.NET Mock Draft: The Final Countdown

After months of speculation and deliberation, this is it -- Draftmas Eve beings us the last Seahawks.NET mock draft of 2008. For a special treat, .NET Editor-in-Chief Doug Farrar and Draft Editor Scott Eklund are joined by John Morgan, the main man behind the Field Gulls website, for everyone's final Seahawks picks. And awayyyyyy we goooooo…

It's crunchtime, kids. And with mere hours before the beginning of the 2008 NFL draft, we thought it most appropriate to get one more mock in. But what to do for a special finale? How about Seahawks mocks from everyone willing to do one on short notice? From the Seahawks.NET staff, that consisted of Editor-in-Chief Doug Farrar and Draft Editor Scott Eklund. We also decided to invade the blogosphere and invite our good friend John Morgan, the main man behind the estimable Field Gulls website, to the party.

The rules were simple: No trades, though discussions of draft trade picks were allowed, and this was more about putting yourself in the current Seattle team president's chair as opposed to running the thing the way you might want to. Get inside Tim Ruskell's head, get comfy, have a sandwich and stay a while. Any duplicates are coincidental; we didn't see anyone else's picks before selecting our own.

Let's see what we have … and please, no wagering!

First Round, 25th Overall

Doug Farrar: Tyrell Johnson, SS, Arkansas State

Yes, I know. Tim Ruskell doesn't draft small-school kids, especially in the first round. But Johnson, a four-year starter and three-time All-American, had his best senior games against Texas and Tennessee. He shouldn't be penalized because the big schools didn't know what they were missing, and I think Tim Ruskell is smarter than that. At least I hope he is after whiffing on Kevin Boss last season. Kenny Phillips would be the sexy pick at the safety position if he's still on the boards (and I don't think he will be), but Johnson is the player who many analysts who grade players for a living believe to be a better prospect than Phillips. Both Greg Cosell of ESPN and NFL Films and former NFL scout Tom Marino of Scout.com have expressed to me that Tyrell Johnson is the best at his position in this draft class.

The knock on Johnson before the Combine was that he was instinctive, but not all that athletic. After he ran a 4.4-40 and benched 27 reps at the Combine, the standard small-school ding was the only one that would suffice. Size (6'0", 207) is another issue, but that's never been a problem for this particular team president before. Johnson possesses great zone coverage skills, unreal closing speed (I know I keep saying this, but you really have to see it to believe it), and the desire to play far past his supposed limitations. He has played free and strong safety in a system that has interchangeable coverages. Sound familiar? Put Tyrell Johnson with a team that has a sizeable interest in redefining its secondary with assignment-correct zone coaching (like … um … Seattle?), and watch his talent match it all the way.

Scott Eklund: Kentwan Balmer, DT, North Carolina

Anyone who has read my posts/stories the past few months knows that I am not Balmer's biggest fan. It isn't because I don't think he's got the athleticism or size to be a great player, it's because of his lackadaisical play at times and the fact he was basically a "one-year wonder". Seattle needs a run-stuffing defensive tackle that can also get to the quarterback on occasion and with Marcus Tubbs' career basically hanging on the precipice the Seahawks have to go this way. I do believe the Seahawks will trade down and pick up an early second round pick and if they do, DT Trevor Laws from Notre Dame is the choice, but if they stay here…Balmer makes the most sense.

John Morgan: Sam Baker, OT, USC

"Lying simply is part of our business in April." Chargers GM A.J. Smith

I'll have to get my Bill Hicks on to make this make sense, but follow me. Baker has the most impressive resume of any draft eligible offensive lineman. He looks awesome on tape. Awesome. He looks awesome playing left tackle. Awesome. And those who watch college football seriously have awarded him 3 consecutive All-America nods. When asked why he drafted Lofa Tatupu, Tim Ruskell answered "He's a guy that brings intensity, he's tough…he's a leader, he's productive. Everything that was asked of him at USC, he did. He doesn't have the greatest size, he doesn't have the greatest speed, but he has a big heart…".

One could say the same thing about Baker. In late February Tim Ruskell told the media that he anticipated taking an offensive lineman in the draft, specifically an offensive tackle. Since that time, Seattle's been linked with (by my count) just 5 offensive linemen, and only 2 offensive tackles: Baker and Carlton Medders. Baker sat out the combine, and ran either a confident or apathetic 5.50/40 at USC's Pro Day. In a class as stacked at offensive tackle as this year's, one would think that even a player as accomplished as Baker couldn't afford to be so nonchalant about the pre-draft process. Yet Baker seems almost disinterested. My guess is that Baker has already spoken privately with a team or teams. Given need, draft position, history and a little conspiracy theory nuttery, I think that team is Seattle.

Second Round, 55th Overall

Doug Farrar:  John Carlson, TE, Notre Dame

Back and forth I went on this. Do the Seahawks take the more NFL-ready player at their primary position of need, or do they jump in the barrel marked UPSIDE? Carlson is the former, while Texas A & M's Martellus Bennett is the latter. If Mike Holmgren was sticking around for a few more seasons, I think Bennett would be the pick. Holmgren has dreamed of that dominant tight end in his offense through his time with Seattle. He was cheated a thousand times by Jerramy Stevens, when it was Itula Mili who provided reliable production. Marcus Pollard is best forgotten.

Under Jim Mora and with (if you believe some rumors) Gregg Knapp running the Seattle offense post-2008, one can go back to the Seahawks' most likely predecessor from a systemic perspective. Go back to the 2001 and 2002 San Francisco 49ers, teams whose offenses were coached by Knapp and defenses by Mora. The tight end in those top-5 offenses was Eric Johnson, a reliable player good for about 40 catches per season and a very solid all-around game. Carlson projects very much like this -- a smart, tough player with surprising athleticism and a thorough knowledge of what he'll need to do at the next level. He may not amaze in the same way that Bennett or Dustin Keller could down the road, but he's the best option for the Seahawks now and in the future. 

Scott Eklund: John Carlson, TE, Notre Dame

Carlson's name getting called when the Seahawks select late in the second round just seems to make so much sense. He's big, he can catch and he can block. What is there not to like? His stock plummeted some this year because of his falloff in production, however, Carlson lost every other playmaker the Irish had and he got poor production from the quarterback position. Seattle could also look at Texas A&M TE Martellus Bennett here, but Carlson is the more polished player and he fits into the "Ruskell Player" category big time.

John Morgan: Trevor Laws, DT, Notre Dame

Before the Senior Bowl, Trevor Laws was a certain late round pick. Before the Combine, Laws was a certain second day pick. Over the last month, Laws has shot from the undifferentiated third class of defensive tackles to the third or fourth best defensive tackle in the draft. Now, is that realistic or the product of hype? Probably somewhere in between. Laws has no doubt improved his stock, but I find it very unlikely he sniffs the first. I say all this to validate Laws being available in the second.

My readers know I'm high on Trevor Laws. He excelled on an abysmal line, something even Julius Peppers couldn't do. He's lightning fast off the snap and tears through garbage like a disposal. "Leverage" has become a bit of buzzword this draft, but among so many purported masters, Laws is Archimedes. He's driven and won't-tell-you-so humble. Rescued from the corpse of ND's front 3, and onto a talented line, within a one gap system, Laws is day one contributor with Pro Bowl potential.

Third Round, 86th Overall

Doug Farrar: Jeremy Zuttah, OT, Rutgers

Zuttah fits Seattle's offensive line in one very important way -- nobody seems to know what he is. Just as Seattle's line has been undefined over the last two seasons, Zuttah has been projected just about everywhere -- from left tackle to right tackle to guard to center. The only reason nobody's seen him as a right guard is that he's too good an athlete. After 28 starts at Rutgers at right tackle and a hesitant performance during Shrine Game practices, Zuttah put together one of the Combine's best sets of numbers. His 4.99-40 and finishes in the top ten in just about every other drill will have some people labeling him a workout warrior. Truth is, Zuttah was the anchor of a line that ranked second in the nation in 2007 and allowed the NCAA's fewest sacks in 2006.

Slightly undersized for the tackle position at 6'4" and 303 pounds, Zuttah is expected to bulk up a bit and become a very athletic guard at the next level. Some experts believe that his measurables and skillset transfer best to the center position, though he's never played the position. He's also more powerful than people think, as evidenced by the fact that Rutgers basically threw out the forward pass and went all George Halas last year.

Scott Eklund: John David Booty, QB, USC

I debated this one over and over, but eventually came back to who I saw as the future of Seattle once Matt Hasselbeck decides to hang it up. Seattle's most productive passer ever still has at least two or three more solid years ahead of him, but grooming a steady and smart player to take over for Hasselbeck would be a very smart thing to do. Booty's smarts far offset his athletic limitations (remind you of anyone?) and he's played big-time football since he was in high school. The kid knows how to win and he's a very good leader. This pick is a no-brainer, in my opinion.

John Morgan: Tashard Choice, RB, Georgia Tech

Julius Jones has a heavily front loaded salary. If Jones can have a reasonably productive bounce-back season, the Hawks will have a very valuable trading chip in 2009. That is, if they have a back on board who can provide the "Lightning" compliment to T.J. Duckett's "Thunder". Seattle recently hired offensive line coach Mike Solari, a proponent of a power rushing attack. That's a bit of a nebulous term, but needless to say, the Seahawks' back of the future must be able to mix it up between the tackles. Tim Ruskell obviously saw something about Georgia Tech's rushing attack he liked, because in 2007 he drafted guard Mansfield Wrotto. Tashard Choice is a well-rounded rusher without the wear and tear of so many of this draft's vast second class of backs. He's nimble, strong, can block a little and has a nose for the end zone.

Fourth Round, 121st Overall

Doug Farrar: Josh Johnson, QB, San Diego

The man who could be Mike Holmgren's final quarterback project threw 43 touchdowns and only one interception in his senior season. The reason that Johnson's a mid-round prospect despite those numbers is that he did it in the Pioneer League against indomitable opponents like Morehead State and Valparaiso. What's got everyone intrigued is his stellar Shrine Game, and a pro day attended by approximately 20 teams despite a Combine performance hampered by back spasms.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have shown the most interest in Johnson, but we're disqualifying them because they already have 15 damned quarterbacks on their roster. Johnson's got the athleticism and scrambling ability common among the quarterbacks that Mora and Knapp have had before -- and think more Jeff Garcia or Randall Cunningham than Michael Vick; this guy's a real quarterback. The question is whether his lack of elite competition and thin frame scare the Seahawks away. I say there's too much intrigue about what this kid could do in a West Coast offense. 

Scott Eklund: Breno Giacomini, OT, Louisville

Seattle has taken several "projects" recently along the offensive line, but Giacomini is the real deal, he just needs some more experience at playing tackle. The young man played linebacker in high school and signed on as a tight end with Louisville, but he grew into one of the most athletic tackles in the country before he left. He's very athletic, he's got plenty of room to get bigger – he's 6-7, 305 – and he's got a monstrous wingspan. Getting a player like Giacomini at this point and giving him two years to watch and learn from the best in the business (Walter Jones), we could be talking about a perennial Pro Bowler when it's all said and done.

John Morgan: Craig Stevens, TE, Cal

If Marcus Pollard proved anything, it's that Ruskell doesn't put the same kind of emphasis on the tight end position as the Seahawks' fan base. And, for the second straight year, Ruskell has plugged the hole with a free agent retread. Is Jeb Putzier the answer? Good God, no! But, then, I'm not certain any tight end in this class is either. Craig Stevens likely maxes out as a #2, primary blocking/red zone tight end. But in that role, he's unlikely to fail. Stevens is built like a brick outhouse. He loves to block and does it like a champ. Not a tantalizing pick, but a solid pro and a player that contributes beyond his numbers.

Sixth Round, 189th Overall

Doug Farrar: Keilen Dykes, DT, West Virginia

NFLDraftScout.com's Rob Rang said it best: "How he didn't get a Combine invite is anyone's guess." Dykes was snubbed despite his 44 starts at one of the premier college programs in the nation. Like many inexplicable sleepers, Dykes has been all over the place positionally -- he's played some nose, some three-tech, a few reps as a larger strong-side end.

This isn't a player who will blow you away on tape, but he'll insinuate his way into the souls of the players who line up alongside him and the coaches who call the plays. An undersized misfit who has done nothing but produce, Kellen Dykes could quite possibly be the second coming of Chuck Darby. And if the Seahawks need them a defensive tackle, Tim Ruskell needs him some Chuck Darby.

Scott Eklund: Ezra Butler, LB, Nevada

Seattle needs to add some young, athletic depth to their linebacker corps and Butler certainly is that and more. He spent a lot of time in the opponents' backfield in both 2006 and 2007, posting 31.5 his final two seasons in Reno. Butler could earn his stripes on special teams, while learning how to work in reverse – something he never had to do for the Wolfpack – and then he could be primed to take over one of the outside spots whenever that becomes necessary.

John Morgan: Adrian Arrington, WR, Michigan

Adrian Arrington is long on potential, but short on polish. Not a burner, but a physical receiver who can work the middle and fight for the jump ball. His lack of speed is somewhat mitigated by his height and large frame. Arrington does the little things right, dragging his feet inbounds, making the tough catch and coming back for the ball on broken plays. Plus, knocks on his route running are a bit overstated, his cuts are a little loose, but he convincingly sells the juke and moves laterally and diagonally without losing significant speed. Nevertheless, he'll need to ripen on the practice squad.

Seventh Round, 233rd Overall

Doug Farrar: Kevin Robinson, WR, Utah State

This pick is brought to you by the number nine! That's the number of returns Robinson took back for touchdowns in his college career -- four punt returns and four kickoff returns at Utah State, and another kickoff return in the Shrine game. Robinson also became the NCAA's all-time leader in all-purpose yards per play at 16.16. Why does he have a seventh-round grade? The 4.69 40 he ran at the Combine really didn't help. However, Robinson is known to play far beyond his timed speed. He ran a 4.47 on grass at his pro day, but he's not going to get the warm fuzzies as a returner (though he deserves them) because of his size (6'0", 202) and relative lack of pure track speed in an era where everyone's looking for the next Devin Hester.

Kevin Robinson will be more than good enough for Seattle -- he'll provide an intriguing option among Seattle's ever-burgeoning group of late-round receivers, and his return ability will allow Nate Burleson to focus more on being a total recei ver. Robinson's only real drawback? The nickname: "K-Rob". Fortunately, there are no ancillary concerns tied to the name as in previous years.

Scott Eklund: Taylor Mehlhaff, K, Wisconsin

Seattle needs a young kicker and Mehlhaff fits that bill to a tee. He's a good athlete and he was a First Team All-American in 2006 while also winning the Groza Award for the nation's top kicker. Especially important is the fact that Mehlhaff has a very strong leg and he had 10 times the amount of touchbacks (22) as the next closest candidate. Olindo Mare was a solid kicker in his day, but Seattle fans have been spoiled with one of the best clutch kickers in the league the past couple years. Josh Brown took his tee and moved to St. Louis. Mehlhaff could be the long-term replacement Seattle has been looking for.

John Morgan: Jonathan Hefney, DB, Tennessee

Two things sell me on Hefney. One, he stays deep. John Marshall and Jim L. Mora demand that from their safeties, and the inability to maintain discipline in the soft shell was part of Michael Boulware's undoing. And two, he's versatile. If Jordan Babineaux did anything to earn his surprisingly large contract, and he didn't though his helmet did, it's that he's been able to play any spot in the secondary.

A former corner, Hefney can do likewise. He's also known for playing smart in the soft shell, but unlike incumbent Brian Russell, Hefney has range and run stopping ability. Hefney isn't tall, an eighth under 5'8", and he's not a Bob Sanders like physical phenom, but he's a solid, athletic and heady safety with value added in kick coverage and on punt returns. You can't ask for much more from a 7th round pick.       

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