Six players chosen in the 2009 draft made the Pro Bowl as rookies, including linebackers Brian Cushing of the Houston Texans and Clay Matthews of Green Bay. Now a two-time pro bowler, Matthews was a leading candidate for defensive player of the year that season but was ultimately beaten out by Troy Polamalu.
Round 1 (#4 overall), LB Aaron Curry
Considered the best linebacker available, Aaron Curry was by all accounts the safest pick in the draft. He drew comparisons to longtime Titans LB Keith Bulluck, and some even believed the Lions should have taken him #1 overall instead of QB Matthew Stafford. By taking him fourth overall, the Seahawks made Curry the highest drafted linebacker since the Redskins took LaVar Arrington second overall back in 2000.
There’s no doubt that Aaron Curry has been a huge disappointment so far. He was supposed to be the missing piece for a Seattle defense in need of a major playmaker, but so far his production has been solid but not pro bowl level. Had the Seahawks used this pick on QB Mark Sanchez, Will Herring could have easily posted the same numbers as Curry at the starting outside linebacker position. Before the 2010 season Pete Carroll hired Ken Norton, Jr. to coach the linebackers in hopes of helping Curry become an elite linebacker.
Curry is an extremely talented athlete and could very well still become a pro bowler, but 2011 is a make-or-break season for him. He needs to prove himself, because otherwise he could very well be remembered as one of the biggest busts of the 2009 draft.
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Round 2, OL Max Unger
After trading their original second round pick to Denver in exchange for the Broncos’ first round pick in 2010, the Seahawks traded their 2010 third and fourth round picks to Chicago in order to trade back up into the second round to take Max Unger.
When healthy, Unger has been a solid right guard who started all 16 games his rookie season. Unfortunately, his 2010 season lasted only one game before a major toe injury placed him on IR. He can play center or guard, and leading up to the draft some experts considered him a first round pick and compared him to New England’s all-pro guard Logan Mankins. This could turn out to be a great pick for the Seahawks, and 2011 should be a breakout year for him. Unger is very smart and very athletic, plus he has that nastiness you need in your offensive linemen. As long as he stays healthy, he could very well be a future pro bowler.
[Just as an aside, Denver used the second round pick they received from Seattle to take Alphonso Smith, a short cornerback with average speed. They traded him to Detroit after one lackluster season, where he responded by producing five interceptions in ten starts for the Lions in 2010, including a pick six. Schadenfreude is a marvelous thing, you know? -Ed.]
Round 3, WR Deon Butler
The Seahawks replaced the third round pick they traded to the Bears by sending a fifth and seventh round pick to Philadelphia.
At Penn State, Deon Butler broker former Seahawks wide receiver Bobby Engram’s school record for receptions. Butler is small (5’10”), but has very good quickness and great hands. He is a good fit for the slot, but has to work more on his route running. Butler suffered a nasty broken leg — similar to the one suffered by Leon Washington in 2009 — on a two yard TD reception against the 49ers, ending his season.
Pete Carroll and co. favor taller, bigger receivers, but despite that they kept Butler on the roster last year. Carroll must see what we see in Butler: he has the potential to become a very good receiver for Seattle, perhaps even the next Bobby Engram.
Round 4, No Pick
The Seahawks traded this pick to Chicago for the second round pick they used on Max Unger.
Round 5, No Pick
The Seahawks traded this pick to Philadelphia for the third round pick they used on Deon Butler.
Round 6, QB Mike Teel
Mike Teel played well in the preseason, showing some promise with 238 yds passing and 3 touchdowns. He stayed with the Seahawks through the entire 2009 season before being released by the team.
Round 7, S Courtney Greene
Courtney Greene was a great late round pick by the Seahawks, but unfortunately he was released after the preseason and picked up by the Jaguars. He excelled on special teams his rookie year and became a starting safety for Jacksonville the very next season, producing 78 tackles and one interception. He isn’t a ball hawk, but he is a great tackler and always seems to find himself around the ball. Ruskell made a great pick here, but then made a poor decision in letting him go, especially since depth at safety is always needed in Seattle.
Round 7, DE Nick Reed
Due to his small size Nick Reed was an afterthought for most teams, but he became the big story of the 2009 preseason. In his three preseason games, he recorded 7 tackles, 3.5 sacks, one interception, and a partially blocked punt (for comparison, the rest of the team accounted for 8.5 sacks and four interceptions). During the regular season, he recovered a fumble against the Jaguars in week three and returned it 79 yards for a touchdown.
After struggling to recover from arthroscopic knee surgery and being beaten out in training camp by Dexter Davis, Reed was released with an injury settlement before the 2010 season.
Round 7, TE Cameron Morrah
Very athletic but also very raw, Cameron Morrah was a great sleeper pick by the Seahawks, who took a chance on him out of a need to find offensive playmakers. He still has a lot of work to do, but could become a solid backup tight end and a receiving threat in the red zone.
The Seahawks truly made the right pick, taking the player who was considered by most people to be the safest, surest thing in the draft. However, the Hawks also knew that the Jets wanted quarterback Mark Sanchez, whom they traded up to choose a pick after Seattle took Aaron Curry. Seattle could have traded first round picks with the Jets and still been in position with New York’s 17th overall choice to draft someone like center Alex Mack (taken 21st overall by Cleveland) offensive tackle Michael Oher (23rd overall by Baltimore), or linebacker Clay Matthews (26th overall by Green Bay). Another possible scenario would have had them take Sanchez themselves, then use some of their draft capital to trade back into the bottom of the first round to take Matthews to replace Julian Peterson.
With four players still on the roster and making important contributions in key roles, this was Tim Ruskell’s best draft since 2005. He found diamonds in the rough with all three of his seventh round picks, even though only one remains on the team. In the first round he took the sure thing with Aaron Curry, but the team’s greatest need was not at linebacker. I can’t blame him for taking someone who everyone thought was the best player available, but no linebacker is worth being taken in the top ten spots in the draft, let alone in the top five.
This was also Ruskell’s last draft as Seattle’s general manager. His many draft mistakes finally led owner Paul Allen to inform Ruskell that he would not be retained by the team, which in turn led Ruskell to resign before the end of the 2009 season.