Showcasing Seattle Seahawks' Biggest Strengths and Draft Needs
Quietly, the Seattle Seahawks have been one of the NFL's most successful franchises over the past decade. Even though the Seahawks haven't won a championship, they have made the playoffs seven times in 10 years and did reach Super Bowl XL.
The main reason Seattle continues to remain a contender is its ability to find diamonds in the rough, the latest being Russell Wilson in the third round of last year's draft. His dynamic rookie season helped the Seahawks reach the divisional round.
Even a player like Bruce Irvin would fall into that category despite being taken in the first round. He was declared a bust moments after being picked because the Seahawks took him well ahead of most projections, but he proved the doubters wrong by ranking second on the team in sacks.
As long as the Seahawks continue to make wise personnel decisions, they are going to remain a threat in the NFC. Let's examine their roster to see where they need to focus their attention during the offseason, which began on Tuesday with the start of free agency.
Russell Wilson posted a victory for small quarterbacks last season. One of the main reasons his draft stock stayed in the middle rounds throughout the process was the fact he's less than six feet tall. That was seen as too short to succeed at the next level.
He showed that talent and decision-making ability trumps size. He finished the regular season with a quarterback rating of 100 while accounting for 30 touchdowns and just 14 turnovers. Well beyond preseason expectations, even after he won the starting job.
Matt Flynn, who was originally brought to Seattle with designs on having him take the starting spot before Wilson's emergence, is the backup. He's a solid player to have in that role, so the Seahawks shouldn't need to add another QB.
Marshawn Lynch is a perfect fit for the Seahawks. He's not an explosive back in the mold of Adrian Peterson, capable of breaking the game open with every touch, but he grinds out a lot of yards to keep the chains moving and has a nose for the end zone.
His high level of reliability helped ease Russell Wilson's transition by taking a lot of pressure off the rookie's shoulders. Lynch has scored 31 touchdowns in 43 games since joining the Seahawks and is the ideal workhorse back.
He's backed up by Robert Turbin, who was solid in limited action as a rookie. That means Seattle should only need to add a third back for depth, probably late in the draft. One name to keep in mind is Ray Graham out of Pittsburgh.
Wide Receivers and Tight Ends
The Seahawks received a major boost in this area on Monday by agreeing to a trade with the Minnesota Vikings for Percy Harvin. Jay Glazer of Fox Sports reports the team will send three draft picks, including this year's first rounder, to Minnesota.
Adding Harvin, who can stretch the field and provide the perfect complement to Sidney Rice, should help Russell Wilson build off his strong first season. Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin ensure the team has depth on the outside, as well.
Seattle should also be set at tight end. Zach Miller had a strong finish to last season, including an eight-catch performance in the playoff loss, and should remain the starter. Anthony McCoy and Sean McGrath will fill the backup roles.
Seattle's offensive line was the unsung hero of the improvement on offense. The front five did a terrific job of opening up rushing lanes for Marshawn Lynch and improved in pass protection as the season went on, as the group adapted to having Wilson running the offense.
The eye test is confirmed by the Football Outsiders' grading system, which ranked the Seahawks line No. 3 in running situations and No. 20 in passing situations. While the team would like the second ranking to be higher, it's clearly not an offense killer.
Since the Seahawks aren't losing any major pieces of the line to free agency, there's no reason to invest any major resources to upgrade it. If anything, they can use a mid-round pick on an experienced tackle like Ricky Wagner to provide some competition.
With the offense in good shape beyond a couple depth additions, upgrading the defense should be the team's main goal with its early picks and any free-agent additions. It starts with a line that ranked in the middle of the pack in sacks last season.
Chris Clemons led the way with 11.5 sacks, but his status for the start of next season remains up in the air due to an ACL injury suffered in the playoffs. Bruce Irvin was the only other player on the roster with more than three sacks.
Then there's the issue of defensive tackle. Jason Jones hit free agency after a productive season in Seattle. So the Seahawks will have to use multiple picks on the line. In Round 2, Margus Hunt is an end to watch. As for a middle-round tackle, Akeem Spence is an intriguing option.
Bobby Wagner leads the Seattle linebacker group. A second-round pick last year, Wagner stepped right into the lineup for Pete Carroll. He provided terrific across-the-board production with 140 total tackles, three interceptions and two sacks.
He's joined by the equally impressive K.J. Wright. He's a major piece of the team's run-stopping efforts, as illustrated by his 98 tackles in 15 games, and is improving in coverage. If he could become a bigger rushing threat off the edge, he would be the complete package.
The other outside linebacker spot is a concern, though. Veteran Leroy Hill hit the open market, which leaves Malcolm Smith and Kyle Knox to pick up the slack. If the Seahawks aren't confident in that duo, Chase Thomas is a solid option after the first few rounds.
The secondary is the least worrisome area of the defense. The Seahawks have a pair of reliable cornerbacks in the likes of Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner, who combined for over 100 tackles and 11 interceptions last season.
Seattle's safety duo, featuring Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas, is one of the league's best. Chancellor is the prototypical strong safety, showing a terrific ability to join the box in rushing situations, which allows Thomas to roam free to make plays.
A major reason the group has been so successful is its size––three of the four starters are at least 6'3''––without sacrificing athleticism. That allows them to control the NFL's most dangerous wide receivers. No big additions are needed.
The Seahawks could be in the market for a new kicker after watching Steven Hauschka, who had a solid 2012 season, hit free agency. Carson Wiggs is the only other kicker on the roster, but it would be a surprise if some competition isn't brought in. Dustin Hopkins is the position's top prospect.
Jon Ryan will continue to hold down the punting duties. He ranked in the middle of the pack in net punting average, which is nothing special, of course. But he's under contract for a couple more seasons, meaning there's no reason for a change.
Leon Washington was the team's main returner last season. He was released following the arrival of Percy Harvin, however. Harvin and Golden Tate should be able to pick up the special teams slack so the Seahawks don't have to add anybody else for a limited role.