Seahawks 2014 draft class: Competition will be tough as ever this season with added depth at key positions

Kevin C. Cox

Always comPete, comPete all ways, Come on, Pete, ways all?

Over the most recent draft, the Seattle Seahawks added seven nine more players through the draft (and nine undrafted free agents, it seems) to compete for playing time on an already-stacked roster. That being said, there's no shortage of competition once again.

In addition to fighting for a roster spot against players that were already featured in 2013, there's a whole bunch of players that have been looking to do that already for the last one or two years. Last season, the Seahawks added eleven players through the draft and seven are still around, not including UDFA Alvin Bailey. And even if you go back to the 2012 draft, there are a number of players that hope that this is going to be their year.

Names like Korey Toomer, Jeremy Lane, and Greg Scruggs. Just try and remember how you felt about players like Malcolm Smith and Jermaine Kearse and Byron Maxwell. With a number of key players departing via free agency and probable-retirement, you can expect some fresh faces to make a name for themselves in Seattle next season.

The opportunity is definitely there, but the competition is going to be as stiff as it's ever been under Pete Carroll.

Here is another look at the 2014 Seattle Seahawks draft class, and how their presence will effect the competition at their current positions (of which we usually know little) and how they may or may not push some fan favorites onto the waiver wire.

Paul Richardson v Kevin Norwood v Jermaine Kearse

The Seahawks emphasize in their UDFA brochure that they won't hesitate to recognize and move on from a bad pick. That being said, Richardson is not going to get cut. Not even Pat White (44th overall in 2009) was cut until his second season. Assuming health, that would make the absolute locks at wide receiver as:

- Percy Harvin

- Doug Baldwin

- Paul Richardson

Now unbunch your underwear in regards to Jermaine Kearse, because I'm not saying that he won't make the team or that he's not a 95% lock to make the team, but he's not in the same category as the three names above in terms of why they have job security. At this time, Kearse is 24 and last season he had 22 catches for 346 yards but he also had touchdown catches in the NFC title game and Super Bowl.

Whether or not the team views his ceiling as being higher than that of a fourth receiver remains to be seen but they did just draft two receivers in the first four rounds of the draft and re-sign Sidney Rice. And Norwood seems like a much better bet to make the team than Chris Harper did a year ago.

Norwood has been described by the staff as "clutch" and Seahawks scout Jim Nagy said "his contested catch stuff is unbelievable." That honestly sounds to me a lot like how you'd describe Kearse's current role on the team. And though Norwood is actually older than Kearse, he's also one or two inches taller, while posting the fourth-fastest 3-Cone time at the combine in his group.

Last year when Seattle drafted Harper, someone on Twitter said he was a lock to make the team and we got in a mini-argument about it because I disagreed. Norwood is different. He seems like a guy that the Seahawks may have struggled to pass on with their second pick of the second round. And just the fact that they draft a receiver at all in the fourth round, after taking Richardson, tells me that it was only because he was so much higher on their draft board than any other player available.

I'd be more shocked to see Norwood get cut or traded than I would Kearse. Still, these are the guys that I still expect to make the team:

- Kevin Norwood

- Jermaine Kearse

Now you can see that we've already hit the magic number of five and the following receivers are fighting for the last one or zero spots:

- Sidney Rice

- Chris Matthews

- Phil Bates

- Arceto Clark

- Taylor Price

- Bryan Walters

- Ricardo Lockette

They could still keep six with Rice and not lose anyone major, but it's still somewhat of a tough sacrifice for a team that was 31st in pass attempts a year ago to keep six receivers on their roster and none of them are there just for their special teams coverage skills like Lockette would be. That's where the team would have to make a difficult cut or trade, assuming health, and where some fans may be upset to see one of those six guys go.

But then again, we have to come to terms with the fact that if Rice and Harvin are healthy, Doug Baldwin is a trade candidate now that he's still not signed to a long-term contract. And Baldwin himself may not want to sign a deal that he feels undercuts his value, much like how Tate felt he could produce more and get paid more elsewhere. Even though Baldwin didn't seem to draw any interest from other teams in free agency at the cost of a second round pick (or so) that doesn't mean he won't be able to garner one in a September trade after preseason injuries conclude themselves. He's arguably worth a first.

Seattle may very well keep six wide receivers and as we all know, those guys tend to get hurt a lot. It may be a moot point.

Justin Britt v Garrett Scott v Michael Bowie v Alvin Bailey (and JR Sweezy)

The Seahawks drafted seven offensive lineman (including two defensive lineman that made the switch) over Pete and John's first four seasons and all but John Moffitt and Ryan Seymour are still on the team. Tom Cable is great at finding players and molding them into offensive lineman, we just don't know yet if he's able to turn them into good ones.

Still, Bowie and Bailey (and James Carpenter) have proven that it doesn't really matter how high you are drafted, it's a matter of who "gets it" more. I thought that Bowie did as good a job as anyone else on the line last year, and really Seattle didn't even try to replace Breno Giacomini with anyone when he left in free agency. But then again, the Seahawks drafted Britt in the second round and also picked up Scott in the sixth.

I think that Seattle is as good as any team in the league in moving on from prospects that don't pan out, but again, I don't think they'll release a second round pick in his first year.

I'm terrible at guessing which offensive lineman will make the team and how many, but it would appear that the only positions that have definite starters are left tackle and center. I think Carpenter has to win the job at left guard in order to make the team. I don't think they'll pay him a full salary to be a backup. But it wouldn't seem like the competition is good enough to necessitate that.

A more intense competition might be Sweezy versus Britt, Bailey, Caylin Hauptmann, Stephen Schilling, and Greg Van Roten for right guard. And if you think Van Roten won't make it because he's "just some schlub off the Packers practice squad," remember that Giacomini was once that exact same thing.

Bringing in Britt and Scott (and UDFAs Garry Gilliam and Bronson Irwin) only intensifies the competition at right tackle, which could then heat things up at right guard. I know that people have mixed feelings about Cable's ability, but Russell Okung had a great season under him (and then the next year was half-wiped out by injury) and Max Unger has played his best football under Cable as well. Saying that Carpenter and Moffitt were disappointments is fine, but as a late-first, mid-third round pick, it's not that incredible. Every other offensive lineman drafted or signed by this front office has been low-risk.

The fact that not everyone recognizes how awesome it is that Bailey and Bowie are already serviceable, and that Sweezy started 15 professional games in only his second year as an offensive lineman, shows how spoiled we've become.

Cassius Marsh v Bruce Irvin (v Kevin Pierre-Louis?) at Leo

Much like how they didn't go out and get a starting right tackle when Giacomini left, the Seahawks also didn't go out and get someone to replace Chris Clemons at Leo. Instead, they will have an internal competition between players like Marsh, Irvin, and possibly O'Brien Schofield or Kenny Boatright.

The Leo has gained significant higher sack totals in Carroll's long career, so it's kind of a big deal for whoever gets it. For a player like Irvin, it's a real opportunity to develop into the 15-sack monster we expected after the way Pete and John talked about him after picking him in 2012. Though Irvin was underrated as an outside linebacker last season, there's still plenty of room for improvement. That's why Marsh was drafted and why he has a real chance to become the starting Leo.

Clemons 570 snaps on defense last season was second-most on the defensive line after Michael Bennett, while Irvin had 499 snaps at linebacker. It would seem that Malcolm Smith has earned more playing time at linebacker, which would facilitate Irvin's move to Leo, and also allow Marsh to bulk up for more regular time on the defensive line as a substitute for Michael Bennett.

However, I've heard of fail-safes but safe fails???

E.J. Wilson, Kris Durham, Jaye Howard, and Chris Harper represent one of the more disappointing sides of Pete and John's draft: The fourth round. That being said, Walter Thurmond, KJ Wright, Robert Turbin turned out alright. (Mostly just Wright.)

Pete and John tripled down in the fourth round this year with Marsh, Norwood, and linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis, who scout Todd Brunner called "my favorite kid in the whole draft just to watch." As a player from a part of the country that's often overlooked for sports talent (born in Connecticut but played football at Boston College), KPL could very well be one of the "overlooked" players of the draft. The same thing happened to linebacker Bill Romanowski once (born in Vernon, CT, played at BC, drafted 80th overall) as well as former Seahawks great Eugene Robinson, who was undrafted out of Colgate in 1985.

All of that being said, it certainly doesn't seem like the plan to have Marsh or KPL starting in 2014. It figures that Bobby Wagner, Wright, and Smith are the starting linebackers, with Irvin as the Leo, "always compete" notwithstanding. Still looming are Korey Toomer, Heath Farwell, and even deeper on the depth chart, a player named Mike Taylor out of Wisconsin that signed in December.

KPL's goal is probably to beat out Farwell as a featured player on special teams, which would also save the Seahawks pequeno dolares. But both Marsh and KPL have plenty of room to push Irvin for PTPT (primetime playing time) between now and September, I'm just not going to bank on that happening this year. They, especially Marsh, could also be pushing against players like Greg Scruggs and Schofield for the final roster spot on the d-line. Additionally, UDFA Jackson Jeffcoat (DE, Texas) was one of the more notable post-draft signings, and will be one of the "longshot favorites" from here on out.

When it comes to committing a player to just one position, especially this early in their careers, we already know that Pete and John won't take a... stance.

*confetti and balloons fall from the sky*

Jimmy Staten v Jordan Hill v Jesse Williams for "backup" DT

Last April, Seattle drafted Hill in the third round and Williams in the fifth, without much expectations that Williams would be playing as a rookie. Aaaaand he didn't. However, Williams, a Super Bowl-winner with the Seahawks back in January of 2014, also had the upside of returning healthy and providing the value of a first or second round pick based on how many people felt about him before a knee injury he suffered at Alabama.

Aaaand it appears that he will return.

Not much is known about Staten, which tells me that the Seahawks really must like him and he'll probably become an All-Pro. But first he needs to beat out what's suddenly become a bit of a glut at defensive tackle. While Brandon Mebane and Tony McDaniel are the starters, McDaniel and Clinton McDonald had virtually the same number of snaps last season.

Much like with Tate, Clemons, Red Bryant, and Giacomini, Seattle did not feel the need to replace McDonald with an outsider. Instead they feel they can replace him on the cheap, which is something they've done a pretty good job with before. (See: Tate, Clemons, Red Bryant, Giacomini, McDaniel, etc.)

So here is the full list of defensive tackles competing for time after the top two:

- Hill

- Williams

- Staten

- Michael Brooks

- D'Anthony Smith

- Dewayne Cherrington

- UDFA Andre Pulu

- Scruggs (possibly)

The Seahawks had a steady rotation of seven players on the defensive line last season: Clemons, Bryant, Mebane, McDaniel, McDonald, Bennett, and Cliff Avril. The players that remain are Mebane, McDaniel, Bennett, and Avril. If Irvin assumes the role of Leo, then only Bryant and McDonald need to be replaced, assuming Pete and Dan Quinn don't open the rotation up even more.

Someone(s) on this roster at defensive line is going to become a lot more notable next season from how we may feel about them right now. As Men at Work once said, "Who could it be now?"

(Men at Work are Australian, it must be one of Pete's song of the day hints that I just made up for him right now.)

Kiero Small v Derrick Coleman v Spencer Ware (v Robert Turbin?)

When I said that the "featured running back" was slowly but surely dying, a lot of people mistook that for me saying that teams aren't going to run anymore or that I must be completely overlooking the Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks and Marshawn Lynch, but that's hardly the case. The fact of the matter is that Lynch is one of the most-featured backs in the NFL and he carried the ball 301 times last season.

Russell Wilson carried it 96 times and Turbin had 77. In addition to those two players, the Seahawks drafted Christine Michael in the second round and Ware in the sixth. Yes, Seattle is committed to running the football. No, I don't believe they're committed to doing it with just one guy. Not anything like how teams used to do it anyway.

(And then the first running back to be drafted this year was the latest "first running back drafted" in NFL history.)

The selection of Small in the seventh round was probably the most surprising pick of Seattle's draft (which tells you how we've come to think of seventh round picks after four years of Pete and John) because there already seemed to be a thick option of fullbacks next season for the team and you only need one of those right?

But there was still a time last season that the Seahawks had to add Michael Robinson due to injuries. At the cost of a seventh round pick, Seattle appears to be solidifying that insurance right now, and Small instantly became one of my favorite players in this draft class. He seems like a character in the locker room, a workout machine in his off-time, and hits like a monster truck on the field.

Everything about Small screams "Pete guy."

It will be an interesting dynamic in terms of training camp competitions between Michael and Turbin as the main backup to Lynch and whether or not Michael will push Turbin off of that bid and instead into a competition at fullback. If so, what to do about Ware, Coleman, and Small? Not only did Coleman get some PT on offense, he was also in on 38% of special teams snaps.

It would seem like Ware is going to be the odd-man out for fans because he's not a rookie anymore and because he doesn't give you "the feels" like Coleman, plus he was arrested for suspicion of DUI in January, but last year he overcame the odds to make the roster. It's going to be a really tough competition at all spots after Lynch, much like how you can see that even on a defending championship roster, there could be some serious internal movement and improvement.

Let J-Timb bring sexy back, the Seahawks are bringing fully back. (Well, that should pretty much wrap up my writing career.)

Edit: Eric Pinkins, S/CB

I was looking at a page of Seattle's picks for quick reference while writing this and for whatever reason, Pinkins wasn't listed and I forgot to list him. That doesn't mean he won't factor heavily into competition, as the Seahawks look to replace Thurmond's roster spot, as well as moving up Maxwell to starter opposite of Richard Sherman.

Like Sherman, Pinkins was only a two-year starter in college and is unconventionally big to play corner, but that's apparently where Pete and Dan are going to try him out this summer. It paid off with high dividends once before, and twice if you count Browner.

In four years, Pete has drafted nine defensive backs. Two have become All-Pros, and a third, Kam Chancellor, had made two Pro Bowls. Another, Maxwell, had a breakout season in 2013 and could become a highly-paid player in 2015. Only Mark LeGree really flamed out quickly, and it should be noted that Thomas is the only one of the nine players to be drafted above the fourth round.

Pinkins seems to almost be a hybrid of Chancellor and Sherman right now, but only if he successfully transitions to corner. If he can do that, then it will be Pinkins, Jeremy Lane, Tharold Simon as the front-runners to win a regular spot in the rotation. The mass of depth behind them right now includes:

Phillip Adams, Akeem Auguste, Chandler Fenner and A.J. Jefferson. A year ago, Maxwell's name would've held the same cache as someone like Lane, Simon, or even Jefferson do now. Any one of these players could be Pete's next "big" thing at corner.

If Pinkins can't successfully transition however, he may still be in competition against DeShawn Shead and Jeron Johnson for time at backup safety. There's still a chance he could become a very good one of those, or perhaps, a huge steal at corner. Where have we heard that before?

(In Seattle. Pay attention much? Geez.)

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