Seattle Seahawks' Top Needs, Fits for 2015 NFL Draft to Build for the Future
The Seattle Seahawks are a team that is build to compete for a championship now, as evidenced by their appearance in the Super Bowl in each of the past two seasons.
However, that doesn't mean Seattle can completely forget about building for the future.
Addressing both short- and long-term needs should be a primary focus for the Seahawks in this and every draft. Competing for an NFL title now is great, but every team's ultimate goal should be gaining the ability to compete for a championship now and for the foreseeable future.
With this in mind, let's take a look at roles the Seahawks need to fill in order to prepare for the future.
The Seattle receiving corps definitely appeared to be good enough in 2014. After all, the unit did help bring about a Super Bowl appearance and nearly set up a last-minute comeback victory in the big game.
However, the Seahawks still lack a true difference-maker at the wide receiver position (no wideout logged more than 825 yards on the season) and can afford to add depth at the very minimum. The offseason acquisition of tight end Jimmy Graham certainly changes the perspective of the pass-catching group, but having another top-flight prospect to groom for the future is never going to hurt.
Devin Smith, Ohio State
The trade for Graham leaves the Seahawks without a first-round pick, so the team needs to start looking at prospects after Round 1. Devin Smith is a guy who could fit if he falls to the bottom of the second round.
Though the former Ohio State pass-catcher isn't exactly a completely polished receiver, he does bring the assets needed to be an elite deep threat. Smith is fluid in the open field and accelerates extremely quickly out of his breaks. He led the Buckeyes with 931 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2014.
Smith's ability to find open space downfield would perfectly complement quarterback Russell Wilson's ability to buy time in the pocket.
Devin Funchess, Michigan
Michigan's Devin Funchess is another second-round prospect who would fit nicely in the Seattle offense.
Funchess is a strong and aggressive pass-catcher who could help add a physical identity to the Seahawks' receiving corps. However, he is definitely not one of the fastest pass-catchers in this year's draft (ran a 4.70-second 40 at the combine) and plays more like an undersized (6'4", 232 pounds) tight end.
For this reason, I tend to envision sets with both Funchess and Graham causing immense trouble for opposing defenses.
He racked up 733 yards and four touchdowns in 2014.
Tre McBride, William & Mary
Ball skills win games, and small-school prospect Tre McBride has ball skills in spades. The 6'0", 210-pound receiver makes catching the ball look incredibly easy and backed up those skills with a solid 4.41-second 40-yard dash time at the scouting combine.
He is definitely worth a look in the third or fourth round, especially since the Seahawks are a team that can afford to be patient with its pass-catchers.
Ty Montgomery, Stanford
Stanford wideout Ty Montgomery is the type of mid-round prospect I can see the Seahawks going after in this year's draft. The 6'0", 221-pound pass-catcher is definitely not the most polished prospect in the draft, but he is strong, physical and a willing blocker.
Montgomery also brings ability as a return specialist, which would also fill a need. He finished the 2014 season with 61 receptions, 604 yards and three touchdowns.
Seattle traded away starting center Max Unger in order to acquire Graham. Fellow center Steve Schilling also made the difficult decision to retire at the age of 26 this offseason.
“There were a lot of things, I would say,” Schilling said of his decision, via Bob Condotta of The Seattle Times. “Just a personal choice for me at this time in my life. I wouldn’t say there was any one reason or not. Just more of a personal choice.’’
Naturally, the center position now becomes a need.
Hroniss Grasu, Oregon
Former Oregon center Hroniss Grasu is the second-best center available in this year's draft, according to CBSSports.com, but the Seahawks should feel very good if they can land him at the end of the second round.
Grasu was a four-year starter who never missed a game at Oregon. The 6'3", 297-pound mauler should be a Day 1 starter and could potentially alleviate the loss of Unger rather quickly.
B.J. Finney, Kansas State
Kansas State product B.J. Finney is another four-year starter who may be able to step in and start right away. He is probably a more realistic option for Seattle, as he is more likely to be available at the end of Round 2 and beyond.
At 6'4" and 318 pounds, Finney certainly has the size required for the position, though elite athleticism and movement are not there.
Shaq Mason, Georgia Tech
Georgia Tech product Shaq Mason is a mid-round prospect who would have to make a position switch from guard to center in order to fill Seattle's need.
He wasn't invited to the combine and is definitely looking like a gamble. However, Mason possesses great blocking power and should fit in nicely with the Seahawks' aggressive rushing attack if he can make a successful transition.
The Seahawks lost cornerback Byron Maxwell in free agency, though they did sign Cary Williams and Will Blackmon to help replace him.
Still, I believe Seattle values defensive backs enough to draft another prospect this year to potentially pair with superstar Richard Sherman down the line.
Quinten Rollins, Miami University
I'm not really sure I see him falling this far, but I really like the idea of adding a guy like Quinten Rollins at the bottom of the the second round. The former MAC standout is not likely to be an immediate starter, but Rollins has the physical tools and the instincts to develop into a top-tier cover corner.
Rollins isn't the most impressive athlete in terms of straight-line speed, but he is a fluid runner with above-average start-stop quickness. He was credited with nine passes defended and seven interceptions last season.
Imagining him putting these ball-hawking instincts to work in Seattle's secondary is pretty easy.
Ronald Darby, Florida State
I also like Florida State product Ronald Darby as a potential second-round target for Seattle. Though he isn't as physical as Waynes or as instinctive as Rollins, Darby does possess impressive speed (4.38-second 40 at the combine) for the position.
Darby could likely become an immediate contributor and a weapon against quicker slot receivers.
Jacoby Glenn, UCF
Former Central Florida cornerback Jacoby Glenn is a mid-round prospect with enough upside to warrant a gamble. He ran a respectable 4.64-second 40-yard dash at the scouting combine and has adequate height (6'0") for the position.
Glenn's biggest problem is his slight build (just 179 pounds) and need for refinement. Like Rollins, however, Glenn has the type of ball skills that could make him attractive to Seattle decision-makers.
Seattle's offensive line was a middle-of-the-pack unit in 2014, ranking 17th in pass-blocking for the season, according to Pro Football Focus. Therefore, it wouldn't be too surprising too see pass-blocker as an immediate need.
It definitely could become a future need, as starting left tackle Russell Okung is entering the final year of his contract. At some point, the Seahawks are going to have to pay some big money to their quarterback, which may leave Okung as the odd Russell out.
Grabbing an early- to mid-round prospect to help prepare for Okung's potential departure would be a sound strategy.
Ty Sambrailo, Colorado State
Colorado State product Ty Sambrailo was a two-year collegiate starter at left tackle. Though he doesn't possess ideal in-space athleticism, he is strong and balanced enough to serve as a pass-protector at the pro level.
It make take some time for Sambrailo to develop into a starting-caliber left tackle, but a year behind Okung may do the trick. He is definitely one of the better options for the Seahawks to consider in the second or third round.
Tyrus Thompson, Oklahoma
Oklahoma's Tyrus Thompson is another solid tackle prospect who could potentially be had in the third or fourth round of the draft.
He is an athletic pass-protector, though he isn't exactly the most dominant run-blocker. At 6'5" and 325 pounds, Thompson possesses more-than-adequate size, and he also brings experience at both left and right tackle.
This versatility means Thompson could potentially contribute early on as a depth player.
Rob Crisp, NC State
If the Seahawks want to take a flier on a late-round prospect, they would be wise to consider NC State product Rob Crisp.
Crisp is an athletic and long (6'7") tackle prospect who could eventually blossom into an NFL starter. However, at just 301 pounds, he will likely need to add mass and strength in order to take over a full-time job.
Seattle certainly doesn't need to target a defensive lineman early in the draft. Its defensive front looks pretty darn good.
However, the Super Bowl injury to Cliff Avril did show that there is room for defensive line depth on the roster, especially if the new addition has the potential to reach opposing quarterbacks.
Za'Darius Smith, Kentucky
Since the Seahawks don't need to add an immediate starter on the defensive line, the team can afford to go after a developmental prospect like Kentucky's Za'Darius Smith in the middle of the draft and feel good about it.
Smith doesn't possess elite speed or athleticism, but he is strong and relentless at the point of attack. He has the ability to pressure the quarterback with sheer determination alone, and he accounted for 4.5 sacks and 7.0 tackles for a loss in 2014.
At 6'4" and 274 pounds, Smith has the body of a true 3-4 defensive end and would likely step in as an immediate part of the defensive line rotation.
Lynden Trail, Norfolk State
Former small-school standout Lynden Trail is an intriguing prospect who would look good as an NFL student learning in Seattle's defense.
The 6'7", 269-pound defender is an imposing specimen, though he is extremely raw. He was primarily used as an outside linebacker in college, but he should fit in nicely as a 4-3 end with a little added bulk.
Anthony Chickillo, Miami
Defensive end Anthony Chickillo never truly emerged as a pass-rusher at Miami, but the 6'3",267-pound lineman has value as a mid-round prospect.
Chickillo has adequate speed (he ran a 4.79-second 40 at the combine), but he doesn't flash the explosiveness teams look for in a full-time pass-rusher. With that said, I do believe he would be productive as a rotational backup in Seattle's 4-3 front.
As we have mentioned numerous times, the Seahawks do not have a ton of glaring needs. One area that could immediately be improved, however, is the position of punt returner.
Wide receiver Bryan Walters ranked 18th overall among return specialists in 2014, according to Pro Football Focus, but he signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars this offseason. There are definitely a handful of late-round prospects capable of replacing him.
Ty Montgomery, Stanford
We have already mentioned Montgomery as a potential receiver prospect. The main reason he fits is that he has the potential to become a Pro Bowl-caliber return man at the NFL level.
Montgomery is not the most agile return specialist, but he clocked a blazing 4.38-second 40-yard dash at his pro day. The best indication of his ability, however, is Montgomery's 2013 season. That year, he racked up an impressive 2,208 all-purpose yards.
Marcus Murphy, Missouri
Former Missouri running back Marcus Murphy is the type of player that could fill in as a return man while finding a sporadic role on offense. He is a quick and shifty ball-carrier, though certainly undersized (5'8", 193 pounds) for a full-time back.
Murphy averaged 29.6 yards per kick return and 10.4 yards per punt return in 2014 with three total touchdowns, which is why he should be on Seattle's radar.
Kaelin Clay, Utah
Utah wideout Kaelin Clay isn't going to get drafted on his ability as a receiver. The 5'10", 195-pound pass-catcher has good straight-line speed (he ran a 4.51-second 40 at the scouting combine) but lacks the quickness teams look for in a potential slot receiver.
However, Clay is an accomplished return man. He averaged 25.62 yards per kick return and 15.04 yards per punt return in 2014 with four total scores.
Seattle may even be able to snag Clay after the draft as a priority free agent.
However, I believe it makes perfect sense to bring in competition for Christine Michael and Robert Turbin behind Lynch, especially since Turbin is entering the final year of his current deal. Obviously, this is a depth position that can be addressed late in the draft.
Marcus Murphy, Missouri
We already mentioned Murphy as a potential return specialist. His ability to possibly fill that need is exactly why I believe the speedy back can find a home on the roster. Once there, Murphy could potentially begin to earn reps as a quick change-of-pace ball-carrier and outlet receiver.
If Murphy is to earn a long-term role in the backfield, however, he will likely have to improve his strength and blitz-pickup ability.
Trey Williams, Texas A&M
Texas A&M's Trey Williams is another undersized (5'7", 195 pounds) change-of-pace back who the Seahawks might want to target in the last couple of rounds. Williams is definitely not an every-down runner, but his quickness (ran a 4.49-second 40 at the scouting combine) makes him a potentially dangerous offensive weapon.
Unfortunately, Williams doesn't have a lot of experience as a pass-catcher (just 26 receptions over the past two years), though he could find work as an occasional slot contributor and return man.
"He will have to prove to NFL teams that he can work from the slot, too. If he can show that he has value from the slot to go with an occasional carry and full-time kick return responsibilities, then he adds to his value," one NFC East scout said of Williams, via NFL.com.
Michael Dyer, Louisville
If the Seahawks are looking for more of a traditional runner to add to the backfield mix, Louisville's Michael Dyer could fit the bill. The 5'8", 215-pound has the size for the position and could potentially earn time after a little bit of seasoning.
He finished the 2014 season with 481 yards and five touchdowns on 110 carries.
The trade with New Orleans to bring in Graham obviously fills Seattle's need for a primary tight end. However, I do believe the Seahawks could afford to take a flier on a late-round prospect to compete with Luke Wilson for playing time behind Graham and to develop for the future (Wilson has just two more years on his current deal).
Naturally, the Seahawks should focus primarily on tight ends who can be found at the very bottom of the draft or in the undrafted-free-agent pool.
Nick Boyle, Delaware
Delaware product Nick Boyle is far from an elite athlete, but he is a good combination tight end capable of both blocking and receiving adequately.
Boyle certainly looks the part of an NFL tight end at 6'4" and 268 pounds. He hauled in 37 receptions for 304 yards in 2014.
With Graham and Wilson serving as pass-catchers, I believe Boyle would fit in well as the third tight end and primary in-line blocker.
Gerald Christian, Louisville
Former Louisville tight end Gerald Christian doesn't possess the size of a guy like Boyle (he stands 6'3" and 244 pounds), but he is more athletic and brings more potential as a pass-catcher.
Even though he produced a solid combine workout (4.87-second 40 time and 28 reps on the bench press) Christian could be available in the sixth round or later due to his lack of ideal size. I still see him as a good fit as a complementary pass-catcher in Seattle.
Jean Sifrin, Massachusetts
Jean Sifrin is an athletically talented, but extremely raw, 27-year-old tight end prospect. He hauled in 41 passes for 637 yards and six scored in his only season at UMass, but he has very limited football experience.
Sifrin is a gamble in just about every sense of the word, but the potential to make plays is there and I believe the Seahawks could afford to take the risk at the very bottom of the draft.