Archive for May, 2012

Why Jason Cole is wrong to criticise Seattle’s QB competition

Monday, May 21st, 2012

The Seahawks have to keep looking for their guy, even if he is 5-10

On Saturday I linked to an article by Yahoo’s Jason Cole where he criticises Pete Carroll and John Schneider’s approach to the quarterback position. Cole believes the Seahawks should’ve invested in ‘a guy’ by now and be building around them, with a degree of commitment to the chosen quarterback. He believes Seattle’s ‘competition’ mantra at the position is counter-productive.

Generally, I would agree with Cole. It’s just common sense that you identify a quarterback and build around them. It’s the most important position in the sport and there are significant benefits to building from the quarterback out. People like to use David Carr as an example to counter this, but let’s not forget he was leading an expansion franchise starting from scratch. There are other examples – such as Matt Ryan in Atlanta – where a team has successfully built a contender having made quarterback the #1 priority.

I suspect most Seahawks fans expected a similar process when Carroll replaced Jim Mora. The team had two first round picks in 2010 and needed to find a long term replacement for Matt Hasselbeck. Three drafts and four first round-picks later, and Seattle still hasn’t taken a quarterback in round one. April 2013 will bring about the 20th anniversary since Seattle drafted a quarterback in round one.

Frankly, I’m ecstatic about that – at least considering the last three years. Everyone wants the Seahawks to draft a franchise quarterback in round one, but nobody wants them to force the issue and make the kind of mistake that will cripple this team for years. Making a big splash on the wrong guy would be catastrophic. There’s a balance to be had here – not being too tentative to never commit, but knowing the right time to be aggressive. I have no doubt whatsoever that when that time comes, the Seahawks will be aggressive.

Cole appeared on ESPN 710 to discuss his Yahoo piece and was pushed by Brock Huard as to what he thinks Seattle should’ve done differently. The suggestion was made that they should’ve moved up for Jake Locker or Christian Ponder. Was such a deal even possible?

The Atlanta Falcons traded up from #26 to #6 in order to draft Julio Jones. To get Jake Locker, the Seahawks would’ve had to trade from #25 to #7. The team picking at #7? The San Francisco 49ers. I’m sure we can rule that one out because last time I checked, Pete Carroll and Jim Harbaugh weren’t exactly BFF’s. Would Tennessee have dropped down from #8 to #25, allowing the Seahawks to draft Locker? Maybe, but if you have the conviction to take a quarterback 8th overall you clearly believe he’s a potential franchise talent. We very rarely see trade’s where the two parties are focused on the same player.

Christian Ponder was drafted at #12 by Minnesota. That would’ve given the Seahawks an opportunity to trade up to #9 (Dallas), #10 (Washington) or #11 (Houston). The thing is, nobody really expected Ponder to go that early. His senior year was mediocre, he’d suffered multiple injuries. To move from #26 to #6 in 2010 Atlanta spent two first round picks, a second round pick and two fourth round picks. Once that trade was completed, a market was set for any similar trades. Moving up from #25 would’ve been very expensive, costing at least two first round picks. Is Christian Ponder truly worth that level of investment?

And that’s really the issue here. It would’ve cost Seattle a kings ransom to trade for either player, yet neither has proven enough to suggest it would’ve been a worthwhile move. Locker has attempted 66 passes in the NFL and shown flashes. Ponder completed 54% of his passes and threw as many interceptions as touchdowns. If we were talking about moving up for Cam Newton here, I’d have more sympathy with the argument. But we’re not talking about Newton. And it’s interesting that Cole didn’t include Blaine Gabbert as a possible trade up target, given he dissected both Locker and Ponder by going 10th overall in the 2010 draft. Gabbert doesn’t suit Cole’s argument because he struggled as a rookie. Had the Seahawks traded up for Gabbert, it would suit the argument of making things happen. Yet because the player is a perceived failure, he’s not included? That’s too selective.

Here are the first round quarterbacks Seattle has passed on in 2010, 2011 and 2012: Tim Tebow, Brandon Weeden. That’s it. No other quarterbacks were drafted in round one having made it past Seattle.

Was an aggressive move up the board possible? Not in 2010, where St. Louis drafted Sam Bradford first overall. Division rivals don’t tend to trade with each other, as noted earlier with San Francisco. We’ve already discussed the cost of moving up in 2011. This year the Seahawks probably could’ve moved up to draft Ryan Tannehill. Dallas spent a second round pick to move from #14 to #6, so moving from #12 to #7 would’ve cost about the same.

I was never a fan of Ryan Tannehill. I see his rise and subsequent draft position as a similar reach to Jake Locker in 2011. Both players have similarities, particularly in terms of athletic potential and ceiling. I suspect that as with Locker, teams will have had extreme varying grades for Tannehill. If the Seahawks weren’t in the group that saw him as a must-have potential franchise quarterback, then why would they trade a second round pick to get him? And while Tannehill does have a lot of physical upside, I refer back to the Texas tape, Oklahoma tape and Oklahoma State tape where he had multiple turnovers and just did not look like a quarterback you want to bank your reputation on.

Throughout the draft process this year, it appears one guy really stood out for the Seahawks front office. John Schneider has talked about how he would’ve been disappointed not to come away with Russell Wilson. It’s very possible that the Seahawks had Wilson ranked higher than Tannehill on their board. Yet they knew because of his 5-10 height he’d be there in round three. So why not come away with a pass rusher, a linebacker and the quarterback you truly want? Is that not the common sense approach? Or do you spend your first two picks on a quarterback you don’t rate as highly and lose the opportunity to improve two big-time defensive needs? Imagine a scenario where you’ve traded up for Tannehill knowing your next pick will be in round three, and Russell Wilson is the clear best player available with that third-round pick. You’d be fighting the board at that point not to go QB-QB. No doubt this scenario would’ve brought about a lot of criticism too.

There are other quarterbacks the Seahawks could’ve drafted over the years. They could’ve wasted a pick on Jimmy Clausen or Colt McCoy in 2010. Last year they could’ve drafted Colin Kaepernick or Andy Dalton in round one, or Ryan Mallett in round two. Were any worthy of that investment? I would argue not.

Dalton is the one people keep coming back to, and I get why. He had a successful rookie season, leading the Bengals to a 9-7 record and a playoff berth. Yet there are still so many question marks.

How much of his success last year was down to the fact he’s throwing passes to the most dynamic receiver to enter the NFL since Calvin Johnson? Sure, AJ Green still needs a well thrown ball to make plays. Yet Green has taken to the pro’s in a way I’ve never experienced before. He could be the most natural pass-catcher most of us have ever seen, and there were several highlight reel plays last year where Dalton basically just tossed it up for Green to make it happen.

How much of his success was down to a weak early schedule? Here are Cincinnati’s opponents before their bye week: Cleveland, Denver, San Francisco, Buffalo, Jacksonville and Indianapolis. Take the 49ers out of the equation, and that’s a gift for any rookie quarterback. He threw five interceptions in games against Pittsburgh and Baltimore after the bye and closed the season acting as a classic game manager. After a three-pick performance against the Ravens in week 11, he had four games without topping 200 yards. He closed the season with five touchdowns in six games, compared to just one pick. He was on lockdown and picked up just three wins against Cleveland, St. Louis and Arizona.

Overall Dalton had a 20-13 touchdown-interception ratio for the regular season. Three of his nine wins came via the NFC West. Two wins came from Cleveland. The others came against Buffalo, Jacksonville, Indianapolis and Tennessee. I’m not trying to discredit Dalton here, but a little perspective is required when talking about what is universally regarded as a terrific rookie campaign.

Onto the playoffs, where he threw three interceptions against Houston with no touchdowns. Generally, he looked out of his depth. And this brought about a side of Dalton that has crept up in the past. When the chips are down, Dalton can lose his cool. He looked petulant on the sidelines and failed to take responsibility after the game in interviews, blaming others for key turnovers. At TCU there were times where he’d make a mistake and it’d linger for the rest of the game – leading to further mistakes. Dave Hyde at the Sun Sentinel wrote this pre-draft last year:

“Saying that Dalton’s career at TCU was not without pestilence would be wrong. In the 2009 Fiesta Bowl against Boise State, Andy threw an early interception – well actually he threw three of them. But this specific early interception apparently caused Dalton’s generally austere veneer to crack on the sidelines – enough for Head Coach Gary Patterson and the rest of the team to be concerned. The word is that the team felt they would struggle to win the game after seeing Dalton lose his composure. They lost the game 17-10.

“Everyone has moments where they are not at their best, and in reality such sideline behaviour has not been the norm for the Katy native. The flip side of that equation is that it is evident he can be rattled. And, naturally one would consider whether Dalton may also lose his composure on the field. Truthfully, there are moments where Dalton can look a little frenetic, making rash decisions on where to throw the football.”

We saw a glimpse of this against Houston and it reminded me why I was never a big fan of Dalton’s leading into the 2011 draft. The Seahawks make a big deal about a ‘room tilting’ quarterback with good reason. While Houston’s own rookie quarterback – TJ Yates – was managing his environment in such a high-pressure situation, Dalton folded. Add the three playoff picks to his season totals and he went 20-16 for the year against a favorable schedule. This season will be the acid test with four games against the NFC East, four games against the AFC West and the usual four games against Pittsburgh/Baltimore. We’ll learn a lot about whether the Seahawks should’ve drafted Dalton by this time next year.

And as Evan Silva writes here, the Bengals are not totally sold on Dalton themselves. Silva: “The jury is still very much out on him entering year two.”

Dalton left the board in 2011 ten places after Seattle’s first round pick. I wouldn’t have drafted him at #25 but I see why people make that case. The reality is for critics like Jason Cole, that’s the one true argument you can make. The Seahawks have been dealt a poor hand as they try and find a long term starter at quarterback. For that reason, they’re going to have to keep looking for the answer. It may be unconventional, but so was moving Red Bryant to defensive end. So was starting two big, tall, physical cornerbacks with no league pedigree last year. In many ways so was trading for ‘bad penny’ Marshawn Lynch – a player who has provided this franchise with a playoff memory it’ll never forget and a subsequent season of productive running.

The competition between Matt Flynn, Russell Wilson and Tarvaris Jackson just might end up providing an answer. It might not be a future hall of fame answer, but it might be enough for Seattle to prosper in 2012 – just like the 49ers did with Alex Smith last year. And finding the right starter for now needs to be the approach until the day Seattle sees the opportunity to draft ‘the one‘. John Schneider made it quite clear this team will not panic over a quarterback and end up with a white elephant. So far the Seahawks have made the best of a bad situation.

Keenan Allen (WR, California) vs USC, Texas & Washington

Sunday, May 20th, 2012

I’m not crazy about the potential wide receiver class for 2013. A lot can change in the space of a year, but there’s nobody like AJ Green, Julio Jones or Justin Blackmon who you expect to be a top ten pick. Cal’s Keenan Allen is ranked #16 in our top 40 watch list but that’s mainly based on potential. He’s not helped by inconsistent quarterback play and the fact he’s not performing in a high powered PAC-12 offense. That’ll hurt his stock. Even so, physically he has a lot of potential and is worth monitoring.

Saturday links

Saturday, May 19th, 2012

Jason Cole at Yahoo sports has written yet another negative article about Pete Carroll. In other news, the world still rotates around the sun. “There are many derivations on the basic theme of finding and committing to a good quarterback. Or you could be like Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and continuously date.”

Cole later appeared on ESPN 710 to speak with Brock and Salk (see below for audio). On this blog we’ve spent a lot of time discussing Seattle’s need for ‘one guy’ at quarterback. At the same time, any reasonable person understands they haven’t had a realistic opportunity to commit like that. Cole’s argument that they could’ve traded up for Jake Locker and Christian Ponder in 2011 renders his position nonsensical. Those two players were considered reaches, yet the Seahawks were supposed to trade at least two first round picks to draft one? Just to have ‘a guy’?

Sometimes a journalist has to take a step back. Cole needs to take several steps back.

Albert Breer takes a more reasoned approach and discusses the level of intrigue surrounding the quarterback battle’s in Seattle and San Francisco. Breer: “Two competitive piece veterans and a promising young player fighting for time in Seattle, and a starter playing to keep his job with a young player fighting to prove he’s the answer long-term in San Francisco. And around those guys are two nicely rebuilt clubs with plenty to be excited about in 2012. Maybe that dynamic won’t make either of these teams the surest bet to be visiting the Superdome in February. But it sure will be interesting to follow.”

Dennis Dillon says Bruce Irvin had to overcome a lot of obstacles to realise his dream of playing in the NFL. Dillon: “One day last summer, West Virginia defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel and defensive line coach Bill Kirelawich stood on a second-floor balcony of the Puskar Center, the football facility that adjoins the Mountaineers’ stadium. Defensive end Bruce Irvin walked onto the field. He wore shorts and flip-flops. Not realizing that two pairs of eyes were watching him, Irvin casually jumped over a six-foot football dummy and then continued on his way. That’s not the sole reason the Seahawks chose Irvin with the 15th overall pick in the NFL draft, but his athleticism surely played a part.”

Len Pasquarelli isn’t sold on Russell Wilson and says some teams didn’t even consider him on their draft board. Pasquarelli: “Seattle officials constantly point to Wilson’s over-the-top delivery and high release point, and his strong arm, but those things may not be sufficient for him to mount a march to the starting job. Wilson overcame a lot of odds in his college career, but his height had him off the draft boards of a few teams last month, and some of Carroll’s colleagues in the NFL privately question using a third-round pick on a prospect who, competitiveness aside, was graded by some as just a career No. 3 guy.”

Adam Schefter argues in this video for ESPN that Wilson will absolutely contend to start this year and will probably take the role “sooner rather than later”. Schefter: “They really do like Russell Wilson.”

Dan Pompei quotes John Schneider on Wilson and looks at whether he (and Kellen Moore) will be tall enough to succeed. Pompei: “What is interesting is neither Moore nor Wilson had a problem seeing over linemen or getting off passes in college. Of course, the NFL is a different game, but some things remain the same at the next level. These numbers, courtesy of the Stats Ice system, might surprise you. Only two of Wilson’s incompletions were deflected at the line of scrimmage last season and only five of Moore’s were batted at the line. Moore threw 439 passes; Wilson had 309. That compares favorably to the four first round quarterbacks.”

Matt Flynn tape vs New England

Friday, May 18th, 2012

Matt Flynn could be Seattle’s starting quarterback in 2012. Or it could be Tarvaris Jackson. Or Russell Wilson. But a lot of people expect it to be Flynn. I don’t necessarily agree, because the financial outlay on Flynn is comparable to that of Jackson and Charlie Whitehurst. The money won’t play a part and Flynn will win this job only by beating out the other contenders. Which he may do. But I think it’s going to be tighter than most think and Wilson can win this job.

The tape of Flynn’s performance against Detroit gets a lot of views because it’s such a productive display. I wanted to publish the tape of his first of two starts against New England. This is from 2010, the season that Green Bay won the Super Bowl.

Barkevious Mingo (DE, LSU) vs Georgia, Auburn & Mississippi St

Thursday, May 17th, 2012

Ranked at #18 in the top 40 watch list, Barkevious Mingo is probably not going to play for the Seahawks if he ends up being a first round pick. Having just drafted ‘ideal LEO’ Bruce Irvin, it’s unlikely Seattle would draft another pass rusher that early next year. Even so, he’s on the list so it’s worth reviewing the tape. LSU are carrying a lot of defensive talent next year and will remain a SEC powerhouse in 2012.

Both Mingo and Sam Montgomery are limited in terms of how they create pressure and the big question that needs to be answered is whether they’re simply effective as a duo against college lineman, or whether they can excel once separated at the next level. I don’t think either would’ve gone before Bruce Irvin this year.

Tyler Wilson (QB, Arkansas) vs South Carolina

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

There are things I like about Tyler Wilson, and things that bother me. He might not have completely enjoyed being coached by Bobby Petrino, but he has a technical level only bettered by Matt Barkley thanks to that experience. He’s more mobile than you expect and can scramble, he’s got above average arm strength and in many ways he’s a solid prototype NFL passer.

At the same time, he tends to get happy feet in the pocket. Sometimes he could just be a little more composed and set – let the play develop and deliver. As soon as he senses pressure he looks for space and I’d like to see him stand tall in the pocket a bit more. He doesn’t have a classic release – it’s slingy. That hasn’t been a problem for a guy like Philip Rivers but it has for others. It’s not the kind of thing that’ll put you off a quarterback, but at this early stage we can highlight it. Wilson also blows hot and cold and I’d like to see him have more complete games where he just flat out dominates – he’s capable of it.

Essentially that’s why he’s going back to Arkansas, for another year as the starter in preparation for likely being a first round pick. I think teams will love this guy, especially if he can lead his team to the SEC title which isn’t beyond the realms of possibility. He’s the best quarterback in that conference in 2011 and alongside Barkley and Logan Thomas a legitimate candidate to go #1 overall next year. I also think he’s good enough to shine despite Petrino’s departure. It makes him one of the more intriguing players this year and why I ranked him at #7 on our top 40 watch list.

Matt Barkley (QB, USC) vs Stanford

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

Ranked at #1 in our top 40 watch list, Matt Barkley probably should be the #1 overall pick next year. That doesn’t mean he will be. Teams are enamoured with big, athletic quarterbacks. It’s not so much why an elite talent like Cam Newton goes #1 overall, but it is a reason why guys like Jake Locker and Ryan Tannehill become top-ten picks. Barkley isn’t the big time athlete with ideal height, a huge arm and plus mobility. He’s a surgeon who’s technically better than any quarterback I’ve ever seen in college.

We’ve seen eight quarterbacks drafted in round one in the last two drafts so Barkley won’t sink, but if a physically superior quarterback (such as Logan Thomas) has an excellent year there’s every chance he won’t go #1 overall. There are other things that could lead to a minor fall. Can Barkley live up to expectations after a fantastic 2011 season? Will a fourth year starting lead to over-analysis if he’s less than perfect? Will teams be slightly concerned by the lack of success experienced by previous USC quarterbacks like Matt Leinart and Mark Sanchez?

Pete Carroll has a strong bond with Matt Barkley. I think both would love the opportunity to work together again in the NFL, for multiple reasons. And despite John Schneider’s penchant for picks, it won’t prevent Seattle from moving up the board for the right player if required. If the Seahawks are in a position where they feel they need to draft a quarterback in round one in 2013 (and who knows if that’ll be the case), they’ll probably be in a position where moving up would be manageable. Still, we’re getting well ahead of ourselves here…

Marquess Wilson (WR, Washington State) vs ASU & Washington

Monday, May 14th, 2012

At this early stage, the 2013 class of receivers doesn’t look great. A lot can change over the course of a year but right now, there’s not a great deal to get excited about. I wanted to include some names in the top 40 watch list, but struggled to find clear-cut first round talents. Even so, this list isn’t about just identifying first rounders. It’s about highlighting players that are worth watching during the 2012 college season.

Wilson fits the criteria as a player who should really benefit from Mike Leach’s presence at Washington State. Whether he ever develops into a first round prospect remains to be seen, but he’ll probably get plenty of targets next season.

Russell Wilson is in the competition to start

Sunday, May 13th, 2012

Russell Wilson... meet Bruce Irvin

A few days after Seattle drafted Russell Wilson, I made an argument for the third round pick starting as a rookie. The point being – Seattle’s situation at quarterback remains unclear and they may still need to prepare for a bigger investment next year. So if the situation arises where there’s little between Wilson, Matt Flynn and Tarvaris Jackson in camp, why not see what the rookie can do? The financial investment placed in Flynn and Jackson is, in my view, less of a commitment than the third round stock placed in Wilson.

The piece created a fair old debate, with strong views for and against. Yet most sections of the media still see this as a non-issue and that Flynn will be the presumed starter. After signing his contract early, Wilson participated in mini-camps between over the weekend. He threw around 400 passes and took substantially more snaps than any other player over the course of the three-days. Carroll made a point of studying the offense on Friday and talked afterwards about putting the workload on Wilson to see how he performed.

The conclusion?

There’s no reason to jump the gun here. After all, Carroll admitted on Friday that things will be different when ‘the varsity‘ arrives. Wilson is going to have to beat out two veterans, including the incumbent starter, to start as a rookie. People were right to list him as an outsider in this race, but they’d be wrong to assume anyone’s a clear front runner.

Eventually people will take Carroll on his word and accept this is a competition. A lot of teams use that word when talking about their quarterbacks – Cleveland are still maintaining they’ll have a competition despite drafting a soon-to-be 29-year-old rookie in the first round. When Carroll says competition, he means it. When he wants to crown a starter, he will do (see: Hasselbeck, 2010 & Jackson, 2011). This is wide open.

And while nothing will be decided this weekend as rookies and free agents try out, this was Wilson’s chance to get into the equation. Struggle this weekend, and he was probably looking at a red-shirt year as the team’s #3 quarterback. He’s cleared the first hurdle.

I’m interested to see how the Seahawks go about this over the upcoming months. It’s difficult to conduct a full-blown three-way competition, splitting snaps evenly. Pre-season games are unfairly weighted against whoever takes the opening series or two when the veterans are on the field. Carroll will need to have an angle on who’s most likely to be the starter going into that first game.

Flynn is the favorite in many people’s eyes, but I’m still sceptical. This is a player who was expected to generate mass-interest in free agency. Peyton Manning helped take some of the edge off that, but none of the big players for Manning were ever expected to pursue Flynn (Denver, Arizona, Tennessee). Cleveland basically decided Colt McCoy and taking their chance on a 29-year-old rookie being available was a preferable alternative. Miami had a meeting with Flynn, but never really seemed to be in aggressive pursuit as they tried (and failed) to entice Manning to Florida. Why was his market so quiet? Does the league still carry doubts about his potential to start? And maybe if they do, those doubts are justified?

Seattle took an opportunity to add to the QB competition at a modest price, but I’m not sure they would’ve shown quite as much interest if a Miami or Cleveland got the chequebook out in hour one of free agency. People don’t see it now, but the salary commitment to Flynn is a pure bargain compared to the figures people were talking about after his performance for Green Bay against Detroit. If he is as good as that display suggested, the Seahawks took no gamble in finding out. This is not a Kevin Kolb contract.

Sure, the team has committed $10m in guarantees to Flynn. But let’s not forget that it’s only $2m more than the team has paid Tarvaris Jackson over the course of a 2-year deal. Flynn’s contract, if he ends up being a backup, is comparable to that of Jackson and Charlie Whitehurst. If he succeeds, the incentives are greater. I appreciate there’s still a good chance Flynn starts for Seattle in 2012, but he’ll almost certainly have to earn that spot just like anyone else. And if Jackson or Wilson looks better, then they’ll get the nod.

As for Jackson, despite a lot of supportive language about his future and ability to compete, the additions of Flynn and Wilson are hardly an endorsement of his 2011 season. Seattle’s quarterbacks combined for 26 touchdowns and 30 interceptions in 2010 and 2011. They really need someone who can score 26 touchdowns in a single season and have a lot less turnovers. Jackson earned a lot of respect in the locker room for toughing it out last season and he’s earned the right to compete this year. But there can be no complaints from anyone if he’s a casualty further down the line.

In all honesty I wouldn’t be surprised if Wilson takes the job. Sure, he’d be be the first third-round rookie to start since 1973. Yet I’d argue he’s the more dynamic player out of the three. Physically he fits the ‘point-guard’ role better than the other two players. The Seahawks front office has done nothing but rave about him since the draft. And if he performs better than the other two quarterbacks, then why wouldn’t he start? The Seahawks believe in this guy. The presence of Flynn and Jackson gives them a reason not to start him if he’s not ready. But at the same time, their presence doesn’t prevent him from starting if he is.

Bruce Irvin & Russell Wilson: Jersey numbers a statement?

Sunday, May 13th, 2012

Russell Wilson might as well have 'third round pick' written on his jersey

Although only a minor announcement at the time with little relevance to most people, I took some interest when the jersey numbers were announced for Bruce Irvin and Russell Wilson. Irvin will wear #51, the reverse of the position he was taken in the draft (#15 overall). Wilson will wear #3, the round in which he was picked by Seattle.

Both players became major talking points after they were drafted. Irvin was considered a specialist who couldn’t take a lot of snaps, despite Seattle’s high-profile use of the LEO. Wilson was considered too short to play in the NFL despite a prolific college career at NC State and Wisconsin. Who’d blame these guys for having a chip on their shoulder?

Are the Seahawks tapping into that? It seems that way. After all, any edge you can find in a player is worth exploiting. Pete Carroll is building a programme around competition, and this appears to be just another form of that. Competition isn’t just about beating out the guy challenging for your position on the roster, it’s also about competing against outside factors.

Irvin was knocked as a reach at #15. The collective gasps among the league’s media were loud enough to wake a small child in Australia. It’s since been revealed that Irvin’s placement in the 2012 draft wasn’t a surprise among other teams as he was expected to leave the board at some point in the 20′s, if not sooner. Yet the Seahawks continue to be criticised and indirectly that’s a critique of Irvin. The media expects him to fail. They want to be proven right.

The choice of jersey #51 may just be a quirky decision on Irvin’s behalf given that he can’t use the #15. However, I like the idea that it’s all part of the process of proving the pick was justified. He could’ve chosen any number between 50-79 or 90-99. He went with the reverse of #15. Never mind that the number is closely associated with a recent Seahawks favorite (Lofa Tatupu), Irvin wants to make it his own and at the same time prove he was worth the big investment.

Russell Wilson chose #3 despite wearing #16 at both NC State and Wisconsin. Is it pure coincidence that he went with the number representing the round he was chosen? This is a guy that did nothing but put up great numbers in college, transition between schemes and keep winning. His senior year could easily have ended with a BCS Championship appearance. Yet when people talked about draft grades, it was always ‘mid-to-late round pick’. Just because of the height. I was one of the people making such a judgement on this very blog, while Kip had the smarts to see through it. In hindsight, I wish I’d not been so narrow minded.

Seattle drafted Wilson at the earliest point they had to. They knew they didn’t need to panic in round two, but didn’t risk waiting until round four where they had two picks. John Schneider believes he’s one of the top players in the draft, but he’s still a third round pick. Pete Carroll says he’s the one guy in this years class that gives you a chance to have a great player. He’s still a third round pick. Why? Just because of the height. A lot of people said he’d be a first round pick if he was a few inches taller. They ended up being correct, because I get the impression Seattle would’ve happily drafted this guy sooner if they had to.

Is Wilson using that as a motivational tool? Perhaps. Publicly he’s discussed how he’s dealt with the height issue throughout his career mainly because it’s unfortunately all anyone wants to talk about. Even members of Seattle’s media continue to ask him about it. At one point on Friday someone asked Pete Carroll if they’d acquired ‘lifts’ for his shoes. Hilarious. Someone, surprisingly, actually laughed at the question. Carroll did not. In Wilson’s press conference on the same day, he was asked about height and size of his hands – like there’s nothing else to discuss. Cue a bit of an awkward moment, but how many times have you seen Drew Brees asked to hold up his hands? Or Aaron Rodgers? It’s almost as if the Seahawks have drafted a different species to play the position. He’s a shorter quarterback. Time to get over it. For me it’s an issue that was rightly discussed a lot during the draft process when trying to project his stock, but it’s a moot point now. He went in the third round, he’s in Seattle and he’s ready to compete. Let’s see how he goes.

I’m not sure if Wilson or Irvin for that matter feed off such things. Some guys need that element of doubt from the outside to keep driving on. Others deal with criticism and doubters differently, keeping negativity away and concentrating only on things they can control. If Wilson succeeds, he’ll be succeeding with a constant reminder on his jersey. Third round, #3. If Irvin succeeds, people will see the number one and the number five. A nod to the critics who cried reach when Seattle made him the #15 pick.

The Seahawks pretty much created a team of players with a similar attitude. Chris Clemons – rejected by Philadelphia but finding success as an upper echelon pass rusher in Seattle, playing in a position he was born to play. Red Bryant – suddenly a defensive MVP when many wondered if his days were numbered with the Seahawks. Brandon Browner, Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor – former CFL defensive back and two late rounders now part of possibly the most dynamic secondary in the NFL.

On offense, Marshawn Lynch – a guy considered a trouble-maker in Buffalo and dumped for two late rounders but now the team’s heart and soul in the running game. Mike Williams – seemingly out of the game, but took the chance offered by Seattle to resurrect his career. Doug Baldwin – an UDFA snubbed by even his old coach at Stanford, but now vowing to become the teams #1 receiver. The spine of Seattle’s roster is built around guys who were challenged to prove a point.

Finding players with that edge has helped shape the team and it seems like most of the 2012 draft class has the same ‘chip on shoulder’ mentality. That can only be good news for the Seahawks.