We’ve highlighted four key names to watch for the Seahawks in round one of the draft: Courtney Upshaw, Melvin Ingram, Quinton Coples and Trent Richardson. This is a team that knows it needs to improve the pass rush and with 2-3 key additions to the front seven, Seattle could find itself in possession of a border-line elite defense. Many people consider this a ‘six-player draft’ – a sextet of elite players that are expected to go early, possibly 1-6. Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III will be the top two picks, potentially followed by Matt Kalil, Morris Claiborne, Trent Richardson and Justin Blackmon. Out of that group, the one most likely to squirm through to Seattle is Alabama’s Richardson. We see him as the wildcard option that could divert the team’s attention away from the pass rush.
However, what happens if all four players are off the board by the #12 pick? It’s a question that’s been asked a lot recently, so I wanted to address it. I think it’s unlikely that Upshaw, Ingram, Coples and Richardson will all be gone by #12. Impossible? Not at all. Unlikely? I’d say so. But it’s perhaps more likely in the aftermath of the Washington-St. Louis trade than it was previously.
Had the Browns moved up to grab RGIII instead of the Redskins, it would’ve increased the likelihood of Ryan Tannehillgoing #6 to Washington. Tannehill’s position in the top-10 is now in doubt and he could be replaced by one of the top defensive lineman or Richardson. Now, the ‘Bama running back has three potential suitors at picks #4 (Cleveland), #5 (Tampa Bay) and #6 (St. Louis). Cleveland could take any one of Blackmon, Claiborne or Richardson. Tampa Bay would entertain drafting Claiborne or Richardson depending on who the Browns select. St. Louis are not an obvious candidate to take a running back but if Blackmon and Claiborne are both off the board at #4 and #5, they may simply take the top ranked player – and that could be Trent Richardson. The Rams will own five first round picks in the next three years as they begin to rebuild and they need to seize good opportunities. Drafting Richardson – despite their other needs – would be a classic example.
If Richardson goes in the top-six, the Seahawks are then banking on one of the top pass rushers getting through picks 7-11. Jacksonville’s intentions will become clear during free agency, but their main priority has to be finding offensive playmakers and improving their pass rush. Expect the Jaguars to go big on the free agent wide receiver market to potentially open up the opportunity to draft a defensive end at #7. Miami could be in play for Ryan Tannehill given the links to Mike Sherman, but if they address the gaping hole at quarterback with Peyton Manning (looking unlikely) or Matt Flynn (could become more likely) then you have to believe the Dolphins will be in the market for a pass rusher too at #8.
Carolina needs to improve it’s interior defensive line more than the edge rush at #9, but Buffalo at #10 are another team who will be aggressively searching for pass rush help. It might be best to start pinning your hopes on Miami not concluding a deal for Manning or Flynn in order to make Tannehill a logical choice at #8. Even that won’t necessarily guarantee anything. Todd McShay’s updated mock draft looks at this scenario with the top eleven going:
#1 IND – Andrew Luck
#2 WAS – Robert Griffin III
#3 MIN – Matt Kalil
#4 CLE – Trent Richardson
#5 TB – Morris Claiborne
#6 STL – Justin Blackmon
#7 JAC – Melvin Ingram
#8 MIA – Ryan Tannehill
#9 CAR – Quinton Coples
#10 BUF – Courtney Upshaw
#11 KC – Riley Reiff
Even with Tannehill landing in Miami, McShay still believes the top three pass rushers leave the board in the first ten picks. The Carolina pick is debatable, justified as such, McShay: “The Panthers have big needs at wide receiver and corner, but with no worthy options at those positions, (Quinton) Coples becomes an attractive option. Coach Ron Rivera is looking to shore up the defensive front, and you can never have enough good pass-rushers. And because Coples is a top-five talent who should slip just a bit because of an inconsistent motor, he is almost a value pick at this point.”
McShay is taking the approach that Coples is too good to pass at #9. Indeed, McShay has consistently kept the UNC lineman in high regard despite a disappointing senior season. I would argue that the Panthers’ greatest need comes at defensive tackle rather than the edge rush. Considering they’re also likely to use more 3-4 looks and maybe even more towards a permanent switch, I suspect they’ll be looking at scheme-flexible players too. Dontari Poe and Fletcher Cox flashed enough athletic potential at the combine to warrant consideration here and should either be taken at #9, it makes it very likely that one of Coples or Courtney Upshaw will be there at #12.
Even so, let’s contemplate the unthinkable situation where the Seahawks are out of reach for the top defensive ends. What do they do? McShay suggests Luke Kuechly would be the choice – something I would tend to disagree with as noted in this article last week. In this situation I think the Seahawks would face a dilemma. Is there an opportunity to move down the board? It could be a case of damage limitations – miss out on the top players on the team’s board, but make a calculated move to still secure prospects in the three positions the team craves (for example: DE, LB and RB). It could be a case of targeting a position that allows the Seahawks to move down considerably yet still acquire a collection of players such as Zach Brown, Vinny Curry and Doug Martin.
Of course, you need a willing trade partner to make that kind of move. If no such deal is forthcoming, what then? Zach Brown is considered draftable by many teams in the top half of round one, even though he’s received a lot of negative publicity recently. The likes of Andre Branch, Whitney Mercilus and Nick Perry could also emerge as candidates – although none carry the same versatility as the trio of Upshaw, Ingram and Coples, which could be more of an issue than some think. The reason I’ve not concentrated on other pass rushers is mainly down to the one-dimensional aspect of the alternatives. The Seahawks want a rusher who can be used in different positions to create mis-matches. Upshaw, Ingram and Coples are all flexible – they’ve all moved inside, played the edge and Ingram and Upshaw have taken on some minor coverage responsibilities at times. Branch, Mercilus and Perry are all pure edge rushers. Vinny Curry in round two has the kind of power – if not the size – to be used in different ways and may be more appealing for that reason.
I would argue it’s unlikely the Seahawks would make further additions to their offensive line and I don’t expect the team to draft a quarterback at #12 this year, even if Tannehill remains available.
The wildcard in this new scenario could be Dontari Poe. I think Fletcher Cox is more suited to the five-technique and he hasn’t got the lower body power to hold up in Seattle’s larger front, but Poe would fit like a glove. In fact, could he even shed +20lbs and become a solid three technique? He’s already running a sub-5.00 at 345lbs and benching more than anyone else at the combine. Could he shift some body fat without impacting his strength to become even more of a mobile freak of nature? It’s worth considering – even if it weakens his ability to have an immediate impact as a rookie.
It’s mere speculation at this point and as mentioned earlier – I think there’s still a very strong possibility we’ll never have to cross this particular bridge and one of Upshaw, Ingram or Coples will be there at #12. Yet the situation is maybe a little more cloudy than it was prior to the trade involving Washington and St. Louis.
Projected big board for the Seahawks
The big four
Reads better in space than Melvin Ingram, the perfect compliment of good run defense and pass rushing ability.
Insurance against Marshawn Lynch wearing down, but also a further dynamic addition to Seattle’s run-centric offense.
He will have his supporters in the war room and has the versatility to appear in different looks.
This coaching staff won’t be too concerned about his motivation, but legitimate concerns about his run defense exist.
Second tier possibilities?
Zach Brown, Dontari Poe, Andre Branch, Whitney Mercilus, Nick Perry, Doug Martin, Vinny Curry, Mychal Kendricks