Free agency starts tonight, or tomorrow – depending on where you live and what you consider a stroke past midnight EST. But the vast majority of the questions this week concern the NFL draft and what the Seahawks might do with the sixth and 14th picks in the first round.
So, let’s get to it.
Q: With so many glaring holes on this team, where do you start in the draft? – Jude, New Jersey
A: I’m starting with you, Jude, because your question is a perfect starting point. The Seahawks could draft any position – except linebacker and tight end – and any of a half dozen players with the first of their two picks in the first round. So much of just who that will be depends on what happens with the teams above them – the Rams, Lions, Buccaneers, Redskins and Chiefs. A second factor is drafting for value, rather than need. If the two converge – as it did last year, when they selected linebacker Aaron Curry with the No. 4 pick overall – that’s great. But reaching to fill a need, no matter how glaring, is usually a giant step in the wrong direction.
With all that said, national pundits say the Seahawks could address their obvious need on the offensive line if Oklahoma State’s Russell Okung was to somehow slide to them at No. 6; they could address the need for an eventual replacement for quarterback Matt Hasselbeck by selecting Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford or Notre Dame’s Jimmy Clausen; they could improve their pass rush by taking Georgia Tech defensive end Derrick Morgan; they could get bigger at cornerback by drafting Florida’s Joe Haden; they could make a value pick with Tennessee safety Eric Berry; they could parlay one pick into multiple picks by trading back, if another team’s “target” player is available when it’s the Seahawks’ turn to select.
Q: Do you think there is a possibility the Hawks take two offensive linemen with both first-round round picks? Maybe Okung and (Idaho guard Mike) Iupati? – Matt, Graham
A: Anything is possible, as they say. But I’d be shocked if that turned out to be the case, Matt. The Seahawks obviously have needs on the O-line, but another factor in this discussion is the type of linemen preferred by new O-line coach Alex Gibbs.
I did a story on this last week. The line Gibbs had in 2004 with the Atlanta Falcons “featured” a fourth-round draft choice, a trio of seventh-rounders and a player they signed in free agency – former Seahawk Todd Weiner, who was a second-round pick. The Falcons led the league in rushing for three consecutive seasons without having a first-round pick on their line. Gibbs looks for smart, mobile, athletic players, even if they don’t fit the prototype when it comes to height and weight.
Also, with the almost-across-the-board needs on the team, going O-line twice in the first round just seems like a stretch.
Q: I sure hope that we go for an O-lineman for our first pick and a safety second. Then whatever we need from there. Anything you can tell me about the direction they may go in the draft? – Cory, Buckley
A: I’ve already weighed in on the direction the team could go at No. 6. But the safety idea is intriguing, Cory. That group – not just Berry – had impressive efforts at the scouting combine in Indianapolis. They ran well – USC’s Taylor Mays (4.43 seconds in the 40-yard dash), Berry (4.47) and Florida’s Major Wright (4.48). They jumped well – Berry (a 43-inch vertical), Mays (41) and Georgia’s Reshed Jones and Kansas’ Darrell Stuckey (39½). They lifted well – Oklahoma State’s Lucien Antoine (28 reps with 225 pounds) and Mays, Jones and Notre Dame’s Kyle McCarthy (24). They presented themselves well – especially Myron Rolle, the Rhodes Scholar from Florida State.
So picking a safety is not out of the question, even if it’s not at No. 6 or No. 14.
Q: Are the Seahawks brave enough to draft an offensive tackle or a safety and maybe a corner and build a good team foundation? Are they brave enough to leave the sexy picks like a QB and running back alone until they have a line to protect them? – Dave, Calgary
A: I don’t know if “brave enough” is the way to put it, Dave, but yes. Quarterback and running back are the “sexy” picks, as you say. But there likely will be better value, especially at No. 6 – which is too high for any of the running backs in this draft class, and could be too high for any QB other than Bradford.
That leaves the other options I’ve already explored. Here are a few other names to keep in mind at the positions you mentioned that performed well at the Combine: Tackle Anthony Davis, from Rutgers; Maryland tackle Bruce Campbell, who had an exceptional workout at the combine (4.85 in the 40, 34 reps and a 32-inch vertical); Iowa tackle Bryan Bulaga; Haden, the Florida corner who didn’t run as fast as expected at the combine, but has size (5-11, 190) and athletic ability; and Berry, from Tennessee.
Q: In the past two years, our O-line has been devastated and simply not very good. Am I the only one that feels that’s the team’s biggest need? Everyone else keeps talking about all these other positions that need improvement but I think with our linebackers and improving D-line it’s the offense that needs help. Even if you had (Peyton) Manning and Andre Johnson, it won’t work without an O-line that works. Along with that, I’m hoping for more time for plays and routes to work out instead of a lot of the screen plays I saw last season. – Jeremy, Tinker AFB, Oklahoma
A: No, Jeremy, you are not alone. Just look at what happened to the O-line last season: four starters at left tackle, and none were named Walter Jones; three starters at left guard; and the late-season shift at center and right guard with Max Unger and Chris Spencer. And in 2008, the entire starting line finished the season on injured reserve.
The Seahawks not only need starter-quality help, they need depth. There might be some quick-fix options in free agency. But expect the Seahawks to address the line in the draft – it just might not be when you expect it, and with the players you might expect.
Q: I personally want the Seahawks to take Sam Bradford or Jimmy Clausen at No. 6 in the draft and sit him behind Matt Hasselbeck for one or two seasons. Then at No. 14, either take Eric Berry, Taylor Mays, Joe Haden or another DB; or take Clemson RB C.J. Spiller. What’s your opinion on this? – Hassan, Edmonds
A: If Bradford falls to No. 6, it definitely would be tempting, Hassan. The Seahawks have the luxury of being able to take a QB and not pushing him into the lineup because they have no one else – like the Lions did with Matthew Stafford last year and the Rams will need to do this year.
Spiller, no matter what he does, or how impressive his stats were at Clemson, Spiller can’t run away from the questions about his ability to run between the tackles and carry the load as a “feature” back because of his size — or lack of it (5-11, 195). He’s still the top-rated back in the draft, and could help immediately in the return game while working in a rotation with another back or two. The Seahawks aren’t the only team that could use a versatile talent like Spiller, which is the case with almost all of the players that have been discussed.