Sunday, April 19, 2009

6 Days Away

by: Michael Steffes

Well, as Sunday morning settles in, the NFL draft is officially NEXT weekend. There is still no consensus on who the Seahawks should pick.

There is talk about Mark Sanchez, and Eric Williams of the News-Tribune has done a nice writeup here.

There is also talk of a left tackle. Dave Boling makes his plea for that position here.

That is the issue I would like to examine a bit more in detail. Admittedly, I have done my best to sit back and just let everyone debate the draft. My biggest preference is that the Seahawks get someone who will have the biggest possible impact on the 2009 offense. Assuming they WANT to win next year, which, as Tim Ruskell says, is the goal every year.

Both Sanchez and a left tackle seem like picks for the future to me. One of the reasons I was giddy about the Redskins two first round picks rumor is that it would allow for another year to evaluate those two positions with the possibility of finding future player for both positions next year, at least theoretically. It is hard to predict exactly who will be available and where we would be picking.

There is something else I found on drafting of left tackles that I thought should be shared. This was some analysis done on the Pride of Detroit blog by a writer named HoorayForEverything.

This writer has taken a look at how often "successful" franchises have drafted left tackles in the top 20 picks over the last 10 years. As Seahawks fans we have been lucky -- we found ours before 1999 and he has been a rock there. But Walt is one of the few left from that draft class. Surely other top franchises must have anchored their lines by picking surefire left tackles, right?

Actually, no, they haven't. The Lions have taken three linemen in the top 20, and the Chiefs and Dolphins have taken two each. The Raiders have taken a pair, as have the Broncos and Panthers. The Panthers are arguably the most successful franchises following this model.

Now look at the decade's most successful teams:

Patriots- 1 linemen (Damien Woody at center)
Colts - 0
Steelers - 0
Giants - 1 Luke Petitgout (no longer with team)
Seahawks - 1 (Hutch, G, no longer with team -- please don't start)
Ravens -0
Chargers - 0

You can look at the numbers compiled by this writer, it is good work. So what does it tell us? That lines function as a dynamic system, and good lines are created through matching the right players together to create a great chemistry amongst the group. A top of the draft tackle doesn't appear to be a prerequisite.

This analysis might change if all first round picks were considered, instead of just the top 20. We know the Seahawks also took Chris Spencer in this time period late in the first, but maybe that just furthers the point.

HoorayForEverthing acknowledges that this fascination with drafting first round tackles is relatively new. And maybe it will pay off--look at the Dolphins, who made the playoffs after taking a tackle with the first overall pick last year. Time will tell. However, if we judge by past performance, it certainly isn't a necessity to spend that first rounder on a guy who does the dirty work. In fact, maybe these guys do better when they have to scrape and claw for that starting spot and earn their first big payday. Who knows?