With the NFL draft now less than a week ago, it's time to assess the Seahawks' biggest positions of need, starting with the defensive line, a spot regarded as particularly strong in prospects this year.

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With the NFL draft just a few days away — it starts with the first round Thursday night and continues with Rounds 2 and 3 on Friday before concluding Saturday — it’s time to take a look at five Seahawks positions of need.

We’ll start with the defensive line, offering an overview, why it’s a spot the Seahawks might want to address in the draft, and a few players who could be good fits.


Starters: Ends Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett, tackle Athyba Rubin.

Backups: Tackles Jordan Hill, A.J. Francis, Sealver Siliga, Justin Hamilton; ends Frank Clark, Chris Clemons, Cassius Marsh, Ryan Robinson, Josh Shirley, DeAngelo Tyson.

KEY OFFSEASON LOSSES: Nose tackle Brandon Mebane (signed with San Diego) and linebacker/rush end Bruce Irvin (signed with Oakland).

OVERVIEW: Bennett, Avril and Rubin are under contract for at least two more seasons, giving Seattle experience and stability at three of four starting positions. The loss of Mebane created a need for a nose tackle, and the Seahawks re-signed Siliga — who was briefly with the team in 2013 before spending most of the past three seasons with the Patriots — to help fill the void. The Seahawks also hope for a healthy year from Hill, a third-round pick in 2013 who can be a free agent following the season. he has one more year to convince the team he deserves a second contract. Francis, signed late last season, also will compete for  interior spots.

The loss of Irvin could mean an expanded role for Clark, the team’s first pick last season, as a rush end. Seattle also re-signed the 34-year-old Clemons, hoping he can fill some of that void as a situational pass rusher. Marsh, now entering his third season, could play some strong-side linebacker to help fill some of Irvin’s snaps. Robinson is an intriguing one to watch as he was working with the first team as a rush end during offseason workouts last year before suffering an Achilles’ tendon injury and sitting out the season. One-time UW Husky Shirley is among others contending for rush-end duties.

DRAFT NEED (on scale of 1-10): 9.5. The Seahawks have drafted at least two defensive linemen every year since 2012 and undoubtedly will add one or two in this draft.

It’s an area of need, and this is regarded as a strong draft for interior linemen. The Seahawks can also use more pass rushers, though the draft is not considered as deep at that spot.

Said coach Pete Carroll at the league meetings: “Fortunately in this draft there’s a lot of defensive-tackle prospects, and maybe we’re fortunate enough to nail a guy somewhere throughout the draft. There happens to be more guys than we can ever remember that are graded highly enough to be drafted. So it’ll be a good spot in the draft.”

If there has been a position where Seattle has struggled a bit in the draft in recent years, though, it is with defensive linemen. But the Seahawks have been successful at bringing in players from the outside (projected starters Bennett, Avril and Rubin arrived as free agents).

Seattle has drafted 12 defensive linemen in the Carroll/John Schneider era (a couple others were listed as defensive linemen at the time of their selection but moved to offense).

Of those 12, just three remain on Seattle’s roster, and only one has emerged as a full-time starter for the Seahawks — Irvin. Jaye Howard, a 2012 fourth-round pick, has emerged as a starter with Kansas City. Three of 12 are out of the NFL

It’s worth noting that only Irvin, Clark and Hill were taken higher than the third round.

With four picks in the first three rounds this year, the Seahawks are just about certain to break that trend.

POSSIBLE DRAFT FITS: Given the strength of the defensive tackles in this year’s draft, it’ll be no surprise if the Seahawks take a lineman with their first pick at No. 26 overall.

Here are five who could be available at 26:

Kenny Clark, UCLA: Viewed as a prototypical two-down run defender in the NFL, some have likened him to Mebane.

Vernon Butler, Louisiana Tech: Butler is one of the 30 players the Seahawks brought to Seattle for a pre-draft visit. At 323 pounds, he is considered a a possibility at nose tackle (Mebane’s old spot), defensive tackle (Rubin) and the five-technique end spot (Bennett).

Chris Jones, Mississippi State: Former five-star recruit viewed as inconsistent in college. But talent is enticing.

Jonathan Bullard, Florida: Bullard is another known to have met with the Seahawks. At 285 pounds, he is considered more of a three- and five-technique player than a nose tackle.

Robert Nkemdiche, Mississippi: Nkemdiche remains one of the draft’s wildest of wild cards, with teams having to weigh his inconsistent play and off-field issues against his obviously vast talent. If he’s there at 26, the Seahawks might not be able to resist.

UP NEXT: Offensive line.