By Tim Booth / Associated Press
RENTON — For the better part of a decade, the first-round of the NFL draft has proved to be rather boring for the Seattle Seahawks.
Whether it was late opening-round picks that usually were traded, or not even owning a first-rounder, the opening night of the draft was regularly dull in Seattle.
Not this year. Not entering perhaps the most important draft for the Seahawks since the 2012 grab bag that landed Seattle a bounty of future stars.
Coming off the first losing season in a decade there is heightened pressure and expectation on general manager John Schneider and coach Pete Carroll that the Seahawks must hit in this draft, beginning with the No. 9 overall pick.
“There’s a lot of planning. A lot of thoughts that go through your head. A lot of different scenarios,” Schneider said. “We may pick at nine, we may not. We don’t know yet. We’re gonna do whatever we can to help this football team as much as we possibly can. It’s obviously exciting, but it’s not necessarily a place that you want to be drafting.”
If the Seahawks truly believe they are reloading and not fully rebuilding after an offseason of major changes, then coming out of this draft filling some significant needs seems to be a requirement.
Quarterback will be a focal point following the trade of Russell Wilson to Denver, which landed the Seahawks the ninth pick, along with a bounty of other selections. But Seattle seems set on giving Drew Lock, Geno Smith and Jacob Eason a chance at earning the starting job, and while a QB may be selected, it seems unlikely to be the choice at No. 9.
There are too many other needs.
Neither offensive tackle position is set. Seattle lost starting cornerback D.J. Reed in free agency. Pass rush seems to be a never-ending priority, especially in a new 3-4 defensive scheme.
And Bobby Wagner, one of the best linebackers of this generation, was released in a salary-cap move and signed with the division rival Rams, leaving one of the inside linebacker spots unaccounted for.
“There is definitely an excitement about this because there’s only so many things that can happen when you’re picking 25th or 28th and down there. There’s a million scenarios,” Carroll said. “This is not like that. It’s a little different.”
The last time the Seahawks selected a quarterback in the first round was Rick Mirer in 1993. The last time they selected a quarterback in any of the first three rounds was 2012 when Wilson was picked and became a 10-year starter.
At some point among Seattle’s eight picks a quarterback is likely to be selected. But in a year when there’s no clear options at the position in the top 10, it seems unlikely Seattle would use the No. 9 pick on a QB.
The better likelihood is seeing if someone like Matt Corral or Desmond Ridder is available late in the first or early in the second round.
END OF THE LINE
The last time Seattle had a top 10 pick came in 2010, the first draft under Schneider and Carroll. The No. 6 pick that year was used on left tackle Russell Okung, who started all 72 regular-season games he played for the Seahawks over six seasons.
Don’t be surprised if Seattle looks to find its next left tackle with the No. 9 pick.
Veteran Duane Brown remains a free agent after spending the past 4½ seasons in Seattle. The Seahawks seem hesitant to commit a lengthy deal to Brown, who will turn 37 before the start of next season.
The top tackles in the draft have all been linked to the Seahawks, including Mississippi State’s Charles Cross, Alabama’s Evan Neal and Ickey Ekwonu from North Carolina State. If one of those players is still available at No. 9 it’ll be very attractive for the Seahawks.
CORNERING THE MARKET
If offensive tackle isn’t the choice at No. 9, it very likely could be cornerback. Seattle saw Reed depart for a bigger deal with the Jets, leaving Sidney Jones and Tre Brown, who was injured midway through last season, as the primary options.
Ahmed “Sauce” Gardner fits the size profile Seattle has sought in the past at 6-foot-3, but seems to be rising in mock drafts and could be gone by the time Seattle picks. Other possible early first-round options could be LSU’s Derek Stingley Jr. and Clemson’s Andrew Booth.
Whether the first pick is used on a cornerback or not, expect Seattle to take one or two in the draft.
As is always the case with Schneider, a trade is entirely possible. The second day of the draft is likely to be loaded with talent and a trade down by the Seahawks to nab more second- and third-round picks might be the most likely outcome for Seattle. But top 10 picks have been rare in the past dozen years for Seattle so this could be the time the Seahawks finally use that first-rounder.