The Seattle Seahawks are actually much closer to contention than their 2011 record (7-9) would have you believe. They have the best young secondary in the league, an excellent run defense and running game, and they improved their quarterback situation.
The team endured a lot of injuries last year, so with some luck and a good first-round pick, they could challenge the 49ers for NFC West supremacy. The 12th pick represents many intersections of value and need, so handicapping the odds of how they'll use their pick is one of the bigger challenges of the first round.
Below are the probabilities for how the pick will be used. One percentage point is reserved for the field.
Alabama DE/OLB Courtney Upshaw: 35%
Even though Upshaw has been out of vogue in the postseason, his high floor and fit in the Seahawks defense could be so appealing that he is the No. 1 prospect for their "elephant" position. Rob Staton of Seahawks Draft Blog does an outstanding job explaining the position and why Upshaw is a good fit despite his deficiencies.
South Carolina DE/OLB Melvin Ingram: 25%
Ingram may be rated close to, equal or even above Upshaw on the Seahawks' draft board, but there is a higher chance that he is gone before the 12th pick, so he's the second choice.
Trade Down: 20%
With the options to fill needs at DE/OLB, OG, ILB stretching for at least 5-8 players after No. 12, trading down is certainly a strong possibility on the Seattle board. If Ingram is their best player available, I think they take him. Upshaw is a tougher call because the Cowboys, Jets and Bengals at 14, 15 and 17 could all be targeting him, but he has also been consistently falling in the public perception since the combine.
Stanford OG David DeCastro: 7%
DeCastro will likely be the best player available on a lot of boards at No. 12, and the Seahawks potentially need a stalwart starter at guard, but the class is deep enough to address the position later.
Boston College LB Luke Kuechly: 3.5%
Another best player available on some boards that fills a need, but Pete Carroll suggested it won't be an overly difficult need to fill, noting he believes there are 12 draftable linebackers with good grades.
Alabama LB Dont'a Hightower: 3.5%
It's not absurd to think Hightower's stout run support and ability to be a third-down edge rusher could put him above Kuechly on the Seahawks' draft board. He is certainly a prime target if they move down.
Illinois DE/OLB Whitney Mercilus: 2%
Mercilus is a better pass-rushing talent than Upshaw and Ingram, and he has the attributes to play the run well, but lacks awareness. His higher ceiling might get him to Seattle at 12, but it's a longshot.
North Carolina DE Quinton Coples: 2%
If Coples gets out of the top 10, he'll be there for Seattle, but he also doesn't project as well in their system, even though he is a terrific pass-rushing talent. Staton tells me that the effort issues don't concern the team, so perhaps I'm underestimating this one.
USC DE/OLB Nick Perry: 1%
Yes, there's the USC connection and Perry is an excellent raw talent, but his run defense is a work in progress and it just doesn't seem like he'll be among the top DE/OLB prospects on their board.