Blog Entry

The curious disappearance of Aaron Curry

Posted on: September 28, 2011 4:05 pm
 
When the Seattle Seahawks selected outside linebacker Aaron Curry out of Wake Forest with the fourth overall pick of the 2009 draft most believed they'd added the safest pick of the class.

Two years and two games later, Aaron Curry was benched in favor of 2011 fourth round pick KJ Wright.

Now, there is plenty of speculation that the Seahawks are looking to unload the former Butkus-award winner. Some believe the team will even consider cutting Curry outright should the team not get a suitable offer before the trade deadline.

Like virtually every one else, I lauded Seattle's selection of Curry at the time. I had done my research on Curry and virtually every scout I've grown to trust felt the same about him -- he was a future Pro Bowler. 

Blessed with an incredible combination of size, strength and speed, Curry had lit up ACC foes and confirmed his remarkable athleticism with one of the most impressive all-around Combine performances from a linebacker in league history. The former Wake Forest star and I even collaborated on a four-part journal in the months leading up to the draft so I felt comfortable recommending him as a person as well as a prospect.

In a little more than two seasons with the Seahawks, Curry's athleticism, size and strength were obvious, but so too was his lack of instincts. The big plays that had characterized his career with the Demon Deacons suddenly disappeared.

So what happened?

My theory is that I (and, of course, many others) simply missed on Curry. He was a dominant force at outside linebacker in the 4-3 in college largely due to his extraordinary athleticism. Because of his range, Curry was able to beat backs to the outside. His burst upfield made him theoretically a dangerous pass rusher (he was rarely asked to rush in college) and his instincts and ball skills made him a terror in coverage (six career interceptions, including three returned for touchdowns). Curry was also surrounded by talent. Three other Demon Deacons were drafted with Curry in 2009. None of them -- cornerback Alphonso Smith, safety Chip Vaughn and inside linebacker Stanley Arnoux -- have since gone on to enjoy anything close to the pro success that the teams that drafted them had envisioned. Wake Forest had never had four players from one side of the ball ever drafted in a single year. They haven't since. With such rare talent, I believe all four Wake Forest defenders had their strengths highlighted and their weaknesses minimized, leading to inflated grades for all of them.

There are three other thoughts I have on Curry.

One, is that there were warning signs. Curry displayed a troubling tendency to over-run plays even in college. This has been a problem in Seattle, as well. Too often, he's been in position to make the play, but has over-pursued and allowed a cutback lane or bitten hard on play-action and been beaten. This fact led to some (including long-time NFLDraftScout.com draft biographer Dave Te Thomas) to question how well Curry would handle NFL speed playing outside linebacker in a 4-3.

Second, the 2009 draft class simply wasn't that good. Consider that the first 11 picks of the draft were:

Matt Stafford -- Detroit Lions
Jason Smith -- St. Louis Rams
Tyson Jackson -- Kansas City Chiefs
Curry -- Seattle Seahawks
Mark Sanchez -- New York Jets
Andre Smith -- Cincinnati Bengals
Darrius Heyward-Bey -- Oakland Raiders
Eugene Monroe -- Jacksonville Jaguars
B.J. Raji -- Green Bay Packers
Michael Crabtree -- San Francisco 49ers
Aaron Maybin -- Buffalo Bills

If you're reading this, you're an NFL Draft fan. I don't need to tell you that a disproportionate number of these high picks have since struggled in the NFL.

Finally,  I continue to believe Curry can be successful in the NFL. At 6-2, 254 pounds with long arms, he has the frame to consider moving inside. Curry's biggest problem is his lack of instincts. Therefore, I do not believe he'd be successful in Seattle (or inside for any other 4-3 team). However, if protected by another inside linebacker in a 3-4 alignment, Curry could still do what he does best -- create explosive collisions and chase down ball-carriers from behind.

It is a theory that Thomas had prior to Curry being drafted... one that more of us, apparently, should have heeded.

Here is Thomas' summary (and interesting comparison) for Curry:

AARON CURRY -- Like the Chiefs finally realized with Johnson, hopefully the NFL team that drafts Curry will do likewise and play him in the middle. He has very good athleticism making plays in front of him, but bites often on play-action, lacks good depth playing in the zone and is a bit too stiff to generate the sideline-to-sideline range to make impact plays on the outside, where he struggles to stop the runner's forward momentum. He can clog the rush lanes when he stays low in his pads. Put him inside in a 3-4 alignment and he can be equally productive getting to the quarterback as he did in college. Play him on the outside and he will be exposed in a quick and deep passing game. Compares to: Derrick Johnson, Kansas City Chiefs


For those who don't recall, Johnson was widely viewed as a bust early in his career while playing outside linebacker for the Chiefs, which ran a 4-3 defense. He has since improved his level of play while playing inside linebacker for the Chiefs' 3-4 alignment.

Should Curry get another chance elsewhere, don't be surprised if he, too, enjoys a career rejuvenation -- especially if he goes to a team that caters to his unique strengths (and hides his unfortunate weaknesses). 


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