Thursday, 22 April 2010

The 2010 first round: more awesome than I expected

By Kip Earlywine
Today was much more exciting than I thought it would be. Maybe its because in a typical draft, I have an intimate understanding of 5-10 players, whereas this year it was about 60. Knowing a player and coming to my own conclusions on them makes for a very different viewing experience. In past years, I'd just look at "Kiper's Best Available" and think "we should get player X because he's high on the list and fits a need!" This year, I had a more personal understanding, not only of the prospects but of the Seahawks specific schemes as well. I can't express how different and amazing that makes the draft feel.

To read the rest of Kip's analsysis, click 'read more'.

To me there were 4 crucial non-Seahawks teams to watch during picks 1-13. The Chiefs, the Jaguars, the Chargers, and the Eagles. The Chiefs held the keys to one of Eric Berry, Russell Okung, or Trent Williams (if he had lasted that far). The Jaguars were the biggest obstacle for Derrick Morgan reaching the 14th pick. The Chargers and Eagles did not pick ahead of the Seahawks, but they were still critically important because they were the two teams most likely to make a deal at #14. So when the Chargers traded up with Miami and the Eagles swung that deal with the Broncos, that dealt a pretty big blow to the Seahawks, even though none of the players taken were on Seattle's radar.

My mock draft was looking pretty good through 4 picks. Trent Williams was the pick at #4, as Rob Rang revealed yesterday. That meant that KC would choose between Okung and Berry. I expected Berry to be the pick, which meant Okung would be at the top of Carroll's big board at #6, and thus a semi-obvious pick there. That's how things played out and with the 6th pick in the draft...

My mock was perfect through 6. I was pretty excited.

Haden was my first mistake at #7, a totally understandable pick. In retrospect, I probably should have mocked Haden there- it was a pretty obvious selection beforehand.

Then all hell broke loose. Al Davis is famous for being crazy and unpredictable, but no one had the Raiders taking Rolando McClain before the draft. Buffalo's pick was just as shocking. With Clausen, Bulaga, and Davis all still available, they took CJ Spiller. Then came Jacksonville- the most crucial non-Seahawk pick in the draft, in my opinion. The whole time this pick was up, I was chanting "please not Morgan!"

As I've alluded to in the past, I used to play left tackle in high school and briefly for a division II college. Part of being a great lineman is being fast off the snap- and one of the techniques to achieve that is listening for the first sound. In other words, you don't fire off when you hear "HUT!", you fire off at 100 mph when you hear "h....". Jacksonville's card comes in, and I'm standing, leaning over really, in my living room waiting for the first sound, the "D" in Derrick Morgan. Goodell begins to speak. I'm 99% certain I'm going to hear that D, but instead, "T," as in Tyson.... wait who? Tyson Jackson?! I was so breathless I had to rewind my DVR. Tyson Alualu.

Tyson Alualu.


This is, without a doubt, the most inexplicable and surprising top 10 pick I can remember ever seeing, and it had the added bonus of aiding the Seahawks.

What made it all the more incredible is that Jacksonville does not own a 2nd rounder, so in the first two rounds, all they'll have to show for last year's 7-9 team is a projected late 2nd round DT. Tim Tebow would have been less of a reach, and completely understandable at #10 in comparison.

Anyway, Jacksonville- you blew my mind. Thank you. Moving on.

Overall, I really liked how the dominoes fell for Seattle today. Other than Suh and McCoy going in the top 3 as expected, I don't think today could have had the picks fall any better than they did. Okung is not highly regarded here at SDB, but he was the consensus #1 LT in the draft, and LT was the Seahawks #1 need. Earl Thomas is not the pick I would have made, and to be honest, I'm a little surprised that Morgan was snubbed, not once but twice. But when the punishment for passing on Derrick Morgan is Earl Thomas, I think I can live with that. Its the difference between an A+ pick and a B+ pick. For months I was living in terror that the team might select JPP, Griffen or Mays with a 1st rounder. I'd probably give the Seahawks first round an "A" just for avoiding those guys with such high picks.

I really have to give Seattle credit for their effort to trade. They didn't select Okung until a mere 2 minutes remained at #6, and they went to the wire at #14 before selecting Earl Thomas. I wasn't a fan of any of the moves the Seahawks made in free agency really, but I have to say, I love how the Seahawks have handled the draft so far. Dare I say, Carroll/Schneider seem like a savvy drafting duo. Its still early of course, but I was impressed by what I saw today.

Coming in, I assumed that John Schneider was a tools oriented GM ala Al Davis, sans crazy. Instead, he took two relatively moderate tools players, and seriously considered (I'm assuming) a 3rd in Derrick Morgan. Russell Okung is not lacking for tools. He has D'Brickishaw Ferguson-like arms and solid combine measurables. But his ceiling is not as high as Trent Williams, Anthony Davis, or even Bruce Campbell. What makes Okung such a high pick is his combination of good tools and solid polish. He's more NFL ready than the 3 names above, but has better tools than say Bulaga or Brown. I'm rambling here but my point is, Okung is not some raw, all-tools type guy. On the contrary- he's a relatively safe pick with a high floor.

I never previewed Okung, because Kyle had already done a full scouting report early on, and since Kyle and I agree on things 95% of the time, I just moved on and used that energy to cover someone else. In my wholly amateur and half-informed opinion, I really like Okung though, and have from the beginning. There is a smoothness and efficient nature to his movement that really appeals to me. My only real complaint with Okung is that he seems get by with minimum effort. Being efficient and not working harder than you have to is cool and all, but there is simply no such thing as being too scrappy as an offensive lineman. Okung makes a few mental mistakes as well. If someone lights a fire under his ass and beats the mistakes out of him, Okung will very quickly become a near pro-bowl level left tackle. Cue Alex Gibbs. Gibbs is the gift that just keeps giving. All these months later, I'm still stoked that the Seahawks managed to bring him on board.

I've said elsewhere before the draft that Earl Thomas is the draft's safest pick. He has no major flaws in his game. He's a gamer and a leader too. In the preview piece I wrote on Thomas months ago, I compared him to a Tim Ruskell 2nd round pick. That may seem like a slam on a projected mid-1st rounder, but remember that for all his faults, Tim Ruskell was money with his 2nd round picks. Thomas is like that. He's money. He's Lofa Tatupu playing safety. Its fitting then that Earl Thomas would be drafted with a pick gained from Tim Ruskell's final 2nd round pick in Seattle. If Thomas gets any pub at all, I think he's an early front runner to be defensive rookie of the year in 2010.

In the end, I'm happy with these two picks because tackle and safeties with speed tend to age gracefully and enjoy long careers. The Seahawks are many years away from serious contention, so it makes a lot of sense to make the biggest investments in players that have a great chance of contributing over the long haul. Its entirely possible that in 2020, Okung and Thomas may still be contributors for the Seahawks. That's amazing to think about.

What about the rest? Here are some other things of note today (bullet points edition):
  • Jimmy Clausen goes undrafted through round 1. When I first saw Clausen last year, I figured he'd be a 2nd rounder, but a lot has happened since then and to see him actually land in the 2nd round is stunning. Most shocking of all, is that Minnesota passed on him by trading down. Maybe the Vikings still take him early next round, but if they believe in him enough to take him then, why risk it? When even the Vikings are passing, you know your in trouble. Clausen absolutely made the right decision staying at home. Today would have been agony with the cameras locked on to him after every single selection.
  • Charles Brown goes undrafted through round 1. Not totally shocking, but I now wish more than ever that the accursed Charlie Whitehurst trade had never been conceived. Seattle would normally be a 4th round toss-in away from either Jimmy Clausen or Charles Brown right now if they still had the #40. Yep, those 20 spots in draft order do matter as it turns out. Hell, if Seattle was offered the #33 for a future 2nd and the #60 so they could move up for one of those guys- I wouldn't bat an eyelid.
  • Jahvid Best was a bittersweet selection at #30. Best is one of my favorite players in the entire draft, and I was hoping he'd have an improbable slide well into the 2nd round. I never thought he'd reach #60, but I did think he might reach #45 and entice a trade up. On the other hand, I made a bold prediction that Best would be a late 1st round pick (I was only off by 2 spots), so that felt good, and heck- Best deserves first round status. Apparently, concussions didn't bother the Lions at all, just like they didn't bother me. The Lions by the way have a very savvy front office that has made nothing but smart moves since taking over last year. Don't be shocked if the Lions are a force in the near future.
  • I thought Ryan Mathews was a big reach at #12, but an understandable one. There was no way that Mathews or Spiller would have reached #28, and the opportunity to make a reasonable trade was there. I think the Chargers will be happy with Mathews, but its been a long journey from Mathews from 2nd/3rd round no name to 12th overall pick over the span of 4 months.
  • Dan Williams fell all the way to Arizona, and Bryan Bulaga fell all the way to Green Bay. Huge bargains. Sometimes picking in the 20's isn't as bad as people think.
  • San Francisco has to be the favorite to win the division next year. They already have a team loaded with talent on defense and now have by far the most talented offensive line in the division. Joe Staley is a solid left tackle, Mike Iupati is a pro-bowl caliber guard prospect and Anthony Davis is a potential all-pro RT.
Looking ahead to round two, the inside source we've cited (which mentioned Thomas at #14 and hinted at Okung at #6) has the Seahawks looking most seriously at Jahvid Best, Ryan Mathews, Tim Tebow, Mardy Gilyard and Geno Atkins. The first 3 names are already gone. Will Gilyard or Atkins reach #60? Gilyard has probably a 50/50 shot, and Atkins has probably a 60/40 chance I would guess. Since its only a list of two preferred players, and because Seattle has substantial draft ammunition, I think there is a very real chance Seattle trades up once this list of two becomes a list of one. I think either player would make for a nice draft pick, but right now, I'd lean Gilyard. We need WR depth desperately and a quality WR group will help along our next franchise QB, whoever that ends up being. Gilyard is a Deion Branch clone, but at the same time is money on 3rd downs in a manner reminiscent of Bobby Engram.


hunter said...

I reallt hope we dont draft Gilyard, i really like the kid but we need a playmaker number 1 reciever not another slot/2 guy. They are valueable guys but we have enough of them.

Anonymous said...

That was a great piece of writing, especially at the Tyson Alualu part.

But I agree with hunter. We have way too many #2/slot receivers. Branch looks like he is staying and we also have Butler waiting. I say go for the DT like Atkins or Houston.


Charles said...

Kip- One thought I had when we selected Earl Thomas was, wow this guy just lucked out. He's going to have a rookie in Sam Bradford, a so far horrible QB in Matt Leinart, and Alex Smith/David Carr throwing at him 6 games a year for a good chunk of his career. Does it get much better for a ball hawking safety? Defensive Rookie of the Year seems like it could definately be a possiblity, but then again, about 1 year ago, I'm sure alot of us were thinking that about Aaron Curry as well. Heres hoping my gut feeling is right this time.

Anonymous said...

I like Dunlap and Virgina DB Cook at 60 if they fall that far on the D. WR Benn or Lefell at WR and maybe a Ben Tate at RB but that might be stretch hopefully Mckight falls to early 4th.

micah said...

I know everyone disliked Taylor Mays as a first rounder, but what if we traded up to get him as a second rounder. We'd have one playmaker and one enforcer at safety, which is a pretty nice combo. Also, I don't think WR is our biggest need. There are a ton of undersized WRs that you can get good value for in later rounds. Plus, there have also been a ton of rumors that we might go after TO...

Tyler said...

"My only real complaint with Okung is that he seems get by with minimum effort."

Replace Okung with Jones (as in Walter) and you have a description from the 1997 draft...

Steve in Spain said...

Rob Rang has been saying for the past few days that Alualu was creeping into the 1st round. Still, #10 overall is a shocker. If this were European football, Jacksonville would be relegated to second division for that pick.

Charles said...

Micah- I have to agree with you, people may have issues with Taylor Mays in the first, and I also think some people will bitch about drafting two safety's with early picks, but in our division it would be nice to have someone scare the bigger receivers and TEs that are as fast as receivers. I'd be all for getting him in the 40-50 range to set up our safety position for the next several years. Earl Thomas is definately more of a FS than a SS, and Babineaux as a SS is sorta scary. I keep getting flash backs of a couple years ago when Babs kept missing tackles on Frank Gore, and he ran all over us for 400 yards in 2 games.

Anonymous said...

I know we want a "true" SS, but I just feel that we should really upgrade the DL especially in a draft that is deep at the... you know, DL. I really think if we manage to hit a solid penetrating 3 tech that the whole defense would evolve. It would free up everyone on the DL (colin cole is useless) and allow the DBs to do a better job.


CLanterman said...

Kip, couldn't agree more. I'm glad we didn't get Mays, Griffen, or JPP. I would have liked Morgan as well, but who knows, maybe we get Dunlop in the 2nd. Maybe we use Curry as a standup end, and get Houston/Atkins/Price in the 2nd?

D said...

A joy to read,

I love this quote in the twitter section to the right:

"RT @walterfootball While brushing my teeth, I randomly thought of the Tyson Alualu pick and just burst out laughing."

As for the Hawks I reckon Okung is needed but it would have been gravy if Williams was there.

Thomas is a great pick. We sorely needed a safety and it worked out to be the BPA as well. What more can you ask for at 14?

CLanterman said...

Regarding Walter Football, it looks like they were wrong about Clausen and owe McShay an apology. Kudos to Rob for getting that right way back before the college football season was over.

micah said...

I agree that DE is a need. but so is having another safety, seeing how Babs is our only other safety. But then again, an offensive playmaker is also a pressing need too. as well as solidifying our dline and adding depth to our oline. that being said, if we can get any of the guys considered "first round" talent early in the 2nd round that fills one of our many needs, then I'd be happy for that.

Rugby Lock said...

Personally, I would love to see the Hawks pick Taylor Mays as a SS and have ET at FS. A defensive backfield comprising of Wilson, Thomas, Mays and Trufant looks wicked cool to me!

Anonymous said...

NO,NO,NO on Gilyard....
Grab one of the D Tackles or S Safetys please.
Trade up if needed. Taylor Mays and Earl Thomas as our starters would be one helluva combo !!!!

Bill said...

D LINE!!! End or Tackle. Maybe a WR but a big one. There are some good ones still there who actually have some size. How about the kid from USC or Brandon LaFell.