The Senior Bowl is the marquee college all-star game each year, and for good reason. It attracts the top talent from the year's draft class and is coached by NFL coaching staffs. It is also a chance for NFL general managers and scouts to get a close look at top players playing against high-level competition.
The are a few noticeable Seahawks who have played in the Senior Bowl in the past few years. The 2012 game featured quarterback Russell Wilson and linebacker Bobby Wagner, while guard James Carpenter and linebacker K.J. Wright were there in 2011.
This year, the Seahawks have some clear areas of the roster that they will need to focus on because of players who will be leaving due to free agency. The offensive line, wide receiver, inside pass-rushers and depth in the defensive backfield are all needs that could be filled with players from the Senior Bowl.
So while the game is an essential part of the draft process for NFL teams, the game itself can often be difficult to watch for fans. Most fans will know a few players because of their own personal college affiliations, but the bulk of the rosters will be made up of mostly unfamiliar names.
With that in mind, here is a brief scouting guide of players whom the Seahawks will likely be watching during Saturday's game:
Mississippi State guard Gabe Jackson has been on the Seattle watch list for some time now. 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.
Jackson has been listed as having a third-round grade on CBS.com, but that is likely to change. He has had a great week in practice and has been impressive at blocking the top-level defensive talent present at the Senior Bowl this week.
Notre Dame offensive tackle Zack Martin is a bit of an enigma. He has quick feet typically associated with an NFL offensive tackle, but the strength and power teams look for in a guard. What position he ends up playing in the NFL is a question that will ultimately dictate his draft position.
Martin has been connected to Seattle in plenty of mock drafts (see HERE and HERE for examples on Twitter), but his performance this week could push him up into the middle parts of the first round before the Seahawks get a chance to select a player.
Lindenwood (Mo.) University cornerback Pierre Desir has followed up a good week at the East-West Shrine Game with another good week at the Senior Bowl. Desir is the type of long cornerback that the Seahawks love. He's a fluid athlete who's good in the backpedal and has solid technique.
The problem is that he may have played his way up draft boards to the point that he'll be taken before the Seahawks will be willing to select a cornerback. The Seahawks have talent at cornerback already, and are unlikely to use more than a late-round selection to acquire more depth at the position.
Lindenwood CB Pierre Desir generated some good buzz today. He seems to be improving as the week goes on.— Dion Caputi (@nfldraftupdate) January 22, 2014
Arizona's Will Sutton is an undersized pass-rushing defensive tackle with an explosive first step and good hands. While he might not be on Seattle's radar at the moment, he would make a great fallback option in the draft if the team loses Michael Bennett in free agency.
Sutton lacks the strength to anchor at the point of attack against the run, but his talents as an inside pass-rusher are undeniable. Bleacher Report's Michael Schottey wrote this about Sutton after practice this week:
Sutton is a boom-or-bust kind of player. His first step allows him to penetrate the backfield more often than not, but he also gets washed out rather easily in the run game.
While the junior wide receivers have received most of the hype recently, Vanderbilt senior Jordan Matthews would be an ideal target for the Seahawks. He's long at 6'3" with good hands and great athleticism for his size.
Dane Brugler of NFLDraftScout.com says that Matthews "might [be] the only senior wideout who ends up being drafted in the top-50 picks." With draft analysts souring on Florida State's Kelvin Benjamin's hands, perhaps Matthews will become the Seahawks' preferred draft target at wide receiver.
With both of Seattle's backup safeties headed to free agency, the Seahawks will be looking to add some fresh names to the position in the draft this offseason. Northern Illinois' Jimmie Ward would certainly be an interesting addition, though he is unlikely to fall far enough that the Seahawks might consider the position.
Ward isn't as big as the safeties the Seahawks have selected in recent years. However, he is a physical player who uses his athleticism to make plays against larger receivers.
Hard to dislike NIU safety Jimmie Ward. Versatility, sticky coverage, and plays with some physicality. Handled bigger bodies well in covg.— Dion Caputi (@nfldraftupdate) January 22, 2014
If the Seahawks lose Walter Thurmond to free agency this year, they will be losing their only cornerback who is small and quick enough to stay with the league's smaller wide receivers. Auburn's Chris Davis might just be a perfect replacement for Thurmond on Seattle's roster.
At 5'10", Davis doesn't have the length that the Seahawks covet at cornerback, but he has very good quickness to make up for it. Davis is also a very physical defender, so he'll fit right in with Seattle's defensive scheme.
Chris Davis is certainly active +physical downfield, and shows strength at catch point,but is way too handsy past 5 yards. Won't work in NFL— Eric Galko (@OptimumScouting) January 22, 2014
Another offensive lineman that is likely on Seattle's radar this week is Florida's Jon Halapio. He is a massive run-blocker with good strength at the point of attack.
Halapio played through a few nagging injuries this season, so it is difficult to evaluate his overall potential as a pass-blocker. Halapio is now healthy, and he could be jumping up draft boards after playing well throughout this week.
Optimum Scouting's Eric Galko had this to say about Halapio this week:
Halapio was once again consistent in winning leverage battles and was taking interior defenders to the ground, including Will Sutton, in one on one drills. He also showed some athleticism pulling out toward the numbers before tracking and eliminating Florida State ILB Christian Jones at the 2nd level during a team run play.