NFL Combine 2011: 15 Players The Seattle Seahawks Must Watch In Indy
The Seahawks may have made the playoffs this season but they still have a very long road to travel before they become a legitimate title contender.
Seattle did well in last year's draft with the selections of players such as left tackle Russell Okung and safety Earl Thomas. Luckily for them, they are two of the few who have job security on the Seahawks' roster this offseason.
Seattle will be looking to upgrade their offensive line and secondary during this year's draft as they try to get younger and more talented in those units.
The Seahawks' defensive front seven could also use an infusion of younger talent. Although there are some proven veterans at those spots already, Seattle may look to add depth at those positions.
The biggest and most intriguing question will be: What are the Seahawks going to do at quarterback position? Is Matt Hasselbeck the answer for another season or will Charlie Whitehurst get his shot?
Maybe the Seahawks will look to the draft for their franchise quarterback.
There are many questions to be answered with the Seahawks during this offseason, so here are 15 players the team should be paying attention to as the combine gets under way.
Washington Quarterback Jake Locker
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I am not including Locker on this list because I think the Seahawks should draft Locker; rather, I do not think they should draft a quarterback this season. If they do decide to draft a quarterback this season then I think Locker should be the guy.
I'm not keen on any quarterback in this year's draft, but I think Locker will be the best available when the Hawks are on the clock. The best-case scenario for Seattle would be to get Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck in 2012, who is as close to a sure-thing as you will find.
People were saying the same thing about Locker going No. 1 overall before this season started. But he never put up great numbers with the Huskies and the production has been there with Luck, so I don't think he will see a slide like Locker has experienced.
The character concerns that are there with some of the other quarterbacks in this draft are not there with Locker; he is one of the best leaders in this draft. Everyone knows he can make all of the throws, but his accuracy is the major concern. I think he will develop into a good NFL quarterback, but I'm not sure if he will ever reach a Pro Bowl level.
If the Seahawks decide to draft a quarterback to develop for the future, then I think Locker should be the guy. I'm just not sure that they should.
Colorado Cornerback Jimmy Smith
Seattle has to get better play from its secondary next season, particularly at the corner position. Marcus Trufant is getting up there in age. He will be 31 by the end of next season and he is no longer playing at the Pro Bowl level he once was.
Is anyone still excited about former first-round selection Kelly Jennings? I'm not, and Jennings will turn 29 during the 2011 season with just two career interceptions to show for his five-year career.
Walter Thurmond appears to be a serviceable corner, but should he be a starter? Probably not.
The Seahawks need to address the corner position in this draft. Colorado cornerback Jimmy Smith has the size and speed to be a difference maker for Seattle well into the future. Smith is 6'2" and flashes great coverage skills, the kind of skills that the Seahawks have been severely lacking as of late. Smith also gives you the added bonus of being very good in run support.
Smith has been moving his way up the draft board for a while now, but Seahawks fans should be hoping that this game-changer will still be available when Seattle is on the clock at No. 25.
Florida Center Mike Pouncey
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Mike Pouncey is the twin brother of Steelers Pro Bowl rookie center Maurkice Pouncey, and now teams are hoping to find another gem from the Pouncey family tree in Mike.
The Seahawks could use an overhaul on the offensive line and Pouncey would bring some versatility to the trenches in Seattle with the ability to play guard or center.
The Hawks could use Pouncey at either spot but guard would probably make more sense, where Seattle could take full advantage of the 21-year-old's great run-blocking skills.
Pouncey is a strong character guy who has faced tough competition throughout his college career, making him a great addition to the Seattle offense.
Texas Cornerback Aaron Williams
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Williams is another possibility for the Seahawks' secondary if he is still available with the team's second round pick. Seattle may need to trade up to make this happen, but if they are unable to get a corner in the first round then they may want to consider doing so.
Williams would be a reach with the Seahawks first round pick. The problem is that there are not a lot of elite corners in this draft and the former Longhorn will likely be one of the last players with starting corner potential in this draft.
If the Seahawks do not get secondary help in the first two rounds, they will likely have to wait until the fourth round (they have no third-round selection), leading to a tough time finding an impact corner that far down.
Williams was inconsistent during his career at Texas, which is why taking him in the first round would be a bit of a reach. But he has the size (6'0") and top-end speed to warrant a fairly high selection.
Stanford Fullback Owen Marecic
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The Seahawks have been looking for a fullback ever since Leonard Weaver left town. Pete Carroll could find his man by looking down the coast and into the Pac-10 at Stanford's Owen Marecic.
Marecic was better known than most college fullbacks because he played on both sides of the ball for the Cardinal (also playing linebacker) and he exemplified toughness during his career at Stanford. We aren't talking about Owen-Schmitt-smashing-yourself-in-the-head toughness, but rather the toughness on the field and the ability to be a multi-dimensional player for the Seahawks.
Marecic could be a great special teams contributor on top of being the Seahawks' starting fullback. Marecic would be a good value in the middle rounds of the draft and he would give the Hawks another solid piece on offense.
Oregon Linebacker Casey Matthews
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Matthews is another player who has benefited from the play of his brother in the NFL. Although few are expecting him to be as good as Clay, many are projecting that Casey will become a solid starter at the next level.
Matthews led the Ducks defense in tackles with 79 while recording nine tackles for loss and three sacks.
Lofa Tatupu had a down year this season for the Hawks, so Matthews would add some insurance to the middle of the linebacker corps and bring some added energy to the defense by playing with his high motor.
Georgia Linebacker Akeem Dent
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Dent was a tackling machine for the Bulldogs this season, leading the team in tackles with 126.
Dent is a strong character guy who was the team's defensive captain this year and he is excellent in run support.
The Atlanta native would be a good value pick in the middle-to-late rounds of the draft and he would give the Seahawks another option in the defensive front seven.
West Virginia Safety Robert Sands
The Seahawks appear to have struck gold with their selection of safety Earl Thomas in the first round of last season's draft. But the team could use another play maker in the back half of their secondary.
Sands could be that guy if the Seahawks decide to bring his unique 6'5" frame to the Emerald City next season. Sands was the unquestioned leader of the Mountaineers defense this past season while patrolling the West Virginia secondary.
Sands had six interceptions during his time in the Big East and he possesses above-average attributes in the areas of coverage and football intelligence. He has the chance to be a difference-maker at the next level and he is definitely a player the Seahawks should be watching at the combine.
Nevada Linebacker/Defensive End Dontay Moch
Moch is a bit undersized as of now to play defensive end in the NFL. Nonetheless, he has the motor to be an effective pass rusher from the outside linebacker position at the next level.
Moch is known as a relentless pass rusher who could fit in nicely in Seattle's 4-3 defense as an outside linebacker and pass-rushing specialist. The Hawks did a solid job of getting after the quarterback last season with defensive ends Chris Clemons and Raheem Brock, and Moch is another player who can get after the opposing team's signal caller.
Moch had 30 sacks in his four years at Nevada and an impressive 59 tackles for loss during the last three seasons.
Cincinnati Wide Receiver Armon Binns
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Binns is a receiver who has flown under the radar thus far, but he is the kind of player who would bring Seattle good value in the later rounds of the draft. The Hawks are relatively strong at the receiver position with the resurgence of Mike Williams, as well Ben Obomanu, Deon Butler and Golden Tate. While all of those guys bring something to the table, they all also bring question marks and that is why the Hawks may consider taking a receiver at some point in this draft.
Binns has good size at 6'2" and he can make the tough catches, something the Seahawks could have used in the playoff loss at Chicago (actually, they could have used someone who could just make a catch in general).
The productivity was there for Binns this season as he caught 75 passes for 1,101 and 10 touchdowns. ESPN ranks Binns as the No. 32 wide receiver in the draft, but I believe he will be a steal for someone in the latter rounds.
Purdue Defensive End Ryan Kerrigan
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If the Seahawks decide to spend yet another first-round selection on defense, then Ryan Kerrigan would be a good choice.
Kerrigan is a relentless pass rusher from the defensive end position; he recorded 12.5 sacks this season while leading the country with 26 tackles for loss.
Kerrigan would be a great addition to the Seahawks defense opposite of Chris Clemons and he would give the Hawks a strong character guy on the defensive line who was also a team captain at Purdue.
Villanova Offensive Tackle Ben Ijalana
Ijalana played left tackle at Villanova but he could move to right tackle for the Seahawks or inside to guard. He is stronger in pass protection than in run blocking, though he does both effectively and would undoubtedly be an upgrade from Sean Locklear .
There may be better fits for the Seahawks in the trenches than Ijalana. Depending on who is available when Seattle picks, they could decide that the Nova star is the best player remaining at a position of need and make him the 25th selection.
TCU Guard Marcus Cannon
Cannon is a huge guy who the Seahawks could use at guard next season to further improve their offensive line and finally get some consistency within the unit.
The 361-pound guard brings versatility, something the Seahawks may covet given all of the injuries to the offensive line this season.
Cannon is a strong run blocker who consistently provides push for the ground game; he is also an effective pass blocker. The Hawks could use an upgrade for their running game and Cannon could be a player that helps provide that.
Michigan Guard Steve Schilling
Schilling is a hometown kid, having played high school football at perennial power Bellevue. However, he decided to leave the state for college and play for the Wolverines.
Schilling was a solid but not great player for Michigan. You can expect him to have a similar career in the NFL. Schilling may never make the Pro Bowl but he does everything fairly well and he is a hard worker who could eventually develop into an elite offensive lineman.
The Seahawks may decide to take a chance on Schilling in one of the later rounds in hopes of securing the interior of their offensive line for the future.
Oregon State Center Alex Linnenkohl
Linnenkohl is another player from the state of Washington who could return home if the Seahawks decide to draft a center. Mel Kiper currently rates Linnenkohl as the fifth-best center in the draft.
Linnenkohl is another hard worker who has put on weight over the course of his career to make the transition to the next level and he is effective in both run and pass blocking.
Oregon State has traditionally produced some good NFL offensive lineman. Linnenkohl was the best the Beavers had to offer this season, so a team like the Seahawks may get good value by taking him in the later rounds of this year's draft.