This is a short series analyzing the Seahawks’ haul in the 2013 NFL Draft. Be sure to check out part 1 as well.
When Matt Bryant booted the game-winning field goal that ended the Seahawks’ 2012-2013 season, many Seahawks’ fans immediately set their sights on the draft and began targeting players to fill the team’s biggest perceived needs. Among those needs were upgrades at wide receiver, a better nickel defender, and improved interior pass rush.
The trade for Percy Harvin satisfied the first need, and then some. The Antoine Winfield signing satisfied the second need. And the Michael Bennett signing could potentially solve some of the defense’s interior pressure woes. But the team still lacked a prototypical three-technique defensive tackle. Every team wants a Geno Atkins or a Henry Melton, and just like every slow, physical wide receiver is compared to Anquan Boldin, every undersized, quick defensive lineman is compared to Atkins.
However, when I started watching Jordan Hill early in the year, I realized that the Atkins comparisons weren’t too far off. He has a shockingly quick first step, and he uses his hands better than any other interior defensive lineman in the draft. He should excel as one-gap penetrating defensive tackle whose primary responsibility is collapsing the pocket and rushing the passer. He is a little undersized and doesn’t stand up well against double-teams, but that’s never been Atkins’ forte either. So in short, Hill is a very good fit for Seattle’s three-technique spot.
It always seemed like Seattle needed a player like Hill for that role, but after they started Alan Branch there for two years, and signed Tony McDaniel while targeting other similarly long and heavy defensive tackles, I started wondering if they didn’t, in fact, prefer a 3-4 defensive end to a 4-3 defensive tackle for their three-technique. So I pushed Hill down on my board and forgot about him until the pick was announced. If I'd known they still wanted a player who fit that profile, I would've seen that pick coming a mile away.
While I think Hill is a great fit for Seattle, I’m not sure I’d give them an A for the pick, and my reasoning is pretty simple. After they made the pick, general manager John Schneider indicated that they needed to select a defensive tackle at that point because the talent really dropped off after Hill. He also mentioned that they would’ve considered Hill in the second round if Christine Michael wasn’t there, so they didn’t reach, per se. However, the fact that they got backed into a corner just a little bit nicks their grade here. I’ll give them a nice solid B+.
After going running back and defensive tackle with their first two picks, many people expected Seattle to target an offensive lineman, a tight end, or an outside linebacker in the fourth round. I was expecting an offensive lineman or a tight end. I didn’t expect them to spend one of their first few picks on an outside linebacker, and that was confirmed when they traded down with Arthur Brown on the board, and when Zaviar Gooden, Jelani Jenkins, Khaseem Greene, Sean Porter, and Gerald Hodges were all drafted in the 25 picks before Seattle’s pick in the fourth round. However, there were some quality tight ends available, and that’s where I expected Seattle to go. Then they drafted Chris Harper.
In hindsight, it was an obvious pick. Seattle have been searching high and low for a physical receiver to start at split end. Big Mike Williams filled that role for a season, but he flamed out (again). Harper fits the bill perfectly. He’s fast (4.45 40-yard dash at his pro day), quick (6.89 3-cone), and explosive (35.5” vertical), especially when you consider that, at 6’1” and 230 pounds, he’s built a lot thicker than most wide receivers. As a former quarterback for the Oregon Ducks, he’s a bit raw as a receiver, but he excels at catching the ball with defenders draped on him, and he has the speed to threaten a defense over the top. At Kansas State, he was a reliable safety target for the wildly inaccurate Collin Klein, and he should quickly become a favorite receiver for a scrambling Russell Wilson.
Harper was graded by most as a third or fourth round prospect, so he was by no means a reach. My biggest quibble with the pick (and it’s a small one) was that I had Quinton Patton and Da’Rick Rogers rated higher, and both were on the board at that point. Patton went to the 49ers a few picks later, and Rogers went undrafted. Since Rogers’ issues were significant enough for him to fall out of the draft entirely, it’s probably best that they went with Harper. Patton, on the other hand, could have been a great pick in the first round, and he’ll likely have a long and successful career. As a polished and experienced receiver, he has a much higher floor than Harper.
But since when did Seattle prefer finished products? They’d rather have a crazy athlete with a lot of upside, and I’d say it’s been working for them. At that point in the draft, they had Harper rated higher and/or a better scheme fit than Patton, and that’s good enough for me. So for the Chris Harper pick, I’ll give them an A-.