Saturday, April 27, 2013

NFL Draft: Thoughts Through Three Rounds

For a moment, I thought Pete Carroll and John Schneider had pulled the ultimate shocker by drafting the first woman in the NFL draft. Then I saw this:

And I saw this:


That is either one ugly woman, or one badass running back. Which brings us to the next immediate reaction, a running back? Seattle is blessed with Marshawn Lynch and Robert Turbin. Many people are not even counting Percy Harvin, but they should. He very well may get more reps out of the backfield than Michael. That's right--it is conceivable that the Seahawks just spent their first selection on a fourth-string player. If that is not commitment to a draft board, I don't know what is.

It was this sort of mindset that had me wondering aloud if the Seahawks would shock everyone by taking a quarterback early. Clearly, the team did not had high enough grades on any of the players available at that position to go that direction. 

Michael is a potential franchise running back. He has upside that jumps off the screen, and a running style that is well-suited to the type of offense Seattle runs. Lynch did not quite make my list of Core Players when I did my roster stack ranking a few months back, largely because of health concerns and ease of replacing his position. Lots of people were not happy about that. Lynch is 27, makes a hefty salary, runs with reckless abandon, and has been nursing a chronic lower back issue for a couple of years. It will be an upset if he is still on the roster in two years. This is a Ricky Watters and Shaun Alexander situation, except there are two Alexanders in this scenario. 

This does at least raise the question about whether there is a suspension the Seahawks know about that will effect the backfield. The team has a lot riding on Lynch's health and availability, but nearly as much now.

Jordan Hill was a more predictable selection in the third round. Schneider admitted as much in the post-draft press conference by saying DT was the one real need they had heading into the draft. It was such a need from his perspective, that he was worried they were artificially pushing guys up their draft board. He mentioned there was a big drop-off in talent after Hill. There is always a lot to learn from listening to Schneider in terms of how his mind works, and what trade-offs he will make. 

The team took Michael because his draft grade was so much higher than the other players available that it would betray their philosophy to do anything but grab him. Would they have preferred a DT to have a grade that high and still be on the board? Absolutely. But drafting is not as simple as taking the highest player on their board, or else there would be little need for Schneider and Carroll to even be there. Hill was picked to address a need. There may have been players rated higher on their board, but Schneider was not going to leave the draft without a DT of certain quality level, and there was not enough left after Hill to take the risk the team would come up empty. Middle linebacker was like that last year when the team had Bobby Wagner and Mychal Kendricks in the same class, and knew they needed to get one of them in the second round, or likely find themselves without a starting caliber player.

Hill appears to be a three-technique defensive tackle, the position Alan Branch played. He reminds me, though, a little of Brandon Mebane--squatty, active and disruptive. He is more known for his interior pass rush ability than his run stuffing, but I'm not so sure run defense is a weakness in his game. He was at the Senior Bowl, so fire up that DVR if you remembered to save those practices. I know I will.

This draft is so odd as a Seahawks fan. An average draft is roughly 30-40% about finding players to fill  roles in the upcoming season and 60-70% about finding prospects for future years. This draft for Seattle feels like that ratio is maybe 10% / 90%. Even a coaching staff that aggressively includes younger players in their rotations will have trouble finding meaningful snaps for many of the players taken this year. In some ways, this feels more like a baseball draft, where it could be years before the players ever impact the team.

That reminds me. The NFL does so much right with the way they run a draft, but this whole delaying of announcing the picks on the TV is broken. Announce the picks when they are made, or remove media access to the picks prior to the TV announcements. It is taking away from draft experience the way things are run now. Fix it.

A few extra notes:

- I don't mind the move the Cardinals made to add a talented player like Mathieu. He could be a great fit for them. I do mind that the GM and Coach spent a lot of time talking about him being on a short leash and that he apparently will submit to weekly drug tests. That sounds great, but it is a terrible plan to change behavior. They are saying from the outset of this relationship that they do not trust the player. If they believed the support he was getting and the changes he has made thus far had him on the right track, they would not need all this extra machinery around him. If they do not trust he is capable of turning around his life and behavior on his own, I question why they would invest a 3rd round pick in him. Punishment avoidance is only so effective as a behavior modifier. Smack a dog on the nose for going to the bathroom in the house, and he will find a hidden corner behind a plant to do it next time. 

- Tank Carradine is a nice pick-up for the 49ers. He does not appear heavy enough to play defensive end in their 3-4 at only 276 lbs. He seems more like a back-up to Aldon Smith. Vic Fangio knows what he is doing, though, so assume that will be a name the Seahawks get acquainted with.

- I like Vance McDonald a lot at tight end, but he will be nothing like Delanie Walker. There was a physical toughness that Walker brought to the offense that is completely lacking in McDonald. Walker was also capable of speeds and routes that McDonald is not. This was a nice pick-up for San Francisco, but still a downgrade from where they were.

- Still no Justin Smith replacement to speak of for the 49ers. They may be waiting until next year's draft to attack that role, but it is a major risk to their title hopes. I would have expected them to target a player aggressively to mitigate that risk, but perhaps there was nobody they liked enough.

- The 49ers continue to do a better job of stock-piling future picks than the Seahawks. A number of the  SF trades result in 2014 or 2015 picks, while Seattle just keeps adding picks for 2013. I will continue to prefer a 2014 4th round pick to a 2013 5th round pick. 

- Having said that, trading back six spots in the 2nd round to pick up a 5th and a 6th was a nice haul for Seattle. Those three 5th give the team flexibility today. Two of them could very well turn into another 4th today, or one of them could help move their 4th up the board should they choose. Then again, the 3rd through the 5th round is the meat of this draft. The team may just prefer to take a few more kicks at the can and hold onto all of them.

- Expect to see some offensive lineman come off the board on the earlier side for Seattle. Many of the talented wideouts have been taken at this point, but I would still expect one or two to be selected today.

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