I want to talk through the draft ramifications following Seattle’s qualification for the post-season which I’ll come on to later.
Firstly – the big news today is that Blaine Gabbert (QB, Missouri) has announced his intention to declare for the 2011 NFL draft. It became apparent in the last two weeks that Gabbert was leaning towards entering the draft, alongside fellow Missouri prospect Aldon Smith (himself a solid second -round defensive end prospect).
Coach Gary Pinkel is on the record for saying he thinks his players should enter the draft if they have a chance to go early. Gabbert has been told by scouts, coaches and the draft committee that he will be a high first round pick in April.
With exceptional character, physical qualities and mobility – Gabbert has the potential to be a top-end NFL quarterback. His accuracy is good although he remains a risk taker (which occasionally has led to costly errors). He will enter the league facing the same challenge that most rookies face – learning a more complex playbook, making difficult reads and not using as many scripted plays. That’s just part of the learning process.
Even if the Seahawks had lost yesterday and picked #8 overall, I’m not convinced they would’ve had a shot at Gabbert. This is a quarterback league and there are a cluster of teams at the top of round with a big hole at the position. We could easily see the Missouri prospect in the NFC West next year with Arizona (#5) or San Francisco (#7). There’s no reason why he couldn’t also land in Cincinnati (#3), Buffalo (#4) or even Cleveland (#6). I’ve never been a fan of Colt McCoy’s pro-prospects.
Expect Andrew Luck (QB, Stanford) to make a similar decision very soon. He will compete in the Orange Bowl tonight against Virginia Tech and I suspect the Cardinal will win comfortably.
It will almost certainly be coach Jim Harbaugh’s last game – with an offer on the table to coach in the NFL (San Francisco) and a similar deal soon to be offered by his alma mater (Michigan).
Luck is leaning towards the draft anyway because he knows he will almost certainly be the #1 overall pick. It’s very difficult to turn down a potential $50m bounty whatever your intentions may have been in the past. If Harbaugh leaves, it will confirm his decision if he hasn’t made his mind up already.
Cam Newton (QB, Auburn) is an absolute certainty to declare which will mean three highly rated quarterbacks who could leave the board early.
A run on QB’s early seems likely to me. There are too many teams amongst the top ten picks for these talented prospects to hang around.
With all due respect to the Patrick Peterson’s and Nick Fairley’s out there – a team with a big need at quarterback is not going to pass on Luck, Newton or Gabbert to take a cornerback or defensive tackle. It wouldn’t happen in Seattle and it won’t happen elsewhere.
Here’s the confirmed top ten for the 2011 draft and each team’s likelihood they’ll take a quarterback:
#1 Carolina- Despite investment in Jimmy Clausen, a new coaching staff should not pass on Andrew Luck or Cam Newton. Both are vastly superior quarterbacks to Clausen. A no brainer.
#2 Denver- This team will also have a new coach soon and that man may not have Josh McDaniels’ faith in Tim Tebow. I wouldn’t rule out a quarterback pick here – but the Broncos are more likely to stick by Tebow for another year than Carolina with Clausen.
#3 Cincinnati – If Carson Palmer stays or go’s, this team should draft a quarterback for the long term.
#4 Buffalo- Chain Gailey says Ryan Fitzpatrick is his guy for 2011. I’ve no reason not to believe that, although you can’t rule out Buffalo drafting a QB. A.J. Green (WR, Georgia) looks likely here.
#5 Arizona – If they don’t bring in an obvious starter before the draft – this pick will be spent on a QB. Simple as that.
#6 Cleveland- I wouldn’t commit to Colt McCoy. Another team I wouldn’t rule out, but would Holmgren take a QB this early?
#7 San Francisco – See Arizona.
#8 Tennessee – If Jeff Fisher leaves, Vince Young is safe as houses. If the team stand by Fisher, who knows what happens?
#9 Dallas- Perhaps the only team we can definitely rule out. Tony Romo is the safe starter.
#10 Washington- Almost certainly will draft a quarterback after benching Donovan McNabb.
Although some will disagree, I’m looking at that list and seeing nine potential teams who might be open to drafting a quarterback. There are two teams (Arizona and San Francisco) who almost certainly will do without signing or trading for a quarterback before the draft. Others are perhaps more dubious (Denver, Buffalo, Cleveland and Tennessee) but neither can they be completely ruled out at this early stage.
So what does it mean for the Seahawks if they have hopes of drafting a quarterback?
There was a chance at #8 overall that one of the top three QB’s slipped through the cracks. With the team picking 21st overall, it’s virtually impossible.
Also – because the team traded it’s 2011 third round pick for Charlie Whitehurst, they have marginal stock to offer teams in a potential trade up the board. Seattle’s first round pick is worth 800 points and the second rounder 370. If you combine those picks together, it would be worth slightly more than the 13th overall pick (1150 points) which is now owned by Detroit.
Four quarterbacks will definitely be drafted in round one, possibly five. The two not mentioned so far are Jake Locker (Washington) and Ryan Mallett (Arkansas).
Despite my own misgivings on Locker, I still believe he will be strongly coveted by at least two teams in round one – including Seattle. So much so in fact, I could imagine if the Seahawks were locked into the top-five that they may have ignored all other options to draft him.
I cannot see the Huskies QB getting past Washington at #10 overall. Mike Shanahan loves Locker and will draft him to be the next Redskins quarterback.
If the Seahawks admire Locker as much as I suspect, they would have to trade with Tennessee (#8) or Dallas (#9) to have the opportunity to get him. The eighth overall pick is worth 1400 points in the trade chart and the ninth overall pick is worth 1350 points.
We already know Seattle’s two first round picks total 1170 points. The Seahawks also own the second pick in round four – acquired from New England for Deion Branch. That selection is worth a further 108 points. They may also gain the 28th pick in round four in the Josh Wilson trade if the deal is upgraded depending on certain criteria. If not – they will get the 27th pick in round five from Baltimore. The complete terms of the Wilson trade are not known to the public.
Even if the Seahawks include two fourth round picks in the package, they wouldn’t have enough points (1326) to completely match the worth of the 9th overall pick. In the process, Seattle would also be trading virtually it’s entire draft for one prospect despite having a roster weak in quality and overall depth.
However – a precedent has been set to get around what is becoming a generally outdated trade chart formula.
In 2008 Jacksonville traded a cumulative package worth 1127 points to Baltimore so they could move from #26 overall to #8 overall to draft Derrick Harvey. The deal included two third round picks and a fourth rounder. Seattle’s first and second round picks are worth 43 more points than the package Jacksonville put together.
The following year, Cleveland moved from the #5 overall pick (1700 points) down to #17 (950 points) after a trade with the New York Jets. The deal also included a second rounder (52nd overall, 280 points) and three New York players (Brett Ratliff, Kenyon Coleman and Abram Elam). Eric Mangini had just been appointed the Browns’ Head Coach after leaving New York and substituted points value for players he was familiar with.
In both cases (Baltimore and Cleveland) there was a real determination from the two teams to move down the board. The Ravens were aggressive in 2008, moving down and then back up to select Joe Flacco with the #17 pick. Cleveland moved down two more times in 2009 before taking center Alex Mack with the 21st overall pick.
Would Tennesse or Dallas be willing to make such moves? Both are teams who underachieved this year. Both teams may have new Head Coaches going into the draft.
Drafting in the top ten (particularly for Dallas) could be seen as a rare bonus. I just have a feeling Dallas in particular will fall for a guy like Jimmy Smith (CB, Colorado) who really needs to be discussed as a legitimate top-10 pick. Even so, this could be viewed as a chance to gain more picks if the right deal is on the table.
The Seahawks could move up the board, if they so wished, using possibly just their first two picks this year. That stands if they want a quarterback or anyone else for that matter.
Indeed if it really is a race between Seattle and Washington for Locker, the Seahawks may be in a preferable position. There’s little Washington can do, for example, if the Seahawks agree an on-the-clock trade.
If the team stays put at #21 there is still a chance Ryan Mallett falls into that range. Despite immense on-field talent I still have reservations about how he will grade following team meetings and work outs. He isn’t an ideal scheme fit for Jeremy Bates’ offense either, although this may be overplayed.
I also keep seeing things like this tweet from Wes Bunting at the National Football Post:
I talked with a number of NFL sources who wouldn’t touch Ryan Mallett with a ten foot pool* (SIC)
It isn’t all about quarterbacks for Seattle – although I maintain it’s the team’s greatest need and will be until the position is addressed for the long term. Over the next few days it’s only fair we review alternative options if the Seahawks are now out of position to draft a QB.
If you want some non-quarterback options as a teaser – let me give you some names:
Justin Blackmon (WR, Oklahoma State) – not an elite down-field threat but an under rated andfluid route runner withbig play potential. Even with Mike Williams’ extension – the Seahawks need more playmakers on offense.
Julio Jones (WR, Alabama) – unlikely to make it to #21 due to his incredible potential, but for every big fan of his (include me amongst them) there are sceptics. Receivers tend to fall on draft day. Could be a steal.
Stephen Paea (DT, Oregon State) – under sized for his position but incredibly strong and solid versus the run – has flashed ability as a pass rusher this year. Would play nose tackle in Seattle’s scheme.
Cameron Jordan (DE, California) – could shoot up the boards and even crack the top-15. Possible 5-technique option who can move inside as well.
Brandon Harris (CB, Miami) – excellent open-field tackler but a bit inconsistent in coverage this year. Had top-15 potential but missed the chance to go that early.
Mike Pouncey (OG/C, Florida) – I’m loathe to suggest the interior line this early but people keep asking about options there. Value isn’t good enough considering team needs elsewhere. Pouncey is really the only suggestion I can make this early.