One of the main reasons I started Seahawks Draft Blog was to interact with fellow Seahawks fans and have a forum where the draft can be debated, reviewed, dissected and discussed. Disagreement is a part of life and I'm not beyond criticism, so I wanted to publish an email I received today:
"Did you personally pick Clausen and a DE?
If so you're a complete idiot and you belong in the Ruskell era.
Not only was Matt killed this year by the pass rush, but our running game sucked and Jones announced his retirement. If you don't think they are taking an O Lineman with one of those top 2 picks, you are beyond lost.
I would strongly consider taking two O lineman if I was Schneider. Thats how important O line is. You get a decent O line, and suddenly Forsett and Matt are total studs, and the whole defense is better because the offense doesnt 3 and out 50% of the time leaving the D breathless.
You don't deserve to have your own Seahawks mock draft blog page. Thats the problem with the internet. Any idiot can post whateevr unsubstantiated claim they want. I just didnt think my Seahawks brothers were part of the problem. Move to San Fran, we don't want you."
I think it's a valid point that clearly the Seahawks offensive line has been a cause for concern ever since the Super Bowl run. Losing the best interior lineman in the NFL in such unusual circumstances was never forgotten during the Ruskell era. More to the point, Hutchinson was never truly replaced. The move from Robbie Tobeck to Chris Spencer has been difficult, largely due to injuries to Spencer but also inconsistent play. This led to the team drafting Max Unger last year and eventually starting him at center.
Replacing Walter Jones was always a pressing concern that became closer with every passing year. That has become a reality now. Sean Locklear has not convinced anyone he deserves to be a permanent feature at left tackle and has missed games through injury himself.
In 2007, Matt Hasselbeck carried the line and the stagnant running game on his back with the best season statistically of his career. In 2008 and 2009, injuries to Hasselbeck and a loss of playmaking options exposed the frailties of the line. One of the first things Pete Carroll did upon accepting the gig in Seattle was to approach Alex Gibbs to be part of his coaching staff - a noticeable appreciation of the situation.
Because of this, as the emailer correctly points out the opportunity to draft an offensive tackle in round one must be considered. However, allow me to point out why this may not be the case also. The first issue is the fact this isn't a great draft for offensive tackles. There are some that will go in round one and some that will go earlier than perhaps they should. Such is the modern NFL and the premium upon the position. What it does mean though is that the quicker tackles leave the board, the greater the possibility the Seahawks end up over drafting. That may be necessary. At the same time, it could be true that 1-2 tackles have left the board before the 6th overall pick and 3-4 by the #14 selection. Do you ignore greater talent elsewhere on a roster with many holes just to fill one specific area?
Secondly, Alex Gibbs-coached teams traditionally haven't drafted lineman early. Houston taking Duane Brown in 2008 is more of an exception than the norm. The need in Seattle might be greater than previous situations Gibbs has faced. What hasn't changed however is his philosophy which favors agile, smaller lineman who can work in a zone blocking scheme. Unfortunately, this isn't a draft filled with that type of offensive tackle.
Anthony Davis isn't an obvious fit for the zone scheme, as I suggested in a scouting report on the Rutgers left tackle back in November. Russell Okung (OT, Oklahoma State) is a more suitable candidate, but I tend to agree with resident scout Kyle Rota's synopsis on the Cowboys lineman. Bryan Bulaga played in a variation of the zone scheme in Iowa. I do believe though that his greatest value at the next level will be as a right tackle. He can play the blind side, but he will be a significantly better pro when he hasn't got to deal with elite edge rushers (he can struggle against speed) and can get some tight end support in the running game. Trent Williams (OT, Oklahoma) is strictly a right tackle and Bruce Campbell (OT, Maryland) owns immense physical qualities - but also a poor injury record.
The most likely candidate for the Gibbs zone blocking scheme would appear to be Charles Brown (my report here) - a prospect familiar to Carroll as he played his college ball at USC. He has the right kind of size (290lbs) and above average ability as a converted tight end. He's a smart player (important in the ZBS) with plenty of starting experience. He has a good hand punch and is a capable pass protector. His size won't interest most teams unless he can get up to the 310lbs range for the combine next week. This could push him into the second round where I projected he would be taken by the Seahawks in my last mock draft.
There are other possibilities too. A prospect like Jason Fox (OT, Miami) would fit the Gibbs mantra and likely be available later on. Selvish Capers (OT, West Virginia) is another name to monitor. Clearly there are options for the new regime if they did want to take advantage of a strong defensive line class in round one or draft the teams future franchise quarterback.
I also believe - and this is merely my own personal opinion - that an offensive line containing first round picks is not a necessity for success. You only have to look at the Super Bowl - two teams that didn't own a cluster of early round picks on their offensive line and both sporting dominant passing attacks. I've voiced many times that whilst the offensive line could do with some investment, an expensive rookie will struggle to block two guys off the edge as much as Sean Locklear. Too often in the last two years a lack of threat at running back, receiver and yes - quarterback - has allowed teams to blitz heavily against the pass and stack the box against the run. They've dared Seattle to beat them and they haven't been able to. At least not against any team not based in St. Louis.
Until Seattle's offense demands respect, it won't receive any. For me, investing in a better offensive line will only lead to long term success if it coincides with better playmakers being brought in at running back and receiver - with a legitimate long term plan at quarterback. That's how you keep a defense honest. For those reasons I think it's unlikely the Seahawks will spend both first round picks on offensive lineman. But I'm not ignorant to the fact it's also a vital need and even despite the appointment of a legendary line coach - one high pick on a future left tackle is absolutely plausible.