In 2011, the Seahawks talked a lot about moving down. John Schneider was pretty open about this desire to do so and was pretty open about the way they searched for a good deal last April. Twelve months earlier, Schneider admitted a trade was on the table to move down from the #14 spot. It was all set to be completed, until the Eagles surprisingly passed on Earl Thomas and instead took Brandon Graham. Seattle, who always intended to take a tackle and safety combo in 2010, decided Thomas was too good to pass.
It’s a bit early for Schneider or Pete Carroll to come out and talk about moving up or down the board in their third draft with the team, but I suspect there’s every chance the Seahawks will be rooted to the #11 or #12 pick. They only have six picks due to various trades and it seems likely they’ll try and accumulate more either before or during the event. However, there’s always a slight danger in valuing quantity over quality and I don’t expect any mistakes to be made this year. Carroll made his intentions known at the end of the season – to improve the front seven and the pass rush. On April 26th, the Seahawks will try to draft someone who can do that. There will be possible exceptions (such as an elite talent like Trent Richardson falling) but the likely focus will be on the Courtney Upshaw’s, Melvin Ingram’s and Quinton Coples’ of this class.
We all have different opinions on that trio. Personally, I have mixed feelings for Coples but he has the highest ceiling among any defensive player in the class of ’12. I’m not a big fan of Ingram, others have different impressions of his potential. I see Upshaw as one of the few elite talents in this class. By moving down the board, the Seahawks run the risk of missing out in a year without a great amount of top defensive lineman. In my latest mock draft, six front-seven prospects were off the board by the 15th pick. The only other defensive lineman I had going in round one beyond that was Fletcher Cox – a player expected to translate to a pure five-technique at the next level. Three linebackers remained on the board – Dont’a Hightower, Luke Kuechly and Sean Spence.
Of course, that’s just my interpretation of what could happen and maybe some of the players I have going early will fall, allowing the Seahawks to make a realistic drop and still get a player they really want. However, I think this front office wants to find a pass rusher who can provide the same impact as Aldon Smith in San Francisco – someone who can be used in different looks and make big plays on key passing downs. Upshaw, Coples and Ingram will not last very long if you believe the projectionists. I doubt all three leave the board before #11 or #12, but two might. Seattle isn’t going to gamble on losing that last player if they’re determined to add to their pass rush.
Some may point to the talent available at the top of round two. Whitney Mercilus continues to be something of a mystery (just how good is he?), Brandon Thompson likewise could be an underrated player due to his lack of production. Vinny Curry impressed at the Senior Bowl and Chandler Jones, Nick Perry, Cam Johnson and Jared Crick all have value. The Seahawks will still have a shot at one of these players in round two and being able to maybe reach for another in round one isn’t really a preferable situation when you miss out on a Courtney Upshaw (for example) for the sake of an extra third round pick (for another example).
There is some precedent for trading down multiple times, but I’ve always thought this appears to be smarter on the actual day than in hindsight. New England have drafted poorly in recent years despite accumulating more picks than several teams combined. Cleveland has moved down aggressively to acquire a couple of players I thought were top-20 talents (Alex Mack and Phil Taylor) but also gave away the chance to draft in the top ten and grab players who maybe could’ve lifted the Browns beyond mediocrity. For all of Denver’s dealing in 2010, they ended up with Tim Tebow as the end product. If you draft smart, you make the most of top-15 picks and build a good team. There will never be a substitute for pure quality and while more picks also means more opportunities to hit, you’re always picking from a smaller sample when you move down.
I think the Seahawks will see this as an opportunity to add another key defensive piece, just like they did with Earl Thomas. They may well get trade offers – some that are maybe quite tempting too – but ultimately this team knows what it wants. You can never rule anything out and if the three defensive lineman named above are off the board – and so is Trent Richardson – they could move down a little bit and consider a player like Zach Brown. But faced with the opportunity to draft Coples, Upshaw or Ingram – I think there’s a strong chance that is what will happen.
To consider a move down the board, you need a trade partner. We can at least consider which teams might wish to move up to tempt the Seahawks with a deal:
San Diego (Currently own #18 overall)
The Chargers need to rebuild their offensive line and might struggle to draft a left tackle at #18. The best lineman will leave the board quickly given the premium nature of the position and players like Matt Kalil, Riley Reiff and Jonathan Martin could go in the top ten. If any survive or if San Diego sees real value in Ohio State’s Mike Adams, they might need to jump Arizona at #13 or even Kansas City at #12 if Seattle wins the coin-toss. San Diego made a bold move up the board in 2010 to draft Ryan Mathews, so could it happen again?
Philadelphia (Currently own #15 overall)
A team that has also shown it’s willingness to move up, Philly could be active in round one. Andy Reid isn’t a predictable drafter although he’s avoided drafting linebackers early. He’s in prime position to draft Zach Brown if he wishes, but may decide he needs to get at the top receivers should the Eagles lose a player like DeSean Jackson. Although there’s no obvious reason to grab Seattle’s pick at #11 or #12, should a player such as Justin Blackmon suffer a bit of a fall, Philly might not waste any time if Buffalo passes.
New York Jets (Currently own #16 overall)
A third franchise with previous history in making a move – the Jets moved heaven and earth to draft Mark Sanchez in 2009. They could use help with the pass rush and at receiver and may entertain the idea of a trade to get an injection of quality. Although New York had a disappointing 2011, they’re still a team who made the AFC Championship game in the two previous seasons. One or two key additions could put the Jets back on the map and they may feel like they need to make a splash after watching their neighbours win the Super Bowl.