A lot of Seahawks fans – maybe more than 50% – expect the team to draft a quarterback of the future next month. It’s considered Seattle’s greatest need, and with good reason. The upcoming draft will be the third conducted by Pete Carroll and John Schneider and so far they haven’t spent a single pick on the position. Fans don’t just expect that to change in 2012, they expect a quarterback to be drafted early. Some people are probably going to be disappointed.
It’s not like the Seahawks haven’t been preparing you for this. In an interview with KING-5′s Chris Egan, John Schneider stated the team wouldn’t ‘panic’ in the search for a long term solution at quarterback. Then just a few days later, Schneider reiterated that message when speaking to Clare Farnsworth: “I just know if you panic at the position, it can set the organization back. So we’re not going to do that. That may disappoint fans, because they want to see an instant guy and have that instant success. But really, you’re better off continuing to build your team.” In translation, it kind of means don’t get your hopes up.
The message is clear – trust us to get this right. So what is the plan?
Team’s tend to work ahead ahead more than we realise. That’s easier to do when you have the kind of experience Pete Carroll has working within the college ranks. By his own admission, that advantage will disappear soon. However, the Seahawks in my estimation have two more drafts (2012 & 2013) to tap into Carroll’s insider knowledge. That includes identifying a long term option at quarterback.
If the Seahawks believe the options will be superior next year, would they really spend an early pick on a quarterback for the sake of it? If you have two or three pass rushers rated very highly who will be available with the #12 pick, reaching on a quarterback would be the kind of ‘panic’ move Schneider says he wants to avoid. A lot of people are high on Ryan Tannehill, others not so much. I suspect the Seahawks will fit into the ‘not so much’ category. He’s the one rising prospect at the moment, but there’s also this great unknown about his potential. He’ll turn 24 in July, yet hasn’t got a great deal of starting experience. If and when the Seahawks do draft a quarterback in round one, I think they want a good feeling of what they’ll be getting at the next level. Tannehill is a tough one to work out and has a lot of growing to do, but he also has a high upside. I’m not sure the Seahawks will bank on pure upside, particularly when there are certain habits in Tannehill’s game that will need to be corrected.
In fact, I think it’s very likely they’ll have other quarterbacks – including Brock Osweiler and Kirk Cousins – graded above Tannehill, with the view that they present better value at the position they’ll be available. Osweiler is two and a half years younger than Tannehill, also has a high upside but isn’t likely to be taken in the top half of round one. You can afford to take your time with a prospect like that, while the investment needed to acquire him will carry less demand for an immediate return. Tannehill – the guy many believe will be the only other quarterback to be drafted in the first round after Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III - may not interest Seattle. So they move on, and this is where things get a little more complicated when we try to work out the team’s plan.
Let’s say there are at least two – maybe three – quarterbacks they rate very highly that will be part of next year’s class. Matt Barkley, Logan Thomas and Tyler Wilson are three names that intrigue me more than any other at this stage and the team may have a similar view of things. Let’s narrow it down even further and propose there’s one guy who really stands out. From a team’s perspective, you’ve maybe had your eye on him all along and are willing to do almost anything it takes to make him your quarterback. What’s more, you believe he’s the kind of prospect who can start early in his career and you’ve spent three years building the team in anticipation of acquiring a player just like this. Sure, there’s no guarantee you can get him. But you want the opportunity to at least find out, and you’ll forge a contingency plan just in case it doesn’t work out. In that scenario, do you take a quarterback in round two this year? Knowing that you’ll do whatever it takes to get the guy you really want in 12 months time?
For arguments sake let’s come up with a mock-scenario. You draft a guy in round two next month, high enough for people to believe this is your guy. The league generally considers a round two pick to be an impact player and a contributor, so you’re making a high investment in a quarterback who most people would expect to get a chance to start one day. Even so, he sits as a rookie because he’s a little bit more raw – maybe that’s why he fell to round two in the first place? Then in twelve months time, you draft another quarterback in round one – possibly after a bold trade up the board. People will ask – not unfairly – why did you draft that guy last year? He’s not played a snap as a rookie, and already you’re writing him off? Why didn’t you make better use of that pick?
Sure, he could start in year two and be the bridge to the new rookie. But the NFL is a different beast now and it’s something Carroll has touched on – college quarterbacks are more prepared to start, and in many ways they are also expected to start when drafted in the first round. I’m not sure you can necessarily say the same for an inexperienced player such as Brock Osweiler - a realistic second round option for a lot of teams. So if we consider that drafting a quarterback in round two isn’t likely to impact the starter in 2012 – it’ll still likely be Tarvaris Jackson or another veteran acquired during free agency - would it not be wiser to keep building other areas of the team in preparation for the move you intend to make next year?
People could counter by stating a lot of teams probably thought Andrew Luck was ‘the one’ a year ago, yet it took a truly absymal season by the Colts to land him. Nobody ever had the chance to trade up for the Stanford quarterback. It’s a valid point, but let’s also remember – Luck is a generational talent. The player Seattle could be targeting may not have the same reputation and therefore may be more attainable than you think. You might not even have to trade up. There will also be alternatives – as Washington realised in this draft class despite being ‘out of Luck’.
This is a just a situation I wanted to contemplate, a mock proposal. It’s not one I necessarily agree with, it’s not necessarily what the team will do. However, I think there’s a very realistic chance we won’t see a quarterback drafted in the first two rounds and some of the above may play a part in that. Personally I would have no issues with this team spending a second round pick on a player I rate as highly as Brock Osweiler, even if he never plays a down before you again invest in the position. As you can see in the video at the top of the page, there’s legitimate talent to work with. It also takes the pressure off the following year when you look to make the high pick on a quarterback. If you need to move up, having a guy in the stable could work as a leverage tactic in negotiations. If a deal can’t be done, you won’t need to panic. In many ways, I think it should be a no-brainer for Seattle – if Osweiler is there in round two, take the guy. That’s just my opinion.
Erik Galko yesterday speculated that Pete Carroll “loves” Osweiler, while Scott Enyeart noted that Carroll has been keeping a close eye on Kirk Cousins. I’ve heard similar things about both players – and also Wisconsin’s Russell Wilson – although I’d caution against optimistic thoughts any will be drafted within the first two rounds. However much they like Osweiler, they might like somebody else even more – that player just isn’t available yet. And if the grade between quarterback’s is pretty even across the board this year, picking Wilson in the fourth may give the team a chance to address other areas and max out value in each round.
Of course, there also comes a point when Osweiler is too good to pass. If a lack of experience and unique mechanics leads to a fall, in round three you’re not passing up an early Christmas gift like that. Seattle can justify usurping a third rounder 12 months down the line if it comes to that and it’s a par investment for a decent back-up quarterback. There’s also the opportunity to turn that investment into more draft stock (see: San Diego and Charlie Whitehurst) and expectations would be measured as a mid-rounder. It’s only one rounds difference, but Seattle’s ambitions are less likely to compromised or challenged if/when they go big a year later.
And amid all this talk of quarterbacks, we’re forgetting that there are other areas of the team that need addressing too. A plan such as this will also be about improving the team’s pass rush – currently solely reliant on Chris Clemons. It’s about filling holes at linebacker, with Leroy Hill and David Hawthorne still on the open market and perhaps preparing for a new challenge elsewhere. If they know who they want at quarterback – and he’s not available this year – I refer you back to Schneider’s quote from earlier: “Really, you’re better off continuing to build your team.” Get a dynamic pass rusher in round one. Find a starting linebacker. Maybe even consider boosting your run game further with a better compliment for Marshawn Lynch.
If what we’ve talked about here plays out, it shouldn’t be constituted as neglecting the quarterback position. If anything, it’s a real understanding of just how important it is to get this right. Carroll and Schneider may only get one chance to go ‘all-in’ on the position. Fail, and it’ll be costly on a team and individual level. If the guy you really want is going to be there next year and you have a firm belief that he’s the one, then who are we to argue if they’re trying to hit for the fences? Continue to build other areas of the team. This is a rebuild being crafted one step at a time, without forcing the issue and becoming careless. It could mean another year of patience, but the Carroll/Schneider story has started well enough, let’s see what the next chapter brings.