Written by Kip Earlywine
If grading the draft is stupid, then grading the late rounds is absurdity. If the first round feels like an auction, then the final rounds feels more like a yard sale. Hidden amongst a mountain of barely used workout machines, old socks, cheap jewelry, and toys from thirty years ago, you may (on extremely rare occasions) stumble across a signed Mickey Mantle rookie card or a first edition Superman comic book. It’s possible, but you might have to search through millions of yard sales before you find anything with that kind of hidden value. If you just visited one yard sale, the odds of finding anything amazing would be essentially zero. But the more yard sales you search, and the better trained your eye for value is, the more those odds increase.
There is a luck factor to consider, but I don’t think the team’s success with Kam Chancellor, Walter Thurmond, KJ Wright, and Richard Sherman was a result of dumb luck. They were the result of tirelessly churning through hundreds, maybe even a thousand or so college prospects without discounting anyone. As Bill Walsh said, “the harder you work, the luckier you get.” Based on how active this front office is in all phases of roster construction, and based on how inclusive their draft selection process has been, it gives the impression of a very hard working front office that never cuts corners to save time or effort. It also helps that the Seahawks had thirteen picks in rounds 4-7 the previous two years. Having a high work ethic, having a good synergy with the coaching staff, having a lot of picks, and having skilled talent evaluators in both the coaching staff and scouting department, it’s the perfect storm for mid to late round success.
It’s often said that a successful draft produces two good starters. Seattle has produced four good starters in the fourth round or later alone the last two years: Chancellor, Wright, Sherman, and Baldwin. In addition to those four, Walter Thurmond could become a quality starter in the future if he stays healthy. Leon Washington also came as part of a trade from that area of the draft, adding significant value on special teams. Even if the Seahawks consistently flopped in the crucial early rounds, they’d still be getting it done with players added after the first three rounds of the draft. And that’s not even considering Ricardo Lockette, Malcolm Smith, Dexter Davis, Anthony McCoy, Josh Portis, or Jeron Johnson, all of whom may possibly turn into starters down the road.
Seattle had seven choices in rounds 4-7 this year. Thanks to some outstanding maneuvering in rounds 1-3, the Seahawks have already addressed all but one of their pre-draft goals. That last remaining goal was then addressed immediately with their first fourth round pick.
With the pre-draft goals having reached completion, the remainder of the Seahawks draft shifted into a search for overlooked players with the tools to be useful in Pete Carroll’s defensive schemes (with one project at guard also added late). I’m going to include a grade for Robert Turbin, because he relates to the pre-draft goals and therefore was a part of the broader decision making process. He’s also a guy that is a virtual lock to make the roster and see a significant amount of snaps next season- he may even be our featured back in a few years time.
The rest, I’ll wait until the preseason before attempting any kind of judgement, as none of them are projected starters and we’ll have to see how impressive they look competing for a spot on the roster. Rather than leave a grade, I’ll score the pick by how exciting it appears to me based on the information available.
With the 106th overall pick, the Seahawks select Robert Turbin (Grade: A)
Seattle took a chance on Russell Wilson in the third round. And by taking a chance, I don’t just mean taking a chance on Wilson’s height, they also took a chance that they might fail to address one of their pre-draft goals: finding a starting caliber running back in this draft.
Luckily for Seattle, Robert “The Turbinator” Turbin lasted long enough to reach the 106th pick. In my opinion, Turbin and Chris Polk were the last two remaining of this year’s second tier of running backs, and Chris Polk appeared to have been taken completely off Seattle’s draft board for health reasons. There isn’t a coach in the NFL that would know more about Polk then Carroll would. There’s the Pac-12 connection. There’s also the Steve Sarkisian connection. Then there’s the city of Seattle connection. A healthy Chris Polk would have been a terrific addition to the Seahawks’ offense, but Seattle passed. Polk went undrafted. Hence, the Seahawks have to feel great about getting Turbin here, because he was the last of that second tier of options available.
Turbin was a player I covered in my draft spotlight series. He’s a guy (like Doug Martin) that jumped off the film really early in my initial draft evaluation process late last year. I think Martin is the better of the two, but I don’t think Martin deserved to rise so much more than Turbin did. Before the draft I had personally graded Turbin in the 3rd round and said “he could end up being a steal for some team.” This marks the second pick in a row where I think Seattle got a steal with a very under-rated player. Seattle took a calculated gamble by waiting until the fourth for a running back, and that gamble paid off.
Turbin is a huge running back with a cartoonishly muscular physique. Turbin plays as strong as he looks, and at a minimum he provides value as a short yardage specialist at the next level. Turbin has good upside as an every down back as well. He blocks well, he receives well, and he’s run the forty (unofficially) in the 4.4s. Turbin has a bit of a tragic life story that has forged him into person of character. Turbin’s production at Utah State was immense (including 32 rushing touchdowns the last two seasons), rivaling the production put up by Ryan Mathews from the same conference a couple years ago. Mathews (the 12th overall pick in 2010) is a better back, but not by much in my mind.
Turbin is frequently compared to Marshawn Lynch. Lynch is more athletic than Turbin, so I think a better comparison might be Jamal Lewis- a bruising north/south rusher who had sneaky speed and produced huge rushing totals.
With the 114th overall pick, the Seahawks select Jaye Howard
(Personal degree of initial interest or excitement: 5/10)
There are things I really like about Howard and things that worry the heck out of me too.
I really like that Howard comes with the assumed Dan Quinn stamp of approval. Dan Quinn was an excellent defensive line coach with the Seahawks before bolting for Florida to be the Gators defensive coordinator last year. As with any prospect, front offices would interview with coaches to get a feel for the prospect, and in this case the Seahawks have a close connection to the coach that worked on Howard last season and helped him achieve a mini-breakout. Howard totaled 5.5 sacks as a defensive tackle in the SEC last season, which is a lot more impressive than it sounds.
Howard has two major strengths and one major weakness. His first strength is his above average athleticism for a 300 pound man. He performed well at the combine, and on tape he looks explosive- he can close on a tackle/sack in a hurry. His second major strength is his arm use. Howard has violent hands and is very difficult to block for long stretches of time. He often combines great hand usage with an explosive first step to get around single blocks. His combination of good hand use and short area quickness can make guards look like matadors at times. Howard gets off the ball fast too.
My problem with Howard is that he can be a huge liability against the run. I’ll give him credit for trying to keep his eyes upfield while being run-blocked, but he struggles to shed run blockers and is blown back five yards (sometimes more) with regularity. There are also plays where Howard looks lazy, and I’ve read that Howard struggled with consistency before 2011.
If Pete Carroll can motivate Howard and improve his performance against the run, Howard has a good chance to not only make the roster, but become another Rocky Bernard success story. Howard strikes me as a high risk, high reward pick. If he can’t improve against the run, he’ll never be more than a situational player. Pass rushing defensive tackles are one of the rarest commodities in the NFL, so if Carroll ends up finding one in the 4th round with Howard, that’s a home run pick. I’m not optimistic about Howard (I consider hints of laziness to be a major red flag), but I’ll acknowledge that the potential of this pick is very intriguing.
With the 154th overall pick, the Seahawks select Korey Toomer
(Personal degree of interest or excitement: 7/10)
From this point onward, I can’t really offer any scouting input on Seattle’s choices.
Korey Toomer was a guy I listed as a late round possibility, I even included him at #9 on my top 10 linebackers list. I was half expecting Toomer to have his name called with the Jaye Howard pick, so getting him a round later was a nice surprise. Toomer is big and athletic (4.53 forty), and can play any 4-3 linebacker position. Carroll said while he needs to get Toomer on the field to see where he fits best, the initial plan is to give Toomer looks at SAM (presumably as Wright’s backup). Speed at linebacker is a big need for Seattle, which makes me think Toomer has a good chance to make the final roster, and it’s possible he could end up seeing snaps this season.
On the surface, this looks like a good pick. Banking on players with upside is a good way to spend a late rounder. Toomer has the tools to be a special player. I’m looking forward to the preseason to get some looks at him.
With the 172nd overall pick, the Seahawks select Jeremy Lane
(Personal degree of interest or excitement: 10/10)
NFL.com’s draft tracker comes with a draft grade for every prospect. I don’t know if Mike Mayock does them all or if it’s broken up by twenty different interns, but almost every pick in the draft has a scouting report score assigned to it, which ranges from 1 to 8. Seattle’s second lowest rated prospect last year was 5th round pick Richard Sherman. He scored a 2.5. Out of 8. Mark Legree was a 3.6, for comparison’s sake.
Now if you asked whoever it was that did that scoring, you might get a surprisingly non-idiotic answer. It’s not like Sherman was a sure thing coming out of last year’s draft. There were things to knock him on.
However, scouting criteria does not include a check box for attitude. As we saw last year, Sherman played with a chip on his shoulder. He called out AJ Greene before the Bengals game and then backed up his words on the field. Sherman stopped short of drawing penalties, but he was never shy about taunting opponents and flashing an alpha-male mentality. I’m surprised I didn’t realize it until just now, but Sherman was the Doug Baldwin of our defense last year. The only difference was that he was drafted.
Jeremy Lane reminds me so much of Richard Sherman. Sherman is three inches taller, but Lane jumps three inches higher. Like Sherman, Lane has some of the longest arms of his cornerback class. Like Sherman, Lane runs the forty in the 4.5s. But most of all, like Sherman, Lane plays with an attitude. Every time I read a scouting report on Lane, it’s one of the first things people say about him. Lane played for a tiny school (Northwestern State), but when his patsy of a team played LSU, Lane played as if to send a message to LSU that he could hang with their best. Lane is also physical against the run and is considered to be very good at pressing receivers on the line. So I’ve read.
Having raw ability is one thing, but there is something special about finding a player with a chip on his shoulder. Find me a player with a chip on his shoulder and I bet you more often than not, that player will achieve his full potential.
This was one of the picks that came here from the Bruce Irvin trade down (the other being Jaye Howard). Did I mention I liked that move a lot?
With the 181st overall pick, the Seahawks select Winston Guy
(Personal degree of interest or excitement: 9/10)
Guy is a very similar player to Kam Chancellor in terms of measurables, role (in-the-box strong safety), attitude, and high production. Like Chancellor, Guy fell much further in the draft than he deserved due to his limited scheme versatility. To most teams, Guy would be a pure special teams player. In Seattle, he’ll actually have a role on the defense because of how Pete Carroll schemes his strong safeties.
Guy posted 120 tackles and 14 tackles for loss (!) last season, which is unbelievably good production for a safety, even an in-the-box one. He added two interceptions and 3 passes defensed for good measure. His 2010 season had similar production.
Hearing Carroll talk about Guy, I’m tempted to assume Guy has already made the team. Carroll said in his post draft press conference that Guy will play the same role manned by Atari Bigby last season.
Guy is another player I’m really looking forward to seeing in the preseason. Perhaps more than any of the names on this list outside of Turbin, Guy has a chance to contribute next year since he’ll be replacing Bigby who saw a fairly decent amount of playing time in 2011.
With the 225th overall pick, the Seahawks select JR Sweezy
(Personal degree of interest or excitement: 3/10)
I have no opinion of this pick whatsoever, and considering that Sweezy is going through a position change, I’m not sure how anyone could say anything one way or the other. I do like that Sweezy was put on Seattle’s draft radar after Tom Cable worked him out and gave enough of an endorsement to lead to Sweezy actually being drafted. Sweezy has some interesting measurables, including a very high vertical jump (which indicates a high level of athleticism) and 34″ arms. Those are pretty long arms for a potential guard.
Sweezy seems very likely to be a practice squad player, and a long shot to ever start, but we’ll see how things go.
With the 232nd overall pick, the Seahawks select Greg Scruggs
(Personal degree of interest or excitement: 4/10)
When asked what his favorite “value” pick in the draft was, John Schneider made a surprise choice and nominated Greg Scruggs, saying that he nearly selected Scruggs at Winston Guy’s spot. Scruggs was a big time leader on his Louisville Cardinals defense. Scruggs is 6’3″, 284 pounds, with a solid 4.76 forty time. I’ve heard some comparisons to Cory Redding- probably because of Scruggs long arms and the fact that he makes a defense better even if he struggles to get sacks. I may be in the minority, but I actually thought Redding was a nice addition to the Seahawks during his brief time here and was sad to see him go.
Scruggs will take snaps at both the 3 tech and 5 tech positions.
If Scruggs can live up to that Redding projection, I’d be pretty happy with this pick. Not excited, but certainly content. You could do a lot worse with a 7th rounder.
Thoughts on the undrafted free agents?
Not many. Very few undrafted free agents even make an NFL roster. Seattle didn’t get anything out of their 2010 UDFA class but got huge returns on the 2011 group.
The only parts of the UDFA class I can really comment on are Jermaine Kearse and Lavasier Tuinei.
Kearse was the Huskies equivalent of Darrell Jackson. Sneaky fast, great route runner, separates/gets open, high yards per catch, productive, plenty of hundred yard games and a touchdown machine in the red zone, but unfortunately, Kearse drops way too many passes. His drop rate improved in 2011 catching passes from Keith Price (who throws a softer/more catchable ball than Locker did), but Kearse will need to improve his hands if he wants to play at the next level. If he does, then the Seahawks just scored a legit #2 NFL receiver. I don’t think he will, but this is a good no-cost gamble by the Seahawks. Other than his hands, Kearse is a gifted, natural receiver who fits a west coast offense well.
Tuinei is a tall skinny looking receiver with great hands who served as an excellent possession receiver for Oregon. Tuinei runs good routes and while he lacks speed, his height and long arms allow him to catch well placed passes away from tight coverage. I thought Tuinei was good enough of a player to deserve being drafted and I think Seattle might have a minor score on their hands here. He’s a natural fit for the Mike Williams role and if both Williams and Durham struggle in the preseason while Tuinei looks good, it wouldn’t shock me if he makes it on the roster or at least the practice squad. I’ve also heard some talk that Tuinei could make the team as a pure receiver at tight end.
Overall draft grade : A
Like no other Seahawks draft I’ve ever seen before, Pete Carroll and John Schneider drafted for scheme in 2012. Bruce Irvin is a natural born LEO pass rusher. Bobby Wagner’s addition is key because his speed will mask some of the scheme weaknesses of having such a large defensive line. Seattle added a second fast linebacker to help improve this scheme weakness later with Korey Toomer. Russell Wilson is a quarterback that must be schemed around his height problem in order to succeed. Thankfully, Seattle’s point guard quarterback style of offense is friendlier to short quarterbacks, so Wilson’s actually got a decent shot of making this work. Robert Turbin is a powerful north/south runner- the perfect compliment for Tom Cable’s power zone blocking scheme and the team’s overall smash mouth identity.
With their non-need picks, the Seahawks added another six foot press corner with striking similarities to Richard Sherman, a player that boomed as a result of Seattle’s coverage scheme. They added another Kam Chancellor type in Winston Guy, a player who might have gone much earlier than the 6th round if not for his speed limiting him to an in-the-box safety role at the next level. Seattle is one of just a few teams that use a regular in-the-box safety, so they picked up a terrific late round value who’s one major drawback will be minimized by Seattle’s scheme. With their final pick, they added depth at the five tech with Greg Scruggs.
With the exception of Sweezy and Howard, every pick Seattle added was either scheme dependent (Irvin, Wilson, Lane, Guy) or will help make the scheme work better (Wagner, Turbin, Toomer, Scruggs).
After learning the truth about the value of the Irvin and Wilson picks, I no longer have the “unnecessary opportunity cost” angle to weigh down my enthusiasm for those additions. I want to hug John Schneider and Pete Carroll for adding Irvin and Wilson- as they were personally my two favorite players in the whole draft. Statistically, the odds are against Wilson and there is a lot of risk for Irvin too, but then again, Wilson is not your average 3rd round quarterback and Irvin is going to a defense that is tailor made to maximize his strengths and mask his weaknesses. If both Irvin and Wilson live up to their potential, they alone could make the 2012 draft the greatest in team history.
Wilson and Turbin provide the draft with a pair of low risk additions. In my tape study, I found very few glaring flaws in either player. If both aren’t still on this team in four years time, I’d be surprised.
I really liked the theme of targeting high upside players with every single one of Seattle’s late round picks. If even one or two of them lives up to their potential, it could make this draft great just like how KJ Wright and Richard Sherman did last year.
I gave the Seahawks an A+, B-, A+, and A for their first four picks- the picks that directly related to their pre-draft goals. I thought their decision-making was superb- with the only exception being their move down in the second round, which was arguably still worth it since it’s certainly possibly that whatever difference there is between Kendricks’ upside and Wagner’s upside could be made up by the additions of Toomer and Scruggs.
Over the last three years I’ve been consistently impressed by John Schneider’s drafting technique for three reasons: (1): he has an uncanny sense of where players will go in the draft, (2) his intense work ethic, and (3) his ability to not only coexist with Pete Carroll, but to mind-meld with him and the rest of the coaching staff. Because of their remarkable cohesion, we’ve already seen tremendous success when drafting for scheme- and their 2012 effort drafted for scheme like none other.
The Seahawks have drawn mostly terrible draft grades from outsiders. This is caused by a dual misunderstanding: the first being that Irvin and Wilson could have been drafted later, and the second being a lack of understanding and appreciation for how Pete Carroll has achieved results through scheme. Irvin and Wilson might have been completely off the draft boards of some teams and for good reason- their talents are specific to certain schemes and they wouldn’t work out for a lot of other franchises- just like how Brandon Browner wouldn’t be a pro-bowl corner on a lot of other defenses.
There is a lot of risk in this draft, but also a ridiculous amount of upside. If Seattle can win with scheme as they have done so many times before, this draft not only has a chance to be the greatest in franchise history, it has a chance to be among the greatest in NFL history. It’s hardly a sure thing, but I say this honestly, I have never before experienced a Seahawks draft that felt quite the same as this one did. I don’t think I’ve ever felt more excited about a draft’s potential, either. And I think if Pete and John could hit the reset button and try it all over again, and therefore risk losing some of the players they ended up with, I don’t think they’d do it. I think this is a draft that keeps Pete and John up all night, but not because of second guessing. It’s because they are too excited to sleep.