When I was asked by Kenneth Arthur and Jacson Bevens who I thought Seattle should take if they had their choice of any player in the draft, it was an easy question to answer.
Seattle’s defensive scheme is pretty creative. For the last two years they’ve used size up front in base while utilising a specialist LEO rusher. In nickel and passing situations, they’ve been pretty attack-minded. Bruce Irvin and Jason Jones were brought in for the ‘money downs’. And while I accept that Irvin has been talked up as a prospective full-time LEO, he made his money at West Virginia as a third down specialist. And I have no real issue if that’s all he ends up being in Seattle.
I don’t expect the Seahawks to make any great changes to this plan, which is why I projected Datone Jones to Seattle at #25 this week. Whether they use a first round pick on a nickel three-technique remains to be seen. But I think they’ll draft one, as Jason Jones re-signing seems unlikely. And we’ll see the specialists in for those obvious passing situations. We may also see a continuation of size at the one, three and five technique.
I still think it’d be great to get a defensive tackle who offers the pass rushing quality of a so-called ‘specialist’, but also has the ability to feature on early downs. Someone who can double up with the LEO and cause real problems on early downs. After all, the issues with the pass rush were not limited to simply third downs. In terms of a pure three-technique, Sheldon Richardson would be the ideal choice.
He’d represent a considerable downgrade in size from Alan Branch, but Richardson’s still incredibly strong at the point of attack. I thought for the most part Georgia’s John Jenkins struggled against Alabama’s offensive line in the SEC Championship. In the second half, Barrett Jones and D.J. Fluker dominated Jenkins and the rest of the Bulldog’s D-line. Missouri on the whole didn’t fair much better against the Crimson Tide earlier in the season, but Richardson as an individual gave Alabama headache’s throughout.
If the Seahawks are going to start a 6-2, 290lbs defensive tackle (in other words, an orthodox three-technique) I think he has to be stout against the run. The NFC West is different these days. St. Louis and San Francisco make up one quarter of Seattle’s schedule every year. And both of those teams are going to try and beat you with the run. For all the hype around Colin Kaepernick and the investment in Sam Bradford, Jim Harbaugh and Jeff Fisher will put a team on the field that wants to ram the ball down your throat. Seattle knows that.
It doesn’t mean you have to overreact and worry too much about what they’re going to do, but you have to be able to match-up at the same time. In using size and specialists I think the Seahawks are trying to get the benefits of both attack and defense. Pro-active and reactive. They can play stout on early downs to limit the run and capitalise in favourable down/distance situations later on.
Richardson isn’t going to anchor the run, but he’ll not be a liability either. He needs to be more disciplined and learn proper gap control. Yet he also plays with great leverage and 30 reps on the bench press was equal to Jesse Williams — so he has good upper body strength.
The fact that he’s capable against the run just makes his pass rush quality all the more exciting. He’s incredibly mobile and quick on his feet, has a great burst, he’s able to drive blockers back into the pocket but also show that great first step to beat a man with speed. He’s sparky — getting into a lineman or quarterbacks head (just like all great three-technique’s do). The motor never stops running, as witnessed by his willingness to chase to the sideline on the off-chance he might be able to make a decisive tackle. When he finds room to get into the backfield, he runs up the gears and finishes. While the sack numbers for 2012 weren’t great, he’s got as much potential as anyone to be another Geno Atkins (middling college production, superb as a pro).
Simply put, he’s one of the best players in this year’s draft. I personally cannot see him getting past Carolina at #14. Others disagree. Todd McShay has him as the #16 overall player on his post-combine big board. And today Daniel Jeremiah predicted he’d fall to Dallas at #18.
The Cowboys would undoubtedly love to get Richardson. Monte Kiffin tried in vain to get him to commit to USC during his time in the JUCO ranks. He stuck with Missouri, who’d originally sent him to California to improve his grades so he could feature for the Tigers. It’s unlikely anybody in the NFL has a better insight into Richardson than Kiffin.
I found him to be an engaging character during his interview with the NFL Network in Indianapolis. His personality seems confident without pushing it. Scouts Inc, in their 2012 report of Richardson, stated: “Mental capacity and maturity level are being closely investigated by NFL scouts.” There may be a few skeleton’s we don’t know about and I don’t even want to begin to speculate. It could also just be an overreaction, given he had to go and play in the JUCO ranks. After all, he’s a three-technique, not a quarterback.
Going back to Jeremiah’s mock where Richardson falls to #18 — if he starts to drop, what would it take to move up?
I’m fairly confident we won’t see any blockbuster trades where the Seahawks move into the top ten. To get up from #25 you’re looking at two first round picks and a mid-round pick as minimum compensation. That’s not a deal I think this team will be particularly interested in. In Jeremiah’s mock the Seahawks wouldn’t have to move up that far.
The old draft chart is fairly redundant in the new CBA, as witnessed by the sheer number of first round trades last year. Picks 2-7 all changed hands with no obvious rhyme or reason. The biggest jump saw Dallas move up eight spots from #14 to #6 to select Morris Claiborne. The deal cost the Cowboys their second round pick (#45 overall). According to the old chart, the Cowboys overpaid by 150 points.
Seattle would also need to move up eight spots to get ahead of Dallas. The Pittsburgh Steelers are a viable trade partner, considering they don’t meet the Seahawks again for a while and play in separate conferences. Would a straight up deal for Seattle’s second round pick (#56 overall) get it done? Would the Seahawks be willing to make that kind of move? In a deep draft, it’d be tough to part with a late second rounder. Yet the prize of landing Richardson could help solve the teams greatest remaining need.
On the old trade chart, the #25 pick would’ve been worth 720 points, with the #17 pick worth 950. Seattle’s #56 pick is valued at 340 points. Technically, the Cowboys would be getting a great deal. Combining Seattle’s third and fourth round pick creates 209 points, making it a better deal for the Seahawks. Given the teams success in rounds three and four so far — again — it’d be a tight call.
But as we touched on, the chart isn’t that accurate any more and teams appear to be prepared to look at a deal on face value and make a judgement call. How else do you determine Tampa Bay being able to move from #36 to #31 last year for basically swapping fourth rounders with Denver? According to the chart, that trade was worth a third or fourth round pick straight up. The Buccs got a steal (even more so considering that pick turned into Doug Martin).
If the Steelers want to accumulate picks and are looking to move down anyway (perhaps eyeing a particular player), they might be willing to take a deal worth a single third rounder. Moving from #25 to #17 to get Sheldon Richardson for a third rounder would, in my opinion, be a fantastic trade. What it basically comes down to is your opinion of Richardson versus whoever else is likely to be available at #25. Would you be willing to give up a second, third or fourth round pick to move up?
Of course it’s all fantasy football at the moment. Projecting trades in the draft is like trying to guess the lottery numbers (well, nearly). There are too many factors that have to align for these things to come off. However, for anyone hoping there’s a chance Sheldon Richardson lands in Seattle in April — they’ll need to start considering what it’ll take to move up. Because there’s hardly any chance he lasts until #25.