The Seattle Seahawks, fresh off of their win in Super Bowl 50, must now turn their attention to the draft.
*sobs gently into a Russell Wilson jersey*
No, the Seahawks must evaluate what went wrong in their 10-6 season and 31-24 loss to the Carolina Panthers and try to get better next season. A lot of successful teams do that through the draft. In fact, most successful teams do because free agency is unreliable and expensive. Yes, the draft is unreliable too, but it's not expensive. You'll notice that the Miami Dolphins didn't make the playoffs this year and are already in financial hell for 2016 thanks to signing Ndamukong Suh, while the St. Louis Rams get to pay Aaron Donald a rookie scale for two more years.
John Schneider and Pete Carroll have done really well in free agency -- at certain positions -- and not so well at others. It seems like they have a clear plan for what they'll attack in the draft and what they'll instead try to identify through free agency. For example, their defensive line is strong because of identifying a market weakness in how teams valued Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, Tony McDaniels, Ahtyba Rubin, and others. It doesn't mean they won't draft a guy like Frank Clark, but they also have probably noticed that the miss-rate is far too high on those types of players.
Meanwhile, they also feel like they're so much better at evaluating defensive backs that they can build the best secondary in the NFL while only spending one pick on a DB above the fourth round in six years.
I always like to look at what did happen in order to try and predict what will happen. This is what John and Pete have done with their 56 draft picks in the last six drafts and what it might mean for 2016.
The only defensive back taken before the fourth round is Earl Thomas. Everyone else, besides Walter Thurmond, was drafted in the fifth round or later.
There's going to be plenty of talk and speculation about Seattle drafting a corner in the first round this year, and rightfully so. Jeremy Lane is a free agent, DeShawn Shead was inconsistent, Cary Williams
was a first-team All-Pro but signed a $150 million contract with the Patriots sucked.
Even re-signing Lane probably means drafting a cornerback. They have Tye Smith and Tharold Simon, but given the importance of the Seahawks secondary, that's probably not reassuring enough for Pete.
However, given that they do have Smith, Simon, Shead, Marcus Burley, and Stanley Jean-Baptiste, they still might not bite early. I mean, they haven't done that since the 14th overall pick in 2010. And that includes safeties, which might also become an issue depending on the status of Kam Chancellor.
A first round pick on a corner would probably have to involve someone like Ohio State's Eli Apple falling out of the top 20, but otherwise it seems like day three is typically where Seattle feels comfortable drafting their defensive backs. Maybe this year is different because of the problems it cause them in the first half of the season, but history still leans against it.
Defensive line has been a weakness
Out of 12 defensive lineman drafted since 2010, Frank Clark might already be the best. If not, then it's Jordan Hill. Then you're grasping for straws.
The next-best might be Jaye Howard (now playing for the Chiefs) or Cassius Marsh. None of the others are currently playing anywhere, as far as I know (not including practice squads.)
The Seahawks have questions surrounding Brandon Mebane, Michael Bennett (is he going to be happy making less than Cliff Avril next year?), and Ahtyba Rubin. Defensive tackle could be a high priority for them. We've seen how much it matters to have a guy like Kawann Short, Geno Atkins, or Aaron Donald. Those types of players are also extremely rare. I would expect them to take at least one, if not two, shots at defensive tackle in this draft however.
Linebacker has been a strength
Schneider has only drafted seven linebackers in six drafts (and I'm including Eric Pinkins, the tweener), and much like KJ Wright, his hit rate has been unbelievable.
Bobby Wagner (All-Pro), Wright (should be a Pro Bowler), Bruce Irvin, Malcolm Smith (just had 100 solo tackles, four sacks, one interception, six passes defensed, and three forced fumbles for the Raiders), Kevin Pierre-Louis (good backup, good special teams player), Pinkins, and Korey Toomer.
If Irvin is leaving, then it would seem like it's at least partly due to the fact that when it comes to drafting linebackers, Pete always turned into "Baron Pete."
Oklahoma's Eric Striker would at least fill a role as "Best name" on the team.
They take the biggest swings (and sometimes biggest whiffs) at offensive line
With only four first round picks on his resume, Schneider has used two of those on offensive line. Russell Okung is the highest pick in his history and has performed admirably for the sixth overall pick. James Carpenter was a decent left guard but they wanted him to be a great right tackle. John Moffitt was terrible. Justin Britt is pretty bad, following the same path as Carpenter but worse.
The best value they've ever gotten at the position is J.R. Sweezy, the 225th overall pick in 2012, but the next year they took Ryan Seymour, Jared Smith, and Michael Bowie in the seventh round and it got them nowhere.
Everyone agrees that they need to upgrade their offensive line, and that's including the scenario where they re-sign both Okung and Sweezy. They're probably okay with Garry Gilliam, but guard and center still need to be addressed. I think Kristjian Sokoli could work his way up to being a starter by 2017, but that's still a long time away. There are a lot of offensive lineman you could project at 26, but Auburn's Shon Coleman might be the steal of the draft per Rob Staton.
Still only one QB
Tarvaris Jackson is set to be a free agent. Could there be a quarterback in this draft worth developing and sending off to another team in two or three years? The Patriots and Packers draft quarterbacks all the time.
They've only drafted four running backs, including fullbacks
This one kind of surprises me, but Christine Michael, Robert Turbin, Spencer Ware, and Kiero Small are the only running backs the Seahawks have drafted under Pete and John. As of right now, Seattle is set to have Thomas Rawls as the starter (we know why I'm presuming this), Michael as a backup (why not?), and that's it. They likely won't re-sign Fred Jackson (why would they even need to? If he's available now, he'll probably be available again in August) and so that means in this draft they could target a third down back.
On the 3000 NFL Mock Draft podcast, Rob mentioned he really likes UCLA's Paul Perkins.
Three tight ends, all after the fourth round
With Jimmy Graham likely out for at least half of the season, the Seahawks might really want to target another tight end in this draft, perhaps this time on day one or two. Luke Willson (158th overall) is the highest selection they've ever used on the position. I'm also including Jameson Konz here, though he was sort of position-less with Seattle.
All six receivers went between rounds two and four
In order of how high they were drafted: Golden Tate, Paul Richardson, Tyler Lockett, Kris Durham, Chris Harper, Kevin Norwood.
The moral of the story is that they should never draft a receiver in the fourth round again.
We know for certain that the Seahawks are going to have Doug Baldwin and Lockett. I don't see a reason for them to get rid of Richardson unless it looks like he won't play again and it seems too early for that. Kevin Smith and Kasen Williams can be brought back for nothing, so why not? Jermaine Kearse isn't taking the "hometown discount" that we should all know by now doesn't exist unless it's literally a few hundred thousand dollars over the life of the deal.
(Which in that case, would be offset by the fact that you probably own a house in Seattle, etc.)
There's absolutely no reason to think that the Seahawks won't need a receiver in this draft. And their track record indicates it will come on day one or two. They've also spent two first round draft picks on guys who are supposed to catch balls: Percy Harvin and Graham.
The receiver class this year is once again fairly good, to the point where a player like Cory Coleman of Baylor might fall to 26, or Will Fuller of Notre Dame, or Michael Thomas from Ohio State.
If not through the draft, I've noticed a number of receivers who could be let go by their teams this season for contract reasons: Roddy White, Vincent Jackson, Pierre Garcon, Mike Wallace, Marques Colston and Victor Cruz.