Seahawks can't lean on 2023 draft to fix current defensive issues
Seattle has given up almost 1,000 rushing yards in the last 5 games: Seaside Joe 1379
Listen, I’m not trying to be dismissive or condescending when I say this, but when fans point to the 2023 draft as an immediate solution to the Seahawks present defensive woes, where is the logic in that?
True, the NFL is putting more pressure on young players to perform than ever before. Maybe because of that willingness to lean on younger players, fans have been lucky enough to not on wait on the superstars, including names like Micah Parsons and Ja’Marr Chase in 2021. Or Sauce Gardner and Tariq Woolen in 2022.
Exceptions that prove the rules do not make for great examples as to why Seattle or any team should be looking to the draft to plug current gaps on the roster.
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The Seahawks will not be using the draft to find players for 2023; they will be using the draft to find players for 2023-2026 and hopefully in some cases, well beyond. If a franchise happens to fall into a player who immediately becomes one of their most valuable, such as the unexpected Woolen, then don’t complain when you strike gold. But the Seahawks should never put themselves in a position where the draft becomes the last line of defense towards finding a starter to play an immediate role.
Seattle found themselves doing that with Charles Cross, but having a top-10 pick and gaping hole at left tackle is at least not unusual.
The Seahawks are actually a perfect example of why the Seahawks should not think of the 2023 draft as a place to stockpile 2023 defensive starters:
Do you think that the 2022 Seattle Seahawks rookie class is the best in the NFL? Of course you do. It’s…THE BEST!
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And yet how many actual rookie starters are we talking about? Woolen is a premier cornerback, Cross is a serviceable left tackle, Abraham Lucas is an exciting-but-terrifying journey, Kenneth Walker would have been better served as a backup to Rashaad Penny this season, and Coby Bryant should not be a full-time player yet.
I can’t read this but I can take a guess as to what “5rd string dos Rams” means:
Do you know that Boye Mafe exists outside of the times that someone like me or another Seahawks friend says, “Remember Boye Mafe?” Out of hundreds of NFL hopefuls at outside linebacker or defensive end in 2022, Mafe was the eighth drafted. That puts Mafe easily in the 95th percentile of edge prospects in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Mafe has played in 36% of Seattle’s snaps this season and that number has declined over the last two weeks, as the team has been giving more time to players like L.J. Collier and Darrell Taylor; Collier, a former first round pick, has had barely any defensive value in his career. Taylor, a former second round pick, had no value as a rookie and has struggled in year three.
The Seahawks even doubled down at edge, picking Tyreke Smith out of Ohio State in the fifth round, but he will not make an appearance during his rookie season.
Fans hoping that Seattle can draft help for their front-seven are simultaneously expecting the Seahawks to be able to do something that they’ve never really done before—and that no NFL team is typically capable of accomplishing. Three of the top-five picks this year were defensive ends and though Aidan Hutchinson has a pretty sack total (7), none of those players are near being the game wreckers that they were drafted to be.
And we shouldn’t expect Hutchinson, Travon Walker, or Kayvon Thibodeaux to be elite yet. The Lions drafted the most productive rookie of the three and are still ranked 31st in defense.
This is not to say that the Seahawks shouldn’t draft Will Anderson, Jalen Carter, Myles Murphy, Bryan Bresee, or any of the names we’ve heard bandied about as “blue chip” defensive help. They probably should! But not because Pete Carroll thinks that Anderson or Carter will be 2022’s Quinnen Williams in 2023.
2022’s Quinnen Williams didn’t exist until 2022; Williams wasn’t “saving the Jets” for his first three seasons in the league and in fact New York had the 32nd-ranked defense in 2021.
But let’s say that you want the Seahawks to make two “safe” defensive picks in the first round, like Jalen Carter and an elite off-ball linebacker prospect. This year’s “safest” pick in the middle-to-late part of the first round was off-ball linebacker Devin Lloyd to the Jaguars. He’s can’t miss. Lloyd plays an “easy plug-and-play position” and he was by far the best at the job in the 2022 class.
Devin Lloyd was benched a couple of weeks ago.
You know who would be a much safer bet to be Seattle’s 2023 off-ball linebacker than even the highest-ranked off-ball linebacker in the entire draft class? Cody Barton. He may or may not have an enticing ceiling, but in terms of being able to run the playbook and execute the job next season, Barton (a 2023 free agent) is head and shoulders above any rookie.
I could go on for hours proving that NFL rookies do not often help teams to a large degree, from this year’s top run-stuffing defensive tackle (Jordan Davis) to this year’s top plug-and-play safety (Kyle Hamilton) to this year’s top guard (Kenyon Green), all positions we are told are “so easy to translate to the pro level” and yet all of those players, and Lloyd, and Walker, and Thibodeaux, and forever I go on, have to be held back by coaches to a degree because they aren’t ready.
The Seahawks will have a top-five pick and maybe that player will be an immediate contributor at a high level like Micah Parsons was in 2021. Or maybe he’s going to be a long wait, like Chase Young in 2020. Do you remember Nick Bosa and Bradley Chubb missing virtually their entire second seasons? Do you remember Myles Garrett missing five games as a rookie? Do you remember that Solomon Thomas and Clelin Ferrell were top-four picks?
My expectations for all rookies are that even in the best case scenario, we may not see their true value until 2-3 years into their careers. And then once we start discussing the players who Seattle could choose in the middle of the first round, then on day two, and finally on day three, I can only expect the Seahawks to be picking players who they feel should be starting in 2024 or 2025, at the earliest.
Seattle’s defensive performances over the last month, from getting gashed by Rachaad White in Germany to losing to Josh McDaniels in overtime, from an all-too-close victory over John Wolford to Sunday’s embarrassment against Sam Darnold, these are not indicative of a need to draft the positions that have been “exposed” the most this season. That’s not the purpose of the draft.
That’s the purpose of free agency and trades.
The 12-1 Eagles had holes on their roster and two first round picks this year. Did they draft two players to fill those gaps? No. They picked Jordan Davis because they’re hopeful he’s an heir apparent to the still-good Fletcher Cox and they traded the other pick for A.J. Brown, now a top-five wide receiver, instead of trying to get lucky in the draft and ending up with Jalen Reagor again instead.
(Just ask the Eagles where they’d be right now if instead of the Brown trade, they picked Jahan Dotson or Treylon Burks.)
Philadelphia built their top-10 defense through free agency and trades, adding James Bradberry (an All-Pro candidate), C.J. Gardner Johnson (tied for lead with six interceptions), Haason Reddick (10 sacks), and Kyzir White this offseason; and not over-emphasizing the importance of filling “needs” in the draft.
Take the components of Seattle’s best defense of all-time, the 2013 Super Bowl-dominating version, and that would make for one of Seattle’s worst defenses of all-time if each of those players was a rookie that year. Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor were bad as rookies. Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, and Chris Clemons needed several years in the league before they could perform at a high level. Even Richard Sherman probably learned many valuable lessons when sitting for most of his first two months in the league.
If the Seahawks use rookies to fix their defensive issues in 2023, then the Seahawks are at risk of making those issues much worse.
Instead, Pete Carroll and John Schneider have to decide which current defensive starters should be brought back as starters next season (not many) and which free agents and trade targets of a veteran persuasion could start contributing immediately.
It would be really exciting to add someone like Will Anderson or Jalen Carter to the core of the Seahawks roster because in two or three years either of those prospects could have the impact that we’re seeing from the best defensive players in the NFL and names like those (Bosa, Garrett, Cox, Williams, Aaron Donald, etc.) end up being more important than “filling a need at a position of need.” Those players solve issues that go well beyond only the position that they play.
However, for next season, Seattle needs to find better starters than most of the starters we saw give up 960 rushing yards in their last five games. That means making a harder push in free agency and trades next year, not putting that pressure on players who are currently preparing for a college bowl game and watching the NFL on TV.
I will explore who those veteran names could be in upcoming episodes of Seaside Joe, so get a free subscription to read those, or upgrade to premium to help support this Seahawks newsletter and to get 3-4 bonus posts a week.
Joe is absolutely correct. I believe Seahawk leadership plans to contend for a Super Bowl in 2024 and 2025, therefore 2023 is still a critical draft for bringing that plan to fruition. Just not for 2023. I'm mostly concerned with John's ability to staff the new defensive approach with appropriate personel whether through the draft or free agency. Then there's our lack of a running game.
Poona Ford, Quintin Jefferson, Shelby Harris, Myles Adams, Brian Mone, and Al Woods are great rotational pieces but which one is the penetrating disruptor? Nwosu, Talyor, Mafe, and Irvin (with Robinson, Johnson, and Smith on IR) comprise our pass rush and run contain group. Who makes plays they aren't supposed to? Who limits the opposing OC? That's thirteen players but only two that could be starters on an elite defense. Two.
Pete Carroll said, ""They ran their game," Carroll said. "That's their running game. We were trying to knock them back, and we couldn't get it done. We tried everything that we had to get it stopped, and we were not able to stop them… Our guys are trying. They're working hard to get it done. We went through all of the process during the week to line it up so we knew what they were doing. We were not fooled by anything today. We were on it. But you have to play the line of scrimmage and get off the blocks and play together. Everybody has to fit together. It's always about those fits. It wasn't good enough. It just plain old wasn't good enough." The translation is we don't have adequate personel to withstand a pounding run game even if we know exactly what they're going to do.
What's odd about the demise of our offensive running game is the lack of information. You can find a plethora of articles on our inability to stop the run but nothing on why we can't run. The little available blames injuries to K9 but we couldn't run before that. Three things have changed in terms of the run game since Penny's dominant stretch. Obviously, there's no Penny, both offensive tackles and the center are new, and the run coordinator has changed. We were able to maintain decent running totals without Penny and with the new run game coordinator. Our 2022 run totals to date are, 76, 36, 112, 235, 151, 136, 213, 87, 158, 39, 65, 90, and 46. Denver and SF were the first two games and have excellent defenses but after that we were fairly consistent, not great, but consistent until the Tampa Bay game. The elephant in the room is that it appears that the rookie tackles, and maybe Blythe have run out of gas. I'll also note that Carolina showed us the value of wide recievers blocking and Shenault is a load. If anybody has a good analysis of what has happened I'd really appreaciate you sharing.
A successful draft is a mid-league rated rookie starter. A wildly successful draft is a stand-out pick, either picked for obvious reasons (read high pick) or coaches saw something (3-5th round). Drafts that yield one of those guys dont make over teams in general but a couple years of those you do flip teams. Which to me makes the ‘23 draft super critical to get right and maybe even get a little lucky. Another solid draft of a stand out and a couple serviceable guys will fix a bunch of the woes. Because right now if the defense is not fixed doesn’t matter who the QB is. Might as well not risk your high pick on a position that has shown nearly year after year has top 10 pick busts. Getting defense right is going to be an all assault for draft, FA, and trades- and it still may take another year to do it.