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.