Long wait for Seahawks fans may end in letdown

  • By Scott M. Johnson / Herald Writer
  • Thursday, April 27, 2006 9:00pm
  • Sports

Nothing can suck the drama out of Draft Day like a run to the Super Bowl.

Instead of waking up Saturday morning, turning on the television and seeing the Seattle Seahawks on the clock, local fans will have to wait a few hours to see their team pick.

And instead of firing up the hype machine with the quarterback or running back of the present and future, the Seahawks could make another un-sexy pick like last year’s selection of center Chris Spencer.

With the 31st selection in the first round of the NFL draft, the Seattle Seahawks select … another backup.

When a team has been to the playoffs three years in a row, including the most recent Super Bowl, finding starters in the draft isn’t as imperative as building for the future. The Seahawks are just as likely to use their first-round pick on a young defensive end or raw wide receiver as they are to fill their need for a starting cornerback.

“There is not an obvious (need),” team president Tim Ruskell said this week. “I guess you could say corner, but (Jordan) Babineaux did such a great job for us and (Kelly) Herndon, when we took him, we expected him to ascend to that role.”

Asked later if Ruskell would be comfortable heading into the season with Babineaux and Herndon battling for the starting job, Seattle’s main decision-maker gave a succinct “yes.”

While he could be throwing up a smokescreen to prevent teams from knowing which direction the Seahawks will go, it’s just as likely that Seattle is simply drafting for the future.

“You have to look two, three years down the road,” Ruskell said. “You have to do it that way because (otherwise) you would be disappointed all the time: ‘Well, he didn’t start Game 1. What is wrong with this guy?’

“… You have to project down the road. What do we ultimately think this guy will be when he figures it out? You have to do that.”

But some of the positions are set for both the present and future. Quarterback and halfback are low priorities, although Seattle might find it difficult to pass up any player who was projected to go early in the first round and fell to pick No. 31.

In terms of situational players, the Seahawks could always use more special teamers and pass rushers. A return specialist could also be a priority at some point in the draft.

Looking beyond the 2006 season, Seattle might have needs at tight end and wide receiver because Jerramy Stevens and Bobby Engram, respectively, are scheduled to become free agents next spring. Guard Chris Gray and center Robbie Tobeck will see their two-year contracts come to an end.

The absence of any glaring needs means the defending NFC champion could do just about anything with the 31st overall pick.

Even before Seattle started rising to the top of the NFC, the Seahawks were unpredictable on draft day. All the way back to 2000, Seattle showed it was willing to go away from need and pick a star of the future by taking running back Shaun Alexander. The Alabama product spent a year behind Ricky Watters before taking over as the starter four games into the 2001 season.

The Seahawks went a similar path last season by choosing Spencer. Widely considered the top interior offensive lineman in the entire draft, the center from Mississippi sat behind Tobeck and saw playing time only on special teams and at the end of one-sided games. Spencer could push Tobeck for a starting job this year, but it’s just as likely that he’ll have to wait another season before taking over.

This year’s first-round pick might be on a similar career path.

“As your team gets better, I think it gets more rare” for a rookie to start, Ruskell said. “But I guarantee you those first couple picks, we are going look at the guy and say: ‘Is this guy going to be a starter?’ Whether it happens Game 1 or Year 3, (that’s a) little harder to say.”

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