If the 2005 draft happened this weekend, Seahawks analyst would be scratching their heads over Seattle selecting Chris Spencer in the first. He was a junior that didn't start full-time until his junior season. He didn't start because he was raw. Spencer was a tools god with developing skills. The kind of upside pick people have forgotten Ruskell makes. Spencer had combined to squat, bench and dead lift of 1,675 pounds in high school. He was a Mike Nolan pick. He was Tim Ruskell's first ever pick as a GM.
Spencer could start behind an established starter. He could get up to speed through his rookie contract and pay dividends when Robbie Tobeck eventually retired. Spencer wasn't an antithetical pick. He hadn't stabbed his pastor with a sharpened tooth brush or played in the WAC. But he was a different kind of pick for a franchise at a different point in its development than it would be in 2006, 2007 and 2008. Those were mature teams chasing the light that was ripped away in XL. In 2005, the dawn of 2005 before the magic, Seattle looked like a thin team with a developing offense that wouldn't make a run until its defense was overhauled. Who could have guessed that would take just one season?
Seattle's in a different place as a franchise today than it's ever been under Ruskell. Ruskell won't accept rebuilding, and perhaps to his own detriment, but he's shown an eye for the future. See the future...
Michael Johnson did not see full-time snaps until 2008. That's not to say he was a one-year wonder. Johnson had four sacks as a junior and five as a sophomore. But he didn't start, and that was disappointing for a player of his extreme ability. He's a true 6'7", and his athleticism rivals Julius Peppers. But Peppers tore up UNC. In his three years at UNC, Peppers had 30.5 sacks, 53 tackles for a loss and five interceptions. That's why Peppers was selected second overall and Johnson could fall into the early second.
Should he, I think Seattle pounces. Johnson could start as a situational defensive end and learn under Patrick Kerney. The coaching staff could challenge him and help him grow into his potential. There's an air of underachiever about Johnson and that has made many question his character, but Johnson has no known off-field issues and is considered coachable. Sometimes even players with amazing athleticism and great work ethic are late bloomers, and that might be Johnson, but he doesn't have to be to make this make sense.
Seattle seems committed to taking another shot at the crown. Seattle doesn't need a defensive end to be great in 2008, but it's inarguable that it would help. Kerney is 32 and reportedly wore down at the end of the 2007 season. Seattle has added depth to keep him fresh, but it needs more than that. It needs a player that can step in and be a very good pass rusher. It needs that because Kerney is not all or nothing. He's not 2007 or done. He could miss time with injury, and decline of some kind should be expected. Lawrence Jackson looks like a competent, rounded defensive end, but not a pure pass rusher. Johnson, at his worst, gives Seattle a viable edge rusher on obvious passing downs, and a competent pass rusher should Kerney miss time.
At the same time, Seattle seems committed to making itself younger. The 37th overall pick is affordable and can be spent on high upside players that might not produce right away. Last year's 37th pick, Jordy Nelson, signed a 4-year $3.71 million contract. The investment is less the cap space and more the opportunity cost of a second-round pick. If we take round out of the equation and instead think total placement, 37 is very close to 26. If we take position out of the equation and instead think talent, Johnson is very close to Spencer. If we let our imaginations wild, Johnson still can't envision Peppers, but another late bloomer with limitless potential may appear in our mind's eye, like, say, young Michael Strahan.