Having been in the NFL before, Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll knows that supposed good drafts can end up breaking your heart -- and costing you a job -- if those players don't pan out or mesh with the veterans on your roster. With that experience, and by working with savvy first-time general manager John Schneider, who had earned major respect in his front-office role in Green Bay before going to Seattle, Carroll and the Seahawks came out big-time winners the past few days, which included the draft.
Note: The Seahawks were not necessarily winners of the draft, but winners of the past few days. That's because even though Seattle hit big in the draft, it augmented a disjointed roster through trades that brought in Jets running back Leon Washington and Titans running back LenDale White.
While Washington is coming off a nasty leg injury, he is expected to be fully recovered and can be a factor in the return game as well as a third-down backfield option. White, who became an afterthought in Tennessee, re-unites with Carroll, who was able to get the most of him personally and in a system at USC that played to his strengths. White has shown he can be a productive back, especially in the red zone. By finally getting into good shape last season, White also showed some semblance of maturity, even though he couldn't have been thrilled by being phased out because Chris Johnson was simply too good to take off the field.
Along with White, Seattle got defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson, a player who Tennessee really liked at one point. Vickerson is a rotational player who will add depth at a position that will be crucial based on the offensive line muscle Seattle's rivals in the NFC West have accumulated the past few seasons.
As for the draft, the Seahawks could not have had better luck when Oklahoma State offensive tackle Russell Okung fell to them at No. 6. Okung will step in right away on the left side for future Hall of Famer Walter Jones, who is expected to retire. Texas safety Earl Thomas at pick No. 14 also was a solid acquisition. Thomas was a ball hawk in college who might end up making an immediate impact against a division of unproven quarterbacks: San Francisco's Alex Smith, Arizona's Matt Leinart and St. Louis' Sam Bradford.
The second-round addition of wide receiver/returner Golden Tate should prove interesting because Tate and Washington are both dynamic returners. Seattle might want to limit Washington's exposure in the return game because he is coming back from injury, but that also would take away from one of his strengths as one of the NFL's most dangerous return threats. Tate, because of his height (5-foot-10), is also projected as a slot receiver, a position occupied by highly-productive wide out T.J. Houshmandzadeh -- last season's big-money, free-agent acquisition. Carroll is going to have to figure out how to use both players, but Tate does fill a void caused with the departure of Nate Burleson.
Another need position that was filled came in the fourth round with the selection of North Carolina defense end E.J. Wilson. Seattle traded away end Daryl Tapp and veteran Patrick Kerney retired so help was needed. Wilson, like Tapp and Kerney, is a blue collar, effort player that could be asked to take on a heavy workload right away.
In taking Thomas and Wilson, Carroll passed on two of his former USC players at the same positions, Taylor Mays and Everson Griffen. Mays was not happy by being snubbed (and falling into the second round) and took a few shots at his former coach, who surely knows a thing or two about the player. What might be more telling is fact that Carroll stayed away, which might be more indicative of the player than the coach. Other teams know that too, which might have been why so many teams passed on Mays until San Francisco, which plays Seattle twice, selected the safety.
The Seahawks' improvement in 2010 will likely hinge on the play of veteran quarterback Matt Hasselbeck or recently acquired Charlie Whitehurst, but these other moves show that Carroll is serious about having an immediate impact upon his return to the NFL.
Who found some answers
The NFC West: The Rams got their quarterback with Bradford at No. 1, fortified the offensive line with tackle Rodger Saffold and got Bradford a weapon with wide receiver Mardy Gilyard. As bad as the talent is on that roster, all these moves are upgrades. The Rams still have ground to make up on the 49ers and Cardinals, who really hit it big.
The Cardinals struck gold when defensive tackle Dan Williams was available when they picked at No. 26. Surprisingly, TCU outside linebacker Daryl Washington was available for them to trade up to get in the second round. Outside linebacker O'Brien Schofield, a fourth-round pick from Wisconsin, will start the season recovering from a knee injury sustained at the Senior Bowl, but he is a potentially productive player and special teamer.
The 49ers let their intentions be known when they drafted offensive linemen Anthony Davis and Mike Iupati with their first-round picks at 11 (after trading up) and 17. They are going to pound the ball in the run game and they are going to do it with attitude. Adding Mays in the second round is a high-risk, high-reward gamble but his athleticism is unquestioned. That San Francisco didn't select a quarterback also shows the team's faith in Smith.
The Raiders: If we're going to give Seattle love for making bold trades and drafting well, Oakland deserves its props as well. For the first time in years, they showed restraint in free agency and further restraint at the top end of the draft. They also traded for Washington quarterback Jason Campbell, who will replace JaMarcus Russell as the starter and gain immediate respect because of his work ethic. Improving that situation, Oakland only surrendered a fourth-round pick next season. In the past, it would have probably given up a lot more to get Campbell. Instead, it got good value in the trade.
The Raiders also took a potential premier defender in inside linebacker Rolando McClain with the No. 8 overall pick. Getting Texas defensive tackle Lamarr Houston in the second round could also help fortify one of the worst run defenses in the NFL. Oakland used later-round picks on NFL Scouting Combine all-stars Jacoby Ford, a return specialist, and offensive tackle Bruce Campbell. As late as last season, those might have been first-through-third-round picks by the Raiders.
This season, they used fourth-round selections on both.
The Buccaneers: Tampa Bay had to hit big because its drafting the past few years has been shaky. Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy was a slam-dunk pick at No. 3. Adding UCLA defensive tackle Brian Price in the second round was somewhat of a surprise, but it could be a pleasant one. Price is a very good player who, along with McCoy, will be disruptive inside and keep blockers off middle linebacker Barrett Ruud. The addition of huge, highly athletic wide receivers Arrelious Benn and Mike Williams should help open up a much-needed passing game.
The Lions: Since we're rolling with teams that have struggled, the Lions drafted like they actually have a plan -- for the second straight season at that. Taking defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh second overall was a no-brainer. Trading with Minnesota into the first round to take Cal running back Jahvid Best could turn out to be a brilliant move since Best is a potential game breaker out of the backfield and as a return man. Cornerback Amari Spievey also should help in the secondary.
The Ravens: Baltimore traded out of the first round, but still landed two first-round types in the second with outside linebacker Sergio Kindle and nose tackle Terrence Cody. On top of that, the Ravens took two receiving tight ends with Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta in the third and fourth rounds. None of these players may start, but they could all be factors in 2010 and long-time starters down the road. Add in their trade for wide receiver Anquan Boldin last month and the Ravens could be the team to beat in the AFC North. Few teams draft with an eye on the short- and long-term like the Ravens.
Everyone is going to want to jump on Jacksonville for taking defensive lineman Tyson Alualu with the 10th overall pick, but I'm going to start someplace else:
The Panthers: Landing quarterback Jimmy Clausen in the second round was a nice get and grabbing outside linebacker Eric Norwood in the fourth round provides immediate pass rush and special teams help. But to add two more quarterbacks? Ok, Armanti Edwards is going to be a Wildcat/return/wide receiver type and getting Tony Pike in the sixth round provides depth for Clausen and starter Matt Moore. But why are these moves coming now when the team passed on Joe Flacco and countless others the past few seasons?
The contracts of coach John Fox and his staff expire after this season and ownership has shown no inclination to extend anyone. Team leadership might not last long enough to see these quarterback acquisitions through. Had a talented quarterback or two been acquired before now, things might not be so tenuous. Fox and GM Marty Hurney have to be given credit for adding potentially solid talent to a decent and competitive team, but all these quarterbacks now might be too little too late.
The Jaguars: Jacksonville GM Gene Smith actually did a solid job of addressing the defensive needs by taking four D-lineman with the Jaguars' first four picks. Trading for Raiders linebacker Kirk Morrison also was nice pickup, and although he's not known as a masher, he's been highly productive. Taking Alualu at No. 10 is still going to put pressure on the player to pan out since he wasn't a household name. Jacksonville has to win games immediately to re-invigorate a disinterested fan base. Alualu is going to have to play a part in that process.
The Bills: Buffalo waited until the fifth round to address its biggest need -- offensive tackle. This is the second straight year the Bills ignored the position when high-end quality was on the board. Virginia Tech tackle Ed Wang is a potentially good player, but Buffalo didn't do first-round pick C.J. Spiller or quarterbacks Trent Edwards/Brian Brohm/Ryan Fitzpatrick any favors -- especially when the rest of the AFC East spent a lot of time addressing defense this offseason. The Bills better kick the tires on G Alan Faneca, who was released by the Jets on Saturday.
The Broncos: They may have taken the sleeper in the draft in the fifth round in cornerback Perrish Cox, whose stock fell because of some off-field concerns. Wide receiver Demaryius Thomas could eventually fill the void left by Brandon Marshall. Denver is in this category because of the Tim Tebow pick in the first round. There will be pressure on Tebow and coach Josh McDaniels for the Florida quarterback to develop into a starter by some point in 2011. McDaniels and Denver risked a lot of their reputations on this selection. If Tebow pans out, this will be viewed as a brilliant pick at every imaginable level. If not, well ...
The Bears: Chicago's hands were tied because of dealing away their top two picks to get Jay Cutler and Gaines Adams last season. The selection of safety Major Wright from Florida in the third round actually was a strong selection. It will just be interesting to see if the free-agent acquisitions of Julius Peppers and Chester Taylor will be enough, especially since there are still questions along the offensive line.