“They need to add a game-wrecker”
I’ve seen people say this a few times since the Raiders game.
If only it were that easy.
This is partly the problem with the draft. If you don’t have intimate knowledge of a class, it’s easy to be swayed by mainstream opinion (which isn’t always reliable).
I’m not convinced there’s an obvious ‘game-wrecker’ in the 2023 group. A player who might be, Pittsburgh’s Calijah Kancey, is an afterthought among most draft analysts purely due to his size.
Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter is a very good player and has shown game-wrecking potential in a couple of games since returning from injury. I’m not convinced, however, that we’re seeing someone who can crash the interior with consistency to truly ‘wreck games’. Certainly his numbers this year — two sacks and five TFL’s in 10 games — don’t suggest we’re talking about an unstoppable force.
As a point of comparison, Quinnen Williams had eight sacks and 19.5 TFL’s in his final year at Alabama (15 games).
Will Anderson, meanwhile, has endured a mixed season. After taking college football by storm in 2021 he hasn’t been able to rekindle that form this year. He’s had some really rough games, such as the outing at Tennessee where he was manhandled by Darnell Wright.
Teams will spend considerable time working out how a player with an astonishing 31 TFL’s and 17.5 sacks a year ago only has 17 TFL’s and 10 sacks in 2022.
Let’s be clear — those are still good numbers. They are far better than the other, somewhat overrated defensive linemen eligible for the draft. It’s still a reduction though and he hasn’t been the game-wrecking force we saw last season.
We also need to be clear about what Anderson is. He’s listed at 6-4 and 243lbs. That is a lot smaller than your typical game-wrecking EDGE. For example, Joey Bosa is 269lbs. Nick Bosa is 266lbs. Myles Garrett is 272lbs. They are all considerably heavier than Anderson — and his frame looks relatively maxed out already.
The hope has to be that he can be a Von Miller type. The combine, therefore, will be crucial. Miller weighed 246lbs at the 2011 combine and ran a 4.53 forty, a 4.06 short shuttle, a 6.70 three cone and jumped a 37 inch vertical. These are incredible numbers. Anderson will need to emulate Miller to truly warrant the comparison.
He’s still a quality player. Both Carter and Anderson, within this class, deserve to go in the top-five. Either would be a good pick for Seattle and present a worthy chance to take. But I don’t feel either are shoe-ins in the way the Bosa brothers or Garrett were. It also won’t be a surprise if both experience significant growing pains.
In many ways saying ‘draft a game-wrecker’ is similar to saying ‘draft a franchise quarterback’. It’s not easy to win the jackpot.
Look at the pass rushers drafted in the top-10 between 2017-2021:
2017 — Solomon Thomas
Genuinely looked the part at Stanford, was drafted third overall and was a complete and total bust.
2018 — Bradley Chubb
Recently traded by Denver to Miami, Chubb is a good not great player and while certainly offering plus ability off the edge, he’s not a particularly feared ‘game-wrecker’.
2019 — Nick Bosa, Quinnen Williams, Clelin Ferrell, Josh Allen, Ed Oliver
Bosa is unquestionably one of the best in the game. Williams has needed all four years of his rookie contract to realise his potential and now looks legit. Ferrell was a bust, while Allen and Oliver are fairly middling players.
2020 — Chase Young
Injuries have stalled Young’s career but there wasn’t that much evidence of ‘game-wrecking’ potential when he was on the field. He feels more like a player who can become Bradley Chubb rather than Nick Bosa.
2021 — None
As we can see, the hit-rate isn’t good. It’s worse than the top-10 quarterbacks drafted that have become excellent players (Mahomes, Allen, Burrow, Tagovailoa, Herbert). You also have players who have flashed franchise potential (Murray) and players who could yet reach that level (Lawrence).
It is incredibly hard to find a game-wrecking defensive lineman. Often when you get one it’s through sheer luck. Teams passing on Aaron Donald due to his size. Maxx Crosby lasting to round four. Nobody realising Micah Parsons could play the edge because he focused on middle linebacker at Penn State. T.J. Watt inexplicably lasting until the late first round.
Something similar might happen in 2023 with Kancey, if his immense talent and production translates to the next level. He has, after all, helped Pittsburgh to 45 sacks in 2022 — the most in college football. I’m not sure many people realise that.
Yet it will be difficult for the Seahawks to find the next great superstar defensive lineman — even with a top-five pick.
I think that’s something that frankly just needs to be said at this point, amid the growing clamour to ‘just get a star in the draft’. It really is no different than trying to find the next Patrick Mahomes or Joe Burrow, I’m afraid, and there’s little to suggest such a player will be readily available when the Seahawks inevitably benefit from Denver’s miserable situation.
I think there are other things to consider here too. As I touched on last night, this can’t just be a ‘talent’ thing. No team should be conceding 300 total yards to a running back, giving up nearly 600 yards of total offense and nearly 300 rushing yards.
The Seahawks are giving up 388.7 yards a game. They’re on course to smash last season’s unwanted franchise record of conceding 379.1 yards a game. Despite all the scheme and coaching changes — they have regressed as a unit.
Promising players like Darrell Taylor have become total non-factors. They seem incapable of creating pressure. At times it feels like they’re playing without edge rushers. I’m not a X’s and O’s expert but I’ve wondered a couple of times whether the ‘OLB’ responsibilities thrust upon Seattle’s edge players are preventing them from just getting their heads down and having a blast at the quarterback.
The run defense is a shambles, the linebacker play isn’t good (despite what people tell you about Jordyn Brooks, including the Pro Bowl voting). Quandre Diggs is having a rotten season.
Seattle’s defense has been fairly miserable for a number of years but they’re in danger of plumbing new depths. While this is a group that certainly is in need of a talent injection, I’m wondering whether we should rue the fact they can’t draft a well organised scheme or a good defensive coordinator.
After watching the last two games I’m also returning to the thought that if you want to run the Vic Fangio defense, you better hire the man himself. Otherwise you’ll end up with a pale imitation. Or worse — you’ll watch a defense giving up 600 yards to a 3-7 team.
It also has to be said that a reasonable amount has already been spent on this group. L.J. Collier and Jordyn Brooks are both first round picks. They spent two firsts on the injured Jamal Adams. Boye Mafe and Darrell Taylor cost second round picks. Cody Barton cost a third rounder. Poona Ford has the biggest cap hit on the roster this year. They just paid Quandre Diggs a fortune, plus Adams a year ago. Uchenna Nwosu was the most expensive outside free agent they’ve ever signed.
For anyone thinking plunging picks and resource into the unit will be a cure-all — that’s not necessarily going to be the case.
Until they can get the scheme sorted, organised and functioning — with the team at least able to not be a shambles defending the run and rushing the passer — any optimism for the future will be checked somewhat.
I mean, does anyone really want to see Will Anderson essentially reduced to an ineffective role as an OLB within this scheme?
So how do they do move forward? They’ve tried different coaches and ideas. They’ve spent picks. The Head Coach clearly isn’t going anywhere. So how does this work?
This brings us back to the broader outlook for this team. Where exactly are they?
The 2023 draft might be the only time in this window the Seahawks get to use a top-five pick, thanks to the Broncos. How they approach the draft will shape the future of the team and determine so much.
Is Geno Smith good enough to win a Super Bowl? Is he good enough to justify avoiding the quarterback position with a high pick next year?
These are questions we must discuss in more detail.
As the team has been winning and succeeding, it’s been easy to imagine pairing a prolific offense with a better defense and Seattle growing within a muddled NFC.
Yet, as we’ve seen, it’s difficult to draft and create a great defense. It’s not unimaginable to think they could spend high picks on the defense next year (which I’m not opposed to at all) but we see little immediate return for that investment (rookie growing pains) and the team doesn’t really improve from where it is now (6-5). In the meantime, Geno Smith will turn 33 and while it’s quite fun watching him succeed this year on a $3.5m cap hit — how will we feel watching the same kind of results when they’re paying him, say, $30m?
Smith was probably one of the few bright spots yesterday against the Raiders but it was also clear he was throwing a few more riskier passes and he was responsible for an interception and possibly a fumble on a botched run/pass option.
The Seahawks undoubtedly will want to keep Smith beyond this year unless he implodes down the stretch. Yet they’re going to have a once in a generation (for this franchise) opportunity to pick very, very early in round one — with a reasonable quarterback class on deck.
If we take the view that perhaps this team isn’t as close to contention as we thought three weeks ago — it might be a wise decision to invest in a potential heir apparent to Smith and try to find defensive solutions with your other picks.
The ‘Alex Smith-Patrick Mahomes’ transition plan, if you will.
Such a decision might be thrust upon Seattle anyway.
The current top four in the draft are:
#3 Detroit (via Rams)
#4 Seahawks (via Broncos)
On first viewing it’s easy to assume the Texans and Lions will both draft quarterbacks, leaving one of Jalen Carter or Will Anderson for the Seahawks.
I’m not so sure about that.
For starters — C.J. Stroud has not had the kind of year to justify the almost unchecked praise he receives on the internet. I think it’s possible teams will view him with suspicion mixed with intrigue. He has the arm talent for sure — but like all Ohio State quarterbacks he has been babied by the scheme and the talent around him. We hear all about Will Levis’ 10 interceptions (one of which was a clear sack/fumble against Florida) but Stroud has thrown six picks in a much better environment — with better weapons, easier opponents and superior protection.
Levis himself has not had a fun time this season. Kentucky’s O-line has been an abomination. They’ve given up 3.5 sacks a game — ninth most in college football. That’s with a recent improvement too — that number was nearer the 4-5 sacks per game mark a few weeks ago.
Here are some important comparisons as you form your own opinions on the quarterbacks in this draft…
Sacks conceded per-game in 2022:
Oregon — 0.4
Washington — 0.5
Georgia — 0.5
Ohio State — 0.7
Florida — 1.3
Alabama — 1.5
Tennessee — 1.9
Kentucky — 3.5
Of course, stuff like this rarely gets mentioned in the media. It’s an important statistic to know, along with the schemes these teams use. For example — put Michael Penix Jr behind Kentucky’s O-line and let’s see how he gets on. Ditto Bryce Young for that matter. I’m sure Will Levis would’ve enjoyed some of those wide open throws Penix Jr managed in the Apple Cup, plus the half-field read offense. And that’s not to diminish Penix Jr, who has a great arm and has achieved great things this year. But an apples for apples comparison you cannot make between all the signal callers entering the league. Their environments, schemes and situations are all terribly different.
Even so — Levis has no momentum going into draft season, unless you want to count momentum moving him into the medical room. He’s played with shoulder and foot injuries all year due to the battering he’s received. I still think he will be the first quarterback taken due to his extreme physical skills, experience in a pro-offense and winning character but it’s hardly a shoe-in. Neither is it a slam dunk he will become the next Justin Herbert or Josh Allen, as some are suggesting he could be.
Bryce Young is great but as we’ve said a few times — he’s 5-10 and 185lbs. That might not matter to people on the internet but it will matter to GM’s needing to justify their jobs and their owners’ faith and millions of dollars.
Then there’s Anthony Richardson — far from the finished product but an insane physical specimen who at times looks like a Josh Allen/Lamar Jackson hybrid. He could be the #1 pick or the #20 pick next year. I think as the process goes on teams will fall in love with his potential and think less about the slightly inaccurate throws (too many just behind the receiver or making the target work for the ball). Again though — there’s no guarantee that happens.
As such, I wouldn’t be shocked if the Texans decide their best course of action is to let GM Nick Caserio ring his old buddy Jimmy Garoppolo and decide their intention is to roll with a quarterback who has been to one Super Bowl and a separate NFC Championship game while building up their defense. Especially if Carter and Anderson test well at the combine.
Chicago will go defense at #2 given the lack of options on the offensive line. The only thing stopping that would be an attractive trade down option.
What I’m saying is — don’t be shocked if the top two picks are the top two defensive players. You might scoff at that now but try telling anyone a year ago that Malik Willis wasn’t a high first round pick. You’d get the same response.
If the top two defensive linemen are off the board when Seattle picks — I don’t think there’s another you can justify taking that early. Neither do I think trading down to acquire more stock is a great idea either. We’ve seen that show before — getting loads of picks and not doing anything with them. It should only really be a consideration if the compensation includes future firsts — and it’s too early to know how likely that is.
Aside from Anderson, Carter and the top four quarterbacks — the only two players I think you can legitimately justify taking in the top-10 are a running back (Bijan Robinson) and a tight end (Michael Mayer). As such, I think it creates the extra incentive to just stash a QB if the top two defenders are gone.
Frankly, it should be a consideration even if the defenders are available. This is still a quarterback league — even if you do need to support them with complementary offensive and defensive pieces.
Can Geno Smith lead Seattle to the promise land? That’s a big question. If not, you have a duty to ask whether others in the draft can. I do think the likes of Levis and Richardson look like the kind of big, strong, athletic, impressive types John Schneider tends to be wooed by.
That said, the Seahawks need to be able to win in the trenches to play their brand of football. At the moment, they are failing miserably to do that.
Peter Carroll admitted on the radio this morning:
“We didn’t win the line of scrimmage on either side of the ball and that was really devastating.”
At least, it seems, they know where their priorities lie for next off-season. With or without a high quarterback pick thrown in.
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