Written by Kip Earlywine
Man, I’m drained. And sleep? Forget it.
I watched the Seahawks draft Russell Wilson, a player I badly wanted but never thought I’d get, and then minutes later I switched the channel to watch Michael Saunders hit a game winning 10th inning grand slam in a game they absolutely had no business going to extras in. It was maybe the best moment of the Mariner’s season, and it happened about twenty or thirty minutes after experiencing maybe the coolest draft moment ever for me. To say the least, it was a pretty awesome day.
The less awesome part of it? Seeing the Seahawks pass on Lavonte David for Robert Wagner (sorry dude). Wagner is a quality “glue that keeps the defense together” kind of guy, the same kind of guy that’s destined for a future free agency period where for weeks he’s ignored before getting a pity contract (Stephen Tulloch, etc). Lavonte David… he’s a playmaker and a difference maker. He’s the kind of guy who is almost destined for pro-bowls and future “is he over-rated?” discussions on Sportscenter. Bobby Wagner is a good pick, but Seattle stepped over a dollar to pick up a quarter here in my opinion. In fairness, Malcolm Smith really impressed me in limited looks last year* and he has the same size, build, and skill set as Lavonte David. Maybe Carroll passed on David because he believes Smith is poised for a breakout season?
*(as did Dexter Davis)
A lot of people are talking about the fact that Seattle lost a chance at Mychal Kendricks with their move down. That part actually doesn’t bother me all that much. My grades for Wagner and Kendricks were pretty much neck and neck. I think Kendricks has the higher upside, but both have areas for improvement and room for growth. Wagner was the better of the two in coverage and made fewer negative plays. It is certainly conceivable that Pete and John had Kendricks higher, but I’m guessing it was close. I’m sure they knew that the Eagles would be taking a linebacker at #46 (as much was obvious to everyone), and the Seahawks decided to trade with the Jets anyway.
That said, I’ve been saying for a while that Bobby Wagner seemed like too good a fit for Pete Carroll to ignore. In my linebacker writeup from just the other day, I ranked Wagner as the 3rd most likely linebacker target for Seattle in the entire draft (though this is made less impressive by who I ranked ahead of him). I estimated that Seattle would give Wagner a 2nd round grade. When the pick was announced, I was hoping for David, but was half expecting Wagner instead. If you are a regular reader of this blog, you probably weren’t all that surprised either.
So what does Wagner bring to the table? I scouted Wagner and wrote a report on him a few weeks back, but all you really need to know is that he is (in my opinion) the best man cover middle linebacker in the draft. I didn’t get to see him drop into zone much, but when asked to cover tight ends and running backs he was on them like a shadow. He’s adequate against the run but nothing more, not yet anyway. Wagner put up some solid stats in his senior year, but that was in a weird hybrid defense that had him playing reps as a pass rusher on the line. While I commend him for showing versatility, the fact is that almost every sack in Wagner’s career came from him playing in a 3-4 OLB type role. As a middle linebacker he produced nothing as a pass rusher. I’m not saying that can’t change, but as of now I’d not expecting Wagner to be much of an impact in the pass rush. In fairness, most 4-3 middle linebackers aren’t terrific pass rushers.
The other thing Wagner brings to the table is his speed. Seattle got killed by passes that targeted running backs and tight ends the last couple years. Wagner not only provides an asset in coverage, but even when he’s not covering the target he has the speed to minimize damage on screen plays and safety valve throws. Wagner’s speed also helps minimize the liability that Red Bryant presents against end around rushers. We saw this problem plenty last season against quicker running backs like DeMarco Murray, Roy Helu, LeSean McCoy, and even Kendall Hunter.
In a sense, Wagner is going to be the Earl Thomas of the second level. Thomas only had two interceptions last year, but ended up a second team all-pro because he made fewer mistakes and Pete Carroll used Thomas’ speed to allow the rest of the secondary more room for error. Thomas didn’t make a ton of plays, but he was clearly one of the most valuable defensive players in the entire league and was rewarded appropriately. Wagner is going to make plays with his speed so that some of the bigger bodies up front won’t always have to.
I get kind of a Doug Baldwin vibe from Wagner. He was told by his family, teachers, and even some of his coaches that he had a 1% chance to ever make it to the NFL, and that he should focus on a different career instead. Obviously, Wagner is going to be playing on Sundays, and probably for a long time. Now that I think about it, this whole draft so far has a “Doug Baldwin’s chip on the shoulder” vibe to it. Bruce Irvin has to prove to the Mel Kiper’s of the world that he wasn’t a reach at #15. Wagner had to overcome doubts just to get this far. Russell Wilson has to prove himself to a legion of haters who think he has no chance in the NFL. Is that an accident? I wonder. At least this year, it appears that Pete with his “always compete” mantra is naturally drawn to underdog types.
Seattle added a fourth rounder and a very early sixth rounder by moving three spots in round one, a move that cost Seattle nothing. Moving down four spots in the second for a 5th and a 7th is a terrific deal. Not that Seattle can keep striking gold every single year, but picks like those turned into Kam Chancellor and Richard Sherman in the 5th, and Malcolm Smith and Dexter Davis in the 7th. Losing Kendricks may have hurt for some, but if the right to pass on Kendricks lands us two more players even close to that level, it’s pretty hard to argue.
One last thing about Wagner before I move on. Jerry Jones said after today’s draft that he would have taken Bobby Wagner at #45* if he hadn’t traded the pick to move up for Morris Claiborne. If Wagner turns into a pro-bowler, we’ll have to send Jones a thank you card.
*(and not Mychal Kendricks)
In their post day two press conference, Pete Carroll revealed to reporters that two teams contacted him after the Russell Wilson selection telling him that they would have picked Wilson right after Seattle in the event that they had passed on him. I know stuff like this might not matter to some, but I think it’s interesting. Part of the reason Seattle has been so effective at drafting under this regime is their uncanny sixth sense for when players are about to leave the board. It also shows that Pete and John were not alone in thinking that Russell Wilson was worth a 3rd round pick.
Some names to watch for on day three:
I’m glad that all three of Seattle’s picks so far have been player’s I’ve covered, but that is probably where my success preparing for the draft ends. I do think Seattle will add a running back, but after that it’s really anyone’s guess what they might do. I suspect that they’ll add a defensive back or two. They might still add a project type linebacker with speed (there are several who still remain) to compete at the WILL position. Keep an eye on the tight end position too. Finally, don’t sleep on WR, even though Seattle already has a ton of them. This is a deep WR class and no other area will present better value in the later rounds. With seven picks and most of the major needs already addressed, expect Seattle to have a bit of a free for all grabbing the best under-the-radar talents they’ve found. Here are a few I’m watching for:
Logan Harrell, DT: Productive, high effort pass rusher, though lacking in size and played in a weak conference.
Jared Crick, DT: High motor pass rusher that could produce if surrounded by a good supporting cast.
Jonathan Massaquoi, DE: An above average pass rusher that struggles diagnosing the run. Not an obvious fit for Seattle’s scheme, but he’s talented.
Trevor Guyton, DE: Rock solid 5-tech depth. Pac-12 connection. Keep an eye on this one.
Ronnell Lewis, LB: Can play DE or SAM LB. Special teams demon. Why he’s still available is beyond me.
Nigel Bradham, LB: Five star recruit out of high school. Good tape, what little I’ve seen. Great measurables. I’ve heard mixed reviews from FSU fans though.
Josh Kaddu, LB: Versatile player that can play outside linebacker and might even be a rotational option at LEO.
Danny Trevathan, LB: Fast, highly productive, met with team.
Miles Burris, LB: Fast pass rushing option at WILL.
Korey Toomer, LB: Zach Brown with a smaller price tag.
Marcus Dowtin, LB: Coverage oriented linebacker with speed. Some off the field concerns.
James Michael-Johnson, LB: Terrific zone coverage middle linebacker that does everything else pretty well also.
Ron Brooks, CB: He’s only 5’10″ but he’s very physical in press coverage despite that. Makes a lot of plays. He ran a 4.37 forty with a 38″ vert. One of my favorite corners in the draft. Met with team.
Donnie Fletcher, CB: Six foot corner. Met with team.
Jeremy Lane, CB: Same deal.
Josh Bellamy, CB: Same deal. Also he’s a DB who’s name sounds like Jay Bellamy, which is cool. WR/CB convert like Sherman.
George Iloka, SS: Brandon Browner size with good tape at strong safety. Met with team.
Chris Polk, RB: I’m hearing that half the teams in the NFL have Polk completely off their boards after it was found that he has a degenerative shoulder condition. Sadly, the Seahawks may be one of those teams.
Lamar Miller, RB: Miller fell this far also because of shoulder issues, though I haven’t heard of them being as scary as Polk’s.
Robert Turbin, RB: Might be the best running back available if Miller and Polk are scratched for health reasons.
Tauren Poole, RB: Under-rated back, very similar to Chris Polk.
Terrance Ganaway, RB: Strong, disciplined, productive. He kind of reminds me of TJ Duckett.
Vick Ballard, RB: Big, strong, and faster than you’d think.
Cyrus Gray, RB: Average back with slightly above average speed.
Chris Rainey, RB: A possible heir to Leon Washington in the RB/KR role.
Jeff Fuller, WR: He might have gone second round if not for having such a terrible 2011 season.
Dwight Jones, WR: He has small hands and drops a lot of passes, but otherwise he might be a 1st round talent. Wilson and Flynn throw a soft, catchable ball.
Juron Criner, WR: Criner has no business lasting this long. He’ll be a quality #2 WR from day one.
Marvin Jones, WR: Same deal.
Nick Toon, WR: Why not pair Wilson with his top receiver from college?
Jermaine Kearse, WR: Highly inconsistent, but seemed to drop fewer balls when Keith Price was there. He has enough talent to merit a late round look for some team.
Devin Aguilar, WR: Aguilar was the Huskies version of Ben Obomanu.
Marvin McNutt, WR: He had a huge year. I’m surprised he’s still available.
Chris Givens, WR: Same deal.
Tommy Streeter, WR: 6’5″, 219 pounds. 4.40 forty. 35″ arms.
Greg Childs, WR: Great player recovering from injury. Will be a steal for some team.
Orson Charles, TE: The best tight end remaining on the board.
Taylor Thompson, TE: Very strong blocker with the athleticism to develop into a dual threat tight end. Late round option.
David Paulson, TE: Slow forty, but he’s a good blocker and a good receiver. Met with team.
Adrien Robinson, TE: Met with team.
Derek Carrier, TE: Met with team.
Bobby Massie, T: Biggest steal of the draft at any position entering day three. Fits Tom Cable size criteria and has 35″ arms.
Andrew Datko, T: He’s shed some weight this year which puts him in the range for a Tom Cable selection.
Ryan Miller, G: Good player, bad team. Will Colorado count as a Pac-12 team to Pete?