Seattle Seahawks Mock Draft: Marshawn Lynch Edition
In addition to looking at players that will help shape their roster in the coming seasons, Seattle will also find out the position of their first draft pick.
Their coin toss versus the Kansas City Chiefs will happen bright and early on February 24th. Hopefully the monkey of winning early matches on the road is still off their back.
The Seahawks will have the opportunity to make some advances in free agency BEFORE the draft in 2012, a nice change from the lockout-interrupted offseason that was 2011.
The Seahawks should have the cap room to be a player in an expected frenzy of free-agent activity. Defensive end and wide receiver are two loaded positions in this free-agent class, and if I need to point out which of those position groups is of keen interest to the Seahawks...well, then I'm not sure why you are interested in this article to begin with.
Other positions will have a lot of competition for limited talent. Tight end is one of them, which will make it difficult for them to re-sign John Carlson. They'll have similar issues with Leroy Hill, as he will be seen as one of the top prospects on the outside.
The following picks are tempered with some assumptions of what the Seahawks will be able to accomplish in free agency.
Round 1: Zach Brown, OLB, North Carolina
There are likely two thoughts that accompany this selection, and potentially three as some fans may be thinking "who?"
First, "where is the pass rushing defensive end the Seahawks so desperately need?" Following would be "isn't pick 11/12 a bit early for a linebacker that isn't Luke Kuechly or Vontaze Burfict?"
The concerns over defensive end are easy to respond to. The 2012 free-agent class has several players that would be a great fit in Seattle. I'm anticipating John Schneider and Pete Carroll will be busy finding a pass-rusher.
As free agency nears I'll offer a series of articles on some of the players the Seahawks could target, and how they may look to mix up their approach with the front four.
As for taking Zach Brown in the top 12...I don't actually expect the Seahawks to keep their first pick. There figures to be a few teams wanting to move up to that spot, and Seattle will most certainly covet building a cache of early draft picks in 2013 to make a move on a franchise quarterback.
There is a slim chance Trent Richardson will be available when the Seahawks are on the board. While he would be very difficult to pass on, the Cincinnati Bengals have the extra draft capital to make a move and add the rusher their team desperately needs.
More likely, Cincinnati will be interested in the spot to fill needs at offensive guard and cornerback. At picks 11/12 and 17, they'll be in much better shape to get impact players than 17 and 21.
Their division rival and Seahawk-nemesis Pittsburgh Steelers also need to take a rare look at moving up in the draft. They simply must add a left tackle this offseason, and free-agent options are thin.
Jonathan Martin, and possibly Riley Reiff, should be on the board, but pickings will be slim at 24. A trade with Pittsburgh would net the Seahawks that 24th pick, a 2013 first-round selection and likely replace the fifth-round pick they send to Buffalo.
It could also keep division-rival Arizona from grabbing an elite left tackle a pick or two later.
There is a chance that Seattle could miss out on Brown if they trade down. Some analysts are mocking him to the Philadelphia Eagles at 15.
I see him being available late in the first round, even if he is the best 4-3 outside linebacker in the draft.
He is a versatile player that will likely be able to play all three linebacker slots for the Seahawks, giving them options with K.J. Wright and the rest of their linebacker corps. He is the fastest linebacker in his group and should be able to fill a big void in Seattle...covering tight ends and running backs in pass routes.
With David Hawthorne and Leroy Hill at risk in free agency, and both having struggled in pass protection, Irvin fills what could actually be their biggest need heading into the draft. He may not be the next All-Pro linebacker, but he has the look and feel of a standout backer that will help make the Seahawks an elite defense.
Round 2: Jared Crick, DL, Nebraska
Jared Crick is a new addition to my list of targets for the Seahawks.
Prior to the 2011 season, Crick was expected to be a first-round draft pick. A torn pectoral muscle against the Washington Huskies cost him most of his senior season, though. Mixed with size concerns, he's fallen out of first-round favor.
Some draft "gurus" have him available at the start of the third round, but he isn't likely to make it past Seattle in the second.
He has enough size (285 lbs) and the speed (4.85 projected 40-time) to play a pass-rushing defensive tackle in Seattle or every-down defensive end.
The Seahawks have different scheme needs than most NFL defenses, though. While Crick looks like a versatile player for Gus Bradley, most teams will be concerned with how he would translate to the NFL.
Crick is too small for a defensive tackle in most defenses, and is bigger than what most teams want in a defensive end. This is what will likely lead to him falling out of the top 40.
This pick may not be possible, depending on what quarterbacks are still on the board. Seattle could have their sights set on Brock Osweiler, Ryan Tannehill or Nick Foles. If so, this would be the spot to make that selection.
Round 3: Brandon Weeden, QB, Oklahoma State
I've consistently listed Brandon Weeden as a quarterback I should be considering for the Seahawks, but discount him because he's five years older than most quarterbacks entering the NFL.
Pete Carroll is interested in drafting players that can help the team win now. The quarterbacks that will be available to the Seahawks have red flags; most of them will need time to develop into an NFL starter.
The biggest concern with Weeden is his age...although the way he plays "patty cake" with the ball before throwing bothers me a lot, too. His release point could be a bit higher, but at 6'4" his delivery is fairly solid.
He is an accurate passer with a strong arm and offers something that is missing from Tarvaris Jackson's arsenal. Weeden anticipates when players will be open and throws to where they should be.
Then again, throwing the ball to a talent like Justin Blackmon will give a quarterback that confidence.
In Seattle, Weeden should be able to thrive with this approach. Mike Williams rarely looks open, but when the ball is sent his direction he usually catches it.
It shouldn't be that much of a surprise that his best catch on the season was a ball thrown not by Jackson, but Sidney Rice. Seattle's new wide receiver wasn't concerned about the coverage and didn't even seem to look for defenders near Williams. Instead, he threw a rainbow to the spot where Williams expected the ball.
Speaking of Rice, he will appreciate Weeden's touch on deep passes, as will speedster Ricardo Lockette.
Kris Durham is a big, fast precise route-runner that I believe could become a legitimate threat over the middle with Weeden. While he doesn't have Blackmon's athletic abilities after the catch, he can make a lot of similar receptions.
My only reservation left on Weeden is if he'll be available in the third round. He has the talent to go earlier, but a team looking for a backup quarterback to develop into a starter will pass on him. The few teams looking for starting competition in 2012 figure to have already grabbed a quarterback in free agency and/or earlier in the draft.
Many fans won't like the pick because of his age, but Weeden would be a solid pick in the third round. He could be a great rookie quarterback, and continue leading an NFL offense for 10 seasons.
Round 4: Lucas Nix, G/T, Pittsburgh
This pick becomes a bit more difficult with the loss of their fifth-round pick. The aforementioned potential trade with the Steelers would make life a bit easier in the middle rounds, as Seattle will likely be looking for another option at linebacker and for depth and a future starter at left guard.
Of the players I've rated as good prospects for the Seahawks in the middle rounds, there are a few that can possibly fall to the sixth round. Lucas Nix isn't one of them.
Nix looks to be an ideal guard for a zone blocking team in the NFL. He is adept with cut blocks and will be a solid pass-blocker on the interior of the line.
The biggest concerns with Nix are his speed and flexibility to handle edge rushers. He played guard and both tackle positions in college, While he was a good left tackle as a senior, he figures to move inside in the NFL to cover up these deficiencies.
Nix isn't likely to excel with downfield blocking and shouldn't be asked to be a pulling guard too often. That will limit some teams from selecting him, but that shouldn't be an issue in Seattle. Having a year to sit behind Robert Gallery will serve him well.
Round 5: Marshawn Lynch Trade
As announced this week, the play of Marshawn Lynch in 2011 bumped the sixth-round conditional draft pick to a fifth-round selection. It will also cost the Seahawks some salary cap room in 2012, but I doubt the front office is complaining.
Fans just hope he is around longer than the draft compensation surrendered for him.
Round 6: Olivier Vernon, DE, Miami
Olivier Vernon has a solid first step as an edge rusher and would be an ideal candidate to platoon with Red Bryant on passing downs. He showed promise as a sophomore, but he wasn't overly present in 2011.
The investigation of improper benefits being provided at the University of Miami could have been a distraction to Vernon. The scandal isn't likely to impact his draft status, but his poor showing as a junior certainly will.
He could have used his senior season to turn things around, but the scrutiny could've made that difficult.
Vernon is worth a gamble in the sixth round for Seattle, as he could spend a few years working against right tackles and learning the NFL.
Round 7: Darius Fleming, OLB, Notre Dame
Darius Fleming is a prospect that hasn't quite lived up to his potential, although it isn't from a lack of effort. He hasn't quite fit with the Notre Dame schemes, and a revolving door of coaching hasn't helped him hone his skills.
Fleming needs to improve on his technique, as he sometimes plays too high and doesn't always make tackles in the open.
With some time working with the Seahawks defensive personnel, Fleming has the work ethic, size and speed to turn into an NFL linebacker.