Draft Preview: 56. Seattle Seahawks


Pictured: the Seahawks’ best 2013 draft pick.

The Seattle Seahawks made their most important 2013 draft pick long before the draft, and long before Mel Kiper says anything about a dancing bear during his sixth hour on your living room picture screen. They traded for and then signed Percy Harvin, happily extracting a headache (literally and figuratively) from Minnesota, while adding the ideal athletic wide receiver to complement their athletic quarterback. The core of Seattle’s offense is now Harvin, Marshawn Lynch, Russell Wilson, and Sidney Rice.

Speed, man. It still burns so deep.

But of course, Harvin came at a cost, and his price will effect the Seahawks’ approach to the draft late next month. They’re one of two teams without a first-round pick (the Redskins are the other one), and they’ll wait until the 56th overall slot late in the second round to be on the clock for the first time. That explains general manager John Schneider’s aggression on the open market to address a weak pass rush by signing Cliff Avril — the best available defensive end — and Michael Bennett. The two combined for 18.5 sacks this past season.

So what’s left to do now, and where will further youth be added in the second round and beyond? Those pressing questions and more are answered below in my Seahawks draft talk with Kenneth Arthur from Field Gulls.

1. Let’s get this out of the way. I’m going to assume you’re quite elated after the addition of Percy Harvin, but are you happy with the price Seattle paid?

I am continuously surprised in a good way by John Schneider and Pete Carroll.  Start with the most important piece given up by the Seahawks to acquire Harvin, the 25th overall pick. At this point I believe they could have gotten a very good pass-rusher in the first round. But now we see why that isn’t a problem after signing both Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett. So if they didn’t acquire Harvin and still had their pick, what would they do instead? Draft Tavon Austin if available?  Austin is only about two years younger than Harvin, but Harvin is proven in the NFL. In Austin’s best case scenario, he is Percy Harvin.

You wouldn’t see Harvin get out of the top five if he was available in the draft this year, as he’s as elite as anyone in the draft. The only difference is that he got paid, and that Seattle gave up a seventh (yawn) and a third next year, which I can live with. His 73% catch rate is near the league leaders, he forced the most missed tackles in the NFL (22) despite missing seven games, he had the most YAC in the NFL, and he’s a pretty good running back to top it all off.

At the end of the day, what is Seattle with Harvin? A scary-good football team. I can’t believe that Pete and John pulled it off, and I don’t think they would have paid the price if he wasn’t such an elite — and young — talent.

2. The future of Matt Flynn could have a significant impact on the Seahawks’ 2013 draft class, as he could recoup one of the picks given away in the Harvin trade. Do you think he’ll be traded before the draft? And what’s the ideal return for him?

I think the Seahawks want to trade him, and I think Flynn wants to be traded, but what are the options left? Do the Jaguars see him as a major upgrade over what they got? Probably not enough to give up a decent draft pick to acquire and pay him. The Raiders don’t have much room to work with, and the Jets are paying Mark Sanchez too much. Geno Smith and Matt Barkley could both be more attractive to teams than a still-unproven, decently-paid, Seattle backup. I don’t see a fit.

3. If Flynn is dealt, is it safe to assume that a quarterback will be selected in the mid rounds, and ideally one who’s also mobile, and comfortable executing read-option plays?

The Redskins drafted Robert Griffin III and Kirk Cousins. Not exactly dopplegangers. If Flynn is dealt, I think they’d explore how much a guy like Josh Johnson would cost first. Then if they go into the draft without a backup QB, I obviously think they’ll take a shot at one, and I think that in this particular class you could get an interesting prospect in the fifth round or later.

I wrote about it the other day: teams absolutely must be drafting quarterbacks on a regular basis. The Patriots have drafted six of them since Tom Brady. The Packers have drafted four since Aaron Rodgers. Wilson looks entrenched as the starter for the next 15 seasons, but Seattle, like any smart franchise, would do well to draft any QB they think is being undervalued.

4. Before free agency, the Seahawks’ draft priorities were clear: pass rush help first, and then finding the a field-stretching target who can complement Wilson’s creativity. Both of those needs have been addressed now, and with youth in many key starting positions on both sides of the ball, there isn’t a truly glaring need. What direction should be taken with Seattle’s first pick in the second round?

Assuming that nothing major on the roster changes between now and the draft: outside linebacker, defensive tackle, tight end, cornerback, offensive line depth, safety. In reality, I think that if the Seahawks fielded the team they have right now, they are one of the three best teams in the NFL anyway. Look at the 49ers last season: they got almost zero help from rookies and nearly won the Super Bowl.

That’s where the Seahawks are right now. I think they will be looking to trade down, as usual, from the second round. This organization has done so well with later picks (Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, K.J. Wright, Russell Wilson) that they aren’t afraid to have fewer picks early if it means more picks later.

I think they will try to draft an OLB in the second or third. And I think a big tight end with good hands is also a possibility in that area of the draft. They’re going to take a safety sometime in rounds five-to-seven, and they’ll add a DT to the competition. There are still some players from last year that didn’t play as rookies that I think can win jobs on this team like OLB Korey Toomer, DT Jaye Howard, and J.R. Sweezy at guard, but Seattle is just adding to the competition. They aren’t looking for players to come in and play right away, so it might not be an exciting rookie class like it was last year, but it will be an interesting camp once they bring in eight or nine new guys.

5. Who’s on your prospect wishlist right now, both early and late in the draft?

I don’t have a lot to add in this area because my world got flipped around when we traded away our first-round pick. At that time, I was thinking Jonathan Cooper out of North Carolina, a guy that could be a starting guard on day one, but I don’t see anything like that happening anymore. I can’t stop thinking about Travis Kelce out of Cincinnati for some reason. I think he could be an important player on this team in 2013, but if not him, then another tight end.  I’m not sure that Zach Miller will be ready to go at full strength.

Everybody talks about Tyrann Mathieu. Every fan wants him because he’s the Honey Badger. But he’s a nickel corner, from everything I’ve come to understand, and even if Seattle needs competition at nickel, they still have at least three guys on the roster who can play it now, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Charles Woodson signs for cheap.

So I’m not entirely sure about a lot of names projected to go later in the draft, but I think the Seahawks will just take the best player available at every turn. They just don’t have very many snaps left to hand out to rookies.