Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Morning After: Seahawks Draft Day 2 (John Moffit)

A thought occurred to me leading up to the draft last year. I surveyed our team and saw no area of strength. Some might have said our linebackers, but prove it to me with production, not salary. What was worse, a number of those units on the team (e.g., OL, DL, CB, etc.) had middle-aged or older players that had little chance of growing into dominant players. Captain Obvious would tell you great teams need to have some strengths, and he'd be right. So when the Seahawks had picks #6 and #14, I pondered the possibility of using both picks on one unit. The offensive line seemed like an obvious choice. A team could turn a weakness into a strength by picking two young and talented players for the same unit. The Seahawks ended up going the more traditional route, and instead, it was the 49ers who employed that strategy with their two #1 picks (Anthony Davis, Mike Iupati). As excited as I was for Earl and Russell, I was a little jealous of San Francisco's determination and focus on creating a dominant part of their team.

Just over a year later, the Seahawks have one-upped the 49ers in a way. Out of the first two picks in each of the last three drafts--a total of six picks--four have been offensive lineman. Max Unger was chosen in round two in 2009. Okung was picked last season, and now Carpenter and Moffit were the first two picks this year. All are projected starters, and each one other than Okung can play multiple positions along the line. Great offensive lines grow together. They enjoy the same professional upbringing. It is part of how they learn how to react in unison to defensive line stunts and blitzes. That kind of chemistry usually take a couple of years to develop. Expecting the line to magically be the 2005 Seahawks line would be unfair. Tom Cable, though, now has his pieces of clay to mold. It is no accident the team has left a Robert Gallery-sized hole between Unger and Okung at left guard. Cable can bring in a guy that knows his blocking approach, is a pretty good player, and carries the attitude he wants to instill. Even if the team does not get Gallery, there are lots of high quality free agent interior lineman out there. That left guard needs to be a vet. The young guys need a ring leader and someone to steady them in the huddle. A veteran QB is also a near certainty. Putting a rookie QB behind a bunch of young offensive lineman is a recipe for disaster.

The way the Seahawks ended up with the 3rd round pick to take Moffit was by making a solid trade with Detroit. At least one reader asked how moving back from the 2nd round to the 3rd would help us find elite players. I've pointed out many times before that depth does not win championships, elite talent does. There is a lot of talent in this draft, and the front office made the decision that they'd have a better chance of finding great players with a 3rd and an extra 4th than just one 2nd. I'm inclined to agree. There is not a huge drop-off from the 2nd to 3rd this year, and there are some starter-quality players still to be had in the 4th. Adding the extra pick and moving back puts much less pressure on each pick to be right, and increases the chances the team can comfortably draft the best player available. The Moffit choice was a great example. If they did not add the extra pick, it would have been very tempting to reach for a player with their 2nd round pick, knowing they wouldn't pick again until the fourth. Instead, they *knowingly* passed on guys in the 2nd in order to draft the best talent they saw in the 3rd. I don't think you would have seen an offensive lineman chosen if the team picked in the 2nd. Picking one in the 3rd showed their confidence about what will be available in the fourth, where they own the two of the top ten picks.

Today is the day that will define this draft. The 4th and 5th round will be decisive. There is plenty of talent left. 

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