Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Seahawks, the future and the draft

With a week left in the 2009 season, for the second successive year we're talking about the draft at the end of December and not the playoffs. However, this time round there seems to be a level of desperation about the situation. Injuries aren't being blamed as much, there's talk of major repair work. Tim Ruskell has departed and the franchise will soon appoint a new General Manager. The year 2010 could essentially be renamed 'year zero' as the Seahawks embark on a new chapter - moving on from former heroes and veterans and looking for the next Walter Jones, the next Matt Hasselbeck and the next Shaun Alexander.

The fact Seattle owns two first round picks will help lay the foundations for the future and that must be the target over the next 12 months - set things up for the long term. The greatest needs are the positions of greatest importance - long term quarterback, get better on both lines and find playmakers. So how do you go about things? It's difficult to make any kind of accurate projection until we know who the new GM is and what changes he initiates, but here's an early look.

Obviously free agency will have some say in what the Seahawks do on draft day. Former GM Ruskell would look to fill up needs with big money additions - whilst that could still be the case with his replacement - you have to believe Seattle will rely less on ageing, expensive veterans in the future. Assuming all the major needs remain after free agency, here's what the Seahawks could do.

Option 1 - Fill your needs

When the Seahawks selected Aaron Curry fourth overall last year, it was described as the 'best player available' pick. The assumption was Seattle were better than their 4-12 record and getting the best guy on the board would be a bonus to an already loaded roster. That obviously hasn't proved to be the case.

It could lead to a change in philosophy next April - draft the guy in the biggest need area. The two could coincide - there's a desperate need for a dominant pass rusher on the defensive line. The Seahawks will likely pick in the 5-7 range - potentially giving them a shot at a guy like Derrick Morgan (DE, Georgia Tech). That could make the decision of the new GM very easy.

Alternatively, they might have to reach a little. Guys like Joe Haden (CB, Florida), Dez Bryant (WR, Oklahoma State) and C.J. Spiller (RB, Clemson) might be higher on the board - but if the Seahawks are determined to find a long term answer to their offensive line - or just get bigger - they may opt to draft the best available lineman. Russell Okung (OT, Oklahoma State), Bruce Campbell (OT, Maryland), Bryan Bulaga (OT, Iowa), Anthony Davis (OT, Rutgers) and Charles Brown (OT, USC) may not warrant a pick in the 5-10 range - that can be debated. However, if the new GM decides like many fans that the offensive line must be addressed - he'll have a chance to draft for the line.

Option 2 - Go with talent

Alternatively, having two first round picks puts Seattle in a favorable position. Picking in the top ten comes with a hefty investment in a rookie. Do you just go with the most talented guy on your board first, then make moves later to fill needs? That would put the Seahawks in position to possibly draft a guy like Joe Haden - someone who plays a position that you can never have enough talent. They could still find a way to invest in either the offensive or defensive line in round one - albeit later on at a lesser cost when a reach could be more justifiable.

Option 3 - Focus on one area

Having so many needs, would it be wise to target one area and aim to improve it specifically? For example, spend that first round pick on a bigger left tackle like Anthony Davis or Russell Okung. After that, draft a big interior lineman like the increasingly highly rated Mike Iupati (OG, Idaho). It's a lot of investment in the offensive line, but you've also sorted the left side of your line for the next 10 years all being well. With Max Unger settling in nicely at center - and with Rob Sims, Ray Willis and Sean Locklear in the mix on the right hand side - you've potentially made a significant upgrade to your offensive line.

Having an early second round pick offers the chance to add to another position - possibly a running back like Jahvid Best (RB, California) or maybe a defensive lineman like Corey Wootton (DE, Northwestern) or Greg Hardy (DE, Ole Miss). These are just examples, but considering this isn't likely to be a quick fix - improving one area this year would lay foundations for the future.

Option 4 - New front office, new QB?

We've all seen so often when new coaches or GM's arrive - they look to stamp their identity on the team by selecting their own quarterback. Without doubt, the Seahawks need to start looking for options post-Matt Hasselbeck. He has one year left on his contract, will be 35 in 2010 and has endured back-to-back disappointing seasons - even if that's not been all his fault. The fact there's no 'stand out' candidate at QB to go first overall, the chances are Seattle might have their pick of the bunch.

It would certainly be a long term pick. Throwing a rookie into this offense would be suicidal - both for the QB and your investment in his success. Having said that, with no viable alternative to Hasselbeck on offer - they have to start looking at Sam Bradford's 2008 tape and preparing to attend his work outs. The alternatives aren't all that great - Jimmy Clausen is vastly over rated, whilst Tim Tebow and Colt McCoy will likely leave their best form in the college game. The X-factor could be a guy like Ryan Mallett leaving early - clearly a project but someone who has the tools and would be worth consideration with Seattle's second first round pick if he declares.

Option 5 - Copy the Dolphins

Make what you will of the current Miami Dolphins and Bill Parcells, but the job they have done in turning that franchise from 1-15 to respectable is quite outstanding. They knew they had a huge job on their hands - cut a lot of guys, traded others. Parcells brought in guys he knew and built an identity. They've drafted core positions early - LT, QB, DE, CB. They found an identity with the wild cat and used it to get the best of their playmakers like Ronnie Brown.

I'm not proposing Seattle does exactly the same thing when it comes to game plans and X's & O's, but they might be best served looking into some of the things Miami did. Jake Long was taken first overall - a great run blocker but average pass blocker. He's still become the unquestioned starter on the blind side. They added a highly rated defensive end in Phillip Merling and a quarterback for the future (who's started this year in Chad Pennington's absence). Core positions, laying foundations, finding an identity. It was hard work, but it came with instant results. This year hasn't been as easy going - but there's something to build on for the long term.

It does mean being very specific with the kind of guys you want to draft and sign though. The Seahawks would have to establish what kind of team they want to be to put themselves in position to be that selective.


Anonymous said...

I like the idea of focusing on one specific area unless somebody falls into your lap that is too talented to pass up.

Personally (hard to do), I'd try to find a trade partner in the mid teens and gain an extra 2nd or 3rd round pick. Then I'd take OT Bruce Campbell, Mike Iupati, then the best offensive weapon. Could be a RB or WR, but someone with playmaking ability. First 3 picks give us security on the line and a potential gamebreaker (at a reduced price).

Getting 2 physical freaks like Campbell and Iupati together at the same time would allow them to develop chemistry and ultimately put the QB of the future in an ideal situation to have protection and a weapon at their disposal down the road.

Jayce said...

I agree, I would love to have Bruce Campbell and Mike Iupati. But will Campbell drop low enough for us?

Rob Staton said...

It's a tempting proposition right? Filling out that left side with two big guys, real physical specimens. If you can find that Jahvid Best, Aurelious Benn type in round two - you're starting to rebuild the offense.

Anonymous said...

Doesn't Campbell have injury issues?

I don't wanna go anywhere near a guy who's had a history of injuries. Not after the last 2 years. And that goes double for Bradford... my god, people are seriously looking at him in the top-10 after shoulder surgery? The Redskins know they have the worst offensive line in football, right?

Spiller, Iupati and an offensive tackle in the 2nd sounds good to me. We don't need another walt, just someone better than locklear.

Savage said...

I think it is starting to become obvious that the position that needs upgrading the most is QB. Hasselbeck no longer has the arm strength to make NFL throws. The injuries and hits have taken their toll and I think he can't be effective on a mediocre team. He can no longer make other players better.

Seneca Wallace is getting older and is not the long term answer. You cannot have a QB who would rather go out of bounds taking a 10 yard loss than just throwing the ball away. It shows a lack of awareness and football IQ.

Mike Teel is way too young to be relied upon. Also, he really only had about 6 or 7 successful games in college. He was so bad at Rutgers before the very end of his senior year. He is ok to keep as a 3rd QB, but cannot be trusted as even a 2nd QB.

Looking over the FA listings, there are really no option that are very appealing. Jason Campbell is probably the best option, but is he really gonna be worth the money a team will most likely give him? I don't think so. One route that could be taken, would be to trade for a younger back up. One guy that comes to mind is Kevin Kolb, but I'm no so sure that Philly would be willing to trade him.

So, with all of this, I am starting to lean towards drafting Sam Bradford with our first pick if available and his medicals check out on the shoulder. He has been very accurate in college and shown the ability to make quick reads. The durability is a major concern, but he shows a potential to be a great QB and that comes with risk. In order to help that I would take the 2 best OL prospects I could find with the next 2 picks.

Another thing that I think is a good idea for this offseason is, after purging the roster of over paid and aging talent, the Hawks should avoid high priced veterans and instead target a large number of younger back up players that have not been given an opportunity to prove themselves in the NFL.

Rob Staton said...

Absolutely some very good points there annonymous. Campbell has experienced turf toe and MCL issues this year - and it's something that has to be looked into closely. Seattle can ill afford to gamble on guys who have injury history.

Drafting Iupati and Spiller in the first round would likely have a similarly positive impact on the offense. You're getting a big body on the line who's reportedly an excellent run blocker. You also get a pure playmaker who's existence will demand respect and potentially stop teams flat out blitzing the Seahawks every week. It's easy to see offensive and line issues as just a left tackle problem, but that's not necessarily the case, especially when a team has very little bite and struggles to put points on the board.

Rob Staton said...

Savage - they have to seriously consider Bradford. They need to work him out, test that shoulder, watch the tape. I'm sure they will, of course. But he has to be in their thoughts because of the team's situation. Everything you've said is quite true.

Whether you feel confident enough to take Bradford I'm not sure - but eventually they need a long term solution at that position. Whether they try to fix that this year remains to be seen.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the Oline reasoning. OT, OG, offensive playmaker. Start the rebuild now, and right. Don't worry about W's next year, just get better on at least oneside of the football. There will be solid Olinemen & RB's in the mid late 1st, and early 2nd in this draft. We have the potential of getting three starters, and letting the current players via for backup posistions.

I'm hoping the Seahawks let it be known there first pick is for sale. The only teams ahead of them atm and need a QB are St Louis, Wash, and Cleveland. STL will have to take Suh, Holmgrem may stick with the QB's he has, and Wash could still pick behind the Hawks. We might be in a prime spot for another team to trade up and get a QB. The Hawks could use the extra picks.

Anonymous said...

We have fallen so far in talent that we will need at least two drafts to repair the damage. How about a new coach to go with the new GM and a purge of anybody on the team not giving 100% this year. We need a new defensive scheme to accentuate the talent we have and lots of draft picks on offense. I would like to see every single member of the offense being replaced (except Unger)
Mike Kelly

Anonymous said...

Nice write-up Rob. I think there is more talent on this team than their record suggests. Coaching, especially on offense has been poor. I'll take door number 2.

Anonymous said...

Great article.....I had to shake my head because I remember when we passed on merling, i think for jackson. As well as passing on the RB a Liberty for Teel. Just head shakers.

Which ever way we go, I just hope they dont screw it up. Nice to have the center left taken care of, like you said for ten yrs. possibly the best T and G availible, safe as well as needed.

again great read, thanks

Anonymous said...

Spiller and Iupati. Period. Some say he's a 200-250 carry guy, they said that about chris johnson i beleive. Get a DE with the 2nd.

Anonymous said...

The one concern I have about the idea of "collecting talent" is that usually implies your team is lacking an identity. This is in regards to bad teams picking high in the draft. Good, established teams can afford to just take the best talent available because they already have an identity and the most important positions covered.

You definitely need to stockpile talent, but I think at this stage of rebuilding, it's more important to identify a) what type of team you are going to build, b) identify players that fit that system, and c) establish postional value and how that correlates to players in the draft.

It's too bad that a majority of people thought that last season was a mere hiccup, because at this point, drafting Aaron Curry could be seen as a set back to this franchise. This has nothing to do with Curry's performance/ability, but because drafting a OLB that high is usually never a great idea. Then you take into account the previous FO's ability to identify very good LB talent in the early-middle rounds (Tatupu, Hill) and it makes it even more frustrating.

Hindsight is 20/20, but taking a QB or LT or DE last year would have been huge in regards to the rebuilding process. Instead, we are literally at the base level of the rebuilding process, which will be painful.

I was all for drafting Mark Sanchez last year and having the luxury of him sitting and learning. There's a reason they say the best time to get a QB is when you don't absolutely need one. My fear is that the new regime will identify the dire need to draft a QB and over rate guys like Clausen and Bradford.

If you don't identify a QB you like in this draft, then the goal should be to create a situation that is ideal for a young QB to step into. If the FO falls in love with a guy like Jake Locker, etc for the 2011 draft, then use this draft to make the situation ideal for a young QB. Give him protection and a running game. I'm not a fan of starting rookie QBs (no matter how high they are picked), but if you are forced to do so, you might as well set him up in the best possible situation.

No rookie QB would survive in this offense. Heck, it has made Hass look terrible. It would be wise on the new GM to approach this situation as a multi year process that is not going to be a quick fix. That is why I say it is more important to identify what type of team you want to build, and draft guys that fit that system (I'm not saying to reach for guys) rather than just blindly collecting talent.

Anonymous said...

nice post. thanks.

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