I’m a little surprised that Melvin Ingram’s stock has steadily grown to the point he’s considered a top-15 pick. Coming into the 2011 season, he was pretty much an afterthought. A fifth year senior who missed the whole of 2008 with a broken foot suffered off the field, he carried a mid-late round grade. He started out at linebacker before moving up front, but his eye-catching athleticism led to a role returning kicks having worked as a running back at high school. He accumulated 19 sacks in the last two seasons and a few explosive plays this year have helped put him in the national picture. But top-15?
It’s tough to work out exactly where he fits in the NFL – especially on the Seahawks roster. He’s 6-2 and 276lbs but looks squat, almost like a big running back. He hasn’t got the leaner frame you’d expect for an outside rusher, but neither has he got the size to kick inside to play defensive tackle at the next level. Ingram is the very definition of a tweener and although he’ll go into the NFL with a decent résumé and plenty of experience, are you really going to spend a high first round pick on someone with no obvious or defined role?
“The Seahawks have quietly made major strides in overhauling the roster and finding solutions to grow with in the past two years. Last year, they targeted offensive linemen early, and with the addition of Sidney Rice and Doug Baldwin, also have good talent at wide receiver. Even banged up at O-line, they ran the ball with some effectiveness. Obviously, quarterback remains a big question, but that’s not something they can target at this spot in the draft. What they can do is add a final piece to a defense that is young, fast and extremely good in the secondary. The linebacking corps was strengthened by the emergence of K.J. Wright. So the work is up front and at defensive end for a team that was just 23rd in the NFL last year in sack percentage. Ingram is just big enough to fit this system as a 4-3 defensive end, and should add a boost to the pass rush early.”
This to me looks like a projection based around a statistics sheet charting quarterback sacks. The Seahawks don’t run a conventional 4-3 and use Red Bryant at end to provide greater support against the run. Pete Carroll set this out deliberately to create an identity and while he’s talked about getting more speed among the front seven, there’s little chance he’ll abandon the Bryant experiment. Seattle wants to shut down the run, which is why you see Bryant (333lbs) line up alongside Brandon Mebane (311lbs) and Alan Branch (325lbs) for a lot of the defensive snaps. They mixed in Raheem Brock for specialist blitzes and certain passing downs, but are they really going to draft someone with the #11 or #12 pick that inherits such a limited role?
I suspect the Seahawks are not necessarily looking for a defensive end to play across from Clemons. If they can find an upgrade for the WILL linebacker position and someone who can play up at the LOS on passing downs, excellent. If they can find a three-technique with the necessary size to feature in any defensive play call, that’ll be a strong option. If there’s a potentially elite pass rusher who can upgrade the LEO for the long term and allow cost-effective Chris Clemons to become even more of a specialist, they’d have to at least consider it. The problem is, none of those roles fit Melvin Ingram. He lacks the height and frame of a prototypical LEO, he’s not big enough to play inside and although he played linebacker in 2007 are you really spending a top-15 pick to revert back to that?
I’ve enjoyed watching Ingram the past two years and there’s no doubt he’s athletic. He moves well, he has an effective spin move, he stays busy and you can’t argue with his production. But what’s his position? He doens’t look like a five technique, he’s not a natural power end, he probably isn’t going to play linebacker at the next level. He can be engrossed by bigger lineman and while he’s quick, is he going to work the edge quite as well in the NFL? Can he move inside and penetrate against pro-interior lineman on third downs? I’m really not convinced.
This is a bad overall draft for defensive lineman and perhaps that is one of the reasons why pundits like Kiper feel obliged to make this kind of pick for the Seahawks. There’s no doubt that beyond the quarterback position, improving the pass rush is Seattle’s greatest need. Yet without departing from the current defensive scheme, I just can’t see it. It seems like a match made out of mock draft convenience.
I think they’d like to find a linebacker who’s comfortable in coverage, plays three downs, can get to the quarterback and push up to the LOS on third down. In many ways this team is searching for a younger Julian Peterson. He’s not there. The closest thing you’ll get to the type of player they’re maybe looking for is Zach Brown at North Carolina. You can run through the possible LEO candidates, but it’s just a rank bad draft to try and address the defensive line in round one and there are better options later. I understand arguments for Devon Still and Michael Brockers, but I’m still trying to work out if their natural fit isn’t actually at the five-technique rather than the three and whether they warrant strong consideration.
While the Seahawks aren’t going to force the issue at quarterback, neither are they likely to force the issue on a defensive player just because it’s the next strongest need. This week I projected Brock Osweiler as an option and in fairness he’s a player gaining moment right now. If that’s unrealistic, I fully expect the next most likely alternative to be wide receiver considering the depth of quality at the position. Although many people see Justin Blackmon as a top-five lock, I completely disagree and actually think he could easily be there at #11 or #12 as the kind of ‘touchdown maker’ Pete Carroll desires. I’m not a fan personally, but Dre Kirkpatrick is the type of tall and physical corner Pete Carroll has brought to this team and he’s also discussed collecting further depth in the secondary.
With six picks in the draft and the possibility to move around to accumulate more, Carroll and John Schneider will have ample opportunity to keep building their defense. Let’s also not rule out potential moves during free agency and while the Seahawks might not make any major financial transactions, who’s to say they won’t uncover another Chris Clemons, Brandon Browner or Alan Branch? There seems little point in fighting the draft board when it lacks top-end defensive talent and drafting Melvin Ingram that early would be a key example of that. Here’s the tape…
The following games vs East Carolina, Georgia and Auburn were supplied by MarioClP, JMPasq and Aaron Aloysius