Chat Transcript - Michael David Smith

On Thursday, April 27, Football Outsiders Contributing Editor Michael David Smith joined us in the NETNation chat room for almost two hours. In one of the most enjoyable chats we've had, Michael covered the draft, the Seahawks, free agency, and some of the methodology behind his own writing and research. This transcript is not to be missed!

dfarrar777:: Michael, who are your favorite sportswriters?
MichaelDSmith:: King Kaufman of Salon.com is the best sportswriter in the country.
MichaelDSmith:: I'm amazed that Salon has been able to keep him; if I were the sports editor of a daily newspaper I'd out-bid Salon for his services.
MichaelDSmith:: As far as football-specific, Paul Zimmerman is my favorite.
dfarrar777:: Makes sense.

Hawkstorian:: As far as evaluating individual players -- how do you look at the offensive line?
Hawkstorian:: Specifically -- does losing Steve Hutchinson make that big a difference?
MichaelDSmith:: Yes, Hutchinson makes a big difference.
MichaelDSmith:: I think he's the best guard in football.
MichaelDSmith:: I'll be interested to see what the line looks like without him.
MichaelDSmith:: It was the best line in football last year, but Hutchinson was a major part of that.
dfarrar777:: Is putting someone who is 70% of Hutchinson next to Walter Jones going to make that player more like 80%?
MichaelDSmith:: There's certainly something to be said for lining up between Jones and Robbie Tobeck.

dfarrar777:: The Seahawks led the NFL with 50 sacks, and 32.5 of those sacks came from various rotations of the front four. Given those facts, why are so many analysts so hell-bent on the idea that the Seahawks MUST draft a pass-rushing DE in the first two rounds?
MichaelDSmith:: Because the analysts look at the list of sack leaders.
MichaelDSmith:: When they don't see anyone on the Seahawks with double-digit sacks, they assume the Seahawks have a weak pass rush.
MichaelDSmith:: Which couldn't be further from the truth.
MichaelDSmith:: I loved the way the Seahawks got pass rush last year from the tackles, the ends and the linebackers.
Jazzhawk:: Using very few blitzes from the DB's
dfarrar777:: Lofa and Leroy Hill...not bad for two rookies.

MichaelDSmith:: I'm curious what Seahawks fans think of last year's first-round pick, Chris Spencer.
dfarrar777:: Not much to think just yet.
dfarrar777:: Great athlete, but a future need pick
Jazzhawk:: Nothing to go on really....some who've seen him seem to think he's not ready.
Hawkstorian:: Spencer seemed to be a great teammate, which is all you can really be when you're not playing.
MichaelDSmith:: Could Spencer compete for Hutchinson's old spot, or is he purely a center?
dfarrar777:: They want Womack over there, most likely
Jazzhawk:: Seeing as how they really don't have another backup at Center, I don't think that's going to happen.

ArosNET:: Michael, do you think BPA is the best route for the Seahawks to take at the 31st selection or do you think they should grab a "need" position no matter what?
MichaelDSmith:: I like BPA in general, and I think Tim Ruskell does, too.
MichaelDSmith:: Fortunately for Seattle, the position where I think they're in greatest need, DB, has a lot of good players in the late first round.

dfarrar777:: Who do you think is the most NFL-ready of the 2006 class of cornerbacks? Who could start right now, and who will need more finishing work?
MichaelDSmith:: I think Jimmy Williams is the one who is most ready to start in September.
MichaelDSmith:: The other top corners -- Jonathan Joseph, Antonio Cromartie, Tye Hill -- are more likely to take a little time to develop.
Jazzhawk:: As is Marshall from Fresno State.
Hawkstorian:: Jennings is oft-rumored to Seattle at 31
dfarrar777:: How do you view Kelly Jennings?
MichaelDSmith:: I'm not sold on Kelly Jennings.
dfarrar777:: Not sold why?
MichaelDSmith:: When I watched Miami, I saw a guy who was very inconsistent.
MichaelDSmith:: I thought Jennings looked like he got bored at times in coverage.
Hawkstorian:: "bored" .. that's not a good attribute for a cornerback
MichaelDSmith:: I also wonder if he'd really struggle when matched up with taller receivers. I think scouts pay too much attention to height at times, but at the same time there are NFL receivers who are eight inches taller than Jennings.
dfarrar777:: Yeah...you don't want that on your scouting report
dfarrar777:: Ruskell has a history of going after shorter DBs, though

ArosNET:: Do you think there's a really good potential of the Seahawks trading their 31st overall to move down to acquire additional selections?
MichaelDSmith:: I think trading down is a possibility, but I think they're more likely to stay put.
MichaelDSmith:: One of the things I really admire about Ruskell is that he seems to understand the importance of those late-first and early-second picks in terms of the value for the dollar.
MichaelDSmith:: Now, if he could move down from 31 to 45 or so and pick up an extra pick, I think he'd do it. But I also think he's pretty happy to be at 31.

Jazzhawk:: What is your take on Marshall (Frenso State) and Allen (UT)
MichaelDSmith:: I haven't seen a lot of Richard Marshall. I really like the Fresno State program, though. Pat Hill is a former Belichick assistant and I think he gets his guys ready for the NFL.
MichaelDSmith:: I really like Jason Allen from Tennessee. I was watching the game when he got hurt, and I cringed because I'm sure it cost the guy millions of dollars. I hope he's still a fairly high pick.
Jazzhawk:: Lots of rumors about Allen's injury being 'degenerative', and teams shying away from him because of it...what's your take?
MichaelDSmith:: I think Allen's injury is one of those things where the teams are going to rely heavily on the medical. That's the most valuable part of the combine as far as the teams are concerned, just making sure guys are healthy. Allen's stock seemed to rise after the combine, so I'm assuming team doctors for the most part gave him the all clear.
Jazzhawk:: And is he A CB or Safety?
MichaelDSmith:: Allen looks to me more like a safety than a corner.

Hawkstorian:: Who in the NFC has improved themselves to challenge Seattle in '06?
MichaelDSmith:: I think the whole NFC East has improved, and I think the winner of that division is the most likely team to challenge Seattle.
MichaelDSmith:: Fortunately for Seattle, they're likely to beat each other up, so there's a good chance that if the Seahawks meet the NFC East champ in the playoffs, it will be in Seattle.

dfarrar777:: In your recent Baseball Prospectus chat, you spoke of the value in drafting players and having then switch positions in certain cases. With that theory in mind, do you think Seneca Wallace would do more for the Seahawks as a wideout than as a quarterback?
MichaelDSmith:: I absolutely think Seneca Wallace should be a wide receiver.
dfarrar777:: So does Ken Lucas. :-)
MichaelDSmith:: One thing that bothers me is it's often taken as an insult to say that.
MichaelDSmith:: I love Seneca Wallace. I enjoyed watching him in college, but I never thought he was an NFL quarterback.
MichaelDSmith:: That catch he made in the playoffs was brilliant.
MichaelDSmith:: He should be doing that every Sunday, not holding a clipboard.
dfarrar777:: I agree.
Hawkstorian:: Your mouth to Holmgren's ears

dfarrar777:: Was Lofa Tatupu the REAL Defensive Rookie of the Year?
MichaelDSmith:: Yes.
MichaelDSmith:: Especially if you count the playoffs.
MichaelDSmith:: He might have been the best player in football, period, in January.
MichaelDSmith:: The thing that most amazed me was the way he looked so completely in control of the defense, the way Peyton Manning controls the Colts' offense or Rich Gannon used to control the Raiders'.
MichaelDSmith:: And to think, he was seen as a reach.
Jazzhawk:: And the way our Linemen and backers did what he said to do.
MichaelDSmith:: Right.
dfarrar777:: From the first minicamp! Unreal.
MichaelDSmith:: He's got veterans in front of him, but when he barks out signals and taps them on the hip, they move over.

HawkRibeye:: MDS --- What do you think of CB Alan Zemaitis? If Seattle picks a DE in the 1st rd ---- Will he make it to the 2nd round for the Seahawks?
MichaelDSmith:: Zemaitis led the Big Ten in interceptions, which got him some attention, but I'm not a huge fan of his.
MichaelDSmith:: I watch the Big Ten more than any other conference, and he never really wowed me.
Jazzhawk:: Zematis’ stats might be more of a result of the line and LBs in front of him.

Jazzhawk:: Is there another USC player this year that might have a similar impact on a team that drafts him?
MichaelDSmith:: I think Winston Justice will step in and start immediately, much the way Tatupu did.
MichaelDSmith:: That USC program has the guys ready to go from their first minicamp.
dfarrar777:: What do you think of Fred Matua?
MichaelDSmith:: I like Matua, but I like Lutui better.

jseahawks:: As for Tatupu... where can he still improve his game? And where is the ceiling for Tatupu and Leroy Hill?
MichaelDSmith:: The ceiling for Tatupu and Leroy Hill is high.
dfarrar777:: Be nice if Hill got 1/10th the pub he deserves next season
Jazzhawk:: True
MichaelDSmith:: I really like the promise of Hill as a pass rusher in the Lawrence Taylor mode. Obviously, there is never going to be another Lawrence Taylor, but Hill could become one of those linebackers who the opposing offense constantly has to account for.
Jazzhawk:: Nice! Very Nice.

HawkRibeye:: MDS --- Will the Seahawks draft a DE?
MichaelDSmith:: I think they should consider Matthias Kiwanuka if he's available at 31.
HawkRibeye:: Thanks, MDS
Jazzhawk:: Even tho he got beat like a drum at the Senior Bowl?
MichaelDSmith:: I'm surprised by how much his stock has fallen. I think he's fallen more than anyone else as a result of the Senior Bowl practices, when D'Brickashaw Ferguson consistently got the better of him.
Jazzhawk:: Was that a case of 'Brick being that good, or Kiwi being that so-so?
Jazzhawk:: Or, was he just not ready for the Senior Bowl for some reason?
MichaelDSmith:: I think D'Brickashaw's strengths were just right to match up with Kiwanuka's weaknesses, namely that D'Brickashaw dominates speed rushers and Kiwanuka is a speed rusher.
MichaelDSmith:: Kiwanuka probably should have come out early. If he had left BC a year ago I think he would have been taken in the Top 20.

dfarrar777:: Speaking of LBs a moment ago...
dfarrar777:: You’ve mentioned in a past article that the team paying for the future services of Julian Peterson would most likely overpay. The general consensus is that Seattle DID overpay, but is there compensatory value in having such a strong linebacker corps?
MichaelDSmith:: I think there's something to be said for that compensatory value, but I also think that money could have been better spent elsewhere. For instance, I'm still scratching my head over why they didn't put the franchise tag on Hutchinson.
Jazzhawk:: Well, remember, at the time, it was before the new CBA, when we didn't have that much cap.
Jazzhawk:: (The tag issue that is)
dfarrar777:: I think they just got Roto-Rootered on that one.

dfarrar777:: Michael, who are your second-day sleepers? Conversely, who are your most overrated prospects?
MichaelDSmith:: Well, the Seahawks don't need a second-day quarterback, but I really like Paul Pinegar of Fresno State and Omar Jacobs of Bowling Green.
Jazzhawk:: Interesting thought there on the QB's. When you can get to it, what are your thoughts on Ingle Martin?
MichaelDSmith:: Ingle Martin is an intriguing prospect.
Jazzhawk:: How so?
MichaelDSmith:: Very strong arm, possibly a punter (though probably not good enough to punt in the NFL), but also seems to make some big mistakes.
Jazzhawk:: Coaching?
MichaelDSmith:: I saw him at Florida and thought he was pretty good.
MichaelDSmith:: Definitely the fact that he bounced around and had multiple offenses to learn could account for those mistakes.
MichaelDSmith:: As far as second-day players at positions Seattle could use, Danieal Manning of Abilene Christian is supposed to be very good. I like everything I've read about him, but I'd be lying if I said I'd actually seen an Abilene Christian game.
dfarrar777:: I don't think he can be a sleeper anymore - he's on everyone's sleeper list.

MichaelDSmith:: One free agent move I'm surprised more people aren't talking about is Tom Ashworth. I think he's a good addition to the Seahawks and a painful loss for the Patriots.
dfarrar777:: Ooh - more detail please!
Jazzhawk:: Will Ashworth compete for a starting spot on the Seahawks line?
Hawkstorian:: He won't start
MichaelDSmith:: I could see him competing with Sean Locklear. I also think he's versatile enough to compete at guard. I really like Ashworth.

dfarrar777:: Jay Cutler: Elite talent, or Mayock hype recipient?
MichaelDSmith:: Well, he could be both.
MichaelDSmith:: Mayock has attached his star to Cutler. I really like Cutler, too, though.
MichaelDSmith:: I just watched the Vanderbilt-Florida game and I was impressed.
Jazzhawk:: I'm impressed that you just watched that game.
MichaelDSmith:: It's been fascinating to me how the emergence of Mike Mayock has altered public perceptions of the draft.
Jazzhawk:: In what way?
MichaelDSmith:: Well, I don't think many fans would consider Cutler in the same league as Young or Leinart if it weren't for Mayock.
MichaelDSmith:: For two decades Mel Kiper has been the alpha male in the draft analyst community, and now Mike Mayock is intruding on his turf.
dfarrar777:: Sounds like a wildlife program.
MichaelDSmith:: I'm looking forward to having my two-TV setup on Saturday and watching both NFL Network and ESPN.
dfarrar777:: God bless DVR!

dfarrar777:: One quarterback I sort of coveted for Seattle as a backup was Josh McCown. How do you like him as a member of your Lions?
MichaelDSmith:: I'm not real enthused about either McCown or Jon Kitna, but I'm very enthused about Mike Martz.
MichaelDSmith:: The Martz offense makes a lot of quarterbacks look good.
dfarrar777:: GREAT coaching staff they have. Shame about the GM...
MichaelDSmith:: Yeah, Millen is a horrid GM, but I do give him credit for assembling what I think is a good coaching staff.
Hawkstorian:: Martz knows how to protect a QB
Jazzhawk:: Kitna was interviewed on our local sports radio today. He seems to think he's found a kindred spirit and a home there in Detroit WITH Martz and his offense.
Hawkstorian:: If a guy isn't worried about getting killed, he can throw the ball
Jazzhawk:: ha ha
HawkRibeye:: hehehe, John
Jazzhawk:: Very true tho.
MichaelDSmith:: I'm not so sure that the Martz protection is as bad as people make it out to be.

dfarrar777:: You wrote an entire article about Seattle's DT rotation. With Rocky Bernard re-signed, could you talk a bit about Seattle's interior line and what you observed?
MichaelDSmith:: Craig Terrill is a much better player than anyone realizes.
Jazzhawk:: hear hear!!!!!!
dfarrar777:: Bingo
MichaelDSmith:: He goes hard on every play, against the run and the pass.
Jazzhawk:: I've been trying to get people to understand that since TC in 2004.
HawkRibeye:: I love Craig Terrill's non stop motor
Jazzhawk:: I love his results
MichaelDSmith:: I also think the defensive scheme takes advantage of the fact that they've got a small group of tackles.
MichaelDSmith:: They let the tackles cut loose and make plays.
dfarrar777:: More of that in 2005, I think
MichaelDSmith:: The fact that Tatupu made so many plays last year is even more impressive when you consider that the Seahawks don't have one of those schemes where the defensive tackles' only job is to keep blockers off the middle linebacker.
HawkRibeye:: MDS --- credit to John Marshall and Ray Rhodes?
MichaelDSmith:: Big credit to John Marshall.

Jazzhawk:: How about some other moves the Seahawks have made...such as getting Green from Chicago or Burleson from the Vikings?
MichaelDSmith:: I liked the trade of a sixth-round pick to Chicago for Green.
HawkRibeye:: I love it
Jazzhawk:: Green still has some upside then?
MichaelDSmith:: You don't often get a guy you know can play for a sixth-round pick.
Jazzhawk:: He sure fell from grace quickly in Chicago.
HawkRibeye:: I heard he's really good on ST and ready to step up and start if needed,
Jazzhawk:: Just a bad scheme for him?
MichaelDSmith:: I think the safeties got too much blame for the Bears' debacle against Steve Smith and the Panthers.
MichaelDSmith:: I would tend to agree with what you've heard, HawkRibeye.
MichaelDSmith:: He's probably projected as more of a special teamer, but he helps out on the defense as well.

Hawkstorian:: Who is the cream of the crop in the NFC this year?
Hawkstorian:: Hint: Not the 49ers
Jazzhawk:: Besides Seattle?
HawkRibeye:: NY Giants?
MichaelDSmith:: I like the direction the Giants are going in.

dfarrar777:: There's another Q - Tim Ruskell - Exec of the Year? How could it have been anyone else? Or am I just being a homer?
MichaelDSmith:: No, you're not being a homer. Ruskell's personnel moves made a world of difference last year.
jseahawks:: regarding exec of the year.. i think the Pitt guy got it because he's the one that proposed the plan that was approved to create labor peace

Jazzhawk:: Back to the draft for a moment....What is your take on who the 49ers will be seeking at 6 & 22?
MichaelDSmith:: I think they want Vernon Davis at 6.
Jazzhawk:: Crap - not in the NFC West.
Jazzhawk:: That means they would have to go defense at 22 then?
MichaelDSmith:: At 22, I think San Fran wants an outside linebacker, which is quite deep in this draft.

dfarrar777:: Another article you wrote about Sean Locklear went into some detail about the way holding penalties are called - do you think the Competition Committee has a prayer of seeing that holding is called correctly in future?
MichaelDSmith:: Unfortunately, I think we're destined to have holding called inconsistently.
MichaelDSmith:: I hope they'll at least revise the definition in the rulebook, though, which is just badly written.
dfarrar777:: How much is that due to the way rules are detailed, and how much is up to incompetence?
MichaelDSmith:: I think the rules need to be overhauled.
MichaelDSmith:: I also think the fans need to have access to the entire rulebook including all supplemental materials.
dfarrar777:: THANK YOU.
Hawkstorian:: fan access to actual information? nawwwww

Jazzhawk:: What about the Rams’ draft plans?
MichaelDSmith:: I think Santonio Holmes would be an intriguing pick. The Greatest Show on Turf needs a youth movement.
Jazzhawk:: Even over improving the Rams O-line?
dfarrar777:: Or a DB?
MichaelDSmith:: I'm not sure that there's an o-lineman who makes sense where the Rams are picking, assuming Justice and Ferguson are gone.
MichaelDSmith:: A DB is possible. Maybe Jimmy Williams, maybe Donte Whitner for the Rams.
Jazzhawk:: Antonio Cromartie

dfarrar777:: What are your thoughts on Tye Hill?
MichaelDSmith:: Great speed.
MichaelDSmith:: I'm a little wary of just saying that because a guy was a track champion, he'll be a good NFL player, though.

VolsHawk:: Do you think Michael Robinson will make it in the NFL? If so, at what position?
MichaelDSmith:: Michael Robinson is definitely not an NFL quarterback.
MichaelDSmith:: I'd like to see him play receiver.

dfarrar777:: If you were a GM, would you subscribe more to the "athletes first" credo, or would you be in the Ruskell camp, which looks at intangibles above all?
MichaelDSmith:: In theory, I like the intangibles, like Ruskell.
dfarrar777:: In practice?
MichaelDSmith:: In practice, though, that's hard to do. It's very easy to say one guy runs a 4.4 and one guy runs a 4.5 and rank them like that. It's a lot harder to rank things like character, work ethic, ability to follow coaches' instructions.

HawkRibeye:: What do you think of DE Darryl Tapp, is he a Ruskell guy?
MichaelDSmith:: Yeah, I think Tapp is the kind of guy Ruskell likes -- he comes from a military family, disciplined, graduated ahead of schedule, etc.

dfarrar777:: So...we don't think much of Millen, and we like Ruskell. Which other GMs do things the right way in your mind?
MichaelDSmith:: Mike Shanahan. He's been in charge in Denver for more than a decade now and consistently brings in good players. It's odd to me that he's not mentioned among the elite coaches and general managers. He should absolutely have a bust in Canton when he's done.
HawkRibeye:: MDS --- Speaking of coaches, what's your take on Mike Holmgren? Will he sign an extension?
MichaelDSmith:: I think so.
MichaelDSmith:: Seattle is the right place for him, and he doesn't seem ready to retire.
MichaelDSmith:: He'd really have a unique place in NFL history if he could win another Super Bowl.
MichaelDSmith:: Speaking of coaches heading to Canton, Holmgren definitely gets there if they win a title.

dfarrar777:: Since you’re writing the chapter on the Seahawks in Football Prospectus 2006, you’ve taken a good look at this team. It’s tough to answer this pre-draft, but how do you see Seattle going in 2006?
MichaelDSmith:: I think the offense is aging, lost Hutchinson, and won't be as good in 2006 as it was in 2005. But the defense is youthful and improving. So the overall quality of the team will stay about the same.
Hawkstorian:: "about the same" is 13-3 .. I'll take it
MichaelDSmith:: Having said that, though, they could be "about the same" and have a few bad breaks and slip to 10-6.

dfarrar777:: What kind of dropoff do you envision for Alexander?
MichaelDSmith:: I think Alexander will definitely decline.
HawkRibeye:: I think with Womack & Ashworth as insurance --- Seattle should be fine --- right?
MichaelDSmith:: I've always been more a fan of Jones, Hutchinson and Tobeck than of Alexander.
MichaelDSmith:: Alexander will put up good but not great numbers.

Jazzhawk:: Hey, you never talked about Burleson - any thoughts on how he'll do?
HawkRibeye:: yeah, Nate Burleson, nice one Jazz
MichaelDSmith:: Burleson was not worth a third-round pick.
MichaelDSmith:: I'm surprised they signed him.
dfarrar777:: Wow.
MichaelDSmith:: Yet another reason they should have moved Seneca Wallace to receiver -- that would have allowed them to keep their third-round pick and avoid the offer sheet to Burleson.
dfarrar777:: what dont you like about Burleson?
MichaelDSmith:: What I don't like about Burleson is that last year when he was supposed to become a big-play threat, he only averaged 10 yards a catch.
Jazzhawk:: Yes, but the whole stinking Offense went south on them.

jseahawks:: Where do you see Hasselbeck in terms of the elite qbs? Top 5?
MichaelDSmith:: Yes, Top 5. It probably goes P. Manning, Brady, Palmer, Hasselbeck in my book.

HawkRibeye:: Last question, MDS --- Will Darrell Jackson breakout this year (w/ knee injury repaired) ?
MichaelDSmith:: I don't know if Darrell Jackson will break out. I think losing Jurevicius really hurts, so they need Jackson to stay healthy.
dfarrar777:: Losing Jurevicius was a body blow to me. That physically hurt.
Jazzhawk:: Most of us, Doug, most of us.
PithyRadish left
dfarrar777:: For one year, we had Ed McCaffrey's karmic double.

dfarrar777:: In the grand Seahawks.NET tradition, it’s time to let our chat guest plug his upcoming projects. Tell us about the wonderful Football Outsiders site, the upcoming Football Prospectus 2006 book, and any other projects you have going
MichaelDSmith:: On Saturday I'll be writing for Deadspin.com during the first round. Then on both Saturday and Sunday, Mike Tanier and I will be writing recaps of each round on FoxSports.com. I'm writing several chapters of Pro Football Prospectus 2006, which will be available in July. And, of course, you can always find my work at FootballOutsiders.com.

dfarrar777:: We'll be checking all that out, Michael. Thank you so much for your time!
HawkRibeye:: More power to you MDS -- you are GOOD!
MichaelDSmith:: Try Deadspin.com out. You'll love it.
Jazzhawk:: Thanks Michael. Great job...I had lots 'o fun, incase you couldn't tell.

HawkRibeye:: Take care, MDS and Thanks to you and NET Family


A Contributing Editor for both Football Outsiders and the Football Prospectus volume, Michael David Smith's official bio reads as follows:

"Long-suffering Lions fan MICHAEL DAVID SMITH emulated Billy Sims as a toddler, but it wasn't long before he realized his size and athleticism (or lack thereof) made him a better candidate for writing about football than playing it. Since then his inspiration has been Sports Illustrated's Paul Zimmerman, who always seems to notice the details that the TV announcers miss. Smith lives in Chicago with his wife, Sarah, a law student with an amazing tolerance for sports blaring on the TV, sports-talk radio blaring in the car, and sports opinions blaring from her husband's mouth. Smith got a Barry Sanders jersey just before Sanders' retirement and a Charlie Batch jersey just before Batch was cut. He now wears a Lions sweatshirt without any player's name on it. Mike writes the weekly feature Every Play Counts and covers the NFC North for Four Downs. Contrary to popular belief, he is not the Michael Smith who used to write for the Boston Globe and now appears on ESPN."

Seahawks.NET would like to extend our sincere thanks to Michael for one of the better chats in the seven-year history of our site.

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