The Justin Britt Experiment

Last year, during the entire offseason, I wrote exactly three posts dedicated to speculation on the Russell Wilson contract negotiations, before he finally signed it and we could all move on with our lives.  Around Seattle, that was a pretty huge story; you couldn’t turn on any of the sports radio stations without hearing talk of it.  You couldn’t go on Twitter without being bombarded by a thousand articles a day.  It was THE story, until it wasn’t.

This year, we’re just past the draft – we’ve got MONTHS before we get to real football – and yet I feel like almost every post I write has something to do with the offensive line.  I’d think I’m running this story into the ground, but part of me feels like this is the difference between REAL football fans, and everyone else.  Everyone else is interested in the daily speculation on a quarterback contract you 100% should know is going to get done (Russell Wilson was never going anywhere); real fans obsess over the real aspects of their football team that’s going to make a difference between winning a championship and coming up a little short.  In this case, if you’re not obsessed with the daily goings-on of the Seahawks’ O-Line, you need to hop aboard the train and ride with me a while.

Does anyone else get the feeling the Seahawks don’t know what in the fuck they’re doing with Justin Britt?

Add this name to the long list of reasons why the organization crippled itself by trading for Percy Harvin (2013 first rounder & seventh rounder, huge contract preventing the team from re-signing Golden Tate, making the 2014 offense too much about him, getting off to a slow start in the process, losing that 2014 third rounder).  Know why Britt is a member of the Seattle Seahawks?  Look no further than not having a draft pick in the third round in the 2014 NFL Draft.  The Seahawks ended up trading back a couple times, before drafting Paul Richardson at #47; we would pick again at the end of the second round – #64 – and then we wouldn’t pick again until the fourth round, #108 overall.  With 44 picks in between, the Seahawks had a need along the offensive line (specifically right tackle, with Breno Giacomini signing a big free agent contract with the Jets).  Per their draft chart, they noted a significant drop-off in talent after Justin Britt, who obviously was still available, but likely wouldn’t have been at pick 108.

Had the Seahawks still had their third rounder, would they have passed on Britt, and landed on someone in the third round (perhaps using their surplus of picks to trade up in the third round to get him)?  Tough to say.  It’s not out of the realm of possibility that regardless of whether or not the Harvin trade happened, by virtue of drafting last in every round, the Seahawks would’ve been stuck with him either way.  The point is, they ARE stuck with him now, and he’s seemingly a riddle the coaching staff is unable to solve.

He started every game as a rookie at Right Tackle.  He had growing pains early, but was ultimately a disaster in pass protection.  He went into last season as the incumbent, but after a disastrous first pre-season game, Tom Cable hit the re-set button on the whole line, bumping Britt over to left guard, where he would go on to start all 16 games.  Again, he had growing pains early, but was ultimately a disaster in pass protection.

The allure of a Justin Britt is that he’s big and powerful and nasty and will run block the hell out of you.  And, for all the crap he gets, he was still a second round pick (at probably a third round value) and a starter from Day 1 for a reason.  He was never a project like Glowinski or Gilliam, who had to sit for the most part during their rookie seasons.  Britt has starting-calibre stuff, but it’s the technical details he’s lacking.  On top of that, he’s sort of gotten a bum go of it from Day 1.

Britt was brought in because the Seahawks had an immediate need that they couldn’t fill from among their reserves on the roster or in free agency.  The Seahawks probably knew from the minute they drafted him that Britt’s best position was going to be along the interior of the line, and NOT right tackle (in spite of the fact that tackle is where he played most in college; again, at the college level, you put your best linemen on the outside, even the ones who project to be guards at the NFL level).  But, the Seahawks never had the luxury to bring Britt along slowly, or to immediately convert him to guard/center as a rookie, so he could have more time to adjust and learn the intricacies of the position.  They NEEDED a right tackle, and he was the best man for the job.  Then, they NEEDED someone to replace James Carpenter at left guard, and again, Britt was the best man for the job.  He may not be suited to play either position, but we’ll never know, because he’s been jerked around more than Brandon Morrow during the Bavasi/Zduriencik transition years.

Now, here we are, in 2016, and once again the Seahawks have a huge hole to fill, this time at the center position.  They just used a draft pick on a tackle-turned-guard in Ifedi, who is getting immediate play on the right side in place of Sweezy.  Free agent Webb is filling in at tackle on that side, at least to start, where best-case scenario has him playing all 16 games reasonably well, while at the same time helping guide Ifedi along and show him the ropes.  We all pegged Glowinski to be Sweezy’s replacement, but Ifedi has only really succeeded on the right side of the line, so it’s looking like Glow will be gunning for the left guard spot.  Again, this could all change once the season starts, but I know the team really likes Glow as a guard, and he should lock up one of those spots for the next three years if he stays healthy.

That leaves the obvious opening at center.  Yeah, Patrick Lewis came in and the line as a whole improved over the second half of last season, but Lewis is far from a polished or perfect line captain.  He’s what you’d consider Replacement Level in baseball.  Britt has a size advantage over Lewis, as well as probably a greater skillset overall.  With his run blocking ability, sandwiched between Glowinski and Ifedi, you’re looking at some serious beef in the interior.  Likewise, as a pass protector, there are fewer instances of the center going 1 on 1 against a defender, which would hopefully mean Britt would be on the hook for fewer hurries and sacks allowed.  And, he apparently does have some experience snapping the ball, so it shouldn’t be 100% foreign to him.

What it all ends up meaning is anyone’s guess (what it tells us right now is rookie center Joey Hunt is all but assuredly not ready to start as a rookie).  I think what it shows is that the incarnation of Justin Britt that we have now is probably more of a solid backup than a true starter.  You’d think, barring injury, sticking at center is going to be his best bet to make it to a significant second contract in the NFL.  What we know for sure is that this is his third year in the league, and he’s already proven he’s not fit to start at either of the tackle or guard spots.  He’s got this offseason to prove he’s got what it takes to play center, and if he wins the job, he’s got this one year to prove he’s got what it takes to be a starter at the position going forward (ideally, Hunt will be ready to assume the starting duties in 2017).

Not that it’ll really matter, for what the Seahawks are doing.  One thing I think a lot of fans need to start wrapping their brains around is that when the Seahawks draft an offensive lineman, it’s generally not so they can draft a lifelong Seahawk.  Hell, Russell Okung was a Pro Bowl-quality left tackle, and even HE couldn’t get a second contract out of this organization!  Anyone who has proven to be a starter for this line, from Giacomini to Carpenter to Sweezy to Okung, has ultimately gotten paid elsewhere when the Seahawks were finished squeezing as much value out of them as humanly possible.

Bouncing Britt around from tackle to guard to center isn’t about finding a place where he’ll land for the next 8-10 years; it’s about maximizing his second round value until his four years are used up and they can replace him with the next hot, young rookie prospect.

It’s why we saw so many offensive line projects being drafted in the 4th round and later last year.  We ultimately didn’t have any holes for them to fill in 2015, but we had our eye on 2016 when we knew we probably couldn’t re-sign Okung and Sweezy.  Now, we have Glow and Sokoli and to a lesser extent Poole on the roster, competing with the likes of Ifedi and Britt and whoever else, to really nail down the five best linemen possible.

That’s why you shouldn’t look at a guy like Ifedi as this project or this huge risk.  The Seahawks drafted a guy at the end of the first round who they know, right now, can step in and be a starter.  He may not be perfect, but he’s good enough right now to get the kind of value we want out of the position.  Then, in 4-5 years, when his contract is up, he’ll also move on to another team, as the Seahawks should have hopefully figured out who his successor will be.

It’s not a perfect system, but it’s the Seahawk Way.  Value over quality, at least when it comes to the offensive line.

A Look Back at the Impressive Draft History of the John Schneider Era

With the draft coming up in a couple days, it’s always fun to look back at all the success the Seahawks have had in their current regime, overhauling a franchise in the toilet and propping it up as world champions.  You don’t get this good, this fast, without some remarkable drafting and some remarkable coaching.  Who can say if all of these guys would have been just as good under the tutelage of lesser men?  What we know is that a lot of these guys panned out in a big way, thanks to the system we have in place.

To give the full picture, you actually have to go back to the 2009 draft, when we had Jim Mora Jr. as our head coach and Tim Ruskell calling the shots on the personnel side.

Like all of Ruskell’s drafts after his first one back in 2005 – where he nabbed Lofa Tatupu and Leroy Hill, to solidify the middle of our defense – his 2009 class was a huge disaster.  The Seahawks had the #4 pick and wasted it on a bust of a player in Aaron Curry.  Given the downward trajectory of the franchise at that point, you had to wonder where Ruskell found his erroneous sense of job security, as he traded away Seattle’s second round pick (37th overall) to the Denver Broncos for a 2010 first round pick (to further confuse matters, the Seahawks ended up trading 3rd & 4th rounders to get back into the second round – 49th overall – to select Max Unger, the last bit of good from the Ruskell regime).

With that 2010 first round pick, however, the Seahawks would build their dynasty.  As we’re all well aware, the 2009 Seahawks ended up being a trainwreck just like the 2008 variety, leading the franchise to earn the #6 draft pick in 2010.  The 2009 Broncos did their part by going 8-8 and failing to make the playoffs, which meant that their first round draft pick (which was now ours) was 14th overall.

While the 2010 draft wasn’t quite up to the elite level of the 2012 class, it seriously jumpstarted things in a big way.

  • First Round, #6 – Russell Okung (LT)
  • First Round, #14 – Earl Thomas (S)
  • Second Round, #60 – Golden Tate (WR)
  • Fourth Round, #111 – Walter Thurmond (CB)
  • Fourth Round, #127 – E.J. Wilson (DE)
  • Fifth Round, #133 – Kam Chancellor (S)
  • Sixth Round, #185 – Anthony McCoy (TE)
  • Seventh Round, #236 – Dexter Davis (DE)
  • Seventh Round, #245 – Jameson Konz (WR/TE/DE/FB)

Of note is that the Seahawks were originally slated to draft much earlier in the second round, but ended up swapping picks with San Diego (along with giving them a third rounder in 2011) to trade for Charlie Whitehurst.  So, you can’t tell me there weren’t some roadblocks in the early going of the John Schneider era.

Also, it wasn’t all peaches and cream out of Tim Ruskell in the 2009 draft, as he sold off our 2010 third round pick to get Deon Butler in that 2009 class.  The Seahawks also ended up trading back in the 4th & 6th rounds with Tennessee to grab LenDale White and Kevin Vickerson.  Vickerson proved to be an adequate defensive tackle; White never made the roster.

In a much happier deal, the Seahawks acquired their extra fourth round pick (which they used on E.J. Wilson, who didn’t pan out) and managed to get Chris Clemons from the Eagles (who very much DID pan out), and all we had to give up was Darryl Tapp.

More deals to come.  The Seahawks traded away their original fifth round pick to the Jets for Leon Washington and the Jets’ 7th round pick.  But, the Seahawks got back into the fifth round (ahead of their original pick) in a deal with Detroit where we also received some defensive end, where we only gave up Rob Sims (a guard who was never all that good with the Seahawks) and a seventh round pick.  The Seahawks would use that pick to draft Kam Chancellor, locking down their two starting safeties in the same class.

As far as I can tell, the Seahawks didn’t really get much from the undrafted free agent class of 2010, though Lemuel Jeanpierre and Breno Giacomini were both brought in that year.  And, obviously, the Seahawks would bring in Marshawn Lynch via trade during the season.  But, when you look at that draft class, you’ve got 6 key contributors, including 4 starters (Okung, Thomas, Tate, and Chancellor) and great ones at that.

That brings us to 2011, or the mule of the John Schneider draft classes.  It gets a lot of flack for being mediocre, but upon further review was pretty underrated.

To kick things off, the 7-9 Seahawks of 2010 were stupidly allowed into the playoffs by way of winning one of the worst divisions in recorded NFL history.  Even though that team had literally no chance of winning the Super Bowl, it still made some noise with the Beastquake run and the unlikely upset of the previous year’s Super Bowl champion Saints.  Of course, the Seahawks would go on to lose the very next week in Chicago, meaning that for all the hubbub, the Seahawks would end up picking 25th overall in the 2011 draft.

If you were like me, you saw this as a sign of doom.  The 2010 Seahawks were not good.  Not by a longshot.  And, to be hampered with drafting so low in the first round (and in subsequent rounds) would only set things back that much further.  Apparently unable to find a partner with which to trade back, the Seahawks made that selection James Carpenter, who started as our right tackle before getting bumped inside to guard.  Everyone thought this was a reach, and history has proven this to be true; Carpenter was adequate at best, but not a true impact player you’d hope to get in the first round.  Nevertheless, he was a starter all four years, so he wasn’t quite the crime against humanity everyone makes him out to be (indeed, his current salary with the Jets would speak to how other teams have come to value his strong run blocking abilities).

  • First Round, #25 – James Carpenter (OL)
  • Third Round, #75 – John Moffitt (G)
  • Fourth Round, #99 – K.J. Wright (LB)
  • Fourth Round, #107 – Kris Durham (WR)
  • Fifth Round, #154 – Richard Sherman (CB)
  • Fifth Round, #156 – Mark LeGree (S)
  • Sixth Round, #173 – Byron Maxwell (CB)
  • Seventh Round, #205 – Lazarius Levingston (DE)
  • Seventh Round, #242 – Malcolm Smith (LB)

The Seahawks ended up trading away their second round pick to the Lions to pick up an extra third & fourth round picks (used on Moffitt and Durham).  Recall they gave away their original third round pick in 2010 to get Charlie Whitehurst.  All in all, nothing too impressive with any of these moves, as Whitehurst was a bust, Moffitt ended up getting traded to Denver after a mediocre rookie season, and Durham never panned out with Seattle.  In that same Lions trade, the Seahawks moved up in the fifth and seventh rounds, which they used to grab Richard Sherman (GREAT!) and Lazarius Levingston (WHO?).

The Seahawks gave up their original fourth round pick in the Marshawn Lynch trade (as well as a conditional 2012 pick that ended up being a fifth rounder).  However, the Seahawks got back into the fourth round by trading Deion Branch back to the Patriots.  Branch was a turd sandwich in Seattle, and we used the pick we got from the Pats to grab K.J. Wright, who has been a stalwart for our linebacking corps.

That above trade wasn’t the last time we’d deal with the Lions.  In a spectacular move, the Seahawks traded away former bust under the Ruskell regime, Lawrence Jackson, to get the Lions’ sixth round pick, which we used to grab Byron Maxwell, a huge part of our success in his final two years here (and a great special teamer and backup overall).  That made up for giving away our original sixth round pick to the 49ers for Kentwan Balmer, who would go on to be cut prior to the 2011 season.

To wrap things up, the Seahawks traded their original seventh rounder to Philly for an offensive lineman who did nothing.  However, the Seahawks were granted a compensatory pick, which we used on Super Bowl MVP Malcolm Smith.

Among the 2011 undrafted free agents, we have Doug Baldwin (WR), Ricardo Lockette (WR), Jeron Johnson (S), and Mike Morgan (LB).  This would also be the year the Seahawks took a flyer on Brandon Browner from the CFL, among many other free agent acquisitions.

When you look at the haul of just the rookies, though, you’re talking about 10 contributors, including 5 starters (Carpenter, Wright, Sherman, Maxwell (eventually), and Baldwin).

That brings us to 2012, or one of the greatest draft classes you’ll ever see.  The 2011 were again 7-9, but thankfully weren’t saddled with a futile playoff appearance.  As such, they were granted the 12th overall selection, which they promptly traded to Philly to move back to 15.  The Seahawks were granted picks in the fourth (Jaye Howard, DT) and sixth round (Jeremy Lane, CB), and away we go!

  • First Round, #15 – Bruce Irvin (DE/LB)
  • Second Round, #47 – Bobby Wagner (LB)
  • Third Round, #75 – Russell Wilson (QB)
  • Fourth Round, #106 – Robert Turbin (RB)
  • Fourth Round, #114 – Jaye Howard (DT)
  • Fifth Round, #154 – Korey Toomer (LB)
  • Sixth Round, #172 – Jeremy Lane (CB)
  • Sixth Round, #181 – Winston Guy (S)
  • Seventh Round, #225 – J.R. Sweezy (G)
  • Seventh Round, #232 – Greg Scruggs (DE)

Not to be stopped, the Seahawks traded back in the second round as well, this time with the Jets.  We would pick up extra picks in the fifth and seventh rounds (Toomer & Scruggs, respectively).  That one didn’t totally pan out, though I would argue injuries to both players hampered their ability to make a significant impact early in their careers.  Nevertheless, you can sense a theme:  the Seahawks wanted as many picks in this draft as possible, as it was laden with talent.

No more trades until the seventh round, where the Seahawks got the pick they’d use to nab Sweezy from the Raiders, in addition to a conditional 2013 pick (which ended up being in the fifth round) for the privilege of jettisoning Aaron Curry (who would only last with the Raiders for a little over a year before being waived).  The Seahawks did trade away their original seventh rounder for Tyler Polumbus (from the Lions), who was a starter here, but wasn’t any good.

The Seahawks also got Jermaine Kearse (WR) and DeShawn Shead (CB) from the ranks of the undrafted free agents.  All told, this class netted the Seahawks 9 contributors, with 5 starters (Irvin, Wagner, Wilson, Sweezy, and Kearse), with Lane expected to start this year, given the big money he made this offseason to re-sign with the Seahawks.

Obviously, the 2012 squad made a huge leap, thanks to the Seahawks’ tremendous draft success.  In those three classes alone, you’re talking about 14 starters, and 25 contributors overall.  The 11-5 record, and first round victory against the Redskins, meant the Seahawks would draft 25th again in the first round in 2013 (as they did back in 2011).  In something of a stunner of a move, the Seahawks would trade away this pick, as well as its seventh rounder, and a 2014 third rounder, for the right to get Percy Harvin and sign him to an ill-advised huge free agent deal.

  • Second Round, #62 – Christine Michael (RB)
  • Third Round, #87 – Jordan Hill (DT)
  • Fourth Round, #123 – Chris Harper (WR)
  • Fifth Round, #137 – Jesse Williams (DT)
  • Fifth Round, #138 – Tharold Simon (CB)
  • Fifth Round, #158 – Luke Willson (TE)
  • Sixth Round, #194 – Spencer Ware (RB)
  • Seventh Round, #220 – Ryan Seymour (OL)
  • Seventh Round, #231 – Ty Powell (DE)
  • Seventh Round, #241 – Jared Smith (OL)
  • Seventh Round, #242 – Michael Bowie (OL)

The 2013 draft has proven to be the real dog of the John Schneider classes.  Nevertheless, let’s run through the moves that got it to where it was.  As a volume drafter, Schneider found multiple ways to recoup draft picks after spending so much on Percy Harvin.

To start, the Seahawks moved back in the second round, from 56 to 62, and received from the Ravens a fifth and a sixth (165 & 199).  As you can see from above, the Seahawks didn’t draft at either of those positions.  That’s because the Seahawks traded both of those picks to the Lions to get pick #137 (Williams) at the top of the fifth round.  The very next selection came from the Raiders in the Aaron Curry deal, which we used on Simon (who has been good, but has never been healthy).

The flurry of seventh rounders (none of whom were worth a damn) came from the Saints (pick 220, for some linebacker we gave them), and a couple of compensatory picks (#241 & #242).

Alvin Bailey was the only notable undrafted free agent in this class; he was a quality reserve along the offensive line, but nothing more.  All told, the Seahawks only managed to get one eventual starter in this class (Luke Willson, who has only been a starter thanks to injuries to Zach Miller and Jimmy Graham), and three other contributors (Michael, Hill, and Simon), though Spencer Ware got a crack at a job with the Chiefs and seems to be pretty good.

We all know what happened with that 2013 team, built on a rock solid foundation of draft picks.  Following that year, the team started to get picked apart a little bit, with free agents going to other teams.  With the 2013 class already looking like a bummer, the pressure was on John Schneider to right the ship with a banner 2014 draft.  He started it off by trading away our first round pick to the Vikings for a second straight year.  The Vikings would select Teddy Bridgewater with the 32nd pick in the class; the Seahawks would get Minnesota’s second and fourth round selections (40 & 108 overall).

Before Seattle could make a pick, we traded back again, this time with the Lions.  The Lions picked at 40, and also received our fifth round pick at 146 (which we got from the Raiders for Matt Flynn) in exchange for second, fourth, and seventh rounders from Detroit (45, 111, & 227).  At 45, the Seahawks finally made their first pick, selecting Paul Richardson.

  • Second Round, #45 – Paul Richardson (WR)
  • Second Round, #64 – Justin Britt (OL)
  • Fourth Round, #108 – Cassius Marsh (DE)
  • Fourth Round, #123 – Kevin Norwood (WR)
  • Fourth Round, #132 – Kevin Pierre-Louis (LB)
  • Fifth Round, #172 – Jimmy Staten (DT)
  • Sixth Round, #199 – Garrett Scott (OL)
  • Sixth Round, #208 – Eric Pinkins (DB/LB)
  • Seventh Round, #227 – Kiero Small (FB)

To make up for the loss of our third rounder (to the Vikings, in the Harvin deal the previous year), you can see why the Seahawks wanted to trade back so many times to start the draft.  They were able to pick up two extra fourth rounders.  That pick we got from the Vikings would go to Marsh, who has been a quality reserve and special teamer.  The Seahawks would use that 111th pick to trade with the Bengals to get pick 123 (Norwood) and an extra sixth rounder (Scott, who never made the team due to health concerns).  That seventh rounder from Detroit ended up being Kiero Small, who also didn’t make the team (the Seahawks would trade away their original seventh round pick to the Raiders for Terrelle Pryor, who never amounted to much of anything).

Among the undrafted free agents, we grabbed Garry Gilliam (OL), Brock Coyle (LB), and Dion Bailey (S).  At first glance, this class doesn’t look any more impressive than the 2013 class, but there are a number of under-the-radar players in there.  Right now, we’re looking at 2 starters (Britt and Gilliam), with four other contributors (Richardson, Marsh, KPL, and Coyle).  Depth guys, special teams guys, people to round out the roster.  When you figure so many of this team’s starters were already on the team ahead of this class, it’s not like you’re talking about a huge number of available openings.  Granted, a lot of this class hinges on Britt and Gilliam improving, and Richardson remaining healthy for a full season.  Should they fail, then you could make an argument that THIS is indeed the worst class of the John Schneider era.  But, until another couple years pass, it’s still TBD.

A second Super Bowl appearance for the 2014 squad meant that the 2015 Seahawks would be drafting quite low again.  With the obvious disaster of the Harvin trade looming over the franchise, the Seahawks opted to take another swing for the fences, trading away their first rounder (along with Max Unger) to the Saints for Jimmy Graham (and their fourth round pick, #112 overall).  We kick off the 2015 draft DEEP into the second round, with a controversial pick in Frank Clark (with domestic abuse allegations swirling around him, yet with an obvious cliff after him with regards to pass rushers in this draft class).

  • Second Round, #63 – Frank Clark (DE)
  • Third Round, #69 – Tyler Lockett (WR)
  • Fourth Round, #130 – Terry Poole (OL)
  • Fourth Round, #134 – Mark Glowinski (G)
  • Fifth Round, #170 – Tye Smith (CB)
  • Sixth Round, #209 – Obum Gwacham (DE)
  • Sixth Round, #214 – Kristjan Sokoli (OL)
  • Seventh Round, #248 – Ryan Murphy (DB)

The Seahawks had a ton of extra picks in this draft, which I’ll get to below.  They used a package of third (95), fourth (112), fifth (167), and sixth (181) round picks to move up to #69 from the Redskins.  That pick at 95 was our original third rounder.  That fourth rounder at 112 came from the Saints in the Jimmy Graham deal.  That fifth rounder at 167 was our original fifth rounder.  And that sixth rounder at 181 came from the Jets when we gave them Percy Harvin.  So, obviously, we sent away two picks that we got in deals, and two original picks.  We were more than happy to do so because 1) Tyler Lockett is a special player, and 2) we had extra picks throughout.

Poole was from our original fourth round pick; Glowinski was from a compensatory pick.  Tye Smith was also a compensatory pick, as were both of our sixth round guys (Gwacham and Sokoli).  That’s what you get when you don’t over-pay to keep your own players who aren’t necessarily worth big-money deals.

The only notable undrafted free agent from 2015 was Thomas Rawls, who very well may be our starting running back in 2016.  Combine him with Lockett (a Pro Bowl returner, and #3 wide receiver), Clark (valued rotation guy on the D-Line), Glowinski (projected starter at right guard in 2016), and Tye Smith (someone who will battle for minutes this pre-season) and you’ve got the makings of a very good draft class, that could be great if some of these players turn into elite starters.

With the 2016 draft class supposedly dripping with talent throughout, it wouldn’t be crazy to see the best Seahawks draft class since 2012.  Obviously, we’re drafting pretty low again, this year at #26, but with compenatory selections, the Seahawks already have 9 picks to select from, with a real opportunity to trade down in the first round to pick up some more (and gain some flexibility within the draft, in case we want to move up later).

I’m pretty excited for this year’s draft.  I’m sure I won’t know who these players are when I hear their names, but over the ensuing months, I look forward to getting to know them.

Knowing What We Know Now: Who Should The Seahawks Draft?

In the days following the end of the Seahawks’ season, a lot of bloggers like myself took to their keyboards to concoct plans for what the Seahawks should do this offseason.  I was no different, and I think it’s fun to go back and look at how things in real life differed from my Seahawks Vision Board (for the TL;DR crowd:  scroll to the very bottom for my concise list).

Part of what made my list so impractical is that I really didn’t have a handle on how much cap room the Seahawks really had.  Nor could I have seen how much money some guys – like Irvin and Sweezy – would end up commanding on the open market.  But, let’s quickly go one by one down the list to see how my vision differs from reality:

  1. The Seahawks did, in fact, let Okung go and move Gilliam to LT – CHECK!
  2. Couldn’t bring back Sweezy, cost too much (probably for the best anyway)
  3. Instead of “stud free agent guard”, the Seahawks went for a so-so guard and opted to move him to right tackle (Webb)
  4. (draft stud left guard in 1st round – draft hasn’t happened yet, but might be unlikely to see a stud fall to 26th overall)
  5. Seahawks brought back Lewis at center – CHECK! – and may indeed draft one as well
  6. Seahawks seem set at leaving Britt at left guard, and have already named Webb the starting right tackle, so this prediction looks like a bust
  7. Lynch retired, Rawls looks good to be the team’s #1, team re-signed Michael to be the #2, and still could draft a third down back late – ALMOST CHECK!
  8. Have yet to extend Baldwin, but still have time to do so
  9. Re-signed Kearse to 3-year, $13.5 million – CHECK!
  10. Kept Rubin, let Mebane go, replaced Mebane with cheap FA option (Siliga), and still could draft another – ALMOST CHECK!
  11. Seahawks didn’t re-sign Irvin (too expensive), looking to spread savings elsewhere – EITHER WAY I COULDN’T LOSE THIS CHECK!
  12. Re-signed Lane to 4-year, $23 million – CHECK!  (even better because I projected more money in my prediction)

So, I’m well on my way to getting 7 of these things right, with potential to get to 9 by the time the draft passes and we get closer to Training Camp.

Anyway, we’ve got a good idea of what most of the roster looks like right now.  In all likelihood, the Seahawks already have at least 39 of 53 players on their roster right now, and possibly as many as 49 of 53, depending on how the pre-season shakes out.  Let me run a quick list of my thoughts on the roster right now.  Guys listed I feel are locks, guys in parentheses () are potential roster guys, and if he’s not on the list, he’s a longshot in my eyes:

  • Russell Wilson – QB
  • Thomas Rawls – RB
  • Christine Michael – RB
  • Doug Baldwin – WR
  • Jermaine Kearse – WR
  • Tyler Lockett – WR
  • Paul Richardson – WR
  • (Kevin Smith – WR)
  • (Kasen Williams – WR)
  • Jimmy Graham – TE
  • Luke Willson – TE
  • (Cooper Helfet – TE)
  • Garry Gilliam – LT
  • Justin Britt – LG
  • Patrick Lewis – C
  • Mark Glowinski – RG
  • J’Marcus Webb – RT
  • (Kristjan Sokoli – C)
  • (Drew Nowak – C)
  • (Terry Poole – T)
  • (Bradley Sowell – T)

I ranked these guys in order (by position), so I think it’s more likely Kevin Smith makes it over Kasen Williams, but neither is a sure thing.  I think Helfet is here for insurance, but it wouldn’t shock me for the team to draft another tight end, or sign a guy off the free agent scrap heap who’s a quality blocker.  I think the team likely keeps one of Sokoli/Nowak and one of Poole/Sowell, depending on who looks best in the pre-season.  Anyway, that’s the offense.  I think we have a minimum of 16 offensive players already under contract, with the potential (though unlikely) of up to 21 players.  The Seahawks will need around 24-25 offensive players by the time the regular season starts.

  • Cliff Avril – DE
  • Michael Bennett – DE
  • Frank Clark – DE
  • Cassius Marsh – DE
  • (Chris Clemons – DE)
  • Ahtyba Rubin – DT
  • Sealver Siliga – DT
  • Jordan Hill – DT
  • (A.J. Francis – DT)
  • Bobby Wagner – LB
  • K.J. Wright – LB
  • Mike Morgan – LB
  • Brock Coyle – LB
  • Kevin Pierre-Lewis – LB
  • (Eric Pinkins – LB)
  • Richard Sherman – CB
  • Jeremy Lane – CB
  • DeShawn Shead – CB
  • Tharold Simon – CB
  • (Tye Smith – CB)
  • (Marcus Burley – CB)
  • Earl Thomas – S
  • Kam Chancellor – S
  • Kelcie McCray – S
  • Steven Terrell – S

As we learned recently, there’s relatively little guaranteed money in the Clemons signing, which means he’s going to have to earn his spot in the pre-season.  As the team is likely to draft a defensive end relatively high, it could be a tough roster spot to win.  I think the team likes Francis a lot, so his spot largely comes down to how high another defensive tackle is drafted, and how well that player performs.  Pinkins has always been a bubble guy, but he’s stuck around for the most part.  Smith and Burley might have a lot to prove, as I feel like the team will be in the market for another tall, outside corner, meaning there might not be many nickel corner spots to go around.  I have it as at least 20 defensive players already on the roster, with potential for up to 25.  Considering the max is probably 25-26 defensive players, I wouldn’t bank on me having all 25 predicted right now.

  • Steven Hauschka – K
  • Jon Ryan – P
  • (Drew Ferris – LS)

I don’t know where the Seahawks are going with their long snapper position, and I don’t want to know.  Just make it a guy who won’t fuck up, ever.

That exercise more or less gives us an idea of what the Seahawks need heading into the draft.  A backup quarterback, probably two more running backs and a fullback, maybe a wide receiver and/or a tight end.  Maybe 2-3 offensive linemen (particularly a Center of the Future who can sit and watch and bulk up in his first year).  You always like to create competition among the pass rush – so probably one of each as far as end and tackle are concerned.  Probably not a linebacker, unless you find an undrafted guy or a late-round guy you like a lot.  Maybe a corner and maybe a safety to add to the depth there.

At the moment, the Seahawks have 9 draft picks.  It wouldn’t shock me to see the Seahawks move down once or twice, build up to 11 or 12 draft picks if they can.  But, assuming we’ve just got the 9, let’s take a look at where they are:

  • First round – 26th
  • Second round – 56th
  • Third round – 91st
  • Third round – 97th
  • Fourth round – 124th
  • Fifth round – 171st
  • Sixth round – 215th
  • Seventh round – 225th
  • Seventh round – 247th

The great thing about this draft is how strong it is along both the offensive and defensive lines.  So, that Center of the Future I’m talking about?  You can probably find him in the third or fourth round.  And, unless a real dominant pass-rushing force of a defensive tackle falls to you at 26, you can probably get an all-around good guy/run stuffer in the third or fourth round.  So, while you could argue those are the two biggest needs (C and DT), you probably don’t need to draft either of those in the first two rounds, unless you find someone really special.

Among the other highly-pressing needs this team has, we’re talking about the guard/tackle position on the offensive line, and a pass-rushing end on the defensive side.  While you like to find starters for your team in the first two rounds, the Seahawks have so few holes on their roster that it seems pretty improbable they’re going to draft either of these positions and find guys who will start right away.  Gilliam seems pretty entrenched as the team’s left tackle (and looks pretty studly, from the videos I’ve seen of his workout routines), and Britt is probably locked in at guard, considering he’s been a starter since day 1, he has experience, and he’ll be going into the second straight year as this team’s left guard (that consistency – not jerking him around from spot to spot – will hopefully help him to improve his overall technique).  Likewise, when you’re talking about the team’s defensive ends, Avril and Bennett are the guys.  Clark has a leg up over everyone, and Marsh has experience to probably fend off any defensive end we pick at either of the first two draft spots.

Nightmares of Lawrence Jackson notwithstanding, you hope to at least find a rotation guy at 26, if you go the defensive end route.

Since we’re talking about the Seahawks – a team that had Marshawn Lynch and Robert Turbin securely under contract, then went out and drafted Christine Michael in the 2nd round anyway – you have to talk about the possibility of John Schneider and Pete Carroll going rogue in the first two rounds.  Ultimately, I think the Seahawks draft Best Player Available with their first pick, if not their first two picks (though, it’s hard to see them not taking a pass rusher with either one).  So, if a quality cornerback or tight end falls to them late in the first round – even though those are two positions I believe the Seahawks are particularly strong in, and therefore should be among the last positions the team targets in the draft – it wouldn’t shock me in the slightest.  Even running back has to be on the table here.  I like Rawls as much as the next guy, and while I think they could go so far as to ignore the running back position altogether in the draft (and pick up someone like Arian Foster after the draft, to be in the RB rotation), it wouldn’t shock me if they saw Beastmode 2.0 fall to them at 26 and take him.  For as important as the running game is to Pete Carroll, don’t rule it out.

If I had my druthers, I’d have the Seahawks pick two of the following three spots in the first two rounds:  offensive guard/offensive tackle and defensive end.

In the third & fourth rounds, where the Seahawks have three picks, I’d like to see a center, a defensive tackle, and either a quality cornerback, or a third down running back.

In the fifth and sixth rounds, I’d like to see whatever they don’t get in that last pairing (either a cornerback or third down running back) and an outside linebacker to push Mike Morgan as we replace Bruce Irvin.

In the seventh round, I think the Seahawks pick up another offensive lineman (whatever they don’t draft – guard or tackle – in the first two rounds), and either another running back, a fullback, or a project at either cornerback, safety, or tight end.

And, if I have to be specific, let’s make it so:

  • First round – Offensive Guard
  • Second round – Defensive End
  • Third round – Center
  • Third round – Defensive Tackle
  • Fourth round – Running Back
  • Fifth round – Cornerback
  • Sixth round – Outside Linebacker
  • Seventh round – Offensive Tackle
  • Seventh round – Fullback

A Pre-Pre-Season Prediction of the Seahawks’ Opening Week 53-Man Roster

Because now seems to be the time to do these.  “Now” being:  at any and every point before the actual 53-man roster is finally chosen by the coaching staff.  I’m not immune to the type of wild speculation in the early going of a football season!  I’m just as excited as the next rabid NFL fan who’s sick and tired of the Seattle Fucking Mariners already!

Of course, this is just my best estimate, having seen exactly zero of the practices to this point.  I’m sure things will change greatly between now and the final pre-season game against the Raiders on September 3rd.  Will I do more of these as the pre-season goes along?  Maybe one more, right before the end, if I’m in the mood.

For most of these position groups, you’ll see a dashed line (————-).  Anyone listed above that line I consider a lock to make the team.  Anyone listed below that line I still think will make the final 53-man roster, but I’m not as confident.

Quarterback

Russell Wilson
Tarvaris Jackson

Seems pretty cut & dry.  You gotta wonder how long we’re going to be able to keep bringing Tarvar back on 1-year deals, but I’m game to keep him around as long as he’s willing to keep winning championships.

Running Back

Marshawn Lynch
Robert Turbin
Christine Michael
————————
Derrick Coleman

I’m not as sold as some are on Thomas Rawls or Rod Smith.  I think either or both could be kept around on the practice squad (unless, of course, one or both absolutely breaks out in the pre-season games).  I still like Coleman over Will Tukuafu, even though Tukuafu is more versatile.  Coleman is still younger and better on special teams.  If he can stay healthy, I think he’s got it on lock.  I also highly doubt the team keeps five running backs, but if they do, it’ll likely come from one of my offensive line spots.

Wide Receiver

Doug Baldwin
Jermaine Kearse
Tyler Lockett
————————-
Ricardo Lockette
Chris Matthews
Kevin Norwood

I’m not deaf to all the hype surrounding Kasen Williams right now, but it’s one thing to look impressive in practice and it’s another to do so in game situations.  Norwood still has a year’s worth of experience on him.  Besides that, I think we can also sneak Kasen onto the practice squad.  The other five guys figure to be pretty safe, especially with Douglas McNeil converting to cornerback.  B.J. Daniels is a dark horse candidate to win a job, but to do so, there’d probably have to be a rash of injuries ahead of him.

Tight End

Jimmy Graham
Luke Willson
———————–
Cooper Helfet

This one will be interesting, though it might go down to who stays healthy.  Should the team keep Helfet, then we’re essentially talking about the team keeping three “move” tight ends.  Anthony McCoy is the obvious other choice to be the team’s third tight end, and you’d have to think he’d have an advantage given his blocking ability.  But, he hasn’t been able to stay healthy through an entire pre-season for I don’t know how long anymore.  I can’t pencil him into my predicted 53-man lineup until I actually see him play in a game again.

Offensive Line

Russell Okung
J.R. Sweezy
Justin Britt
———————
Drew Nowak
Mark Glowinski
Alvin Bailey
Garry Gilliam
Lemuel Jeanpierre
Kristjan Sokoli
Keavon Milton

I’ll be honest with you, offensive line is the biggest crapshoot on this team.  I’ve got three locks, that’s how bad it is right now.  The safe play is to say that Bailey and Jeanpierre will join the other locks in giving us the best chance to win right now.  But, I have a feeling that the team will give our rookies every opportunity to try to steal those jobs away, even if it means taking a hit on our production right now, with the hope that their ceilings will be higher by season’s end.  Terry Poole is a tough one to chop, but to be honest I wouldn’t be shocked to see him or a couple of these other guys I’ve listed make the practice squad.  I can’t imagine the rest of the NFL is all that excited about picking up some of our projects who we’ve converted from being defensive linemen.

Defensive End

Michael Bennett
Cliff Avril
Frank Clark
Cassius Marsh

All locks, all should be productive members of our pass rush this year.  Can’t wait to see how this unit meshes.

Defensive Tackle

Brandon Mebane
Jordan Hill
Ahtyba Rubin
———————–
Jimmy Staten

Really difficult to see who the fourth guy will be.  I think it comes down to Staten and D’Anthony Smith, but it very well could go to a guy who’s not even on the roster right now.  Pre-season games will go a long way in shedding light.

Linebacker

Bobby Wagner
K.J. Wright
Bruce Irvin
Brock Coyle
Kevin Pierre-Louis
————————-
Mike Morgan

Probably the most potent unit on the entire defense.  The final spot(s) will come down to special teams.  Mike Morgan has been here forever, which is a plus and a minus in his favor.  He knows the system, he’s versatile, and he’s obviously good otherwise he wouldn’t have lasted as long as he has.  But, I think he’s in the last year of his deal, so you have to wonder if the team will opt to go younger with someone like Eric Pinkins.  The proof is in the pudding, as they say, and I think the nod goes to Morgan when all is said and done.  (Unless, of course, KPL’s injury is worse than expected, in which case, maybe both make it?)

Cornerback

Richard Sherman
Tharold Simon
Cary Williams
————————
Will Blackmon
Mohammed Seisay
Marcus Burley

For what it’s worth, I’m REALLY banking on Simon returning to action at some point this pre-season and not landing on the PUP.  Haven’t seen him yet, so we’ll see.  Jeremy Lane will obviously start on either the PUP or IR Designated To Return.  While he’s a huge loss, it opens up some good competition this month.  I’m THIS close to making Blackmon a lock, simply because – while he’s on the older side at 30 – this team can’t fuck around at a position where it’s so thin.  We’re already committed to Williams and the young & injury-prone Simon, so it’ll be nice to have someone who’s good and knows the system, in spite of his age.  Beyond that, I like Seisay’s height and I hope like Hell that he makes a positive impact this pre-season.  The final spot goes to Burley until I see whether Tye Smith is capable of living up to the high expectations thrust upon the L.O.B.  What I’ve heard about Smith thus far has been pretty underwhelming, so I have to believe Burley has the advantage.  Smith might be a guy we can sneak onto the practice squad, so I wouldn’t consider him a total draft pick bust just yet.

Safety

Earl Thomas
Kam Chancellor
DeShawn Shead
———————–
Steven Terrell
Dion Bailey

MAYBE the team opts to keep only four safeties, in order to stock up on the D-Line, but I don’t think I’m buying it.  I think, at least in the early going, this team will want to have sufficent backups in the event Earl Thomas re-injures himself.  Obviously, Kam is still a concern, considering he still has yet to show up to camp.  I don’t know what’s going to happen there, but I like how the younger guys are getting a lot of run.  I’ve heard a lot of exciting things about Dion Bailey, so I really hope he sticks.  Terrell appears to be pretty safe, as he’s still young, yet has some good experience.  Shead is obviously the glue that’s going to help us hold things together, as he can play both safety spots.  If he needs to step in for Kam, I don’t think we lose all that much (as crazy as that sounds).

Special Teams

Steven Hauschka
Jon Ryan
Clint Gresham

Not a lot to say here.  The Nate Boyer story is fun, but I can’t see us keeping him unless Gresham gets injured.

On Day 3, Seahawks Draft Other Guys

There was a brief smattering of reports that the Seahawks might trade up to the very top of the fourth round.  It was an exciting way to kick off the final day of the NFL Draft, except when you looked at the fact that the Seahawks only had two possible picks they could’ve traded this year (one being that one at the end of the 4th), which would’ve meant that we would’ve had to give up a player and/or future picks.  Ultimately, nothing happened (thank Christ), and we stuck with the picks we had.

  • Terry Poole (4th Round, OL)
  • Mark Glowinski (4th Round, OL)
  • Tye Smith (5th Round, CB)
  • Obum Gwacham (6th Round, DE)
  • Kristjan Sokoli (6th Round, OL)
  • Ryan Smith-Murphy (7th Round, S)

Poole was a tackle in college who is being groomed to compete for our starting left guard position.  In theory, he can play any position – including center – so it’ll be interesting to see how it shakes out.

Glowinski is a guard who could probably play either guard spot (or, again, maybe even center).  The Seahawks are going to give him a shot at competing for right guard (but, with Sweezy already pretty locked in there, it seems like Glowinski is being groomed to either be Sweezy’s replacement, or to be a general backup on the line).

Sokoli (if you’ll permit me to skip a few picks), was a defensive tackle in college.  He’s another convert a la Sweezy.  They’re going to try him out at center, but you gotta figure he could play any of the guard positions as well.

This day went HEAVY on the heavy guys.  That’s pretty good to see.  Okung is still around, but he’s a free agent after the 2015 season.  Same thing for Sweezy.  At the moment, we’ve got Patrick Lewis and Lemuel Jeanpierre battling for the center position, so it’s always nice to have more competition in the ranks.  Alvin Bailey is a career backup who will be competing exclusively for the left guard spot.  You don’t want to just hand over the position to someone without at least kicking the tires on a few others.

The point is, the Seahawks were quite thin along the offensive line.  Many projected it to be our greatest need coming into the draft.  Many were disappointed we didn’t go after someone on the second day of the draft, but it is what it is.  The Seahawks picked up three freakishly athletic guys who will be able to compete right away for starting jobs.  The Seahawks also got three guys who should be able to move around along the line.  If Okung gets injured, Bailey or Poole could kick outside and we should be fine.  If Sweezy goes down, Poole or Glow or Bailey could line up over there.  That’s something you gotta have, because when was the last time the Seahawks had the same offensive line for a full season without any injuries?  2005?  It just doesn’t happen anymore.

Tye Smith fills a need at the cornerback slot.  With Jeremy Lane injured (and probably set to miss extensive time in the regular season), and with Byron Maxwell now playing for the Eagles, the Seahawks have some real work to do.  Cary Williams was picked up in free agency, so at least we’ve got some veteran experience opposite of Sherman.  We also still have Tharold Simon who will be in his third year.  If he’s going to make the jump to everyday starter, this will be the year.  Marcus Burley is still around as a nickel guy.  Tye Smith figures to get a chance at being an outside corner, but failing that we could still see him in on some nickel packages.  He’s a good press corner – which is what we do in this defense – so here’s to hoping he proves his worth quickly and we don’t get stuck relying on Cary Williams too much.

Obum Gwacham (pronounced O-Boom) is the consummate raw project.  As a rookie, he probably tops out as a special teamer.  But, with his speed, his height, and his tools, if he picks up the game and runs with it, he could be an effective pass rusher at some point down the line.  If I had to guess, he either lands on the Practice Squad and/or the Injured Reserve for the first two years of his career.  If he makes the team any earlier than that, then you have to figure we might just have something great on our hands.

Ryan Smith-Murphy is a 6’3 Safety out of Oregon State.  We picked him late in the 7th round because it was always going to be difficult for this team to sign a quality safety as an undrafted free agent.  That’s what these 7th round picks are for.  We do have room for another backup safety, so he’ll go in there to compete, but it’s hard to really project anything on a 7th rounder.  Still, every year there’s at least a couple undrafted guys who make the team.  If he’s special, he’ll find a way to stick.  If he’s REALLY special, we may have found another Kam Chancellor-type.

The Seahawks filled a lot of needs in this draft.  Pass rush, wide receiver, and offensive line being the top three.  Of course, we won’t know how to properly grade this draft for at least a couple years, but this one feels like the best draft we’ve had since 2012, which comes just in the nick of time.  If Clark stays out of trouble, he could be a great one.  I already expect Lockett to be a solid receiver for us for a long time.  Our offensive line needs were addressed by guys who Tom Cable should have ready to start right away if need be.  We picked up a corner who this team should be able to coach up.  And, we got some athletic prospects towards the bottom who have high ceilings if everything breaks right.

When you’re the Seahawks, and you’re constantly drafting near the bottom of every round, you’ve got to take chances to stand out.  Tim Ruskell’s Seahawks would’ve selected the guys with the fewest red flags.  He would’ve made the safest picks, the guys with low ceilings but higher floors, ultimately spinning the wheels of mediocrity.  John Schneider takes chances because he wants to find greatness in the later rounds.  Sure, some of his picks might flame out spectacularly, but when he hits on guys, they tend to hit pretty big.  If you can find players late in rounds who are capable of cracking THIS roster – which is already at an elite level – then you know you’ve done your job.

I’m starting to get really excited for Training Camp again.  Good work, Seahawks.