The Seattle Seahawks front office isn't likely to take note, but they were given a touch of a reprieve from at least one of the NFL draft's talking heads. ESPN's Mel Kiper has updated his grades for the 2011 NFL draft and gave the Seattle Seahawks a more favorable B-.
It seems clear that Kiper, like many NFL pundits, still has an issue with John Schneider and Pete Carroll passing on Andy Dalton. They brought in Tarvaris Jackson, but his two-year contract at backup quarterback dollars indicates that was a short-term fill.
Schneider commented after the draft that “we had a plan going in, and we still have our plan. We just can’t execute that plan right now."
I commented in April, and followed up with an article in November, that the plan was likely Matt Flynn. My free agency prediction was that the Seahawks would sign Tarvaris Jackson and Matt Leinart to battle for the starting position. While not ideal, it would buy time until Flynn was available.
Kiper doesn't seem convinced that the Seahawks have their quarterback position under control. He begins his analysis with the quarterback position, even though the Seahawks went in a different direction.
Seattle Seahawks Post-draft grade: D+
In the grades file, I wrote: "By passing on Andy Dalton, the clear impression is that Seattle has other plans at quarterback. ... I hope the Seahawks have better plans at quarterback than they did in terms of adding value here." Look, Tarvaris Jackson could be the answer, but I don't think anybody is ready to say he or she is 100 percent sold on that idea after a 7-9 season.
And although James Carpenter became the starter on the right side, I just wasn't in love with the value. He got injured after Week 9. John Moffitt also started but also was injured. So early on, I still see questions. However, the draft actually gains momentum from there.
The emergence of No. 99 overall pick K.J. Wright was big, and it allowed the Seahawks to move Aaron Curry to Oakland and recoup at least an ounce of value. In a loaded fifth round, Richard Sherman has emerged as a total steal and, along with former CFL star Brandon Browner and a pair of fantastic safeties, has made the Seattle secondary one of the best in the NFL in a really short period.
It gets pretty quiet after that, mostly because I'm not allowed to factor in fabulous UFA signing Doug Baldwin. Regardless, a D+ draft in terms of value got a lot better, although if Carpenter and Moffitt don't become a solid right side, the Hawks have nothing to show for the early rounds. And the quarterback question is perhaps even bigger now because there's enough talent elsewhere to compete.
New grade: B-
As a reminder, here are the Seahawks' selections by round from the 2011 draft:
1 (25) Carpenter, James OL
3 (75) Moffitt, John G
4 (99) Wright, K.J. LB
4 (107) Durham, Kris WR
5 (154) Sherman, Richard DB
5 (156) Legree, Mark FS
6 (173) Maxwell, Byron DB
7 (205) Levingston, Lazarius DL
7 (242) Smith, Malcolm OLB
All but one of the Seahawks' selections, fifth-round safety Mark Legree, are still a part of the organization. Four of the first five picks were actually starters on the team and important contributors at that.
One team that Kiper scored very favorably was the Detroit Lions. Their post-draft grade was an A-. He downgraded them, but just to a B. Instead of relying on production, injuries left him still using projections of what Nick Fairley, Titus Young and Mikel Leshoure will offer the franchise.
Given the Seahawks received better production from their draft than even the projections for those three, it appears that the decision to not draft Dalton is pulling down the overall grade.
Speaking of Dalton, the Cincinnati Bengals were given an A+ by Kiper, despite only receiving production from their first two picks—A.J. Green fourth overall, and Dalton in the second round.
Yes, the NFL is a quarterback-driven league. But just how much of the Bengals' offensive success is because of Dalton and Green? Can two offensive starters really outweigh two good starters on each side of the football?
As I mentioned in a recent article, there is a reason why most NFL analysts work for media outlets and not in the front office of NFL franchises. Clearly Schneider and Carroll have the Seahawks headed in the right direction, and their two drafts and undrafted gems are a big part of their success.
The fact that some analysts still don't understand the direction the team is headed is actually a good thing. Championship teams aren't built by doing things the same way everyone else does them.