Posted by Kip Earlywine
In high school geography (or middle school, if you grew up outside the U.S.), you probably learned about “rain shadows.” A rain shadow refers to a situation where elevated land like a mountain range blocks incoming moisture to a stretch of land beyond it. Eastern Washington/Oregon, as well as Nevada, Idaho, and Utah are examples of this phenomenon. Well, after the threat of a lockout caused a lot of talented underclassmen to declare early in 2010, we felt the “rain shadow” effect in 2011, especially in the later rounds. Last year, several players I had previewed as options at #60 were still on the board in the 4th, 5th, and 6th rounds. This year, of all the players I mentioned as possibilities at #57, a big fat zero were still on the board at the start of today.
So obviously, my expectations were tempered. Here is a quick soundbite/impression for each pick.
#99: KJ Wright, OLB. Like Chancellor last year, Wright is the perfect stereotype for a mid-late round pick. First, he has a name that makes you say “who?” … it’s a name that sounds like it came fresh out of a Madden franchise mode NFL draft simulation. And secondly, Wright has some features that you like, but unfix-able flaws that will likely prevent him from amounting to much. Wright has decent speed and good height, but has kind of a lanky build and less than fluid movement. Not quick enough to rush the passer as a LEO, and probably not big enough to be a SAM LB. He looks awkward making tackles too. I know this sounds cruel, but until proven otherwise, he looks like a practice squad guy to me. Some guys just look the part. Wright doesn’t. Of course, I’d love to look like a fool on this one three years from now.
#107: Kris Durham, WR. Ok this one won’t be so quick. I love this pick. It is easily the best selection of the day for Seattle, despite the fact that Durham (pictured above) is often compared to George McFly from the back-to-the-future movies by Georgia fans. Durham is a late 2nd round talent who fell into the 4th pretty much because he’s (very) white. Before anyone calls me a racist, consider the history of white wide receivers and how they are chronically under-drafted, much like black quarterbacks once were until about 15 years ago. Joe Jurevicius and Jordy Nelson were late 2nd rounders. Ed McCaffrey and Kevin Curtis were 3rd rounders. Steve Largent and Brandon Stokely were 4th rounders. Wes Welker went undrafted. Need I say anymore? In the draft, perception is a big deal, and can easily cost a guy a round or two. Okay, now you can call me a racist.
I just threw out a bunch of white wide receiver names out there, and though I’m sure a lot of people will be reminded of Joe Jurevicius because he’s 6’5″, white, and has great hands. However, I think a better comparison would be a rich man’s Jerheme Urban. Urban was a late round selection by the Seahawks and dropped almost everything thrown his way (by contrast, Durham’s hands are his biggest strength). But when Urban did catch the ball, it was deep down the field, which gave him an average around 20 yards per catch. He continued that trend after signing with Arizona, although those numbers dipped as Urban saw more action. Similarly, Durham averaged an astounding 20.6 yards per catch last year for the Bulldogs. Durham runs a 4.4 forty, which catches defenders off guard not just because he’s white but because he has the kind of lanky build that is almost never that fast. He has excellent height, very long arms, and good hands. He won’t lose many jump ball battles. He’s not an every down receiver (yet, anyway), but as a post route specialist he’s one of the best prospects in the draft. This is a great pick for Seattle who strongly values the deep passing game. He provides excellent value, perhaps immediately, as a #4 receiver and with development has the ceiling of a quality #2.
#154: Richard Sherman, CB. I put Sherman in the same boat as Wright- some intriguing qualities, but not a fluid athlete and seems like a guy without a position. Richard converted just last year from the WR position. He’s very tall, over 6’3″, and has NFL average speed for the position. The biggest positive is his size and hands, but the instincts need to be developed and he looks stiff in drills. Definitely a project. Probably a practice squad guy, but unlike Wright, I’m decently upbeat about Sherman”s chances. His obstacles can be overcome and his upside is solid.
#156: Mark Legree, S. Legree is a small school talent who looks the part of an NFL free safety. He has smooth and natural movement, and though he seems like a small guy, I was a bit surprised to see him listed at 6 feet tall. I think Legree has an excellent chance of making the 53 man roster, though probably as a backup free safety and not a strong safety. The Seahawks briefly parted ways with Jordan Babineaux last season, and I think they drafted Legree here with the hopes that he could beat out Babineaux for the backup free safety spot.
#173: Byron Maxwell, CB. Maxwell has the body (size/speed) of a pro-bowl NFL corner, and occasionally made big plays for his Clemson defense. His production was very disappointing, but then again production can sometimes be a poor metric to grade a defensive back by. Not saying the Seahawks got a steal here, but this is a good example of what to shoot for in the 6th round- untapped potential.
#205: Lazarius Levingston, DE/DT. Levingston started a lot of games for a pretty good LSU defense. He switched from end to tackle last season. Levingston projects as a 3-tech for Seattle. He didn’t produce in college and doesn’t have NFL caliber size or athleticism. Normally I’d say Levingston is a camp body, but given how incredibly thin Seattle’s defensive line is, he might actually have a chance to make the team, which probably isn’t a good thing.
#242: Malcolm Smith, OLB. This is a much better way to end a draft than Mr. Konz was last year. Smith was a very good linebacker for USC and Carroll/Ken Norton know this as well as anyone. Obviously, at 6’1″, 225 lbs, he doesn’t have enough size to play at this level, but he might be able to overcome that in the LEO role. Expect this guy to force the issue in the preseason much like Nick Reed did a couple years back. One other very notable thing about this selection- Seattle passed on Lee Ziemba to make it (he was taken a couple picks later).
Summary of day 3:
Seattle didn’t have a great day 3, but then again, the 4th round this year felt an awful lot like the 6th round last year. It really is a damn shame that the lockout was under effect, because this would have been the perfect year to trade mid-late picks for veterans. Speaking of which, that 4th we gave up for Marshawn Lynch feels like nothing now. Even the late 3rd we gave up for Whitehurst doesn’t hurt as bad as I thought it would. Its almost like the front office made those deals knowing how awful the second half of this draft would be.
No one can possibly know who “won” day 3 of the draft. You’d need at least 3 years to have a pretty good idea. Last year I really liked the McCoy, Davis and Thurmond picks. This year, I really like the Durham pick and that’s it. I almost like Legree and Smith. I’m mildly pessimistic about Richard and Bryant (though I like them as gambles). I’m very pessimistic about Wright. And I laughed just thinking about the surprising likelihood of Levingston making our final roster and what that says about our defense. Its a not a great 3rd day draft, but it has good upside and with perfect luck, could look brilliant in retrospect. Here’s hoping.
Not to be a broken record, but I really want to emphasize how difficult of a situation this was for Seattle. Not only did they pick late, but they lacked obvious choices at every single pick and did the best they could. If three years from now, Carpenter is a good right tackle or left guard, and Moffitt is a regular starting guard on either side, and Durham is giving you 400-500 yards a season off the bench, even if every single other player on this list is out of the league, I would take that. Not to sound like I’m rooting for draft position, but I’m hoping Seattle has a better opportunity next year, including hopefully a real shot at a no-doubter franchise quarterback prospect. I’m very hopeful for the future of this team, and this weekend was a small but important step in the right direction.