Seahawks 2016 Draft Recap
Before I begin analyzing the Seattle Seahawks 2016 draft class I will like to give an overview of exactly what this post will be about. It will not be me grading picks. In fact I will not be giving any grades- these General Majors are not students- though I will analyze each pick and what their addition will mean to the team. The recap will not compare picks with other teams’ picks or try to theorize which team had better selections throughout the draft. I will not make ridiculous hypothetical projections on potential stats. This analysis is strictly about the Seahawks draft and any discussion on the overall draft will only be given for context. This post will be about all individual picks and my opinion on Seattle’s general draft strategy and execution. I will also briefly discuss undrafted free agents who signed with the team. All draftees will be analyzed for how well they fit and add to the Hawks system.
Another note before going into individual picks and holistic analysis is how I evaluate a draft and a team’s execution. I think it is important to reiterate these beliefs to better understand my reasoning and therefore (unqualified) opinion. First the draft is like the lottery- you can scout and analyze players until you go insane but there are just too many variables and uncertainties so no pick is certain. Draft picks are people after all, and we are still trying to understand our mysterious selves. Thus drafting is an educated guess at best and all successful draft classes require a large degree of luck. So like in the lottery increasing your luck or odds- having more draft picks- is essential. The more picks the greater the odds- a common strategy used by many successful teams including the Patriots and Seahawks. I also view the draft like the stock market- another form of gambling. Understanding the market- the overall strength, positions of strength or weakness, and players estimated draft value- is vital to maximizing success and return on investment (ROI). To be specific trading down, selecting players from strong position classes, selection players at or below their expected draft position are all great strategies for a successful draft.
As far as individual players go I believe strongly in production, and athletic numbers are there to just confirm tape or differentiate players. A players potential means very little to me (I only know what I see- I am not a psychic). Also the more I watch, read and learn about athletes in their perspective sports the more I believe in the mental makeup of a player. Sports are mostly mental as much as 90%. This means football intelligence but also mental toughness, fortitude, desire, work ethic, etc. In fact a psychologist might be the best analyst for selecting picks. This goes as far as picking a player that fits the mindset and culture of the team and locker room, and every locker room is different. This implies that a player’s situation and environment are critical to his overall success. Another trait I am beginning to believe helps determines a player success is their unique or specific skill set. Now selecting a player who excels at specific skill is a common theme of Seahawk draft picks since General Manager John Schneider took over, and he has made me a believer. The main reason is that having a special trait allows coaches and development personal something to build around, and these unique skills give players a chance to find the field immediately. This strategy is married to good coaching where coaches put players in positions that maximize their strengths and minimize their weaknesses. To conclude a good player selection is someone mentally tough with proven production mirrored with strong athletic numbers that possess a very specific skill.
With all that said further context is required. I have just returned from Africa, where they vaguely know of Gridiron Football’s existence and only breathe true football. Being two years removed from American Football I have not been able to watch football of any kind, NFL or college. So my understanding of Seattle Seahawks needs or the top players in college football is limited at best, thus most of this analysis is based on others’ analysis- second hand opinions. I am getting most of my information from football news sites, local newspapers, and most importantly YouTube highlights. Therefore my analysis, recap, and overall opinion on the Seahawks 2016 draft class should be taken lightly and frankly shouldn’t be taken seriously at all. (I mean this blog is just away for me to waste time with my illogical thoughts and opinions.)
So finally let us begin my opinion of other people’s opinions on second-hand information of Seahawk’s 2016 draft class.
1st Selection (Round 1 Pick 31)- Germain Ifedi; OT/G 6’6” 324lbs, Texas A&M
Seattle immediately fills a position of need with their first overall pick. The Hawks offensive line is their weakest position group especially after losing their best starters in Russell Okung and JR Sweezy in free agency, so an offensive lineman is a logical choice. He is a long big powerful athlete that looks like a prototypical OT. Ifedi’s athletic metrics are one of the top in the draft and he is an above average athlete compared to NFL lineman including the SPARQ measurements (75th percentile)- supposedly utilized by Seattle.[i] Pundits and scouts major but only critique against Ifedi was his technique, often referred to as raw[ii]– which I believe implies coachable and luckily for him his is being coached by one the best in the business in Tom Cable. (Seattle seems to rely on Cable’s ‘gift’ as they rarely put large investment in the offensive line causing it to be one of the weakest position groups for years now.) With all that said the most important trait that will help Ifedi succeed is his mentality. Unlike previous lineman selections-Tom Moffit, Justin Britt)- Ifedi plays with a real nastiness, a player when given a chance explodes off the line. College offensive linemen are getting harder and harder to evaluate as they rarely play with their hand on the ground or drive forward so having that mentality perhaps is a good indicator he will succeed. Ifedi’s attitude also fits perfectly in Pete Carroll’s always compete environment.
Another great aspect of this selection is that Schneider traded down acquiring an extra 3rd round pick. Great move considering they were thinking of selecting him at 24.
With Ifedi being raw he should immediately compete for JR Sweezy’s vacated position at RG and in the future with improved technique move over to RT.
2nd Selection (Round 2 Pick 18)- Jarran Reed; DT 6’3” 307lbs, Alabama
Schneider, in a rare move, moved up seven spots to select Jarran Reed out of Alabama. The Hawks swapped 2nds and gave up a 4th round pick (No. 124) to acquire Reed. I normally do not like trading up to select a player as it usually results in a loss of a pick and the selection- as discussed above- is no guaranteed success; however this is an unusually circumstance. Reed was projected to go in the mid to late 1st round, and Schneider was debating picking him with their 1st selection, so getting him in the middle of the second is tremendous value (ROI). In essence Seattle gave up a 2nd and a 4th rounder to select a player most teams and scouts had as a 1st round talent- an equal if not better deal for Seattle.
As for the player, Reed is an unmovable object on the defensive line and considered to be the best run defender in the entire draft. He has a powerful build and thick lower body allowing him, with great pad level and strong hands, to constantly push interior line backwards. Reed is a two-gap monster, able to occupy multiple lineman and lanes against the run. As a two down lineman (was subbed out on obvious passing downs) he saw constant double teams yet was still Alabama’s best run defender and able to post over 50 tackles in his two years as a starter- tremendous production for a run-stuffing specialist. The coaches and media rewarded his effort earning 2nd team All-SEC. His main weakness, and probably the reason he slipped on draft boards, is his pass rush ability. He had little production in pressuring the QB only amassing two total sacks and 16 QB pressures in his two year career. Reed doesn’t possess elite quickness, though scouts and the Seahawks believe he could develop his pass rush ability having the traits to have a strong bull rush and above average hands- just needs technique.
Therefore the trade off with Reed is an elite run defender (a proven trait) but a below average pass rusher (though could be developed). With Seahawk coaches able to maximize their players’ strength and minimize their weaknesses this appears to be an ideal selection. The pick also addressed a need at NT for Seattle after losing long time starter and run-stuffing expert Branden Mebane to free agency. Reed appears to be the man to replace Mebane, and his unique skill in run defensive will give him a chance to start and excel at the next level.
(Seattle with this selection- like most- has a clear position and role for Reed that fits his style of play.)
3rd Selection (Round 3 Pick 27)- CJ Prosise; RB 6’0” 220lbs, Notre Dame
Prosise is a classic Pete Carroll player. He is a unique gifted natural athlete, who played multiple positions before making it as a running back in his final year at Notre Dame. Prosise was actually recruited as a safety but switched to WR in his second year. As a wide receiver he was inconsistent but led all Irish receivers with 17.8 yards/reception in 2014 illustrating his big play potential. He also won Special Teams Player of the Year in 2014, again showcasing his athleticism and versatility. In attempt to keep Prosise on the field and to improve their weak running back position in 2015 he switched positions again to RB and eventually won the starting job. In his one year at his new position he excelled amassing over 1,000 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground with a staggering 6.6 yards/carry.
With only one-year of running back experience Prosise thrived and showed he has starter potential in the next level. He is a fast smooth gliding runner with deceiving pace that can lull defenders to sleep. He makes quick efficient cuts without losing speed and power when changing directions. Prosise’s smooth efficient running style makes him a major threat in the open field and has good lateral quickness and spin move to make people miss in tight quarters. He has the physical build of a number one back and the size to handle the workload. Prosise’s weakness is his lack of experience where at times he looks confused, is poor in pass protection, and does not always secure the ball when entering contact. All his weaknesses are coachable and will improve with time.
Scouts compare Prosise to Fred Jackson who he appears to be replacing. With Fred Jackson not being resigned the Hawks need a 3rd down back who can catch the ball out of the backfield and pass protect. Prosise needs to prove he can perform the latter in order to fulfill that role but he is an excellent receiver out of the backfield with above average hands. I believe a better NFL comparison is Matt Forte. They have similar running styles- patient, smooth, efficient forward leaning runners who are great in open space and catching out of the backfield. Forte and Prosise also are similar in size and measurables, both posting 4.46 40 yard dash and above average SPARQ scores in the 120s.
Once again Seattle selects a player with a unique background and a special skill set that will allow him to fill a specific role on the team. Prosise has the unique skill to immediately be a 3rd down back with the potential to be an every down starter.
4th Selection (Round 3 Pick 34)- Nick Vannett; TE 6’6” 257lbs, Ohio State
Seattle again with the selection of Vannett picks a player with a unique skill that will allow him to fill a specific role on the team. Vannett’s skill is blocking, Schneider believes he is the best Y (blocking) TE in the draft, a rare skill to find nowadays, and a position of need in Seattle. Vannett has prototypical size- large athletic frame with long limbs and big hands that allow him to handle one-on-one blocking assignments. Vannett possesses a competitive and nasty attitude as he stays locked into his defender- he views every assignment as a battle- a mentality necessary to be a successful. His success as a blocker allowed him to stay on the field regardless of formation or personal grouping as he was asked to run and pass protect and became a two-way TE. Turning himself into a combination TE over the last two years also showcased his tremendous work ethic.
Due to his role in the Ohio State offense, which uses TEs primarily as blockers, Vannett had very limited opportunity in the passing game; which Vannett considers his greatest strength. He only amassed 55 career receptions for 585 yards and six touchdowns, though his production improved with every season, again illustrating his consistent development. He has ability in the passing game showing great body control running routes and big strong hands giving him a large catching radius and strength to catch contested passes. He displays great toughness in catching balls in traffic and willingness to sacrifice body going over the middle. Vannett is not a burner and wont scare defenses with his speed (running the 40 yard dash in 4.85sec); however his is surprisingly quick and agile posting top marks in 20 and 60 yard shuttle as well as a great time in 3-cone drill, and is thus able to quickly get up field and create separation in and out of breaks.[i]
Although his production was low (something that worries me), largely due to his role in the offense, scouts view Vannett as a talented player with potential. Before the 2015 season ESPN NFL Draft analyst Todd McShay listed Vannett as the No. 1 tight end prospect.[ii] Even after the season, where he was rarely utilized, scouts still had him highly ranked. Dan Kadar in “Mocking the Draft” ranked Vannett the No. 2 TE in the draft calling him “the great unknown ball of potential in this class.”[iii]
With not a strong TE draft class Vannett was actually the 3rd TE taken (94th) overall and was selected around his projected value, so a successful draft selection following my criteria. As for the player, Vannett appears to have the mental toughness, experience, and a unique skill set to make the 53 man roster.
5th Selection (Round 3 Pick 35)- Rees Odhiambo; OT/G 6’4” 315lbs, Boise State
Once again Schneider looks to add depth and competition to Seattle’s weakest position group- the offensive line. Addressing the same position twice in a draft is acceptable, even encouraged, if the position class is strong and is an area of need, both of which are true in this circumstance (both offense and defense lines were considered strong and deep in this class). With Seattle in dire need of competition and depth along the entire offensive line adding another athletic big man makes sense. Odhiambo is starting at guard but like Ifedi he has the athletic ability and potential to play tackle. The one negative with the selection is the value. Most NFL draft projections had him going in the 5th or 6th round so selecting him two rounds higher than expected is poor value and ideally one would have liked to trade back, acquire more picks, and still select Odhiambo. On the other hand, Odhiambo on an athletic and talent standpoint could have been a 2nd round pick but fell due to his medical history. Selecting him in the third round confirms Seattle is comfortable with his health.
Obviously Schneider and company were high on him and it is easy to see why. He has had to deal with a great deal of adversity since moving to America from Kenya at a young age. He is still new to the game having started playing football late in high school and most view him as an ascending talent. Due to his lack of experience he redshirted his freshman year and saw limited action the year after. As a RS sophomore he started eight games (missing 5 due to injury) at RT. Odhiambo earned All-Conference honors the last two seasons at RT and then at LT his senior year where he was on the Outland Trophy Preseason watch list (award to best OL in the country). Unfortunately for Odhiambo he was never able to play an entire season because of various injuries including a broken ankle in the 9th game of his senior campaign. Although he was never able to stay healthy he had no reoccurring injuries so he appears to be just unlucky.
While some teams may question his health, he has the physical and athletic ability to succeed on the offensive line at the next level. He looks the part of an offensive tackle- tall, broad shoulders, reasonable arm length (his limited reach caused some scouts to move him to guard), quick feet, strong hands, powerful punch, great balance and weight distribution, and tough. Life Ifedi he plays with an edge and nastiness. On selecting Odhiambo NFL draft expert Mike Mayock (someone I trust) declared “Tom Cable is going to love this guy. I have two issues with him. One, durability. Two, I don’t know where to play him. Cable will love him because he’s athletic, and he can turn these type of guys into good football players.”[iv]
However, to make the field he needs to prove he can play guard by locking onto defenders rather than punching and pushing, and perhaps more importantly prove his durability. Bottom line, the Boise State product has the talent, temperament, technique and physical attributes to succeed at the next level.
6th Selection (Round 5 Pick 8)- Quinton Jefferson; DT 6’4” 291lbs, Maryland
Seattle again selects a DT and again trades back up to do so, swapping 7th rounders and giving their 2017 4th round pick to the Patriots for Jefferson. Regardless of the player I do not like trading up in drafts, so ideologically I do not like this move. To make it worse, unlike the Reed selection, Jefferson was projected to be a 6th or 7th round selection meaning Seattle traded a 4th round pick for a 5th for a player that could have been available in the next round. The trade and value of selection are poor and immediately decrease a return on investment- essentially, Jefferson even though selected in the 5th round must play at the very least like a 4th rounder. The one positive is that the DT draft class this year is deep and Seattle didn’t actually lose a pick just the value of the pick. With Schneider rarely trading up in the draft, only trading up twice in the previous six drafts, and with the pick being poor value Seattle must have been very high on Jefferson.[v]
Carroll was, calling the selection a “rare opportunity”; and Schneider a little more diplomatic said of the move “We didn’t see a ton of players like him after that. We usually don’t do that sort of thing [trade up], but looking at our compensatory picks coming around the corner for next year, we thought this was a wise decision.” Basically Schneider is saying they felt comfortable giving up a 4th round pick for Jefferson because they weren’t going to able to acquire a player with Jefferson’s unique skill set, and because of the quality free agents lost in the offseason Seattle will likely get at least one extra 4th round pick next year so the thought the value was right. (I personally feel this is dangerous short-term thinking, but clearly Seattle wants a player with Jefferson’s skill on the roster this year).
So why does Carroll think this is a rare opportunity? Well Carroll sees Jefferson in the similar mold of Michael Bennett- someone who is flexible and moves all around the defensive line exploiting match-ups with his quickness and penetration. Carroll says Jefferson “plays all over… He gives us the flexibility.”[vi] Jefferson is exactly that, flexible, and was moved all over the defensive line in college to maximize his special skill- interior pass rush. He is a long body 3-technique DT and his gift is his penetration. He uses his long body and arms, low pad level, quick first step, and a few polished pass rush moves to beat interior lineman to the quarterback. His versatility and athleticism were displayed by succeeding in both odd and even man fronts as a DE and DT, and he has the production to prove it. After gray-shirting due to a broken jaw and working at Best Buy he played in nine games as a freshman, he started all 13 games his sophomore year posting great numbers (45 tackles, 7.5 for loss, and 3 sacks). Unfortunately he was unable to build on that impressive performance as he tore his right ACL in his third game. Yet, he came back strong last year earning honorable mention All-Big Ten honors after recording 12.5 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks, and an interception. That is great production from a DT.
Jefferson is not without major weakness- with all his prowess against the pass he is ineffective against the run and the main reason he was projected as a 6th round pick. Jarran Reed is everything Jefferson isn’t. Jefferson has limited lower body strength and guards can too easily push him around. He also doesn’t display great balance as guards can redirect and pin him. As the play continues his length, which was an asset, becomes a liability as his pad level rises allowing guards to get under him and push him around. Jefferson also needs to improve shedding blocks as too often he gets locked with offensive lineman. Still with greater pad awareness and improved strength his weaknesses could be diminished.
Perhaps his greatest asset though is his maturity, professionalism and mental toughness. He had to handle adversity immediately at Maryland but quickly became a team leader. He relinquished his final season in order to provide for his wife and three young daughters giving him extra motivation and a professional approach to the game. Scouts consider him grounded with a strong work ethic- all traits needed to succeed in the NFL.
Seattle will initially use Jefferson as an interior pass rusher on obvious passing situations and could be the future replacement to Jordan Hill who shares similar traits. If Carroll uses Jefferson correctly, maximizing his pass rush skills and hiding his weakness as a run defender, Jefferson could find a “rare opportunity.”
7th Selection (Round 5 Pick 34)- Alex Collins; RB 5’10” 217lbs, Arkansas
It may be a surprise to some that Seattle took another running back just two rounds after selecting C.J. Prosise but not to anyone who knows how Carroll and Schneider like to build their team. Actually Schneider before the draft was almost positive he was going to draft at least two running backs this year for several reasons. First, Schneider considered this class the deepest he has seen since becoming Seattle’s GM with few elite back talents but a lot of backs bunched together in the middle tiers. Secondly, Seattle philosophically wants a tough physical team that runs the ball, eats up clock, and plays great defense. In order to continue that strategy they need depth and talent at the running back position. Even though Thomas Rawls performed exceptionally well last year filling in for injured and now retired Marshawn Lynch, there was lack of depth and more importantly competition behind him with only the underachieving Christine Michael on the roster. Competition is essential to Seattle’s success ensuring players don’t become complacent, that practices are always physical and intense, and thus creating the culture and environment where players always compete and make each other better. Seattle was also able to select two RBs because no running back on their roster carriers a high price tag. Finally, drafting Collins was actually great value. Most scouts and mock drafts had him going in the 3rd or 4th round so snagging him at the end of the 5th is a great pick up regardless of need.
No two running backs are alike, all have their strengths and weaknesses, and all have their own unique running styles and this couldn’t be truer with Collins and Prosise. Where Prosise is a smooth fast one-cut runner, Collins is a downhill jittery runner with quick feet and an abbreviated stride. Prosise is a change of pace back and receiver out of the backfield in the mold of Matt Forte; while Collins is tough no-nonsense workhorse and goal line back that will remind Seahawks fans of Beast Mode and Thomas Rawls. Since these two backs have such contrasting styles and skills they will have their own specific roles on the offensive while also competing with Rawls for the starting job.
Collins was one of the top recruits coming out of high school and surprisingly chose Arkansas over the three big Florida schools (FSU, UF, Miami); but it worked out well for both parties. In his three years at Arkansas Collins was tremendously productive. He is the first player since Adrian Peterson to record over 100 yards in their first three games as a true freshman, and only the third player in SEC history to record over 1,000 yards in three consecutive seasons- the other two, Herschel Walker and Darren McFadden. He recorded 1,026yrds with 4 TDs in 2013, and 1,100yrds with 12 TDs in 2014 all while sharing carries with Jonathan Williams. In 2015 Williams was out for the year due to injury so Collins became the featured back increasing his carries and production (1,577 yards, 20TD, and 5.8YPC) earning him second team All-SEC honors.
As mentioned earlier Collins is a tough downhill runner who squares himself up to the hole and uses great pad level. I like his running style having a natural forward lean and short, choppy steps similar to Lynch that allows him to be elusive and incredibly agile for his size. However unlike Lynch his abbreviated steps are not wide or exaggerated so is unable to have the same balance and power that Lynch created. Still his style and vision enable Collins to be patient and probe for creases as well as weave in and out of traffic without losing speed. His choppy steps in the hole allow him to consistently juke and sidestep tacklers. When watching him, his legs look like a windup toy’s seemingly detached from his body and appears to play at only one speed showing his excellent acceleration.
You are probably asking yourself why wasn’t Collins drafted earlier he sounds like the third best running back in the class, unfortunately for him and Seattle he is not without weakness. Although his production was outstanding he doesn’t have elite measurables, mainly speed. He ran the 40 in 4.59sec, and showed little explosion or burst illustrated by his poor broad jump of 113 inches. Due to his lack of elite speed he has trouble with outside runs too often breaking runs back inside. Also, unlike Lynch he rarely breaks tackles as he doesn’t have Lynch’s balance and power and is unable to generate enough momentum. Collins was only credited with one broken tackle in his last 475 carries.[vii] Although not a weakness, he is unproven as a pass catcher and blocker as he had limited opportunities. Perhaps Collins biggest weakness and the main reason he dropped to the 5th round was his fumbling woes. He fumbled the ball 16 times on 696 career carries.[viii] Schneider and Carroll believe he can fix his main issue- otherwise he won’t find the field.
To conclude Collins is incredibly productive and consistent and can be the workhorse back who can carry it 25 times a game due to his well-built durable frame. He is also versatile and scheme diverse having success running gap, power and zone schemes. Initially he will probably compete with Rawls for starting touches on 1st and 2nd down allowing Prosise to be the big play threat on 3rd down. Collins will also get looks when Seattle enters the red zone.
8th Selection (Round 6 Pick 40)- Joey Hunt; C 6’0” 299lbs, TCU
In almost every draft since Carroll and Schneider took over there has been and has to be a Tom Cable pick, and this year Joey is it. The offensive line/ assistant head coach needs to be pleased as no one wants to see him angry (or he might punch someone), and has been a vital part of Seahawks success so making him happy is essential. Joey is Cable’s pick and pet project this year and is the type of player Cable loves.
Joey Hunt is smart, tough, coachable, and productive. He is a mobile blocker known for his pass protection and had a tremendous career at TCU. Hunt quarterbacked the offensive line to an offense that ranked 5th and 3rd in the country the last two years, and started all 12 games (11 at center, 1 at right guard) his sophomore year in 2013. He was named 2nd team All-Big 12 honors in 2014 and earned 1st team All-Big 12 honors by coaches and Associated Press in 2015 despite missing the final three games due to injury. According to Pro Football Focus Hunt “did not allow a single sack or hit on the quarterback in 445 pass-block snaps last season” leading the nation with 99.5 pass protection efficiency, allowing only three hurries.[ix]
Hunt’s amazing production comes from him being mentally sharp and tough. He is the definition of a scholar-athlete, winning the TCU scholar athlete award in 2014 , and brings his smarts from the classroom to the field. He was the quarterback of the offensive line and was named a captain the last two years. Hunt is never out of position, is instinctive, and shows great foot work, hands and technique making him arguably the best center in pass protection. Likewise, he displays great vision and awareness in picking up blitzes, stunts, and twists. He is agile and quick enough to get up to the second level and mirror linebackers in run game with enough functional strength to keep them pinned. Even with his limited size and short arms he is able to anchor himself against the bull rush.
Still with all his production and intangibles he was ranked around the 6th best center in the draft and was projected to go in the last two rounds at best because of his size. Hunt does not possess the prototypical size and length of a NFL center. Scouts worry about his size and average athleticism against stronger and quicker defenders at the next level. Defensive lineman with length can get into him and control him at the line of scrimmage. Because of his lack of length he can get grabby at times leading to holding penalties. With all his prowess as a pass protector he generates little movement in run blocking, and is considered a controller not a mauler even though he put up 34 reps on the bench press.
Adding a 3rd offensive lineman specifically at center makes sense for Seattle as depth and competition were needed at the position. Last year’s eventual starter Patrick Lewis was serviceable, but Seahawks see a need to upgrade the talent, even trying Justin Britt a disappointing 2nd round pick in 2014 out at center. Hunt will immediately compete with these two players where he will have to prove capable as he is a one position player due to his size. Bottom line given his smarts, toughness and feet he could succeed in the right scheme- like outside zone blocking- that utilizes his vision and feet and hides his below average size and length.
9th Selection (Round 7 Pick 22)- Kenny Lawler; WR 6’2” 203lbs, California
Since Carroll and Schneider took over, the wide receiver position has always been mediocre. Though never a weakness Seahawks passing attack was never a strength- few opponents feared the weapons outside focusing almost entirely on the Beast. This is partly to do with scheme as Carroll emphasizes a strong run game but also because Russell Wilson is still learning the QB position and the lack of talent on the outside; however that is about to change. With Russell becoming an elite passer, Doug Baldwin looking like a No. 1 WR, Jermaine Kearse being consistently reliable, Tyler Lockett and Paul Richardson having big play potential, and with Jimmy Graham manning the tight end position this is finally looking like a position of strength. Still adding a tall red zone threat would add another dimension to the offense- Kearse was the tallest WR on the field at just over 6 foot- and Kenny Lawler is just that.
Selecting Lawler was also great value in the 7th round as most mock drafts had him going around the 4th. He is tall at 6’2” with long arms and became a touchdown machine during his three years at Cal. As a true freshman he became No. 1 overall pick Jared Goff’s favorite red zone target due to his excellent body control, hands, catch radius, and ball skills. He tied the team with 5 TDs as a freshman, following it up with 9 TDs as a sophomore. In his final year, as junior, he caught 52 receptions, 658 yards, and 13 TDs (tied for 8th in the nation) earning him 1st team All-Pac-12. For his whole career he caught a touchdown incredibly every 5.3 receptions. He has the ball skills to be a star yet dropped to the 7th round because he is frail and an average athlete.
Lawler is thin and frail much like Paul Richardson when he joined Seattle and will need to gain weight and strength to handle press man-to-man, blocking, and the rigors of the NFL. He further will have to work hard on his release to come cleanly off the line so he won’t get manhandled at the line of scrimmage. He only ran a 4.63 40-yard dash and had a below average SPARQ score.[x] With the lack of top-end speed he has trouble separating from corners and will have to make the contested catch at the next level- luckily he can. Lawler also has little ability to create after the catch.
Even though he does not possess top-end speed, he does have good short-area quickness and acceleration. This coupled with his tall frame and outstanding body control make him a great red zone threat on the outside for fades and jump balls, something Seattle has been lacking recently. Lawler is a good route runner- smooth and efficient in and out of breaks- showing sharp footwork. Uses his long arms and strong hands to make contested catches away from his body, while also illustrating he is not shy of contact. Lawler’s head coach Sonny Dykes might describe him best: “He has a natural sense for the game of football and the receiver position that few possess as well as an uncanny ability to make plays in the end zone, which along with his excellent ball skills has led to some of the most unbelievable catches I have ever seen.”[xi]
Due to his height and unique skills in the red zone he has the ability to make the Seahawks roster. However, some scouts and player personnel were cautious about Lawler as there are few thin receivers lacking top-end speed starring in the NFL and probably the main reason he slipped to the 7th round. Still few receivers in this class can make the kind of highlight reel catches he performs on a consistent basis. He most likely will be a possession receiver and red zone threat in the next level, but could provide an intriguing matchup in the slot were he could utilize his short area quickness and size. It will be interesting to see if he can handle the physical jump, if so Seattle might have found a steal.
10th Selection (Round 7 Pick 26)- Zac Brooks; RB 6’1” 200lbs, Clemson
With their last pick in the draft Seattle took a flyer. Zac Brooks is an amazing athlete that flashes potential and a fascinating skill set. He had a SPARQ score of 126.5 putting him in the 66th percentile in RBs ranking higher than Prosise (another phenomenal athlete), and put on a show at his pro day: 40-yard dash: 4.45 seconds; vertical: 36 inches; broad jump: 10 feet, 9 inches; short shuttle: 4.38 seconds; 3-cone: 7.09 seconds; bench: 18 reps of 225 pounds.[xii] His athleticism has always been known, he was ranked the No. 15th athlete in the country coming out of high school and the No. 1 ranked player in Arkansas. However he is basically a projection-based player due to his outstanding measurables but poor production.
Brooks never lived up to his potential at Clemson partly because he could never stay healthy during his career- missing the entire 2014 season due to foot injury- until his final year. His first two years 2012 and 2013 he was a backup combining for 365 yards and two TDs. In 2014 he was expected to become the starter before his foot injury ended his season before it began. Brooks returned in 2015 but once again in backup role finishing with 234 rushing yards, 113 receiving yards, and 5TDs. The poor production over three years (809 total yards) in a run-friendly offense is the reason many thought he would go undrafted. Brooks’ lack of production can also be contributed to his seemingly poor run instincts. He is slow to read blocks, lacks lower body strength, doesn’t have great vision, doesn’t break enough tackles, and doesn’t show much wiggle or agility- rarely making people miss. He just seems to lack running back instincts, gaining the yards created for him but never creating his own yards.
Brooks does possess some good traits though. He is a decisive one-cut runner who utilizes his plant-and-go quickness to get to the second level, and at the second level he shows his dynamic athleticism. He accelerates quickly and flashes violence when finishing runs. At Clemson he was considered their most physical back- a trait Seattle prioritizes. Brooks is also a good receiver showing great hands and route running ability in high school and college. Scouts also liked his intelligence and his ability to process information.
Selecting Brooks with their last pick might seem odd having already picked two RBs in the draft, but considering it’s a position in flux and need of depth, and Brooks’ athletic potential, it is a fine move. At this point in the draft it is not about need or value but about upside, and Brooks oozes with potential. He will immediately add to the competition at running back and mostly threaten for touches as the 3rd down and pass-catching back (the main role for Prosise). Looking at his skill traits and fluid athleticism he might be an interesting project at wide receiver. Still he is a project and has an uphill battle to make the roster.
Undrafted Free Agents
Seattle has been very good at finding talented undrafted free agents that have made a significant impact on the team- every year they seem to find a contributor or even a star. So with undrafted free agents being so important to Seattle’s success and Seattle signing multiple undrafted players every year I will quickly mention two who have a good chance of making the team.
- Trevone Boykin; QB 6’0” 212lbs, TCU
He was one of the most electric and productive players in the country the past two years. He was a 2014 Heisman finalist after earning 2nd team All-American and Big-12 Offensive player of the year recording 3,901 passing yards, 33 touchdowns, 10 interceptions; 707 rush yards, eight rush touchdowns. Boykin again excelled as a senior despite missing some time to injury finishing with 3,573 passing yards, 31 TDs, 10 interceptions; 612 rushing yards, and 10 rushing TDs. Boykin has similar traits to Russell Wilson. He is a great athlete who shows the best pocket elusiveness of any QB in this draft, has a strong arm but throws with anticipation and touch, and possesses above average accuracy. Also like Wilson and one of the main reasons he went undrafted is his size- he is below the desired height and has average hand size. He also played in a shotgun un-NFL type system. Boykin is likely to make the team as there is no QB behind Russell on the roster and is competing against another free agent Jake Heaps. Seattle will like him to become the No. 2 at QB as his skill set matches Russell’s, so if he has to play the offense will not change drastically schematically.
- Tyvis Powell; SS 6’3” 211lbs, Ohio State
Powell is a big gifted athlete who played on a talented defense where he was often overshadowed. He left after his junior season being highly productive as a full time starter (147 tackles, 7 INTs the past two seasons) and has the knack for making big plays in crucial moments. Powell was a combine star posting great results confirming his play on the field as a long, rangy safety who has size (6’3”), speed (4.45 40 yard-dash), agility (7sec 3-cone-drill) and quality ball skills (7 INTs). At Ohio State he was asked to play sideline to sideline often playing deep like a free safety or matched up man-to-man in the slot; however in Seattle he is looking to backup Kam Chancellor as a hard hitting in the box strong safety. Powell was projected to go in the 5th round so it was a valuable signing as well. He went undrafted because although he has great size and speed he is not a thumper and shows poor tackling technique- leaving you at times wondering if he has the required physicality and mentality to play SS at the next level. Luckily for him he is going to be learning from one of the toughest, intimidating and best tackling safeties in the league in Chancellor. Also with Seattle’s emphasis on proper tackling techniques (rugby style) his weaknesses could be corrected. Powell might either embrace Seattle’s culture of competition and physicality- combining with his physical gifts to have a nice NFL career- or not gain the necessary mental toughness and attitude to make an NFL roster.
Overall I think Seattle followed their draft strategy well and acquired players to help their team right away and into the future. Schneider thought this was the deepest draft he has seen since becoming the GM in Seattle so having 10 picks was a great asset. Seattle selected players at good value and at positions of need, adding quality depth and competition. They were able to trade down once to acquire an extra pick and still pick the player they were targeting. Seattle did trade up twice- a move in principle I disprove of- however, they did not lose much or mortgage their future and actually got great value in selecting Reed. The players selected also appear to be good fits schematically and culturally, and add a new dimension to the team.
Looking at similarities between picks patterns emerge that help clarify Schneider’s draft strategy. All players selected by Schneider have a special skill excelling in a specific area. This allows Seattle to more easily project players and their role on the team. Another way to look at it is Seattle selects players with a specific role/ job in mind, a role that can give them a roster spot, confidence, and a foundation to build on. With specific selections adding new dimensions or competition to the roster Seattle is able to correct weaknesses, fill holes, and maintain cap flexibility by trusting their young personnel and player development. So far the strategy is working and although Schneider and Carroll haven’t always had successful drafts (look at 2013), they have built arguably the most talented and one of the youngest rosters in the league.
Truly excited to see how the 2016 Seattle draft class preforms and assists the team Some will be cut, some will make the practice squad, some will become backups, some will be on special teams, some might become starters, and a few might become stars. To finish I will name the three players I am most excited in watching: 1. Jarran Reed (is highly likely to make immediate impact on the D-line), 2. Quinton Jefferson (interesting to see if his pass rush ability was worth trading up for), 3. Germain Ifedi (his emergence on a weak offensive line is greatly needed).
(Thanks for reading. Hope you enjoyed my analysis of Seattle’s draft. Sorry for the length, I think in the future I will focus on Seattle’s overall draft strategy and vision, like my 2014 analysis, instead of individual evaluations.)