Why Bruce Irvin is not a reach and other observations

One of nine first round trade-ups.

Written by Kip Earlywine

This was probably the most surprise-filled first round I’ve seen in a while.  Here are a few random thoughts from day one:

“Buyer’s market, indeed.” The funny thing about the term “buyers market” is that it actually means the opposite in a sense.  It refers to a situation where there are more sellers than buyers, and therefore the laws of supply and demand signify lower prices and less overall activity.  A recession can be an example of a buyer’s market.  In most cases, it isn’t easy to sell in a buyer’s market.

It was reported that every team picking between three and sixteen was contacting teams about moving down the day before the draft.  This made a lot of sense as the talent falls off very gradually after the top 6 “elite” talents are off the board.  Trading down has a lot of appeal if you can get a player nearly as good at the lower pick.

Despite the flood of sellers (who presumably wouldn’t be interested in buying), we saw a huge flurry of team’s trading up today.  More surprising still was how many trades took place in the top ten.  Top ten trades are historically uncommon, you might have one or two a year normally.  If you count the RG3 trade from earlier, there was a total of four trades in the top ten, with the Rams trading back twice.  The Seahawks of course had their trade at #12.  There would be four more trades in the rest of the first round, including two by the Patriots, who are notorious for trading down, not up.  All in all, there were 9 first round trades- more than one trade for every four picks.

Maybe the best thing to come out of the NFL labor dispute last year was the sanity that was restored to the rookie pay scale.  Doing so not only eliminated “the loser’s tax”, but it’s clearly encouraging teams to trade up on draft day, which makes the draft more unpredictable, more fun, and helps it move along at a quicker pace.

“Who?!” I’m not sure if I’ve seen a draft with as many surprise first rounders as this one.  Bruce Irvin is one of the biggest draft surprises ever, even moreso than Tyson Alualu from a couple years ago.  Then you had Brandon Weeden, who I’m sure made history as the oldest quarterback ever selected in the first round.  Chandler Jones technically wasn’t a surprise first rounder, but he wasn’t widely mocked in the first round until days before the draft.  AJ Jenkins became a surprise 1st rounder despite the fact that there were three other receivers with first round grades that hadn’t been taken yet.  Jenkins was ranked 99.84 on the consensus big board, meaning that on average (among Mel Kiper, Todd McShay, etc) he was a projected 4th round pick.

As it turns out, Bruce Irvin was not a reach. Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk is reporting that seven teams had Bruce Irvin ranked among their top 15 players.  That figure probably comes pretty close to the number of teams that were considering pass rush help in the first round, so it sounds like Seattle was hardly alone in thinking that Irvin was an elite pass rushing talent.  As I expressed in my draft reaction earlier tonight, my problem with the Irvin pick wasn’t the pick itself but the opportunity cost.  Why not trade down some more?  Well now it’s starting to look like that wasn’t the case after all.  The Jets and Chargers picked in the next three selections after Seattle, and both coveted pass rushers.  If even one of them rated Irvin highly, then Seattle would have been out of luck.  There was also a report by Michael Lombardi that Irvin had been contacted by a team in the bottom third of the first round and told he’d be the pick if available (it’s speculated that team was the 49ers).

In retrospect, it appears Seattle played their hand perfectly.  There wasn’t a single pass rusher taken in the first 11 picks, meaning Seattle had their choice of any pass rusher in the draft, and they still chose Irvin.  But instead of taking him at #12, they moved down just a few spots and added two extra picks, upping their total from 6 to 8.  As I said in my previous post, when taking value out of the equation, the Seahawks added one of two players I liked the most (draft stock aside) in the whole draft.  They added two draft picks doing it, and now it appears the one drawback (reaching) isn’t as true as I initially thought it was.  The Seahawks will probably get their share of “F” grades for what they did, but in retrospect those two moves could end up looking amazing in a few years time.

I guess this whole “reaching for Bruce Irvin” storyline highlights something really important.  Listen, we draftniks like to think we matter, but we really don’t.  NFL front offices don’t adjust their boards based on what Mel Kiper thinks, or what Todd McShay thinks, or what Mike Mayock thinks, and certainly not by what Rob or I think.  Us draftniks have limited time, limited resources, limited experience and knowledge, and while we work hard to project the draft with decent enough success, the fact is that our evaluations just aren’t going to be as high quality as the evaluations by most NFL front offices.  Those guys are professionals.  People like us are just entertaining wannabe’s.

And so when I give my own rankings, or when Mel Kiper and Todd McShay talk about their big boards, all we are really doing is guessing how NFL teams rate players.  That’s all it is and nothing more.  When a guy like Bruce Irvin or AJ Jenkins goes first round, who are we to criticize?  Seriously.  Unless you know how every team rates every player, you’ll be forced to judge based on empty guesstimates, which in the case of Bruce Irvin proved our harsh initial judgments to be completely wrong.

And I’ll say this too- our front office also has a much better feel for the market than we do.  They’ve had a lot of success with letting their own free agents test free agency because they knew the market wasn’t very strong for them.  They’ve used this tactic time and again to motivate players to sign back with Seattle on cheap, short-term contracts.  They also knew before the 2011 draft that Ryan Mallett was in for a big fall and would reach at least the late second round (he was snatched up in the mid third).  NFL teams knew that.  Reporters and draftniks didn’t.  They also knew that James Carpenter was rated highly by multiple teams who picked right behind them (Steelers, Bears, and Packers).  Odds are pretty good that Seattle also had ways of knowing about a few of the other seven teams that ranked Irvin in their top 15, and the Seahawks wisely decided to quit while they were ahead at #15 and take Irvin there.  All that being considered, its awfully hard to complain about how the Seahawks came out today.

Who was day one’s biggest winner? A case could be made for the Colts and the Redskins if their shiny new quarterbacks end up having Hall of Fame careers, but the team draft I wanted to switch places with the most was actually the draft by St. Louis.  I’m sure that somewhere Adam Carolla is getting plastered right now for more than the usual reasons (he’s the only celebrity Rams fan I could think of off the top of my head).  The Rams moved from the 2nd pick to just the 14th pick and added two future firsts and two more present year second rounders for doing so.  Their punishment?  Having to select Michael Brockers, who is arguably the best defensive tackle in the draft.  The Rams now have three picks in the first half of round two, and this is a very good year to be picking in the early second round.  I would much rather have those three early 2nd rounders than the #12 pick.  The NFC West is already becoming a tough division and its future is looking tougher by the minute.

Who was day one’s biggest loser? Most people will probably say the Seahawks, but I have a feeling those remarks will just look entertaining in a couple years time.  I’m going to go outside the box a bit and say that Cleveland was the biggest loser, in the sense that they did the least good with what they were given.

First, they were losers because they lost out to the Redskins for RG3.  That’s strike one.

Next, they sacrificed a very valuable 3rd round pick for a pointless trade up to secure Trent Richardson.  Even if another team jumped up for Richardson at #3, which probably wouldn’t have happened, Cleveland was assured some pretty phenomenal offensive talents in Matt Kalil or Justin Blackmon either way.  A 3rd round pick this year is going to be the rough equivalent of a 2nd round pick last year in terms of talent level, so watching them waste a 3rd rounder for no good reason was the draft equivalent of a rich guy caricature  lighting his Cuban cigar with a hundred dollar bill.  That’s strike two.

Finally, I gave Cleveland my vote for “best day one of the draft” last year when they swung the ridiculous Julio Jones deal, the prize of which was a 2012 first round pick.  Seeing them waste that pick on a quarterback who will be 29 years old midway through his rookie season is not only strike three against them in the 2012 draft, but it makes me want to consider rescinding my imaginary draft trophy I gave them last year too.

Coming up:  players to watch on day two.  Stay tuned.


  1. Hawkspur

    I think there could be a run on RBs this evening. My preference is for Polk, Miller or Turbin. What are the chances of one of those being around at our 75 pick? I’d say Turbin, possibly. I think we need to work out a way to get a 2nd 2nd rounder to pick up a top drawer RB and LB.

    My preference is for L.David followed by one of the runners mentioned above.

  2. Hawkspur

    I also wonder if Browner would be worth anything in a trade if we can somehow pick up Janoris Jenkins.

  3. SeaTown81

    Nice measured article, Kip. A lot of credit for stepping back and taking everything into consideration. It’s so easy for people to overreact and take all of the media hype and pundits opinions to mean too much. And kudos for admitting that none of us really know anything. Draft hype and analysis has become such a crazy deal in the internet age. It’s a ton of fun. But at the end of the day, there’s a reason Kiper, Mayock, and McShay do what they do for a living, as opposed to working for NFL teams. Same goes for the bloggers and rest of us message board experts. 😉

    I’m looking forward to day 2! I am actually more excited than I was for the 1st round. This is where Pete and JS have made their mark so far. The thing I liked the best from day 1 wasthe down with Philly was the added 4th 6th rounders. Those picks could be the next Kam Chancellor or Richard Sherman. And that’s not even mentioning who might be the next Doug Baldwin, later in the draft or undrafted. Now is when the real fun begins!

  4. lemonverbena

    The “we could have gotten him lower” value complaint misses the point: Seattle had already accomplished their trade-down, as you explained, giving them 8 total picks. Not much more could have been gained by moving down again–9 or 10 draft picks wouldn’t all make this team–for the price of maybe missing out on the guy they wanted. And for only moving three picks and having what must have been near-absolute confidence that Irvin would still be there, a 4th and a high 7th (2nd pick in the 7th, from the Colts via Philly) were enough to justify not getting too cute.

  5. woofu

    The fact that Seattle needed a pass rusher and AT FIFTEEN had the pick of the litter, speaks volumes. VOLUMES!!

    The entire NFL said the pass rush products were back end of the 1st.. When you look at the massive trades for players, one could argue teams moved with certainty to get what they wanted and for the first half of the round it was not pass rushers.

    Seattle simply has stated they wanted one and wanted a fast one and wanted one that fit the way they want to play defense, which if you are watching is a bit unique. So whats next?

    Hell if WE know! 🙂

  6. lemonverbena

    * Correction: a high 6th-round pick, not 7th.

  7. glor

    It is interesting to think of how highly the hawks had rated Irvin above all the other pass rushers that were available. This was not a case of having all those guys graded together, otherwise they would have traded down a few more spots and picked up another pick or two. They wanted this guy badly, and that makes me stoked to see him get on the field.

  8. JohnnyBGood

    Word is, the Browns gave up so much to move up because they were in a bidding war for the pick with another team who also wanted the pick to take Richardson. So once again the wisdom of the move ends up depending upon the ultimate ability the player shows in the NFL. If Richardson turns out to be a big time star NFL running back Holmgren will look like a genius. If Richardson average, Holmgren is the goat.

  9. Rugby Lock

    On the way home from my sons swim practice we stopped in for pizza, and beer for me of course, and they had the draft on. I was watching the ticker go by and saw they traded out of twelve to fifteen and picked Irvin. Now thanks to Rob and Kip’s hard work throughout the year I knew who he was so I was glad they got him but thought it was a bit of a reach at fifteen so I was perplexed but not upset. Now reading this article I am more comfortable with the pick. In closing, any FO that can find a Pro-Bowl corner in a CFL reject, a PB safety in the 5th round and a starting PB caliber CB in the 5th deserves the benefit of the doubt.

  10. Madmark

    I had this guy in 3rd round once but his past problems had me dropping him at the beginning of Apirl. It’s not just his speed, but in film, he has quickest first step of any player. Pete tried to recruit him so he has more inside knowlegde than i did and i ‘m going to trust his jugdement.

  11. andy

    The guys not all speed and get off, he can bullrush once in a while and shows surprising strength for “a little guy”! We should have a scary 3rd down pass rush with he and Clem off the edges and Jason Jones at 3tech. Now please get Lavonte David and Miller/Polk today!

  12. The Ancient Mariner

    You mention the Jets and Chargers — don’t forget the Bears, who took Shea McClellin right after SD took Ingram. From what they were saying about McClellin, it sure sounds like Irvin would have been an even better fit for them.

    On a related note, I remember John Morgan saying when PC was hired that he didn’t expect Carroll to go after the players he had at USC but after the ones that got away — the ones he really wanted but lost to other schools. Irvin really seems to fit that category to a T.

  13. Joe The Jarhead

    I agree with much of what you say Kip, but look at it this way: There are MANY NFL FO’s who are absolutely clueless. Would any of us say that Tim Ruskell has any ability to scout or pick premium talent at value positions? So being an NFL FO guy does not equate to some elite talent at evaluating talent. Now, while I had Bruce Irvin as our #43B depending on who we selected at #12, so I am supportive of the skill set, I feel that maybe we bought high and tried to justify it by claiming that we got a sweet deal and stole from under everyone else’s nose. No one else selected Irvin in the top 15, so we’ll never know if we DID get that steal. This FO has a great track record in the post 3rd round, but 1st round not as much. Okung has missed more games than he’s played, and Carpenter was not impressive at all last year. So I feel like this FO has a uniform approach throughout all rounds- finding unconventional diamonds in the rough, but in the first round it’s a little better to go chalk sometimes. I’m just curious why it seemed leading up to the draft that the impression was Seattle didn’t want another Clemons clone but to find a complimentary player, and there we have a second wide 9 rusher who plays best in space. Do we run 2 wide 9’s now? And I feel that New England was the best first round. They had the first round I was hoping we would’ve had

  14. dave crockett

    On CLE…

    I’m a bit less critical of the trade up to secure Richardson than you. There is ample reason for CLE to value Richardson over the other “value” picks at #4.

    **Matt Kalil would have to play RT in CLE, substantially reducing his value.
    **Holmgren may not be convinced about Justin Blackmon. I think CLE likes its young WR corps with Little and Massaquoi. (I recall Holmgren saying that he regretted going so young on offense in SEA, particularly at WR.)

    If CLE doesn’t like Kalil or Blackmon and trades back again then they’re out of the mix for an elite offensive player, but that’s really what they need. They had no big play players. Now they do.

    I’m kinda there with you on Weeden. I don’t like him much. But even then, it’s a pure talent evaluation issue. Holmgren obviously likes him. Only time will tell. I will say one thing in defense of the pick. They’re clearly not concerned about Weeden’s transition to their version of the WCO, probably with good reason. Colt McCoy picked it up fairly quickly after running a similar-enough version of the spread as Weeden in college. McCoy obviously just can’t make every throw.

  15. Mel

    It’s hard to fault the Browns for the trade up to #3. They were clearly in a bidding war for Richardson and gave up more than anyone last night to move up the least. If they didn’t trade up, they would’ve had to choose from Blackmon and Khalil. Blackmon would’ve been an interesting talent, but isn’t on the same level as Richardson. I don’t even know what they would do with Khalil with Thomas on the roster, so they would have to trade back and redirect their draft significantly.

    That Weeden pick…I can’t defend that. Awful pick in the first. Who would pick him before the Browns in the second? I can’t think of a single team…the Jags maybe? It was a disaster of a pick, on par with Gabbert at 10 and Ponder at 12 last year. Only this is worse as Weeden doesn’t have time for growing pains at 29 years old

  16. AlaskaHawk

    You can’t fall in love with a player in the draft. Was Richardson worth giving away draft picks to move up one spot? Was he that much better than the second running back? Only time and injuries will tell.

    Likewise, most people have Irvin as a late second rounder. I love his skill set, but to hear talk about teams grading him in the top 15, well where were those teams? I highly doubt that any other team would have picked him as their number one. That being said, he should be a good fit with the Seahawks. We my as well follow it with another DT or DE since we seem intent on having new players for next year.

    In summary – I wa shocked by the pick. I was happy we got a couple extra draft picks by moving back. I look forward to more shocking picks in the second and third. PC loves his diamonds in the rough!

  17. MeatWad

    Good read Kip. I visited some other sites, (why did I visit Bleacher?!), and nothing but hate. I was thinking that all these comments made little sense, like they know more about football and the talent out there than the Pete and John, or any other orginazation. We know nothing compared to them and it bothered me a bit.

    I hope Ken Norton Jr. will make this kid lead the NFL in sacks in the coming year. 😀

  18. The Donk

    the thing that perplexes me about the Browns trading up a spot is, why not just trade up to the 2nd pick for RGIII when they had the oppurtunity? Trent Richardson is an amazing talent, that I do not deny, but the price of moving up one spot was to much, imo. Cleveland was holding the winning hand predraft, and Holmy got desperate. Weeden in the first is confusing.

  19. The Donk

    also, I love the Bruce Irvin pick. He will have an Earl Thomas like impact for our defense. We just picked up our Clay Matthews/Von Miller..

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