When an NFL team comes into the draft with a scant six picks and trades out of the first round, it’s natural that commentators and professional evaluators of such things are going to be conservative about the result.
Here’s a theory, though, that the 2014 draft for the Seattle Seahawks is going to be one that surprises.
It doesn’t have the high-end elite talent of 2010 (Russell Okung and Earl Thomas), nor, most likely, a stunning lower-round nugget like Richard Sherman (2011).
And it’s certainly doubtful any of the group will have the franchise-altering effect of 2012 third-rounder Russell Wilson.
But after this weekend’s three-day rookie minicamp, I’d project this year’s top five picks turning into starters down the road, and being contributors from scrimmage or special teams immediately.
Experts understandably gushed about how the Rams improved with two high first-round picks, and the 49ers collected talent with 12 total picks.
But the Seahawks seemed sneakily effective, turning six picks into nine with trades, and targeting players of impact.
After Sunday’s final workout, coach Pete Carroll first touted the work of the two drafted receivers (Paul Richardson and Kevin Norwood), two offensive tackles (second-rounder Justin Britt and free agent Garry Gilliam), and defensive end Cassius Marsh.
Marsh, Carroll said, was the best player on the field, although Norwood seemed a contender for that honor on the offensive side.
Marsh, out of UCLA, saw most of his action at the Leo pass-rusher position but also has a chance to bulk up and be another Michael Bennett-type who can rush from the inside on passing downs.
Marsh quickly impressed as one of those relentless defenders starving for sacks. More than just high energy, though, there’s a knack to finishing once you get there. And at times, Marsh got into the backfield so fast he simply prevented plays from getting started.
Because of his slender frame, questions of Richardson involved his durability. And on the last play of Friday’s workout, he collided with a defender and missed the rest of camp with a minor shoulder injury.
But he already showed a rare burst of speed and good hands.
Norwood merely caught everything that came close to him, while running smooth routes with sharp breaks.
The receivers meeting room is going to be pretty crowded, but with good health, both these rookies can contend for time.
Most viewed the offensive line as the team’s unit of prime concern. Performances this weekend might have been enough to quash some of those worries.
Britt, at 6-foot-6, 325 pounds, is a physical facsimile of predecessor Breno Giacomini, with good balance and setup. Furthermore, he has the look of a guy who is ready for the league — the way Max Unger had when he showed up and was tossed into the lineup as a guard.
Gilliam, out of Penn State, looked well-equipped to apprentice at left tackle. An undrafted free agent, he could be this year’s Alvin Bailey — a steal for depth with the promise of a solid future.
A main X factor on the line is not a rookie at all, but a former first-rounder who has been limited by injuries — James Carpenter.
The team recently declined to pick up the option for the fifth year on his rookie contract, in essence telling Carpenter, “show us.”
Apparently he’s doing exactly that. After the draft, line coach Tom Cable said Carpenter “seems to be completely through the injury and has got his weight under control. His work ethic has really come on. I start to see why we took him.”
Fourth-round linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis from Boston College, meanwhile, looks to be nearly as fast as Malcolm Smith and nearly the size of Bobby Wagner. That is a promising combination.
And seventh-round fullback Kiero Small drew strong comments from Carroll, who can see him as a quick helper on special teams (he played linebacker in junior college).
Other picks and undrafted free agents also showed flashes of competence, and it’s timely to remember that several players drafted in 2013 have been waiting in line for their chance to play.
One thing that Carroll has proved, though, is that regardless of when players were drafted or however else they were acquired, they’ll get the chance to prove themselves.
And if they earn it, they’ll end up on the field.thenewstribune.com