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.


Seahawks cut Keith Price, Kenneth Boatwright

June 17th, 2014 | Written by Rob Staton

The addition of Kevin Williams is becoming more intriguing by the minute.

There were hopes for Kenneth Boatwright heading into the off-season. He’d gained weight and figured to be competing with a young group of defensive linemen trying to fill the gaps left by Red Bryant, Chris Clemons and others.

Instead the Seahawks have turned to a seasoned veteran and Boatwright is left without a job.

It’s a cautionary reminder that we know so little about these possible diamonds in the rough. None of us really know what Boatwright is capable of. His most redeming quality was the fact he’d been given a chance by this front office. That reputation could get him a gig elsewhere (Welcome to Jacksonville).

Yet ultimately we knew nothing of his actual talent. Even less than a guy like Greg Scruggs, who at least had some playing time as a rookie.

Williams is a proven commodity in the twilight days of his career. Having lost so much in terms of experience up front, that could be valuable. It’ll be up to the other young players to make sure they remain part of the rotation moving forward.

The interior defensive line looks solid on paper. Brandon Mebane, Tony McDaniel and Kevin Williams is a nice rotation at tackle. McDaniel is also capable of playing the five technique — and the likes of Jordan Hill and Scruggs will get a chance to earn playing time inside. It’ll be interesting to see if Cassius Marsh can have an early impact as an inside-and-out rusher. And what does the future hold for Jesse Williams? Michael Bennett also stands to play in multiple spots and increase his snap count in 2014.

Kenneth Price was also released in favour of another running back — Demitrius Bronson. It was a nice story for Price — given a shot by his local NFL team as an UDFA. His friendship with Russell Wilson added a dynamic. Even so, he had limited upside as a pro-passer and never seemed likely to usurp a Terrelle Pryor or B.J. Daniels.

Bronson spent two years at Washington before switching to Eastern Washington. He tried out for the Seahawks last month.

The other big story at the start of minicamp is the appearance of Marshawn Lynch. There was a lot of talk last week about a potential contract dispute and maybe even retirement. Although he didn’t work out today (and there’s no reason why he would) — he did at least turn up. Which is a positive sign for his future with the Seahawks.


Seahawks sign Kevin Williams & will Marshawn Lynch retire?

June 12th, 2014 | Written by Rob Staton

Even during the most mundane section of the NFL calendar, the Seahawks find a way to make life interesting.

Kevin Williams is 34 this year and will eventually retire as one of the greats. Six Pro Bowls. Five all-pro nominations. He was named in the ‘all-decade’ team for the 2000′s. Very few defensive tackles play for ten years. Even fewer play for ten years at the level Williams achieved in Minnesota.

Seattle is thinner on the defensive line going into 2014. They’ve lost Red Bryant and Chris Clemons. They’ll need to find a replacement for Clinton McDonald. There’s a lot riding on the young bucks stepping up to the plate.

Yet this is the one area Carroll’s Seahawks haven’t had too much success. They haven’t drafted young defensive lineman and then transitioned them into key role players. Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril were bought in. Bryant and Brandon Mebane were inherited. Clemons was an established veteran even if he carried a journeyman tag.

None of the draft picks — including the likes of Bruce Irvin, Jordan Hill and Jaye Howard — have had a major impact.

Hopes are high for Gregg Scruggs, Hill, Benson Mayowa and co. But with potential comes uncertainty. Even in an ageing frame, Carroll knows what he’s getting from Williams.

Funnily enough I interviewed him last year to get his thoughts on taking rookie Sharrif Floyd under his wing and the Percy Harvin trade:

I see him working inside as a three technique. That’s a near certainty. But it’s going to be interesting to see how Seattle’s line shapes up next year. Carroll has promised evolution — yet he hasn’t stated the scale of the changes.

What we do know is — Williams will be stout, he’ll offer some pass rush and he’ll be a mentor for the younger guys.

And his value in that sense shouldn’t be underestimated.

I find this developing Marshawn Lynch saga both surprising and unsurprising.

I’m surprised because of the timing. June seems like a strange time to have an epiphany on your contract situation or even your career.

I’m not surprised because I remember these remarks after the Super Bowl victory in this piece by the MMQB.

“Lynch has been telling teammates all season he’ll retire if they win the Super Bowl. Sherman doesn’t believe him. In the lobby upstairs, they put their heads together and Lynch whispers something inaudible through the mask. Sherman laughs and screams, “You reneged!””

This stuck in my memory. I sense Lynch was joking around with the teammates mentioned here, but amongst the laughs was an element of truth. Your body takes a pounding at running back. And nobody’s body has taken more of a pounding than Lynch’s.

The Seahawks started collecting RB’s even after Lynch signed his new contract in 2012. They drafted Robert Turbin in round four that year — and then Christine Michael in round two the following season.

It wasn’t just an acknowledgement of planning ahead, it was a nod to the importance of the position in this offense. Seattle wants a playmaker or two at running back. And they don’t want a sudden drop off if and when Lynch calls it a day.

If — as Ian Rapoport suggests — he is considering retirement, I think he might be better off just making the decision. If his body can’t take another beating in 2014, then why struggle on?

Seattle has a player in Christine Michael who appears ready to have an impact in the NFL. He’s dynamic. He’s explosive. And he’s hungry.

The Seahawks can ill-afford to carry Lynch as much as he can’t afford to struggle through another year if his body screams “no more”.

Of course all this talk could just be a tactic to get a better contract — something Lynch is also after according to reports. His representatives should know there’s very little chance of a breakthrough there. The NFL just isn’t paying running backs any more. Lynch is actually quite fortunate he got a new deal with $17m guaranteed.

If the Seahawks won’t pony up — and they probably won’t — what then?

Of course Seattle won’t waste much time on league-wide trends. If they think he’s just too important to lose, they might be willing to negotiate after all. It still seems unlikely however, given the depth they have at the position.

It’ll be a sad day when Beast Mode hangs up the cleats. To an extent it’d be incredibly Lynch-esque if he did just make a dramatic announcement and walk.No doubt without holding any press conference.

That day appears to be a lot closer than anyone imagined.


Learning lessons from Pete Carroll’s Seahawks

June 11th, 2014 | Written by Rob Staton

The Bills are banking on Sammy Watkins (above) and E.J. Manuel working out

The Seahawks are a team that broke away from conventional wisdom. That’s well publicised by now. It’s almost a little tiresome to keep bringing it up.

But it’s true. And if I were an owner looking to move in a new direction, I’d be looking at Pete Carroll’s work in Seattle with envy.

There’s nothing overly scientific here. They look for rare athletic qualities and guys with the attitude to compete. Of course it’s much more sophisticated than just that, but it’s nothing a competent and experienced NFL staff can’t at least attempt to emulate.

It doesn’t even have to be a carbon copy. It’s just about knowing what you want to do and getting after it. What constitutes one of ‘your’ guys? You can open up the competition in camp and let them go for it. Let the best man win. Always compete.

But it’s also knowing when to make specific moves. Taking calculated risks and not forcing the issue. Seattle turned over every stone to find a winning formula. They invested in players they could believe in — they didn’t invest heavily in specific positions because, well, that’s how you build a team.

The Seahawks went from lifeless also-rans to Champions in four years. You’d think teams would be scrambling to try and replicate it.

And then you look at why some franchises just can’t get out of their own way.

Buffalo — forever in the shadow of New England (at least in my lifetime) — pick the worst draft for QB’s in years to go after their guy in E.J. Manuel. He struggled, he got injured. The Bills panicked. Now they’ve blown two first round picks on Sammy Watkins in an attempt to make life easier for their young quarterback.

I like Watkins. But here’s the thing — Atlanta moved up 20 slots to get Julio Jones in 2011 and gave up two first round picks to do it. Buffalo pulled the same move (with the same trade partner coincidentally) to move up five slots.

It’s a kings ransom. And now they’re not only banking on Watkins proving he was worth the outlay — their banking on their first round quarterback being competent (and healthy) enough to supply the ammunition.

Buffalo’s key draft stock from 2013-2015 is tied into two players. The future of the coaching staff and front office will be forever connected to the performance of Manuel and Watkins.

Even if the plan succeeds it should be seen as reckless and impatient.

It’s almost the exact opposite of Seattle’s approach.

Perhaps there are other things at play here? The eventual sale of the team could lead to jobs being lost. This could be an aggressive attempt to prove a point before major changes occur at the top. Who knows.

But they couldn’t have done things any more different than Seattle. And I just find that very confusing.

I also find it interesting personally to critique Buffalo because to be honest a few years ago I probably would’ve given their pro-active approach a huge thumbs up.

I, like most people, felt this was the way you had to build a team:

1. Find a quarterback
2. Give them some weapons
3. Develop a dynamic passing offense

Teams like Indianapolis, Green Bay and New Orleans placed their trust in being able to put up huge numbers behind a prolific passer. If Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees got injured — it was over. But while ever they were healthy and active their teams had a shot.

I passionately thought the Seahawks needed that at the start of the Carroll era.

I was wrong.

In 2010 we spent great time discussing the minimal pro’s and significant con’s of Jimmy Clausen, Tim Tebow and Colt McCoy. My final 2011 mock draft had Colin Kaepernick posted at #25 to Seattle. We also debated and dissected Blaine Gabbert, Cam Newton, Andy Dalton and Jake Locker.

Who could be Seattle’s 40 TD machine?

They didn’t draft any of those players. They waited. And waited. And then found a player they could believe in. The man who would quarterback this team to a first ever Championship.

And they did it their way. Running the ball, playing great defense. Not relying solely on the man under center being healthy, working in a flawless pocket.

When you see teams trying to build around one vital player and position, you almost have to smirk.

Yet you do it — or at least I do — with the knowledge I would’ve made exactly the same mistakes before Carroll and co. arrived in Seattle.

Following the growth and development of Carroll’s Seahawks has been a great lesson in team building. We are better educated fans because of the experience. We are more aware. And yet there are still teams in the NFL making the same old mistakes.


Markus Golden (DE, Missouri) vs Vanderbilt

June 10th, 2014 | Written by Rob Staton

Far from the finished article but one to monitor going forward. We talked about him in greater detail here. There’s a degree of physical development required plus some technical refinement. But Golden has as much potential as anyone considering he’s a recent JUCO transfer with limited experience.

With Kony Ealy and Michael Sam turning pro, there’s a great opportunity for both Golden and Shane Ray in 2014. Pass rusher could be a long term need for Seattle.


LIVE Google Hang out: June 9th

June 9th, 2014 | Written by Rob Staton

So the technical problems are finally solved. Let’s celebrate.


Maintenance update

June 3rd, 2014 | Written by Rob Staton

Just a quick update as I’ve received a few emails recently asking what the latest is.

My laptop is in for repair and fingers crossed will be back with me later this week. Apologies for the prolonged absence but hey — at least it waited until after the draft.


Doug Baldwin agrees 2-year contract extension with Seahawks

May 29th, 2014 | Written by Rob Staton


Maintenance update

May 22nd, 2014 | Written by Rob Staton

In many ways this is perfect timing — just a couple of weeks after the draft. My computer needs to be reformatted and won’t be cleaned until next week. Sadly this means an extended break from the blog post-draft. I expect to be back up and running next week. Thanks for your patience.


An early look at 2015, in particular Mizzou’s Markus Golden

May 15th, 2014 | Written by Rob Staton

Missouri’s Markus Golden could be the best pass rusher in the SEC next season

We’ll get back into the current draft class tomorrow but I wanted to have a quick look at the 2014 college season and put down a few players to monitor over the summer months.

Obviously it’s too early to get a firm handle on who we’ll be talking about in 2015 but there is one name in particular I wanted to put out there.

Markus Golden — defensive end, Missouri.

He’s listed at 6-3 and 260lbs and had 6.5 sacks as a junior last season playing behind Michael Sam and Kony Ealy. He chose not to declare for last weeks draft because he wanted a year as a starter. Golden’s a former JUCO transfer from Hutchinson where in a single season he registered 26 TFL’s, 10 sacks, five forced fumbles and a pair of interceptions. He played mostly special teams in 2012 for Mizzou before taking on a bigger role in 2013.

He’s an outstanding athlete with great burst off the line. He can hold his own too as you’ll see in the tape below — on one play he kicked inside, held off two blockers to make a play on the running back at the LOS. He’s got a real nose for the ball and plays with a relentless effort. It’s hard not to appreciate a play like this:

It’s not just the pick six. He shoves the quarterback a good 15-yards just for the hell of it. The guys a beast and could easily be the best pass rusher in the SEC this year.

Need more evidence? Golden was the only player I saw on tape that flustered Ja’Wuan James last season. James went in the top-20 this year because he’s solid with great technique, balance and footwork. Nobody played him like Golden (#33 in the tape below).

We also know after the 2014 draft that the Seahawks are putting a big emphasis on character and the ability to fit into Seattle’s locker room. That’ll be no issue here — he’s a mature, competitive character who speaks well during interviews.

Pass rusher could be a target area for the Seahawks in a years time. Cliff Avril will be a free agent and in an off-season where Russell Wilson will sign an enormous new contract — he could be difficult to keep. Even if Avril re-signs, Seattle could use even more options up front. They’re banking on younger players like Benson Mayowa, Jordan Hill and Cassius Marsh stepping up to the plate this year.

For me Golden has all the makings of a potential top-15 pick if he stays healthy and productive — so he might not be in range for the Seahawks anyway all being well. But if you want a player to get excited about over the summer — this is a good place to start. You can see some coaches tape below and a list of suggested 2015 prospects to get into during the off-season.

Other potential 2015 prospects to study

Marcus Mariota (QB, Oregon)
A good bet to go first overall next year. Mariota is a toolsy quarterback who made a big decision to return for one more year at Oregon. He doesn’t turn the ball over, he’s a thoroughly modern QB and a threat to run. Also has none of the character baggage Jameis Winston possesses.

Markus Golden (DE, Missouri)
As noted above, he could be the best pass rusher in the SEC next season. A relentless athlete with top-tier potential. A very exciting prospect and one to monitor.

Cedric Ogbuehi (T, Texas A&M)
Could’ve been a first round pick this year but chose to emulate Jake Matthews and return to the Aggies to play left tackle. Handled Dee Ford in the Auburn game. The complete package and another top-10 pick in the making for Texas A&M.

Andrus Peat (T, Stanford)
I’m not a fan of Stanford linemen. The scheme is too clinical and players get way overrated every year. Yet Peat might break that trend. He’s 6-7 and 312lbs with long arms and a great attitude on and off the field. Could be a high pick.

Cameron Erving (T, Florida State)
Converted defensive lineman who also chose not to declare for 2014. Expect another cluster of tackles to be the making of this class and Erving is a powerful, athletic OT who watches Jameis Winston’s blindside.

La’el Collins (T, LSU)
The third tackle on this list who made a late decision not to declare for the the 2014 draft. The Tigers offense lost a lot of talent this year, so we’ll see if it has any impact on Collins’ stock. Ideal size at 6-5 and 315lbs.

Leonard Williams (DL, USC)
Former 4-star recruit who can play end or tackle. Great size at 6-5 and 290lbs. Needs to break a trend of disappointing Trojan prospects who get a lot of hype but sink like a stone. He’s a playmaker but needs to get stronger, can be pushed back working inside.

Jameis Winston (QB, Florida State)
Great competitor on the field, a playmaker and gun slinger. Yet there are so many question marks. Off the field he’s a disaster zone. He needs to grow up and show some responsibility. Can he quicken up a slow release and avoid distractions?

Brandon Scherff (T, Iowa)
Typical Iowa offensive lineman. Well coached, blue collar attitude. Just goes out and plays. 6-5 and 315lbs. No nonsense offensive lineman who excels in the run game. Not quite as adept against speed but will make a great right tackle.

Todd Gurley (RB, Georgia)
Gets banged up too much and his personality is pretty aloof. Awkward public speaker. And yet on the field an absolute beast when healthy. Not many running backs with his size return kicks for touchdowns. Big time prospect if he stays focused, avoids injuries and matures.

Marcus Peters (CB, Washington)
Long, physical corner who played Brandin Cooks as well as anyone in the PAC-12 last season. Loads of potential and along with Shaq Thompson and Hau’oli Kikaha — could make the Huskies draft-relevant in 2015.

Vic Beasley (DE, Clemson)
Explosive first step, great burst off the snap. Not the biggest or strongest but teams love guys like this that fly around the edge. Would’ve been a high pick this year in a disappointing class for edge rushers.

Honorable mentions

Landon Collins (S, Alabama) — could easily be the next big defensive back prospect off the Nick Saban production line.

Randy Gregory (DE, Nebraska) — former JUCO transfer, 10.5 sacks last season and has the length (6-6) to be a big time threat off the edge.

Chaz Green (T, Florida) — has all the tools to be a great left tackle but injuries and inconsistent play haven’t helped.

Amari Cooper (WR, Alabama) — under sized and had a disappointing 2013 season. Natural catcher though but is he another Woods/Lee?

T.J. Yeldon (RB, Alabama) — playmaker who fumbles way too much. Ball security must improve.

Denzel Perryman (LB, Miami) — exciting linebacker who received a third round grade this year but could be set for a big rise.

Melvin Gordon (RB, Wisconsin) — missed a trick by not declaring this year. Looks like he could be a solid player at the next level.

Doriel Green-Beckham (WR, Unknown) — kicked out of Missouri. Major character red flags. And yet immensely talented. Has time to bounce back.

Brett Hundley (QB, UCLA) — did the right thing not declaring for 2014 and needs time on the field at UCLA. Makes too many mistakes.