Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Seattle's draft consequences

Whoever the Seahawks select with the fourth overall pick, it's likely to have some consequences to the current roster. Whether it shows a long term plan to replace an ageing veteran or simply the end of the road for a fringe backup - the amount of money involved in the first round will no doubt lead to some casualties. Ahead of this week's combine, we look at what some of the consequences may be as the Seahawks look to hit back from a 4-12 season.
To read the rest of the article, click here.

The pick is... Matt Stafford / Mark Sanchez (QB)
Consequences: If the Seahawks select a quarter back with their first round pick it's a statement of intent from the franchise. Teams regularly look for 'their own guy' at quarter back after seeing a change at head coach or offensive coordinator. A younger player can be moulded how you want especially if you plan on making significant changes to the playbook and scheme. The Seahawks have already signalled their intentions to keep Matt Hasselbeck as the team's starter for 2009, but will they look for a future replacement? Hasselbeck will be 34 in September and struggled with an injured back during most of the 2008 season. Stafford or Sanchez, if picked, would present the long term future for the Seahawks. However, with the money involved - the long term would likely become the short term very quickly.

The pick is... Michael Crabtree (WR)
Consequences: After suffering an injury plagued season at the receiver position in 2008, Tim Ruskell has already stated his desire to avoid a similar situation in the future. Crabtree is being touted by many as a future Seahawk and his inclusion into the roster could suggest a lack of faith in the teams young receivers. During the 2008 training camp, Seattle coaches regularly talked up the potential of receivers such as Courtney Taylor, Logan Payne, Ben Obomanu and Jordan Kent. Further evidence was shown in pre-season with some eye catching performances.

When the 'Hawks suffered a crisis losing Nate Burleson to injured reserve in week one (and with Deion Branch and Bobby Engram already missing) it was time for the unproven guys to step up. Obomanu was also added to I.R. during pre-season and he was quickly joined by Logan Payne. Kent had few opportunities but failed to make an impression, whilst Taylor was generally criticised for his inability to get open.

Drafting a receiver like Michael Crabtree will suggest that despite early promise, Seattle will not be holding out too much hope for this group - possibly leading to cuts. Both Branch and Burleson will be given the chance to get healthy and the team also has the option to pursue free agent Bobby Engram. Big name free agents such as T.J. Houshmanzadeh are also on the market. Mike Hass, a former Biletnikoff winner like Crabtree, was recently signed to compete for a roster spot. The position will be focused upon during the off season and this may lead to some changes.

The pick is... Jason Smith/Michael Oher/Eugene Monroe (OT)
Consequences: Many fans and pundits are championing taking an offensive tackle with the fourth overall pick. Although no one prospect stands out, it is a deep class and Seattle will have the opportunity to grab a long term addition to their offensive line. Walter Jones recently underwent micro fracture surgery on his left knee. This is a notorious act that has often spelled the beginning of the end for a sportsman's career. Jones' knee will be under scrutiny all the way to training camp as he hopes to return for a 13th season.

Taking a left tackle with the fourth overall pick would secure the position in case Jones is unable to make a full recovery. In the worst case scenario - he has to retire before or during the 2009 season - the Seahawks would be prepared for the situation. It would also be a sign that Seattle do no expect the future hall of famer to be a long term fixture on the roster. At 35 years of age he's certainly approaching retirement consideration and as with the quarter back discussion earlier, you don't pay a rookie $10m a year to sit on the bench for a few seasons.

Selecting a tackle won't just affect Walter Jones however. When the team re-signed Sean Locklear in 2008 to a big £32m contract they purposely included incentives for playing at left tackle. The deal suggested the team view Locklear as the long term answer to the blind side position. Drafting a rookie LT would almost certainly show the team have given up on that proposition, keeping Locklear on the right hand side indefinitely.

The pick is... Malcolm Jenkins (CB)
Consequences: Seattle drafted corner backs with their first picks in 2006 and 2007 (Kelly Jennings & Josh Wilson). Jennings began the 2008 season starting alongside Marcus Trufant but was benched after a series of errors. Wilson got the chance to start and although inconsistent at times, showed enough playmaking ability to warrant greater consideration as a starter in 2009.

By selecting a corner back such as Malcolm Jenkins in the first round, it would almost certainly bring an end to Jennings career in Seattle and jeopardise Wilson's future in the process. Considering both corner's were taken by current GM Tim Ruskell, it would be a surprise to see the Seahawks so blatantly suggest they had 'made mistakes' by drafting yet another corner back. The position gained further attention when Marcus Trufant was locked up to a $50.2m deal last off season. Still, if the team feel Jenkins presents that 'can't miss' value with the fourth overall pick - there may be no room for sentiment.

Jenkins does come from a big school, is a four year starter and offers a high character personality - all Ruskell traits. Jennings has two years left on his contract, but could be a potential cut if the team drafts another corner back with a high pick.

The pick is... Chris 'Beanie' Wells / Knowshon Moreno (RB)
Consequences: Many were suprised when Tim Ruskell signed both Julius Jones and TJ Duckett in free agency last year. Both experienced restricted first seasons in Seattle, with Mike Holmgren reluctant to use a multi-back system. He instead regularly went with 'the hot hand' and Duckett was sparingly used in short yardage situations. Maurice Morris is a free agent this year and could move away from the team that drafted him back in 2002. Leonard Weaver, a talented RB or FB, is another free agent who will test the market.

Should the Seahawks draft a running back in the first round and inherit the cost that comes with such a pick, there may be further changes. It would be difficult to cut either Duckett or Jones, so they will likely remain on the roster in 2009. However, without a rookie to compete both will see an increase in carries and become a focal point of Greg Knapp's new offense.

If a Beanie Wells or Knowshon Moreno arrives on the scene it could keep Duckett on short yardage duties and Jones may experience another frustrating season of sharing the load. Drafting a rookie may also make things ominous for 7th round pick Justin Forsett.


Chris (Seattle) said...

Well, it appears NFL.com has writers that read a lot of Todd Mcshay: http://www.nfl.com/combine/story?id=09000d5d80ec895c&template=with-video-with-comments&confirm=true. Right down to Raji to us and Crabtree falling to the Raiders.

Rob Staton said...

Thanks for the link Chris,

It doesn't take much research to discover Raji is an unlikely fit in Seattle. I'm suprised how many people still send him to the Seahawks in mock drafts, I'd be stunned if that was the pick on draft day.

War_Hawk said...

How do you feel about DT 'Ziggy' Hood in the 2nd-3rd?

Rob Staton said...

I'll admit that my knowledge of Hood is limited, but I'll consult a more 'expert' opinion and promise to have a response asap War Hawk. Keep checking the blog and I'll put an article up about it for you.

I've put a link for you at the bottom of this message. It's a Q&A Chris Steuber held with Hood recently and gives a bit more insight into his personality. Tim Ruskell has shown an ability to find DT's in the middle rounds (Mebane was one of his best moves as GM and I think Red Bryant, if he can stay healthy, could be another steal from 2008). I would be suprised if Seattle took him in the 2nd round because there will be a lot of value at that spot with prospects dropping from the first round. However, the Seahawks might look to trade down a few spots in the 2nd, reclaim the 5th rounder they lost to Denver and then Hood becomes a more realistic option. He could fall to the top of the third round as another option.


War_Hawk said...

Thanks Rob!

War_Hawk said...

Thanks Rob!

fountaindale said...

I'd like to hear your opinions on Ray Willis, Rob Sims, and Chris Spencer and how they fit Knapp's blocking schemes. Right now I'd say take Jenkins first pick and Mack/Unger with the second pick. Thanks.

Rob Staton said...

Hi fountaindale,

Willis is a free agent so we'll have to wait and see if he remains with the team. Sims and Spencer will both be UFA's next off season so they have to prove their ability to stay healthy and be productive. It'll be interesting to see how they fit into the zone blocking scheme. Mike Solari introduced a lot of the ideologies last year so it's not entirely foreign to the team.

I am a big fan of Alex Mack (C/G, California). He doesn't necessarily fit the description of the stereotypical zone blocking linemen, but he has some athleticism and is intelligent enough to learn. I would be suprised if the team selected Malcolm Jenkins. They have invested a lot of money and picks into the CB position already and there are big question marks about Jenkins recovery speed. I expect him to adjust to safety in the pro's because it matches his skill set, but even then I need to see him improve his strength and ability to finish a tackle quicker. It'd be a lot of money to invest into a project.

fountaindale said...

Thanks for your comments Rob. If
Jenkins isn't the answer and Arizona resigns Bolden, how do we compete with Bolden/Fitzgerald considering our smallish CBs?

Rob Staton said...

I don't think the team have to take any drastic measures. They coasted to victory over Arizona at Qwest Field in 2007 and weren't out played in the two games in 2008. Also, I'm not sure there's a corner back out there who can cover Fitzgerald at the moment, he's just too good. The best way to stop the Cardinals is to improve the pass rush and cut off the supply to Fitzgerald and Boldin. Getting Patrick Kerney healthy has to be a priority and the same can be said for Red Bryant. They could bring in another DT in at some stage if Rocky Bernard leaves the team. Pressure from the front is the best way to minimise the Cardinals passing threat.

Anonymous said...

I've noticed there hasn't been much speculation about Andre Smith as a possible fourth pick -- he has fallen quickly on a lot of boards. Do you have any thoughts as to whether Seattle could go in that direction? Smith could play immediately at guard, or he could slide to RT if Jones were unable to play (with Locklear moving to LT). I have to admit, I like the thought of Ducket or J. Jones running behind a real masher. Plus, a guard would come cheaper than a WR at the fourth pick (or perhaps lower if they can trade down), possibly giving the Hawks more flexibility to go after a free agent like Houshmanzadeh. Any thoughts about such a scenario?

Rob Staton said...

Hi Anonymous,

Smith is a really interesting prospect. A few weeks ago he was being touted as a top two pick but his stock has fallen dramatically. There are legitimate concerns about his ability against the speed rush - which limits his ability to play LT. As you say, he's likely to play RT or G in the NFL.

I personally believe Locklear will be the team's long term plan at LT so essentially, there could be a gap at RT. Ray Willis may or may not return, but he'll hit free agency and might get a better deal somewhere else.

But here's the issue with Smith. He may never work out at tackle - left or right side. Some people have compared him to Leonard Davis. If the Seahawks passed up the chance on Steve Hutchinson for less, why would you spend $10m a year for a guard?

He also needs to show he can keep his weight down. We'll be using a blocking scheme that really needs your O-line to be nimble. Smith is more of a mauler. He's shown he can be athletic, but again he needs that weight to be kept down...down...down.

Smith has a lot of upside and I can see some benefits to taking him. If you truly believe you can get a tackle out of him, then he presents good value and can fit in at guard for now before switching over to the RT spot. But that's something the team need to look into, because they won't sign a guard in the top 10.