Monday, 11 January 2010

An early look at Pete Carroll and the draft

Pete Carroll will officially be revealed as the new Seahawks Head Coach this week. I anticipate that he'll be given the same powers that Mike Shanahan had in Denver/Washington and Andy Reid has in Philadelphia. A new GM will be appointed, probably someone who can keep an eye on the cap, contracts, evaluations and alike. This is Carroll's gig and he'll almost certainly have final say on personnel and more specifically, the 2010 draft.

To really get a grasp of this new regime in terms of projections, we need to see a draft. Everyone understood Tim Ruskell's philosophies, but we aren't 100% sure how Carroll and his staff will go about business. Even after the 2010 event we'll still only have a rough idea and it'll take probably 2-3 years to start throwing terms around like 'he's a Carroll guy'. Taking that into account, what do we know?

Carroll ran a 4-3 defense at USC. It would surprise me if the Seahawks moved away from this formation at least in 2010 anyway. There are a lot of different looks, he often used what's been described as an 'Elephant' on some plays, with a rushing lineman or linebacker stood up off the edge in space - with three lineman alongside. But essentially this is a 4-3 team today and it will be going into the new season.

One thing Carroll did always value was the importance of an effective defensive line. If you're getting pressure up front, this will free up your linebackers to make plays. It stops the other teams quarterback from functioning. It can stagnate a running game. Simply put, the Seahawks defensive line hasn't delivered the last two seasons. Patrick Kerney's future with the team is unclear - he's due a rather large salary this year. Lawrence Jackson - a former Carroll protege - has been inconsistent and is better in run defense than being used as a pass rusher. Darryl Tapp is a restricted free agent, but he is another who has struggled for consistency.

It would not surprise me at all if the Seahawks made the defensive line a top priority in the 2010 draft. It's the greatest area of strength in this years class for starters, but with two picks in the first fourteen - Seattle has a chance to find an impact starter. Let's assume Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy are off the board as top five picks. Derrick Morgan (DE, Georgia Tech) is a prototype 4-3 end with a relentless motor offering a dynamic edge rush. He could be available at #6 and should warrant serious consideration. If Morgan isn't available, the Seahawks could pursue the position at #14. Everson Griffen (DE, USC) is well known to Carroll and would warrant consideration, as might UCLA defensive tackle Brian Price. Jason Pierre-Paul (DE, USF) and Carlos Dunlap (DE, Florida) can also be added to the equation.

What about the offense?

Many Seahawks fans continue to hope for an addition at left tackle. It was whilst watching the Green Bay vs Arizona game last night that a thought occurred to me. Arizona don't have a great offensive line, but Green Bay's is positively awful. It's not just my mock drafts that have had both teams taking offensive lineman in April's draft. However, they managed to put 96 points on the board in a playoff game. Why? Because they have good quarterbacks, exceptional receivers and efficient schemes. It's as simple as that.

During his time at USC, Carroll favored similar lineman to Tim Ruskell. Not overly big guys who can work a zone scheme with agility. I think he's unlikely to select a guy like Anthony Davis with the #6 pick. A case could be made for suggesting none of this tackle class warrants a selection as high as that. Although it's early days, I would be surprised if that initial pick belonging to the Seahawks was spent on an offensive tackle.

The theory that you need elite blockers isn't necessarily always true. It helps, but drafting expensive rookies to play on your line isn't always the answer. Keeping a defense honest is just as important as it can also buy your quarterback time in the pocket. Seattle doesn't threaten anyone at the skill positions and teams have been able to attack the offensive line with creative blitz packages and stacking the box. The Seahawks need greater playmakers to earn greater respect and lessen the work load on the lineman. There's no better way to accomplish that than to have dangerous options at receiver (see Fitzgerald, Breaston, Doucet, Jennings, Driver etc).

At #6 there's only one realistic option, Oklahoma State's Dez Bryant. Like Michael Crabtree last year, he doesn't own elite deep speed. He does however find ways to get open, he's got long arms and enjoyed strong production for the Cowboys last year (1480 yards in 2008, scoring 19 TD's). He obviously missed nearly all of 2009 thanks to a NCAA suspension, but this shouldn't harm his stock too much based on the seriousness (or lack of) the charge. From what I've seen personally, he's prone to the odd error (not many drops, but the ones he does miss tend to be frustrating) but he's flashed that big play potential too. He's a threat on screens and with the ball in space, but he's also capable of getting downfield.

The alternative at #14 is another USC prospect and someone Carroll appears to have a lot of time for. Damian Williams is a smart, likeable character who enjoyed a 1010 yard, six touchdown season in 2009. He's capable of being used as a deep option, but he's also especially good with the ball in space and was used on a lot of screen passes for the Trojans. He body catches a bit too much, but he tends to make all the completions that he should. Is it a bit early? I could see Williams going in the teens, but then I could also see him dropping into the 20's. Either way, he's a potential fit for the kind of offense Carroll will look to deploy and he'll have first hand experience of the schemes.

Going back to that Packers/Cardinals game, you can see the benefit of experienced QB and talented pass catcher. Arizona are currently the divisions top team - and by some stretch. Green Bay showed last night that the only way to stop them is to match them for offensive production whilst on defense making sure you get pressure on the quarterback. It wouldn't surprise me in the slightest if Seattle and Pete Carroll have that in mind when they spend those two first round picks. Many fans will want the team to target offensive lineman, but the value may not be there, particularly with the sixth overall pick. A defensive end and a receiver in round one? It could happen.


D said...

Your Blog is really coming through on this Carroll thing Rob. Great work.

I was actually thinking a bit along the new coach, new QB path.
By the best of estimates Hass doesn't have a lot of gas left in the tank and I have heard nothing about Teels progress.

Essentially the guy that come into question for Carroll is Bradford. Is he "a PC-guy"? The accuracy is obviously there but he wasn't really playing in a pro offence. Carrol is rumored to bring his USC OC to Seattle, what do we know about him? Tricky...

I know you don't agree but if Clausen is there it's a slam dunk I reckon.

Mike said...

I agree, Rob you have been much more pragmatic about the whole PC thing then some of the others out there. Much more interesting to read.
I don't think Clausen is a slam dunk. Like Rob said, PC needs a good QB, not a great one. For most of the USC teams the QB was accurate and smart. They didn't need to be mobile or have a cannon. Most of the big USC plays were shorter passes getting the ball to their big playmakers in space. They also had multiple playmakers who would help confuse the defense. Clausen without a lot of weapons would not be an effective version of a PC offense. I think Rob is right on with some combo of DE and WR in the first round. In the second I would guess we go after J. Best or whoever is the highest "playmaker" type RB left. Hasselback is on the downside, but I think the easier route to short term success is to give him weapons that are a threat and worry about QB next year, or through a trade.

Rob Staton said...

I think it's also important to stress, Seattle could still find a nice addition to their offensive line in round two. Rob Rang was the first person who really highlighted Mike Iupati and put him in the middle of the first round in his mock draft. The last couple of updates have Iupati falling to round two. Walter Cherepinsky is projecting the same thing. It's not beyond the realms of possibility that could happen - and there's also the chance of getting a Charles Brown or Jason Fox at #40.

The thing about taking a QB 6th overall - the success or failure of Pete Carroll will likely be entwined with the success or failure of that signal caller. I'm not sure he'd want to put that much faith or pressure on one guy's shoulders, especially on a team that lacks a lot of the things that can help a rookie QB (solid o-line, great receivers or running back). Obviously it would be different if there was a slam dunk or dare I say - a USC QB like Mark Sanchez that he had a close working rapport with. But I'm not sure he'd invest his own success in Jimmy Clausen or Sam Bradford.

I think there's a very good chance he'll look to get more from Hasselbeck than we've seen the last two years, likely by improving the line play (just not necessarily with an expensive pick) and getting better at WR and RB. As I suggested in the article, it wouldn't surprise me if the Seahawks took a wide out early. They might look to bring in another young back too who can find an edge and offer some speed - like Jahvid Best or Joe McKnight.

CiaranH said...

I agree with most of what you said here Rob, but I disagree that we're a lock to stay at 4-3. Carroll has experience running a 3-4, and switched to it when he saw that his linebackers were the strength of the defence. It's apparent that that's the case with the Hawks, so I could see us targeting Price at 14, to give us a Lo-Jack, Mebane and Price 3 man front (Cole as depth at NT and pick up some backups in FA). This would free up Tapp to alternate with Curry and Hill (and to a lesser extent Nick Reed) as rush backers and allow us to cut Kerney and Redding. It also allows us to keep Hawthorne and Tatupu on the field together. My guess is that we draft Spiller as the Bush-like home-run threat at 6 and Price at 14.

Rob Staton said...

Hi Ciaran - I've put a lot of emails out over the weekend to try and find out as much as I can about Carroll's schemes on both sides of the ball. I got a pretty conclusive answer from all parties that Carroll has run a 4-3 that very often can look like a 3-4 because he plants a rushing linebacker or lineman in space standing up and he plays accross from three lineman with their hands in the ground. I think we'll probably see a lot of this too in Seattle, potentially using Aaron Curry Darryl Tapp or a drafted defensive end as the 'elephant' (term used to describe the pass rusher stood in space).

But the discussion is a valid one because as of today, we cannot be 100% sure what changes the new regime will make. I think it'd be easier, however, to get this defense functioning with a more creative approach to the 4-3 considering Seattle's personnel than it would be to switch to the 3-4.

Anonymous said...

Rob, echoing above sentiments, great job. I'm optimistic about Carroll and his new staff, and think Hass can be pro-bowl caliber again with the right scheme (not Knapps)and weapons. Everything I've read about Carroll's D philosphy is must have 1 disruptive pass rush DE, the other can be more of a run-stuffer. Also must have two cover corners who can be left on an island freeing up one safety (usually FS) to run support and blitz packages. While other positions can't be slouches, these are the most important to effectively run a 4-3 under, his D of choice. Therefore, I could see Morgan or Haden as likely choices at #6. At 14, I still think a dynamic playmaker like Spiller who does everything well (block, catch, return) would be too good to pass up. I was also struck by the improvement in O-line play by both AZ and GB yesterday. Proof that time together as a unit can be as important as individual dominance, or offensive scheme can offset individual weaknesses, or both. In any case, Brown, Fox, Hudson or Iupati at 39 would be much better value, although a #1 potential WR like LaFell or Thomas would also make sense. I do think it's likely that Branch, Jones, Jones and possibly Kerney are released in favor of youth.

Rob Staton said...

Some excellent points there annonymous, thank you.

john_s said...

I have a totally off the wall scenario, but please read it through and let me know what you think.

If there are no OT's that really grade out to being a #6 pick and lets say Derrick Morgan is not available @ 6. What do you think of trading down in the first and accumulating 2011 draft picks.

Lets say Everson Griffin and Iupati are the targets.

They are mid 1st round grades. Would you trade down and get the other teams 1st this year and 2nd next year?

The reason why is ask is two fold.

1) There's more than likely going to be a rookie cap next draft. More than likely what you would pay for pick 6 this year is going to be more than what you would pay in years and guaranteed money to the #1 pick next year. If you are not sold on a player why commit so much money to a guy and be hamstrung for the next 5-6 years?

2) if you compare the QB class between this year with next years, next years class is head and shoulders better than this years class.

Jake Locker, Ryan Mallet and Johnson from Tex A&M.

Why not build some ammo for next years draft so we can trade into a spot to get one of the three?

Again the money you will be paying them is going to be less than what you will be paying the #6 draft pick this year.

Anonymous said...

Rob, while I agree with most of what you say, I have to disagree with your assessment that Carroll won't perceive the o-line as needing a major upgrade. USC has always had dominant o-linemen during Carroll's tenure. Whether or not former USC linemen are having pro-bowl careers or not, they are great in college. Sam Baker, Deuce Latui, Chilo Rachal, Ryan Kalil, Winston Justice, etc. I would say that having geat o-linemen at USC has been a big part of his success. I still say o-line is targeted early.


Rob Staton said...

Hi John - it's not a bad suggestion. Of course, whenever you're trading you need a buyer and a seller. Not many people would have thought the Broncos and Panthers would be willing to give up first round picks in 2010 to get back into the second round. There's always a deal to be done, it's about finding a partner. The Seahawks will explore moves, but I think having two first rounders can also be something of a hindrance with trades. Teams will you see as sitting in a position of power, they'll want some of that power in return for moving around. Certainly the 2011 quarterback class could have some gems.

TJ - whilst I agree on the offensive line, I think the point I was trying to suggest is that he isn't likely to just reach on an OT and see that as the be all and end all. I think he'd love to bring in a very good defensive lineman and there is some justification for that at both #6 and #14 because it's a position of strength in this class. His offenses have always had much more explosive, faster playmakers too - that's in part because he recruited brilliantly at USC, but I have to think he'll look at that strongly in the draft. He might struggle to justify a pick on OL at #6 and he's not traditionally taken bigger guys like Anthony Davis for his line. I think it'd be more likely he ponders the likes of Charles Brown or Jason Fox at #40 than a Davis in the top ten.

fountaindale said...

I believe that the misuse of Matt Hasselbeck by Greg Knapp is the primary reason Jim Mora is unemployed. Pete Carroll will not make that mistake. A return to the system/terminology Matt has spent ten years learning will bring immediate offensive improvement. This is a weak QB draft and next year's could be the strongest in years. These factors make a Seattle QB selection in the first round very unlikely.
I agree with your offensive line analysis. Good enough is good enough. So what makes an immediate impact in the NFL. There's really only two things, quarterback play and speed.
The new/old system will be responsible for the QB aspect so the question becomes where do you get employ the speed. WR, RB, DE, and CB are the speed "hot" spots. At WR Dez Bryant isn't that fast and Deon Butler has elite (4.38) speed. CJ Spiller, Derrick Morgan, and Joe Haden are the speed candidates high in this draft. I believe Derrick Morgan will be gone so Joe Haden's 4.3 speed at a need position will be Seattle's first pick. The #14 pick will be Spiller if he drops or Seattle trade's up. If Spiller isn't available Everson Griffen, Cory Wooton, or Greg Hardy could fit the bill.
Seattle's desired players in order:
Derrick Morgan
Joe Haden
CJ Spiller
Everson Griffin

Rob Staton said...

I was going to include Haden in the article, but wanted to narrow the discussion to the WR/DE position. Clearly though, he's a very viable option as the best corner back in this draft and a sure fire top 10-12 pick.

Anonymous said...

From Texashawk,

I remember reading last year how that years QB group was weak and this years was going to be so solid with tebow, bradford, clausen, ect. Why did that change? It seems like this year is the same feeling "this year QB sucks but next years crop...." i am thinking that next year everyone will be saying the same thing. Please explain this to me please.

Rob Staton said...

You'll have to trust me on this one (or read the archives - everything is saved from the 2009 draft discussions) - but I always maintained that I thought Sanchez and Stafford would ultimately look a lot more attractive options than the 2010 class. I think people just assumed the big names - Colt McCoy, Tim Tebow... would make top picks and excellent pro-prospects. A lot of people banked on Sam Bradford having another big year - which obviously he didn't.

But with Stafford and Sanchez you had guys working in pro stlye offenses who fit everything you look for in a top ten QB. McCoy, Tebow and Bradford were all players coming from the spread. They all had issues, these have only been emphasises further.

Nobody was talking about Jimmy Clausen 12 months ago as a 2010 prospect. He's come to the surface and from a statistical point of view I see why people are impressed. He also comes from a pro-style offense. That's why he's being talked about as a top ten pick. But even throwing him into the equation (and one QB always seems to appear as the year goes on), I still think in this draft Stafford and Sanchez go first.

I feel more positive about the 2011 class than I do the 2010. You have Jake Locker - he isn't perfect, but another year in a pro-style offense will do him good. He has the arm, athleticism - he can be a playmaker. He's not Peyton Manning, he never will be. He can be a heck of a quarterback though.

You have Ryan Mallett - great size, excellent release, extremely strong arm and can be accurate, just lacks polish. I expect big things from him.

You also have Jerrod Johnson. He's the most raw out of the three, but he also has the size, arm and athleticism. He needs to do the most work, but a good year and he could be a high pick. He looked great against Texas' stout defense. He didn't look anywhere near as good in the Bowl game.

That's three solid prospects right off the bat. If you allow for at least one surprise riser to add to the list - I'd say it's already looking better than 2010.

Anonymous said...

Plus Andrew Luck from Stanford will be a junior next year, so he might declare.


kearly said...

I'm not a fan of JPP and would be disturbed if the Seahawks drafted him at #14. The only thing exciting about him is his height and ability to add more weight in the NFL. He's only had 1 season in division 1 football, playing in the pitiful Big East, in which despite his size and weak competition he only managed 6 sacks. One of my rules is that college production has to be taken with a grain of salt, but a lack of college production is a big red flag. Because if he can't beat Louisville and Syracuse OTs, how is he going to beat NFL OTs? Drafting on unproven potential alone is a scary thought with a 1st rounder. He's like a 1st round version of Baraka Atkins.

Everson Griffen is a little better as a pass rusher than Jackson, but he's not going to be elite. He has a decent inside move and isn't horrible with his hands like Jackson is. He looks like an average NFL DE to me. He could be a 3-4 elephant, and Carroll might be looking for a player with that versatility for his mock version of a 3-4. Because of the USC connection I think sadly this pick has a very real chance of happening, a repeat of the Jackson mistake.

Seattle already has one good DE (RFA: Tapp) and one decent DE (Jackson). They don't need to add a DE unless he is likely to be an elite pass rusher. If the Seahawks don't choose Morgan, I'd probably avoid DE in the first 2 rounds of this draft, and instead focus on getting Price or moving up for Suh/McCoy.

kearly said...

I finally watched some game footage of Dez Bryant. He's tall and "skinny" looking with nice open field moves. He'd be a nice addition, but he doesn't pop off the screen the same way Crabtree did last year. Crabtree had better hands, was more explosive and was much harder to tackle. Bryant's moves are on par with Crabtree, and he's probably slightly taller.

At #14, he'd be a decent pick, but I'd avoid him at #6. He doesn't look like a superstar in the making.

Anonymous said...

This year's qb class sucks, ruskell really screwed the pooch by not drafting Sanchez. Clausen will get exposed at the nfl level just like Quinn, bank on it. all those spread frauds will wash out of training camp just like graham harrell did. maybe petie can make something of Teel.

kearly said...

I just watched some game footage of Damien Willians (USC) and I've got to say I'm a fan. I think if both him and Bryant were available at #14 I'd take Williams at this point, even though Williams figures to go about 10-15 picks later in most mocks.

Williams just oozes WCO WR. Smooth and precise in everything he does. Great hands- including some occasional diving catches. Deceptive speed. With the ball in his hands he's more of a smooth runner (think SA or Forsett) than a move-maker like Bryant, but that's fine.

I didn't see much of his (or Bryant's) blocking, but I haven't read bad things about either of them in that area.

Williams is not a playmaker, he's a possession receiver, but he's going to be a damn good one and very productive if Seattle drafts him. Think 2007 Bobby Engram. If Seattle trades down, I'd fully endorse a Williams pick, and I'd even be understanding taking him at #14.

Anonymous said...

I would be very disappointed if we used a first (or second) round pick on a WR. That is building the team from the outside in, which I think is a mistake. It does not solve the problem of Matt having 1/2 second to throw, or of our RBs being hit behind the line. Also, there is a very high failure rate for 1st round WRs.

Don't let the Packer/Cardinal game fool you. It is not a formula for sustained success.


Brendan said...

So with the hiring of Alex Gibbs I can't believe we ignore the O Line in this draft.... Maybe just residual wishful thinking for a premier LT.... Thoughts?

Anonymous said...

Brendan - They better not ignore OL if they are sincere about turning this thing around.


Anonymous said...

TJ - if you would just read John Morgan at Field Gulls you would know that the offensive line is just fine.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous - sarcasm? I can't tell. I've heard mixed reviews of Morgan. Some think he is insightful, some don't... I don't ready him however.

hcg said...

It's great to see a blog of this quality. I learned a lot of new things and I'm looking forward to see more like this. Thank you.

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