On April 27, 2017, Sean Payton awoke with a clear and direct plan: to not do what he had done before so many times.
We should recognize two absurdities in this sentence. The first, of course, is that no coach, including Sean Payton, likely has exclusive control over who an NFL team drafts, so any plan he could have made could easily have been waylaid by the plan of someone else. (Taking this line of thinking to its logical conclusion, we could perhaps point to the ultimate futility of any and all plans, but, well, what would be the point?) The second, less stylistic, more epistemological: how can a person expect to avoid recurrence of past dangers unless that person is clearly able to identify those dangers?
This evokes, of course, a third absurdity, the most real and yet arcane of the triumvirate: the notion that someone even can actually define drafting-based dangers. The universality of this truth should be obvious: if it were possible for a team to define clear dangers, then every team would draft well every time (or at least well enough). In such a hypothetical world, the best player at each position and subsequent ordering of players within positions would be inarguable, and the team with the highest draft pick that most needed a cornerback would draft CB1. That teams don’t behave in this orderly fashion should make it readily apparent that drafting well is mostly a matter of luck. And, to be sure, there are obvious signs to which drafters ought to pay attention: how a player fares in interviews or psychological tests, measurables and combine results, and a player’s past production. Indeed, it’s not an unreasonable position to take that you should draft super-athletic players at positions of need or positions of importance, and assume that players can be instructed on how to become great. Yet all too often these signs may as well be omens: ignored, incomprehensible, the province of esteemed but mysterious prognosticators whose art is too ascendant for mere plebeians to fathom.
However, every obvious sign conceals others that are less clear. The guys who possess true “football character” may be too slow to keep up with the pace of actual professional football. Production can be veiled by scheme and fit. And athletic traits don’t always correlate in and of themselves with talent.
These truths are not particularly insightful. Drafting is hard. But not impossible. Because it isn’t as if the 2017 Saints — who improved from 7-9 to 11-5 by drafting not only players so great that they were among the best at their positions but players at positions of need — occupy some lonely pinnacle of excellence. The Seahawks drafts from 2010 to 2012 yielded enough talent for the team to win one (should’ve been two, and if two maybe more?) Super Bowl. Good, but perhaps not exceptional, drafts by the Falcons in 2015 and 2016 precipitated a rise from 6-10 to 8-8 to 11-5. The 2016 and 2017 Chiefs draft classes led that team to win the AFC West three times in a row since then. Or consider the 2018 Colts draft class, and how it may impact their chance for success in 2019.
The point isn’t that bad teams become great because of the draft. Two of those teams drafted phenomenal QBs, and two teams already had them. (The Colts did manage to draft the player with the most impressive neckbeard in human history.) The point is that teams can make enormous strides towards excellence by getting at least some — maybe a lot — of exceptional players at the same time. And if there were some method of predetermining how good a player would be at his position, then no draft would have proceeded as it did.
If we can accept that drafting is mostly a matter of luck, then we should be able to conclude that any reasoning is valid in determining why to draft one player over another. What follows is thus a concept-driven mock draft for the 2019 Seahawks.
This mock draft begins with two important premises. The first is a confession: I have never watched tape. I don’t even watch college football. I’m no scout (not even a cub!) and, in truth, know nothing except what I hear from others. And second, the mock draft begins with a Future Narrative.
Sweat collecting just above his brow, John Schneider walked into the Seahawks war room nestled in the bowels of Nissan Stadium early in the morning on Thursday, April 25th. He had put off this decision for long enough and knew that he had to make a decision. The shadowy cabal that controlled Paul Allen’s fortunes had made clear that, surprising as it may have been to fans and beat reporters, he was resting on the hottest of seats, and another mediocre draft would be his doom. He checked his phone and dismissed a text message from Peter Carroll with yet another goddamned video of Damien Harris. And he knew. He couldn’t say how he knew, he just did. Maybe if he did the unexpected, Pete would back off a little bit, and he could finally shoot his shot. Deciding with an impulsiveness that was both scary and liberating, he picked up a phone and dialed. Mike Mayock picked up at the other end, and before he could offer even so much as a curt hello, Schneider yells into the receiver “Let’s Do This”.
In a surprising move, the Seahawks trade Frank Clark to the Raiders. Gruden finally gets his franchise pass-rusher, and Clark and Cable are reunited. The Seahawks receive the Raiders’ 27th pick in the first round, but trade that pick to the Steelers for their 52nd pick (2nd) and 66th pick (3rd). The trade allows Schneider to finally stay put with the Seahawks original first round pick and gives them two 3rd rounders.
(For the purposes of this mock draft, I used Fanspeak’s On the Clock simulator. The fault for any absurdities in who is available when thus lies elsewhere.)
1.21: DL Rashan Gary
With an early run on QB, CB, and EDGE, the third best interior DL remains on the board when the Seahawks pick, and they claim Rashan Gary. With measurements that the Seahawks love in EDGE defenders, Gary possesses a decent suite of rushing tools, and versatility to play both 3T and 5T in Carroll’s scheme. Plus, after trading away noted book-lover Michael Bennett and failing to prognosticate Malik McDowell’s tragic accident, the Seahawks really need that defensive player who can slot in at multiple spots and help the team reclaim its pass rushing fury.
But the true benefit of this pick is that Gary can pair with Green in a new NASCAR package, the interior of which we can call Rash/Rash. The similarity between their first names will truly perplex the old white broadcasters, who already have enough difficulty getting many black rookies’ names right. It stands to reason that perplexing coaches isn’t too much harder, so the Seahawks could use this confusing duo to astound opponents just as easily.
2.52: WR Deebo Samuel
Having addressed defensive play with their first pick, the Seahawks can turn to offense, targeting a new weapon for Russell Wilson. With the top WRs off the board by this slot, they turn to Tyshun “Deebo” Samuel. Equal parts shifty and fierce, Deebo could play outside or in the slot, and looks to help with the Seahawks receiver corps’ trouble with YAC.
I’d hope that, by now, you can take this from here without any aid on my part. Dude is named after Friday’s truth-telling bully. The Seahawks couldn’t possibly want a different WR on their team. Not only would Deebo boss opposing CBs on run-plays (cause let’s be honest, here, really), but his draft profile lists his top strengths as “extreme urgen[cy]” and “competitive[ness].” The team needs a WR, sure; but what it really needs is a WR who will fight anyone and everyone, rough dudes up, not get tackled immediately upon reception, be someone for ADB to yell at (again, being honest), and maybe rub off a little meanness to No-E (who’s too nice).
(Note that in the mock draft I did, the Patriots took Parris Campbell at 64, so you could also take him just to spite mock-Belichick. Some people consider him a sure-thing, or sure to be better than Deebo Samuel, so dealer’s choice here I suppose.)
3.66: EDGE Ben Banogu
The challenge posed by staying put at 1.21 was that the premier edge rushers were off the board by the time the Seahawks picked. Long gone were Bosa, Allen, Burns, Ferrell, and even Sweat. And while yes, sure, one could have opted for Polite or Winovich at that spot, both would’ve been reaches. Instead, the Seahawks defer that position of need until the third round, selecting Ben Banogu. With less lasting speed or agility than Winovich, Banogu’s explosiveness is fantastic, and though he lacks the tools of more highly-graded pass rushers, he has the athleticism to at least compete for a starting spot (or at least a nickel rush position in his first year).
In fact, Banogu’s rushing tools are irrelevant. Remember when BWagz hopped over his teammates to block Dan Bailey’s field goal attempt? Banogu is just going to do that *on every play*. Neither punches nor spins will matter to Ben, who will simply leap over the tallest of OTs. The sacks will be his.
3.84: S Darnell Savage
The Seahawks have a safety problem. This is known. Any attempt at humor or cleverness withers in the face of its insurmountability.
We can talk about replacing Earl Thomas in the draft, but it isn’t clear that this is possible. Even if a draft class had an Earl Thomas (and this one doesn’t), he’d be gone long before the Seahawks picked, trades notwithstanding. It also bears mentioning that, as I write this, Matty Brown has a great piece on safeties in the draft on Field Gulls that you should check out, which makes clear that replacing Earl Thomas may even be unnecessary, as Pete Carroll rolls out defensive playcalling that relies more on deception than Thomas’ range and instincts.
What the safety room really needs, then, is versatility, which you get in spades with Darnell Savage. He has the burst and speed to play high, or at least play high better than Tedric Thompson. He has the tackling talent to handle slot duties, though his size means that you wouldn’t put him in the box. He can succeed in coverage, and even as a safety blitzer.
But more than that, his name is Savage. He has a hunger to possess the ball, and hits like a missile. Sound like someone you know? If you can’t replace ET, you can at least replace the traits he has left behind. Savage is as Savage does.
4.124: TE Kaden Smith
By the time the fourth round approaches, the Seahawks FO begins to realize with increasing panic that they have ignored the TE position. After all, they did invest a 3rd round pick in Vannett, who after three years of real grit and struggle has managed to become a mediocre Y TE who excels at average run blocking and pretty solidly regular route-running. But Vannett is likely to depart, whether in free agency or for the CFL, and so the Seahawks take Kaden Smith to replace the middling tight end.
Before being too distraught by this pick, be advised that Smith attended Stanford. What does that mean? It means (I’ve been told) that the kid is smart. Probably very smart. And the Seahawks will use this intelligence as part of a master plan to travel back in time and draft George Kittle in 2017.
5.159: EDGE Justin Hollins
A true draft genius knows this: if a draft is especially strong at any given position, the trick is to look for as much potential value at that position as possible. Because this class is so strong on the defensive line, the Seahawks FO decides to double up on edge rushers.
This is Pete Carroll’s pick – it took him all of Day 2 to get over not drafting another RB on Day 1, and he finally emerges again at the back-end of Day 3, taking over for John Schneider who, having only two (2) Day 3 picks, has withered into the worst depression of his career. Pete Carroll selects the University of Oregon Ducks’ star rusher, because he recalls that the Ducks beat the Huskies last year, and he’s feeling spiteful.
And so does the 2019 Seahawks NFL Draft come to a close, much like the 2018 season, from a place of spite. With an emphasis on the defense, Pete gets some tools to rebuild what is clearly the better side of football, adding a rusher to pair with Martin, another to slot into Irvin’s old LEO/SLB spot, a stout interior every-down player, and a weapon of a safety. The new group remains young but will benefit from a veteran LB corps and emerging leaders like McDougald and Reed.
Mostly, though, Peter’s just gonna throw a bunch of stuff on his blackboard and see what looks best.
But nor is the offense omitted, and Russell Wilson gets a fun new run-blocking weapon at receiver to overthrow, who he secretly hopes will become his BFF and apologist.