Is Justin Blackmon Seattle’s touchdown maker?

Out of reach? Maybe Justin Blackmon could land in Seattle...

You’re always looking for touchdown makers on offense. You always want to get guys that can score. So if there’s a wide receiver in the draft that would be cool, if there’s a big- time running back that would be cool.”
Pete Carroll, January 2012

The quote above raised a few eye-brows during Pete Carroll’s end of season press conference. The Seahawks have some talent at both skill positions, even if Marshaw Lynch is a free agent and a strong candidate for the franchise tag. When the subject of drafting a receiver in round one has been brought up on this blog, some have been quick to point to the existing talent on the roster. Sidney Rice, Doug Baldwin, Mike Williams, Golden Tate, Ben Obamanu and Deon Butler are flanked by highly regarded developing pro’s Kris Durham and Ricardo Lockette. The Seahawks also have depth at the tight end position, spending big bucks on Zach Miller and using Anthony McCoy and Cameron Morrah quite heavily. John Carlson is a free agent, but Carroll has already voiced his desire to agree terms on a new deal.

There’s a lot to work with there, but so far there isn’t one game-breaking talent. A ‘touchdown maker’ as Carroll puts it. In an injury-hit five-year career, Sidney Rice has just twenty touchdowns. In 2009 – his best season – he recorded a respectable but not overwhelming eight with Brett Favre rolling back the years and leading Minnesota to the NFC Championship game. Baldwin, Williams, Tate, Obomanu, Durham and Lockette have a combined total of twenty career touchdowns between them. Nobody would argue that there’s a lack of potential among the group, but there’s certainly room for a big-time playmaker. A touchdown maker.

I’m a fan of Justin Blackmon, Kendall Wright and Dwight Jones – the three best receivers in this group in my eyes. Yet I can also see a situation where not a single one goes in the top ten. Last year included two unique, rare players who combined size, speed, fluidity and an ability to contribute quickly. A.J. Green may go on to become the best receiver in the league even in Cincinnati. Julio Jones has the physical potential to be one of the most dangerous players in the league for Atlanta. Blackmon, Wright and Jones aren’t close to that level of potential, so it’s no lock they’ll go quite as early. Last year Blackmon wasn’t considered a likely top-15 pick while Wright and Jones weren’t in the first round discussion at all.

For the purpose of this article I’m going to concentrate on Blackmon because I wouldn’t rule out the Oklahoma State receiver being an option for the Seahawks. He’s 6-1 and around 211lbs – which isn’t a negative, but it’s not elite size – and he compares physically to the only other two-time Biletnikoff winner Michael Crabtree, but he’s a little more nimble and agile – yet lacks Crabtree’s near-flawless hands. I like his attitude on the field – he’s got that ‘alpha-male’ swagger to his play and truly believes he’s going to have a big impact on every game he features. He’ll compete with defensive backs, he’ll finish runs, he’ll chip away when blocking and get under your skin. Blackmon is possibly the most controlled receiver I’ve ever scouted, with supreme positioning and balance. He makes catches purely by doing the basics right and getting into the correct position on his routes. He’ll come into the league and cause problems with his double move which to create downfield problems and make up for a lack of truly elite deep speed and explosion out of his cuts. He has a natural feel for soft zones and will adapt his routes on developing plays to help out the quarterback.

The biggest knock on Blackmon is that in each game there seems to be at least one mental mistake – either a sloppy drop, lack of concentration or bizarre error. Overall he’s a very technically gifted receiver, but he’s not the physical freak of nature that has often guaranteed a high pick. He’s featured in an offense that notoriously favors the passing game and has consistently exploited talented receivers with big production.  Blackmon was also arrested andcharged with DUI 2010 leading to a one-game suspension. There’s a lot to like here, but there’s also enough reasons to believe a slight fall into that #8-12 range isn’t beyond the realms of possibility.

In the five drafts before last April, only four receivers were taken in the top-15 picks. I like to call this the ‘Matt Millen effect’. During his time as GM in Detroit, Millen did more to create a stigma around drafting of receivers early in round one. He busted on Charles Rogers and Mike Williams, added Roy Williams with an early pick and went back again to draft Calvin Johnson before getting fired. Ironically, he finally got it right with Megatron – even if it was a no-brainer decision and too little, too late. The failure of Braylon Edwards, Troy Williamson and Mike Williams in 2005 maybe played some part too, but only Johnson, Ted Ginn Jr, Darius Heyward-Bey and Michael Crabtree became top-15 picks between 2006-2010. Fans – and more importantly teams – often refer to the high bust rate among the position, exemplified by an article from John McTigue for ESPN where he writes:

“With teams passing more and using more three-wide receiver sets, the perception has become that drafting a first-round talent at wide receiver is a necessity. However, despite the increase in pass plays and three-wide receiver formations, wide receivers haven’t been targeted more. Pass-catching tight ends and running backs are still just as important in offenses. As teams use more platoons at running back and as tight ends become more athletic, that is not likely to change.

“The sheer volume of wide receivers in the draft gives teams plenty of opportunities to get a high-caliber player. On a per game basis, first-round receivers since 2001 have averaged 3.4 receptions, 48.0 yards and 0.3 touchdowns. Receivers drafted in the secondround or later have averaged 2.1 receptions, 27.5 yards and0.2 touchdowns per game. (Those numbers were compiled from the 235 wide receivers who played at least one game.) When thinking of the difference between a first-round receiver anda second-round-or-later receiver, one 20-yard catch per game probably isn’t what comes to mind, but players like Greg Jennings, Chad Ochocinco, Vincent Jackson, Anquan Boldin, Brandon Marshall and Mike Wallace (among others) have helped close that gap.”

Of the top-ten receivers for yardage in 2011 – only three were former first round picks (Calvin Johnson #1, Larry Fitzgerald #4 and Roddy White #8). We can’t use the past to dictate what might happen this April, but clearly teams are being a little more cautious with the position. Considering the depth available this year at receiver – who’s to say that won’t happen again?

I don’t expect Justin Blackmon to go 2nd overall to St. Louis. While the Rams clearly need a productive receiver, it’ll be very difficult to pass on Matt Kalil. Jeff Fisher built a strong offensive line in Tennessee but he’s inheriting a porous line with really only one building block in Roger Saffold (maybe Jason Brown too, but he’s been a free-agent flop so far). Kalil is one of those players who will come into the league and quickly become one of the best at his position. He’s a slightly different player to Joe Thomas, but he could have a similar impact. The depth at receiver will afford the Rams an opportunity to address the position later and hey – Jeff Fisher can’t solve every problem in year one. The Rams simply cannot afford to pass on Kalil and chase other needs.

After St. Louis, there’s a series of team’s that could be interested in drafting a receiver. Minnesota relied too much on Percy Harvin last year, but also have huge holes on their own offensive line and in the secondary. Cleveland needs offensive playmakers, but shouldn’t pass on the opportunity to draft one of Robert Griffin III or Trent Richardson. Washington could look at the position, but are more likely to address quarterback and the offensive line as greater priorities. Jacksonville will surely look to help Blaine Gabbert and Pro-Football Weekly speculated this week that GM Gene Smith would aggressively pursue prospective free-agents such as Vincent Jackson. If they land a big name before the draft, it decreases the likelihood they’d spend big on the position in the draft with many other needs requiring aid. Carolina needs to build up a bad defense and Buffalo should re-sign Stevie Johnson and continue to add to both lines. That said – would anyone be surprised if any of these teams drafted Blackmon? Of course not, but at least there’s some rhyme or reason to the idea he could drop to an attainable range for Seattle.

Tony Pauline reported last week that some team’s graded Kendall Wright as the #1, not Blackmon. Given the depth of talent at receiver, there could be several ranking variations across the league. To come back to the Crabtree comparison – he was clearly regarded as the #1 receiver in 2009 but still went behind speed-merchant Darius Heyward-Bey. Of course, Crabtree received a negative press going into the draft and suffered a broken foot which forced him out of the combine and subsequent work-outs. Wright is a better, more rounded player than Heyward-Bey, but teams love a player who can take the top off a defense.

A lot of people will be sceptical of Blackmon dropping, or any of the other ‘big names’ for that matter – yet it does tend to happen every year. Twelve months ago Nick Fairley was the hot-tip to be the #1 overall pick and he eventually left the board at #13. Not many people expected Blaine Gabbert to fall as far as #10. Crabtree and Michael Oher are other good examples in recent times of big name prospects suffering a bit of a fall. Dropping to the #11 or #12 pick isn’t exactly a substantial act, so as we approach the Senior Bowl it’s worth thinking about players who might be available for Seattle that maybe we haven’t considered so far.

If Blackmon is there for the Seahawks, why wouldn’t they consider him? Even if you don’t see receiver as a critical need – this could be good value. John Schneider contributed to a system in Green Bay with real depth and quality at receiver and having a lot of talent at the position could help emulate that success in Seattle. If, of course, they can also upgrade the quarterback position. That’s a pretty big ‘if‘.

I’ve logged four game’s below, featuring Blackmon’s performances against Stanford, Texas Tech, Kansas State and Texas A&M.


  1. Seahawk Steve

    It looks more and more like the Seahawks are not going to take a quarterback in the first round of the 2012 draft. I think they will take a quarterback at some point in the 2012 draft. However; PCJS will look at drafting a quarterback as a 50/50 chance to hit or miss with the upside that if they miss they still have some great sure-fire prospects in the 2013 draft. I’m not sure how much a 50/50 guys values at? What round do you want to spend a pick on and what is the value/risk cost?
    With the above scenario in mind, I think we have to look at the second priority of need, pass rusher. Of the three projected picks: Coples, Perry and Still is there a better fit in the Seahawks defensive scheme? What are the upsides and downsides of each and is there a side by side comparison?

  2. Ryan Seahawk

    I am curious, as I greatly respect your recruiting skills. Let’s say Blackmon was a year older and he declared for last years draft. What pick does he go and how does he compare to Julio Jones, AJ Green and the rest of the bunch?

    What could the Seahawks expect out of the likes of Blackmon?

  3. shams

    Better Blackmon than an LB.

  4. Hawkspur

    I could easily see a scenario where the Seahawks take a receiver in the first round. Especially if they can add to the defensive line via free agency. I’ve read up fairly widely on the projected 1st round defensive front seven players and with the possible exceptions of Upshaw and Brockers there doesn’t appear to be much value at pick #12. The linebackers look very week. One pretty good scout, Matt Miller even rated Kuechly as a 3rd rounder, on a good day at that.

    Rice has a poor injury record, Williams struggles to get separation and Butler and Obomanu have some strengths but could be upgraded upon fairly easily.

    All said and done though, I still want to go all in for Griffin or trade back. If they can’t get either of those done, a receiver would do just fine.

  5. Rich

    What about Coby Fleener as a red zone target? Should be available mid second round, I know the Seahawks are fairly stocked at TE but with the red zone issues could be a reach for Seattle?

  6. andy

    This is the common perception, “lacks Crabtree’s near-flawless hands”. However, all i see him doing is drop plenty of catchable balls in the NFL.

  7. .justin

    I wonder what Richard Sherman would think of Blackmon as a Seahawk?

    How would a team handle this? Surely Carroll or other Seahawk brass keep tabs in their player’s tweets?

  8. Rugby Lock

    BMW has always struggled to get separation and always will. It is just not in his game. What he has is that big strong body and fantastically strong hands. He needs to play with a QB who will have the attitude to throw it to him even when covered like Hass used to do. Tjax wont throw to a guy who is covered so as long as he is here the talent we have will languish. That and TJ like to throw outside the numbers which limits our TE’s effectiveness… etc etc…

  9. dave crockett

    It’ll be interesting to see if we ever find out how Seattle rates the WRs.

    I’m a tad surprised that you didn’t do this expose on Dwight Jones, as you have said that he likely has the best tools and upside of any WR in this class.

    Personally, I’m a HUGE fan of Kendall Wright. I just think that in the foreseeable future, no matter what Seattle does at QB, the one thing this unit lacks is a guy that consistently gets separation. (The young kid with the jet pack strapped to his back, from the Arizona game, whose name is not coming to me right now, notwithstanding.)

    I think that’s the question for both Blackmon and Jones. They’ll be best suited for teams with QBs that can throw them open. That’s not Seattle, nor can we assume it will be. To my mind, Wright fits Seattle’s needs best, in that he can win “right now” right off the line of scrimmage (and I don’t necessarily think his upside is much, if at all, behind either Blackmon’s or Jones’).

  10. dave crockett

    @.justin — Sherman’s a Stanford guy. So, you don’t necessarily expect him to be complimentary of Blackmon, who did look awful for stretches (and great for stretches) in that game. No big deal at all.

  11. Colin

    Sidney Rice on one side, Blackmon on the other, Baldwin in the slot with Miller as the TE, Lynch in the backfield…. oh boy. That offense could be downright lethal with any decent QB under center.

  12. Tom T.

    It sure seems like everyone has forgotten about Ricardo Lockette. In his two games for the Hawks, he was a huge deep threat.
    Rob, do think it was just a flash in the pan, or does he have enough promise to be a regular contributor?

  13. Bill

    PC/JS have stated many times there drafting philosophy-Their going to take the best availible player on the board. Obviously they targeted the O-line the last two drafts, but now that the o-line is starting to be more of an asset than a liability, I would expect them to look at a wide variety of positions to instill some competition in the team. Wide Receivers are iffy as this article states. A top 12 pick on a wide receiver is kinda puttin all your eggs in one basket, especially if your not a west coast, pass happy offense. I could see a team like the Saints or the Colts picking a receiver that high, but not the Seahawks. Although I think the Saints and the Colts are both going to focus on getting some DEFENSE this year.

    Another thing is the Hawk’s draft is going to depend on Free Agency this year more than most-Carlson and Lynch are FA’s, and a number of playmakers on the defense are FA’s as well. Who stays and who goes will dictate the draft.

  14. Jeff M.

    Hard for me to see Blackmon as an elite touchdown maker in the NFL. Pretty much every guy who puts up big TD totals has at least one of elite size or elite speed, and frequently both. Blackmon has neither. He’s not small and he’s not slow, but he’s just “good, not great” in each. The only guy who put up elite numbers this season with similar measureables (6’0″-6’1″, 4.5-ish) is Victor Cruz, and he came into the season as an undrafted depth guy.

    The other two guys you mention should measure out with one elite trait (Wright will run a lot faster than Blackmon and Jones is significantly bigger). It may well be that guys like Blackmon (good size, good speed, neither elite) have higher floors, and I have high confidence that he will be at least serviceable (if he can iron out the drops issue). But I don’t know that the ceiling is high enough to spend a high first-rounder on him.

    Of course, you could argue that the Seahawks already have guys with elite size (Williams, Rice, Durham) and with elite speed (Butler, Lockette)–Blackmon should certainly provide an upgrade over Obomanu in the “a little bit of both” department.

  15. YDB

    I would be absolutely shocked if Wright is even on the Seahawks draft board above the second round. In a press confrence after BMW was IR’ed, Pete made a point that the WR corps had gotten smaller. He seemed disappoined that Obo was “towering” over the other guys. I think the special touchdown maker Pete eluded to would have to be tall to have 11/12 pick value. I’d suspect Vincent Jackson in FA is “Plan A” for bringing in a special touchdown maker.

  16. Hawkspur

    Rugby lock – I agree, but the only way that there is a QB other than Jackson throwing to Williams next season is if the Seahawks spend their first rounder (and some more) on one, in which case they won’t be drafting Blackmon, Wright or Jones. If Jackson’s the QB I think we could do with another receiver if we want more points.

  17. David

    Hey Rob, if we dont get Blackmon or any top tier reciever in the 1st, i was wondering what you thought of Juron Crier, Marvin McNutt and Jeff Fuller for us maybe 2nd or later rounds.

  18. Rob

    I’ll try and answer all questions here:

    Seahawk Steve – I’d probably say Perry is the best fit just because he’s played in this scheme at USC. Even so, I’m not entirely convinced he’s going to be as effectual at the next level. Devon Still and Quinton Coples look like orthodox 5-tech’s to me, a position the Seahawks don’t use.

    Ryan Seahawk – Last year I would’ve expect Blackmon to go in the 20-32 range.

    Rich – I like Fleener, but I think the Seahawks have invested enough at the tight end position to look at other things.

    Andy – I’m referring to Crabtree in college, where he flashed hands to die for. During his time at Texas Tech, I’ve never seen a player comparable in terms of a pure, consistent hands catcher. Shame it’s not translated so far.

    Justin – I’m not sure. Sherman is pretty outspoken, he’s also been very critical of Matt Barkley for what I remember. I guess they’d all laugh about it after the event of the pair landing on the same roster.

    Tom-T – I’ve not seen enough of Lockette to pass judgement. College tape was scarce and his action in the pro’s so far basically consists of a couple of smart downfield catches. He has some speed, he’s still a little raw. Let’s hope he can develop into a regular feature.

    Bill – Well either they’re taking the BPA or they’re not. I’m not sure you have a ‘BPA unless it’s a receiver’ concept, and Green Bay are stacked with receivers.

    YDB – A fair suggestion, they’ve shown interest in Jackson before.

    David – I like all three for different reasons. Certainly I’d be thinking beyond round three with that trio, but all have a shot at the next level. This is a great draft for receiver depth.

  19. Jeriod Klovas

    The only problem I have with drafting a WR in the 1st Rd is they typically don’t produce results for a few years. WR have one of the biggest learning curves. They need to learn the playbook, run precise routes, read a D and adjust routes, develop timing and chemistry with their QB, deal with fast and strong DB’s who can jam you at the line, and ultimately catch the ball in the NFL. Very few rookie receivers make a splash their 1st year. AJ Green, Julio Jones, and Doug Baldwin played well this year, last year I cannot recall a rookie receiver who played well. Hell even Megatron took some time to become dominant. I would rather fill a position that will contribute immediately. With that being said I really want a DE, which historically take some time to produce as well, but Aldon Smith and Von Miller have shown otherwise.

  20. Ryan

    I agree that i want a DE Jeriod, but just because we want it doesn’t mean it will be there. You make good points about the WR position but the fact is, there is not a DE in the top 15 that is worthy of playing in the Seahawks scheme.

    Aside from the fact that both the Miller and Smith went in the top 8, they are both OLB’s in a different scheme. If Aldon Smith was on the board at 11/12 i think the hawks would make that pick within the first 10 seconds. That doesn’t exist this year. We want it, too bad.

    I think BPA has to be the approach unless we are poised with even the slightest opportunity to grab our QBOTF whomever that may be.

  21. John_s

    I think you seriously have to wonder if Sidney Rice is going to be injury prone his whole career. He’s only played a full season once.

    I would love a player like Blackmon on the team. He brings the polish but a toughness that is not seen with most WR’s.

    I think the Stanford game showed a lot. He was hurt most of the week, but showed up huge.

    I think BMW, Butler and Obo are expendable and Blackmon would be a huge upgrade over all three.

  22. TheSGC

    Not possible – Richard Sherman hates Blackmon.

  23. j

    that could be a good thing. competition wise. they are both grown men and if they are should be able to bring the best out of one another and then some

  24. Tarry

    I cant see Blackmon being there at 11/12. There are by my count 8 teams that could use a receiver… Rams obviously, Browns have nobody, Bucs and Dolphins need 2nd WR to compliment their #1s, the Jags need 2 WR at least, Panthers need one Smith can’t play forever Newton needs more targets, Bills and Redskins can be added there too. That said, because this is a deep draft for WR I don’t think he’ll go top 5, but doubt he’ll get past the Jags at 7, if he does the Bills will likely snag him with Johnson likely leaving via FA.

    ROB – I think there is a real good sleeper in the lot of WR by the name of Risard Matthews out of Nevada. He plays for a smaller school and was Colin Kaepernecks main target in 2010 and had an even more productive year with a not so well known QB behind center… it’s difficult to find film on him, but what I have seen he looks good and good size at 6’2″. Do you know much about him?

  25. Rob

    Hey Tarry – I don’t know a great deal about him but I’ll see if we can get some tape on the blog to take a look.

  26. Tarry

    This was the only footage I was personally able to find… he received a lot of double teams and still made some good catches, hard to tell his route running but a couple did seem rounded and not crisp, but workable… if you can find more on him great… here’s what I got

  27. Brian

    I have to agree with Jeff. Blackmon doesn’t seem to show elite skills as either a burner (ie Mike Wallace, Desean Jackson) or bruiser (ie Larry Fitzgerald, Brandon Marshall) much less both (Calvin Johnson.) I can’t imagine using a top 15 pick on a possession receiver when we already have Sidney Rice, Mike Williams, Baldwin et al.

  28. Doug

    I would be thrilled to get him. He doesn’t have any of the measurable “elite” skills, but he does have “elite” game when he turns it on. He is a great football player, rather than a track guy.

  29. Jae

    I think we need someone to THROW to these guys before we dismiss them as not being big TD play makers. Im just not a firm believer in picking up skill players before round 3. Skill guys are a dime a dozen in most cases, and if you have a GREAT defense and a very good OL, you can make an skill position better…even if they are undrafted. Lets work on getting better pass-rush and more depth on the OL before we start spending 1st round draft picks on WR.

  30. Jae

    BTW, Blackmon played in a very pass heavy offnese…much like another WR that plays for the 9ers who has yet to show he was worth a damn. Something to think about.

  31. Rob

    I disagree there Jae – I think skill position players are the most under-appreciated players in the game. A truly elite wide receiver can propel an offense just as much as a great quarterback or offensive line. Arizona made the Super Bowl because of Larry Fitzgerald, and getting a WR who continuosly creates headaches for a defense is one of the great advantages you can have in the league. I think it’s one of the NFL’s great cliche’s that games are ‘won in the trenches’. In reality, games are won by talented players, there’s no exact formula for success. Talented receivers can help a team as much as any other position not named QB.

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