Thanks to their weak division coupled with their first round upset of New Orleans, the Seattle Seahawks are probably picking much later in this draft than they care to. They are a team that talent-wise and in terms of need should be picking in the Top 15, but will have to find a way to settle for lesser talent near the end of Round One.
The Seahawks have plenty of needs, most of them occurring on the offensive side of the ball. If there was a strength to the Seahawks team last year, it was their defense. But that’s mostly relative. Football Outsiders’ DVOA-based efficiency ratings have them ranking 29th both on offense and defense. But at least on defense, they can say they have the 17th best run defense, while on offense they are ranked 29th and 28th passing and running the ball, respectively. So there is a bit more hope on defense than there is on offense going forward.
The Seahawks may be an interesting team in how this draft and the first round shapes up. They are one of the few teams outside the Top 12 picks that should be in the market for a quarterback. Which means trades could certainly be involved around their selection, resulting in them trading up or trading back in the draft. But it also means teams that do not address their quarterback issues at the top of the first round could move back into the first round to get ahead of the Seahawks to take whatever quarterback they desire.
Because of this and other factors, I think the Seahawks will wind up selecting Washington quarterback Jake Locker with their top pick.
The Seahawks need to first decide what their plan is at quarterback. They traded for Charlie Whitehurst last year, but he did very little to give them hope he’s a franchise-caliber passer going forward. Matt Hasselbeck is a free agent that they would probably like to keep him for one more year. But looking at this crop of passers, the Seahawks almost certainly will draft one as their long-term solution at the position. The question will be determining who is their best option. The team changed offensive coordinators from Jeremy Bates to Darrell Bevell and will still run a West Coast-based offense. While in Green Bay and Minnesota, those teams selected quite a few quarterbacks while Bevell was an assistant, but Aaron Rodgers stands out from the bunch. So it’s likely the Seahawks will target someone that they feel is Rodgers-esque. Probably the best candidate is Jake Locker. Locker had some of most successful games in the Pac-10 against Carroll’s USC team, including an upset win in 2009. Locker was coached by former Carroll assistant Steve Sarkisian, so there is a strong connection there. Someone like Ryan Mallett is probably not a great fit in their proposed offense since he’s much more of an immobile, vertical passer. But there are other options that the Seahawks nab in the second round if they target more mobile guys. Perhaps TCU’s Andy Dalton, Nevada’s Colin Kaepernick, or Florida State’s Christian Ponder would be better, more polished options? Ponder is probably the most NFL ready, even more so than Locker, but he lacks the long-term upside of someone with Locker’s physical tools has.
Determining which prospect they like the most will have a significant impact on their plans with this pick. If they prefer Ponder (or another), then they can probably afford to move back in the draft some spots. If they like Locker, then they are probably better off standing pat and taking him at No. 25. If a team manages to leapfrog them and take any one of the quarterbacks, it puts more pressure on them to draft their guy at No. 25 as well.
Quarterback isn’t the team’s lone need on offense. Running back was a problem area. Despite his famous run in the playoffs, Marshawn Lynch wasn’t a significant factor for the team after they acquired him. But the team still has Justin Forsett and Leon Washington on the roster. But a player of Mark Ingram‘s caliber would be a significant upgrade if he was to last this long.
Wide Receiver is a problem area. Mike Williams had a resurgent year, and they have decent pieces with Golden Tate, Deon Butler, and Ben Obomanu. But none of those players are true No. 1 targets. They should look at Maryland’s Torrey Smith or Pitt’s Jon Baldwin to determine if they are. If they believe so, then they definitely become options.
Their offensive line was a mess largely thanks to injuries in 2010. This means that the Seahawks should be looking for depth and insurance at both guard and right tackle. Mike Pouncey would be a nice pickup because like Max Unger he can potentially play guard or center. Danny Watkins would also be a good pickup at left guard. Gabe Carimi could be plugged into the vacant right tackle position. It’s clear the Seahawks need to bolster their offensive line play, but they will have to determine if it trumps other needs.
While their defense is relatively better off than the offense, they still have plenty of weaknesses on that side of the ball. Up front, Brandon Mebane, Colin Cole, and Red Bryant are a good starting trio for their hybrid scheme. But Mebane is a free agent and Bryant has durability concerns. The fact that they only tendered Mebane at a third round level may indicate they aren’t overly committed to keeping him. Temple’s Muhammad Wilkerson could slide easily into one of those starting roles, as could Oregon State’s Stephen Paea.
On the edge, Chris Clemons has a strong season as a pass rusher (11 sacks), and Raheem Brock had a nice resurgent season (9 sacks). Their pass rush was perceived to be a weakness heading into the 2010 season, but turned out to be fairly solid. But they might want to bolster that with a player like Georgia’s Justin Houston, who would be a very good fit in their hybrid scheme.
Cornerback is where they are weakest in the secondary. They drafted Walter Thurmond a year ago, but injuries limited him this past year. Adding someone that can bolster their nickel corner play and be considered a future successor to Trufant or Jennings on the outside makes a lot of sense. Brandon Harris might be the best candidate for that role, although they will certainly consider Aaron Williams and Jimmy Smith if available.
In an ideal world, the Seahawks would probably like to move back, pick up some extra picks and take a quarterback like Ponder or Locker later in the draft. And then used the extra picks to address other weaker areas in the middle of the draft. But due to the possibility of movement around them as teams maneuver to get their own quarterbacks, I think the Seahawks will wind up using their top pick on that same position itself.