John Schneider and Pete Carroll didn’t rate the 2012 class of pass-catchers, ignoring the group completely. Instead they tried out Terrell Owens, Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow. Edwards lasted a little while on the active roster before getting cut. Owens and Winslow didn’t make it out of camp.
I guess it was worth a try?
Of course they also made other moves — Jermaine Kearse ended the year on the active roster and Charly Martin saw snaps early in the season. Yet the amount of work put into this position — not to mention the turnover — suggests the Seahawks weren’t completely satisfied. Some form of draft (or free agent) investment seems likely.
So what are they looking for?
One of the first things Carroll did in Seattle was to invite Brandon Marshall on a sea-plane for a weekend’s visit. Marshall was a restricted free agent and could’ve been signed for a first round pick (Seattle had two in 2010). The Seahawks clearly didn’t think much of the price tag and probably hoped to get a deal done for their high pick in round two — #40 overall. Marshall eventually went to Miami for a pair of second rounders, while the Seahawks used their second round pick in the Charlie Whitehurst trade instead.
There were some rumours about interest in Vincent Jackson during his hold out in San Diego, although no offer was forthcoming when he eventually hit free agency last year. The Seahawks got two seasons out of Mike Williams, one more successful than the other. All three players have one thing in common — size.
Owens (6-3, 224lbs), Winslow (6-4, 240lbs) and Edwards (6-3, 215lbs) are all big targets. And it’s a hole the Seahawks never really filled. Despite spending big money on Sidney Rice (6-4, 205lbs) — he’s more tall and lean than physical.
Seattle’s options at receiver seemed to look brighter every week with Russell Wilson growing into a franchise quarterback. By the end of the season, Rice, Golden Tate, Zach Miller and Doug Baldwin were featuring regularly. Anthony McCoy got a lot of focus in certain games where he was a bigger feature in the gameplan. Wilson was spreading it around nicely.
Yet despite all of that, you can’t help but watch him throwing to Larry Fitzgerald and Vincent Jackson in the Pro Bowl and just wish he had that big bodied, physical receiver for the redzone. It’s the only thing missing within a balanced and talented offense. They’ve got speed, power, a good offensive line and a tight end playing as well as any in the league at the end of the season.
You’re not going to find another Fitzgerald in the draft any time soon, perhaps not even for a generation. Jackson has also proven to be one of the more productive receivers in the NFL. But that doesn’t mean the Seahawks can’t still find their own version.
Is a big target more likely than some of the other wide-out options available in this class? Someone who will consistently win in single coverage? Someone who can move despite playing above 6-0? A difference maker on the field because he’s difficult to match-up against, you need height, strength and power to combat his skill set? A player with strong hands who can act as a safety net?
I could spend every day until April telling you how good Robert Woods, Markus Wheaton and DeAndre Hopkins are. All three share similar characteristics when it comes to attitude, competitive nature and an ability to make big plays. Woods and Wheaton have speed and agility, Hopkins is Mr. Consistent. I could write an article tomorrow saying why all three would be great picks for Seattle.
At the same time, are they going to improve Seattle’s receiving group substantially to warrant the high investment? Do they bring a different skill set to the table?
Wheaton and Woods aren’t going to win many battles against big, physical corners. You’ll have to manufacture their production slightly, using a lot of WR screens, bubble screens and shorter routes. You’re looking to get them the ball in space, set up blockers. You’ll try deep shots but it’s very difficult to run in behind a modern NFL secondary, so can they compete in the air if they have to come back for the ball? Golden Tate has shown he can do that despite his size. He’s also a playmaker with the ball in space. Do the Seahawks necessarily need another?
Hopkins has superb hands and body control, but he could do with adding some size. Roddy White is around 10lbs heavier than Hopkins. If he can get bigger without it impacting his mobility and speed, then he could be great. Whether he can have an impact at his current size remains to be seen. Sidney Rice has some of the characteristics you see in Hopkins, although Rice is three or four inches taller and he’s faster. Hopkins could be a route runner at the next level and he finds ways to get open. He’d be a reliable target for Russell Wilson, but is he crying out for reliability? Apart from the game at San Francisco, Seattle’s receivers were pretty consistent catching the ball in 2012.
There aren’t many big targets available in this draft class unless you look at the tight ends, but there is one player who could be of some interest. I’m not a big fan — as noted in this article back in November. He’s 6-2 and around 210lbs. He plays with a competitive edge. He will go up to get the football. He has strong hand and looks like a solid possession receiver with some athletic qualities. And he could offer another dimension to the passing offense.
For the last few weeks I’ve been grading Keenan Allen as a second round pick. I still think he probably will be a second round pick, but you look around the internet at the ‘high profile’ draft personalities and a lot of them rank Allen among the top juniors. Only this week Scott Pioli listed him among his favourite underclassmen this year.
Undoubtedly Allen suffered due to poor quarterback play at California (although it was his decision to play with his brother, he had plenty of alternative options). He’s an athletic player who could’ve gone to play safety for Nick Saban in Alabama. He’s extremely competitive and with a competent NFL signal caller we might see his best football at the next level.
However, a lack of elite speed (he was only running a 4.57 in high school and has since added weight), injury concerns that ended his season prematurely and needs elsewhere could push him down the board. I think round two, others think high first round. It could end up being somewhere in the middle — as in the late first.
The Cal quarterback Zach Maynard is so limited as a downfield passer, we rarely got to see Allen tested on deeper routes or competing in the air. Cal essentially had Allen run a lot of shorter, inside routes almost always coming back to the quarterback. When Maynard was asked to throw deep, he really struggled for accuracy and velocity. In the video above you see him missing Allen downfield against USC, unchallenged when he was wide open. We might not get a full appreciation of Allen’s potential until he takes the field as a pro.
There’s a good chance the Seahawks will wait until later in the draft to add a receiver, particularly given the needs on defense with the pass rush. I still wanted to throw Allen’s name out there tonight. I don’t think it would’ve gone unnoticed how good Wilson looked throwing to those big targets in the redzone in Hawaii. If they want to add a different type of receiver to this roster, then Allen could be one to monitor. Personally, I’d wait to see if he lasts until round two.