Churchill: Seahawks Could Be Better In ’14
Day 1 of the NFL Draft is Thursday May 8. The Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks are set to select at No. 32, the final pick in Round 1. That’s among the rewards for winning it all the previous season. Despite dozens of wise analysts in the industry, nobody has any clue which player, or position, on which the Seahawks will land that night, or if they’ll even keep the pick. They’re predictably unpredictable, but it’s a way that’s worked for them and it’s not going to change.
The Seahawks, like the other 31 teams in the National Football League, are preparing for the draft, focused on getting better. The lone difference — and it’s a big one — is that despite losing some of their starters to free agency, the Seahawks don’t have any draft needs. The roster remains very good, perhaps even near-complete enough to defend their title. That doesn’t mean there aren’t areas GM John Schneider and staff can’t upgrade, add depth and start the 2014 season as the overwhelming favorites to win the Super Bowl — again. But they don’t need anything in particular. That’s how good the roster already is, despite numerous free agent defections.
Here are three specific reasons why the draft isn’t as crucial to the Seahawks’ chances to repeat as Super Bowl champions as it is to the other 31 teams’ chances to derail that trek.
The Seahawks entered last season as the fourth-youngest team in the entire league at just over 25
And while each returning player will have aged by a year, of course, the players that left this offseason were each older than the club’s median age, particularly defensive ends Chris Clemons (32) and Red Bryant (30), and offensive tackle Breno Giacomini (28). They’ll all be replaced by younger players, and it’s not out of the realm of possibility that the replacements are as effective, or more so, than their 2013 predecessors.
As a result, the current projected starting 24 (11 offense, 11 defense, plus punter and place kicker) is actually younger than the 24 starters from Game 1 of last season.
Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse, Byron Maxwell, Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor and Malcolm Smith won’t be the last
Here’s what I mean by that: The above six players were either late-round draft picks (Round 5, 6 or 7) or weren’t drafted at all. That doesn’t happen by random luck, which means the Seahawks as an organization have a remarkable level of skill at identifying and developing talent.
I’ve joked since the Super Bowl win that I won’t watch the draft in Round 5, and I’m not kidding. I’ll follow all of it, but I’ll be glued to the TV and internet when their on the clock in Round 5. Three years ago, that pick turned into Sherman. The round after that? Maxwell. Chancellor was a fifth-round pick. Smith went in Round 7. Simply put, the Seahawks are out-scouting and out-developing every other team in football, and have done so for the past three calendar years. As long as the front office, scouting department and coaching staff stays together, that will continue.
There’s a real chance that selections from previous drafts that have yet to be major factors become significant ones in 2014, the way Smith and Maxwell did last season. Among the candidates, defensive back Tharold Simon, defensive linemen Greg Scruggs, Jesse Williams, Jordan Hill, Michael Brooks and DeWayne Cherington, offensive linemen Michael Bowie and Alvin Bailey and running back Christine Michael.
Most of the core group is still on the upswing heading toward their prime, while the others are still in their prime
This should, and probably does, scare the dry-erase marker right off coaches boards around the rest of the league. None of the Seahawks’ defensive core is anywhere near their twilight, a time when a slight decline begins to show up in performance. Offensively, there are only two that may be at that stage in center Max Unger and running back Marshawn Lynch, and Unger stands to be better in 2014 considering his injuries this past season. Lynch may drop off a bit, but Robert Turbin and Christine Michael could more than make up for that slack. Russell Wilson is likely to be even better in year three, and there may not be anything more important than that.
The Seahawks do have areas they’ll look to address in next month’s draft, perhaps including the defensive and offensive lines, whether it be replacing Clemons, Bryant and Giamcomini, or looking for upgrades at either guard spot, or perhaps adding an athletic wide receiver with size or simply adding depth all over the field. But they’re so deep and talented already that their 2014 draft picks are like sprinkles and flavored syrup on your favorite ice cream. You don’t need them, but they do make it a little better. And yes, it is important the Seahawks get talent in this year’s draft. It just doesn’t absolutely have to make an impact difference for them to repeat.
The 2014 Seattle Seahawks were the best team in the NFL in 2013. We know this — they proved it on the field, and often in convincing fashion. They also remain among the youngest teams in the league and return every last one of the elite players that were necessary to get them to the top. Football is an unforgiving sport. There are a number of variables, including injuries, that serve as significant factors in the outcomes of games and entire seasons. But it only seems crazy to think the Seahawks can be even better this coming season.
It’s actually more likely than not.
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