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Seaside Joe 1151: It wasn't what we expected, except it totally was
The Charles Cross selection with the number nine pick had “Seahawks” written all over it from the moment Seattle acquired said choice in exchange for Russell Wilson. I just did one hell of a job talking myself out of it over the last seven weeks.
If there was one thing that I said about drafting an offensive lineman, it was that he had to be a left tackle. If there is only one position that Cross plays, and there is, it’s left tackle. He also happens to be really damn good at it, the best in this class, and the Seahawks did right by proving me wrong.
Seattle traded Wilson to the Broncos on March 8th, and on March 9th I posted my first three-round mock draft for the Seahawks:
9-Charles Cross, Mississippi State
For now, it’s time to start considering the possibilities of a tackle like Charles Cross manning the left or right side for Seattle’s offensive line for at least eight or nine years. The 6’5, 307 lbs tackle out of Mississippi State—same home as former Seahawks picks Floyd Womack and Justin Senior, as well as Seattle right guard Gabe Jackson—measured up like an elite offensive line prospect at the combine:
34.5” arms, nearly 11-inch hands, and a 4.95 40-yard dash that puts him in rare company for players of his size. NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein compares Cross to a cross between Taylor Moton and Tristan Wirfs in terms of size and playing style.
If Seattle doesn’t trade up, Cross might be the best tackle who could fall out of the top-eight.
When I initially looked at the board and who could be available at pick nine, my gut reaction was all over Charles Cross. Three days later, I betrayed my gut, writing “Why the Seahawks won’t be drafting Charles Cross”, effectively ending my reign as World’s Smartest Man.
Essentially I dropped Cross down my board for two reasons, both of which shall reflect poorly on my ability to read the tea leaves this year—it’ll be up to me to do a better job of analyzing the evidence in the future and not talking myself out of the picks that do make the most sense.
1-Charles Cross didn’t come close to certain athletic measurements at the combine
The reports on Cross on the field have all stated that he’s an EXCEPTIONAL athlete. But there are a few things he didn’t do well at the combine: his 7.88 three-cone time is well off the 7.5 and lower that nearly all of Pete Carroll’s previous tackles hit in the same drill. The one exception? Russell Okung, who had a 7.79.
Well, there you have it… two top-10 picks at left tackle had roughly the same three-cone.
The 26” vertical was also quite a poor showing. But then he posted a 30.5” vert at his pro day (which I missed!) and Cross’s 1.73 10-yard split is elite and he nearly matches Evan Neal’s length despite being three inches shorter thanks to 34.5” arms. Here’s what Dane Brugler wrote about Cross in his The Beast draft guide:
STRENGTHS: Athletic and fluid with the shuffle quickness to mirror rushers laterally ... stays patient in pass protection and his countermeasures get better with each game ... does an outstanding job framing rushers, relying on his timing and precision with his hands ... able to use his length as a recovery device to steer shifty rushers away from the pocket ... doesn’t have the anchor to stone bull rushers, but has the lower-body flexibility and play strength to wear them down ... good feel for body position as a zone blocker in the run game ... displays strong hands to seal and leverage run lanes ... rolls his hips into contact and catches himself when he overextends ... impressive vision and block awareness for a player his age ... was a sub-270-pound player when he arrived at Mississippi State and worked hard to add functional playing weight ... started 22 of 23 games the last two seasons and held up well versus SEC competition.
WEAKNESSES: Average-sized frame and must continue to add mass ... not a power-based blocker, which especially shows in the run game ... against bull rushers, his shoulder will soften and anchor can break down ... lacks the twitch to recover after a late start in pass protection ... needs to better understand when to release defenders and avoid holding penalties (flagged eight times in 2021, including seven holding calls) ... played in a pass-happy college scheme ... only played left tackle in his two seasons as a starter and has questionable position flexibility.
SUMMARY: A two-year starter at Mississippi State, Cross lined up exclusively at left tackle in head coach Mike Leach’s Air Raid offense. He fast-tracked his development and comfort level on an island versus SEC competition, winning the Kent Hull Trophy in 2021 as the top lineman in the state of Mississippi. Cross has above-average foot quickness, body control and functional length to attack, reset and get the job done versus edge rushers. His run blocking is a work in progress (78.9 percent of his college snaps were pass-blocking plays), but he flashes the hand strength and angles to out-leverage defenders. Overall, Cross lacks ideal bulk and power, especially in the run game, but he processes things quickly and shows outstanding hand exchange and movement patterns in pass protection. He projects as an NFL starter with Pro Bowl-level talent thanks to his pass blocking.
2-Charles Cross was barely asked to run block in Mike Leach’s air raid offense
We used to worry about QBs that came out of an air raid until Patrick Mahomes came along. Will Cross put to bed any concerns of being compared to Andre Dillard for the same reasons?
Ultimately, it seems Cross was better-than-okay in run blocking at Mississippi State, he just wasn’t asked to do it that much. In Seattle, offensive line coach Andy Dickerson and coordinator Shane Waldron won’t put him in position to fail as a rookie, playing to his strengths as a pass blocker on the left side and formulating the offense around a quarterback who will be much different than Russell Wilson. That likely means that as a “Baby Andrew Whitworth” on the Seahawks offense, Cross hopefully won’t have to hold blocks very long in a quick-pass west coast offense and a wide zone blocking scheme that may treat Rashaad Penny as some new age version of Todd Gurley.
Then with more reps, comes more responsibility.
By the time that we got to the draft, I had mostly crossed Cross off of my board. But just because he wasn’t who I was expected, it’s not someone who any Seahawks fan should be disappointed with.
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What do the Seahawks do at tackle now?
How many teams in the NFL have two starting tackles that entered the NFL around the same time and were drafted by their franchise? Not many.
The Giants just picked Evan Neal to bookend the line with Andrew Thomas, their top pick in 2020; the Chargers are currently slated to start Rashawn Slater and 2020 UDFA Storm Norton (but likely won’t start Norton); the Bears may start both 2021 picks in Teven Jenkins and Larry Borom, or draft a new OT on Friday; every other example I found was separated by at least three years.
If the Seahawks start Cross and Jake Curhan or Stone Forsythe, that would give them an unusually young duo of starting tackles and it’s simply not something that happens very often; when it does, it doesn’t tend to go well enough for both tackles to stick.
There are a ton of tackles left on the board who the Seahawks could probably select on day three, including Andrew Stueber, Vederian Lowe, Kellen Diesch, and Max Mitchell. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Seattle double down, but perhaps it’s more likely that they wait to sign one as an undrafted free agent. It seems like Brandon Shell, or another veteran who is either available now or will be available later this year, will eventually get a call from Pete Carroll about playing right tackle.
What do the Seahawks do on Friday?
The rest of my gut reaction mock draft had the Seahawks picking cornerback Kyler Gordon out of Washington and Wisconsin linebacker Leo Chenal at picks 40, 41. Both remain available and should come off the board soon.
The knock on Gordon is speed. His 4.52 40-yard dash is the worst of any CB expected to go before round five. Born in Mukilteo and then playing high school ball at Archbishop Murphy, Gordon is a local who once joined the hip-hop dance team for the Seattle Storm, according to Brugler’s report. He also has impressive short-area quickness (3.96 short shuttle, 6.67 three-cone are both superb) and his length is adequate.
There’s a major drop-off at the CB position after Gordon, Andrew Booth, and Roger McCreary. The Seahawks could go corner at 40, then trade down at 41.
Chenal is another bonkers athlete, but probably the pick I’d be less excited about if it happened, based mostly on position value, the other available prospects, and possessing the floor to be a backup/special teamer in the NFL. Brugler’s comp for Chenal is JORDYN BROOKS, another reason for Seattle to not to use another top-40 pick on Jordyn Brooks.
If the Seahawks want to add a developmental weapon at linebacker (Chenal had 18.5 TFL, eight sacks last year), he’s intriguing. But the Seahawks need to get better in run defense and pass coverage and there are many better routes to go for that at linebacker… which I would do on day three. Even though he comes from MY mock last month.
Available linebackers include Nakobe Dean, Christian Harris, Chad Muma, Troy Andersen, Channing Tindall, and Brandon Smith. I’d look more towards someone like Malcolm Rodriguez or Jack Sanborn in round five, maybe even signing Baylon Spector after the draft.
Who do you want? Shout it out!
Where will the quarterbacks go?
It’s the question I heard most often after day one and frankly I just find it BORING. We’re talking about some of the most boring prospects in the draft. Why? Because of the position they play and the fact that only one (Kenny Pickett, who all along was my highest-rated QB and the only guy I gave a round one “expectation” to) was drafted on Thursday. Of course, Seattle is the team most-often linked to a QB and I can’t wait for this second round to end.
I felt such relief and jubilation having gotten through the first round without the Seahawks taking a quarterback, which as you Seaside Joe readers know, I said would never happen. We’ve made it through so much together over the last eight weeks… Matt Ryan, Deshaun Watson, Colin Kaepernick, Marcus Mariota…all quarterbacks I said, “NO! NOT GONNA HAPPEN AND SHOULDN’T HAPPEN!”…and now we’ve made it past the first round of the draft.
I kept saying the same thing about the 2022 quarterback class, something that the greater NFL draft population who didn’t watch and rank these guys week after week like I did in 2021, which is that the talent/production simply wasn’t there to expect more than one or two (late) first rounders out of the bunch. Eventually I started to give in and said, “Fine, I guess maybe there are some bad GMs out there and anything could happen” but Thursday’s result came as no surprise to me.
So when people are texting me, “Hey do you think the Seahawks will take Malik Willis?” my answer is the same… “Why would anyone even want that?” and “Why would anyone even care?”
We’re obsessing over players who have to overcome significant obstacles at this point to become NFL starters—whereas there are many dozens of prospects at other positions who will be much more valuable to teams and be able to contribute right away. That’s also how I would approach day two if I was a GM who needed a quarterback… wait and see who is still available in round four.
I think Sam Howell is a more fun QB than advertised. I think of the two QBs who had the best college season last year, Carson Strong is someone who you hope can become a great starter but likely won’t. Whereas Desmond Ridder has a better chance to become a starter, but not a great one. Bailey Zappe is a sleeper to go ahead of at least a couple of the bigger names we’ve been assuming. I’ll say the same thing I’ve always said about Willis: he’s a fourth round prospect and a team’s QB3 for at least a year.
I can’t relate to this obsession people have with the Seahawks’ quarterback position and the belief that they need a starter. Seattle doesn’t share in this same obsession—not with the QB position itself, not with this 2022 class, and not with the idea that someone other than Drew Lock or Geno Smith will be the Week 1 starter. I keep finding that no matter what stage of the offseason we get through, people continue to wonder, “Oh there’s A QB SOMEWHERE? The Seahawks MUST go get him!”
Even when the draft is over, it’ll just be onto Baker Mayfield again. Let’s try our best to keep ignoring it until something actually happens.
Will Tony Pauline be held accountable this time?
Of course, I was still a little nervous that the Seahawks would draft a QB on Thursday and that anxiety was heightened by yet another round of baseless rumors supplied by ProFootballNetwork’s Tony Pauline. For another year, everything that Pauline reported turned out to be false and I ask you again, when do we get to hold these reporters accountable for spreading fake news?
I want to share the response to this tweet I posted after the first round because I think it emphasizes how not alone I am in this exasperation I feel for fake news and baseless rumors—it’s not a “viral tweet” by any means but I’m a nobody with 189 followers and yet Seattle showed up a bit to agree that this nonsense is finally nonsense:
You can guess that some of the responses are along the lines of, “Well, it could be that the plans were thrown off by Cross being available and (excuse excuse excuse)” but keep in mind that this happens EVERY YEAR. It’s happened every year. I documented over 100 Pauline reports and his “hit rate” is not only less than 5-percent; most of what he gets right is either a consensus opinion that most analysts had or a spaghetti-wall throw that had a multitude of names to a team and one of them turned out right.
Why should I give my time to reports with a 95-percent rate of failure?
It’s not like I can just ignore these reports either. I could do it alone if I were just a fan, but as a person who has spent the last 12 years writing about the Seahawks, it means that I have to react to EVERYTHING that gets reported and adopted by fans as a possibility. That means that when someone starts reporting that their sources say Seattle has a trade in place with the Green Bay Packers to move up into the first round for Desmond Ridder, that suddenly now I have to respond and react to said rumors.
Year. After. Year. These. Rumors. Turn. Out. To. Be. False. And it’s not just the Seahawks. Pauline goes on podcast after podcast, for practically every team, and seems to have “sources” all over the league. Maybe it’s time for new sources, Pauline, yours seem to keep leading you astray every year. Accountability. Now.
Who are the best players available? Gordon is high on that list. The Seahawks met with Boye Mafe and Christian Watson in the pre-draft process. Breece Hall and Kenneth Walker III remain on the board; You are more than welcome to be excited by the idea of Seattle picking Hall. Maybe the Seahawks grab Dameon Pierce in round three. Skyy Moore, John Metchie, George Pickens, Alec Pierce, and Watson highlight the receivers, but I still like Khalil Shakir the most. Nakobe Dean headlines the linebackers but I think Seattle can wait. Arnold Ebiketie, Drake Jackson, David Ojabo, Nik Bonitto, and Mafe are all there too.
My expectation is leaning towards one edge player, one trade down, one running back, one cornerback, and if they add a day two pick, one linebacker or one receiver. Center, guard, kicker, punt returner, quarterback…these are positions that can be had on day three.