The Seahawks released starting strong safety Deon Grant yesterday, igniting a lot of talk that it's a sign of intent that Seattle will draft a safety early. I particularly enjoyed Jon's remark in the comments section: "What's the over/under on Mel Kiper mocking Eric Berry to the Hawks? I say 20 hours, take the under."
On a more serious note, I'm not sure the Seahawks would entertain drafting a safety as high as 6th overall - the pick it would take to secure the Tennessee product. Even with a hole created in the secondary since Grant's departure, it would appear to be something of a luxury considering the continued lack of a pass rush - not to mention the laundry list of long and short term needs on offense. Nevertheless, you would imagine someone will be added at some stage with only Jordan Babineaux and Jamar Adams the recognised safety's left on the roster.
Resident scout Kyle Rota raised the following points and I think he's made a very solid judgement call. Let's say the Seahawks did draft Berry and paired him with Babineaux in the secondary. Your two starters would be 5'11", 211lbs (Berry) and 6'0" and 200lbs (Babineaux). Neither are physically imposing players and despite many reports to the contrary, I still hold some concerns about Berry's ability in run support and particularly his tackling. I also expect his playing weight will be nearer the 200lbs mark than the 211lbs listed at the combine. As a partnership, it would almost be like playing four starting cornerbacks. In comparison, Deon Grant was 6'2", 210lbs.
There's been a lot of negative reports on Mays. I've voiced some concerns about his ability in coverage and reliance on the big hit rather than playing the ball. But what Mays did afford Pete Carroll at USC was the ability to use a lot of eight-man fronts. Mays hasn't just got linebacker size to stand up against the run - he's also got (as proven at the combine) unique, blistering speed to get back and cover if the pass is called. That makes it incredibly hard for an opposition offense to get a read on the defense. You can potentially commit more up front to the rush too, knowing you have that size/speed combo as your last line of defense. In run support, there are also some positives in Mays' game as he has the size to bring down bigger running backs but the speed to keep up with the nimble guys too. One of the more memorable moments during the 2009 season for me personally was watching Mays shadow Jahvid Best as he bounced out wide before bringing him down for a short loss. Not many guys keep up with Jahvid Best when he finds the edge.
Are the Seahawks more likely to draft a safety high after Grant's release? I'm still sceptical. Whether Seattle would potentially take Mays at #14 is debatable - it's still the same kind of luxury discussed at the start of the article. But Pete Carroll did offer more glowing praise to Taylor Mays than many of the other big name prospects leaving the SoCal production line. He knew the value of Mays to his defense, even if it meant living with some of the obvious issues that came with it. That could be the case again in Seattle, as Carroll and his staff look to stamp their authority on both sides of the ball. Unlikely, perhaps, but I wouldn't rule it out either.