Like every team in the league, the Seattle Seahawks watched hundreds of athletes sprint, pump iron and participate in a number of position-specific drills at the NFL combine. Interviews were conducted and now the draft boards will start to take shape.
The combine is an interesting event, but it is only part of the picture. Teams must combine (no pun intended) players' performances in Indianapolis with game film, observations from scouts and personal information about each player.
A team like the Seahawks hopefully approached the multi-day event with an open mind and a measured sense of enthusiasm. Teams should be wary of the tendency to get excited about singular pieces of data such as a blazing 40-yard dash time or well-spoken 15-minute interview.
Speed and likeability are only two elements in the selection process.
What did the Seahawks potentially learn at the combine? Here are five of the biggest takeaways.
All combine stats courtesy of NFL.com
Fans will have to wait for the draft to see once and for all whether the Seattle Seahawks want to add a speed guy at wide receiver. It is unclear whether Pete Carroll and John Schneider see this as a definitive need.
Were there some burners at the combine? Definitely.
The fastest wide receivers at the combine were Marquise Goodwin of Texas (4.27), followed Tavon Austin of West Virginia and Texas A&M's Ryan Swope, at 4.34 . While these speeds are impressive, it is important to put speed into context.
Speed does matter at wide receiver, but only if that receiver can get separation or make catches in space. The ability to run does not guarantee that the receiver can fight through a defensive back or pull down a jump ball.
Goodwin is 5’9” and Austin is 5’8” and neither fit the big body that may be more important for the Seahawks. The combine's drills are speed-centric, but if Seattle wants a speed guy that also has height, they may consider Tennessee receivers. Cordarrelle Patterson (4.42, 6’2”) or Justin Hunter (4.44, 6’4”).
The defensive line is arguably a top priority for the Seahawks there are a number of different ways the Seahawks could go about addressing this need in this draft. Performances at the combine helped solidify some of the names, though Seattle has proven in past years that it does not always follow the prescribed formula.
Ziggy Ansah was fast (4.63), though he is more of a defensive end than an interior lineman. There is also much hype surrounding the 6'8" Margus Hunt from SMU, who ran the 40-yard dash in 4.6 seconds and was also a top performer in the vertical jump and the bench press.
A report from The News Tribune suggests that the Seahawks may be interested in UCLA defensive lineman Datone Jones, who is 6’3” and weighs 283 pounds. Jones ran a respectable 4.8 40-yard dash, tied for 13th amongst defensive linemen in the bench press and was third in the 20-yard shuttle drill.
Many of the other top defensive linemen that would be a good fit for the Seahawks may be long gone by the time Seattle picks in the 25th spot. These lineman include names like Sharrif Floyd and Sheldon Richardson.
Still, the draft is always hard to predict and players can fall down the board. What the Seahawks learned from the combine is that there a several viable options if they want a defensive lineman.
Were coaches, GMs and scouts thrilled about the quarterback prospects at the combine? Not exactly.
There are certainly quarterbacks that may be taken in the first round. Geno Smith of West Virginia and Matt Barkley of USC could end up being high picks.
Of course, this is not 2012 in which featured several first-round locks and a consensus top pick. When you look at draft board, there are discrepancies in opinion of the prospects in this quarterback class. For example, CBS Sports includes two mock drafts, updated 2/26/12.
Rob Rang of CBS Sports has Smith going eighth to the Buffalo Bills and Barkley going ninth to the New York Jets. Wouldn’t it be ironic if a USC quarterback was drafted to replace a fellow alum? The other expert, Dane Brugler of CBSSports, has Smith going seventh to the Arizona Cardinals. Where does he have Barkley? Not in the first round at all.
Given this type of disparity, what can the Seahawks take from the combine? There may be some genuine interest in Matt Flynn given the lack of outstanding draft options at quarterback.
Now that Alex Smith is reportedly heading to the Kansas City Chiefs (via Fox Sports), there may be one less destination for Flynn. Still, there are teams that will need a quarterback in 2013 and they may try to get one via trade.
There are certainly players that are interesting at the combine, simply because they display a level of speed and athleticism that makes them intriguing to coaches and GMs. The combine is an opportunity to display athletic prowess.
One such player is Denard Robinson of Michigan, who is trying to win an NFL job, even though he is not expected to play his college position of quarterback.
Could he fill a role with the Seahawks? Perhaps Robinson could pair with Leon Washington and create a dynamic pair of kick returners. Robinson could be used in unique offensive sets that take advantage of his speed and elusive running style.
Granted, Seattle may not want to use a high-round pick on a player that does not necessarily have a defined role. Sometimes teams will go with a philosophy of taking the “best athlete available” but that has not really been Seattle’s style over the last couple of seasons.
Robinson’s speed (4.43) will get him drafted by someone. Will it be the Seahawks?
For the Seahawks, the combine is about adding data to a comprehensive draft strategy.
The nice thing about Seattle's state of affairs is they are not in a situation in which there is pressure for their first-round pick to immediately make a splash. This isn’t to say that the Seahawks can throw away their picks on anyone, but there is something to be said for avoiding some of the drama (and financial issues) that come with picking early Thursday.
For example, the Seahawks are not necessarily in a position to decide whether or not Star Lotulelei’s heart condition (via ESPN) impacts where he is picked. Concern about Lotulelei’s issue could conceivably cause him to drop to the end of the first round, but indications are that he may stay in the top-15.
The Seahawks do not have to decide if there is a quarterback that is worthy of a first-round pick. Isn’t that a relief?
Fortunately, Seattle is not desperate for a linebacker and can therefore avoid being in the buzz of the scrutiny (via NFL.com) surrounding Manti Te’o. Sure, the Seahawks could use another linebacker. However, Seattle does not need to draft one in the first round and Te’o is not the only option.
The Seahawks have some tough decisions to make, but it is nice to avoid some of the big drama that always goes with the combine. Seattle can just take away the data from the combine and add it to the draft board.