It’s that time of year again as we all look ahead to the 2016 NFL season. The draft is in the rearview mirror and training camps are a stone’s throw away. This is the time of year where fans everywhere ponder their team’s possibilities with open hearts, irrational expectations, and a tendency to overlook the reality of most situations.
Regardless of which fan base you find yourself rooting for this summer, there is always room for hope. Most commonly due to the influx of young talent across the league. Therefore, it seems only appropriate that we at SportsTalkLine.com take an updated look at the incoming rookie class. In this case, we’ll be starting with the perennial NFC powerhouse Seattle Seahawks and a case by case look at how their draft class fits into the organizations short and long-term plans.
Seahawks General Manager John Schneider and Head Coach Pete Carroll kicked the 2016 NFL Draft off with their traditional savviness, trading back in the first round to acquire further draft capital. However, that didn’t keep them from landing the prospect they had been targeting all along in Texas A&M offensive lineman Germain Ifedi.
Ifedi is a mountain of a man, standing 6’5” and weighing in around 325 pounds. He made a name for himself as an aggressive mauler along the right side of the Aggies front line. His work at right tackle on film was often impressive, showcasing the footwork, balance, strong hands, and persistence needed to excel at the college level. While Ifedi clearly possesses the athleticism to play along the left side—as he did so at times in college—his natural gifts are clearly better suited to the right side of the offensive line as he would occasionally struggle against speed rushers on the blind side.
Similarly, as he enters the NFL, there are concerns that his technique and foot work will need significant improvement before he can be trusted to play tackle on an island as he often did in college. Luckily for Ifedi, he now has one of the best tutors in all of football in Seahawks Assistant Head Coach Tom Cable; who made the wise decision to kick his rookie big man inside to the right guard position in an effort to ease his transition.
That move allows Cable to protect his youngster to a certain extent as he adjusts to the speed and intricacies of the pro game. As an added benefit, Ifedi does have some experience playing right guard in college, and he clearly has the raw power and nasty demeanor needed to excel at that position in the NFL with proper coaching.
However, it’s fair to wonder how a raw prospect like Ifedi fits into Seattle’s long-term plans. As fans across the Pacific Northwest are painfully aware, the Seahawks front brass has been less inclined to spend money on the offensive line allowing stalwarts like Russell Okung and J.R. Sweezy to leave via free agency. Instead, the organization has been perfectly content utilizing their cap money to re-sign key defensive cogs and certain offensive skill position players. While this muddles Ifedi’s long-term prospects with the team, for the short term, it seems Seattle’s coaches are happy shuffling their young players around until they find the best starting combination.
For now, that leaves Ifedi competing for the starting right guard job and likely playing next to free agent addition J’Marcus Webb, the presumptive starter at right tackle. Obviously that could form quite a formidable run-blocking duo this season having two 325+ pound men anchoring the right side, but that may not be the long-term plan for Seattle’s 2016 first round draft pick. Similar to recent selections Mark Glowinski and Justin Britt, it’s quite possible Tom Cable sees Ifedi eventually changing positions in year two or three, shifting to the right tackle position once his technique improves. That would allow Glowinski to move back to his more natural right guard position and should continue the youth movement along the Seahawks offensive line.
Of course, without seeing players (particularly linemen) in full pads throughout OTA sessions, it’s difficult to get a full indication of where Idedi is at, as well as how the Seahawks plan to use their young lineman, giving fans one more reason to be excited to be inching closer to “real” football and Training Camp.
Jarrod M. Patterson is an NFL/Seattle Seahawks beat writer and analyst in Aberdeen, WA. #GoHawks