The proliferation of fantasy football has certainly colored the perspective of many fans these days. They cry out for the sexy draft picks, the skill players who put up stats that fans can easily measure.
Heck, even team officials aren’t immune. Seahawks President Tim Ruskell alluded to it recently, when talking about his team possibly drafting an offensive lineman fourth overall.
“It’s not a sexy pick and you can’t really show the highlights,” Ruskell said.
That might explain why some fans are clamoring for the Seahawks to draft a quarterback. But even if the Seahawks thought USC junior Mark Sanchez would be a good potential replacement for Matt Hasselbeck in a couple of years, No. 4 is too high to take Sanchez in this draft.
And, truth be told, the first round is too high to pick a quarterback any time. It’s too much of a gamble.
All the Seahawks have to do is look into their own history. They burned three first-round picks in five years on quarterbacks (Kelly Stouffer in 1989, Dan McGwire in 1991, and Rick Mirer in 1993), and none of those guys panned out.
Besides, the Hawks have no need of a QB-in-waiting right now— Matt Hasselbeck is healthy again and will be only 34 next season, and Seneca Wallace is a capable backup. Both are signed through 2010, but if Hasselbeck is healthy and plays well, which he will if healthy, the Hawks will talk about an extension next off-season.
Mike Holmgren said Hasselbeck’s best football is ahead of him, so the QB should be good for another three or four years. That is the norm in this age, when good quarterbacks last into their late 30s—witness the performances last season of 38-year-old Jeff Garcia, 37-year-old Kurt Warner, and 35-year-old Kerry Collins.
Now, if Hasselbeck is sidelined by back trouble again in 2009, the Seahawks will have to rethink the strategy. But, for now, there is no reason to think that will be a problem, and the Hawks shouldn’t burn a first-round pick on a quarterback when they can get a player they know will contribute more quickly.
Like a quarterback, some fans also want the Hawks to come up with a franchise running back in this draft. But those people forget that there’s almost no such thing in the NFL anymore. Almost every team uses two or three backs, and the Seahawks are no exception.
Besides, the Seahawks are set at that position potentially for the next three seasons, with Julius Jones, T.J. Duckett, and Justin Forsett. It’s doubtful Ruskell will actively seek to draft a running back, given that he just signed Jones and Duckett last year.
Running back is one position where a team drafts a guy planning to play him right away. It is the position with the shortest learning curve in the NFL—and the shortest life span.
A team rides a young running back early and often, and then gets another one. If the Hawks want a guy in the third round, there are some guys who will be worth the pick, but they really should address other positions before padding an already full backfield.
What if the Hawks don’t trade down?
The Hawks should try hard to trade down and add another second-round pick or multiple picks and save themselves some money.
But if they stay at No. 4, they will have some very good options— probably topped by Texas Tech receiver Michael Crabtree, Boston College defensive tackle B.J. Raji, and Virginia offensive tackle Eugene Monroe.
They have addressed receiver and D-tackle in free agency, so Monroe would seem to be the logical pick if he were there. The consensus ranking on the top tackles has Monroe and Jason Smith ahead of Michael Oher and Andre Smith.
Also, there’s a chance that Monroe and Jason Smith will be taken in the top three picks, if Detroit selects one of them first overall. In that case, if the Hawks couldn’t trade down, their decision would be a lot easier—Crabtree or Raji.
If they take Crabtree, there would be no pressure for him to perform in 2009 because the Seahawks just signed T.J. Houshmandzadeh, and Deion Branch and Nate Burleson should combine to equal one healthy receiver. The Hawks hopefully could ease Crabtree into the offense in 2009 and create a bigger role for him in 2010.
As for the veterans, Burleson is signed through 2010, Branch through 2011 and Houshmandzadeh through 2013, although he would be 37 at the end of that season. Burleson will be 28 soon, Branch 30, Houshmandzadeh 32.
They are all still in their primes, and if they can stay healthy, the Seahawks will have a very good corps. Add Crabtree, and it could be the best in the NFL.
As for the 337-pound Raji, the Hawks could drastically improve their D-line by adding the premier run stuffer in the draft. Imagine how hard it would be for teams to run against the Seahawks with Raji, Brandon Mebane, Colin Cole and Red Bryant in rotation.
And imagine how much better the pass rush would be with those guys generating pressure from inside, allowing the outside rushers to go one on one. Raji could lift the entire defense.
In the end, it will come down to which player the Seahawks feel is worth $25 million in guaranteed money. Of course, if the Hawks can trade down, they won’t have to pay that much. And they would accrue another draft pick or two. But they might give up the rights to Crabtree, Raji and/or Monroe.