It’s the eve of the draft, so I wanted to offer some predictions and thoughts based around what I’ve heard about the possible direction the Seahawks will take.
Last year the left tackle position was a main target area. We saw that with the drafting of Russell Okung with the 6th overall pick. It really came down to whoever was remaining between Eric Berry, Trent Williams and Okung. Had Berry been there at #6, he would almost certainly have been the choice, but the Seahawks would have tried to get a left tackle at #14. By adding Earl Thomas to pair with Okung, Seattle was able to address the two places on the roster they most desired.
This year I get the feeling there’s a much more open feel about things. Perhaps there is a slight leaning towards the quarterback position, but they’re certainly not going to reach to fill the need. What it means is there’s likely to be a handful of players they’re prepared to take at #25 in a best player available scenario. Mike Pouncey, the offensive guard from Florida, is one of those players. The Seahawks don’t expect he’ll make it to their pick, because he’s a legitimate option for Miami as early as the #15 overall pick. There are a cluster of teams including New York, Tampa Bay and Kansas City who should ensure he’s off the board before Indianapolis pick at #22.
Jimmy Smith is likely to be another player in that situation. Despite a lot of negativity about his character, the guy is a top-ten talent physically. The Seahawks won’t be the only team to have him higher than Prince Amukamara on their draft board, but again it isn’t likely that either make it to #25. Should that be the case, I think they’ll waste little time handing in the pick.
I’ve no further information on who else they’d be prepared to take at #25 and feel absolutely satisfied. Perhaps they look at a Muhammed Wilkerson (DE, Temple) and see defensive line depth and a Red Bryant clone? Maybe the lack of height on Brandon Harris (CB, Miami) will be less of an issue for the Seahawks given his strong open field tackling ability? Despite my opposition towards spending a high pick on a right tackle – a position easier to fill than most without spending expensive draft stock – I have no information as to their thoughts on a Gabe Carimi (OT, Wisconsin), Nate Solder (OT, Colorado) or Derek Sherrod (OT, Miss. State). Is Jabaal Sheard (DE, Pittsburgh) an option?
The player you can label as a wildcard is Mark Ingram. One member of the Seahawks offensive coaching staff (who joined the team during this off season) loves the guy and has been making a case for the Alabama prospect to be drafted (if available) at #25. I understand that the front office don’t share that enthusiasm for the pick considering the needs elsewhere on the team and the current depth at running back on Seattle’s roster. You do wonder, however, if there is a situation where Ingram is the best player available and they pull the trigger. What if they can’t move down? What if he’s clearly graded much higher than the next available player? It’s perhaps an unlikely scenario, but there is no way I’m ruling out Ingram.
Don’t expect Ryan Mallett, Adrian Clayborn, Stephen Paea, Marcus Cannon, Marvin Austin or Phil Taylor to be the choice. These are all players Seattle has expressed interest in and feel positive about, but for scheme purposes or other undefined reasons, they are not likely to be drafted by Seattle. In the case of Mallett, the Seahawks see his lack of mobility as enough of an issue not to include him on their board.
Depending on what offers are available, the Seahawks will look to trade down. The guy to keep an eye on is Colin Kaepernick, because I understand he’s had consensus approval among the Seahawks draft room. He is the #2 quarterback on Seattle’s board, with #1 remaining unknown, although I would predict it’s Jake Locker. When the Huskies quarterback is drafted by Washington in the top ten, it’ll leave Seattle contemplating their options. Do they like Kaepernick enough to avoid risking missing out on day two of the draft? With seven picks after the #25 on Thursday, teams could well move up to target the Nevada quarterback. New England own the first pick of day two and rest assured they will be fielding calls for the pick with the Patriots only currently owning five picks in 2012.
If they are not committed to Kaepernick, they may be willing to accept any deal to move down with offers as low as an extra 4th or 5th rounder touted. Ideally, they want that 3rd round pick back they spent on Charlie Whitehurst. It’s going to be very interesting to see how they play this if the Pouncey’s and Smith’s are off the board and whether they’d actually commit a first round pick to a guy like Kaepernick. It could happen.
Yesterday we had information about Carson Palmer potentially landing in Seattle down the line. Make no mistake, drafting a guy like Kaepernick doesn’t impact that at all. Whether it’s Palmer or Matt Hasselbeck starting in 2011, the idea will be that in two years time they want to hand over the keys to a guy they have developed. It would be a perfect scenario to train up Kaepernick behind the veteran, ready to start in the future. It’s a lot of stock placed in one position, particularly if you include the Whitehurst deal. Even so, we’re talking about the most important position in football here, it warrants this much attention.
Players to keep an eye on in round one at #25 or after a small trade down the board:
Confirmed: Mike Pouncey, Jimmy Smith, Colin Kaepernick, Mark Ingram
Speculation: Jake Locker, Jabaal Sheard, Muhammed Wilkerson, Prince Amukamara
Late round prospects to watch:
Confirmed: Lee Ziemba (OT, Auburn), DeMarcus Van Dyke (CB, Miami), Curtis Marsh (CB, Utah State), Jeff Tarpinian (LB, Iowa)
Later tonight I will publish my final mock draft for 2011…
So stay tuned!