Robert Griffin III, Heisman winner and productive quarterback from Baylor, will today reveal his decision to turn pro. Consensus opinion is that teams will have to move into the top three to draft him, although I remain somewhat sceptical. Nevertheless, if the Seahawks want to get into this party they’ll definitely have to move up, at least in front of the Dolphins. In many ways Griffin represents what the Seahawks have been looking for at the position. He makes very few mistakes, he’s capable of extending plays with his athleticism and running all of the bootlegs, developing routes and play-action’s in the playbook. Griffin’s got the arm to make difficult throws, but crucially he’s savvy enough to make the right calls and be that ‘point guard’ type that Pete Carroll has talked about.
Carroll has also talked quite openly about his desire to add speed to the team’s defensive front while improving the pass rush. All of this flies in the face of the concept of a move up the board to draft a quarterback. The Seahawks currently own six picks, a stark contrast to the nine they spent in both the 2010 and 2011 draft. Trading up would be expensive and given the good work done in the later rounds so far, I suspect they’d like to keep adding depth in key areas. Then you consider the lack of obvious options in round one at defensive tackle, defensive end and the WILL linebacker spot and you come back to a quarterback like Griffin. Maybe this is the year?
That’s a debate that will continue long into April, but today I wanted to consider a situation where RG3 isn’t an option. In that case, they should be looking to target more than one quarterback in this draft. Without doubt the most logical way to find a franchise quarterback is to draft one in the first round. If that isn’t possible for whatever reason, they need to attack the middle and later rounds. Finding a starter beyond round one is like trying to win money on a scratch card. Essentially, you’re very unlikely to win. However – the more cards you buy, the more likely you are to get a return. The only problem is there’s a chance you won’t get anything and then you’ve wasted money chasing something that could’ve been used more wisely. So when it’s all done, is it worth the gamble? That’s where the analogy ends, because it probably isn’t worth it with the scratch cards – but it almost certainly is in the NFL.
Yesterday we identified Chandler Harnish (QB, Northern Illinois) as a player to keep an eye on. In the video at the top of this piece, you can see further tape from his performance against Ball State (courtesy of JMPasq). We’ll be publishing more game-tape on Harnish soon, but my first impression watching him perform against Arkansas State, Toledo and Army was incredibly positive. He has a shot at the next level, no question about it. I’ve also spent considerable time talking up Austin Davis (QB, Southern Miss). Below, I’ve included a video highlighting Chattanooga quarterback BJ Coleman (tape courtesy of Aaron Alosysius) – a toolsy quarterback who lacks a lot of technical quality, but has some of the physical qualities the Seahawks are looking for.
By drafting multiple quarterbacks (for example, Harnish and Davies) the two rookies can compete with Josh Portis with the intent to discover if any have the potential to succeed Tarvaris Jackson and become the team’s long term starter. Beyond pre-season you could carry two of the players on the roster, with a third likely to make the practise squad. It’s not like the Seahawks felt obliged to stay loyal to their draft picks – they cut fourth round pick E.J. Wilson during his rookie season. Potentially losing a pick trying to open up a productive quarterback competition seems to be a perfectly acceptable situation.
Of course, you’re not going to completely force the issue. John Schneider and Carroll have done an excellent job identifying starters with their mid-to-late round picks. Are you going to pass on the next prospective Kam Chancellor or Richard Sherman just for the sake of opening up a token QB competition? At the same time, if you’re looking to spend two picks between rounds 3-7 on quarterbacks, you’ve also had the chance to spend your first two picks improving other areas of the team. Considering the blossoming depth on Seattle’s roster, perhaps they can afford to spend stock on the one position that has so far raised the most question marks for this front office?
This plan may prolong the starting career of Tarvaris Jackson for another season, but it’s also, in my mind, a better way of approaching things than throwing money at a ‘flavor of the month’ free agent like Matt Flynn. Let’s not forget that Flynn himself is the product of a similar plan in Green Bay. Despite having Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers, the Packers spent a second round pick on Brian Brohm in 2008 before adding Flynn in round seven. No stone was left unturned in planning for the future beyond Favre and in the end it was the later round pick that became a productive back-up for Rodgers.
Rather than tapping into somebody elses work, the Seahawks should do their own. They may not have a future Hall of Fame quarterback and a first round pick already in the stable, but that’s not to say this can’t help identify an eventual starter. If the project fails and they’re essentially left with two busted mid or late round picks – was it not worth the effort?
This isn’t an ideal situation and I do think the Seahawks should explore every opportunity to move up in the draft. In two drafts so far, this front office hasn’t used a single draft pick on a rookie quarterback. They did spend a third rounder on Charlie Whitehurst, alongside a significant drop in round two. Trying other people’s back-ups failed in that particular case, it’s time to take a different approach. If this team isn’t going to make that bold move up the board, they need to look at alternatives. Finding the answer this way might be akin to winning on a scratch card, but if you don’t buy a card in the first place you’ll never be winner.
B.J. Coleman (QB, Chattanooga) vs Nebraska
Thoughts on last night’s BCS Championship
Alabama controlled LSU for four quarters in an anti-climactic finale to the college football season. Both teams have a lot of pro-talent and you have to give credit to the Crimson Tide defensive line, led by nose tackle Josh Chapman, for thoroughly dominating performance. Chapman would be a solid depth pick for the Seahawks to spell the big trio up front. Courtney Upshaw had his usual combative game at defensive. He’s stocky and short and lacks the natural length and edge speed that fits what the Seahawks are looking for, but he’s a warrior. He understands leverage and uses his height as an advantage to get underneath lineman. He’ll become the heart of a defense, he will keep fighting for four quarters. Yet if he’s not going to play permanently in a front four, how does he fit in Seattle? Can he translate to the WILL linebacker position? He’s not a naturally mobile player and will struggle in coverage, so it’s not an obvious fit.
Dre Kirkpatrick again took a lot of plaudits as people gushed over his tackling ability in run support. Nobody will deny that Kirkpatrick is a physical corner who will hit you in the mouth and make great stops in the run game. However, his coverage skills are average at best – John Brantley at Florida targeted him earlier in the season and he struggled. I have some concern that the Seahawks – despite being relatively solid at corner – will consider Kirkpatrick for legitimate depth under the mantra of ‘you can never have too many good cornerbacks’. The big issue I have is I don’t think Kirkpatrick will ever be a good cover corner. The saving grace could be that while he’s a very good open field tackler, he’s quite poor at taking on receivers at the point of attack and struggles to knock them out of rhythm. Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman are adept at this, so it could put the Seahawks off Kirkpatrick.
I suspect this front office will one day draft a linebacker like Dont’a Hightower, I’m just not sure it’ll be this year. He’s big (6-4, 260lbs), physical and will further help to create the identity that this defense is looking for. Hightower has some limitations – the knock on to his size is a lack of sideline-to-sideline quicks and an inability to shed blocks and get around. Yet he’s superb in run defense and with greater speed in other areas of the front seven that kind of player could be productive in Seattle.
LSU’s defense started brightly but tired (unsurprisingly given they spent most of the game on the field). Michael Brockers (DT, LSU) was a great example of this, getting off to a productive start including a blocked field goal before tiring as his team’s offense lurched from one three-and-out to another. He remains the best available three-technique prospect should he choose to declare and would be a top-12 pick if he turns pro.
Ryan Tannehill injury news
Tony Pauline is today reporting that Ryan Tannehill has picked up “a significant foot injury” in training and will miss the Senior Bowl. This is a blow for a player who needed to use the work-outs to make up for a disappointing senior season. Last year Christian Ponder had a largely mediocre season at Florida State but a decent Senior Bowl launched a positive hype that eventually led to becoming the 12th overall pick. We’ll have to wait and see how serious this injury is and how it could impact Tannehill in the draft. Pauline is also reporting that Ryan Lindley (QB, SDSU) will replace him at the Senior Bowl.