Kiper on Newton/Locker & can Seattle pass on a QB?

Yesterday I published my latest mock and I think it raised an interesting talking point.

I once again projected the Seahawks to take Phil Taylor (DT, Baylor) with the 25th overall pick. I look at Taylor and see a prospect that can come in and contribute quickly at either the five technique/Red Bryant position or nose tackle. He has some technique flaws with leverage that need to be addressed, but he’s 337lbs of potential quality.

Taylor helps Seattle get bigger up front with greater depth against injuries if the likes of Bryant, Colin Cole and Brandon Mebane miss time as they did in 2010. Eventually I suspect Taylor could develop into the integral part of the defense, given the relative importance of the five technique and nose tackle in this scheme (as discussed in more detail here).

It’d be a smart move and one that would be difficult to complain about. I graded Taylor highly and if he does last until the #25 pick he has to be a consideration.

But… the Seahawks need a quarterback.

I’ve maintained for some time now that the team’s greatest need is to invest in a young QB. There are other needs that need to be addressed – another cornerback would be beneficial as would further additions to both lines. There’s a lack of pure playmaking quality on offense and certainly that’s something that will need to change. However, it all comes back to the quarterback first.

It’s an area that really needed to be filled two or three years ago. Former GM Tim Ruskell admitted the team ‘were in the zone’ for a new signal caller before the 2009 draft. Amongst others, they worked out Josh Freeman in Seattle and the year before had a look at Chad Henne. The end product was merely a late round flier on now released Mike Teel.

Last year the options were severely limited. If Sam Bradford wasn’t going to fall to the #6 pick (and it never seemed likely) it appeared Seattle’s options were slim in terms of drafting someone in round one. That is of course, unless they were one of the teams prepared to consider Tim Tebow. That may have been more likely than some people expect had Philadelphia drafted Early Thomas instead of Brandon Graham.

The team spent big on Charlie Whitehurst but didn’t appear willing to ever seriously consider him as anything else than a back-up in 2010. There may have been some determination to keep him out of Arizona too, considering it was a straight race between the Cardinals and Seahawks for his signature. They now enter his ‘contract year’ with no real knowledge of what he’s capable of. If they re-sign Matt Hasselbeck then it’s tough to see a situation where he gets enough game time to prove he’s worth a new deal.

I actually look at the Whitehurst move as a nod that this franchise appreciates the need at quarterback. Whether Matt Hasselbeck remains in Seattle or not, he’s approaching the age of 36 and has been inconsistent at best. The team has to prepare for the post-Hasselbeck era, which could be as soon as 2011 or 2012 depending on how things play out. You’ll be fortunate to hit on the first guy to try at the position, so taking a chance on Whitehurst made sense considering the implications if he works out.

So all things considered – can they really afford to pass on Ryan Mallett (QB, Arkansas) to take Phil Taylor as I projected in my latest mock?

It’s a question I asked myself when I compiled the projection and still struggle to answer. I think a lot of what has been written about Mallett recently is hyperbole and unfair. At the same time – it’s hard to ignore what possible impact this negative press will have and some of the things that have been speculated (albeit from less than hardened sources) have been concerning.

From a pure Seahawks perspective he isn’t that mobile QB who will get out of the pocket and help the running game. That is something Pete Carroll reiterated he wants from the position in his end of season presser recently. The move for Whitehurst (big arm and mobility) backs up the type of QB they’re looking for. The mantra under Carroll is ‘all in’ and competition – so does Mallett fit that mentality?

At the same time, the cost is limited with Seattle likely only to lay out approximately $8-9m in guarantees owning the #25 pick. If he was cut after two years he’d only cost the team as much cash as Whitehurst and possibly only a little more pride.

Sometimes you have to adapt scheme to fit what’s available. Mallett isn’t the statue some want you to believe, but he is going to need to be predominantly a pocket passer. He’s adept at play action which is a positive considering Seattle’s keenness to run the ball and although he has played in a well drilled Bobby Petrino scheme at Arkansas, he has much more experience of controlling an offense and making reads compared to most rookies.

People like to point to the failures of Brian Brohm (another Petrino project) as a reason why Mallett will fail. I would counter by saying Brohm was a much more limited talent.

Essentially it sums up the difficulty in projecting what Seattle will do. Mallett to a large degree would make sense, yet I understand why the Seahawks could pass.

There may be an element of trial and error in finding the long term successor at quarterback. It could take a couple of failed shots to get there. The only way the Seahawks will get their chance at an uncut diamond like Andrew Luck is if they are bad enough to be the worst team in the NFL – something that will prove difficult to achieve in a poor quality NFC West.

When you’re selecting in the teens or the twenties, you have to look at the prospects big on talent but maybe with a few extra wrinkles. Taking numerous chances on quarterbacks in an attempt to find ‘the one’ might pay dividends in the end.

ESPN’s Mel Kiper on Cam Newton and Jake Locker:

I think Kiper makes some very valid points on both prospects. It took me 6-7 Auburn games during the season to appreciate Newton fully, but I came to realise he’s an under rated passer with immense potential. I also feel after watching Jake Locker several times that he deserves a second round grade at best.

I still think both will be high first round picks though.

The reasons are simple – this is a quarterback league. Both prospects have high ceilings. There are many teams in this league with needs at quarterback and little opportunity to fill those gaps with free agency unlikely to take place due to the CBA problems.

I suspect Newton will be admired by most teams as long as several off the field questions can be answered, while Locker will have some select favorites. We know Mike Shanahan liked Locker last year and it still looks like a perfect match based on scheme. Washington didn’t bench Donovan McNabb lightly and it seems almost certain they will draft a quarterback.

The Redskins cannot expect Locker to last until round two and like Tim Tebow last year I suspect the Huskies QB will reach a point in round one that is his lowest exit route (maybe Seattle at #25?).

Perhaps Washington makes a small move down from the #10 spot and still drafts Locker? Either way I think it will happen unless someone moves ahead of Washington – a scenario which still keeps Locker in the top half of round one. Even with no interest from the Redskins there are enough alternatives (Tennessee, Minnesota, Miami, Seattle) to suspect he won’t suffer the dramatic fall some are predicting.

I accept it’s quite contradictory given I have Mallett dropping out of round one, but that is not due to a lack of talent. Although I agree with Kiper’s assessment of Locker and those that have questioned his accuracy, technique and lack of production – I still think he finds a home in round one come April.


  1. Mike

    I really can’t see us passing up on Locker if he is available at 25. If the attitude and non-football related issues are true or even appear to be true about Mallett, I can definitely see Carroll passing up on him at 25. That stuff is too important to him.

  2. Brian

    For the past four drafts I’ve felt that we really needed to look at drafting a QB high, and it feels weird to be taking the opposite track now that we are basically in the position of being forced to draft a quarterback because we’ve put off finding a replacement for Hasselbeck for too long.

    But it’s precisely because we are being forced to draft a QB that I’m concerned about drafting one. Historically, teams that draft a franchise QB because they need one don’t do very well at it. Even in the case of Sam Bradford people are forgetting that the Rams drafted elsewhere with high draft picks for several years before they had an opportunity to draft the guy they really wanted.

    If the Seahawk’s scouts think Ryan Mallett is a pro bowl level player I have no problem taking him. But if they think he’s a surly, substance-abusing version of Derek Anderson I don’t want to draft him just because we need a franchise QB. I’d rather suffer mediocre quarterbacking from Charlie Whitehurst for the next two years while we stock up on talent elsewhere and wait for a guy we really like to fall to us.

    • Brandon Adams

      But did the Rams really pass on QB’s because they didn’t see any good fits, or because they just over-valued other positions and were foolishly waiting for Marc Bulger to re-emerge?

    • Rob

      The Rams are a bad example. They passed on Matt Ryan and Mark Sanchez because they had Bulger signed to this huge deal and they gambled that he’d have a rennaissance that never came. Eventually their hand was forced because it’d been what – three years? – since Bulger’s last evern average performance.

      They essentially allowed themselves to become the worst team in the NFL before drafting a quarterback and low and behold when they finally do pull the trigger they start winning and the ‘talent’ they accumulated elsewhere suddenly starts to show some life. The Seahawks cannot use them as a blue print. Atlanta became good quickly (and so did Tampa Bay) by getting the QB and building around them. That is a much more preferable way forward.

      • Brian

        First round QB’s from past 10 drafts:

        Chad Pennington
        Michael Vick
        David Carr (Bust)
        Joey Harrington (Bust)
        Patrick Ramsey (Bust)
        Carson Palmer
        Byron Leftwich (Quasi-Bust; wasn’t terrible but didn’t last long as a starter)
        Kyle Boller (Bust)
        Rex Grossman (Bust)
        Eli Manning
        Philip Rivers
        Ben Roethlisberger
        J. P. Losman (Quasi-Bust; it’s hard to criticize him when he plays for the Bills)
        Alex Smith (Bust)
        Aaron Rodgers
        Jason Campbell (Bust)
        Vince Young (Quasi-Bust; one pro bowl, but hasn’t developed enough as a passer)
        Matt Leinart (Bust)
        Jay Cutler
        JaMarcus Russell (Bust)
        Brady Quinn (Bust)
        Matt Ryan
        Joe Flacco
        Matt Stafford (Quasi-Bust; too early to completely condemn him, but he’s always injured)
        Mark Sanchez
        Josh Freeman

        46% of them worked out and 54% didn’t. That squares with the 42% success rate for 1st round QB’s I saw in an article from a few years ago. The failure rate is MUCH higher than most people think it is. (I’m not saying you don’t understand that Rob; just that most casual fans don’t realize that the MAJORITY of first round QB’s end up as busts.)

        If we agree that this year’s QB class looks weaker than most, and that the best of those project QB’s will be long gone by the time we pick someone at 25, the chance of success looks very low (maybe 20% ?) to me. At least in a vacuum without talking about a particular player.

        Again, I have no objection to taking a QB high. I thought the Seahawks should have picked up Josh Freeman last year in the first (which seems wise now) and then when we passed on him I thought we should have taken Jimmy Clausen in the second (which now seems much less wise.) I just don’t think we should draft someone we don’t really believe in. If our front office thinks think Jake Locker will probably be a bust, I think we have to pass on him despite our need at QB.

        As for the Rams, I am positive that Steve Spagnuolo and the Rams FO considered drafting Sanchez in 2009, but only wanted to do it if they could trade down. They don’t seem to have believed that Bulger was a good option. But they didn’t think Sanchez was worthy of drafting at #2, whereas they later thought Bradford was worth drafting first.

        • plyka

          Having a 50% chance of finding the QB of the future is a HUGE positive, not a negative. I thought the percentage was much lower. In fact, it’s around 50%, but there is also a good possibility of hitting the jackpot and finding a true elite QB, which makes it all better.

          Secondly, your creation of the 20% figure is from where? You can really just make up numbers out of thin air now. Also, you just assume this year is weaker than year’s past, which is another contradiction with the overall tone of your post which was FACTUAL. How many of the prior drafts “felt” weak but still contributed to the 50% figure?

          • Brian

            I agree that a 50/50 shot is worth taking, hence my interest in drafting Freeman last year.

            The problem is that the two most likely QB’s we could draft this year both have major red flags, and appear to have a much lower chance than 50%. The 45% success rate is for the best prospects in an average draft. Locker and Mallet seem (to me) to be lesser prospects in a weak QB draft. They are basically second round value players.

            Since 1991 when Brett Favre was taken in the second round, there have been 19 second round QB’s drafted and the only franchise guy out of those 19 is Drew Brees, who slipped because he was considered too short.

            It’s certainly true that I am just speculating with the 20% number, but the reality is that any kind of projection of what someone will do before they even play one game in the league is speculation.

          • Meat

            Yeah, a 50percent chance is great! Unfortunately that will vary each year.. We may not see that type of chance this year….too bad I magic 8 balls are bogus. 🙁

        • Rob

          I think 46% is a very positive percentage. Did we expect to see that the majority of QB prospects worked out? The draft remains a lottery and that percentage is very good considering the real importance of the position. I’d take a 50/50 chance of landing a franchise QB. I’d argue against some of your busts too – Grossman might not be a good QB but he was drafted in the 20’s and made a Super Bowl. Matt Stafford is two years into his career and has had some injuries – but the Lions have ignored drafting a LT. Circumstance plays a part as much as anything, which you note for guys like Losman.

          This is not a weaker QB class than most. There are (IMO) four legitimate quarterbacks that could go in round one and three of them absolutely deserve a first round grade (Newton, Gabbert, Mallett). Does that mean they’ll work out? No – but then you cant make that guarantee about any player at any position.

          And rest assured the team won’t draft someone they don’t believe in, I don’t think that has ever been suggested. Need is recognised, but nobody wants the team to be reckless.

          The Rams are not a cash rich team and Bulger’s deal dictated their decisions. They needed to cut their losses but refused to do so because of the contract. As soon as financially viable they moved on. That’s not a good way to run a franchise and they are fortunate they were bad enough in a year when Sam Bradford was there – having already passed on Matt Ryan, Mark Sanchez and Josh Freeman. That franchise turned themselves into a laughing stock to get into that position and it’s something the Seahawks should not be looking to emulate.

  3. chuck

    I think if there is no free agent qb signed, then carrol would use his advantage of knowing the qb’s from a recruiting based knowledge that other teams may not know.I think carrols picks of qb ‘s that he recruited to usc were pretty good considering how many are succesful at the pro level.even the back ups he had are pretty good.knowing how much they paid for a chance at whitehurst,I think they might feel a sense of urgency.even if they dont go for a qb, I have the upmost faith in the how carrol/ snyder will do in the draft,considering how well they did the first time, plus IT ISNT RUSKEL MAKING ANY DECISIONS

  4. TJ

    If Locker and Mallett are both available at #25, I think Carroll chooses Locker. In Carroll’s final season at USC he said that he thought Locker was the best Pac 10 QB he had seen during his time there. He marveled at his athleticism, competitiveness (something Carroll demands) and leadership. With all the questions surrounding Locker’s readiness for the NFL, I can’t see Washington pulling the trigger at #10. I also think that there is a very high likelyhood that the Seahawks trade out of the #25 spot, whether that be a trade down to accumulate more picks or a trade up to target their guy – and I’m not necessarily saying that guy would be Locker.

  5. Ed

    i know he is considered a bust, but he played well when he was put, just wasn’t the new coaches guy. that’s leinart. sign him, go into next season with leinart and whitey. both are young enough to have a future and if they fail there is always qb next year.

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