|COUNTDOWN TO THE NFL DRAFT|
What: 79th annual NFL Draft
When: May 8-10
Rounds: First round, Thursday, May 8, starting at 5 p.m.; second and third rounds, Friday, May 9, starting at 4 p.m.; final four rounds, Saturday, May 10, starting at 9 a.m.
Seahawks picks (6): No. 32 overall in the first round; No. 64 overall in the second round; no third-round pick, traded to Vikings last year in the deal to acquire wide receiver
Seahawks.com draft series: Today, the offensive linemen
Note: The opinions and analysis in this article and accompanying chart are those of the author and others credited, and do not necessarily represent the thoughts and opinions of the Seahawks’ coaching staff and personnel department.
Are the Seahawks about to draft what would be their 17th starter at left guard since All-Pro Steve Hutchinson bolted in free agency after the team’s Super Bowl run in 2005? Or how about a replacement for the just-departed Breno Giacomini at right tackle?
An even better question: Will there be any offensive linemen worthy of a first-round selection still on the Seahawks’ board when they make the 32nd pick in the opening round of the 2014 NFL Draft next Thursday?
|BEST OF THE BUNCH|
Rankings (position/overall) and projections by Rob Rang, NFLDraftScout.com
The word: In this year’s crop of tackle prospects, the strength is at the top and on Day 2. But that’s when the depth starts to dry up. “It’s not as deep a tackle draft as some people might have you believe,” said Mike Mayock, draft analyst for the NFL Network and NFL.com. “I think there’s going to be a couple of separate runs.” The first will come in the first round, when Mayock can see as many as five tackles being selected. He said the next run will come in Rounds 2 and 3 on Friday, and include Bitonio, Virginia’s Morgan Moses, Ohio State’s Jack Mewhort and Tennessee’s JaWuan James. “Then there’s a significant drop-off,” Mayock said. “So I do think there’s going to be a run on those four guys.”
What about? Martin. This guy is, in a word, versatile. That’s apparent because Rang lists him as his top guard, while Mayock has him listed as his No. 4 tackle. Guard? Tackle? Even center? Mayock says it’s not a reach to project Martin at any of the spots along the line. “I love the kid,” Mayock said. “Even though I have him fourth as a tackle, he’d be my No. 1 center or my No. 1 guard. I believe he’s the only player in this draft that could start and play at a high level at all five offensive line positions. I think as we get closer to this draft, he will be the fourth offensive lineman off the board.” Now that is saying something, but Mayock wasn’t done. “He’s awesome,” Mayock added. “He’s about as safe a player as there is in this draft. If you want him, you better get him early.”
Don’t forget about: Weston Richburg. Rang ranks him at No. 60 overall in this draft class, but the Colorado State center also is Rang’s top player at the position (Mayock has Richburg at No. 2 with USC’s Marcus Martin as the top center). On the plus side, Richburg started all 60 games in college – 45 at center. On the minus side was the level of competition he faced while making all those starts. But the 6-3, 298-pound Richburg pushed his way to the top of Rang’s rankings by not being pushed around by more elite interior defensive linemen at the Senior Bowl.
Seahawks situation: You can never have enough offensive linemen. Just ask Tom Cable. In his three seasons as assistant head coach/offensive line coach, the Seahawks have had seven starters miss a combined 60 games. Then there’s the competition aspect that is so vital to everything the Seahawks do under coach Pete Carroll. The only “sure things” on the line heading into the 2014 season seem to be center
What the Seahawks do with that final selection in the first round likely will be impacted by the quarterbacks in this draft class. And there are at least two ways to view that less-than-obvious connection.
Wednesday, general manager John Schneider was only half joking when he stumped for as many quarterbacks being selected in the first round as possible. Why? Because each team that selects one of the passers in this volatile group of quarterbacks will only push another player that much closer to the Seahawks.
Thursday, NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock presented the flipside scenario: If too many of the teams in need of a quarterback decide to wait until the second round – starting with the Houston Texans, who hold the first pick overall – it will force those who passed on a passer in the first round to try and trade ahead of the Texans, who also hold the top pick in the second round.
“I think they’re in a great spot because of that,” Mayock said of the Seahawks sitting at No. 32.
And the Seahawks likely would be open to such calls, because it would allow them to add picks in a draft where they have only six and still select from a list of roughly equal-value players that they’ll compile during the final week of their preparations.
If the quarterbacks don’t impact who falls to the Seahawks or what trade possibilities they might have, what’s next? Selecting the top-rated player on their draft board. It’s the way Schneider and coach Pete Carroll have handled the draft since they arrived in 2010. They don’t reach, regardless of how great the need, and once again they enter a draft without a glaring one because of the depth they’ve already acquired.
So if it is to be a lineman – and there are definitely no guarantees on that – it could be either UCLA guard Xavier Su’a-Filo or Alabama tackle Cyrus Kouandjio. If either is available, that is, and a player they have rated higher isn’t.
Here’s a closer look at those O-line options, if the Seahawks do decide to go that route at No. 32:
Su’a-Filo – The 6-foot-4, 307-pounder is rated the top guard in this class by Mayock and No. 2 by Rob Rang of NFLDraftScout.com. Rang’s top guard is Notre Dame’s Zack Martin, who Mayock ranks as the No. 4 tackle.
Su’a-Filo is older (23) because he spent two years on a Mormon mission between his freshman and sophomore seasons at UCLA, where he split his 40 career starts between left guard and left tackle. Getting that delayed start on his sophomore and junior seasons also is a reason why Su’a-Filo decided to enter the NFL Draft early.
“I think my mission helped me mature as a man; not only emotionally and spiritually, but physically,” Su’a-Filo said at the NFL Scouting Combine. “It helped me in football. I think going on my mission, taking two years off really, helped me just develop as a football player. When I came home, it wasn’t easy. I had a full offseason to work out and prepare for that season, but I think as far as health goes and my game, I have a lot of things to work on.
“However, I do feel like my mission overall was a benefit for me and it helped me mature and be ready to move on to the NFL at this time.”
And why would the Seahawks spend a first-round draft choice on a guard? Answer: The revolving door that has been the left guard spot, where the Seahawks have had 16 starters in the past eight seasons, including playoff games: Floyd “Pork Chop” Womack (eight games), Chris Spencer (five) and Rob Sims (five) in 2006; Sims (18) in 2007; Mike Wahle (10) and Womack (six) in 2008; Sims (14), Mansfield Wrotto (one) and Steve Vallos (one) in 2009; Ben Hamilton (six), Mike Gibson (five), Chester Pitts (four) and Tyler Polumbus (three) in 2010; Robert Gallery (12) and Paul McQuistan (three) in 2011; James Carpenter (seven), McQuistan (seven), John Moffitt (two) and J.R. Sweezy (two) in 2012; and Carpenter (12), McQuistan (six) and Michael Bowie (one) last season.
In case you lost track, that’s one 16-game starter during the regular season in the past eight years – Sims in ’07.
Despite the loss of McQuistan in free agency this offseason, the Seahawks have other options at left guard – Carpenter, a first-round draft choice in 2011 who has started at right tackle as well as left guard; Bowie, a seventh-round draft choice last year who started seven games at right tackle when Giacomini was injured and the playoff opener at left guard; Jared Smith, also a seventh-round draft choice last year who spent most of his rookie season on injured reserve;
Giacomini is 6-7, 318, so Kouandjio at least fit the vacant mold. And Kouandijo’s arms are almost 36-inches long. But do you spend a first-round draft choice on a right tackle? The Seahawks did in 2011, when they made Carpenter the 25th pick overall.
Kouandjio also comes with medical concerns after tearing two ligaments in his left knee in 2011. But he started every game the past two seasons at left tackle – after playing right tackle in high school.
He was born in Cameroon and his family immigrated to the United States when he was 4. So when you talk to Kouandjio about playing in the NFL, it’s also a matter of fulfilling the American Dream.
“When you think of America, a lot of guys – especially back home in Africa, I talk to people from back home – they look at America as somewhere where you go and you get an opportunity to make something of yourself,” Kouandjio, who also speaks French, said at the NFL Scouting Combine. “Because there’s no oppression here, there’s democracy. There’s no funny business going on here. So everybody has a good chance of being what they want in life. I feel as if me and my brother have taken advantage of this as much as we can.
“God bless America.”
“He would be up first,” Schneider said. “Bailey can play there. There are a couple of guys we feel like can play there and compete at that spot.”
But will the Seahawks be tempted to add to that competition during the draft?
"Now, despite all my production here, I don't get invited to the Combine," Price said. "I have to prove myself all over again."
One pass at a time.