Presuming the Seahawks stick at #25 and the top quarterbacks are off the board, what will they do? We’ve looked at different options in the mock drafts but today I want to focus on five logical targets. Not all of these players will necessarily be available but they could go in the 20-32 range.
No position is more important to Seattle than finding a long term quarterback. However, I don’t expect the Seahawks to reach on a second or third tier player. Despite an incredibly positive press for Christian Ponder, Andy Dalton and Colin Kaepernick I don’t expect any quarterback outside the ‘top four’ to be considered at #25. Let’s not forget how many people last year were touting Colt McCoy as a first or second round pick, Tony Pike as a possible third rounder and Dan LeFevour was even ranked by some as a second round sleeper. The same thing will happen this year unless rampant need (and therefore insanity) takes over the NFL.
With that in mind, who could be in play for the Seahawks?
Muhammad Wilkerson (DE/DT, Temple)
It makes sense to start with the player I’ve pinned to Seattle in my last two mock drafts. Wilkerson has his sceptics with some questioning his first round credentials. Others rate him much higher (he’s #10 on Mel Kiper’s most recent big board). Reports have suggested both Baltimore and New Orleans are showing strong interest in Wilkerson and the Seahawks reportedly arranged a meeting with him for this week.
My own view is mixed. You can’t help but be impressed by a 315lbs lineman who rushed predominantly off the edge and recorded ten sacks in 2010. He moves well for a big guy and appears to be a logical fit for Seattle’s 5-technique position. The team want to add depth on the defensive line and adding Wilkerson would create that – with both Red Bryant and possibly Wilkerson being capable of playing two positions.
The question marks arise in whether he’d be able to make that smooth transition to the three-technique – a position he can attempt to play early (particularly on obvious passing downs) but would need to learn and develop from scratch. Should the Seahawks lose Brandon Mebane whenever free agency begins, it’ll leave a size-able hole inside. Even if Mebane is retained really the coaches should be considering moving him back to the one-technique where he thrived earlier in his NFL career.
Wilkerson has the size to play the Bryant position while offering a better overall pass rush threat from the edge. He may never be that elite difference maker on a defensive line, but he’d offer the size and depth Seattle is looking for. If he can translate his pass-rush production to the next level, he’s more than capable of becoming a staple player on a NFL defense.
Marvin Austin (DT, North Carolina)
Not a player I’ve really considered at #25, but certainly someone who’s enjoying a productive off-season. When I watched Austin in 2009 I wasn’t really impressed. He didn’t stand out on a talented defense including Bruce Carter and Robert Quinn, so I was interested to see more in 2010. Then obviously he was suspended before the first UNC game of the year – which I still studied closely. He travelled to the game with friends and sat in the stands laughing and joking throughout (the camera switched to him regularly). It wasn’t a good mental image of a guy I believe was asked to stay away by the team during the ongoing NCAA investigation.
Austin missed the whole season and a player I already ranked in the R2/3 range appeared to be sinking further. It looks like he spent that time off wisely because he’s had a sensational off-season. For starters, he was the stand out prospect at the East/West shrine work outs. He continued to slim down and thoroughly impressed at the combine – running an eye catching 4.8 forty yard dash (superior to Nick Fairley despite being 20lbs heavier). He also benched 225lbs 38 times which was only bettered by Stephen Paea’s 49 reps. The momentum continued at this week’s UNC pro-day and people are starting to talk about a rise back up the boards.
I’ve seen interviews with Austin and he’s a personable guy with a big personality. There are some concerns about his work ethic and clearly that suspension issue needs to be studied with some serious questions asked. My impression is – this guy got serious when it really mattered and the work outs are better than the tape. What I need to know is whether that will continue once he’s drafted or whether he reverts back to type. He needs to perform better in the NFL than he did in the 2009 college season, he needs to play like a 4.8, strong 309lbs defensive lineman every week. The potential for success is incredible from an athletic stand point and I have no issue with his run defense, but he needs to refine his pass rush technique to be more effective as a potential three-tech.
If he’s really a fast enough riser to get into that 20-32 range it makes sense that both New Orleans and Seattle will consider him. High risk, potentially a very high reward with great potential but needs to bring it. I’d still have major reservations about the work outs being vastly superior to the tape, but NFL teams will do their homework.
Jabaal Sheard (DE, Pittsburgh)
One of my favorite players in the draft. When I projected Sheard and Brooks Reed as potential late first round picks in February, I received a lot of tweets like this one questioning my sanity. Both players have since gained a lot of momentum and should go in that 20-40 range. I suspect Sheard could go even earlier than that considering his skill set – we’re talking about a physical beast of a player with great burst off the line, good edge speed and plays strongly against the run despite only weighing around 265lbs.
It really wouldn’t surprise me if a team like Jacksonville took a punt on Sheard and the two teams that follow (New England and San Diego) could easily show interest. In my last mock I had him at #20 to Tampa Bay – a team with a huge need at DE who could see real value with that pick. I think he’s more suited to a 4-3 than most think – with people wrongly assuming he’d fit better at 3-4 OLB because of the size.
If he lasts until #25 he has to be on Seattle’s radar because there may not be a better LEO candidate in this draft class outside of Robert Quinn. The Seahawks need a smaller lineman who can maximise one-on-one match-ups, flash that burst to beat a man off the edge yet hold up against the run. People ultimately think Von Miller would be a good LEO pass rusher, but that’s not true. He’d be a complete liability against the run given his size playing on a four-man front at end and would almost certainly have to play linebacker in Seattle. The Seahawks need a player more in the Sheard mould.
Chris Clemons is contracted to another year but Raheem Brock is not. With Reed and Sheard in that 20-40 range they have to be options for Seattle. Let’s also get one thing straight – Clemons had a good 2010 season but he’s 30 in October. Pairing him with a young edge rusher for the future could seriously upgrade the Seahawks defense for the long term.
Mike Pouncey (OG/OC Florida)
I’d like to think the Seahawks would consider extending the contract of Chris Spencer after an under rated 2010 season where he was arguably Seattle’s most consistent offensive lineman. Considering the major repair work needed in the team’s interior o-line, it makes little sense in my opinion to lose a guy who started every game last year and looked comfortable throughout.
Whether Spencer is retained or not, the team could still use a long term option at guard. When you’re drafting for that position in round one you have to be confident the player you’re getting is special. I think some teams will feel that way about Mike Pouncey, particularly after his brother had such a productive rookie season for Pittsburgh. I’m not convinced Mike is special – at least enough for me to ignore the depth at guard available in round two (Watkins, Hudson, Franklin, Rackley etc). If the Seahawks want to play it safe though, they could go in that direction.
I’m also not convinced he’ll last until #25 and the Maurkice-factor may play a part in that. Miami are desperate for a center and could be a wild card as high as #15 (perhaps they trade down?). New England and San Diego are possible options after that, as are the New York Giants. Kansas City would be a logical home because Pouncey ticks every box Scott Pioli looks for in a prospect including faultless character, leadership and work ethic. Even if Pouncey gets past that cluster, the Philadelphia Eagles would need a reason to pass at #23.
It’s not impossible, but I’d say it’s unlikely. However – many teams are sceptical about adding guards in round one and with options available later, I wouldn’t rule out a fall to #25. He’d have to be at least considerd by the Seahawks if he gets that far.
Jimmy Smith (CB, Colorado)
I’ve never hidden my admiration for Smith – I think he’s a top-ten talent. If the Seahawks picked ten places higher in the draft I’d be championing the franchise to select this guy. I know the character concerns exist and you can’t just ignore that all together. However, not many players have impressed me as much as Jimmy Smith during my time writing this blog. People wax lyrical about Patrick Peterson and how he could/should be the #1 overall pick, but for me there’s a paper’s width between Peterson and Smith. I actually think there’s a fairly good chance Smith will have the better career.
Speed, height, reactions, instinct – Smith has the complete package. People talk about a lack of effort at times yet I saw little evidence of that and I’m not going to overly criticise a corner back for a sluggish tackle or half hearted effort to shed a block if he’s consistently great in coverage. Dig out the tape of Colorado vs Oklahoma and watch how he performs against a pass-happy offense (and notice how little he’s targeted).
I don’t like making outlandish comparisons because they are generally quite lazy and unfair. I have no problem linking Smith to Nnamdi Asomugha (who was a late first round pick).
In my last mock draft I had Philadelphia taking him at #23 which would be a steal. Whether he lasts that far or until #25 will depend on the character concerns. Again, you can’t ignore them. If a talent like Smith falls into the 20’s that in itself sets off alarm bells. I wouldn’t be surprised if he did end up a top ten pick and Tennessee can’t be ruled out at #8 considering their need at corner. If he does last to #25 though I’m taking that chance. Surround him with leadership, mentor him and work on the off-field stuff. If you get it right, you could find that rare #1 gem at corner to go alongside Earl Thomas and Walter Thurmond in a blossoming young secondary. Smith has elite potential.
I appreciate there are other candidates here and things will change, but as of April 2nd these are the names I’m focusing on. Four of the five are lineman and I want to stress this wasn’t necessarily done intentionally. I think quarterback is the team’s greatest need by far, but they aren’t taking a QB at #25 unless Newton, Gabbert, Locker or Mallett drops. I’m not even convinced every name in that quartet would be considered if they are available – although I don’t think any will get past the mid-teens in round one.
Wide receiver is still a need because the offense simply does not have enough game changers. Outside of AJ Green and Julio Jones it’s hard to project the next best receiver and exactly where they’ll fall.
There’s simply no getting away from the fact that in the 20-40 area, the best value is going to come on the defensive line. I could’ve thrown in more names for this piece – Phil Taylor (DT, Baylor), Brooks Reed (DE, Arizona), Jarvis Jenkins (DT, Clemson), Christian Ballard (DE, Iowa), Justin Houston (DE, Georgia)d or Terrell McClain (DT, USF). Coincidentally I don’t think Adrian Clayborn (DE, Iowa) is a good fit for Seattle either in the Red Bryant position or as a LEO rusher. Neither am I convinced Stephen Paea (DT Oregon State) is a logical scheme fit as a smaller one technique.
The option to move around and get creative is open yet unpredictable. If the team stays put at #25, unless the Smith’s and Pouncey’s do drop, I suspect the Seahawks wil be adding a defensive lineman to their roster on April 28th. A lot can change, though – especially after the impending court case this week which could potentially end the lockout.