You Should Know Better Than To Overlook A Seattle Draft
By Corbin Smith
Success can be fleeting, and in the National Football League, being one of the top teams can put a franchise in a position of disadvantage when the upcoming draft finally arrives. Winning the Super Bowl is the ultimate goal, but finishing as one of the final teams in the playoffs means that your squad will consequently pick later in the draft.
The Seattle Seahawks entered Thursday night with only six draft choices, and one of those picks happened to be the final selection of the first round. By the time Seattle ended up on the clock, most of the top prospects had already been plucked by other teams, and general manager John Schneider decided to trade down with the Minnesota Vikings to add an extra fourth round pick. This became a recurring theme for the Seahawks, as they traded down again at pick 40, opting to move down to the 45th pick and acquire another 4th round selection from the Detroit Lions. Eventually, they would also work a deal with the Cincinnati Bengals in the 4th round to move back from pick 111 to 123.
All of this manuevering had to be exhausting for the organization and fans alike, but in the end, the Seahawks managed to walk away from this year's draft with nine new players instead of six. And while many experts have already begun to give Seattle low grades, overlooking this draft class would be a major mistake. Name recognition and drafting don't typically go together for the Seahawks, and that's exactly how management likes it. Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll knew what positions needed to be addressed not just for this year, but next year as well, and the team brought in several players who have high ceilings at the next level.
Everyone knew Seattle needed to grab at least one wideout after watching Golden Tate sign with the Lions in March, but the two receivers that the team selected surprised many. Seattle traded down twice before even making a pick in this draft, and with Cody Latimer still on the board, most expected him to be the primary target at pick 45. However, Schneider decided to pick dynamic play maker Paul Richardson out of Colorado instead, bypassing the bigger, stronger Latimer.
Richardson caught 83 passes for the Buffaloes in 2013, and both Schneider and Pete Carroll were blown away by his 4.33 speed at the combine. On film, he regularly shows an extra gear to beat defenders deep and should form a lethal one-two punch alongside Percy Harvin. Seattle also may try to use Richardson as a punt returner, making him even more valuable if he can stay healthy. He tore his ACL and missed the entire 2012 season, but he bounced back in a big way last year and showed no ill-effects from the injury. If he pans out, he's a very similar player to DeSean Jackson of the Washington Redskins.
By the time the fourth round rolled around, the Seahawks added versatile two-way player Cassius Marsh with the 108th pick and then followed up with another receiver at pick 123, this time selecting Alabama receiver Kevin Norwood. At 6'2, Norwood will bring more size to the receiving core and give Russell Wilson a valuable red zone target. He will turn 25 years old in September and may not have much growth potential, but he will join the Seahawks as a well-polished player with a high football I.Q. and should provide great value for a fourth round selection.
Seattle also addressed holes in the offensive line as expected, but only time will tell if management reached for a few of these players. The most surprising pick came at the end of the second round when the Seahawks nabbed Missouri tackle Justin Britt. Most draft boards viewed Britt as a 4th or 5th round prospect at best, but Seattle clearly held him in higher regard than other teams and brought him on board with the 64th pick. The former Tiger earned All-SEC 1st Team honors as a junior in 2013 and played well against top-flight college competition on a weekly basis. His performance against eventual top pick Jadeveon Clowney caught offensive line coach Tom Cable's attention and played a key role in picking him this early in the draft.
Cable expects Britt to compete for the starting right tackle job immediately, adding, "He’s an ornery, mean guy that plays the game the right way. Obviously with his background and that number of starts in that league against that competition [SEC], that’s important.”
Britt's versatility made him an ideal fit for Seattle, as he can play both guard spots and has experience playing left and right tackle in college. Like Richardson, he tore his ACL in 2012 and has had some durability issues, so the Seahawks looked for insurance later in the draft. The franchise used a 6th round pick to select freak athlete Garrett Scott out of Marshall, who posted a 33 1/2 inch vertical jump at his Pro Day this spring. He's raw technically speaking and won't be ready to play right away, but Cable has shown in the past he can take great athletes and mold them into quality offensive linemen in the NFL. It's rare to find a player of Scott's size (6'5, 310) who can run the 40-yard dash around 5.00 seconds flat, and he'll be an intriguing player to watch develop.
Among the other selections made by Seattle over the past few days, two in particular stand out. The team drafted 6-3, 220-pound safety Eric Pinkins out of San Diego State and have interest in converting him to corner this fall. He ran his 40 in the 4.4s and came to San Diego State as a corner, so it's not out of the question that Carroll and his staff could make this transition a successful one. At worst, he'll be a solid backup for Kam Chancellor at the safety spot and add depth in the secondary. The Seahawks also drafted bruising 250-pound fullback Kiero Small, who claims to have broken 26 opposing facemasks during his football career. That's simply epic.
Last year's draft class had little chance at making an impact on a loaded roster, and it won't be much easier for this group. Fourth round selection Kevin Pierre-Louis out of Boston College may have the best shot to see immediate playing time, especially if the team lets either Malcolm Smith or K.J. Wright walk next season as free agents. Pierre-Louis ran the fastest timed 40-yard dash at the combine for linebackers and excels as a tackler in space, making him an ideal candidate to take over as the Will linebacker in Seattle's defense. His speed could make him a candidate to move to safety as well, but don't expect to see that happen.
Away from Britt and Pierre-Louis, however, it could be tough sledding for other rookies to earn significant playing time early. Richardson could be used to return punts, but he needs to get stronger before he can become a consistent force on offense. Norwood may actually have a better chance of breaking into the starting lineup because of his size and experience, especially if Sidney Rice doesn't come back full strength. Players like Scott and 5th round selection Jimmy Staten face long odds of even making the 53 man roster. Heck, an argument could be made the undrafted free agent signees Jackson Jeffcoat and Dion Bailey may have a better chance at starting on special teams than some players who were actually picked during the draft.
Like last year, it may be tough to truly evaluate this class until a year or two down the road when veterans start to depart during free agency. Eventually, some of these young talents will get an opportunity to play, but that time most likely won't be in 2014 barring an injury epidemic. There's a lot of risk and reward when looking at these prospects, but I believe the Seahawks got great value for most of their selections. There's a lot to like about this draft haul, and it'll be an exciting time watching these youngsters compete in training camp.