By Danny O’Neil
Predicting the player the Seahawks will choose with their first pick is foolish.
We’ve learned that. But what about forecasting the position? That should be a little easier because you’re not trying to pick a needle out of a haystack so much as predict which haystack the needle is going to be picked out of.
And with that in mind, here’s a position-by-position breakdown of the likelihood Seattle will choose from that pile, the probability calibrated according to The Danny O’Neil Index:
Possible in only a mathematical sense
Kicker: 0.01 percent. The Seahawks signed Steven Hauschka to an extension this offseason, but even if they hadn’t, it’s hard to imagine this team using any draft pick on a kicker, let alone an early pick. In 2011, when the Seahawks lost Olindo Mare in free agency, coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider didn’t feel pressure to pick a kicker in the draft or sign one in free agency. They had a training-camp competition before picking up Hauschka a week before the season started.
Punter: 0.001 percent. The only position Seattle is less likely to draft than kicker. Well, unless you count long snapper, which I don’t. The Jaguars picked a punter five picks before the Seahawks drafted quarterback Russell Wilson in 2012, which should cure just about anyone of the inclination to pick a punter early.
Quarterback: 1.2 percent. The Seahawks already have two quarterbacks on their roster who will make more than Wilson this season, and it’s unlikely they will make it three. Seattle already acquired Terrelle Pryor for a seventh-round pick. He’s the quarterback the Seahawks will consider part of this draft class.
While the Seahawks have chosen a linebacker in each of the past four drafts, they already have four capable players competing for three starting spots. (AP)
Running back: 3.6 percent. Marshawn Lynch turned 28 this offseason, and while there’s no sign he’s on the decline, it’s unrealistic to think he’s going to get better. But Seattle chose a running back each of the past two drafts, picking Robert Turbin in the fourth round in 2012 and Christine Michael in the second round a year ago. You can’t rule out the position entirely, but Seattle seems fairly well stocked in that department.
Center: 4.7 percent. Max Unger was considered one of the game’s two best centers and played the second half of last season with an injured pectoral muscle. He also suffered a couple of concussions, but Seattle already has some depth behind him with Lemuel Jeanpierre.
Linebacker: 5.2 percent. Schneider has said that former Packers general manager Ron Wolf’s rule of thumb was to draft a quarterback every year, but the Seahawks have tended to follow that rule at linebacker. However, the Seahawks have four qualified players for three starting positions, so it seems like Seattle is pretty set in that department.
Cornerback: 7.7 percent. The Seahawks lost two cornerbacks in free agency, Walter Thurmond signing with the Giants and Brandon Browner with New England. Not only that, but Byron Maxwell is entering the final year of his contract. However, Seattle has not drafted a cornerback in the first three rounds under Schneider-Carroll.
Safety: 8.3 percent. Wondering whether Kam Chancellor’s hip surgery increases the likelihood of Seattle drafting a safety? Don’t. This is the most stocked position on Seattle’s roster with starters Earl Thomas and Chancellor signed to extensions and Jeron Johnson also under contract. But the selection of Michael in the second round last year should serve as proof the Seahawks will draft toward the future.
Defensive tackle: 8.7 percent. The Seahawks have a preference in terms of size on the defensive line. They like their bodies big, their contracts more short-term. The Seahawks drafted defensive tackle Jordan Hill in the third round last year and just re-signed Tony McDaniel to a two-year deal. This draft isn’t considered all that deep with interior defensive linemen, though. That might fit later on in the draft.
Tight end: 9.3 percent. Zach Miller will be in Seattle for the next two years, and Luke Willson had a promising rookie season after being a fifth-round draft pick. Not only that, but Anthony McCoy was re-signed. The Seahawks have tended to value this position quite highly, and they aren’t afraid to have multiple players at that spot. Picking a tight end wouldn’t be as shocking as it might seem.
Would make sense
Defensive end: 12.5 percent. Seattle reaped the benefits of an improved pass rush last season, and while re-signing Michael Bennett was a step toward preserving that advantage, Cliff Avril has one year left on his contract. The drawback? If Seattle drafts a pass rusher, it would put one more body at a position where Bruce Irvin didn’t get much time a year ago.
Offensive guard: 14.3 percent. The Seahawks start a converted defensive tackle at right guard. That’s J.R. Sweezy. The other spot is up for grabs as James Carpenter is not only a converted tackle, but the 2011 first-round pick hasn’t been able to lay claim to that starting job. Not only that, but the Seahawks declined his fifth-year option, meaning he’s got one year left on his rookie deal. While Seattle’s record is far from spotless when it drafts offensive linemen early, given the importance of keeping Wilson healthy, the Seahawks can’t afford to neglect their offensive line, either.
Offensive tackle: 16.582 percent. The Seahawks lost one starter to free agency in Breno Giacomini. The other – Russell Okung – has been healthy for a full 16 games only once in his four seasons in the league. While Michael Bowie is a promising player going forward, Seattle doesn’t have a capable backup at left tackle for Okung, who has two years left on his rookie contract. While some might see guard as a more pressing concern, tackle is the more valuable position.
Wide receiver: 17.207 percent. Re-signing Sidney Rice lessened some of the immediate need after the departure of Golden Tate, but the Seahawks could use a big-bodied target on the outside for Wilson, and that’s exactly what this draft is considered rich in. It’s not about need for the Seahawks and their drafts, but value, which is what will guide this choice.