The Seahawks had a chance to leave the 2008 draft with at least two pro bowlers. For example, after exchanging first round picks with Dallas, the Cowboys chose CB Mike Jenkins, just one of several players selected in this draft who have since made the pro bowl. After the team traded its third round pick to move up in the second round by swapping picks with Baltimore, the Ravens used Seattle’s pick to select RB Ray Rice. The team also had two shots at WR DeSean Jackson. Imagine having Ray Rice and DeSean Jackson in Seahawks colors; those two additions could have turned around what turned out to be a lackluster offense in need of playmakers.
Instead, Seattle drafted a defensive end who made everyone say “Who?” and a good tight end the team still hasn’t used to his full potential.
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Round 1 (#28 overall), DE Lawrence Jackson
Originally holding the 25th overall pick, Seattle traded with Dallas to move three spots down in exchange for picks in the fifth and seventh rounds.
Because Patrick Kerney retired in mid-April, the Seahawks felt a need to reach for a defensive end with the 28th pick. Lawrence Jackson was a four year starter for the Trojans, starting all but one of the 52 games he played (QB Philip Rivers is the only other player in NCAA history to start 51 games). Jackson redshirted as a true freshman in 2003 and won USC’s Service Team Defensive Player of the Year award. He went on to start 12 of 13 games as a redshirt freshman in 2004, netting 32 tackles (a third of which were for a loss) and 6 sacks, then improved on that as a sophomore with 10 sacks and 46 tackles. His numbers were down his junior year in ’06 with only 4 sacks, but in 2007 (as Tony Pauline of Philadelphia Eagles.com put it) Jackson had “a terrific senior season in which he was an unstoppable force at times who impacted games.”
After Seattle made him the fourth defensive end taken in the first round (behind Chris Long and fellow first round busts Vernon Gholston and Derrick Harvey), Jackson was a disappointment in 2008, totaling just two sacks and 29 tackles. His stats improved slightly in 2009 to 4.5 sacks and 32 tackles, but not enough to keep him from being traded to the Lions for a 2011 6th round pick.
Had the Seahawks not traded its pick to Dallas, the team could have taken OT Duane Brown, who has gone on to become a fixture for the Texans at left tackle.
Round 2, TE John Carlson
John Carlson was touted as a possible first round pick in this draft. This was a great move for the Seahawks since they needed a tight end badly, especially since they were coming off a 2007 season in which they were forced to depend on aging free agent pickup Marcus Pollard, who was flat-out terrible in Seattle’s playoff loss to Green Bay.
Mike Holmgren’s offense needed an athletic tight end who could stretch defenses the way Mark Chmura did during Holmgren’s most successful seasons as the Packers’ coach. He tried several times to fill this need, most notably in 2002 with first round pick Jerramy Stevens, with mixed results. Holmgren and Tim Ruskell believed that Carlson could eventually play that role, and I believe he still can. Remember, no tight end in Seahawks history had caught more than 46 passes in a single season before Carlson showed up to catch 55 in 2008 and 51 in 2009. He may have had a down year in 2010, but I believe he can and will eventually produce at a pro bowl level.
Round 3, No Pick
This pick was traded to Baltimore so the team could move up in the second round to take John Carlson. As much as I like Carlson, the team could have held on to its third round selection by selecting TE Dustin Keller with its first round pick (he was later taken five spots later by the Jets). Keller lacks some of Carlson’s stature (6’2”, 248 lbs to Carlson’s 6’5”, 256 lbs), but he’s proven to be a reliable, productive receiving threat for New York.
Round 4, DT Red Bryant
Through Bryant’s first few seasons, this pick seemed like a waste, but he’s flourished in Pete Carroll’s defense. During his first two seasons, the number of games he was inactive (22) exceeded his total tackles (16). That all changed last spring, when defensive line coach Dan Quinn decided to see what Bryant could do as the 5-technique DE in Carroll’s defense. Because of Bryant, our run defense was one of the best last season, but unfortunately he damaged a ligament in his right knee in week 8 against the Raiders, which required surgery and placed him on IR. Once he was gone, the run defense fell apart.
Bryant is important to our defense in the future, which has turned this in to a solid pick.
Round 5, FB Owen Schmitt
The Seahawks’ original fifth round selection was traded to Jacksonville in exchange for RB Alvin Pearman and a 7th round pick, so this pick from Dallas was the only choice Seattle had in the fifth round.
Owen Schmitt didn’t play much, but he will always be remembered for firing up his team in 2009 by beating himself in the head with his helmet while running out of the tunnel, opening up a bloody gash in his forehead. The Seahawks released Schmitt during roster cuts last September, as Jeremy Bates’ offense did not require a true blocking fullback. Even though the Seahawks didn’t need a fullback with Leonard Weaver still on the team at the time, I personally like this pick.
Round 6, LS Tyler Schmitt
Having traded their original sixth round pick to Cleveland for QB Charlie Frye, the Seahawks recouped this loss by trading DE Bryce Fisher to the Titans for their sixth rounder. Even though Seattle needed a long snapper after having problems at the position throughout the previous season, this was a waste of a pick. Schmitt was considered the best snapper in the draft, but he turned out to have serious back problems and never played for the Seahawks.
Round 7, Justin Forsett
With the pick they acquired from Jacksonville (Seattle’s original seventh rounder had already been traded to Philadelphia for FB Josh Parry), the Seahawks made a great choice. It’s surprising Forsett fell this far in the draft, as he emerged from Marshawn Lynch’s shadow his senior year to score 15 touchdowns. He scored his first NFL touchdown in a preseason game against the Bears, in which he also totaled 261 all-purpose yards (136 yards rushing, 125 yards on kick returns) – that’s 55 more yards than the entire Chicago offense managed to gain that night.
He spent some time bouncing between teams his first year (he was waived by Seattle after week one, then claimed off waivers by the Colts and waived again in early October before re-signing with the Seahawks), but since his rookie year he’s become an important part of the Seahawks’ offense.
Round 7, K Brandon Coutu
Needing a kicker after Josh Brown left for the Rams, the Seahawks spent the seventh round pick it acquired from Dallas on Brandon Coutu. Coutu was a very accurate kicker who competed with veteran Olindo Mare in training camp for two seasons. This was a good seventh round pick, as the team had an obvious need and a good kicker was available on the board. He never made it in the NFL due to his poor distance on kickoffs, but he had great potential.
Overall, this wasn’t a bad draft for Ruskell, with three of his draft pick eventually making key contributions for the team. However, this could have ben a great draft if he had made his first round selection more wisely. Ray Rice, DeSean Jackson, or a solid offensive lineman would have changed things immensely for a team in need of offensive players. Instead, he chose to go defensive, allowing the offense to continue to deteriorate.