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Each offseason, NFL Mock Draft wizard Xavier Cromartie and I each run a computer simulated NFL season based on the utopian world as of May-June. We show our full standings, playoffs, and ‘faux’ Super Bowl champion. We do it for fun, but more to analyze the best over-under Vegas win totals on NFL teams early in the process.
After we show our predictive seasons, as of the summer, we then go through and compare notes and debate our predictions division-by-division. We have more divergence than ever before in 2018. Here’s a transcript of our discussions a division at a time.
Today, we look at the NFC West…and pull up a chair, you’re going to get your money’s worth of content here…
*Forgive any typos. We’re just chatting back and forth, typing furiously without any post-writing edits beyond what we catch ourselves. You’ll be able to figure it all out…
RC's Faux NFC West
LAR … 13 - 3 = 0.813
SF …. 11 - 5 = 0.688
ARI … 9 - 7 = 0.563
SEA … 7 - 9 = 0.438
XC's Faux NFC West
NFC-W W L .PCT
x-SEA … 12 - 4 = 0.750
x-LAR … 11 - 5 = 0.688
SF … 8 - 8 = 0.500
ARI … 3 - 13 = 0.188
RC: The NFC West is where we have, perhaps, our greatest differences this season. We'll hit on each team because we see them all differently, but I'll let you take the first punch.
To set the scene: You have Seattle winning the division with 12 wins, and I have them in last and would be my children they don't win the division. I have the Rams winning the division and the Super Bowl, you have the Rams at 11 wins but snuffed out in the playoffs quickly. I have the 49ers as that 'it' 10-game+ winning wild card and you have them a solid 8-8. I think Arizona is a sleeper team for 8-8 and you have them as fighting for worst record/the #1 pick in the draft.
I think there's good logic on both ends of our spectrum on these teams, I'm betting. I can see why your models would push the opposite ends of mine here. I don't think where you're at with them is insanity...but Seattle winning the division is pushing it :) . I could see yours or mine being right on any/all of them. I think the interesting part is explaining exactly why we are where we are...pretty far apart on all this group. Especially all these teams. We usually disagree on 1 or 2 teams in a division but we're pretty varied on all 4 here.
Which road do you want to go down first?
XC: I'll give an overview of all four teams. But first I'll remind everyone that last season my projections were off by an average of 2.53 wins per team, whereas yours were off by an average of 3.19 wins per team. I don't think that anything of significance has changed for the Seahawks. They have always been a 10-13 win team since Wilson took over. Last year was a worst-case scenario (9 wins) because multiple key defenders went out with injuries. Bobby Wagner aggravated his hamstring in November; he's in the discussion for most important defensive player in the league. They still have good defensive talent, as they always do. And yes Byron Maxwell is a legitimate starting CB. I also believe that team chemistry is a genuine scientific phenomenon because people are capable of greater things when they have a purpose beyond themselves, and they will have good chemistry. 11-12 wins looks completely within normal expectations.
The Rams are pretty good; I'd rank them #7 out of 32. It's very easy to spot their weak point. They have an excellent three-man defensive interior and secondary, but what are they doing at linebacker? They're relying on no-namers and mid-round picks (since they had no early picks). And Mark Barron, who is trash. That holds them back from being a championship defense. I rate Goff highly but that's not enough. I see 10-11 wins.
We all love the Italian Stallion Jimmy G. But foolish gamblers are going to fall for '5-0' and overvalue the unbeaten streak when it's really just 'heads' coming up on five consecutive tosses by chance. The 49ers are close to being good, but I don't think they've quite made it yet. They also have to deal with four games every year against SEA and LAR. And all four of these scheduled games are on the road: MIN, KC, LAC, and GB. Give it another year. 8-9 wins this year in the tough NFC.
The Cardinals are rebuilding. New coach, new QB, new defensive scheme. I am assuming Rosen as the QB because Bradford is never healthy. David Johnson will have to do all the work himself behind that still-terrible o-line. The defense has a few individual talents but overall it doesn't look very good, and they're adapting to the new scheme. I do not believe that Steve Wilks is a good coach. They have the three aforementioned good teams in their division to play six games against. And they have the same problem that I mentioned with the 49ers: road games against MIN, KC, LAC, and GB. (The Rams and Seahawks, in contrast, get all four of those games at home.) I see 3-6 wins for the Cardinals. But as consolation, they get to live in a much better city than the other three teams.
RC: I will start by reminding everyone of history as well...you peddled Seattle last year while I was talking about them being on the verge of collapse internally and overrated on the field -- and 'bingo'. I also was on top of the Rams rise, just didn't go far enough. There will be a division or two I was way off on from our Faux 2017, but the NFC West was not one of them.
You say…Seattle had not changed much since last year? What? You mean besides firing/replacing nearly its entire coaching staff, losing nearly everything that made their defense great (Sherman, Avril, Bennett, and probably Cam and Earl soon), losing a Hall of Fame TE (that led them in TDs)...so besides all that they are pretty much the same team as the great Seattle teams of 3-4-5 years ago? What?
The argument for Seattle 2018 cannot be 'was good 2-3-4 years ago'. I get that Russell Wilson is a miracle worker, that we can agree on...and that's why liking Seattle is not silly, but SOOO much has changed since Wilson/Seattle ruled this division a few years ago. The defensive heart has been ripped away by salary cap or injury or other. Multiple DCs left/hired away. But most importantly the Rams and 49ers have gone from utter jokes of the NFL to two of the best teams in the league, especially the Rams. If Seattle 'has a chance' because of Wilson...then so too does SF with Jimmy G., as witnessed by his run late last year -- a run with no O-Line and WRs hurt.
If you make the case that Seattle is a possible 9-7 wild card team...because of Wilson...seems reasonable. I see them with a losing record but fringe wild card isn't crazy with Wilson. But a 12-4 projection, top of the food chain of the NFC type of team -- I see that as there's almost no way given the gutting they've done to this team and the terrible drafts and free agency they've had to replenish.
The heart and soul of this team was the defense and Russell Wilson. They've destroyed one of those two heart and souls. I wouldn't count on Brian Schottheimer's zone running game to be able to make up for the problems on the O-Line and the deficits they'll encounter with a weaker defense, a sketchy secondary (if you're relying on Byron Maxwell to save the day...good luck), and trying to match wits with Sean McVay and Kyle Shanahan.
Everything that went wrong with Seattle last year didn't get addressed/fixed or upgraded in 2018 offseason. The rest of their division is changing/rising while they are collapsing.
XC: They didn't collapse though; that's hyperbolic sales language. They were 8-4 after beating the Eagles. The defense suffered too many injuries and it hurt them down the stretch. One legitimate criticism is that they are overly dependent on the talent of Bobby Wagner. But if Blair Walsh had just made the field goal at the end of their last game, they would have been 10-6 and it would have been a typical low-end Seattle season. A team with an elite QB doesn't collapse. Drew Brees always carries the Saints to a minimum of 7 wins despite league-worst defenses. The Seahawks are not going to be a league-worst defense.
The point isn't that they 'used to be good' but instead that they are a continuous and predictable entity since 2012 because the important systems and players remain in place. You don't 'lose' guys over the age of 30; you replace them with younger talent and move on from them. This point is easy to understand with the Patriots. From 2001 until current year, they have been one continuous entity despite almost complete turnover of the roster and coordinators. They are almost always a top-10 team on both offense and defense because they have Brady and the Belichick system in place, and so they predictably finish with 12-14 wins almost every year. Belichick traded away 25-year-old Brandin Cooks a few months ago and the immediate reaction was "here's why that's a good thing." That's always the reaction to any move Belichick makes. Trade Randy Moss, Chandler Jones, or Jamie Collins, it's all good. But Seattle lets a washed-up 32-year-old TE walk away and "it's the beginning of the end for the Seahawks." Pete Carroll should get credit for elite defense year after year. Five straight years of greatness were not a mirage. The current roster looks fine.
RC: I see a Seattle team that started 6-2 and went 3-5 down the stretch, 8-4 after the Philly game and then 1-3 down the stretch because their defensive stalwarts started to fall one-by-one. And this team stumbled late 2016 as well. If you told me that all those key defensive guys were coming back for another (healthy) run this year -- I'd agree the Seahawks are dangerous. But, for me, it's the end of an era...one of the best collection of defensive talent of the past decade -- almost all gone. I don't think they reloaded at all. They are doing nothing close to what New England does restocking and replenishing the roster. The injured defense brought them to their knees in the 2nd half of the season...and the guys they missed/lost and all gone but one (Earl Thomas…and he might be gone soon).
Byron Maxwell is not ‘peak Richard Sherman’. Jarran Reed and Rasheem Green are not Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett. Brad McDougald is not Cam Chancellor. Barkevious Mingo starting at OLB? The defense was the heart of this team...and the heart was ripped out late last year and pronounced dead this offseason. It feels like Seattle replaced all their name brand items with cheap generics hoping no one would notice...but I think the wins and losses will notice.
If they get 10+ wins this season, Pete Carroll is coach of the year, hands down -- and you are a visionary!
On to SF...
I see them stronger than you do, but we're not far off. I think you're underselling Jimmy Garoppolo. I don't he's merely good...he might be one of the 2-3 best QBs in the NFL and that's why he pulled off a minor miracle in his first two NFL starts with NE and then five starts with the battered, winless 49ers. I mean, a winless/bad team and he comes in with no #1 WR and no O-Line and just pulls a miracle for five wins -- that's not just a 'hot stretch'. Plus, I've scouted him for years...he's as good as I've ever seen.
I have a feeling I know your answer to this question, but I'll ask it for fun and discussion -- if you had to take the 49ers roster or the Seahawks roster over, if you were to be a sudden NFL head coach -- which would you pick? Would you agree the 49ers have the better roster top to bottom after their upgrades the past two years, and, for me, Seattle's downgrades (some salary cap forced). I'd argue the 49ers are better than Seattle at every position except linebacker and they both have suspect O-Lines. Push: at QB, WR, O-Line. SF edge: D-Line, DBs, Kicker, Head Coach, O-C, TEs.
I have the same feeling you have for Seattle for San Fran, kinda, and vice-versa for you. It will be interesting to see how it plays out. I like your conviction in Seattle not falling off, but I think 12-4 is a lot to ask/project with the schedule they were dealt and SF and LAR improving so dramatically. One reason I show SF popping with a nice record...a little easier schedule layout giving them a +1 or so over Seattle in 'schedule'.
XC: The 5-0 streak is a prototypical hot stretch. Tim Tebow won 6 straight games in 2011. Stay logical; don't start invoking miracles/God. I like Jimmy. No doubt he's top 2-3 in most handsome QBs. But he threw 7 TDs in those 5 wins. And he played against the Rams' backups in week 17. He's good but I'm not putting him above Rodgers, Brady, Brees, Wilson, Goff, etc. I need to see a better TD rate from him first.
As a whole, I would take the Seahawks' roster right now since I think that they'll win more games. Their rosters kind of mirror each other. 49ers DC Saleh came from Seattle and is running a similar scheme. I would like to take some of the players off of the 49ers and plug them in as starters for the Seahawks though. I'd like DeForest Buckner and Tarvarius Moore on my defense. And Mike McGlinchey at RT would be a sure upgrade. I'm taking Russell Wilson over Jimmy G though, and that's all that really matters.
In regard to schedule, as mentioned earlier, I would much rather play MIN-GB-LAC-KC at home (SEA) than on the road (SF). So I don't see what makes the SF schedule easier.
RC: The sexiness of 5-0 or 7-0 (as he is as a starter) is not the allure. He could have gone 3-2 in those 5 games -- he took a total garbage team devastated with injury and every reason to quit and reeled off 5 in-a-row. 3-2 would have been something. You take Garoppolo proving he has signs of something special every time he starts NFL games + the brew haha of Belichick perhaps preferring to go forward with Garoppolo + his excellent college work -- he's no ordinary QB prospect and trained with the master. There's more reason to get excited about Jimmy G. than Goff going into 2017 or Trubisky into this season...all of whom I love. Garoppolo is not just 'good'. He's great only hidden by the fact he sat behind Brady, but I respect anyone who doesn't want to buy in yet...that's betting on the come, somewhat.
I'll take Jimmy G. PLUS Kyle Shanahan over Russell Wilson (whom I love) + Brian Schottenhiemer/Carroll.
What I don't like about Seattle's schedule is the layout on top of the teams they play. at DEN and at CHI could be winnable games but you catch new offense/at altitude Denver in Week 1...it's a bad set up, You want that potential winnable at DEN game Week 5-10. They catch at CHI on a MNF game Week 2...another bad setup. Seattle could be staring at an 0-2 start before getting their first home game facing tough Dallas. At Arizona Week 4 gives them three road games in 4 weeks and facing a lot of new coaches, new QBs, etc. Hard to get a book on the opponents like they normally would have. Then host the Rams Week 5. I could see a 1-4 start for Seattle and then things kinda crumble/peter out from there.
The 49ers don't have an easy schedule either BUT their DEN and CHI games are later in the season at home. SEA gets CAR and DAL on the schedule rotation where SF gets TB and NYG. I think SF has an easier path to help give them a boost over Seattle in 2018.
Onto Arizona, and I don't expect anyone to agree with my 'Arizona is dangerous' projection. "Sam Bradford going to get hurt" is the first reaction everyone has and then no one cares. I would just advance this...Seattle is 29-18-1 the last three seasons and Arizona is 28-19-1. And I would argue Arizona has had as bad/worse coaching and way more injuries to deal with than Seattle in that span. How does Arizona losing Carson Palmer all the time still have nearly the same record as Seattle the past three years?
Arizona has a better defense than Seattle or San Fran, so there's an advantage right away to counter that they have a worse offense. Arizona scrambled together an 8-8 season last year with Blaine Gabbert and Drew Stanton and an injured O-Line. A new, not worse coach for 2018. QB depth now. A good+ defense. They have a decent 8-8 +/- team.
My 9-7 may be too optimistic but your 3-13 is underselling it. If you give Seattle credit for being good the past few years -- Arizona has been good too and with much more difficult circumstances. The difference between Seattle and Arizona's roster and coaching staff is not 9 wins, as you project. I think we might take Arizona's roster over SF or Seattle, ignoring the QB position. The fact that you'd have to build a case to push SEA or SF ahead of ARI's roster...means Arizona is not that bad, or if they are then SF and SEA are not as good as you (SEA) and I (SF) think.
XC: The Cardinals are a new entity this season. They were one continuous entity during 2013-2017, and I respected that team. There are things that you can criticize Bruce Arians for, but his career record, if you count Indy, was 58-33-1, which is like putting up a 10-6 team every year. Arians won without Palmer but you still call him a bad coach. Would this perhaps have something to do with being a David Johnson dynasty owner?
Now the Cards are starting over as a new entity. I don't agree that Steve Wilks is a "not worse" coach, as you say. He will not offer any creativity. I am not a real big fan of the Cards roster. They never had a better defense than the Seahawks and this year is no different. Two of their best players are in their mid-30s. Their only real chance is to let David Johnson completely carry the team. I think that they're maybe 6-10 on talent and as low as 3-13 with their schedule. Vegas agrees by setting the over/under at 5.5 wins. That's one of the lowest over/under numbers; only the Browns at 4.5 and Dolphins at 5.5 are that low. I didn't look at the props until after I did my projections, and so Vegas and I independently rated the Cards as among the worst teams (Dolphins too).
RC: I think Bruce Arians is a bad coach because he took the collection of something very good, great and couldn't sustain it -- he coached it into an 8-8 type team over time. Arizona should be a top 10 team in the NFL today given all their talent, but let Arians hang around long enough to push making Tyrann Mathieu a big ticket payroll safety and wasting 1st round picks on Robert Nkemdiche, and having Blaine Gabbert as a backup plan to aging Carson Palmer -- and whatever Arians brought in good X&O and any motivation skills gets lost in his terrible talent assessments...PLUS I think his act wore thin after an initial reaction from the players. Just like what's happening with Pete Carroll...Seattle had a chance to be dominant and it is slipping away. You luck into a Russell Wilson (after purposefully going for Matt Flynn, Charlie Whitehurst, Tarvaris Jackson) or David Johnson (who they didn't want/they wanted Ameer Abdullah) and you have a golden opportunity and yet it slips away.
I would have argued the 2016 Seattle team was the most talented roster in the league and they only had a decent season but were capable of so much more and year+ later it's all coming unglued.
Now, I agree...dull Steve Wilks enters the scene, and not likely to be a long term answer either -- but he inherits a good roster and often you get a disciplined coach (Wilks) follow up a 'different' coach (Arians) and there is a one-year 'mystery' factor...teams tend to rally the first season under the new guy and opposing coaches don't have a book on the new coach yet and it can buy new coaches some wins (see: Sean McDermott) -- and then 2-3 years from now the Grim Reaper is heading to Arizona for Wilks' job. I think this is a good/OK roster with a conservative coaching change and a little depth at QB and a better-than-Seattle-today-by-a-mile defense. I'm not advocating Wilks is a miracle worker...just that he gets a one-year/rookie coaching bump from the team, and not into the playoffs just a 'tough out' and better than 5.5 wins. Who cares what Vegas thinks? The Rams were 5.5 wins this time last year and the Jags as well if I remember correctly.
I'm not 'all-in' on this Arizona team, but I think they are decent and better than 3 wins.
Would you say the Rams are capable of winning the Super Bowl? My SB winner in Faux 2018. The NFC is tough. But ending this with some Rams talk...where are the Seahawks better than the Rams? QB by a smidge? Linebacker and home field advantage and way behind in every other phase...like WAYY behind. How can you have Seattle finishing ahead of the Rams looking at their rosters, offseason moves, coaching staffs, and recent results?
XC: Why would you blame the coach for the GM's roster? Steve Keim is the GM; the roster is his responsibility. Teams might rally under a new coach if the previous coach deserved to be fired, but the Cardinals' players respected Arians. The reason they won the last game of the season at Seattle was because they were going all-out to win his last game. Now they're playing for a 'we have to establish the run' empty suit. Vegas can be way off, but 5.5 seems like an unusually low number to offer the public since the Cardinals have generally been a good team for the last decade. Gen-Z doesn't even remember the bad Denny Green era.
The Rams can win the 'Owl. Wilson as a little better than Goff is not controversial. The main thing here is that we're talking about the difference between one of the best LB groups in SEA and the absolute worst in LAR. I am extremely concerned that LAR has no outside pass rush and no ILBs of note. LBs should be highly valued when rating a defense. Look how DAL does without Sean Lee or how SEA was much worse while Bobby Wagner was injured. The Rams had one phenomenal year on offense. You have to hope that there will be no regression. Their defense has been good but not great. Without LBs, I remain skeptical that it will get them far enough.
RC: I blame the coach for the roster in many instances. The coach, the longer they are there, usually become the 'thumb's up or down' on player's picked. GMs are typically weak-willed lapdogs of the coaches they fear -- which is what happened in Arizona. The pattern happens almost everywhere -- the GM hires the coach and the GM is in control year one. Then, if a successful year one, there's more of a balance between them...then if another decent/good year and the coach has some push/love/gravitas and wants to takeover all the player decisions (which is understandable...see: the Chip Kelly disaster and late Bill Parcells). They don't do the negotiations, etc., but they just tell the GM what they want done. If you watched the Arizona/Amazon doc, it was clear that Kiem-Bidwell did Arians' bidding and thought Arians was so cool/were intimidated by Arians.
I think Arians is a solid on-field coach but eventually he chases away talent with his shtick and covets misfit toys he can be 'daddy' to...and as the talent eroded they losses happened. Arizona should not have been a .500 team or worse the last two seasons. The base roster is too good for that. If Jamar Taylor stabilizes the 2nd CB slot and the O-Line changes are at least plausible, and they don;t get consumed with mass injury again -- this is a mediocre offense with a good defense, a tough out and closer to 7-8 wins than 3-4 wins, I think.
Empty suit/establish the run game Wilks is on target...except those guys tend to do OK year one with a decent roster and collapse soon after (Anthony Lynn and Sean McDermott in 2017 for example).
I agree that the Rams weakness is at linebacker. An all-star D-Line and CBs on paper, but RBs getting to the 2nd-level and they are compromised currently. Every team has their sore spot, or many...the Rams have that one. If they can make a deal for a stable ILB along the way, they are near flawless everywhere else. If they don't upgrade ILB...they could be a version of the Chiefs 2016-2017. Winning teams that can't go far because they get crushed by the run game eventually.
XC: Power structures vary from team to team. Sometimes the coach has most of the power, sometimes the GM has most of the power, and there's a spectrum in between. I think the Cardinals' power share was about 75% Keim and 25% Arians. The Cards didn't want to repeat the mistake of giving Ken Whisenhunt control over the roster. Keim evaluates talent with his scouting staff, but he included Arians in the decision-making process. It's a good way to do it. Using multiple (minimum of 3) independent talents with different strengths helps you get closer to reality than with one evaluator alone. Even someone who is theoretically perfect at grading football talent might be weak at evaluating off-field risk or character, for example.
RC: Agreed, except I think Arians had more influence -- in the sense that the personnel dept. did a ton of work but then Arians would latch onto players he met/liked, etc., and go "I want that guy," and they did just that. They trusted Arians’ vision because things were going so well and Arians is a forceful personality, so they went along with him...and ultimately off a cliff as what happens to most head coaches within 3-4-5 years. Head coach is a full time gig, and they try to nose in on the personnel work when they are not equipped or studied in it...but they think the GM is a goof anyway so the HC just starts asserting his authority.
It's why Jon Gruden came back only with full authority. It's how Chip Kelly destroyed his own self. I think the Arians influence took a great framework and dragged it to an 8-8 level. Subsequently, I think Pete Carroll's fall is even sadder -- he outsourced a lot of work to assistant coaches, which is the way it should be...but then you have bad assistants and don't deal with it and things collapse internally. I think Seattle was a little ahead of it's time with draft philosophy 5-6-7+ years ago and had a decent defensive coaching staff. The league caught up to Seattle's draft philosophy and it also got outdated somewhat, and they had defensive coaches stripped away and eventually the foundation of defense and talent eroded and they, to me, have become a team with the arrow pointing downward when they had a potential dynasty forming 3-5 years ago. It's sad, but on the bright side most teams cant even get to the 'almost a dynasty' stage. To me, Seattle jumped the shark when purging their defense and facing two years worth of O-Line issues...they drafted a running back with their 1st-round pick. They've lost their way.
I think Arizona is about one-step behind Seattle in the collapse. I think Arizona has enough talent left for an 8-8 like run in 2018 before the bottom starts to fallout. Seattle and Arizona fading away as the Rams and 49ers make exciting trades and attracting/buying free agent talent -- it's going to pour gasoline on the Seattle and Arizona collapse theory fire. The Rams and 49ers are playing chess while Seattle and Arizona play checkers. Three years ago, Arizona and Seattle took advantage of pathetic SF and LAR...now, the tables have turned. I think both Seattle and Arizona are making a huge mistake having lesser rosters than LAR and maybe SF (considering SF payroll advantages) and instead of just flushing everything and rebuilding to compete with the top dogs...they are trying to patch together something that likely leaves them short and around 7-9/8-8 because they don't have what the Rams or 49ers have.
I'd rather my team be an 'A' or an 'F'...I can rebuild/completely overhaul an 'F'. This hanging out as a 'C' and trying to back into a wild card type team or an 8-8 just short team, trying to not be a bottom team but in no universe can win a Super Bowl -- it's short sighted business. I think Seattle and Arizona are the short sighted, short term thinking 'Cs'...and they are going to wallow in the middle of the pack for a while.
XC: Seattle is in the middle of their dynasty. Wilson is just turning 30, and so they have about 8 more years with him. The only defensive 'purge' is a 30-year-old CB who stirred up way too much trouble because his declining skills were on the verge of being replaced. Dumping those old guys is smart business. The criticism of the Penny pick is so overblown. He was the 27th pick, but he was "supposed" to go 50th according to consensus (i.e., everyone copying off of each other). And he was "supposed" to go after Sony Michel. Thus, because of anchoring bias, the draft community calls it a reach. And any pick who goes slightly later than expected is called a steal. Well, my internal rankings had Penny as the 24th best value in the draft, which was closer to where he was drafted than anyone else had him. He's a three-down back with high elusiveness, and that's exactly what they need. They were dead last, easily, in rushing in 2017. They also used a cheap pick on Shaquem Griffin, who is not only a good player but is the anti-Richard Sherman in terms of impact on team chemistry.
RC: When Seattle was at it's peak it was led by a total shut down corner (Sherman), two of the best defensive lineman in the game (Avril, Bennett) along with Bobby Wagner. You take away a top 5 CB (at his peak) and two top 10 DLs (at their peak) from any defense they are likely screwed. If the Rams lost Talib, Suh, Donald this week -- no more Super Bowl talk. If they lost just 2 of those 3 + not having a quality ILB...we'd discount that defense down hard. Then add on top of that Kam C. likely done, and if/when they dump Earl Thomas. It's hard to be in the middle of your dynasty when you lose 3-4-5 of your best 6 defenders and replace them with fringe NFL starters at best. No team could do that and hold their spot as a top defense. When they all fell last year, Seattle went from the best defense in the NFL for years to middle of the pack.
The running game was garbage because of their O-Line. NFL economics demands you not spend big on a RB or SAF. Seattle drafted with their first six picks/top 150 picks, in order this year, desperately needing defensive re-stock and O-Line answers: RB, DL, TE, OLB, SAF, and Punter. Who drafts that given the issues developing/here? Hey, the punter was probably a wise call...
Middle of the pack (or lower) defense minus their experienced, proven stars (no matter how or why they left)+ lower end O-Line + a great QB = dangerous 7-9 win team depending upon schedule and they happened to have a schedule more difficult than not. The 2012-2016 team is no more...Richard Sherman isn't walking through that door, Cliff Avril isn't walking through that door, Larry Bird nor Kevin McHale either.
XC: They signed a guard and drafted another one late. The TE they drafted (Dissly) was the best pass-blocking TE in the draft. And the TE they signed after letting Graham walk (Ed Dickson) also happens to be the best pass-blocking TE in the NFL. Their five starting OL players consist of three 1st-rounders and two 2nd-rounders, so maybe they don't feel the need to do the same thing again. You don't reach for need over talent. If the o-line is bad then an elusive runner is a good thing to have. You know very well that Shaquem Griffin in the 5th round is not just an ordinary 'OLB.' And yeah the punter might have the biggest impact on points scored/allowed out of anyone. He'll be the best punter in the league. If Belichick drafted a punter we'd all call it genius. I know that's true because he drafted a long snapper in the 5th round in 2015 and draft analysts were very excited to talk about it.
RC: You don't reach for need over talent...and you don't waste good draft picks on things readily available otherwise for low cost and high supply. You don't draft an RB in 1st round unless they are elite, and even then I don't think it's good business given whats flowing for cheap through free agency and later in the draft. The Super Bowl teams just committee'd there way to the top...and Seattle uses a 1st round pick on a 'good' RB. You don't reach in the draft for a blocking TE, after you just signed one. You don't draft safeties when top ones are unsigned in free agency and you've lost CBs and DLs. It's like, I have no idea what Seattle's plan is.
They lost Hall of Fame-level CB, DT, DE and likely safety (or two)...and don't draft any CBs, DTs, or DEs in the top 150 but did take the lowest form of NFL player, a safety. They lost a Hall of Fame TE (that they never figured out how to use), and they sign Dickson (good) and then draft another blocking TE in the top 150? Go sign a Fells brother for goodness sake!
The real crime...hey, we have a generational talent at QB...OK, good -- so let's add blocking TEs, an RB, and a run game lover as an O-C.
Everything about what Seattle is doing makes no sense to me...they aren't a favorite for the NFC West now/they didn't help 'now' and they aren't helping the future this offseason. They are spinning their wheels in the mud and digging a deeper hole.
What was great about Seattle? Russell Wilson and a killer defense...so, now strip the defense of 4-5 of the key high end starters (by injury or payroll)...replace them with Barkevious Mingo and Byron Maxwell level talents and then build up the run game, de-emphasize Wilson -- as they always try to do. This is a 2-3-4-5 years ago run-first and defense elite team that has now lost the majority of what made the defense special and what made the run game special.
If this team wins 11+ games and goes on a dynasty run of division titles the next 2-3 years, I will consider resigning from making football comments ever again. I don't see it. You do. We'll see who gloats in a few months!!
*The 2018 Draft Guide package of reports and ever-updating projections/rankings are now available from the FFM home page. Fantasy Football Metrics