Considering Seattle’s need at receiver…

September 20th, 2012 | Written by Rob Staton

The Seahawks don't have anyone like Jimmy Graham. Then again, nobody does.

ESPN’s Mike Sando wrote something this week that got me thinking…

“The receiver position hasn’t worked out the way Seattle would have drawn it up. Sidney Rice has had injury problems. Kris Durham never developed. Ricardo Lockette has not taken the next step. The more Seattle has to rely on receivers such as Mike Williams (since released) and Braylon Edwards, the clearer it is that the Seahawks need to address that position in the offseason.”

It’s a statement most people would agree with. The Seahawks lack one of the three types of receiver that have been most productive in the modern NFL:

1. Physical freak (Calvin Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, Julio Jones) – usually drafted within the first ten picks, this is the type of once-in-a-generation receiver that is capable of dominating in any situation. Even with Arizona’s horrendous quarterback issues the last two seasons, Larry Fitzgerald has posted over 2500 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns. Seattle is unlikely to find one of these any time soon, especially in the 2013 draft class.

2. Production machine (Wes Welker, Steve Smith, Victor Cruz) – almost the polar opposite of the physical freak. The likes of Welker, Smith and Cruz don’t have great physical characteristics, but they have a knack of getting open and have developed into their quarterbacks best friend. You don’t need a high draft pick to find one of these, you just need a good scout and a little bit of luck. It’s worth noting that this type of receiver usually comes with an elite (or very good) quarterback.

3. The modern tight end (Jimmy Graham, Rob Gronkowski) – two tight ends appeared among last year’s top-10 receiver list for yardage. The position is evolving and with the success of Graham and Gronkowski, it’s likely a lot of teams in the NFL are going to be copycatting the Patriots and Saints. Expect more than two tight ends to be in the top-10 receiver list in a few years time if the trend sticks.

Singling out three ‘types’ of receiver is a bit vague. Obviously there are many varieties of receiver and this is a very basic ways of looking at it. There are also justifiable reasons why the Seahawks don’t have a dominating target on their offense. The draft hasn’t brought any answers – no receiver went in the top-25 picks in 2010, the Seahawks were out of range for A.J. Green or Julio Jones in 2011 and Justin Blackmon in 2012. They’ve lacked a productive quarterback who can turn a relatively modest receiver into a production machine – although they hope they’ve found the answer with Russell Wilson (and maybe Doug Baldwin). And despite the production of Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski – there just aren’t that many elite tight ends entering the league these days.

Even so, the team is lacking some fundamental needs for an offense. They haven’t got a reliable red-zone target, they don’t have a go-to-guy for their young quarterback, they don’t have a receiver who will consistently warrant double coverage and they don’t have a dominating physical presence you can trust to win a jump-ball. So what is the solution? How can they address this going forward?

The 2013 draft won’t have an A.J. Green or Julio Jones type talent, but there is some depth. Cordarrelle Patterson is developing into a big-time playmaker for Tennessee and he might be the closest thing to a ‘physical freak’ – but so far he’s only played three games of college football in his life. Keenan Allen, Robert Woods, Justin Hunter and others could emerge into productive receivers, but they’ll all enter the league with some question marks.

Free agency could provide some answers, but it’ll be a costly exercise. Having already pumped millions into Sidney Rice without a major return, the Seahawks might be cautious of trying to sign Mike Wallace, Greg Jennings or Wes Welker if they hit the open market.

It’s an issue that could linger for the Seahawks but they do need more playmakers on offense to be successful. Despite finding multiple starters at other positions in the later rounds of the draft or with modest free agents, nearly everything they’ve tried at receiver hasn’t worked. They made big investments in Rice and Zach Miller without big production. They drafted Golden Tate in round two, but he still has a lot to prove. They’ve taken guys in the later rounds or UDFA without finding an equivalent to Kam Chancellor or Richard Sherman. The biggest success story so far has been Doug Baldwin – but he’s still working towards 100% health this year after missing all of pre-season through injury. Can he build from a solid rookie season?

Generally this regime has been aggressive filling key needs. They were aggressive in repairing the offensive line – going for big name coaches and two first round picks at offensive tackle. They quickly rebuilt an entire defense. Despite not spending a first round pick on a quarterback, I’d argue the multiple moves at the position could be considered ‘aggressive’.

And let’s not forget – getting a top-end receiver appeared to be one of Pete Carroll’s big aims when he was appointed Head Coach. He entertained Brandon Marshall with a view to bringing him to Seattle via trade. Had the Broncos been willing to deal for the teams 2010 second round pick, he probably would’ve been a Seahawk. They looked into a deal with San Diego for Vincent Jackson. They drafted Golden Tate. That was just in the first year. Since then, they’ve spent a ton of money on Sidney Rice and Zach Miller. In fact 2012 is the first year where they’ve been quite modest at the position, looking at guys on the street such as Terrell Owens and Braylon Edwards.

The Seahawks won’t panic because it’s not in the nature of Carroll and Schneider. That doesn’t mean they won’t be aggressive. They’ve shown a willingness to target needs in the draft and that could be the case here. They’ve also shown they’re prepared to go after big name free agents if they fit the criteria. It’s probably safe to assume something will be done to address this issue unless Rice, Miller, McCoy, Baldwin and Tate all break-out in the remaining 14 games. Working out what they’re going to do is the hard part.

Receivers with the potential to go in rounds 1/2 in 2013: Cordarrelle Patterson (WR, Tennessee), Robert Woods (WR, USC), Keenan Allen (WR, California), Justin Hunter (WR, Tennessee), Marquess Wilson (WR, Washington State), Tavon Austin (WR, West Virginia), Aaron Dobson (WR, Marshall), Da’Rick Rogers (WR, Tennessee Tech), Kenny Stills (WR, Oklahoma), Levine Toilolo (TE, Stanford), Zach Ertz (TE, Stanford), Dion Sims (TE, Michigan State), Joseph Fauria (TE, UCLA), Tyler Eifert (TE, Notre Dame)

29 Responses to “Considering Seattle’s need at receiver…”

  1. Mtjhoyas says:

    Great article Rob.

    Dion Sims is really, really intriguing to me. He’s not going to be a playmaker per se, but he could be the ultimate chain mover, reliable target. The man is huge with decent athleticism. He could even be considered a “light” offensive tackle. Furthermore, he has had off field problems that will drop his draft stock.

    At this point, the Seahawks need to overload on offense in the draft. I think they need to draft at least 2 WRs and a TE. We can still maintain the same ground and pound style, but how much more effective would that style be with some top notch playmakers? That’s a team nobody would want to play.

  2. So Rob, have you pretty much dismissed Sidney Rice as “unlikely to ever emerge”, then?

    • Rob Staton says:

      I guess it’s unfair to judge him with a.) Tarvaris Jackson/Charlie Whitehurst throwing him the ball and b.) Rookie Russell Wilson throwing the ball – in a second game where he actually only threw 20 passes. I wouldn’t say I’m ruling him out to emerge… but I think even if he posts what I’d say is an unlikely 1000 yard season you’re relying on others to also prove their worth. The Seahawks will need more than Sidney Rice even if Sidney Rice is playing at his best.

      • Bobby Cink says:

        Do you think the Hawks may ask Rice to restructure his contract at the end of this year if he doesn’t produce? I think that it it could happen, but it would be a little unlikely. His contract balloons next year doesn’t it, though?

        • Rob Staton says:

          I think it’s a near certainty because his contract is insane next year.

          • pqlqi says:

            his contract is hardly insane given the affordable price last season and the flexibility it gave us in rolling cap room over. His cap hit only jumps from 7.2 million to 8.7 million for the next two season (7.5 + 1.2 prorated signing bonus).

            For comparison, Rice is getting 41 million over 5 years

            Comparable contracts given out in the last 2 years have Santonio Holmes earning 45 million over 5 years, Andre Johnson 7/63, Pierre Garcon 5/43, Antonio Brown 6/43, and Vincent Jackson 5/55.

            Rice is squarely in the middle of those in terms of quality, and we are paying a reasonable market price for him. Barring another injury riddled season (seems to be healthy so far, even after taking a brutally punishing hit in the Dallas game that should have been penalized for contact to the head on a defenseless WR), Rice would be a complete idiot to renegotiate. Doesn’t mean the Seahawks won’t try, though, and maybe we see him move on ala Hawthorne, Lofa, etc

  3. I would love to nab “Tavon Awesome” in round 2. Kind of a Percy Harvin type, but better at it than Tate. He’d also make a good choice to succeed Washington at KR when he finally hangs ‘em up some day.

    • pqlqi says:

      better at it than Tate?

      are you talking about the Tate who has so much athletic talent with the ball in his hands that he won the highly prized Belitnikoff Award for the best WR in all of college football despite not knowing how to run routes, or the Tate who was the only WR in the NFL with 30+ receptions last year without a drop, or the Tate who has taken two years adjusting to the NFL and has had trouble producing on a team with a horribly questionable QB and OL situation last year.

      His routes look excellent so far (he was breaking ankles of a few of the cowboys DBs last sunday), his hands are as sure as they ever have been, and even ignoring the fined block at Dallas, he is absolutely one of the best downfield blockers at his position in the NFL.

      I haven’t seen Tavon play, maybe he is more apt for backfield play and returns than Tate. But Tate was a 1st round talent that dropped to the 2nd because he didn’t run routes well at all, and now he has developed his area of weakness into a solid strength. Hard to imagine you’d get someone with more talent and skill that Tate in round 2.

      • Mtjhoyas says:

        While I totally respect your opinion of Tate, I guess I feel much different about him.

        While he has good athleticism, he’s not anywhere close to a Steve Smith/Desean Jackson level. The other difference between him and the aforementioned, is they have completely different body types. Despite Jackson/Smith being short, they are pretty “long” guys and they have much better “sudden movements” and top end speed. Tate runs like a running back and is built like one. He’s squatty and not that sudden. He will break tackles but not flat out make guys miss. I know he ran a good 40 time at the combine, but like his former team mate Michael Floyd, I don’t think that speed necessarily translated on the field. Yes, he did win the Biletnikoff, but if you look at the history of that award, not many of those guys amounted to anything in the NFL. After all, it’s about who put up the best stats in college, not who is going to make a great professional (like the Heisman).

        I get that people are excited about Tate, but this is year 3 and like many, many college WRs, he was a crappy route runner coming into the league. I don’t think he was a round 1 talent by any means as I never see him every sniffing the label of #1 WR. I think he can be a fine player for the Hawks, but IMO, there’s no way he can ever become “the guy” on offense.

        *Just to reiterate, I am not saying you are wrong and I am right, simply highlighting how different our observations of him are. I sincerely hope that you are right as that means the Hawks will be much better off.

        • pqlqi says:

          what do you think of Jordy Nelson? does he have a chance of sniffing the label of #1 WR?

          I wouldn’t consider him a prototypical #1, but I think Tate can be that effective of a player, albeit in a slightly different role, and assuming the OL and QB develop appropriately

          • Mtjhoyas says:

            I think Jordy Nelson is great. He’s also 6’3″ 217 lbs. I would consider him a great #2, but he could be #1 quality with another quality target opposite of him, like Greg Jennings.

            To me, a true #1 dictates coverage and despite this, consistently racks up yardage. I think the #1 WR label gets thrown around too loosely, much like a #1 SP in baseball.

            Don’t get me wrong, I really like Tate, but I don’t think he can be “the guy.” That doesn’t mean he can’t be a useful weapon in our offense.

      • You should see Tavon play.

      • In terms of explosiveness/running style, Golden Tate is somewhat like Chris Polk whereas Austin is like CJ Spiller. Austin is a game breaker and WVU was always finding ways to get him on the field. He returned kicks, played WR (almost 1200 receiving yards), and saw a lot of action at RB too. He has top 10 pick talent, but has mid-late round size. Should be interesting to see how teams view him. He’s a lot more talented than Dexter McCluster, and McCluster went 36th overall in 2010.

        • Also, if Seattle drafted Tavon Austin that does not necessarily mean that he would necessarily compete with Tate. They might view Austin as an option in the slot since Baldwin- our current slot WR- is roughly the same size as Austin. I just brought up Tate since Tate was compared to a Percy Harvin type coming out of college and Austin is much more so.

          • MJ says:

            Good call Kip. Watching Tavon Austin right now…WOW. Explosive. Catches the ball well. Would be an awesome weapon/gadget guy to have. Will be curious to see how high he goes. He’s extremely small, but man, explosive and sudden on an elite level.

          • pqlqi says:

            so he’s like LMJ, Jahvid Best, or CJ Spiller playing WR instead of RB… just watched some highlights.

            He looks tiny, but with the Wilson selection, we know the FO is not fixed in any perceptions of players. The obvious concern every team will have is his size… it’s one thing to be Sproles at 5’6″ if you are built like a brick (Sproles is thick), but slight frames like Tavon rarely make the NFL. Seems like the closest size/play comparison would be DeSean Jackson? if you can sneak him in as a 3/4 pick, the draft capital at risk is much lower. Hard to see this FO going ealier.

            I don’t see him in the Harvin/Tate mold at all.

  4. Colin says:

    I think it is safe to say Seattle needs to pursue playmakers this offseason. They’ve built a potenially #1 defense, a solid ground game, and a core of players I don’t see just falling off the earth. It’s time they go after some guys to stretch the field. It’s safe to say Zach Miller isn’t going to be a dynamic force at TE, and McCoy, well- I won’t hold my breath. Yet.

    What’s going to dictate this conversation during the offseason is how Russell Wilson progresses. Is he the QBOTF? That has to get straightened out sooner rather than later.

    The way I see it, this team is going to be a perennial 8-10 win team, just based on the Defense and solid run game/special teams we have. If they are going to turn into 11+ consistently, they have to be able to win shootouts. We can’t do that right now.

    As much as Pete loves drafting defense, they may have to pull a GMZ (For the M’s fans out there). You have to start drafting some bats and not just pitchers. Even if that requires a reach or two in some spots, we need to become more well rounded.

    Can’t argue with what we have right now though.

  5. Darnell says:

    It seems like a chicken/egg scenerior in a way. Do you invest first round capital when WRs seem to be a very minimal part of the offense? Or are do WRs seem to be a minimal part of the offense because of the lack of quality at the position on the team?

    Upon review, what Bevell did with Rice/Harvin/Berrien suggests that WRs can play a big role in his offense.

    I do hold out significant hope for Tate, there’s just these ‘wow’ flashes that make you think “one day maybe….” He doesn’t drop the ball, changes direction really well at both the peak of his routes and after the catch, and man the way he toasted Claiborne at the line was impressive on that play where Wilsons deep ball hung up after getting defelected by Ware.

    Now, if this was the 2014 draft I’d be all for a jump up the board for Lee,Watkins or ASJ ( I think he’ll grade as the top TE prospect since VD). Maybe the 2013 draft should be all about collecting future capital.

    Really think Odell Beckham has the elite stuff too.

    • pqlqi says:

      Nice nuanced view here.

      We tend to judge WRs by production… but in an offense that struggle with OL consistency for the last two season and had an over the hill QB two years ago and a solid but just below average QB last year, it’s hard to look at numbers and say we don’t have good WRs.

      Tate is clearly the FO’s choice as our number 2 WR, he is THE guy in almost all single WR sets and he displaced Braylon as the #2 as soon as he was healthy. Rice is an exceptional talent, and though he has had injuries, none of them are the kind that lead to a chronically declining player. Braylon is pretty exceptional as the #3 – he’s only 29, deserved to be a top of the draft pick, and posted a 1300 yards 16 TD season as a Browns WR (as a Browns WR – hahahahahah – that’s fucking insane isn’t it? – seriously, since 1980, there have only be 7 seasons where a Browns player had 1000 yards receiving, and Braylon is the only one who ever exceeded 10TDs in a single season). Baldwin in the slot as the #3/4 is tough to improve upon.

      No on produced last season because the QB play was poor and the OL play was poor. We have a new QB this season, and the OL still seems to be in turmoil. Barring a Rice season ending injury, I’d expect the 1st round pick to be spent on a nose tackle type DT as depth rotation for Mebane and Branch, maybe with a little versatility to also play Red’s position.

      • Kenny Sloth says:

        I could see us going with DT in the first is if we don’t resign Branch, which is entirely possible. I would not at all mind seeing Manti Te’o if he’s available for us. I do realize that LBs are often available in the later rounds. But Te’o seems to be a generational talent and a great fit for our Will spot. Especially with an aging Leroy Hill. Hill has been good for us and will remain veteran, talented depth. If we had to choose between Branch and Jones, would it be feasible to keep Jones as a starter at the position?

    • Attyla the Hawk says:

      I think it’s too early to consider WR as a position of need. For two reasons:

      One, we need to see what they look like with a competent QB distributing the ball. I do believe Wilson will be that guy, but I also don’t expect him to be that guy until the second half of the season.

      Two, I do believe that it’s really Tate’s year to show his value. He came in as a raw prospect that needed development time. He wasn’t pro ready by any stretch, but he has shown steady improvement, especially if you look at how he developed over the latter half of his second season, and how that’s transitioned to this season. He is continually making strides and perfecting his craft. He is developing at good pace, which is exactly what you hope for in a project pick.

      I think that weeks 10 through 17 will give us a really good idea of whether or not Tate is going to be able to seize a larger role going forward. Right now, I believe he is still going to struggle comparatively as a result of Russell’s growing pains. Certainly, I think we can all see that Russell and Tate already have a pretty strong relationship together and that Wilson looks for Tate when he needs a play, like Jackson looked to Baldwin.

      If the offensive mandate for this team is run first and run second — then consider the pass, then it’s dubious we will be investing in sub 6′ receivers unless they absolutely excel at blocking. Every receiver is going to have to be good at blocking in this offense. Unless Austin is a great blocker for his size, I don’t see him as a real possibility unless he slides. Tate is an excellent blocker and has been pretty much since he’s arrived.

      I agree we need better productivity from the passing game. Although even if the offense is functioning perfectly, I don’t see us as being in the top half of the league statistically. If we were to consider that Jackson at QB tainted the assessment of our passing health, then we have to consider Wilson will do the same for a significant part of this season. From multiple sources of analysis thus far, we are leaving significant yards on the field attributable to him being a rookie. When that subsides, we should get a really accurate picture of where our receivers are at production wise.

  6. tarry says:

    WR in both 1st and 2nd round would be fine with me, but we need OT and OLB depth. We do have some extra picks coming in later rounds. We’ll see what magic JS and PC can bring… Again!

  7. Random Guy says:

    Why do you use the phrase “once-in-a-generation” to describe a type of player with three currently active examples?

  8. Frank says:

    Small point, Steve Smith is a freak wilst Fitz is all production even though he run like a 5.3 forty. Smith is the craziest to belive football player since the immortal Barry Sanders. Our WR core is OK when healthy, if Wilson a off season to develop a report with everyone they could be a solid group. I think this is our first BPA draft. If Carpender is a gaurd and Okung is always hurt Tackle is our biggest need?

    • Kenny Sloth says:

      Yes, with all the high end talent in this draft at OL, I think we could conceivably go tackle in the second. It really depends on how the order and the drafting shakes out. Like say Jake Matthews falls to us in the second. Ooh baby. I’d be shtoked for sho.

  9. Ryan says:

    If austin seferian-jenkins declares do you think he would go in the first round? I think I would take him. Jimmy graham 2.0