The NFL Scouting Combine is over.
All of the interviews and numbers have been compiled, winners and losers have been determined, and teams can go back to their respective corners to take stock in what they learned in preparation for the April draft.
For the Seattle Seahawks in recent years the draft has helped general manager John Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll quickly rebuild their roster by accumulating talent that often goes against the grain of conventional wisdom, but more often than not turns out to be better than anyone expected.
In the past year alone the 'Hawks top three picks were so talented that if Don Banks at Sports Illustrated had any say in the matter, Russell Wilson, Bobby Wagner and Bruce Irvin would all go in the top 15 during a complete first round redraft.
Now following a successful 11-win regular season and coming within 30 seconds of the NFC Championship game, the 'Hawks potentially find themselves just a few players away from building upon the success of 2012 and perhaps making the Super Bowl.
How they go about fine tuning their roster remains to be seen, but I generally believe the 'Hawks will avoid any major moves in free agency (despite such rumors) and invest more of their time and efforts in the draft.
Now as we approach the end of February I will try to take a more balanced approach of what the team both wants and needs to build with for next season.
So let's give it a go and see where things stand with a little more information at our disposal to piece together a full 7-Round, Post-Combine Mock Draft for the Seahawks.
The logic behind the picks should be strengthened a bit now, nevertheless I will offer my patented disclaimer...
Disclaimer: All picks guaranteed wrong come April...or your money back!
If we've learned anything in watching GM John Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll operate this time of year, it's that we should expect the unexpected.
Conventional wisdom seems to indicate that the 'Hawks could go after West Virginia wideout Tavon Austin, who dazzled with his performance at the combine, yet I think the team needs to focus on its defensive line once again in seeking out a pass rusher.
A few weeks ago UCLA lineman Datone Jones looked like a mid-round pick, but today I have the Seahawks taking him with their first pick in this year's draft.
Why exactly should the 'Hawks go with Jones?
Keith Myers at 12th Man Rising put together his take on why this move would make sense:
Datone Jones would be a perfect replacement for Jason Jones on the Seahawk defensive line, as Datone is a very similar player.
At 280 lbs., he has the strength to set the edge and hold up against the run at DE, but lacks the speed to consistently get around the corner and to the QB when playing outside. Conversely, his quickness and explosive first step allows him to collapse the pocket when playing at DT, but lacks the size and strength to hold up at the point of attack on inside runs.
Drafting Datone could also help the Seahawks with their current problem at the Leo position. Datone could play the position on 1st and 2nd down, with Irvin playing the position on 3rd downs and other obvious passing situations. It isn’t an ideal situation, but would offer the Seahawks some flexibility why they wait for Chris Clemons to come back from his knee injury.
Meanwhile it would seem that Rob Rang at NFLDraftScout.com would also agree with this pick:
The camaraderie forged between Pete Carroll's coaching staff and the scouting staff under general manager John Schneider has resulted in several surprising but ultimately successful draft selections in recent years. The 6-4, 280-pound Jones will be viewed by some as a 'tweener but he might possess the combination of strength, length, burst and passion to aid as an interior pass rusher in Seattle's hybrid front.
Granted neither writeup come across as a major endorsement, but if Jones could help the defense fill a few gaps, it might allow the 'Hawks to focus their attention (and money) elsewhere in both the draft and free agency.
Depending on your point of view this pick is either unnecessary or too late given the talent available, but I believe it's just right.
As Sports Illustrated's Dennis Dillon explained earlier this week for the Seahawks Offseason Preview, after improving the pass rush, the team needs to...
2. Bring in more weapons for Wilson. Seattle needs to expand a wide receiver corps that in 2012 was led by Sidney Rice (50 receptions for 748 yards and 7 touchdowns) and Tate (45-688-7). Most teams use three- and four-wide receiver packages as a big part of their arsenal. Adding another wideout or two would give Wilson more options and reduce some of the pressure on Rice and Tate.
At 6'0" and 204 pounds, Quinton Patton followed up a solid Senior Bowl with a fair showing at the combine. If he's still available at this point in the draft, the 'Hawks could have a potential steal by giving Russell Wilson a target who the folks at Walterfootball.com currently see in their latest mock draft as a suitable replacement for Mike Wallace in Pittsburgh.
Why pay a ton of money for Wallace in free agency when you can get a guy who may very well end up giving you similar performance for a fraction of the price?
In previous mock drafts I've had the Seahawks drafting UConn linebacker Trevardo Williams in the fourth round, but following a solid performance at the combine, I'm opting instead for Williams' college teammate Sio Moore.
With veteran Leroy Hill likely gone, the 'Hawks need to make sure they have a suitable replacement ready from day one and I'm not entirely sold on Malcolm Smith at this point.
Following the combine, Sports Illustrated's Chris Burke ranked Moore fifth on his list of outside linebackers in stating, "Keep an eye on Moore, who looked like a guy capable of doing some work in coverage, though his 7.49 three-cone time was underwhelming."
Nobody is perfect in all of the key measurements, but hearing that Moore could cover is what got my attention.
It's an issue that the 'Hawks cannot afford to ignore while solidifying what should be one of the best defenses in football next year.
In the fourth round of their Post Combine Mock Draft, Walterfootball.com has offensive tackle Chris Faulk of LSU going to the Seahawks based on the following rationale:
Breno Giacomini was absolutely embarrassed in the season finale by Chris Long. Granted, Long has made so many right tackles look bad this year, but Giacomini has struggled in pass protection for most of the season.
Sadly the mismatch against the Rams' Chris Long is only one example of the rollercoaster season Breno put together at right tackle. Fact is I'm not sure Breno can be trusted to protect Russell Wilson or Marshawn Lynch again next season.
Perhaps the 'Hawks will spend some money in free agency to address this issue, but until then I'm going with the big man from LSU, hoping he can grow into the role over the course of next season.
With the first four picks in the draft one can only hope the Seahawks will address some of the key issues the team needs to focus on this offseason, but as we turn towards the back half of the draft the discussion may change a little depending on how the next few weeks play out.
This is around the time where the question of Matt Flynn could become an issue.
Based on the lackluster performances turned in at the combine, the price for Flynn may be higher than what we originally anticipated. It's also worth keeping an eye on what sort of package the 49ers fetch for Alex Smith, assuming he is traded.
If the market heats up for Flynn and he is traded, I believe the 'Hawks will invest a mid-round pick and draft someone to back up Russell Wilson.
Of course the next question is whether anyone worthwhile will be available at this point?
Early on in the fifth round I think the 'Hawks will use one of their three extra picks, this one being from Oakland as compensation for the 2011 trade that sent linebacker Aaron Curry to the Oakland Raiders, to select University of Arizona quarterback Matt Scott.
As Rob Rang at NFLDraftScout.com explained during the combine:
“The ball explodes out of his hand on short and intermediate throws. Several caught receivers by surprise during the gauntlet drills with how quickly they arrived.
“It wasn’t all good for Scott, however, as his accuracy tailed off on deeper throws. Also, while Scott demonstrates plenty of arm talent, his footwork can be a bit inconsistent. He didn’t consistently step into his throws Sunday.
“As one of the few quarterbacks in the 2013 class with dual-threat capabilities, Scott could spark interest early in day three of the draft or perhaps even earlier if he impresses teams on the white board."
If Flynn is shipped off by April and Scott is available early in round five (B/R's own Matt Miller has him going to Seattle a little earlier in Round 4), the 'Hawks would be well served to get another dual-threat to help run the offense as an understudy.
In continuing with Sports Illustrated's Dennis Dillon and his Seahawks Offseason Preview, after improving the pass rush, and adding some more weapons for Russell Wilson to work with, the team needs to:
3. Make tight end a bigger part of the offense. After catching only 38 passes for 396 yards and three touchdowns in the regular season, Zach Miller went bonkers in the postseason, with 12 receptions for 190 yards and a touchdown in two playoff games. Tight ends never have been as important in the NFL as they are right now. The Seahawks need to use Miller more in the passing game — or get another tight end who can produce.
Last season it was nice to see Miller come to life, but he could use a partner in crime that is an upgrade over Anthony McCoy.
While there are options available in free agency, I think the 'Hawks should look towards back of the draft for help.
Going into the combine some saw San Diego State's Gavin Escobar as a potential rising star, but as Tony Pauline at USA Today Sports explained, he may be sliding. "Escobar was thought to be one of the better pass-catching tight ends in the draft but struggled during his workout. He ran a 4.84 in the 40 and really did not display soft or natural hands during position drills."
Could he slip to the 'Hawks at this point in the draft?
If so he might be worth drafting.
Speaking of adding depth, Earl Thomas may be an All-Pro, but the 'Hawks could use a little help backing him up.
Could Shamarko Thomas be the guy to help?
RockyRaccoon at Fieldgulls.com makes a compelling case for the Syracuse safety, citing three points as to why he would fit in Seattle:
1) Earl's back up. Lets face it Maragos is a great guy but lacks the speed to back up someone like ET.
2) Someone to push for time at the Nickel. Tru is losing a step and none of the young guys have proven themselves enough to garner the title of starting nickel.
3) Special Teamer. JS/PC always like the ST guys and if Thomas needs more time to develop as a DB he can always contribute on ST until he further develops his coverage and ball skills.
Hard to argue with any of those points and while most people right now are talking about his faceplant after running the 40-yard dash at the combine, I'm hopeful come April the Seahawks will remember the player capable of making a serious impact based on the points above before someone else grabs him.
Did you know the Seahawks have not one, not two, but three picks in the seventh round of the draft?
Two of those picks came via trades made during training camp that saw last year's starting quarterback Tarvaris Jackson go to Buffalo and linebacker Barrett Ruud go to New Orleans.
Honestly though I have some serious doubts as to whether the 'Hawks will have all of these picks, as I can easily imagine GM John Schneider using at least one of them to move up if necessary early on in the draft or perhaps as part of a package to trade Matt Flynn.
So for today I'm simply keeping a general seventh round pick, let's say the New Orleans pick nestled in the middle of the final round?
What should the 'Hawks do with this pick? Should they draft another defensive lineman, an offensive lineman, or perhaps a kicker?
My best guess is that they go for another running back. With all due respect to All-Pro Marshawn Lynch and rookie Robert Turbin, I think the 'Hawks could use another option at running back as an insurance policy beyond Leon Washington.
If healthy, Ray Graham could be a nice addition; however, your guess is as good as mine as right now we need to wait on a few things, namely free agency and whether a market for Matt Flynn materializes.
How the 'Hawks approach the next few weeks will likely have a major impact on how they manage the draft, but as always it's best to simply sit back, expect the unexpected, and keep faith in the wisdom of John Schneider and Pete Carroll.