Written by Kip Earlywine
Sometimes it takes an example for an idea to become clear. Last summer, many Seahawks fans (including myself) were hearing the term “point guard quarterback” for the first time. This led to a period of confusion and misunderstanding about the meaning of the term and therefore, Pete Carroll’s intentions at quarterback. Then, as luck would have it, the starting quarterback for my college football team (Keith Price) provided the perfect example of what a point guard quarterback looks like, and it gave me a much better idea of the kind of quarterback Pete Carroll is looking for.
Rob and I have had the good fortune to have some choice insider info over the last few years, and that source has led us to believe that Seattle holds Zach Brown in high esteem.
Tonight I sat down and began my “Draft Spotlight” writeup for Zach Brown, but then I stopped after I realized that Zach Brown’s tape told me less about him and more about Pete Carroll as a talent evaluator. (I guess I’ll count this as my scouting report for Brown, since I did scout a five game sample and will cover the essentials down below.)
Zach Brown has elite speed, impressive size, and a frame that appears capable of adding another few pounds if need be, despite the fact that he’s already quite muscular. Sometimes you see a prospect, and despite whatever flaws or reservations you may have, sometimes the guy just “looks the part” of an NFL player, physically speaking. I’ve made similar comments about Brandon Weeden and Ronnell Lewis previously. Quinton Coples could be another example. Greg Little could be an example from last year. Zach Brown falls into that category. Physically speaking, he’s a chiseled 6′ 1 3⁄8″ tall, standing at 244 pounds with long 33 1⁄4″ arms. He could probably bulk up to 250 if he wanted as his upper body still has a tiny bit to go before it’s maxed out. He has the body of a 3-4 outside linebacker or 4-3 SAM, but the speed of a corner.
Of course, Brown has a lot of issues. His instincts in run support need some serious work. He often misreads runners completely and runs right by them. He tends to avoid physical play despite his amazing physical advantages. Quinton Coples was blasted for taking downs off last season to preserve his body, but if you watch Zach Brown’s tape from 2011 you’ll see he was every bit as guilty of the same thing. In fact, it wouldn’t be much of a stretch to consider Zach Brown the Quinton Coples of the linebacker group, as his ceiling is off the charts but his motivation and consistency are in serious doubt. At times, Brown flashes some physicality and impressive power. He can make a nasty hit as capably as Mychal Kendricks or Ronnell Lewis- when he wants to. You can see an example of that around the 2:16 mark of his compilation video against Missouri.
There is something I’ve noticed about the way Pete and John go about the draft the last two years. In the first round, they tend to make relatively safe picks. In 2010, they twice passed on Jimmy Clausen to select Russell Okung and Earl Thomas- value selections at positions of need with very little risk to the team. In 2011, they passed on Ryan Mallett and Jimmy Smith, two prospects with outstanding talent but high risk in favor of the seemingly safer James Carpenter. This is just one of many reasons why Rob and I are suspicious that Courtney Upshaw could be the favorite at #12, because while Upshaw may not have a high ceiling, he does have a pretty high floor.
However, after the first round, the mentality seems to change. Seattle selected Golden Tate in the late 2nd round, and seemed quite enthused about getting him. Tate was a converted running back who despite big production at Notre Dame was sushi raw as a receiver. Seattle later drafted Walter Thurmond coming off a terrible injury. Later still, they drafted Kam Chancellor, a quality safety who was believed by some to be too slow to play safety in the NFL and might require a position change. Near the end of the draft, Seattle added Anthony McCoy despite his character issues, and Dexter Davis, who was basically a more athletic Nick Reed. The next year, Seattle took a shotgun approach to addressing the secondary by adding cornerbacks like Richard Sherman and Byron Maxwell who were more known for their size and athleticism than for stellar coverage. They also drafted KJ Wright, who’s unusual surplus of length had an awkward side effect on his mobility, a bit like David Wilson. They also added Kris Durham, who was raw from lack of playing time, and Malcolm Smith, who flashed ability but was undersized and could never stay healthy.
I think the reason Seattle took this approach drafting so many flawed but intriguing players is because Pete Carroll does not view a prospect for what he currently is, but for what Pete believes he can transform that player into becoming. You have to hand it to Carroll, based on how many risks he’s taken later in the draft, the man certainly does not lack confidence… or coaching ability for that matter- given how impressive the returns have been so far.
And this is what brings me back to Zach Brown. His tape is ugly, but put yourself in Pete Carroll’s shoes for a moment. Convince yourself that you can motivate Zach Brown to give his all. This shouldn’t be hard to do, since rookie contracts hardly pay anything these days and young players are playing for their next contract more than ever. Convince yourself that you can help Brown better diagnose the run, that you can coach him into better tackling technique, and that you can coach him into making more use of his considerable strength, size, and arm length. Who knows, maybe Brown was held back by poor coaching? It’s been known to happen. Just look at how Alex Smith and the 49ers in general pulled a dramatic 180 when Jim Harbaugh replaced Mike Singletary, or how Red Bryant and Lawyer Milloy responded when Pete took over for Jim Mora.
I’m not saying that I necessarily believe all those things, but I bet you Pete Carroll does. I’m a Zach Brown skeptic, but even I’ll admit that Brown looked poorly coached and unmotivated. It’s not hard to see him making immediate improvements with Pete Carroll’s guidance.
So while I personally wouldn’t give Zach Brown a very high grade after scouting him, I’m beginning to see how Pete would think the world of the guy, and turn him into a potentially amazing contributor on the Seahawks’ defense. If Zach Brown does make it to the 43rd pick, not only do I think Seattle will make that selection, but I expect there to be a big celebration in their war room. I’m not completely wild about the guy, but given my hilariously wrong track record of post draft reactions (look the last two up for a good laugh), that’s probably a good thing. Almost every time I’ve questioned this front office, they’ve come out looking smarter than I did. Zach Brown could be the latest and greatest example of that.