Is it ever too early to talk draft anymore?
Simply put, in the below-average NFC West—you're never out of it until you're out of it.
Seattle could move to within one game of the division lead with victory against the Cardinals. In any other division, the Seahawks would be also-rans already looking to next year.
That said, there's no reason to discuss which prospects they might be keeping an eye on ahead of the 2010 draft.
There are a few things to bear in mind when reviewing any possible direction the team could go. I'm going to presume Tim Ruskell will remain as GM, because it's impossible to second guess an alternative.
Ruskell tends to favor senior prospects in the first round, he doesn't take small school prospects and he values character highly.
You also have to make an educated guess as to the range Seattle will be picking. I don't think they'll be as high as last year (fourth overall) with their own pick, but somewhere in the range of 10-15 seems reasonable.
That would appear to rule out top defensive line prospects like Ndamukong Suh (DT, Nebraska) and Gerald McCoy (DT, Oklahoma), whilst making it difficult for Seattle to target quarterbacks like Sam Bradford (QB, Oklahoma) and Jimmy Clausen (QB, Notre Dame) who are both expected to be taken early in the first round.
Of course, the Seahawks also own a second first round pick from Denver.
The Broncos appear destined to make the playoffs despite a recent two-game losing streak. Assuming they don't make a particularly extended stay in the post season, Seattle should also get a first round pick in the 25-28 range.
So let's look at five potential options in round one:
Charles Brown (OT, USC)
It's easy to draw comparisons between Brown and last year's second overall pick Jason Smith (now with St. Louis). Both are converted tight ends, both needed to add weight during the senior season and both were considered mid-first round picks.
Smith was able to add the necessary bulk, reaching a perfect 309lbs at the combine. In workouts he showed the weight gain hadn't affected his raw athleticism and he began a dramatic climb to the top of many draft boards, culminating in a big contract as a top draft pick.
Brown is currently listed at 285lbs. If he can add 20lbs of bulk before the combine—whilst keeping the quick feet and agility which has made his reputation—like Smith he could rise up the boards. If he's around when the Seahawks make their first selection, he has to be considered.
Few have impressed me more than Brown this year. He's perfect for Seattle's zone blocking scheme and has value as an athletic pass protector and also the upper body strength and drive to be effective in the running game. Walter Jones' days appear (sadly) over in the NFL, drafting Brown would allow the Seahawks to move on. The Trojan could start at right or left tackle as a rookie.
C.J. Spiller (RB, Clemson)
One of Seattle's biggest problems is they don't scare anyone on offense. There's neither a system nor a game breaking playmaker to really threaten the opposition and it's made the Seahawks easy to game plan. Seattle's running game currently ranks amongst the worst in the league (30th) and they need an injection of quality at tail back.
Offensive coordinator Greg Knapp has often spoken about balance and finding players who won't sell the teams play calling. Enter C.J. Spiller of Clemson. An outside bet for the Heisman, he's a threat to score every time the ball's in his hands. Just look at the stats this year: 739 rushing yards, 334 receiving yards, 721 return yards and 12 total touchdowns.
He's an all round prospect that can be used on any play call. Need a guy to run through the middle or bounce outside? Spiller can do that. Want a back that can split out wide and run a solid wheel route or screen? Spiller can do that. Value good pass protection? Guess what—Spiller can even do that. He's also a rarity as a senior running back—satisfying Ruskell's desire to draft four-year prospects.
Spiller may be best in a two-back system, but he's shown this year he can carry the load too when required. His stock continues to rise with every week of massive production and that will only intensify when he lights up the combine. A lack of depth at running back and the skill positions in general will push Spiller up the board and he'll go earlier than most expect.
Derrick Morgan (DE, Georgia Tech)
Since Jim Mora was installed as head coach, the Seahawks have placed greater emphasis on the defensive line to create a pass rush. The idea is that this will free up Seattle's expensive linebackers to make plays and allow a cover-two system to thrive. Unfortunately, Seattle's line hasn't done enough to trouble opposition quarterbacks in 2009.
Patrick Kerney continues to suffer injuries; he's missed 17 games in the last three-and-a-half years. His production remains solid (five sacks in six starts this year) but he can't be relied upon as an every down end as he approaches is 33rd birthday in December. Darryl Tapp and Cory Redding will hit free agency in the off-season, potentially leaving Seattle with just Kerney, Lawrence Jackson and Nick Reed.
With a deep and talented defensive line class available in 2010, don't be surprised if the Seahawks tap into it. Derrick Morgan is an underclassman, which would mean a shift in philosophy for Ruskell. However, he's talented enough to justify missing his senior year with the Yellow Jackets.
A relentless pass rusher, Morgan has prototype size for a 4-3 defensive end (6'4", 275lbs). He has 11 sacks already in 2009 and continues to rise up the draft boards. There's no reason why he couldn't be a top ten pick by the end of the year, especially if he performs well at the combine. If the Seahawks get a shot at drafting Morgan, they have to consider it.
Rodney Hudson (OG, Florida State)
As I've scouted games throughout the year (three or four games per week), I have to say nobody has impressed me more than Seminoles' interior lineman Rodney Hudson. I'm not one to over rate guards and foolishly put them in the first round (I was never a fan of Duke Robinson last year, he was always over rated), but Hudson just flat out impresses me every time I watch him play.
Teams who prefer man schemes to zone blocking will be put off by his lack of size (6'2", 290lbs) but he's a perfect fit for Seattle's offensive line. He has tremendous foot work enabling him to move well laterally. He gets into the second level quickly and has surprising strength to drive opponents back in the running game. His pass protection is second to none.
When I wrote my first mock draft for 2010, I put Hudson in the first round. I've not seen this anywhere else, so I needed to get a second opinion. I contacted Chris Steuber (Scout.com) and he confirmed my suspicions, "If he were to declare for the draft, he would be a late first, early second round draft pick." Steuber even suggested to me that Hudson's athleticism could lead to a possible shift to offensive tackle, much in the same way that Branden Albert switched after he was drafted by Kansas City.
Hudson, like Derrick Morgan, is only a junior and may decide to stay with Florida State for his senior year. As we've discussed, Tim Ruskell also prefers senior prospects in the first round of the draft. However, drafting Rodney Hudson would potentially tie up the left guard position for years to come. It's a need area with Seattle losing Mike Wahle to retirement and Rob Sims continuing to suffer injuries. Hudson might not be Steve Hutchinson, but he'd help Seahawks fans (finally) move on.
Taylor Mays (S, USC)
Let me qualify this by stating that I believe Mays is amongst the most over rated draft prospects in the 2010 draft class. He's not a top ten pick and he has some serious flaws to his game heading into the NFL. Mays takes bad angles, his reactions are poor and he isn't a playmaker. He also makes some seriously ill judged plays—such as his pathetic late hit penalty against Notre Dame which should have cost his team a victory.
People rave about the big hits and his elite athleticism. That will keep him in the first round, but I expect a fall on draft day unless Al Davis falls in love with his physical qualities. That could put him in range for Seattle's second first round pick (traded from Denver). I will stress, I may not rate Mays as highly as some, but there comes a point in round one when the qualities he does have are too good to pass.
It helps he's a Seattle-native, a four year starter and playing at a top school that Ruskell has drafted from previously with a degree of success. He'd be a popular pick with the 12th man, at least on draft day. With the Seahawks coming up against Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree twice annually, the team could use a 'head hunter' to at least put a cat amongst the pigeons.
I don't think you'll ever fix all the issues with Taylor Mays at the next level. Some things—like football instincts—you just can't teach. It'll be enough to put off teams picking at the top of round one, but someone will see the value later on and that keeps him in the first round.
Rob writes Seahawks Draft Blog , a website dedicated to looking at the NFL Draft from a Seahawks perspective.