Scott Eklund: Of the five or six DEs that have earned first round grades, with all things being equal, I would have to say I would prefer Wisconsin's Erasmus James.
James sets the tone with his speed off the edge. Teams have to gameplan for his type of speed and his long arms and solid upper body make him tough to get leverage against. While Georgia's David Pollack was the more productive of the two, James’ athletic abilities set him apart.
Maryland's Shawn Merriman is a bit of ‘tweener and it is still undetermined if he will play with his hand on the ground along the defensive line or as a standup OLB in the 3-4. He has never played in reverse before, so it stands to reason that he will be a rush LB or a DE. His athletic skills are close to James’ but because he is smaller he may have trouble against the run.
James has the entire package and if he can avoid the injury bug he will be a difference-maker in the pass-rush.
Ryan Rigmaiden: Although I don’t think he’ll be the first DE off the board, the DE I’d most like to have playing for the ‘Hawks next year would be Georgia's David Pollack. He definitely isn’t the biggest of fastest DE in the class, but he’s a high-intensity player that’s absolutely relentless, snap after snap. He’s faced elite competition in the SEC and has dominated. Pollack can be a factor in the passing game (14 sacks as a sophomore) or stop RBs in their tracks (92 tackles as a junior) and is an extremely well-rounded DE. But above all, Pollack’s a playmaker. He always seems to come a big sack, forced fumble or even a sack when the Bulldogs needed it most.
While some of the other DEs in the class have better 40 times or size, Pollack’s production, intensity and character make him the better overall prospect.
2. Can you give us a few sleeper picks that might be a bit “under the radar”.
Scott Eklund: One player that is on my “under the radar” list is Washington CB Derrick Johnson. He ran a solid 4.43 40 at UW’s Pro Day in early March and his smooth change of direction and soft hands allow him to make plays when the ball is in the air.
One player who was on my list since last year was Cal RB JJ Arrington. However, he has wowed scouts with his 40 time (4.45) and his ability to run between the tackles while also showing soft hands out of the backfield. At this point he is the fourth running back on most team’s boards. Therefore, he doesn’t qualify as under the radar.
Therefore, I have turned my attention to Minnesota's Marion Barber III. His compact body and good speed make him the perfect west coast running back. He showed soft hands at the combine and he was a solid blocker when he was asked to perform that task.
Along the line, I really have started to notice Vanderbilt G Justin Geisinger. He played against top caliber talent in the SEC every week and while he isn’t the best athlete he is strong and has long arms. His technique needs some work, but he has all the tools necessary to be a solid road-grader at the next level.
One more player that caught my eye was Illinois State LB James Grigsby. He has dominated the small college level and has yet to show his abilities against top tier talent. His athleticism is on par with the best linebackers in the nation, but his technique is still very raw. He would be a great second day selection that could start out as a headhunter on special teams and work his way into the lineup.
Ryan Rigmaiden: By now, most of the “sleeper” players have been identified, but some players I like that aren’t getting a bunch of attention are:
Walter Reyes, RB Syracuse
Smaller RB, but can carry a full load (253 carries in'03). A solid player for Seattle's offense because he can run, catch and block. Only missed one game due to injury despite his smaller size (5’9” 200).
Leroy Hill, OLB Clemson
Yes, another quick LB from Clemson. He can rush the passer and play well in space. An ideal weakside OLB.
Darrent Williams, CB Oklahoma State
Small (5’9” 188) cover corner has solid potential as nickel CB, but is a beast as a kick/punt return guy. Seattle has a huge need for a guy that can do both of those.
Courtney Roby, WR Indiana
Fast receiver that isn’t afraid to go over the middle is also a solid return man.
3. Shaun Alexander’s status with the team is extremely cloudy at this point. Outside of the top three RBs (Ronnie Brown, Cadillac Williams and Cedric Benson), who would you like the ‘Hawks to take a look at on Draft Day? Why?
Scott Eklund: I mentioned this guy before, but I will say it again, JJ Arrington will be the steal of the draft if he lasts past the first round. He can hit the corner and take it to the house or he can run up the middle and punish defenders. He catches the ball well out of the backfield, something that is very necessary for a west coast back, and he is an outstanding blocker when picking up the blitz. He runs with intensity and has moves in the open field that make him a threat to score anytime he gets the ball in space.
Ryan Rigmaiden: Because this Draft is so deep on RBs, I don’t think the ‘Hawks could go wrong by looking at some of the RBs available in Rounds 2 and 3. If there’s one thing history has proven, it’s that you can always get a solid RB late on Draft day. Among them are:
J.J. Arrington, Cal (skyrocketing up boards right now)
Ciatric Fason, Florida
Marion Barber III, Minnesota
Vernand Morency, Oklahoma State
Walter Reyes, Syracuse
Darren Sproles, Kansas State
All of these players not only are capable runners, but can also be a factor in the passing game.
4. Will the ‘Hawks take a receiver in the Draft? Who might they be looking at?
Scott Eklund: Before the signing of Joe Jurevicius, I would have said yes. Now, I’m not so sure. If they do take one, it likely won’t be before the third round. The wideouts this year are relatively deep so keep an eye out for one of these three; Washington's Charles Frederick, Northern Colorado's Vincent Jackson and California's Geoff Mcarthur.
Frederick hasn’t shown well in workouts and may still be suffering from a hamstring injury that limited his playing time as a senior, but he has sure hands and he also has return skills that the Seahawks have lacked the last few seasons. Jackson is a small college stud with exceptional size (6’4”, 224 lbs) and great top-end speed (4.49). Mcarthur reminds me a lot of Seahawks WR Darrell Jackson. He runs smooth routes and reads defenses very well. He is more quick than fast and he lacks ideal height, but there is no disputing his productivity in college.
Ryan Rigmaiden: It’s hard to say right now. I think the team likes some of the younger guys already on the roster and will look to develop them. The recent signing of WR Joe Jurevicius may have an effect as well. But if someone they really like is on the board, rest assured they’ll pull the trigger on them. Seattle will probably be operating under the “best player available” mode as they have the past few years, so it’s definitely possible. Here are some WR’s the ‘Hawks may be looking at.
Mark Clayton, Oklahoma (Round 1 guy, so probably unlikely)
Reggie Brown, Georgia
Terrance Murphy, Texas A&M
Courtney Roby, Indiana
Craig Bragg, UCLA
Brandon Jones, Oklahoma
Taylor Stubblefield, Purdue
5. Any chance Seattle will trade up? Who is worth trading up for?
Scott Eklund: In my heart I want to believe that they will, but it is very doubtful that they will. The only player that is worthy of a first rounder is RB Shaun Alexander, but no one is paying first rounders for RB (see Edgerrin James). Therefore, I just don’t see it happening.
As far as who is worth trading up for, there is only one player in my mind that is worth the price…Texas LB Derrick Johnson. Johnson is a faster and more athletic version of Chad Brown when he was in his prime. Johnson flies around, makes plays all over the field and when he makes a tackle, he has a knack for causing fumbles. Last year he totaled 130 tackles (10 per game), had 19 tackles for loss, two sacks, one interception and…NINE forced fumbles.
Johnson is a freak of nature. He oozes natural athleticism and football savvy. In my honest opinion he is the best defensive player on the board and is quite possibly the best player in the entire draft.
He is the only player I would be willing to trade up for, and he would be worth whatever the asking price was.
Ryan Rigmaiden: Trading up is always risky because you’re giving up valuable draft picks to move up and take that player. When you’re a perennial playoff team like the Eagles, it’s not as important because you don’t have as many holes to fill and can afford to give up a few picks. But for a team like the ‘Hawks that has more than one hole to fill, it’s very hard to justify doing so.
Seattle’s biggest needs are at LB, CB and DE. DE and CB are two of the deepest positions in the Draft, meaning that if the ‘Hawks are targeting a player at one of these positions, they probably wouldn’t have to move up to get one they like.
But LB is a different story. Texas' OLB Derrick Johnson is probably the only player I’d consider moving up for. He’s head and shoulders above any other LB in this class and has definite Pro Bowl potential, but he’s a certain top-10 pick, maybe even top-5. In order to get him, the ‘Hawks would have to offer their 1 st, 2 nd and probably even 3 rd Round picks to get him... an NFL fortune. Seattle was just awarded a 3 rd Round compensatory pick and also has another 4 th Round pick from the Trent Dilfer trade, but it’s still highly unlikely that the ‘Hawks would make a move like this. Let’s not forget, another NFL team has to be willing to move down to pick #23, too.
Is moving up a few spots, like to #18 or #19, out of the question? Absolutely not. But that’s a far cry from moving all the way up the board.
Scott Eklund and Ryan Rigmaiden both write for Seahawks.NET, and they'll be coordinating our draft coverage over the next month.
You can reach Scott at email@example.com, and Ryan at firstname.lastname@example.org.