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)