Hello, my name is Luke Kuechly.
With Matt Flynn, Jason Jones, and Frank Omiyale on the roster, the Seahawks functionally filled all of their most obvious needs this offseason, as Flynn has enough upside to be the quarterback of the future, Jones can take care of some of the pass rush, and Omiyale gives the Seahawks depth at three positions on the offensive line. In conjunction with re-signing Marshawn Lynch and Red Bryant, and the release of Robert Gallery, the Seahawks list of offseason needs has been quite fluid to this point.
So when the Seahawks draft with their 12th overall pick there’s bound to be some dissention among fans. The ideal scenario for any team is to draft the best player available, and have that player be at a need position. That rarely happens, and teams usually draft for need, or for the best talent on their big board.
When the team drafted Russell Okung and Earl Thomas, it’s hard to argue that they didn’t encounter the elusive best case scenario. But James Carpenter was a different story, and obviously a need pick. Here’s a look at who the Seahawks may draft if they decide to draft for need:
(And before you go all crazy, we’ll look at this from more angles than just team need)
There is a reason why there isn’t a linebacker classification on this position because presently only K.J. Wright is on the roster, and Wright is able to play inside and outside. The team has free agents Leroy Hill and David Hawthorne, both whom have seen pretty modest markets for their services, and it is entirely possible that both will be back. If they aren’t though, the Seahawks may look to the draft to acquire a linebacker.
One of the trendy picks in recent weeks has become projecting Luke Kuechly, a middle linebacker from Boston College to the Seahawks. Another option, though he may have been unseated by Kuechly as the top linebacker prospect quite early is Zach Brown, a linebacker from North Carolina, not to be confused with the lead singer of the Georgia based country-rock band, aptly named Zac Brown Band.
If the team drafts Kuechly then K.J. Wright probably stays on the outside, and Kuechly takes over in the middle, and if they draft Brown, Wright probably moves to middle linebacker and Brown plays on the weak side. And while I think that K.J. Wright is a very valuable member of the defense, I hardly think he’s good enough to dictate the team’s draft picks, especially because he’s so versatile.
But linebacker has become a position that is very specialized, with 3-4 rush linebackers, Cover 2 coverage linebackers, 4-3 linebackers, and so on. Defense has evolved the linebacker to a position that basically can’t translate to any other kind of defense. We saw this when DeMeco Ryans go traded to the Eagles. We saw it when Jonathan Vilma got traded from the Jets. The only real translation that can occur from one defense to another is when 3-4 linebackers enter a 4-3 their typically able to play defensive end, and vice versa. The Seahawks don’t run a base 3-4 though.
Considering how fungible the linebacker position has become within a scheme fit and how often teams are running three, four, and five receiver sets forcing linebacker to the sidelines, it’s hard to justify spending a top pick on a linebacker unless he’ll play almost every defensive down, and impact most defensive downs.
Kuechly or Brown may be those guys, but even if they do fit that criteria, the first round seems early to draft a guy like that. The Seahawks have had success finding linebacker talent outside of the first round of the draft. Lofa Tatupu came from the second round. David Hawthorne was undrafted. K.J. Wright was drafted in the fourth round.
By my estimation there are only two irreplaceable middle linebackers in football: Ray Lewis and Patrick Willis. Both of those guys play in 3-4 defenses, and being hyper-athletic may be more important in a 3-4 because while there are technically more athletic-pass-rushers on the field, when those guys drop back into coverage they often present a mismatch that can be exploited by opposing offenses.
Either Kuechly or Brown would fill a need, without question, but I don’t think either presents a good enough value to take with the 12th overall pick. That’s not to say that no team would take them that early, just that I hope the Seahawks don’t overdraft for them.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a Seahawks fan who takes a hard-line stance on not drafting a guard in the first round. After all, the Super Bowl team was led in many ways be a first round guard by the name of Steve Hutchinson. But the stigma that stops team from drafting guards in the first round is in place for a reason.
Remember Brandon Albert? He was supposed to be the best guard prospect ever. He was taken 15th overall, and because of the high draft pick the Chiefs moved him to left tackle. He has struggled considerably there, and while he’s played out of position for basically his whole career, he’s been largely disappointing.
Remember Robert Gallery? Probably the biggest bust of an offensive lineman in recent memory not named Jason Smith? That short-armed bust became one of the better guards in football. Often times good guards were average tackles that found themselves at the position for some reason or another.
So while Stanford guard David DeCastro seems like a very good guard prospect, maybe even a can’t miss, it’s hard to argue that he’s anything close to a good value. I like Cordy Glenn also, but I don’t like him enough to draft him 12th overall, even though he may be able to play tackle also.
And the main appeal of the zone-blocking scheme is that it marginalizes the value of both the runningback position, and the offensive line, allowing lesser talents to function at a higher level, and when they become expensive they can be shuffled out for other inexpensive scheme fits. In an offseason that included re-signing Marshawn Lynch to a lucrative contract, drafting a guard high would all-but-elimate the comparative advantage the Seahawks have on other teams because of the scheme they run.
And how about James Carpenter? There’s significant questions about whether or not Carpenter is actually a tackle, or if he’ll have to move to guard. If the team drafts DeCastro they’ll have no place to put Carpenter if he isn’t successful playing right tackle.
It’s not that I don’t think that DeCastro, Kuechly, or Brown will be good players. I think they’ll all be fantastic. I just don’t think they present adequate value for a Seahawks team that should be able to fill their positions in a much less expensive, and much more logical manner.