Every now and again it’s worth reviewing Seattle’s draft trends in the Pete Carroll era. You only have to look at their first and second round history to work out the kind of prospect they like to take early:
2010: Russell Okung, Earl Thomas, Golden Tate
2011: James Carpenter
2012: Bruce Irvin, Bobby Wagner
2013: Percy Harvin (trade), Christine Michael
2014: Paul Richardson, Justin Britt
2015: Jimmy Graham (trade), Frank Clark
With the exception of the offensive linemen, every player listed above is a fantastic athlete. Speed, explosive talent.
They also produced on the field in college:
2010 — Earl Thomas had eight interceptions in his final season at Texas
2010 — Golden Tate won the Biletnikoff
2011 — James Carpenter was arguably the best run blocking tackle in college
2012 — Bruce Irvin had 22.5 sacks in two seasons at West Virginia
2012 — Bobby Wagner had four sacks as a senior and 478 (!!!) career tackles
2014 — Paul Richardson had 1343 and 10 touchdowns in his final year at Colorado
2015 — Frank Clark’s tape was actually really good with many splash plays
You could also include last years third round pick Tyler Lockett. He had 2777 yards and 22 touchdowns in his final two seasons at Kansas State.
It doesn’t guarantee anything but it’d be silly to ignore this information. Six drafts is quite a body of evidence.
Here are the takeaways I can see:
— They’ve never taken a none-elite athlete on defense in the first or second round
— They don’t seem to be quite as concerned about athleticism on the offensive line and arguably prefer size ideals, physical toughness and the mentality to mesh with Tom Cable’s way of doing things
— They generally don’t draft underachievers and the two players who did fall short of expectations in college (Christine Michael & Frank Clark) were two of the biggest SPARQ freaks to ever grace the combine
— Carroll and Schneider’s Seahawks have picked between #25-32 in four of their six drafts — and on three occasions traded the pick (so if they don’t like the value available, they’re going to do something about it)
How do we use this information to project what they might do?
We know they want to produce a consistently performing offensive line
Pete Carroll stated this was the key priority in his end-of-season press conference. The draft history suggests if they want to take an O-liner at #26 it doesn’t necessarily have to be a freak of nature. They’ve taken productive, gritty, physical offensive linemen that excel in the run game. Players that fit Tom Cable’s preferred style and not necessarily raw, athletic players with a high ceiling. The two offensive linemen they drafted earliest in 2014 and 2015 (Justin Britt, Terry Poole) were not big-time athletes. That said, they recently started to look for upside (Sweezy, Sokoli, Gilliam) albeit in the later rounds. They don’t appear to be handcuffed to a certain level of athleticism though, rather than a mental/physical ‘type’.
We know they’d like to add a pass rusher
What was the big difference between 2015 and the two previous seasons? They lacked the production of Clinton McDonald (2013) and Jordan Hill (2014). Finding someone who can get 5-8 sacks in a rotation might be the priority. They could also look to add another edge rusher if Bruce Irvin departs in free agency.
What kind of defensive prospects are we talking about?
If they’re going to take an interior or edge rusher early they need to be explosive and athletic. Sheldon Rankins is explosive and that’s probably why, according to Tony Pauline, the Seahawks gave him a first round grade. An edge rusher is going to need to produce a fantastic ten-yard split or excel in the vertical/broad/three-cone at the combine. The previous six drafts tell us speed, explosion and production is the key here. Anything else would be a significant detachment from what they’ve done so far.
Who are some of the players to keep an eye on?
We’ll know more after the combine of course. I’ve compiled a new mock draft (to be published tomorrow) with many attractive options off the board before the 20th pick. In the past, that has provoked the Seahawks to trade.
If a high ceiling isn’t entirely necessary on the O-line, the likes of Shon Coleman, Cody Whitehair, Nick Martin and Ryan Kelly aren’t going to stand out in Indianapolis but could be options. Coleman would address the tackle or left guard position. Whitehair, Martin and Kelly play center. All have the potential to solidify one key position and help provide some consistency in the trenches.
If they’re intent on shifting towards major upside, I suppose we have to bring up the name of Texas Tech left tackle Le’Raven Clark.
Watching his tape is like watching your Grandpa trying to work an iPad. He’s technically deficient in pretty much every way imaginable. And yet his athletic profile is elite — +36 inch arms, 6-5, 312lbs. He’s a freak.
“He’s going to end up being big time in our league. He’s got elite foot quickness, he’s long and he’s smart. He’ll keep getting better once he gets to a pro offense and away from that stuff Texas Tech does and he’ll become one of the top five tackles in our league.”
Zierlein also notes, “Left tackles with his potential in pass protection carry first round value.” As bad as Clark is technically, Tom Cable has stated he believes every college lineman enters the league needing to start from scratch. If the Seahawks want to shoot for the stars at left/right tackle — Clark might be a scary, exciting, concerning, potentially genius decision.
If consistency and not pure upside is the order of the day — adding a player with decent physical skills who simply gets the job done might be preferable. The likes of Coleman, Whitehair, Martin and Kelly are a picture of consistency and physicality.
On defense we have to assume the likes of Noah Spence and Sheldon Rankins will not reach the #26 pick. Both shone at the Senior Bowl. Mississippi State’s Chris Jones could be a wild card. He was once the #2 recruit in the nation. He has fantastic length and size (6-6, 308lbs) and generally does a good job controlling his gap, working vs the run and occasionally providing a dynamic pass rush.
Had Jones delivered on his massive potential in college he’d probably be a top-15 pick. The fact that he didn’t is why he could be available in rounds 2-3. The trends tell us the Seahawks will only seriously consider a perceived underachiever early if he’s a SPARQ freak. We’ll need to see what Jones does at the combine.
Seattle’s preference to emphasise gap discipline and stoutness vs the run in base perhaps makes it unlikely they’ll use their first pick on a defensive tackle unless it’s someone of Rankins’ quality. If they do want to find a player who can contribute in the same way as Clinton McDonald, they might find better value waiting until rounds 2-4. There’s abnormal depth in this class on the D-line and the highest pick they’ve used on a DT so far is the third rounder spent on Jordan Hill in 2013. If they’re bringing in a defensive impact player who doesn’t start in base — how likely are they to spend a first round pick? Some of the options in rounds 2-4 are Adolphus Washington, Jihad Ward, Willie Henry, Ronald Blair III and Darius Latham.
One player who could come into focus is LSU’s Deion Jones. He’s a possible outside linebacker replacement for Bruce Irvin. He’s not a pass rusher — but he needs to be mentioned here. Jones has an opportunity to really excel at the combine. He’s an outstanding athlete — and that’s what the Seahawks love at linebacker (see: Irvin, Wagner, Pierre-Louis).
He could easily run in the 4.4’s at 6-1 and 219lbs. He doesn’t get overmatched at that size and plays with great discipline in the run game. His ability to be a key special teamer could also have some value.
Did he produce at LSU in 2015? Five sacks at linebacker, one interception (returned for a touchdown) and 99 total tackles.
Jones isn’t a defensive or offensive lineman but he’s the type of player the Seahawks have taken early in recent years. They’ll also need to replace Irvin in all likelihood. Mike Florio suggested today he’ll get a contract offer in free agency worth $10m APY. Keep that in mind, even if it’s not a top priority. Like Chris Jones and Le’Raven Clark, Deion Jones could come into play if they trade down.
This is a difficult class to find SPARQy edge rushers in range at #26. Clemson duo Kevin Dodd and Shaq Lawson might not be athletic enough for the Seahawks. Leonard Floyd might be but he’s been a disappointing edge rusher for two years and hasn’t produced.
Cliff Avril ran a 1.50 ten yard split at his combine. Bruce Irvin managed a 1.55. Frank Clark had a 1.58. Anything in the 1.5’s is elite. That’s the type of edge speed the Seahawks are attracted to and it’s what we need to look for at the combine.
Utah State’s Kyler Fackrell is going to be a really interesting player to follow in Indianapolis and he’s possibly Seattle’s best shot if you want an outside rusher to be drafted in round one.
He looks like a good athlete. How good though? Can he top Clay Matthews’ 4.67 forty yard dash and 35.5 inch vertical? At USC’s pro-day Matthews ran a 1.49 ten-yard split and a 4.59 forty on a fast track. Fackrell needs to crack the 1.5’s in the split.
On tape he’s superb. A true splash-play specialist constantly impacting plays. PFF had this to say about his 2015 season:
At +34.4 he is our highest graded 3-4 OLB, with the highest grade as a pass rusher, against the run, and sixth-highest in coverage just for good measure.
The Seahawks use 3-4 personnel in a 4-3 so don’t be put off by his tag as a 3-4 OLB. He ticks the production box for sure. The big question is whether he’s athletic enough for the Seahawks to be considered early. Clay Matthews lasted until the #26 pick despite proving he was very athletic. Perhaps the same happens to Fackrell?
Will they trade down?
Carroll and Schneider have traded 75% of their picks when selecting between #25-32. If the value isn’t there, they’ll probably move down again (with limited cap space they’re unlikely to pull another Harvin or Graham trade).
I like to compare my own mock drafts to those in the draft media to see if I’m ruling out possible options for the Seahawks. I was equally pleased and alarmed to see how similar tomorrow’s mock draft was to Daniel Jeremiah’s. Noah Spence was available to the Seahawks (this was a pre-Senior Bowl mock by Jeremiah) but apart from that only Andrew Billings, Cody Whitehair and Kyler Fackrell were available that I had off the board at #26.
That doesn’t mean there weren’t some good options available in round one in both projections. It does suggest, however, that the ‘genuine’ first round talent in this class might run dry quickly. And if that happens — they’ve shown a consistent willingness to trade and hunt for better value.
They might think #26 is too early for a Chris Jones, Deion Jones, Le’Raven Clark (the athletic trio) or Cody Whitehair, Nick Martin, Ryan Kelly, Shon Coleman (the physical & consistent quartet). Can they move down into the 30’s?
Their desire to move down will be influenced by their ability to fill certain needs. In 2011 when they owned the #25 pick — the three top offensive tackles were off the board by #22. They selected James Carpenter without moving down, possibly because they didn’t want to miss out altogether.
Note the following tweet:
This offensive tackle class just drops straight off the map after the first 5-6 guys. Lot of developmental guys that need serious work.
— Jon Ledyard (@LedyardNFLDraft) February 10, 2016
If they see replacing Russell Okung as an absolute priority — and with Tunsil, Decker, Stanley and Conklin likely to be off the board by #26 — how much of a risk do they want to take?
Alternatively if they know they can get their guys later on they’ve shown they’re willing to manipulate the draft in their favour. That’s exactly what they did when trading down and drafting Paul Richardson in 2014.
So what happens?
The information in this piece and study of the draft class suggests the Seahawks are possibly going to do one of four things:
1. Pick their favourite offensive lineman and just feel good about addressing the self-confessed top priority, even if the player isn’t a top athlete
2. Make a somewhat surprising high-upside pick on the O-line such as Le’Raven Clark that leaves people gasping
3. Take an elite athlete who plays defense
4. Trade down