With the 12th overall selection this year, the Seahawks have an important decision to make. Unless all the stars align, they’ll have to decide if they’re going to draft for need, or draft their best player available. Obviously they’ll be able to evaluate each player individually, and may find some sort of happy medium that fulfills a need, but is also superior talent.
To this point the team hasn’t drafted the best player available (BPA) often. While Russell Okung and and Earl Thomas could have been considered the BPA the time they were drafted, they also presented the ideal scenario where the BPA happens to play at a position of significant need. Last year when the team drafted James Carpenter it was clearly a need pick, and the team reached on a guy they obviously liked, but a guy who had a third round grade for many draftniks.
Even after that, though they’ve drafted well, the team has drafted players at need positions, eschewing value quite frequently, and has reached on guys like Golden Tate, K.J. Wright, Richard Sherman.
And above all else, to this point the present personnel team has drafted exclusively players who fit their scheme, rather than attempting to find superior athletes who may make awkward fits in their system (read Aaron Curry).
That said, when the present personnel team took over there were a lot more immediate needs on the roster than in the past. Walter Jones had retired, Matt Hasselbeck’s time in Seattle was coming to an end, and the team had significant throughout the rest of their offense and defense. This year’s draft could be different, as the team doesn’t have a gigantic, glaring need at a position that plays enough downs, or that is necessarily worthy of a first round selection. That’s not to say that they can’t improve at several positions, but that many of their needs have been addressed this offseason using free agents of various prices.
Last week we looked at the guys the Seahawks may draft if they are drafting for need, today we’ll look at who they might take if they draft the best player available:
I really debated on including this in the “drafting for need” piece from last week. The team needs to improve their pass rush, no doubt, but a high pick in the first round seems is a poor place to find a rotational end that will only play on passing downs. Chris Clemons will be a free agent after this season, so a pass-rush specialist may have an expanded role next year, but Clemons is also an example of how the Leo position has marginalized the talent level needed at the position. Chris Clemons does very few things very well, but the things he does do well fit what the Seahawks need from that position. Drafting an elite player to play that position may yield nearly equal results as drafting a player who was less-talented overall, but possessed some of the same strengths as Clemons.
Quinton Coples is the only defensive end in this year’s draft that has the size and athleticism to play at an elite level on absolutely every down in the Seahawks defense. His motor has been questioned and that has to be a concern for the Seahawks, but his talent and scheme-fit are very good, and he can probably play every position on the defensive line with some level of success. And if Red Bryant ultimately ends up moving inside to defensive tackle Coples may ultimately be an upgrade at the position.
Melvin Ingram, Courtney Upshaw, Whitney Mercilus and Nick Perry have all been mentioned as possible selections for the Seahawks at that pick to rotate into the Leo spot, and perhaps to replace Bryant on passing downs. Every one of those prospects has the potential to succeed at the Leo spot, and can probably step in and improve the Seahawks on third-and-long day one. The problem with drafting one of those guys at 12 is that the skill set necessary to succeed in the Leo is very limited, and that even if none of those guys are available when the Seahawks pick in the second round, the Leo position is so specialized that they can find adequate talent in later rounds (I’ve mentioned Vinny Curry a couple times before).
If the Seahawks drafted another tackle in the first round it would be the third straight year they’d done that. With James Carpenter’s abilities in question at this point, and the potential that he’ll either move to guard next year, or start the year on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list, the team may end up drafting a first round tackle again. The consensus second tackle on the board is Riley Rieff from Iowa. He’s probably not an ideal left tackle, which is fine for the Seahawks who believe that if Russell Okung is healthy that he’s their left tackle of the future, but the team may have some concern about their future at right tackle.
The chances of Rieff actually being available are pretty slim. Offensive linemen tend to fly off the board, and several teams in the top 11 picks may be looking to upgrade the tackle position. So if he got to the Seahawks at No. 12 the team would be making a great value selection.
Another guy I’m very high on is Cordy Glenn from Georgia. He’s considered to be that level of prospect at this point by many experts, but I believe that he can play right tackle (he played left tackle in college), and not just guard, where he’s listed at on most prospect lists. Glenn is skilled and athletic, has long, strong arms, and comes from a pro-style offense.
Most mock drafts have Trent Richardson projected into the top 10, and generally most draftniks think that Richardson is a very special runningback. That may be true, and we’ve seen how great having Adrian Peterson has been for the Vikings when comined with a solid quarterback, and how great having Marshawn Lynch has been for the Seahawks in their last 12 games, but the present front office has hired a coaching staff that has systems in place to make the runningback position basically interchangeable.
Even signing Lynch to the extension he got from the team was a bit of an overpay in my opinion. He is a very good runningback, I don’t think he has elite talent or athletic ability. I believe he’ll remain productive, and the safety in offering such an extension to a guy like Lynch offers the team some security at the position.
But the team went out and spent a lot of money on a quarterback, and having another high-investment (1st round pick) runningback on the roster may be redundant. And if Lynch is successful for the next 2-4 years, the team will have lost that many years of Richardson’s useful career and that amount of cost-controlled years.
If the Seahawks keep Mike Williams the wide receiver position opposite Sidney Rice who can play both flanker and split end is a position is a non-need. Williams was ineffective last year though, and there’s a possibility he was injured, or that he and Tarvaris Jackson never found chemistry, and while that may Jackson’s fault, there will be no excuses going into this season.
But if guys like Justin Blackmon or Michael Floyd are available when the Seahawks pick, or if they’re high on an athletic dynamo like Stephen Hill, they may end up having the opportunity to draft Williams’ replacement with their 12th overall pick.
Drafting one of those guys may not be ideal, and Blackmon and Hill may have a hard time transferring their skills to the Seahawks offense in Week 1. The offense the Seahawks run doesn’t necessarily require elite receivers either, but in a passing league, we’ve seen the impact of guys like Calvin Johnson and Roddy White on their teams’ success.
Pete Carroll and John Schneider have been very good at finding defensive backs outside of the first round and top-end free agents. Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner played at a Pro Bowl level in Marcus Trufant’s absence last year, though Browner led the league in pass interference penalties. Some of Browner’s penalties have to do with how big he is, and how unconventional he is as a corner.
But if Morris Claiborne or Dre Kirkpatrick falls into the Seahawks laps, they’ll certainly be worth some consideration. Both of them are big physical corners that fit what the Seahawks do at the position. However, one of the reasons why Browner gets called for penalties so often is that he isn’t athletically superior to many of the receivers he’s covering, and as such he has to do things that are against the rules to prevent his opposing receiver from catching the ball, even if it leads to a penalty. Both Claiborne and Kirkpatrick are elite athletes, and will be better equipped to cover very good receivers.
There are very few truly elite corners in the NFL, and the ones that exist are very expensive. With the rookie slotting system, first rounder corners aren’t nearly as expensive as they used to be. Considering how many three, four, and five receiver sets are run in the NFL, having depth at the corner position is becoming a necessity rather than a luxury. Moving Sherman or Browner to the nickel would help to eliminate slot receiver and tight end production against the team.
If Claiborne falls to the team he’s an almost-no-brainer, but the chances of that are almost none. Kirkpatrick is more likely, but for a reason, as Kirkpatrick was arrested for marijuana possession this offseason, though the charges were dropped.
Ultimately, if the Seahawks choose to draft the best player available they’ll likely have acquired better talent. If that talent doesn’t match the team’s system it may not maximize the potential of that talent any more than drafting for need.