Heading into the 2014 offseason, the Seattle Seahawks had relatively few holes to speak of on their young roster. Additionally, they were able to retain the majority of their key pending free agents as well. This allowed team management to shift their focus toward obtaining depth on both sides of the ball through the draft.
Obviously this is a luxury very few teams have, but it’s just one of the many benefits of being the reigning Super Bowl champs. However, after much contemplation, it was decided that one particular area where depth was needed this offseason was the linebacker group.
While Seattle chose to pass on veteran free agents on the open market, they instead chose to upgrade their defensive talent once again through the draft. The first sign of improvement to the linebacker group came with the selection of Kevin Pierre-Louis, a highly touted outside linebacker prospect from Boston College.
With Pierre-Louis in the fold, it would have been understandable for Seattle to feel comfortable with their additions to the second-level of their defense. Of course, no one could have foreseen that an ultra-competitive, highly productive linebacker from the University of Montana would fall out of the draft entirely. That player was Brock Coyle, Montana’s leading tackler for the past two seasons consecutively.
Prior to the 2014 NFL Draft, many analysts pegged Coyle as a mid-round draft pick. Most envisioned his selection in the 4th or 5th round, but for reasons unknown, the young man from Bozeman, MT plummeted on draft day, never hearing his name called.
It was a free-fall which likely left a boulder-sized chip on Coyle’s shoulder. Shortly after the conclusion of the draft, he received an offer to play for the defending Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks. It was an offer Coyle could not refuse, and now he looks to prove why 31 NFL franchises will regret passing on his small-school talents in 2014.
While the journey from undrafted rookie free agent to NFL stardom is long and arduous, Coyle is more than talented enough to succeed. At 6-foot-1, 243 pounds, he has the prototypical build of an NFL linebacker and appears more than capable of withstanding the daily grind.
During his tenure at Montana, Coyle showed sideline-to-sideline capabilities at the middle linebacker position. His junior year – his first as a starter – Coyle led the Grizzlies in tackles with 107 on his way to Honorable Mention All-Conference Honors in the Big Sky Conference.
His senior season was even more impressive. Voted co-captain by his teammates prior to the year, Coyle again led Montana’s defense with 125 tackles, averaging a whopping 9.6 tackles per game. He also managed 13.5 tackles for loss, showing immense versatility in the process. Coyle was named to the 2013 All-Big Sky Second Team by coaches, earning a certain degree of well-deserved national recognition.
Yet remarkably, even with great production and accolades aplenty, Coyle did not even receive an invite to the 2014 NFL Combine. Luckily, Seahawks scouts were well-aware of the overlooked middle linebacker from Montana.
While Seattle didn’t use any of their nine draft picks on Coyle, head coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider did admit to having a “draftable” grade on the 23 year old. In addition, Seattle has a clear need for depth in the middle of their infamous defense, and Coyle seemed like a natural fit. Making things even better is the fact he was signed as a priority undrafted free agent.
Of course, on the other hand, being an undrafted free agent isn’t exactly ideal for Coyle. He clearly has the talent to have been drafted, but a snubbing from the combine may have directly influenced his undrafted status. Regardless, there is no doubt he has the raw talent and work ethic to eventually develop into a solid contributor in Seattle, but with Bobby Wagner entrenched as the starter in the middle of the Seahawks’ defense, he will have his work cut out for him.
It is always possible a position change is in Coyle’s future, but for now, he will spend his time soaking in every bit of knowledge he can get from linebacker coach Ken Norton. With Norton as a new mentor, there is a good chance Seahawk fans will hear from Coyle again in the near future.