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Seahawks draft showdown: Jalen Carter or Will Levis? My most controversial opinions
What nobody is saying about Lamar Jackson, Matthew Stafford on the trade block, Lions moving up, and other controversial takes: Seaside Joe 1486
One month away from the 2023 NFL Draft and it seems like if there’s an inevitable collision course to decide “Who’s more right?” about what the Seattle Seahawks could do with the #5 pick between myself and Rob Staton of Seahawks Draft Blog it is this: I will be surprised if the Seahawks choose Will Levis and Rob knows that the Seahawks will definitely not choose Jalen Carter.
If the top-four falls as many are expecting it to on April 27th, then those two prospects could be available when Seattle is on the clock and then we may have a showdown of “QB or Defense”?…inevitably leading to a trade down and scrapping the whole thing.
I’ve never seen Levis as a first round talent and I’ve made it known that I’m skeptical of any analysis that puts him in the top-10, but after so many years of doing this job and seeing where predictions get people like me I want to keep the door open that it could happen. As I like to do whenever I latch onto a belief, I even tried to prove myself wrong and made the best case for Levis that I could make.
I also feel that Anthony Richardson has not demonstrated enough on-field success through three college seasons to justify a selection that high, regardless of how awesome he is as a physical talent, but those are just my feelings and if I could predict exactly what would happen in the draft that would make the night a little less exciting for me. I also don’t want to dampen anyone else’s excitement over Richardson or any other prospect—I hope every Seahawks fan who comes to Seaside Joe to share their opinions feels comfortable expressing exactly how they feel—whether that’s confirmation or disagreement with me.
I’ve always said that the collective knowledge of this community is far more than I will EVER know. Rob Staton’s always said:
As most of you know, I have these non-negotiable daily habits that I commit to everyday in an effort to just make my life and living a tiny bit better by each night. One that I added recently—four years ago, I started with just one or two non-negotiables (including this newsletter that’s on its 1,485th day in a row) and now I’m up to 11 habits—was watching 10 minutes of film breakdown per day. It started with five minutes and now I’m up to 10; I recommend starting your dailies with bite-size amounts that make it EASY to start and then working your way up organically.
I’ve always felt ashamed of how little I know about Xs and Os and film breakdown so 2023 is going to start my quest to improve that area of my NFL writing. So many of you know so much more than I do about Xs and Os, about playing football or coaching football or knowing the little intricacies of “Well, here the cornerback needs to turn his hips” and “There the tackle needs to set his base” and so I’m always leaning on the comments to teach me more about the game.
There are no stupid comments on Seaside Joe.
So when a Seahawks fan tells me that they want Seattle to pick Levis or Richardson at #5, I can understand that because a quarterback prospect is the most exciting (and potentially valuable) move in the first round. Levis and Richardson both bring physical profiles to the position that the Seahawks have potentially never had at quarterback before. Recently, we’ve seen many playoff and Super Bowl quarterbacks and MVPs who bring size and speed attributes that would have you believe that if Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson could go from “projects to prototypes” then certainly Richardson—who did things at the combine that not even Allen could—has the potential to blossom into a Monday Night Football mainstay if dropped in a perfect situation.
As a football fan, it makes my life so much better when the league gets more good football players. So I’m rooting for all the prospects to become great.
It is only the historical evidence and odds against quarterback prospects like Levis and Richardson (and ALL QB prospects really) that leaves me skeptical that this is a slam dunk decision for Pete Carroll and John Schneider. Again—nobody spends more time trying to prove me wrong than me: If the Seahawks want to trade up for a QB, I’m not going to kick them out of bed.
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There are two quarterbacks who I think are locked into 1-2: Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud. That’s what I’ve believed for the last two years and I committed to focusing on QB draft prospects beginning in 2021 because I had a feeling that the Seahawks would end up here by now. Needing a QB and having the opportunity to draft one. And who knows, maybe I have only “studied this draft class 1% as much as” Rob has, I have no disillusions about this being his passion.
But I also love the NFL Draft—there is room for many of us and I certainly hope that we disagree sometimes—and my track record on quarterbacks isn’t as bad as you would think it should be for someone who doesn’t always know what the hell he’s looking at! My main weapon is merely watching a lot of college quarterbacks and listening to my gut when I ask, “Okay, who is good at this? Who isn’t very good at this?”
I think statistics can be a good starting point to research because there are so many college QBs, but then you need to watch full games of those players and assess how high are the highs, how low are the lows, how much is he being helped out by his teammates, how much is he being hurt by his coaches, etc. If I like a QB, I’ll keep digging and it’s rare that I ever “love” a QB.
It’s a hard job!
Oftentimes though, the tiebreaker for me is not what happens on the field—because as with Allen or Justin Herbert or Deshaun Watson or Patrick Mahomes, maybe sometimes they aren’t telegraphing what’s going to happen consistently in the NFL—but the stories that happen off of the field.
The reason that I rated Herbert so highly in 2020 was mainly just one story I heard about him: He was a low-rated prospect coming out of high school because he kept skipping showcase events that most QB recruits go to for attention out of a commitment to his own team practices.
It’s a similar story behind my obsession with Grayson McCall. I was first led in his direction by the stats, then I saw the the film verified the stats and seeing that he makes so few mistakes on the field, then learned that he was under-recruited in part because he was overshadowed by cross-town rival Sam Howell, the number one QB recruit in the country for many colleges.
You are more than welcome to believe that my methodology is far too rudimentary to trust. It probably is! I know that this fanbase has specialties I haven’t mastered and information I don’t have and points of view that will challenge my own; the more we are willing to come together and figure out those disconnections, the better we will all be for it. This fanbase!
But last year I had to fight a hard fight for the entire draft season when I said that Malik Willis and Desmond Ridder were third round prospects and that Kenny Pickett would be the only first rounder. Not many were willing to go against the majority and fight that fight.
Two years ago, I didn’t believe that Trey Lance’s resume would warrant the number three pick in the draft and I incorrectly predicted that Mac Jones would go to the 49ers. Did the Lance choice do more good or harm to the teams debating Anthony Richardson?
As I will get into with these following opinions, I don’t see Richardson or Levis as a strong QB3—which would make it a historically good class, as three QBs going in the top-four has only happened three times before—but if they are, then the odds of them being available to the Seahawks are lower than I imagine.
That’s ultimately what leads me back to believing, as I wrote in Sunday’s bonus article (there’s a ton of bonus content, so consider joining the Regular Joes premium section!) that the Seahawks will fall back into drafting the highest-rated non-QB prospect on their board. Because I believe that prospect is Will Anderson and also because I don’t believe that the top-four picks will be QBs, that’s what leads me to think that Jalen Carter is Seattle’s next-best option.
Whether “the Seahawks took Carter off of their board” for character concerns or not is not based on fact, it is a guess based on circumstantial evidence. It could have happened. There could also be other prospects, including the QBs, who were taken off of Seattle’s board because they don’t like his character, personality, commitment, or effort.
We are SO FOCUSED on this ONE PROSPECT for that ONE REASON that we tend to forget that Jalen Carter can’t be the only such case and that not only is mentality an intangible, it’s also a trait that as fans we are REACHING to make it fit a certain person based on, “Well, I saw one interview and I read one report.”
Four weeks ago, the vast majority of reports and interviews were defending Carter against Todd McShay. What happened to the validity of everything said prior to the combine?
I don’t think the “This is what I would do” methodology of projecting the draft ever goes well—Rob Staton wrote before last season that Carter was one of the most overrated prospects in the 2023 class and a late first round pick who is a lesser version of Bryan Bresee, therefore to me it’s standard confirmation bias at play—so without any hard evidence that the Seahawks took Carter off of the board, I have to believe that he’s the same option now that he was for the last two years.
Notice that I never say “Rob Staton is wrong”; He could be right! Perhaps Rob has correctly identified the most overrated prospect in the draft and if he has, then Carter’s “fall” would mostly be predicated on teams thinking that his film is not as special as what the YouTubers and writers and analysts have all been saying it is; we’ve seen it happen before. I would never say that I *know* where Carter will or won’t be drafted…
But I’m going to side with what I’ve seen myself and what I’ve read and heard from the majority of analysts, those who keep saying that he’s got “Reggie White type of traits”, and think that if there’s even some truth to that—coupled with the premise that just like Richardson he could develop into a superstar with the right coaching staff—then the “character issues” is only noise.
NFL teams passing up elite football players because of…character issues? In what universe? Not in this universe. The three first round picks and $230 million guaranteed for Deshaun Watson universe. The NFL Draft is exciting on its own, it doesn’t need a showdown, especially when the Seahawks have this much draft capital…but I think we’re getting it anyway:
If the Seahawks pick Will Levis when Jalen Carter is on the board, I was very wrong.
If the Seahawks pick Jalen Carter when Will Levis is on the board, Rob Staton was very wrong.
If the Seahawks pick Anthony Richardson, I am pretty wrong. I don’t think that’s going to happen. If the Seahawks take any defensive player with their first pick, Rob was pretty wrong. I think QB is an option—I just don’t see many scenarios in which the board falls in such a way that Seattle gets the QB prospects who they might covet over the defensive prospects who could be remarkably valuable to Pete Carroll both in the future and right away.
A month out from the draft, my Seahawks draft board goes Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud, Will Anderson, Jalen Carter, Tyree Wilson—Stroud gets a positional value bump over Anderson, but I still believe that Pete himself would be personally more excited to get a pass rusher than a quarterback. I don’t expect the board to fall in such a way that Young or Stroud will even factor into Seattle’s plans—something me and Rob definitely agree with—unless the Seahawks manage to make a trade with the Texans.
That’s already been one of my most controversial opinions on the NFL Draft. Let me lay out that one and a few more as we sit 31 days out from decision day. And I know that these opinions are controversial, so it means I’m expecting and understanding of comments from fans who disagree with me. Sometimes I don’t even agree with me! But I’m not an oracle or anything.
If you want a front row seat to the April 27th showdown to see if Levis/Richardson or Carter/Anderson is the Seahawks pick, subscribe to Seaside Joe (click here)! I don’t expect Rob to acknowledge us at this point, so you’ll need to be here for it and we’ll have a LIVE SEASIDE CHAT going for the first round! We hit 1,900 subscribers (!!!) as I was writing this, so we’re only 100 Seahawks fans shy of the pre-draft goal with a month left! This is the 152nd Seaside Joe newsletter of 2023 already, many of which are bonus articles, so join Regular Joes to support a Seahawks writer and a blog specifically dedicated to YOU!
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I may not be the most physically fit Seahawks writer, but at least I am the tallest.
The Texans are not guaranteed to pick a QB
I *DO* expect the Texans to stay at #2 and draft a QB, but I’m willing to be the only writer who says that Houston may not be locked into draft a QB this year. You should never expect teams to drop all their eggs in a QB basket “for next year” but I was watching a Caleb Williams breakdown by JT O’Sullivan this week and it served as a reminder of how good he is—if Williams was in this draft, the Bears probably would have gotten a bigger haul to move down and the Panthers would have been usurped by a franchise with a higher pick. Drake Maye is also very good.
It opens up the conversation to acknowlege that the Texans aren’t making the AFC playoffs next season and probably not in 2024 either. At what point does a team say, “We’re wasting QB rookie contract years by putting him on a bad team that needs so much help?” Get the help first, then get the QB. Houston has two first round picks in 2024, should they get DeMeco Ryans a pass rusher before getting offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik a QB who will have no weapons and need to carry a terrible defense?
The Lions could trade up for QB
If the Seahawks go 14 years in a row without trading up in the first round (probable), the Lions may be the huckleberry. Detroit GM Brad Holmes was in the Rams front office in 2012 when the team traded down so Washington could get RGIII; he was there in 2016 when the Rams traded up for Jared Goff; his first move as Lions GM was trading Matthew Stafford to L.A.; and he traded up 20 spots last year for Jameson Willams. Blockbuster trades take guts and Holmes is certainly not suffering from emetophobia.
The Lions have picks #6, #18, #48, and #55 and feel they’re on the cusp of being contenders to win the NFC already. Goff is their middling QB who will be an easy cut in 2024 ($27m savings) if Detroit has a replacement ready to go. Whether the Lions do trade up for a QB could depend a) on Houston’s willingness to trade down and b) on how much the Lions like QB3 if they can only trade with the Cardinals. It makes a lot of sense for this to be the year that Holmes and Dan Campbell get a QB project after setting the stage over the last two years (which is what Houston should be doing) but it makes more sense at #2 than it does at #6.
The Colts would trade down
To say that Anthony Richardson is some “ideal fit” for Shane Steichen simply because Jalen Hurts is a rushing threat and Richardson is a rushing threat seems far too simplistic to me. As I wrote in another recent bonus article, Richardson feels like he’s the opposite of every kind of QB that almost anyone in the Colts organization (owner Jim Irsay, GM Chris Ballard, asst GM Ed Dodds especially) has seemed to favor. A year ago, there was talk of the Eagles replacing Hurts, he’s just the QB who Steichen inherited in Philadelphia.
And Hurts came into the NFL with three years of starting experience at two different colleges, finishing 2nd in the Heisman race to Joe Burrow in 2019.
“They both run though” is not gonna work as a comp for me, so I think I have to assess what the Colts are going to do if Stroud and Young are gone and Richardson isn’t in their plans. The Colts have met with Richardson, they have a meeting scheduled with Levis, and they’ve also held a private meeting with Tennessee’s Hendon Hooker, a protege of Peyton Manning who some view as QB3 in the class. If I’m right about Levis, then picking the best defensive player—which NOBODY else thinks could happen—or trading down might be their only options. If they trade down, they could get more ammo to trade up from #35 to select Hooker or Levis in the late first round.
What we could be seeing from Pete and John is a desire for the Lions, Raiders, Falcons, or Titans to trade in front of them for a QB. But the Colts and Falcons might have a fallback plan who nobody else is talking about…
There’s a secret bidding war for Matthew Stafford
Two years ago, Stafford made no sense on the Lions and he made all kinds of sense on the Rams. Today, Stafford makes no sense on the Rams. L.A. has stripped the roster to bare bones and they could have the best odds for Caleb Williams next year, who’s already playing in their backyard. They can’t protect Stafford—we saw that last year and the offensive line is even worse now—and he has the worst cast of weapons in the NFL after you count Cooper Kupp.
Stafford, Kupp, and Aaron Donald are totally out of place on the roster. So why haven’t we seen a trade yet? It’s the cap space issue and no trade will take place until after the draft. The Rams have reportedly called teams to gauge their interest in Stafford, but they can’t deal his contract without an impossible 2023 cap hit; that changes after June 1st.
Last year, we saw Baker Mayfield traded after the draft, eventually re-doing his deal to fit on the Carolina Panthers. I think teams are a little more comfortable with the idea of waiting until the summer or fall to add a starting QB—the Jets do not care that Aaron Rodgers isn’t on their team yet. He will be eventually and he doesn’t have to be until Week 1.
I think the Falcons are ready-to-go for Matthew Stafford. Perhaps the Colts feel that with their draft picks and Stafford, they could win the AFC South next season. Neither team has shown any panic about their QB position despite not having a top-two pick and not pursuing Lamar Jackson. Why not pursue Lamar? Maybe because they already know that Stafford is available, won’t cost them any 2023 draft picks, and is a lot cheaper.
Watching Lamar self-destruct has been partly entertaining, partly depressing/frustrating. Here’s the aspect to Lamar’s negotiations and desire for a Watson contract that nobody else has mentioned yet: Deshaun Watson SIGNED A DEAL FIRST! Watson signed a four-year contract in 2020, then demanded a trade in 2021, and he held all the leverage necessary to get a better contract two years later. Jackson should have signed the best offer the Ravens gave him in 2021, gotten a ton of guaranteed money, then he could have still gone back to the table this year and said, “Pay me or trade me”. Now he’s still doing the asking for a trade part, but he doesn’t have the contract to leverage a team to re-do his deal once they acquire him.
The entire focus of the media is on Lamar Jackson. I think the quarterback who is on the trade market who nobody is talking about—and the one who might be keeping teams at bay from Lamar—is Stafford. Maybe I’m wrong—misevaluation is an affliction we all suffer from—but I’ll continue to make reads based on what the evidence is telling me and not just because it’s what I want to be true. Or because it’s what “the majority” believes. That’s where I think many are being misled. Thanks for reading!
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