Guest article: Why didn’t the Seahawks draft the right guy?

June 23rd, 2014 | Written by Rob Staton

Why Didn’t The Seahawks Draft The Right Guy?
The Confidence Bias and How It Affects the Way We Experience the Draft
by Steve Nelsen

Studies have shown that most people are not as good at objective tasks as they think they are. This psychological effect is known as “the confidence bias.”

For example, a study of people spelling words found that those who were 100% confident that their answer was accurate were only correct 80% of the time. A similar study of math and verbal questions found that 75% of participants overestimated their ability to answer multiple choice questions correctly.

I recently read a very interesting article about a study by two economists who applied the principle of risk diversification to the NFL draft. They determined that teams that trade down in the draft to stockpile extra picks are more likely to draft starters and Pro-Bowlers than teams that trade up. And they get those players at a lower cost.

They also found that teams that trade down in the draft win more games. Does this sound like the Seahawk model? Not surprisingly, the Seahawks were mentioned as an example of a team that successfully built their team through the draft. Check this article out if you complained about John Schneider trading down in the draft and you might never complain again.

So, why do teams trade up?

They concluded the answer is the confidence bias. Some NFL executives are so confident in their ability to analyze player prospects that they will pay a steep cost to trade up for Sammy Watkins or RGIII even though the objective data shows that their course of action is less likely to produce a successful team.

If NFL executives are not immune to this psychological effect, what does this mean for us; the readers of the Seahawks Draft blog? How many of us read analysis from NFL draft experts or did our own analysis of what the Seahawks needed going into the draft? (I’m raising my hand.) How many of us eagerly read Rob’s posts on this blog about different player prospects and the comments from other readers and developed an opinion about who we thought the right guy was for the Seahawks to draft? (Hand still raised here.)

And how many of us reacted with some disappointment or anger when “our guy” was not drafted by the Seahawks? (Yeah, me too.)

I remember reading a post from one guy who said he was physically ill on draft day about the Seahawks trading out of the first round and then blowing their pick on Paul Richardson. I responded to his comment with some empathic insights about how what he was experiencing was a side effect of the confidence bias. (Hit me up in comments if that was you and let me know if my remarks provided any solace or just made you want to choke me.)

So, now that we are all aware of the confidence bias, how are we going to react differently to the next Seahawks draft? Human nature being what it is and all of us being humans, most of us will react by trying harder to pick the “right guy” next year. Studies on the confidence bias show that we become more confident with more data so we will seek out more information about players (“What is his SPARQ rating?”) or the Seahawks drafting philosophies.

How many of us heard John Schneider talk after the draft about how a prospects perceived ability to survive in the super-competitive environment of the Seattle locker room has gained importance in his player analysis and thought, “Now that I know this, I will be better able to correctly predict next year’s pick.” The studies show that the confidence bias increases as we receive more data even if the data is incomplete or does not produce additional accuracy.

Having some idea of a player’s “grit” may be helpful, like knowing their SPARQ measure of athleticism, but we will never know a player as well as the Seattle front office.

We have all heard it before but now we have scientific analysis to support the conclusion that the best thing we Seattle Seahawk fans can do to prepare for the next draft is to prepare to be surprised.

52 Responses to “Guest article: Why didn’t the Seahawks draft the right guy?”

  1. David M2 says:

    Great write up Nelson!

    Rob, thanks for posting it.

  2. kigenzun says:

    This is the exact article that helped me to understand the “triple-trade-down” down draft strategy employed by PC/JS in 2014.

    To sum the article: Risk diversification and simple economics= trade down for more picks= more bullets in the gun= more chances to hit on a player(s) who works out over the long run.

  3. Jon says:

    Thanks for this. I began to realize, after the 2013 draft, these types of things throughout the commenting community on SDB. It is great to be able to put a name on this process.

  4. Jrockrichards says:

    Good writeup, thanks.

    I’m impressed by how quickly the Hawks also move from their mistakes, and let some other team try to dig something out of them. The track record they have seems to indicate that they aren’t afraid of the hard decision either.

    It’s a great problem to have.

  5. cha says:

    Interesting read, Steve, thanks for posting this.

    Simply trading down is a great strategy but is just one piece of building a successful team. Player development is just as critical, if not more so than the draft. As fans we don’t pay as much attention to player development as to the actual drafting, for obvious reasons. The draft is more fun and most of us don’t have insider access to training camps and OTAs.

    One thing the Seahawks have demonstrated time and again is to take devalued prospects that fit their requirements, and put them in roles to succeed. So while trading down has allowed the Hawks to get more chances for success, viewing draft picks and players simply as ‘lottery tickets’ really doesn’t do justice to the full and complete process of turning amateur players into successful pros.

    For instance around and immediately post-draft a team like say the New England Patriots are lauded for trading down and picking some teams’ pocket for extra draft picks in order to improve depth – for instance the last few years, they’ve drafted 7 players in the top 3 rounds for their defensive backfield. But they have really struggled to get a real long-term solution in that area. It cost them this year in bad overall defense and in the AFCCG, to the point they went out and opened their checkbooks in free agency for Revis and Browner in an attempt to ‘buy’ quality rather than draft and develop.

    So they’ve been successful, as in winning a lot of games, and they’ve frequently traded down, but correlation does not imply causation in this case. Having an all-world QB and playing in a really weak division have more to do with that. :)

    The Seahawks are perhaps the on the front edge of player development, and while I’m heaping praise on them, should be recognized not for finding gems like Russell Wilson and Richard Sherman, but for giving them real, honest to goodness chances to play long before other organizations would have.

    • Miles says:

      Nice post, I totally agree.

      • Scott Allen says:

        Nicely said, I agree as well.

        I also think this is why currently weak teams built from the same principle, ie The Jags, will likely prove to have a better future than the teams that make impulsive picks like the Bills.

  6. James says:

    The “chance to play” is certainly a key. By building team development philosophy around “competition” is another way of saying to a player, “I like you, and that’s why I drafted you, but my decision on who makes the team is not based on my opinion in slotting a player into a role, but will rather be based on how he performs.” You draft competitive players, offer them a chance to prove it, to beat out other players, and voila, you have a team of champions. Sounds simple, but it doesn’t work if a coaches’ ego is strong….he has to be opened minded to his own mistakes. John is constantly citing Pete’s lack of ego. And since most head coaches have massive egos, most fail.

    Look no further than RW re the chance to play. Despite having his ego on the line in Matt Flynn, Pete “allowed” Russ to compete and win the job, and the rest is history. Imagine that Green Bay had drafted RW as Aaron Roger’s backup, something they admitted they planned to do. Where would RW be today? Pete put his ego aside and Seattle has the Lombardi trophy and Green Bay does not.

  7. EranUngar says:

    Great read.

    The confidence does effect us just like it effects team. The answer lies within the question – Why didn’t they pick the right player?

    The fact that question needs to be raised constantly is the heart of the matter. 32 billion dollar enterprizes are spending a 9 digit number on find who the right player is and thier hit/miss ratio is barly over 50%. Even when you look at the top 100 on each draft is barly surpasses 60%. Isn’t that the astonishing fact that starts it all?

    The Seahawks IMO enjoy too elements that makes then more successfull then most latly –

    1. They accepted the fact that this process is ultimately a gamble no matter how much you invest into it. Once you look at you best pick as a slightly better odds gamble it makes sense to trade a 60% hit pick for a 55% hit plus a 35% hit double pick. Norwood plus Richardson have a better chance to contribute then any receiver available at 32.

    2. Nature and Nurture. The end product is a combination of both. Nature is the capabilities of the player and nurture is what the seahawks do to get the best out of those. In today’s NFL 2/3 of your roster are either young or late picks. The investment of time and money in training them as players and not just as a team pays off.

  8. Steve Nelsen says:

    The 53-Man Roster Part 2: The Running Backs

    Number of Roster Spots: 4 or 5
    Locks: Marshawn Lynch, Christine Michael
    In the Mix: Robert Turbin, Derrick Coleman, Spencer Ware, Kiero Small
    Others: Demitrius Bronson

    Coach Pete Carroll believes that a power running game establishes the physical identity of the team that desires. Beast Mode had become the living embodiment of that style by running through, over and around defenders. He appears physically ready to have another solid year of 4+ yards per carry, 1000+ yards and 10+ touchdowns. But, nobody runs forever and the recent media reports about his contract situation (and possible retirement) have forced fans to consider life after Beast Mode.

    Life after Beast Mode looks like it will begin with Christine Michael. Coach Pete calls his talent “special.” He isn’t a punishing runner like Lynch but he is the only running back on the roster who is faster than Lynch. He needs to show improved pass blocking ability to earn regular playing time as the #2 back in 2014.

    Robert Turbin had offseason knee surgery to clean some stuff up and the initial results are positive. He is the most likely to make the roster after Lynch and Michael.

    The battle for fullback is wide open. Derrick Coleman and Spencer Ware are converted tailbacks. Coleman got the call at the start of last season when Mike Robinson fell ill but was later replaced as the starter by Robinson.

    Some fans see Ware as a physical style runner and imagine him as a running back or replacement for Lynch but he lacks the breakaway speed of Lynch or Michael that this coaching staff desires. He needs to show he is a better blocker than his competition in order to earn a roster spot.

    7th round draft pick Kiero Small was a ferocious blocker in college and he is built like a bowling ball. He has the potential to become a fan favorite and earn a roster spot at the expense of Coleman or Ware if he blows up a few opponents as a lead blocker or on special teams. But, he is the least athletic of all the backs.

    The Hawks will probably keep 5 guys; three running backs and two full backs with one of the RBs being inactive each week.

    • Madmark says:

      I see Lynch starting. He will get 3/4th of the snaps in the beginning of the 1st and 2nd half of the games. This will be done to physically beat down the defense. Michaels will be the guy that gets in for sets towards the end of the 1st and 2nd half when the defense is sucking wind.
      Robert Turbin will continue to fill in as a 3rd down running back. I truly believe Kiero Small will become the blocking fullback and derrick Coleman makes the roster as a fullback because he has the versatility to block and run the ball being the 4th running back and backup fullback. I like Ware but he needs to evade more when running the ball instead of looking for someone to hit. The immaturity and a DUI may be his deciding factor as to making this roster.

  9. James says:

    With training camp tickets going on sale this Thursday, and with the discussion of the 53 man roster, here are my thoughts going into the preseason:

    RT – A good, old-fashioned head-to-head competition will be the most fun to watch. Bowie played relatively well last season, filling in for the injured Brenno. He is very strong in the run game, and he should have a leg up, yet Britt has the prototype RT size, 6-6, 325, and with quicker feet. There is a reason that the ideal RT should be 6-6, 325…it takes an extra step to get around him, and he can engulf the DL in the run game. Bowie, at 6-4, 335, is more a prototype OG. Cable has hinted that Britt has the lead, but maybe he is just trying to motivate Bowie? Britt played in the spread in college and only played from the two point stance, so he has a lot to learn, but he appears to have an uncanny knack to get low for such a tall guy, maybe from his wrestling background. Right now it appears to be 55-45 for Britt, but let the best man win.

    OL – the 53 man roster comes into play here. If the Seahawks go with 10 DLs and 6 WRs, and maybe even 3 QBs, then something has to give somewhere, and this might be the place. With the ability of Bowie, Bailey and Jean-Pierre to play multiple positions, Seattle could get by with 8 OLs. Will they keep Hauptmann or Van Roten as extra depth, or maybe Gilliam as a promising LT, which is almost impossible to find?

    LEO – I believe the 2nd Leo is the most glaring loss from last season. By the playoffs, Clemons and Avril were playing so well that they wrecked some very good offenses in New Orleans, Santa Clara and Denver. Can Mayowa or Irvin come even close to playing at Clem’s level? If not, isn’t this a key loss? Could Cassius Marsh, who projects as a Bennett clone, instead take over the 2nd Leo due to his pass rush skills? Is Mayowa as good as the Seahawks seem to think he is? Jeffcoat was the best pass rusher in college football last season, statistically far ahead of Clowney….if he can duplicate his play at the pro level, he could be the big surprise. This may be the most important position to watch.

    WR – Our brethren at Field Gulls have done a great job of digging up some comments from Pete and his assistant coaches from the old USC days, and have defined Pete’s vision for his offense: a total commitment to the running game, to establish a physical tone; a point guard QB with a howitzer arm, mobility to put the game in motion, a play-action threat, a quick-strike, deep-strike aggressive passing game, and scrambling ability on the par with Fran Tarkenton (these guys do not grow on trees) and the football gods have blessed us with RW; and finally a passing game that threatens the entire field, vertically and horizontally, and forces the defense to spread itself so thin it cannot do anything well. It has taken Pete and John 4 years to construct a receiving corps to execute this plan. Adding Percy was the element to spread the field horizontally. We on this blog understood that the missing piece was the vertical threat at SE, and we all mistakenly assumed is would be the prototype tall X receiver, and Pete flummoxed all of us with his pick of Richardson, who can outrun a deer. The pieces are now in place to launch the blitzkrieg, with 5 WRs locked in: Harvin, Baldwin, Kearse, Richardson and Norwood. Look for Rice to be stashed on the PUP, so will the 6th guy be the Rocket, with his special teams gunner ability, or Matthews, the long-lost 6-5 SE? This will be a great battle to watch.

    RB – this is the other position potentially impacted by the 53-man restrictions. We might only see 4 RBs on the roster: Lynch, Michael, Turbin and Coleman. The FB is so little used, the team may not be able to afford to carry 2. Ware is promising and versatile, so this preseason is critical for his future. Small can probably be stashed on the practice squad, since there is so little demand for FBs. The team must find out what exactly they have in Michael, and the only way to do that is in the heat of battle. Can his body hold up from the pounding of 250+ carries as the bell-cow RB? Does he have the intestinal fortitude to carry the load?

    DB – rack and ruin await if Earl goes down (the notion that Earl should be put at risk returning punts is so absurd, only Pete would entertain it…unless he is only saying so to entertain us). Let Jeremy/Jermaine/Kevin/Doug/DeShawn do it, for mercy’s sake; Earl should not be on the field for one single play for the whole season more than absolutely necessary. The entire defensive scheme is predicated on Earl’s unique ability to cover sideline-to-sideline and read and react faster than anyone. It is too much to expect that there would be a backup to fill this role, just as you cannot expect your backup QB to play at the same level as your starter. Still, we would all like to see someone emerge who could at least fake it….maybe Dion Bailey? Not to mention, Kam is not far behind in being irreplaceable. Also, who among Tharold Simon, DeShawn Shead, AJ Jefferson, Terrance Parks, Eric Pinkins, Phillip Adams, etc, will play their way onto the roster?

    SQ – an astonishing amount of talent is eligible for the practice squad, many of whom will never clear waivers. Look at these guys: Pinkins, Staten, Small, Ware, Cherrington, Gilliam, Pulu, Jeffcoat, Dion Bailey, Brooks, Matthews, Parks, Coyle, Taylor, Fat Rabbit, Isles (6-5, 348!), Allen and Dixon, to name a few. If only we could hang on to all of them….still, the 8 who make it onto the practice squad will be next year’s redshirts (we need an epidemic of sprained ankles in late August to require us to regrettably place a number of these guys on IR).

  10. Michael M. says:

    My favorite excerpt from that article:

    “The problem, though, is that there are no guaranteed superstars — and Thaler and Massey have found that, given a long enough timeframe, no teams are any better at accurately evaluating prospects than others. Sure, a GM might hit a hot streak over the course of a few drafts, but long-term, they estimate that 95 to 100 percent of the difference in teams’ odds of striking gold with any one pick is driven by chance.

    So the key isn’t drafting better — it’s just drafting more.”

    This makes me happy that PC/JS are on the “drafting more” train, but also makes me a little sad to think that so many (seemingly) brilliant draft moves can be chalked up to chance. Whatever… We’re Superbowl Champs!!

  11. god shammagod says:

    Terrific article, reminding ourselves of confidence bias is a necessary reality check for us fans.

    Wanted to add that factoring in the importance of the prospect’s ability to stay mentally tough in the locker room has probably gained more weight now than 3 years ago because we now have established (paid), confident and young leaders who gave already proven themselves as the leagues best at the sb.

    So, as a fan of the draft for a favorite NFL team, it’s probably much easier to project draft picks in a franchises early building years than for a proven powerhouse.

    As a seahawk fan, we should probably try to predict picks for the jaguars instead of the hawks, probably end up with more of an accurate draft board than for the hawks due to the nascent jags needing pure athletic talent and prototypes more than complete package players.

  12. glor says:

    I think it is ok to be ill when the hawks pass on your guy. The hawks are not great with their high round picks, and sometimes the guy you like might, in actuality, be a better pick. I mean, who have the hit on that wasn’t in the top half of the 1st round? I was pissed they gave up our 1st last year, plus 60+ million for Percy (I still think it was a huge mistake) Cordarrelle Patterson, whom the vikings used that pick on, is a fantastic receiver and is costing them peanuts.

  13. EranUngar says:

    I just found another article on the same issue –

    http://www.vox.com/2014/5/7/5683448/how-nfl-teams-ignore-basic-economics-and-draft-players-irrationally

    over confidense versus risk diversification.

  14. Madmark says:

    I’m Glad PC/JS think a little out of the box. I hear Greg Robinson is struggling at guard postion. He was a high 1st round pick for left tackle. Justin Britt is our 2nd round pick who looks like he could be starting at RT and everyone was saying we reached for him. You just draft and hope your guy becomes a superstar.

  15. Steve Nelsen says:

    Wide Receivers
    Roster Spots: 6
    Locks: Percy Harvin, Doug Baldwin, Paul Richardson
    In the Mix: Kevin Norwood, Jermaine Kearse, Sidney Rice, Ricardo Lockette, Chris Mathews, Arceto Clark, Phil Bates
    Others: Bryan Walters, Taylor Price, Kevin Smith

    Harvin and Richardson (and RB Christine Michael who I discussed in a previous post) will act like a nitrous injector for the Seahawks muscle-car offense if they can stay healthy. Angry Doug Baldwin embodies the attitude that Coach Carroll wants for his team.

    Kearse improved throughout the 2013 season and almost certainly will make the roster. Norwood has impressed at minicamp and OTAs and looks like another front-runner to make the roster. If I’m right about Kearse and Norwood, then there is going to be intense competition at camp for the final roster spot.

    There is a lot of speculation that Sidney Rice might begin the season on the PUP list. It is tempting to imagine him as a mid-season addition or injury replacement but the Hawks have some important games early in the season so if he can contribute, I think the Hawks will use him. Ricardo Lockette has a lot of fans who remember him blowing some guys up as a gunner on the punt cover team. His special team play is ahead of his receiver play at this point in his career. Chris Mathews has the size (6-5) to make him an interesting red-zone threat, especially if Sidney Rice doesn’t make the roster. He looked good at minicamp. Bates is in the mix with Harvin and Richardson to replace Golden Tate as punt returner. Clark has looked good so far and he could stick on the practice squad if he doesn’t win the competition for the sixth roster spot.

    With so many talented guys fighting for so few spots on he roster, the receiver competition will be one of the most interesting to watch throughout the summer and preseason.

    Tight. Ends
    Roster Spots: 3
    Locks: Zach Miller, Luke Willson
    In the Mix: Anthony McCoy,
    Others: Chase Dixon, Cooper Helfet, Rashaun Allen

    Miller is a solid blocker and capable receiver. Willson adds a little extra speed as a receiver.

    McCoy is also a solid blocker but has dropped enough passes to create competition for the third tight-end spot, particularly if the Hawks are willing to use a guard like Alvin Bailey in jumbo formations.

    • Madmark says:

      I agree there will be 6 receivers on the roster. Harvin, Baldwin, Kearse, Richardson, Norwood these are my locks. I think Lockette make it because of his speed and special teams play. He did have an 18 yard catch in the superbowl and he’s been in the league for a while now gaining experience. Rice is the question mark who has had problems with his knee and even went so far to go to Switzerland for a procedure. I think he’s still here because of the injury and they could redshirt him and get that veteran leadership for the younger guys.
      I think whoever makes the practice squad would be someone that just happens to slip thru.
      TE I have Miller, Willson, and McCoy and I see Rashaun Allen getting on the practice squad at least this is how I think this will go down. I’ve been wrong before especially with the PC/JS caracal.

  16. kigenzun says:

    I always get a kick out of the people that say Cordarrelle Patterson was the first round pick we “traded” for Percy Harvin. THAT IS SIMPLY NOT TRUE, and someone spewing it as Gospel should certainly be aware of that.

    In fact, we traded the 1(25) and the 7(214) in 2013 which became Xavier Rhodes, a Corner Back from Florida St, and Travis Bond a practice squad Guard from North Carolina. Our 2014 future 3rd(96) became Jerick McKinnon, a Running Back from Georgia Southern. Every heard of any of these guys? I thought not.

    O really you say…? What the heck actually happened then, Mr. Know-it-all?

    The Vikings traded back up into the First with New England at #1(29) to get Cordarrelle… and it cost them a boatload to do it… a 2nd(52), a 3rd(83), a 4th(102), and a 7th(229). Its still early, and remains to be determined between NE and Minnesota who “won” that deal. But I do know this… we had nothing to do with it.

    Oh yeah… well… the 60 million $$ contract you say?

    I say that the Super Bowl XLVIII ‘Start of the 2nd Half Kickoff Return for Touchdown’ that made it 29-0 and totally broke the Spirit of the Donks… WAS PRICELESS!!!

    And anything more throughout the life of the contract is icing…

    • Nick says:

      actually i would take Travis Bond as a backup tackle over ANY of our current backups, Bowie and Bailey are guards not pure tackles, because I like his size 6-5 325, and his pedigree North Carolina. Xavier Rhodes would be amazing in our secondary and Jerick McKinnon I really like as change of pace back. But we wouldnt have the “legion of zoom” now without Percy though either. let her roll….

    • Jake says:

      It’s just a comparison in value and possibility, so ease up on the ALL CAPS, no one can know for sure the real value of the trade. We can all recognize that Patterson was not the 25th pick we traded to the Vikings, but he is more likely than Rhodes to have been the value lost by the Seahawks in the trade. We traded for Harvin and he is a KR/WR/Horizontal threat/Ball in his hands in space guy. That’s exactly what Patterson is right now, so its reasonable to assume the Seahawks may have targetted Patterson at 1.25 if they had kept the pick. What is not debatable is that they obviously valued his particular set of skills since they instead went for the more proven Harvin. The Seahawks would never have drafted a CB that early, so who went at 25 and who went at 29 is irrelevant. Patterson is easily the best estimation of the cost, or more appropriately Patterson + the unrealized 214th pick + 2014’s unmeasurable 96th pick. The 214th pick is irrelevant becuase of post-draft FA and we usually use those picks to just get players who might not otherwise choose Seattle as a FA. The 96th from 2014 was more or less recouped with the double trade-down from 1.32 to the second round, maybe it resulted in Kevin Norwood, maybe not – really impossible to guess.

  17. Arias says:

    Hey Steve. Just a comment on when you said this:

    “How many of us heard John Schneider talk after the draft about how a prospects perceived ability to survive in the super-competitive environment of the Seattle locker room has gained importance in his player analysis and thought, “Now that I know this, I will be better able to correctly predict next year’s pick.”

    I would say no, it really won’t help because we kind of already knew that but more importantly, I don’t think this will make them shy away from taking risks on later round picks that might not have necessarily demonstrated all these attributes in college but that there’s something about them that made them privy to believe they could be turned in a different environment. We’re obviously not privileged to such inside scouting insight, but to illustrate my example … have you seen this?

    http://imgdonkey.com/big/eThlRVY/lsu&039s-strength-coach-has-this-on-the-window-of-his-office-pretty-awesome-imo.gif

    First thing that jumps out is that there are two Seahawk draftees on this list. And our first instinct would be to write such players off as not fitting JS’s stated mold. But JSPC obviously saw something there to make them think they were worth rolling the dice on and all indications are that at least one of them is potentially looking at a very successful breakout season. This list is the reason why, contrary to some here, I haven’t been high on the other one because I’ve yet to read any press to substantiate him putting his bad habits in the past and turning the corner. But there’s of course every likelihood that there might be something there that we as the public aren’t aware of either for a non-glamour position player that wouldn’t naturally get a lot of press.

    • Steve Nelsen says:

      I have seen that before Arias and I think it is a perfect illustration of your point. Schneider has drafted some guys with maturity issues. I think of Brandon Browner when I think of Tharold Simon – both good and worrisome. Ware will need to work harder on his blocking to make this team as a fullback.

      When Schneider was talking about character and grit becoming more important in his analysis, he was talking about the most recent draft and I think he had in mind the receiver from last year in comparison to the receivers from this year.

  18. Steve Nelsen says:

    The 53-Man Roster Part 4: The Offensive Line

    Number of roster spots: 9
    Locks: Russell Okung, Max Unger, J.R.Sweezy, James Carpenter
    In the Mix: Michael Bowie, Alvin Bailey, Kenny Britt, Lemuel Jeanpierre, Caylin Hauptmann, Stephen Schilling, Jared Smith, Gary Gilliam
    Others: Greg van Roten, Bronson Irwin, Nate Isles

    The offensive line battled injuries and inconsistency throughout much of 2013. Past Pro-Bowlers Okung and Unger both missed significant time. Okung is recovering from off-season foot surgery and is hopeful for the start of training camp. Improved health from both these guys in 2014 is the first key to successful line play in 2014.

    There was a lot of pre-draft speculation that the Seahawks would look to upgrade at the guard position since both Carpenter and Sweezy performed below league average in 2013 by most metrics. But, offensive line coach Tom Cable has faith in both Carpenter and Sweezy and they both looked strong in minicamp. Carpenter showed up in the best shape of his career and may be motivated by not having his option picked up by the Hawks. He could have a breakout year. Sweezy is in his third year after converting from defensive tackle and also looks poised for a breakout year. Improved play from both guards is the second key to successful line play in 2014.

    The battle for the starting right tackle spot looks like it will be a big story throughout training camp. Bowie was considered the front-runner but he did not show up to minicamp in great shape and rookie Kenny Britt looked solid in both OTAs and minicamp. Cable says he expects Bowie to be in better shape for the start of training camp. Finding a starting right tackle is the third key to successful line play in 2014.

    Alvin Bailey stepped up as an injury replacement in 2013 as was considered a potential competitor with Carpenter for a starting guard spot but he set himself back a bit by not showing up to camp in as good as shape as coach Cable expected. He spent minicamp working at left tackle and that extra versatility could help him earn a roster spot as a reserve.

    Jeanpierre was another valuable injury replacement in 2013 who played both center and guard which gives him an edge in the competition for a reserve spot. Hauptmann and Schilling both looked good playing mostly at guard with the #2 line during minicamp and they each also took some snaps at center. Schilling’s mobility fits well in Cable’s schemes.

    Jared “Fat Rabbit” Smith is another athletic converted defensive tackle project like Sweezy who could make the roster or the practice squad if he continues to develop. John Schneider says that Seattle had a sixth-round grade on Gary Gilliam before signing him as an undrafted free-agent. He looked fluid enough in OTAs and minicamp to have some projecting him as a future starting left tackle.

    I have seen some guys projecting as few as 8 offensive linemen in order to carry a third QB or a 7th WR but I think 9 is more likely. I can even see them carrying 10 if they have concerns about Okung being ready at the beginning of the season.

    • Jon says:

      I could not see them carry 8 OL, that is only 3 backup players for 5 positions. They had 3 guys injured at the same time last year. No way would they put themselves in the situation of being that thin at any position.

    • Madmark says:

      I believe Seattle goes with 9 OL. Russell Okung, James Carpenter, Max Unger, J.R. Sweezy, Michael Bowie, Alvin Bailey, Jusin Britt, Lemuel JeanPierre, and Steven Schilling. The practice squad candidate is Gary Gilliam and maybe Fat Rabbit also.

    • James says:

      Normally, 9 would be a given, but to get to 9 OL, you are basically going to have to cut Jesse Williams, Jordan Hill, Terrelle Pryor, Ricardo Lockette, or guys of that sort of promise. 10 DLs, 6 WRs, 3 QBs, 5 RBs/FBs, and 9 OLs is a no-go, unless you can program your calculator to stop counting at 53.

    • James says:

      I will be interested to see how Gilliam performs in the preseason. He has that rare combination of ideal size, athleticism and quick feet for a LT. Generally, you can only find a solid LT if picking in the top 12 or so picks in R1, since their skill set is so rare. To find one as an UDFA would be a miracle only JS could perform. Normally, you would think that Gilliam is so raw that another team will not spend a 53 roster spot to develop him if claimed off waivers, but since LT is so hard to find, it might be too risky to try to stash him on the practice squad. If Gilliam continues to show promise, he might have to be the Mayowa of this season…. the 53rd man who lives on the inactive list, but who is safely locked away for next season. If so, he would have to be the 9th OL.

    • cha says:

      This will be a make or break year for Okung IMO. He’ll have one more year in 2015 on his contract, but if he ends up missing significant time due to injury again, the Hawks may have to move on.

      • James says:

        Yes, we have to hope that Okung’s ankle has finally healed, and that the surgery took care of the foot issue that wrecked half his season last year. In each of his 4 years, he has missed significant time due to injury, and this absolutely cannot happen with your LT….it is only a matter of time until RW gets killed. Russ must have used all his nine lives surviving the McQuistan era at LT. Okung must prove he can go through this full season healthy, or the Seahawks will be forced to look elsewhere. He is a very good LT when healthy, but….

        • James says:

          ….let us put McQuistan-at-LT, the epic fail of the PC era, in the rear view mirror. McQ is a slightly-below-average OG, but inept at LT. No idea how Pete and Tom Cable ever thought this could be their backup plan, especially with Okung so injury-prone. McQuistan could not start at LT for probably 25 teams in college football. Bailey and Gilliam must be made ready, in the hope they are not needed.

  19. Madmark says:

    Anyone remember a 2012 pick by Seattle named Winston Guy. I thought it was kindia cool that it looks like he will be the starting safety for the Jaguars this year. He never made the roster here but it seems he found a place on Bradley’s defense in Jax.

    • Jake says:

      Hopefully he has matured, his physical gifts are astounding. He didn’t really fit in so well here, but he was a very young guy – 20 years old when drafted and he fell out of favor for some questionable decisions on and off the field. Like a lot of Hawk fans, I keep an eye on the Jags and root for Gus and the rest of the Seahawks’ retirement home to give the AFC hell…

  20. Steve Nelsen says:

    The 53-Man Roster Part 5: the Defensive Line

    Roster Spots: 9 or 10
    Locks: Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, Brandon Mebane, Tony McDaniel
    In the Mix: Kevin Williams, Cassius Marsh, Greg Scruggs, Jesse Williams, Jordan Hill, Benson Mayowa, Jackson Jeffcoat, O’Brien Schofield, Jimmy Staten
    Others: Michael Brooks, DeWayne Cherrington, D’Anthony Smith

    The competition to be a part of the D-line rotation in 2014 will be one of the most interesting story lines of training camp. It is clear that some good guys are going to get cut (are you watching Jacksonville?)

    Coach Pete was on record before the draft saying Avril would replace Chris Clemons at LEO and Michael Bennett would replace Red Bryant at end. But, McDaniel got a lot of work at end in minicamp in Bryant’s early down run-stuffer role. Mebane is the clear front runner at the 1-tech.

    Kevin Williams isn’t playing at the same level as when he was a perennial All-Pro but he was an above-average player for Minnesota by most metrics in 2013. He has the stoutness to defend against the run at DT or at end on early downs in the Red Bryant role. Cassius Marsh looked really good at OTAs and minicamp and had Coach Carroll talking about him being used an inside-outside pass rusher who can still stand up against the run like Bennett.

    Scruggs looks fully recovered from his knee injury and ready to compete for an interior role. Jesse Williams also looks ready if his knee holds up. Hill’s promise as an interior pass rusher could earn him a roster spot if he shows he can also handle the run at the 3-tech. Staten has some versatility.

    The battle for the backup LEO has a lot of competition. Mayowa showed a lot of promise in camp and preseason last year. Jeffcoat was a solid pass rusher in college but couldn’t stand up against the run. Schofield was resigned after failing his physical with the Giants but I don’t think his condition is any different than what he played with in Seattle last year. SAM linebacker Bruce Irvin was lobbying for an increased role as a pass rusher before his hip surgery so he could also be in the mix when he is ready to play. If someone emerges from this mix to partner with Avril and Bennett in the NASCAR package like Clemons did in the playoffs like last year, then the rotation will be just as strong or stronger than last season when it ranked among the very best in the league.

    The Hawks used a 7-man rotation last year to keep their guys fresh. The rotation also provides depth to better handle the inevitable injuries that will come up throughout the season. There is some speculation that the decreased number of snaps might also lengthen careers but there isn’t any definitive evidence on that point yet.

    The Seahawks rotation relies on the combination of athleticism and size in some players and the excellence in certain roles by others to show both 4-3 and 3-4 looks and create offensive indecision and pass pressure.

    • cha says:

      I’ll be fascinated to see who comes out of this group. Probably this administration’s one weak point has been the failure to draft and develop an above-average DL.

      I suppose that’s a huge nitpick considering they’ve done well inheriting players (Mebane/Bryant), finding undervalued talents from other teams (Brock/Clemons/Branch/McDonald) and hitting on free agent pickups (Bennett/Avril).

      But continue the cost-saving enterprise, it would really be beneficial if one of the drafted/UDFA players stepped up in a meaningful way this season.

      • Steve Nelsen says:

        Your point about the cost of the defensive line rotation is a great one. Bryant and Clemons both had a year left on their deals but were salary cap casualties to bring back Bennett and extend Sherman and Thomas. Mebane and McDaniel have another year on their deals after this one but their level of play will have to remain high because the Seahawks may be looking to resign Avril, some linebackers and Byron Maxwell plus extend Russell Wilson.

        I am optimistic about Cassius Marsh developing into a star and I think some of the young hungry dogs will rise up during the competition in camp this year. I also think that youth and club control for the future will come into play in a choice between Schofield and Mayowa or Jeffcoat for a LEO spot. Defensive line is probably the early front runner for Seattle’s top pick next year but I am not going to fall into the trap of locking myself into that idea having just written about how the confidence bias affects the way we look at the draft :-)

    • Madmark says:

      I got Mebane, McDaniels, Avril, Bennett, Marsh, Scruggs, Mayowa, J. Williams, K. Williams, and Hill. Kevin Williams will find new life for a year not having to play 700 reps.

  21. James says:

    In praise of Rob Staton….we are fortunate indeed to have, as the author of this blog, someone who actually has knowledge, takes his responsibility seriously, and clearly puts in the work.

    This is not the norm among the poseurs defrauding the masses as a so-called draft anaylst.

    Case in point: Dane Brugler of nfldraftscout.com, “senior analyst”, who has done Bernie Madoff proud by finding a way to actually make a living as a con artist, in his early 2015 mock amazingy has the Seahawks selecting a wide receiver! My wife, who knows and cares absolutely nothing about football, and who does not even know what a 1st down is, said, “But don’t the Seahawks have Percy Harvin, and didn’t they take a pass catcher in the draft?” OMG.

    http://www.cbssports.com/nfl/draft/nfl-draft-scout/24558655/big-ten-acc-prospects-lead-the-way-in-2015-mock-draft

    • Steve Nelsen says:

      We are indeed fortunate to have Rob’s blog. Not only does he personally put in the work to evaluate prospects but so do many of the regular posters. I can’t do that myself and I haven’t found it anywhere else. I think it was clear that many of the NFL experts were incorporating Rob’s prospect analysis and Seahawk predictions into their articles leading up to the last draft.

  22. Miles says:

    Hey Rob,

    I know it’s off-topic (and a non-busy time of the off-season), but I’d love to hear you opine on how Johnny Manziel is treating his off-season. There is a media whirlwind about it and I feel like you’ve been paying a lot of attention to him so that you might be able to offer your two cents. It’d be awesome if you wrote an article about it when you start typing away again, or a short post in this thread would be cool too. Just an idea.

    Thanks for all the hard work. I know I haven’t been posting on here regularly as of recent. That doesn’t mean I’m not burning holes through your blog with my eyeballs tho.

  23. Steve Nelsen says:

    The 53-Man Roster Part 7: the Linebackers

    Roster Spots: 6 or 7

    Locks: Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright, Malcolm Smith, Bruce Irvin

    In the Mix: Korey Toomer, Kevin Pierre-Louis, Heath Farwell

    Others: Mike Morgan, Mike Taylor, Brock Coyle, Horace Miller

    Wagner is a Pro-Bowl talent in the middle. Wright is athletic and has the speed and length to cover the best tight-ends in the game. Malcolm Smith took advantage of Wright’s injury to lay claim to the starting WILL spot at the end of the 2013 season. He demonstrated a knack for making big plays culminating with a Super-Bowl MVP performance. He looks primed for a breakout Pro-Bowl season if he is fully recovered from off-season ankle surgery. Both Wright and Smith are unrestricted free-agents after this season.

    Irvin has moved from LEO to SAM and had off-season surgery on his hip. The Hawks are hoping he will be ready for the start of the season but that is uncertain. He has flashed unique athleticism but needs to define his role with team and begin delivering consistent results.

    Toomer drew rave reviews for his performance in OTAs and minicamp. He could star on special teams and be next man up. KPL is very athletic and it is exciting to project where he will be after a year with coach Ken Norton but his contributions as a rookie are likely to be on special teams. Speaking of special teams, Farwell has been the heart of this unit. Can he keep a pack of younger, faster guys at bay for another year?

    • cha says:

      LB is one of the more fascinating groups to me. It’s one of the more disposable positions in the NFL, with lots of mid-round talents available each year that can spend a year on special teams and as injury replacements and then take the place of a starter that leaves in free agency.

      Wagner is an absolute keeper.

      Irvin, I almost feel like the staff transitioned him to SAM to round out his run defense and coverage skills. It’s the only explanation I can think of to keep jerking him around the field after drafting him in the first round.

      Wright and Smith would really perplex me if I had to choose to keep one and let one go in free agency. Wright is the better player (he’s the rare LB who can be effective in rush D and cover a TE/WR like Jimmy Graham), but Smith has made more game-changing plays, and not just in the NFCCG and SB.

      I’m fascinated by the idea of Toomer, a guy the staff held onto for such a long time.

      • Miles says:

        I do like Malcolm Smith, but in this defense I feel like he can be supplanted effectively by someone already on the roster. You mentioned Korey Toomer, and KPL will be in the running if Smith does leave for another team. Smith does make big plays, he’s fast, but he is an average-at-best tackler. Also, most of his highlight reel plays were completed due to a big play made by another player. Eg. The Richard Sherman tip, and the Cliff Avril sack-pick-six. Smith always seems to do his job correctly and he has the speed to be just where the defense needs him to be at the right times. But is it possible we can teach another young linebacker to play just as well as Smith can? I certainly think so. Between Smith and Wright, I would say Wright is the one you re-sign and it isn’t close. Wright can do things most linebackers can’t, covering the elite TEs and even some receivers. He’s an excellent run-defender as well, which is the foundation he built his career on. KJ is a special player with unique talent; Malcolm is an athletic player who works hard and benefits from the circumstance of a #1 defensive unit in 2013.

  24. EranUngar says:

    IR, PUP and the roster –

    It is very unlikly that we will finish training camp and the pre season games without any injuries at all. At least 1-2 will be hurt.

    In view of that it would smarter to predict a 57 men roster knowing that the last candidates will probably end on IR/PUP list when the day comes. It’s also a safe way to keep a backup player you want outside your roster or a red shirt.

  25. Steve Nelsen says:

    The 53-Man Roster Part 7: the Defensive Backs

    Roster Spots: 8 or 9

    Locks: Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, Richard Sherman, Byron Maxwell

    In the Mix: Jeremy Lane, Tharold Simon, A.J. Jefferson, Akeem Auguste, Jeron Johnson, DeShawn Shead, Eric Pinkins, Dion Bailey

    Others: Phillip Adams, Chandler Fenner, Terrance Parks

    In an era where defensive backs are among the most highly-sought after players, the Seahawks have managed to put together the top safety tandem in the league and arguably the best pair of starting cornerbacks in the league. The Legion of Boom is a remarkable accomplishment. All four could be Pro-Bowlers this year if Maxwell continues to build on his breakout performance as a late-season starter in 2013.

    Lane was a valuable contributor on special teams last year and looks like the front-runner for the nickle corner spot but Auguste got a lot of positive comments for his play on the practice squad last year. Jefferson is super-athletic and drew praise from Coach Pete for his play in OTAs and minicamp. So, did Tharold Simon who looks fully healthy for the first time. The Hawks may need one of those guys to be next up in case of injury and they might need a starter next year since Maxwell is in the final season of his contract.

    Jeron Johnson is insurance in case Chancellor’s recovery from off-season hip surgery is delayed. Shead is the backup free safety. The rookies Pinkins and Bailey will have a hard time making the roster because it takes some time to learn the Seahawks system and there is no tolerance for giving up big plays due to blown assignments. Pinkins was a special teams star in college and the Hawks see him potentially developing into another star-caliber big cornerback so they might not risk trying to sneak him through waivers to the practice squad.

  26. Cha says:

    I agree with your thoughts Steve, with the exception of the comment on Pinkins.

    If Pinkins makes his mark as a special teams contributor and might be capable enough to see playing time in the DB in 2014, I’m all for his inclusion on the roster. But if they’re redshirting a guy with a roster spot solely on potential, the Hawks are too talented and deep to use a roster spot in that way.

    cha copout alert: If they truly see a Richard Sherman-esque potential in this guy, whereas the other corners project to be servicable/stuck on special teams/backup only, I could see the decision to keep Pinkins. But at this time, I’m thrilled with the Hawks depth and from what I see Pinkins is good PS material.

    So if players like Simon, Auguste and Jefferson have a better projection of impact for 2014 with more time in the system, then the staff should swallow hard and see if Pinkins makes it through waivers. They must have confidence in their decisions and know that they just can’t have everyone they want.

    This roster decisions for this position group will be fascinating, especially for those waived. As a young player who just got cut, would you take the chance and sign with another team, get maybe a couple week’s of games in? Or would you choose to sign to the Seahawks practice squad, and spend each week on the practice field with Sherman and Thomas barking at you, training you and showing you what it takes to be successful?

  27. Steve Nelsen says:

    The 53-Man Roster Part 8: Special Teams and Final Thoughts

    Roster Spots: 3
    Locks: Steven Hauschka, Jon Ryan, Clint Gresham

    The Hawks have Pro-Bowl caliber kickers. Gresham is the only long-snapper on the roster following the release of Jorgen Hus.

    Rob was kind enough to publish my thoughts on how the psychological effect known as the “confidence bias” affects the way we experience the draft. I followed the article with a series of posts in comments taking an early look at the Seahawks 53-man roster. I did this for a couple reasons. The first reason was that we had a month until training camp starts so there won’t be much else to talk about for awhile. And I was curious to hear what others were thinking. But, I also wanted to make the point that the confidence bias also affects the way we react to Seahawk roster decisions.

    Eran Unger accurately noted that injuries will certainly affect the final roster. And if I were to make a general claim that “there are likely to be some unexpected players that make the roster” I probably would not generate any strong negative emotional response. But, what if I were to make a prediction about a player on the bubble either making the roster or not?

    For instance, Bruce Irvin has fans who are convinced he is a bust and others who are just as convinced that he will eventually be starting at SAM or LEO. The bias isn’t just limited to veteran players. Kiero Small is a rookie 7th round draft pick that we haven’t seen make his first carry but he already has a number of fans who are absolutely convinced he will start.

    Trying to anticipate roster decisions is part of being a fan and rooting for underdogs is as American as apple pie. But, when you feel yourself trying to stretch the objective data to support your point, you are probably under the influence of the confidence bias.

    Thanks for sharing with me this week. Go Hawks!

  28. AlaskaHawk says:

    Happy 4th of July everyone. It’s our chance to celebrate America’s independence and the Seahawks total dominance of the NFL. Let the fireworks begin!!!!