The release of Nate Davis seems to erase the question of "if" Seattle will grab a QB in the draft. Now the question is "in what round will they make their move?"
The answer likely has a lot more to do with who is available than what round Seattle would prefer to dedicate a pick to the position. There are anywhere from three to six QBs being talked about as late first- to second-round picks. If the Seattle front office is interested in any of them, they will need to use their pick at 25 to get into position to snag one.
If Jake Locker is available at 25, it isn't a stretch to imagine him being a Seahawk this fall. Any other available QB would be just that (a stretch) with that pick.
Cameron Newton, Auburn
Newton figures to be either a huge bust or a huge success. Regardless, the cost for Seattle to trade into position to draft him would be too great. I'd rather roll the dice with Whitehurst this season and acquire picks for 2012 and go after Andrew Luck or Matt Barkley.
Blaine Gabbert, Missouri
Gabbert looks to be the most NFL-ready QB, and will be a top 10 selection. I'm not sold on his value, particularly for Seattle. There is no reason to believe he'll be available, nor is he worth giving up the needed draft capital to move up the board to draft him.
Jake Locker, Washington
Locker is definitely this season's wild card at the QB position. He's been pegged everywhere from the 10th pick to the third round. The 2010 draft held several QBs in this position (Tim Tebow, Jimmy Clausen, and to a lesser extent, Colt McCoy). This year, Locker is joined by Ryan Mallett as draft day wild cards.
Locker's positive qualities (arm strength, athleticism, character, work ethic and intelligence) definitely put him as a top five selection. His negatives (accuracy and decision making) makes him a third or fourth-round talent.
Most NFL scouts and coaches will need to rely on film and interviews with Locker to balance the pros and cons. They will need to determine how much of his problems were mechanics-related or attributable to lesser talent on the Husky offense and if the deficiencies are teachable areas or not.
Carroll has one obvious advantage over the 15 or so other teams that might be tempted to draft Locker. The closeness Carroll shares with Locker's coach, Steve Sarkisian, allows enhanced insight on what actually plagued Locker during his senior season. While Sarkisian will likely be cautious with other teams in interviews, candor is expected in conversations with the coach that helped cultivate his career.
I've gone back and forth with Locker being a fit for Seattle. I watched him at the combine and thought he put in a very strong performance. His footwork looked improved, he threw a very solid deep ball and his timing routes were spot-on. It prompted me to go back and watch his snaps in the Senior Bowl and several of his college games.
There was a footwork issue, and my concern with him looking to run way too soon was also reaffirmed. At times, there were outlet options with room, but he tucked and ran before making it through his progressions.
What I have concluded is that much of Locker's issues dealt with a poor offensive line and inexperienced receiver options. A lack of faith in his targets catching the ball, and even less faith in his offensive line giving him time to go through progressions, led him to take the game on his shoulders. In the first Nebraska game, he tried to force the ball to receivers that weren't open. Later in the season, he chose to run instead of forcing passes.
If Locker happens to be available at 25, I firmly believe he'll be drafted by Carroll. Even if his accuracy issues continue, he'll be a better option than Whitehurst. If he can elevate his game, he'll be a much better QB than Kolb and could become an elite QB in several years.
I have my doubts on other teams letting him get that far, though. If they do, Locker is worth the risk.
Ryan Mallett, Arkansas
Leading up to declaration day for the 2010 draft, some mock drafts had Mallett going in the first 15 picks of the first round. The financial cost tied to Locker's decision to stay for his senior year has received a lot of attention. Mallett stands to lose almost as much as Locker.
There is little question regarding Mallett's ability to throw the ball. He has a very strong arm and is accurate as well. There have been some that question his accuracy, citing his Sugar Bowl game performance. I watched that game in large part just to watch Mallett, and he threw very well. If not for about 18 dropped balls, his stats would have been through the roof.
Mallet made the most of postseason workouts. He was as good as anyone in combine passing drills. He also performed very well at his pro day when throwing the ball. His 5.36 40 time should give some pause, as he's been called a bit statuesque in the pocket—this could explain why. Still, the NFL Network analysts said he has worked himself back into opening day consideration.
Then there is the other side of Mallett. He might not be smart enough to read NFL defenses. He may have an issue with drug use. He also has a bit of an attitude. Check that—he's a raving narcissist. This is my biggest issue with Mallett, and something that can't be overlooked.
It is one thing to lead a huddle of college kids. They are your friends and you run the campus with them. You are all playing for school pride. Many of them have similar attitudes, and those that don't are apt to overlook the arrogance for a player that is performing.
However, his antics simply won't fly in the NFL. His dismissive attitude towards the press at the combine is just another example of why he will struggle gaining the respect a QB has to have in an NFL huddle. The QB must be the leader of the offense and Mallett is a long way from being able to command the needed respect. He may grow out of it, but he has Ryan Leaf potential.
I can't see using a first round selection on Mallett. Seattle may decide to pass on selecting a QB in round one and gamble on him still being available in round two—and then gamble that Carroll and Bevell can turn him around. With his talent, Seattle's pick in round two would be worth the risk.
Christian Ponder, Florida State
Ponder has been ranked from third to sixth on the QB charts, depending on what review one wants to rely on. He has an accurate arm and good athleticism, making him a good fit for a West Coast offense.
Given the huge need at the QB position, it would not be surprising to see Seattle grab him with their first pick (albeit after some maneuvering, discussed below). Seven of the first 10 teams to pick in the second round have a need at QB; Ponder won't last until Seattle's second pick.
One of Ponder's strengths is his ability to extend plays with his legs. Unlike Locker, when Ponder tucks and scrambles he has shown the ability to keep his eyes downfield and get a pass off. Also unlike Locker, he lacks zip in intermediate range passes, and doesn't have a strong arm on deep passes.
Colin Kaepernick, Nevada
Kaepernick is every bit as intriguing as Ponder. Coming out of a pistol offense, he will likely need a few years to adjust to a professional offense and the speed of the NFL. This may be enough to discount him as a viable option for Seattle. Still, Kaepernick has a strong arm, is a hard, intelligent worker and is athletic. His legs will help him gain yards when scrambling and help him extend plays outside the pocket.
He figures to be a second-round pick, and grabbing him at 25 would be a stretch. Depending on who else is available on the draft board, Seattle may be able to acquire a few picks by trading down from 25. They have the "advantage" of having so many needs that teams behind them won't know what direction they plan to go.
The Ravens need WR and CB help, and could be tempted to trade spots with Seattle to avoid losing their guy. That move would equate to the Ravens' sixth-round selection. While not much, they might be able to parlay that with an additional trade.
The Bears and Steelers need help at OG—Chicago has to worry about Seattle drafting the top option at the position, and Pittsburgh has to recognize they are at risk with Chicago as well. A trade with one of those teams should yield a valuable third-round pick.
The Packers and Jets will likely be looking at DE, and might have minimal concerns about Seattle getting their player. However, both of them should be concerned with the Patriots, as they need help at the position, too. Green Bay would need to part with their third- and sixth-round picks to trade places with Seattle. If a move happens with the Jets, they would need to send their third-round selection and receive the aforementioned sixth-round pick hypothetically received from Baltimore.
Pat Devlin, Delaware
Devlin is also an intriguing option, and one that could be considered with Seattle's fourth-round pick. He appears to be a well-rounded QB, but hasn't played top competition.
It is hard to know if he'll be able to make the big step to the NFL. He was impressive against Eastern Washington University in the FCS National Championship Game, but he'll need to make quicker decisions in the NFL. Devlin can't be ignored, and Joe Flacco has shown that Deleware QBs can step up and perform in the NFL.
Andrew Dalton, TCU
Dalton is projected as a fourth- or fifth-round pick. He was considered a possible second- or third-round option earlier, but accuracy issues have made that less likely. There is a sharp concern that his performance was centered more on the system at TCU and talented players surrounding him. Seattle is better off using their fourth-round pick on a fullback.
The Rest of the Field
Ricky Stanzi, Iowa, Nathan Enderle, Idaho and Greg McElroy, Alabama: These QBs have potential to be starters in the NFL down the road, but don't seem to meet Seattle's need of a passer that can step up sooner as opposed to later. Should Seattle grab one of these options in a later round, we can expect that they are looking at someone in free agency and have their eye on one of the elite passers expected in the 2012 draft.