How The Seahawks Ranked Their Needs In The 2014 Draft

Last week, I ranked the needs in order of importance for the Seattle Seahawks in this year’s NFL Draft.  It looked like this:

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  2. Cornerback
  3. Pass Rushing Defensive End
  4. Defensive Tackle
  5. Linebacker
  6. Wide Receiver
  7. Offensive Line
  8. Tight End

With an honorable mention for the safety position, but that’s neither here nor there.  Based on how the draft shaked out, here’s what appears to be the rankings of how the Seahawks saw their most pressing needs.

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  2. Wide Receiver
  3. Offensive Line
  4. Pass Rushing Defensive End
  5. Linebacker
  6. Defensive Tackle
  7. Cornerback
  8. Fullback

The top need was the most obvious.  Of course, when you’re knee-deep in the shit of the NFL Draft, maybe your more-impulsive side takes over.  Maybe you see a guy at 32 that you just HAVE TO HAVE, regardless of your intent to move down and collect more draft picks.

Tough to say without being in the room with those guys, but I thought the Seahawks did a great job trading down and picking up an extra three players, considering their starting draft position, and the fact that they didn’t have any compensatory picks to bolster their numbers.  Next year will be different, as we should get some good picks coming back our way after losing a number of guys in free agency.  But, this year was a real trial, and I think the Seahawks knocked it out of the park, considering the circumstances.

Obviously, the Seahawks considered wide receiver MUCH more of a pressing need than I did.  I still think, if you can extend Doug Baldwin, it probably wouldn’t take much to extend Jermaine Kearse either.  But, you can’t argue with what they brought in.  When you look at the combo of Harvin & Richardson, you’ve got game-breaking speed; players who can score at any time.  With Baldwin and Norwood, you’ve got a couple of reliable pass-catchers who should be awesome third down targets to move the chains.  When you lump in Kearse, you’ve got three guys who play bigger than their bodies.  In the red zone, the Seahawks shouldn’t have any trouble getting the ball in to Baldwin, Norwood, or Kearse.

I’m of the belief that the Seahawks will extend Baldwin, but beyond that, you like to have young, inexpensive talent.  Kearse, if also extended, won’t make a ton of money, but it’s still more than a rookie.  Maybe the Seahawks see an opportunity to replace Kearse once his contract runs out.

In a wide receiver-rich draft, the Seahawks picked two receivers in their first four picks.  If you consider the first four rounds to be kind of the sweet spot (and the last three to be mostly uneven as far as finding NFL-ready talent), then 40% of the Seahawks’ sweet spot picks were receiver.  Clearly, this was a huge target of theirs.

Beyond that, they obviously felt O-Line was way more important than I did.  You can see it in the numbers (drafting two guys, both who look to be tackles at the pro level) and you can see it in where they were taken.  Justin Britt was believed to be a reach when he was first taken, and nothing that has been said since has changed my mind.  Tom Cable noted that there were teams right after the Seahawks who were looking to select Britt, but the Seahawks still made the decision to draft a position of need over a “best player available, regardless of position”.

Now, in the Pete Carroll / John Schneider era, the Seahawks have been a little hit-or-miss on their offensive linemen.  They hit with Okung, but that’s an obvious, high first rounder we’re dealing with.  They’ve drafted other linemen, from Carpenter (late first round) to Moffitt (third round) to a number of late round & undrafted rookie selections.  As the line currently projects, we’ve got the aforementioned Okung, with Carpenter (middling at best in his tenure here), Unger (drafted before this current regime), Sweezy (a late draft pick, converted from D-Line), and Bowie (another late-round pick).

The Seahawks obviously felt a burning need to pick a lineman from a pool of Talent over a pool of Potential.  When you think about it, it’s probably for the best.  Obviously, you can’t have enough talented players on the offensive line.  But, also, if we’re preaching “Competition” as our credo, then that means you should bring in guys who you think are BETTER than the ones you have now.  Bowie was a 7th rounder.  Bailey was undrafted.  These two guys are going to battle it out for a couple spots on the line with a bunch of other guys.  If the Seahawks went out in this year’s draft and waited until the 7th round or later to pick up linemen (in other words, foregoing the sweet spot of the draft), then you’re not necessarily bringing in guys who would be BETTER than Bowie & Bailey.  Because those two guys – while unheralded out of college – have a year’s worth of professional experience.

No, the only way you’re going to find someone to compete with those guys is to bring in someone from a higher talent pool.  Britt fits that mold.  He might not actually be better than Bowie or Bailey; he might not even amount to a damn thing in this league.  But, the CHANCE that he is better is increased by his being worthy of an upper-round draft pick.

The Seahawks and myself both had “pass rushing defensive end” in pretty much the same spot as far as needs are concerned.  I would’ve liked to have seen one picked a little bit higher, but if they didn’t see a guy they liked before the fourth round, who am I to judge?  Cassius Marsh was picked pretty high in the fourth, and considering we didn’t have a third round pick, I suppose beggars can’t be choosers.

You gotta pick this kind of guy in the first four rounds if you have ANY hopes of him contributing at all in the first year of his deal.  Ideally, you’d like to see one picked in the first two rounds, but again, beggars.  Defensive end – except for the rare minority who comes out of the womb harassing quarterbacks – is all about development at the pro level.  Learning the tricks of the trade, playing under quality veterans, being placed into a scheme that will best fit their natural talents.  Your average rush end out of college might have one good move he can use to rush the passer.  He’ll need to develop at least two or three others if he has any hope of even playing in a rotation!  Just be glad the Seahawks didn’t let this draft go by completely without picking up another rusher to throw onto the pile.

I rated defensive tackle much higher than Seattle did, which is interesting.  Maybe it’s a byproduct of how the board shook out for them, or maybe it speaks to a confidence level in the players we have on the roster right now.  Those two guys – Jordan Hill & Jesse Williams – who we’ve all been hedging our bets on, considering their underwhelming rookie seasons, might just be good enough to take over prominent roles of their own.  As a bit of insurance, the Seahawks did draft a tackle in Jimmy Staten – in the fifth round, which for this team is nothing to sneeze at – but they picked a guy from a small school that nobody’s heard of.  Probably a project who gets stashed in the practice squad.  Just as likely he doesn’t make the team at all and gets cut.

It’s very telling that there were some highly rated defensive tackles the Seahawks could’ve taken in the early part of the second round if they so wished.  Maybe our desire to bolster this position was a little overzealous.  I still contend that Mebane will need an heir apparent sooner rather than later.

We both ranked linebacker as the fifth-highest need, and that’s for the best.  If there’s any position you can get in the later portion of the round (in this case, towards the very end of the fourth round), it’s linebacker.  Doesn’t mean the position isn’t important; just means that you can fill that position with quality talent at a lower cost.

I suppose you can say that I mis-read the need for cornerback in this draft, but you have to understand the frame of reference I had when I came up with my rankings.  For starters, I didn’t know how many times the Seahawks would be able to trade back.  I had no idea how many total players they’d pick, or if they’d opt to double-up at certain positions.  The simple fact that they drafted a guy who they’re projecting to be an outside cornerback would indicate that they at least felt it was SOMEWHAT important to draft for this position.

But, they didn’t feel it was important enough to select one in the top rounds.  If you look at the draft as a whole, there were TONS of secondary guys being selected in the early going.  That’s the NFL doing their copycat thing after seeing the Seahawks dismantle the Broncos in the Super Bowl.  What we have that the rest of the league doesn’t is a development system in place to turn young corners into superstars.

Yes, if you have a high draft pick and you see an Earl Thomas sitting there, it’s sort of a no-brainer to take that guy.  But, the odds are pretty slim that the Seahawks would find an Earl Thomas (or his cornerback equivalent) in the upper second round.  So, with that the case, and with our development team intact, what’s the point of reaching for a corner in the upper rounds when you can get someone who will be just as good – if not insanely better – in the later rounds?

So, the Seahawks took a tall, athletic safety in the 6th round, and are looking to convert him to corner.  You wouldn’t see this with just any team, but obviously the Seahawks aren’t just any team.  It might not be a 100% lock that the Seahawks succeed with Eric Pinkins, but that opportunity for success is WAY higher in our camp than it would be in anyone else’s.

So, it’s tough to say exactly how highly the Seahawks rated “cornerback” as a need coming into the draft.  It might have been up there with defensive end or offensive line, but they knew they could get away with taking a guy later just because they’ve done it so many times before with fantastic results.

Now, the Seahawks have Pinkins to go with last year’s fifth round pick Tharold Simon.  You’d have to think that ONE of those two will be a solid replacement for Byron Maxwell once he leaves us after the 2014 season.

Finally, the Seahawks picked up a fullback.  I would’ve been happier to see another tight end thrown onto the pile, to at least push Anthony McCoy for that third tight end spot, but it looks like they got one among their undrafted rookies.  When you think of seventh round draft picks as potential undrafted rookies who you don’t think you’ll be able to sign (because maybe you have a position – like running back/fullback – that scares the premium undrafted rookies away, because it’s so loaded), then I guess it’s easy to see the Seahawks going after Kiero Small.

Also, from what I’m hearing, he’d be the team’s only true fullback on the roster.  Coleman and Ware both have extensive running back backgrounds, but Small is all fullback all the time.  Could be a unique talent at a position you wouldn’t expect to need a unique talent.  For a seventh rounder?  Who’s going to complain about that?

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