Seattle Seahawks' Combine Preview: It's All on the Line
With the NFL Combine starting today, the Seahawks figure to be looking at linemen, linemen, and…more linemen, plus most of the various sorts of backs: running, defensive, quarter.
Everyone knows the Seahawks’ biggest need is a new left tackle to replace the venerable Walter Jones. If they don’t acquire a good left tackle in free agency, they absolutely must use one of their two first-round picks to select one. With that in mind, they figure to be taking a close look at the “big uglies.”
It’s a deep draft for tackles, but the Seahawks need to get one who can start immediately. Their best options for that would seem to be Oklahoma State’s Russell Okung or Iowa’s Bryan Bulaga.
The Hawks also need a pass rusher. Derrick Morgan of Georgia Tech leads that pack and might be the best option behind Okung for the Hawks’ No. 6 pick. Of course, the presence of stud safety Eric Berry of Tennessee could complicate that choice, tempting the Hawks to draft him or trade down with a team that wants him.
Many Seahawk fans think it’s time to draft an heir apparent for quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, and the Seahawks surely will do their due diligence in checking out the quarterbacks at the Combine and at campus workouts in March. The only two viewed as first-rounders are Sam Bradford and Jimmy Clausen, and many projections have them both going in the top 10.
The Seahawks also figure to look at running backs. Many fans want the Hawks to draft Clemson running back C.J. Spiller, but fans always get too excited over skill players. Plenty of fans probably would love for the team to draft Bradford and Spiller, the headline-making quarterback and running back. What a disaster draft that would be, especially if the Hawks had failed to address their O-line.
But, if they don’t sign a back beforehand (Chester Taylor?), the Hawks figure to look at a running back somewhere in the draft.
Overall, we rate the Hawks’ needs in this order: LT, DE, S, RB, QB, OG. If they help themselves at any of those positions in free agency, it obviously would affect that order of preference for the draft.
Here’s an early scouting report on some of the top draft prospects at those positions:
Russell Okung, Oklahoma State, 6'5", 302
Consensus All-American has ideal height and athleticism for a left tackle, along with excellent durability, work ethic, and character. His only weakness, per scouts, is a slight lack of strength, but that can be fixed. With his mobility, he also seems a nice fit for the Seahawks’ zone running scheme.
Bryan Bulaga, Iowa, 6'6", 312
This tough, athletic, strong left tackle shut down Morgan, the draft’s top-rated end, in the Orange Bowl. Bulaga looks like a natural fit for Seattle’s zone system. There is one major question about him, though: A thyroid issue sidelined him for three games early last season. The Seahawks are familiar with thyroid issues, as Bobby Engram missed nine games with hyperthyroidism in 2006. Engram was diagnosed with Graves’ disease, a treatable thyroid condition, and returned to catch a team-record 94 passes in 2007. Bulaga has not been diagnosed with Graves’, but the results of his Combine physical will be among the most analyzed of any prospect.
Anthony Davis, Rutgers, 6'6", 325
The Seahawks already have the quarterback Davis protected at Rutgers, Mike Teel. Might they dip into New Jersey again for a guy some think has the most upside of any tackle in this draft? Davis is huge and athletic, but—as with most big guys—the weight can be an issue (he was 363 pounds as a freshman), and his technique needs a lot of work. Some think he might be better suited to right tackle or even guard in the NFL.
Trent Williams, Oklahoma, 6'5", 318
The All-American is considered a natural right tackle, having started most of his career there before moving to the left side in 2009. He’s considered strong but not overly quick and might be more suited to a power blocking scheme than the zone system the Hawks now employ.
Mike Iupati, Idaho, 6'5", 325
The giant and talented Iupati played guard at Idaho, but Detroit coaches put him everywhere on the line at the Senior Bowl. He has the quickness and probably can play right tackle in the NFL. Either way, his potential and flexibility make him a possible top-15 pick. He’s certainly worth considering.
Derrick Morgan, Georgia Tech, 6'4", 272
The ACC defensive player of the year had 18.5 tackles for loss and 12.5 sacks from the right side in 2009. Relatively inexperienced, the junior is considered a strong all-around player who is intelligent and coachable, with plenty of potential to get better in the NFL.
Carlos Dunlap, Florida, 6'6", 290
The standout junior has been compared to Julius Peppers and Mario Williams because of his combination of size and athleticism. He has good strength and quickness but needs to work on his technique. He also has some character concerns; he was arrested for DUI in December, just four days before the SEC championship game, which he was then suspended for.
Everson Griffen, USC, 6'3", 278
The junior has all of the measurables, but he was incredibly inconsistent at USC, and there are concerns about his maturity. Pete Carroll knows him better than anyone, which makes some think Carroll will take him with the 14th pick. Then again, maybe Carroll thinks he already has a viable USC defensive end in Lawrence Jackson.
Jason Pierre-Paul, South Florida, 6'6", 265
The junior played only one season in D-I. He is very raw and lacks the required strength, which will make him a liability against the run early on, but a lot of scouts think he has great potential. The Combine will be huge for this guy, who needs to supplement his sparse game tape with some good workout numbers. He’s a definite project with a huge bust potential.
Eric Berry, Tennessee, 5'11", 203
Considered a can’t-miss prospect (a lot like Aaron Curry last year), Berry can do it all. He sure seems to be Kenny Easley Light: a smart, tough, and fast guy who can play safety or corner, who can cover and tackle, and who can make the same kind of impact that Easley did for Seattle in the 1980s.
Taylor Mays, USC, 6'3", 231
His stock has plummeted since last year at this time. He’s still rated in the top 20 by most, but that’s a slide from where he was rated after the 2008 season. While he has the size, there are questions about his speed and instincts, plus his general ability to make plays. He’s strictly a strong safety, and some might even see him as a candidate to move to linebacker. Because he’s a physical freak, his Combine performance could help his stock a lot. Last year, everyone was talking about the Seahawks drafting Mays and bringing him home to Seattle, where he went to high school. Now, even with his old college coach in Seattle, that talk has died down.
Earl Thomas, Texas, 5'10", 190
Thomas played safety at Texas, but he might be moved to cornerback in the NFL because of his natural ball-hawking instincts (eight interceptions in 2009). An early entry, Thomas is considered an intelligent hard worker and a bit of an overachiever. He’s a playmaker, though, and he figures to go in the late first round.
Nate Allen, South Florida, 6'1", 205
Considered a second-round option, Allen is smart, instinctive, fast, and aggressive. He’s an attacking safety who is solid in run support and good at helping his cornerbacks on pass plays. He might be a good choice for the Hawks at No. 40.
C.J. Spiller, Clemson, 5'11", 195, 4.37
Spiller is certainly an electric player, a potential triple threat as a runner, receiver, and returner. Even though he was bothered by foot issues in 2009, he still ran for 1,212 yards and scored 21 touchdowns, plus had 503 receiving yards and returned four kicks for touchdowns. He is a tough guy, having never missed a game at Clemson. But he is definitely not an every-down back in the NFL. Probably not worth the sixth pick overall. But the 14th is a different story.
Jonathan Dwyer, Georgia Tech, 5'11", 235, 4.48
With 26 touchdowns and over 2,700 rushing yards the past two seasons, Dwyer has proven he will be a force in the NFL. The “Diesel” is big, strong, tough, and aggressive. He excels at finding the hole inside and would seem to be a perfect fit for the Hawks’ zone game.
Jahvid Best, Cal, 5'10", 195, 4.42
Currently viewed as a late-first-rounder, Best is kind of a poor man’s Spiller. He’s too small to be effective between the tackles, but he is great running outside, and he can catch and return kicks. Other than his size, the biggest concern with the junior is his health and durability. He did not play a complete season in college, and he missed the final four games last season after a gruesome headfirst landing against Oregon resulted in a serious concussion. That was his second concussion last season, and he was still feeling the effects of it in January. If not for that issue, he would probably be a mid-first-rounder. As it is, he might end up sliding to the second round. And if the Seahawks are still looking for a running back, he could be their pick at 40.
Ryan Mathews, Fresno State, 5'11", 220, 4.48
A second-team All-American as a junior, Mathews is coming out early after leading the nation with 1,808 rushing yards (6.6 per carry) in 2009. He might possess the best combination of power and speed of any back in this draft. He’s explosive (led the country with seven 50-yard runs in 2009) and tough enough to pound it inside. At this point, he is rated as a second-round prospect, which might be perfect for the Seahawks.
Sam Bradford, Oklahoma, 6'4", 223
The junior played only three games in 2009 and is still recovering from the shoulder injury that sidelined him twice. NFL teams won’t get to see how he has recovered until he works out March 25. The 2008 Heisman Trophy winner is considered a pro-ready passer with excellent accuracy and a strong enough arm to make every throw. Biggest questions are durability and ability to adjust mentally to the NFL—playing with his brain more than with his arm. How much was he helped by playing on a great college team?
Jimmy Clausen, Notre Dame, 6'2", 223
Clausen’s best attribute is his intelligence—he learned from a pro coach in Charlie Weis. His physical skills are adequate—decent arm strength and accuracy. But his leadership ability and maturity are questionable. Can he handle adversity? He also is recovering from a broken toe, so teams won’t get to see him work out until April.
Colt McCoy, Texas, 6'2", 212
A four-year starter, McCoy won more games than any QB in college history. He is considered smart, tough, and accurate with short passes. But he has many limitations. He has below-average arm strength and is seemingly unable to fit the ball into tight places. He also played from the shotgun too much at Texas, and he often threw to his first option or pulled the ball down and ran. If he slides to the fourth round, he might be worth a look.
Tim Tebow, Florida, 6'3", 236
There are conflicting schools of thought on Tebow. Guys like Tony Dungy and Sam Wyche think he can play in the NFL. Others aren’t so sure. And then there are folks like us who think he’s just another Eric Crouch. He’s in the middle of revamping his throwing mechanics for the pros—not something a quarterback should be doing just before he wants to be drafted. The bottom line is this: Tebow was a nice college quarterback because he’s a big, tough leader who could run with the ball. But the jump pass doesn’t work in the NFL, and any team that takes Tebow in the first three rounds is wasting a pick. Nah, Tebow is destined to join this list of Heisman-winning quarterbacks who were not good enough for the league: Jason White, Crouch, Danny Wuerffel, Gino Torretta, and Andre Ware.
Tony Pike, Cincinnati, 6'6", 212
If he can stay healthy, Pike could develop. He needs to add some bulk to his lanky frame. Otherwise, he is a good passer, with sufficient strength and accuracy. He’s not that experienced, though, and his light frame and injury history (twice-broken left arm) figure to be concerns. If he makes it to the fourth round, the Hawks could take a look.
Dan LeFevour, Central Michigan, 6'3", 229
LeFevour doesn’t have a very strong arm, he played exclusively in the shotgun at CMU, and he doesn’t know how to read defenses. But he is instinctive, mobile, and gritty. And that might get him drafted in the middle rounds.
Jevan Snead, Mississippi, 6'3", 215
Hard to understand why Snead is coming out early after a horrible junior year. He has excellent arm strength, but he has been questioned for everything from technique, ability to read defenses, and mental toughness. Without Michael Oher protecting his “blind side” in 2009, Snead’s mechanics went to hell. And so did his draft stock.
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