Super Bowls are won in January, but we all know that teams are made in April. The NFL Draft kicks off this Saturday, giving each NFL team the opportunity to re-tool its roster. Steals will be made, busts taken and paralysis by analysis will be the theme of the day.
But who are the Seahawks looking at? What positions do they need to upgrade? How will Seattle’s newly signed free agents factor into it? We’ll take a look at their needs, examine the roster and make a few predictions as we await the start of the NFL’s annual talent selection.
Although Seattle’s #1 offseason target, G Kris Dielman, shunned the rainy, overcast Emerald City landscape. Even with that loss, the Seahawks were still able to make a free agent splash for the second straight year.
Former Pro Bowl DE Patrick Kerney was added, as was FS Deon Grant. Both are expected to be instant impact players – Kerney applying pressure to quarterbacks and Grant covering ground in the secondary.
GM Tim Ruskell maintains that TE Jerramy Stevens wasn’t in Seattle’s future plans, but his arrest in Arizona for DWI and marijuana possession would’ve sealed the deal for anyone with this front office. The team instead turned to veteran TE Marcus Pollard, who will be counted on to start.
Rounding out the free agent class is versatile Safety Brian Russell, who will get every opportunity to win the strong safety job.
Whether by signing their restricted free agent tenders, being given the franchise tag or simply choosing to re-sign with the team, the Seahawks have brought back multiple players this year. Leading the way is K Josh Brown, RT Sean Locklear, WR D.J. Hackett, LB Niko Koutouvides and Guards Chris Gray and Pork Chop Womack. It’s also very likely that CB/S Jordan Babineaux will return in 2007.
Positions of Concern
After the loss in Chicago, Seattle’s offseason needs were clear. It was very evident the team needed upgrades on both the offensive and defensive lines, at tight end and in the secondary.
QB Matt Hasselbeck was under way too much pressure throughout the season and adding more talent up front was obvious. The attempt to upgrade the offensive line via free agency failed and still has to be addressed. Despite bringing back Chris Gray and Pork Chop Womack, expect the team to add some depth here. Gray’s age is a concern and Womack is constantly on the injury report.
Problems along the defensive line were almost as bad.
Seattle’s best run-stuffing defensive tackle, Marcus Tubbs, was lost for the year due to injuries and the pass rush wasn’t reliable, notching only seven sacks in the final seven games. Adding DE Patrick Kerney will help, but the lack of a dominant pass rusher forces the team to blitz more than they’d like to. While the team maintains that Tubbs is ahead of schedule with his injury rehabilitation, it’d be a mistake to count on him this season. Depth at defensive end is also an issue. Kerney is coming off an injury, Fisher wore down late in the year and only one other defensive end is on the roster, Darryl Tapp. Tapp has shown potential, but adding another defensive will have to come from the Draft or by free agency before training camp.
Injuries, drops and off-field occurrences plagued Stevens while in Seattle, ultimately forcing the front office to go another direction. Pollard, his replacement, can’t run like Stevens could, but he has solid hands and won’t be a distraction to the team off the field. The problem is Pollard’s age makes him the definition of a “stop-gap” player. The team will need to get a young tight end that can be a factor in the passing game.
Seattle’s corners were decimated by injuries late in the year, forcing the team to start guys off the street. Most of the problems in coverage were not due to the play of their cornerbacks, but their safeties. Enter Grant and Russell. Grant will definitely start at FS, but Russell, a safety that can play either side, will have to win a job in camp. His arrival gives the secondary much needed depth and flexibility. Now with Grant, Russell, Boulware, Green and Babineaux (he might move back to CB), safety went from a position of weakness last year into one of strength this year. It’s also unlikely the team will have to battle the same kinds of injury problems at CB as it did in 2006, raising the question as to if the team needs to add more talent at the position this year. In my eyes, the secondary is set.
So as I see it, the Seahawks have three clear needs right now: Defensive Tackle, Guard, Tight End and Defensive End.
The lack of a 1st Round pick is an obvious disadvantage for the team, but the front office has done such a good job of drafting recently in the middle rounds, well enough that most fans seem to feel surprisingly comfortable. Here’s a round-by-round list of players who will likely be available and who could draw attention from Seattle.
G/T Arron Sears, Tennessee
TE Zach Miller, Arizona State
DT Tank Tyler, N.C. State
DE Tim Crowder, Texas
DE Ikaika Alama-Francis, Hawaii
G Andy Alleman, Akron
OT Ryan Harris, Notre Dame (could also play guard)
TE Ben Patrick, Delaware
G Josh Beekman, Boston College
DT Brandon Mebane, Cal
DT Quinn Pitcock, Ohio State
OT Marshall Yanda, Iowa (could play guard)
DT Turk McBride, Tennessee
RB Lorenzo Booker, Florida State
TE Michael Allan, Whitworth
TE Kevin Boss, Western Oregon
OT Julius Wilson, Alabama Birmingham
DT Antonio Johnson, Mississippi State
DE Jay Moore, Nebraska
G Mansfield Wrotto, Georgia Tech
DT Kareem Brown, Miami
LB Jon Abbate, Wake Forest
LB Rory Johnson, Mississippi
CB Fred Bennett, South Carolina
QB Jordan Palmer, UTEP
WR Brandon Myles, West Virginia
G Mike Jones, Iowa
Round 6 (Seattle has two picks)
WR Legedu Naanee, Boise State
DT Ryan Clifton, Michigan State
DT Keith Jackson, Arkansas
RB Jackie Battle, Houston
LB Zach Latimer, Oklahoma
TE Johnny Harline, BYU
DE Chase Pittman, LSU
QB Matt Gutierrez, Idaho State
DE C.J. Ah You, Oklahoma
DE Larry Birdine, Oklahoma
TE Braden Jones, Southern Illinois
OT Jonathan Palmer, Auburn
OT Elliot Vallejo, Cal Davis
LB Will Herring, Auburn
CB John Bowie, Cincinnati
RB Ahmad Bradshaw, Marshall
WR/KR Sydric Steptoe, Arizona
Seattle’s Ideal Draft would look like this:
Round 2 – Zach Miller, TE Arizona State
Round 3 - Brandon Mebane, DT Cal
Round 4 – Josh Beekman, G Boston College
Round 5 – Rory Johnson, LB Mississippi
Round 6 – Legedu Naanee, WR Boise State
Round 6 – C.J. Ah You, DE Oklahoma
Round 7 – WR/KR Sydric Steptoe, Arizona
Of course, you can file the above Draft in the “when hell freezes over” category, but it’s an idea of what we’re all hoping for. Don’t count out a surprise pick in the second or third round, either. Ruskell is known for taking the best player on the board, regardless of need.
My final Mock Draft with 4 full rounds will be up Friday afternoon. Normally, I put it up on the Thursday before the Draft so that people can argue about it. But after last year’s Houston Texan decision to take Mario Williams instead of Reggie Bush (who was considered a lock at #1), I’m waiting until Friday.
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