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seahawks pre draft analysis [part 3] defence/special teams

Which defensive star for the Seahawks wasn’t injured last year? Hard to say, but I will tell you who was: Shermann, Chancellor, Thomas and Avril all missed significant time. Even Wagner and Wright weren’t always fit and Bennett had his most flagged season (i don’t know if that’s true, but it felt like he was trying to get more flags than Ifedi). Then among the rookies: our top pick didn’t take a snap because of injury, Carson got injured after a spectacular start, Jones missed a bunch of time too and even Griffin missed a game.

With the LOB crumbling and ageing it is time to rebuild the defence. As I mentioned in my introduction to this series it is important to clean the slate so that you can build without nostalgia. That means no LOB 2.0, but a new era. In moving on from Sherman and Bennett we have made the first move. Moving on from ET3 and Chancellor is the next step. Depending on the injury it might be the end for Avril too. I have made this analysis similar to the Offensive Analysis, and contemplating these guys being gone.

Player colour code:

Starter

Backup

Draft colour code:

No draft need

Mid draft need

Top draft need

Defence

DE1 – no need

Clark, Jackson

According to PFF Clark graded higher than the likes of Bennett, Ansah and JPP as well as top rookies TJ Watt and Takkarist McKinley. And in my opinion he will have another jump if he is the declared our no.1 guy next season.

Jackson will be a solid backup, similar to Smith on the other side. Jefferson might figure into this rotation too, although he is listed as a DT.

It should be mentioned that Mingo was also used as an edge rusher last season with a respectable grade, and might factor in there this year for the Hawks. I still think that he will come from deeper though.

DE2 – mid need

Jordan, Smith, Nwachukwu

Jordan technically graded even better than Clark, but only had 135 snaps. If he can translate that to a whole season and stay healthy we could be looking at a fierce Edge duo.

As mentioned before, Smith figures to be a solid backup. He was once a first round draft pick, so if he lives up to his potential, which he flashed last season even though he was playing through an ankle injury, then he could become more. This could create a top rotation.

Not much can be said about Noble Nwachukwu because he doesn’t have any NFL game time yet. An UDFA by the 49ers in 2017, the Seahawks picked him up and seem to have liked what they saw otherwise they would’ t have kept him around.

Altogether, with the players we have now we can easily cover one of the two DE spots. Depending on performance and fitness we have two starters. On the other hand, it is always true that you can never have too many quality rushers. I believe that we have other needs at the top of the draft board, but that there are some solid guys available in all rounds.

DT – no draft need

Reed, Jones, Stephen, Johnson, Jefferson, McDowell[?]

I think that this is one of the strongest groups in our team and doesn’t really need any further additions. Reed has been a staple in the line for the past seasons and Jones was very exciting before he got injured, almost scoring on his first snap against None other than Aaron Rodgers. Behind that we basically picked up the Minnesota backup linemen from last season. That’s not supposed to be negative, because both are experienced and probably at a similar level to Reed and Jones, without as much potential. Jefferson has been a perennial on the Hawks roster for a while and adds good depth.

 

LB – mid need

Wagner, Wright, Dawson, [Alexander[ST]]

When you have two pro bowlers starting you don’t tend to think much about the position, but I think some depth is needed. Since the Hawks play mainly with 2 LBs and a Nickle cb (Coleman) it will be interesting to see how this group falls into place behind Wagner and Wright. Dawson figures to be a no1 backup at the moment, with Alexander primarily a ST ace. Mingo has been mentioned a lot with rushing in mind, so he could be splitting snaps with Coleman.

At the moment, however, each position has two players, but I would like to see the Hawks draft/ UDFA one or two more guys at least for camp. The one who should not be missed this draft is Shaquem Griffin. Not only would it be great to have both brothers on the squad, but he gives such a positive vibe that I think he could be central to the rebuild of the character of the team after the loss of Sherman, Bennett, possibly Kam and possible ET3.

LB3 / nickle – no draft need

Mingo, Coleman

These two will be looking to split snaps, with Coleman going in off a strong season for The Hawks last year and Mingo being brought in to rush from deep. Nonetheless, this could still change if the Seahawks decide to utilise Mingo further forward as a DE.

For the reasons named above, however I still think that Shaquem Griffin should be brought in for this group. He is the kind of player you can’t draft too high on. At worst we have a ST ace, and with our average special teams last year that wouldn’t be a bad thing. At best we pick up someone who can drive a locker room forward with his attitude, motivate everyone around him AND we are not even talking about his balling skills yet.

CB1 – no need

Griffin, Tyson, [Thorpe[ST]]

Griffin is the clear No1 CB for us next season, but it will help him develop as well if the Seahawks bring in a top prospect opposite him. He won the starting job last year without any question, and although he only made one interception he also finished the season with a sack in the last game. Quite often in 2017 I had the feeling that he was holding back a bit and making sure he got the tackle right. Rather than for example going for the big play/ int and risking a potential big gain by the offence (like what happens to Lane all the time). This is also one of the things I really like about him, and that sets him apart from other young CBs. It also makes me think that he has a lot of potential, and that as he gets more used to the league he will go for more big plays.

Mike Tyson is in this group because he is still growing into the CB role and will need some development time. He can get that behind Griffin. Niko Thorpe is a special teams ace.

CB2top need

Johnson, King, Elliot

Ok so we have reached the biggest need for the Seahawks. They are yet to resign Maxwell (having a seasoned starter could be good for the young guys). But why am I talking about a guy who is  it even there?

Well we acquired Johnson in the offseason from the 49ers. He was a starter for the first time last season and apart from that had three seasons as a non-starter. PFF gave him an overall rating in 2017, that was less than half as good as Griffin (36.9 to 77.2). He had a lower overall rating than Jeremy Lane…and Lane is just awful. I have to admit that I haven’t seen him play much, so I will reserve complete judgement, but right now I would feel more comfortable playing with Coleman at the other corner spot and someone like Bradley McDougald (SS) in at Nickle. Overall I think that Coleman is made more to play nickle though, I just want to highlight my lack of faith in Johnson.

King and Elliott on the other hand have had no notable game time in the last two years. King is even said to be a thought at safety. If the Seahawks don’t pick someone up they can use straight away in the draft, or Maxwell as a bridge for development, then they will have some serious problems next season. I don’t even think that Maxwell should be Option no.1 because there are some top CBs in this draft. More on that in the next article.

SS – no need

McDougald, Hill, Alexander

McDouglad played as both a replacement for Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor last season, I felt that he played better at SS. That is why I have listed him here even though on the Seahawks website he is listed as a FS. When he was coming into the box and making tackles, while having someone cover his back over the top he had some top class plays.

Maybe he will split some time with Hill, depending on his development. I like Hill a lot, and if he needs to he would probably be able to come on and start. I think he has the mentality for it. However, he hasn’t had the playing time as a starter yet, so it is hard to judge.

Alexander is another player with experience at free and strong safety, although he has only started 23 games in the last 3 seasons. Less than half. It just gives the Seahawks a lot of flexibility if, for example they decided to give last years rookies Hill and Thompson a start, then they would still have two guys as backups who can play either position.

FS – mid need

Thompson, Carter

Thompson was named one of the biggest steals in round 4 and has a similar skillset to ET3 as an athletic safety, who can read the QB and play sideline to sideline. He has even said that he used to watch film on Thomas growing up. The coaching staff have only been positive about him. I also like what I saw in the preseason last year, now I want to see it on the pitch. Side note: he played a lot of CB in college and could be used opposite Griffin if needs be.

Carter was drafter as a cornerback out of Stanford by the Lions. Is listed as a FS by the Seahawks. But what he really is no one knows because he doesn’t really play. Even if he ends up on the practice squad though, the Seahawks have McDougald and Alexander in place, both of whom have played FS and could back up Thompson, potentially even start.

Depending on the play of Thompson this might not be a need at all. If he is good enough then the Hawks will be fine and hopefully have a starter to fill the gap after Earl Thomas. Unfortunately, even if the Seahawks need someone there I haven’t seen many players in this draft (if any) that could help the Seahawks out there.

Special teams

K – mid need

Myers, Janikowski

Ok, so last year was about as much of a fail at kicker as you’re going to get. On the other hand, what can you expect when you pick up a guy who missed the winning field goal against the Hawks, in the playoffs for his old team. Anyway, moving on.

We have picked up two guys. One younger, one as experienced as can be. Both of which were dropped by their respective teams…

Maybe we add another guy as an UDFA, but I can’t see either of the guys above being the long term solution, unless they return to top form.

P – no need

Ryan

He is doing a great job and there is no need to move on from him. He is actually the only player on the team that pre-dates the Schneider-Carroll era.

LS – no need

Ott

More a case of if it’s not broke don’t fix it.

Summary

P/LS half of the special teams (kicking) luckily don’t need to be replaced and especially Ryan is the most experienced Seahawk.

DT a very solid rotation, with great young players and vets to back them up. One more guy could be added, but the Hawks have more pressing needs. There is no “star” player there yet, but in my eyes Jones and Reed both have the potential.

SS a very similar situation to DT. Good depth with both young and old players. There is one potential guy who I would add to this group from the draft, but he is likely to fall to the 7th round or become an UDFA.

LB is only really in orange because they need depth. The starters are beyond any doubt, which perhaps can only be said about Griffin, Reed, Clark and Coleman on this squad, none of which yet have the abilities of a Wagner. But behind the two starters it gets thin. Plus we really need to pick up Griffin here, I am literally so psyched about this guy, I wouldn’t be mad if they take him in the first (after trading down) or second round.

DE, here we have at least three players who have the potential to be starters. But two of those need to show that they can deliver, especially on a consistent basis. On the other hand, those two were once first round picks, and therefore must have at least some pedigree. Nonetheless, as it stands this group figures to have only one certain making it a bit boom or bust but with a bunch of opportunities and signs last year that they can succeed.

FS this is also a bit of a boom or bust, but slightly more critical. First of all we don’t know 100% yet whether Thompson could take over from Thomas, but he certainly seems to have the potential. He also has two potential backups with experience at the position if he doesn’t get up to speed. Nonetheless, i see those backups as more ideally fitting to SS, making the FS position a bit vulnerable.

K is there any need to discuss kicker. They don’t really get drafted, but we did just pick up a guy who was not only drafted, but in the first round! He is also 40 now…if we don’t draft one in the late rounds we should definitely look at the UDFAs because the kicking game cost us at least two games last season.

CB when a guy like Richard Sherman leaves, there are always going to be some big shoes to fill. Griffin can step up to a high quality no1 corner position, but he needs to be given help in form of a high quality CB2 across from him. Last year teams plastered him and he still did really well, next season he will develop further and with another guy of his quality we will soon have a new great secondary. Just to clarify though, we haven’t found that guy in FA and he isn’t on our squad already. And the ideal solution is not Byron Maxwell either, although he would be a good depth addition.

Top need: CB

Mid need: K, FS, DE, DT, LB

Special player: LB Shaquem Griffin

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