Monday, March 26, 2012

Imagining Luke Kuechly

The Seahawks own the #12 overall selection in the upcoming NFL draft. Signing Matt Flynn, Red Bryant, Jason Jones, Marshawn Lynch, Breno Giacomini, and Paul McQuistan has left the team with the luxury of picking the best player that falls to them. This series will explore some possible selections, and how they could impact the team.


DE Melvin Ingram
OG David DeCastro
MLB Luke Kuechly
DE Courtney Upshaw
LB Lavonte David

Rob Rang Profile of Luke Kuechly

WHAT DOES HE BRING?
The only thing Kuechly would clearly bring to the Seahawks is a difficult to spell and pronounce last name (pronounced KEEK-ly). Outside of that, he is hard to project. There is a consensus that he is the best middle linebacker in the draft, and that he wowed everyone at the combine by carrying more weight, running in the 4.5s and popping a 38-inch vertical leap. His production at Boston College is undeniable, where he averaged 14 tackles per game. Boston College is not a football powerhouse, so it can be tough to project his performance there to his performance in the NFL. Middle linebackers are also tough to place an accurate value on due to their varying role in NFL defenses. Kuechly is a consensus Top 15 pick. Put it all together, and Kuechly may be the most difficult to  predict of the players in this series.

BEST-CASE SCENARIO
Zach Thomas was a seven-time Pro Bowler and five-time 1st Team All Pro at middle linebacker. Patrick Willis is five-time Pro Bowler and four-time 1st Team All Pro at inside linebacker. You may have heard of Ray Lewis, Brian Urlacher, and Mike Singletary as well. Elite middle linebackers are rare, but when your team finds one, it can transform an entire defense. Kuechly is already drawing comparisons to Thomas, who was good for 150 tackles almost every season. He was an incredibly instinctive linebacker who excelled despite being undersized by NFL standards. Adding a player like that to the Seahawks defense would cement K.J. Wright at the SAM position. It would also add another reason why it would be tough to run against the Seahawks. The mammoth defensive line already discourages runs up-the-middle, but a great middle linebacker would plug the gaps and chase down any running back who chooses to cut East-West. Kuechly is not the guy to run down an elite pass-catching tight end in the NFL, so he might only be a two-down linebacker in some situations. A great middle linebacker is not going to add much to the pass rush, except for putting teams in 3rd and long more often. That said, nobody would regret having an All-Pro controlling the middle of the Seahawks defense for the next decade.

WORST-CASE SCENARIO
Kuechly could just be a decent starting linebacker. David Hawthorne was a pretty darn good starting MIKE last season despite playing with a bum knee. Hawthorne has made impact plays throughout his career, forcing fumbles, intercepting passes, even sacking the quarterback on occasion. Will Kuechly be that much of an upgrade? To put it another way, Kuechly would need to be a Zach Thomas-level NFL player in order to truly  upgrade the position. Wright is already on the roster, and projects to be a darn good MIKE if the team decides to add a SAM that forces him to slide over. Wright played the first game of the year at MIKE, and did a nice job. He is cerebral, extraordinarily lanky, and a great open-field tackler. He very well may be a better coverage linebacker than Kuechly, which would allow him to be a three-down linebacker. Finding a great outside linebacker that pushes Wright over also would mean a greater impact to the pass rush, as middle linebackers just don't get that involved with pressuring the passer. If Kuechly is the equivalent of adding a Patrick Willis or Brian Urlacher to the Seahawks defense, nobody will complain. Much less than that would mean the Seahawks used an incredibly valuable draft choice on a position they could have addressed in a myriad of other ways with roughly the same output. High stakes.

4 comments :

JRiggio said...

So, Ingram > Kuechly? Can Ingram play SAM instead of outside 3-4 or DE? I read that they could move Wright to MIKE is that true?

Anonymous said...

Holes in Kuechly's game to big to justify #12. Second round maybe. Forget the combine. It meant nothing. The tape of him being an average athlete did not change. He doesn't play football at his timed speed. He's not slow by any means but no way is he one of the faster backers in college with pads on. He also is not a very good blitzer. I know he didn't do it much but when he did it didn't look great. Most importantly, an elite linebacker needs to be able to consistently knife through traffic to make tackles at or behind the line of scrimmage. Kuechly stays back,avoids blocks and makes lots of tackles, (very sure tackles) 5-10 past the line of scrimmage.
We should take a big nasty SAM in round 1 to rush the passer, set the edge and redirect TE's. Add a faster LB who is great in coverage in round 2 or 3 to what we have already in Wright and Smith. Take a cople of fiers on guys for camp and we are set. More power more speed and younger too.

Anonymous said...

To JRiggio
I think Ingram would be great at the SAM. Monster pass rusher. Quick enough to cover RB's or TE's that he just jammed. I think he could also set the edge well on running plays. Since the Hawks SAM plays on the line kinda like a 3-4, those are some of the skills he needs. Ingram would be great. Upshaw would be a little better. Maybe Coples could do it, he has the size and athleticism but maybe not the will or IQ. Later on in the draft guys like Nick Perry, Ronnell Lewis, Shea Mclelin, Johnson from Virginia and Wilbur from Wake Forest might be good fits too. As for Wright, he did very well at mike when he played there last year. Let him and whoever else we draft fight it out for will & mike.

Anonymous said...

They must use the first and maybe the second also to upgrade the pass-rush.Too much to be gained not to. With the ball skills in the secondary they need those rushed throws. Those are game changing skills that must be maximized. Take a shot at a mike latter or play Ruud. LB is far from a need with 9 signed now.

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