Thursday, 23 April 2009

Take five with Kyle Rota

As we drift towards the final remnants of draft discussion, I managed to catch up with College Talent Scouts Kyle Rota one last time to get his final thoughts before this weekend's events. He'll be offering his analysis on each Seahawks pick in the 2009 draft exclusively on Seahawks Draft Blog. I'd like to take this opportunity to thank Kyle for his work this off season, not only with material for the blog but as a source of information also. He recently published a further examination of 'Stafford vs Sanchez' which you can read by clicking here, I'd recommend checking it out.

Q1/ As we finally approach the 2009 NFL Draft, who are your top five prospects and who do you think the Seahawks will take with the fourth overall pick?

Kyle Rota/ My top five prospects are, in order:

1.) Matthew Stafford
2.) Jason Smith
3.) Michael Crabtree
4.) Aaron Curry
5.) Knowshon Moreno

However, due to the lack of value in a top five linebacker or running back compared to their later-round counterparts, I wouldn't select Curry or Moreno at #4 unless I had to. Stafford is in my opinion, the best player in the draft and a legitimate top pick in other years (I like him more than, say, Alex Smith, Vince Young, JaMarcus Russell, or Matt Ryan as a top prospect).

Jason Smith is a bit of a risk, but I think he is a good risk to take. Crabtree is the player I think Seattle could take if they keep the pick, he's a great player who should get better. Curry might be the best player though I question whether or not he'd be a difference maker. Knowshon Moreno is exciting and has perennial pro-bowl potential, but I think you can get 90% the running back for 10% of the price if you take a guy in the 3rd round.Truthfully, I could also see Mark Sanchez taken at #4, but if that happens I expect Seattle to at least shop the pick.

To read the rest of my interview with Kyle, click here.

Q2/ You recently gave Knowshon Moreno the highest grade out of all the prospects you've worked on this year. Why is he rated so highly and where do you expect him to go on draft day?

KR/ I could go on about how many things Moreno does well. He's got downright amazing balance and body control for a halfback, he manages to elude even in small spaces, he is a good receiver, he's the best pass-blocking back I've seen in the past few years, he plays with great intensity, and he plays with vision (a trait I feel is completely underrated by most talent evaluators). The really cool thing is that, of the top 10 backs, Moreno might be #1 in every one of those traits.

He won't rip off 60 yard runs, but I think he can get 20 yard chunks and Shaun Alexander showed how effective a back can be when he is able to pick up 10 yards several times a game, which is what I think Moreno can do. In my opinion, the only way Moreno does not attend multiple pro-bowls is if he is put in a really difficult situation (no offensive line) or if he has unforeseen injury issues (not been a problem so far).

I think Moreno is probably taken in the early teens, but he is a guy I feel could sneak his way as high as #8, and I'd be surprised if he makes it past #16... but I do tend to view running backs differently (and, at the risk of sounding boastful, I've had more success the past few years at predicting success) than GMs and while I wouldn't touch Chris Beanie Wells in the first round due to injury, blocking, and receiving concerns, I could see an NFL GM doing so.

Q3/ If the Seahawks don't take an offensive lineman fourth overall, who are the prospects they might look at in rounds 2-4?

KR/ If the Seahawks don't take an offensive lineman #4, I'd be a little surprised if they didn't address it in the 2nd round and downright disappointed if they didn't take someone by the end of round three. However, Ruskell has shown a tendency to avoid first day offensive lineman and especially with Solari shifting the team more heavily to zone blocking, I could see him waiting to pull the trigger.

I also have a hunch the board will fight them at this position, it seems like a lot of the offensive lineman are late-first, late-second, or late-third round guys so they either need to be lucky or reach... and I don't expect them to get lucky. However, because the ZBS focuses less on strength, there are some guys other teams do not want that could do quite well in our scheme, so late round picks might have a positive impact, especially inside.

Q4/ The Seahawks have a hole at linebacker after the Julian Peterson trade. What linebackers could come in and contribute from day one in a similar way to Leroy Hill's rookie campaign?

KR/ I'm actually not a big fan of most linebackers in this class, truthfully. I also like DD Lewis and don't think they're desperate for a high-round linebacker. However, there are some possibilities I see as scheme fits after Aaron Curry, the consensus #1 OLB... in order of likely draft spot:

1.) Marcus Freeman, Ohio State: I scouted him and was not terribly impressed by what I saw. He looked average in coverage and despite the claims to great speed, I didn't see him flash it very often due to middling instincts. Looked average.

2.) Kaluka Maiava, USC: The fourth USC linebacker may be better than the Seahawks #3LB, which says more about USC than Seattle. I thought he played better than Clay Matthews, but lacks the size/speed athleticism Matthews showed. In the 4th, might not be a bad choice.

3.) Jonathan Casillas, Wisconsin: A couple red flags: He's small, got pulled over for a DUI (on his moped though... I didn't even realize that was illegal), and is coming off an injury. Sounds like he'd fit right in with Seattle's other linebackers. He is very fast and a good tackler, and honestly I think in the 4th or 5th round he could be a steal.

4.) Zach Follett, Cal: Not truly a scheme fit, IMO he's going to be a good 3-4 backer, but I think he's a good player and if he is there with the 5th round pick I'd have to take him - he plays with his hair on fire and while he doesn't change directions on running plays, he's decent in coverage, an excellent blitzer, and was pretty effective lining up as a DE in 3rd down situations. This kind of intensity from a decent athlete in the 5th round is too much to pass up.

Q5/ Stafford vs Sanchez... who wins and why?

KR/ I just posted a comprehensive article on my blog (shameless plug), but to save everyone about 3 pages of reading: Stafford, and it's not close. I really like his short passing skills and his leadership, and I'm only slightly terrified giving him 60 million dollars.

There is no reason why Sanchez can't become a better player, but I'm really concerned that he will become David Carr. Sanchez has a release that is low to the ground, holds onto the ball a while, will be a fumble machine until he corrects his deliver, gets balls knocked down all the time, and has mediocre velocity on his short tosses to the sidelines - somewhat mitigated by the fact that nobody played man coverage against USC. None of these are the kiss of death, but combined they really make me concerned.

Bonus question/ Any final thoughts on the draft?

KR/ I really think three possibilities will emerge with Seattle:

1.) Take Crabtree and be happy.
2.) Take Jason Smith and be happy, if he's available.
3.) Take Sanchez, try like hell to trade down, and if he isn't available it isn't a horrible choice, just a big risk.


Anonymous said...

Let me guess....Rota wants Crabtree which is why he surprisingly downgrades Sanchez in his newest "scouting report."

It's funny how the Hawks fans conveniently find a way to undermine Sanchez as being clearly the #2 QB and a huge risk when debating for Crabtree. Weird how Mayock, Davis, Phil Simms, Lombardi, and a bunch of other more credible "scouts," are all now saying after further analysis of Sanchez as the better pick.

I don't think you guys realize how easy it is to see your "favorites" and how you guys find little ways to undermine a prospect in competition with your favorite pick. I had no idea that an average size WR, with average at best speed, who comes from a gimmicky offense is a sure thing to become a stud WR and somehow other prospects who have actually played in a pro style offense are huge risks. Simply put, it's idiotic to try and say someone is so much safer in this draft when debating a QB vs WR.

Please stop comparing Crabtree to Andre Johnson. Andre Johnson is taller and much faster and came from a legitimate college offense. Larry Fitzgerald is taller and much stronger than Crabs and came from a legitimate college offense. Boldin has the same speed as Crabs, but just take a little looksy at their respective builds. Boldin is an absolute brick house.

Yes, Curry doesn't make a lot of sense because of the money but have we looked at the WR corps and the money they have locked up?

And please don't get into well Branch and Burleson are hurt. Where does that leave Hass? Who has missed a ton of time with a back injury and is 34. So please, if you like a player, just stick to why you like him and want him. Don't try to find stupid reasons that "undermine" other prospects not realizing the same exact argument can be made against Crabtree. Sorry for the rant, but I personally think it is hilarious to hear people's debates on their favorite player without realizing that the same points can be made about 5 other prospects.

Mike said...

Hey Rob,

I heard an interesting argument that essentially makes the point that Sanchez may be the best fit for the Seahawks, financially. At LT, the Seahawks have significant money invested in Jones, Locklear, and Willis. At LB, the Hawks have significant money invested in Tatupu and Hill. At WR, the hawks have significant money invested in Branch, Burleson, and Housh. However, at QB, the hawks only really have significant money invested in Hass, who has an injury that can be difficult to read.

So, if the Hawks are choosing between Curry, Crabtree, Monroe, and Sanchez, investing at QB may make the most sense.

I am hugely in favor of them drafting Sanchez. I think Seattle is the perfect place for him to learn and grow for a couple years. I would love to have someone in the wings waiting to takeover when Hass is done, and I think Hass is mature enough where a QB controversy wouldn't be a big deal.

Rob Staton said...

Annonymous, your comments are riddled with contradictions. You say, "I don't think you guys realize how easy it is to see your "favorites" and how you guys find little ways to undermine a prospect in competition with your favorite pick" then go on to refer to Crabtree in a derogatory sense in favour of a more preferred choice.

I think you also do a great disservice to Kyle. He isn't just some fan trying to champion his favourite pick. I think his scouting reports are always fair, accurate and detailed and you're comments about Crabtree seem missplaced, he ranks the Texas Tech receiver behind both Stafford and Jason Smith in his rankings in this very article. His criticism of Sanchez is in comparison to Matt Stafford, nothing to do with Crabtree.

I'm happy to admit I'm a fan of Michael Crabtree and would love to see him in Seahawk blue. But I could list you a number of prospects I'd also be happy to go at pick #4, including Curry, Sanchez, Smith, Stafford, Moreno. I've felt from a very early period in this draft that Crabtree is a good fit for the Seahawks... it's nothing to do with a preferred choice.

Rob Staton said...

Mike - the best teams deal with the problem before it arrives at their doorstep. Investing in a quarter back for the long term would make sense for the Seahawks. However, They also have to consider the guy they'd be investing in. I personally think they'd love Stafford to be there at #4, but he won't be. I'm sure they'll consider Mark Sanchez, but feel they'll ultimately go in a different direction.

Anonymous said...

Looking at this situation realistically, I think Crabtree and Sanchez are long shots. We are talking about Tim Ruskell. I don't see him spending #4 money on a QB with 16 starts. And I don't see him spending #4 money on a WR from a spread offense without ever seeing him play/workout in person. QBs and WRs are notoriously risky and Crabtree and Sanchez are both risky in their own right. Which leaves Mr. Curry, who is straight from TR's lab of the ideal draft pick. Safe, hard worker, productive.

The reward with Curry isn't as great as a QB, but it is a free ticket out of a risky pick. As much as I have seen the WR side go against the QB side, both guys are not Ruskell picks. Perhaps the most overlooked thing, is that the WRs have a ton of money tied up and a backup rookie QB would be making more than the starting QB. So any way you break it down, money is somewhat of an issue and holds ramifications with this #4 pick.

That said, TR will pick Curry in a heart beat if he's availabe at #4. Sanchez lovers need to realize that TR will frown away from his 16 starts. Crabtree lovers need to realize TR will shy away from a spread WR who he's never seen run a pro route or perform in a non-gimmicky system. QBs = risky pick. WRs = risky pick. TR = non-risk taker. A + B does not equal C in this equation.

Keep up the good work Rob.

Rob Staton said...

Annonymous, thanks for the kind feedback. I think the Seahawks will consider all three of Curry, Crabtree and Sanchez. I don't think Ruskell will look at this #4 as needing to simply get the safest guy available. In the past, he's had the luxury to be so defined with his criteria. He'll certainly want to be cautious and not draft too much of a gamble, but he'll have done his homework and I don't think he will ultimately pick Curry ahead of a Crabtree or Sanchez based on being a 'safer' pick. It'll be based on talent more than anything. If the team think Curry is the BPA and can have an impact, he will warrant very serious consideration. However, I have my own reservations about whether Curry can have the kind of production to justify the $60m contract.

Seattle are also in a situation they haven't been in for a while, where by they are now 'in the zone' for a future QB. They are well placed to get a really talented guy like Sanchez, so they have to consider it where as in the past, they wouldn't have had this opportunity.

Finally, Crabtree. I don't agree that this is just a guy from a gimmick spread offense. Ruskell has never been one to be sold on a great work out either, so although he would prefer to see Crabtree do a few routes and run a forty yard dash - there's enough tape on the guy to create an impression. Crabtree, for me, could be the star of this draft. I think he has a special talent, that Seattle might not be able to pass up.

So ultimately, we all know what constitutes a Ruskell pick and that could work in Curry's favour. However, I also think picking in the top five changes the situation slightly and that they will almost certainly consider Crabtree and Sanchez too. I still believe the pick comes from that trio.

Wes said...

hey rob, what do you think about the chief's trade of tony gonzalez in regards to the third pick? will it have an impact? Might they be more likely to go with Crabtree now?

Louis said...


The Chiefs have just traded TE Tony Gonzalez to the Falcons. Without their premium passing threat, does that make Crabtree the favorite now to go #3 overall? I hope not...

Rob Staton said...

Wes & Louis...

I think there's a chance Kansas City takes Crabtree. He brought in the offensive coordinator from Arizona to coach his team and Haley had success with a passing game based around two great receivers. They have Bowe, they might want Crabtree too.

Having said that, they may feel capable of getting a good receiver in round two with their new pick. The Kansas City defense was truly awful last year, so they have to decide whether they want to continue to concentrate on offense or rebuild their defense.

Wes said...

rob, their new 2nd round pick is not until next year's draft i believe.

akki said...

One plus on Curry is that the Seahawks could use another enforcer on defense at any position. We get some big hits from Grant, Hill, and Tatupu, but it's still a finesse defense overall, and opponents didn't fear them last year. I like Freeman, Casillas, and Maiava, but they're not going to give you that and it seems like Curry would. Is that worth the $60M? Still maybe not, but who knows.

To my knowledge, every single Ruskell draft pick to date has even gone so far as to having a college degree. That's getting beyond just good character and experience. We're getting pretty close to boy scout. Sanchez and Crabtree would be a departure for sure. But one thing I was thinking is that Ruskell's picks have always been late 1st round and afterward. At that point, you probably have 4 or 5 players about equally rated, and experience could put one over the top of the others. At the top end of the draft, the players usually separate out a little more in terms of skill and potential, such that the differences from player to player may outweigh the experience factor. For example, he might value Sanchez enough over Curry enough that the couple extra points he gives Curry for his experience isn't enough to tip the scales in his favor.

Patrick said...

I know this is just wishful thinking, but the Chiefs did sign Bobby Engram. That's 2 talented recievers, and like everyone keeps saying this year's draft has some depth at reciever. If anything, I think they may try even harder to trade down so they could get the Best T.E. But, I admit, I am 100% biased because I want Crabtre at #4.

Rob Staton said...

Wes - I need to check on the Chiefs pick, I thought it was this year but I better do some homework.

Akki - You make a superb point about Ruskell's approach and the fact it relates to picking later in round one. When you're picking in the 20's, as you say you can afford to stock up the criteria. You've got three guys rated equally, but you take the one who's the four year starter, has a degree, is already married and settled. When you start picking earlier in the rounds, there are more underclassmen and there may come a time when talent is too strong to pass. If Ruskell sticks to his previous approach to the draft then Curry is the more obvious choice. But I think to draft Curry ahead of Sanchez and Crabtree, the team also have to be sold that he's a better player. They won't take Curry ahead of the other two if he is graded lower.

Patrick - good point on Engram. Having said that, the Cardinals had Breaston, Fitzgerald and Boldin. If Pioli has brought Haley in to re-create the Cardinals offense, Crabtree remains an option. But I always come back to that defense. Without the luxury of a cluster of picks on day one, the team may feel obliged to add to what is most definitely one of the worst defenses in the NFL. It's also a defense built solely for the 4-3, so it's not just needs for quality, it's needs for scheme.