Draft 2014: How the Seahawks might view linebacker, D-line

Each day this week, The Herald takes a look at some of the top players in the 2014 NFL draft at each position, and how the Seahawks might view that position heading into the draft.

Player rankings from NFLDraft-Scout.com

Today: Linebacker, defensive line

Wednesday: Safety, cornerback

Defensive end

1. Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina

2. Dee Ford, Auburn

3. Demarcus Lawrence, Boise State

Seahawks prospectus: The Seahawks released both of last year’s starting ends, Chris Clemons and Red Bryant, in cost-cutting moves. But that doesn’t mean they’re desperate at that position. Michael Bennett re-signed, and figures to play a bigger role, and Cliff Avril is still around. Bruce Irvin could possibly go back to more of a pass-rushing role after playing strongside linebacker last year, and other players such as Greg Scruggs and Benson Mayowa could always take advantage of the opportunity created by Bryant and Clemons signing free-agent deals with the Jaguars. All of that being said, however, head coach Pete Carroll subscribes to the theory that “You can’t have too many pass rushers.” So it would be surprising if Seattle doesn’t draft an end or two at some point, and it’s a high-value position that could make sense at the end of the first round.

Defensive tackle

1. Aaron Donald, Pittsburgh

2. Louis Nix, Notre Dame

3. Timmy Jernigan, Florida State

Seahawks prospectus: The Seahawks return both starting tackles, Brandon Mebane and Tony McDaniel, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have need at the position. Most notably, interior pass rushing specialist Clinton McDonald, who had 5.5 sacks last year, left in free agency. The Seahawks hope Jesse Williams and Jordan Hill, who both battled injuries as rookies, can make an impact this year. But this is another position where looking to add help via the draft makes sense. So far, the Seahawks have had more success signing free-agent defensive linemen than drafting them, both at end and tackle. But as they have to pay players at other positions like quarterback and defensive back, they’ll have to start hitting on some D-line picks.

Outside linebacker

1. Khalil Mack, Buffalo

2. Anthony Barr, UCLA

3. Ryan Shazier, Ohio State

Middle linebacker

1. C.J. Mosley, Alabama

2. Chris Borland, Wisconsin

3. Shayne Skov, Stanford

Seahawks prospectus: The Seahawks bring back four players who are viable starters in K.J. Wright, Bobby Wagner, Malcolm Smith and Irvin, so help isn’t needed in 2014. That being said, the Seahawks will almost certainly look to add linebackers, particularly in the later rounds. Not only could those players provide depth and/or special teams help immediately, the Seahawks need to consider their options beyond this season with Wagner, Wright and Smith all heading into the final year of their contracts. With the Seahawks spending big already to re-sign safeties Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas, and all but certain to eventually do so with quarterback Russell Wilson and cornerback Richard Sherman, there’s a very real possibility they won’t be able to re-sign all of their linebackers. The good news for Seattle is that they’ve had success finding linebacker talent in the later rounds, so restocking doesn’t necessarily require using a pick before the last day of the draft.

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