We kick off our 2011 draft coverage today with a look at defensive backs the Seattle Seahawks could consider selecting in this year’s draft. My story today focuses on Colorado cornerback Jimmy Smith, who could be available when the Seahawks select at No. 25.
Smith is considered one of the best cover corners in the draft, blessed with rare speed at 6-2, 210 pounds. But off-the-field issues have Smith’s stock dropping, including reports of a failed drug test in 2007 and two arrests for possession of alcohol as a minor while at Colorado.
The Seahawks certainly could use the help in the back end of their defense. Seattle finished 27th overall in pass defense last year, giving up 249.6 yards a game during the regular season. The Seahawks also allowed 31 touchdowns through the air, tied for third-worst in the league.
A lack of a consistent pass rush contributed to Seattle’s struggles defending the pass. The Seahawks finished with a respectable 37 sacks in 2010, good enough for 13th overall. However, 16 of those sacks came with a four-man rush, as Seattle regularly had to blitz to create pressure up front. That put more pressure on the secondary to cover for longer stretches.
But ultimately, Seattle’s starting corners struggled to consistently make plays. Kelly Jennings and Marcus Trufant finished with a combined two interceptions. Only the starting corners for Miami (Shaun Smith and Vontae Davis had one each) and Oakland (Stanford Routt had two and Asomugha none) shared the same numbers.
But the Dolphins had the No. 8-ranked pass defense in the NFL, and the Raiders were No. 2 – basically no one threw to Asomugha’s side.
Jennings, a first-round pick for Seattle in 2006, is a free agent this year and might not be back. Trufant, the No. 11 overall pick in 2003, turns 31 on Christmas, is due to make $5.9 million in base salary this season, and might be asked to restructure his contract.
Along with Trufant and Jennings, other defensive backs drafted in the first round included safety Earl Thomas at No. 14 in 2010, cornerback Shawn Springs No. 3 overall in 1997, cornerback Terry Taylor No. 22 overall in 1984, safety Kenny Easily No. 4 overall in 1981 and safety Keith Simpson No. 9 overall in 1978.
The Seahawks also drafted Josh Wilson in the second round in 2007 (55th overall), safety Michael Boulware in the second round in 2004 (53rd overall), safety Ken Hamlin in the second round in 2003 (42nd overall), cornerback Ken Lucas in the second round in 2001 (40th overall), cornerback Ike Charlton in the second round in 2000 (52nd overall), cornerback Fred Thomas in the second round in 1996 (47th overall), cornerback Carlton Gray in the second round in 1993 (30th overall) and safety Robert Blackman in the second round in 1990 (34th overall)
Once again this year, Rob Rang, senior draft analyst for NFLDraftScout.com, is gracious enough to help us break down this year’s draft with a position-by-position analysis. Here’s a closer look at the defensive backs that could be a good fit for Seattle this year.
First round, 25th pick: Jimmy Smith, 6-2, 211, Colorado
Rob’s rationale: Possesses the physical skills to be a top 15 pick, but off-field concerns could cause him to slip on draft day. Prototypical press corner with rare size, speed.
Second round, 57th pick: Chimdi Chekwa, 6-0, 191, Ohio State
Rob’s rationale: Might have been a first-round selection if not for a broken wrist suffered in the Sugar Bowl. Effective in press and zone coverage.
Fourth round, 99th pick: Jalil Brown, 6-1, 204, Colorado
Rob’s rationale: Not as talented as Buffaloes teammate Smith, but is a steady, physical player who can help on defense and special teams.
Fifth round, 156th and 157th picks: Chris L. Rucker, 6-1, 195, Michigan State
Rob’s rationale: Long press corner whom some project as safety in the NFL. Durability and character concerns could push him into the fifth round, though some see him as a Top 100 talent.
Sixth round, 173th pick: Shilo Keo, 5-11, 219, Idaho
Rob’s rationale: Physical strong safety with a knack for being around the ball. An Everett native.
Seventh round, 209th and 242th picks: Darrin Walls, 6-0, 190, Notre Dame
Rob’s rationale: Athletic defensive back didn’t play up to his talent level until late in his career, but he might have the upside to warrant a late-round gamble.