We've now reached the NFC West, home of my beloved 49ers. Whereas normally I try and do these things alphabetically, except of course when I did the first division, the NFC South, and accidentally ended up doing the Saints before I did the Panthers (I hate the Panthers), this time I'm going to deliberately skip Arizona and San Francisco, instead jumping straight in with the Seattle Seahawks.
The reason for this is because the Seahawks have taken a ton of flak for their draft, which overall I personally thought wasn't that bad. Some of the players I hadn't seen prior to the draft being made, but the ones I had I was impressed with. There are some good players in there, though I suspect much of the scorn was directed at their first round choice of James Carpenter from Alabama, who of the ones I hadn't had a good look at prior to the draft.
So I went back and finally did get a good look at him, their first round pick and 25th overall. So was he any good?
Hell yes he was! I honestly don't get why everyone is crying about Carpenter. Does he occasionally make mistakes? Yes he does. But guess what? So does Tom Brady. So does Peyton Manning. So did Joe Montana back in his day. So did Ronnie Lott, probably one of the greatest football players in the history of the NFL.
Nobody is perfect, so instead what we're looking for is a relatively consistent level of performance across a broad spectrum of plays. And that's exactly what you get with James Carpenter. You get a left tackle who barely put a foot wrong in pass protection and was very strong in the running game as well.
He gets great knee bend, has great leverage when he's blocking, uses his hands well and can cope with a variety of rush moves, including bull rushes and speed off the edge. He moves his feet well and sticks with his block for as long as legally possible. In the run game he cuts well, but really shines when he takes an angle and uses power on a D-linemen.
If I had one knock on him then it would be that sometimes he can get confused by overload blitzes, where he ends up picking up the wrong guy. But that isn't always true of those situations and in general his vision is really good.
So why is everyone getting all pent up over Carpenter? He may not have been the highest rated player on some peoples boards, but that's their boards and not the Seahawks. I didn't have this guy on my radar really going into the draft, but now that I've had a chance to kick back and watch a decent amount of his game tape I'm impressed.
I can easily see how a linemen like Carpenter would creep up someones board. And don't give me all that "but so and so analyst had him rated as a late second rounder". Well good for them, but two things; 1) Seattle didn't have a late second rounder, 2) if Seattle feels he's a first rounder, which I can agree with, then there's no reason why they shouldn't take him just because other people don't like him.
I go back to the whole Cam Newton thing again. I hate Newton as a quarterback. I think he's gonna suck. But that's my opinion, my board. If the Panthers thought he was the number one guy then I can understand why they would take him. I just can't understand what they see in him. But hey ho.
So yeah, I think the Seahawks actually did pretty well with their first rounder and God knows this team needs O-line help. They now have two young first round tackles to build their future O-line around & to protect their QB, so in the long run that's a really good starting point.
But without a second round pick in 2011 it became all the more important for the Seahawks to find the right guy in the third round. In keeping (the chains moving. Sorry) with their theme of working on O-line, they went with Guard John Moffitt from Wisconsin. I really like this pick, not just because I like Moffitt, but also because of the joined up way they're going about rebuilding their O-line. Having taken two tackles in two years, it made sense to go looking for a good interior linemen as well.
And believe me, Moffitt has the skills for that. Moffitt is strong and consistently demonstrated good technique throughout, especially the use of his hands. Footwork was good, in particular when run blocking. He has a real talent for getting inside the playside shoulder of the D-linemen and then flipping his hips into the hole and turning the defender out. Vision and awareness was also good, picking up blitzes and line stunts. I really like Moffitt and think that he'll be a great asset to that O-line.
Next, in round four, was linebacker K.J. Wright from Mississippi State, another player who I didn't get a look at prior to the draft. I've since had a look and I'm of a mixed opinion. Wright is quick and he seems to be pretty alert mentally to what's going on around him. He tackles really well and tracks well across the field, always taking good angles.
The but is that he isn't very strong. You could clearly see that he didn't have the strength to fight his was through blocks at the college level. That's fine, providing you don't want him to do anything more strenuous than consume a block in order to allow a second rusher to come free. But if you're looking for a legitimate pass rush then Wright is not your man.
He also doesn't stand up to run blocks very well. He's just doesn't seem to have the size and strength to take people on. Even wide receivers look like they might be a handful for him. It's a shame really, because he looks like a very committed player, flying around the field and desperately trying to get stuck in wherever he can. He might have a future as a pass defending, weak side type of kid, but I just can't see him lasting as a legitimate linebacker in the NFL. Sorry.
The Seahawks picked again in round four, courtesy of the earlier trade with Detroit that saw them give up their second rounder for a third and a fourth (the third was used on Moffitt, with their original 3rd rounder given up in the Charlie Whitehurst trade last year). This fourth round pick was used on Kris Durham, the wide receiver from Georgia. Conveniently this was another player I hadn't seen, so it was off to do a bit more watchy, watchy. I think I'm watching more football now in a lockout than I did during the bloody season.
Anyway, what's Durham like? Well it doesn't help when you're on the same team as A.J. Green, let's put it that way. The trouble I have is that Durham really didn't get enough throws his way for me to be able to talk reliably about his hands. The passes that I did see come his way were caught, providing the pass was "catchable". You can't really blame the receiver when the ball is so high and behind them that they can barely get their finger tips to it.
The upside is that I got to see Durham running a lot of routes and also got a healthy look at him blocking, both of which he does really well. He doesn't appear to be bursting with speed, but his route running is pretty crisp and he has the technique to overcome tight coverage. His blocking on screen passes and run plays is also good. He's one of those kids who doesn't really have the raw strength to be muscling people around, but does so anyway because of how committed he is to the block and because he dives right in there.
I came away with a really good impression of him, which is good news for the Seahawks because they need more quality receivers.
Onto the fifth round and again the Seahawks are picking twice thanks to their trade with Detroit. Their first pick, 154th overall was actually the original Lions pick, and with it Seattle took cornerback Richard Sherman. Who I hadn't seen. So off I go again. Where's that Standford tape?
Oh my god that was hideous!! Ok, I'll give the critics this one. Sherman sucks. He plays the run almost as bad as Antonio Cromartie. But normally you can get away with that as a corner by providing quality pass coverage (it worked for Deion Sanders at least). Unfortunately Sherman doesn't do that. There is such a thing as loose coverage, but then there appears to be "Sherman Loose". In fact it's so loose it's likes he's not even on the field.
Come the end of training camp and time to make cuts, that might just be a literal statement.
Seattle's second pick in round five is one of my absolute favourites of the whole draft; Mark LeGree, safety, from Appalachian State. I love this kid, absolutely love him. Everything you see on game day is impressive, and importantly for me he brought that same high standard game after game.
Quick as lightning on the field, has amazing vision of what's going on around him (routes etc) and has great instincts for sniffing out plays. A truly great all round defensive player, I think he's going to be a solid hit in the NFL. Sitting back there alongside Earl Thomas, I can see those two causing people all kinds of nightmares. Really impressive.
On to round six and the Seahawks landed corner Byron Maxwell from Clemson. another good player to help boost that secondary, Maxwell is a tough, physical corner, which is right up my street. He closes quickly on the ball when it goes airborne and he has pretty good instincts to boot. Round six was a good place for him to land and maybe given a year or two he'll develop into an excellent corner.
Seventh round now and the Seahawks used their standard pick (they also had a compensatory selection) to bring in Lazarius Levingston, defensive tackle, LSU. And guess what? That's right. Back to the tape...
.... Annnnd he spent half the time on the bench and the other half doing nothing worthy of note. For such a big guy he has a worrying knack of becoming invisible.
Final pick for the Seahawks, their compensatory selection which they used to take Malcolm Smith, Linebacker from USC. As a seventh round pick I don't see how you can really argue with taking Malcolm Smith. He's a tough kid and despite his size he showed some nice speed in the open field, especially running back interceptions and fumbles.
The thing I like most about Smith though is his patience against the run. What I mean by that is that he sits back, sort of lingering on the five yard line while moving laterally across the field, tracking the running back as he comes up to the line. What this allows him to do is to avoid getting blocked up easily in the initial stages of a run play and instead he can follow the ball carrier to the hole and then meet him to make the stop.
This isn't such a desirable trait for 4-3 linebackers, who usually have one gap that they have to protect and so really just need to steam in and fill it, but for a 3-4 inside linebacker this is a really useful skill to have. In such a scheme, the defensive line are expected to occupy blocks and play a two gap scheme, leaving the linebackers largely free to move around and make plays. That's where someone like Smith comes in. With the freedom to track along the line and then stuff the running back for just a 2 or 3 yard gain, I can see Smith becoming a great asset to the Seahawks.
That then is your 2011 Seattle Seahawks draft class. And like I said, I really don't think it's that bad. a couple of misses in my opinion, but even then no team is expected to hit with all its picks. About a 60% success ratio is usually a pretty good rating and I personally think the Seahawks have achieved that with this class.
It'll be interesting to see where they go in free agency and to see if they try and hold on to Matt Hasselbeck or whether they just roll with Charlie Whitehurst. Either way I think the Seahawks have made some good moves here in the draft, especially helping to boost that O-line. If they can get the running backs that they picked up last year into the season healthy, then I think they have the makings of strong running game.
The defensive side has also taken a lift. Hopefully now with guys like LeGree, Maxwell and Smith they'll start to bring together the collection of good players that they have on defense and start building a regular winning unit. They have definitely made themselves even more competitive in the NFC West and I think now they might start to bring some surprises to teams on the road.
2011 could well be another great season for Seattle and its Bill-Walsh-A-Like Head Coach Pete Carroll.
Next up, the Arizona Cardinals. But just before I disappear I want to draw your attention to the new Videos section at NFL.com. I'm not sure how long it's been like this now because I haven't been over there in ages, but I dropped in because I wanted to see the clip of Chad Ochocinco "riding" a bull.
Now I thought NFL.com's video section was bad before. Now it's just plain ridiculous. It's an absolute, unintuitive joke. Even with some of the recent shitty updates YouTube looks like a model of efficient and well thought out design by comparison. It is just freaking awful.
I'd love to know who's in charge of all the video stuff on NFL.com, because if Roger Goodell ever bothers to check it out one day then he's going to be after that guys butt with a firey poker quicker than you can say "YOUR VIDEO SECTION SUCKS!!!"
Ahem. Now it's that time of the month/season/cycle/whatever where I shamelessly beg for people to share my website with as many people as they humanly can. C'mon! How hard is it to drop a link on your facebook page? There could be literally 200 of your friends just dying to read a witty, in depth, well thought out and illuminating blog about football.
And in the mean time they could be filling the void by reading mine.