By Rob Staton
When I published my latest mock draft, a lot of people questioned why I had the Seahawks using both first round picks on the defensive line. Sure, it's one of the team's greatest needs - but there are many others too. The lack of investment in the offense through early draft picks, at least in comparison to the defense, is well publicised. Make no mistake, this franchise needs a long term answer at quarterback. It needs an injection of speed at receiver and running back -not to mention some pure playmaking quality. One of the greatest causes for complaint with the old regime was the Seahawks lack of high pick investment at offensive tackle with Walter Jones ageing.
Having two first round picks would, on paper, represent a perfect chance to invest in the offense. Unfortunately, the draft is a more complicated science than that.
In my opinion, the absolute greatest strength of the 2010 draft class is amongst the defensive line. It's not even close. It starts at the very top with two stunning tackle prospects in Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy and transfers into great depth throughout round one. It coincides, funnilly enough, with a cluster of teams who will likely target the position. Of the top seventeen picks, you could probably place a defensive lineman as a logical choice with any team except Washington (who own other wordly Albert Haynesworth and impressive first year end Brian Orakpo).
Let's look at the options:
Ndamukong Suh (DT, Nebraska)
Capable of playing as a three technique in the 4-3 or a five technique in a 3-4 scheme, Suh enjoyed a dominant career with the Cornhuskers. Projected stock: Top three lock, potential first overall pick.
Gerald McCoy (DT, Oklahoma)
If Suh is 1a, then McCoy is 1b. Always in the backfield, whether it's rushing the passer or forcing a tackle for a loss, he's the prototype three technique. Projected stock: Top three lock, wouldn't surprise me if he even went ahead of Suh.
Dan Williams (DT, Tennessee)
Capable of playing both schemes, but the best option for 3-4 teams looking for someone to feature in the valuable nose tackle role. Projected stock: Top fifteen.
Brian Price (DT, UCLA)
Disruptive force through the middle, has a knack of breaking into the backfield. Notched seven sacks as a junior. Project stock: Top fifteen.
Lamarr Houston (DT, Texas)
Unbelievably flown under the radar despite a seven-sack season for the Longhorns. Superb in the BCS Championship. Projected stock: Top twenty-five.
Jared Odrick (DT, Penn State)
Versatile lineman capable of playing both schemes. Capable of playing the five technique in a 3-4 system. Projected stock: first round
Derrick Morgan (DE, Georgia Tech)
Relentless pass-rusher with a good edge rush. Prototype size for the 4-3 scheme. ACC defensive player of the year and the Yellow Jackets star this year. Projected stock: top ten
Jason Pierre-Paul (DE, USF)
Unlimited upside with extreme athleticism. Could be the most explosive pass rusher available. With the right coaching could be an elite talent, but concerns over whether he's a one-year wonder. Projected stock: top fifteen
Carlos Dunlap (DE, Florida)
Size and speed combination that draws comparisons to Mario Williams. Doesn't always put in 100% effort and character concerns after DUI before team's game of the year. Projected stock: top fifteen
Everson Griffen (DE, USC)
Hype never lived up to the production in SoCal, but he started to deliver towards the end of 2009. Stil developing, could see stock rise at combine. Projected stock: top twenty-five.
Brandon Graham (DE, Michigan)
Stand out prospect on a disappointing Wolverines outfit last year. Lacks size - that's a concern. Has a knack of getting to the quarterback and embarrassed Bryan Bulaga when they met. Projected stock: first round
There's a chance none of these prospects are likely to be around when Seattle picks at #40. There may, however, be some good options at receiver (Damian Williams), running back (Jahvid Best) and offensive tackle (Charles Brown). The chances of selecting either of the two latter positions early were potentially restricted following the appointment of Alex Gibbs to the coaching staff - someone who has consistently thrived in churning out a running game using a refined scheme as opposed to expensive draft picks.
Do the Seahawks need two defensive lineman? Brandon Mebane didn't have the expected success moving from the one technique to the three in 2009 and may be asked to switch positions this year. Colin Cole was unable to act as an effective force in is debut season in Seattle and looks like a suitable back-up or rotational player. Red Bryant has struggled to make an impact during his two years in the league (injuries playing a part) and Craig Terrell provides a unspectacular option in the rotation. Drafting a disruptive prospect like Brian Price to start alongside Mebane would draw a lot of interior attention, potentially making life easier off the edge for the defensive ends.
Having said that - there's room for improvement there too. Patrick Kernery's future is unclear. Will he be in Seattle next season? Darryl Tapp will likely stay as an restricted free agent, but has endured mixed success with the Seahawks. Lawrence Jackson likewise hasn't provided a reliable threat as a pass rusher and certainly is more effective sealing an edge against the run. The buzz word around the internet right now is 'elephant', or more specifically the ability of Tapp or even Aaron Curry to master this floating pass rusher used by Pete Carroll in his USC days. It's perhaps important to stress that for all Curry's physical qualities - he was never asked to rush the passer at Wake Forest and recorded a modest nine sacks in four years during his college career. Jim Mora and his staff last year likewise predominantly kept Curry in coverage, with mixed success. Finding an edge rush to pair with a greater interior presence could turn a definite weakness into a relative strength.
It's unlikely the Seahawks will fill every hole in one single draft, even with two early first round picks. A serious investment in the defensive line in round one fails to answer a lot of lasting questions on the offense. Clearly - that side of the ball requires some surgery and some love. However, with such a strong class of defensive lineman this year at the top of the board - you'd have to fight hard in certain circumstances not to take a double dip in this area. Methodically it might seem unlikely - but based on talent and taking the best prospect available on the board - it could make sense. At the end of the day, a better pass rush alone won't make the Seahawks contenders - but it's something that will need to happen at some stage.