There have been two Seahawks drafts that had me bubbling with excitement the day after they finished. The first, in 2010, was pretty straight-forward with two first round picks to kick things off. Seattle tacked on a household name in Golden Tate, but what got me more excited were the high ceiling risks the team took in Walter Thurmond III and this massive safety who hit like a ton of bricks named Kam Chancellor. Even Jameson Konz in the seventh round felt like the perfect high risk, high reward player to take that late. Getting excited about the 2012 draft was also easy. Bruce Irvin was a surprise, but he jumped off the screen watching his rush the passer, and Russell Wilson was a guy I had fallen in love with. Players like Bobby Wagner and Robert Turbin had curb appeal as well. This year’s draft feels more like the 2011, 2013, and 2014 classes. Each of those drafts produced at least one starter, but Seattle needs more top-shelf talent from this year’s rookie class if they want to extend their championship window.
Building a dynasty
The “D” word is probably unwelcome given the Seahawks more recently lost a Super Bowl than won one, but that is still the goal stuck in my head. Seattle has a rare core of young elite talent on both sides of the ball that has the potential to fuel a very long championship run. I wrote earlier this offseason about the misperception that the 49ers of the 80s were built only due to the lack of free agency. They drafted at least one Pro Bowl player for ninestraight years. Nine. Straight.
If you look at the Patriots of this last decade, they added players like Vince Wilfork, Asante Samuel, Logan Mankins, and Jerod Mayo after they won their first Super Bowl. They drafted at least one Pro Bowl player for six straight years between 2003 and 2008.
That is my bar for John Schneider and the Seahawks. Results are early, but finding even one Pro Bowl player from the past two drafts is looking pretty unlikely. Luke Willson, Justin Britt, Tharold Simon, Jordan Hill, Cassius Marsh, and Kevin Pierre-Louis offer some hope, but are more likely to top out as starters versus reaching the peak of their positions. Christine Michael has Pro Bowl talent, but clearly is not going to get the reps to show it.
When I look at this year’s class, it is not easy to find the Pro Bowler-to-be. Tyler Lockett jumps out as the most special talent, but the Seahawks have not produced a Pro Bowl wide receiver since 1989 when Brian Blades did it.
The Seahawks have not had a Pro Bowl wide receiver in over 25 years. Brian Blades was the last to do it in 1989.
Frank Clark, judged only for his on-field abilities, seems more like a high effort rotational player who can collect 6-8 sacks than a high ceiling pass rusher. The best chance for Seattle to find a player in this class who stands among the best at his position will most likely come from the offensive line, where they invested three of their eight picks.
I am using the Pro Bowl as a proxy for elite talent, and we all know that is far from an accurate measure. All-Pro is a level rarely achieved, even though Schneider got at least one in each of his first three drafts. Adding even one All-Pro talent makes a draft a major success (see Richard Sherman in 2011).
It does not really matter whether Schneider and Pete Carroll draft well-known college players, convert defensive players to offense, or finish the day with glowing draft grades from analysts. It does not even truly matter what positions for which they unearth top talent. My morning after reaction to this class is that this may be the third straight middling draft. That does not matter either. All that matters is that they find ways to add more elite, young, affordable, talent to this core.
Reading between the tackles
Defensive tackle would have been the position I most wanted to see Seattle address with a young player. That was based on the idea that Brandon Mebane and Tony McDaniel are free agents next year, and one may still be a cap casualty this year. Both players are 30. Michael Bennett is 29. Ahtyba Rubin is 28. Jordan Hill is a promising player who is just 24, but he is not a base defense run defender.
The front office obviously has a different view of this situation. They drafted a grand total of zero defensive tackles, unless you want to count Kristjan Sokoli, who they are switching to offensive line. That may mean the team is happy with the state of that position, or just that the players they liked at that position never fell to them at the right spot on the board.
Without seeing Rubin play more, I’d put this as one of the top risks to the Seahawks upcoming 1-3 years. Everything starts with a defenses ability to stop the run. Kevin Williams played an integral role last year. He was not signed until late in free agency. Maybe Schneider pulls another rabbit out of the hat this year at that position, but eventually, the team needs to draft a young player who can anchor the line when Mebane moves on. Latching onto long shots like Jesse Williams or Jimmy Staten is not likely to be the answer.
Cable’s stable grows
There are both great and frustrating things about having Tom Cable as the Seahawks offensive line coach. You know he is going to build a line that can help a team be near the top of the league in rushing, and he is able to develop young line talent like few in the league can. He also has a massive blind spot when it comes to pass protection that can be maddening when you hear him talk about players being “Pro Bowl level” who routinely get schooled by pass rushers.
It is almost like his grading scale for lineman goes from 1-100 and 80 of those points come from how they block in the run game. That might even be conservative.
Still, Seattle has a wonderful luxury knowing that the interior line was clearly their biggest talent gap on the roster heading into this draft, and were able to be patient about drafting players who they think could help.
Terry Poole is similar to James Carpenter in that he has tackle experience, but projects as a guard for Seattle. Kristjan Sokoli is this year’s J.R. Sweezy. Maybe that makes Mark Glowinski the next John Moffitt?
Carroll mentioned that Poole will compete for the left guard spot, Glowinski will backup right guard and Sokoli will start at center. Asking a guy to not only learn a new position, but also take on the protections and learning to snap is a ton to ask. There is no doubt about his physical tools, and Carroll mentioned repeatedly how smart he was. He will need all that and more to have any impact in that role this year.
Glowinski is the guy I have my eye on.
Notice the top comparable on that list? Zach Martin was arguably the best rookie guard to enter the NFL in the past few years. Plus, how can you bet against an offensive lineman named Glowinski?
Sokoli has the farthest to go, but could have the highest ceiling. We have not seen Cable groom a center yet. Max Unger was already here when Cable arrived. Yes, Cable moved him there and coached him, but he was working with guys other people selected. Now, he has Patrick Lewis and Sokoli to bring along as pups and Lemuel Jeanpierre as a more veteran backstop. Do not be surprised if Seattle still adds a veteran to the mix.
The sunniest outlook
A sizable portion of Seattle’s 2015 draft value was apportioned to Jimmy Graham. The 1990s Cowboys brought Deion Sanders aboard after they won their first ring. It is not only young talent that wins championships, and Graham has to be factored in to how this class is graded.
Clark appears to be a direct hedge against Bruce Irvin sticking around after this season, and if he is good enough to make Seattle feel okay about letting Irvin walk, that will be a home run pick. Lockett should help in the return game right away, and might be good enough to push for a portion of the precious few opportunities at wide receiver. He could grow into the Seahawks most dangerous receiving threat if he shows he can play outside as well as in.
If any one of Poole, Glowinski or Sokoli grow into starters, Seattle will have done well. Even just adding quality depth to the interior line would be a welcome relief.
Tye Smith will start as an outside corner, per Carroll, but some think he is best suited to play inside in nickel. That would be a big win, and Schneider looked like the Cheshire Cat trying to restrain his enthusiasm about what he thinks this kid could become.
Obum Gwacham is a freak athlete who is a major long shot to stick. His speed, length, and inexperience at defensive end, though, make him one of the most intriguing picks of this class. If everything falls just right, he could be the next elite draft diamond for Schneider and Carroll.
The same could be said for Sokoli. If he winds up on top of the center depth chart at any point, it probably means this guy is an All-Pro. He has that kind of physical talent. It is just a very large matter of seeing whether he can apply it successfully at this position.
Ryan Murphy is a cousin of Marshawn Lynch. He loves to hit, and will be given a shot to compete for the old Jeron Johnson spot. My guess is Eric Pinkins will be his primary competition, and Pinkins is said to be a terrific special teamer, so Murphy better bring it.