DAY ONE: Ruskell Mocks The Mocks

"Paul, we may need you as a pass-rusher."

Day One of the Seahawks' 2005 draft traveled in directions nobody expected. Is there a silver lining in there somewhere, or did the team just blow it by NOT trading up for an impact quarterback destroyer?

DAY ONE

Most every analyst, journalist and fan had the same read on the single most glaring need in Seattle’s 2005 draft – the need to upgrade an anemic pass rush. New team president Tim Ruskell agreed in principle when he made several pre-draft proclamations about the importance of building a defense from the front seven out, a split in philosophy from the previous regime, who appeared to believe that you built a strong defense from the secondary in.

The Seahawks’ less-than-stellar defensive performance last season (26th overall in the NFL) would lead to the conclusion that above all, Ruskell and the Seahawk brass would turn their focus to the finest pass rusher available. Would it be Wisconsin DE Erasmus James? Georgia's David Pollack, a multi-faceted DE who seemed to fit with the Ruskell ethos of “Character First”? Perhaps Virginia OLB Darryl Blackstock, regarded along with James as one the nation’s finest pass rushers?

Whoever it was, everyone “knew” that the Seahawks would move heaven and earth to improve their pass rush in the draft.

What nobody expected, however, was that Ruskell was about to throw four straight spitballs right across the plate, leaving a diehard populace too stunned to swing the bat. The Seahawks seemingly did nothing to assess the obvious, instead choosing an offensive player in the first round (gadzookies!) and “reaching” with their three remaining picks in Day One.

The offensive player in question, Mississippi center Chris Spencer, is a player who several experts had Seattle picking – but in the second round. Seattle traded their first-round pick at 23 to the Raiders for Oakland's pick at 26 and selected Spencer. This after Pollack went to Cincinnati at 17 and James went to Minnesota with the very next pick.

Given Spencer’s talent, the pick was understandable, if a tad baffling on the surface. Blackstock, DTs Luis Castillo of Northwestern, Shaun Cody and Mike Patterson of USC, and DEs Matt Roth of Iowa and Dan Cody were all available at Seattle's 26 th pick. And while all of those players had nicks in their scouting reports of varying size, most believe that in Spencer, Seattle’s Best Player Available mandate seems to have been taken a bit too far.

Of course, that was nothing compared to the furor that ensued when the Seahawks took USC ILB/SS Lofa Tatupu with their second pick – especially since they had traded their original second-round pick (and their two lower fourth-round picks of three) to Carolina to move up to 45th overall.

Lofa WHO??? Well, that seemed to be the crux of the argument many people had.

But nfldraftscout.com analyst Rob Rang had a different take on Seattle's first two picks, especially Tatupu. “For better or worse, Tatupu was the reason they didn't trade up in the 1st round. They absolutely wanted him,” Rang said. Although many mock drafts had his as an early second-day pick, Rang had him in the second round – just not to Seattle . “Funny that everyone is so upset about Tatupu. You'll see a zillion Tatupu jerseys being worn by fans a few years from now. {He’s} absolutely a Zach Thomas clone,” Rang remarked, referring to Miami's legendary linebacker.

As for Spencer, Rang said that the pick was a mixture of the BPA philosophy and a need to pull the trigger sooner than many thought necessary. “Spencer would have been taken later in the first round – possibly by Pittsburgh or New England - so this was no reach.”

Seattle's final two first day picks caused a similar mix of frustration and confusion among many diehards. The Seahawks had two third-round picks – and spent them on Georgia QB David Greene and Clemson LB Leroy Hill, respectively. And again, the “Whodat???” factor, along with the “We need a pass rush!!!” contingency, may overplay the assumption that these players cannot help the team, or that Ruskell and the Seahawks reached beyond the talent of their picks.

More likely is the possibility of several of these players helping the Seahawks in ways some didn’t want, or see a need for. Would that championship teams were built with one-dimensional needs being met. In truth, elite teams are defined by acquiring for need…but they are constructed with positional depth in mind. It is apparently the opinion of the current front office that Seattle's depth at several positions – center, linebacker and quarterback – is a greater void than the lack of an impact QB Killa, and therefore more important than trading half their draft picks for said Killa.

And when you look at the depth charts before yesterday, it’s a valid point.

At center, you had Robbie Tobeck and…uhh, yeah. At linebacker, new acquisition Jamie Sharper – the one legitimate elite NFL starter the team has at the position - a cast of young players with impressive potential (D.D. Lewis, Niko Koutouvides) and hole-pluggers who are on the field because the Seahawks have found it difficult to draft, sign or keep a quality linebacker corps (Isiah Kacyvenski, Solomon Bates). At quarterback, franchise player Matt Hasselbeck and Seneca Wallace as a backup. The best thing said so far about Wallace as a QB is that he’s looked good in practice as a wide receiver. Marlin Briscoe, anyone?

Is this point of view just an example of rationalization in the face of a draft that has not filled the team’s one glaring need?

Possibly.

It’s also possible that those who think that the Seahawks were one pass rusher away from the Super Bowl need to take a closer look.

Doug Farrar is the Editor-in-Chief of Seahawks.NET. Feel free to e-mail him at doug@seahawks.net.

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