With the regular season swiftly coming to a close Seahawks fans have to be pretty satisfied with where Seattle sits at this point in time. In fact it would be fair to say that the Seahawks have been surprisingly good this year. We all knew about the elite defense but the young offense under the direction of Russell Wilson has exceeded expectations by improving steadily throughout the year. We are at a point now where the Seahawks offense is excelling, coming off three straight 40+ point performances. The Hawks have scored the 8th most points in the league and allowed the least, suggesting that they are one of the top teams in the NFL. Not many would have seen the Seahawks as an elite squad going in to 2012, including yours truly who would have filed them under “decent, exciting, but flawed”, a category that includes a good portion of the league. I could have written an entire article outlining just how great the 10-5 Hawks have been, especially recently, with the headline “Wow these Seahawks Sure Are Great!” but somehow I think that would have lacked analytical depth. Instead, today I tackle what I consider to be the biggest reason why the Seahawks have been so much better than expected this year: the contributions of the 2012 draft class.
Now, before we get started, I thought it might be nice to refresh our collective memory as to how Pete Carroll and John Schneider’s draft was received by pundits at the time. I do this to highlight the folly of trying to analyze drafts before any of the players play a down in the NFL, and also to show how the Seahawks succeeded by flying in the face of conventional wisdom and the consensus of the scouting community. Below are a couple quotations slamming our 2012 draft class.
“Their entire draft was one shocker after another.”- John Czarnecki- foxsports.com (to be fair he did give a B grade)
“The Seahawks went bonkers and picked Bruce Irvin at 15. Could he develop into a solid pass-rusher? Sure, but this was a spit take-inducing selection. LB Bobby Wagner (47) and RB Robert Turbin (106), both from Utah State, will help, and QB Russell Wilson (74) has a bright future, even if Seattle didn’t really need him. Everything else was … very … blah. Grade: C”- Chris Burke- si.com
“It is hard to look past Bruce Irvin at 15th overall. Irvin is one dimensional and while he does that one thing really well, it is not the more complete player teams hope to find in the 1st half of the 1st round. Seattle did little post-Irvin to make up for the blunder in the subsequent rounds. Grade: D-” – Jonnie Stoneberg- fftoolbox.com
Not all reactions were openly hostile, but even the biggest fans of the draft class seemed to have a “wait and see” attitude about it. Hindsight is 20-20 and there are some intelligent football writers quoted here; my goal isn’t to try and expose them as frauds or poor prognosticators. Instead I just mean to show that the perception and the reality about the 2012 Seahawks draft class ended up being extremely divergent. As a result, one of the reasons the Seahawks have been so much better than expected this year is because their rookies have exceeded expectations by such a significant margin. Let’s take a look at what this underrated draft class has done for the Seahawks in 2012:
1st Pick, 1st Round, 15th Overall: Bruce Irvin.
I wrote an article earlier this year saying how Bruce Irvin has been pretty much exactly as advertised (http://12thmanrising.com/2012/10/10/he-is-who-we-thought-he-was-an-early-take-on-bruce-irvin/) and I think it pretty much holds true at this moment. Irvin has 8 sacks and 17 quarterback hits but offers little else other than pass rushing so far (16 total tackles, half of which have come on his sacks). He is a raw, pure, undersized pass rusher so this is not altogether unexpected. Irvin has met expectations and been productive without being an absolute stud. Considering how many thought he would be a bust it would be hard not to qualify this pick as a success.
2nd Pick, 2nd Round, 47th Overall: Bobby Wagner
Speaking of absolute studs….. Bobby Wagner. Wagner has made some big plays this year with 2 sacks and 3 interceptions but more importantly he has been a consistent and intimidating presence stopping the run. Wagner has 129 total tackles, 9 for a loss and a tackle factor of 1.50 (tied for 6th in the NFL). Wagner has been the unsung hero of the Seahawks defense in my opinion and has to be one of the top candidates for Defensive Rookie of the Year. Big win for Seattle’s front office.
3rd Pick, 3rd Round, 75th Overall: Russell Wilson
What else can be said about Russell Wilson? Even the most optimistic Wilson supporters could not have seen the season he has had coming. The diminutive QB has not put up massive yardage totals like Andrew Luck due to the run-heavy offense Seattle runs but he has been very efficient and effective. Russell Wilson has been deadly in the redzone and stands to tie or break the rookie passing TD record as he sits only 1 behind Peyton Manning’s 26, set in 1998. Wilson has also been great running the ball, especially using the read-option, with over 400 yards and 3 touchdowns. He has been all Seahawks fans could have asked for and more and I’m going to stop right there before I start to sound like John Gruden.
4th Pick, 4th Round, 106th Overall: Robert Turbin
Turbin, or the Sea-Hulk, has been an excellent addition to the Seahawk’s offense. He has brought a powerful, almost Beast Mode like, presence to the running game whenever Lynch is on the sidelines. As the Seahawks have been making a habit of blowing out opponents, Turbin’s role has only been increasing. With 4.6 yards a carry and surprising effectiveness in the passing game, both blocking and catching, Seahawks fans can be very comfortable when Turbin enters the game. What he lacks in breakaway speed he makes up for in virtually everything else. I’m convinced Turbin could start for quite a few teams in this league and he is both an effective role player and a premium Marshawn Lynch insurance policy. Quite the 4th round find.
5th pick, 4th round, 114th Overall: Jaye Howard
Howard is the first pick that could be considered even remotely disappointing. Considering he is the 5th pick in this class that is really saying something. At the time Howard was considered a value choice with some real upside but while he remains on the roster but has yet to crack the DT rotation. On his Wikipedia page under professional career all it says is, “He was selected in the fourth round, 114 overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft.” Enough said.
6th pick, 5th round, 154th overall: Korey Toomer
Toomer did not make the 2012 Seahawks and was considered a fairly questionable pick at the time making him the first official bust of this class.
7th pick, 6th round, 172nd overall: Jeremy Lane
Lane was drafted to be quality depth and that’s exactly what he has been. With Browner out Lane has started two games and has shown himself to be a physical corner in the classic Pete Carroll style. I wouldn’t be surprised if he has a bright future in Seattle showing Pete Carroll’s knack for finding quality defensive backs in the later rounds. Alternatively, I wouldn’t be surprised if he fades into obscurity, because it can really go either way with depth players like Lane.
8th pick, 6th round, 181st overall: Winston Guy
Guy has appeared in only 2 games and has settled in as the 5th safety on this team. Seeing as NFL teams don’t necessarily carry 5 safeties Guy will have to show something during training camp to stick on the team next year. Hard to call him a bust, we just don’t know what he can do. At this point in the draft it’s hard to expect a lot and to be fair to Guy he has managed to stay on the team which isn’t nothing.
9th pick, 7th round, 225th overall: J.R Sweezy
This former college d-lineman started two games for the Seahawks this year which was a fairly remarkable story in and of itself. Sweezy flashes impressive physical tools but looked shaky at times during game action. That being said, you don’t expect a lineman drafted in the 7th round to be an effective starter as a rookie, especially if he is new to the position. Sweezy is an intriguing developmental project and has a chance to stick around if he continues to improve. Hard to ask for more from a 7th round pick
10th pick, 7th round, 232nd overall: Greg Scruggs
The Mr. Irrelevant of Seattle’s draft class has been a useful component of Seattle’s defensive line rotation. Scruggs has shown some ability to bring pressure up the middle on passing downs with 2 sacks, 6 quarterback hits and a deflected pass in fairly limited duty. Scruggs is no star but getting any contribution from the 232nd player picked in the draft has to be considered a bonus.
It is apparent that a major factor in Seattle’s rise to prominence in 2012 has been the contribution of its outstanding rookies. The Seahawk’s 2012 draft has the potential to go down as franchise changing or even historic if these players can keep improving and reach their full potential. A lot can happen and it remains very early to judge this draft class but it seems the Seahawks have added a great deal of high quality young talent in 2012 which not only accounts for their surprising level of success this year but could also be the catalyst for a string of winning seasons in Seattle.