Point/Counterpoint: Draft a QB in the 1st?

Point/Counterpoint: Draft a QB in the 1st?

In this first counterpoint article, guest columnist Rob Staton discusses why taking a QB in the first round may not be such a risk.

If there's one thing the Seattle Seahawks need to do this off season, and more specifically the 2009 NFL draft, it's find an identity on offense.
Personally, I haven't got a clue what that it is right now. We've moved on from a time when we had a dominant offensive line, creating holes so Shaun Alexander can break off big runs and have multi-touchdown games.

Last year it was all about the pass with Matt Hasselbeck leading the offense pretty much on his own. He went to the pro-bowl and had a career year statistically. But the running game in 2007 was a shadow of its former self.

A year later and neither the run nor pass has worked out. We're ranked 29th in the NFL on offense - the teams worse than us? Detroit, Oakland and Cincinnati. Even the St. Louis Rams are a couple of places higher than us.

I accept that injuries have played a huge part in this. We've had a merry-go-round at quarterback with Hasselbeck, Seneca Wallace and Charlie Frye all getting starts. Our receiving situation at the start of the year was farcical - how else can you describe the panic signing of Keary Colbert and Koren Robinson?

But this is an aging, predictable offense that needs an injection of life.

That means taking some playmakers in the 2009 NFL Draft.

Whether it's a new franchise quarterback, a wide receiver or even a running back we need to find someone who can take this offense forward on the field. A player or two that teams have to game plan, that they dread facing on a Sunday.

Someone Seattle can get behind to rebuild the offense as we adjust from Holmgren's west coast offense to a new incarnation led by Jim Mora and his staff.

I hear the arguments that say we should take an offensive tackle. My answer would be, what you going to do with them for the next three years?

Walter Jones may be missing a few games at the end of the 2008 season, but otherwise he has consistently been on the field. He doesn't seem in any rush to retire and still harbors ambition of getting a championship ring to complete a wonderful career. Whilst Walter is fit and healthy, he will start.

A young offensive tackle taken in the top five of the 2009 NFL draft will cost a ton of money. Jake Long, taken first overall last year, cost the Dolphins $57.5m with $30m guaranteed. Joe Thomas, taken third overall in 2006 cost the Browns $43m, of which $23m was guaranteed.

Do you want to pay a tackle that much money to sit on the sidelines waiting for Walter Jones to retire?

You can argue they could slot in at guard. To me, Michael Oher doesn't look like a guard. I'm not sure he's nasty enough to play the position or whether he can pick up line coach Mike Solari's complicated packages. Alternatively, Andre Smith looks almost too much like a guard. I'm not sure how he'll fare against elite speed rushing defensive ends, which renders his selection that early as questionable.

But most importantly I just don't think offensive tackle can do much for this franchise.

The front line in 2007 consisted of Walter Jones, Rob Sims, Chris Spencer, Chris Gray and Sean Locklear. Behind that line, Matt Hasselbeck was able to pass for a career year. For the 2008 campaign we signed up one of the best coaches in the NFL to organize things (Solari) and signed Mike Wahle to play left guard. In my opinion, the line of Jones, Wahle, Spencer, Willis/Womack and Locklear is an upgrade.
Production is down, but how much is that because teams are pressuring from the front knowing we haven't got the passing game to hurt them? The number of times we've been blitzed out of games or had teams stack the box to stop the run.

I would argue the O-Line is serviceable. Not elite by any means but capable of taking a team into the playoffs as challengers. By drafting a tackle in the top five I don't see how this line is improved dramatically for next year. You are investing a lot of money in the future when Walter retires. If Andre Smith and Michael Oher are anywhere close to being as good as big Walt, then maybe you can't pass on them. But I'm not so sure they are anywhere near his level of potential.

One other counter for taking a tackle can be the amount of money invested in Sean Locklear. We paid him left tackle money when he was resigned to a 5 year $32m contract last off season. Some would argue the plan will be to switch him to the left as Jones' eventual replacement. Others would argue that Locklear may even be better suited to playing on that side.

So what do I propose?

The first issue is the state of Matt Hasselbeck's back.

If the doctors say that with rest he will have no future problems and that the back will not permanently pose a threat to him starting regularly, there is no issue. A healthy Hasselbeck starts.
But if they are suggesting that it will be a lingering issue, for me you have to consider your options. Does Tim Ruskell want to start a new era under Jim Mora chopping and changing the quarter back every week like we've been doing in 2008?

It has already been speculated this week that Hasselbeck's future may be uncertain and his health is worth monitoring. If he is cut or traded in the off-season then a new franchise QB has to be the teams focus. Unless we plan to sign Matt Cassel to an over inflated contract, that likely means looking at the draft class.

Matt Stafford seems certain to declare and is being tipped to go first overall in a number of mock drafts. Sam Bradford and Tim Tebow have yet to commit either way. It wouldn't be unrealistic for the Seahawks to have their pick of the bunch. Think about it - Detroit signs one of the tackles or goes receiver yet again (can they help themselves?) and take Michael Crabtree. Seattle could have plenty of options at QB.
Rookie quarterbacks don't usually have instant success, but Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco have proved it's not impossible.

However, if Hasselbeck's health is given the all clear and he remains with the franchise then I think the Seahawks have to target Michael Crabtree. Let's look at his career with Texas Tech.
Winner of the 2007 Biletnikoff award, he will likely retain that prize in 2008. He has totaled 227 receptions for 3097 yards, scoring 40 touchdowns. As a red shirt freshman, that's not bad for two years production.

He might not have the elite speed, but that didn't stop Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin tearing our secondary apart earlier this year. He catches everything, has an uncanny ability to find space and break off runs, he catches everything and thrives on double coverage and perhaps most of all he has the heart to take a hit, deliver a hit and get back up.

Make no mistake he is going to be a star in the NFL. For the Seahawks, he would offer a genuine number one target. He would make plays but as an added benefit, attract double coverage and open things up for other receivers and stopping teams stacking the box. His mere appearance in a Seahawks uniform could open up our entire offense.

People question taking wide receivers early because they are liable to be draft 'busts'. The last player taken in the top five was Calvin Johnson, currently with the Lions. In 2008, his second pro-year, he's 6th in the NFL for receiving yards with 1055. He has nine touchdowns, tied for second with Larry Fitzgerald another receiver taken in the top five. In his five years with the Cardinals he has totaled 5692 yards and 43 touchdowns.

Looking at the top 10 receivers in the NFL this year, seven were taken in the first two rounds. The three that weren't are Wes Welker, Brandon Marshall and Steve Smith.

If Seattle wants to improve their receiving group, they need to take a wide out early. That means in the first two rounds. When a talent like Crabtree is on the board you have to take him and not worry about when Walter Jones retires.

If Greg Knapp is appointed offensive coordinator as speculated regularly, he favors a run orientated attack. His offenses have in the past regularly ranked highest in the NFL for the run. With that in mind, if we're going for a run focussed attack a feature back wouldn't go amiss. Then you have to consider players like Knowshon Moreno and Chris 'Beanie' Wells. Moreno hasn't got the size and speed of a stereotypical franchise runner but he has game smarts, makes great cuts and is a solid pass catching, run blocking back.

Wells is a different beast, all pace and brute strength. But can he stay healthy?

Either way this is the direction Seattle must go. The offense needs that identity to replenish itself. Whether it's Matt Stafford, Michael Crabtree or Knowshon Moreno in the first round, we need a new face for the offense to kick start the Jim Mora era.


And we can comfort ourselves in the knowledge that we still have Walter Jones at left tackle.

If you want evidence that this is the way to go, look no further than the Baltimore Ravens.

They lost legendary tackle Jonathan Ogden and veteran quarter back Steve McNair to retirement prior to the 2008 draft. They made a coaching change, ousting 9-year incumbent Brian Billick for newcomer John Harbaugh. Baltimore drafted Joe Flacco in the first round and he has started from day one. They took running back Ray Rice in the second round.

In 2007 the Ravens went 5-11 and awful offensive production and regular changes at quarter back put too much pressure on their injury ravaged elite defense. Sound familiar?

Thanks to the changes listed above the Ravens made the playoffs and are on to the divisional round. Flacco has adapted to the league after some growing pains and their offense is currently ranked higher than the Indianapolis Colts and perhaps more importantly, division rivals Pittsburgh Steelers. The increased offensive production has helped their defense regain its cult status. They didn't need to replace Ogden with a first round tackle and went for playmakers instead.

Doesn't this just sound a blue print for the Seahawks?


Rob Staton is better known as EnglishHawk on NET Nation. We thanks Rob for his contribution.

 


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