Strangely, as we get closer to April 25th it's becoming increasingly difficult to predict who the Seahawks will take with the fourth overall pick. This is in large part due to the work of Tim Ruskell and his front office in free agency. By filling as many holes as possible - it leaves the Seahawks open to take the best player on their board irrespective of need. Deciding who will be that player will depend who has gone before Seattle's on the clock. Today we'll look at three different scenarios that could affect who the Seahawks take.
1. Detroit Lions - Jason Smith OT
2. St Louis Rams - Eugene Monroe OT
3. Kansas City Chiefs - Aaron Curry LB
Over the last seven days reports have heated up which suggest the Lions will pass on Matt Stafford to take an offensive tackle - either Jason Smith or Eugene Monroe. Although such reports are premature (Stafford will conduct a private with Detroit on March 31st) it's certainly remains a possibility.
In this scenario the Seahawks would have seen the top two offensive tackles off the board and the best defensive prospect. If they kept the fourth pick and were unable to make a trade, they would have to decide between the merits of drafting an eventual successor to Matt Hasselbeck (Stafford) or selecting a more immediate prospect such as Michael Crabtree or Brian Orakpo.
Last year, Atlanta selected Matt Ryan third overall and paid him a handsome $72m ($34.75m guaranteed) over six years. Stafford would likely command a similar contract, possibly higher. It would be a huge investment for the Seahawks in their future post-Hasselbeck.
But let's look at it another way. Hasselbeck's cap hit in 2009 is approximately $9-10m. Peyton Manning signed a contract in 2004 that will pay him $14m in '09 and $15.8m in '10. Should the Seahawks inherit Stafford and his large contract, they could possibly backload it so that Seattle would be paying similar amounts to keep both Hasselbeck and Stafford on the roster over the next two years. Of course - Manning is the current NFL MVP and a bonafide star. But such is the importance of the quarter back position, investing a similar amount to have Hasselbeck starting now with Stafford the man for the future would not be a complete extravagance for a team eyeing the future. If there's one position you can justify this investment - it's quarter back.
Tim Ruskell was present in person at the Georgia pro-day recently and has taken a quarter back (David Greene) from the school previously. Team's often look to draft a new quarter back when a head coach begins his reign (in this case, Jim Mora). It wouldn't be a stretch to theorise that Ruskell would take Stafford should he remain available with the fourth pick.
Scenario One... the Seattle Seahawks select Matt Stafford
1 Detroit Lions - Matt Stafford QB
2 St Louis Rams - Jason Smith OT
3 Kansas City Chiefs - Eugene Monroe OT
This is a situation that has started to garner greater attention. Rob Rang's most recent mock drafts have the board falling this way heading into Seattle's choice. Despite reports to the contrary this week, I still believe Detroit will take Matt Stafford first overall. They need a franchise quarter back and essentially I fell they will decide Stafford is their man. This theory would take him out of contention for the Seahawks.
Kansas City in this scenario take Eugene Monroe. A few weeks ago I would have thought this move unlikely. The Chiefs drafted Branden Albert 15th overall last year to fill the vacant spot at left tackle. However, that was an old regime and there's a new general manager and head coach in town. If they are prepared to switch to a 3-4 defense (essentially minimising the effect of Glenn Dorsey - taken 5th overall) they will have no qualms about taking a replacement for Albert. Make no mistake, if the Chiefs rate Monroe highly enough they will take him. Protecting Matt Cassel could be a priority for Scott Pioli in his first year with the franchise.
Seattle are left to contemplate taking Aaron Curry (as Rob Rang predicts) or again looking at someone such as Michael Crabtree or Brian Orakpo. This could be a difficult call. No doubt that Tim Ruskell likes low risk picks especially with the kind of money involved. Aaron Curry isn't the most vibrant personality but he's also the very definition of a dedicated professional. He won't cause any problems in the dressing room, he won't get into trouble. Having traded Julian Peterson to Detroit, there's also room should the Seahawks wish to take Curry fourth overall.
Having said that, you have to wonder how much influence Curry could have for Seattle. He would command a contract of around $60m, essentially making the linebacker position incredibly expensive again (a situation the team wanted to avoid when they traded Peterson). In a team like Kansas City, St Louis or Cleveland Curry would be the dominant leader on defense - possibly leading to a Patrick Willis/Jared Mayo type rookie season. In Seattle, there would only be so many tackles to go around. Lofa Tatupu absorbs a lot of them at middle linebacker and Leroy Hill is expected to have a good year under the franchise tag. Having only achieved 9 sacks in four years at Wake Forest (albeit mainly playing in a role which restricted his ability to rush) you could ask legitimate questions about whether Curry would be enough of a difference maker to justify the investment.
For this scenario however we will place him directly in Seattle. As the top rated prospect on many draft boards including Mel Kiper and Mike Mayock, the Seahawks might find it difficult to pass on the number one ranked prospect. As Rob Rang suggests, "the Seahawks could plug Curry in immediately and, considering they'd be getting the player many believe is the draft's top talent at the fourth pick, the team would be getting optimum value."
Scenario Two... the Seahawks select Aaron Curry
1 Detroit Lions - Matt Stafford QB
2 St Louis Rams - Jason Smith OT
3 Kansas City Chiefs - Aaron Curry LB
This is the situation I'm currently predicting in my latest mock draft. In this situation, the Rams again take Smith. It's happened in every scenario so far and although I'm sure Steve Spagnuolo would love to have a chance to bring in a defensive prospect like Curry, I feel replacing Orlando Pace has to be a priority. If they want to run the ball with greater emphasis and create a platform for Steven Jackson, taking Jason Smith makes too much sense. He's got the nasty streak and the desire to get to the second level and attack linebackers. He could be a vital to any running game in St Louis.
Kansas City could easily look at Eugene Monroe to protect Cassel. However, they also need someone to set the tone on defense. Curry would play inside linebacker in Kansas City. If they feel confident enough to go with Branden Albert at left tackle, then Curry makes some sense.
This would leave Seattle looking at a situation with Eugene Monroe, Michael Crabtree and Brian Orakpo still on the board. Many experts, pundits and bloggers expect the Seahawks to take Eugene Monroe in this situation. I disagree. Having watched tape of Monroe I have serious concerns about the consistency of his effort and desire to really dominate. Too often he's seen blocking his man out of a game and calling it a play. This won't cut the mustard in a zone blocking scheme, especially one which wishes to show greater emphasis towards the run.
Nevertheless, he can be superb in pass protection. To a team looking for that instant protection (KC - Cassel, CIN - Palmer) he would offer tremendous value in a man blocking scheme. Seattle however, would be investing in the long term replacement for Walter Jones. Benching Monroe indefinitely offers little reward for a $60m contract. His unwillingness to progress to the second level makes a temporary switch to guard unlikely, so can the Seahawks justify this pick? With Sean Locklear signed to what could be described as a 'left tackles' contract and Ray Willis re-signed for depth, I do not expect the Seahawks to take Monroe here.
That would leave Crabtree and Orakpo. Peter King from SI.com reported rumours of a potential move towards Orakpo at the owners meeting. However, I think in this situation the team would draft Michael Crabtree. The signs in free agency have been towards a 'win-now' mentality. How else can you justify spending a large contract on a soon-to-be 32 year old receiver? Rookie receivers generally take time to adjust to the NFL. However, give Crabtree some simple routes to get him on the field and watch teams struggle to cover him alongside Houshmandzadeh, Carlson and one of Burleson or Branch.
Seattle's passing game would be transformed from one of the worst to one of the best in the space of one off season. By taking Crabtree, still ranked the best overall prospect by NFL.com's Charles Davis, the team would be seriously upgrading what became a stagnant offense in 2008. The attention such a receiving corp would demand could also draw pressure away from the offensive line and open up the running game.
Some question marks have been asked of Crabtree's character recently. However, as Danny O'Neil testified in a Fox Sports feature yesterday - sometimes your most recent judgement can cloud the actual facts. When you go back and watch footage of Crabtree and you listen to his interviews from 2008, fears can certainly be allayed.
Scenario Three... the Seattle Seahawks select Michael Crabtree
Obviously these are only theories based on my own opinion. We could talk through a number of other possibilities, for example a scenario simply where Jason Smith isn't going to St Louis. We could also discuss the possibilities of trading down - however unlikely or not that may be. The difficulty in trying to judge who Seattle will take isn't likely to get any easier until April 25th. Simply put, even the team may not know who they are going to choose until they have seen who Kansas City have selected with the third overall pick.