An illusionist will reveal his cards prior to performing his act, and even when you think you know what’s about to happen, the reality is your perception is altered by the mind’s curiosity to see something different. When the Seattle Seahawks traded linebacker Julian Peterson to the Detroit Lions during the offseason for defensive end Cory Redding, many believed that the Seahawks showed their cards too early. Everyone knew the Seahawks favored Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry, but there were other possibilities that fit just as well; USC QB Mark Sanchez, Boston College DT B.J. Raji, Virginia OT Eugene Monroe and Texas Tech WR Michael Crabtree. And when the Seahawks were on the clock during draft day and the clock struck zero, the mystery remained until the obvious was revealed and Curry appeared.
After a monster senior season where he collected 105 tackles, 16 for a loss, 2.5 sacks and an interception, Curry elevated his status as a top three prospect in the ’09 draft. And after a tremendous showing at the NFL Scouting Combine and an impressive Pro Day workout, there were rumblings that Curry could have been the No. 1 overall pick. At 6-foot-2, 254 pounds, Curry is an athletic, physical linebacker who makes plays all over the field. He’s aggressive at the line of scrimmage and is a force against the run. He uses his hands effectively, sheds blocks and creates havoc in the backfield. He has a good burst and is excellent in pursuit. He displays good lateral movement, although he’s a little stiff in the hips, but gets good depth on his drops. Entering his first year in the NFL, Curry immediately becomes a starter and the Seahawks top prospect. The Seahawks are expecting big things from their linebackers this season and expect Curry to develop into a cornerstone defender. During his time at Wake Forest, Curry occasionally tried to do too much and got caught out of position. But with the Seahawks having a solid defense, it will only benefit Curry and it will take a lot of pressure off of him. Look for Curry to have a standout rookie season and emerge as the Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Just as the Seahawks are expecting big things from Curry this season, their second round pick in 2008, tight end John Carlson, had a sensational first year last season. A four-year starter at Notre Dame, Carlson proved to be a steal in the second frame of the ’08 draft, as he played in all 16 games, starting nine and led the team in receptions (55), receiving yards (627) and receiving touchdowns (5). The No. 2 rated prospect in the Seahawks organization, Carlson is ready to take the next step in his development and become one of the best tight ends in the NFC. Carlson has a similar skill set to Dallas Cowboys All Pro tight end Jason Witten and had a better first year than Witten had as a rookie in 2003. But it was in his second year when Witten developed into the player he is today, and with a healthy Matt Hasselbeck behind center this season, Carlson has a chance to achieve the statistical success that Witten had in year two – 87 receptions for 980 yards and six touchdowns.
On defense, Brandon Mebane has developed into a quality defender and the Seahawks third rated prospect. The Seahawks third round pick in 2007, Mebane has quickly become one of the most dependable and durable defenders, and has proven to be a game changer in the trenches. As a rookie, Mebane played in all 16 games, starting 10, and contributed 29 tackles and two sacks. In his first full year as a starter in ‘08, Mebane started all 16 games and elevated his game to another level by recording 39 tackles and 5.5 sacks. The coaching staff has high hopes for Mebane and with him establishing himself as a pass rushing presence in the middle, it makes the Seahawks defensive line a dangerous unit with Redding and Patrick Kerney coming off the edge.
Another 2007 draft pick that’s starting to make a name for himself is cornerback Josh Wilson. A dynamic return specialist and a quality cover corner, Wilson, the fourth rated prospect in the organization, came into his own in 2008 and performed up to expectations after a disappointing rookie year. Playing in all 16 games, starting 12 in ’08, Wilson produced Pro Bowl caliber numbers as he recorded 76 tackles, a sack and four interceptions. Not only was he outstanding on defense, but as the team’s kick returner, Wilson averaged 25.4 YPR. This season, Wilson may be pushed into the starting lineup with Marcus Trufant possibly starting the year on the PUP list. If Trufant is placed on the PUP list, he will be out of the lineup for the first six games, and it will give Wilson the opportunity to continue his ascension as a defensive player.
A player that the Seahawks would love to see more growth out of this year is ’08 first round pick, defensive end Lawrence Jackson. The former USC standout had 30 career sacks during his time with the Trojans, but was a major disappointment in his first year with the Seahawks. As a starter in 14 of 16 games, Jackson managed just 29 tackles and two sacks; not the kind of performance the front office envisioned when they selected Jackson in the first round. But Jackson is notorious for having up and down years. During his time at USC, Jackson had a breakout sophomore season where he recorded 10 sacks, followed by a junior year where he struggled and collected just four sacks, and as a senior he finished strong with a 10.5 sack outburst. The talent is there for Jackson to have an impact, but it will have to be in a backup role this season. Even though some have cooled on Jackson, he has the ability to become a complete defensive end in the NFL. And in time, his production will warrant the distinction of him being the fifth rated prospect in the organization.In addition to Curry, three more 2009 draft picks rank in the top 10: versatile offensive lineman Max Unger (No. 6), speedy receiver Deon Butler (No. 8) and pass rushing specialist Nick Reed (No. 9). Completing the list are two 2008 selections, running back Justin Forsett (No. 7) and defensive tackle Red Bryant (No. 10). Just missing the cut were quarterback Mike Teel, fullback Owen Schmitt and guard Mansfield Wrotto.
A member of the Pro Football Writers of America and the Football Writers Association of America, Chris Steuber has provided his analysis of the NFL and NFL Draft prospects on the web and on the radio since 1999. Steuber’s features are published across the Scout.com network and on FoxSports.com. If you wish to contact Chris Steuber, email him at: email@example.com.