The playoff run for the Seattle Seahawks is still ongoing, but general manager John Schneider and his staff are already deep into their preparation for the NFL draft. So while the players and coaches get ready to play the New Orleans Saints on Saturday, it is time to take a break for an early mock draft.
The Seahawks traded their third-round pick in 2014 to the Minnesota Vikings as part of the deal for wide receiver Percy Harvin. They currently only have six picks in the 2014 draft, and that is likely to change.
Schneider is always one of the more active GM's trading picks on draft day, and he almost always trades down to get additional picks. The Seahawks under Schneider tend to use at least 10 picks per draft. Unfortunately, there's no way to predict these trades ahead of time.
Here is a mock draft for the Seahawks based on the picks they currently hold:
Kelvin Benjamin, Wide Receiver, Florida State
Seattle's offense took a step backward this season without a healthy Sidney Rice at wide receiver and no Percy Harvin to make up the difference. Now they go into an offseason where Golden Tate will be a free agent, and Doug Baldwin will be a restricted free agent.
The Seahawks clearly need an injection of young talent at receiver. This is also one of the few positions where general manager John Schneider hasn't been able to find mid-round gems in the draft. Neither Kris Durham nor Chris Harper were able to stick on the roster, leaving the Seahawks paper-thin at the position this season.
Kelvin Benjamin would solve all that. The 6'5", 235-pound redshirt sophomore would be a perfect young replacement for Rice. He's a fluid athlete with good hands, and he uses his height and size well to shield defenders away from the ball.
Benjamin lacks the top-end speed to get behind the defense with regularity, which is the only reason he should drop far enough that the Seahawks can take him.
Benjamin would be an ideal split end, playing opposite a healthy Percy Harvin, and would provide the Seahawks with the diversity at the receiver position that they currently lack.
Gabe Jackson, Guard, Mississippi State
The biggest weakness of the Seahawks this season was the play of their guards. Right guard J.R. Sweezy never showed the development expected of a guy who's in just his second year as an offensive player. The former college defensive tackle made huge strides in his rookie campaign but has stagnated this year.
On the other side, the Seahawks have played both Paul McQuistan and James Carpenter. Both have been mostly ineffective. McQuistan will be a free agent, and given his age and poor performance, it is difficult to believe he'll be back in 2014.
Mississippi State's Gabe Jackson would provide an instant upgrade on either side. He has extremely quick feet for a guy who's 340 pounds. He's athletic enough to handle the demands of Seattle's zone-blocking scheme, and his footwork will allow Jackson to be good in pass protection.
With Jackson on one side, and the winner of a Carpenter-Sweezy battle on the other side, the Seahawks would be much-improved at guard next season.
James Gayle, Defensive End, Virginia Tech
If there's one thing all NFL teams have in common, it is the neverending need for more pass-rushers. The Seahawks certainly aren't immune to this need. Defensive end Chris Clemons appears a likely salary-cap casualty after this season, and Michael Bennett is set to become a free agent.
Virginia Tech's James Gale is a bit undersized at 6'3" and 255 pounds, but his speed and great first step will make him an effective edge-rusher.
He likely won't offer much in the way of run support early in his career, but he'd be able to see regular playing time in Seattle's nickel sub-package. Gayle's role would be similar to the one currently occupied by Cliff Avril, with Avril moving into the starting LEO defensive-end spot.
Ryan Carrethers, Defensive Tackle, Arkansas State
At 6'2", Ryan Carrethers is relatively short for a 330-pound nose tackle, which is probably part of the reason why he reminds so many people of Seattle's Brandon Mebane. He can also two-gap and displays a strong anchor against the run like Mebane does.
Those reasons are also why he'd be a good fit in Seattle. He'd give the Seahawks a player who could back up both Mebane and 5-technique defensive end Red Bryant, as well as giving the team a third run-stuffer in short-yardage and goal-line situations.
The true benefit of this pick would be seen in the long-term, though. The Seahawks will need to shed at least one of the large salaries that Bryant and Mebane hold at some point. Carrethers offers the upside of someone who should grow into a starting role by the 2015 season.
Wesley Johnson, Offensive Tackle, Vanderbilt
This would be a project pick for the Seahawks. Vanderbilt's Wesley Johnson is undersized at 290 pounds and lacks power as a straight-ahead drive blocker. However, he also has the frame to add the necessary weight and strength he needs to make it as an NFL offensive tackle.
Johnson also happens to have very quick feet and is able to keep his body in the proper position to block even the fastest of defensive ends. Once given a chance to develop his strength, his athleticism will make him an ideal fit for Seattle's zone-blocking scheme.
Colt Lyerla, Tight End, Oregon
Former Oregon tight end Colt Lyerla has all the tools to be a first- or second-round draft pick. He's the complete package of size, speed, strength and skill to be a major star in the NFL.
The problem is that his off-field problems are fairly serious, including a guilty plea to a cocaine charge. According to NFL.com's Bucky Brooks, Lyerla had trouble with alcohol, fights and other problems, and the coaching staff was always worried he'd get into trouble whenever Lyerla was away from the team.
Given the Aaron Hernandez disaster in New England this past year, it is possible that NFL teams will just decide to pass on Lyerla. It is also possible that the chance of getting a dominant player with a seventh-round selection will be enough for the Seahawks to decide if it's worth the risk.
Overall, Lyerla is the type of boom-or-bust pick who has helped make the Seahawks roster arguably the deepest in the NFL.