Draft the sure thing, one of the best players in the draft, or fill an obvious and glaring need?
In all likelihood, this won’t be the case, but what if Nebraska’s Ndamukong Suh or Oklahoma’s Gerald McCoy — the defensive tackles deemed by many as the top two players in the draft — is available when the Seahawks are on the clock? Yes the team has bigger needs than defensive tackle. The team is heading into the draft assuming it won’t have Walter Jones, so left tackle seems the most logical choice at No. 6. And the Seahawks also have desperate need at defensive end and safety, but what if a Pro-Bowl caliber defensive tackle slips to No. 6?
The Seahawks were in a very similar situation last year when Aaron Curry, the player many talent evaluators said was the best in the draft, was available at No. 4. Seattle could have addressed a number of needs — many fans spent last year wishing the Seahawks drafted quarterback Mark Sanchez — but instead they took what looked like the sure thing of the draft.
That decision, however, was made by a general manager, Tim Ruskell, who resigned during the 2009 season. Will new GM John Schneider and new head coach Pete Carroll make a similar decision if it comes up? Maybe not.
While front-office types like to say they want the best available player, Schneider admits that need will factor into their decision making this week.
“We do all of our grading based on our team,” Schneider said. “We don’t grade for the league. We don’t say, ‘We think this is where this guy is going to go and place him there.’ We’ll place him according to where we are with our team, and how they would fit. If we had a solid starter, say we have a solid starter at center, that guy may not get quite as high of a grade as the player if we didn’t have a pick.”
And again, in all likelihood it won’t be a dilemma Seattle has to face, because it’s hard to imagine players of Suh and McCoy’s ability slipping to No. 6. Depending on whom you ask, Suh or McCoy can be called the best player in the draft. Because this is a quarterback-driven league, Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford is expected to go No. 1, but most draft experts think Suh and McCoy will be the next two players selected.
Since quarterbacks are so highly valued, however, the NFL has also become a left tackle driven league — hey somebody’s got to keep those guys safe — so it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Detroit, which took a quarterback No. 1 overall last year, could pass on Suh or McCoy and take a left tackle at No. 2. And depending on what happened after that, it is possible one of those two tackles could still be around at No. 6, though not very likely.
Then what would Seattle do? Some say the Seahawks would have no choice but to take Suh or McCoy if either was available.
“Absolutely (they should),” said Rob Rang, senior draft analyst for NFLDraftScout.com. “And it is a little bit of a need. Even if that wasn’t an area of concern, you have to take one of them, because they’re just too good.”
Suh was a beast as a senior at Nebraska, racking up 12 sacks — an absurd total for an interior lineman — and finished fourth in the Heisman voting. McCoy didn’t put up as gaudy of stats, but some talent evaluators think the two-time All-American could be even better than Suh. Neither appears to come with off-field risks either — before making his NFL millions, Suh has already pledged $2.6 million to Nebraska, and McCoy is constantly praised for his character and leadership skills.
Really, the only risk that seems to come with drafting either of these defensive tackles is the risk of not taking a position of more pressing need. Seattle probably won’t have to make that decision, but if McCoy or Suh is available, need vs. talent will be one of the first decisions the Seahawks new front office will have to make.
“It’s really fun to talk about, ‘We don’t draft by need,’ but you just end up doing it,” Schneider said. “. . . You try to take the best player based on your need.”