Years of picking 20-something in the draft order, the Seahawks get the fourth pick

seahawks-team-photoSeattle Times Quote:

“There is no silver lining to a 4-12 season, just a top-shelf draft pick.

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Seattle won’t be rifling through the remnant bin of the first round this year. After years of picking 20-something in the draft order, the Seahawks get the fourth pick of the litter.

“This isn’t about what’s left,” president Tim Ruskell said. “We’re going to get a heck of a football player.”

Seattle holds the No. 4 pick, its highest since 1997 when the Seahawks ended up with the No. 3 and No. 6 overall picks and chose cornerback Shawn Springs and tackle Walter Jones.

That makes this draft Seattle’s chance to claim a piece of bedrock for the future, a cornerstone for the next generation. Just one problem. Ruskell’s not so sure that caliber player will be available.

“There’s not this elite six or elite three guys that everybody knows this guy is probably going to the Hall of Fame,” Ruskell said.

This isn’t necessarily like previous seasons when the No. 4 pick provided immediate impact. In the previous 20 years, five different players chosen No. 4 were named either offensive or defensive rookie of the year, more than any other spot in the draft. Running back Edgerrin James, the 1999 offensive rookie of the year, was chosen No. 4 overall by Indianapolis. Before James, cornerback Charles Woodson (1998) and linebackers Peter Boulware (1997), Mike Croel (1991) and Derrick Thomas (1989) were named defensive rookies of the year after being chosen fourth.

But the past does not necessarily predict the present, and this year Ruskell is looking at an array of players who project to be more than just solid starters, but something less than franchise players.

“[There’s a] consensus that there’s really no franchise players in this draft,” Ruskell said.

The number of young players in the draft certainly has something to do with that.

Of the three players the Seahawks are considered most likely to choose with the fourth pick, only Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry is a senior. USC junior quarterback Mark Sanchez started only 16 games, and Texas Tech wide receiver Michael Crabtree played only two seasons of college football.

Forty-six underclassmen were granted special eligibility for this year’s draft, fewer than last year’s total of 53. But it’s not just the total, it’s the prominence toward the top of the draft, with Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford, Sanchez and Crabtree. In general, it’s harder for a scout to project what an underclassman will become in the NFL.

“You’re guessing at what they could get to,” Ruskell said. “Their talent says they could get there, but they just didn’t get enough time in college to develop. A lot of gray area for these guys.””