NFL Draft 2011: 30 Rookies Who Fit the Seattle Seahawks, Part 2: Offense
The Seahawks offense faces major questions heading into the 2011 draft. Quarterback and offensive line are among the team's biggest needs and there is a variety of opinion as to how the Seahawks should fill those needs; notably, which need to fill in round one.
However, the Seahawks need more than just the contributions of their first offensive pick for the program to maintain their position on top of the division next season.
For Part 1, focusing on the organizations method for draft preparation and 15 defensive prospects that fit the Seahawks, click here.
Without further ado, Part 2.
Questionable Depth at Quarterback and the 2011 No. 25 Pick
Potential fits taken in Mock/s: Blaine Gabbert
The Seahawks will likely draft a Quarterback in 2011, arguably the team’s most shallow offensive position. This year’s crop is not particularly deep, but it’s a talented group with a variety of backgrounds and skill sets. In evaluating the 2011 Draft, it’s important to realize there are more teams in need of competition at the position than there are elite to solid prospects available.
This may result in teams reaching to draft a quarterback early, over-evaluating talent and leading to trade opportunities. Seattle will certainly face this dilemma at pick No. 25 needing a quarterback, but they'll also be facing a variety of options.
Due to the draft board approach, the Seahawks could be in an intriguing position to trade down in hopes of acquiring one or two extra picks. (In 2006, the Giants sent the 25th choice to Pittsburgh for picks 32, 96 and 129; and Pittsburgh overpaid by the equivalent of a late 5th round pick—based on the NFL pick value chart. Pittsburgh holds pick 31 in 2011.)
Schneider's Limited History with First Round Quarterbacks
Aaron Rodgers is the only QB a Schneider team has taken in the first round, a potential top pick that fell all the way to No. 24. Dig deeper, and only two quarterbacks have been taken in the first three rounds, the other being Brian Brohm in the late 2nd in 2008.
With a variety of evaluations on all the top quarterback prospects in 2011, no matter what Seattle’s decision is, it will be a major crossroads of the draft for the organization.
Schneider has developed his criteria for quarterbacks through extensive experience working with Mike Holmgren: there is certain criterion Schneider judges by, and those players can easily be had in the 4th round or later. I would be surprised to see Schneider draft a quarterback in the first round if the player doesn’t fully fit the criteria.
Among others taken in drafts Schneider has been a part of in his NFL career: Sage Rosenfels (4th round in 2001); Matt Flynn (6th round in 2008); Matt Hasselbeck (6th round in 1998); Aaron Brooks (4th round in 1999). All other quarterbacks taken in the 4th round or later. This trend must be taken into account when evaluating what Seattle might do at No. 25.
What to Look for in the Next Seahawks Quarterback
My top four criteria in looking for the next ‘Hawks quarterback:
1. Consistent footwork and stride length to the top of the drop, a must in a timing-based passing game.
2. The willingness to take a hit to make a throw into tight windows.He must have a good internal clock while evading pressure with eyes down field.
3. The intelligence to read the line of scrimmage pre-snap while maximizing mismatches that the West Coast offense thrives on.
4. He must have the ability to go through progressions within the timing of the offense, coupled with a quick release after recognition.
The one intangible which must be accounted for is which prospects fit the ‘Hawks: do personalities gel? Is the prospect willing to be a facilitator and leader of the program? Does the player possess an attention to detail and a desire to win that is strong enough to catch Seattle’s eye? John Schneider takes pride in scouting players himself; the organizations rapport with any QB prospect will be a sizable part of the final evaluation.
A statistic gaining traction of late is the 26-27-60 theory: 26 or better on the Wonderlic test—a 12 minute test evaluating comprehension and problem solving in a variety of subjects, 27 career starts and a career completion percentage above 60. (This Sports Illustrated article gives a good overview of current NFL QB’s and how the stat is reflected throughout the league.)
The findings are quite convincing. As Wonderlic scores were released this week, the theory now comes into play while evaluating prospects. The Wonderlic line of worry is below 20.
Ryan Mallet, Arkansas
There is little doubt he has the biggest arm of all available prospects and he may be the most “pro-ready” quarterback. A 5.37 40 time due to his 6-7 frame and character concerns are red flags against Mallet. However, there is no question he likely throws the best ball among all signal callers in the 2011 draft.
Mallet is an intriguing case, as he feels many of the concerns against him aren’t warranted. This article by NFL analyst Pat Kirwan caught my attention. He answers questions about football knowledge, leadership, character concerns and who he models his game after: Peyton Manning, Phillip Rivers and Tom Brady. A stat of note: his yards per attempt have gone from 6.4 to 8.9 to 9.4 his past three seasons.
Seattle passed on last year’s most “pro-ready” quarterback Jimmy Clausen, who fell to the middle of the 2nd round. Mallet’s value is widely projected in the top 45 but he could go as high as the top 20. His 26, 29, 60 passes the theory—barely.
I like Ryan Mallet. But the Seahawks short-to-intermediate timing-based system is not going to maximize Mallet’s talent even if he is a sound passer in those areas of the field. His natural tendencies will cause him to clash with the system’s boundaries. He's a vertical offense QB.
If Mallet is the top remaining quarterback prospect available to Seattle, the phone will ring. Cincinnati, Arizona, Tennessee, Washington, Minnesota and San Francisco all pick before #46, and they all need a big armed, “pro-ready” QB to throw to a near-elite or elite No. 1 receiver.
But Seattle will also face a tough decision. I believe Mallet has the potential to be a franchise quarterback, but whether or not he is the right franchise quarterback will depend largely on how he handles Schneider’s one-on-one coverage. (Note: Schneider attended Mallet's pro-day)
Christian Ponder, Florida State
Ponder has risen up draft boards in the pre-draft process, a risk-reward prospect due to major injury concerns. A major separation of his shoulder ended his 2009 season and he had two surgeries on his throwing elbow in 2010. Will his arm strength diminish quickly due to his cumulative injures?
On the contrary, he could be the best West Coast quarterback in the draft; a quick, compact release and good footwork inside and outside the pocket make him a very intriguing prospect.
Of all the top quarterback prospects, Ponder is the most physically similar to Aaron Rodgers. Their combine numbers are eerily comparable: 40 time within one tenth of a second, coming in at the same height. Ponder is only six pounds heavier. If anything stands out, its that Ponder’s numbers suggest a slight edge in athleticism and running ability; Rodgers has developed into one of the league’s best scrambling quarterbacks, which would make that possibility all the more impressive. Knowledge of pro-style offenses draws the comparison closer. Ponder’s 35, 34, 62 is among the top three scores using the theory.
Be mindful that Rodgers transferred to Cal from Ju-Co and had two injury free seasons, was more advanced reading defenses, and was generally evaluated as a top five pick. As he fell to No. 24, not all 32 NFL teams shared that evaluation.
If not for major injury concerns on multiple parts of his throwing arm, he might be the top quarterback prospect in this draft. Given the fact that Hasselbeck’s injuries have been a burden for the organization the past three seasons, selecting a Quarterback with major concerns coming into the league seems risky. They need a consistently healthy, competitive player. The Seahawks need to trust any quarterback taken at No. 25 will be a reliable, injury free starter.
However, Ponder is the fastest riser of all QB prospects this off-season and could woo a team into taking him in the first round. I’d be surprised to see it be the Seahawks, though taking him in the 2nd round is a possibility.
Jake Locker, Washington
The most intriguing QB prospect for the Seahawks is Jake Locker. His ties to the state of Washington are well-known, born and raised within 100 miles of Seattle; he spent four years at the U-Dub. He helped turn the program around, including leading the team to a bowl victory over Nebraska in his final college game.
But he faces a lot of questions too. Why did he regress in his senior season, widely regarded the No. 1 pick if he had left school for the 2010 draft? He attributes his slight drop in completion percentage to more smart plays, or throwing the ball away; he never completed more than 58% of his passes in a season.
Locker doesn’t always make the correct read when given multiple options, often making the aggressive decision or locking onto a receiver. His arm strength, competitiveness and skill-position-type running ability make an otherwise average prospect ooze with potential.
Locker is aware of his flaws and has been working hard. I liked the mindset he displayed towards improving in a pre-combine interview on the NFL network. Aware of the effects his baseball throwing motion had on his football drop, he was working repeatedly getting to the correct width for his throwing base, especially from 5 and 7 step drops. He can then throw off the front foot towards the target with a consistent, tighter release.
Locker is determined to prove to pundits that his accuracy is not a problem, and that his work ethic and desire to get better are stronger than physical flaws.
At the combine, top prospect WR A.J. Green offered his praises, saying he was a fan of Locker’s throws in drills and he believed Locker had answered some doubts. Locker could go as high as the top five, or he could fall out of the first round altogether. He is the best athlete of the top QB prospects, and ideally fits in a system that would work with his mobility.
His latest roadblock approaching the draft: 20, 39, 54 puts him well-short of benchmarks in two of the three categories for the 26-27-60 theory. I see the connection between a low Wonderlic and questions about completion-percentage as somewhat worrisome. Will he be able to put together new mechanics and a better understanding of coverage on the next level, and soon?
If Locker slides to the 25th pick, the Seahawks will hear an awful lot of white noise coming from fans, screaming “draft him!” If he is still available at No. 25, I think the value offered by other teams will be too great to pass up.
I think Locker could be a really good NFL quarterback, a great fit for Chan Gailey’s system in Buffalo. But one of his biggest flaws—consistency in the short-to-intermediate passing game—is one of Seattle’s musts in a West Coast QB prospect. I see Seattle taking him in the second round or lower. And nobody expects him to fall that far.
Nathan Enderle, Idaho
On my watch list going into the combine, Nathan Enderle's stock may have fallen due his uncompetitive stats as an athlete. However, Enderle is an all around pocket passer; his size at 6’4, 240 allows him to stand tall in the pocket and make tough throws. He has a good internal clock and can throw on the run. As a four-year player, he is capable of making pre-snap changes for both pass protection and plays.
Unfortunately, he is still raw. He needs work on his deep ball mechanics, more consistency on for-his-receiver-only throws, and better footwork to the top of the drop. Plus, Enderle needs to strengthen his recognition-to-release skills. And his football IQ needs to grow.
Enderle is a late round prospect that fits as a high-upside developmental QB. He reportedly scored a 41 on the Wonderlic last spring—and has 47 career starts. His completion percentage was above 60% only one season, but he is a battle-tested starter. He is projected no earlier than the 6th round, and fits the late round, potential-laden profile Schneider looks for.
For a player with so much college experience yet is still raw, “red-shirting” for a year would be extremely beneficial for his mental and physical transition into the NFL. Enderle is not the sexy pick as the next franchise QB, but his addition would certainly mirror the method used by Mike Holmgren in finding Hasselbeck.
Charlie Whitehurst and the 25th Pick
Whatever happens at the position, I am beginning to develop the following theory: the Seahawks effectively invested an early third round pick in Whitehurst in 2010. If Hasselbeck doesn’t return, Charlie needs to be endorsed into 2011 as the guy. Why?
Because the ‘Hawks effectively drafted Whitehurst to start developing last season.
Whitehurst is a guy Schneider reportedly liked because of physical similarities to Aaron Rodgers. He spent a season behind Hasselbeck, and did win a really big game.
All year, the evaluation towards his play and practice was that he needs more experience. He has one year left on his deal. If you’re not going to release him, you’re going to keep him as the second-string quarterback in favor of a rookie with a long term deal? No.
The program is based on competition. If the rookie should play nine games into the season, then he’ll play.
This is why the 'Hawks have to be 100% sold on any quarterback at No. 25. A first-and-third rounder in 2011 is reportedly near the price tag for Kevin Kolb, the same amount of capital the Seahawks would theoretically have invested in two players if they take a QB at No. 25.
The Seahawks have gaping holes on both sides of the ball and a GM that hasn’t been bred to draft anything but an elite quarterback in the first round. I think Seattle would be willing to acquire two picks and take a quarterback that is a little less talented, but an equal fit.
It’s a definite that if the ‘Hawks pick a quarterback at No. 25, the role being filled will bring high expectations from multiple angles; the replacement of a franchise Quarterback and the comparisons to the other first round Quarterback taken by a Schneider team.
When the success of the Carroll and Schneider regime is eventually evaluated, I believe this pick will be remembered as a vital hit-or-miss moment in their tenure.
More Torque in the Backfield
The Seahawks need a powerful fullback, a position I expect them to address in the draft. Running back is not a main priority, but a drafting a powerful one-cut runner would fit a tertiary need for the ‘Hawks.
Michael Robinson is a free agent and had some critical drops and missed opportunities in the passing game. He was an adequate blocker, contributor on special teams and facilitator of the program, but had a down year.
Potential fits taken in Mock/s: Mark Ingram
Henry Hynoski, Pittsburgh: A good athlete for his 6’0, 257 pound frame, displays strong football awareness, has a good work ethic and the versatility to be a complete fullback on the next level, 15 catches his junior season and 25 catches his senior year. Unfortunately, he doesn’t pack appropriate punch for his size due to poor pad level in pass blocking and lacks the consistent tenacity of a true NFL fullback.
He is a bulkier player than Robinson, with potential to consistently move the running game to the second level; strong work ethic points towards him adopting a tougher mindset as a blocker in the NFL. He is a mid to late round prospect, possibly the best pure fullback in the draft.
Alex Green, Hawaii: Green potentially fits both backfield positions for the ‘Hawks. In 2010, Green registered the first 1,000 yard rushing season since 1992 for the Hawaii program. He is a capable receiver and pass blocker coming from a pass-heavy offense, a cut-and-go-downhill back.
At 6’0, 220 he often initiates contact and is willing to take on bigger defenders; he fits as a versatile fullback with upside, as he isn’t a natural-enough runner to be a full time NFL running back. His draft status ranges from round five to undrafted, and he could fill a backup role at multiple skill positions and special teams.
Fitting the West Coast System
Brandon Stokley and Ruvell Martin are unsigned by the Seahawks; with the re-signing of Isaiah Stanback, Stokley is the receiver who remains to be replaced. Stokley is “maybe the best slot receiver of all time,” and the position would become a top five need if he doesn’t return in 2011.
Tight end is rather solidified for the ‘Hawks; the only player gone from the 2010 roster is Chris Baker. His role as an in-line blocker and short yardage/red zone threat is something I expect to be filled later in the draft, or in a subsequent signing; Size, in line blocking capabilities, good hands and run after the catch ability will be priorities for Seattle.
Potential fits taken in Mock/s: A.J. Green, Julio Jones
Greg Little, UNC: A running back converted to receiver in 2009, he had 62 catches and 29 carries in a breakout season; the suspension in 2010 for improper benefits stunted his rise into college’s elite senior playmakers.
He measured 6’3, 220 at the combine and his size makes him a very intriguing developmental prospect; Little needs to sharpen his routes and become more consistent, but he has the potential to be a No. 1 playmaker; he runs with the power and vision of a running back.
The intangible issue; does he buy into the team concept and have the toughness to block and be the complete player at the next level? Little could be taken as early as the second round, but would be a steal for the Seahawks if he falls one or two rounds.
Niles Paul, Nebraska: Paul could be one of the bigger boon-or-bust receivers in the draft. He has very solid ball skills, an understanding of the route tree for a West Coast system, and is a very consistent contributor at multiple special teams positions. He is a strong run after the catch receiver, primary criteria for Schneider in scouting receivers.
Question about his separation skills, polish as a receiver and his character, after two DUI arrests, are major hits to his draft stock. If he slips out of the top 100 picks, he could be valuable depth to push Isaiah Stanback, or whoever fills the special teams/No. 5 receiver role.
Tori Gurley, South Carolina: Impressive size at 6’4, 233 he was the 2nd leading receiver for the Gamecocks in 2010, playing the role of the physical possession receiver. However, he leaned out to 216 for the combine to prove one thing; he is full field threat.
Turning 24 in November, he played only two seasons in college and his intangibles are relatively unknown. However, he has huge upside coming from Spurrier’s spread, West Coast type system. Furthermore, he is a tough blocker and willing to play the middle of the field. He is a long striding, downfield threat that has huge upside playing 15-20 pounds lighter than in college.
If he can work on his hands, translate better weight into more explosiveness in pads, he would be the ideal big body, downfield receiver the Seahawks lack. I think the Seahawks will target him towards the end of the draft, especially if they pass on more proven receivers in the mid rounds.
Lee Smith, Marshall: An all around tight end with incredible size at 6’6, 266. He is a solid receiver that finds holes in the zone and can gain yards after contact. He is a tenacious blocker who would benefit from the technical expertise of Tom Cable. He is at times inconsistent, but flashes potential of being a blocking, move the chains and special teams capable tight end. He is a solid late round prospect that would bring size and toughness to offensive sub packages.
Finding All-Season Traction
The offensive tackle position has consistent depth throughout the draft, and the Seahawks could look in a number of directions to fill the possible departure of Sean Locklear. Schneider teams have taken six offensive lineman, including left tackle Russell Okung in 2010's first round, but only four in rounds two and three combined; history shows at least one lineman being taken by the ‘Hawks in round four or later in 2011, each of rounds 4-7 accounting for four or more lineman taken in Schneider’s history.
There are 12-16 offensive tackles that could go off the board by the end of round four, nearly double the amount of interior lineman projected to be taken by that point. The Seahawks need help on the inside as well and how early they invest a pick in a guard or center is a popular topic, as Max Unger’s 2011 position is unknown and Chris Spencer remains a Free Agent.
I think Seattle waits until the middle rounds to address the interior line, only drafting a guard or center in the earlier rounds if they believe he is a franchise player that is among the best players available.
Potential fits taken in Mock/s: Tyron Smith, Nate Solder, Gabe Carimi, Mike Pouncey, Derrek Sherrod
Danny Watkins, Baylor: There are concerns about the fact he is 26 and just entering the NFL. He was your average Canadian boy growing up; a hockey player until he realized his 270 pound frame was suited for a different line of work going into college. He spent four years as a firefighter before moving to the states to further his firefighting career in 2007.
He transferred to Baylor after his Ju-Co all American season in 2008, an All Big 12 player in 2010. His football experience is limited, but he plays with good technique and a noticeable mean streak. Not an ideal NFL tackle, his potential to be an instant starter at guard, good character and football young body have made him a potential first round prospect. He doesn’t fill the biggest need, but I think he may have a very good NFL career.
Marcus Cannon, TCU: 6’5, 358 with adequate arm length, 34 inches, and sneaky athleticism; his attitude and mean streak finishing blocks fit Cable’s tenacious mindset. Two knocks against him: poor technique and lack of recognition blocking stunts and twists is concerning, especially given his size and lack of lateral recovery agility; poor discipline exemplified by weight problems and too many penalties does not fit the “clean” football vision in Seattle. Cannon is projected to be taken in the 2nd round, but would present value if he falls 20-40 picks.
Finding All-Season Traction, Cont.
Kris O’Dowd, USC: He started as a true freshman at Center under Pete Carroll in 2007; as an All Conference standout at USC, I expect him to be on the Seahawks’ radar. At 6’4, 304 he is agile and a savvy field general; he was among the leaders in 10-and-20 yard splits for offensive lineman during the 40 yard dash.
Unfortunately, he faces durability concerns and questions about his athletic ability at the NFL level. Arms at 32 ½ inches are less than ideal, but he projects as a mid-to-late round pick that fits the zone blocking scheme and has familiarity with Carroll.
Stephen Schilling, Michigan: Good size at 6’4, 308 lbs. He was a durable, versatile lineman at Michigan with extensive time at right tackle and left guard. He is not a dominant blocker, nor does he finish blocks with tenacity, but he has the experience and consistency to be a starter for the Seahawks. He is comfortable deciphering blitzes and stunts, consistently keeping rushers at bay.
His run blocking is less stellar, as he sometimes struggles to find his assignment and needs to add push at the point of attack. He is from Bellevue and fits with the Seahawks as a mid round talent that could develop under Cable.
James Brewer, Indiana: A massive, athletic 6’6, 323 pound frame suggests he can be a successful tackle at the next level, but he lacks a mean streak and has endured consistent injury issues. A very good pass blocker that understands defensive fronts and blitzes and is also athletic getting to the second level.
But that lack of mean streak seems to hamper him consistently, as he fails to engage blockers inside the shoulders and often waits for contact; his lack of off the field leadership abilities and competitiveness has been questioned as well.
His potential is worth exploring, as his soft attitude would certainly be the focus under the microscope of Cable. Brewer has the potential to be a very good tackle if he elevates his mindset to an NFL level and could be available in the 4th round as a value, developmental prospect.
30 players down, many more to go. Seahawks Draft Board version 1.0 coming soon.