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. It’s 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.
However, 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.
Unbeknownst by draft pundits and personnel throughout the NFL at the time, the Seahawks organization had a major decision to make on Day 1 of the 2016 NFL Draft. It wasn’t just zeroing in on a target like any other team in the league through the unenviable task of scouring over thousands of hours of game tape in addition to countless interviews, workouts and new age analytics. No, in addition to this, Seattle found themselves with another conundrum, albeit a positive one. After trading back to the 31st overall pick, they saw that improbably, their top two targets remained undrafted.
What ensued within the Seahawks Draft War Room was undoubtedly a debate for the ages. While Alabama Defensive Tackle Jarran Reed was the higher rated prospect throughout the pre-draft process (if you take media rankings even remotely seriously), Texas A&M Offensive Tackle Germain Ifedi filled a more pressing need with the recent departures of Russell Okung and J.R. Sweezy. In the end, need won out and Ifedi became Seattle’s 2016 1st round draft pick.
It’s hard to imagine that despite the joy of landing Tom Cable’s top rated offensive lineman, there wasn’t a hint of disappointment for losing out on a prospect like Reed. However, Day two of the draft would prove pivotal for the organization as the seemingly impossible suddenly became reality. As the second round began to unfold, Seahawks GM John Schneider landed what could prove to be the steal of the draft with what could only be described as highway robbery. With Reed sliding to the middle of the second round, Seattle could wait no more. They pulled the trigger on a trade moving up several spots to land the former Crimson Tide standout. Somehow, Johns Schneider and Pete Carroll were able to walk away with their top two targets from the 2016 Draft.
Yet it’s fair to wonder, why the draft slide? Reed was widely considered one of the safest picks in the entire draft class, and with good reason. Throughout the season, he consistently proved himself to be a man amongst boys, dominating the competition from several positions in Nick Saban’s vaunted SEC defense. At 6’3” and 307 pounds, Reed showcased the strength, athleticism and leverage to play both the nose tackle position as well as defensive end in Alabama’s 3-4 defense. This gives him experience playing the 0-tech, 1-tech, 3-tech and even the 5-tech where he is matched up against more athletic offensive tackles. Obviously, this experience was a huge selling point for Defensive Coordinator Kris Richard and the Seahawks defensive staff as they value versatility in their players above all else.
Of course, like any rookie, Reed has a flaws in his game as well. Part of the reason he slipped to the second round is his apparent lack of pass rush skills. Now, many purists of the game will point to the fact that Reed was rarely put in a position to have success as a pass rusher in Saban’s defense. Most of the time he was asked to two-gap, essentially pushing the pocket and looking to shed his blocker one way or the other depending on which direction the play was headed. To his credit, Reed did this better than any player in college football, which led to his title as the drafts best run-stuffing defensive lineman. However, the downside of Reed doing this particular job is that being asked to eat up space and often take on multiple blockers (another talent he seems to showcase with ease), he is essentially freeing up other players to rack up sacks and QB hits.
Strangely enough, these traits might remind many Seahawk fans of another former fan-favorite who recently departed via free agency: Brandon Mebane. While Mebane never racked up insane statistics, he was a key cog in what would become one of the best defensive lines in the NFL. With Reed, Seattle may not even see a significant drop-off in production from the position, allowing the Seahawks athletic linebackers to stay clean and continue to make plays. Even further, Reed’s experience as a 3-tech could allow Kris Richard to flip-flop between who is playing the nose along with veteran defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin. In the long-term, with Richard’s willingness to disguise certain defensive fronts, Reed’s presence could even add a new dimension to Seattle’s line rotation. Of course, it’s notoriously hard to evaluate lineman during OTA’s without pads on, but one thing is certain; with Reed’s work ethic and natural abilities, he will likely be ready to make an impact sooner than later.
Jarrod M. Patterson is an NFL/Seattle Seahawks beat writer and analyst in Aberdeen, WA. #GoHawks