BY Art Thiel 04:00PM 04/18/2018

Thiel: Should Seahawks draft QB Lamar Jackson?

Texans rookie QB Deshaun Watson so tore up Seahawks defense that he looked like the next Russell Wilson. Heisman winner Lamar Jackson could be the next Watson.

Against the Texans Oct. 29, future Seahawk Duane Brown (76) kept QB Deshaun Watson’s backside safe, but the front door was open to Michael Bennett. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

From a standpoint of spectacle last season, the Seahawks’ 41-38 win Oct. 29 over the Houston Texans at the Clink was all Bourbon Street, Vegas strip and South Beach — don’t dare blink, or you’ll miss something outlandish, voluptuous or ridiculous.

That day, Russell Wilson threw four touchdown passes, part of a career-high 452 yards on 26 completions, and took just 1:18 to cover 80 yards with three passes for the game-winning touchdown.

Yet an argument could be made that he was the second-best player on the field that day.

In the NFL’s most difficult road house and playing in his seventh NFL regular-season game, Texans rookie QB Deshaun Watson also threw four touchdown passes, part of 402 yards on 19 completions in 30 attempts, and out-rushed Wilson 64 yards to 30.

The game became more significant in hindsight on a couple of levels: It was the last one Watson played, because he tore an ACL in practice the next week and was done for the season, so his greatness is harder to recall. And the Seahawks defense was unraveling well before the 42-7 debacle defeat to the Rams in December.

Watson rolled out this marvel (the Texans had 509 yards of total offense and 25 first downs that made for scoring drives of 75, 82, 84, 63, 71 and 75 yards), against a defense that still had CB Richard Sherman and safeties Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor, missing only DE Cliff Avril from the regulars. Marring Watson’s stats were three interceptions, one a desperation throw on his final pass. Wilson also had a pick and went against a Texans defense missing DE J.J. Watt, DT Whitney Mercilus and LB Brian Cushing.

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll offered this trenchant post-game summary:

“They were swashbuckling out there, man. It was something.”

Here is what I wrote after the game:

Wilson’s play stood further in relief because of how it compared to Watson, the rookie who helped shred a prideful defense for 509 yards much in the way Wilson has done it to the NFL for six years — throwing deep well, extending plays with rollouts and gaining first downs with aggravating scrambles at the most critical times.

Seven games into his pro career, he’s already Wilson — minus just a handful of mistakes likely to be cured with experience.

“I know how other teams feel now,” said CB Richard Sherman of the comparison. “We definitely know how other teams feel. He was poised. He’s back there like (Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers), ducked from one, stepped back from another, spins off another one, and hits the open guy.

“Has there ever been a rookie who’s done that? It would be hard to find.”

Not sure how to answer Sherman’s question, but I have another question for Seahawks fans: If there’s another QB of Watson’s caliber and style when the Seahawks pick 18th in the first round of the draft next week, should they take him?

Think about it, because Lamar Jackson may be waiting.

The 2016 Heisman Trophy winner (youngest recipient ever) from the University of Louisville is generally forecasted to be the fifth-best QB in a draft heavy at the top with premier passers. Jackson and Watson are comparable in size (about 6-3, 215), speed and explosive play capability via arms or legs.

To cite one comparative analysis, ESPN.com’s Todd McShay scored all the QBs taken in the first round of the past 10 drafts, and included the scouting reports for the top five in the 2018 class — Jackson, USC’s Sam Darnold, UCLA’s Josh Rosen, Wyoming’s Josh Allen and 2017 Heisman winner Baker Mayfield of Oklahoma.

Andrew Luck was tops with a score of 99, E.J. Manuel last with 76. Watson’s grade a year ago was 88, Jackson’s right now is 84. Darnold is 94, Rosen and Allen 91 and Mayfield at 90.

Here’s what McShay wrote about Watson ahead of his draft, taken 12th overall and the third QB chosen:

As a prospect: “Watson’s ability to transition to a pro-style offense will ultimately dictate whether or not he succeeds in the NFL. A proven winner, there’s no denying he has the physical tools and rare intangibles to develop into a franchise quarterback.”

In the NFL: “Watson was tremendous in his rookie season (19 TDs and 8 INTs) before tearing his ACL. He made some rookie mistakes, but his athleticism and playmaking ability were undeniable. Hopefully, he comes back healthy this season.”

Here’s what McShay wrote about Jackson:

As a prospect: “Jackson is a very difficult evaluation, as no player in college football the last two years has been more explosive with the ball in his hands. But he needs a lot of refinement as a passer — specifically when it comes to his inconsistencies with progression reads, anticipation and ball placement. There’s also legitimate concern about his potential durability given his slight frame (6-2, 216) and inevitable high volume of carries in the NFL. Simply put; he’s too dynamic not to find ways to get the ball in his hands, but he might not be refined enough as a passer right now to hand him the keys to an NFL offense as a rookie.”

Other scouting opinions also are skeptical about Jackson’s accuracy, but some also analogize him to Michael Vick, who despite a career completion percentage of 56 — as well as his crimes against canines — played 13 seasons and made four Pro Bowls while causing defensive coordinators to weep frequently.

Regarding the Seahawks, yes, they have a starting QB. But they don’t have a quality backup, nor do they have a QB plan beyond the 2019 season, which is when Wilson’s contract is up.

The skyrocketing market for premium veteran quarterbacks is going to be a salary cap-management problem for every team with a quality player who is no longer on his rookie contract (five years for first-rounders).

The win over Houston was an apt demonstration of Wilson’s wonders, including his 23rd come-from-behind win. The notion of moving on from Wilson has zero to do with his ability and everything to do with the Seahawks’ ability to stay competitive while paying one player north of $30 million annually in 2020, either via contract extension or the franchise tag.

Wilson’s cap number this season is nearly $24 million, part of why the Seahawks spent a lot of their modest free agent resources at the remainders table. He’s worth every penny, but is that sufficient to risk being a middling team again while potentially getting less for him in the future if an extension isn’t doable?

Perhaps I was blinded by Watson’s game. Maybe I’m over-valuing Jackson’s NFL p0tential.  And lots of studious NFL talent gurus turn out wrong when it comes to quarterbacks.

But I do trust Sherman’s ability to evaluate QB talent. And if it’s fair to say Watson is the new Wilson, can the Seahawks risk ignoring the chance that Jackson, especially with a season as a backup, is the new Watson?

 


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YourThoughts

  • Tom G.

    Change “Lamar Jackson” to “Baker Mayfield” and MAYBE we’ll talk.

    • Effzee

      Baker Mayfield is the next Ryan Leaf/Johnny Manziel flame-out in the making. This team needs less head-cases, not more. I wouldn’t touch Mayfield with a ten foot pole.

      • Tom G.

        Would respectfully disagree that he’s the next Leaf/Manziel.

        If anything, he strikes me as the 1 QB in this class that’s the most prepared and could climb the highest in the league.

        • Effzee

          Either way, he won’t be available at #18, so its a moot point. Lamar Jackson will be, though. Hence the column wondering if we should draft him.

          • Tom G.

            And I don’t think Lamar is someone that has come across as a guy that can sit in a pocket and dissect defenses in those situations where he absolutely has to.

            Hence why I wouldn’t draft him at 18.

          • art thiel
          • Effzee

            I don’t think that Russ’ strong suit was ever sitting in the pocket and dissecting defenses either, and somehow he turned sand-lot football into two SB appearances. But that was with Bevel as coordinator and Beast Mode by his side. I remain dubious about Wilson’s ability to run plays the way they are drawn up. This season sure will be interesting.

        • art thiel

          I think Mayfield will have a solid career, but his ceiling is lower than the other four first=rounders. Definitely not a Leaf/Manziel type.

          • Effzee

            Admittedly, I don’t know enough about his actual QB play, but his childish antics don’t make him seem like someone the Seahawks want to make the face of the franchise.

    • art thiel

      If Trump can talk to Un, you can talk to me.

      • Tom G.

        😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂

  • Effzee

    Weird. You totally read my mind. I was just thinking this, this morning. I don’t think its in their model to pay $30M to any one player, especially a QB. Not only is it insurance for if they can’t/don’t sign Wilson next year, but if he gets injured we are screwed, and if it turns out that he can’t run an offense as designed, from the pocket, then we are also screwed.

    • art thiel

      Pro Football Focus wrote about Jackson’s alleged weakness in passing from the pocket and said based on their analysis, it’s false. Rookie QBs’ toughest first-year task is reading defensive disguises.

  • tor5

    All good points, Art. These QB salaries are killer, and getting worse (or better, if you’re RW). You’re kind of promoting the theory that we can find a bargain and still reach our goal – the Super Bowl! So here’s what I found on Sportrac: All the QBs in the past 5 Super Bowls had an average annual salary in the year of their appearance ranking in the top 17, except two: Nick Foles and Russell Wilson.

    Like so, with salary ranking: 2013 Wilson (61) – Manning (5); 2014 Brady (17) – Wilson (59); 2015 Manning (15) – Newton (6); 2016 Brady (12) – Ryan (11); 2017 Foles (29) – Brady (15).

    In other words, bargain Super Bowl QBs are not common, but it’s possible. On the other hand, only one Super Bowl QB ranked in the top 5 salaries (Manning in 2013). The only moral I can see here is to lock up a superstar and wait for the market to surpass his contract, and then hope that he can still play.

    • art thiel

      Another way to look at it is to play a premier rookie early and often, as they did Wilson, and push payroll to the defense and O-line before the kid gets to his second contract. Rams are doing it with Goff.

      I’m not sure there’s much correlation between a given QB’s salary and SB success. Too many variables in football.

  • Tian Biao

    no! and no! and no again! we don’t need two blinkin’ quarterbacks: we need a big surly lout to anchor the offensive line. i remember 2014 i was watching the NFL draft (i know) and Dallas went to pick 16th and the fans were clamoring for Johnny Manziel but they drafted an O lineman (Zack Martin, just looked it up) and there was a huge round of boos from the fans, but hey: since then, Dallas has had, for years, one of the best O lines in football.

    plus, Seahawks previously drafted a quarterback in the first round who couldn’t throw: his name was Rick Mirer.

    oh, and Art: step away from the bar and keep your hands where i can see ’em.

    • jafabian

      Anyone would have picked Mirer. And he did end up having a 12 year career.

      • art thiel

        The Dan McGwire pick was perhaps the nadir moment of the Behring regime.

        • jafabian

          Aaron Curry comes to mind also. But McGwire shouldn’t have been picked whereas Curry was expected.

    • art thiel

      Thanks for the health tip. But I’ll stick to black-tar heroin.

      The Seahawks O-line is already set: Brown, Pocic, Britt, Fluker, Ifedi

      Most likely they will go defense first, probably a pass rusher unless they see a safety worthy of Thomas. But Jones of Fla St. should be long gone.

  • jafabian

    If he’s in the 3rd round IMO they should consider it. The Patriots have shown you can get something good for a backup QB. Heck, the Seahawks got 5th round draft pick AND a conditional pick for Matt Flynn. If Jackson is the best athlete on the board then take him.

    • art thiel

      Jackson is too much of a talent to fall out of the first round. He may not be there when/if Seahawks pick at 18.

  • Theyfinallyfiredcable

    I can’t fathom he’d be available at 18 , and if he is Schneider will gladly trade down to recoup a 2nd and 3rd . Now then , if they trade Thomas and gain another first round pick – AND Jackson’s still there at 18 ..

    • art thiel

      Look at you, so open-minded. You have a future in an NFL front office.

      • Theyfinallyfiredcable

        : p

        I’d be ecstatic just to sweep the floors at the VMAC . Gives me goosebumps just sitting on the berm during training camp . Because I’m a season ticket holder , they invite us to the draft party every year and I got to tour the locker room at the stadium once ; that was awesome ! Until some guy puked on the carpet in there and they shut it down ..

        • art thiel

          A classic interjection of TMI.

  • Dean Da Costa

    Hmm so we should gamble that he will be as good as advertised, I mean we all know almost every QB taken in the 1st round are superstars. The partial rational being that Watson had a great first 8-9 games. I mean because every QB who has a good first 8-9 games is a superstar. Also add the talent round Watson is much better than what Wilson had. The reason money ahh you do know until this year most of our cap has been on defense right. Hmm So we should gamble hoping he is a great QB when we already have a great QB still in his prime. LOL

    • art thiel

      Let me know when you discover the first draft pick who isn’t a gamble, especially QBs in the first round.

      If your eyes didn’t tell you that Watson has all the makings (health permitting), I can’t help you.

      And if you believe in Carroll’s prime directive of defense first, you also have to accept that the necessary investment in it makes a $30M+ investment in a QB extremely difficult, even with an incrementally rising salary cap.

      • Mícheál Mac Cionnaith

        But isn’t “the elephant in the room” (which the Seahawks seemingly have refused to address for about 5-6 years) the Offensive Line? People keep talking about QBs and WRs and RBs . . . and the glaring problem is the virtually non-existent O-Line. I’m genuinely concerned that the club will get RW3 badly injured because they’ve simply not invested in protecting him.

  • Husky73

    If he is available, I’d say go for it. Also…Art, I am coming around to your thinking about Wilson and his next contract and the cap. Here’s a thought….get that kid from WSU away from Mike Leach and he just may have quite an upside. I’d say he is worth a mid-round pick.

    • art thiel

      Wow. I can’t believe a juror has wavered against convicting me. Thanks.

      Regarding Falk, I think he fits the unfortunate stereotype of Leach QBs: A great fit for the Air Raid system in college ball, but just short in tangibles and intangibles for a starting NFL QB.

  • Kraken221

    I would pass on Jackson. If the Seahawks draft a QB it should be with the new coaching staff when Pete Carroll inevitably retires after this season. He’s the oldest coach in the league and his stories are waning on the vets. Controversially I thought Pete should have retired after 2017 and we started the rebuild with a new coach. I am a bit irritated that the Seahawks avoid good football players and draft for scheme.

    • art thiel

      Congrats on the scoop on Carroll’s retirement. I had no idea, and neither does anyone at the Seahawks, including Carroll.

  • Alan Harrison

    I never considered it, but it’s not bad. I would think he’ll be gone to the Cards at 15 or to someone else trading up (Bills are doing their best to move up and there’s a domino effect in play), so I think it’s academic, but it’s a fun exercise. One thing that has driven NE success is that Tom Brady doesn’t need the money (his wife makes more $$ than even he does) and he’s made sure to find ways to restructure to get players. Russell Wilson could do that at this point, but I don’t think he will. But with a backup in place… Anyway, like I said, academic probably, but fun. I’d love to see them spend a 7th round pick on JT Barrett, about whom his teammates have raved. Love leaders who control a room.

  • cadrethree

    Would it be possible to trade him for at least a first round this year? Then trade our first round pick to pick up more picks later in the draft. Bring in Johnny Manziel cause if you’re going to be bad you might as well be fun to watch. Probably going to take 2-3 years to rebuild…

  • Ron