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When Four is not Fourth

Posted Apr 18, 2009

Club president Tim Ruskell conceded there are few "franchise" players in this draft on Friday during a Q&A session with reporters who cover the team.

When is the fourth pick in the NFL draft not really the fourth pick overall?

Unfortunately for the Seahawks, it's this year. That's because the draft class that will be divvied up next weekend is lacking prospects who carry “franchise player” grades.
Club president Tim Ruskell conceded as much Friday during a Q&A session with reporters who cover the team.

“This year, there's the consensus that there's really no franchise players in this draft,” Ruskell said. “There's not that pick-three or pick-six elite.”

Another problem for the Seahawks: They still will have to pay the player they'll select as the fourth pick. Last year, running back Darren McFadden went at No. 4 (to the Oakland Raiders) and he signed a six-year, $60 million contract.

The Seahawks could trade out of the No. 4 pick, but have yet to flush out a partner.

“Those of us at the top don't sense that we're going down,” Ruskell said. “The phone's not ringing off the hook for that.”

A perfect example of this player-matching-pick scenario is Walter Jones, the Seahawks' nine-time Pro Bowl left tackle and future Hall of Famer. When Jones came out, he carried a grade of 8.0-plus on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' draft board. That was in 1997, when Ruskell was director of college scouting for the Bucs - and Jones ended up going to the Seahawks with the sixth pick overall.

This year, there are no players carrying such a can't-miss grade.

“No, they're not floating around,” Ruskell said.

The Seahawks' grading system runs from zero to 10. But as Ruskell pointed out, “We never use the eight-up or the four-down. It's not even in our computers where you can put a three, or a two, or a one.”

The discrepancy between the Seahawks' first-round pick and the players that will be available to them is evident in the glut of mock drafts currently circulating - and will only intensify the closer the draft gets.

A quick scan of eight cyberspace mocks has the Seahawks selecting one of six players.

It's USC quarterback Mark Sanchez (Rob Rang at NFLDraftScout.com, Todd McShay at ESPN.com and Don Banks at SI.com).

Or Texas Tech wide receiver Michael Crabtree (Chad Reuter at NFLDraftScout.com).

Or Virginia offensive tackle Eugene Monroe (Mel Kiper at ESPN.com).

Or Georgia running back Knowshon Moreno (Pro Football Weekly.com).

Or Baylor offensive tackle Jason Smith (Sporting News.com).

Or even Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford (Pat Kirwan at NFL.com).

Ruskell has seen all these mocks, and another that is much more pertinent - the one the Seahawks' draft brain trust already has conducted, and will continue to tweak.

“When you're down at 25 or 28, you don't really care what's going on up there,” Ruskell said of the neighborhood where the Seahawks drafted in his first four years with the team.

“So I'm probably not an expert, and I don't ever want to be as to what's going on at the top. But it seems more so to me, in terms of guys changing and people having guys rated the same way.”

Ruskell does admit that the Seahawks' arduous evaluation process has allowed them to compile a list of four players that could produce the pick at No. 4.

“I said we have them, I didn't say the order of taking them might not change,” he offered, smiling. “We're still arguing our order. We'll always keep taking about it.

“Could somebody crack it? Probably not at this late date.”

While the mocks and even the order of the Seahawks' select foursome will be altered during the next week, some things will not change.

Ruskell is certain the Seahawks will emerge with a good player, and will use proven principles to insure that it happens.

“There is no position that we're ruling out, absolutely,” he said. “That's kind of unique. And when you're up this high, you cannot do that. You have to be open to: Who are the impact players here?”

In this draft, it's a select group that includes Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry, the two offensive tackles, the two quarterbacks and Crabtree. Of course, what happens with the first three selections - by the Detroit Lions, St. Louis Rams and Kansas City Chiefs - obviously will impact what the Seahawks do.

“If you start narrowing your focus, I think you can make a mistake,” Ruskell said. “Or if you start just getting driven totally by need, you can make a mistake. So we've really pushed ourselves not to do that.”

One change Ruskell would like to see in the draft next year? The Seahawks picking near the bottom of the first round, rather than the top.