For a team blessed with an antidepressant as potent as the NFL draft’s fourth overall pick, the Seahawks sure have spent considerable time listening to us common folk fretting over what they shouldn’t do.
Some think they shouldn’t draft a quarterback because, well, Matt Hasselbeck isn’t completely bald yet, is he?
Some think they shouldn’t draft an offensive tackle because it’s about as unappealing as a shirtless Andre Smith.
Some think they shouldn’t draft a wide receiver because we’re still learning to spell T.J. Houshmandzadeh.
With so many perceived no-nos, what’s a team president to do?
“Well, we can pass,” Tim Ruskell said, laughing.
He was referring to the Seahawks’ internal quandaries, not their external ones, but the joke applies regardless. As much as the Seahawks relish the opportunity to select an elite player from this class, the gift comes with headaches.
Ultimately, the Seahawks must make a decision consistent with their words and actions over the past few months. Since finishing last season with a 4-12 record, they’ve remained adamant that their problems aren’t terminal, and their team can win again by tweaking instead of overhauling.
If they were rebuilding, they wouldn’t have lured Houshmandzadeh from Cincinnati with $15 million guaranteed. They wouldn’t have signed defensive tackle Colin Cole or traded for Cory Redding. The Seahawks are still playing for now, while trying to balance the need to create hope for later, and that fact should frame how they approach this oh-so-important draft.
What they should do: Avoid a situation of talent duplication.
OK, so that’s technically a shouldn’t, but it’s a critical point. Why employ another high-priced quarterback (Matthew Stafford, Mark Sanchez) when you’re saying the one you have is still in his prime? Why employ another high-priced offensive tackle (Jason Smith, Eugene Monroe) when you’re saying that Big Walt (Walter Jones) can still play and Sean Locklear, who was given $12 million in guarantees a year ago, might be the left tackle of the future?
The Seahawks can’t win now and draft a player who must sit on the bench for a year or two. They need to find an immediate starter at No. 4. They don’t have glaring needs, but they have shortcomings that must be addressed. They can find players who need grooming in the later rounds.
Ruskell said Friday that most talent evaluators believe “there’s really no franchise players in this draft.” If he’s right, it rules out the notion of taking a quarterback because he’s going to be great and letting him learn for a while. Ruskell said the Seahawks have about 20 players graded between 6.2 and 6.4 on their 8-point grading system. They consider a 5.9 to be a solid starter, so they believe those 20 or so guys will be impact players. They don’t see superstars, but they see longtime starters and guys capable of making a difference.
Since there are no quarterbacks that grade out to be superstars, there should be no desire to take one and create a controversy. And if the Seahawks believe there are that many players with similar ability, they should be able to pick the best fit.
The only no-brainer would be Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry, a supremely gifted athlete who satisfies a need and a want. If he’s not available, it gets complicated. Nevertheless, the Seahawks must stay focused on selecting an immediate impact player. Defensive linemen B.J. Raji, Tyson Jackson and Brian Orakpo would make more sense than Stafford or Sanchez for this team.
Only an NFL draft as strange as this one could make a burden out of the No. 4 pick. And only a league governed with the inconsistency of a hard salary cap and a liberal system for deciding rookie wages could create such pressure.
Last year’s No. 4 pick, running back Darren McFadden, signed a $60 million deal, $26 million of which was guaranteed, so whomever the Seahawks take will be in line to make a similar amount. That’s too much money to spend on a quarterback you plan to bring along slowly, or a tackle who might not start immediately.
The Seahawks are built to win now. The draft is devoid of players that will reward you greatly for waiting until later. The wise move is to stay consistent and continue building a roster capable of a fast turnaround.
Or they can pass.
But the luxury of a top-five pick hasn’t become that torturous, has it?