lacked pocket presence.  In a lot of ways, he was a shorter Tarvaris Jackson.  By contrast, Wilson is incredibly smart with his decision making.  Size and athleticism aside, they are two very different quarterbacks, with Wilson being easily the superior prospect.

And remember, that’s his downside.  His upside is a slightly shorter but smarter version of Michael Vick.  Pete Carroll compared him to Hall of Famer Fran Tarkenton (who played at 6’0″).  I didn’t see it personally, but I’ve heard that Carroll lit up like a Christmas tree in the Seahawks war-room when the Seahawks got Wilson.  Clearly this was a player they really believed in and badly wanted.

This is meant to be a reaction post, so I’ll save the heavy analysis for later in the week.  But for now I’ll say that Wilson is a guy who intrigues the heck out of me, and I’ve believed for a while that he had outstanding potential if he went to a team like Seattle, Philadelphia, or Green Bay: a team that runs a mobile quarterback offense and was willing to modify their offenses to compensate for Wilson’s shortcomings.  Andy Reid has already done so for Michael Vick, who’s only an inch and a quarter taller than Wilson.  Pete Carroll is well known for modifying scheme to get more out of players.  In that sense, I don’t know if there was a better match in the league for a player like Russell Wilson than Pete Carroll’s Seahawks.

Lately it seems everything that comes to Seattle from the state of Wisconsin has worked out pretty well for us.  Dave Krieg.  Mike Holmgren.  Matt Hasselbeck.  John Schneider.  Now Russell Wilson.  (Hopefully John Moffitt can step things up too).  The Seahawks are now set for not one but two quarterback battles this August, one between a passable starter and the NFL’s best backup, and the other between two highly intriguing quarterbacks with upside.  I can’t wait to see how things shake out.

Instant reaction: Seahawks add Wagner & Wilson

Friday, April 27th, 2012

After shocking the NFL by drafting Bruce Irvin with the #15 pick yesterday, Seattle added Bobby Wagner (LB, Utah State) and Russell Wilson (QB, Wisconsin) in rounds two and three on Friday.

The Seahawks moved down four spots in the second round to draft Wagner at #47, after a deal with the New York Jets (who took receiver Stephen Hill). There were a few mixed expressions in Seattle’s war room after Philadelphia took Mychal Kendricks at #46. Was the California linebacker the preferred option? Both are fast, rangy lineman who like to tackle. Carroll would’ve known all about Kendricks – who was awarded the PAC-12 defensive player of the year for 2011.

Bobby Wagner – LB – #47 overall

Regardless, it’s Wagner who makes the trip North. He missed the combine with pneumonia but ran in the 4.4′s at his pro-day. He’s 6-0 and 233lbs and is probably going to play some MIKE and WILL. The Seahawks added Irvin to boost their pass rush, and now have a linebacker compliment to KJ Wright, Leroy Hill, Malcolm Smith and Barrett Ruud. The lukewarm response to David Hawthorne’s free agent status suggested Seattle would always attack the linebacker market and that proved to be the case here. Wagner plays with a good motor – like Hawthorne – but will be able to move much more freely. He’s undersized for your traditional MIKE which could cause issues and he hasn’t a big history of pass rushing. Even so, teams are looking for big, athletic linebackers and the Seahawks clearly see that in Wagner.

He’s flashed an ability to disengage when blocked, something you don’t see from a lot of linebackers his size. At times he was touted as a first round pick for teams like the New England Patriots. Despite a lot of negativity from some pundits, this is a player who was being talked about in the top-50 for some time. He had four sacks and two interceptions last season. He’s likely to start as a rookie.

What are they saying?

Mike Mayock: “This is Pete Carroll’s kind of linebacker. He’s been a fast riser. He tested extremely well, and he’s a big linebacker. This guy is also a four-team special teams player, so you get that production from him, too. He can be explosive for them.”

Charlie Casserly: “Size and Speed is good. Strong guy. Has some instinct issues in talking to scouts.”

Mel Kiper: “I had him in 3rd. Seattle baffles me, I don’t get it.”

Chris Steuber: “Bobby Wagner is my 54th rated player. Doesn’t have definitive LB position, but has a solid skill set. Another interesting pick by the Seahawks.”

Russell Wilson – QB – #75 overall

Seattle’s appreciation for Russell Wilson wasn’t a secret. We’d touched on it a few times on the blog, and certainly there was a feeling the Seahawks would take a quarterback in the rounds 3-6 region. Brock Osweiler was the only signal caller to leave the board in round two, and Seattle capitalised by snatching Wilson in round three. When I sat down to scout players in 2009, the first guy I watched was Russell Wilson. I’ve kind of tracked his progress ever since, at NC State and Wisconsin. A year ago I spoke to several people about the Wolfpack’s decision to effectively ‘move on’ in preference of Mike Glennon, and Wilson’s subsequent decision to snub teams like defending National Champs Auburn in favor of Wisconsin.

I always liked the guy as a pure entertainment player. He spreads the ball around, he has a nice arm. He makes plays. Even so, I’m a little surprised he’s ended up being a third round pick. As much as he has been one of the best quarterbacks to watch in college football over the last few years, there just aren’t a ton of 5-11 quarterbacks out there. And while a lot of people are willing to ignore that, the fact still remains. Personally I think there have been issues with trajectory and some ‘aimed’ passes into areas that have impacted accuracy. He benefited a lot at Wisconsin with a powerful, dominating run game which allowed play-action and bootlegs to thrive, getting him out of the pocket. Is he going to go on and become another exception to the height rule? Or will it limit his ability to start?

Going back to the positives, he has a better than expected arm, perfect character and a will to succeed. The Seahawks suddenly have a very crowded group of quarterbacks, with one of Tarvaris Jackson or Josh Portis likely to be the odd man out. Unfortunately, among the quartet (which also includes Wilson and Matt Flynn) there’s not one true player who stands out. Yet. One other question needs to be asked – what do you expect from a third round quarterback? If he’s a competent back-up for years, is that enough? Does Wilson need to start down the line? What needs to happen for this decision to be deemed a success?

It’s interesting that Pete Carroll and John Schneider’s first pick at the position in three years is Russell Wilson. They were suitably ‘pumped and jacked’ in the war room after making the pick – with visible celebration and excitement. Is Wilson the quarterback of the future? How soon could he realistically start in the league? Will he challenge as a rookie?

What are they saying?

Mike Mayock: “”I can’t tell you how much I like this kid. Not only can he be a competent backup and change-of-pace quarterback, but I think someday he can be a starting-quality player.”

Dan Shonka: “Seattle grabs one of our favorite players in Russell Wilson… maybe they do know QBs?”

Chris Steuber: “Love Russell Wilson. He’s not in my Top 100, but I have him rated 107 overall. He’s my 3rd favorite QB in the draft. Great kid.”

Chris Mortensen: “Evaluators loved his football smarts, how he played under pressure, accuracy and athleticism. The height issue was brought up every time. A few evaluators believed he will become the new exception to the height rule. Big hands, long arms and has a 6th sense that execs kept mentioning can’t be measured.”

Russ Lande: “I love Russell Wilson’s intangibles and arm strength, but taking a backup QB in the 3rd round makes no sense at all to me.”

Seahawks taking risks to get better?

Seattle hasn’t done anything quietly in this draft. They’ve been bold and taken what outsiders would describe as almost reckless gambles. There won’t be any ‘A’ draft grades, but I kind of feel Carroll and Schneider would rather it be that way. Maybe they enjoy being different, or proving people wrong?

There’s a lot of boom or bust to this class so far. A pass rushing specialist from West Virginia who wasn’t an every down guy and has some off-field history. He’ll be 25 in November. A linebacker from Utah State with some athletic tools, but not a lot of splash plays at a level below the top schools. And a 5-11 quarterback. If this ends up being a solid trio in a few years, quite a few people will have to eat their words. I’d consider myself in that group, because so far I’m a bit underwhelmed. It’s quite early for a quarterback with a height question mark who might not be a starter. Irvin was explosive at times in college, but will be judged on production in the NFL and will need to have an impact for such a high pick. And time isn’t on his side as a 25-year-old rookie, he can’t afford three years to bed in.

Wagner was taken before other linebackers such as Zach Brown and Lavonte David, and will be compared to those prospects going forward – even if teams universally preferred Wagner.

Now, the Baltimore Ravens and Ozzy Newsome are the picture of draft excellence in my view. They always let the draft come to them – and it’s helped acquire (among others) Ed Reed, Michael Oher, Jimmy Smith and today Courtney Upshaw and Kelechi Osemele. The one time they were aggressive? To go and get a quarterback. It’s the pure ‘BPA’ approach. The Seahawks appear to be identifying needs and attacking them. They always wanted a LT and FS in 2010, and were fortunate enough to strike gold. They went heavy on the offensive line last year and the defensive front seven this year. Will this prove a successful formula? Only time will tell. But there’s nothing dull about the Seahawks.

Day three picks

The Seahawks made two trades on Thursday and Friday to accumulate further picks. Here’s a list of Seattle’s remaining choice:

Round four: #11 & #19

Round five: #19

Round six: #2 & #11

Round seven: #18 & #25

Tomorrow starts with the fourth round at 9:00 PST. We’ll start an open thread 30 minutes before the re-start.

What next?

The Seahawks are going to take a running back, possibly (probably?) with one of those two fourth round picks. Chris Polk (RB, Washington) and Robert Turbin (RB, Utah State) are two names to watch. Lamar Miller (RB, Miami) reportedly remains available due to concerns about an injured shoulder that may need surgery. How far will he drop? Some other names to consider: Alameda Ta’amu (DT, Washington), Dwight Jones (WR, North Carolina), David Paulson (TE, Oregon), Orson Charles (TE, Georgia), George Iloka (S, Boise State), Keshawn Martin (WR, Michigan State), Nick Toon (WR, Wisconsin), Jeff Fuller (WR, Texas A&M), Juron Criner (WR, Arizona), Tommy Streeter (WR, Miami), Logan Harrell (DT, Fresno State), Trevor Gutyton (DE, California), Billy Winn (DT, Boise State), Frank Alexander (DE, Oklahoma), Ronnell Lewis (OLB, Oklahoma), Bobby Massie (OT, Ole Miss), Joe Adams (WR, Arkansas), Nicholas Jean-Baptiste (DT, Baylor), Ron Brooks (CB, LSU), Nigel Bradham (OLB, Florida State), Marvin McNutt (WR, Iowa).

Game tape (Wagner & Wilson), Gruden QB’s Camp (Wilson) and Kiper vs Gruden (Wilson)

Live chat: NFL Draft Rounds 2 & 3

Friday, April 27th, 2012

Day two preparation

Friday, April 27th, 2012

We’ll have another live chat on the forum starting at 15:30 PST. I’m not surprised Pete Carroll discussed trying to accumulate another second round pick yesterday, the depth left on the board is incredible. I suspect the Seahawks will look strongly at running back and linebacker in rounds 2/3, but there’s enough quality available to look elsewhere.

On offense, Peter Konz is going to make someone very happy in round two. A center at Wisconsin who can also play guard, he may be the best player left in the draft. Also on the board in terms of the offensive line – Jonathan Martin, Cordy Glenn, Kelechi Osemele, Mike Adams and the wildcard Amini Silatolu. The Seahawks aren’t likely to go offensive line, but we could see an early rush today.

Receiver has some great depth in the form of Rueben Randle and Stephen Hill, plus there’s a few other names that could creep up after San Francisco drafted AJ Jenkins late in round one. Off-field issues have troubled Dwight Jones but he’s still an extremely talented player available in this draft. The top tight ends – including Coby Fleener – remain available. At running back we could see Lamar Miller leave the board quickly after New York drafted David Wilson at #32.

Defensively, Courtney Upshaw is going to make a fantastic value second rounder for a team like Baltimore. Vinny Curry and Andre Branch are two other pass rushers who offer value to teams who went in different directions in round one. Devon Still and Jerel Worthy offer interior presence. At linebacker – potentially a target area – Zach Brown, Mychal Kendricks, Bobby Wagner and Lavonte David all remain. There’s talent at corner to be had too, we could see a ton of corners go in round two. Will we see Kirk Cousins and Brock Osweiler drafted today?

It wouldn’t surprise me if Seattle used the depth in round two to accumulate more picks and trade down. However, they can’t be too cute. Having picks is fine, but missing out on a good crop of players in round two would be a killer. Seattle can get an impact player in the second round and probably another in the third. I’ll be surprised if Seattle leaves without a running back today, unless they see better value for Saturday.

Reaction to the Bruce Irvin pick

Draft Pundits I’ve spoken to today…

Tony Pauline: “Just heard they wanted to trade down into the 20′s but couldn’t pull off a deal and said, ‘what the heck’… major reach.”

Chris Steuber: “Bruce Irvin could be a Chris Clemons type defender. He will get sacks. He’s very good off the edge; deceptively strong.”

Dan Shonka: “Major reach could have gotten him later. Can’t play the run.”

National links

Mike Florio at PFT: “Per a league source, at least seven teams had Irvin rated as one of the top 15 players available in the draft.”

Chris Chase at Yahoo: “Five years ago, Bruce Irvin was arrested for breaking into a drug dealer’s house and spent two weeks in prison. Last month, he was accused of knocking over a magnetic sign that was sitting atop a Pita Pit delivery car and was arrested again. On Thursday night, he became a first-round pick in the NFL draft.”

Steve Kelley at the Seattle Times: “They had their pick of pass rushers, and they chose the most obscure and the most controversial. Bruce Irvin better be good.”

Dan Hanzus at NFL.com: “The choice marked the first shocker of the draft. Irvin showed explosive physical ability during his time at West Virginia, but character issues played a large part in why many draft experts labelled him a second-rounder at best. Pete Carroll didn’t share the same opinion.”

Don’t forget to check out my instant reaction to the Bruce Irvin pick from last night (click here) and also Kip’s analysis (click here) and preview for today (click here).

Below you’ll find Bruce Irvin’s combine interview, worth watching for more background:

Pete Carroll on ESPN 710

Friday, April 27th, 2012

I’ve listed some quotes from Pete Carroll’s appearance today on the Brock & Salk show for ESPN 710. He began by discussing Bruce Irvin’s role on the team next year…

“Raheem Brock played 650 plays for us last year. If we can get him into the 700′s that’s three quarters of the plays. The position he plays we have in our defense. Most teams don’t have an outside backer that just rushes. He plays Clem’s (Chris Clemons) position. For us he fits perfectly into our make-up. Clem’s going to try and raise this kid up. He’ll play a lot is what I’m saying.”

Brian McIntyre pointed out that Brock actually only featured in 50% of Seattle’s snaps the last two years.

On interest from elsewhere: “We’re pretty confident right now that he would have gone with the very next pick.”

Carroll said he’s been searching for the ‘perfect’ LEO: “I’ve been looking for this guy forever. Jevon Kearse was that kind of athlete. He was a little bit taller than bruce, but the same speed. That’s the kind of guy. There’s only a few guys who fit the role.”

On working with Irvin, who has had issues with the law: “He’s been waiting all his life for something good to happen. Not a lot of good things have happened for him. We’ll help him manage this. He still has a way about himself, he can go in the wrong direction sometimes. You go through the mistake and the thought process of it and next time you don’t make that same of choice.”

Carroll talked almost as a father figure on approaching the team’s young guys, particularly Irvin. I also see this as a pure Carroll pick. The team invested a lot into Alex Gibbs’ opinion before the 2010 draft in zoning in on Russell Okung and Trent Williams. It was the same case for Tom Cable last year with James Carpenter and John Moffitt.

On other players of interest: “If Barron was there when we were picking that would’ve been a really exciting opportunity too.”

On Michael Brockers, now of the St. Louis Rams: “Brockers is a fantastic first and second down player. I love the kid. He has a great personality. That’s a great pick for Jeff.”

And Carroll is confident of dealing with Arizona’s Michael Floyd: “We kind of like playing against bigger receivers with our guys, so we’re OK there.”

Rounds two and three take place today: “We were hoping to come up with another two because we love the guys available. We’ve got our eyes on a couple of things and we hope we can pull it together.”

The possibilities of Day Two

Friday, April 27th, 2012

Are the Seahawks finished adding pass rushers?

Written by Kip Earlywine

(Before you read any further, be sure to scroll down and check out my post explaining why Bruce Irvin wasn’t a reach at #15 if you haven’t already.)

Considering that we whiffed on the easiest part of the draft, I don’t know if there is much hope for projecting things going forward.  Oh well.  As they say, “nothing ventured nothing gained.”

Vinny Curry in round two? A commenter in my initial reaction thread made an interesting claim.  I have no idea if there is any substance to it.  In fact, I’d probably put the odds against any rumors having much substance right now.  But what he said was still interesting just the same.  He claimed that Vinny Curry was the other pass rusher that really interested Seattle.  I find that interesting because like Rob, I’ve long felt that Curry was one of the draft’s most overlooked pass rushers.  I’d go so far as to say that Vinny Curry is the closest thing you will find in this draft to a young Chris Clemons.  In terms of size and physique they are very similar, and both have similar quickness and pass rush repertoire.  Or to put it another way, Vinny Curry is the kind of complete pass rusher that Nick Perry wishes he could be.

Now, I don’t think Curry will last to #43.  Even if he gets close, the Bills are probably going to have some interest in him, and that might be as far as he gets.  But forget about pesky things like probabilities and for just a few minutes let’s talk about possibilities instead.

If (for argument’s sake) it’s true that Seattle holds Vinny Curry in high (1st round) regard, then obviously they’d find him to be a terrific value at #43.  And while the team already added Bruce Irvin in round one, Bruce Irvin isn’t just here to replace Chris Clemons, he’s here to compliment Chris Clemons.  There’s a problem though.  Chris Clemons is 30 years old and turns 31 in October.  He’s also a free agent to be after this next season.  If Clemons is indeed a goner after 2012, then Seattle could end up back to square one with the pass rush, and that’s even if Bruce Irvin pans out.

Seattle doesn’t have to add another pass rusher this year.  They can hope that one of Dexter Davis or Jameson Konz pans out as Seattle’s future second pass rusher.  But if a pass rusher they have graded in the first round is sitting there at #43, whether it’s Vinny Curry or Courtney Upshaw or Andre Branch, will they pass on that?  I wonder.  This front office has to be prepared to draft a quarterback early next year if their current experiment doesn’t pan out.  Having a big need at pass rusher for the second year in a row would be an unwanted distraction.

Any “out of left field” picks possible? Certainly.  This front office is fairly transparent in their methods, but their picks have remained very difficult to pin down beforehand.  I’ve been thinking for a while that Seattle’s second round pick is the “wildcard” in this year’s deck.  While I strongly believe that running back and linebacker will remain priorities in this draft, the #43 pick is likely going to have a few options available with first round talent at a variety of positions.  It’s a great place in this draft for the Seahawks to simply scoop up the best talent available.  With this being a deep draft for both running backs and linebackers, Seattle could probably get away with putting off those needs one more round, especially since they picked up that extra 4th rounder.  Don’t be completely shocked if they make another surprise pick at #43.  It also wouldn’t surprise me if they traded down again, as this is a very deep draft that will pump out quality players for many rounds to come.

Some of the players I’ll be keeping an eye on tomorrow:

WR:

Reuben Randle.  Seattle is deep at receiver, but they lack starting quality players.  Randle carries a 1st round grade for some.

Stephen Hill.  Was all the pre-draft hype just that?

Alshon Jeffery.  I know Jeffrey isn’t fast, but he does a lot of things very well.

Mohamed Sanu.  Yet another fringe first round option that could become a value pick.

TE:

Coby Fleener.  I think he’ll reunite with Andrew Luck in Indianapolis, but considering that Fleener’s stock appeared to be falling in the final weeks of the draft’s run-up, it wouldn’t completely shock me if he made it to our pick.  The Seahawks don’t really have a second tight end that’s proven right now, so Fleener has some appeal, even if his blocking skills have drawn a few harsh reviews.

Dwayne Allen.  The Seahawks are nothing if unconventional at evaluating players.  It wouldn’t shock me if Fleener wasn’t their top tight end.

Orson Charles.  same deal.

OL:

Jonathan Martin.  Martin isn’t an elite talent, but he’s a very good talent and I’m frankly blown away that he escaped the first round.  He’ll likely be the first pick of the second round (St. Louis), but as of now, he’s still a possibility.  Seattle is a longshot to add a lineman this early, but Martin deserved to go top ten in the minds of some, and Seattle’s situation on the line is far from settled.  Right now an awful lot of this team’s success is hinging on Breno Giacomini, a lot more than I’m comfortable with (and I like the guy).  Russell Okung is injury cursed until he proves otherwise.  And James Carpenter’s injury health is concerning as well (he’s not expected to fully recover until the 2013 season).

Mike Adams.  Another value at offensive tackle.

Cordy Glenn.  Yet another value at offensive tackle.  Where were options like these last year when it counted?

Peter Konz.  Seattle doesn’t need a center, but Konz is such a good talent that it might be worth finding a way for him on the roster alongside Max Unger in the interior.

Kelechi Osemele.  Another quality interior line option.

Amini Silatolu.  Raw but talented.  Just the kind of player the Seahawks like.

QB:

Brock Osweiler.  I’d rather not, personally.

Kirk Cousins.  Please no.

Russell Wilson.  After seeing Irvin go in the first, nothing would surprise me at this point.

RB:

Lamar Miller.  To me, Miller is the best non-Richardson back in the draft.

LaMichael James.  A great change of pace option with under-rated strength, interior rushing ability, and toughness.  May possibly have every down potential.

Chris Polk.  Don’t be shocked if he goes round two.  A team like the Packer’s could have some interest.

Robert Turbin.  Could be worth keeping an eye on in round three.

Bernard Pierce.  same deal.

DT:

Brandon Thompson.  One of the best pass rushing defensive tackles in the draft.

Devon Still.  A fringe first round prospect, he could fall even further in a crowded field of DTs.

Jerel Worthy.  Worthy is a hot and cold player, but when he’s on, he’s dominant.

Kendall Reyes.  Another good option at DT.

DE/Pass Rusher:

Courtney Upshaw.  I’d love to get Upshaw at #43.  What a fun defense that would be, with Irvin, Clemons, and Upshaw shuffling all over the front seven.

Vinny Curry.  Chris Clemons 2.0.

Andre Branch.  I’m not as impressed by Branch as most, but he’s got long arms and knows how to use them.

LB:

Ronnell Lewis.  Lewis feels like a long shot, but he’s one of my favorite SAM linebacker options in the draft.

Zach Brown.  I don’t know what to believe right now, but whether or not our source was right about Brown, you have to admit that Brown does fit the profile of a Pete Carroll pick.

Mychal Kendricks.  Maybe I’m crazy, but it feels like everyone is sleeping on Kendricks’ stock suddenly.  Could he be a possibility in round three?

Bobby Wagner.  I find him to be “meh”, but even I’ll admit that Wagner seems like exactly the kind of linebacker Pete wants manning the middle of his defense.

Sean Spence.  A playmaker who makes mistakes.

Lavonte David.  I doubt David makes it to us.  But man, if he does and the Seahawks aren’t all over it, it better be for a damn good reason.

CB:

Janoris Jenkins.  Seattle doesn’t really need a corner that badly, and Jenkins has serious character concerns, but he’s also seriously talented.  To me he’s a top 10 pick in terms of talent.

S:

George Iloka.  Iloka’s a stud.  I doubt Seattle would draft him in rounds two or three, but I’ll still be watching him hoping that he’ll still be around tomorrow.

Why Bruce Irvin is not a reach and other observations

Friday, April 27th, 2012

One of nine first round trade-ups.

Written by Kip Earlywine

This was probably the most surprise-filled first round I’ve seen in a while.  Here are a few random thoughts from day one:

“Buyer’s market, indeed.” The funny thing about the term “buyers market” is that it actually means the opposite in a sense.  It refers to a situation where there are more sellers than buyers, and therefore the laws of supply and demand signify lower prices and less overall activity.  A recession can be an example of a buyer’s market.  In most cases, it isn’t easy to sell in a buyer’s market.

It was reported that every team picking between three and sixteen was contacting teams about moving down the day before the draft.  This made a lot of sense as the talent falls off very gradually after the top 6 “elite” talents are off the board.  Trading down has a lot of appeal if you can get a player nearly as good at the lower pick.

Despite the flood of sellers (who presumably wouldn’t be interested in buying), we saw a huge flurry of team’s trading up today.  More surprising still was how many trades took place in the top ten.  Top ten trades are historically uncommon, you might have one or two a year normally.  If you count the RG3 trade from earlier, there was a total of four trades in the top ten, with the Rams trading back twice.  The Seahawks of course had their trade at #12.  There would be four more trades in the rest of the first round, including two by the Patriots, who are notorious for trading down, not up.  All in all, there were 9 first round trades- more than one trade for every four picks.

Maybe the best thing to come out of the NFL labor dispute last year was the sanity that was restored to the rookie pay scale.  Doing so not only eliminated “the loser’s tax”, but it’s clearly encouraging teams to trade up on draft day, which makes the draft more unpredictable, more fun, and helps it move along at a quicker pace.

“Who?!” I’m not sure if I’ve seen a draft with as many surprise first rounders as this one.  Bruce Irvin is one of the biggest draft surprises ever, even moreso than Tyson Alualu from a couple years ago.  Then you had Brandon Weeden, who I’m sure made history as the oldest quarterback ever selected in the first round.  Chandler Jones technically wasn’t a surprise first rounder, but he wasn’t widely mocked in the first round until days before the draft.  AJ Jenkins became a surprise 1st rounder despite the fact that there were three other receivers with first round grades that hadn’t been taken yet.  Jenkins was ranked 99.84 on the consensus big board, meaning that on average (among Mel Kiper, Todd McShay, etc) he was a projected 4th round pick.

As it turns out, Bruce Irvin was not a reach. Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk is reporting that seven teams had Bruce Irvin ranked among their top 15 players.  That figure probably comes pretty close to the number of teams that were considering pass rush help in the first round, so it sounds like Seattle was hardly alone in thinking that Irvin was an elite pass rushing talent.  As I expressed in my draft reaction earlier tonight, my problem with the Irvin pick wasn’t the pick itself but the opportunity cost.  Why not trade down some more?  Well now it’s starting to look like that wasn’t the case after all.  The Jets and Chargers picked in the next three selections after Seattle, and both coveted pass rushers.  If even one of them rated Irvin highly, then Seattle would have been out of luck.  There was also a report by Michael Lombardi that Irvin had been contacted by a team in the bottom third of the first round and told he’d be the pick if available (it’s speculated that team was the 49ers).

In retrospect, it appears Seattle played their hand perfectly.  There wasn’t a single pass rusher taken in the first 11 picks, meaning Seattle had their choice of any pass rusher in the draft, and they still chose Irvin.  But instead of taking him at #12, they moved down just a few spots and added two extra picks, upping their total from 6 to 8.  As I said in my previous post, when taking value out of the equation, the Seahawks added one of two players I liked the most (draft stock aside) in the whole draft.  They added two draft picks doing it, and now it appears the one drawback (reaching) isn’t as true as I initially thought it was.  The Seahawks will probably get their share of “F” grades for what they did, but in retrospect those two moves could end up looking amazing in a few years time.

I guess this whole “reaching for Bruce Irvin” storyline highlights something really important.  Listen, we draftniks like to think we matter, but we really don’t.  NFL front offices don’t adjust their boards based on what Mel Kiper thinks, or what Todd McShay thinks, or what Mike Mayock thinks, and certainly not by what Rob or I think.  Us draftniks have limited time, limited resources, limited experience and knowledge, and while we work hard to project the draft with decent enough success, the fact is that our evaluations just aren’t going to be as high quality as the evaluations by most NFL front offices.  Those guys are professionals.  People like us are just entertaining wannabe’s.

And so when I give my own rankings, or when Mel Kiper and Todd McShay talk about their big boards, all we are really doing is guessing how NFL teams rate players.  That’s all it is and nothing more.  When a guy like Bruce Irvin or AJ Jenkins goes first round, who are we to criticize?  Seriously.  Unless you know how every team rates every player, you’ll be forced to judge based on empty guesstimates, which in the case of Bruce Irvin proved our harsh initial judgments to be completely wrong.

And I’ll say this too- our front office also has a much better feel for the market than we do.  They’ve had a lot of success with letting their own free agents test free agency because they knew the market wasn’t very strong for them.  They’ve used this tactic time and again to motivate players to sign back with Seattle on cheap, short-term contracts.  They also knew before the 2011 draft that Ryan Mallett was in for a big fall and would reach at least the late second round (he was snatched up in the mid third).  NFL teams knew that.  Reporters and draftniks didn’t.  They also knew that James Carpenter was rated highly by multiple teams who picked right behind them (Steelers, Bears, and Packers).  Odds are pretty good that Seattle also had ways of knowing about a few of the other seven teams that ranked Irvin in their top 15, and the Seahawks wisely decided to quit while they were ahead at #15 and take Irvin there.  All that being considered, its awfully hard to complain about how the Seahawks came out today.

Who was day one’s biggest winner? A case could be made for the Colts and the Redskins if their shiny new quarterbacks end up having Hall of Fame careers, but the team draft I wanted to switch places with the most was actually the draft by St. Louis.  I’m sure that somewhere Adam Carolla is getting plastered right now for more than the usual reasons (he’s the only celebrity Rams fan I could think of off the top of my head).  The Rams moved from the 2nd pick to just the 14th pick and added two future firsts and two more present year second rounders for doing so.  Their punishment?  Having to select Michael Brockers, who is arguably the best defensive tackle in the draft.  The Rams now have three picks in the first half of round two, and this is a very good year to be picking in the early second round.  I would much rather have those three early 2nd rounders than the #12 pick.  The NFC West is already becoming a tough division and its future is looking tougher by the minute.

Who was day one’s biggest loser? Most people will probably say the Seahawks, but I have a feeling those remarks will just look entertaining in a couple years time.  I’m going to go outside the box a bit and say that Cleveland was the biggest loser, in the sense that they did the least good with what they were given.

First, they were losers because they lost out to the Redskins for RG3.  That’s strike one.

Next, they sacrificed a very valuable 3rd round pick for a pointless trade up to secure Trent Richardson.  Even if another team jumped up for Richardson at #3, which probably wouldn’t have happened, Cleveland was assured some pretty phenomenal offensive talents in Matt Kalil or Justin Blackmon either way.  A 3rd round pick this year is going to be the rough equivalent of a 2nd round pick last year in terms of talent level, so watching them waste a 3rd rounder for no good reason was the draft equivalent of a rich guy caricature  lighting his Cuban cigar with a hundred dollar bill.  That’s strike two.

Finally, I gave Cleveland my vote for “best day one of the draft” last year when they swung the ridiculous Julio Jones deal, the prize of which was a 2012 first round pick.  Seeing them waste that pick on a quarterback who will be 29 years old midway through his rookie season is not only strike three against them in the 2012 draft, but it makes me want to consider rescinding my imaginary draft trophy I gave them last year too.

Coming up:  players to watch on day two.  Stay tuned.

Instant reaction: Seahawks draft Bruce Irvin

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

The Seattle Seahawks keep you guessing.

There were a few whispers doing the rounds in the media pre-draft that a team would take Bruce Irvin in round one. I remember hearing that, pausing for a moment and contemplating. “I wonder? Nah.” In hindsight, I should’ve offered that rumor more than a momentary glance. The Seahawks traded down three spots from #12, collecting a fourth and sixth round pick from Philadelphia. The Eagles drafted Fletcher Cox. The Seahawks drafted Bruce Irvin at #15.

First of all, let’s address the pick. We’ve been saying on this blog for some considerable time that the Seahawks would draft a pass rusher. It has always been the focus in round one. We – and the rest of the world – just didn’t locate who was Pete’s pass rusher. As it turns out, that guy played for West Virginia. Carroll referenced in the video above that he recruited Irvin: “I thought we had special information.” Carroll claims he has incredible speed and that for a time he was the best pass rusher in college football. All true.

A year ago almost to the day, I turned my attention to the 2012 draft. It was time to start looking at the next class after Seattle had just taken James Carpenter in round one. I discovered a player so striking, he stood out as a top-ten prospect immediately. He flew off the screen. He stood out.

His name was Bruce Irvin.

In May 2011, I wrote an article titled: ‘Bruce Irvin is ready to crash the 2012 NFL Draft

Here is an exert:

When I scan through the various early 2012 mock drafts and big boards, one name is unusually absent.

Tony Pauline doesn’t list him among 40 prospects to watch this year. He isn’t part of Walter Cherepinsky or Rob Rang’s 2012 mocks. He isn’t part of Chris Steuber’s big board. In fact the only place I’ve seen this guy register is in Chad Reuter’s early projection – as the 32nd overall pick.

Yet in my opinion, he’s right up there at the top end. Ultimate star potential, a defensive prospect who may be the best overall in college football. This is one player who will help define his team as they mount what I believe is a realistic shot at making a BCS Bowl, maybe even the big one. On his highlight’s tape, they borrow the name ‘Beast Mode’, but if Marshawn Lynch watches this guy play I’m sure he won’t complain.

The best pass rusher in college football is Bruce Irvin of the West Virginia Mountaineers. He was part of my top-50 prospects for 2012.

He’s lightning quick as you’d expect given the size but unlike Von Miller who relied completely on speed, Irvin is more than willing to engage a tackle, drive him into the quarterback or beat him with stunning hand placement. I’ve never see a guy with this size paddle away an offensive lineman before.

He’s the best kept secret in college football. Last season he recorded 14 sacks and yet received virtually no hype. West Virginia pulled off a masterstroke appointing Dana Holgorsen as their offensive coordinator and future head coach. He was the mastermind behind Oklahoma State’s free-scoring offense which consistently churned out talent at running back and wide receiver. The Mountaineers will have a productive offense next season and with Irvin leading the way on defense they’re an outside pick to go unbeaten next year. That’ll help to put this guy firmly on the map.

Make no mistake this is the most devastating, dominating and exciting player you’ll watch during the 2011 college season. I’d recommend reading this piece from Geoff Coyle on Irvin’s background and route to WVU. More importantly, take a look at the schedule and make sure you grab the opportunity to watch him in action.

Irvin himself read that article, and retweeted it. He expected to be a round one pick, probably because so many people were complimenting his game. He referenced it in interviews, he talked about having a fantastic final season at WVU and being a round one pick. Without doubt the best pass rusher in college football in 2010 was not Da’Quan Bowers or Von Miller, it was Bruce Irvin.

So what happened?

Irvin had a big impact as a specialist rusher in 2010, acting on third downs and recording 14 sacks after transferring as a JUCO prospect. In 2011, the Mountaineers attempted to turn him into an every down type player. He was used in three-man fronts, right on the line and not in space. He faced regular double teams, he was hit out of plays and struggled to have an impact. In his first five games last season, he had just one sack. When he reverted back to a ‘specialist’ role, he notched 7.5 sacks in five games. Go figure.

At the combine he exploded, running the fastest time by any pass rusher with a flat 4.50 forty yard dash at 6-3 and 245lbs. He had a 1.58 10-yard split. You can see his workout by clicking here.

The Seahawks have gone after their schematic version of Aldon Smith. Except their version of Aldon Smith looks more like Clay Matthews. Don’t expect Irvin to play every down. For those wondering if Irvin is going to translate to linebacker, it probably won’t happen. He’ll play obvious passing downs, either at the LEO or replacing Raheem Brock’s nickel role. Yet he may well be just as productive. One day he could replace Chris Clemons at the LEO.

He’s a pure, speed, edge rusher with a bit of fight to his game and occasionally surprising strength. But overall, he’s going to have one responsibility – get to the QB. He’s not that young at 24, so they’ll expect an impact. In fact, he turns 25 on November 1st.

The pick at #15 summed up an extraordinary first round which flew by at just over three hours and contained many surprises. There were a number of trades, especially late in the first round. At one point Tampa Bay moved up several spots back into the first to grab Doug Martin and they merely flipped fourth rounders with Denver for the pleasure. That was a king steal for such a talented running back. Prospects like AJ Jenkins went in the first round unexpectedly. Brandon Weeden – a 29-year-old rookie to be – went 22nd overall. Irvin was the first edge rusher off the board at #15, ahead of Quinton Coples. Nobody could call events as they unfolded.

Is this a sign of the times? Or the sign of a bad draft class? Will the numerous trades and unexpected picks continue next year, or is it simply the latest trend? How will teams approach the second round? The Seahawks still have needs at running back and linebacker, but will they keep building the pass rush? Or will they look for a touchdown maker?

The Seahawks got their pass rusher, but it wasn’t the guy many expected. I hope the article I linked to above, written almost a year ago today, shows the kind of potential Irvin has. Don’t be down on this pick. I’ll leave you with some links, game tape and a quote to stew on from Seattle’s latest first round pick: “I love eating quarterbacks.”

NOTE – We’re back tomorrow for another live chat from 15:30 PST

LINKS

Les Carpenter: West Virginia prospect Bruce Irvin ditches burglary, drug game for shot at NFL

Frank Rose: Bruce Irvin Turning Heads at the 2012 NFL Combine

James Choy: Irvin sees a bright future ahead

Sports Illustrated: Seattle takes West Virginia’s Bruce Irvin

NFL Network: Bruce Irvin draft profile

Wow.

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

Written by Kip Earlywine

Man, I don’t even know where to begin.

I love this pick.  I love, love, love this pick, in the sense that, had we added him at #75, I’d have been all over it.  If it had happened #43, I would have been completely supportive.  But at #15?  Man, I’m not even sure how I should feel.  It’s complicated.

I actually watched this draft at Big Al’s in Vancouver.  I showed up 90 minutes early to grab the best seat.  Portland’s top sports station, 1080 the fan, was doing a live draft party there.  When I first got there, the place was almost totally empty, but Isaac and Big Suke were right there doing their broadcast about 75 feet away from me.  I almost walked up to them just so I could impress them by calling Courtney Upshaw at #12 an hour before the draft had even started, but something held me back.  I was SURE that Upshaw was going to the pick, I would have bet everything I owned on it.  But I decided not to because I didn’t want them to think I was some pompous ass.  Obviously, I made the right call by staying put, and not for the reason I had anticipated.

As the draft got closer, the place quickly became packed, and a lot of different teams were represented.  There was still a pretty strong number of Seahawks fans though.  When the 15th pick signaled “the pick is in” and Goodell approached the podium, there was a small uproar of clapping, cheering and excitement.  Then the name “Bruce Irvin” was read.  The room went completely quiet.  I’ll never forget that moment.

As far as Irvin goes, man, this pick makes me feel so confused emotionally.  I’d use this analogy for those that follow the Mariners at USSMariner.  A few years back, Dave Cameron wrote his popular offseason plan just before that offseason began.  Part of that plan highlighted Miguel Batista as a good free agent pitching signing.  Then the offseason began, and the Mariners went out and signed Miguel Batista… for about triple the amount of money Cameron thought Batista was going to get.  Suddenly Cameron had no idea how to react, because the Mariners had targeted a player he liked, but paid way too much in doing so.

That’s pretty much exactly how I feel about Bruce Irvin at #15.  Not because Irvin can’t justify such lofty draft position, but because it at least feels like they could have had him so much later.  I didn’t see a single mock that had Irvin anywhere in the first round, and I only saw a few that had him going in the 2nd.  Most people had Irvin graded in the rounds three to four region.

That said, if you take draft stock out of the equation, there were just two players in the draft that I badly wanted to be Seahawks. Those two players?  Russell Wilson and Bruce Irvin.  I’ve been saying for a while, not here but on message boards, that I badly wanted to see the Seahawks pull some strings and find a way to get Irvin and or Wilson in the mid rounds somehow.  So while I’m not crazy about the price tag, I couldn’t be happier that we got the player we did.  I’m going to laugh if Seattle goes and takes Russell Wilson in the 2nd round, that is if my head doesn’t explode first.

I talked before about how I had a bit of a “curse” going with highlighting Seahawks options and how the front office always seemed to avoid those players.  In 2010, I covered fifty or sixty likely options, and only one was drafted by Seattle.  Last year I covered a dozen or so “Tom Cable” prospects- none of them were named James Carpenter or John Moffitt.  This year I covered a ton of running backs, quarterbacks, and linebackers.  There were only three other players from any other position that I covered in my scouting reports series.  Those three players were Michael Egnew, Jonathan Massaqoui, and, would you believe it, Bruce Irvin.  What a weird way for the curse to reverse itself.

Anyway, if you missed it, you can read my scouting report on Irvin from the link in the previous paragraph.  One person compared him to Rufus Porter, a Seahawk from the late 80s and early 90s that for a brief time was an undersized sack machine for us.  To me, Irvin is RG3 the pass rusher.  He’s got 10-15 sack a year potential, but he’s got more red flags than any pass rusher in the draft.  He’s boom or bust to the extreme.  Maybe I’ll have more to say about him later, but if nothing else, I’ll end this for now by saying that Irvin is going to be a very exciting player to watch the next few years.

I actually have a lot more thoughts on this.  I might have a larger post about day 1 of the draft later tonight.

Live Chat: NFL Draft 2012

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

The 2012 draft is here. Instant analysis as round one unfolds.