The NFL Draft is a grown man’s Christmas. I’ll explain. The similarities between the Draft and childhood memories of Christmas are vast. “Draft Eve”, as my friends call it, is just like Christmas Eve. Why? Because you’re excited about the unknown. Will we really get what we want? Is the gift (or player) that we’ve been hinting at all year going to end up under the tree (selected by our team)? Will we get a present that we didn’t want? Maybe we’ll get the one we wanted, but have it turn out to be a one we’ll give to the Salvation Army in a matter of months. Who knows? The anticipation drives me crazy, but it’s why the NFL Draft has become what it is.
So now that I’ve had time to come down from Christmas, let’s talk about the results. Seattle had a few areas of need entering Saturday. Without a first round pick, fans were relying more than ever that GM Tim Ruskell and the front office had to be at their best. It’ll take some time to determine how good this Draft class is, but I’m excited about some of these players.
Overall, I think the Seahawks had a solid Draft, especially if you factor Deion Branch as your first round selection. Let’s take a look at each pick and offer some other possibilities with each one.
Second Round (pick #55) - Josh Wilson, CB Maryland (5-9, 190) (4.39)
I like this pick, and like it much more than I did on Saturday. The epitome of a Ruskell guy, Wilson will be a very solid player for Seattle. He’s an All-ACC and All-American Honorble Mention, and was also named to the ACC’s All-Academic team.
The first thing that jumps out at you is his speed. He runs legit high 4.3s, but also plays that fast. Some players run well in shorts, but slow down when they strap on the pads. That isn’t the case with Wilson, who can run with any receiver in the NFL. He’s a tad small, but has good bulk for his size. He can jump, which makes his height even less of an issue, and he hits a ton. A player his size shouldn’t be as fearless as he is, but Wilson lays lumber out there. He will remind Seahawk fans of the way Willie Williams attacked ball carriers, but won’t be the liability in coverage Williams was.
I believe last year’s #1 pick, CB Kelly Jennings, will start alongside Marcus Trufant and expect Wilson to push veteran Kelly Herndon immediately for time as Seattle’s nickel corner. Wilson’s also a solid return man, giving the Seahawks another threat on special teams. The lack of talent in the return game has been a five-year problem for the team, but now Seattle has WR Nate Burleson and Wilson, making the unit a very solid one.
Considering the rash of injuries that hit the cornerbacks last season, this pick ensures that won’t happen in 2008. It’s also a great pick for the future. Marcus Trufant is a free agent next season, and while I think he’ll be back, Wilson is a nice insurance policy if he doesn’t return. Great pick for the Seahawks.
Would Rather Have...
Nobody. Wilson was a very nice pick here.
Third Round (pick #85) - Brandon Mebane, DT Cal (6-1, 310) (5.15)
Another solid pick, and one that matches value with need. Defensive tackle was a clear need for Seattle heading into the weekend. He could’ve been selected higher, so I’m glad he was on the board when the Seahawks were picking.
Like Wilson, Mebane is a total Ruskell guy. He’s a two-time All-Pac 10 selection that specializes in stacking the run, but can give you some push up front vs. the pass. He’s a three-year starter who got better every year and was the focus of the opposition’s blocking schemes.
Mebane reminds me of a current Seahawk, Chuck Darby, but is much more stout and plays the run better. He’s squatty, stays low and really pushes the pile. He should be a great addition to the defensive tackle rotation and will see considerable time. With Marcus Tubbs’ health status still very much up in the air, Mebane gives Seattle a great run-stopping option. Veteran defensive tackles Russell Davis and Craig Terrill had better be on their toes this year.
Would Rather Have...
Nobody. I love this pick. Mebane’s production and value are uncontested. I think he’s a great fit for the defense and will be a factor in Seattle’s defensive resurgence in 2007.
Fourth Round (pick #120) - Baraka Atkins, DE Miami (6-5, 270) (4.7)
Very impressive size and speed. I thought Seattle would add a bigger defensive end in this Draft (I predicted Ray McDonald in Round 2) and am very happy to see Atkins here. Atkins is a four-year starter, which is an amazing achievement in itself, playing both tackle and end for the Hurricanes. His versatility is a huge bonus. He should be a solid rotation defensive, but also could move inside during obvious passing downs. While he did participate in the FIU brawl, Atkins is considered a high character guy. Because Seattle’s other defensive ends are considerably smaller, I like what Atkins brings to the table. We should get an idea of what the coaches want to do with him this summer.
Would Rather Have...
Again, I like this pick, so I’m content to stay with it. Atkins should be a solid backup with starting potential and give excellent versatility along the defensive line.
Fourth Round (pick #124) - Mansfield Wrotto, G Georgia Tech (6-3, 320) (5.4)
Switched to offense last year after three successful years on the defensive line. Has good size and athleticism, with above average feet. Played right tackle last year, and did a solid job against some stiff competition. Opened some eyes at the Senior Bowl and impressed coaches at the NFL Combine. It’s hard to evaluate because he’s only been on the offensive line for one season, making him one of the rawest players in this year’s Draft. However, his athleticism, feet and ability make him worthy of this pick. Seattle recently re-signed veteran guards Chris Gray and Floyd Womack, giving them the flexibility to take a player who may need a year or two to become truly effective.
Would Rather Have...
Josh Beekman, G Boston College.
Wrotto was my first head-scratcher pick for Seattle. It’s not that I don’t like Wrotto, because I do, I just think that Beekman is a much more polished, battle-tested player who will be a better pro. I agree that Wrotto is a better athlete, but Beekman is the kind of pure football player that opens eyes on game day, not when he’s standing around in shorts.
The Seahawks tried this once before when they selected OT Wayne Hunter and it didn’t turn out too well. Hunter, like Wrotto, was a converted defensive lineman that was a much better athlete than a football player. By no means do I think Wrotto will be a bust like Hunter was, because Hunter also had character issues, but it’s an example of what can happen when you take an athlete instead of a football player.
Fifth round (pick #161) - Will Herring, LB Auburn (6-3, 230) (4.7)
Another player who recently switched positions, Herring made the move from safety to OLB. Started 49 consecutive games for a huge program, which is very impressive. Is a bit undersized for the position, but his instincts make up for it. Herring, not surprisingly, runs very well and is solid in coverage. He was also very consistent at Auburn, but was more effective tackling than creating turnovers or sacks. This kid will be a huge special teams demon, picking up where Isaiah Kacyvenski left off. He should be a fan favorite immediately and provide nice depth on the outside.
Would Rather Have...
TE Ben Patrick; LB Tim Shaw; LB Rufus Alexander.
Again, it’s not that I don’t like Herring, but I felt this pick was made a round too early. I would’ve preferred to have TE Ben Patrick, who was my #3 tight end this year, or Penn State’s Tim Shaw, a versatile player who’s can play any linebacker position and also saw time at defensive end.
Herring will be solid in coverage and on special teams, but I think Patrick would’ve been a great pick for Seattle and Shaw’s versatility would’ve brought more to the team.
Alexander was also rated higher on my board, but probably won’t be as good on special teams as Herring will be. I also think that with the depth Seattle has at safety, Michael Boulware should be switched back to OLB. Seahawk fans need to face the fact that Boulware is more effective as a nickel LB and can’t be counted on in deep coverage.
Sixth Round (pick #197) - Courtney Taylor, WR Auburn (6-2, 205) (4.65)
Very athletic, and gets off the line-of-scrimmage well. Isn’t a deep threat, but fits into what Seattle wants to run. Should be successful on short to intermediate routes. Made a ton of third down grabs and goes up to get the ball. Solid route runner. Doesn’t have elite hands, but isn’t bad in this area either. Has some nagging injury problems that he’ll have to shake in order to be effective. Taylor is a nice developmental player who, like his Tiger teammate Ben Obomanu, needs time on the practice squad before he’ll be ready to contribute.
Would Rather Have...
C/G Doug Datish; TE Ben Patrick; TE Michael Allan.
I don’t want to keep repeating myself, but it’s not that I don’t like Taylor, I just think that if you’re going to bring in a player that’s going to be the developmental type, get one that has the chance to earn a roster spot. Datish is a versatile player who can play center or guard, but can also long snap. I hate giving up a valuable roster spot to someone that’s purely a long snapper, and doesn’t contribute anywhere else. Datish could’ve solved that problem. Patrick, as previously mentioned, was very high on my board, as was Allan. The Seahawks have a hole at TE and could’ve used both players.
Sixth Round (pick #210) - Jordan Kent, WR Oregon (6-4, 215) (4.5)
The definition of a developmental player, Kent has impressive size and athleticism. He’s also one of the best athletes in the country, earning letters in basketball, track and football. Kent is a four-time All-American in track, running the 4x100. He’s also smart, being named to Academic All-American teams six times. Is as raw as it gets, but also had much more production than most new players to the game. Kent notched 44 catches and 4 touchdowns and was a huge third-down target where 30 of his catches were for first downs. Kent is big, fast and very quick, making him a very attractive prospect. I like this pick and believe that he can be a factor after a season or two on the practice squad.
Would Rather Have...
TE Ben Patrick; TE Michael Allan.
For the same reasons above, but also because I think Kent would’ve been available with Seattle’s seventh-round selection.
Seventh Round (pick #232)- Steve Vallos, G Wake Forest (6-3, 295) (5.2)
Four-year starter who earned All-ACC honors as a senior – he was honorable mention as a junior – and was named to some All-American teams. Played every position except center, giving him tremendous versatility. Is a leader, and a typical Ruskell pick. Isn’t big enough to play tackle in the NFL, but has a shot at guard. Needs to gain some weight and will need time to develop. Should be a practice squad guy this year, but has potential to be a backup.
Would Rather Have...
G Mike Jones; G Tala Esera; OT Julius Wilson
I’ve had a man-crush on Wilson for quite a while, viewing him as a solid guard prospect. Jones and Esera were also better options, in my opinion. Jones saw much better competition and Esera has the size teams covet. However, this is a seventh-round pick, so I’m not going to get too upset about it.
Most Seattle fans that I spoke with weren’t very happy with this Draft, but I don’t understand it.
I think most fans aren’t excited about a Draft unless it has a ton of star power, which this Draft doesn’t offer. However, if you count Branch as your first-round pick, this draft is very solid, and does bring a “star” to Seattle.
I don’t think anyone can argue that Branch wasn’t a much better option than any player the Seahawks could’ve selected at #24 (the pick traded for Branch). The team added a very fast, tough cover corner who can push for considerable playing time and be a factor on special teams.
Mebane will add much needed depth at defensive tackle. Wrotto has the potential to be special, but needs some time to develop. Herring should be a star on special teams and add depth. Taylor and Kent will also need a season to better their craft, but have the potential to be solid players and Vallos could be a backup in time.
Fact is, we don’t know what will happen with these eight players. That’s what makes the NFL Draft great. I know some of us are happy with these guys, and I know some are also disappointed that Seattle didn’t select other players. But does it really matter now? They’re all Seahawks, and we’ll cheer for them.
While I like this class, I have to voice my opinion on how disappointed I am in the front office’s decision to trade veteran WR Darrell Jackson to NFC West-rival San Francisco 49ers. D-Jack definitely had his issues, whether it was his health, his contract status and Seattle’s obvious desire to go in another direction with Branch, Burleson and Hackett, but trading him to a division rival was not the answer.
I’m not buying the hype that San Francisco is ready to challenge Seattle for the NFC West crown yet, but they’re close. Going into the weekend, San Francisco had some holes, but maybe none was bigger than their lack of talent at receiver. Seattle has just given San Francisco a huge piece of their roster puzzle, and you can bet Jackson will be circling his calendar when Seattle comes to town.
League-wide, Jackson’s value clearly wasn’t what everyone originally thought, but if it was that bad, why not take a fifth-round selection from Tennessee, Jacksonville or Kansas City? Trading a solid player to a team in your division is never a good idea and, in my judgment, Seattle just made a big mistake.
Around the League:
Some Drafts I really liked...
• Carolina - Their first four players (LB Jon Beason, WR Dwayne Jarrett, C Ryan Kalil and DE Charles Johnson) were all Round 1 guys on most boards. I’m not crazy about Jarrett, but they got great value with all of these players.
• Indianapolis - WR Anthony Gonzalez will be huge in their offense, OT Tony Ugoh should start soon, CB Daymeion Hughes fits their defensive scheme to a “T” and DT Quinn Pitcock fills a big need. CB Michael Coe was also a steal in Round 5.
• Dallas - OLB Anthony Spencer should flourish in the 3-4 and OTs James Marten and Doug Free should be starters. But getting an additional Round 1 pick next year for trading with Cleveland is huge. It should be a Top-10 pick and Dallas is going to be smiling next year.
• Atlanta - DE Jamaal Anderson will be a starter, as will G/T Justin Blalock. I don’t know why CB Chris Houston slipped to pick 41, but the Falcons now have three very solid corners. CB David Irons and C/G Doug Datish were huge pickups in Round 6.
Some that were bad, really bad...
• Tennessee - S Michael Griffin is nice, but taken way too early and not a position of need for the Titans. RB Chris Henry could be a nice pick, but was taken two rounds too early. WR Paul Williams is a burner, but the Titans need someone more polished who can play right now.
• Philadelphia - QB Kevin Kolb was a reach and defensive back depth is an issue.
• San Diego - WR Craig Davis is solid, but there were several receivers on the board who were better. Trading up for S Eric Weddle was questionable, but I like him.
• Miami - Maybe the biggest reach in Round 1, the selection of WR Ted Ginn was a bad move. QB Brady Quinn should’ve been the pick there and Dolphins fans know it. Watching Cam Cameron trying to spin that pick was painful. I like the rest of their Draft, though.
Things I noticed...
• Kudos to Commissioner Roger Goodell for pulling QB Brady Quinn out of the green room and allowing him to have some privacy. Watching a player get disappointed pick after pick isn’t exciting; it’s like watching a train wreck. Who can blame OT Joe Thomas for turning down the NFL to go fishing instead?
• Buffalo doesn’t care about what anyone says, right or wrong. Last year they took S Donte Whitner and DT Jonathan McCargo higher than most people anticipated and this year they reached on RB Marshawn Lynch. Whitner was a big hit, but they made a mistake by not trading with Cleveland, who offered next year’s #1 (same deal they gave Dallas) to grab Quinn.
• San Francisco, St. Louis and Arizona are closing the gap on Seattle, but don’t believe the constant hype from ESPN and NFL Network that one of them will win the West. Each year we hear guys like Sean Salisbury and Marshall Faulk say how Arizona is going to beat Seattle, blah blah blah. Look, Seattle’s starters missed more time to injury than any other team in the league last year, so don’t think that’s happening again. The race is closer, but Seattle’s still in the driver’s seat.
• The recent signing of TE Jerramy Stevens by Tampa Bay only more deeply confirms something we already know: If you’re a talented football player, someone will always take a chance on you, know matter what kind of character you have. Does anyone really think that Pac Man Jones wouldn’t get picked up if he were to be released? DT Tank Johnson? It’s pathetic.
• For the second straight year Denver has taken a character risk. Last year it was RB Maurice Clarett, this year it’s DT Marcus Thomas. Thomas isn’t even close to being the problem Clarett was, but I was a bit surprised they took Thomas after “Grey Goose” came to town.
• WR Keyshawn Johnson is horrible behind a desk. But then again, he’s horrible on the field. I’ve never seen a more glorified player who’s completely average. He’s never been great, only good, and hasn’t even been good for years. I’d rather have 75 receivers in the NFL than him and would take Seattle’s Bobby Engram twice before I picked Johnson. Bobby’s got the same skills, but with no attitude.
• How great was it to see Michael Vick get booed as he stood next on stage to honor Virginia Tech’s recent tragedy. Maybe booing him at that time was harsh, but it’s got to let Goodell know that Vick isn’t the commodity some people think he is. I’ll never understand people who prefer to be flashy, but not very good. Vick’s time is just about up. Prediction – “With Atlanta’s first pick in the 2008 Draft, they select QB Brian Brohm.”
• Dallas, probably the only team who didn’t have a huge glaring weakness heading into the Draft, will look even better next year. It’s such a tremendous luxury to have two first-round picks and Jerry Jones, who has actually done a decent job of selecting players recently, will have the chance to make a huge splash next year with that kind of ammunition. Does anyone really think that Cleveland will be good? I sure don’t and that means that pick is going to be in the top 10 next year.
• Notable Players Who Fell Down Boards Not Named Brady Quinn: CB Tanard Jackson, RB Antonio Pittman, TE Ben Patrick and WR Andrae Allison. I thought all would be Day 1 picks, but I guess that’s why I’m writing this column and not in an NFL front office.
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