Sunday, January 30, 2011

Takeaways From Senior Bowl Week

Telling people you watched hours of Senior Bowl practice, along with the game itself, generally elicits of response someone between confusion and pity. That likely would have been my response as well up until this year. I can't even remember the last time I paid a lick of attention to the game. This off-season is so pivotal for the Seahawks franchise, any shred of information helps form a more educated opinion of which holes the team will try to fill through which methods (e.g., free agency, draft, etc.).

I entered the week mostly curious about the QB play. Ideally, none of them would play well enough to warrant a pick above #25, so the Seahawks would have a full menu of choices. And while there were some interesting things learned by watching that position group, they were not the most eye-opening part of the rosters. Pete Carroll already made it clear that offensive and defensive lines are his areas of focus in the off-season. There are some terrific offensive line options in free agency. It did not take long to realize there is quality depth along the o-line in the draft as well. Seattle could very well find its next right tackle, and at least one of the guards they so desperately need via the draft. There are even some centers that are worth a look. At least a half-dozen players were not only starter material, but were unlikely to be picked ahead of #25, and many should be available in the 2nd round. Any of the kids from University of Wisconsin would look terrific in Seahawk blue.

The defensive lines were not quite as deep as the offensive lines, but again, there were a variety of players that could fit for the Seahawks and be available at #25. Take your pick of thick defensive tackles to stout "Red Bryant" defensive ends to swing players who can move inside on passing downs. Most of the dominant defensive lineman are underclassmen, and the best value pick for the Seahawks may be one of these Seniors. There appear to be a number of guys that are worthy of that first round pick, whereas the offensive lineman or QBs available there might be reaching a little.

For example, let's assume that Nevada's QB Colin Kaepernick is still around at #25. That should be a safe assumption. The kid probably helped himself as much as any player this week, but he's still a raw talent. Picking in the first round could be a stretch, as he could even last until the Hawks 2nd round pick. An offensive guard like John Moffit or right tackle like James Brewer will definitely be there, but picking them in the first would be a serious reach. DT Phil Taylor, all 337 lbs of him, is also a plausible player still on the board at #25. He is a great match of talent, value, need and plausible availability. All of this is fluid, but the point is that there are more defensive lineman who fit the #25 value grade than offensive lineman or quarterbacks. Cornerback is another major area of need, but I'm not sure there are any that fit that value slot.

Back to Kaepernick for a minute, I exited the week attached to him as a target for the Seahawks. I have been a big fan of Jake Locker since his I first saw him play, and have salivated at the idea of him playing for the Seahawks, but seeing him next to a guy like Kaepernick left me thinking there are lower risk quarterbacks to go after with similar upside. Locker has all the tools to be a Top 5 QB in the NFL, but his pace of thought, quality of decisions and inaccuracy of this throws mean he is more likely to fail than to succeed. I'd be excited to see him on the team, but he's going to be painful to watch for at least two years. Kaepernick's worst attribute is his name. Having to type it out for the next decade would suck. He showed plenty of arm strength, timing, and confidence. He running is special. He covers ground in long strides and with great acceleration. He needs a fair amount of work, but some team is going to get a franchise QB in that kid. Christian Ponder is another intriguing prospect. He has some injury history, but shows a good arm and "starter" presence. His ceiling is not as high as some of these guys, but could be a Matt Schaub on the high-end, which is plenty good. Ricky Stanzi is not someone the Seahawks should consider. He very well may start in the NFL at some point, but so does Ryan Fitzpatrick and Derek Anderson. Stanzi will never be the starter for a Super Bowl winner, so color me disinterested.

Running back and cornerback are not as deep, at least in the Senior class. Nobody stood out as a player the Seahawks either have a shot at, or should be targeting. That may mean pursuit of corner via free agency becomes a higher priority. I'm laying some money on Champ Bailey at the moment, since Nnamdi is too expensive and unlikely to come here.

Wide receiver is another position group that has some possible depth and fit. The Seahawks are known to have met with Miami WR Leonard Hankerson, who tore it up on game day. He's big, fast, and runs good routes. He is another consideration at #25, but should be available later. Titus Young was one of the stars of practice with his lightning quick breaks, flashy speed, and good hands. He will be a play-maker for someone. Dane Sanzenbacher would be a great get in later rounds as an understudy to Brandon Stokley. I love his size, routes and hands.

The great news for Seahawks fans is that many of the areas of greatest need on the team (QB, OL, DL, WR) are the areas of greatest depth in this draft. Other needs like LB and CB are less plentiful, and may be better addressed elsewhere or next year.

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