While a lot figures to change in terms of the Seahawks’ personnel between now and the draft on April 26-28, here’s a ranking of Seattle’s draft needs by position entering the Combine, and a few players to keep an eye on.
Seahawks coaches and scouts headed to the NFL Combine in Indianapolis Tuesday in what is the first formal step in assembling the team’s 2018 roster.
It’ll also be the first public appearance for coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider since the team underwent its most significant staff shakeup since the two came aboard in 2010, with each scheduled to meet the media for the first time this offseason — Carroll on Thursday and Schneider on Friday.
What the two say about the coaching staff changes and other potential moves involving the team’s roster may create the most news this week, simply because it’ll be the first comments the team will have made.
But the main focus of the coaches and scouts is getting an up close and personal look at the 336 players who will work out at the combine over the next week (the official workout days are Friday to Monday).
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Teams can also hold official 15-minute interviews with 60 players, but can talk to many more informally.
The Seahawks enter draft season in a somewhat precarious state — they hold the 18th pick in the first round, but thanks to the Sheldon Richardson and Duane Brown trades, aren’t scheduled to draft again until the fourth round (pick No. 120).
Because the Seahawks haven’t used their actual first-round pick since 2011, it’s easy to assume they’ll make some moves to acquire more mid-round picks.
But what the Seahawks see here undoubtedly will influence how avidly they might want to trade down or stay where they are.
What the Seahawks see here might also heavily influence decisions they’ll make in a few weeks in free agency (and it’s worth noting that with basically every player agent also here in Indy many deals begin to start percolating at the Combine).
While a lot figures to change in terms of the Seahawks’ personnel between now and the draft on April 26-28, here’s my annual ranking of Seattle’s draft needs by position entering the Combine, and a few players to keep an eye on.
1. Defensive line — Maybe you’d suggest offensive line is a bigger need entering the draft, and I wouldn’t argue much. But with the almost certain loss of Cliff Avril, that Richardson may be hard to re-sign, the continued uncertainty surrounding Malik McDowell and that Michael Bennett may at most have one year left as a Seahawk, the defensive line could need some serious re-tooling. Could Washington’s Vita Vea be available at No. 18? Probably not, if he really has the kind of performance here that people expect. Maybe a more realistic option at 18 is edge rusher Marcus Davenport of University of Texas-San Antonio. Scouts seem to have pretty varying opinions of Davenport and how ready he may be for the NFL. and his interviews here could be as important as those of any non-quarterback.
2. Offensive line — Seattle’s immediate needs here maybe aren’t quite as urgent just in the sense that the Seahawks could bring back every starter from last season — all but guard Luke Joeckel are under contract. But Seattle obviously has to continue to get better up front. One intriguing option is Oregon’s Tyrell Crosby, judged by his peers as the best OL in the Pac-12 last season. Crosby generally is seen as a potential late-first or early second round pick and maybe one Seattle figures it could get him by trading down and accumulating other picks in the second day.
3. Secondary — Kam Chancellor’s situation means the Seahawks could be in the market for a safety (though re-signing Bradley McDougald and becoming clearer about Earl Thomas’ future might mitigate the needs here by draft time). Florida State safety Derwin James has been a popular player for mock drafters to slot for Seattle at 18 but he could rise if he shines in interviews and on the field at Indy, especially if there are no lingering concerns about his knee. Another to watch — Marcus Allen of Penn State, whose size (6-2-1/8, 215 pounds) could become even more intriguing if he runs better than expected.
4. Running back — By draft time Eddie Lacy and Thomas Rawls could be ex-Seahawks and Seattle may well have added a veteran or two. Still, drafting at least one somewhere makes sense, though doing so at 18 might be too rich. The good news is this is considered a deep draft for running backs, which the Combine might make even more clear. Two mid-round prospects who could help themselves a lot here? Arizona State’s Kalen Ballage and Alabama’s Bo Scarbrough, each impressive physically but with questions about why they didn’t produce more in college.
5. Tight end — Jimmy Graham and Luke Willson could also be ex-Seahawks by the time the draft rolls around, though my hunch is still that Willson is a good bet to re-sign (though not Graham). But even if Willson returns, Seattle could have needs at tight end — at the moment only two are on the roster for 2018, Nick Vannett and Tyrone Swoopes. One fast-rising prospect whose performance here could help him greatly is Washington’s Will Dissly. Stanford’s Dalton Schultz is another potential mid-rounder who might fit Seattle’s needs.
6. Receiver — Depending on what happens in free agency — Paul Richardson is probably a better-than-even bet to get priced out of Seattle’s range — this could be an underrated need for Seattle. And the good news is that while some question if there are a lot of receivers with first-round grades, there appears to be a lot of mid-round depth. Seattle has been trying for a while to get a big receiver and one intriguing prospect is Oklahoma State’s Marcell Ateman, a 6-4, 216-pounder who could solidify his status as an early second-day pick depending on how he runs.
7. Linebacker — Seattle hasn’t drafted a linebacker since Kevin Pierre-Louis in the fourth round in 2014. But that drought could end this year as Seattle may want to add some young depth behind Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright (Wright is also entering the final year of his contract). Seattle could also look for a strongside linebacker/rush end type, especially with this thought to be a pretty good year for both inside and outside backers. Maybe the most intriguing linebacker at the Combine is Central Florida’s Shaquem Griffin, twin brother of Seahawk Shaquill Griffin who got an invite following a standout Senior Bowl performance.
8. Quarterback — It’s hard to imagine Seattle spending much draft capital on a backup to Russell Wilson. But with Wilson having two years left on his contract, Seattle might also want to get another young QB in the system for options down the road. No player at the Combine is eliciting more divergent opinions than Louisville’s Lamar Jackson, and it won’t be a surprise if the Seahawks take a serious look in case he really starts to fall.
9. Kickers — This is a rare year when there are multiple kickers and punters deemed as potentially worthy of at least a late-round pick — there are seven punters, four kickers and one snapper taking part this week led by Texas punter Michael Dickson, who some think could actually sneak into the third round. Free agency will greatly determine if Seattle has needs here (could the Seahawks really release veteran punter Jon Ryan?).