Seahawks Insider

TNT 2011 draft preview: DL/LBs to consider

Post by Eric Williams on April 27, 2011 at 11:07 am with 30 Comments »
April 27, 2011 11:07 am
Temple defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson. (AP file photo)

Here’s my story on the Seattle Seahawks issues at defensive line, completing our position-by-position analysis of this year’s draft.

Through the first part of the 2010 season, solid defensive line play was a plus for the Seahawks.

Seattle ranked second overall in rushing defense through six games, giving up an average of just over 76 yards a contest.

But when defensive end Red Bryant and defensive tackle Colin Cole went down with injuries against Oakland at midseason, the Seahawks failed to recover up front and the defense suffered.

The Seahawks allowed 239 rushing yards in a 33-3 pounding against the Raiders, and gave up an average of 144 yards a contest the rest of the season, going 3-7 down the stretch.

Bryant suffered a torn medial collateral ligament (MCL) in his right knee that required surgery, landing him on injured reserve for the rest of the season. Cole missed five games with a severe high ankle sprain. Add to that the four games defensive tackle Brandon Mebane missed because of an injured calf, and it’s clear why the Seahawks could be looking for defensive line help early in the draft.

Combined, Bryant, Cole and Mebane missed 18 games last season. And there’s no certainty that Mebane will return. The Cal product could be an unrestricted free agent this season, depending on what happens in the league’s labor dispute.

Some draft experts predict as many as 12 defensive linemen could go in the first round of this year’s NFL draft, which starts Thursday. That would be the most since 2003.

Rob Rang’s defensive lineman/linebackers to consider

1 (25) Muhammad Wilkerson, 6-4, 315, Temple
Rob’s rationale: An eerily similar prospect to the Seahawks’ Red Bryant, Wilkerson can rotate inside and out, providing the club with size, physicality, versatility and a high-running motor.

2 (57) Christian Ballard, 6-4, 283, Iowa
Rob’s rationale: More athletic than his more celebrated former line-mate Adrian Clayborn, Ballard could surprise in the NFL.
4(99) Pierre Allen, 6-4, 273, Nebraska
Rob’s rationale: While not an explosive pass rusher, Allen showed consistent improvement throughout his career and is productive against the run and pass.

5 (156,157) Greg Romeus, 6-5, 264, Pittsburgh

Rob’s rationale: Entered the year as one of the top DEs in the draft, but suffered injuries to his back, knee that ended his season prematurely. The Seahawks gambled on the recovery of CB Walter Thurmond last year and could double-down with Romeus, the 2010 Big East Defensive Player of the Year.

6 (173) Chris Neild, 6-2, 314, West Virginia

Rob’s rationale: Isn’t flashy, but a strong, tough interior defender who will carve out a niche in the NFL as run-stuffer.

7 (209, 242)) Lazarius Levingston, 6-4, 292, LSU

Rob’s rationale: Besides possessing one of the great names of the 2011 draft, Levingston’s size and athleticism is worthy of a 7th round gamble.

Linebackers to consider

1 (25) Akeem Ayers, 6-3, 254, UCLA
Rob’s rationale: While not an area of concern for the Seahawks, Ayers’ size, athleticism and versatility should get him drafted in the middle to late portion of the first round.

2 (57) Sam Acho, 6-2, 262, Texas
Rob’s rationale: A defensive end while at Texas, Acho’s natural pass rush skills and high intangibles is sure to pique the interest of creative defensive coordinators.

4(99) Mason Foster, 6-1, 245, Washington
Rob’s rationale: Likely to be drafted in the third round, Foster could present too much value for the Seahawks to pass up should he be available here. While not a spectacular athlete, his instincts, quick hands and reliable open field tackling make him one of the year’s safer traditional 4-3 linebackers.

5 (156,157) Mark Herzlich, 6-4, 244, Boston College
Rob’s rationale: One of the year’s most heart-warming stories, Herzlich defeated a rare form of bone cancer to return to the field. While he wasn’t the headlining playmaker this year he had been in the past, some believe he’ll return to his previously dominant level with time.

6 (173) Mike Mohammed, 6-3, 239, California
Rob’s rationale: Experienced and productive in the 3-4 and 4-3 schemes, Mohammed’s athleticism and instincts could earn him a significantly higher draft day selection than my grade indicates.

7 (209, 242)) Jeremiha Hunter, 6-1, 239, Iowa
Rob’s rationale: Lacks the size and athleticism to warrant earlier round consideration, this instinctive and tough linebacker could carve a niche as a special teams performer and surprise when given an opportunity on defense.

Leave a comment Comments → 30
  1. I’ve become really high on Muhammad Wilkerson lately, as he could provide tremendous depth on the D-line right away, both as tackle and end, plus he is still young and offers room for improvement, and as I’m starting to think that Pouncey won’t be there at #25, Wilkerson is my number one choice for Seattle right now, since other possible Guard prospects (including Marcus Cannon, who might have cancer?) doesn’t appeal to me at that time.

    Also,follow Pete Carroll’s twitter close today, he will provide three more “clues” to who Seahawks are interested in drafting, he already gave us three, and even if they aren’t accurate, it’s still pretty fun speculating about who each song could point towards.

  2. Probably won’t be there, but would take Liuget if he somehow fell to 25.

  3. We’ve got the lunchpail types who are going to stuff the run in an elite manner (assuming Mebane comes back). We need dynamic pass rushers.

  4. HawkfaninMT says:

    No mention of Drake Nevis or Jurrell Casey? Both will probably go in the 3rd, but either would be a terrific addition to the interior DL for a pass rush.

    Also how about Lawrence Guy for AZST? He could fit nicely as a 5 tech back up for Red, and could probably be had for one of our 5ths

  5. Dukeshire says:

    I can’t imagine Seattle considering a LB until their second pick in the 4th, at earliest. That said, Acho would make an awesome Leo in Carroll’s scheme.

    I do like Wilkerson, but as Bobby mentioned, Seattle isn’t in need in more one dimensional d-linemen. (At least when that dimension is “run-stuffer”.) And although Wilkerson is young, that would seem to be what his forte is. On the other hand, Ballard has fallen in mocks lately and I think that has to do with the fact teams aren’t sure where to play him. In my view, he would make a fine 3-tech with a LDE background. He’s strong and quick without being really explosive for an end that can utilize that inside at the under DT position.

    That said, Stephen Paea would be a better fit for Seattle as a 3-tech, IMO.

    BTW, is anyone else terribly distracted by the constantly updating “draft on Twitter” scroll on the left? No thank you, TNT.

  6. Seahawks2620 says:

    I loved the pick of Derek Sherrod, today on SportsCenter. Kid plays very hard.

  7. Ill’s Jr Liuget (6-3/300) = Sedrick Ellis (balanced interior 3-tech pass-rush & run-stuffer, but also played on the outside in college). Temple’s Wilkerson (6-4/315) is a little bigger, but has been talked about more as a 3-4 DE than a DT. I’d be happy with either. Either or both could also be gone before SEA gets to pick.

    Last year at this time I was hoping the change from Mora’s 4-3 over to PC’s 4-3 under was gonna make a huge difference for Mebane’s pass-rushing. I was expecting the opposing LTs to step-slide and block Clemons and the C & RG were gonna double Cole, so Mebane was gonna beat the LG one-on-one at the snap and terrorize opponent’s QBs with at least as many sacks as Rocky got in ’05. Didn’t happen. Not sure if the TE blocked Clemons and Mebane got doubled more or he was playing hurt, or what. A DT with a quick first step and closing speed should get more pressure than we got last season.

  8. Our interior pass rush is utterly terrible. Nobody denies this. Cole can’t get any push and Mebane is more of a pocket pusher than a guy who is going to get sacks. Mebane doesn’t suck at getting pressure like Cole, but he’s not as good as he needs to be at it either. In no way am I bashing Cole. Afterall, his job isn’t really to get pressure. However, both of those guys together (or on their own) are elite at stuffing the run.

    Overall, I really like those two in the middle (Cole/Mebane). It’s just that we all agree that we need more pressure up the middle, too. Maybe it’s in the form of drafting a guy like Liuget and having Mebane bouncing between the d-tackle spots (it’s been suggested before). In pass rushing situations, Mebane could take over for Cole and get more push from that position and Liuget could get more pass rushing push from Mebane’s 3-tech. That would improve the pass rush situation from both interior DT positions. I would love for this to happen, actually (or by drafting any DT with pass rush ability).

  9. Dukeshire says:

    klm – We were all hoping for that. He faced as many on-on-ones as any DT can expect to get. I think the reality is that he’s not going to create pressure on his own. I think he’s at his best when he absorbs double teams, doing the dirty work which allows others to take advantage of the one-on-ones. Unfortunately, both he and Cole are quite good at that. There is a certain level of redundancy in the middle for Seattle which wouldn’t be an issue if Red were more of a pressure guy off the edge. If Red can develop into that type of player, Mebane’s contributions in the middle will look better. But if Carroll is content with an edge sealer only at LDE, they’ll need to upgrade the 3-tech position, IMO.

  10. I am ok with Wilkerson or Liuget at #25, but prefer an o-lineman like Carimi, Sherrod, Pouncey or Watkins.

    Agree, I cannot see Seattle choosing a linebacker any time before the 4th round. Would love to see Foster be a Seahawk, as we need to replace Herring.

    So…. our needs IMO are OL, DL, CB and QB. The big question in my mind is do we go for a franchise QB in round 1 or a developmental QB in round 4 or later? My choice (go ahead and criticise) would be Greg McElroy as a developmental QB (plus resign Hass or trade 2012 1st rounder for Kolb).

  11. Palerydr says:

    Herring is a solid performer on special teams and has played well as a backup we don’t need to replace him. There is no way I would trade a #1 pick for Kolb. In my eyes he’s just a system QB who played with good players.

  12. Dukeshire says:

    If Marvin Austin falls, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them pull the trigger. Should they stay at #25 that is…

  13. Palerydr says:

    Hey Eric when are we supposed to post our picks as GM’s? So we can all laugh at how bad we are as talent evaluators.

  14. Paleryder…. Herring is a free agent and said to be looking for an opportunity to start. Since he won’t get an opportunity to start in Seattle, he is as good as gone. This is why we need to add atleast one LB for depth (but we have Hawthorne, Tatupu and Curry as starters).

  15. AaronCurryIsBUST says:

    Replace Herring?! More like REPLACE CURRY!!!

  16. AaronCurryIsBUST says:

    Why the hell would we draft Wilkerson. As great as Red is, he was drafted in the 4th round!

  17. Palerydr says:

    Ok I didn’t know Herring was a FA. So you are correct if we don’t resign him, which appears unlikely, then we need to replace him and Foster would certainly be a candidate. But I doubt that he will be around in the 4th.

    ACIB does someone really have to explain talent to you?

  18. Dukeshire says:

    ACIB – Wilkerson projects as a 3-tech for a 4-3 with the ability to kick to LDE as necessary. And considering Red’s knee injuries, there is value there.

    blocis – I know Herring wants an opportunity to start, and frankly he deserves it. But ultimately it (IMO) will come down to money and I don’t see any teams offering him starters money. I think he’ll be back actually. And here, he may not have to wait much longer to start if Lofa’s body continues to break down.

  19. maddog12 says:

    ESPN reports judge refuses to give NFL a stay on here end the lock out decision. So…does free agency start now on draft day? Very interesting. Opportunity knocks hope Hawks are prepared.

  20. maddog12 says:

    her not here

  21. Dukeshire says:

    maddog12 – Hell of a question. It doesn’t look that way as the “rules” for ’11, without a CBA in place, have not yet been defined. But by tomorrow at this time, everything could be different.

  22. The night before the draft and here’s my wishlist for tomorrow:

    1. Jake Locker – In many ways, he reminds me of a young Rich Gannon. I remember when the Vikings traded for Gannon. I believe it was the Patriots who drafted Gannon to play safety or something like that and Gannon wouldn’t do it and only wanted to be considered as a QB so they traded him to Minnesota. I won’t claim to have ever seen Gannon in college (I don’t even know which one he went to, but I know it was a Northeast type of school) but I do remember Gannon (for whatever reason) when he was an extremely young and raw player for the Vikings. That’s the former pro who Locker reminded me the most of when I saw him this past season.

    2. Mike Pouncey – The ghost of Steve Hutchinson could finally die. Add to the fact that we would have a dominant left side again, it would definitely put a smile on many a Seahawk fans faces. I recently read a scouting report on Pouncey (they had him rated as a guard) and one of his weaknesses were his ability to snap overly well. Excuse me? Did we ever care if Steve Hutchinson could ever snap the ball? We want a left guard and I could care less how he’d function at center. Do we care if Okung can rush the passer? Do we care if Earl Thomas can follow a lead fullback and read his blockers? I don’t.

    3. Gabe Carimi – This wouldn’t solve the black hole of the interior offensive line we have but he’s going to be a dang good player and having great bookend tackles would be fun. There’s only so many holes we can fill in this draft and at least this pick would make sure that there wouldn’t be anymore holes at the tackle position for a decade.

    4. A trade down scenario or scenarios that involve picking up extra picks this year and/or next year. We need to get younger with players who are not only young, but actually talented, too.

    5 or 150. Ryan Mallett – The statue comparions don’t bother me as much as some. I like his physical skills. Sure, I’d like it if he were quicker/faster but I think he can/will have a good career (IF his brain is screwed on right). If he had Andy Dalton’s brain (or what I think Andy Dalton’s brain seems to be), there’s a chance I’d have him #1 on this list. However, let me be clear, if he’s as big of a character risk as it potentially appears that he is… then I do NOT want Mallett, even in the 4th round! Basically, I think his career will be defined by what’s in his head and heart and there’s really no way for me to know that. That’s why I don’t truly know if he’s #1 on this list of a guy I wouldn’t touch with a 10-foot pole.

    What about the rest of you? Do you have any short lists like this heading into tomorrow?

  23. “OR” a guy I wouldn’t touch with a 10-foot pole.

  24. Rumored that PIT wants to trade up to get Pouncey. Also, DC wants to trade up with DEN to take Gabbert.

  25. In their pre-draft presser PC said he would want to take a mobile QB. Just talk?

  26. Interesting Hawks history from previous lockouts:

  27. SandpointHawk says:

    By the way Will Herring is a 5th year free agent. That puts him in the free agent limbo land of 4th &5th years veterans.

    When the league and players decide what “rules” they are playing by this year or they agree upon a new CBA, we will know a lot more.

    Of course, I feel like I’m living in Limbo Land at this point….Enjoy the draft folks, I know I will… could be the highlight of the year….

  28. Bobby, I am good with your wishlist except for Locker….. I love the kid, but I can’t see spending a first round pick for a developmental QB. This same thought applies to Newton and Gabbert…… none of these guys have operated a pro style offence and its impossible to tell how their skills will translate. Carolina is crazy if they take Newton #1 overall.

    Best case scenario – we get Carimi and have quality bookend tackles (Okung and Carimi) for the next 12 years.

    Here to hoping for a great draft with us getting 2 DL, 2 OL, 1 QB, 1 LB, 1 FB, 1 CB

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