It has become a joke. Analyze the Seahawks roster. Identify their weak spots. Match them with players based on a variety of factors, including past draft picks. Then, watch as a handful of players you hoped would be available magically fall to the Seahawks, only to have the team pick a guy nobody had pegged to Seattle, and possibly a guy nobody had even being drafted that day. John Schneider and Pete Carroll found a new way to surprise this time around.
Every general manager sticks his neck out when selecting a player in the draft. The more well known and well regarded the player is, the less initial risk that GM takes. Schneider has never been one to base his selections on initial risk. He is completely focused on getting the players who will shine on the field, regardless of how they are perceived on draft day. Selecting former Michigan defensive end Frank Clark with the team’s first selection of the 2015 draft represents a new kind of risk for Schneider; it will his ethics and integrity that will be scrutinized as much as Clark’s on-field performance.
Clark is a well regarded athlete. The questions with him surround his off-field transgressions that include theft and allegedly striking a woman in a hotel room. The latter led to his dismissal from the UM football team last season.
Clark has terrific physical gifts. He is more power than speed, and has demonstrated the ability to make impact plays. With 35.5 tackles for loss in his college career, he has been good for roughly one per game. Add in his 11.5 sacks, and it is easy to see the production that enticed Seattle.
The question is whether his talent comes with a cost far greater than a high draft pick. Schneider has been steadfast in his rules around not allowing any player on the roster who has hit a woman. The circumstantial evidence surrounding the Clark incident, which includes photos of the woman with cuts on her face and neck, makes it hard to imagine how Schneider is confident that his new defensive end meets this criteria.
Seattle uses heavy duty background checkers on their players. Some are said to be former FBI agents. It is because of that investment that Schneider thinks they have information other teams might not. The implication from this selection is that the team has evidence they believe in that shows Clark never hit this woman. Whether fans or media believe that is another question. Asking them to believe it without seeing the same evidence may be unreasonable. Tampa Bay fans face a similar situation with the #1 overall pick, Jameis Winston, who was accused of rape and theft.
How Clark conducts himself off the field will impact the evaluation of Schneider every bit as much as how he performs on it
While I fully understand some fan and media skepticism and cynicism about the Clark selection, I do trust Schneider when it comes to these types of situations. He is man of high integrity and character, and I do not believe he would ever knowingly add a player who beats women to his roster.
As for the player himself…I have some questions about Clark. At 6’3″ tall and 271 lbs, he projects to be a defensive end. The team listed him as a LEO, although he is a bit heavy and lacks the suddenness I have come to expect from players Seattle utilized at LEO. Chris Clemons, Bruce Irvin, Cliff Avril and even Michael Bennett have a terrific first step. Clark looks a bit more lumbering and powerful. Maybe they have him in mind for the 5-technique end in the base defense that Bennett currently occupies.
You can see how he physically compares to a player like Aaron Schobel. Seattle would obviously be thrilled to add a player who winds up with 78.0 career sacks like Schobel did. It was also interesting to see Clark compared to Kyle Vanden Bosch, who also had a successful career as a pass rusher. Neither of those players were the quick twitch pass rushers Seattle has tended to favor.
The immediate assumption is that Clark was picked as a hedge against Bruce Irvin, who could be gone by next year. I’m not ready to make that leap. They are two very different players, and I would need to see far more of Clark in space before I would make any predictions about his future as a SAM linebacker in the Seahawks system. Clark is only the second defensive end Schneider has selected before the fourth round, with Irvin being the other. That, combined with the off-field baggage Clark came with implies the Seahawks feel pretty strongly that they have added an impact edge rusher to the roster.
There are no questions about Tyler Lockett’s skills on the field or his behavior off it. There are a number of articles that predicted he would be the steal of the draft. Shout out to Charles Tumbarello, who wrote about Lockett’s fit with Seattle two weeks ago. The question marks with Lockett come with the price Seattle paid to move up and get him, as well as his size and place in the receiving corps.
Lockett is fast, but not blazing. His super powers are his change of direction and quickness. Watch him play, and you will see a guy who corners have a tough time getting their hands on, and an even tougher time sticking with in and out of his route breaks. There are some pretty sick highlights of him losing defensive backs on double moves, and he brings that shiftiness to the return game. He was both a punt and kick returner, something the Seahawks really lacked last season.
That is where he fits first and foremost. On offense, he projects to a slot receiver, but I wonder a bit about that. Take a look at his comparables:
I absolutely love John Brown of Arizona. Outside of Odell Beckham, Brown was my favorite rookie wide receiver in that class. Before I even saw this comparable chart, that is who came to mind when watching Lockett play. Brown plays a lot on the outside. Lockett compares himself to Antonio Brown, which I can see as well. Each of these players are under six feet tall and can play on the edge. Tumbarello’s article references the fact that six of the top eleven receivers in terms of yards last year were under six feet tall.
While everyone is waiting for Seattle to draft a big framed receiver, they continue to get smaller, shiftier guys. That may be because they see a trend toward larger corners who can be exploited by these smaller receivers since they have more trouble changing direction. It also may be because they believe Jimmy Graham, Chris Mathews and Kevin Norwood give the team the big targets they need.
Either way, Lockett becomes just the second player Schneider has been willing to trade up to get. The first, Jesse Williams, did not work so well. It speaks volumes that Schneider surrendered a 4th, 5th and 6th round pick to climb all the way up the third round to nab Lockett.
No offensive lineman yet
Some were surprised that Seattle did not pick an interior lineman given it is a clear need. That was likely a combination of who fell to them and their belief that there is depth at the position. There is no doubt the team will exit the draft today with at least one, and probably two, interior offensive lineman. Just remember, Schneider has only selected one offensive guard or center before the seventh round.