Ranking The Seahawks’ Needs In The 2014 NFL Draft

You know, at some point, people are going to realize it’s going to require more than two dudes and a pair of handcuffs to escort Jack Bauer into any prison/interrogation room.  I’d bring along about five or six trigger-happy ex-Marines and hope for the best.  GOD I’m glad 24 is back!

The better your team is, the less excitement surrounds that team once it comes time to draft.  For bad teams (like the 2008 & 2009 Seahawks, for instance), the draft means everything.  It’s a chance to dream.  The NFL is the Great Parity Hope!  One amazing draft can flip your franchise from a bottom-feeder to a champion!  Well, maybe not JUST one, but it can certainly send you down the right path.

When you’re great – and especially when you ARE a champion, which is what we’re dealing with here – the draft isn’t so special anymore.  You’re not looking for that sparkplug to jumpstart your franchise; you’re just looking to maintain your level of dominance and hope to pluck some quality, inexpensive starters for down the road when it’s time to reload.  What this draft means for 2014, however, is merely to add to our depth.

The foundation is here, and it’s spectacular.  The bulk of the starters are set, and they’re elite at the most important positions.  That might lead one to believe that the draft doesn’t matter all that much, but don’t fall into that trap.  Bad, useless drafts start to pile up and stink like a mountain of dirty diapers in the sun.  If you take enough dumps on draft day, you can go from among the youngest to among the oldest teams in the league in the blink of an eye.

So, while this draft isn’t necessarily make-or-break for our immediate future, it’s still important in the Big Picture.  And, as you well know, the Seahawks are all about the Big Picture.

There are always needs in any draft, so here I’m going to rank the Seahawks’ needs in order of importance.

#1 – Get More Draft Picks

The Seahawks, right now, have six picks.  They received no compensatory picks, traded away their third-rounder to the Vikings for Percy Harvin, and traded away their seventh-rounder for Terrelle Pryor (the Seahawks received an extra fifth-rounder from Oakland in the Matt Flynn deal).  On top of that, they draft last in rounds 1, 2, 4, 5, and 6 (not counting compensatory picks, of course).  Essentially, it’s like the Seahawks have a high 2nd, a high 3rd, two high 5ths, a high 6th and a high 7th.  I’m not necessarily dismissing their chances to find diamonds in the rough – after all, they’ve made careers in their last four drafts by doing just that – but it always helps to have more chances.

You can’t predict draft-day trades (which is why all mock drafts have very little predictive value), but you have to anticipate the Seahawks at least TRYING to be big players in the trade market.  I wouldn’t mind seeing a couple of move-downs (like those 32nd & 64th picks) to net more 4’s, 5’s, and/or 6’s.  If we can bump that number to around eight or nine total draft picks, I’d be more comfortable.

Of course, failing that, the Seahawks should be a major factor in the undrafted free agent market.

#2 – Cornerback

Did I just blow your mind or DID. I. JUST. BLOW. YOUR. MIND?

Yes, yes, yes, there are plenty of other needs on this team.  Offensive line comes immediately to mind.  So does wide receiver, so does the pass rush, so does the interior defensive line.  But, I’m here to tell you that if I had my druthers, I’d like to see the Seahawks go for a cornerback with one of their top two picks.

You like the Legion of Boom?  So do I.  They might be my favorite unit of any sports team I’ve ever rooted for ever.  The safeties are locked up, and a deal with Richard Sherman could be imminent.  So, where do I come off listing cornerback as the #2 draft need?

Well, I’ll tell you:  the talk of this draft is far and away its wide receiver class.  Everyone expects a record number of receivers going in the first round.  Beyond that, there’s the usual inane quarterback chatter, and all of the linemen who will be plucked by the more sensible teams.  With the rising importance of safety, you have to figure there’s at least one or two pretty good ones.  Ditto cornerbacks; I don’t see the Seahawks getting the cream of the crop here.

But, if there’s a prototypical “Seahawks Cornerback” still on the board late in the first or early in the second round (depending on whether or not we’re able to trade back), I could totally see this team going in that direction.  An homage to last year’s drafting of Christine Michael out of nowhere when we still had Marshawn Lynch in his prime and a hungry young runner in Robert Turbin.

Here’s the deal:  Byron Maxwell is only signed through the end of 2014.  I fully expect him to continue starting across from Richard Sherman, and I fully expect him to be as good – if not better – than he was in the last few weeks of 2013.  And, when that happens, I fully expect him to sign a lucrative contract with another team (please not the 49ers).  So, in looking long-term (and really, not THAT long, just one season after this one), the Seahawks are going to need another starter to play across from Sherman.

And, not for nothing, but the depth at nickel & dime cornerback could use a boost as well.  In that area, we’ve got Jeremy Lane and a lot of question marks in 2014.

Don’t sleep on the cornerback position.  Just because we’ll have the best corner and the best safety combo in the league, it’s still a position of need and a pretty big one at that.

#3 – Pass Rushing Defensive End

Also known as the LEO defensive end.  It’s where Chris Clemons called his home the last few years.

The pass rush isn’t in total shambles – thanks to Michael Bennett’s 4-year deal – but it could use an infusion of young talent.  A big question going into the 2015 season will be:  can the Seahawks afford to extend Cliff Avril?  If he has a repeat of his 2013 season – or improves – then I would wager that we can’t afford him.  If he regresses, or gets injured for a big chunk, then I’d have to ask if we even WANT to bring him back, but that’s neither here nor there.

Elite pass rushers are at a premium in the NFL.  Recruiting these guys in free agency requires blowing a big chunk of your salary cap.  It would be nice to have a young, cost-controlled option from the draft.

The only problem with this is:  it’s hard to find a pass rushing end who is capable of starting right away.  The best guys are usually picked high in the first round.  I’m not saying it’s impossible for the Seahawks to find a worthy guy at this position, given their crappy draft picks at the bottoms of nearly every round; but I am saying it might take more time for that guy to develop.

Unlike offensive linemen, running backs, and linebackers – who tend to start and succeed right away – defensive ends tend to need a little more seasoning.  If we get lucky, then great, we’ve got a guy who can start at the end opposite Michael Bennett.  If we’re not so lucky, then maybe we just drafted a guy who, in a few years, will develop into Michael Bennett’s replacement.  Either way, it’s something that needs to be addressed this year.

#4 – Defensive Tackle

Because Brandon Mebane won’t be around forever.  And last year’s picks at the position – Jordan Hill & Jesse Williams – didn’t necessarily inspire a whole lot of confidence with their rookie campaigns.

Yes, it’s always possible to find this position on the cheap in free agency, but if you go that route, you’re opening yourself up for a lot of injury risk (if they’re cheap and seeing free agency, they’re either not very good, or they’ve been injured in the recent past).  Brandon Mebane is so important to this line because he’s so durable.  Finding someone like him, who’s just as durable, is a huge need for this D-Line going forward (and would obviously save us a few bucks to boot).

#5 – Linebacker

Like cornerback, linebacker appears to be a position of strength with no holes outside of some back-end depth spots.  But, take a look at where these guys are in their rookie deals:

  • Bobby Wagner is signed thru 2015
  • Malcolm Smith is signed thru 2014
  • K.J. Wright is signed thru 2014
  • Bruce Irvin is signed thru 2015 (but is converted from defensive end and will be entering his second season as a strong-side linebacker)

I feel like we might be able to re-sign Wright to a reasonable deal.  I think Wagner will be the bigger priority, but his cost might be a little prohibitive.  Malcolm Smith is the biggest wild card of the bunch.  If he continues this opportunistic roll he’s been on since the midway point of 2013, he very well could find himself on another team with a big, fat contract.

Either way, I don’t expect the Seahawks will be able to extend all of these guys to long-term deals, so a starting replacement will likely be necessary as soon as 2015.  I don’t think that replacement is currently on the Seahawks’ roster, which means they’re going to want to draft someone.  Maybe in the fifth round or thereabouts.  I wouldn’t expect the Seahawks to go any higher than a fourth rounder, but I’ve been surprised before.

#6 – Wide Receiver

This spot was pretty high on my list before the Seahawks re-signed Sidney Rice.  For the record, I expect Rice to make the team and be among its top four receivers.  So, anyone drafted at this position will have to be a special teams ace or ride the pine until someone above him gets injured.

Like defensive end, I don’t expect this spot to get a whole lotta play in 2014.  Nevertheless, when looking at the future, it would be nice to have someone at a reasonable salary, especially when we’ve got Harvin taking up so much cap room.

Doug Baldwin is with us through at least 2014.  If we can’t work out a long-term deal with him, then we’ll be hurting.  Jermaine Kearse is also with us thru 2014, but he may be a restricted free agent for 2015 (in a sense, getting a similar tender that Baldwin has this year).  I don’t expect Kearse’s value to skyrocket, but you never know.  If there are injuries, and he ends up picking up the slack, catching a bunch of touchdowns and whatnot, he very well could price himself out of this market.

It’s just a nice luxury to have a home-grown receiver on a small deal.  Golden Tate used to be that luxury for the last couple years of his deal before moving on.  Finding that kind of value – even if it takes a year or two for him to grow into the position – is huge in this league.

#7 – Offensive Line

You ask most Seahawks fans who they want to see with our first draft pick, and I bet a big majority says, “An offensive lineman”.  I wouldn’t be among them.

Right now, pre-draft, the Seahawks have six guys with SOME starting experience.  That’s not counting Alvin Bailey, who filled in nicely at times as a rookie last year.  If push comes to shove, I think the O-Line looks like this in week 1:

  • Russell Okung – LT
  • James Carpenter – LG
  • Max Unger – C
  • J.R. Sweezy – RG
  • Michael Bowie – RT

That still leaves this team with enough depth to fill in, as well as another rookie or two to fight for a roster spot.

Frankly, I’m more interested in this Caylin Hauptmann guy who we kept on our roster all year last year than I am in anyone we might draft on the line this weekend.  Either way, I’m not as concerned about the line as most people.  Sure, our guards were sub-par last year, but I don’t think that necessarily means you have to go and get one in the first couple of rounds.  Now, if some great guy falls and we’re looking at a high first round grade on someone who slipped for no apparent reason, then fine.  But, I feel like the best guards are going to be snapped up well before we get to pick 32.

Do what you’ve been doing.  Find that value later in the draft or among the undrafted free agents.  No sense in reaching for someone when you can mold a nobody into a legitimate starter.

For the record, I don’t think J.R. Sweezy is that bad, and I kind of expect him to make a big jump in 2014.

#8 – Tight End

I’m back-tracking like you would not believe on the prospects of ASJ.  Right after the Super Bowl, I had him in my sights as a possible target with pick #32, but not anymore.  Part of it is the foot issue, but part of it is I just don’t know if he’s going to translate into an elite professional.

He’s not particularly fast.  He’s not freakishly athletic.  He was a valued member of the Washington Huskies and, at times, a dominant force in the red zone, but here’s the thing:  he’s not much of a blocker.  If you’re not a very good blocker on the line, then you better be the type of pass-catcher that they’ve got in New Orleans with Jimmy Graham, or in New England with Gronk.  I don’t think he’s that.  I think linebackers in the NFL will be able to keep up with him no problem.  He might be able to use his size to leverage a career in the Tony Gonzalez mold (not the best line blocker, not the speediest guy), but that’s going to require a work ethic I’m not sure ASJ possesses.

Look, I hope I’m wrong about the guy.  I hope wherever he goes, he terrorizes everyone who let him fall in the draft (again, please don’t go to the 49ers).  I just know that I don’t want the Seahawks to pick him (and no small part of that is because I think he needs to get away from his hometown and away from friends & family to just focus on football).

The Seahawks might want to pick SOMEONE at the position.  If, for nothing else, than some Anthony McCoy insurance.  If they do look for this position, I’d like for them to go low in the draft (or, more likely, in the realm of the undrafted).

We’ll need a replacement for Zach Miller eventually.  Luke Willson impressed me as a rookie, but will he be able to carry the load as a blocking tight end in our run schemes?

If it were up to me, the Seahawks would find a long-term stud of a blocking tight end and pair him with Luke Willson going forward.  Willson in small doses, I’m sure, can block on the line just fine.  But, when we need to beef up, then we bring in our bulldozer.

Anyway, that’s pretty much that.  I guess the Seahawks could consider the safety position, but I’m not sure I see much of a point in that (unless Kam Chancellor’s hip injury is worse than we realize, in which case I think I need to start this post over again).  I’ll be very disappointed if they draft another running back or another quarterback.  I mean, seriously, you can only carry so many on one roster!  We’ve already got too many of both as it is!

One thought on “Ranking The Seahawks’ Needs In The 2014 NFL Draft

  1. Pingback: How The Seahawks Ranked Their Needs In The 2014 Draft | Seattle Sports Hell

Leave a Reply