We’ll continue our Seahawks pre-draft position reviews with a look at the linebackers.
PLAYERS CURRENTLY ON ROSTER
Starters: MLB Bobby Wagner, WLB K.J. Wright, SLB Bruce Irvin.
Seahawks 2015 Draft
- Seattle Times NFL mock draft
- Seahawks' 10 best draft picks of all time
- Seahawks' 10 worst draft picks of all time
- Position review: Defensive line
- Position review: Offensive line
- Position review: Quarterback
- Position review: Running back
- Position review: Wide receiver
- Position review: Tight end
- Position review: Linebacker
- Position review: Defensive Backs
- Position review: Special Teams
Backups: Brock Coyle, Kevin Pierre-Louis, Mike Morgan, Mike Taylor, Mister Alexander, Brendan Kelly.
OVERVIEW: Seattle’s starting three will again be one of the better units in the NFL, and also a group whose future could become much more solidified this off-season. Wright signed a four-year extension late last season. The team hopes to get something done with Wagner this summer. And the expectation is that the team will pick up an option to extend the contract of Irvin for the 2016 season at $7.7 million. So if that happens, then this group will be set for at least the next two seasons.
But depth is suddenly something of an issue after the departure of Malcolm Smith, who was something of a fourth starter and jack-of-all-trades backup the last two years, via free agency in the off-season.
Coyle is the backup in the middle, Pierre-Louis the backup to Wright on the weakside and Morgan on the strongside. But Coyle and Pierre-Louis are in just their second seasons after playing sparingly last year — Pierre-Louis also having missed the last six games with a shoulder injury that required surgery (he is expected to be fully recovered for the season). Morgan has been with the team since 2011 and is a valued presence on special teams, but hasn’t seen a lot of action in the field.
Taylor, Alexander and Kelly are all free agents who have not seen action with the Seahawks. Alexander played 12 games for the Texans in 2012-13 and is similar in style to Smith. Taylor can play both inside and outside while Kelly is more of a strongside/rush end type (Taylor and Kelly are each from Wisconsin).
DRAFT NEED (on scale of 1-10): 9. With 11 picks, it’d be a bit of a surprise if the Seahawks didn’t lose at least one on a linebacker, especially an outside linebacker who can contend for special teams duty. Wright is essentially Seattle’s backup middle linebacker, and the Seahawks wouldn’t seem to have a need for someone who is specifically an MLB. And the Seahawks can use all the pass-rushing types they can getting someone in the Irvin mold would make sense.
POSSIBLE DRAFT FITS: There are plenty of really good outside linebacker/rush end types in this draft. But as is the case at just about every position, with the Seahawks not scheduled to pick until No. 63, the best will be long gone by the time Seattle finally hands in a card. Still, it’s regarded as a really good year for rush end/OLB types and there should be plenty of options for the Seahawks in the second round, and beyond.
At the risk of simply looking at the best local guy as a possible fit, one player who could be there when Seattle picks is Washington’s Hau’oli Kikaha. He’s generally regarded as a best fit as an OLB in a 3-4 defense. But we know the Seahawks and their desire for finding players with a unique attribute and then trying to find a place to best make that work, and from this view it seems like they could find a way to use Kikaha similar to how they used O’Brien Schofield last season.
Another really intriguing player who might be there when Seattle picks is LSU’s Kwon Alexander, whose 4.57 40 time was the second-fastest for a linebacker at the Combine. Alexander is regarded as a prototype weakside linebacker type. He also declared early and is just 20 years old, and is regarded as likely able to contribute immediately on special teams.
A player with ties to Pete Carroll who has been linked to Seattle in the later rounds in a few mock drafts is USC’s Hayes Pullard. Pullard committed to USC when Carroll was coach, though he never played for Carroll there. Pullard played both inside and outside for the Trojans, a versatility that could intrigue the Seahawks, and at 240 would be a little bigger than the players Seattle has typically had at weakside linebacker. But many regard WLB as his best fit in the NFL.
And then there’s UW’s Shaq Thompson, who few — other than apparently ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay — think will be there when the Seahawks pick. Kiper and McShay combined on a mock draft last week that had Thompson lasting until the 97th pick, getting past the Seahawks twice. Most regard Thompson as a late-first round pick, even if there remain questions about his position. Some see him best as a strong safety. But Thompson says he wants to be a linebacker, where he projects as a weakside backer.
Seattle isn’t known to have brought in any linebackers for pre-draft visits other than another one with local ties — former Husky Josh Shirley — regarded as more of a rush linebacker type and generally viewed as being an undrafted free agent.
Here are the previous position reviews: