While Marcus Trufant has dutifully held down the starting position on one side of Seattle’s defensive secondary, the other cornerback spot has seen about as much turnover over the years as the Seattle Mariners’ infield.
Shawn Springs. Willie Williams. Ken Lucas. Kelly Herndon. Andre Dyson. All have started multiple games for Seattle since coach Mike Holmgren arrived in 1999.
The Seahawks are searching for a starting cornerback once again, and hoping that this weekend’s NFL draft provides an answer.
With the next-to-last pick in the first round, Seattle could very likely take a stab at the player who has first dibs on the starting spot. If that’s the case, that cornerback would probably come from a group that includes Clemson’s Tye Hill, Ohio State’s Ashton Youboty, Florida State’s Antonio Cromartie, South Carolina’s Johnathan Joseph and Miami’s Kelly Jennings.
Trufant is expected to be back in the lineup next fall, while the other starting job is up for grabs. Herndon and Jordan Babineaux have started in the past, but the Seahawks would prefer to use both as nickel and dime backs.
Barring another eleventh-hour signing – the Seahawks nabbed Dyson the day before the draft last April but released him shortly after the 2005 season – Seattle might have to look to a rookie to start opposite Trufant.
Virginia Tech’s Jimmy Williams, who is generally regarded as the top cornerback in the 2006 NFL draft, is likely to be gone before Seattle’s first pick comes up at No. 31. That leaves a solid group of possible starters, all of whom come with question marks.
Many scouts believe Florida State’s Cromartie is the most talented of the bunch, but there are concerns about a knee injury and his work ethic. Cromartie missed the entire 2005 season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament and has never been a full-time starter. He’s also considered a bit immature and might not even get drafted in the first round.
But the draft is all about potential, and Cromartie, a 6-foot-2 cornerback with Deion Sanders-like potential, will be an intriguing prospect for the teams near the end of Round 1.
Clemson’s Hill is a more polished product, although he’s not nearly as big (5-9, 185 pounds). Hill is a speedy corner who impressed scouts so much at the Senior Bowl that he looks like a probable first-round pick.
Miami’s Jennings is also relatively polished and has the type of mindset that could make him ready to start as a rookie. But he has a slight build (5-10, 178) and is not known for his tackling.
Youboty and Joseph are more project-type players who come from schools with recent histories of cornerback success. Like fellow South Carolina products Dunta Robinson (Texans) and Sheldon Brown (Eagles) before him, Joseph has plenty of potential but questionable instincts. Youboty is an Ohio State product who isn’t nearly as polished as former Buckeyes Nate Clements (Bills) and Chris Gamble (Panthers) were as rookies.
The Seahawks would prefer to have a veteran starter, so the most attractive option might be aging, over-priced free agent Ty Law. But a more realistic scenario involves a rookie coming in to replace Dyson on a young defense that matured throughout the 2005 season.
In recent years, Seattle has gotten away with starting rookies like free safety Ken Hamlin and middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu, so a rookie starting cornerback isn’t out of the question.
The Seahawks just hope he won’t be in over his head.