NFL DRAFT: Time for Seahawks to again find hidden gems
RENTON, Wash. (AP) No one will deny the successes in the NFL draft unearthed by John Schneider during his tenure as Seattle Seahawks general manager.
So many potentially risky selections have since become stars largely responsible for Seattle's run of four straight playoff appearances, including a Super Bowl title.
But over the past few seasons, the number of draft picks made by Seattle that have had immediate and important impacts has dwindled.
There are still some, including wide receiver/kick returner Tyler Lockett, who broke out last season with an impressive rookie campaign. But for every Lockett, Russell Wilson and Richard Sherman that became draft gems for Seattle, there have been a handful of picks deemed misses by the Seahawks.
This brings the Seahawks to the 2016 draft and their nine selections, beginning with No. 26 in the first round, and the need to find a few future starters to help Seattle remain among the elite going forward.
While the 2012 draft remains the pinnacle of Seattle's draft success, with five future starters coming out of 10 picks, there's been a deft of starters developed form the past three years. Since 2013, only two full-time starters - Lockett and guard Justin Britt - have come via the draft.
And with the salary cap constrictions the Seahawks will face going forward with Wilson, Sherman and others entering the prime earning period of their contracts, Seattle needs to find success in the draft again.
Here's what to watch when the Seahawks are on the clock:
ALL OR NONE: There are many who believe the Seahawks should spend the bulk of their draft picks along the line of scrimmage. And for good reason. The Seahawks have needs on both lines after the loss of four key players in free agency. On the offense, they lost guard J.R. Sweezy and tackle Russell Okung. On defense, gone are Brandon Mebane and pass-rushing specialist Bruce Irvin.
Seattle addressed some of the offensive line needs in free agency, but with little fanfare or belief the signings of J'Marcus Webb or Bradley Sowell will be long-term solutions. Finding two or three future starters combined for both lines would be a huge benefit going forward.
OUTSIDE: The loss of Irvin in free agency was expected, but leaves Seattle seeking answers for both outside linebacker and as a third-down pass rusher. The latter option may be filled internally with defensive end Frank Clark and recently acquired veteran Chris Clemons as pass rushers. But finding a strongside linebacker with the ability to play on the line of scrimmage might be third on Seattle's draft priority list behind the offensive and defensive lines.
RUNNING DOWN A DREAM: With the retirement of Marshawn Lynch - once he files paperwork with the league - the Seahawks could use additional depth in the backfield. Thomas Rawls appears to be the future as Seattle's premier running back after an impressive rookie campaign, but will be coming off a significant lower leg injury. Christine Michael returned to Seattle late last season and showed a new maturity, but getting a few more ball carriers would be smart for a team that remains committed to the run game.
THE MIDDLE: With no certainty when Jimmy Graham may be ready to return from the knee injury he suffered last November, the Seahawks might look to add a tight end in the later rounds. Luke Willson has proven a capable option, but Seattle likes using multiple tight ends and the uncertainty around Graham's return could make the position a need for depth.
LAST EXIT: While it may not seem like a priority, the Seahawks will need to address having a capable backup to Wilson at some point. Veteran Tarvaris Jackson has served in that role the past two seasons, but Seattle's been fortunate that Wilson has avoided any major injury and Jackson's only been needed in mop-up duty. This could be the year Seattle looks to a find a developmental QB to become the future backup for Wilson.
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