I talked to Rob Rang, senior draft analyst with nfldraftscout.com after the deadline for underclassmen to enter the draft passed on Thursday to get his thoughts on what he believes Seattle's options are heading into the draft. As always, Rang had some interesting things to say.
You can view Rang's mock draft here. And you can view Chris Steubers' mock draft from Scout.com here.
Rang said the number of underclassmen choosing to stay in school was a surprise, particularly because the NFL's draft evaluation committee had almost twice the number of requests it usually gets this season. It had been anticipated that as many as 80 underclassmen would declare for the draft, but right now that number is around 50.
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USC quarterback Mark Sanchez was one of the last entries into the draft on Thursday, and should benefit by quarterbacks like Oklahoma's Sam Bradford and Florida's Tim Tebow staying in school
"I wasn't necessarily surprised by the Mark Sanchez coming out," Rang said. "However, Pete Carroll is usually one of the best at convincing his guys to come back. S I was a little surprised by that. I don't know if Sanchez has an agent in his ear, or what's going on. But someone is talking to him about the money. And he's probably going to get drafted higher this year. For a guy who has the tools, he really could have been a fantastic prospect (next year). Right now he's a very good prospect, but I don't know if he deserves to be a top 10 pick."
Rang went on to compare the quarterback draft situation, with Georgia's Matthew Stafford and Sanchez likely the top two prospects, with Alex Smith and Aaron Rodgers in 2005. Both were talented prospects who were still a bit raw and probably could have used another year in college. And we know what happened with Smith, drafted No. 1 overall by the 49ers, who probably played too early in San Francisco, while Rodgers got a chance to mature in Green Bay and has benefited from that time sitting behind Favre.
"Neither one of these quarterbacks are a sure thing," Rang said. "I don't grade either one of them as high as I graded Matt Ryan last year. And Ryan was a No. 3 pick last year."
Todd McShay of ESPN shared similar thoughts on the surprising lower amount of underclassmen coming out in this audio link.
Rang has Seattle taking Baylor offensive tackle Jason Smith with the team's No. 4 overall pick, and I was curious why he had Smith going that high.
"I think the biggest thing is that left tackle is such a valuable position on the field as there is anymore, except for maybe the quarterback position obviously," Rang said. "And I think Seattle is a little more secure at quarterback. The biggest reason I feel they're focusing on tackle in this case is because a lot of them are worthy of top 10 consideration, and it's such a rarity to get another Pro Bowl caliber pick. It's just the wisest, safest move. …a Tim Ruskell-type of move."
Rang said he liked Smith because he is a high-character guy, and possesses a nice combination of size (6-5, 300), speed and athleticism. Smith is a former tight end converted to tackle.
Rang said Michael Oher is in the mix as well, but there are some concerns about Oher's toughness and his ability to be a left tackle in the league. Rang also said that Smith, who played a lot out of a two-point stance this season in Baylor's spread option offense, has to prove that he can run block at the Senior Bowl next week.
Rang said Seattle still could take someone like cornerback Malcom Jenkins, who would give the Seahawks a bigger corner to complement Marcus Trufant, allowing Josh Wilson and Jelly Kenning to lineup on usually smaller corners in the slot in obvious passing situations.
However, Rang said there's still some question about Jenkins speed, and it will be important for him to in the 4.4s in the 40-yard dash at the combine in February.
Rang said he sees Jenkins going in the No. 6 or 7 range right now.
Rang also said that Seattle drafting Michael Crabtree still is also a possibility.
"Absolutely," said Rang, when asked about the Talented Texas Tech receiver. "Particularly if you're watching right now at what Arizona is doing. If you have a receiver that dominates he can carry you. So you can certainly understand why some fans are asking for Crabtree."
Rang said he expects Crabtree to run a high 4.4 at the combine, and that he does not have explosive speed in a straight line. Rang believes that Crabtree is going to be an excellent player in the league, but it's hard for rookie receivers to have a major impact in their first season.
Seattle also could take a running back like Knowshon Moreno or Beanie Wells, Rang said, because of the team's need for a playmaker offensively.
Rang said Seattle most likely would like to trade down a couple spots and pick up a draft pick. In that scenario they would still get a good player in the top 10 and pay a little less for them, and also pick up another player in the draft.
In order for the Seahawks to have a chance to do that, Rang said they need the top prospects in the draft like Sanchez, Crabtree Jenkins and others to perform well in the combine in order to generate interest for another team to move up a few spots to get in a position to take one of those players.
Rang said predicting who Seattle will pick at No. 4 this season actually has been harder than picking who Seattle would take last season because Seattle has so many needs. Rang accurately predicted the Seahawks would draft Lawrence Jackson in the first round of the 2008 draft.
I was on KJR talking Seahawks with Elise Woodward this week, and you can listen to that conversation in this audio link.
And Rob Staton keeps you updated on Seahawks draft happenings here.