DRAFT COUNTDOWN: 3 weeks. Every Thursday until the draft, we look at draft-related topics involving the Seahawks.
As we all know, the Seahawks are a supposed Super Bowl contender with one major problem: They are starting all over on the offensive line.
The company line has been that there have not been any good linemen for the Seahawks to draft over the last four years. Go ahead and fall for it if you want. But it’s wrong.
Even by the Seahawks’ apparent standards — as carefully derived by Seahawks Draft Blog’s Rob Staton — they should have been able to put together a very good line by now.
Talking with 710 ESPN on Tuesday, John Schneider reiterated what he and Tom Cable have been saying since last year: There are few good offensive linemen in college these days and not many NFL teams have been able to piece together good lines.
“It’s always been an area of concentration for us,” Schneider said. “What I tell people all the time is it’s an area of concentration for everybody around the National Football League. It’s extremely hard right now to find offensive linemen. It’s just a position over the last several years that has not been especially strong in the draft.”
Ah, but it has been strong enough — even when you take into account Seattle’s perceived prerequisites for linemen.
Last November, we pointed out the line the Seahawks could have assembled over the past four drafts — if they had been willing to forgo Bruce Irvin, Christine Michael, Paul Richardson and Justin Britt. That bunch would be a small price to pay to have Terron Armstead at left tackle, Gabe Jackson at left guard, David DeCastro at right guard and Joel Bitonio at right tackle.
All but DeCastro fit Staton’s newfound TEF standard of 3.00: Armstead scored 3.38, Jackson 3.05, Bitonio 3.02, DeCastro 2.94.
But the Seahawks opted for speed in 2012 (Irvin over DeCastro), 2013 (Michael over Armstead) and 2014 (Richardson over Bitonio).
That leaves them wanting on the line in 2016 — with Britt, two undrafted players, a fourth-rounder and a journeyman currently slated as the starters.
Schneider said they will definitely add some linemen in the draft, which he considers strong at the position.
“It’s a good group,” he said. “It’s better than it has been in several years.”
Based on Staton’s TEF research, the Seahawks could target Indiana’s Jason Spriggs or Texas A&M’s Germain Ifedi with the 26th overall pick (assuming they keep it).
They also could look at explosive O-linemen Connor McGovern (Missouri), Joe Haeg (North Dakota State) and Joe Dahl (Washington State) in the third round (they have two picks).
Joe Thuney (N.C. State) and Halapoulivaati Vaitai (TCU) are Day 3 options who also fit Seattle under the TEF formula (Thuney 3.02, Vaitai 3.18).
The Seahawks apparently like Boise State linemen Rees Odhiambo and Marcus Henry.
Odhiambo is considered a Day 2 guard. His broad jump was only 7 feet 9, which is way under Seattle’s standard of 9 feet. But he had surgery on both ankles this offseason and probably was not 100 percent.
Henry is a 6-2, 294-pound center from Bellevue who seems like an undrafted option. His TEF score was 2.83, which would explain why the Seahawks might view him as a “Round 8” option.
Everyone seems to think the Seahawks are definitely going to use their first pick on a lineman, but their history says they probably won’t. Since 2010, they have used just two of their seven first-rounders on linemen. They usually prefer speed.
It’s easy to see them going for an athletic defender such as Leonard Floyd or Keanu Neal. Floyd, 6-6 and 244, was the top outside linebacker at the Combine; he led all OLBs in the 40 (4.60), vertical (39.5) and broad jump (127). With good pass-rush ability, he’s basically a taller Bruce Irvin. He’s certainly the unique kind of player the Seahawks appreciate.
Neal (6-0, 211) is the most explosive safety in the draft; he led safeties at the Combine with a 38-inch vertical and 132-inch broad jump. He also runs under 4.6 in the 40. The hard hitter easily could become the heir apparent to Kam Chancellor. Before then, though, he certainly would be a star special-teams player and dime contributor. It would be hard to keep him off the field.
Apparently the NFL is allowing teams to trade future comp picks starting now. If it’s a ploy to encourage more trading, it seems unlikely to have that effect because teams will still (1) have to be willing to trade future picks and (2) have regular picks to trade in case they do not get comp picks. For the record, since he became Seattle’s GM in 2010, Schneider has never acquired nor traded a future pick during 11 draft-day deals. However, he has made 27 other trades involving future picks.
DE Noah Spence, Bucky Brooks of NFL.com: After losing Bruce Irvin in free agency, the Seahawks could use another designated pass rusher to play a key role in their sub-packages.
Reality: Spence is basically Irvin with much more baggage — a one-trick pony with a bad history. Too many options in this draft to take a guy like that.
OT Jason Spriggs, Seahawks Draft Blog: If it isn’t going to be Rankins or Bullard, the safe money is on an offensive tackle. Germain Ifedi and Jason Spriggs are the most likely options based on everything we’ve covered that appears to be important to Seattle for the O-line: size, length, tackle experience, unique traits, versatility and explosive athleticism.
Reality: Spriggs almost makes too much sense for the Hawks to draft.
CB Eli Apple, Mel Kiper of ESPN: I know the offensive line is a concern, but I don’t think you can sacrifice talent for need here, especially when the reality is you’re not being realistic if you think there’s an immediate upgrade at left tackle to be found here. Apple has major upside as a physical cornerback with length. He’ll fit right in.
Reality: No way this will happen. The Hawks don’t need a corner. Even if they did, Apple does not fit Seattle’s length requirement, and they prefer to take their corners on Day 3. Kiper clearly is just slotting players without paying attention.
CB Mackensie Alexander, Chris Burke of SI.com: Both Alexander and Ohio State’s Eli Apple would fit what Seattle wants in a cornerback, namely, a physical player who can hold his own one-on-one and doesn’t mind stepping up on running backs. Alexander could pattern his game after Richard Sherman, first-hand.
Reality: Again, someone who has no clue about the Seahawks.