Every year prior to the NFL Draft, fans of each team target players they hope their favorite team takes, and I am no different.
Being a Seattle Seahawks fanatic, one of the options I hope is available when the team makes its first pick, which isn’t until the second round because of the Percy Harvin trade, is University of Texas defensive end Alex Okafor. Sure, you could say that the Seahawks have already focused on the defensive line enough through free agency, but I’m still not sold on the idea that it’s going to be significantly improved in 2013.
If you look at left defensive end, you have the same set of projected players with Red Byrant starting and 2012 first-round draft pick, Bruce Irvin, seeing action in pass rushing situations. Irvin will naturally improve due to having a year of experience under his belt, but he did not demonstrate enough ability to hold the point of attack to make me feel good about him potentially becoming a full-time starter at this point in time.
While Irvin wouldn’t start over Bryant, he was drafted to be the eventual successor to Chris Clemons at the Leo position on the ride side of the line. That time should be now, as Clemons rehabilitates a knee injury and his availability to open the season in question; but, again, there is the question if he’s ready to start now or not, and I don’t think he is.
There is also speculation that Cliff Avril could play here but head coach Pete Carroll has hinted that perhaps he may play strong side linebacker. Even if Avril replaces Clemons at this position to at least start the season, Clemons has been the more consistently productive player of the two in recent history.
If you look at the interior of the line, you still have Brandon Mebane providing quality play at nose tackle but you also have questions about the 3-technique potion.
Last year, the team had Jason Jones and Alan Branch. Jones was a solid player until he was lost for the season with a knee injury. You could definitely tell that the Seahawks defensive line suffered when he went down. Branch was also a solid, if unspectacular, performer at defensive tackle.
Looking ahead to 2013, the productivity of Jones will, seemingly, be replaced by free agent signing Michael Bennett.
While Bennett would be an upgrade, it’s also questionable because he had a torn rotator cuff that he intends to play through. While I like him and what he offers the Seahawks, I am also skeptical that he can be fully counted on and if the team loses him like they lost Jones last year — it won’t be good.
Enter Tony McDaniel to replace the production of Branch. While I feel McDaniel is going to be a decent player for the Seahawks, there is a reason that Branch will make more than him in 2013 and that’s because he’s a better player. Even though the Seahawks added McDaniel through free agency, he doesn’t provide an upgrade to what they had last year.
With all of this being said, the Seahawks defensive line was a weakness at getting to the quarterback last season, and I do not yet see this as a significantly improved area of the team. This is why I fully believe the Seahawks should look to adding a pass rusher such as Okafor.
When you don’t pick until the latter part of the second round there are hardly any ”can’t miss” prospects available. While Okafor has been criticized for his lack of elite speed, he is also a productive football player who I would like to see become a member of the Seahawks.
As Carroll has said this past off-season, you “can’t have too many good pass rushers.” He should know because he’s never had enough good ones while he’s been coaching in Seattle. Okafor would help change this.