Training camp surprises prove it on the field in preseason rout

You always wonder when you hear stories of rookies or other lesser-known players doing well during training camp whether they can translate that success into an actual game.

For several Seahawks fighting for a roster spot who have been performing well in camp, Thursday night’s 31-10 thumping over the San Diego Chargers showed perhaps their success can translate.

Rookie running backs Christine Michael and Spencer Ware combined to carry the ball 23 times for 121 yards (5.26 yards per carry), Stephen Williams caught two passes for 83 yards with a touchdown and Benson Mayowa tallied 1.5 sacks.

Second-year wide receiver Jermaine Kearse, who many believe has solidified his role as the team’s fourth receiver throughout camp, caught two passes for 31 yards with a touchdown while Tarvaris Jackson almost certainly sealed his spot as Russell Wilson’s backup (If it wasn’t already sealed) by completing 8 of 9 passes for 128 yards with a pair of touchdowns.

With Robert Turbin trying to work through a sore foot and Marshawn Lynch guaranteed not to see a lot of action in the first preseason contest, Michael and Ware knew they were going to get plenty of opportunities to showcase their talent. Both were already essential locks for the final 53-man roster anyway, but with more performances like they had Thursday night, moving up the depth chart is hardly out of the question.

Despite the final score, Wilson and the first-team offense struggled, managing a paltry 47 yards on 12 plays. The first-team defense also had some issues, allowing the Chargers to drive 74 yards before kicking a field goal on the game’s opening drive.

But without Turbin, WR Sidney Rice, DE Cliff Avril, LB Bobby Wagner, C Max Unger, OG James Carpenter, TE Zach Miller, DE Chris Clemons and DL Tony McDaniel, the starting 22 was very different than what many are expecting in a month at Carolina.

The battle to see who will field kickoffs and punts was largely uneventful with two kickoffs going for touchbacks and two punts either going out of bounds or being downed. Walter Thurmond and Perez Ashford did manage a couple highlights though with Thurmond going for 46 on a third-quarter punt and Perez Ashford gaining 27 off a punt late in the fourth.

Seattle’s next preseason game is Saturday Aug. 17 against the Denver Broncos at CenturyLink Field.

OTHER NOTES:

- The Seahawks dominated in the trenches, totaling four sacks, eight tackles for losses and six quarterback hits while allowing no sacks, just one tackle for loss and just one quarterback hit.
- QB Brady Quinn was efficient, although not nearly as dominating as Jackson, completing 6 of 11 pass attempts for 59 yards and a touchdown.
- K Steven Hauchska came up just short on a 61-yard field goal attempt to close out the first half, hitting the crossbar.
- CB Byron Maxwell and S Chris Maragos each tallied an interception off Chargers backup and former Seahawk Charlie Whitehurst. Both picks were returned 28 yards.
- RB Derrick Coleman had a 6-yard TD reception in the final minutes of the game on a play similar to what the Seahawks ran with Michael Robinson in the team’s playoff win at Washington last season.
- P Jon Ryan punted the ball four times and averaged 61 yards a punt.

POST-GAME TWEETS

Jim Harbaugh as undisciplined as the Seahawks he mocks

People like to say sports teams take on the personality of the head coach.

Under Mike Holmgren, you could say the Seahawks had a workmanlike personality, never saying or doing anything to intentionally draw attention to themselves. They simply went about their business week after week, seemingly content to stay hidden in the Pacific Northwest with the journalists and bloggers talking about everyone else.

Under Pete Carroll, there’s been a transformation of the Seahawks’ personality. Suddenly, they don’t seem quite so content with being the National Football League’s afterthought. They have chips on their shoulders, and they aren’t afraid to talk about them.

While these two identities couldn’t be more different, they do have one thing in common. They reflect the personality of their head coaches. Holmgren was a proven winner with a formula he saw bring the Lombardi Trophy to Green Bay. So upon arriving in Seattle following the 1998 season, there wasn’t a need for a bunch of fanfare and self-promotion. He saw what he had done, and most importantly, he knew everyone else had seen it too.

Carroll was a proven winner upon coming to Seattle as well. But not a Super Bowl winner. Sure, he had led USC to two Associated Press national championships. Sure, he had dominated the entire land of college football for the better part of a decade. But he hadn’t proven he could win in the NFL, and had actually failed the last time he was given an opportunity. Anyone who thinks Carroll doesn’t coach with a chip on his shoulder couldn’t be more clueless.

Enter Jim Harbaugh and the San Francisco 49ers. Before Harbaugh took over as head coach prior to the 2011 season, the 49ers were the type of team everyone knew was talented, but just couldn’t find a way to consistently prove it. A lot like the Arizona Cardinals prior to Ken Whisenhunt. As the last two years have passed, with San Francisco winning back-to-back NFC West championships and playing in last year’s Super Bowl, the 49ers have finally proven it. Confidence has been a huge part of that. Harbaugh has that confidence, and now San Francisco has it as well.

Harbaugh, however, has another personality characteristic that isn’t so endearing. And if he’s not careful, it could ultimately be what keeps him from ever winning a Super Bowl.

He’s undisciplined.

There’s an unwritten rule that you don’t talk about issues surrounding other teams in the league. You talk about your team, and your team alone.  Harbaugh broke from that code this week when he mused to the media about the Seahawks’ recent performance-enhancing drugs problem.

“I’ve definitely noticed it,” Harbaugh told reporters, responding to a question about the Seahawks’ PED issue. He could have ended it right there. Said it was an issue the Seahawks had to deal with and left it at that. No more comment. But Harbaugh, never one to let a good taunting opportunity go by the wayside, kept going.

“You don’t know what it is,” he continued. “Even when people say what it is, you don’t know that’s what it is. … But the NFL doesn’t release what it actually is. So you have no idea. You’re taking somebody at their word, that I don’t know that you can take them at their word, understanding the circumstances.”

Okay. He got the jab in. Wait, he still wasn’t finished?

“Play by the rules,” he went on. “And you always want to be above reproach. Especially when you’re good, because you don’t want people to come back and say they’re winning because they’re cheating. … So we want to be above reproach in everything and do everything by the rules. Because if you cheat to win, then you’ve already lost.”

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what Harbaugh was saying. You can’t trust the Seahawks to say and do the right thing and they’re a bunch of cheaters.

Reporters all too eager to see the comments escalate into a full-blown media circus asked Carroll what he thought of what Harbaugh said. Carroll squashed the story for the most part, but did allow that he wasn’t sure about talking about someone else’s team.

I suspect Carroll will let his team do the talking on Sept. 15. My guess is the 49ers are going to come to loathe playing Sunday Night Football games in Seattle.

You’d think Harbaugh would have learned his lesson last year after allegedly taunting Seahawks’ players following the 49ers’ 13-6 victory over Seattle in San Francisco. The Seahawks repaid him with a 42-13 beatdown for the whole country to see in December on Sunday Night Football. Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman made sure to get in a shot of his own afterward by declaring it as a birthday present for Harbaugh, who had just turned 49 that day. Sherman actually prodded Coach Carroll to score another touchdown and go for two to give the Seahawks 50 (a gesture dripping with irony since it was Harbaugh’s Stanford team — which included Sherman — that pulled that trick against Carroll while at USC), but Carroll declined, saying that’s not what he’s about.

These shenanigans aren’t anything new for anyone who has followed Harbaugh and what he has done in the past though. Aside from going for two just to get to 50 against USC, Harbaugh continued his taunting after the game as he was walking out to midfield to shake Carroll’s hand. “Look at them all running in,” Harbaugh was heard mockingly saying as the Trojans’ players ran toward the tunnel. Then, at Washington the following year, Harbaugh was heard in the tunnel shouting at his players following a 41-0 Cardinal pasting of the Huskies.

“Dominating!” he reportedly said. “We kicked their ass every which way! One hell of a job on both sides of the line! Dominant, dominant! What are you guys, 5-1, 6-1 against that group? That’s the highest-paid coaching staff around!”

Could have left that for the locker room, but I guess he had to make sure the Huskies fans heard it.

There’s no question certain Seahawks are undisciplined. If they weren’t, they wouldn’t have PED issues. Sherman wouldn’t say he’s better at life than ESPN’s Skip Bayless and goat Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Roddy White. But these are individual players and each individual has his own unique personality. Not everyone on the Seahawks’ roster goes around taking banned substances and talking garbage.

But for a head coach to engage in such childish antics? When it’s been shown that teams take on the personality of the head coach, it’s a problem when that head coach has a personality like Harbaugh’s. How can Harbaugh expect his team to be disciplined if he isn’t himself?

Some will brush off this notion because of the success Harbaugh enjoyed at Stanford, and has enjoyed at San Francisco. But I would caution those people; he’s only been with the 49ers for two years. And a lot of his most successful players were ones he had no hand in putting on the team. It will be interesting to see going forward, the more the players actually become Harbaugh’s own hand-picked players, whether they start to show the same lack of discipline, either on or off the field. I wonder if we’ll ever see one of his players punch a member of the media for calling him out.

One thing’s for sure though. If he wanted to give the Seahawks yet another chip on their shoulders, he succeeded. And we can agree, Sept. 15 can’t come soon enough.

Russell Wilson’s 2013 expectations

It’s still pretty hard to imagine Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, taken No. 75 overall in the 2012 NFL Draft and criticized for his lack of size, had so much success his rookie season.

Even his staunchest supporters from even before the draft (myself included) had no idea he was capable of so much so early.

Now the discussion turns toward 2013 and what Wilson can do to increase his productivity. A pretty arduous task if you consider his 100.0 regular season passer rating a season ago was the highest by a Seahawks quarterback ever, eclipsing even Matt Hasselbeck’s 2005 passer rating of 98.2.

A lot of people wonder how Wilson will react to defenses spending the entire offseason scouting the read option. It seems to always get neglected in these conversations that Wilson has an entire offseason as well to scout the different defenses in the league (and we all know how much a video rat Wilson is), but I suppose it’s a fair point to some extent.

But this is pure conjecture because there’s no way to quantify in statistics or provide serious analysis of exactly what types of challenges Wilson will face now that there’s a “book” on him. The reason there’s the term “sophomore slump” is precisely because it’s pretty much always more difficult for a player who finds success his first year to be able to match that in his second, but I’m going to give Wilson the benefit of the doubt (I think he’s more than earned it!) and say defenses probably won’t be able to figure anything out about how to stop him any more than last year. He has the exact same players he had around him last year in the most important areas, and even some surprise additions with wide receiver Percy Harvin, defensive ends Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett and cornerback Antoine Winfield. The entire team around him has improved, he has another offensive weapon to play with and an entire offseason to sit in the film room. He should be able to negate whatever advantages opposing teams have with their increased efforts in studying him.

One thing Seahawks fans like to talk about when it comes to analyzing Wilson’s efforts in 2012 and projecting for 2013 is how he was decisively better the second half of the season. The statistics are mind-numbing. 

Wilson in Seahawks’ first nine games: 145 of 234 (62.0 percent), 1,639 yards (7.00 yards per attempt), 13 touchdowns (5.56 TD%), 8 interceptions (3.42 INT%), 87.2 passer rating.

Wilson in Seahawks’ last nine games: 146 of 221 (66.1 percent), 2,051 yards (9.28 yards per attempt), 16 touchdowns (7.24 TD%), 3 interceptions (1.36 INT%), 114.3 passer rating.

Just as a point of reference, Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers had the highest passer rating in 2012 of 108.0.

And lest one think the defenses were worse the last nine games, they were actually tougher.

Seahawks’ first nine opponents: 3,079 of 4,995 (61.6 percent), 32,581 yards (6.52 yards per attempt), 204 touchdowns (4.08 TD%), 130 interceptions (2.60 INT%), 83.4 passer rating.

Seahawks’ last nine opponents: 2,974 of 5,020 (59.2 percent), 32,313 yards (6.44 yards per attempt), 182 touchdowns (3.63 TD%), 151 interceptions (3.01 INT%), 77.8 passer rating.

Numbers can sometimes be made to say whatever you want them to, but these are pretty straightforward. Against stiffer competition, Wilson didn’t just improve. He completely destroyed it.

So what of the competition in 2013? Is it better or worse than a year ago?

Seahawks’ 2012 opponents (including playoffs with divisional opponents counted twice): 6,053 of 10,015 (60.4 percent), 64,894 yards (6.48 yards per attempt), 386 touchdowns (3.85 TD%), 281 interceptions (2.81 INT%), 80.6 passer rating.

2012 statistics of Seahawks’ 2013 opponents (divisional opponents counted twice): 5,515 of 8,918 (61.8 percent), 60,093 yards (6.74 yards per attempt), 365 touchdowns (4.09 TD%), 259 interceptions (2.90 INT%), 83.2 passer rating.

If numbers are any indication, it seems pretty obvious things should be easier for Wilson in 2013. And compared to the last nine games of last year where Wilson clearly dominated the competition, a lot easier.

Granted, there are some factors that need to be touched on. Most importantly, not all the teams Wilson will face in 2013 that were horrendous last year will be as bad. Tampa Bay added cornerback Darrelle Revis and safety Dashon Goldson, New Orleans will have its head coach back after a year-long suspension along with new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, Tennessee brought in defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and Jacksonville hired Gus Bradley, Seattle’s defensive coordinator last year, as head coach. Seattle set a franchise record for points allowed per game in 2012 under Bradley. But of course there will be defenses that take a step back as well. San Francisco stands out most noticeably with the loss of Goldson as well as Justin Smith being a year older. We saw what happened to the 49ers’ defense in Seattle without Smith, and if he goes down again, it’s easy to see a situation where San Francisco (already without No. 1 wide receiver Michael Crabtree) doesn’t even make the playoffs. Note: San Francisco allowed 29.7 points per game in its final six games last year (including the playoffs). Atlanta also sticks out with the losses of John Abraham, Dunta Robinson and Brent Grimes, although the Falcons did add veteran Osi Umenyiora and draft almost exclusively on the defensive side of the ball, using their first two picks on cornerbacks Desmond Trufant (Washington) and Robert Alford (Southeast Louisiana). Still, without a lot of depth in the front seven, it’s not unreasonable to assume Atlanta’s defense will be worse in 2013.

All numbers aside, what production almost invariably always comes down to is health. If Seattle loses Marshawn Lynch or someone on the defensive side of the ball like Bobby Wagner or Richard Sherman due to injury, all bets are off. If Wilson twists a knee and misses four games, it’s hard to say how that would affect him after he returned. Seahawks fans well remember Hasselbeck never quite being the same in 2006 after missing four games with a strained knee ligament. It destroyed a repeat Super Bowl run.

But based on everything we currently know, without any major injuries (Chris Clemons aside), there’s no legitimate reason to think Wilson can’t firmly entrench himself as one of the NFL’s truly elite quarterbacks in 2013. I wouldn’t bet on 5,000 yards because Seattle will never be that kind of team as long as Lynch is healthy, but 3,500 yards, 35 touchdowns and a passer rating over 105? I’d take that bet in a heartbeat.

Sidney Rice vs. Roddy White: Not as crazy a comparison as it may seem

Trying to keep a web site interesting during the offseason seems almost impossible. There’s only so much you can say about draft picks and OTAs.

Thank goodness for the NFL Top 100 list, because even though I think it’s a ridiculous compilation that in almost no way reflects where players actually deserve to be rated, it can jump start a lot of discussions. Even the ones people aren’t having.

Like this one. If you had to pick Sidney Rice or Roddy White for next year, and next year only, who would you take?

On the surface, this is a ridiculous question. White made No. 39 on the 2013 Top 100 list while Rice wasn’t even an afterthought. And for good reason. White has been in the league for eight years and has played in all 16 games each year. He’s been targeted over 100 times and has amassed over 1,000 yards receiving for six consecutive years. In 2009 and 2010, he posted double-digit touchdown totals.

By comparison, Rice has played in all 16 games just twice since coming into the league in 2007. He’s been targeted over 100 times just once, has compiled 1,000 yards just once and has never had more than eight touchdowns in a season.

In terms of total production, there’s no comparing the two receivers.

But there is one statistic that makes such a comparison not nearly as black and white. Yards per reception.

In 2012, Rice caught 50 passes for 748 yards, a yard-per-reception average of 15.0. Since coming to Seattle prior to the 2011 season, Rice has caught 82 passes for 1,232 yards, a yard-per-reception average of, again, 15.0.

For all White’s receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns, he hasn’t broke 15.0 yards per reception since 2008. His career yard-per-reception average is 14.0 while Rice’s is 14.7.

A lot of people look only at totals. It’s why despite a rather horrendous passer rating of just 79.8 in 2012, Detroit Lions’ quarterback Matthew Stafford is still held in relatively high regard. Come up just 33 yards shy of 5,000 passing yards and people will take notice.

But looking exclusively at totals has always been a poor metric when evaluating a player’s production potential. Some offenses, like Detroit’s, rely heavily on the passing game, while offenses like Seattle’s rely heavily on the running game. Atlanta’s receiving corps in 2012 wasn’t limited to White thanks to Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez, but thanks to Michael Turner’s total ineptitude, White was never going to be hurting for opportunities. Indeed, the Falcons rushed the ball once for every 1.63 pass attempts, the seventh most run-heavy ratio in the NFL.

Looking at averages helps to put each player, no matter what system he plays in, on equal footing.

In a way, comparing Rice and White is a little bit like comparing apples and oranges. At 6’4″, Rice is a much larger downfield threat than White, who stands at 6’0″. This difference is highlighted when delving even deeper into their respective yards-per-reception averages. If you disregard yards after catch, White has averaged 10.0 yards per reception since the NFL started offically calculating yards after catch in 2006. Rice, however, has averaged 11.2 yards. As a bigger receiver, you’d expect Rice to be catching passes further away from the line of scrimmage. But this is the advantage having a big receiver brings. White could make up for it with an exceptional yards-after-catch average, but he hasn’t had a YAC average over 4.0 since 2009.

To be completely fair, White has become a much larger downfield threat since the addition of Jones. Since Jones’ arrival, White’s yards at point of catch average has significantly increased, going from 9.0 in 2010 to 10.9 in 2012. But the fact that Jones’ arrival has precipitated this increase shows he deserves a lot more credit for it than White does. White deserves credit for taking advantage of the addition, but if Rice can do what he’s done opposite Golden Tate — who knowledgeable people would unanimously take Jones ahead of — there’s no reason to think Rice couldn’t be even better opposite Jones. Throw the ball 92 times to Rice in Atlanta’s offense and 1,500 yards would seem to be an extremely reachable goal.

And of course it wouldn’t be fair to not mention White’s exceptional blocking ability. But to mention White’s blocking ability and disregard Rice’s would also be unfair. Just fast forward to the 1:54 mark of this video. Anthony McCoy would have had an easy touchdown if he hadn’t foolishly changed direction. Rice’s downfield blocking helped spring Seahawks runners and receivers downfield on more than one occasion.

In the end, this isn’t a comparison a lot of people are going to accept. Regardless of Rice’s averages, White’s total production is simply too overwhelming. But offer me Rice or White, with Rice’s size, with a better receiver opposite him, and I’ll take him with 90-plus catches every time.

Breaking down Richard Sherman’s competition

As if Richard Sherman needed another excuse to have a chip on his shoulder.

It’s no secret the Seahawks’ 2011 fifth-round Stanford selection revels in perceived disrespect to fuel his play on the field. And although that disrespect is clearly diminishing the more he plays, Thursday night proved it still exists.

On Thursday night’s unveiling of the “NFL: Top 100 Players of 2013,” Sherman checked in at No. 50. At No. 50, Sherman will be the third-ranked cornerback of 2013. As far as cornerbacks go and where they fit on the Top 100 scale, that seems about right considering Denver’s Champ Bailey checked in at No. 46 a season ago as the third-rated cornerback in the NFL.

But are there really two cornerbacks in the NFL better than Sherman right now? According to a poll immediately following the rankings, 79 percent disagreed. And of all ten players revealed on Thursday night, Sherman is currently the second-most underrated — behind only New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning at No. 43 — according to fan rankings on NFL.com.

So what about the tangible evidence? Without knowing definitively yet who will be ahead of Sherman, let’s look at the competition and see where Sherman stacks up.

Sherman tallied eight interceptions, returning one for a touchdown, while defending 24 passes, forcing three fumbles, notching one sack and returning a blocked field goal attempt for a touchdown. According to profootballreference.com, Sherman’s approximate value was 19 — tied with Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson for second in the NFL. His eight interceptions were also tied for second in the NFL and at the end of the season he was named first-team All-Pro.

Chicago cornerback Charles Tillman was the other All-Pro selection and therefore would seem to have the edge over anybody else worth considering better than Sherman. Tillman didn’t exactly intercept a ton of passes in 2012 (3), but he returned all three for touchdowns and forced a staggering 10 fumbles. Still, his approximate value was only 16.

Arizona’s Patrick Peterson was an All-Pro cornerback in 2011, but took a step backward in 2012. Peterson picked off seven passes, but returned none for touchdowns, made no sacks, forced no fumbles and defended 17 passes. Without the four punt returns for touchdowns he had in 2011, his approximate value dropped from 21 to 13.

Antonio Cromartie is seemingly the last challenger. Cromartie took on an even larger role with the New York Jets a season ago with the injury of Darrelle Revis, and ended up with a Pro Bowl selection for his efforts. Like Tillman, Cromartie managed three picks, but none were returned for touchdowns and unlike Tillman, he didn’t have a slew of forced fumbles. In fact, he didn’t even have one. His approximate value was 10.

Obviously, these are all extremely talented cornerbacks that bring a lot to their respective teams. And it’s obviously subjective when deciding how to weight statistics. For me, the tiebreaker comes in Sherman’s ability to back up his notoriously loud mouth. This is a guy who chased down and taunted Tom Brady after the Seahawks defeated the Patriots, told a Redskins’ receiver he sucked before waving the fans goodbye after Seattle won at Washington in the playoffs and challenged Roddy White’s toughness by essentially saying the Atlanta wide receiver was too afraid to play on the outside. When you flap your gums as much as Sherman does, there’s even more pressure to perform. Every receiver wants to be the guy to shut you up and laugh in your face. The fact that Sherman was able to talk as much as he did, put as much pressure on himself as he did, and still come out of it with eight picks and an All-Pro selection to his name, elevates him to a level above his competition.

Loss of Anthony McCoy a hit to Seahawks’ depth

McCoy

It’s starting to look like Achilles tendons are the new anterior cruciate ligaments.

Just a couple days after the San Francisco 49ers announced star receiver Michael Crabtree would miss at least six months because of a torn Achilles tendon, the Seattle Seahawks announced today the same will be true for back-up tight end Anthony McCoy.

McCoy reportedly suffered only a partial tear, which is obviously better for recovery, but still, it would now be a surprise if he played at all in 2013.

Statistically, McCoy wasn’t a huge offensive weapon a season ago. He caught 18 passes, and although his 16.2 yard-per-catch average was impressive, two of those catches were of 67 and 49 yards. He didn’t catch a single ball in the two playoff games.

McCoy’s real value came from his ability to line up with starting tight end Zach Miller in two tight-end sets and help block for running back Marshawn Lynch. Even though he didn’t catch a huge number of passes, McCoy lined up for 46 percent of the Seahawks’ offensive snaps in 2012. The Seahawks already lost tight end Cameron Morrah to San Francisco, so McCoy’s injury really screws with the depth chart and potentially the Seahawks’ offensive creativity. Without McCoy, the Seahawks will rely more than they might have originally anticipated on rookie fifth-round draft pick Luke Willson from Rice.

On the bright side for Seahawks fans though, Willson impressed head coach Pete Carroll during the first two days of the team’s rookie minicamp with his ability to get behind defenders downfield and make catches, an ability some scouts questioned going into the NFL draft. With above-average speed, above-average athleticism and above-average blocking ability, Willson would seem to have all the tools necessary to be an effective replacement for McCoy. But obviously you can never be completely certain of how a rookie is going to play.

This is without question a blow for the Seahawks, who enjoyed success in 2012 in large part because of a relative lack of injuries. But it doesn’t necessarily have to be something that will hold the team back in terms of creativity or production. If Willson plays like a lot of people think he’s capable of, the only casualty from this will be McCoy’s next contract.

2013 Seattle Seahawks Draft Analysis

Few exercises are more futile than assessing a grade immediately following a NFL draft. Considering that the only way to measure a draft class is to see how it performs on the field, and not a single drafted player has taken the field immediately following a draft, there’s truly no way that an accurate grade can be given.

So don’t expect me to use this space trying to provide yet another unintelligent, ignorant grade for the Seattle Seahawks 2013 draft class. The players were drafted, the Seahawks’ front office had its reasons for drafting those players and only time will tell if they were wise or foolish.

But analyzing draft classes is fun, and who says you have to assign a letter grade to provide insightful commentary?

Heading into the 2013 NFL Draft, it’s hard to make the case there existed a team with fewer holes than the Seahawks. Already this offseason they’ve added arguably the most dynamic receiver in the NFL by trading for Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin, and shored up their defensive line with free agents Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett. Avril and Bennett combined for 69 tackles, 18.5 sacks and five forced fumbles a season ago, and should more than compensate for the potentially slow return of Chris Clemons, who went down in Seattle’s playoff victory at the Washington Redskins with a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

The Seahawks also bolstered their already intimidating secondary with veteran cornerback Antoine Winfield and dumped high-priced backup Matt Flynn off to Oakland in exchange for a pair of draft picks.

With so many impact additions added to a team that was labeled by many as the one nobody wanted to face in the 2013 playoffs, the draft for the Seahawks was all about one thing: Depth. Depth, or a lack of it, ended up being Seattle’s downfall in its 30-28 playoff loss at the Atlanta Falcons last season, as the Seahawks failed miserably in getting to Falcons’ quarterback Matt Ryan without Clemons. For all rookie Bruce Irvin accomplished throughout the regular season with his eight sacks, he simply wasn’t ready to take on the larger role thrust upon him with Clemons out.

Looking at who Seattle drafted, you may not find someone who will start in 2013. But the talent will certainly push the players in front of them.

—————————–

Round 2 (62nd overall)
Christine Michael, RB, Texas A&M
5’10” 220 lbs.
Arm length – 31 ½
Hand length – 9 3/8
40 yard dash – 4.43 (Combine)
20 yard dash – 2.51 (Combine)
225 lb. bench reps – 27 (Combine)
Vertical jump – 43 (Combine)
20 yard shuttle – 4.02 (Combine)
3-cone drill – 6.69 (Combine)

Originally slated to pick No. 56, the Seahawks orchestrated a trade with the Baltimore Ravens, falling back to No. 62. Thanks to the trade, the Seahawks also acquired Baltimore’s fifth (No. 165) and sixth (No. 199) round selections. With Marshawn Lynch and Robert Turbin returning to a rushing attack that ranked No. 3 in the NFL in yards per game a season ago, this appeared to be a bit of a head scratcher. But remember; for Seattle, this is all about building depth. And with the departure of Leon Washington, the Seahawks were in need of a third-string running back. One of the worst things that could happen to the Seahawks this next season is Lynch, who just turned 27 a few days ago, suffering a major injury. In that scenario, Turbin would be thrust into the starting role with seemingly nobody to back him up. And while Turbin performed admirably as a rookie a season ago with 80 carries and a 4.4 yard-per-carry average, you’d like him to have some help.

Michael played all four years at Texas A&M, carrying the ball a total of 529 times for 2,791 yards (5.28 yards per carry) with 34 touchdowns. His production slipped noticeably in 2012 though as he tallied only 88 carries for 417 yards (4.74 yards per carry), but his 12 touchdowns were the highest of his collegiate career. Medical questions resulting from a cracked right tibia in 2010 and a torn ACL in 2011, each injury ending his season prematurely, as well as character questions resulting from an apparent feud with first-year coach Kevin Sumlin last year, also contributed to many teams sliding him down their boards.

Never afraid to take a risk though, the Seahawks went with the guy who NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock called the most gifted running back in the entire class. And with Michael in the fold, the Seahawks now have three bruising running backs, meaning that regardless of which one is on the field, the style of play will stay the same.

Round 3 (87th overall)
Jordan Hill, DT, Penn State
6’1” 303 lbs.
Arm length – 33 ½
Hand length – 10 1/4
40 yard dash – 5.02 (Pro Day)
20 yard dash – 2.83 (Pro Day)
225 lb. bench reps – 28 (Combine)
Vertical jump – 30 (Pro Day)
20 yard shuttle – 4.51 (Combine)
3-cone drill – 7.49 (Combine)

Seattle head coach Pete Carroll said earlier in the offseason that you can never have too many pass rushers. The Seahawks have already proven that by adding Avril and Bennett during free agency, but Hill brings that potential from the inside. Projected as a three-tech defensive tackle, Hill is known for his high motor and relentless determination in getting to the quarterback. In his junior and senior seasons, he combined for 123 tackles, 16.5 tackles for losses and eight sacks.

As evidenced by his measurables, he’s undersized. His hand usage – although at times among the best of any interior defensive lineman in the draft – can be inconsistent, he’s not particularly quick and he’s been known to wear down. Nevertheless, in an area where the Seahawks were less than stellar last season (getting to the quarterback from the inside of the defensive line), Hill would seem to be an obvious upgrade.

Round 4 (123rd overall)
Chris Harper, WR, Kansas State
6’1” 229 lbs.
Arm length – 32 3/4
Hand length – 9 3/4
40 yard dash – 4.45 (Pro Day)
20 yard dash – 2.57 (Combine)
225 lb. bench reps – 20 (Combine)
Vertical jump – 35 ½ (Combine)
20 yard shuttle – 4.26 (Pro Day)
3-cone drill – 6.89 (Combine)

Another position where the Seahawks aren’t particularly wanting for talent with Harvin, Sidney Rice, Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin, Harper – who won second-team All-Big 12 honors last year – would already be the team’s biggest receiver. Harper used that size well as a senior with the Wildcats, catching 58 passes for 857 yards and three touchdowns despite playing in a run-heavy offense. Harper also showed a knack for high-pointing balls, as four of his five touchdown receptions his junior year came on fade routes. He lacks elite explosiveness, but showed enough speed and strength that he could potentially become an effective starter.

Round 5 (137th overall)
Jesse Williams, DT, Alabama
6’4” 323 lbs.
Arm length – 32
Hand length – 9 3/8
40 yard dash – 4.92 (Pro Day)
20 yard dash – 2.90 (Pro Day)
225 lb. bench reps – 30 (Combine)
20 yard shuttle – 4.83 (Pro Day)
3-cone drill – 7.81 (Pro Day)

The Seahawks secured this pick via a trade with the Detroit Lions, giving the Lions one of their their late fifth rounders (165th overall) as well as the sixth round pick they acquired from Baltimore during the second round.

What Hill brings to the Seahawks defensive line with his ability to get into the backfield, Williams brings with his ability to stop the run. Williams is considerably bigger than Hill, and his superior strength has also been noted as he bench pressed 225 pounds 30 times at the combine. He’s capable of benching as much as 600 lbs.

In addition to his size and strength helping him to stand out, Williams also possesses quickness and versatility. In two seasons with Alabama, he started both as a five-tech defensive end as well as a zero-tech nose guard. As a zero tech his senior year, he earned second-team All-SEC honors.

The addition of Williams would appear to be one of the larger steals of the draft as Mayock said his talent was good enough for a second-round grade. Dane Brugler and Pete Prisco of CBSSports.com actually had him going No. 31 to the San Francisco 49ers. But a surgically-repaired knee following the national championship three months ago was enough to cause him to slide.

Round 5 (138th overall)
Tharold Simon, CB, LSU
6-2, 202 lbs.
Arm length – 32 3/4
Hand length – 8 3/4
40 yard dash – 4.47 (Pro Day)
20 yard dash – 2.57 (Combine)
225 lb. bench reps – 9 (Combine)
Vertical jump – 34 (Combine)
20 yard shuttle – 4.31 (Pro Day)
3-cone drill – 7.01 (Pro Day)

I don’t know how many players could hope to hear their name called despite being arrested the day of the first round, but Simon proved it is indeed possible. Simon was arrested Thursday night for public intimidation, resisting arrest and unnecessary noise.

According to reports, Simon blocked a street in his hometown of Eunice, La. When asked to move it, Simon allegedly responded, “I own Eunice. I’m going to buy these projects and you are going to be mine,” before spinning his wheels, backing up and turning his radio up full blast. When arrested, he allegedly told the officer the mayor was on his side and the officer would be fired.

Oh yeah, and during the 2011 season he was suspended one game for synthetic marijuana use.

Sounds like the perfect addition to a secondary that already includes a loud mouth and a thug.

To be fair, Simon’s agent disputed the report, saying he corroborated Simon’s version of the events – which was that the officer acted with a “shameful” abuse of power – with 20 of 30 witnesses on hand.

In terms of actual football ability though, securing Simon in the fifth round would appear to be another coup for the Seahawks. Simon fits the mold of big, physical cornerbacks the Seahawks have become accustomed to with Carroll, and led LSU’s defense last season with four interceptions. According to Rob Rang of NFLDraftScout.com, Simon is a “violent striker” who plays with an “aggressive mentality” and has “natural ballskills with good highpointing skills and catching radius.”

Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of Seattle drafting Simon though is what it potentially could mean for Brandon Browner. Browner is entering the final year of a three-year contract and with money needing to be free for players like Earl Thomas, Russell Wilson and Richard Sherman, this very well could be his final year with the Seahawks.

Round 5 (158th overall)
Luke Willson, TE, Rice
6’6” 251 lbs.
Arm length – 32 5/8
Hand length – 9 1/2
40 yard dash – 4.51 (Pro Day)
20 yard dash – 2.57 (Pro Day)
225 lb. bench reps – 23 (Pro Day)
Vertical jump – 38 (Pro Day)
20 yard shuttle – 4.29 (Pro Day)
3-cone drill – 7.08 (Pro Day)

Another intriguing pick, as Willson’s production this past season was severely limited. Willson caught only nine passes for 126 yards as a senior because of a nagging ankle injury, but flashed enough as a sophomore and junior (62 catches for 738 yards and six touchdowns) to warrant the Seahawks taking him. Willson is unusually fast for a tight end and has also been heralded for his athleticism and blocking ability – although there are some conflicting opinions regarding the latter. Prior to the 2012 season, Willson was on the Mackey Award list.

Round 6 (194th overall)
Spencer Ware, RB, LSU
5’10” 228 lbs.
Arm length – 30 1/8
Hand length – 9 5/8
40 yard dash – 4.63

If people were puzzled by the selection of Michael in the second round, they must have fallen out of their chairs with this pick. Ware showed an amazing amount of potential in 2010 with 24 carries and a 7.3 yard-per-carry average, but wasn’t nearly as efficient the next two years, recording a 4.0 yard-per-carry average in 2011 and a 3.9 yard-per-carry average last season. He did have eight touchdowns in 2011, but this past season he only had one while not even carrying the ball 100 times. After being the second leading rusher in 2011, he was the fourth last season.

He was also suspended along with his teammate Simon for synthetic marijuana use in 2011.

This particular pick could be really difficult to understand, but only if you don’t understand the Seahawks personnel situation. Although they would appear to be set with Lynch, Turbin and Michael, the fullback spot could be coming open after this year with Michael Robinson’s contract ending. Robinson is set to make $2.5 million this year and could very well be in the same situation as Browner. Even Carroll noted that Ware will begin his Seattle career at fullback. This has all the makings of the Seahawks simply getting ahead of the curve by preparing someone to replace Robinson.

Ware is a tough, physical, one-cut runner who stands out for his decisiveness and love for contact. Like Lynch, he does a lot of damage after contact. He’s also a capable receiver, catching 18 passes for 230 yards a season ago.

Round 7 (220th overall)
Ryan Seymour, G, Vanderbilt
6’4” 301 lbs.
40 yard dash – 5.09 (Pro Day)
20 yard dash – 2.90 (Pro Day)
225 lb. bench reps – 30 (Pro Day)
Vertical jump – 29 (Pro Day)
20 yard shuttle – 4.59 (Pro Day)
3-cone drill – 7.53 (Pro Day)

Breno Giacomini, meet your competition. Seymour would appear to fit well with the Seahawks’ zone-blocking scheme as he noted in a conference call that he ran zone blocking about 60 percent of the time at Vanderbilt. He also provides tremendous versatility as he played at each offensive line position a season ago. He’s athletic, strong and like Giacomini, has a bit of a mean streak.

Round 7 (231st overall)
Ty Powell, LB, Harding
6’2” 249 lbs.
Arm length – 32 1/2
Hand length – 9 3/4
40 yard dash – 4.60 (Combine)
20 yard dash – 2.63 (Combine)
225 lb. bench reps – 28 (Combine)
Vertical jump – 37 (Combine)
20 yard shuttle – 4.40 (Combine)
3-cone drill – 6.98 (Combine)

I suppose being the first player drafted from your college in 30 years constitutes a nice birthday present. Such is the case for Powell, who turned 25 on Saturday. Powell is a possibility as one of Carroll’s coveted LEOs, showing explosiveness in 2012 with 12 tackles for losses, 8.5 sacks and a school-record four blocked kicks. Rang listed him as one of his potential “Diamonds in the Rough.”

Round 7 (241st overall)
Jared Smith, DT, New Hampshire
6’4” 302 lbs.
Arm length – 33 1/2
Hand length – 10 1/2
40 yard dash – 5.01 (Pro Day)
20 yard dash – 2.91 (Pro Day)
225 lb. bench reps – 28 (Combine)
Vertical jump – 32 ½ (Combine)
20 yard shuttle – 4.39 (Combine)
3-cone drill – 7.20 (Combine)

Because converting J.R. Sweezy was so much fun, Seattle decided to do it again. Like Sweezy a year ago, Smith will make the transition from defensive to offensive lineman. General Manager John Schneider described Smith as tough, reliable and smart, and Smith said he trusts the Seahawks after speaking personally to Sweezy. Like Powell, Smith is the first player drafted from his school in several years. The last time someone from New Hampshire was drafted previous to Smith was in 2007.

Round 7 (242nd overall)
Michael Bowie, OT, Northeastern State
6’5” 330 lbs.
40 yard dash – 5.28 (Pro Day)
20 yard dash – 3.05 (Pro Day)
225 lb. bench reps – 19 (Pro Day)
Vertical jump – 25 ½ (Pro Day)
20 yard shuttle – 4.84 (Pro Day)
3-cone-drill – 8.06 (Pro Day)

More competition for Giacomini, but also more potential trouble. Despite being drafted out of a small school, Bowie actually has BCS school experience, starting five games for Oklahoma State in 2011, before a violation of team rules prompted a transfer. In those five games, he showed a lot of promise as a competent NFL pass blocker, not allowing a single sack. Carroll said Bowie can expect to start out with work at right tackle.

The Seahawks also agreed to terms with nine undrafted free agents. The list is as follows.

WR, Matt Austin, Utah State
6’2” 202 lbs.
40 yard dash – 4.49 (Pro Day)
20 yard dash – 2.67 (Pro Day)
225 lb. bench reps – 15 (Pro Day)
Vertical jump – 33 ½ (Pro Day)
20 yard shuttle – 4.32 (Pro Day)
3-cone drill – 7.22 (Pro Day)

T, Alvin Bailey, Arkansas
6’3” 312 lbs.
Arm length – 34 ¾
Hand length – 9 3/8
40 yard dash – 4.90
20 yard dash – 2.80
225 lb. bench reps – 27

DE, Kenneth Boatright, Southern Illinois
6’3” 254 lbs.
40 yard dash – 4.77 (Pro Day)
20 yard dash – 2.79 (Pro Day)
225 lb. bench reps – 22 (Pro Day)
Vertical jump – 34 ½ (Pro Day)
20 yard shuttle – 4.27 (Pro Day)
3-cone drill – 7.17 (Pro Day)

LB, Ramon Buchanan, Miami-Fla.
6’2” 215 lbs.
Arm length – 33 3/8
Hand length – 9 1/4
40 yard dash – 4.57 (Pro Day)
20 yard dash – 2.62 (Pro Day)
225 lb. bench reps – 20 (Pro Day)
Vertical jump – 34 (Pro Day)
20 yard shuttle – 4.24 (Pro Day)
3-cone drill – 7.22 (Pro Day)

LB, John Lotulelei, UNLV
6’0” 233 lbs.
Arm length – 32 3/8
Hand length – 10 5/8
40 yard dash – 4.65 (Pro Day)
20 yard dash – 2.62 (Pro Day)
225 lb. bench reps – 25 (Combine)
Vertical jump – 35 ½ (Combine)
20 yard shuttle – 4.30 (Combine)
3-cone drill – 6.91 (Combine)

S, Ray Polk, Colorado
6’1” 219 lbs.
Arm length – 31 3/8
Hand length – 9
40 yard dash – 4.40 (Pro Day)
20 yard dash – 2.59 (Pro Day)
225 lb. bench reps – 19 (Pro Day)
Vertical jump – 39 (Pro Day)
20 yard shuttle – 4.33 (Pro Day)
3-cone drill – 7.10 (Pro Day)

G, Jordan Roussos, Bowling Green
6’4” 307 lbs.
40 yard dash – 5.39 (Pro Day)
20 yard dash – 3.13 (Pro Day)
225 lb. bench reps – 14 (Pro Day)
Vertical jump – 28 (Pro Day)
20 yard shuttle – 4.62 (Pro Day)
3-cone drill – 7.84 (Pro Day)

RB, Dominique Whaley, Oklahoma
5’11” 205 lbs.
Arm length – 31 ¾
Hand length – 9 1/4
40 yard dash – 4.53 (Pro Day)
20 yard dash – 2.61 (Pro Day)
225 lb. bench reps – 21 (Pro Day)
Vertical jump – 36 ½ (Pro Day)
20 yard shuttle – 4.48 (Pro Day)
3-cone drill – 7.37 (Pro Day)

LB, Craig Wilkins, Old Dominion
6’1” 238 lbs.
40 yard dash – 4.54 (Pro Day)
20 yard dash – 2.61 (Pro Day)
225 lb. bench reps – 28 (Pro Day)
Vertical jump – 36 (Pro Day)
20 yard shuttle – 4.67 (Pro Day)
3-cone drill – 7.85 (Pro Day)

As noted at the beginning of this commentary, any intelligent draft grading requires waiting. It’s simply not productive to grade players you haven’t even seen take a NFL field yet. The only thing an analyst can do is look at the skill set of the players drafted, figure out how they fit into the drafting team’s scheme and determine if it appears to be a good fit. The Seahawks appeared to do that. They added much-needed depth on the defensive line, particularly on the inside of the line, with an effective pass rusher and an effective run stopper. They added depth to the running game, compensating for the loss of Washington and preparing for the potential loss of Robinson, and added depth in the secondary for the potential departure of Browner. They also bolstered their receiving corps with a big receiver to compliment Rice on the outside. The only potentially negative out of the draft is that they waited until it was pretty much over to upgrade their linebacking corps and offensive lines. Nevertheless, with no glaring weaknesses in either position group a season ago, the wait doesn’t seem like it should be a big deal.

Obviously, some concern over the medical and character issues of some of the players is warranted. And I have no way to dispute any claim that those concerns would justify those players not being drafted. The only thing I would say is in order to win in the NFL, you need talent. As much of it as you can get. And perhaps the worst kind of general manager or coach is the one who doesn’t make a move because he is afraid, and then watches that player terrorize him because of it.