I’ll admit, I was much more excited about this last night than I am today.
“Excited” might be a strong word. I was pleased. I was vehemently against drafting a quarterback, and it didn’t seem like we were set up well to get an elite defensive end. The top two cornerbacks were off the board, and the NFL seems adamantly against drafting a run-stuffing DT in the top 10, so I wasn’t going to get Jordan Davis in here (he fell to the Eagles at 13).
So, we got Charles Cross from Mississippi State. He was a two year starter and is leaving college after his redshirt sophomore season. He’s only 21 years old, and is widely regarded as one of the best – if not THE best – pass protecting left tackles in the entire draft.
That’s great, right? Sure, it was an Air Raid offense, but that just further bolsters his pass protecting bona fides.
Now, obviously, that means his run blocking is probably a little lacking. But, people are saying it’s not horrible. In my book, I’d rather have a left tackle who’s great at pass blocking, and coach him up into being a competent run blocker.
I know what you’re thinking: these are the Seahawks we’re talking about. They value running more than most teams. He’s going to have his work cut out for him if this is going to work. I would say that even if we reach some mythical 50/50 split of run/pass, that still means he’s going to need to keep the quarterback upright half the time, especially on all-important third downs.
Here’s what’s giving me pause: for starters, this guy at Field Gulls doesn’t sound very high at all on Cross. Also, I can’t help but be at least a little skeptical when the consensus all agrees that this was the best and safest option for the Seahawks; what the hell do they know? Really, how inspired can you be when you know the consensus ALSO says that we got the third-best left tackle in the draft. What remains to be seen is whether this was a true Top 3 situation, and then there was a cliff before #4 and the rest … or if this was actually a Top 2 situation, and Cross is in a significantly lower tier.
It got me to wondering: what’s the history in the NFL look like for the third left tackle taken?
Russell Okung is the lazy comp, because he was the last left tackle the Seahawks drafted in the first round. He also represents the start of that generation of Seahawks football, so we’re all projecting this onto Cross. The Seahawks brought in Okung, and four seasons later we were in the Super Bowl! Well, when is anything ever that simple?
Russell Okung, if you’ll recall, was the second LT in the 2010 draft. Trent Williams went two picks earlier, and he was the consensus #1 (who was the better talent and had the better career). The third LT? Anthony Davis, who the 49ers took at 11. He was … okay, but not an elite tackle in this league.
2011 was a poor year for left tackles. Tyron Smith was the first one taken at 9 and he was great. Nate Solder was the next one drafted at 17; he’s been competent. After that? Anthony Castonzo for the Colts at 22. He was a competent starter who earned a second contract, but injuries derailed him at the end.
I now realize I went back too far in my sample size, so I’ll be quick with the rest.
The third left tackle in 2012 was fine; the third LT in 2013 (Lane Johnson) was arguably the best of the entire draft that year; the third LT in 2014 (Taylor Lewan) was also arguably the best of the entire draft; the third LT taken in 2015 is better left unsaid; the third LT in 2016 was Laremy Tunsil but that was a weird gas mask weed situation involving the best talent in the draft; 2017 was another bad year for tackles, the first not taken until 20; 2018 was another terrible year for tackles; and 2019 has yet to bear any fruit at the position. It’s probably too soon to look at the last couple of drafts with any certainty.
So, I dunno. We’ll wait and see, I guess.
What I will say is that the Seahawks can’t fuck this up. It’s not a matter of whether or not they made the right choice. I would argue the Seahawks HAD no other choice. Failing a trade down and drafting Jordan Davis, the Seahawks were stuck with Cross. Cross was the clear-cut best LT available, which – other than quarterback – was our biggest need.
There’s nothing wrong with the Cross pick. There’s nothing wrong with Cross the prospect. He has all the tools and all the athleticism and all the body type you need for a good left tackle in this league. Now, it’s up to the coaching staff. They need to get the best out of him. They need to build up his pass protection skills, while at the same time significantly bolstering his run blocking skills. He’s not going to be the next Walter Jones; that man doesn’t exist. But, they need to develop Cross into AT LEAST the next Russell Okung. If they don’t do that, then this rebuild is totally fucked.
Left tackle is the first and most important domino in this whole thing. Cross solidifies the offensive line. With that out of the way, we continue to tinker with the skill position players. Simultaneously, we go H.A.M. on the defense to get it back to where it can carry this team.
With all that in place, THEN we get the quarterback of the future. But, that only works if the O-Line is there to keep the quarterback from getting killed.