Either of Drew Lock, Geno Smith could be a top-20 quarterback next season
Seaside Joe 1138: And what 12 personnel says about the Seahawks' draft plans
The Seahawks re-signed Geno Smith on Thursday and that should be enough to put first round quarterback talk to rest before the draft… emphasis on “should be” because obviously it won’t be for fans who can’t let go. If you’ve developed an affinity for a quarterback in the draft (and there’s nothing wrong with that) because you had the expectation that one was in play for the first three picks, then you’re going through the same coping mechanisms required to get past the Deshaun Watson, Matt Ryan, and Colin Kaepernick speculation situations already.
Here at Seaside Joe, we’ve accepted Drew Lock as Seattle’s potential starting quarterback since the day that the team traded Russell Wilson for a package that included him and Pete Carroll emphasized that they really like him.
“When Drew came out of college — we made our assessments and evaluated him [for] the draft — we saw him as a big, strong-armed, mobile, aggressive, athletic quarterback,” Carroll said Tuesday. “He had thrown a ton of footballs. He had a very aggressive program where you got to see him do everything … and we really liked what we saw. We can still see that. We see that right now when we watch the film.”
Signing Smith to a contract that can pay him up to $7 million—considerably more than was expected for a career backup who stalled out the offense last season with the exception of playing against the worst team in the NFL—is a symbolic gesture that says, “Hey fans, this is one of our two quarterbacks for next season.” The other is Lock.
So like with every other QB who was never actually in play for the Seahawks, it’s all about deflecting these rumors, stories, and grasps for a “quarterback of the future” until finally the whole Seattle universe has come to accept that Lock and Smith are the two competing to start. Many won’t accept it until Week 1. Even then, QBs will hit the trade block during the season and this search won’t end until it ends.
I’m quite sure it won’t end until the 2023 draft at the soonest.
Of course, I don’t rule out the Seahawks drafting a quarterback at some point and I believe Schneider/Carroll may do so because a) it will appease fans desperate for a QB who simply has “all potential” (I’ve seen how Rams fans have taken a shine to former UDFA Bryce Perkins even though his play in the preseason is hardly reminiscent of an NFL starter) and b) there’s maybe no drop off between QB1 and QB6 in this draft.
I think it’s defensible that the best QB in this draft is Nevada’s Carson Strong, a player who nobody pounds the table for in round one.
A year ago, the Bears drafted Justin Fields even though they had Andy Dalton and Nick Foles, but coaches never implied that Foles could win the starting job. The starter was Dalton, the future was Fields, and Foles was happy to hang out.
The Seahawks traded for Lock and said he’d compete to start. They signed Smith and they want him to compete to start. Seattle had Matt Flynn and Tarvaris Jackson when they drafted Wilson in 2012 and they a) didn’t really give Jackson an opportunity to start and b) drafted Wilson in the third round. Maybe the Seahawks add Strong or Sam Howell to the mix in round three. I could see Aqeel Glass or Jack Coan or Kaleb Eleby on day three or after the draft is over. The first two rounds are off limits.
One reason being that Lock and Smith are not far off from standing on the shore of the top-20 quarterbacks in the NFL.
Sometimes I think that the 20th-best QB must be someone like Kirk Cousins or Derek Carr, but the actual 20th-best QB in the NFL is really more like Teddy Bridgewater or Marcus Mariota, players who we often say should not be starting at all.
The truth is that at least one-third of the league’s starting quarterbacks are players who need to be replaced as soon as possible. It’s not surprising that the Seahawks have taken center stage for the national media in terms of needing an immediate replacement—when you trade Russell Wilson and then say that his successor is Drew Lock or Geno Smith, that’s going to draw questions for a team that had been to the postseason for most of the past decade—but in reality Seattle’s not in the most dire situation at the position.
Why aren’t we talking more about how these teams need a new quarterback? Why have we accepted the Giants’ answer that Daniel Jones gets another year to prove himself, when we won’t accept the same answer for Lock, a QB drafted one whole round after Jones in 2019? Why have we accepted that the Falcons are “set” with Marcus Mariota, when Geno Smith is at least as good as him? Why are we giving a pass to Jameis Winston, Carson Wentz, and Tua Tagovailoa? Why are we acting like a team didn’t just give up on Baker Mayfield? We’re holding the word “Bust” in one hand, the word “High draft pick” in the other and then pretending like there’s no contradiction.
Teams talk about the Lions, Panthers, Steelers, Eagles, and Texans as needing a QB, but not nearly to the degree that they act as though Seattle needs a QB. Why?
If anything, the Eagles, Steelers, Panthers, and even maybe the Lions may have a shorter road to the postseason than the Seahawks in the NFC West right now, so how did Seattle end up as the only answers for Desmond Ridder and Malik Willis?
The road between being QB32 and QB20 is short. These 11 names could be starting tomorrow: Lock, Tua, Mitchell Trubisky, Davis Mills, Daniel Jones, Jalen Hurts, Wentz, Jared Goff, Mariota, Sam Darnold, Winston. I see no reason Lock can’t be 1 of 11.
Now add in the names that we might like, but they haven’t proven anything yet: Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Trey Lance, Justin Fields, and Mac Jones. Couldn’t Lock be better than at least two of those five names next season?
Now consider that Matt Ryan may not have that much left, that Ryan Tannehill’s been on shaky ground without Derrick Henry, and that Kyler Murray is threatening to play baseball. Then you see that maybe the NFL has more like a “top-12” at QB and then everyone else is constantly in transition and hoping to get into that top-12.
The Seahawks are not going to do that in the draft this year unless they get extremely lucky. They could actually get average play at the position right away with what they have and Carroll has emphasized that if he can get Lock to cut down on his turnovers, as Seattle proved capable of with Smith last season, then he could get closer to the potential he showed coming out of college.
The potential to be an above-average starting QB. He’s not that far from it.
Seahawks in 12 personnel
Last season, the first under Shane Waldron, the Seahawks were in 12 personnel (2 WR/2 TE) on 26-percent of their offensive snaps, which tied for the sixth-highest rate in the league, according to Sharp Football Analysis. This led to 650 snaps for Gerald Everett and 512 for Will Dissly.
As explained by Nate Tice on the Disguised Coverage podcast, teams are gearing more towards having multiple tight ends who possess the versatility to be used effectively as both blockers and receiving threats so that they can run more 12 personnel against the two-high shell defenses that have been working recently.
Tice uses the example of the Dolphins, a team that technically runs the highest rate of 12 personnel in the NFL, but Mike Gesicki is actually used as a wide receiver.
The Seahawks lost Gerald Everett but gained Noah Fant. Though his blocking has been described as “adequate overall” by a Broncos writer, it sounds as though he’s been more of a Gesicki-type than a two-dimensional tight end. Why that matters is that teams are not necessarily looking for the next Travis Kelce—and we know that they probably wouldn’t find one anyway—so GMs might prefer to find two very good tight ends rather than maybe one elite tight end.
Hence the Seahawks were comfortable signing Dissly to a new three-year deal and then picking up Fant’s fifth-year option and hoping to develop his blocking skills. Those moves should cross tight end off of Seattle’s board, barring an undeniable great value on day three.
What does this mean for the other positions?
Seattle is building the roster with a team-first mentality, just as they did from 2010-2012, and that means that the Seahawks are going to be using their first three picks to build around one of Lock, Smith, or a third low-cost option and to improve a defense that was really bad against the pass last season.
Seattle needs tackles and recently we’ve seen that college and pro-style offenses are no longer too dissimilar, so offensive linemen are able to start right away more often than in the past. In 2021, the top four offensive linemen drafted started at least 16 games. Not all of them were near as successful as the Chargers’ Rashawn Slater, but it is now typically expected of a first round pick to start immediately.
As for the receivers, my expectation is that Carroll doesn’t foresee any change from Tyler Lockett, DK Metcalf, and Dee Eskridge being the top-three guys next season or the year after. If there’s a chance to draft a receiver in round three, maybe one like Cincinnati’s Alec Pierce, that might be the one who the Seahawks target. His versatility, work on special teams, and ability to keep getting better with more experience at wide receiver, is also what might get him drafted in the early second round, according to Tice.
I don’t think it is realistic to expect the Seahawks to draft an interior offensive linemen in the first two rounds. When I look at the roster and I see that Gabe Jackson, Damien Lewis, and Austin Blythe are starting on the inside, then see some of the other glaring needs at positions where a talented rookie could get meaningful experience in 2022, I don’t see the point in hoping to land a fantastic center prospect. It’s also not a Pete Carroll thing to do.
What I sense is that the only two offensive positions that the Seahawks could possibly draft with their first three picks (including if they trade down) are tackle and running back. Those positions are expected to have prospects available at 9, 40, and 41 worthy of those draft spots, and tackle/running back are the two positions that Pete has favored the most in the draft, trade, and free agency.
These offseason moves have helped us narrow down the Seahawks offensive focus to only tackle and running back in the draft:
Acquire Lock, re-sign Smith
Lose out on Trent Brown, make no rush to re-sign Duane Brown, Brandon Shell
Acquire Fant, re-sign Dissly
Sign Blythe, tender Phil Haynes, keep Jackson (for now)
Keep Lockett, Metcalf (so far)
The Seahawks re-signed Rashaad Penny to a one-year deal and have not made a firm commitment to keep Chris Carson. The only thing that would appear to be keeping Seattle from drafting a tackle in the first round would be drafting an edge rusher.
I don’t get the sense that any great cornerback prospect in this year’s draft is going to fall to 9. The pick isn’t going to be a safety or an inside linebacker or Jordan Davis, who I have nothing but respect for and also doesn’t make sense at this time at that pick for this team. It can only be a Chandler Jones-type edge player or an offensive tackle, preferably a left tackle.
This may also be a difficult thing to pull off.
We are zoning in on a top-10 that could be loaded with tackles and edge players, and the Seahawks are unfortunately at the wrong end of that top-10. Aidan Hutchinson, Travon Walker, Kayvon Thibodeaux, Evan Neal, Ikem Ekwonu, Charles Cross, Jermaine Johnson could all be off the board by nine and Seattle may have their heart set on a tackle or an edge rusher. If they don’t have high grades on George Karlaftis, Trevor Penning, they must trade down.
It could also be the time draft a cornerback, if that’s how the board reads and if no team is eager to trade up with the Seahawks. I’m just sure it won’t be a QB.
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I find your perspectives super refreshing. The only place where our views differ is I don't see Seattle as beyond selecting a center at 9, 40 or 41 if the right guy is on the board. I don't view their past moves as definitely tipping their hand that they don't really care about that position. On everything else, I love your takes (and learn by reading). I'm hoping John and Pete don't reach this year. We've gotten screwed every time we've reached in recent years (Collier being the poster child) and done well when we've gone for value (DK).
Like this article Kenneth.