Sports Out West

NFL Draft 2014: Grading the Seattle Seahawks

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Grading the NFL Draft is difficult enough, but the Seattle Seahawks have made a habit of proving experts and analysts wrong in recent years.

In the four previous drafts under John Schneider and Pete Carroll, the Seahawks have made some head-scratching decisions in the draft by reaching for players or selecting ones that weren’t even on other teams’ radars. Those players went on to be productive starters, Pro Bowlers and, of course, Super Bowl Champions.

The 2014 NFL Draft was no different as Seattle again made a number of unexpected selections. Only a select few draft picks will make it in the NFL and it’s difficult to judge players who haven’t played a down of professional football, but some interesting storylines still emerged from the Seahawks’ draft.    

Pick No. 45: Paul Richardson, WR, Colorado

The Seahawks traded out the first round to No. 40 with the Minnesota Vikings, as many expected due to the number of teams interested in grabbing Teddy Bridgewater at 32. They then traded down with the Detroit Lions to select Richardson at 45, gaining two extra picks throughout the entire process.

At six feet and 175 pounds, Richardson is quite small but possesses elite speed. He ran a 4.40 40-yard dash at the combine, third-fastest among wide receivers, and was reportedly disappointed by that time.

That speed combined with great hands and body control allowed Richardson to make some highilight-reel catches as a legitimate touchdown threat on every play. Richardson finished his junior season with 83 catches for 1,343 yards and 10 touchdowns despite some injury troubles and having little help on a Colorado team that has been struggling for a number of years.

The Seahawks’ most obvious need was either an offensive linemen or a large downfield target, and they obviously didn’t get either with their first selection. But Richardson will add another dynamic layer to Seattle’s offense, as opposing defenses will now have to worry about his speed along with Percy Harvin.

Grade: B. The Seahawks might have been better off improving their weaknesses with Xavier Su’a-Filo at 32 or Jordan Matthews at 40. While Richardson doesn’t really fill any specific needs, he is still a good player and will improve Seattle’s offense with his speed. Also considering that the Seahawks got extra picks for trading back, this selection is solid overall.  

Pick No. 62: Justin Britt, OT, Missouri

We knew an offensive line pick was coming at some point, and the Seahawks made one with their second selection. Britt mostly played left tackle, but Missouri’s system has linemen practice at every position, so he could also potentially fill in at right tackle and guard.

Britt has great size at 6-foot-6, 325 pounds and plays with solid technique and athleticism for his size. He successfully held No. 1 overall pick Jadeveon Clowney in check in Missouri’s game against South Carolina last season. He can also get physical and nasty at times – making him a candidate to take over Breno Giacomini’s role, hopefully with fewer penalties.

The knock against Britt is that he struggles with blocks in the second level (important in Seattle’s offense) and doesn’t always play to his physical ability. Britt has solid potential, but is a little underwhelming for a second round pick. In any event, the Seahawks will need him to contribute.  

Grade: B-. Britt is versatile and technically skilled, and the Seahawks desperately needed help on the offensive line. This still feels like a reach, and Britt easily could have been there in the fourth round.

Pick No. 108: Cassius Marsh, DE, UCLA

Marsh picked up some steam late in the drafting process, as he caught the eyes of some scouts who were looking at ninth-overall pick Anthony Barr. While Marsh doesn’t have the physical skills of some edge rushers, he brings a crazy motor and relentless energy to the field.

Sometimes that emotion is too much – Marsh was ejected in UCLA’s wild brawl with Arizona in 2011 and was penalty-prone throughout college. He also is kind of an in-betweener size at 6-foot-4, 254 pounds and lacks the speed to be an every-down defensive end.

But Marsh is quite skilled at setting the edge and could line up as a LOLB, or the Seahawks could want him to bulk back up to his freshman playing weight of 300 pounds. Interestingly enough, he also got a noteworthy amount of snaps as a tight end at UCLA.  

Grade: A-. Carroll’s motto for the team is “always compete,” and Marsh is the type of player who will do exactly that. At worst, he’s a high-motor special teams guy, and there’s nothing wrong with that for a fourth-round pick.

Pick No. 123: Kevin Norwood, WR, Alabama

In terms of the value for the pick, Norwood appears to be Seattle’s best selection of the 2014 draft. Norwood never had more than 38 receptions in a season, but his physical skills give him a higher ceiling than his statistics would indicate.

He’s larger than Richardson at 6-foot-2, 198 pounds, but not exactly what you would call a large target. What Norwood brings is great body control and instincts that allow him to win jump balls. Norwood led Alabama in touchdown receptions in 2013, and many came due to his ability to go get the ball on broken plays.

Norwood won’t run by guys or create much in the open field, but he projects as a solid possession receiver in the NFL.  

Grade: A. Norwood has great value for the fourth round and could easily fill the role of Doug Baldwin should he leave in free agency.  

Pick No. 132: Kevin Pierre-Louis, OLB, Boston College

Pierre-Louis grades out highly in terms of athleticism, which is exactly what the Seahawks look for with their linebackers. He ran a 4.51 40-yard dash at the combine and is a strong tackler. Overall, Pierre-Louis is comparable to Super Bowl MVP Malcolm Smith coming out of college, also a late-round pick.

Like so many of Seattle’s picks over the past few years, Pierre-Louis is an athletic freak but a tweener size. At 6-foot-1, 232 pounds don’t be surprised to see him become a box-safety hybrid player.

Grade: A-. Pierre-Louis is fast and athletic and will fit in perfectly with Seattle’s linebackers. He makes perfect sense for the Seahawks.

Pick No. 172: Jimmy Staten, DT, Middle Tennessee State

There’s simply not that much info on Staten. He was not invited to the combine and most analysts projected Staten to be an undrafted free agent at best.

Staten has good size at -foot-4, 303 pounds and moves fairly well for his size, but only recorded two career sacks due to limited instincts. He could be a nose tackle in some defenses and a 5-technique in others. As always with the Seahawks, watch out for a conversion to the offensive line.  

Grade: C+. This pick came out of absolutely nowhere and it’s unclear what Staten’s role on the team will be. But the Seahawks have drafted some excellent players like that in the past few years, so we’ll have to wait and see.

Pick No. 199: Garrett Scott, OT, Marshall

Scott immediately stands out due to his superior athleticism for an offensive lineman. He was very solid in his pro day workout, showing great quickness in the short-shuttle and three-cone drills.

Combine that with 6-foot-5, 307-pound frame and 34 3/4 inch arms and the Seahawks have an intriguing prospect. If Scott adds just a little muscle, he could easily earn playing time as either a tackle or guard next season.  

Grade: A. The Seahawks needed at least two offensive linemen from this draft, and Scott was a sleeper pick anyway. Expect him to make the team.

Pick No. 208: Eric Pinkins, FS, San Diego State

As you would expect with a Seattle defensive back, Pinkins has great size at 6-foot-2, 230 pounds and is a notorious hard-hitter. A 4.44 40-yard dash and 39 1/2 inch vertical jump also means Pinkins fits in athletically with the Legion of Boom.

His field vision and instincts are limited, hence why Pinkins only had three career interceptions in college. But the Seahawks are also interested in trying out Pinkins as a corner, where they could use more depth and shape him into a Brandon Browner-type player.

Grade: B. Pinkins has great size and is a hard-hitter, which fits in perfectly with what the Seahawks look for in a defensive back. He’ll have to fight hard for playing time, but Pinkins will get to learn with some of the best.

Pick No. 227. Kiero Small, FB, Arkansas’

If you want smash mouth, Small is your guy — he broke the facemasks of 26 opponents in 2013. Small is 5-foot-8, 244 pounds and loves to block, bearing some resemblance to Mike Tolbert.

The knock on Small is that he is probably too slow to be a running back, meaning Seattle is likely looking at him as a fullback. Michael Robinson is likely retired, but Small will have to work hard to beat out Derrick Coleman and Spencer Ware.  

Grade: B-. Nothing against Small, who is built like a tank and will earn a roster spot somewhere as a fullback. But he’s going to have to show something truly special to make Seattle’s crowded backfield, and you have to wonder if the Seahawks could have gone elsewhere with this pick.

Notable Undrafted Free Agents: Jackson Jeffcoat, DE, Texas   Dion Bailey, S, USC   Keith Price, QB, Washington  Brock Coyle, LB, Montana

Jeffcoat was a First-Team All-American defensive end in 2013 and completely dominated some games, but wasn’t deemed big enough at 6-foot-3, 247 pounds. Bailey had a knack for big plays at USC and could make the team as a fourth safety. Price is a long shot to make the roster, but it’s great to see the UW fan favorite get another chance in Seattle. Coyle had a solid pro day and great instincts led him to a highly productive career at Montana.  

Grade: A-. Jeffcoat and Bailey have enough ability to make a roster whether it is Seattle or elsewhere, and that’s all you can ask for from an undrafted free agent.

Overall: B+. Following the trend of the past four years, the Seahawks have some puzzlers, reaches and great late-round value picks. Richardson should be a fine player moving forward. If there’s one position Seattle has struggled to draft it’s the offensive line, and Britt brings some question marks. A solid haul top-to-bottom, plus the Seahawks’ overall grade gets bumped up a little bit due to Carroll and Schneider’s track record.  

Photo Credit: David Zalubowski / Associated Press

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Nathaniel Reeves

Nathaniel Reeves is a journalism student at the University of Washington, currently covering sports for The UW Daily in addition to Sports Out West. He has been closely following Seattle sports his entire life.