Today, with a little over two weeks prior to the NFL draft, I want to talk about the kinds of players that have helped make the Seattle Seahawks go from cellar-dwellers to contenders in just a few years time.
You may know them as sleepers or diamonds in the rough so to speak, but regardless of whatever you like to call them, 'Hawks general manager John Schneider has had a knack for finding them for years now.
Honestly, how can anyone forget that both Kam Chancellor and Richard Sherman were fifth-round draft choices a few years back?
This year could recent seventh-round selections such as Greg Scruggs, J.R. Sweezy or Malcolm Smith emerge?
Time will tell, but who are some of the players that we should be looking forward to seeing Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll draft this year?
Right now the 'Hawks currently have eight picks to work with on Day 3 of the draft, which depending on your point of view can either be used as leverage to move up or perhaps stock up on rookies.
In either case, I figured it might be interesting to focus on one late-round prospect at each position that would be a perfect match for the Seahawks, provided that he is still available when the time comes.
It appears that after two days of watching the likes of Matt Leinart, Tyler Thigpen and Seneca Wallace compete for a roster spot, the 'Hawks have opted to go with Brady Quinn (Associated Press via seattlepi.com) as Russell Wilson's backup next season.
I honestly wish I had more of an opinion on Quinn, but with him and Josh Portis, I suppose for now that both can fill the role of holding a clipboard and wearing a headset on the sidelines.
That said, I still think the 'Hawks need to draft someone this year, but not as much as I did last week when I had the team making a Day 2 selection of Syracuse's Ryan Nassib.
With the priority of this pick being a bit lower today, I believe Matt Scott of Arizona on Day 3 would be a worthwhile choice as future backup to Russell Wilson.
Scott, similar to Wilson, is an athletic quarterback who can run the spread; however, unlike Wilson, he probably needs a little more seasoning which for the time being should be fine.
Whether Scott is around late on Day 3 remains to be seen, but either a fifth-round or later pick could be worth the long-term investment.
Lots of choices here, but what is the perfect fit for the 'Hawks?
Do you want someone who can catch passes out of the backfield?
Perhaps a change of pace from the bruising style of Marshawn Lynch and Robert Turbin?
Depending on what day it is, I can go in any which direction.
Runners like Ray Graham of Pittsburgh, Zac Stacy of Vanderbilt or Miguel Maysonet of Stony Brook are all intriguing and will likely be available on Day 3, but for today I'm intrigued by the raw speed of Kenjon Barner.
Is he perfect for the 'Hawks?
Yes and no when you consider he's probably a third-down back, but if he can ever learn to hold on to the football and hold up against people actually hitting him, I could see the potential for him to fill the role(s) vacated by Leon Washington.
I love Michael Robinson, but he isn't getting any younger.
Whether the 'Hawks will use one of their picks on a fullback, though, is a question that remains to be seen.
If the 'Hawks do opt to draft a fullback, SMU's Zach Line looks to be the best or perhaps only choice out there depending on who you believe.
Walterfootball.com lists Line as its top prospect, yet struggles to sell him viable option given his reluctance to take on the actual role:
Line doesn't look like he has the burst needed to be a running back in the NFL; he isn't quick enough to the hole. However, Line definitely has the skill set to be a fullback. He is big enough to be a good blocker, can carry the ball in short-yardage situations and has nice receiving ability out of the backfield.
Line had a solid week of practice at the East-West Shrine. He would prefer to stay as a running back, but will have to move to fullback to make it in the NFL.
Sadly it seems that no one really wants to be a fullback in this day and age, as even Michael Robinson had to be converted after playing quarterback in college. However if Line can get in line with the idea of being a fullback, he might have a future in the NFL and in Seattle he would have a fairly decent tutor in Robinson.
Marcus Davis of Virginia Tech is the kind of player that has the potential to make some general manager look like a genius.
Will John Schneider be that GM?
A few weeks back I came across the tall and athletic Davis and still believe he is the kind of player that Pete Carroll can make a star, especially in the red zone.
Say what you want about the 'Hawks offense being explosive, especially now with Percy Harvin, but I'm still concerned about this team once it gets inside the 20-yard line.
I like the razzle dazzle potential of what Darrell Bevell can cook up as much as any 'Hawks fan; however beyond tight end Zach Miller, who can Russell Wilson get the ball to that's capable of creating room vertically in tight space?
At 6'3" and 233 pounds, Davis could be the guy.
If he is available after Round 5, I think he could be the perfect late-round choice for the 'Hawks.
Speaking of Darrell Bevell's offense, could he use another tight end?
While it's unlikely my personal favorite, Vance McDonald of Rice will be available on Day 3 of the draft, I do think Ryan Otten of San Jose State could be available.
As someone trying to rebound from a recent health scare, Otten has seen his stock dip a bit along with his weight. Yet the "Joker" tight end could prove to be a late-round steal according to Danny Kelly at SBNation.com:
6'5, 230, 33.38" arms. Otten didn't run at the Combine because of a staph infection that he got in a cut at the Senior Bowl, but his movement skills and excellent coordination are apparent; for reference, he ran in the 4.6 range at his pro day recently. His height and length really intrigue, but I would hope he'll gain a little big of weight - he reportedly got down to 220 while fighting the infection, but if he could get up to at least 245 or so, that would probably be ideal. Nonetheless, shows nice concentration when making a catch in traffic and was used all over the formation.
Regardless of what the 'Hawks intend on doing with either Zach Miller or Anthony McCoy long-term, I do believe that a player like Otten for this year could add an exciting twist to the offense.
Ever since the Seahawks signed Zach Miller I've hoped to see the team use two tight ends, but time and again those hopes have been dashed either by an injury to John Carlson two years back or the imperfect fit of Kellen WInslow Jr. last year.
Yet towards the end of last season, I was encouraged to finally see Miller emerge as a consistent target for Russell Wilson, especially in the postseason.
Now for the sake of having some fun, try imagining having Miller and Otten for Wilson to work with this year?
At some point in this draft I think the Seahawks will draft an offensive tackle.
Unfortunately all of the players you can instantly plug in will likely be long gone before the team even gets to its selection at No. 56 in round two.
So who exactly should the 'Hawks consider on Day 3?
I believe you look for an athlete that has the size and capability, but could use some help with the finer points.
Xavier Nixon of Florida according to NFL.com sounds like that kind of player:
Nixon was a high school All-American and has started at least five games every year he’s been in Gainesville, He has always had the length and the athleticism to be a starting tackle in the NFL. Consistency has always been a major issue for Nixon, and his senior campaign was no different. He didn’t vastly improve from a technique standpoint, and doesn’t fully utilize his length, athleticism, and surprising strength. A team will likely take a gamble on him in the late rounds, hoping to light a fire under him and get the most out of his potential.
Do you think offensive line coach Tom Cable can light that fire?
If nothing else I think it would be entertaining to find out.
Let me start off in stating that I do not believe the 'Hawks need to draft a guard this year as the team already has James Carpenter, John Moffitt, Paul McQuistan and J.R. Sweezy on the roster.
All four have the potential to start in 2013, yet none of them for the moment inspire a ton of confidence.
Could the Seahawks use a late-round pick on someone like TCU's Blaize Foltz?
Walterfootball.com projects him as a fifth- to seventh-round pick:
Foltz blocked well for TCU. He did his part to keep a clean pocket and open up running lanes. Foltz performed well at the East-West Shrine and earned the praise of scouts. They like how Foltz already has NFL size with some ability as a pass-protector and a run-blocker. He could be a good value pick on the third day.
Sounds good, but what would be perfect is having him come to camp as an undrafted free agent instead if he's available after the draft.
Speaking of players I'm not sure the 'Hawks should use a draft pick on, what are the odds that kicker Caleb Sturgis of Florida is available after the draft?
Depending on your point of view, drafting a kicker can either be a waste of a pick or a tactically smart move.
With Steven Hauschka still unsigned, I wouldn't rule out taking one of the team's conditional seventh-round picks to pick up arguably the best kicker available this year as I doubt he will go undrafted.
As we switch to the defensive side of the ball, you have to wonder if the Seahawks will draft another pass-rusher to add to the mix up front.
While I don't believe the team will use their first pick on a defensive end, I could see it taking a chance on a raw talent like David Bass towards the end of Day 3.
Why not? Especially when you consider that Chris Clemons is recovering from his injury and both recent additions Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett are only signed for the short-term.
Eventually you are going to need to reload and while Bruce Irvin looks like he could be special some day, it still remains to be seen if he will become a player you can rely on every down.
That's not to say that Bass is the answer, so much as the fact that you might find a diamond in the rough here with a little bit of luck, lest we forget that Michael Bennett was once an undrafted free agent (Seattle Times) and a certain team that shall remain nameless gave up on him perhaps a bit too soon.
At defensive tackle, should the 'Hawks draft someone early, perhaps with their first pick in Round 2 at No. 56 or should they wait?
Today I think it depends on who is available and when, but Josh Boyd of Mississippi State is a player on Day 3 that could be of interest to the 'Hawks if they opt to pass on a tackle with one of their first two picks.
NFL.com questions whether Boyd's size might be an issue to be a three-tech tackle, but thinks his "constant motor" should get him drafted:
Boyd’s average size might scare off teams who aren’t sure if he’s athletic enough to make the switch to the three-technique spot, but some NFL coach will push his general manager to use a mid-round pick on his constant motor – especially if he again produces (eight for loss, 5.5 sacks in 2011) without first-round pick Fletcher Cox garnering extra attention this fall.
Boyd strikes me as the kind of player that if given the chance to work alongside some solid help could serve a valuable role.
Outside linebacker is another position I think the 'Hawks could address on Day 2, but there might be some options worth looking at late as well.
It's hard to say where Zaviar Gooden of Missouri will be drafted exactly when you consider his uneven play in college coupled with his solid performance at the combine.
Yet at the Missouri pro day a few weeks ago longtime draft guru Gil Brandt of NFL.com (via NFLDraftscout.com) seemed to think Gooden looked like a "good linebacker prospect:"
Gooden had a 38 1/2-inch vertical jump (4 1/2 inches better than his NFL Scouting Combine number). He then stood by the rest of his numbers from the combine (he was a top performer in his position group at the combine in every workout but the vertical). Gooden is a good athlete with speed. This is a good linebacker prospect.
Could Gooden be a good fit for the 'Hawks?
When asked about what he likes about his current group of linebackers, new defensive coordinator Dan Quinn told Ian Furness of KJR-AM the following:
“I think the thing that jumps out is just the speed of those guys who are playing linebacker,” Quinn said. “Sometimes that translates into being a good blitzer. Sometimes it doesn’t. But the versatility for us is having a guy who can play on the end of the line, show the ability to cover, and then now when you add the pass rush element to it, I think that’s when you really develop as a player.”
If Gooden has that versatility, he might be the kind of player that Quinn covets.
It seems there are quite a few decent cornerback prospects in this year's draft, but will any of them be available by the time the Seahawks consider taking one?
As much as some fans would like to see the 'Hawks take Tyrann Mathieu to play nickel corner, I'm not entirely sure he will be the right fit at the right time in this year's draft as he could be a Day 2 selection.
By Day 3, though, I can picture the 'Hawks drafting the likes of Rod Sweeting from Georgia Tech who Walterfootball.com sees as a sleeper prospect:
Some draft pundits felt that Sweeting had a disappointing year, but he is a good sleeper prospect. There were some scouts at the East-West Shrine who felt that Sweeting was in the running as the best defensive player there. He continued to help himself with a good performance at the Combine.
Sweeting might need to add some muscle, but at the same time he is the kind of smart, yet physical player that could be worth developing over time.
Last but not least, I believe the Seahawks will invest a draft pick in getting All-Pro Earl Thomas some help backing him up.
Weeks ago, right after the combine, I had Syracuse safety Shamarko Thomas listed as a sixth-round pick, but since that time his stock has risen considerably to the point that he now looks like a Day 2 pick.
Similar to Tyrann Mathieu at cornerback, I'm not sure the 'Hawks will be willing to draft Thomas that early; meanwhile over the past few weeks I've grown quite fond of NC State's Earl Wolff as an alternative.
In college Wolff was overlooked (NFLDraftscout.com) and you have to wonder if the experts are making the same mistake now?
NFL.com describes Wolff's strengths as follows:
Solidly built defender able to make plays against the run and pass. Physical tackler coming downhill to attack ballcarriers, not afraid to bring intensity to the stop. Diagnoses and attacks. Breaks down quickly and wraps up the legs of receivers effectively to bring them down quickly after the catch. Uses relentless hustle to reach plays, even if on the opposite sideline. Flashes quickness to move from two-deep to a single-high look after the snap, as well as pick up vertical routes and stay with receivers in deep coverage. Displays sound footwork and technique in coverage. Aware zone defender who watches the quarterback and keeps an eye out for targets in his area. Has physical nature and athleticism to contribute on special teams immediately.
Granted he still needs to develop, but like all of the players listed here there is a good deal of potential to work with at the start.
Isn't that what you're essentially looking for on Day 3?
While potential can be a double-edged sword, if you trust in what John Schneider and Pete Carroll are doing, what happens on Day 3 could pay off in spades not just next season but for several yet to come.
This draft with so many late picks for the 'Hawks will likely leave us with a lot of questions, but hopefully the braintrust will come up with some answers and provide the team with depth.
Perhaps none of the players listed here should be expected to start from day one, but some might make a meaningful contribution sooner than later this season if given the right opportunity.
What's great about the Seattle Seahawks is that anyone can play if they prove themselves worthy. To a lot of players I'd imagine that is a huge motivator, especially when you take someone like Richard Sherman, for example.
One minute you're a fifth-round pick out of Stanford looking to make the team, two seasons later you're first-team All-Pro.
In other words, you never know.
So feel free to pan these players listed here today, but do so at your own risk as one of them could be the missing piece needed to win it all either this year or next.