2013 ‘top heavy’ for defense: How it could benefit Seattle

October 10th, 2012 | Written by Rob Staton

Texas A&M's Damontre Moore is one of a number of potential defensive top-15 picks

In the last few years, the first round of the NFL draft has been pretty balanced between offense and defense. Since 1993 (the last time Seattle drafted a quarterback in round one) only three defensive players have been drafted first overall (Dan Wilkinson, Courtney Brown and Mario Williams), but in recent years the top-15 picks have been split evenly. Of the 75 top-15 picks since 2008, 36 have been offensive players and 39 defensive.

The 2013 draft will buck the trend.

Obviously it’s still early days and a lot can change, but we’ve quietly moved towards the half-way point in the college football season. There aren’t going to be too many surprises from now until the end of the year, and many of the rising stars from now on are likely to crop up after work outs rather than in-season performance. Enough people study the draft these days to get on angle on who has a shot to be a high first round pick – the access to fans and pundits is greater than it’s ever been. Most potential first rounders are at least on the radar by this stage.

Right now it looks like a good year if you want a defensive tackle, with as many as 6-8 potential first round picks at the position. There are some big-time pass rushers who could crack the top-15 and there’s the usual handful of cornerbacks in the running too. When you throw in guys like Manti Te’o and Alec Ogletree at linebacker, it’s easy to see why this is setting up to be a defense-dominated draft class. We may even see the #1 pick being spent on a defensive player for the first time since 2006.

On the other hand it’s not looking like a strong year for offensive talent. Matt Barkley, Geno Smith and Tyler Wilson will all hope to benefit from the league’s obsession with quarterbacks (Logan Thomas doesn’t appear likely to declare for 2013). Will the demand for the position remain? With eight teams taking a quarterback in the first round since 2011 and the likes of Cincinnati (Andy Dalton) and Seattle (Russell Wilson) finding starters recently in the middle rounds, eventually there’s going to be a tipping point. Smith and Barkley aren’t going to generate the kind of hype afforded to Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, while Wilson is suffering within an Arkansas team that imploded two weeks into the new season.

Cleveland are the only team without a victory so far in 2012, but they were one of the teams to go quarterback last April. That player – Brandon Weeden – turns 29 on Sunday. If they end up with the #1 overall pick next year, they’ll likely face a number of big decisions. The new owners may wish to move on from Mike Holmgren and the staff assembled in 2010. That would put Weeden’s position in jeopardy and make a QB at #1 more likely. Considering his age, he needed to prove he could start and perform quickly to a high standard. With hindsight that was far too much to expect even for a player pushing 30 with previous pro-sports experience. Unfortunately for Weeden, Cleveland may go quarterback again next year. Demand will also be enhanced if teams like Kansas City, Oakland and Jacksonville decide they need to invest in a quarterback. And let’s not completely rule out Seattle, either. Even so, it seems like there’s going to be less hysteria around the position.

The 2013 class lacks a player like Trent Richardson who can drive through the perception of low value at running back. Marcus Lattimore could’ve forced his way into that bracket, but a lack of top-end speed and with a serious knee injury on his record – he’s unlikely to crack the top-15. He does have production, character and leadership on his side though, so don’t rule it out. There are multiple receivers who could find their way into the first or second round, but none appear to warrant top-15 consideration. It’s also a dry year for offensive tackles.

Apart from the likelihood of one or two quarterbacks going early, the only other hope on offense may come from an unusually talented pair of offensive guards. Chance Warmack has top-10 talent and will only last beyond that due to the relatively low value placed on interior lineman. Jonathan Cooper is equally as talented and shouldn’t last too long in the first round. Tennessee’s Dallas Thomas is also rising after moving from tackle this year. Imagine a scenario where Geno Smith, Matt Barkley and Chance Warmack are the only offensive players taken in the top-15 picks. It’s not unlikely. That’s how good the defensive talent is this year.

This could actually play into the hands of a team like Seattle. Whether the Seahawks make the post season or simply have to settle for progress in 2012, they’re unlikely (bold statement) to be picking in the top-ten. If next years draft does prove to be top-heavy for defense, it’ll mean there’s more choice of offensive talent later on. If the teams intention was to, for example, make two early picks on offense – the depth would be there to do so. Most people would presume Seattle will target offense in the draft, whether that’s at receiver, offensive line or even quarterback. Picking later could be a benefit in that regard. That’s not to say the team wouldn’t consider defense – especially given the supreme talent and depth at defensive tackle. But right now it’d be an upset if the Seahawks didn’t make offensive improvement their priority in the off-season.

There is some precedent for the team benefiting from a scenario like this. Only last April Pete Carroll and John Schneider had their pick of the entire pass-rusher class – the teams #1 priority in the draft. Make no mistake despite what you read about Luke Kuechly and Mark Barron, this team was zoned in on improving the pass rush in the draft. There wasn’t an obvious top-10 pick at defensive end, meaning the Seahawks were able to trade down to #15 and still get their pick of the crop. They chose Bruce Irvin, but probably had one or two solid alternatives. As soon as Irvin left the board, the likes of Quinton Coples, Chandler Jones and others soon followed.

We could see a similar outcome next year, where the Seahawks have an entire group of players to pick from at a position of need – such is the possibility of this being a real top-heavy draft on defense. The big question is whether a player exists that fits the vision of this front office as well as the last #1 pick. Bruce Irvin has been described as ‘the ideal LEO’ many times by Pete Carroll. Does the ideal wide receiver for this team exist among the 2013 group? Or the ideal offensive lineman? Or even the ideal quarterback? Only seven months to find out…

Top-20 prospects – October 10th

1 – Matt Barkley (QB, USC)
2 – Jarvis Jones (DE, Georgia)
3 – Chance Warmack (G, Alabama)
4 – Star Lotulelei (DT, Utah)
5 – Dee Milliner (CB, Alabama)
6 – Geno Smith (QB, West Virginia)
7 – Manti Te’o (LB, Notre Dame)
8 – Bjoern Werner (DE, Florida State)
9 – Damontre Moore (DE, Texas A&M)
10 – Jonathan Jenkins (DT, Georgia)
11 – Sheldon Richardson (DT, Missouri)
12 -Barkevious Mingo (DE, LSU)
13 – Sylvester Williams (DT, North Carolina)
14 – Alec Ogletree (LB, Georgia)
15 – Dion Jordan (DE, Oregon)
16 – Jonathan Cooper (G, North Carolina)
17 – Corey Lemonier (DE, Auburn)
18 – Marcus Lattimore (RB, South Carolina)
19 – Johnathan Hankins (DT, Ohio State)
20 – Robert Woods (WR, USC)

13 Responses to “2013 ‘top heavy’ for defense: How it could benefit Seattle”

  1. Mtjhoyas says:

    Awesome perspective Rob. I love the list. The only changes on the list (IMO) would be dropping Barkley to the 7-10 range (mainly due to limited scheme fit) and swapping Woods for Keenan Allen or Justin Hunter.

    I know you really like Woods (so do I), but I really think he only fits a certain role in the NFL. I am becoming more and more convinced that he needs to be in the slot. He’s really small and looks like a different player when pressed at the LOS. I think in order to be top 20 on a draft board, a WR needs to be a difference maker (or ability to grow into that). Woods, IMO, is a guy who needs to go to a team like the Patriots or a team with a bonafide #1 WR. I am struggling to see him as “the guy” for a team, which is why I can’t see him going top 20. Ironically, him and Matt Barkley seem like eerily similar pro prospects. Very polished, smart, safe & will succeed, but I simply struggle seeing them as difference makers. Doesn’t mean they aren’t valuable, but I think they would need to be accompanied by some stronger pieces to ever stand out.

    I see Allen as a guy who can physicall become a #1, even if his college resume doesn’t say that right now. With Allen, we can cite Size/Speed combo, but I think the true skill he brings is really good body control for a bigger WR. That’s a really underrated trait for bigger WRs. I could say the same thing about Justin Hunter. The Hawks are really lacking difference makers on the offensive side of the ball. So, for my money, if the Hawks were to target a WR, I’d much prefer them to look at Allen/Hunter, rather than a chain mover like Woods.

    This is going to be an extremely interesting year for offensive prospects. There’s no Andrew Luck or AJ Green, which I think makes for a potentially volatile day for many of the offensive guys not named Chance Warmack or Jonathan Cooper. There are some good players that fit specific roles, but not really an all around “can’t miss” stud.

    Love the site Rob. You really are on top of it. Must read stuff.

  2. Colin says:

    Couple of things here: We know Seattle needs more playmakers on offense, but I also think they need to add a WLB for when Leroy Hill is no longer an option. Maybe Korey Toomer develops into that spot?
    Receiver is the biggie though, and I think the odds of Sidney Rice and Zach Miller both being on this team next year (with their current contracts) seems slim.

    I don’t know how I feel about a 1st round DT- not a sexy pick, but it could be a necessity. We’ve seen this defense when the D line starters get injured, (two years ago) and it’s not a pretty picture. It may also alleviate any pressure to “have” to keep Alan Branch or Jason Jones, though the two play very different roles.

    • MJ says:

      Alec Ogletree at WIL…would be scary for this defense. Athleticism and size of our defense would be unparalleled in the NFL. I am hoping they go after him. He’s a freak.

    • Darnell says:

      Leroy Hill is solid, but I hear what you are saying – him and Tru are probably the next two to be replaced on the D. The thing is, I would never take a 4-3 olb in the first round and would hesitate in the 2nd round (just not enough positional value). Lets keep in mind too that the next man up could very well be Mike Morgan, as he looks very promising as the type of long/fast type of players that they like.

  3. Stuart says:

    Interesting points Collin. There are so many facts to consider aren’t there. My gut today says they keep Rice but move on from Zach Miller because of the contract. Is it even possible Z. Miller would take less to stay or is a pride thing and players just wont do that anymore? What’s more if you try that with Z. Miller, why not try that with S. Rice also? I want both players back but at their salary’s, one will have to go…


    • Colin says:

      My bet is Stuart, the team will offer to restructure the contracts before sending them down the line. Those guys should be expecting that unless their production really increases.

      And the way our offense is designed right now, I don’t see that happening.

  4. Snoop Dogg says:

    Check out DaRick Rogers! He is my favorite seahawk hopeful pick at the moment (Round 1-2).

    He has incredible hands, beastly strength, quick in and out of breaks, great concentration, tough as nails, (I have read that he is a good route runner), and he gains separation constantly.

    What do you think Rob?

    • Rob Staton says:

      The issue with Da’Rick is always going to be the character concerns. That’s not to say a guy can’t turn things around (Janoris Jenkins is having a fine start to his NFL career) but he’s the kind of guy it’s impossible to judge without the kind of info teams acquire through their sources and meeting with the player himself. Very talented guy, but his stock will be determined by his ability to convince teams his off-field issues are in the past.

  5. Crosby says:

    Hey Rob, one prospect I’m really interested in is Levine Toilolo. Where do you think his draft stock is right now? And is he the kind of guy that might get boosted from a freakish combine performance? Would love to see him out there in 2 TE sets with Miller. Enjoying seeing McCoy put his drops issue in the rearview but if Toilolo could be more of a consistent offensive weapon I would love the upgrade.

    This is by far my favorite sports blog out there, keep up the great work!

    • Rob Staton says:

      He has more upside than pretty much any other player in the draft – and with the league heading towards big, athletic freaks at tight end, he will be a first round pick if he performs well at the combine.