Friday, March 20, 2009

Gas on the Fire: Ruskell and QBs

by: Chris Sullivan

Mike Sando posted a great little table showing all of Seahawks GM Tim Ruskell's quarterback choices throughout the draft. To date, only one pick was taken in the first round -- Trent Dilfer in 1994 (Dilfer went on to win a Super Bowl and mentor a young, arrogant, bald QB you might know a bit about). While Dilfer was never a great QB, he was a good one for quite a long time and has the ring to prove it. Ruskell took Shaun King in the second round of 1999, David "I'm Bored" Greene in 2005's third round for the Seahawks, Craig Erickson in the fourth round in 1992, Mike Pawlaski in the 8th (1992) and Joe Hamilton from G. Tech in the 7th Round of 2000. More notable mid-rounders include Chris Simms (2003) and Matt Schaub (2004) who were taken with the 97th and 90th picks, respectively. Of these QBs, Dilfer and Schaub could be said to have "made it" in the NFL -- yes, Simms lasted awhile and got some starts, but he never showed enough promise to be considered a long-term solution.

Overall, Ruskell is batting 25% on QBs (he could be the Mariners MVP!). I spent a good portion of last night spreading the QB draft picks from 1999-2008 and looking at the QBs who "made it." Of all drafted during that period, probably about a 20-25% "made-it." I consider a QB to have made it in the NFL if they held a starting job for at least one year's worth of starts for reasons other than catastrophic injury. Dan Orlovsky has not made it, Tim Rattay (yeah, you heard me), "made it" with 18 starts and having taken the job based the other guys stinking (Garcia was released then Gradkowski stunk). This doesn't mean they are good or bad, just that they "made it".

To me, this would indicate that Ruskell is about average when drafting QBs. In this league, however, average doesn't necessarily mean much. We know that Bellichek + Co are good at "drafting QBs" -- they got Brady and Cassel with the 199th and 230th picks (though it could be argued that they "created" those QBs). It only takes one Peyton Manning to make you look good at drafting QBs, but the Colts also have Jim Sorgi who has proven pretty much nothing in his preseason career.

What does this mean? Well, based on his history, it appears that Ruskell is more likely to take a stab at middle-round QBs. Dilfer was an immediate need as Craig Erickson was the Tampa QB the year prior after taking over for Vinny Testaverde as Tampa entered a rebuilding phase. That is not the situation today. When Schaub was drafted, he was drafted in the third round as a long-term hold (who turned into excellent trade bait). Vick was a young star QB and Schaub was not necessarily expected to take the reins anytime soon. That is not the situation today, either.


Hasselbeck is not young and has been injured. Their has been a changing of the guard in the coaching staff and Holmgren's players will be leaving the team over the next two years or so. That means Hasselbeck too, but largely due to age and health as much as anything. Ruskell has rarely let his hand be forced in the Draft, and that doesn't seem the case now. We have a competent backup in Seneca, but he is not projected to be a starter in this league regardless of the whimsy of many fans. He is not the answer in Seattle.

They will draft a QB almost certainly this year. It is a shallow year for QBs, after Stafford and Sanchez, the bar drops considerably and the second and third tier do not appear to have stars. Josh Freeman, maybe, but there's too many question marks there. Nate Davis? Rhett Bomar? Graham Harrell? Not going to happen. Pat White? Another fetishized player and, admittedly, I think he brings a lot to the plate, but he is ultimately a younger Seneca -- athletic, good arm, fine accuracy, short-ish, and generally looked at as a WR / Wildcat QB. I don't think he's the answer long-term either. A lot of us are looking for a more exciting offense. Would Seneca and White offer that? Sure. Just like Vick did. But what is more exciting: fancy plays and unpredictable alignments or victories? I still remember January 2006, and I have my answer.

Will Ruskell draft a first round QB? Who knows? He hasn't been in this exact position before. It seems like he's in a Best Player Available mindset (at least, thats what he's letting on), and it all depends on who he likes more -- Crabtree or Stafford. Yes, there will be other players available, but Monroe and Smith are both likely to be gone and Curry is almost definitely gone. If there are five top players in the draft, it really will come down to two for the Hawks. Also, don't be shocked if we take Stafford/Sanchez at 4 and then grab Nate Davis or someone else in the fifth or sixth if they slip.