Monday, 26 October 2009

The Taylor Mays debate & Tim Ruskell

I wanted to write a little more about Rob Rang's first 2010 mock draft that was published recently, where he has the Seahawks taking Taylor Mays (S, USC) with the seventh overall pick. In an earlier blog post I commented that on face value I could see this happening. Seahawks GM Tim Ruskell likes to draft four year starters in round one, he's taken high profile prospects from SoCal in the past and Mays is a local product having originally grown up in the Seattle area.

Ruskell may also see Mays as the 'final piece' of the jigsaw so to speak, having invested heavily on defense over the last few years. As Rang testifies, "Seattle's undersized cornerbacks are never going to be able to truly compete with the Larry Fitzgeralds, Anquan Boldins and Michael Crabtrees of the NFC West." Mays at least offers a unique blend of size and speed that few possess at the safety position - he's often described as having linebacker size and cornerback speed.

However, I have huge reservations about Mays as an early first round pick. I've voiced these concerns quite regularly on the blog in the past - that Mays' football instincts are not up to par standard. He relies heavily on big hits to get by, usually not delivering said hit until the ball carrier has made a first down. He's often a step behind the play or reacts slowly and his tendency to hit rather than play for the ball has made him a liability in coverage.

Matt McGuire from voiced some similar concerns this weekend, even comparing him to current Bengals safety Roy Williams and Vernon Gholston of the Jets - another athletic prospect who went 6th overall in 2008:

"Mays has had his question marks for a couple years. One, he takes poor angles to the football. I see this multiple times in run support and pass coverage in the games I have taped and reviewed this season. Secondly, he has zero ball skills. He doesn't locate the football to make a play on the ball and he doesn't intercept the ball. Third, he gets out of control. Fourth, he has no tackling technique. Fifth, like Gholston, he has no instincts.

"In the Notre Dame game, I was really frustrated with his tape. His tackling technique is pathetic. He'll throw his body around. Mays thinks football is all about big hits. He doesn't use his arms or hands to wrap up, and this will cost him in the NFL.

"I wouldn't draft Mays in the top 40 picks. He's a highly overrated prospect right now. He reminds me of Roy Williams (safety, Bengals). Williams is an average starter, but the Cowboys let him go for a reason." - Matt McGuire,

I would tend to agree with McGuire's assessment here, although I think there comes a time in round one when Mays' athletic qualities will be attractive to a good team who can afford to take a calculated gamble. He's a first round pick, but I wouldn't put him in the top ten. Having said that, I completely understand why Rob Rang placed Mays with the Seahawks. After all - in a mock draft you're trying to predict what Tim Ruskell will do, not what you personally think 'should' happen.

I looked at the rest of Rang's mock and admittedly it's still early days - a lot will happen between now and April - but let's just say this is how the board falls in round one. I looked at the next ten picks after Seattle had taken Mays at #7 and tried to pin down an alternative pick I could see Ruskell making. I imagine he'd probably love to take Oregon-born Ndamukong Suh (DT, Nebraska) the elite player in this draft for me but he goes first overall to the Titans.

Aside from Mays, the other seniors at the top of the board are defensive end Greg Hardy (severe character red flags, will not be a Seahawk on Ruskell's watch), offensive lineman Russell Okung (not a good scheme fit for the zone blocking scheme) wide out Brandon LaFell (I think this is a bit early for a player who just doesn't have a 'wow' factor) and of course Tim Tebow (a Ruskell pick in every way, but a huge project and doesn't have the same financial value as he would in Jacksonville).

Unless the Seahawks would heavily reach for a guy like C.J. Spiller (as much as I like the Clemson running back), in this scenario it would take a move away from past draft philosophy from Ruskell to select an underclassmen early. Now, from a personal point of view I would advocate a guy like Derrick Morgan (DE, Georgia Tech) who just flat out impressed me with his relentless style and superior edge rush. With both Jake Locker (QB, Washington) and Jimmy Clausen (QB, Notre Dame) going with the next two picks after the Seahawks take Mays, a lot of fans would be hoping the team drafts a long term option at the most important position in football.

But again - that would take a big shift from Ruskell's risk averse policies of the past and his favoritism towards senior prospects in round one. Whether things will change should the Seahawks finish with another poor regular season record, I'm not sure. I'm assuming at this point that Ruskell will get a new contract - his current one runs out at the end of the 2009 season although the fact he's just appointed Jim Mora as Head Coach suggests to me there won't be any big changes in the front office.

I feel like this is going to be a key debate as we go through the rest of the college football season, particularly if the Seahawks struggle over the next few weeks (quite possible considering a very tough quartet of road fixtures on the horizon).

Does another bad season force Ruskell to seriously consider drafting an underclassmen with potential, but without the same guarantees that came with Aaron Curry? He hasn't taken an underclassmen in round one since his first draft as GM - when he selected Chris Spencer. Would he be prepared to take a Jimmy Clausen, Jake Locker or Sam Bradford as the future of the franchise? Would he tap into a strong defensive line class that will be filled out with possibly four talented underclassmen - Gerald McCoy, Carlos Dunlap, Derrick Morgan and Jason Pierre-Paul?

Let me know your thoughts in the comments section or email


Swampfox said...

Wow I hate the idea of SF getting Morgan and Spiller. They will be very tough if that's the case. I'm hoping Smith's performance in Houston was an aberration and they go for Colt McCoy instead of Spiller...

Rob - can you also do sone digging into who the free agents at key Seahawk positions of need will be? Safety, OL, potentially QB, CB.. That would help as we attempt (futilely of course) to chart Ruskell's preferred offseason moves.

1stHill said...

I personally don’t want the Seahawks to draft Taylor Mays with a top-15 pick. From what I have read and seen of Mays he seems too much of a “hit” or “miss” prospect. Mays could be the next Roy Williams or he could be the next Adrian Wilson (Arizona Cardinal safety). If we did select Mays, I would like the coaching staff to occasionally put him at CB playing against Larry Fitzgerald. I know he has never done that while at USC, but that would be interesting to see Mays jam Fitzgerald in bump and run coverage.

Swampfox said...

Whoops, I commented on wrong post. Meant for this to go under your Rob Rang post..

Rob Staton said...

No problem Swampfox, here's some of the pending free agents (although obvioulsy teams will find ways to keep hold of the better names)...

QB - Jason Campbell, Kyle Orton, Chad Pennington.

RB - Ronnie Brown, Lendale White, Pierre Thomas, Leon Washington, Chester Taylor, Darren Sproles, Jerious Norwood, Cadilac Williams.

WR - Brandon Marshall, Vincent Jackson, Antonio Bryant, Terrell Owens, Steve Breaston, Kevin Walter, Miles Austin.

OL - Jahri Evans, Marcus McNeill, Jared Gaither, Mike Gandy, Kevin Mawae, Rex Hadnot, Justin Hartwig.

DL - Julius Peppers, Aaron Kampman, Kyle Van Den Bosch, Elvis Dumervil, Vince Wilfork, Richard Seymour.

DB - Dunta Robinson, Fabian Washington, Carlos Rogers, Marlin Jackson.

germpod said...

Ruskell may have to bend and take a Jr. if there is no senior that fits. It makes sense to draft a senior if him and the Jr. you are looking at are close, but not if they are far apart and you have to reach big just to stick with a plan.

We can not have a lame duck GM. We can not take the chance of him drafting for the now to help keep his job instead of drafting a QB for the future. We can not put all of our eggs in next years basket while ensuring that we are going to stink for years after.

Anonymous said...

Rob, my first reaction to Rang's mock is "no way" Denver wins the Superbowl. We won't have the 32nd pick. I like the Charles Brown choice, but believe he will go in the 20's. Fortunately, our Denver pick should also be in that range. However, I doubt we'll be taking O-line in the 1st round with Locklear already getting left tackle money.

Regarding the 1st pick, I think we'll try to trade down to regain our missing 3rd rounder, and hope we ultimately take Spiller. We really need a playmaker on offense. I suspect he will be coveted by many teams and will go higher than expected though. Of course, if we keep losing and Suh falls in our lap, no tears.

Best possible scenario if we are drafting at 10 and 25 and 42, would be trade down from 10 to regain our 3rd rounder, take LaFell to replace Branch as true No. 1 WR, then Spiller or Dwyer, then FS like Morgan Burnett-Georgia.

I know the O-line gets a lot of criticism, but injuries can't be predicted. No reason in my mind that a line from left to right of Locklear, Sims, Spencer, Unger, Willis can't be successful. Hinges on re-signing Sims and Spencer of course, and I would use the 3rd rounder for O-linen depth. Frankly we have too many holes to fill with just the draft, so we better be active in free-agency.

Anonymous said...

Germpod, once again, I agree with you. There is something about Ruskell that scares me. He has made some good and bad draft picks, but I can see a situation where Locker, Bradford, and/or Clausen are available, and he passes on them to take a "safe" prospect with a lot less upside.


Mind of no mind said...

I think you've finally talked me out of Mays. I was in love with his size and speed, but I'm not sure that you can fix a guy who always takes bad lines to the ball.

What about Myron Rolle? Is he expected to enter this years draft? And if he does, where does he project to go? He seems like a Ruskell kind of guy.

Rob Staton said...

Myron Rolle will enter the 2010 draft having taken a year off to study at Oxford this year. It's hard to guage what that has done to his stock, but at the moment I'd be surprised if he went any higher than the middle rounds.

germpod said...

Taylor Mays may be a senior, but he is not a Ruskell pick. I think few GMs look less at height/weight/40 time then Ruskell, and that is all Mays has going for him.

He would sooner pick a safety who had better production then Mays, but is a little smaller/slower.

If it is not a QB with our first pick, then I assume it will be Charles Brown.

Michael said...

I would hope a GM willing to trade up for Tatupu would be willing to spend a little for Spiller.

Seems odd to be willing to "get your guy" in the second round at all costs, yet be timid in the first.

Ruskell's first round track record being what it is, maybe he ought to be more second round minded.

germpod said...

I have thought the same thing about him being second round minded. Last year the Patriots did a bunch of trading and got three extra picks in the early second round, which gave them four total. Would the team be better served with one player at number ten overall, or three players in the early second round?

Last draft the Patriots traded Michel Oher for Patrick Chung, Ron Brace, and Darius Butler. I know you can not always find teams willing to be trade partners, but when you can do you pull the trigger?

Bruce M. said...

Rob, I think your assumption that Ruskell will be GM next year is a little too hasty. If we go 4-12 again, for example, I'm not at all sure he'll get the deal he wants, or that Allen will want him back (for PR purposes, if for no other).

Rob Staton said...

I'm approaching it with that assumption Bruce, because until I hear otherwise I have to believe Ruskell will still be here. He's been afforded the opportunity to bring in his own head coach and this team is being built with his blue print. It would be a major decision for the Seahawks to switch direction now. We can't second guess any changes at GM, so my draft work until things change will be done under the assumption Ruskell will be the Seahawks GM.

Shephard Hawk- 30 year Hawk fan said...

I realize that the Seahawks seem to be poised to keep Ruskell, but if this season continues to go down the 6-10 road, I can see changes. If the 12th man continues to boo like it did against Detroit, watch out.

Ruskell destroyed Holmgren's Offensive Line and run game in just a couple of years without replacing those losses. Jones, Hutch, Tobeck, Grey, Strong, and Alexander.....all gone. The Hawks from 89-2001 went without the same OLine, Holmy changed that. Ruskell can make Mora look incredible if we gain back our old ball control style. We have a proud history of good running backs, but this last 3 years has been a joke.

Mora and Knapp did well with a great ground game (in ATL), but with 13 different line up changes on the OLine since 2008, there is no chance. Mike Solari is a great oline coach, but even he cannot be a magician. Ruskell has flopped as far as a offensive GM...AT BEST.

If you could get Chris Polian from INDY, I would be all over it. Either bring back Mike as a GM, or go in a new direction. This team has alot of talent, but until we can establish an oline & running game, Hasselbeck will never complete a season. Matt has many years left, but he is on borrowed time with Ruskells philosophy. I want to see him succeed, but right now we are watching the Cardinals and 49ers become the elite teams of the NFCWEST. We need to become more physical as our conference becomes more that way. We cannot have a 3rd losing season. said...

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