Expect a Change in Strategy in the 2018 NFL Draft
I’ll be the first to admit, I love the draft. Outside of the excitement of waking up on a Sunday morning knowing I get to watch Seahawks football, nothing NFL related comes close. I love the lead-up to the draft. In years past I’ve taken for granted having a full-rack of picks in each round, I’ve taken for granted that the draft has always been a complimentary piece to an already stacked roster, maybe I shouldn’t have. With the 2013/2014/2015/2016 drafts proving to be somewhat disappointing, I’ve really delved quite deep into what mistakes Seattle has made, the risks they’ve taken and the types of guys they’ve ultimately selected.
All that will change in 2018. All of it.
John Schneider has said as much that he could have done a better job in years past and I agree with him. They’ve clearly drafted for need rather than best player available. Given how stacked their roster is it wasn’t a necessity in the grand scheme of things.
I’m not going to go hard on pulling the picks apart because that doesn’t actually bring anything to the table. It’s clear that this front office has accepted that mistakes were made and is happy to address them. That’s a whole lot better than pretending everything is fine and carry on as they were. Acceptance is the first stage to resolution, after all.
Whilst Seattle does have specific measurements for certain positions and several ‘draft traits’ they have deviated away from it at times. Although they were high on excellent SPARQ numbers, they’ve also taken guys with low scores, too. So it’s not an exact science by any means. They’ve also never drafted a cornerback with an arm length of less than 32 inches, but would they now accept that 31 ¾ is probably not going to be the end of the world?
I think we see a different approach this year with some real ‘wow’ moments. Ronald Jones II could be a prime candidate that doesn’t fit the ‘typical’ Seahawks mould at running back, but I still believe he will be pretty high on their draft board. Jones II is taller than they have historically gone for and lighter, too. As a counter argument explosion tests for defensive lineman is likely to not change too much, given the importance of explosion for lineman. Although hand placement is, in my opinion, a close second. Joe Thomas said as much in a recent interview about a month ago. If there’s an EDGE guy that hasn’t tested particularly high in the explosion tests but has elite hands and a repertoire of moves, should they pull the trigger? I think so.
If you’re talking the ‘ideal’ draft model and how to find the most success you have to take these three avenues –
Best player available
Make as many selections as you can
Going best player available is an obvious one, with the salary cap as it is, having all stars at every position isn’t possible, I can’t think of a single team that doesn’t have at least one glaring hole on their roster, it happens. Going best player available gives you a key advantage in singular matchups, it puts the best ‘overall’ football team on the field as well. Obviously it’s not an exact science and some common sense does need to come into play but it’s about finding that balance between BPA and team needs. If the draft falls your way, you might strike gold and be able to go BPA AND address the team’s biggest need, that’s a big plus.
It has also been statistically proven on multiple occasions that teams who make lots of selections have the biggest success. Let’s not get silly and suggest that trading down 30 times to end up with a huge selection of 5th, 6th & 7th rounder’s is the answer because it isn’t. But if you’re selecting at #18, would you get a similar graded player at, say, #25? That obviously depends on how you grade players and how the draft falls, but ultimately, with the draft being (to a certain extent) a crap shoot of luck, making as many selections gives said team a higher chance of finding ‘those guys’.
Lastly, value. Value, value value! It is so important in today’s NFL and not just from a draft standpoint. It applies to almost everything in this league. If you’re not getting value out of your draft selections, your team will almost certainly be on a downwards trend. Sure, free agency can mitigate that downward trend to a degree but that isn’t sustainable. Teams that win forever are teams that find value in contracts, be it rookies or veterans. If the day comes that the Seahawks are heavy buyers on the first day of the league year each March it will be the day I accept that this team is going nowhere and very likely being poorly run. You only have to have a basic understanding of the NFL to see the teams that typically go heavy in free agency in the first wave aren’t very good. Sure, there are exceptions, but as a general rule it’s the lower tier teams getting all silly with their money. How often are teams like the Seahawks, Packers, Patriots, Steelers etc active in the first wave? Almost never. Think about that if you ever find yourself disappointed that this team isn’t offering Sammy Watkins $17M per year, or singing a guard for $13M per year. It’s bad business, plain and simple.
So what are this teams needs this draft?
Well, if you ask 10 different people you could, potentially, get 10 different answers. The obvious ones are LG, RB and DE.
With the way this draft is, and if we had a second and third round pick it would set them up perfectly to go LG in the first, RB in the second and DE in the third. That’s where the value lies in each round, roughly speaking.
But what about tight end? What about wide receiver? What about linebacker? What about safety? You could make an argument for almost every single position outside of QB in the first round. That sets the team up perfectly to go the desired best player available route.
As long as the player is the right one, having him on the roster will add value to the team regardless of the position he plays. If they go linebacker, we’ve got some much needed depth behind Bobby, they’ve got insurance in case they don’t extend K.J. Wright to a third contract. If they go left tackle, they’ve got cover for Duane Brown in case he gets injured or isn’t extended. If they go wide receiver, they have some solid insurance in case Tyler Lockett, Jaron Brown or Amara Darboh don’t step up.
You get the idea? Going BPA sets the team up well for years to come and comes backs to Pete’s philosophy of ‘win forever’. In this day and age, teams have weak spots in the roster, even with the 2013/2014 Seahawks, they never had that pass rushing 3 technique defensive tackle that could collapse a pocket and take over games. It’s unrealistic to except a solid depth chart across the whole roster, it just doesn’t happen in a salary capped league, it’s almost impossible. You can get close, sure, but never the ‘total’ package.
I’m sure Pete and John have their draft board pretty much set, expect to see them throwing cards in the bin in the war room on draft day as certain players they had highly ranked come off the board, expect them to manoeuvre their draft position to gain maximum value. Remember, Seattle doesn’t just historically move down, they also move up in the middle rounds.
It will be exciting to see how this draft pans out. And for the record, I still believe Earl will be moved to recoup draft capital. This is a pretty solid draft at numerous positions and John and Pete will be salivating at the idea of some of the guys available at the end of this month.