“Seattle Seahawks 2011 NFL Draft: Players To Keep An Eye On For the Future

With the Seahawks struggling of late, let’s take a break to look forward to the 2011 draft.

That pesky injury bug has set up camp in Seattle for yet another year and has the Seahawks looking squalid and nearly helpless.

They’ve recently lost DE Red Bryant and G Ben Hamilton for the season, leaving the defense leaderless.

DT Colin Cole and WR Golden Tate were injured in Oakland two weeks ago and aren’t expected to be seeing game time for a few more weeks.

Hasselbeck sat out with a concussion last weekend, handing the reigns to beginner Charlie Whitehurst.

Russell Okung, Seattle’s would be savior at LT, has been healthy enough for just one full-length game this season and last weekend his backup, Tyler Polumbus was out with a knee injury.

Others, such as WR Mike Williams, CBs Marcus Trufant and Kelly Jennings, and DE Chris Clemons, are playing through recent injuries.

The Seahawks are a mess.

With Carroll’s penchant for roster switches who knows how the team will look like next spring.  But, we can bet he’s got his eye on a few players for the 2011 draft.

Right Tackle: Demarcus Love

RT Sean Locklear is up for free agency at the end of the season.  Given his poor performance throughout this season (and last) Carroll is unlikely to offer him a contract for 2011.

Instead he’ll look to the draft.

Arkansas’ Demarcus Love has the sort of qualities Carroll is likely to look for.

He is the only OT of the top-five ranked draft prospects to specialize as a strong-side tackle.  He has also spent time on the left side, giving him the versatility an oft-injured team like the Seahawks need.

While he needs some work against the run he excels at reading defenses and locating blitzes.  Love’s ability to get low and sustain blocks will be coveted in this draft and is desperately needed on Seattle’s weak O-line.

Plus, Love is active in community service and we all know through Carroll’s “A Better LA” program that Carroll will be drawn to that.  After all, Charlie Whitehurst has been an active, helpful community member and the rest of the reasons behind that acquisition remain more or less unknown.

Offensive Guard:  Clint Boling

Another versatile prospect, Georgia’s Clint Boling offers great zone-blocking skill and with a little added bulk he could be ultra-effective in pass protection.  He needs to learn to anchor against more powerful DEs but, having played all over the O-Line he could offer depth, initially, at all positions and grow into a position player.

Offensive Guard:  Orlando Franklin

If Carroll decides to go for a starter and replace Stacy Andrews and/or Chester Pitts rather than focus on depth for the O-Line, he will have his eye on Orlando Franklin.  An outstanding run-blocker out of the University of Miami (Florida) he has the size and relative speed to make a difference at the NFL level.

He is also effective in pass protection and could be a factor in the success of Hasselbeck or any future franchise QB.

Quarterback:  Jake Locker

With Hasselbeck aging and Whitehurst not playing, Seattle is moments away from having no quarterback at all.  Perhaps Carroll’s intentions are with the 2011 draft.

Let’s not even pretend Andrew Luck will be available by the time the Seahawks pick—if he enters the draft at all, that is.

Jake Locker out of Washington has stats almost as strong as Luck’s with hardly the supporting cast to show for it.  He has amazing accuracy in tight situations, would rather  risk taking a hit than dumping the ball unnecessarily.  His numbers improve consistently year to year (despite injuries), and he’s working on evading the rush, but is good at seeing it coming.

He makes quick, effective decisions and is good at seeing all the options.

If the Seahawks’ O-Line does not improve, a resilient, quick QB like Locker is the outstanding choice.

Wide Receiver:  Gregg Little

A few weeks ago, when Deion Branch was shipped off to Boston and the Seahawks played an outstanding game in Chicago, it looked like the Seahawks’ receiving corps was set for awhile.  Lately, with Deon Butler and Mike Williams not finishing plays, Ben Obomanu and Brandon Stokley not getting many looks, and Golden Tate out on injury, it looks like the make-up of the group needs to be re-evaluated.

Carroll, though, is unlikely to focus on this position in the draft and will use a later round pick if at all.

Gregg Little from the University of North Carolina is ranked 66th overall and is the best receiver that stands a chance of being available late in the draft.

He’s a big target with similarities to Pete Carroll’s project receiver, Mike Williams.  He is capable of some separation from defenders with outstanding ball-handling skills.  He has no trouble out-playing zone-blocking schemes and would be an asset if Carroll decides to pick up a young QB who’ll be learning on the fly.

Running Back:  LaMichael James

Even with the Priest and the Beast, Carroll doesn’t seem satisfied with his running back duo.  He uses Forsett sparingly (Robinson/Ganther even less), and keeps Washington almost exclusively on special teams.  He may look to the draft to augment the backfield, or even strengthen the tandem by replacing small, shifty Forsett with someone a little more formidable.

Like, for example, Oregon’s LaMichael James.  James is a Heisman candidate who has run for over 200 yards three times this season.  He’s projected to come near the 2,000 yard mark by the end of this year and excels at gaining yardage under extreme pressure despite his small size.

Since the Seahawks lack a third round pick (it went to San Diego for Charlie Whitehurst), in order to get James, Carroll would probably have to make the position a priority.

Defensive Tackle:  Stephen Paea

With Brandon Mebane still questionable and Colin Cole now out, Carroll is far more likely to look to build depth at defensive tackle than make the backfield his first pick.

Oregon State’s Stephen Paea would help Seattle get back to the top of the charts in stuffing the run.  He is the best prospect at the position, though his size has him ranked second.

He has 21 tackles so far this year and, though finding the passer is not his strong suit, he already has four sacks.

Expect Carroll to look at Paea as a first round pick.

Defensive End: Ryan Kerrigan

It is possible Carroll would rather work on the Seahawks’ weak pass rush than their run-blocking, in which case he’ll be looking at DE prospects for the first rounder.

Ryan Kerrigan out of Purdue has 192 Tackles, four forced fumbles, and even an interception to date.

He’s great at pushing linemen into the pocket and getting the ball out of the hands of quarterbacks.

He is effective against the run as well and has some versatility at tackle.

A concern would be his habitual injuries.  He missed the early games of 2008 with a sprained ankle and broke his foot at the end of 2009.  Prior to the 2010 season the injury looked to cause hiccups in Kerrigan’s career but, he seems to have bounced back  effectively.

Defensive End:  Adrian Clayborn

Another viable defensive end option who has had less issue with injuries is Iowa’s Adrian Clayborn.

He has 22 career sacks and excels at shedding blocks and rushing the passer.  He’s less disciplined against the run but still effective.  He’s fast but does not necessarily possess the quickness to beat his opposition off the line.

The concern with Clayborn would be his off-the-field issues.  In 2009 he was charged with assault resulting in injury for allegedly punching a cab driver.

Cornerback:  Aaron Williams

Cornerback may turn out to be a position of interest for Carroll.  Most fans are not enamored with Kelly Jennings or backups Walter Thurmond and Roy Lewis.  Kennard Cox is constantly on the bubble and we have yet to see new addition Josh Pinkard in action.

Aaron Williams is a solid selection from Texas.  He has above average size and would be ultra-effective in neutralizing the league’s larger receivers.

He’s great at analyzing routes and mirroring runs.  His high top-end speed helps him close gaps if he’s caught out of position and he is able to read passes and time jumps for consistent interceptions.

USC possibilities

Carroll has shown a tendency to reunite himself with former USC connections.  With most of the Seahawks picks coming in late rounds, do not be surprised to see him fill perceived gaps with former USC players including undrafted free agents in the offseason.