In the countdown to Thursday I'm going to look at the decisions facing the Seahawks front office with each of their first round picks. Tomorrow, I'll talk about the #14 selection. Today, we'll look at the 6th overall pick.
When the Seahawks finished 4-12 in 2008, it awarded them the 4th overall pick last year. Considered a freak due to injuries (particularly at wide receiver), the choice for former GM Tim Ruskell was clear - go the safe route. He opted to draft a high character prospect at a position of minor need in the hope greater health and a change of coaching would improve results. Of course, it didn't quite work out like that. Seattle were horrible in 2009, posting a generous 5-11 record. Ruskell left the team and so did first year coach Jim Mora - in preference of a new beginning and an expected rebuild to an ageing roster.
It's safe to say that moves this off season suggest a different tactic going forward. There have been no band aids placed on the roster with a big free agency move. There's been no searching for the quick fix. Instead, staple veterans have been allowed to leave (Nate Burleson) be released (Deon Grant), traded (Darryl Tapp) or have simply retired (Patrick Kerney). The approach appears to be - blow it up and start again. If that is the case, how will the Seahawks approach this draft and more specifically, the sixth overall pick.
Sam Bradford will be drafted first overall by the St. Louis Rams. That's a given, a total lock. That pick isn't being traded and the Rams aren't looking past the Oklahoma quarterback. When his name is called first on Thursday, there will be four other teams picking before the Seahawks.
I am absolutely positive that Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy won't get out of the top three unless a mind blowing (and unlikely) trade occurs. Given the chance to draft either, the Seahawks won't pass. But they'll go second and third overall, leaving two more teams to pick before Seattle is on the clock.
It appears to be a complete no brainer that Washington will draft an offensive tackle. The question is - which? I haven't mocked Russell Okung fourth overall for a reason - I think he's hugely over rated and a potential liability in pass protection. He switches off, his technique isn't that great and he isn't the dominant force some think. Trent Williams and Anthony Davis have greater upside, with Williams being a superior run blocker and Davis a better pass protector. Questions remain with both (I've heard that Williams' work ethic isn't great and he has some unusual sleeping patterns, whilst Davis is well regarded for owning a non existent work ethic). In that case Okung is better as a grounded, driven individual. But the Redskins aren't there to necessarily draft the hardest worker. I expect Williams or Davis to be the choice, with Williams getting the edge.
If Williams is there at #6 the Seahawks will consider taking him. He's high on their draft board, is capable of playing the zone blocking scheme and has the consolation of being a potential all-pro right tackle if he doesn't work out as a blind side blocker. However, if Williams is off the board at #4 Seattle's front office will be forced to look elsewhere.
In this scenario, the Kansas City Chiefs - like last year - hold the key to the Seahawks pick. Had KC drafted Aaron Curry last year, as a lot expected, the Seahawks would've been forced to draft somebody else (Crabtree? Sanchez? Orakpo?). With Bradford, Suh, McCoy and Williams off the board - I am absolutely positive Eric Berry will be the pick at #6 if he's available. I've voiced concerns about Berry on this blog and they remain. However, I understand he will be the choice at #6 if this is how the board falls.
But will the Chiefs take him? Perhaps the question should be, would they trade down and afford someone else to draft him? Despite a lot of talk Kansas City will target an offensive lineman fifth overall, I actually think they'll draft a defensive prospect. Inside linebacker is their biggest need in my opinion and it makes Rolando McClain a not much discussed option. Did many expect the Chiefs to draft Tyson Jackson last year? They aren't afraid to make a relatively small reach. However, they know full well that they could also move down a few spots and still get McClain. If the Cleveland Browns and Mike Holmgren offered a token gesture to swap picks (in order to steal Berry from Seattle), would the Chiefs bite?
Alternatively, the Chiefs might target Berry themselves - or a nose tackle like Dan Williams. With prospective takers on the way, staying put might be their best case scenario. Either way, their decision will greatly influence what the Seahawks will be able to do.
Should Suh, McCoy, Williams and Berry be gone by #6 - what are the alternatives? I would suggest looking no further than Derrick Morgan. I don't think the Georgia Tech defensive end has much chance of making it to #14 and is still goo value sixth overall anyway. However, don't expect to see C.J. Spiller or Jimmy Clausen taken as an alternative.
This will be viewed as a gradual rebuild at the expense of short term success. The challenge will be drafting the key catalysts for sustained winning seasons. Other teams - such as Kansas City and St. Louis - haven't been able to rebuild all that quickly and sit levelled in a consistent slump. Others - like the Indianapolis Colts - drafted the right guy at a crucial time many years ago and alongside a well driven scheme have enjoyed years of competitiveness. Seattle won't find that guy this year, so expect the front office to draft the best overall player who fits scheme and can be a long term figurehead when times are better. That'll be the justification when, if available, the Seahawks select a cover safety sixth overall.