Draft's unpredictability gives Seahawks an advantage with No. 4 pick

RENTON, Wash. -- This is the only time of year when losing has its privileges.

The Seattle Seahawks are flush with options and leverage as owners of the No. 4 overall choice in Saturday's draft. They remain open to almost any position and any potential deals on the eve of one of the most unpredictable swap meets in memory.

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"There aren't people that every team says, 'These are franchise guys. They're going to be in the Hall of Fame.' You just don't have that," Seahawks president and general manager Tim Ruskell said of a draft loaded with talented college juniors and even sophomores. "Because you have a lot of underclassmen, you put them in that band of grade scale where the third guy might not be that much different than the 13th guy. ... It's a unique year that way. So, no, I don't have a great feel for how that's going to go, even with the first pick."

That unpredictability leaves the Seahawks in an advantageous position.

Ruskell keeps saying how his team, which flopped to 4-12 last season, isn't "hostage" to any particular position in this draft. Of course, that's because Seattle has many needs to fill with its picks at Nos. 4 and 37 on Saturday, plus eight more in rounds 3 through 7 on Sunday:

» An outside linebacker who can start right away.

» A left tackle to replace aging star Walter Jones.

» Defensive linemen.

» Healthier wide receivers.

» Bigger defensive backs.

» And -- eventually -- a replacement for 33-year-old quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, who has two years remaining on his contract.

Meanwhile, the Seahawks are fielding an increasing stream -- not yet a "flood," Ruskell said -- of calls from teams interested in exploring deals to move up to No. 4.

"There's been a little more talk about people coming up to our pick," Ruskell said. "Absolutely, we will listen to that.

"I don't know what's real and what's not in terms of what'll happen on Saturday."

Most of those teams are believed to be shopping for quarterbacks, and the Seahawks have been eyeing an increasingly hot one: Mark Sanchez of USC.

"I see a good decision-maker, accurate thrower, excellent feet, ability to move in the pocket, throws with good timing, doesn't hold the ball, not scared to make a tough throw if he has to," Seahawks vice president of player personnel Ruston Webster said. "I saw a competitor."

The Denver Broncos own the 12th and 18th overall picks and reportedly are interested in Sanchez. The Broncos recently granted starting quarterback Jay Cutler's request for a trade, dealing him to the Chicago Bears. But Friday, Broncos coach Josh McDaniels said he doubts his team would move into the top 10 in the draft and unequivocally dismissed the notion of trading both of his first-round picks to make a move for any top-tier player.

Then again, as Ruskell noted Thursday, "There's a lot of lying going on."

The Washington Redskins are sniffing around for a possible trade up, and team owner Dan Snyder has proven he will create sweet deals to get what he wants.

"I think anything is possible," Redskins executive vice president for football operations Vinny Cerrato said this week. "It's just what you're willing to give up."

One thing Snyder isn't willing to give up is the Redskins' 2010 first-round pick, he said in a radio interview Friday.

The player taken with the No. 4 pick is expected to command at least $25 million in guarantees. The Seahawks would consider avoiding that cost if they believe they could receive better value and a comparable player lower in the first round.

Yet when asked if Seattle could afford to pay that kind of money to a rookie passer who might sit on the bench for the next two years until Hasselbeck's contract expires, Ruskell said, "Sure. We wouldn't be the first ones to do that."

The most prudent pick, used on someone who appears able to play immediately, would be Wake Forest outside linebacker Aaron Curry. But Curry could be gone to the Kansas City Chiefs at No. 3.

Award-winning wide receiver Michael Crabtree of Texas Tech is an intriguing option. Hasselbeck's most trusted target, Bobby Engram, left for the Kansas City Chiefs in free agency this winter, and Nate Burleson and Deion Branch are trying to come back from knee surgeries. T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Seattle's top free-agent acquisition this offseason, is still developing a rapport with Hasselbeck.

"He is angry after the catch," Webster said of Crabtree. "Doesn't go down."

The Seahawks say they aren't scared off by the recent foot surgery that leaves Crabtree without a recent 40-yard dash time on record. Ruskell said he uses game tapes to measure wide receivers' speeds in five- and 10-yard bursts, the tests they will have in games against speedy NFL cornerbacks.

Then again, Seattle might not be willing to use its No. 4 pick to select a receiver when they could perhaps find a comparable one later.

"I would say wide receiver is very deep," Webster said. "I think it probably goes through the fourth round, and you can get a pretty good player."

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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