Five Burning Questions, Part Two

As the 2005 NFL Draft approaches, several specific questions fill the minds of Seahawk Nation. Seahawks.NET's Scott Eklund and Ryan Rigmaiden pen the second installment of "Five Burning Questions".

(Editor's Note: Click here for the first installment of Five Burning Questions.)

1. If the Seahawks select a QB, which they usually do, what round do you think they will take one and who might be the best one available at that point? What quarterback would you like to see them take?

Scott Eklund: I think the Seahawks will take a quarterback this year. They lost Trent Dilfer in the trade with Cleveland and I think Holmgren will select a man from his favorite position.

I don’t think they will take a prospect on day one, but with that extra third rounder, you never know. I think the Hawks have too many needs on the defensive side, but having a backup QB who can come into the games is a must. I think they could select a guy in the fourth round, and there are several that are quality guys who could be there.

My favorites are either Kyle Orton from Purdue or Dan Orlovsky from Connecticut . Orton was in the running for the Heisman until his fumble against Wisconsin in late October. He comes from a complicated passing offense and head coach Joe Tiller is known as a quarterback guru in his own right. He is also a solid leader who has a strong arm and a knack for making plays out of nothing. Reminds me a lot of Matt Hasselbeck in that he doesn’t have great athletic ability, but he makes good decisions and can read defenses well.

Orlovsky was the best player on an underrated UConn team. He has a strong arm, is accurate and has the size and strength to stand tough in the pocket. He is also a solid field general who made plays with players who were below average in ability compared to his opponents. Orlovsky has no fear and is almost in the mold of a Brett Favre in his competitiveness.

If the Hawks can’t get either of these guys, look for them to take a flier on a guy like Montana ’s Craig Ochs, Louisville ’s Stefan Lefors or Miami ’s Brock Berlin in the sixth or seventh round.

Of those three, Berlin is the most intriguing to me. He had problems with his mechanics most of his career, but he has resolved some of these issues and has played at a very high level of competition for his entire career in college (one season at Florida and two at Miami ). The light began to come on with Berlin last season and he has all the necessary tools to be a solid starter in the NFL.

Ryan Rigmaiden: I wouldn’t look for a QB any earlier than Round 3. A guy I really like is Arizona State ’s Andrew Walter. He’s a big, strong-armed pocket passer that could’ve been a high pick if he didn’t need surgery in the offseason. Harvard’s Ryan Fitzpatrick and Gino Guidugli of Cincinnati are late-round guys that could be solid backups with time.

The additional 3 rd and 4 th Round picks the ‘Hawks have received may play a part in selecting a QB. Because of these additional picks, the ‘Hawks may pull the trigger on a QB earlier than they usually would have. But unless a highly rated QB slips, don’t expect Seattle to grab one early.

2. Why is selecting the best player available better than filling a need at a given position?

Scott Eklund: When you are selecting it is always better to take the best player available. You are never, ever, under no circumstances, better off reaching for need when there is a better player available.

A perfect example of this was the Seahawks’ selection of DE Lamar King in 1999. Then new coach Mike Holmgren determined he needed a pass-rusher and King, who was a standout at a small college, was the best player at his position on the board. Problem was he wasn’t the best player available.

Buffalo selected CB Antoine Winfield (now with Minnesota ) with the next selection (#23); Jacksonville selected CB Fernando Bryant (now with Detroit ) at #25; Atlanta selected standout DE/LB Patrick Kerney at 30; and the Broncos selected LB Al Wilson at #31.

Would the Seahawks have been better off had they selected any one of these guys instead of King? I think so. Kerney is a game-changing player for the Falcons and he has added bulk allowing him to play the run better. Wilson has been a solid starter at MLB for the Broncos for six seasons, starting almost immediately as a rookie. His abilities have been sorely missed in Seattle ’s defense.

Now, hindsight is 20/20 obviously, but over and over teams that select the best player available, regardless of position, come out ahead in the long run.

Last year it seemed the Hawks reached for Texas DT Marcus Tubbs, when they could have possibly traded down and selected him later. Will Tubbs reach his full potential? Let’s hope so. He is entering his second season after his first season was largely a waste.

Reaching for a player takes value out of the selection and sets your team up for failure in the long run.

Ryan Rigmaiden: Most of the time, it is better because you’re adding more talent to your team rather than filling a need with one player. Perennial playoff teams like Philadelphia and New England , who have talent and depth across the board, can afford to “reach” on a player because they have the talent to back it up in case the move doesn’t pan out. However, if a team like Cleveland or San Francisco reaches on a player and fails, your already struggling franchise has to endure more difficulty.

Baltimore is a great example of a team that takes talent over need. They grabbed All Pro S Ed Reed when they had bigger needs (QB and WR) and look what he’s done for their defense. TE Todd Heap was definitely a highly ranked player coming out of Arizona State , but Baltimore already had Shannon Sharpe on the roster. Some teams would’ve been content to grab a different player, but GM Ozzie Newsome knew that Heap would be Sharpe’s heir apparent and made the selection.

By going for talent instead of need you have a better chance of improving as a TEAM, rather than trying to grab that one guy you think you need.

3. Since you looked at defensive ends in your last article, can you tell us which linebacker you would like to see the Hawks draft most and why?

Scott Eklund: Texas LB Derrick Johnson has been on my wish list all season long. However, unless the Hawks make someone within the first five selections an offer they can’t refuse, then Johnson won’t be donning a Seahawks jersey next season.

With that said, the guy I would love for the Hawks to look at in round three is Oklahoma MLB Lance Mitchell. The only concern with him is a knee injury from 2003. He did not look like the same Lance Mitchell I watched the year before. In 2002, he was an absolute terror who stuffed the run well and pursued sideline-to-sideline. He was a feared competitor who punished any ball-carrier he came in contact with.

The torn ACL in 2003, after getting off to a stellar start, took away his entire junior season and sapped some of his aggressiveness and speed. He wasn’t the same player, hesitating on some cuts and making fewer tackles than his normal ability would have allowed. His poor showing at the Combine, where he ranked near the bottom of the linebackers in several categories (4.89 40-yard dash, 15 reps of 225 and 4.38 short shuttle) has a few teams viewing him as a second day selection.

I wouldn’t go that far.

With a little more time to separate his mind from the injury and with some solid work in the weight room (something that has been happening since his poor performance in Indianapolis), I think the team that takes a chance on Mitchell will be pleasantly surprised with the performance of this mid-round gem.

Ryan Rigmaiden: Seattle ’s biggest need at LB is someone who can rush the passer. D.D. Lewis is a solid cover ‘backer and SS Michael Boulware, who plays LB in the nickel packages, is also very good. But outside of veteran Chad Brown, no one’s a real threat as a pass rusher. Virginia ’s Darryl Blackstock is someone who can rush the passer as well as anyone. Tennessee ’s Kevin Burnett could also get a few looks. However, since both of these players are earning Round 1 grades (Blackstock may even go in the top-20), the ‘Hawks will have to grab one early.

Seattle ’s coaches seem to really like Niko Koutouvides at MLB, but depth across the board definitely could be upgraded. Florida ’s Channing Crowder, Georgia ’s Odell Thurman and Nebraska ’s Barrett Ruud are all players who could challenge for a starting job, but expect all of them to be gone when Seattle is picking in Round 2.

Other LB’s who could help the front seven:

Robert McCune, ILB Louisville
Kirk Morrison, ILB San Diego State
Marcus Lawrence, ILB South Carolina
Lance Mitchell, ILB Oklahoma
Rian Wallace, ILB Temple
Adam Seward, ILB UNLV
Michael Boley, OLB Southern Miss
Leroy Hill, OLB Clemson

4. What is the most important thing to look for in a player…production or potential?

Scott Eklund: I think I represent most people when I say that production has more weight than potential.

Almost every player in the NFL is a great athlete. They all have basically the same speed, same abilities and same intensity (you don’t get as far as they have without it), but what sets players apart is their heart and desire to make plays.

You can look at players with tons of potential, but if they haven’t produced at the college level, well, you probably aren’t going to get much more in the NFL. If anything, they will disappoint you because their production does not meet their abilities.

“There is nothing sadder than wasted potential” is one of my favorite quotes.

Ryan Rigmaiden: Production. If a player’s had success at college, he usually has a better chance of having success in the NFL. It doesn’t mean that players that didn’t do well in college can’t have a good career, because they can. But look across the NFL at its superstars. Most of them were stars in college, too. Especially with the first two rounds, I’d generally prefer to go production first and then potential because teams need to have success with their earlier picks. That’s why teams will usually shy away from players that haven’t had the kind of production they should have until Day 2.

However, as the Draft moves along, grabbing guys with a ton of potential increases because the risk of getting a “bust” decreases. Remember, there are no Day 2 busts.

5. Are the 40-yard dash, vertical leap and bench press overrated evaluation tools? Do GMs and coaches look at these too much?

Scott Eklund: More than anything, I think the 40 yard dash is the most overrated stat in sports. Football players rarely run 40 yards. For wide receivers and cornerbacks, typically the fastest players on most rosters, the sprint time is most relevant, but change of direction and quickness are almost as important.

A short-shuttle or three-cone timing is a much better indicator of quickness and wasted steps. Each position, from quarterback to lineman, relies on quick feet and explosive moves, something that can be measured in these two drills.

The bench is important to see what sort of upper-body strength a player has, but few players, other than offensive and defensive linemen need brute upper-body strength. A linebacker for instance needs strong hands, so he can use a rip move to disengage from a blocker. Does it help to have great upper-body strength? Of course, but it isn’t the end-all-be-all for a linebacker.

The vertical is probably the best indicator of explosiveness in a player. It is even more important for shorter players, as it adds to the number of plays they can make when a ball is overthrown or seemingly out of their reach.

I think some coaches, scouts and GMs get wooed by what some like to label “workout warriors”. These are guys who have had so-so production, but then flash amazing athleticism at the combine and in individual workouts (see above answer to #4). Former Philadelphia Eagles DE Mike Mamula is a perfect example of this.

When Mamula played for Boston College he was productive, but not outstanding. But he was amazing in his workouts. Wowing everyone in attendance with a 35-inch vertical, 4.55 40 time and 25-plus reps of 225 pounds. His physical attributes (6’4”, 265 pounds) in addition to his athleticism equaled a top ten selection (the Eagles took him seventh in the first round in 1995) in most people’s eyes. However, in three years he was relegated to bench-warmer and was soon out of the league.

All of the talent evaluators in the NFL can get too caught up in talent and not pay enough attention to what they guy did between the hash-marks on gameday and that can be a deadly combination.

Ryan Rigmaiden: They’re definitely overrated and GM’s are now starting to realize it. Scouts and the sports media go crazy over a guy that can run a 4.3, jump out the gym and bench press 225 pounds 40+ times. That’s great athleticism, but it doesn’t mean you’re going to be a great football player.

When I first started evaluating players I fell into the same trap. A player I really liked was ILB Torrance Marshall from Oklahoma . He had a decent career for the Sooners, but then he had some amazing workouts and I wanted the ‘Hawks to take him in the worst way. But he isn’t the most “football intelligent” player and in four years has racked up a whopping 17 tackles and only started 2 games.

The reverse is also true. DE Darren Howard was a solid DE at Kansas State , but when he ran disappointing 40 times he slipped to Round 2 in 2000. He’s gone on to become a very good DE for the New Orleans Saints and was easily worth the 2 nd Rounder they paid for him.

The recent rise to domination by New England has given scouts and NFL personnel evaluators a different idea of how to evaluate talent. The concept of TEAM and system are more of a factor now then they used to be. They’re now not dismissing players as quickly when they run lesser 40 times or can’t jump as high. Instead they’re asking themselves whether or not that particular player can have success within their respective systems. Intelligence and football awareness, probably the two most overlooked factors of evaluating talent, are now being looked at much, much closer.

Scott Eklund and Ryan Rigmaiden both write for Seahawks.NET, and they're coordinating our draft coverage through this month.

You can reach Scott at sctthawk@yahoo.com, and Ryan at rlrigmaiden@hotmail.com.

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