An injury prone receiver, or a two time Pro Bowl safety? The Seahawks traded away their first round pick (#24 overall) to the New England Patriots for wide receiver Deion Branch. The offensive line declined immensely during the 2006 season and got even worse when center Robbie Tobeck retired. Trying to make up for the loss of left guard Steve Hutchinson the year before, Tim Ruskell brought in guard Kris Dielman for an offseason visit. A free agent pro bowler for the San Diego Chargers, Dielman eventually turned down a $49 million offer from the Seahawks to re-sign with San Diego for about $10 million less. Dielman would’ve improved the Seahawks’ line immensely, but instead of overspending on a quick fix, Ruskell should have been looking for a replacement in the draft.
Round 1 (#24 overall), No Pick
After trading Deion Branch for this pick, the New England Patriots used it to select safety Brandon Meriweather, who has been to the Pro Bowl in each of his last two seasons. Giving up a first for Branch was a big mistake, but signing him to a 6 year, #39 million contract was an even bigger one. Seattle should have used that money on Darrell Jackson, who had quietly put up 1,000 yard seasons ’01, ’03, and ’04 and fell just 44 yards short of another in ’06. The team has spent a lot of money on free agent wide receivers in the last few seasons (Branch, Nate Burleson, TJ Houshmandzadeh) instead of turning to the draft. Instead of trading for Branch, the Seahawks could have used their first round pick to draft WR Sidney Rice, who ended up going to Minnesota in the top third of the second round (#44 overall).
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Round 2, CB Josh Wilson
Taken with the 23rd selection in the second round (#55 overall), Wilson became the first player in team history to be drafted out of the University of Maryland. Including Kelly Jennings in ’06, this was also the second consecutive year that Ruskell had used his first available draft pick to select a cornerback. Despite his lack of size (he’s listed at just under 5’9″), Wilson shot up the Seahawks’ draft boards due to his blazing speed and his ability as a playmaker. His lack of stature got him beaten in coverage quite often, but his ability to occasionally come up with big plays made him a fan favorite, and even I was sad to see him go last year when he was traded to the Ravens for a conditional fifth round pick. In his best year in Seattle, 2008, he set new team single season records for most kickoff returns (69) and most kickoff return yardage (1,753 yds) and also put up a career high 76 tackles (69 solo), 4 interceptions, 3 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries, and one sack.
Round 3, DT Brandon Mebane
Mebane is an explosive, productive defensive tackle. He may not receive the same amount of praise as other defensive tackles and was definitely overlooked in the draft (ranked behind Justin Harrell, Alan Branch, and Amobi Akoye), when all his said and done his production on the field will set him apart from the rest of the ’07 defensive line draft class. While many of the other DTs drafted prior to his selection have questionable work ethics and only play at 100% on some downs (Justin Harrell, Alan Branch, etc.), Mebane has a motor that won’t quit and continues to be a force on every single snap. However, his 6’1″ height means that he will rarely bat a pass down at the line of scrimmage, and he will not be able to interfere much with a taller QB’s line of sight..
In 2008, Mebane started 11 games, mainly played the lane-clogging 1-tech position (which lines up over the center’s shoulder) but occasionally slid out to the more disruptive, rush-oriented 3-tech position (which lines up over a guard’s outside shoulder). That season he posted a career high 5.5 sacks, some of which he got by beating some of the better guards in the league like Tampa Bay’s Arron Sears and New England’s Logan Mankins.
He isn’t yet recognized as one of the better DTs in the league, but Mebane is by far the best player on the Seahawks’ defensive line. He’s quick, and his strangely low center of gravity makes him a nightmare against taller offensive linemen, many of whom find it almost impossible to get a push on him. He also has a ferocious club move and a good three-yard burst of quickness that helps him explode through blocks and in to the ball carrier. Seattle’s run defense would have collapsed altogether last year without him. He needs to be re-signed.
Round 4, DE Baraka Atkins
In his rookie year in 2007, Atkins played in 12 games and made 5 tackles. The next year he played in just 9 games, but did manage to record two sacks. He never made much impact for the team and was released in September of ’09 in the final cutdown to the 53 man roster.
Round 4, G/T Mansfield Wrotto
Seattle acquired this pick from San Francisco in exchange for Darrell Jackson. Jackson never had much of an impact for the 49ers, but this move was a big mistake for the Seahawks. Even with Branch on the team, Jackson was only 29 and could have had at least two to three more productive years in Seattle.
Wrotto was a tackle who was converted to guard in the pros. He never made much of an impact for the team.
Round 5, LB Will Herring
Hering is an intelligent defender who plays heads-up football. He’s efficient, diagnoses unfolding plays well and makes a lot of smart plays on the field. He moves well laterally, does a good job of keeping the action in front of him, and displays adequate coverage skills when asked to cover smaller areas. Herring wraps up well on his tackles, but his lack of strength sometimes leads to those tackles being broken anyway and linemen have an easy time blocking him out of the play. He also doesn’t possess great closing speed, making it difficult for him to recover when he’s caught out of position. But despite his physical limitations, Herring is a great special teams player and a solid backup linebacker who flashes starting potential.
Round 6, WR Courtney Taylor
After signing a four year contract, he made his NFL debut in mid September of his rookie year, catching one pass for six yards. He began the 2008 season as a starter at wide receiver, but was demoted by week four, then released in early October and re-signed to the practice squad. He was re-signed in the offseason, but was ultimately waived in September of ’09 during the final roster cuts.
[Taylor showed a lot of promise, leading coaches to praise his ability, but was ultimately a disappointment in Seattle. However, there’s a reason for that: he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2008 after he developed an eye twitch that made it difficult for him to track the ball in flight. He spent most of that season struggling to adjust to his medication, but feels that he now has his condition under control and is still looking for another chance to play in the NFL. -Ed.]
Round 6, WR Jordan Kent
An injury kept Kent from working out at the NFL Combine, but Seattle checked him out in a later workout and drafted him because of his rare combination of size (6’4″, 217 lbs) and speed (4.43s forty yard dash and 4.04s twenty yard shuttle at his campus workout). He also posted a 34 in vertical jump and benched 235 lbs. Unfortunately, he was never able to translate those physical attributes into on-field production. Kent was a practice squad member until he was signed to the active roster in early October of ’08. He played chiefly on special teams that year, but saw some time at WR against Miami in week ten. He joined fellow ’07 draftees Atkins and Taylor in being released during the final roster cutdown in 2009.
Round 7, G Steve Vallos
The final pick by the Seahawks in ’07, Vallos was converted into a center so that he could provide depth for the entire interior offensive line. He never turned any of his eight starts into anything longterm, though, and was picked up by Cleveland in early 2010 after the Seahawks put him on waivers.
Although Wilson was not a bad choice in the second round, the Seahawks would have been better off taking center Ryan Kalil insted, who went four spots later to the Panthers. Since then, Kalil has become a two-time pro bowler and would have been a much better option to replace Robbie Tobeck than Chris Spencer. The Seahawks hit it big with Brandon Mebane and Will Herring, but overall 2007 was another poor draft due to better options being available and bigger needs existing at other positions.