Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Seattle's choice - safe, long term or impact?

When the Seahawks are on the clock I think they'll choose from three prospects - Aaron Curry, Mark Sanchez and Michael Crabtree. It's a presumptive scenario because we don't know for sure what happens in picks one-through-three. However, for the purpose of this article I'm going to throw caution to the wind and make the kind of assumptions that otherwise would be ill advised. So what would each prospect bring to the franchise?

The safe pick - Aaron Curry

The Seahawks traded Julian Peterson to Detroit in exchange for a fifth rounder and Cory Redding. This opened up a spot at linebacker, making the proposition of taking Aaron Curry more likely. All the things traditionally associated with Tim Ruskell's draft picks - character, school, four year starter - apply to the Wake Forest star. Many also believe Curry to be the best overall prospect making him a solid choice as 'best player available'.

He's a low risk safe pair of hands. The Seahawks will be able to plug him from week one as a rookie and expect the level of performance you'd get from a seasoned veteran. That's the benefit of taking Aaron Curry. His positional influence is unlikely to tip the Seahawks defense 'over the edge' into elite status, but he's the most NFL ready justifying the possible $60m contract he'll gain by going fourth overall.

The concerns? The Seahawks found between 2006 & 2008 that three quality linebackers doesn't necessarily translate to a quality defense. Curry's production could be hit playing alongside Lofa Tatupu and Leroy Hill, as there's only so many plays to go round. Hill in particular saw his production hit (7.5 sacks as a rookie, 6 sacks in thee years after) when the team signed Julian Peterson. They'll have to justify the big contract because either way, you're having a top five pick or a franchise tag playing weakside linebacker.

The long term pick - Mark Sanchez

Matt Hasselbeck is 34 years old this year and coming off a season plagued with back problems. Seahawks GM Tim Ruskell has admitted the team are 'in the zone' for an eventual replacement and might see a rare top five pick as their chance to fill that void. The best teams in the NFL solve the problem before it arrives and a smooth transition at quarter back would be to Seattle's benefit in the long run.

Sanchez looks the part of a franchise quarter back. He has a good arm, he's a leader and he makes plays. It doesn't do the former Trojan any harm that he looks the part and talks a good game either. He appears well suited to a west-coast offense and his lack of starting experience in college (just sixteen games) means a couple of years holding a clip board will do him the world of good. Taking Sanchez may be the bigger gamble, but it could have the greater long term rewards.

The concerns? Going fourth overall, Sanchez would command a contract similar to Matt Ryan's $72m deal. The Seahawks would feel pressure to start Sanchez quickly with that kind of investment, potentially creating an unwanted quarterback controversy. His lack of starting experience makes it hard to get a read on just how special he could be and there are skeletons in the closet regarding his character. If the Seahawks are looking to hit back immediately from a dissapointing 4-12 season, they may look for a more immediate return on their investment.

The impact pick - Michael Crabtree

The Seahawks offense struggled badly last year, largely due to a laundry list of injuries but also due to a lack of game changing talent. The Seahawks solved part of the problem by signing T.J. Houshmandzadeh, but one of the team's biggest remaining needs is finding further play making ability on offense. Despite the learning curve attached to young receivers, Crabtree could have an immediate impact playing from a scaled down playbook as a rookie.

Balance is going to be the key to Greg Knapp's scheme. If the Seahawks want to run the ball better in 2009, they need teams to fear their passing game. Too often in 2008, opposition defenses stacked the box and played blitz/run defense knowing the impotency of Seattle's passing game. Adding Crabtree would turn a former positional weakness into an immediate strength whilst directly relieving pressure on the offensive line and running game.

The concerns? Crabtree has suffered a well documented metatarsal injury which has restricted his ability to work out. There's plenty of tape on the Texas Tech receiver (he caught 231 passes in two years) but the Seahawks would have liked to work him out. We've heard mixed reports on his character - some sources praising his work ethic and selfless attitude, with others arguing the opposite and claiming there are legitimate red flags attached to Crabtree.

Who do you think the Seahawks should pick? Let me know your thoughts by clicking the comments section below, or email: rob@seahawksdraftblog.com


War Hawk said...

Hey Rob,

What's the plan for the blog after the draft? If anything it would be nice if you could throw some posts up on Seahawks Addicts.

Truehawk said...

CURRY at #4. I believe defense is the one area that cannot be overlooked. No matter what, you need a defense that can stop people. You can win games and make the playoffs with an everage offense if you have good defense.
We will have an above average offense this year, and if we can build a stout defense, we will have a chance to win a lot of games.
Its not an easy choice by any means, but Ruskell I am sure doesnt want to sit around hoping he has a job in 2 years when Sanchez may finally get a chot to play. Ruskell wants to win now and get back to the Superbowl. He is reloading, not rebuilding....he will leave the rebuild to the next GM!!

Rob Staton said...

Hi War Hawk,

The blog will remain open throughout the year until the 2010 draft talk picks up when the college football season kicks off. We'll have extensive coverage of the draft this weekend and then the subsequent reaction over the next week or two. Over the summer I'll find ways to keep the blog going, but I'd also like the chance to cover more prominent news over the summer so hopefully there will be lots of opportunities to get my work out there.

I'll lay out clearer plans after the 2009 draft.

Kurt said...

I agree that Crabtree would be the "impact" pick but I don't think he'd make that impact as a rookie. Highly drafted rookie receivers rarely make a big splash in their first year (Calvin Johnson, Braylon Edwards, etc.).

I expect Crabtree's impact would come after a year or two of getting comfortable in a pro offense.

Rob Staton said...

Kurt - that could be true. He might not peak for a year or two for sure. However, I do think he can impact as a rookie. They would likely give him a scaled down playbook to simplify things. But he has the talent to make plays and last year we saw the likes of Eddie Royal and DeSean Jackson both have excellent rookie seasons. Even his presence on the field can impact the team, as he draws coverage away from Houshmandzadeh. The passing game in general gets a boost, drawing attention away from the running game and forcing the defense to blitz less and play more conservative. So even if he doesn't stack up 1000 yards and 10 TD's, he can have an impact.

Truehawk - I would agree that good defense can win championships, just look at the Giants and Steelers the past two years. However, we've also seen having three good linebackers on the roster in Seattle didn't make the defense elite. I'm not sure what impact Curry will have playing weakside blocker. His coverage skills are the weakest part of his game and he wasn't asked to pass rush much at Wake Forest. Even if he plays strongside, you're paying the weakside linebacker a franchise tag contract.

If a stud defensive end was in this draft, or a defensive tackle, I think Seattle likely would have taken them (see Chris Long or Glenn Dorsey/Sedrick Ellis last year). However, although I like Curry and wouldn't complain about his arrival in Seattle - I have reservations as to what a $60m weakside linebacker can achieve playing with Tatupu and Hill when there's only so many plays to go around.

Daniel said...

I still think that we go with Crabtree. If you really take a look at the Seahawks roster, you'll probably agree with why I think we need Crabtree. Sure, we picked up Housh during free agency. With him plus Branch and Burleson, we'd have arguably the best three-receiver tandem in the NFL, right?

But what if one goes down? Who would be our #3 receiver then? That's right, BEN OBOMANU. So, as loaded as our receiver corps may be, we do not have that much experience behind our front 3. THAT'S where Crabtree would step in, as our #3/#4 guy.

Plus, Housh is 32 years old and we don't know how much longer his production high production will last. Crabtree is also a different type of receiver as well. He's a big play threat, while Housh is more of a possession receiver.

Bruce M. said...


I think we have properly narrowed the list down to the right three players. The caveat I suggest is that if Jason Smith slips down to 4, the Hawks MIGHT be tempted. But the most likely choices are the ones you suggest.

IF one can trust Ruskell at all, and that's a big if at this time of year, he says he wants offensive playmakers. That would suggest Crabtree. But that suggestion discounts our picks in the 2nd and 3rd rounds, since playmakers (albeit with question marks) will surely be available there, and Crabtree is young, injury history, etc.

Sanchez is an "offensive playmaker", loosely speaking, but he likely (although not certainly)won't be making many plays for at least two years, at around $30 mil of guaranteed money. That might be hard for Ruskell to swallow, since he has dreams of the Hawks competing at high levels NOW.

That leaves Curry. Of the three, I think he is the most likely to be gone by this pick. If he isn't, he pushes all the classic Ruskell buttons, and he probably has the highest "bottom" of any of the three.

I think if he is there, the Hawks take him over the other two if they are there. I guess I'm with Rob Rang on that one now....

Rob Staton said...

I agree Daniel. I think Crabtree could be more than just another receiver to add to the list for Seattle. I believe, from what I've seen, he has the potential to be an Andre Johnson type who teams genuinly fear. Put that alongside Houshmandzadeh, Carlson and one of Branch/Burleson and teams will really struggle to cover the Seahawks passing attack. Some would argue that's a lot of attention to the pass when Greg Knapp specifically wants to add greater emphasis to the run. I'd say this - one way to open up the run is to have a great passing attack. By drafting Crabtree, you can draw attention away from the offensive line and get a balanced run/pass attack.

I still think they'll strongly consider other options too, but Crabtree will probably be in their discussions up until Saturday.

Rob Staton said...

Bruce - some very valid points there. If Jason Smith is there when Seattle is on the board he demands consideration. The upside is too good.

I'm sure the Seahawks will have Curry in their thoughts, again he's too good to ignore. However, I still maintain reservations as to how much impact he can have alongside Tatupu and Hill to justify the $60m investment.

Daniel said...

Plus, couldn't we just sign a few quarterbacks like Graham Harrel after the draft, or pick one up in the 6/7th round? Either way, ANY QB we get would have to sit with a clipboard on the sidelines and learn for a year or two. Why not test out a few of these later guys? Matt Hasselbeck was a 6th rounder, and yet now he's one of the best because he got a chance to learn from the best.

If none work out, then we'd just draft one next year.

Anonymous said...

Crabtree is more Boldin than Andre Johnson. Andre Johnson is 6'3" and runs in the 4.4s. Crabs is 6'1" and runs in the 4.6s. That sounds a lot more Boldin than Johnson.

And I think we need to tone down expectations with Crabtree in year one. Realistically, he will not provide that much of an impact because he will be coming into the team at #4 on the depth chart. He's not going demand any type of double team or scare DCs because he is not a mismatch in the NFL.

I like Crabtree, I just think we need to be realistic about his role and what he does in the NFL. People get too caught up with college numbers not realizing the NFL is a completely different game. That said, I like Crabs, but let's be realistic about what he really provides year 1.

Patrick said...

If we were to draft Crabtree, how do you think it would affect our recieving corps? Houshmandzadeh is of course safe, but other than that it seems like a lot of question marks. Do you think we'll drop either Branch or Burleson? I really hope not. Also, what is your opinion on Mohamed Massaquoi? A good option for a different round if we pass on Crabtree?

Wes said...

Im convinced its impact time. Lets get the guy that lit the stat sheet on fire for two straight years. Curry is a great LB, but he's just a LB and we already have two good ones. Crabtree will open up the offense for the other WRs, the running game and carlson. he could really make the team dangerous. As for sanchez, i think we need to first try having a rookie hold the clipboard that doesn't have a $70mil contract. If crabtree ends up playing like either johnson or boldin thats fine with me. Sounds like a winner.

Mike said...

I have a couple of concerns about Curry. First, as Rob said, 3 elite LBs haven't done much for the 'Hawks. Second, Rob, you mention that Curry's coverage skills aren't the best, and that he was never asked to rush the passer. So does that mean he is basically just going to be a run stopper? Third, that is a lot of money tied up in our LBs. Ruskell has had success in later rounds with finding LBs, and I assume he could do the same in this draft.

About Crabtree, I know there will be some learning curve with Crabtree, but I think if we can find a way to just get the ball in his hands on WR screens, or slants, etc. he might be able to really bust open some plays. Imagine our 4 receiver set with Branch, Burleson, Housh, and Crab! Hass would have a field day with that. Also, we don't know too much about Branch and Burleson's knees. If they arent totally healthy, we are stuck plugging in our terrible backups again, and I don't think anyone wants to see that again. If they both were healthy, maybe we could make Burleson our #4 and put him back on PR duties where he has torn it up, which would strengthen the always forgotten third part of the game, special teams.

One last thing. I understand we have money tied up in Duckett and Jones, but if we really want a franchise RB like Moreno and Wells (who i've seen compared to LT and Steven Jackson respectively - obviously that means nothing at this point), why not just take him at 4? I know its said that they aren't good "value" at 4, but if one of those guys will be a super-stud RB for years to come, that seems worth the pick to me.

Bruce M. said...

Didn't say I thought the Hawks SHOULD pick Curry, only that I think they will, if both he and Crabtree are available.

It's not my job to lose--I'm not Ruskell. So I'd probably go with the riskier pick.

Rob Staton said...

Annonymous - my comparison to Andre Johnson was more in terms of production. Crabtree is more Boldin because of the YAC ability, but I also think there's a bit of Terrell Owens (on field, not off) in his play too. I think my expectations for Crabtree as a rookie are suitably toned down, I don't expect that much, but I think he can make plays and his mere presence offers a pretty good impact because of the effect it could have on other receivers and the running game.

Patrick - I think taking Crabtree certainly puts the pressure on Branch and Burleson. In fairness, Branch can have no complaints. It was a gamble that hasn't paid off, because he's not been able to stay healthy. You can't rely on the guy, which is a shame because the talent is there. Drafting Crabtree allows Nate Burleson to come back in his own time and not rush back from a very serious knee injury. He could also start off as a return man and work his way back in. They could use 3WR sets originally with Crabtree, Houshmandzadeh and Branch. That would be a high quality passing attack for Matt Hasselbeck.

Also Patrick - I really like Massaquoi. He could go earlier than most expect this weekend.

Mike - I think Curry can be an effective pass rusher. But it's only a projection because he wasn't asked to rush the passer that much at all. He played so deep at Wake Forest it's no wonder he rarely got to the QB. He swarms to the ball brilliantly and is a sure tackler. The potential is there to be a very good linebacker. But I think his role in Seattle could end up being restricted.

I have no problem drafting a running back fourth overall if it's Moreno. Most teams don't like to invets highly at that position because you can get productive guys later on and RB's take a lot of hits. Moreno is special though. He doesn't have breakaway speed, but I don't care. He'll be a top back in the NFL.

Bruce - apologies if I suggested you would take Curry. You have raised some very strong points.

Christopher said...

With the #4 pick you need to get a future pro bowler. Crabtree, Sanchez and Curry I think all fit that bill. I am afraid that if we draft Curry we will let Hill go and if draft Sanchez we are saying goodbye to Hasselbeck as early as next year. Both Curry and Crabtree can come in and help right away but Crabtree gives us something we have not had since the days of Largent - A go to reciever that defenses will fear. Crabtree/Housh and Branch could give us the three receivers that are all a threat. This would open our running game more than one of the LT would. I say Crabtree #1 Curry #2

Kevin said...

Considering the fungible nature of replacement level RB's, isnt Knowshon a reach at 4. He didnt seem all that dominant in college. I just dont see his blocking and receiving abilities overcoming his lack of production in college. He's never produced like a Falk, Petersen, or Tomlinson. He didnt strike me as the type of talent coaches were gameplanning to stop. A RB at 1-4 should be reserved for elite talents, you dont need to reach for them.

Rob Staton said...

I would disagree Kevin, I just think Knowshon Moreno has 'it'. His production was good at Georgia, behind a poor offensive line. I like everything about Moreno. He'd be considered a reach if drafted at four, but in 5 years time I reckon people will be saying, "How did this guy fall as far as he did?"

Kevin said...

What am i not seeing in Moreno? He looks like a 85 percentile talent that with the addition of being the darling of the ESPN/ABC hype machine is valued like 95 percentile guy. I love that he's a horse and always finishes his runs. OTOH, He can't outrun guys, nor can he run them over at his size. He's shifty but not breathtaking in his agility. I mention these traits because the top RB's besides being dominant, are almost always special at one thing. Cant we find this guy in round 4? what am i missing?

Anonymous said...

I would pick

QB/ Harrell

Anonymous said...

if we get crabtree at #4 i would like to see seattle trade into the 1st if possible to get moreno if he falls into the 20's

LouieLouie said...

Great article Rob. Since QB is the elite position in the NFL, and any of the top rated draft choices have similar boom or bust chances, I think that either of the top QBs should be at the top of the list.

But if you add Monroe to your list, because J.Smith will probably be gone, the "boom" potential of any of those guys would make a long term impact on the Hawks.

Rob Staton said...

Kevin - For me Moreno is a complete back. What he lacks in elite breakaway speed, he makes up for with superb lateral speed, vision and a killer cut back. He won't just run through a big hole and outrun everyone, but he has patience, waits for the gap to develop and then makes a cut to break off a run. He regularly picks up 4,5,6 yards which keeps the chains moving. He's a committed runner and always finishes his runs, but has an unblemished health record which is unreal for his running style. His an athlete and improvises to get an extra 10 yards. As you mention, he's also superb as a receiver or blocker.

I think his cut back ability would be up there with the best backs in the NFL from day one, which could be the defining thing you're looking for that stands out. But in general, he's offers an all round quality. I think for once, with Moreno, the hype is justified.