Saturday, 18 April 2009

Review - Seattle's options in round three

On Thursday we had a look at some options for Seattle at pick #37 (click here if you missed it). Today we'll focus on the third round, where Seattle owns the 68th overall selection. As with each of these reviews, much will depend on who the Seahawks have taken in previous rounds. Coming off a 4-12 season in 2008, the pressure will be on to find someone who can contribute at this stage in the draft.

Tim Ruskell has excelled at uncovering gems in the third round whilst GM in Seattle. Last year he sacrificed the team's pick in order to trade up and get John Carlson in round two. In 2007, he caught a steal by grabbing Brandon Mebane 85th overall. The Seahawks spent their 2006 third rounder to sign Nate Burleson from Minnesota, but got maximum value again in 2005 by drafting Leroy Hill 98th overall in Ruskell's first draft at the helm. The only black spot was the selection of David Greene with the 85th pick in 2005. Finding another starter this year will be Seattle's priority.

So let's look at the options...

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If the Seahawks didn't take an offensive tackle in the first two rounds, they could still get some good value at this stage of the 2009 draft. Of course, the premium on offenive lineman in the NFL right now makes it a risky gamble waiting this long to add much needed depth at tackle. There's every chance the following prospects could make their way into round two.

Perhaps the best option could be Troy Kropog of Tulane. A perfect fit for Seattle's newly deployed zone blocking scheme, there's no reason why Kropog couldn't contribute at an early stage if required. He was credited with a league high 18 touchdown blocks as a junior with Matt Forte the benefactor. Funnily enough it's his run blocking, as with most lineman, that requires the greatest work. He is super athletic with great balance and awareness, if he improves his strength he could be a legitimate NFL starter.

I have to admit to being a big fan of Kropog's. The Seahawks need to add to their offensive line, that's just a fact. A lot of people see the answer with that fourth overall pick and the estimated $60m that comes with it. I see it differently. With Walter Jones and Sean Locklear both sitting on hefty 'left tackles' contracts and with a rookie lineman not expected to start (even if selected 4th overall) I think the team needs to find quality depth with potential starter quality between rounds 2-4. If Jamon Meredith and William Beatty aren't picked up in round two, Kropog would be a wise addition.

Other options on the offensive line at this point? How about Gerald Cadogan from Penn State. He certainly passes the character tests that Ruskell favours. He's very intelligent, becoming only the sixth player to receive Academic All-American honours twice in his college career. Unlike Kropog, his run blocking is pretty good. I don't think he offers the same neat fit into a ZBS, but he could be a productive starter at right tackle one day. If Sean Locklear is viewed as the future at left tackle, then Cadogan would offer solid competition to Ray Willis on the right.

One of Tim Ruskell's greatest draft finds was grabbing Leroy Hill in the third round in 2005. If the Seahawks plan to replace the spot vacated by Julian Peterson, one prospect stands out amongst the crowd at linebacker. Jason Williams isn't your prototype Ruskell pick - he's not from a big school at Western Illinois. He has made a trip to Seattle to meet with the team though, so there's some interest there. Clocked in the 4.42-4.48 range at Northwestern's pro-day on March 12th, the guy has outstanding speed at the linebacker position.

Williams wasn't invited to the combine and up until recently was only considered a 5th-6th rounder. I know what you're thinking - this isn't Ruskell. He's not usually wowed by the prospects who gain their stock in workouts and not on the field. In Williams case, his humble beginnings at Western Illinois could have kept him under the radar. Here's some info on Williams - he led the country with six forced fumbles in 2008 and tied the NCAA all-division record of fourteen in his career. He had 15 career sacks, 42.5 tackles for a loss and one interception.

Another linebacker I often see touted here is Marcus Freeman from Ohio State. He pondered leaving school as a junior and probably harmed his stock staying at OSU, after injury hindered his senior campaign. He actually totalled more solo tackles than his much vaunted teammate James Laurinaitis in 2007 & 2008. Ran a 4.50 40 yard dash at his team's pro-day, but the Buckete track is notorious for fast times. Needs to get bigger, he doesn't like to engage blockers much and prefers open space. Not much of a playmaker in coverage, preferring to deliver a solid tackle after the reception than play for the ball. I'm not sure I see him having a Leroy Hill type impact for Seattle but he would have some value on special teams.

The third round may also be the point in which the Seahawks look to add another running back into their rotation. Expect a run on the position in the late second and early third. Rashad Jennings started his career at Pittsburgh but transferred to Liberty in order to be closer to his ill father. He has a good combination of power and speed, with height and size (6'1", 231lbs). He could be a good compliment to the Jones-Duckett one-two punch. In his college career Jennings racked up 42 touchdowns and 3633 yards. Competitive, athletic with great ability as an inside runner - Jennings might sneak into round two.

Andre Brown from North Carolina State has similar size (6'0", 224lbs) but is perhaps the more versatile back. Showing value in the return game, Brown also caught 70 balls to amass 3511 all purpose yards and 24 touchdowns in his career. He carries a good combination of power and speed without really standing out in either category. Like Jennings, he's at his best as an interior runner which could be productive in Seattle's ZBS. He has some injury concerns - which are always problematic at a position which takes some licks.

Another guy who most people will expect to see here is Shonn Greene of Iowa. He won the Doak Award in 2008 as the nations top running back, storming to 1850 rushing yards and collecting 20 TD's. Measures in at 5'11" and 227lbs. I wouldn't consider Greene until round four at the earliest but I expect someone might take a gamble before Seattle picks next time round. I don't think he offers much versatility other than a powerful interior runner. Not a great receiver out of the backfield, a bit one dimensional and legitimate concerns about his ability to master a playbook. He had to take a year off in 2007 to study up and regain academic eligibility. He'll also be 24 years old before the 2009 season kicks off - making an early investment a bit risky.

Round three could also offer the chance to get some help at safety. Whilst prospects like Patrick Chung project as poor scheme fits and unlikely in round two - there comes a time when you look at the value on offer. If he slips into round three, you might have to take him. I doubt he gets passed Dallas in the second round so let's look at the other options.

I expect Seattle to target free safeties rather than strong safeties. Rashad Johnson could be an option at pick #68. Some questioned his size, but all he did at Alabama was start consistently and make plays. A former walk-on, Johnson has shown tremendous work ethic and character to get this far in his career. Described as a 'natural playmaker' by NFL Draft Scout, he plays with great instincts both in pass and run defense. In Seattle's cover-2 system he'll be asked to play a lot of deep coverage, which he's capable of doing. Was arrested in 2008 for disorderly conduct - could be a problem with Tim Ruskell's strong stance against character red flags.

I feel like I should mention Darcel McBath at this stage, another free safety this time from Texas Tech. I don't know a great deal about McBath - but he failed to stand out in the games I watched. I asked Kyle Rota for his assessment and he described him as "just another guy". Lacking the playmaking abilities of Johnson, I'm not sure what Seattle would get by taking McBath at this stage.

As always, when you're picking this early in a round there's a chance prospects fall into your lap that just flat out offer value. I'd list the likes of Paul Kruger (DE, Utah), Jonathan Luigs (C, Arkansas) and possibly even D.J. Moore (CB, Vanderbilt).

A lot of people will want to know where Duke Robinson is. For starters, I think Robinson is a lousy fit in a ZBS. He might have had a possible first round grading months ago, but his stock is firmly in the 3rd-4th round right now. In a man scheme he'd have some value in the third round, but in Seattle's offensive line he struggles.


Anonymous said...

Rob, nice summary. I do wonder why you think Seattle targets free safety vs. strong safety? There has been much discussion over on field gulls about moving Grant to his more natural position of free safety if we draft a starter caliber strong safety. And Walter C. agrees, penciling in Chip Vaughn, SS from Wake in round 3. I confess it would be nice to have big hitter laying the wood, so I find that prospect intrigueing.

Rob Staton said...

I hear the arguments, but the thing I disagree with is I think Deon Grant is better at strong safety. I also think the team are sold on him playing that position, which is why I think if they do draft a safety it will be a FS.

Another thing that influences things is the safeties ability to play in deep coverage (which Seattle uses a lot in the Cover-2). From what I can gather, the Patrick Chung's of this draft wouldn't be best suited to that kind of role. Louis Delmas would be a good scheme fit as would Rashad Johnson and Derek Pegues. That's another thing that draws me to the conclusion they might look at FS ahead of SS.

Anonymous said...

Rob, just wanted to say I appreciate all the insite and opinion you provide on this site. As a die hard and life long Hawk fan, it is nice to hear someone who knows about our team as opposed to a national expert that doesn't truly follow our team.

Rob Staton said...

Thanks for the kind feedback annonymous, it's always nice to hear.

kearly said...

I think the Seahawks will probably be looking at 3 positions in particular in rounds 2-4: interior O-line, WR, and safety. OT, Tall CB, and even RB are also possibilities if they fit BPA.

Obviously, you can scratch WR off the list if the team takes Crabtree, but if they take Sanchez, they will have a lot of extra motivation to pick a rookie WR as soon as possible so that he may be acclimated to the NFL by the time the potential Sanchez era begins.

Robiskie is often mentioned in the 2nd, but I think Iglesias, if he slips to #68, would be an excellent pick as well in the 3rd.

akki said...

On the safeties, what's your opinion on David Bruton? I don't especially like or dislike him, but he just smells like a Ruskell pick - plays both safety position, major school, team leader, top character, on track to graduate soon. On top of that he's described as playing low risk type football by playing smart and not allowing the big plays but not making a lot of big plays either, i.e. another Brian Russell, for better or worse.

On Pegues, I look at the commentary on his strengths and weaknesses, as well as his size, and wonder why he isn't playing cornerback. It sounds like he'd be what you'd get if you decided to randomly stick a zone corner like Ty Law at FS.

Rob Staton said...

I think Bruton would have benefitted playing in a better Notre Dame team. His production was good as a senior, but it's hard to stand out in a very poor team. He passes the Ruskell tests as a team leader, stayed for his senior year and had solid production at a big school. I think he'd be comfortable playing predominantly deep coverage. He's not a ball hawk though and he needs to get stronger. Not that great at tackling especially running backs. I think he's a guy you could bring in later on and work on for a year, which is why I wouldn't take him as high as he'll probably go.

akki said...

Thanks for the opinion. I don't know if I would put Bruton as a top safety choice, he just sounds like a guy Ruskell would like. And poor senior stats at Notre Dame didn't stop him from targeting Carlson.

I get the feeling that if we get any safety in the mid rounds this year, he'll end up sitting for most if not all of year. Unless the defensive scheme has changed, it seems like the FS is primarily used to read the offensive alignments and not blow deep assignments, and playmaking ability is secondary. If that's the case, I see them continuing to use Russell for his experience, and I see a lot of fans pulling out their hair as a result.