According to NFL Network Analyst Mike Mayock, the 2011 NFL Draft could potentially see an astounding nine defensive ends selected in day one. That would be the most DE's selected in round one since six were picked in 2003. Do the Seahawks need to select a defensive end in the first round? Will they be able to find value at pick #25? Here are the top defensive end prospects according to Mayock:
Mayock's First Round Defensive Ends:
|Cameron Heyward||Ohio State||3-4|
Despite my firm belief that the Hawks need to select a cornerback in the first round, Pete Carroll may decide the best way to improve the pass defense is to put more consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks. The Hawks finished 13th in the league in sacks in 2010, a surprising number for the 27th ranked pass defense in the league. As far as the DE's were concerned, Chris Clemons led the team with 11 sacks and Raheem Brock added 9. Brock also finished third in the NFL in Quarterback hits (22). Sounds like a pretty decent combo but Brock will be 33 in 2011 and is currently a free agent.
With so many talented DE's in this years draft, perhaps the Hawks will take advantage. I would think that, in a case like this where there is a plethora of talent at one position, it would be easier for the Hawks executives to scout which player they wanted. Maybe just focus on DE and you know one of those guys will be there at #25? I hope the Hawks pick a CB but after Peterson and Amukamara are gone it appears to be wide open as to how to rank CB's 3-7, who will be available at #25, and are they even first round worthy? DE may be a much safer bet.
Both ESPN's Todd McShay and Mel Kiper have only Bailey and Heyward available at #25 off the list provided above. Allen Bailey (6-4, 285) played both DE and DL an Miami which would add nice versatility to the Hawks defense, the importance of which is obvious after the injuries the Hawks DL sustained last year. Also nice is the fact that Bailey played 50 games at Miami, nearly breaking the school record, again showing his durability. Cameron "Ironhead" Heyward (6-5, 288) is a beast, played all over the defensive line at Ohio State and showed great durability during this four years in college as well. There are however some questions as to how well Heyward would adjust to the 4-3 style the Hawks prefer. Most analysts are certain that Wisconsin's JJ Watt can make that transition from 3-4 to 4-3 easily but some are unsure about Heyward.
If that ends up being the case, which player should the Hawks pick? It's too early to tell at this point in my opinion but I think the upcoming NFL combine (Feb 23-March 1) will help sort this out. If you're a draft junkie like me you can view the combine as it happens on NFL Network. Okay, I don't know for sure if Heyward's nickname is "Ironhead" but that was his dad's nickname so it seems to fit in my mind.
I'm not going to pretend to be the defensive end expert so what do you all think? Which of these players that the Hawks have a possible shot at would be the best fit? Does it matter if they played 3-4 in college? Any players not on this list we should be looking at?