C.J. Stroud has become the key to the draft.
In the space of about two weeks he’s gone from betting favourite to be picked first overall to an unlikely selection at #2.
Adam Schefter doesn’t think the second quarterback will come off the board until #4. Michael Lombardi said at the weekend he thinks Chris Ballard and the Colts will rank Will Levis ahead of both Stroud and Anthony Richardson due to his greater readiness to start. Some betting markets are now ranking Levis as favourite to be the second QB selected. Chris Mortensen also recently said Levis wouldn’t get out of the top-five — I suspect because he thinks his floor is Indianapolis at #4.
It’s suddenly becoming very difficult to project where Stroud will go and therefore how the top-10 will shake out.
For example, if the Texans are not interested in Stroud at #2 and the Colts prefer Levis, that doesn’t really indicate a strong likelihood of anyone trading up. Indeed, as time goes on, it’s actually being said by people like Schefter that the Texans and Cardinals are going to have a hard time finding a deal.
Let’s say that’s the case. What then? Presumably Arizona goes defense. If Houston does the same and the Colts do take Levis, Stroud would be available at #5.
That would’ve been unthinkable a few weeks ago.
I wonder how fans feel about that prospect? There’s quite an aggressive, anti-QB sentiment among Seahawks fans — especially when it comes to Levis and Richardson. What about Stroud though? Typically seen as the first or second best quarterback in the class and capable of throwing with magnificent touch and accuracy, would even the most ardent QB-sceptics be against using the #5 pick to select him?
If one of the big knocks on Stroud is he needs to work out how to play outside of the Ohio State offense, learn how to make his own reads/adjustments and basically start from scratch — he would get that in Seattle, where there’s no pressure to start.
It would feel like a complete gift to the Seahawks and a truly worthwhile shot to take for the future of the franchise. Anyone who watched that Georgia game could see the magical potential Stroud has. Does he have plenty to work on? Absolutely. Yet it’s not often you get a chance to draft and develop a talent like this.
Personally I think it’d be a great position to be in, choosing between the upside of Stroud or the physical quality of Richardson to bring in and develop. I do think the Seahawks have taken a shine to Richardson in particular — but those thoughts were perhaps brewing when it was assumed Young and Stroud would be the top two picks.
There are also people who insist the Seahawks won’t draft a quarterback at #5. Lance Zierlein, for example, is fairly adamant about it whenever he’s asked. Michael Lombardi says he thinks they’ll take a defensive lineman. We’ve had Peter King’s report this week, noting most of the league expect Jalen Carter to be the fifth pick.
It wouldn’t surprise me if Zierlein’s adamance is warranted. I don’t think the quarterback pro-day visits were some elaborate smokescreen like some have suggested. You do your homework on all of these players. It is true, though, that the Seahawks haven’t done much to address their self-confessed biggest need of addressing the D-line. The Dre’Mont Jones signing was a shot in the arm but their current D-line talent and depth is a major worry.
I’m a little bit concerned that the Seahawks think they’re closer than they are. Bet MGM has them ranked 21st in their Super Bowl odds, level with the Carolina Panthers. People will point to the fact Seattle wasn’t fancied a year ago but fail to acknowledge they had one of the easiest schedules in the league and benefitted from the collapse of the Rams and Cardinals (four out of nine wins).
If the thought process is just add in some talented rookie defenders and bombs away, I think that’ll be incredibly short-sighted. This should be treated as the second year of a process, rather than anything akin to finishing touches. I believe those finishing touches are more likely to come in 12 months time.
For all the talk of ‘impact’ defensive linemen, we’ve seen with several players that it can take 2-3 years to reach your best performance. Travon Walker and Kayvon Thibodeaux weren’t game-wreckers last year and had 3.5 and four sacks respectively. It took Quinnen Williams a long time to adjust to the pro’s.
In Seattle they’ve tended to rotate in young defensive linemen rather than give them a lot of snaps. That might change for a top-five pick but it certainly didn’t for the #40 pick last year, with Boye Mafe losing snaps to Bruce Irvin despite near-identical PFF grades for their play.
I’m wary of #5 being spent on a Tyree Wilson type who doesn’t come flying out of the traps and/or never reaches top-level potential. Meanwhile, the coaches struggle to produce a coherent and consistent defense (as has been the case for a few years now). Meanwhile, Geno Smith plays more like he did in the second half of last season making a minimum cap hit of $31.2m next year a serious question mark.
What happens then? You neither have a great defense or a contracted quarterback on your roster, or a long-term future at that position.
This is why I think it’s incredibly likely the Seahawks will draft a quarterback, it’s just a question of when.
They do, 100%, need to improve their defense. Yet they can’t run the risk of Geno not being a long term option. His end to last season can’t be ignored. He had too many turnover-worthy plays, as noted by Hugh Millen:
Millen raised an interesting point on KJR on Friday. He pointed to a stat provided by PFF listing ‘turnover worthy plays’ by each quarterback. Smith had the second most in the NFL, just behind Josh Allen. Millen also pointed out that Allen had far more ‘explosive’ passing plays and a lot more rushing yards to compensate for his erraticism.
Building on the point, he then noted that when looking at the top-10 quarterbacks — on average 80.6% of their turnover worthy plays had resulted in actual turnovers. In comparison, Geno Smith saw only 48% of his turnover worthy plays actually result in an interception.
If he’d thrown the 80.6% average like the rest of the QB’s in the top-10, he would’ve had 25 picks. Even if he’d had a still well below average 65% — he would’ve led the league in turnovers.
If those turnover-worthy plays translate to real-world turnovers in 2023, it’s a problem. We all appreciate what Geno achieved last year and it was a real feel-good story. Yet it’s far too soon to declare him a bona fide long-term quarterback for this team. They know it too — which is why they have an ‘out’ on his contract next year.
If the Seahawks were forced to cut Smith to avoid his $31.2m salary in 2024, they would be faced with no viable quarterback option (short of re-signing Smith to a much smaller deal) and not having a top-five pick to do much about it. That would be a disaster that too many people are overlooking.
Thus, they need to draft someone who can realistically take over, if needed, in 2024 or 2025. Drew Lock isn’t that someone. He’s on a one-year backup contract. Clearly nobody else was offering him an opportunity to compete to start, or he wouldn’t be back in Seattle. If Smith plays all 17 games next year and simply doesn’t excel to warrant $31.2m, you’re not turning to Lock. Good luck selling that to the fanbase.
Neither can you bank on the next quarterback class providing the answer. Sometimes I think people just assume it’s easy to get the next big name being touted. There are only two ways to get them. Be bad enough to pick in the top-two or trade all of your stock for the next few years to move up (if you can even find a willing seller). Neither is appealing, especially when you already own a top-five pick this year.
A younger player with upside and potential is required as a longer term alternative to Smith. It’s just whether they spend the #5 pick on that role. I would 100% do it. I would rather invest more in a talented player than settle on a cheaper, lesser prospect. There’s no middle-class in this draft at quarterback. Anyone hoping for a mid-round or late-round flier, good luck with that. It’s basically a one-man option in Dorian Thompson-Robinson and I’m not convinced DTR, as much as I enjoyed watching him at UCLA, is a future starter in the league.
However, I can well imagine the Seahawks avoiding the quarterbacks at #5 in preference of taking a defender, yet still making sure they take a quarterback early.
It’s why I think there’s a very realistic possibility they go defense at #5 — irrespective of Stroud or Richardson being available — then take Hendon Hooker at the top of round two, or by trading back into the late first.
I would much prefer to take Stroud or Richardson (or Levis) and then add a defender in the 20’s if that’s the case. I appreciate Hooker has some appealing traits and excellent character — but that offense slays me every time. His highlights video is borderline farcical the number of times the commentator uses the words ‘wide open’ just as a throw is landing in the receiver’s hands.
Then there’s the age, the injury and I just don’t think he’s on the same level as the top-four. It’s not even that close for me. Hooker is akin to an Andy Dalton type and I would prefer to shoot for better than that.
I think it’s realistic though. I think they might do it. They need a young QB on this roster who is cheap, contracted for years and capable of developing to be a potential starter in 2024 or 2025 because there’s simply no guarantee you’ll want to pay Geno Smith $30m in either year.
They need an insurance plan. If they’re unwilling to make the #5 pick an insurance plan, it basically leaves Hooker.
So what do I think they’ll do?
I think they’ll be shaped by what happens between picks #1-4. I’ve thought for weeks that if Will Anderson lasts to #5 they’ll take him. In that situation, it increases the chances of them going in for Hooker — if available — later on. If Anderson is gone, I think they might pivot to a quarterback at #5 and then select a talented defender at #20 and/or #37.
This feels realistic. A couple of weeks ago many thought it possible the top-four could be all quarterbacks. Or, at the very least, three quarterbacks would go before Seattle’s pick. That made it viable Anderson could last. If that’s no longer the case, it seems logical they would at least consider the quarterbacks.
Of course many are just assuming the Seahawks will take Jalen Carter and that’s that. If they do, as I keep saying, I will own up to the fact I don’t think it will happen.
I was just thinking today, while reading a joint-mock draft between Mel Kiper and Todd McShay. You’re the Seahawks. You’ve drafted Carter. You’ve guaranteed him $30m the moment you select him. Then after mini-camp, you’re going to wave him off and say, ‘see you in training camp’.
How can you do that?
Only a year ago we highlighted how he identified conditioning as a priority last April, only to do nothing about it. As we saw at his pro-day and in the Ohio State and LSU games, his conditioning isn’t great. That’s probably an understatement. I’m going to guess he’s not been able to do much about that while travelling the country taking official visits over the last two weeks.
You need him in the gym during that mini-camp to training camp period. You need him watching his diet. Contrary to what people think, you can’t force him to stay in Seattle. You can’t force current or ex-players to babysit him. You can’t force him into the gym or to eat properly. He’ll be a free man, and rightly so, plus he’ll be newly minted thanks to the NFL contract that’s coming his way.
This is on top of the reported concerns over practise habits, how he takes to coaching, the pattern of mistakes made and the fact quotes like this, from anonymous scouts courtesy of Bob McGinn, don’t hint at a typical Pete Carroll player:
“Doesn’t play hard like (Devante) Wyatt. That dude gave it his all. Carter’s motor runs hot and cold. He’s disruptive, but not overly productive. He’s a worrier for me. A lot of these Georgia dudes aren’t as good individually as they were as a whole. Travon Walker. They all were overrated because of how dominant that D was.” Was a 5-star recruit from Warren Sapp’s hometown of Apopka, Fla. “Best player in the draft but he’s lazy,” a third scout said. “They put him on the treadmill damn near every day. He doesn’t love football, doesn’t love the weight room. Horrible family background. Not a leader. He’s phenomenally talented. He’s going to run like a deer. He’s the epitome of star or bust.”
And just like that, I’ve started talking about Jalen Carter again.
I think it’s unavoidable for another eight days while ever the talk of Seattle taking him is rife accompanied by the frustration that he is so talented and yet has the biggest list of concerns to consider I can ever recall.
That’s why I think some teams (Philadelphia) will salivate at taking the risk, knowing it’s a shot to nothing, while others (Arizona, Seattle, Las Vegas) are probably in a different place.
While most national mocks are pairing the Seahawks with Carter, Peter Schrager had them passing on him in his mock draft — where Seattle takes Anthony Richardson instead:
“The Seahawks love Geno Smith, and there’s no doubt he’s the man for 2023. But with two picks in the top 20, they can go with a quarterback here — after all, they surely don’t plan on picking in the top five again anytime soon. If another QB-needy team doesn’t leapfrog them, the ‘Hawks can secure a signal-caller for the future. Seattle has time to get Richardson in the room with coordinator Shane Waldron so that he can learn the offense.”
He also notes with Carter, who was taken sixth overall by the Lions:
“Elite player whose off-field/character questions could be a red flag for some teams.”
I appreciate the argument some people make that his talent keeps him in your mind because if it works out, the upside is incredible. I just think you have to be honest with yourself sometimes and be realistic. People say he’s Aaron Donald without realising Aaron Donald has an elite work-ethic and commitment to greatness. If Carter won’t be coached, won’t put the effort in and won’t work on his conditioning — if he essentially doesn’t love the game enough to be ‘pissed off for greatness’ — he’ll just be a wasted pick or someone who flashes from time to time. There are tons of fantastically talented players who never amount to anything because they aren’t willing to do what is common among all the greats — outwork your peers.
It’s why I think if Anderson is gone they’ll pivot to the QB’s at #5 then attack the defense with their nine remaining picks. If I’m totally wrong, and they are prepared to take Carter at #5, I’d probably put money on them targeting Hooker at some point.
I’ve never been against a defensive pick at #5. I know they have to improve their defense. We all do.
They still can’t go into next year without a long-term option at quarterback. They need someone in the background who can replace Geno Smith if needed. Otherwise they face a not unrealistic prospect of paying a quarterback $31.2m for average play, or having to part ways and having no contracted QB on the roster.
If they find themselves in that position next year, two years after the Russell Wilson trade, it would be a calamity. They wouldn’t be moving forward. They’d have a ton of question marks. Especially if the defense gets big investment and doesn’t reach a top level, which has to be a slight fear given the state of the defense since the LOB departed.
They need to invest in both areas — D-line and quarterback — to set this team up for the future. With 10 picks, that should be achievable.
They created the perfect baton-passing process with Geno’s contract. Now it’s time to capitalise on it.
If Anderson is off the board by #5 — but Stroud and Richardson are there — I personally hope they’re willing to go quarterback then defense at #20, #37 or both.
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