For all the Ruskell-bashing that may happen, and valid or not as it may be, it's important to note that every general manager in every sport makes mistakes. There isn't a big brain that isn't debacled once in a while if he's been at the job longer than a year. In the words of Earl Weaver, "Stick around long enough, and you'll see everything. That's why you shouldn't stick around too long."
The key to great personnel acumen isn't handling success -- it's learning from failure. At this point, Tim Ruskell's first Seattle draft pick tends to look more failure-esque. Chris Spencer has had two terms tied to his four-year career: "oft-injured" and "disappointing". At the 2005 Combine, Spencer himself said that he probably had a second-round grade projection, but Seattle pulled the trigger in the first.
Four years, a boatload of injuries, and a lot of flummoxed line calls later, it's time to see how Tim Ruskell recovers from his first mistake in Seattle. Spencer is a free agent in 2010, so consider him "on loan" for sixteen games. He won't be back. Steve Vallos is an interesting project who looked completely overmatched last year. And if you think that all seventh-round centers are clueless in their inaugural campaigns, take another look at Indy's Jamey Richard against Shaun Rogers last year.
Who's the fix?
Fourth Round (105) - A.Q. Shipley, C, Penn State
First of all, Mike Mayock and Rob Rang LOVE Shipley -- Rob named him to his "Rang's Gang" team of under-the-radar players who shouldn't be. You can pretty much stop right there and avoid my blah-blah-blah if you'd like. Good enough for them, good enough for me.
That said, center is a weird position. It may be the only position in the game of football besides quarterback where intelligence is not a, but THE, primary necessary attribute. We learned this from Spencer, who could drive any defender into next Tuesday when he was healthy, but struggled enough with line calls to force the Seahawks to retain the fossilized version of Chris Gray at least one season too long. Bad for Gray's legacy (which is a pretty interesting one), bad for the Seahawks. It is a position where the list of true greats is as populated with undrafted afterthoughts as it is first-round knockouts. If I asked you whether you'd rather have Spencer as is, or the "10 holding penalties in one season" version of Robbie Tobeck, I don't think I'd have to wait too long for your answer.
On to Shipley. He's a slight reach at 105 (the dreaded short arms), and he fits every other characteristic of the "Ruskell guy". 39 starts at the position, plus a history at defensive tackle that speaks to an attacking style. Projected as a zone-blocking player only in the NFL, where his strengths will shine and his weaknesses will be hidden. Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year. Rimington Trophy winner. Team captain.
He's good at the second level, will get caught up in short areas (they'd need slightly larger guards in general -- bye-bye, Mr. Wahle), and plays with a fire and intelligence that will transfer to an offensive line that is not only changing schemes, but most positions in the next year or so. Put Shipley in the hopper for a year, let him learn, let him get reps based on Spencer's performance in the walk year, and this reach pick with physical debits (Zing!) will make it happen in 2010 and beyond. I think he'd be a great fit in the power-zone scheme the Seahawks look to be running now and in the future.