2011 Draft: Durham and the Wide Receiving Corps

The Seahawks drafted seven more players after taking offensive linemen James Carpenter and John Moffitt in the first and third rounds, and six of those seven were defensive players.  The only other addition to the offense through the draft this year was Georgia wide receiver Kris Durham, who will be joining an intriguing bunch of players at wide receiver.  Here’s a list of the receivers still on the roster, followed by a list of contributors from last year who are now either free agents or on another team’s roster:

Name Age Measurements 2010 Games
Rec. Yards Rec/
Mike Williams 26 6’5″, 235 lbs 16 74 834 4.6 11.3 52.1
Ben Obomanu 27 6’1″, 204 lbs 17 39 605 2.3 15.5 35.6
Deon Butler 24 5’10”, 182 lbs 13 36 385 2.8 10.7 29.6
Golden Tate 22 5’10”, 202 lbs 13 22 232 1.7 10.5 17.8
Kris Durham 23 6’5″, 214 lbs N/A
Dominique Edison 24 6’2″, 204 lbs P. Squad
Isaiah Stanback 26 6’2″, 208 lbs IR
Patrick Williams 25 6’1″, 204 lbs P. Squad
Totals & Averages 24.6 6’1.5″, 206.6 lbs 59 171 1,456


Free Agents (and
one Patriot)
Age Measurements 2010 Games
Rec. Yards Rec./
Brandon Stokley 34 6’0″, 192 lbs 13 43 512 3.3 11.9 39.4
Deion Branch 31 5’9″, 193 lbs 4 13 112 3.3 8.6 28
Ruvell Martin 28 6’4″, 220 lbs 7 9 186 1.3 11.9 26.6
Totals & Averages 31 6’0.5″, 201.6 lbs 24 65 810

(Note: All stats are from the 2010 season and include the two playoff games.  Also, I just listed games played without noting starts because the stat seemed irrelevant.  Personnel groupings vary so much over the course of a game that it doesn’t really matter who was on the field for the first play of the game.)

As you can see, the trend toward keeping bigger, younger players over smaller, older guys we saw with the offensive linemen holds true for the wide receivers as well.  Better yet, most of the production at that position in 2010 is still on the roster, as Mike Williams, Obomanu, Butler, and Tate combined to gain 1,456 yards, or 64.3% of all yardage gained by Seattle’s wide receivers.

Unfortunately, Mike Williams and Obomanu are really the only proven commodities the Seahawks currently have at the position.  Tate’s explosive athletic potential more than makes up for lacking a few inches of height, but he has to do a lot more work on his route-running before he can be a reliable target in the passing game.  If I had to put money down1, I would guess that Tate’s best bet at contributing next season will be to go the Nate Burleson route of making an impact as a punt returner while he hones his skills on the practice field.

Butler surprised everyone last year by sticking with the team even though he doesn’t possess anywhere near the size that Carroll prefers in a wide receiver.  Unfortunately that’s where the good vibes ended, as he went on to suffer through a drop-filled season that eventually culminated in him losing his starting job and landing on IR with a seriously broken leg.  But despite Butler’s mistakes, he flashed potential as a deep threat (or at least more than he did in ’09) and he showed his toughness while making the catch that ended his season.  Given the severity of the injury, we might not see Butler at all next season, but I hope he eventually returns and continues to develop.  It’s hard not to root for a guy who goes over the middle for a catch, gets his leg horribly broken by angry linebackers, and still manages to hold on to the ball for a touchdown, you know?

There’s also the possibility that Stokley and/or Martin will be re-signed2 or that one or more of Edison, Stanback, and Patrick “No really, I’m not Mike” Williams (Stanback being the most intriguing of the three), but we’ll have to wait until free agency and training camp to find out if those possibilities pan out.  For now, the team needed to find a promising new receiver to help out Obomanu and Mike Williams, and Kris Durham certainly looks the part.  At 6’5”, 214 lbs, he’s got the size that Carroll and his staff covet, and judging by the 4.43 forty yard dash he ran at his pro day he appears to have some nice speed, too.

I wasn’t able to find a lot of tape on Durham (any receiver not named AJ Green tended not to get a lot of receptions in Georgia’s offense), but what I saw I liked.  Take a look at this highlight video:

For a tall guy, Durham looks pretty smooth coming in and out of the breaks on his routes.  The moves he puts on defensive backs aren’t the sort of flashy jaw-droppers that make ESPN’s highlight reels; rather, they’re subtle, natural-looking motions that don’t even look like moves until you watch the video a few times. 

His forty time also shows up on film, as you can see at 1:40 and 3:43 with some Wes Welker style long runs after short catches.  Durham isn’t just running blindly for his life in those plays, either.  If you take a closer look at the beginning of his run in that second clip, you’ll notice that he has enough field awareness to slow down for a half-second to let #71 firm up his block on #51.  Without that pause, #51 has an excellent shot at stopping Durham for a much shorter gain.

In some cases, it’s what I didn’t see that I liked.  In all the video clips I found, not once did I see Durham take his eyes off the ball before completing a catch.  A lot of receivers drop catches because they started looking upfield before they got the ball secured, or started swiveling their head around to look for incoming tacklers.  For a good example of what I’m talking about, take a look at the reception beginning at 4:52.  The pass is underthrown, forcing Durham to break off his route and wait for the ball.  Now he’s a stationary target, just begging to be thumped as soon as the ball arrives — in short, the sort of prime opportunity for violence that every linebacker and safety dreams about getting.  But despite the risk of impending injury, Durham takes the time to look the ball into his hands.  Luckily for him #18 turned out to be kind of a weiner in the hitting department, but it’s a gutsy move all the same.

I also didn’t see him exhibit that frustrating habit so many young receivers have of not adjusting when a defender puts himself in a better position to make the catch.  In the play at 3:17 (and shown again from different angles at 3:28 and 3:36), Durham runs a go or post route with a cornerback stapled to his inside hip.  This pass needs to drop in ahead of his outside shoulder, but instead is underthrown towards his inside shoulder, thus putting the CB in better position to make a play on the ball.  By all rights that pass should have resulted in an interception, but Durham salvages the play by coming back toward the ball just enough to get his long arms out there to snag the ball without drawing an offensive pass interference penalty.

Overall, Durham reminds me a lot of Brandon Stokley in that no one part of his game sticks out overly much, but when you put everything he does together you end up with some pleasantly effective-looking game tape.  Keep in mind that I’m just talking first impressions here — I’m nowhere near ready to anoint a freshly-drafted rookie as the heir apparent to the Slot Machine, but I’d settle for him becoming the next Paul Skansi, too. 

For those of you who aren’t old enough to remember him3, Skansi never caught many passes in his eight years in Seattle or put up big numbers, but it seemed like every catch the man made was made in an important, clutch situation.  They don’t send guys like that to Pro Bowls, but they are nice to have around when, say, Derrick Thomas is in desperate need of having his record-setting parade rained on.  Just sayin’, Durham could do worse.

1 Which would require me to have money to put down, but let’s pretend for a moment.

2 Martin developed a good rapport with Charlie Whitehurst last year, which would be helpful to have around if Whitehurst ends up with the starting job, and Stokley’s return depends on whether Carroll decides his football savvy and respectable production last season outweigh his penchant for missing time due to injury.

3 I just barely qualify for that distinction myself.  I think I was just the right age for the 80s: old enough to remember the Cold War, but not old enough to get into all that awful synth-pop and hair metal that was going around.  Nope, I got to spend my teenagerdom amidst the rap-metal of the mid to late 90s.  I know that isn’t exactly an upgrade in the quality department, but at least Wham! and Rick Astley were getting less radio play by then.  I take comfort in the little things.