Wednesday, April 1, 2009

A Postion by Position Look at Draft Needs: Part 2

by: Michael Steffes

Back to the roster analysis we go, this time looking at the trenches. At least, the trenches on the offensive side of the ball. The Hawks skipped drafting an offensive linemen last year, mostly because of the pick they gave up to get John Carlson. So in one way they hit gold, but they also failed to add to some positional groups that could have used some depth, especially at the end of the year.

Before I get into the breakdowns of these positions, I wanted to clarify my goal for these write-ups. I am not ruling out any specific players or positions. My belief is that by analyzing the info that can be verified, such as roster #'s and what the team has done in the past, I can provide insight beyond the standard analysis which is often centered on things that cannot be verified such as Ruskell's opinion of players. By looking where the team needs bodies, it just makes it more of an educated guess. It doesn't mean it will work out this way. If there is one thing in this world I am certain of, it is that Tim Ruskell will always do something that makes us all say "What!?!?!!??!" come draft day.

For the breakdown of the o-line and tight ends, click


Current Number: (6) Jones, Locklear, Willis, Williams, William Robinson, Na'shan Goddard

Taken to Camp: A minimum of 6, as the team utilizes three lines during camp.

Last year: (7) Jones, Locklear, Willis, Williams, Womack, Robinson, Samuel Gutekunst

The Hawks went to camp last year with 6 true tackles plus Floyd Womack, who played both tackle and guard through out his time with the Hawks. One of these was Samuel Gutekunst, who was part of the international practice squad program. The Hawks used every one of them in camp. Walt got lots of rest and Locklear sprained a knee. This year, expect Big Walt to get even more rest. Also, for the first time Kyle Williams will have to make the team to stick, as he is out of practice squad eligibility. Willis could also be the first off the bench for an injured guard, so it will be interesting to see how the Hawks manage this position.

VERDICT: Tough to predict, but I think the odds are low on the Hawks taking one of the top tackles in the draft. They have three that are making good money in Walt, Willis, and Locklear, so another 50 mil to a fourth tackle would be difficult to justify. If Monroe and Smith are they only guys the Hawks feel are worth a top 4 pick left on the board then they may have no choice, but it's tough to believe that will happen. Both of those players have their warts, and in the last few years the Hawks haven't shown that they value offensive linemen as much as fans do.

What the team really needs is a Womack-esque player who can adequately handle either guard or tackle. It is hard to tell if either Monroe or Smith could be used at guard. As for the roster numbers, the Hawks have the numbers already at this position, with five of them seeing time last year on the field. I see this position being addressed one of two ways. First, the Hawks' new regime could feel that LT isn't as important a position as it used to be and opt to take someone later in the draft to develop. Or second, they could maintain the status quo and try to get one more year out of Walt with Lock and Willis as the back up plan, then select a left tackle in the draft next year. It could be they won't even get a shot at a tackle they like in the top 5 anyway.


Current Number: (3.5) Sims, Wahle, Wrotto, and Vallos

Taken to Camp: 5 or 6. The team likes 6 who can play so they can fill out the lines.

Last year: (6) Wahle, Sims, Wrotto, Gray, Murray, Womack

As you can see, the team often likes to have a versatile linemen or three. Womack counts as both a guard and a tackle, and Vallos will count as both a guard and a center. Essentially, the team can't waste roster spots on 15 linemen, so they improvise a bit in filling out the training camp lines. Regardless, what you can see is that the Hawks need to improve their numbers in this area before camp. Not only that, but both Spencer and Sims will be unrestricted free agents at year's end. The time is now to bolster the depth. 2009 will be a big year for Spencer and Sims, and you can bet the team will handle this situation much like they did with Weaver and Schmitt last year.

VERDICT: The Hawks are going to draft a guard, maybe two. Hopefully they are prepared to use at least one first day pick. They need to select an interior linemen who they believe will be a starter in this league. Adding one of the many guys in this draft who can play center and guard would make a lot of sense. The team needs to be prepared for the possibility that neither Sims nor Spencer prove to be long term options this year. Wahle isn't a long term solution either at age 32. The rest of the group, like Wrotto and Vallos, don't appear to have futures beyond being quality back up players. The time is now to rework the interior of the offensive line. If I were making the calls, they would draft a guard/center type on the first day and a versatile guy who can play both guard and tackle like Pork Chop on the second day.


Current Number: (2) Spencer, Vallos

Taken to Camp: 3 who can play at center.

Last Year: (3) Spencer, Vallos, Chris Gray

The center position is one of the more interesting story lines heading into draft day, in my opinion. This is one of the best center classes in history, and the Seahawks should view center as a need. The best bet is a guy who has the bulk and ability to play both guard and center. Thus, if Spencer stays healthy and improves on some of the good things he did last year the team can put the draftee (or Spencer) to work at guard. If Spencer fails to stay healthy again or fails to impress, the team can let him go in free agency with a replacement at the ready. Vallos is the type of guy who can be a backup for life, but he shouldn't be counted on for more than that at this point.

VERDICT: I think the Hawks will take a center, and they will take one in the top four rounds. Within the top half of the draft there are several centers who project as long term starers in the league. I thought Spencer showed quite a bit of improvement at times last year, but even so he will be completing his rookie contract and remains a question mark. Even if he does have a good year, then we are left wondering if he is a contract year wonder. It makes sense to grab a center in this draft. Not only is there a deep class of quality guys at this position, but it will likely motivate Spencer and/or Simms and make for better line play next year.


Current Number: (4) Carlson, John Owens, Joe Newton, John Tereshinski

Taken to Camp: 5

Last year: (5) Carlson, Heller, Putzier, Newton, Alcorn

The Seahawks had one predictable draft pick last year and it was for tight end. At the end of the season, the team had released Marcus Pollard and had added Jeb Putzier. However, everyone knew they were looking for a long term, quality solution for the position. They hit the jackpot with John Carlson. This offseason they let Will Heller leave and replaced him with blocking tight end John Owens. Joe Newton is out of practice squad options and will need to make the team to stick around. The Hawks have shown some interest in Cornelius Ingram of Florida. Also, they appear to need another TE to fill out the camp numbers.

VERDICT: The Seahawks will take a tight end on the second day if they can get good value for a guy they like. Two tight end sets with two receiving tight ends is something that Greg Knapp can utilize. Using two receiving tight ends could add versatility and unpredictability to the offense. Owens is not a receiving threat, and Newton has never really seemed to improve from his undrafted status. All that said, the Hawks will not be prioritizing this position very highly. They could get by with the guys they have right now, but getting another guy with some talent would improve the overall depth. Another option would be to find a veteran guy after the draft when teams sometimes release players. It has been speculated that Tampa will eventually part ways with Alex Smith, which is someone whom I would expect the Hawks to show interest in if released.

Overall, looking at the offensive line and tight ends sheds a little light on the Hawks' possible choices. While they already have enough starters and backups at tackle, they do need more interior linemen. That need isn't just for this year, either--these positions, which aren't genrally positions at which rookies can step in and start effectively, may get even thinner next year.

Last year the Hawks headed to camp with 13 O linemen and 15 defensive linemen, partly because of the question marks surrounding Marcus Tubbs. This year it could be the other way, with questions about Walter Jones' knee. Conceivably the team would like to go to camp with 14 on both sides of the ball. To reach either of those numbers, the Hawks need to add some offensive linemen. Expect at least two to be drafted, making up for the goose egg the draft produced last year.