With a week left in the 2009 season, for the second successive year we're talking about the draft at the end of December and not the playoffs. However, this time round there seems to be a level of desperation about the situation. Injuries aren't being blamed as much, there's talk of major repair work. Tim Ruskell has departed and the franchise will soon appoint a new General Manager. The year 2010 could essentially be renamed 'year zero' as the Seahawks embark on a new chapter - moving on from former heroes and veterans and looking for the next Walter Jones, the next Matt Hasselbeck and the next Shaun Alexander.
The fact Seattle owns two first round picks will help lay the foundations for the future and that must be the target over the next 12 months - set things up for the long term. The greatest needs are the positions of greatest importance - long term quarterback, get better on both lines and find playmakers. So how do you go about things? It's difficult to make any kind of accurate projection until we know who the new GM is and what changes he initiates, but here's an early look.
Obviously free agency will have some say in what the Seahawks do on draft day. Former GM Ruskell would look to fill up needs with big money additions - whilst that could still be the case with his replacement - you have to believe Seattle will rely less on ageing, expensive veterans in the future. Assuming all the major needs remain after free agency, here's what the Seahawks could do.
Option 1 - Fill your needs
When the Seahawks selected Aaron Curry fourth overall last year, it was described as the 'best player available' pick. The assumption was Seattle were better than their 4-12 record and getting the best guy on the board would be a bonus to an already loaded roster. That obviously hasn't proved to be the case.
It could lead to a change in philosophy next April - draft the guy in the biggest need area. The two could coincide - there's a desperate need for a dominant pass rusher on the defensive line. The Seahawks will likely pick in the 5-7 range - potentially giving them a shot at a guy like Derrick Morgan (DE, Georgia Tech). That could make the decision of the new GM very easy.
Alternatively, they might have to reach a little. Guys like Joe Haden (CB, Florida), Dez Bryant (WR, Oklahoma State) and C.J. Spiller (RB, Clemson) might be higher on the board - but if the Seahawks are determined to find a long term answer to their offensive line - or just get bigger - they may opt to draft the best available lineman. Russell Okung (OT, Oklahoma State), Bruce Campbell (OT, Maryland), Bryan Bulaga (OT, Iowa), Anthony Davis (OT, Rutgers) and Charles Brown (OT, USC) may not warrant a pick in the 5-10 range - that can be debated. However, if the new GM decides like many fans that the offensive line must be addressed - he'll have a chance to draft for the line.
Option 2 - Go with talent
Alternatively, having two first round picks puts Seattle in a favorable position. Picking in the top ten comes with a hefty investment in a rookie. Do you just go with the most talented guy on your board first, then make moves later to fill needs? That would put the Seahawks in position to possibly draft a guy like Joe Haden - someone who plays a position that you can never have enough talent. They could still find a way to invest in either the offensive or defensive line in round one - albeit later on at a lesser cost when a reach could be more justifiable.
Option 3 - Focus on one area
Having so many needs, would it be wise to target one area and aim to improve it specifically? For example, spend that first round pick on a bigger left tackle like Anthony Davis or Russell Okung. After that, draft a big interior lineman like the increasingly highly rated Mike Iupati (OG, Idaho). It's a lot of investment in the offensive line, but you've also sorted the left side of your line for the next 10 years all being well. With Max Unger settling in nicely at center - and with Rob Sims, Ray Willis and Sean Locklear in the mix on the right hand side - you've potentially made a significant upgrade to your offensive line.
Having an early second round pick offers the chance to add to another position - possibly a running back like Jahvid Best (RB, California) or maybe a defensive lineman like Corey Wootton (DE, Northwestern) or Greg Hardy (DE, Ole Miss). These are just examples, but considering this isn't likely to be a quick fix - improving one area this year would lay foundations for the future.
Option 4 - New front office, new QB?
We've all seen so often when new coaches or GM's arrive - they look to stamp their identity on the team by selecting their own quarterback. Without doubt, the Seahawks need to start looking for options post-Matt Hasselbeck. He has one year left on his contract, will be 35 in 2010 and has endured back-to-back disappointing seasons - even if that's not been all his fault. The fact there's no 'stand out' candidate at QB to go first overall, the chances are Seattle might have their pick of the bunch.
It would certainly be a long term pick. Throwing a rookie into this offense would be suicidal - both for the QB and your investment in his success. Having said that, with no viable alternative to Hasselbeck on offer - they have to start looking at Sam Bradford's 2008 tape and preparing to attend his work outs. The alternatives aren't all that great - Jimmy Clausen is vastly over rated, whilst Tim Tebow and Colt McCoy will likely leave their best form in the college game. The X-factor could be a guy like Ryan Mallett leaving early - clearly a project but someone who has the tools and would be worth consideration with Seattle's second first round pick if he declares.
Option 5 - Copy the Dolphins
Make what you will of the current Miami Dolphins and Bill Parcells, but the job they have done in turning that franchise from 1-15 to respectable is quite outstanding. They knew they had a huge job on their hands - cut a lot of guys, traded others. Parcells brought in guys he knew and built an identity. They've drafted core positions early - LT, QB, DE, CB. They found an identity with the wild cat and used it to get the best of their playmakers like Ronnie Brown.
I'm not proposing Seattle does exactly the same thing when it comes to game plans and X's & O's, but they might be best served looking into some of the things Miami did. Jake Long was taken first overall - a great run blocker but average pass blocker. He's still become the unquestioned starter on the blind side. They added a highly rated defensive end in Phillip Merling and a quarterback for the future (who's started this year in Chad Pennington's absence). Core positions, laying foundations, finding an identity. It was hard work, but it came with instant results. This year hasn't been as easy going - but there's something to build on for the long term.
It does mean being very specific with the kind of guys you want to draft and sign though. The Seahawks would have to establish what kind of team they want to be to put themselves in position to be that selective.