In his day-two press conference, John Schneider delivered the following line when asked about the trade-down with Denver:
“We had a goal going into this thing to try and get into next year a little bit, next year’s draft. Throughout the process we had a couple of upsets in there, meaning we had some guys go that we were interested in. It happens. Especially early in the draft. So yeah, we felt real blessed to get into a deal with Denver and acquire that third round pick.”
I’m fascinated by this comment.
Firstly, the reference to having ‘upsets’. If he meant players came off the board in round three that they liked, making it easier to justify moving out of the round, that would make obvious sense. Yet he qualifies the comment by referencing upsets early in the draft — and connects it to trading down for 2024 stock.
A follow up question was asked about next year’s class:
“Yep, next year’s class is supposed to be really good. Not slating this year’s class, there’s just a common theme, I think everyone knows it.”
My initial thought when I heard him talking about upsets was to imagine he might be talking about the big Houston trade taking Will Anderson off the board. Or the fact Lukas Van Ness and Will McDonald went in the top-half of round one, perhaps influencing the picks at #20 and #37 in a way they weren’t necessarily anticipating.
I also wondered if Alabama’s Byron Young being taken at #70 was a setback. He not only would’ve filled a need, he’s a really good player and he fits their focus on locker-room alpha’s.
Yet why would missing out on any of these players be relevant to getting stock in 2024?
Is it possible he’s actually talking about the quarterbacks? There was all sorts of media buzz about C.J. Stroud falling (he didn’t) and there was a broad expectation Indianapolis would take Will Levis over Anthony Richardson (they didn’t). Could the ‘upsets’ actually be these two players going in the top-four?
After all, several late media reports connected the Seahawks to serious interest in Richardson. Wanting to get stock next year ahead of a ‘better class’ would make sense at the quarterback position.
Let’s not forget, Geno Smith is very much on a prove-it deal. The out in his contract gives the team a lot of security. His cap hit in 2024 will be no lower than $31.2m and there are achievable escalators to push it closer to $40m. It’s stating the obvious to suggest they’ll need to think carefully about that kind of financial outlay, even if he plays fairly well.
They are going to have to make a call at the end of the year. This isn’t a firm, long-term commitment. It’s plausible they were very prepared to spend a rare top-five pick on the position to plan ahead. Yet the players came off the board they were interested in, meaning there was nothing they could do.
Having extra stock for 2024 can help prepare the team for the possibility of needing to get a QB next year, possibly with some aggression. Trading up this year simply wasn’t realistic. They couldn’t pay the fortune Carolina paid for #1, the Texans clearly weren’t going to cough-up #2 and the Cardinals were always going to be more inclined to discuss with a non-division rival. Houston gave them a great deal.
The other thing to mention here is the reference to next year being a better class. A lot of people think next years’ quarterback class is superior. I think people mistake the reasons why.
The focus is always on the projected top two QB’s — Caleb Williams and Drake Maye. I don’t think that’s the point. Virtually the entire middle class of the 2023 quarterback class returned to college football. Jim Nagy mentioned in our interview how this had impacted the Senior Bowl. I then spoke to a top personnel man a few weeks later who said that basically there were the top-four 2023 quarterbacks, Hendon Hooker, “then a bunch of six and seven rounders”.
Here’s a list of players who realistically would’ve intrigued teams in this draft, who returned to school:
Michael Penix Jr
Tyler Van Dyke
None of these players would’ve been high picks and some would’ve been day three or UDFA types. Others could’ve padded out the middle rounds. I suspect Penix Jr could’ve worked his way into day two because of his arm strength and character. Nix has his admirers and Rattler finished the season on fire for South Carolina.
All of this group will now be part of the 2024 class, which will also have Williams, Maye and Quinn Ewers. I also think Tulane’s Michael Pratt has shown enough to warrant serious intrigue for next season and some people like Florida State’s Jordan Travis.
So the difference between next year and this year will be the existence of a middle class. I am not a subscriber to the idea that Williams and Maye are streets ahead of Bryce Young and C.J. Stroud. But this year simply didn’t have any depth at quarterback beyond the top five.
Having extra 2024 stock will give Seattle a chance to be flexible and develop a QB plan, if required, as the 2023 season unfolds. Even if you’re the biggest Geno Smith fan on the planet, you have to concede the Seahawks need to be mindful of the future.
Alternatively, Schneider’s comments might not be in relation to the 2023 quarterbacks at all. He could be talking about the Texans’ trade for Will Anderson or the likes of Van Ness and McDonald departing. That could simply be something on the top of his mind that just came out during a press conference. Yet I do think the objective of getting extra 2024 stock is tied to the fact the team doesn’t have a long term solution at quarterback. They are going year-to-year and find themselves in the exact same position they did 12 months ago, albeit with more money going to Geno Smith and Drew Lock.
Make no mistake, they’ll be wary of that — but I think they’re also right not to panic. Schneider, in a later answer, referenced you can make ‘huge mistakes’ when you do that. He’s obviously right. I compared the Geno situation favourably to Alex Smith and Patrick Mahomes as a basis for selecting a QB this year. It’s worth noting that Alex Smith enabled the Chiefs to pick their moment. They ran with him for multiple seasons until the time was right to make their move for Mahomes.
You also need to avoid becoming the Colts, too. You can build a very good roster and feel like every year you’ll be in with a shot. But if you’re relying on year-to-year solutions, it can undermine everything when things don’t work out or suddenly change.
It’ll be interesting to see if they take a flier on anyone today. Dorian Thompson-Robinson has been one of my favourite players to watch in college football for two years. He’s a dynamic athlete, he’s incredibly creative and he has the fabled 10-inch hands despite being undersized. He has an outstanding arm. DTR can also be erratic, hot-headed and he suffers from the same issue as Bryce Young in terms of how will he withstand a NFL beating.
Jaren Hall had a tremendous start to last season before tailing off. He looked like Russell Wilson at his best for BYU but we didn’t see his best consistently enough. Jake Haener has his admirers, as does Tanner McKee. Stetson Bennett is very talented but would work against their focus on character. Mac Duggan would fit the competitive nature they’re looking for but he’s just so physically limited.
I think it’s a challenging group to justify adding at the expense of some of the other players available at different positions.
Here’s a reminder of my updated draft board (click the image to enlarge):
Schneider is a Ron Wolf disciple and they’re brought up with a passion for quarterbacks and scouting the position. I sense they’re already thinking ahead to the future and trying to plot a long-term vision. For that reason, once this 2023 draft ends, I’ll begin the next challenge of scouting the 2024 class of QB’s.
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