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Seattle Seahawks Draft Priorities: The Offensive Line Edition

Most of the talk surrounding the Seattle Seahawks' draft strategy, here and elsewhere, has focused on the quarterback position. Most analysts I've read are predicting that the 'Hawks will snag a QB at the 25th position, provided that they don't trade up/out and that at least one of the Gabbert/Newton/Locker/Mallett contingent is available. Some have even gone as far as to predict that Seattle will dip into the Ponder/Dalton/Kaepernick pool in order to fill their hole at signal-caller.

The speculation is warranted; with Matt Hasselbeck in CBA/FA limbo, the 'Hawks are left with Barry Gibb Whitehurst as the presumed starter and equally unproven Nate Davis as the back-up. (oh wait, he's gone too). With no established starting QB, and no highly-touted QB-of-the-future, the Seahawks have jello in a position where most real contenders have concrete. Even if Hasselbeck finds his way back into the Seahawks' fold, he is obviously not the foundation of future success. The need for a quarterback to build around is very real in Seattle, but it is not the only need and, in my opinion, not one worth over-reaching to fill.

These posts are intended to take a look at the rest of the current Seahawks roster and analyze the areas that need strengthening, as well as the areas that could simply use some fortifying. I'm going to focus primarily on potential first and second round options as those are the most likely to provide immediate help in 2011-2012, but certain positions may dictate that Seattle should wait to fill them, and in those cases, I'll examine players more likely to be taken in later rounds.

Today's focus, however, is on the "hogs" in the "trenches," which is not only an insulting combination of football cliches, but a hilarious mental image as well. Imagine all the pig-related hi-jinks in those trenches!


Position: Offensive Line

Current Roster: Russell Okung, Chris Spencer, Tyler Polumbus, Max Unger, Sean Locklear, Stacey Andrews, Chester Pitts, Mike Gibson, Chris White, Lemuel Jeanpierre, Ray Willis, Breno Giacomini, William Robinson, Caz Piurowski, Paul Fanaika.

I've grouped all of the linemen together instead of splitting them into T/G/C because necessity dictated that Seattle do the same last season. The result was a starting offensive line that, from week to week, looked like a really boring game of Mad Libs and the lines between the positions ended up blurrier than Keith Richards' vision. Predictably, the ever-changing group provided the team with incosistant play and little room for error. Some of that can be chalked up to the lack of assignment solidity and familiarity from game to game, but I think more of the responsibility for their below-average performance falls on the overall lack of top-tier talent.

Now, assuming health, we can go ahead and lock Okung, Polumbus, and Unger into starting roles next season. That's not exactly the kind of group that causes opposing linemen to lose sleep, but it has potential to be solid with Okung peppering in hints of occasional domination.

That leaves two starting positions and five-to-six reserve spots open. I don't know who will separate themselves from the pile to snag those positions, but a review of the remaining names on the roster leaves a lot to be desired regardless of who it ends up being. It is my hope that the Seahawks can grab some starter-caliber talent at #25, as long as Tyron Smith, Mike Pouncey, Gabe Carimi, Anthony Castonzo, or Nate Solder is available there. If all five of those guys are taken by the time Goodell puts Seattle on the clock, then it wouldn't bother me if the 'Hawks went elsewhere with that selection, provided they don't pass on offensive line talent later.

As far as second-round possibilities go, I'd love to see Seattle take a look at Villanova's Benjamin Ijalana or Marcus Cannon from TCU, assuming Miami's Orlando Franklin and Mississippi State's Derek Sherrod are off the board. Danny Watkins (Baylor), Rodney Hudson (Florida State), and Clint Boling (Georgia) have also shown some promise that they could step in and contribute significantly as rookies.

If Seattle stays at #25, it's very likely that the beefed-up Smith and the always highly-rated Castonzo will have been snapped up long before the 'Hawks choose. Even so, I believe it wouldn't take long (read: by Opening Day) for Pouncey, Carimi, or Solder's talent/upside to surpass whichever underwhelming cog Seattle would otherwise plug into the starting lineup. If Pouncey or Carimi are available when the Seahawks pick, I think they should be taken even if Locker is available. For whatever reason, perhaps a lack of domination at the college level, I'm less high on Solder, but he's still big enough and talented enough to be considered there.

As far as second-round options go, I would be happy to see how any of the remaining aforementioned prospects would turn out, as their potential outweighs that of most of the non-Okung/Unger/Polumbus guys we currently have. The Seahawks desperately need to add some talent to the group and chances are that any of these guys will be good enough to push for a starting spot in Carroll's "always compete" universe.

I guess the point I'm trying to make here is please please please don't let Sean Locklear be a starting OL for the Seahawks ever again ever.