Why Seattle will continue to build through the draft

March 3rd, 2012 | Written by Rob Staton

The Seahawks are looking for more of this in 2012 and beyond

The day will come when the Seahawks can go into a draft intending to take the best player available, regardless of position. That day has not yet arrived. There’s been a lot of discussion over the past week about what the plan may be - would they draft a receiver? Will they select another offensive lineman in round one? Will they take a quarterback? The way I see it, Seattle’s front office aren’t asking those same questions.

From the day this regime took control, it’s obvious they’ve had a clear vision about what they want to get out of a draft – and it’s worked so far. In 2010 they were determined to go left tackle and safety with their two first round picks. Initially, I understand they believed it was possible to draft Eric Berry with the #6 overall pick and Trent Williams at #14. However, as the process developed it became evident that both would be top-five choices. It’s easy to forget in hindsight that for a long time in the build up to the draft, Williams was far from a consensus high pick. His raw athleticism and fit in the ZBS pushed him into Washington’s path at #4, with Berry the next to go at #5 to Kansas City.

As it turns out, the Seahawks were afforded the opportunity to get their left tackle at #6 in Russell Okung and their safety at #14 with Earl Thomas. Schneider has since admitted a trade was in place to move down the board had Philadelphia – who traded into the #13 slot – selected Thomas as many expected. Instead they took Brandon Graham and Seattle got the man and the position they wanted. That’s not to say the Seahawks wouldn’t have had a contingency plan or secondary target (likely a pass rusher) but the clear vision was set out for offensive tackle and safety – and they executed.

Carroll made a point to emphasise the run game following his appointment as coach, yet the Seahawks struggled in that department in 2010. This was to be the heart and soul of the offense, so the fact it was so ineffective in year one moved Carroll to act. In came Tom Cable and the team’s first two picks in the 2011 draft were spent on big offensive lineman. Robert Gallery was later signed in free agency in what became a complete rebuild and re-structure for the run game. It wasn’t a coincidence that Seattle went the way they did in the draft, it was totally calculated. The Seahawks zoned in on improving their offensive line with a view to getting the run game going. It’s not like they didn’t have alternatives – they turned down a lot of talent elsewhere with the two picks that were spent on James Carpenter and John Moffitt.

This year the focus will be on defense and the front seven. Carroll and his staff aren’t satisfied with a one-dimensional pass rush, with all the pressure dependant on Chris Clemons. He was the only player in 2011 to provide consistent production in terms of sacks and he didn’t get much help anywhere else. In the 2012 draft, that will be the next focus area in this big rebuild. We’ve talked about the possible options at #12 overall, but it seems very likely that at least one of Courtney Upshaw, Melvin Ingram or Quinton Coples will be available. That’s as far as we need to look. There won’t be a wide receiver drafted like Justin Blackmon or Michael Floyd, they won’t go after David De Castro or Jonathan Martin. In year one it was tackle and safety, last year it was the offensive line, now it’s the turn of the pass rush.

So far the results within this strategy have been extremely positive. Both Okung and Thomas have been succesful and although Carpenter and Moffitt suffered serious long term injuries in 2011 – the determination to improve the running game and offensive line provoked a much improved ground attack last season. Considering the new regime had to completely rebuild this team from scratch, so far the decision to target specific zones has worked a treat. Improvement within the front seven is the next target by adding another pass rusher and finding improved speed at linebacker. I suspect in twelve months time we’ll be talking about how this team achieved much more pressure on opposition quarterbacks in 2012.

Under Tim Ruskell, the Seahawks tried to address key needs in free agency in order to take a ‘BPA’ approach during the draft based on the strict grading system of the GM. The end result wasn’t good – the Seahawks became an old and expensive bunch without much forward planning. Although Seattle was being aggressive in free agency to fill needs with older players, the draft wasn’t used properly to plan for the long term. Instead, the first round picks were spent on trying to find further impact players who could contribute relatively early. In hindsight it’s fair to say this wasn’t a great strategy – at least for this team – given they went from being a Super Bowl contender to one of the worst teams in the NFL.

The new plan is almost the polar opposite. Sure, Seattle are making calculated moves in free agency. Last year’s additions of Robert Gallery, Sidney Rice and Zach Miller were a throwback to former moves, although it’s fair to say Rice and Miller are a lot younger than the Patrick Kerney’s, Mike Wahle’s, T.J. Houshmandzadeh’s and Julian Peterson’s of the Ruskell era. Yet the moves made after the lockout concluded were supposed to give the team a kick start – a necessary lift to help the rebuild move a little faster. Only Rice was filling a crucial need and one the Seahawks had previously tried to fill by looking into trades for Brandon Marshall and Vincent Jackson.

The proper team building has been left to the draft – and that will likely become even more of the case over the next few years. The Seahawks will probably make calculated moves that bring value to the team and don’t create big discrepancies between the big earners and the rest of the team. Carroll is building a core of young, hungry players who will compete – not a group of expensive free agents with a diminished motivation due to new-found wealth. While Ruskell would attack an area of the team in free agency, Carroll and Schneider will do the same in the draft. It’s why I don’t think we’ll see this team make Mario Williams the highest paid defensive player in the NFL and why I do think we’ll see a pass rusher drafted with the #12 pick.

And for those questioning the ongoing need at quarterback – I’m sure a time will come when the aggressive team-building approach to the draft turns to the position. In fact, I’d predict that happens in 2013 unless the situation is somehow resolved before then or other more pressing needs emerge. But this year the aim seems extremely clear – and who’d bet against the end-product being a much improved pass rush for the Seahawks in 2012?

62 Responses to “Why Seattle will continue to build through the draft”

  1. Bryan says:

    The interesting point in this post is what happens if Mario Williams isn’t brought to Seattle? The cap money is still there to be spent on some FA. It could prove possible that they go all in on Manning for a 3 year window.

    Getting a quality DE in the first round of the draft and a healthy Manning as QB would instantly upgrade this team in so many ways. The defense would improve from the increased production of the offense alone. Add in an improved pass rush and this team is playoff bound, despite the tough home schedule.

  2. Rob says:

    I disagree, Bryan. Free cap space isn’t there to be just spent. The idea isn’t to be up against the cap every season and Peyton Manning will not be a Seahawk. This team is quite comfortable being under the cap and will always feel that way. The priority in free agency is to keep Lynch and Bryant (Lynch will be tagged on Monday if he’s not re-signed), make some calculated moves and then sign a draft class. That’s what the cap space will be used on, not making major splashes in free agency.

  3. Belgaron says:

    This is a well written summation. The current Seahawks regime has also been highly aggressive at removing or mitigating the damage from bad contracts which has given them tremendous freedom to compete in free agency. They had planned ahead to make Sidney Rice their primary target but it wasn’t until they realized that Zach Miller was ripe for the picking late in free agency that they also picked him up. Minnesota and Oakland had hoped Rice and Miller would end up being restricted free agents under the new CBA but were caught off guard when they became unrestricted. Most detractors thought neither of these guys would be willing to come to Seattle given the QB situation which plays heavily into their success.

    Tim Ruskell’s approach was so flawed in so many ways. In the draft he preferred players from big programs like USC and Miami and he preferred seniors. He thought this made them more battle tested than small schools and underclassmen. This made his evaluation process miss very talented players from small schools. In addition, he preferred quality over quantity and was constantly trading up to get “his” guys at the cost of additional picks, the kinds of picks that Schneider has proven can be invaluable when used to grab overlooked talent.

    I think we got a preview of the long term approach in the first year with all those week-to-week transactions. They want players competing for their careers and they are not afraid to make changes to get incremental improvements. This off-season we can expect they will compete hard to re-sign their own quality free agents plus bring in a handful of high quality guys to compete and improve the team. Their success thus far overall in the guys they have brought in have earned them some respect and patience. Sure, they may have overestimated Tarvaris’ skills, overpaid for Whitehurst, and missed on E.J. Wilson and Mark Legree but overall their doing very well. Hopefully, 2012 is another step forward.

  4. Dave says:

    I trust this teams front office. Although we and kick sand in their faces for a couple mistakes, they are doing a far better job in their decision making since JS and PC took over. The decisions may not please all the couch potato fans, but they will all eat crow when we can dominate with the choices they have been making. Many in Seattle want to see super stars, but you need to realize that usually super stars=drama and major disappointments. Keep doing what you’re doing Seahawks!! I believe!!

  5. Mr Fish says:

    Yes. The articles on this site have convinced me that PCJS will go d-line and lb on day 1 and 2.

    And I think that’s the right thing to do.

    Then, following the “kiss a lot of frogs” strategy that’s also been outlined here, they will take one or two qb’s later in the draft or as udfa’s.

    If the situation at qb is still unclear this time next year, it will be time to look at it on day 1 or 2.

  6. Dave says:

    “The strongest of all warriors are these two — Time and Patience.”
    ― Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace

  7. Ryan says:

    All of this probably means that we’ll head into the ’13 draft as the most quarterback-hungry team in the league, and will probably be drafting somewhere in the middle of the first round (all speculation, of course). It’s going to be a really interesting offseason to watch next year.

  8. Hawksince77 says:

    Rob,

    I agree that PC/JS’s draft strategy has been exceptional for the team, and it has been focused and part of a long-term strategy. The question I have is this:

    Seattle currently has four starters on the d-line that they are happy with (assuming Bryant is re-signed). If they draft Upshaw/Ingram/Couples, whose place do they take in the base defense? Not Mebane, Branch or Bryant, right? That means your drafting Clemons replacement, or a LB (Upshaw/Ingram). And if you are drafting a starting LB, why not draft the best starting LB you can?

    Of the front seven, the two starters that can be upgraded are Hill and Hawthorne (in part because they are both FAs). PC stated he wants to get faster at the position. And he likes KJ Wright where he is at.

    He also likes defensive players with great length – again, KJ Wright, and you can Kam, Browner and Sherman in that category as well. (Branch and Bryant, come to think of it).

    So who are the LBs in the draft with speed and length that you might get in rounds one and two? Kueckly (6’3″, 242lbs, 4.58 40, 2nd fastest at the position) and Bruce Irvin (6’3″, 245lbs, 4.50 40, fastest OLB in the draft).

    What was Bruce Irvin known for? Some ungodly number of sacks year before last until he was kicked inside to DT. For the Seahawks, he could start at OLB, be a featured blitzer, and on passing downs, play the DE across from Clemons ala Brock.

    As for Kuechly, not only did he break all the tackling records and win the Butkus award, he is a heady player that will soon captain what ever defense he plays on.

    As for QB, after augmenting their LBs in the first 2 rounds, I can see taking Cousins in the 3rd, a RB in the 4th, and Russell Wilson with their last pick (can’t remember of their six picks exactly how they fall).

  9. Belgaron says:

    John Clayton has said that that Josh Portis has probably progressed to the equivalent of a 3rd round draft choice if he was coming out this year. If he continues to improve, he may surprise some people when he gets a chance. At least the QBOTF cupboard is not completely bare.

  10. Brian says:

    I’m totally on board with the overall spirit of the article – I just feel like IF they have a partner, they will move down 8-15 spots and pick up an extra 2nd/3rd (or less likely – a 2013 1st).

    The reason I feel so strongly about this is that I feel like this DE class, while deep, does not have a clear cut top pick. The consensus top 3 all have undesirable attributes for an elite DE (Coples – work ethic, Upshaw – speed/loose hips, Ingram – size).

    In my opinion Perry/Mercilus/Branch + Kendricks/J. Worthy/Wilson/Martin > Upshaw/Coples/Ingram.

  11. Rob says:

    Hey Hawksince77,

    I don’t think they’d be looking to replace any of the front four players. This is a defense that is going to adapt and show a lot of different looks. Whether it’s Coples, Upshaw or Ingram – they’re going to ask the new pass rusher to play off the edge, dip inside, start deep and attack, play some OLB in the 3-4 formations, some DE in the 4-3 and maybe even some OLB too. They’re going to get really creative to attack the QB and the oppositions run game. We can’t look at this defense as having a rigid formation, because they’re going to get really creative to find ways to exploit problems for a defense. The new guy drafted at #12 is going to be the one the offense is always looking for – where is he now? They’ll have to compensate, it’ll cause problems. That’s how Aldon Smith had a lot of success in 2011, that’s what Seattle wants.

    One formation we could see a lot is the three bigs, Clemons and the new guy at the LOS, Hawthore or another alongside Wright at linebacker with Chancellor up in an 8-man front. KC and ET have such tremendous range they can deal with this aggressive formation, but Chancellor also has LB size (he was considered a LB prospect by some teams coming out). That would be an aggressive tactic, but one we could see a few times in a game because Seattle has the personnel to do it and it’d help provide more pressure. So Upshaw/Ingram/Coples won’t be replacing anyone really on the front four, not permanently.

  12. Rob says:

    Brian – I’ll be shocked if they move down. As with Thomas in 2010, they’ll see the value available and find someone they like. Upshaw, Ingram and Coples are the consensus top three as far as I’m aware and they’ll make use of the kind of high pick they want to avoid in the future with more wins.

  13. Hawksince77 says:

    Rob,

    Okay, so do you see one of these guys at 12 a starter? A 3-down player, or 2 even? In other words, do you see Couples/Upshaw/Ingram as a starting OLB?

    If not, do we think the 12th overall pick too high for a situational player?

    From what I have read and seen (including a lot that you have provided) I am having trouble seeing these guys as every-down LBs. I don’t think they have the speed or the range (Ingram, for instance, was one of the slowest DEs at 4.7+)

    And the way I understand your description, you are looking at this guy blitzing often in the base defense, right?

    I should have said this right up front: I don’t really understand all the defensive schemes very well, and have probably really simplified it in my head, so I appreciate your patience in responding.

  14. Dave says:

    Hawksince77: He is saying they will find unique ways to use them so they will be on the field for 3 downs. They may use them in traditional packages at times, or unique ones. Whatever package they are in, they will be asked to rush the passer 90% of the time. Don’t look at plugging the guy they pick into a traditional OLB or DE role.

  15. Hawksince77 says:

    One last question, I promise:

    If the guy they draft at 12 rushes the passer 90% of the time (per Dave) and the Seahawks still use their ‘bigs’ per Rob’s response in their base defense, does that mean Seattle will be rushing the passer with 5 players 90% of the time? And if not, but the guy drafted at 12 rushes the passer 90% of the time, and they continue to rush 4, who drops back in coverage? I know we have seen Clemons do that on occasion, but do we really expect to see one of the front 4 play coverage that often?

    And if one of these three guys lines up behind the front four in a traditional LB position, can they play the position when they are not rushing the passer?

    I understand all this changes in nickel and dime situations, but when playing out of the base defense, I am really having trouble understanding how one of these three (Coples/Ingram/Upshaw) are going to improve the pass-rush. If Seattle drafted a killer 3-tech as an upgrade over Branch, sure, I can see how that could help. If one of these guys took Red’s position as a pass-rushing DE opposite Clemons, I can see that as well. Or, if one of these guys was an upgrade at the LEO spot, that might help.

  16. Rob says:

    Hawksince77 – Dave is right, rather than have a rigid set (eg – this guy is a LB, DE etc) the team will find ways to make them three down players without a set position. Upshaw could be a DE on one play in a 4-3 set spelling Red Bryant, he could play off the four in space in more of a 3-4 look, he could play some inside rush in obvious passing situations, he could start deep and rush from space. It wouldn’t be a situational role, rather a 3-down player who has multiple looks to keep an offense guessing. The Seahawks know they can’t rely on just Chris Clemons for a pass rush, so they’re going to be adaptable to find situations to get the guy drafted at #12 on the field too to provide some balance. I doubt we’ll be able to use the term ‘base’ to describe this defense, because it’s going to be unpredictable. Yet they have the personnel (or will do by the draft) to be completely unorthodox. Yes they could use five at the LOS – but only in the sense that I expect this team to use what would appear to be more 3-4 looks.

  17. david says:

    Actually hawkssince77 Ingrams 40yd was 4.66 which i think put him in the top 5. he does have shorter arms though.

  18. Hawksince77 says:

    david,

    Yeah, I didn’t look Ingram’s time up when I posted, just remembered this:

    http://www.cbssports.com/nfl/draft/prospectrankings/2012/OLB/fortyyard

    CBS has him under the OLBs and a time of 4.79. That makes him the slowest of OLBs (out of 60 or so) but I looked up the DEs and he would have ranked 14th.

    Don’t know the source of CBS’s info – didn’t cross-check it with combine results – just assuming that’s where the times came from because I recognized others.

  19. Hawksince77 says:

    And ironically they have Ingram as the number one rated OLB.

  20. david says:

    ohh haha, its wierd how different places have different times i looked at walterfootball

    Cbs is prolly right ill go with your times then.

  21. Kyle says:

    Hawksince77 has an interesting observation above about speedy linebackers. PC did say he wants more speed in the front 7. Kuechly has pretty amazing range, and would free up others in the front 7 to different and more aggressive looks. Just as Earl Thomas’s range and instincts allow the Hawks to play cover-1 in the back, a Kuechly in the middle might serve an Urlacher-type role. There’s more than one way to get fast, and to bring pressure.

    We’ll also have a better idea of what is possible/likely when Red’s status is settled, and Hawthorne’s: I think the former is back, the latter will be gone, but their returns (or departures) will shake down to draft decisions. Even Hill has a role to play here: he might be chastened enough after his latest mary jane adventure to take a veteran minimum and play mad all year.

  22. Conner says:

    Rob,

    It seems very likely that both Coples and Ingram will be gone by #12. Upshaw seems to be slipping a bit in the eyes of some, but if he too is not available at 12, do you think trading down then would make sense?

    I wouldn’t mind staying at 12 and selecting Kuechly, but nobody else seems like a real good fit at that point. I, for one, would not be too upset with trading back into the early 20′s and selecting Dont’a HIghtower while picking up some picks later in the draft and/or next year.

  23. kevin mullen says:

    I think there’s more in store with last year draft than meets the eye: Levingston, Malcolm Smith, Byron Maxwell, I think they’ll make an impact more than people think. If, (and big if) say Malcolm Smith can compete at Mike; with KJ at SAM, we only need a WILL (hopefully Kendricks…) to round out our new LB’s. Carroll has a plan with Levingston and Davis, he wouldn’t keep them on roster if they couldn’t produce. I honestly think the first 3 picks could go defense…

  24. Rob says:

    Kyle – Brian Urlacher is 258lbs, while Luke Kuechly is 242lbs. They are very different players IMO. The Seahawks are looking for edge pressure and while Kuechly is a solid MLB prospect, he’s not going to transform Seattle’s pass rush. Almost all of his plays at BC were made beyond the LOS and he’s no history of QB pressures or sacks.

    Conner – In that situation it becomes more likely. Of course, if Trent Richardson is there then he’d likely be the pick in that scenario at #12. I’m led to believe Zach Brown is ‘draftable’ in that range. But they want a pass rusher, so in that situation they could move down and pick from the second tier. However, I do believe that one of the three names mentioned will almost certainly be there. If they move down and take Hightower because they aren’t, I think that would be a good consolation.

  25. Kip Earlywine says:

    Good stuff.

  26. Micah says:

    To the statement that the Hawks don’t mind being under the cap: what do they do when next year they are required to work towards being at 89% of the salary cap? Mario Williams may be worth the investment as we need to cover some cap space, and there does not appear to be a better player in the draft. He is also only 26, so doesn’t break the youth of the team.

  27. D says:

    Indeed good stuff. This site is killing the Seahawk draft competition. It’s like Clemons going nuts in peewee league.

    Good stuff indeed….

  28. Rob says:

    Micah – When they’ve re-signed their own key FA’s and the draft class, they’ll be close to 89%. There’s a difference been 89% and 99% of course. The idea is that Seattle isn’t eternally in cap hell because they’re right up against it needing to make cuts or miss out on retaining key guys.

  29. woofu says:

    With only six picks JS must feel a little shortchanged. Moving the 12 a couple of spots lower for another pick then the second rounder for another is feasible with these guys if the draft falls just right.

    I would be shocked by the end of the draft if there is not 8 drafted players given their record of diamond hunting in the rough. However it is just as feasible that the extra picks are gained from trading down in the middle rounds instead. (not counting comps)

    The FO is not opposed to using picks for in-draft player trades of non-UFA’s as well. I count those as drafted players.

  30. Rob says:

    Movement is possible beyond round one, but this team isn’t in the business of accumulating late rounders – they know they need talent more than anything. They will find a player worthy of the #12 pick and just like the last two drafts, not move down in round one.

  31. Phil says:

    Rob – of course the Seahawks “will continue to build the team through the draft”. What team doesn’t have this aim? But, I’m inferring from what you say that teams have to make a choice — you either build through the draft or you build via free agency — and I don’t think that things are quite so black and white. After the Seahawks put the tag on Marshawn and sign Bryant to a new contract, if they still have enough cap $$ left to go after Mario Williams, do you think that on principle they will decline? I think they owe more to their fans than that.

  32. Rob says:

    Phil – the point I’m trying to make here is that Seattle goes into the draft with a very focused ideal on what it wants to get out of the class. In three years with the team now they’ve very clearly zoned in on positions and addressed specific needs – therefore using the draft to rebuild the team piece by piece. Under the previous GM, the Seahawks used free agency to re-stock and hit key areas of need – there is now a titlt in philosophy. This team has decided it really wants to address the pass rush but rather than attack the big-name free agents and rely on throwing money at the situation, they’re more likely to use the draft. They are zoning in on acquiring a pass rusher at #12.

    Really it’s not a case of ‘declining’ to do anthing. Williams at the right price would probably be a consideration – but signing a guy who landed on IR the last two years to potentially the biggest contract in the history of the league for a defensive player won’t be the right price. They aren’t going to acquire one player on a mega-deal, on so much more than everyone else and hope he’s the answer. And that’s nothing to do with owing anything to the fan base, that’s about building a roster which breeds competition.

  33. Colin says:

    Teams that have success over long periods of time, are 99.9% purely built through the draft. Free agent acquisitions have almost no impact in the long run.

  34. Phil says:

    Rob – I concur that the team has very focused needs — an improved pass rush and improved QB play. But, I don’t buy into “zoning in on acquiring a pass rusher at #12″ when arguably one of the best pass rushers in the game is available in free agency. And, if you can take him at his word, he’s not looking to be the highest paid defensive player in history.

    Quoting from http://www.boltsfromtheblue.com/2012/2/22/2817325/san-diego-chargers-wish-list-mario-williams

    “The good news, for the Texans and the Chargers, is that Williams is not intent on becoming the highest-paid defensive player in the NFL.

    “I’m not worried about that,” Williams said Thursday. “It’s really not that big of a deal to me. I was the first pick (in 2006), and I’ve already had everything I really wanted, so my biggest thing is to be in a good position, a good scheme, a good system and continuing my career. Hopefully, it works out.

    “It’s always important to be in a position to be successful. That comes with teammates around you, coaching, having that winning attitude. You want to (play) where you can thrive no matter where you are.”

    “I’m not focused on telling my agent, ‘Hey, do this or do that because I want to be the highest-paid (defensive) player,’ ” Williams said. “It’s whatever fits best for myself and the team.”

    Regarding what the Seahawks owe their fans, I was a Seahawks season ticket holder for many years — going back to the early Kingdome days through 2009 — before I moved away from Seattle. I still follow them every Sunday on Direct TV and I go to their games if they are playing nearby. So I have invested a lot of money in the Seahawks and, in return, they provided a lot of entertainment to me. But, the day that I think that they are not pursuing every available opportunity to improve the team is the day they will lose me as a fan. So, I hope that in this instance, you are offering your opinion only — that it is not some insider information that you have received from your source within the front office.

  35. Rob says:

    Whether Williams’ motivation is money or not, the sheer volume of interest will dictate the price will rise. I think we should trust the front office a little more here. They have a vision to make Seattle a consistent challenger. If Williams is available at the right price, of course they’d consider it. However, they also aren’t going to become the Redskins – throwing money at big name free agents chasing the dream. Having one man on so much more than anyone else will not fit alongside the competition mantra. I spent a substantial amount of money last season travelling to watch the Bengals game from Europe, but I don’t feel like I’m owed anything other than this team having a direction – which they do. Good teams use the draft to build and free agency to compliment. I’m comfortable with Seattle using that philosophy.

  36. Belgaron says:

    Plans are always fluid. Last year, they wanted to trade down and still take Carpenter but when the trade fell through they just drafted him where they were. If Denver came to them again and said we’ll give you next years first for this year’s second, Schneider is not going to look a gift horse in the mouth. If another team says they have a linebacker that could compete for Seattle if you are willing to slide down in a later pick, they might be interested. Schneider uses the phrase “…comes to us..” a lot when speaking about plans. This is his overall philosophy, he’s not going to force anything, he’s going to make the most of what comes his way. He says he’ll build around the strengths of the quarterbacks he gets.

  37. Chavac says:

    I am in complete agreement that our pass rush needs to be solved this offseason, but taking your hands off of FA to dedicate high picks to one specific area, especially one that is very weak in this draft, seems like a terrible strategy. Spending a high pick on a one dimensional player like Upshaw just to check “Pass Rush” off the offseason laundry list is the type of thinking that burns teams year after year. If you have a shot at Mario Williams and cap room to land him, you need to explore it, especially when he fills one of only two needs that this team really has. I really, really, hope JS is not so stubborn to go into a draft with the 12th pick and already have pigeon-holed himself to one position. That’s polar opposite to the strategy that they used in GB when the Packers were in our position. If they drop the first rounder on an end or OLB, I hope it’s on a player they have internally rated very highly (Carpenter, Moffit) and not on a position.

  38. Phil says:

    Chavac — couldn’t have said it better myself!

  39. williambryan says:

    Rob,
    It seams like you have turned the corner, perhaps, in regards to Ingram? I remember when Ingram was the big topic on this blog for a few days that your position was pretty much ‘where would he fit in this defense?’ Are you now thinking that Upshaw and Ingram would be used in very similar ways? I imagine Coples would likely be a pure DE or perhaps LEO?

  40. Rob says:

    Belgaron – I don’t think anyone has said they would turn down a deal like that in round two?

    Chavac – Seattle drafting Upshaw wouldn’t be any different than drafting Carpenter and Moffitt. They wanted to improve the OL and run game at a very early stage last season and made it a priority. They had Watkins ranked higher than Carpenter but he went at 23 to Philly, but they believed the value/depth of the OL allowed them to focus on the area they wanted to upgrade. The Seahawks – like a fair few teams – believe Upshaw is a terrific prospect and will happily draft him. Once again they see need and value connecting. And Green Bay haven’t been in our position for a long time, considering they’ve had a franchise QB for many, many years an haven’t experienced the type of rebuild currently going on in Seattle.

    Williambryan – my own personal view of him hasnt changed, but I’m not stubborn and will change my take when given information by people who know more about a situation than I do. I do believe Ingram, Upshaw and Coples would play the same role. That’s how I understand the situation.

  41. Ben2 says:

    This front office seems like it wants to maintain flexibility and rewards “it’s” players for buying in to their philosophy. I’d hate to lose ET or Kam in a year or two because we didn’t have the discipline to NOT sign a splashy free agent.

  42. Dave says:

    Rob, I am in complete agreement with your stance on the FA/draft situation. Of course any of us would LOVE to see Mario Williams in a Seahawk uniform. And I am sure that the FO is going to at least kick the tires on that situation and way the option. But I can guarantee you that they will not be the one’s making him the highest paid defensive player in the league. If he came at a good bargain that they feel wouldn’t strap them for future years then of course they would bring him in. When you committ so much money to one player, that while he is dominant at his position he comes with risk too. He has only played in I believe 19 of his last 32 games.

    John and Pete to my understanding aren’t narrowing the pick down to one position exactly, rather narrowing it down to a guy they believe will be the best pass rusher. They aren’t trying to put a square peg in a round hole here guys. They have been working hard all year and I am sure have a handful of guys on their radar that they have highly rated and feel will help this pass rush tremendously if there at 12. And if any of the guys on their radar are there at 12 they will not get cute and try to trade down, they will take him like English is saying. IF for some reason their top 3 pass rushers are gone by the time they pick, I am sure they will do what they can to trade down and pick from the next tier.

    Going and spending big money on players in FA hardly ever works out in the long run. The only teams that are successful doing this are teams that have already completely built the foundation they want of in house guys and feel he is the ONE piece that will get them over the top. While Mario would certainly put this D over the top, lets not forget we are also a few offensive players away as well.

  43. Dave says:

    weigh the option*

    I am embarassed I even wrote “way”

  44. Michael (CLT) says:

    OK. I’m all in with Upshaw and Martin.

    You’d better win 10 games. Another 7-9 season, with no young QB groomed, and you will have failed.

    Gimmicky defenses to don’t win you second GM contracts.

    Won now.

  45. Phil says:

    Dave – in your last sentence you acknowledge that signing “Mario would certainly put this D over the top, (but)lets not forget we are also a few offensive players away as well.” IMHO, signing Mario would also let us focus on the offense in Round 1. For example, reiterating my dream scenario, I’d explore what we could get for trading our #1 to the Redskins/Dolphins (who might need it to go after RG3). In exchange, I’d want their 2013 #1 pick (to pair with the Seahawks 2013 #1 to use as extra ammo — if needed — to draft Barkley next year) plus, say, a 2012 #2, or #3. If that didn’t pan out, I’d use our #1 to draft Trent Richardson, if he was still available when we pick at 12. If Richardson is gone, I’d try to trade down with my sights set at Mychal Kendricks and/or Doug Martin in Round #2 and Kirk Cousins in Round #3.

  46. Erik says:

    Great article.

    How does Ingram compare to shorter pass rushers in the league right now like Dumervil, (5-11), Freeney (6-1), or Robert Mathis (6-2)?

  47. Misfit74 says:

    I’m giving this some thought, as this post covers a lot of ground. More on the OP later (not that anyone is exactly holding their breath, lol). In the meantime, here’s a news tidbit:

    “Seattle and the player rep for free agent Marshawn Lynch have agreed to a deal, but “can’t persuade Lynch to accept it.”

    http://www.rotoworld.com/player/nfl/4186/marshawn-lynch

  48. Marcus says:

    Rob,

    First off, I’d like say I’m a relatively new follower of the blog. I apologize in advance if I’m raising questions that have already been addressed ad nauseam. Additionally, I enjoy reading the seemingly well researched and objective analysis you and Kip provide paired with what I’ll assume is a bit of ‘inside’ knowledge of what the FO actually intends to do.

    - Who are likely candidates to improve the pass rush in the second round and beyond if Seattle calls Richardson’s name in the first? Also, do you see them shifting strategy and drafting quantity to make up for a perceived drop in quality if this is the case?

    - The Saints could likely lose draft capital this year following recent allegations. They could also hemorrhage FAs (OG Nicks, WRs Colston and Meachem, DT Rogers, etc) if the league’s penalties turn the team into a sinking ship. How likely do you think the Saints situation could impact, directly or indirectly, Seattle’s draft?

    - It’s been reported Cleveland isn’t keen on parting with both their first and second first-rounders. I can only imagine this would give the Redskins a leg up in the RG3 sweepstakes. Do you see any other team falling in love with Tannehill in the first 15 or 20 picks? If not, do you think he’ll push other, more attractive second tier QBs into Seattle’s ‘QB zone’ beyond the second round?

  49. Rob says:

    Erik – It’s a good question and one that is quite difficult to answer. I suppose he’s closest to Freeney as that slightly undersized, unique athlete. However, Freeney was on a different level coming into the league running, supposedly, in the 4.4′s. While Ingram has got that rare athleticism, he might not be quite as spectacular as Freeney entering the league. Mathis and Dumervil were both drafted in the mid-rounds so haven’t got the same kind of hype coming into the league, admittedly I prefer Dumervil and as not a huge fan of Ingram think he’ll struggle to match his mass production. My biggest concern is that while he is versatile, I’m not sure he’s ever going to amount to anything but a niche or specialist. But we don’t have to wait too long to see how he takes to the next level.

    Misfit74 – that’s a strange one if true. I’m led to believe he wants to avoid the tag, so if he’s making that decision to go on the tag then it’s unusual. Maybe he holds out? Could be interesting times ahead.

  50. Misfit74 says:

    A few thoughts I have. I think the team has been candid at times about how they will approach the draft, FA, or ‘fix’ areas of the team. However, I think it was easy last year to have such candor because not only was the OL in total shambles, save for Okung (and we only now know Unger has improved greatly). Also, we were high on a player that was nearly certain to be available at our pick – even if other teams knew our thought we would go OL. Carpenter was going to be around at our pick and so were another one or two quality offensive linemen. Our guy wasn’t forcasted to go so early and we knew it, I think.

    As for Moffitt, I’m not sure.

    The point is that sometimes you can be honest and forthcoming to a degree. That doesn’t make it the case every time. NFL front-offices are smarter than that. Our FO is smarter than that. I don’t expect the team not to address specific areas of our team, but I also know they are unlikely to show their cards to the entire league in advance. Now, it does make logical sense to address the pass-rush in this draft. Of course we’re going to ‘build through the draft’. That’s what EVERY NFL TEAM DOES! At least to varying degrees, of course.

    I don’t think Ruskell went BPA very often at all. He went “best player from a big college program to win now to keep my job by finding immediate contributors to fill holes created by all my crappy ‘veteran FA signings’ that were only short-term fixes”. He drafted from behind the 8-ball because of his previous band-aids and polished, low(er)-upside player selections.

    I think this regime is going to build a lot with depth and young draftees, but at the same time they will swing for the fences via FA and the draft if the talent is there. There’s been no shortage of grabbing the best players – long-term big upside players in the draft even if it wasn’t necessarily a need or something that could be filled through FA. They’re evaluating multiple FA classes and draft classes and planning accordingly.

    My biggest position is this: positional and talent-disparity, if you will. If the pass-rushers in round 2 and beyond fill the same hole and meet the same goals (potentially, of course) as the players in round 1 the team doesn’t have to reach. If Michael Floyd is the BPA at 1.12, then I can totally see the team going that route. The round 1 WR plus the round 2 pass-rusher might look a lot better on the field in terms of overall upside and impact talent than the other way around.

    Interestingly, in addition to Rotoworld’s recent mock (as we discussed previously), I read yesterday that Rob Rang happens to have Floyd going to Seattle, too. The reasoning is the same as I’ve been proclaiming for awhile now. Here it is from Rang:

    ——-”Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame: Many expect the Seahawks to consider a quarterback to compete with incumbent starter Tarvaris Jackson with this selection but in beating the New York Giants and Baltimore Ravens last year and matching up well with division champion San Francisco, the club may not be willing to reach to fill a perceived need. Don’t be surprised if Seattle instead turns their attention to other areas of concern like receiver or defensive line. With Sidney Rice’s durability a concern, Seattle might be hard-pressed to let Floyd slip by, especially after he erased any concerns about his speed with a 4.47 showing at 6-3, 220 pounds.”——-

    So perhaps the team does think Couples, Ingram, Upshaw are the diamonds in this draft and must be had in round 1. Or, perhaps the team likes guys like Branch and Irvin later and can ‘afford’ to take BPA at pick 12, which might very well be a WR like Floyd. They aren’t looking at round 1 in a vaccuum. There is a full draft to address the pass-rush and if the value isn’t there in round 1, in the team’s mind, they can add an impact talent rather than take a safe, Tim Ruskell-type player strictly because there is a perception that they must address the pass-rush in round 1 only.

    Many people view Upshaw as a polished performer with great production from a big-time college program, albeit with a lower ceiling but higher floor. Less ‘upside’. That sounds like a scenario all to familiar to this Seahawks fans.

  51. Rob says:

    Hi Marcus,

    Q1 – The only name I can offer you as someone who could be a target in round two is Vinny Curry. That’s a name that has cropped up. We can speculate on others – such as Chandler Jones, Shea McClellin and Cam Johnson.

    Q2 – I don’t think it would impact Seattle too greatly given the Saints draft position and likely target areas in the draft. However, the team could explore the possible additions of some ‘under the radar’ type free agents if they are hit in that sense. While they have Brees they’ll remain competitive though, he’s the key. So while New Orleans are likely to be hurt by this news, I think they’ll manage to struggle on.

    Q3 – At the moment I think we’re seeing a lot of jostling for position. Teams are using the media to get a good deal – Cleveland would love to find a trade that doesn’t involve the #22, Washington probably wants to pay two #1s and a third rounder rather than two #1s and a second. All the while St. Louis have admitted they are willing to trade, so their position is weakened somewhat by teams competing for that spot. This is likely to go on for a while yet. When/if the Browns decide to part with their two first round picks, a deal will be struck. If they don’t, RGIII will probably be a Redskin. In terms of Tannehill, it’s easy to place Miami as a candidate given his former coach at Texas A&M is now the offensive coordinator. At the same time, this is the coach that believed two other players were superior to him at the position at A&M and only switched to Tannehill as the starter full time in his final season. Cleveland could show interest, Kansas City could show interest (but I doubt it). If there’s not a rush on quarterbacks as you suggest, that will certainly help Seattle. I’d like to think of a solution where the Seahawks get Brock Osweiler, but I think they’re focused on other positions and going early at QB next year. We’ll see.

  52. Rob says:

    Misfit74 – Obviously it’s up to you whether you believe the statement I’m about to make, but I understand there is 0% chance Seattle drafts a wide receiver at #12 – including if Justin Blackmon is available. The focus is quite clear and there’s only one player who can shift that – and he’s an elite RB talent from ‘Bama.

  53. Belgaron says:

    At this point I think all the pundits predicting RGIII going to Cleveland are wrong. Holmgren is a QB coach and he believes in his system, even if he hired another head coach to do it for him. I think his number one goal at this point is signing Matt Flynn, then he will either trade down from #4 for more picks or pick the best fit at that slot. The wild card is that of course Flynn may prefer another team and then maybe Holmgren would be backed into a corner where he considered trading down for RGIII.

    The interesting thing about the Redskins trading down for RGIII is that they are also heavily linked to Peyton Manning and they can’t do both. And Peyton’s fate with his team for 2012 will be sealed prior to the draft. Where it gets real interesting is if the Browns got Flynn and the Redskins got Manning. Would JS entertain Fisher calling to check Seattle’s interest if the Browns and Redskins were out of the picture?

    Second, there are not enough (any) mocks with Richardson falling out of the top ten, I’m curious as to whom the Browns would take at 4 (Claiborne? Poe? Coples?), if they go another direction. It looks like they are going to be parting ways with Hillis and maybe that will force a Richardson selection but they could just as easily get a quality back later so I could easily see them passing on Richardson. But seems like all the mocks out there have him going 4 and I believe Clayton when he says it probably won’t happen.

  54. Rob says:

    I wouldn’t pay too much attention to what Holmgren has done in the past. He’s not on an endless leash in Cleveland and when he went for Matt Hasselbeck in GB, he’d been coaching the guy in his system and knew what to expect. He has no connection to Flynn. He appointed an offensive coordinator in Brad Childress who’s worked in Andy Reid’s offense and utilised mobile quarterbacks a lot, which was telling IMO. Whether Cleveland trade for Griffin III or not, they are most certainly in the discussion. Holmgren hasn’t got years to get this right – if they don’t improve in 2012, I think people will rightly start to question the direction of the team.

    And we need to just move on from all these situations that make Griffin to Seattle even a remote possibility. It’s not happening. Zero chance. Time to move on.

  55. Jeff M. says:

    I think what we’ve seen is that this front office targets areas for improvement and uses ALL of the draft, FA, and trades to improve them.

    We wanted to improve the OL and running game, so we spent high draft picks on Okung, Carpenter, and Moffit (and brought Cable in to coach them), but we also brought in Gallery and Robinson as FAs and Lynch and Washington via trade (plus low-risk gambles on guys like Lendale White).

    We wanted to improve the passing game, but spent only minimal draft capital on Durham plus UDFAs (of course, no complaints whatsoever about how that’s working out…), while aggressively using FA to get Jackson, Rice, and Miller.

    We wanted to improve the front seven against the run, so we spent a mid-round pick on Wright and got Branch in FA.

    I agree that the top focus for this year is improved pass run from the front seven, but given their history, I assume that means they will aggressively target it in ALL available methods for player acquisition, not just through the draft. I will be extremely surprised if we don’t at least make a strong offer to Williams (though we of course may not end up being the high bidder), and also if we aren’t talking with other teams about possible pass-rushers available for trade.

  56. andy says:

    Ok, Richardson falls into our lap at #12 and we select him. So assuming all are still available you think Vinny Curry is the pick in rd2 over a Irvin or Branch? (seems like Branch will be gone by then though…..)

  57. Rob says:

    As you say Andy, Branch is probably gone. I’m not saying Curry would definitely be the pick, but he’s on the radar.

  58. FWBrodie says:

    Branch sucks. Poor technique, weak, cannot turn the corner.

  59. AlaskaHawk says:

    WOW -way to take a cheap shot at Branch! He’s one of my favorites in the mid to late first round.

  60. Jarhead says:

    The forest for the trees can be very sobering. The insight that your beloved franchise could sell itself down the river for Ingram or Coples, how sad. I just hope they are watching the same tape I’m watching. A big, lazy oaf with no self-discipline (we remember Courtney Brown, as I find that’s Coples greatest example), and an undersized pass rusher without elite speed or command of a repitoire of moves, or even one mastered. If either one of those names are called on draft day, I will personally be bummed out. Upshaw I think can become a “football player” and just someone you always see around the ball. If Richardson is there at 12 and we DON’T draft him? Then I won’t know what in the world is going on. I just see Upshaw as a big and strong guy who will shed blockers and make things happen. He doesn’t have elite 40 speed, but the guy I watched play at Alabama seemed to cover a lot more ground than you’d expect. I suspect he just has that game speed you want to see. I see him being the most versitile, being able to play OLB, DE and DT if need be, whereas I don’t see Coples or Ingram managing to hold it down at all three. I just say, the collegiate coaching was there, big time game footage is there, and a nose for the ball. He may not be the sexiest pick, but I see him as the biggest contributor

  61. Colin says:

    To be honest, I am enamored with all of ZERO of the pass rushers available as defensive linemen. Couples has far and away the most talent, but can he be motivated? Frightening question.

    Upshaw is still a guy I’d take at 12, even if his 3 cone time doesn’t appeal to the masses…

    I’m hoping for Upshaw, Richardson and Couples, in that order, at 12.