Late and Long Thoughts on Seahawk Draft Class
The Seahawks just wrapped up OTAs and this seemed like an appropriate time to recollect on their most recent draft class. Before delving into the picks I first want to describe my thought process on what classifies as a successful draft. First off it is way too early to grade- the players have yet to play a single game- giving out letter grades is superficial and a waste of time (though I will comment on some pundits draft grades). For me a good draft is all about value. What I mean by this is selecting players where they project to be drafted or below, and not reach on players due to need or might have been selected a round or two later. That way you get the maximum return on investment; but perhaps more importantly to ensure un-added pressure is not put on players you reached on. There is a lot of scrutiny on draft classes and if a player is selected in the early 1st round when he possible could have been there in the 2nd the player feels that extra pressure to perform and he may succumb. Another important factor I look at in draft classes is picking players that fit a team’s needs and scheme/philosophy. A player has to fit, not only on the field but off it. This is essential but might be the hardest aspect to project as it involves a player’s intellect and mentality. Being put in the right system where an athlete can develop is crucial and a critical part of an organization and coaching staff. Thus in the draft it is important as a GM not go willy-nilly down a draft board, but to actually target players that fit schematically and to pick them at the appropriate value. It can be a dilemma in targeting a highly regarded player at the appropriate position to get maximum value, hence the trades that move teams up and down the draft board. So, with that being said lets finally look at the Seahawks draft class.
Two words come to mind when observing this draft class- versatility and athleticism. This seems to be a common theme of the Pete Carroll-John Schneider era. All nine of the Seahawk players are versatile in some regard. Some played multiple positions in high school or college: 2nd round OT Justin Britt played TE and multiple positions along the line at Missouri, 4th round DE Cassius Marsh is a converted TE, 4th round WR Kevin Norwood won South Mississippi Defensive player of the year playing safety, 4th round OLB Kevin Pierre-Louis is a converted safety, 6th round CB Eric Pinkins played a hybrid safety position at San Diego State, and 7th round FB Kiero Small was a junior college all-American at linebacker. Other players are versatile and uniquely talented at other sports: 2nd round WR Paul Richardson was a high school letterman in basketball and track, 2nd round OT Justin Britt won a state wrestling title going 45-0 as a senior, and 5th round DT Jimmy Staten was high school letterman in track and field making it to state finals in shot put, demonstrating his length and strength. Versatility is a great asset allowing players to be scheme diverse and able to adapt to multiple situations/personnel- ultimately leading to more snaps. Additionally, versatility to me signifies a cerebral player who adapts and understands their strengths and also weaknesses. It likewise signifies the other clear aspect in this year’s draft class, athleticism.
Pete Carroll preaches about getting athletes- the biggest, fastest, strongest football players. He trusts his and his coaching staffs’ ability to develop and put these unique athletes in positions where they can excel, and this draft class is evident in that, and it starts at the top.
WR Paul Richardson is pure speed, having posted a 4.28 40-yard dash. Mike Mayock, one of the few draft analyst I respect, refers to Richardson is a poor man’s Desean Jackson, which I consider a fair comparison. He is slightly built like Jackson; however is 6ft and has been gaining muscle all off-season, now almost to 190lbs from 160lbs in college (let’s hope he can maintain that explosiveness). Justin Britt is also athletic, showcased by his impressive wrestling career and at 6’6” has great strength- cleaning over 400 pounds. Cassius Marsh is also one of the quickest DE in the draft posting one of the top 3-cone drills (7.08sec) and 20-yard shuttles (4.25sec); but more on those three players later. Kevin Pierre-Louis was the combine champion for LBs- posting the fastest 40-yard dash (4.51sec), and one of the tops in the bench press (28reps), vertical jump (39in), broad jump (128in), and 20-yard shuttle (4.02sec). The Seahawks last pick in the 4th round Kevin Norwood, may not seem that freakishly athletic; however that would be ignorant. He may not be flashy but he is a great height-weight-speed ratio being at 6’2” and 200lbs he ran a 4.48 40-yard dash and posted one of the fastest 3-cone drills at 6.68sec. His surprising quickness for his size may not even be his best asset but rather is fluid route-running and innate ability to get open when the play breaks down- a great asset for Russell Wilson. CB Eric Pinkins is a classic height-weight-speed player, similar build to Richard Sherman; however bigger but not as agile. At 6’3” and 220lbs he ran a 4.4 40-yard dash, 39½in vertical, and 25 reps on the bench press. He is raw, switching positions from safety to a press-corner but watch out in a couple years (in fact a better comparison might be Brandon Browner). Although not a pure athletic achievement, FB Kiero Small reported that he broke over 20 facemasks in college illustrating his toughness and ruthless technique.
Another trait that all players have that is essential to the Seahawks and making the roster is their competiveness. All were well documented at being ultra-competitive, tough, and a love for the game. Though often overlooked this is a key characteristic necessary to succeed in the NFL.
Overall, I think the Seahawks got worthy value for their draft picks although a few pundits criticized several selections as reaches. Seattle started the draft with only six picks but ended the draft with nine (unfortunately 6th round OT Garrett Scott was waived due to a career ending medical diagnosis). Getting extra picks is a great strategy, which is utilized every year by the evil-mastermind Bill Belichick, as it gives you more swings at the plate to hit a homerun. Seahawks were going to pick Paul Richardson at the end of the first but were able to move back into the 2nd and acquire extra picks, a savvy move by Schneider. Pundits also didn’t like our other 2nd round pick Justin Britt due to value- Mel Kiper “saw him as a likelier fit in the third or fourth round.” However their draft grades were not consistent with other teams’ boards, as the Washington Redskins supposedly called Schneider telling them they stole their player, unfortunately relegating them to picking Morgan Moses at the top of the 3rd. As a result of their so called reaches, Mel Kiper gave the Seahawks a D+ in value and C+ overall, he will probably be regretting that grade in a view years just like his other poor draft predictions of the Seahawks. Bucky Brooks actually capitulated to Seahawks drafting and development prowess, stating: “the Seahawks’ draft classes have routinely earned initial low marks — and yet, their roster is regarded as one of the best in the NFL. Thus, observers should really reserve judgment until the team’s plan for each prospect is revealed.” He said this before giving the Seahawks a C because it “lacks sizzle”. Not sure what that means and don’t really care as even Brooks admitted the “Hawks drafted height-weight-speed athletes with ultra-competitive personalities,” two tactics that have led to successful picks in the past. In other words, Seahawks are analyzing what has made them successful and replicating it.
My favorite picks happen to be the first three selected, which maybe a copout, but let me enlighten. The first two picks, both in the 2nd round fill important needs, something I am ecstatic was addressed. Seahawks needed a deep threat besides Percy Harvin to stretch the field and they achieved that with Richardson. But he is not just speed, he has an outstanding catch radius for his size and is extremely explosive evident on tape and confirmed by his vertical and broad-jump. He is also very fluid in his movements, maximizing his speed and breaks. This fluidity means he can be a very good route-runner and is deceptively fast, chewing up ground and closing on DBs faster than they realize.
Justin Britt might actually be my favorite pick even though he might be the most controversial- I am a sucker for the big guys. Right tackle was a big need and I think the he will instantly compete against Michael Bowie for the starting job, which I think he’ll win. Seahawks have not been great at picking lineman in the past, but they went in different direction with Britt, again showing evidence that they analyze and learn from past successes and mistakes. Unlike the past where O-line coach Tom Cable has drafted massive mountains for men that can get serious movement in the run game but do not have sound technique in drop-backs, he went with a technician in Britt. The belief in the past I feel was that they could properly develop their footwork; however that has yet to come to fruition. Britt on the other hand has great footwork and technique with a strong first punch- evidently clear when watching him man-handle first overall pick Jadeveon Clowney. Besides being technically sound he is much leaner than other O-line Seattle have taken-James Carpenter- boasting a 20% body fat. Another aspect I enjoy about Britt is that he always finishes, holding and completing his blocks until the final whistle blows, showing of a nasty streak I am sure delights Cable.
4th round pick Cassius Marsh is my other favorite because his skill set matches a proven player that the Seahawks drafted and just re-signed, DE Michael Bennett. This again demonstrates the Seahawks critical eye and awareness of understanding what athletes thrive in their system. Marsh is quick and great with his hands and is very versatile. At UCLA he played undersize at 260lbs as a 3-4 DE. Playing somewhat out of position he was stout against the run and pass. He routinely faced two man fronts and was able to hold his own in the run game. When he went one-on-one against either a tackle or guard he got consistent penetration. Another trait he shares with Bennett is his non-stop mortar as he chased down RBs from behind or QBs scrambling out of the pocket. His quickness and surprising strength will allow him to play inside on passing downs in a similar role Bennett plays.
Holistically, I thought the Seahawks had a solid draft. Some players could start right away and immediately assist the team, while others need development and are a couple years away. All players though seem to have a niche, a given trait that will allow them to succeed, and all have great upside where they could eventually excel.
Finally an undrafted free agent to lookout for is Jackson Jeffcoat an all-American DE from Texas. Jackson was very productive but went undrafted because he is slight and needs to bulk-up, a trait that can be accomplished rather easily. I believe he has a decent shot at making the 53-man roster.