Looking at the linebackers

Georgia's Alec Ogletree could be a first round option for Seattle

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:

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.


  1. Colin

    I still think above all else, Seattle needs to have a good idea if Russ is our future starter, or our future #2 QB. Defense is great and all but a franchise QB will cover more deficiencies than any OLB or defensive linemen.

    • Rob Staton

      Well yes that is absolutely true. By game 16 this year (and maybe playoffs) they need to judge that situation. There’s a least one QB in this class we have to expect the Seahawks to have some interest in given who is coaching the team.

      • Colin

        Hard to judge given the ineptness of these receivers and Bevell.

        And I fully agree, they are going to take a very long hard look at you know who.

        • Wade

          Hard to get a good read on Wilson with so few attempts. Was trying to find a qb on a good running team to compare him to earlier and the closest stat wise i could find was Cutler. Close in completions (2 more for Jay) close in attempts (13 more for Jay) and cutler has 100 more yards. Everything else is almost identical. Diffrence being the bears have played one less game. They average 5 or 6 more offensive plays a game but they have a much better run pass balance. Hopefully the hawks will move that way in the second half of the season.

  2. kevin mullen

    If Wilson plays well enough to get our ‘Hawks in the playoffs, no need to draft Barkley. Period.

    Russell Wilson is, in my opinion, in that role of Trent Dilfer of the Ravens and Brad Johnson of Tampa of the last decade ago, just don’t turn it over and stick to the reads. The only difference is that he’s a rookie and has a much more elevated ceiling.

    Plus, Barkley’s a top five pick and we all know what STL got from last year, no way we can mortgage our future like that with the amount of holes in our offense, plus pending FA and salary cap stuff. I see this team as 9 wins this year, hopefully wild card berth. That would peg us in the lower twenties to mid twenties if it plays out right…

    • Rob Staton

      I don’t think you’ll find many people disagreeing with you there on Wilson, Kevin. In fact I think an argument can be made where Seattle doesn’t qualify for the playoffs and you still invest in Wilson. It’s just about seeing progress. And I’ll keep saying it – as much as I like Barkley, he’s not a top five shoe-in. He’s not even a top-15 shoe-in. There’s every chance he drops a bit. And then you have a decision to make.

      • Michael

        While I disagree that Barkley is not a top 15 shoe in, I would also be shocked if any team out there pulled a move like Washington did for RGIII… Barkley simply isn’t the physical freak show that Griffin is. Rob has also mentioned that overall this draft class is very deep, but not top heavy. If the #1 and #15 picks aren’t that far apart in value it should make moving up a lot cheaper, so even if a team did wan’t to go get Barkley it wouldn’t cost nearly as much.

        I have a really hard time seeing Barkley falling out of the top ten. Sure, physically he’s not RG3 or Cam Newton, but he’s not Kellen Moore or Colt McCoy either. Sucuessful 4 year starter at a big time program and by all accounts a great guy. I just don’t think he gets past the Chiefs, Browns, Raiders and any desperate team that thinks they are a QB away from the playoffs (Cardinals maybe?)

        • AlaskaHawk

          We would have to consider the third or fourth picked QB in the draft – unless we are willing to move up – which seems unlikely. So whatever decisions we make about drafting QBs, it won’t be the first few chosen.

          The Browns, Chiefs and Jacksonville (Panthers?) all seem to be on their way to another good drafting spot, will they go for another QB? Possibly! The Browns have a pretty good team and a huge number or draft picks, they would probably benefit the most from a good QB. I’m suprised they aren’t playing better this year. I would think Trent Richardson would be good enough for 6 wins.

          I agree with an earlier comment that the Seahawks seem a lot like the Bears right now, with Wilson being our young Cutler.

  3. MJ

    Rob, don’t forget Jonathan Brown of Illinois. He’s an explosive athlete and could be a great 2nd round pick. He’s played inside and outside during his tenure. Very physical for a speed guy and a pretty good frame to boot.

  4. Alex

    I don’t mind defense. I just want DL. We’re tough and young in the LB and DB. Does that mean to ignore those positions? No. You can still take a LB in the 4th round or a FS in the 5th round and this regime has proven success in doing so; however, I would only like a DL for a 1st round pick (in a draft strong for DL no less). The DL is the one area of the defense that we haven’t invested much draft capital. Irvin may eventually develop from the Raheem Brock role to the Chris Clemons Leo Role so the LEO position’s future is up in the air, but we’re still lacking a 3 down pass rushing 3 tech ala, Cortez Kennedy, Bryant Young, Warren Sapp, Kevin Williams, Ndamkung Suh that is currently filled by Branch/Jones. The 3 tech position is the one position where I can see the greatest replacement value and really elevate our team to the undisputed #1 defense position. In normal years, a great DT goes in the top 10 if not top 5. With such a defense-heavy draft this year, I could see a few DTs that we normally can’t hope to get slip through the crack and fall to the Seahawks.

    If not DL, I would spend the early draft capitals on a big, strong, fast, and reliable WR or TE. RT is a need, but they can be picked up in the 3rd or 4th round.

    Overall in my mind, I would like to see our 1st and 2nd round picks on either DT, WR, TE, DE, or if Wilson somehow fails, QB (Barkley). I would absolutely love the Missouri DT Richardson or the Rutgers WR Coleman.


  5. Elijah

    What are the projected potentials for the guys we have right now – Malcolm Smith, Michael Morgan, Allen Bradford, and Korey Toomer. Do they have NFL starter potential and just need to sit in a system for a couple years, or will they never be more than special teams contributors?

    I like Alec Ogletree a lot, I think his potential is through the roof. But if we have players in place already, I don’t know how smart it would be to take a LB early.

  6. cliff

    I don’t want a LB for the fact that on third downs we take out the Will LB and add another CB. We only need a 2 down LB. why invest a 1st/2nd round pick for that? We need to go offense WR/TE or depth at DL.

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