“With the 32nd pick in the 2014 NFL draft, the Seattle Seahawks select…”
This would be a good bet for Vegas to put out there because no one would win.
Look back at the last few drafts and it’s easy to see why. In 2011, we selected James Carpenter. In 2012, it was Bruce Irvin. Last year, who would have thought that we would use our first pick (2nd rounder) on Christine Michael? Nobody.
What I’m attempting to do is use what I’ve observed about Pete Carroll and John Schneider to assemble a small board of players to keep an eye on when the 32nd selection nears. We have seen them go through four drafts together. If you go back and look closely at the things said before the draft, versus what ended up happening come draft time, you will actually start to see a few clues. I believe we can use these patterns to help make educated guesses as to what they may plan to do. Three key patterns stand out in my mind as follows:
1) Unique tools, qualities, and skillsets
Pete Carroll and John Schneider look for players with unique combinations of physical tools, qualities, and skillsets. I believe they do this better than most other teams. They have an uncanny ability to determine when a player has the different components necessary to become special.
Look around the team, and you will see this repeatedly. What separates Richard Sherman from other cornerbacks? He’s taller, more physical, and more instinctive than most, yet still has great speed and recovery ability. Bobby Wagner? Big, strong, and instinctive, but also brings elite speed and range to the team. Michael Bennett? Versatility, size, and most importantly, he has an extremely quick first step off the snap. The list goes on and on.
They’re also unafraid to take chances on “unfinished products”. This is what separates them from the pack. They’re not scared to go unconventional and take a chance on a guy that, although far from polished, possesses the tools to one day become a valuable playmaker. PC and JS will not settle for seemingly “safe” players. They will shoot for the moon each and every time. They’ll miss from time to time (see: Chris Harper, Jaye Howard, EJ Wilson, and Kris Harper, all of whom are 4th round picks); but other times, they’ll hit a home run (see: Sherman, Byron Maxwell, Kam Chancellor, Golden Tate, etc).
This one is an easy one. Why? Because Pete has outright said it in the past, several times in fact! Here’s the most recent example: Click to see video.
I can remember two other instances in which Pete has mentioned this publicly. He also brings it up in his book “Win Forever,” and it makes perfect sense why he would. Pete’s entire philosophy is centered on mantras like competition, best man wins, and next man up. He needs players that take advantage of their opportunities, that play hungry each snap whether in practice or during the game. He looks for players with boulders on their shoulders, guys that wake up every morning needing to prove something to the world. Yes I know it’s cliché; but if it wasn’t cliché, it wouldn’t be true! He needs guys that are hungry enough to push themselves and their teammates beyond their limits. Players on the team that lack these qualities are often out the door quickly.
Pete also values players that have the knowledge and pure love for the game. He wants guys that will beat you mentally when they can’t with their physical abilities. Think Russell Wilson, Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, Percy Harvin, etc. They’re film maniacs that have the desire to dominate every facet of the game, and are willing to continually prepare. You can’t lose with a team full of those types of guys.
3) Pre-Draft Hints!
Listen darn hard to all the interviews during each offseason, and you can get a feel for what they will target in the draft. It’s not what they’ll do with their first pick necessarily, but so far it’s worked out that way.
Don’t believe me? Listen to what they’ve repeatedly said prior to each draft:
2010: Cornerstone players to build our foundation. Result? Exactly that: LT Russell Okung and FS Earl Thomas
2011: Need to get our running game going. Result? An attempt to do that: RT/G James Carpenter
2012: Need more pass rush/speed on defensive line. Result? Exactly that: DE/LB Bruce Irvin
2013: Need explosive playmakers on offense. Result? Trade for WR Percy Harvin, draft RB Christine Michael
In hindsight, we can see what they’ve explicitly said has matched up with what they’ve done early on in the draft.
This year, however, is different. Their focus has been purely retaining rather than adding. I’d expect them to go with the best player available. I do not, however, expect them to fight against the two positions of strength early on in this draft: wide receiver and offensive tackle.
So who exactly should we keep an eye on, knowing all the things above? In my opinion, these guys:
The Key 9:
These are guys I’ve narrowed down that a) have a chance at being available and b) fit the typical Pete Carroll/John Schneider criteria outlined above. It’s also the order I would take them if all were available (not likely) at #32.
1. Ryan Shazier (LB, Ohio State)
Shazier is the definition of a sideline-to-sideline defender. He ran a 4.38 40-yard dash at his pro day while carrying a 6-1, 240-lb frame. That’s faster than most wide receivers and defensive backs in this draft! He struggles shedding blocks at the point of attack, and could use some better technique. But he has a lot of ability to work with here and is a guy I know Carroll would love to develop. Give him a specific role, namely finishing up tackles and defending in space, and he could be an All-Pro. He’ll likely be gone by the 32nd pick, but who knows; if available, I’d take him in a heartbeat.
2. Cody Latimer (WR, Indiana)
Latimer has everything you’d want in a Seahawk-y type of receiver. He has a big frame (6-2, 215), terrific athleticism (4.44 40-yard dash, 39” vertical), and great hands. He’s the best blocking wide receiver in the draft. His best attribute? Going up and winning those 50/50 jump balls. His only weakness, in my opinion, is creating consistent separation from defenders. But in our offense, which relies more heavily on winning those 1v1 big-play matchups rather than timing plays, it wouldn’t be much of an issue. He’s everything you want in a Seahawk receiver. His stock has been rising in recent weeks, and might not be available. But if he is, go get him!
3. Joel Bitonio (T/G, Nevada)
Joel Bitonio is not a flashy prospect, but he would be ideal in an offense like ours. He best projects as an offensive guard, but has the ability to play some tackle. I personally believe that he has the ability to play either position in the NFL, and play them well. People complain about how his athletic numbers don’t jump off the page, but I don’t see this as a problem. Why? All of his combine numbers are on par with or better than those of All-Pro guard Logan Mankins when he entered the NFL. Bitonio played in the same conference as Mankins did (Mountain West), so the level of competition they faced in college was identical. And do you remember when New England picked Mankins? Oh yeah, with the 32nd pick in 2005 after they won the super bowl. The overlap is just too eerily similar, just saying.
4. Kelvin Benjamin (WR, Florida State)
Benjamin is a boom-or-bust prospect. Two months ago he was a sure-fire mid-first round pick, a “can’t-miss” prospect. His draft stock has been sliding ever since. At 6-5, he fits the ideal mold of your “big wide receiver” in this draft. So what’s the explanation for his fall down the draft boards? I can think of two reasons, the first being his work-ethic. If people feel the need to continue questioning your work ethic during the transition from college to the NFL, it’s a serious red-flag. He even reportedly blew off an NFL workout, citing “tiredness” as his reason for skipping. The second reason for his fall is because of the chance of him not being able to adjust to the NFL. His weight, for example, was a major area of concern. He is listed at 240-lbs, but has reportedly played at more than 250. How many 240-lb wide receivers left a big impact on the NFL? Not many.
However, his physical makeup is still very intriguing. If he’s able to put it all together, he could be a big-time playmaker in this league and a red-zone nightmare for defenses. His stock is slipping with many teams, but it only takes one team to make him a mid-late first rounder. If available, I’d take a chance on him.
5. Dominique Easley (DT/DE, Florida)
In terms of pure ability, Easley is easily a top-15 pick. The only reason why this won’t happen is because of his knees. He’s had two separate ACL tears, and a few other key injuries. Our team would know better than any other when it comes to his abilities and injury problems, as Dan Quinn was his defensive coordinator back at Florida. If he checks out medically and his injury issues are behind him, I’d make him my pick immediately.
Easley has “Seahawk” written all over him, from his Legion-of-Boom-like swagger to his relentless pass rush. It’s all evidenced in this video right here. It’s totally worth your time watching the video; he’s just that entertaining to watch. His first step off of the snap is unreal. It’s as if he’s offside every single play, but he’s not. He’s just that quick. I honestly think he beats the center sometimes. He reminds me of Michael Bennett in terms of his versatility, motor, and burst off the line. He can rush inside or outside, he’s relentless in chasing down the quarterback, and he’s always the first guy moving after the snap. He’ll be engaging his man before any of his fellow defensive linemen even take their first step. In terms of his personality and swagger, you’ll just have to watch the video above to see what I’m talking about.
6. Donte Moncrief (WR, Ole Miss)
I am very intrigued by Moncrief. He’s 6-2, 221-lbs, has a 39.5” vertical, and runs a 4.39 40-yard dash. His route running is especially crisp, and consistently creates separation from defenders. Talk about a complete package! However, Moncrief is not as physical as you’d like to see him. He has the same type of frame and vertical ability as Cody Latimer, but you just don’t see him put it on display like Latimer does on jump balls and tightly contested passes. I believe these things can be taught, and that Moncrief can become a potential no. 1 receiver with some development. Moncrief has a very similar skillset to Latimer, and I would take the former if the latter was not available.
7. Ju’Wuan James (OT, Tennessee)
James’ draft stock is all over the place. Within the last week, he’s gone from second rounder, to late first rounder, to surefire mid-first rounder. I don’t really know where he’s going to get picked with all this hype building up, but let’s assume there’s a possibility he’ll be available when we pick.
James is a solid plug-and-play lineman. He doesn’t wow you with anything he does, but he gets the job done. I’m unsure of whether he has pro-bowl type ability, but that might not matter if he simply does his job well enough. A lot of mock drafts have James coming to Seattle to help shore up our offensive line. But as mentioned above, I just question whether Carroll would select a seemingly “safe” but “average” player this high in the draft.
8. Brandon Coleman
If you want a project, Coleman is your guy. He’s 6-6, 220-lbs, and runs a 4.5 40-yard dash. With some development, he could be an absolute monster at the next level. I will not denote him as anything prematurely, but I think he could seriously be the next Alshon Jeffrey or Josh Gordon. He suffered from being in a horrendous offense while at Rutgers, and I think that’s what really ruined his stats and development. His physical numbers and measurements are on par with or better than that of Kelvin Benjamin. It just makes me wonder what would have happened if Benjamin and Coleman had traded colleges. How would Coleman have fared having Jameis Winston loft him passes, and vice versa? He’s an outside option at #32, and would definitely be an option at #64 if available.
9. Jarvis Landry
Landry is not your typical flashy wide receiver prospect, but he’s very Seahawk-y in terms of his personality and work-ethic. He’s not that big (6-0, 205-lbs), he’s not that fast (4.61 40-yard dash), and he’s not your prototypical first round athlete (only 12 reps on the bench press, 28.5” vertical). But put him on the football field, and this guy can really do a lot. He plays with a lot of heart, works very diligently on his craft, and is just really tough. Listening to his interviews, he just seems to carry himself the way many Seahawks players do. I think he can truly blossom into the Donald Driver/Anquan Boldin type of receiver. He’s not flashy, but he’s built to last in this league. Like Coleman, he has an outside chance at #32; but if we trade down or he’s available at #64, pay attention to this guy.
These are my opinions on the draft this year. My best 2 guesses? Cody Latimer, and Dominique Easley. Then again, knowing the Seahawks, anything is possible.