Monday, 27 April 2009

Draft review and what happens next

If we've learnt one thing from the 2009 draft it's that Tim Ruskell is both predictable and unpredictable, if that's physically possible. Predictable in the sense that what he wants in his top draft picks is clear - character, football ability, safety and to fit with what the Seahawks want from their organisation. Aaron Curry is the very definition of a Ruskell guy and it seems strange that anyone, including myself, thought that Seattle's GM and his front office could possibly go in any other direction. As he marched onto the stage at Radio City music hall holding back tears, this was a Seahawk.

We talked about Crabtree, we talked about Sanchez. When push came to shove, the Seahawks went with the guy who will be part of their franchise for the long haul. He'll be reliable and a role model for the team's young fans. You won't hear about any issues off the field and rest assured he'll be there on a Sunday, roared on by the 12th man. That is what Tim Ruskell wants from his first round picks.

Yet we also come back to the unexpected. Having spoken of their excitement prior to the draft at the depth available at pick #37, the Seahawks traded the pick for a valuable first rounder in 2010. We'll talk more about what might happen to that pick later, but the consensus upon review was widespread approval if also a little surprise. At the very least the Seahawks get an upgrade and will pick no lower than 32nd overall. Many are suggesting it could be a lot higher, but a word of caution - and you can quote me on this - don't write off the Broncos too soon. When Dallas traded their first round pick so Cleveland could get Brady Quinn in 2006, they never expected a 10-6 season from the Browns would follow. Philadelphia would have hoped for more than the 28th overall pick this year when they gave Carolina their first rounder in 2007.

This was to be just the start of the 'unexpected' Ruskell however. Perhaps sensing a top heavy draft with little depth in the later rounds, the Seahawks made further deals to trade up twice and grab a much needed interior lineman in Max Unger, and a much needed speed receiver in Deon Butler. The center class was one of the highlights of the 2009 draft and I'd go as far as to say the Seahawks got a 'steal' in that move to get Unger - who could start as a rookie. Butler has been compared to Bobby Engram but I think he's a different type of receiver. He's quick, watch him get open because it's a thing of beauty. He's going to be very difficult to cover, but I don't think he's as sure handed as the reliable Engram. When I've watched Butler, I'm reminded a little bit of Engram, but also a little bit of DeSean Jackson.

The trades showed further proof of Ruskell's desire to move around the draft and get guys he wants. He previously showed such aggression to get Lofa Tatupu and John Carlson - two moves that worked out well for Seattle. In an off season set up to win now, their three early picks will certainly have the opportunity to produce. They found some good value later in the draft too. Mike Teel has the arm and mentality to at least warrant some training, whilst the potential of all three 7th round picks is also cause for optimism.

There's no strict blue print for success in the NFL. That's probably why it's such a copy-cat league. Essentially you need to be healthy, balanced, organised and perhaps more than anything - lucky. I can't predict whether the Seahawks can bounce back from a 4-12 season and once again compete in the NFC, but they will need veterans like Matt Hasselbeck, Walter Jones and Patrick Kerney to feature with greater regularity.

In fact it's that dependence, especially offensively, on ageing veterans which leads me to believe the off season re-build may not be entirely complete. This brings me back to the two first round picks Seattle owns in 2010. The value in round one is two fold - you have your pick of the crop of young talent, but you also have the ammunition to tempt quality veterans from other teams. This is pure speculation of course but if the Seahawks felt they needed further additions, possibly on offense, they could spend a first rounder to land a big name before training camp. Braylon Edwards remains available in Cleveland and could be bought for a first round pick. At this stage I would say it's very unlikely, especially after Seattle drafted Butler. But the option is there especially in a 'win now' mentality. If the right player was available at the right price, who knows?

Certainly the $8m saved by removing Leroy Hill's franchise tag could be put to use one way or another. With the addition of Curry possibly making Hill expendable, Ruskell may wish to invest that money elsewhere. Some have suggested corner back Ken Lucas may return, but who knows what the plan may be?

I believe Hill's future will be decided quickly. I have to think there are teams out there, possibly Atlanta, who could use his talents. I also feel strongly the Seahawks are a much better team with Hill than without. However, I just can't see him in Seahawk blue next year. The timing of the move, the ability to get compensation and recover the 2010 third rounder spent on Deon Butler - maybe even the way this was handled could complicate any negotiations. We'll have to see, but the Seahawks and Ruskell have shown a ruthless streak with this one that compares favourably with the cutting of Shaun Alexander last year.


Anonymous said...

Rob - Great coverage this offseason, I hope you continue to contribute and transition to next year's draft. Should be interesting with two draft picks. Go Hawks!

Rob Staton said...

Hi annonymous - thanks for the kind feedback.

I want to offer something different, there are already a lot of great Seahawks blogs out there that cover the day to day news. The coverage for the 2010 draft will begin when the college football season kicks off and I've got some great ideas lined up. Until then, I'll have to be creative. Essentially, the blog is nothing without you guys logging on, reading the articles and joining in the debate in these comments sections. It's been a pleasure speaking to you all over the last few weeks, and I hope you'll keep visiting.