The answer to the title is most definitely yes. They’re one of only a few who can justify a luxury pick. While we discuss, debate and (occasionally) fret about who will replace Byron Maxwell next season — it’s easy to forget the Seahawks have a good thing going.
They’ve already re-signed K.J. Wright and Cliff Avril for the long term. The only two significant starters they’re likely to lose (not including any imminent cuts) is Maxwell and James Carpenter. They could use reinforcements elsewhere but put it into context. More than half the teams in the league are going through some form of relevance-chase. Then there’s a cluster of teams like Detroit, San Diego, Carolina and Arizona that are close to contending but still seem pretty far away.
The Seahawks are part of a very small and elite group. The clan of legit contenders. New England is in the club. So is Green Bay. Baltimore is close but are they included? What about Dallas and Denver?
Very few teams in the league have it as good as Seattle — even without Maxwell and Carpenter. They have eleven picks in the 2015 draft and enough cap room to not feel completely restricted going into free agency.
A few problems will be solved in the open market. Darnell Docket has just been released by Arizona and could offer interior line depth while improving the pass rush. Julius Thomas or Jordan Cameron could provide the dynamic big target Wilson badly needs in the passing game. Those two additions alone would allow the Seahawks to enter the draft feeling confident. And they might even add a veteran corner or offensive lineman in the second wave of free agency.
With their eleven picks they can get a receiver or two, a replacement for Carpenter at guard, a cornerback or two with length, further depth at linebacker and safety, another defensive lineman. They can manipulate the board and fill out the roster.
They can save a pick for a ‘luxury’ and not jeopardize the short term goal of the team (to return to the Super Bowl next season).
So what would constitute a ‘luxury’ pick?
Todd Gurley. There’s your luxury.
In 2013 the Seahawks gave up a first round pick for Percy Harvin. They weren’t on the clock until the late second round. Even then, they traded down before selecting Christine Michael — a SPARQ demon with incredible physical skills. He wasn’t likely to challenge Marshawn Lynch for snaps and would have a job on replacing Robert Turbin as the #2 running back. This was a shot. The kind of move a team rich in depth (as the Seahawks were in 2013) can make with confidence. They were planning ahead at the running back position.
The depth isn’t quite the same these days — mainly because the 2013 and 2014 drafts haven’t thoroughly replenished the loss of certain individuals. The Harvin fiasco robbed the Seahawks of a first round talent and a third round pick in 2014. But it’s still a deep group. How else could they survive an injury plagued season to return to the Super Bowl?
There’s no reason to believe they won’t be bold again, with an eye to the future.
Todd Gurley probably won’t play football in 2015. He tore an ACL on November 15th in a game against Auburn. He didn’t work out at the combine and admitted he won’t be ready for the Georgia pro-day on March 18th. Unlike other prospects in recent years, he’s doing the sensible thing. Don’t rush back just to make a token performance pre-draft. Let the tape speak for itself and get healthy.
Scientific advances mean ACL injuries are no longer the career death sentence they used to be. Adrian Peterson made a spectacular comeback from a similar injury. Chris Clemons also returned for the Seahawks in 2013 with almost no obvious side effects. Dr. James Andrews is working on Gurley’s knee and recently stated he was ahead of schedule. He also shot down speculation over the health of the knee, after Gurley refused to be examined by medical teams at the combine:
“I heard some fuss that Gurley wouldn’t let teams examine him and that’s just totally misleading… The team physicians I have spoken with who are there — and I have spoken to a bunch of them — were all happy about what they saw. I mean, they’re smart enough to know you can’t have 32 teams pulling and tugging on a knee just 3½ months removed from surgery. But the doctors I spoke with said he looked great and I’d say he’s probably six weeks ahead with his recovery.”
Gurley needs to go to a team that is prepared to let this process play out. Rushing him back in 2015 is not the answer. Accept the situation for what it is, let him build up strength and prepare for a long career. That approach is significantly going to impact his draft stock, but it’s totally necessary. He could’ve been a top-15 pick without the knee injury. Instead he’s going to fall to the late first round or even the second round.
I think it’s fair to assume the Seahawks are going to get a deal done with Marshawn Lynch. A fairly relaxed appearance on Turkish Television (yep) this weekend didn’t feel like the final days of a players career. Despite denials from the players agent, Jason La Canfora continues to report a deal will be done. It feels like a matter of time. The Seahawks need to know if he’s accepting the offer before March 10th when free agency begins.
Even with a new contract in his pocket, there’s going to be an annual ‘will he or won’t he’ discussion on Lynch retiring until the decision is finally made. He’s the new Brett Favre. Eventually he will retire and it’s going to leave a massive void.
Robert Turbin is a free agent after the 2015 season. The market for running backs isn’t great financially, but Turbin has very little tread on the tires. He might be a difficult keep unless the Seahawks intend to make him the starter after Lynch.
You might lose both Lynch and Turbin in a years time. I’m not convinced this team has anywhere near enough faith in Christine Michael to become a starter. They don’t even trust him to contend for the kick returners role — a position he filled for Texas A&M.
Gurley would be a luxury pick in terms of 2015 — he wouldn’t take the field. But in 2016 he could be a vital addition — either in support of Lynch or as the bona fide starter.
The decision to draft or pass on Gurley really comes down to four things:
1. Do you believe he can make a full recovery?
2. Is he special enough to warrant a redshirt season?
3. Can you live with another first pick in the draft providing minimal or no impact as a rookie?
4. Is the running back position vital enough to draft one for the future?
The first question we’ll never know the answer to as mere observers. The second question? I certainly think he’s special enough. You just don’t find many players with Gurley’s combination of size, speed, patience, home-run hitting ability and pro-ready skills in the passing game. I think the third question, ultimately, is the big one for Seattle. Having received virtually no return from their first and second round picks in 2013 and only a minimal return on their first pick in 2014 — this would be a big decision.
The answer to the fourth question would probably be ‘no’ for most teams. Yet the Seahawks want to run the ball with style and substance. It’s their identity. Replacing Lynch is going to be one of the biggest challenges in the Pete Carroll/John Schneider era. Having the opportunity to draft a player as talented as Gurley to eventually replace Lynch is attractive. That doesn’t mean they’re necessarily going to do it — but you’d understand it if they did.
“Would you take him? With all the damage to our secondary and players leaving in free agency I wouldn’t put up a fight if you decided otherwise, but I think deep down inside the idea of transitioning from one Marshawn Lynch to the next sounds like a pretty incredible prospect to all of us.”
I wouldn’t be surprised by the move. The Seahawks are projected to receive compensatory picks in the fourth, fifth (x2) and sixth rounds. If you’re able to land Julius Thomas and some D-line help in free agency, you can target receivers, offensive linemen, cornerbacks and defensive linemen with the seven picks you have between rounds 2-5.
We’ve seen talented players drafted in the late first/early second round while recovering from ACL injuries. Dominique Easley would’ve been a top-20 pick — instead the New England Patriots drafted him at #29 a year ago. The 49ers drafted Tank Carradine with the #40 pick in 2013.
There’s also this:
.@robstaton also if NFL team deems Gurley injury "NFI" which they can- I believe he would NOT accrue a season in 2015 I believe…
— DAVIS HSU (@DavisHsuSeattle) March 1, 2015
It’s possible, due to the injury, that 2015 wouldn’t count as an accrued season. Meaning if you draft him at #31, you can control his contract for six years.
If the Seahawks are going to remain contenders for several years, they’re unlikely to get a shot at a talent like Gurley without some kind of red flag forcing him down the board. This would be an opportunistic pick — a calculated risk for the long term benefit of your running game. They were willing to roll the dice on Christine Michael with an early pick — a player with character flags and an injury history.
At the same time — this is a team looking to remain on top in the NFC. Their four first round picks between 2010-12 (Okung, Thomas, Carpenter, Irvin) all started or had an impact in year one. 2012 feels like a long time ago.
Do you need to plan for the long term at running back? Do you need a player of Lynch or Gurley’s quality to establish a top running game? Can you afford to wait out the Lynch situation and simply address the problem in 2016, 2017 or whenever he decides to retire?
Lynch reportedly took offense to Darrell Bevell’s suggestion of a ‘running back by committee’ approach in 2014. Given the fractious nature of the relationship between player and coaches/front office, would drafting a running back with the first pick open up old wounds?
“Hey — sign the new contract we really need you! By the way, meet your replacement.”
Gurley has a tendency to get banged up. Aside from the ACL tear, he missed three games in 2013 with an ankle injury and finished the season playing hurt. He was spelled in two other games due to ankle and hip issues. Lynch is a freak of nature with the strength of two men. He’s avoided serious injuries as a consequence. Gurley played at around 230lbs at Georgia but slimmed down to 222lbs for the combine. He’s marginally taller and 7lbs bigger than Lynch. It remains to be seen whether he can be as durable.
Running back is a short career. A redshirt year is unlikely to have much impact on Gurley playing into his 30’s — rare for most players at the position. Stashing him for an entire season might be a hard sell if you don’t think it’s likely to extend his career.
College football always churns out running backs. Yes — 2014 provided a disappointing crop. But this year there’s depth and quality. Next year’s class will likely be fronted by the excellent Ezekiel Elliott of Ohio State. How important is it to take Gurley compared to waiting until 2016 or beyond?
Will he be there at #31? The Baltimore Ravens could redshirt Gurley and re-sign Justin Forsett for another season. Arizona, Dallas, Denver and Indianapolis could also be in the market for a running back. How determined are the Seahawks to trade down from #31 to accumulate further picks in the middle rounds? I still think a trade down from #31 is the most likely scenario as explained here.
Will they ever spend a first round pick on a running back? Some teams flat out refuse to. I suspect it’d take a special talent to warrant the investment, but that’s the same for all teams in this modern pass-happy NFL. I think it’s pretty clear Gurley is ‘special’ — but the injury situation clouds the situation.
You can make a strong case for or against drafting Gurley. The Seahawks are one of the few teams who can justify it — but they might be more interested in adding an immediate impact player. It’d be a luxury for 2015 but a possible life-saver for the running game when Lynch hangs up his cleats.
He’s good enough to warrant the pick. But how keen are the Seahawks to add a ‘running back of the future’?