This is it.
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, brace yourselves for what is arguably the most overhyped non-event in all of professional sports.
Yes, the NFL draft will begin on Thursday night in New York City, but don't expect the Seattle Seahawks to get in on any of the action, as general manager John Schneider joked earlier this week to the Associated Press, "We're going to sit there and watch YouTube Percy Harvin highlights."
Perhaps that sounds dull, but rest assured that nothing that Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll do from Friday onward will be by any measure of comparison.
In other words, expect the unexpected while the 'Hawks braintrust manage 10 picks across the final six rounds of the draft in the hopes of adding a few more players to a roster looking to make a significant push for a championship.
Can they do it?
After last year I'd be hard-pressed to doubt them. As for me though, I will try not to make a mockery of the process one final time in offering my best guess as to what the 'Hawks could do this weekend.
With any luck, I might get a few picks right while offering my patented disclaimer one last time.
Disclaimer: All picks guaranteed wrong by Saturday night...or your money back!
Ok, so the 'Hawks don't have a first-round pick, but tell me you have something better planned on Thursday night?
Perhaps you too will enjoy a healthy dose of Percy Harvin highlights on YouTube much like John Schneider, yet I have a feeling all of us, including Schneider, will be paying close attention to how things unfold over the course of the evening.
Of particular note will be picks within the NFC West: No. 7 for Arizona, No. 16 and 22 for St. Louis, and No. 31 for San Francisco.
San Francisco will be busy – The 49ers are at No. 31 overall, have 13 draft picks, including two selections each in Rounds 2-5. It's believed by at least one GM that the Niners are interested in moving up to the 13th or 14th overall pick. There is no way that the 49ers can keep more than five or six new draft picks with the way the team is structured right now. Expect GM Trent Baalke to either trade up or trade out for picks in the future. The talk around the league is that the 49ers would like to get a defensive lineman who can eventually step in for veteran Justin Smith. The team also needs a safety, No. 2 tight end and could use an impact corner. All of that is possible.
It's certainly interesting, but for now I suppose we will need to wait and see.
Would a move by the Niners spur the 'Hawks to make a move?
In the ongoing arms race between the two teams, I wouldn't automatically rule it out, yet I still feel it's unlikely.
Instead the 'Hawks will likely focus their attention on Day 2 and select...
Maybe Malcolm Smith is ready. Maybe Korey Toomer can graduate from the practice squad?
Maybe I'm playing it safe in going with a predictable pick here?
Regardless, I'm going with linebacker Sio Moore.
As NFL.com's Bucky Brooks explains:
The ultra-productive linebacker has become a favorite of scouts and coaches around the league. Moore is a high-motor edge player with exceptional instincts, quickness and rush skills. Additionally, he was one of the best snap-count anticipators in college football, which resulted in several "blow by" sacks off the corner. With 16 career sacks, including eight takedowns in 2012, Moore is the versatile three-down linebacker that defensive coordinators love to build packages around. Most importantly, Moore is the kind of player who can outplay his draft status to become a Pro Bowl-caliber stud in the league.
Put it all together and it simply makes sense for the 'Hawks to add Moore to partner with Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright in the middle of the 'Hawks defense.
I've been a fan of Moore since the combine and would be very happy if the 'Hawks addressed this need right from the start.
I'm a fool for Vance McDonald of Rice, yet I'm not necessarily sure he will still be available by the end of Round 3 for the 'Hawks.
The same could be said of any number of the top tight ends this year, but I get the feeling the team will need to make a move around this portion of the draft.
It might also be around this time that the 'Hawks consider trading up for the likes of a Travis Kelce, Zach Ertz, Jordan Reed or Dion Sims, but instead I will have them wait and take Gavin Escobar of San Diego State.
Bottom line on Escobar according to the folks at NFL.com is as follows:
As a receiving target, Escobar is exactly what NFL teams are looking for. His fluidity and downfield comfort is effortless, as is Escobar's near refusal to body catch. However, the same issue that kept Escobar out of a full-time role in 2011 could limit his snaps in the NFL: inconsistent blocking. Still, Escobar is a talented receiving option that teams will use around the offensive formation.
Could Escobar be gone by the 87th pick?
It's certainly possible, even if I had him in the fifth round a few months back. Since then it seems he's rebounded to once again become a Day 2 selection in the minds of most draftniks.
At any rate, don't be surprised if the 'Hawks opt for the best tight end on the board to pair with Zach Miller this year and eventually groom to take over in the years to come.
In the case of Escobar, it certainly can't hurt to have Zach Miller work with him on his blocking.
I'm not entirely sure why so many people love defensive tackle Montori Hughes, but it seems he is a potential option that could help the 'Hawks in their rotation up front.
At 6'4" and 329 pounds he certainly has the size and is considered nimble enough with his footwork to contribute.
At the same time the fact that he transferred to Tennessee-Martin after getting kicked off the University of Tennessee squad leaves me feeling a bit underwhelmed. Even the folks at Walterfootball.com sound torn on him in their evaluation:
If it weren't for off-the-field problems, Hughes could be a high second-day pick. He has talent, size and speed. Hughes picked up 42 tackles, 8.5 tackles for a loss, four sacks and a pass broken up in 2012. He had a strong Senior Bowl performance and really helped himself. Hughes also put together a solid performance at the Combine.
Beyond those points, perhaps the biggest question is where exactly do you take him or any of the other options likely available?
Depending on your point of view, defensive tackle is either a Day 2 priority or nice to have on Day 3, so with this pick I decided to hug the border in grabbing him late in Round 4.
If Hughes isn't your cup of tea, feel free to pencil in Brandon Williams of Missouri Southern, Kwame Geathers of Georgia or Josh Boyd of Mississippi State.
At some point on Day 3, I want the Seahawks to get a receiver, preferably one with size that's capable of getting separation vertically in the red zone.
Last week I had the 'Hawks selecting Elon's Aaron Mellette with the team's second pick in Round 5, but today I'm willing to move up one pick to get Aaron Dobson from Marshall.
Greg Cosell at Yahoo! Sports in his review of wide receivers listed both two lesser-known prospects with serious potential and spoke highly of Dobson:
At 6’3” and 210 pounds, was a strong blend of size and fluid movement. He was quicker than fast, regardless of his outstanding 4.42 40 time at his recent pro day. Yet, like many tall wide receivers, his height and stride length generated deceptive speed on vertical routes. What continually stood out the more I evaluated Dobson were his vice grip hands, and his body control and flexibility to adjust to the ball in the air, resulting in both contested and difficult catches. He’s not quite Larry Fitzgerald (few are, plus Fitzgerald’s play speed is a lot faster than people think; just talk to NFL corners), but I saw some similar traits in Dobson.
While it's certainly nice that the 'Hawks have speedy options like Percy Harvin, Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin to work underneath opposing defenses, I'm not entirely sold on them scoring touchdowns when things get tight at the goal line.
Even if Dobson catches only 20-plus passes next season, if a fair percentage of them are touchdowns, the rest is gravy. Over time if he can develop beyond that, the 'Hawks might have a solid replacement for Sidney Rice.
Finally don't be shocked if Doug Baldwin is packaged at some point this weekend to either move up or get another pick. As much as I love Baldwin, right now I don't see him fitting in long-term given how he struggled to get on the same page with Russell Wilson while dealing with some nagging injuries.
Last week I had Syracuse safety Shamarko Thomas going to the 'Hawks in Round 4, yet the chances of him being there appear to be slim. When you think about it, it's amazing for him that he's managed to go from a prospect who initially seemed like a Day 3 pick to a likely second- or third-round selection.
Meanwhile my Plan B choice at safety Earl Wolff also seems to be trending upward with each passing week. Initially I had Wolff being selected in Round 7 with one of the team's first picks, yet in one recent mock I've seen him go as high as Round 4.
Once again, I'm splitting the difference here late in Round 5 as it's becoming harder and harder to decipher what's true and what's hype.
Playing in a secondary with David Amerson and Brandon Bishop at NC State, Wolff seemed to be overlooked by many, but for those who watched the East practice, it was tough to ignore the impact he made on the field. He showed good plant-and-drive quickness to diagnose the play and attack ballcarriers in front of him. Wolff also displayed the athleticism and footwork to hold up in man coverage, lining up in the slot and gaining proper body position to knock down passes.
Essentially the 'Hawks need someone who can spell both Earl Thomas from a depth standpoint and someone capable of filling in the slot if Antoine Winfield starts showing his age; hopefully Wolff can do both.
Xavier Nixon of Florida is yet another familiar selection at this point in the draft for anyone who has been following along the past few weeks, given his size and potential.
Am I sold on him being the player that pushes Breno Giacomini and eventually takes his spot at right tackle?
Not really; however at this stage of the draft, I like to think that John Schneider can find someone who can, which is why he gets paid to do his job while I merely pretend to be someone willing to give it a shot.
Speaking of giving someone a shot, I keep hearing a lot about local product Luke Marquardt of Azusa Pacific, although it seems the 'Hawks didn't invite him for a visit, according to Eric D. Williams at the Tacoma News Tribune.
Granted that's not always a clear indicator of whether a team has interest in someone, but at some point this weekend the 'Hawks will need to look at help along the offensive line.
Williams, in his column, offers some of Rob Rang's suggestions, yet the only player that intrigues me is Earl Watford of James Madison, whom I happen to have projected with one of the 'Hawks four seventh-round picks.
So who else did I pick in Round 7?
OK, almost there as we finish up here in round seven.
Last week during the lightning round I had the 'Hawks select a kicker, along with a different cornerback and running back with defensive end David Bass.
This week I swapped out kicker Caleb Sturgis following the signing of Steven Hauschka for offensive guard Earl Watford, while tossing in corner Rod Sweeting of Georgia Tech with Ray Graham of Pittsburgh.
Round 7: Rod Sweeting, CB, Georgia Tech (via Buffalo)
Round 7: David Bass, DE, Missouri Western State (Via New Orleans)
Round 7: Earl Watford, OG James Madison (Conditional Pick)
Round 7: Ray Graham, RB, Pittsburgh (Conditional Pick)
Whether the 'Hawks use all of these picks remains to be seen, but remember the conditional picks can't be traded.
I hope that covers off on everything, yet I'm not sure that it does.
It's been a long journey to this point as I actually did my first mock right before Christmas, back when the team still had a first-round pick. Looking back some of it seems laughable, especially defensive end Sam Montgomery of LSU in Round 1, while other picks like linebacker Trevardo Williams of UConn in Round 4 and defensive tackle Kwame Geathers early in Round 5 still seem plausible.
As for this particular mock, I honestly don't care much for this group of players beyond a select few and perhaps that's what makes the whole package of selections feel oddly right.
Each year the 'Hawks seem to go out of their way to find players you've either never heard of or wrinkle your nose upon hearing about, but more often than not once they take the field something magical happens.
Last year I didn't think much of the team's top selections and I've been eating crow ever since. One can only hope that happens again as John Schneider and Pete Carroll have their work cut out for them having to almost work from the back with so many late picks.
If they can work their magic once again this year, 2013 could be the year in Seattle.