Draft Day Decisions

Once again, the NFL Draft has come and gone. G. Scott Jones takes a look at our latest groceries, what some other teams are cooking with, and who knew how to use their coupons at the market. 

Well, it's all over but the shouting…

As you may have heard, the Lions had this year's most productive draft by obtaining a stellar compliment to last years #1, Charles Rodgers, in WR Roy Williams, while moving down one spot for a second-rounder that became plug-him-in-right-now ILB Teddy Lehman - who some had rated as the most able-bodied LB (and I tend to agree from a ‘start now' perspective). But that wasn't enough. The Lions made a move back into the 1st round from #36 (for the cost of a 4, and a 5 chip in 2005) to grab this years best RB and a player that really ignites this suddenly explosive Detroit offense, Kevin Jones. QB Joey Harrington is the cerebral complement to maximize these weapons, and paired with "Mooch", well… I expect the Lions to really threaten people this year, offensively.

Those three Day 1 players will make any draft a success. But rather than pop the champagne early, the Lions stayed alert and landed draft guru Rob Rang favorite, CB Keith Smith in the 4th. A player with perfect physical numbers and quite capable talent that will likely earn a starting spot opposite Dre Bly. They then took one of my higher rated OLB's in Alex Lewis. Followed by RT Kelly Butler in the 6th, who many had ranked as a 3rd Rd talent.

This is a PERFECT draft. An absolutely magical weekend for the Lions. I have rarely ever seen such good fortune and adept team selection. Every single player the Lions drafted was value at that spot, a need position for the team, and a player that has the capability of starting or contributing this year. You can say they simply got lucky because it fell that way to them. But that isn't what happened, they moved up and back to get position. And that's how it's supposed to be done, folks. That's how the Niners used to do it. That's how Dallas used to do it, and that's how New England has recently done it.

When a player you covet is unexpectedly falling to an area you can get him at – you go up and get him. Conversely, if it appears you can slide back for some bargaining chips and still get the player you prefer (or there are a handful of players remaining that you have identical ratings on) – you slide back for some power chips that enable more movement for you. Just because you've been slotted into a space pre-Draft, does not mean you must select from that spot. The teams that recognize this and exploit opportunity – Beat The Draft!

Having said that, you must respect each of the players available and not pre-determine that you are going to draft a particular player, no matter what happens. The Eagles exampled this failure by dropping a 2 chip, to trade-up and REACH for a player at a position they don't have room for. Obviously, they respect that player a little too much. And they paid for it. OT Shawn Andrews is going to love all the time he has for eating while sitting behind quality starters Tra Thomas and Jon Runyan. I am now convinced that the Eagles have lost their mind after dropping their 3rd Championship game in a row. 

The Chargers also exploited (albeit quit riskily) this failed tendency by grabbing the player they KNEW the Giants desperately wanted. By calling Ernie Accorsi's bluff, and taking the player he was completely gaga over, the Chargers forced New York to draft and give them a player they had proper respect for (QB Phillip Rivers) PLUS - a 1,3 and 5 chip. That makes me very happy, cuz I live in San Diego and it's nice to give the locals a reason to smile. A bold move that I believe we'll all recognize as brilliant in the years to come. That's a lesson in how to spin respect, folks. And I applaud it.

But what we really care about is the Seahawks, right? Taking into account how I believe teams should manipulate the Draft, you can be certain I was more than a little perturbed at our failure to exploit the way the 1st round was falling. Initially, I had thought we failed miserably to advantage our good fortune. (Post-draft reports have calmed my ire, which I'll get to later).

DE Kenechi Udeze and DT Vince Wilfork had no business lasting past pick 15. They are star players. However, since this draft had so many star WR's – they went first and the defense dropped (I knew we were going to benefit from that going in, but I never thought Udeze would drop as far as he did. My position was that had he dropped past 10, we should go up and get him for the price of a 2, or next yrs #1. I view him as the star DE that would put us over the top this year. In today's NFL, that's more important than next year. Simply because we are that close).

Can you imagine how suddenly competent our DL would be had we snatched Udeze and moved Wistrom to LDE? Udeze is a relentless sack artist and Wistrom is a scrappy DE that excels against the run (he can get you sacks as well, but that isn't his forte). We finished the season quite capably with DT's Moore and Woodard starting. With those brand new bookends, we'd be suddenly harassing people. (Another rotation DT could be found later on. Another Udeze – can't!).

So, did we advantage the fact that 2 elite players at positions of need were dropping down the board to us? No. We sat at #23 and took the guy we knew would be there all along, DT Marcus Tubbs. Apparently, in the days before the draft, we became so very subdued and secure in that selection that we refused to move when DE Udeze and DT Wilfork fell to within leaping distance.

Udeze went to a very happy, and suddenly competent, Vikings D-Line. That meant the World Champs, who wisely solved their RB need with a 2nd round chip prior to the draft, got to replace Ted Washington with a guy that can penetrate as well as hold the barn door shut, DT Vince Wilfork. Is there anyone who actually believes that Tubbs is more spectacular (or capable) than Wilfork? I don't think so. But we decided we'd be happier with possible future RG solution Sean Locklear (who I'm not disrespecting) and space-taker Tubbs (who disappointed until his senior year when he recognized the money). When you're perhaps one star player away from the SuperBowl, I find that an unwise decision. Curses…

Now, that's what appeared to have happened. However, reports now say that we did, in fact, contact the Vikings about moving up to #19 for Wilfork. I haven't seen a quoted offer made, but apparently the Vikings declined to trade the pick. They then waffled on that and traded down one spot with the silly Dolphins for a 4-chip. I say silly Dolphins because I don't see any way the Vikings would have selected OG/T Vernon Carey. They desperately need an edge rusher and the aforementioned stud Udeze is sitting right there.

As far as I'm concerned, the Vikings made the smart play. They guaranteed themselves one of those 2 defenders by dropping only one spot (enhanced by a rational belief that the Fish would not take either), and they picked up a 4-chip. If they made the drop to #23 with us, they'll miss both those players – guaranteed. If the Fish do happen to select Udeze, the Vikings could dangle Wilfork at us for another draft pick, giving them plenty of leverage to move all over the place.    

In any case, I'm happy to report we didn't just sit on our hands. We could have been more aggressive about a move for Udeze, but we didn't just sit there happy and content. I will also say there are some concerns about Tubbs – but he does have a legitimate chance to clog the middle for us and certainly enhances our DL situation. He can be a problem for teams in there. But he's much more of a question mark than Wilfork has proven to be.

Seattle then went with another question mark at Safety with conversion possibility OLB/S Michael Boulware. Do we have the luxury of testing a guy at Safety this year? Not in my opinion. You don't play around with question marks when you're looking at the Super Bowl. In addition, you'd have to be concerned whether he's a fitting complement to Ken Hamlin. The 2 of them on the field may leave us sorely exposed to the deep pass in center field. (Reports say Ted Thompson saved us from trading UP to get Boulware. So, I'll have to thank Ted for keeping me out of cardiac arrest. "Thanks, Ted!").

The pick that would have been dangled for either of the trade scenarios turned out to be OG Sean Locklear. This guy appears to be a very wise pick at that spot. There are other players I would have considered, but from all accounts this is a player that certainly has future potential at RG for us. Though he's still a bit raw (having switched from DT to OG; back and forth from OG to OT, often times intra-game) the consensus is he's got all the skills necessary to develop into a quality starter. It's a good solid pick there and it may solve our uncertainty at RG. However, I still would sacrifice that very player, along with Tubbs – for Udeze. (I'm drunk with fan arrogance, what can I say?)

Day 2 lead off player, Niko Kanthardlyspellit gives us another 4th round ILB that probably can't start yet. Which leaves us with 4 guys we aren't sure of at MLB. Can Huff handle it? Should we give Kaz another chance? What about Solomon Bates? Gee, I don't know. So let's draft another guy comparable to the other 3, so we have four guys we're not quite comfortable with. Next…

Aha – a very astute choice that is sure to pay dividends: WR D.J. Hackett. Initially I wasn't aware of this player. Once we made the pick I did some quick research and he appears to a have a real chance to supplant Alex Bannister in the WR rotation. He's far superior to Taco Wallace and a real value pick at that spot.  He's a huge 6-3 (195), runs a respectable 4.5-40, has an amazing 41" vertical jump and a nice athletic 6.8 3cone. Check out the consistency of these numbers: Fr- 47/729/7; So- 53/778/10 Jr- switched college; Sr- 78/1,013/7. Comments I was able to find include: "Solid hands that continue to improve; uses big frame to shield defenders from the ball; fights for YAC; always seems to know where the first down marker is". He's a transfer to Colorado from a small college who improved his numbers against stiffer competition. Teammates love him. I'm excited about this pick.

Holmy compared 6th Rd DT Craig Terrill to John Jurkovic in Green Bay. That's a player I remember and admired. If that turns out to be accurate, we've got another guy like Kaz to keep the team inspired, who can spell the lead rotation on the D-Line. And that's worth a 6-chip.

The other guy punts for a living. At least he wasn't a QB, eh?

Overall? We didn't make "bad" picks. We made sensible picks in our slotted position that can help the team. We got some value in some of the later picks. But do I think this is going to be a memorable draft? No. Can you expect that to happen every year? No. Do I wish we would have been more aggressive in finding a couple key guys to put us over the top this year? Yes. Did we actually have the opportunity to do that in the way I prefer? I don't know, I wasn't in the War Room. Therefore:

Congratulations to all our new Hawks. You're in the right place. We're on the precipice here like we've never been before. It is, most certainly, an exciting time to be a Seahawk. And now that you're here, you have my full support. Absolute effort will earn a lifetime of respect. Welcome to the club.

Here's some other examples of teams who got it right on Draft Day:

Atlanta

The Falcons grabbed 2 starters at must have positions in CB DeAngelo Hall (though I prefer Dunta Robinson) and WR Michael Jenkins (who they moved up for). A solution at back-up QB in Matt Schaub. And then grabbed 3 of my very favorite sleepers: OLB Demorrio Williams (a starter capable prospect in the 4th round, at a position very thin in this draft); DT Chad Lavalais (who I just can't fathom slipping to the 5th round. That's criminal!); and the Safety WE should have drafted, Etrick Pruit. These are all excellent Defensive prospects for a new coach with the background to develop them. They improved themselves by leaps and bounds. And I suddenly truly fear them in that final game of the season.

Tennessee

After years of watching their D-line get raped in free agency, the Titans traded out of the 1st round (for a 3,4 and 21 point upgrade in the 5th) and hit the motherlode in this draft with DE Travis LaBoy (2), DE Antwan Odom (2), mega-steal DT Randy Starks (3), and sleeper DE Bo Schobel (4). They won't be having any problems on the defensive line for the next 4 years, I assure you. All of those players are starter able. They've got to be doing back-flips over their good fortune there. They also landed a possible replacement for star TE Frank Wycheck, with the highly regarded Ben Troupe. That's a key position for their offense. Add to that list another 7 picks to play with in training camp. This organization does a tremendous job of recycling (much like the Steelers did until recently). Very impressive.

Arizona

Our divisional foe had a very nice draft that clearly improved their team. Larry Fitzgerald is a superstar, and just like that – Dennis Green has his triple threat at the wide receiver position. We'll have tons of fun trying to cover those guys. Many had us taking OLB Karlos Dansby in the 1st and they got him in the 2nd. Darnell Dockett is an unbelievable steal in Rd3 (and a guy we'll wish we had twice a year). And John Navarre has excellent potential as a back-up QB (much like Matt Schaub).

San Francisco

Following a disastrous free-agency period, the Niners played wise on Draft Day. Though their initial move down from 16 to 28 – for a late 2nd (58) – was not tremendous value, their hand was forced by the early departures of both WR's Williams and Clayton. Rather than reach for a position they absolutely HAD to fill, they dropped down to a position that was realistic in drafting WR Michael Jenkins or Rashaun Woods. Finding them both still available, they dropped down again to 31 (for a 4-chip) and ended up with Woods (who I think will fit them nicely). For a team in dire need of fresh talent, dropping from mid-1st round, for a 2 and a 4, and still drafting in the 1st – is a move you have to make. Particularly when the can't miss WR's are already gone. Armed with extra ammo, they were able to land the perfect Niner guard in Justin Smiley, a scrappy talented corner in Shawntae Spencer (nice highlight reel!), another WR prospect in Derrick Hamilton, super-strong DT Isaac Sopoaga, QB Cody Pickett (hmm), and a host of other players. Well done.

Rams?

Not too exciting. I'm feeling very confident in a passing of the torch this year. 

SPECIAL MENTION:

Jacksonville

From a Best Player Available perspective, the Jags were disciplined and impressive. They grabbed 3 potential stars in Rounds 1 and 2 (WR Reggie Williams, LB Daryl Smith, RB Greg Jones). LB Jorge Cordova went a bit early but has interesting potential. And WR Ernest Wilford has fantastic size with huge hands that seem to snatch the ball effortlessly (though reports say he's inconsistent in that area). Kicker Josh Scobee will start. I guarantee you Williams and Smith will be great players, Jones can fill for the oft injured Fred Taylor, and Wilford has a place in the NFL. That's a nice draft. 

Minnesota

The Vikings now have a scary solid D-Line with Chris Hovan and last years #1 Kevin Williams (for the record he proved I had a bad grade on him last year), and sometimes-player Kenny Mixon enhanced by the selection of Udeze (who's going to post double digit sacks on a regular basis). DE Darrion Scott also has a chance (they say, though I counter) to spell Mixon. They also may have solidified their LB corps with #2pick OLB Dontarrious Thomas joining EJ Henderson and Chris Claiborne. 5th Round ILB Rod Davis has a chance to supplant Claiborne in coming years (according to my grades). And they also may have found the answer at RT in 4th chip pick, Nat Dorsey. Finally, 7th Rd TE Jeff Dugan made a play in the Hula Bowl that knocked me off the sofa with his size and athleticism (and he's considered a blocking TE). Uh, that's pretty good, mate!

Greatest Steals:
DT Randy Starks, Tennessee (3-71, huh?!)
DT Chad Lavalais, Atlanta (5-142, unbelievable!!)
DT Darnell Dockett, Arizona (3-64)
FS Etrick Pruit, Atlanta (6-186)
SS Rashad Washington, Jets (7-236)
SS Gibril Wilson, NYG (5-136)
WR DJ Hackett, Seattle (5-157)
ILB Sean Tufts, Carolina (6-196)
ILB Rod Davis, Minnesota (5-155)

Ignored on Draft Day (as of 4/29/04):
DT DeMarco McNeil
ILB Bryan Hickman
S Kentrell Curry

G. Scott Jones is a regular contributor to Seahawks.NET. Feel free to send feedback to him at schleprockhawk@sbcglobal.net.


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