Uniqueness or versatility?
That question piqued the interest of Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll when asked which trait his organization valued more heading into this evening’s NFL draft, which begins at 5 p.m.
“Utility and versatility are huge for coaches,” Carroll said. “Personnel guys see that one dynamic trait and they just want to jump all over it. That’s just been a personal experience.
“Sometimes you need to pull yourself back and say, ‘What’s the whole picture? What’s going to be his role? How can he fit in for us?’ And there are a lot of guys that have a uniqueness about them because of their versatility. Usually that one dynamic trait – while we all get excited about it – doesn’t carry over exactly to what the coaching staff needs.”
Applying Carroll’s assessment to the top pass rushers in this year’s draft, the Seahawks could have a tough decision to make if both North Carolina defensive end Quinton Coples and South Carolina defensive end/linebacker Melvin Ingram are still on the board when the team selects today at No. 12.
Coples represents that player with a unique ability Carroll talks about. At 6-foot-5 and a chiseled 284 pounds, Coples is the prototypical defense end who can physically dominate offensive tackles with the potential to develop into a perennial Pro Bowl selection – much like another dominant player from North Carolina, Chicago defensive end Julius Peppers.
The problem with Coples is he’s a potential bust, according to many draft analysts, with some questioning his effort on film during his final season at North Carolina.
“To me, the bust potential is high, and the earlier you take him the more risk there is inherent in that,” said Mike Mayock, a draft analyst with the NFL Network. “So, for me, Quinton Coples is not even a draftable player.”
However, Mayock thinks Coples could be the right fit for Seattle.
“He’s a big, good-looking kid,” he said. “I didn’t like his production as a senior but Pete Carroll is the kind of guy that can get production out of this guy because he does have Pro Bowl potential.”
Coples said that effort won’t be a concern for him at the next level.
“I can see where it can look like that on film,” Coples said. “But overall, I definitely felt like I did a good job and did the right thing and just did the little sacrifices for my team, to help my team out. And that’s what was important to me at the time.”
Putting the issue of effort aside, Coples looks the part of an elite pass rusher, which along with finding a middle linebacker are Seattle’s top draft needs this year.
Coples showed he’s a talented athlete, running the 40-yard dash in 4.78 seconds, bench pressing 225 pounds 25 times and posting a 31.5-inch vertical jump.
Coples finished with 55 tackles – including 15 tackles for loss – and 7.5 sacks in his final season at North Carolina. He had 10 sacks while playing mostly defensive tackle in 2010.
If Seattle has reservations about drafting Coples, the player offering more versatility for the Seahawks is Ingram. At 6-2 and 262 pounds, Ingram played defensive tackle, defensive end, outside and inside linebacker for the Gamecocks.
Ingram was a 6-2, 225-pound point guard in high school. He also played running back, receiver and quarterback. Ingram was on the “hands” kickoff team for South Carolina. He can do a back flip and he can dunk.
Ingram ran the 40 in 4.79 seconds, benched pressed 225 pounds 28 times and posted a 34.5-inch vertical jump at the combine.
“I feel like playing so many roles helped me,” Ingram said about his college experience. “I feel like my coach gave me the opportunity to show my athletic ability in every way.”
That said, Ingram started only one season at South Carolina – his senior season – finishing with 31 tackles, 10 sacks and two interceptions while playing mostly defensive tackle in 14 games.
Ingram could be a very effective for Seattle because defensive coordinator Gus Bradley uses varied schemes with different personnel. Ingram could provide a pass rush off the edge and from the interior.
Here’s how Carroll thinks Coples and Ingram stack up.
“There’s a guy that’s 6-foot-5-inches-plus that runs 4.6’s in Coples,” Carroll said. “He has prototypical numbers and he’s a classic in the profile of the big pass rusher.
“Ingram is much more of a different guy. He is an inside pass rusher primarily that plays outside linebacker at times, that plays ‘Mike’ (middle) linebacker at times. He’s all over the place, and he’s utilized totally differently.
“He’s a shorter guy with shorter leverage and all of that, and has effectiveness and a total different style. They’re just widely different. Both are very effective and great prospects that will go high in the draft.”
Seattle’s looking for a pass rusher to pair with Chris Clemons on third downs, and possibly replace him should he leave in free agency in 2013.
The Seahawks finished tied for 19th in sacks in 2011 with 33. Clemons led Seattle with 11 sacks, but linebacker Leroy Hill was a distant second with four.
The team has struggled in drafting productive defensive linemen in the first round.
The last pass rusher Seattle drafted in the first round was Carroll’s former pupil, USC defensive end Lawrence Jackson with the No. 28 overall pick in 2008. Upon his arrival, Carroll openly questioned why the Seahawks selected Jackson in the first round, and promptly shipped him to the Lions in a trade for a sixth-rounder during the 2010 training camp.
Before that, the Seahawks selected defensive tackle Marcus Tubbs at No. 23 overall in the 2004 draft. Tubbs was a talented run stuffer when healthy but his career was shortened by persistent knee problems.
Seattle fared no better with defensive end Lamar King (No. 22 overall, 1999), who finished with 12 sacks in five seasons.
Carroll is looking for better results this weekend.
“There’s a lot of edge rushers in this draft, which is exciting,” Carroll said. “We’re always looking. Certainly in this draft it’s one of the issues that we’d like to attend to.”