The 2011 NFL Draft is fast approaching and with the lockout and subsequent suspension of free agent negotiations this weekend in April is the only way for teams to address any needs 2010 may have left them.
In Seattle’s case, many of the veterans are impending free agents, many other starters are still coming back from injury, and Pete Carroll hasn’t been able to make a roster move in nearly two months! Coach needs a fix.
How does he address the Seahawks' many needs in 2011?
The Seahawks made what should have been a big step in upgrading their offensive line in last year’s draft when they picked left tackle Russell Okung sixth overall. Seattle’s plan was foiled, though, when it turned out that Russell Okung couldn’t stay healthy and was sidelined a third of the season with multiple ankle injuries.
Now, with center Chris Spencer, starting right tackle Sean Locklear, and utility backup Tyler Polumbus all up for free agency, the O-line is again a priority in Seattle.
Florida center Mike Pouncey is a versatile, strong option whose draft stock has been upgraded by virtue of a twin brother who has already proven himself in the NFL (Maurkice Pouncey, Steelers 18th overall pick in 2010, rookie Pro Bowler). He spent the 2009 season playing both right and left guard and spent 2010 entirely at center. Next to Max Unger (or hopefully Chris Spencer) his progression in Seattle could be very similar.
He has ideal run blocking ability to give Justin Forsett and Marshawn Lynch the holes they were so frequently missing last year and would be ultra-effective in pass protection, as well—a key detail for a team who will have either an aging, rookie, or slow read quarterback taking snaps.
It’s possible that Pouncey won’t be available by the time Seattle picks. ESPN’s Mel Kiper’s latest mock draft has Pouncey going to the New York Giants at 19th overall, and many others have Pouncey taken by Miami at 15th overall.
If the lockout is lifted before the draft you can bet Carroll will do his best to trade up to get the likes of Pouncey.
Otherwise, Seattle might be able to get similar production from either Florida State’s Rodney Hudson or Georgia’s Clint Boling, though both might be a bold pick in the first round.
Seattle needs help all over their woeful defense including in pass coverage. Without a third round pick it’ll be important for Carroll to take a look at the high-production players that’ll go in the first two days.
Despite Carroll’s seeming indifference towards character issues, that indifference seems specific to characters who come at a bargain price. Cornerback Jimmy Smith out of Colorado is a popular pick for Seattle with pundits citing his character issues as the only reason he’ll fall as far as 25th. It’s true, too, that without the attitude and arrests Smith is a valuable commodity.
But, as a first round pick, even at 25th overall, he’s hardly a bargain. Carroll could test the waters to see just how far Smith falls into the second round.
If that doesn’t pan out, Curtis Brown out of Texas would be a serviceable replacement.
Brown is great at reading plays off the quarterback and disrupting the pass. He’s athletic enough to pose a problem for even the taller receivers and aware enough to see the picture beyond his primary assignment.
Last year, Seattle’s defensive line had a dramatic chunk taken out of it with the simultaneous loss of defensive tackles Red Bryant and Colin Cole to injury. Cole was back a few weeks later, but Bryant’s torn MCL ended his season.
Plus, DT Brandon Mebane (a free agent this year) missed four games around the same time and nearly instantly Seattle’s defense dropped from the second ranked squad in the league to the 21st.
Clearly, Seattle needs some depth on the D-line.
While LSU’s Drake Nevis’ size is a little below average for a tackle, he uses it to his advantage. That low center of gravity can neutralize a larger opponent and can, in turn, make him immobile and ultra-effective against the run.
He has often illustrated the ability to break a block to follow a ball carrier and though he doesn’t have the power to collapse the pocket, he’s quick enough to make it into the backfield when he gets a good read on the play.
The quarterback situation in Seattle cannot be ignored. Entering the draft (barring an injunction on the owner’s lockout) Seattle will have only one quarterback under contract for 2011. Matt Hasselbeck is either playing the market or standing with the player’s lawsuit and he and the Seahawks were unable to come to terms before the lockout began...leaving Seattle in the hands of Charlie Whitehurst.
Whitehurst was underwhelming in his two starts last season—though he did manage to play a halfway decent game in Week 17 to advance Seattle to the playoffs. He is slow to read the field and has major blind spots.
Undoubtedly, this is why he became known for his mobility when he played for Clemson.
Greg McElroy out of Alabama would offer a competitive compliment to Whitehurst. He has a better pocket presence and is more accurate, especially on the short play passes Carroll seems to favor.
Under Offensive Coordinator Darrell Bevis, who served as the quarterbacks coach for the Green Bay Packers in Brett Favre’s prime, any concerns about McElroy’s arm strength and wavering deep ball can be ironed out.
As a fifth round pick, McElroy is a low-risk option with potential for a big return.
Seattle’s 14th overall pick in 2010, safety Earl Thomas made a huge difference in the Seahawks’ defense. Even so, Seattle still struggles at this position, relying heavily on veterans Lawyer Milloy and Jordan Babineaux, who are both free agents this year. Milloy, at 37, could easily retire or slide into a backup role.
Nebraska’s Eric Hagg could add depth in the position and demonstrates the field awareness to read a play and get to the ball. In 2010 he logged five interceptions which could make a marked difference in Seattle’s horrible takeaway ratio.
The Seahawks won’t suffer with yet another defensive pick, especially if they’re able to land defensive end Jeremy Beal from Oklahoma.
Beal’s 40-yard dash time at the Combine was a low (for a DE) 5.16 and hopefully for Seattle that’ll cause teams to pass him by in earlier rounds. The relatively slow speed is Beal’s only real downside but, it didn’t seem to stop his productivity in Oklahoma. He tallied nine sacks in 2010 and 11 the previous year.
He has the potential to be an unexpected presence in the pocket and help Chris Clemons keep consistent pressure.
Pete Carroll seems to be gearing up for another sizzling competition among his wideouts and with veterans Brandon Stokely and Ruvell Martin headed to free agency, Deon Butler recovering from a broken leg, and 2010’s second round pick, Golden Tate, being a huge disappointment, Seattle could certainly benefit from more options.
TCU’s Jeremy Kerley exhibits great ball handling skills and excellent ability to find open field.
While there may be a learning curve when it comes to route running on the professional scale, he has enormous big play ability once the catch is made (he averages just over 10 yards per reception in three of his four seasons at TCU).
Seattle’s two primary backs are entering their contract season and the other options (save the rarely used Leon Washington) are uninspiring to say the least.
Anthony Allen would serve as a good, late-round project back. He’s a larger back and what he lacks in second gear running ability he makes up for in power. He is able to regularly gain extra yards after contact and has spent time as a blocker.
That power would be ideal in the short yardage situations Seattle struggled with last season while other aspects of his game are fine-tuned.