Saturday, 7 February 2009

The wildcard picks

A lot has been discussed about the prospects expected to be on Seattle's radar with the fourth overall pick, but what about the 'wildcards'? If we've learnt one thing in the Tim Ruskell era it's that he isn't afraid to pull the trigger on a target he's really fond of - even if it goes against popular opinion. He aggresively traded up for Lofa Tatupu and John Carlson - both with a great deal of success despite a certain level of surprise from the so called experts. With the Seahawks picking earlier than in previous years under Ruskell, can we expect a few surprises this year? Let's have a look at some of the prospects not being widely touted as a top five pick but might catch Ruskell's eye. To read the full article, click here.

Knowshon Moreno, RB Georgia

Moreno is a true triple threat running back, excelling as a runner, receiver and blocker. He isn't the biggest (5'11", 208lbs) but plays with tenacity and heart to more than make up for physical restraints. Some have said his commitment to finishing runs leaves him susceptible to injuries, but his health record is exemplary to date. Not blessed with elite breakaway speed but has excellent vision and patience, waiting for holes to develop. Shows a good burst to take advantage of space and has unmatchable ability to make a cut back. Lateral quickness is very impressive and this allows him to maximise runs and make gains. Has a knack of knowing where the first down marker is. Great balance, will often take a hit but stay on his feet to gain an extra push. Doesn't tire down the stretch and has the energy to punish teams late in the game.

Why isn't he considered a top pick?

Opinion on Moreno has been mixed for weeks. Some have compared him to LaDainian Tomlinson and shown a real confusion as to why he isn't being touted amongst the elite of this draft class. Others mention his lack of size and the fact teams are unwilling to invest so much money into the running back position with a preference towards a two back system.

Why the Seahawks would consider him...

He has the production Tim Ruskell looks for with two impressive years at Georgia (2736 yards, 30 TD's). Great character and considered a leader by his teammates. Seattle has shown a willingness to improve the running game in 2009 and a new feature back could drive them forward. The team needs play makers, Moreno would give the offense an identity.

Why the Seahawks won't consider him...

Greg Knapp has said the team will adopt more of a zone blocking scheme. The Denver Broncos have shown you can plug backs into the system and have success. The team invested a large amount of money into Julius Jones and TJ Duckett and have the option to retain Maurice Morris and Justin Forsett. Darren McFadden (drafted 4th overall by Oakland last year) pocketed $60 million ($26m guaranteed) from a six year deal. A similar amount would be a huge investment for another running back.

Everette Brown, DE Florida State

Brown had an impressive 2008 season for the Seminoles recording 13 sacks, 21.5 tackles for a loss and 3 forced fumbles. A super athlete with great burst he has a reputation of beating his man briskly from the line of scrimmage and getting to the quarter back quickly. Clearly the best pass rusher in the 2009 draft class. Has an excellent spin move, closes quickly and is a strong tackler. Stronger than he looks and hits the ball carrier hard leading to turn overs. Difficult to cover and playing alongside another dominant pass rusher could cause all kind of problems. Has the frame to add bulk and get bigger without losing any of his speed or agility. Improvises on plays to try and avoid blocks.

Why isn't he considered a top pick?

He's starting to get more attention. I've had him in the top five of my last two mock drafts and Rob Rang from NFL Draft Scout has him going third overall to the Kansas City Chiefs. It's not a great year for defensive line talent and although Brown is arguably the best of the bunch he is only just starting to get attention. Some have concerns if he can play in a 4-3 defense which would restrict the likelihood of him going in the first four picks.

Why the Seahawks would consider him...

The Seahawks defense struggled badly in 2008 without the veteran ability of Patrick Kerney on the defensive line. With little pass rush and time for opposition quarter backs to pick their passes, Seattle's secondary suffered as a consequence - ranking amongst the league's worst. Brown has the potential to develop but could have some impact as a rookie, offering an exciting partner for Kerney in the pass rush. New head coach Jim More has spoken of getting more pressure from the front four and not relying on the linebackers blitzing.

Why the Seahawks won't consider him...

At Florida State he was often spread away from the rest of the defensive line in order to give him space to rush. He was also consistently placed in mismatch scenarios which could have exaggerated his stats. His 13 sacks looks good on paper but it was often boom or bust - multiple sack games against Clemson, Virginia Tech and Maryland are off set with blanks against Florida, Boston College and Miami. He is a prototype 3-4 DE/LB hybrid and is too much of a risk in a 4-3 defense. The Seahawks have already invested picks into their pass rush and it's time for Lawrence Jackson, Darryl Tapp and Baraka Atkins to step up to the plate.

Jason Smith, OT Baylor

Smith has risen up draft boards over the last few weeks to join a growing list of highly rated offensive tackles. Started as a tight end for the Bears but was moved to left tackle by coach Guy Morriss. Listed anywhere between 280-305 lbs and 6'5" in height, Smith has a slender frame with lots of room to add bulk. Possibly the most athletic tackle in this class, he excels in pass protection playing in Baylor's spread offense. Quickly moves to the second level to attack linebackers. Has developed so quickly to his new position, it makes you wonder how good he could be with the proper guidance in the NFL. Question marks have been raised about his ability to dominate in the running game, but played on a Baylor line that averaged 195.8 rushing yards a game.

Why isn't he considered a top pick?

He's never really managed to break into consideration in the top three with Andre Smith, Eugene Monroe and Michael Oher all being predicted as more likely options for St Louis if they want to select an offensive linemen. He's a regular top 10 feature in most mocks and was even touted as a potential pick for Seattle in Rob Rang's first mock draft. Lack of experience in a pro offense has led to some question marks and his no-show at the Senior Bowl was a surprise.

Why the Seahawks would consider him...

Senior prospect and Tim Ruskell has shown a tendency to favour guys who stay at school. The Seahawks have the chance to draft an offensive linemen as a long term successor to Walter Jones and Smith has the athleticism to fit into Mike Solari's schemes. Big personality who is well liked by his teammates, also very intelligent and graduated prior to his senior year.

Why the Seahawks won't consider him...

The Seahawks have a lot of money invested into Sean Locklear who signed a contract extension in 2008. The deal included incentives for playing left tackle, a position some have suggested suits Locklear more than his current right side placing. If Locklear is considered a long term 'in house' replacement to Walter Jones, investing heavily in an offensive linemen would mean a lot of money for one position. Tim Ruskell spoke recently about his preference to draft offensive linemen later in the draft. The Seahawks wouldn't get an instant benefit from the pick with Jones slated to recover from a knee injury and question marks remain about Smith's ability to adapt quickly to a pro offense.


Lisboa (Brazil) said...

Rob, thanks for yesterday answers!

About drafting Knowshon:

How much cap space could we save by cutting Julius Jones or T.J. Duckett?

Which combo would complement each other better, Moreno+Jones or Moreno+Duckett?

Could a Moreno+Duckett attack be as efective as the Titans Chris Johnson/LenDale White or the Panthers J.Stewart/DeAngelo Willians?

I hope Tim Ruskell doesn't think we can use the zone block scheme as well as Denver did with Shanaham and that any back is going to produce. Denver`s BZS is the best the league ever had and we saw what they could do with an elite back like Terrel Davis or Clinton Portis.

About drafting Everette Brown:

I think we could use the same argument against a DE in the first round that we use against a CB: Ruskell has invested too much money and draft picks at the position. Lo-Jack, Darryl Tapp, Baratka Atkins, they are all really young and I'm sure Ruskell still hopes they are going to develop into reliable starters. I could understand the Hawks drafting a DE if Kerney is cut, but even then I guess we could find a good one with our second rounder.

About drafting Jason Smith:

Do you think a Sean Locklear at LT and Ray Willis at RT is a good combination for the future?

I`m thinking a lot about our tackles and maybe we are not so bad as the experts imagine. Of course Locklear doesn't have Walter Jones' talent, but maybe the new offense doens't require a HoF LT to succeed. Jones was the centerpiece of Holmgren`s offense. Knapp`s WCO is different and could succeed with a not so great LT. What do you think?

As we say here, muito obrigado!

Rob Staton said...

Thankyou, it's always nice to get good feedback and it's great to hear from you again. It's good to know the Seahawks are well represented in South America!

The cap hits for the two running backs in 2009 is as follows:

Julius Jones $3.95m
TJ Duckett $4.95m

I'm not sure exactly how much we'd save by cutting either but I think I read somewhere that it would be difficult to cut either this year. I'll try and find out more information for you. I think they'll both get a chance in 2009 with Mo Morris less likely to return. If Seattle drafted Moreno, he would likely be competing with Jones and Duckett. Mike Holmgren clearly preferred to stick to one guy (the 'hot hand' as he called it) but a lot of systems do use multiple backs coming in and out. This is one reason why I would be suprised if they used a high pick on Moreno, because he would essentially be sharing a lot of time for the cost.

I would be interested to see more of Duckett next season, I think he was under used in 2008 and what he did do... he did well. Jones has a lot to prove because he went out of favour quickly in Dallas and didn't create much of an impression with Seattle after a good start to '08. There's no reason why Seattle's running game can't dramatically improve especially with a greater focus on it, but both the Titans and Panthers designed their offense to run the ball well because both had average QB play. I doubt Seattle would go the same route as long as Matt Hasselbeck is healthy, he's a lot better than Kerry Collins and Jake Delhomme.

You make a very good point regarding Everette Brown. Like with the CB's, eventually you have to trust the guys you have drafted and give them a chance. I don't think Brown will be at his best in a 4-3 and is better suited as a DE/LB hybrid.

Regarding Locklear and Willis... it's hard to say whether it's a long term option. I think Locklear is better suited to LT and the plan for now is that he can be a long term option on the left. Of course they signed his contract probably not thinking they'd be drafting fourth overall a year later. If they now think highly of one of the rookie LT's they might shift their plans. When Willis has been healthy he has looked impressive. I'd like to see him retained (he's a free agent this year) because he can play guard or tackle.

Tim Ruskell has said he believes you don't need high picks to get a good line. Some of the better lines in the league have built a reputation simply by finding talent in the middle rounds, staying healthy, getting good coaching and leadership. Seattle has one of the best line coaches in the NFL (Mike Solari) and that will surely help whichever direction they go.

Lisboa (Brazil) said...

Thanks, Rob!

I guess Ruskell is not going to cut Duckett/Jones, but I`d be disappointed if we don't draft Knowshon... (except if it's Crabtree!)

I don't want to end up like Arizona two years from now, wondering why the Hawks drafted Alex Smith (Levi Jones) instead of Knowshon Moreno (Adrian Peterson).