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Danny O'Neil covers the Seahawks for The Seattle Times.

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April 17, 2008 9:24 AM

Pete Williams, "The Draft" v2.0

Posted by Danny O'Neil

Pete Williams does a very good job of outlining the situation Tim Ruskell inherited when he accepted the job as Seahawks president. The franchise fired its president (Bob Whitsitt) and lost director of college scouting (Scot McCloughan) and vice president of football operations (Ted Thompson).

The Seahawks had two draft boards in that 2005 draft: One prepared according to the scouting protocol and reports from the previous regime and one assembled under Ruskell's methodology.

Three years have passed since that draft. The scouting department now prepares scouting reports according to the system Ruskell imported. Ruston Webster is now part of the front office, too.

But it's worth a look back to see how Seattle fared in that first draft under Ruskell. It's been three years, which is the time NFL executives will tell you is necessary for a selection.

The results? One Pro Bowl linebacker in Lofa Tatupu, two others who are solid starters in center Chris Spencer and linebacker Leroy Hill and Ray Willis who is still considered a potential contributor along the offensive line. Five other players the Seahawks drafted are off the team. Four are out of football entirely, and according to Stats Inc., that is tied for the most in the league.

For comparison's sake, here's how the Seahawks draft results compare to other teams from the NFC West:

 
Total selections
 First-day picks  
TeamTotal picksStill on team Total picksStill on team Highest choice waived
Arizona74 43 LB Darryl Blackstock (3rd, No. 95 overall)
San Francisco116 44 WR Rasheed Marshall (5th, No. 174 overall)
Seattle94 43 QB David Greene (3rd, No. 85 overall)
St. Louis114 44 G Claude Terrell (4th, No. 134)

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Posted by ajdaddy

10:31 AM, Apr 17, 2008

One thing about the book that I gathered: Ruskell has a loong history of scouting and talent evaluation. The idea of the 'Falcon Filter' and scoring character highly has been an undervalued part of drafting and of personnel decisions.
To see a well-publicized example of a team going the other direction, look at the Bengals. Chris Henry has been nothing but heartache for that franchise. Chad Johnson is super-disruptive. The team has regressed and the locker room is in turmoil. In football, the team ethos is paramount, and Tim Ruskell and Rich McKay really emphasize that.
When we look at this year's draft in this context, you almost know already who won't be considered. Mario Manningham with his recent marijuana revelations is the most recent one. The book is a great behind the scenes look at the draft, and for us Seahawk fans, a neat window into what our GM is like.
Lastly, after you read this book, you know why they picked up Alvin Pearman last year. Too bad about the injury.

Posted by BGR

10:34 AM, Apr 17, 2008

The thing about having five o the nine off the team already is that those were mainly second-day picks. Moreover, the Greene pick always seemed to be one of Holmgren's delusions, not a Ruskell pick. Can someone substantiate or refute this conclusion of mine?

Posted by Danny O.

10:55 AM, Apr 17, 2008

The question of David Greene's selection is a good one. And there's never been any clear-cut, definitive explanation of who was really vouching for him. However, "The Draft" goes so far as to include a picture of Tim Ruskell holding a stopwatch at Georgia's Pro Day. Hard to imagine that given his proximity to Georgia during the previous season -- when he was with the Falcons -- and his role in the pre-draft scouting that he wasn't on-board with that selection. But that's just my reading of the tea leaves.

Posted by ajdaddy

11:04 AM, Apr 17, 2008

One thing about the Greene pick...just from the perspective of an outsider, Greene seemed to have everything needed. Decent arm, and was known as a winner, a character guy, basically a hero in Georgia, one of those kids who everyone's been tracking since junior high. Reputedly intelligent, savvy, and a leader. Kind of like a Joe Montana type, not going to wow you physically, but had the mental game. I still wonder why it didn't work out, Danny, do you have any insight?

Posted by pt1095

11:07 AM, Apr 17, 2008

I think the fact that David Greene didn't work out shows just how hard it is to evaluate a QB for the draft. We have Mike Holgrem who is one of the best QB coaches around, Tim Ruskell, with his meticulous attention to detail and new standard for evaluating players, yet David Greene didn't pan out. I mean if we look at David Greene in terms of his all the measureables, his college QB history, etc., one would think that he would do well over time in the right system. I think the David Greene selection shows how the draft, despite how scientific we try to make it, is still an art.

Posted by BGR

11:37 AM, Apr 17, 2008

I'm not buying the defenses of the Greene pick. At the time, it was widely questioned. He seemed, at least from those reports, like the typical good college quarterback whose skills would not translate to the NFL. That is, he was more Gino Toretta than Akili Smith.

Posted by hawkfanmr

12:41 PM, Apr 17, 2008

"System dependent" are the key words posted by Grizzly Bear when it comes to the draft. This book hits the nail on the head when it talks about finding the right players for your system. For example, drafting a 340 pound offesnive lineman is silly if your system requires you offensive lineman to be quick off the ball and agile.

As an NCAA compliance officer I thought it was interesting how much they talked about NCAA compliance issues. It was weird they referred to the FSU compliance department as much as they did because Brian Battle and the rest of that staff are one of the more corrupt staffs in the business. Coincidently, Bob Minnix is now the Sr. Associate AD at Washington State leaving Florida State following their academic scandal, which resulted in several football players being benched for the Music City Bowl. However, their scandal rocked their entire athletic department, not just football.
As a fan of the draft, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and have recommended it to other people. Can't wait to see what book's next!

Posted by grizzly bear

1:57 PM, Apr 17, 2008

The David Greene question is really interesting to me. If he would have panned out as a servicable backup QB, I truly believe the Seahawks would have pushed Seneca Wallace into much more of a "slash" role, something that still could really help. He quietly sat in the 3 years he was in Seattle and nothing was ever said about his role or progression. It's a frustration I have - Seneca Wallace is such a great athlete it seems foolish to let him languish on the bench.

With regards to the high character player vs. malcontent argument, I would say this:

A team needs its leaders, its personality defined by a core group of players who are ultra-competitive and dedicated. Selfless in many situations. Lofa Tatupu is most definately part of the Seahawks core.

Outside of the core I would argue that players who are more questionable in dedication and competitiveness could be part of the equation if they respect the team and its core values. It's up to the leaders of the team to facilitate that.

Look at the Patriots last year - they had Randy Moss, one of the biggest malcontents in the league. The patriots also had Corey Dillon at one time, who I would say also is a huge character question mark. The Patriots succeeded with these players so well because they had a core set of players who enforced discipline and behaviour in the locker room and on the field. They set the example. (They also had Tom Brady, a tight offensive system and a killer O-Line, that always helps!)

This is why the re-sigining of Lofa is so huge in my opinion. You need your team identity maintained. You need to build your team around these character guys who want the team to win. If you can't pick out these leaders or if their dedication is questionable, then you will lose. No amount of coaching will change that.

I find the historical Ruskell analysis interesting. To play devil's advocate, if he hadn't drafted Lofa Tatupu "early" (in the 2nd round), what really does he have to hang his hat on? Darryl Tapp and Brandon Mebane seem great gets - I kind of get the feeling by watching his drafts and his acquisitions that he's very astute at picking defenders. I think the jury is still out on his offensive pickups. We'll see this year, with Duckett and Jones being signed.

What do you all think? Is Ruskell astute at offensive player scouting and acquisition?

Posted by joedomvince

1:57 PM, Apr 17, 2008

Come fly the flag for our Seahawks. Awesome game. We need more Seattle fans

http://goallineblitz.com/game/signup.pl?ref=1598495

Posted by pt1095

4:20 PM, Apr 17, 2008

Grizzly Bear, I think you make a great point in regards to Ruskell's ability to draft offensive players. In all fairness, most teams have a hard time drafting offensive players as some colleges run very different offenses than used in the pros. As such, we have situations like this year where it's hard evaluating players like Rashard Mendenhall, Jonathan Stewart, Colt Brennan, etc., as they run a different system.

The have read that the Bears had such a hard time drafting offensive players that they resigned themselves in getting their offensive skill players through free agency rather than try through the draft. I don't think that strategy is so great as we look at the Bears offense over time and well, you know what I mean.

I know that Tim Ruskell last year was hoping Zach Miller would fall to them at TE and he's doing real well with the Raiders. He also managed to get D.J. Hackett, Chris Spencer, Rob Sims, Ben Obomanu and up and comers Courtney Taylor and Jordan Kent. Here's a link to the Seahawks draft picks since 2003:

http://www.profootballweekly.com/PFW/NFL/NFC/NFC+West/Seattle/Features/2008/draftrecap.htm

It seems to me like a 50/50 hit or miss offensively in the later rounds as players like Tony Jackson FB, Doug Nienhuis OG, David Kirtman FB, and Steve Vallos OT haven't really panned out.

Posted by Danny O.

5:00 PM, Apr 17, 2008

The question of David Greene's viability as a prospect is an interesting one.

David Lewin is a contributor to the FootballOutsiders Web site, which is highly suggested for those interested in more statistically oriented assessments of football. He found in his research that the number of collegiate starts and completion percentage were strong predictors of success for first or second-round draft picks.

Here's a link to Lewin's assessment of last year's quarterback prospects and how they panned out.

Now, there's no magical formula where you insert the games started and the completion percentage and it spits out a prognosis. But there is an application here.

Greene started every single game he played in college -- all 52 of them -- the only person in Georgia history to do that. The Bulldogs won 42 of those games, including some very impressive comebacks against SEC competition. He completed 849 of the 1,440 passes he attempted in college, which is 60 percent.

Now Greene does not fit the criteria for Lewin's system because Greene was a third-round pick. Rather, I would say the interesting thing is that you can look at Greene's college results and be convinced that he has a great deal of football character, something his teammates really responded to. That didn't translate in Seattle, though, where accuracy never really came around to the coach's liking.

Posted by Danny O.

5:09 PM, Apr 17, 2008

As for the results on Ruskell's offensive players, it's important to remember the situation he inherited. This was a team with an offense painstakingly assembled over years by Mike Holmgren. There wasn't a need for an upgrade as there was on defense.

There weren't the same holes on offense as there were on defense.

Now there are. The team has spent two years with the interior of its offensive line a work in progress. It still needs a front-line tight end. It needs production from its young wide receivers following the departure of D.J. Hackett and the injury to Deion Branch.

This is when we'll get a more accurate measure of Seattle's success or lack thereof with its more recent offensive draft picks.

Posted by grizzly bear

5:34 PM, Apr 17, 2008

Great comment from pt1095 on the RB prospects in 2008 and their systems. A great read on this topic is the NYTimes blog "The Fifth Down", which talks about how much easier it was to predict Adrian Peterson's success because of the offense that he ran in college.
http://fifthdown.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/04/08/the-other-reason-this-years-draft-has-no-adrian-peterson/

RE: FootballOutsiders - I read it religiously, I feel they are off the mark occassionally, but it is always fascinating stuff.

I agree this year is an important analysis year as far regarding the Seahawks moves on the offensive side of the ball. That said, I can't but help feeling a little critical even now of some of Ruskell's moves. Why not see that Shaun was going to break down sooner? Why the TE difficulties? Why no real solid backup QB so Wallace could play receiver more? Why no real answer until now (with Wahle) for OG? Did we overpay for Deion Branch? I personally think these are fair questions to ask. That said, I could see all of this being moot and his recent Offensive draft picks being real gems, especially some of the receivers. Overall I think he does a great job. Can't wait for the draft and next season!!!!

Posted by ajdaddy

6:45 AM, Apr 18, 2008

Grizzly Bear, nice points. And thanks for pointing the way to the Fifth Down blog. As regards the questions you posed, I've thought a lot about the SA situation. Probably way too much. I think the Hawks got caught in a classic contract year dillemma. SA is coming off of the best year of his life, the TD record, the MVP, and the team went to the Super Bowl. Realistically, you almost can't not sign him. As to Seneca playing a 'slash' type role, I'd like to see it as well, but realistically, other than the Steelers for a while, who else has done it? And while Seneca is quick, he's not big. And if he's battled past the aforementioned Greene, and other challengers, and wants to be seen as a QB, then you have to respect that. OG, I think that the development of Sims has really lagged. And that might be coaching. In fact, by firing Laveroni, that's what the Hawks are saying. I can't explain the Branch thing, other than it looked like a real good move at the time. As DJ has shown, the Hawks concerns with the position have not been unfounded. Injury is something you cannot account for. Especially as he wasn't an injury guy prior to arriving here! Nice post, and thanks again for the Fifth Down link.

Posted by pt1095

7:54 AM, Apr 18, 2008

ajdaddy, you've made some great points. I agree with you in regards to SA. I'm sure Tim Ruskell and the front office is well aware of the typical career of a RB in the NFL with the 30 year cut off point but hey, what are you going to do after that year? I'm sure they would have been crucified if they let him go then but yet, they are being questioned now after his unproductive years after the contract.

In regards to not being able to plan for injuries, I agree to an extent. Sometimes, you may have a freak year where all your LB's, QB's, or WR's, etc. all go down. However, I do believe that you can plan for injuries happening. In fact, I believe you have to plan on injuries happening.

The Patriots (as much as I dislike them) plan for injuries by drafting players that can play multiple positions. One of their players stated, you have to be able to play several spots if you want to be on our team.

The QB position is such a sensitive position in regards to injuries as it requires so much mental preparation and timing. The QB also touches the ball the most. As such, I expect the Seahawks to draft a QB for development this year which would allow Charlie Frye to take over when Matt's career is over and freeing up Seneca if need be.

In regards to Deion Branch, that's a very frustrating situation. I think they made the correct call in getting him. I just hope he has the ability to separate like he used to after he comes back from his injuries. He seems very tightly built and I hope he works on his flexibility to prevent injuries.

Posted by pt1095

8:19 AM, Apr 18, 2008

I forgot to mention an interesting point in regards to the SA contract. What I think the Seahawks should have done with his contract is adjusted the way his bonus money is prorated. Give SA a big but reasonable bonus for the first year of his contract but prorate it down with the final years much more incentive based. What do you all think?

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