Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Seahawk identity

I wrote recently about a potential decline for the Seahawks due to their eroded draft results. There's another noticeable shift this year, and probably has to do with Russell Wilson's big contract: they are throwing more.

PassesRunsRussell runsTotal runs
2013420 (45.2%)413 (44.5%)96 (10.3%)509 (54.8%)
2014454 (46.4%)407 (41.6%)118 (12.0%)525 (53.6%)
2015*101 (54.0%)62 (33.2%)24 (12.8%)86 (46.0%)

PassesRunsRussell runsRussell uses
2013420 (45.2%)413 (44.5%)96 (10.3%)516 (55.5%)
2014454 (46.4%)407 (41.6%)118 (12.0%)572 (58.4%)
2015*101 (54.0%)62 (33.2%)24 (12.8%)125 (66.8%)
* Stats through 3 games

The Seahawks' winning script has been completely flipped. Where they used to run the ball around 54% of the time, they are now passing it that often. The run-first feel of the offense has dissolved. Another way to look at this is the percentage of plays Wilson is directly involved in. It's grown from 55.5 and 58.4 to 66.8 so far this year. Wilson is being asked to carry more and more of the offense, and the results are not following. Compounding that is Marshawn Lynch's diminished output (he's averaging under 4 yards per carry, down from 4.2 and 4.7 the previous years). Or maybe Lynch's less effective running is leading to more pass plays being called. Regardless, Wilson is not as effective, scrambling even more often, and taking 4 sacks per game (he averaged under 3 in the previous 2 years).

It will be interesting to see if these trends revert or continue. The offensive coordinator has remained constant over this time, which should eliminate a wholesale "offensive system change" as a culprit. Can the Seahawks throw their way to victory? Will they go back to what worked? Or will they take a step back this year?

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Seahawks futures

The Seahawks have been getting a ton of positive press for their roster moves, but while casually browsing the 2011 draft and realizing just how much they extracted from it, I started to wonder what their drafting really netted them. For reference, here are their draft picks and notable undrafted rookie free agent signings since 2010. I've bolded names that played a significant role on the team, italicized are the subset still with the team, and placed an asterisk next to anyone who's made a Pro Bowl.

2010 (9 picks):
Russell Okung (1*), Earl Thomas (1*), Golden Tate (2*), Walter Thurmond (4), EJ Wilson (4), Kam Chancellor (5*), Anthony McCoy (6), Dexter Davis (7), Jameson Konz (7c)

2011 (9 picks):
James Carpenter (1), John Moffitt (3), KJ Wright (4), Kris Durham (4), Richard Sherman (5*), Mark LeGree (5), Byron Maxwell (6), Lazarious Levingston (7), Malcolm Smith (7c), Doug Baldwin (U)

2012 (10 picks):
Bruce Irvin (1), Bobby Wagner (2*), Russell Wilson (3*), Robert Turbin (4), Jaye Howard (4), Korey Toomer (5), Jeremy Lane (6), Winston Guy (6), JR Sweezy (7), Greg Scruggs (7), Jermaine Kearse (U)

2013 (11 picks):
Christine Michael (2), Jordan Hill (3), Chris Harper (4), Jesse Williams (5), Tharold Simon (5), Luke Willson (5), Spencer Ware (6), Ryan Seymour (7), Ty Powell (7), Jared Smith (7c), Michael Bowie (7c)

2014 (9 picks):
Paul Richardson (2), Justin Britt (2), Cassius Marsh (4), Kevin Norwood (4), Kevin Pierre-Louis (4), Jimmy Staten (5), Garrett Scott (6), Eric Pinkins (6), Kiero Small (7), Garry Gilliam (U)

2015 (8 picks):
Frank Clark (2), Tyler Lockett (3), Terry Poole (4), Mark Glowinski (4c), Tye Smith (5c), Obum Gwacham (6c), Kristjan Sokoli (6c), Ryan Murphy(7)

The first thing that pops out is the incredible success of their drafting from 2010-2012. Some teams go a decade without selecting 7 Pro Bowlers. I did a study spanning 2006-2010. That one focuses on just the 1st and 2nd round picks, but of those, no team had more than 3 such Pro Bowlers over 5 years (though the 2010 class were rookies still and hadn't had a chance to be selected). In this same vein, they have maximized their picks in the top rounds. All 7 such picks started, and 4 of them became Pro Bowlers. None of them was a bust.

The second thing that pops up is their quantity of picks. Teams average 8 picks per draft (with the added compensatories; there are 256 picks for 32 teams in each draft). The Seahawks have averaged 9.3. Once we get past the first couple rounds, there are way more misses than hits. The Seahawks seem to have embraced that and given themselves more chances to hit on players later in the draft.

The third thing that catches my eye is their huge decline in 2013 and 2014. I'll skip 2015 because there's no real data to judge players by, but they have virtually no production from the more recent drafts. When your entire draft boils down to a decent tight end or two mediocre offensive linemen, that's a wasted opportunity.

The fourth thing that catches my eye is how their picks have shifted to the later rounds. Part of that is a result of their success and the late picks that yields, mixed with their penchant for trading those picks to the Vikings. But ... it's hard to get serious impact players without 1st round picks, and they haven't had one of those in 3 years.

And finally, 4 of their 8 rookie picks this year were compensatories. This shows 2 things: that they've eroded their assigned picks and that they've lost a lot of free agents.

So where does this leave the Seahawks going forward? They've certainly picked many very good players. However, they've now had to sign many of those players to expensive new contracts and haven't been able to fill in the spots with cheap rookies well. There's a great core there, but I do wonder if they are due for some slightly rocky times ahead.


Wednesday, September 2, 2015

A path of destruction

Sometimes a player comes along who changes the fortunes of a team. Sometimes even two. Such is the story of Trent Richardson.

Richardson came into the league in 2012 as the top rated running back. He had been a beast at Alabama, finished 3rd in Heisman voting and had analysts making outrageous claims about being the next Jim Brown. Not everyone agreed. Notably, the original Jim Brown called him "ordinary", wondering what the big deal was if Richardson couldn't start ahead of Mark Ingram (another highly rated Alabama back), who was now middling with the Saints.

Cleveland was so enamored with him they traded up from 4th to 3rd to get him, swapping spots with a Vikings team already featuring Adrian Peterson. In other words, Minnesota wasn't taking Trent Richardson. It's possible someone else would have traded up for him but that's a long shot. The only other team close enough to pull the trigger was Jacksonville, and they already had Maurice Jones-Drew and problems everywhere else on their roster.

In the end, the Browns swapped spots with Minnesota at the cost of the 118th, 139th and 211th picks. For reference, those picks became:

Jarius Wright, WR, Arkansas (#2 receiver in catches, yards and TDs on team behind Greg Jennings)
Robert Blanton, S, Notre Dame (starting safety, tallied 106 tackles in 2014)
Scott Solomon, DE, Rice (struggling to make a roster)

The above is the opportunity cost of panicking. Richardson would have been there at 4, no doubt, and Cleveland could have netted 2 additional starters. That's a big miss. Playing the what-if card, Cleveland could have taken Alfred Morris at 139 and taken Ryan Tannehill, who has more upside and performance thus far than subsequent 1st-rounders Weeden and Manziel, combined, at 4 ... though given their track record, they probably would have taken Justin Blackmon and gotten even less in return.

To their credit, Cleveland recognized their mistake and jumped at a market opportunity when the Colts' retooling squad came calling. Jim Brown praised the move. How could anyone not? While Richardson played through injury in his rookie year and perhaps onlookers could be excused for giving him a pass on his 3.6 yards per carry, it became quickly evident to many that he was not the dynamic back we'd been promised. The Colts offered a 1st-round pick and the Browns took it. I don't know that the Browns expected that 1st rounder to only be the #26 pick, but it's better than Trent Richardson. They then promptly packaged the 83rd pick with it to move up for another headache: Johnny Manziel. Had they just taken Tannehill instead of Richardson, .... if only.

The Colts, in the meantime, got a running back they would dump by the end of the year and missed on opportunities to add Kelvin Benjamin or Bradley Roby. The Colts' pain was limited to one missed player.

The Browns kicked off a whole bad ripple by taking Richardson, one I could argue they still haven't recovered from.

The final chapter in this sad story is that Oakland signed Richardson to a deal with $600,000 guaranteed. He then became a first cut casualty. Oakland's mistake is a mere blip compared to the others ... and probably the last mistake an NFL team will make with Richardson.