It’s hard to project these things in October, but most people assume the Seahawks will draft for the offense in 2013. It’s not exactly a stretch to think that way, given how well the defense has played and the need to build around Russell Wilson. Chris Steuber reported last week that the Seahawks had a scout at Rutgers, probably taking a look at receiver Brandon Coleman. He also reported yesterday that Seattle would also have representation at the Clemson vs Wake Forest game tonight:
— Chris Steuber (@ChrisSteuber) October 24, 2012
This is of course a game featuring DeAndre Hopkins, one of the leading receivers in college football this year. It wouldn’t be a big surprise if the front office was spending a lot of time checking the 2013 wide out class.
Yet the strength of the 2013 class appears to be leaning strongly towards the defense. I posted an updated top 50 watch list yesterday. Overall it was a pretty even list with 27 total defensive prospects and 23 for the offense – but 14 of the top 20 were defensive players.
If the Seahawks do go defense again a linebacker could be on their list of priorities. It seems unlikely they’d go early on the pass rush again considering the production of Chris Clemons and Bruce Irvin, not to mention Clemons’ recent contract extension. The secondary is strong and deep, although you can never have too many good corners. Defensive tackle could be a need if Jason Jones and Alan Branch aren’t re-signed, but that’s to be determined. The other position that could be looked at is the WILL, currently occupied by Leroy Hill.
Is it a huge need? Not really, in fact you could probably classify it as a luxury. Hill has the misfortune of simply not being a.) young and b.) K.J. Wright or Bobby Wagner. The Seahawks have two of the best young linebackers in the league and naturally it’s easy to wonder if they’ll go for the hat trick. Last time Seattle had so much invested in the position they were paying Hill, Lofa Tatupu and Aaron Curry over $100m in salary and we all know how that worked out. This is different though – a young, hungry group who are yet to get anywhere close to the kind of money earned by the former trio.
Replacing Hill isn’t the difference between Seattle going to the Super Bowl again or settling for mediocrity. In fact, the Seahawks could settle on Hill for a year or two more or simply find a similar replacement in free agency. No team has an all-pro at every position, but as one of the less storied members of the defense it’s easy for fans to point the finger and look for improvement. Lets not forget that Hill was the teams second most productive pass rusher last year with four sacks.
Therein lies the issue though – the Seahawks would probably like more production in terms of pressure from the WILL position. Hill hasn’t ever matched his excellent rookie campaign in terms of sacks. Finding a player who can aid Clemons and Irvin while also offering enough athleticism in coverage would be cause for first round investment. As you’ll see below, those types of players are pretty rare.
Alec Ogletree at Georgia is the most likely to fit into that role – unless the team gets all quirky and thinks Oregon’s Dion Jordan is athletic enough to play 4-3 linebacker (he’s 6-7). Ogletree is a former safety with the kind of build and athleticism that would make for a justified first round investment. He’s taller than Hill (6-3 vs 6-1) and bigger (235lbs vs 225lbs) but he’s maintained most of the safety speed and gets around the field in coverage. In the video below (second from the top) you’ll see how he lines up in all kinds of different looks and does a pretty good job bringing pressure off the edge and through the middle, while keeping the speed to drop when required and help out at the second level.
As a prospect he has so much untapped potential as a pass rusher, it makes him an exciting prospect to look at and imagine in this already loaded defense. There are some concerns too – the multiple team suspensions and lack of off-field discipline completely contrast Ogletree’s on-field demeanour. He’ll have to prove to teams he’s maturing and won’t be a liability with a nice contract in his pocket. He’s also liable to have one or two bad plays per game and needs to remain focused at all times. Apart from that, he has tremendous potential.
The other prospect who could potentially play the role is C.J. Mosley at Alabama. He’s similarly quick off the edge and finds ways to make an impact. He’s athletic, he can cover. He also comes without the off-field baggage. None of the other prospects get close to Ogletree or Mosley’s upside as a potential WILL. Manti Te’o should play inside linebacker and I’m tempted to say Arthur Brown should too. The Seahawks could theoretically move Bobby Wagner across – he’s athletic enough to do the job – but he’s playing at a Pro Bowl level inside so why would you move things around if you can avoid it? Brown – described by Pete Carroll as the best linebacker he’d seen in seven years during a recruiting visit – is closer to Hill physically. However, he always looks his best leading the defense from a central position and he hasn’t flashed a tremendous amount of pass rush quality.
Either way it’s a good group overall and it’ll provide Seattle with some options if they want to consider drafting a linebacker next April.