Friday, 27 March 2009

Draft theory: three scenarios - who do you take?

Strangely, as we get closer to April 25th it's becoming increasingly difficult to predict who the Seahawks will take with the fourth overall pick. This is in large part due to the work of Tim Ruskell and his front office in free agency. By filling as many holes as possible - it leaves the Seahawks open to take the best player on their board irrespective of need. Deciding who will be that player will depend who has gone before Seattle's on the clock. Today we'll look at three different scenarios that could affect who the Seahawks take.

Scenario One

1. Detroit Lions - Jason Smith OT
2. St Louis Rams - Eugene Monroe OT
3. Kansas City Chiefs - Aaron Curry LB

Over the last seven days reports have heated up which suggest the Lions will pass on Matt Stafford to take an offensive tackle - either Jason Smith or Eugene Monroe. Although such reports are premature (Stafford will conduct a private with Detroit on March 31st) it's certainly remains a possibility.

In this scenario the Seahawks would have seen the top two offensive tackles off the board and the best defensive prospect. If they kept the fourth pick and were unable to make a trade, they would have to decide between the merits of drafting an eventual successor to Matt Hasselbeck (Stafford) or selecting a more immediate prospect such as Michael Crabtree or Brian Orakpo.

Last year, Atlanta selected Matt Ryan third overall and paid him a handsome $72m ($34.75m guaranteed) over six years. Stafford would likely command a similar contract, possibly higher. It would be a huge investment for the Seahawks in their future post-Hasselbeck.

But let's look at it another way. Hasselbeck's cap hit in 2009 is approximately $9-10m. Peyton Manning signed a contract in 2004 that will pay him $14m in '09 and $15.8m in '10. Should the Seahawks inherit Stafford and his large contract, they could possibly backload it so that Seattle would be paying similar amounts to keep both Hasselbeck and Stafford on the roster over the next two years. Of course - Manning is the current NFL MVP and a bonafide star. But such is the importance of the quarter back position, investing a similar amount to have Hasselbeck starting now with Stafford the man for the future would not be a complete extravagance for a team eyeing the future. If there's one position you can justify this investment - it's quarter back.

Tim Ruskell was present in person at the Georgia pro-day recently and has taken a quarter back (David Greene) from the school previously. Team's often look to draft a new quarter back when a head coach begins his reign (in this case, Jim Mora). It wouldn't be a stretch to theorise that Ruskell would take Stafford should he remain available with the fourth pick.

Scenario One... the Seattle Seahawks select Matt Stafford

Scenario Two

1 Detroit Lions - Matt Stafford QB
2 St Louis Rams - Jason Smith OT
3 Kansas City Chiefs - Eugene Monroe OT

This is a situation that has started to garner greater attention. Rob Rang's most recent mock drafts have the board falling this way heading into Seattle's choice. Despite reports to the contrary this week, I still believe Detroit will take Matt Stafford first overall. They need a franchise quarter back and essentially I fell they will decide Stafford is their man. This theory would take him out of contention for the Seahawks.

Kansas City in this scenario take Eugene Monroe. A few weeks ago I would have thought this move unlikely. The Chiefs drafted Branden Albert 15th overall last year to fill the vacant spot at left tackle. However, that was an old regime and there's a new general manager and head coach in town. If they are prepared to switch to a 3-4 defense (essentially minimising the effect of Glenn Dorsey - taken 5th overall) they will have no qualms about taking a replacement for Albert. Make no mistake, if the Chiefs rate Monroe highly enough they will take him. Protecting Matt Cassel could be a priority for Scott Pioli in his first year with the franchise.

Seattle are left to contemplate taking Aaron Curry (as Rob Rang predicts) or again looking at someone such as Michael Crabtree or Brian Orakpo. This could be a difficult call. No doubt that Tim Ruskell likes low risk picks especially with the kind of money involved. Aaron Curry isn't the most vibrant personality but he's also the very definition of a dedicated professional. He won't cause any problems in the dressing room, he won't get into trouble. Having traded Julian Peterson to Detroit, there's also room should the Seahawks wish to take Curry fourth overall.

Having said that, you have to wonder how much influence Curry could have for Seattle. He would command a contract of around $60m, essentially making the linebacker position incredibly expensive again (a situation the team wanted to avoid when they traded Peterson). In a team like Kansas City, St Louis or Cleveland Curry would be the dominant leader on defense - possibly leading to a Patrick Willis/Jared Mayo type rookie season. In Seattle, there would only be so many tackles to go around. Lofa Tatupu absorbs a lot of them at middle linebacker and Leroy Hill is expected to have a good year under the franchise tag. Having only achieved 9 sacks in four years at Wake Forest (albeit mainly playing in a role which restricted his ability to rush) you could ask legitimate questions about whether Curry would be enough of a difference maker to justify the investment.

For this scenario however we will place him directly in Seattle. As the top rated prospect on many draft boards including Mel Kiper and Mike Mayock, the Seahawks might find it difficult to pass on the number one ranked prospect. As Rob Rang suggests, "the Seahawks could plug Curry in immediately and, considering they'd be getting the player many believe is the draft's top talent at the fourth pick, the team would be getting optimum value."

Scenario Two... the Seahawks select Aaron Curry

Scenario Three

1 Detroit Lions - Matt Stafford QB
2 St Louis Rams - Jason Smith OT
3 Kansas City Chiefs - Aaron Curry LB

This is the situation I'm currently predicting in my latest mock draft. In this situation, the Rams again take Smith. It's happened in every scenario so far and although I'm sure Steve Spagnuolo would love to have a chance to bring in a defensive prospect like Curry, I feel replacing Orlando Pace has to be a priority. If they want to run the ball with greater emphasis and create a platform for Steven Jackson, taking Jason Smith makes too much sense. He's got the nasty streak and the desire to get to the second level and attack linebackers. He could be a vital to any running game in St Louis.

Kansas City could easily look at Eugene Monroe to protect Cassel. However, they also need someone to set the tone on defense. Curry would play inside linebacker in Kansas City. If they feel confident enough to go with Branden Albert at left tackle, then Curry makes some sense.

This would leave Seattle looking at a situation with Eugene Monroe, Michael Crabtree and Brian Orakpo still on the board. Many experts, pundits and bloggers expect the Seahawks to take Eugene Monroe in this situation. I disagree. Having watched tape of Monroe I have serious concerns about the consistency of his effort and desire to really dominate. Too often he's seen blocking his man out of a game and calling it a play. This won't cut the mustard in a zone blocking scheme, especially one which wishes to show greater emphasis towards the run.

Nevertheless, he can be superb in pass protection. To a team looking for that instant protection (KC - Cassel, CIN - Palmer) he would offer tremendous value in a man blocking scheme. Seattle however, would be investing in the long term replacement for Walter Jones. Benching Monroe indefinitely offers little reward for a $60m contract. His unwillingness to progress to the second level makes a temporary switch to guard unlikely, so can the Seahawks justify this pick? With Sean Locklear signed to what could be described as a 'left tackles' contract and Ray Willis re-signed for depth, I do not expect the Seahawks to take Monroe here.

That would leave Crabtree and Orakpo. Peter King from SI.com reported rumours of a potential move towards Orakpo at the owners meeting. However, I think in this situation the team would draft Michael Crabtree. The signs in free agency have been towards a 'win-now' mentality. How else can you justify spending a large contract on a soon-to-be 32 year old receiver? Rookie receivers generally take time to adjust to the NFL. However, give Crabtree some simple routes to get him on the field and watch teams struggle to cover him alongside Houshmandzadeh, Carlson and one of Burleson or Branch.

Seattle's passing game would be transformed from one of the worst to one of the best in the space of one off season. By taking Crabtree, still ranked the best overall prospect by NFL.com's Charles Davis, the team would be seriously upgrading what became a stagnant offense in 2008. The attention such a receiving corp would demand could also draw pressure away from the offensive line and open up the running game.

Some question marks have been asked of Crabtree's character recently. However, as Danny O'Neil testified in a Fox Sports feature yesterday - sometimes your most recent judgement can cloud the actual facts. When you go back and watch footage of Crabtree and you listen to his interviews from 2008, fears can certainly be allayed.

Scenario Three... the Seattle Seahawks select Michael Crabtree

Final Thoughts

Obviously these are only theories based on my own opinion. We could talk through a number of other possibilities, for example a scenario simply where Jason Smith isn't going to St Louis. We could also discuss the possibilities of trading down - however unlikely or not that may be. The difficulty in trying to judge who Seattle will take isn't likely to get any easier until April 25th. Simply put, even the team may not know who they are going to choose until they have seen who Kansas City have selected with the third overall pick.

15 comments:

War Hawk said...

Nice scenario Rob.

How would you rank the top 5-10 players on your draft board if you were Ruskell or Seahawks GM? This way you wouldn't need to look at scenario's just best players availible.

Rob Staton said...

Hi Warhawk,

I've been hesitant to publish my own personal draft board - I don't want to 'nail my colors to the mast' so to speak. I think Aaron Curry is the 'safest pick' although as the article suggests, I wonder how much of a difference maker he'd be for the Seahawks. I think Crabtree is the most talented prospect. Alongside Matt Stafford and Jason Smith, that's where my number one would come from.

If I was Seattle I'd look at it like this - Matt Stafford, Jason Smith, Michael Crabtree, Aaron Curry. Whoever is left from the group would be my pick. Obviously there's a chance two of that group are still there at four and that's when big decisions would have to be made.

Anonymous said...

If Stafford is available at #4, I have to imagine the Jets, Bears, Bucs, heck even Broncos (if Cutler doesn't get resolved) would try to make a bid for that spot. I'd also bet that Ruskell takes less than to make the move, say 1st and 3rd? Pick up Moreno baby!!!

Wes said...

Nice post. I also think scenario 3 seems the most likely. I really believe Stafford goes to Detroit. If they don't trade for Cutler they have got to get a QB. St Louis has got take Smith or Monroe. And I think The Chiefs can pick D with this spot. However, I believe that the Hawks would consider Monroe more heavily than you do. There are still analysts out there that think he is the best O lineman rather than Smith who is more of a one year wonder, and we know Ruskell values sustained production.

I just do not understand how Orakpo makes sense. We have Kearney, Tapp, and last year's first round pick Jackon at DE. Apparently we also have Redding pegged at DE. We also have Atkins. Unless the Hawks think Orakpo is going to be the next Dwight Freeny or Julius Peppers or something, DE seems like perhaps the position of least need on the entire team, and I have no clue how they could take him at 4.

That means, in my opinion, it would come down to Crabtree and Monroe (or a trade). I think with all the money in Walt and Lock, and with Willis re-signed, they just cannot pay Monroe that much to sit. That leaves Crabtree, still widely regarded as the drafts 1st or 2nd best prospect. I think the hawks will recognize the value getting a player that good who can contribute quickly and grab him there.

But hey, if the Iggles want to trade us their 2 first rounders for #4, thats cool too.

Anonymous said...

I think one reason the Seahawks traded Peterson is to avoid having to pass on Curry should he fall. Without the trade you've got an overload of dollars and talent at LB, but now if you pick Curry there is certainly no overload of talent and the dollars can be backloaded on Curry and Hill both. I think being forced to pass on players like Curry are part of Ruskell's nightmares and he puts huge effort into not having that nightmare come true.

Rob Staton said...

Hey Wes,

I think Monroe does have some value in the right team, I'm just not sure Seattle is that team. I have concerns about his physical appearance. He weighs the same as Jason Smith however I think Smith carries the weight better. This makes me wonder if his inconsistent effort off the field matches his inconsistent effort on it.

No doubt to me that he has the best feet and pass protection skills of this draft class. As I said in the article, for a team who wishes to plug him in from day one and protect their QB in a man scheme he has value. Kansas City and Cincinnati could be obvious targets for Monroe. But for Seattle, who would be drafting at the position with long term in mind, he doesn't make much sense to me. There are enough question marks (particularly scheme question marks) to make it unlikely.

Anonymous said...

To annonymous above. You do not trade a pro bowl OLB to avoid passing on a rookie OLB in the draft. That makes no sense. Secondly, I don't see Curry being the Seahawks pick in any scenario for 2 reasons. First, we have shown that 3 premium LBs does not = Elite defense. It's overkill with the money involved. Secondly, Ruskell has proven to find great if not elite LBs in the 2nd and 3rd rounds. When you are good at something (drafting LBs outside round 1), why would you shy away from doing that, especially when it saves you a ton of money and a high draft pick that could be used elsewhere.

I love Aaron Curry, but you don't spend the #4 pick on an OLB, who is not a pass rusher. I have no doubt he will be a very good LB and that he can learn to rush the passer, but value wise at #4, Curry does not make sense because of his position/skill set and the fact that the Hawks have 2 young stud LBs already in place.

We need to spend the #4 and I would argue #37 pick on the offensive side of the ball because we are sorely lacking serious young talent on that side of the ball. Go after McRath or Freeman in round 3 to fill that coverage OLB role.

Patrick said...

As we get closer, I still can't help but hope everything follows Scenario #3. I would absolutely love for Crabtree to be our pick.

fountaindale said...

I'm just throwing out these trade-down ideas to stimulate conversation. I have based these on the draft pick value table. Try not to be too hard on me if you find some errors.

Read as round/overall pick/table value points:

1-----------------------------------------------------------------
Cincinnati sends: 1/6/1600 and 3/70/240
Seattle sends: 1/4(1800) and 5/129/43

They lost Houshmandzadeh and who knows how long Ocho Cino will remain a viable option. They need a big DT to replace Thornton. Curry might be their number one draft day desire. All will be gone at 6. Crabtree, Curry, and Raji will all be gone by #6.

2a-----------------------------------------------------------------
Jacksonville sends: 1/8/1400 and 2/39/510
Seattle sends: 1/4/1800 and 4/105/84
Jacksonville cut two failed first round picks in Reggie Williams and Matt Jones. The problem is (contrary to Del Rio) the cupboard is bare and Garrad has no targets. Jacksonville covets Crabtree but he won't get past Cincinnati or Oakland. Seattle gets a better value/fit at #8 and gets an added 2nd round pick.

2b---- depends on 2a

New England sends: 1st/#23(760) and 2/58/320.
Seattle sends: 2/37/530 and 2/39/510, and 5/129/43

New England loves second round picks. Good value for a lot less money. Seattle uses #8 for Maclin/Moreno and Cal center Alex Mack at #23. We are not going to be able to run the ball with out a center and I don't think Chris Spencer is going to be the man.

3-----------------------------------------------------------------
Green Bay sends: 1/9/1350 and 3/73/225 and 3/83/175 and 5/145/33.5
Seattle sends: 1/4/1800

Green Bays has 9 draft picks so they can afford to trade. The Pack switches to a 3/4 this year and you gotta have a good nose tackle. BJ Raji?

4-----------------------------------------------------------------
Denver sends: 1/12/1200 and 2/44/460 and 4/114/66 and 4/137/37.5 and 4/140/36
Seattle sends: 1/4/1800

Denver starts with nine picks. Their biggest need is a run-stuffing defensive tackle (Raji). Crabtree or an OL could be a peace offering to Cutler.

5-----------------------------------------------------------------
Washington sends: 1/13/1150 and 1(2010)/26?/700
Seattle sends: 1/4/1800 and (2010)3rd or 4th rnd if pick is #20/higher

Synder doesn't mind giving up draft picks because he can just buy a bigger name FA. Crabtree would be the big target they have been looking for since Art Monk retired. Synder always thinks they're one player away. They also have Chris Samuels at 32, and Jon Jansen at 33 with nobody in line to replace them(Monroe?).

War Hawk said...

fountaindale, I've also been looking at trade scenerio's. (Not very far yet). New England probably wouldn't be a good candidate to trade up. They love to trade down.

If I were Philly I would sit tight. They are in need of TE and RB and are sitting pretty to acquire both.

Denver could be a possibility if they trade Cutler to another team for multiple draft picks. However with the new regime they may take advantage of all those draft picks.

How about Cincinnati moves up from 6 to 4 to get a crack at Orakpo,Curry or Crabtree sending us there 3rd and taking our 5th? That would be:#6(1st)1600pts & #70(3rd)240pts for our #4(1st)1800pts & #137 (5th)38pts.

Anonymous said...

If we did take a QB at 4. We would sort of add a offensive play maker by possibley freeing up Senca to do more things in the offense. They have hinted at this in some interviews but I would think having a talent like Stafford would really allow them to tinker with Senca at wide reciever and other positions.

Anonymous said...

rob, is it possible that eugene monroe might be getting a bad reputation as a bad run blocker,could it be that his coaches are teaching him to just block his man out of the play just maybe to simplify the blocking schemes.or is it possible that maybe he dominates his opponents so easily that he gets complacent,maybe just maybe once he gets in the pros he will be better motivated by the coaching and competition. i'm just kinda thinking outside the box on this one.

Rob Staton said...

I think you make a very valid point annonymous. There could be reasons why there are perceived weaknesses in his game that are completely justifiable. I think his unwillingness to move into the second level is something that can be worked on. If he's pushed, who knows? On the other hand, maybe he won't respond to it. Either way for me it's a question mark. The team will do their research and will speak to each prospect given a grading as high as Monroe. Rest assured if it's something the Seahawks feel they can fix, they won't have qualms taking him.

There are things I like about Monroe and things I don't. I like the feet, the athleticism, the ability to dominate in pass protection. I think he lacks a nasty streak, he's unwilling to get into the second level and his run blocking is an area needing improvement. I think in a man blocking scheme for a team solely looking to protect their QB (eg Cincinnati) he makes perfect sense. For a team like Seattle, in a zone blocking scheme with an eye to the future I'm not sure he'll be the pick on draft day. But many disagree with me.

chris said...

just because curry didn't have a lot of sacks in college doesn't mean he won't in the pro's his lack of sacks could be scheme related.i feel like he's to fast and powerful not to be a good blizting linebacker if thats what the coaching staff wanted him to do.

Rob Staton said...

You're probably right Chris. I've watched tape of Curry and he was usually so far from the LOS it became almost impossible to make sacks. The nine sack's is probably a red herring in all honesty.