Thursday, March 19, 2009

Offensive Playmakers and Interior Linemen

by: Michael Steffes

Talk continues to ramp up as the draft is now less than 40 days away. There is a lot of speculation on who the Seahawks will draft, and that is exactly what Tim Ruskell wants. As in years past, he has done a pretty good job making this a team with few needs heading into the draft. This helps prevent the team from reaching to fill specific positions. However, just because we don't see needs for this year doesn't mean needs won't exist for next year. That is why I expect this to be the draft the Hawks attempt to infuse some youthful energy into the offense.

The first part of this equation is adding some offensive playmakers. There has been a lot of talk about what that means. Rob Staton did a nice write up on it here, and like Rob I also have a bit of a man-crush on Knowshon Moreno. However, that pick would take some finagling for the Seahawks to pull off.

Even if you assume that Julius Jones and TJ Duckett will be Ok for this year, it is hard to imagine the Seahawks being truly committed to that duo beyond this year. Justin Forsett is a mystery, so it would make sense for the Hawks to add a running back. This has also been mentioned in numerous articles like this one on Pro Football Weekly. The likely target, in my mind, is Donald Brown. He will be around in the second round, catches the ball almost as well as Moreno, and has been described by a scout as "someone you would want your daughter to date." Doesn't hurt that he lead the nation in rushing last year, either.

To Continue . . .

Another position that would qualify as a playmaker is a wide receiver. The Hawks will most likely have a shot at Crabtree, but aside from him there are a bunch of decent pass catchers in this draft. It will be interesting to see if teams continue to devalue this position. Last year no WR was taken in the first. However, two second rounders (DeSean Jackson and Eddie Royal) put up some of the best rookie WR seasons ever. My guess is that they were the exception and not the rule. How well wide receivers will adjust to the pro game continues to be a riddle few teams have solved. Plenty of first rounders from recent years remain buried on their respective depth charts. So far the Hawks have shown an affinity to go for quantity over quality, hoping to find a diamond in the rough. I think that might be a trend we see continue.

Finally, there has been a lot of talk about the Hawks drafting a left tackle of the future, but that is not what I am looking at on the offensive line. What I see as a much more pressing need is interior linemen. The Hawks will enter the season with both 2005 draft picks Chris Spencer and Rob Sims possibly playing big roles. Both are playing out the final year of their rookie deals. Both are still big question marks in the team's future plans. The one thing that can't be underestimated is that they have played significant time for this team since 2006, and if the team is going to let them walk it would make sense to have replacements ready.

Thankfully, this is the best draft for centers in a long time -- a very long time. As for the guard position, the guys who will fit the Hawks' new scheme should be available later in the draft. But while the draft world focuses on finding Walter Jones' replacement, I am looking to see who the team drafts to really push Spencer and Sims. Walt will be just fine, but if he isn't, well, first round tackles start right away anyway.

While the Hawks could definitely use a strong safety, and now probably a linebacker, this will hopefully be the draft that marks the re-vamping of the offense. They found a great young tight end last year, but just about every other position could use some youth. Even if the rookies don't play right away, the vets will no longer be able to feel comfort in the coaching staff playing vets. First, Holmgren is gone, and he usually played rookies as only a last resort. Second, Mora and co. are in, and they are looking to put their stamp on this team. What better way to do that than by showing off a successful first draft class? Hopefully all this combines with a healthy Hasselbeck to get the Seahawks offense back to where it should be.