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The Seattle Seahawks’ Road to Super Bowl LII
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has been customary the last few years, the Seattle Seahawks are early picks to contend for next year’s Super Bowl title. Odds makers in Las Vegas consider the Seahawks as 6-1 favorites to win the NFC  and challenge for a Lombardi Trophy at Super Bowl LII.

That’s a pretty generous evaluation considering the amount of  obstacles the Seahawks will have to overcome entering 2017. After injuries to quarterback Russell Wilson and running back Thomas Rawls, the offense could not consistently sustain drives, putting the defense on the field more than ever. The defense in turn struggled after lingering injuries to safeties Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas, and never quite captured the ferocity of previous seasons.

Several position groups look as good as ever including the linebacking core and defensive line. However, with the NFL’s cheapest offensive line in 2016, and a beleaguered Legion of Boom, any talk of returning to a Super Bowl will require a lot of off season progress with these position groups, and it will start in the draft

Offensive Line

Good news is Seattle may be deeper at the one position considered the most in need of improvement — the offensive line. There is no doubt the Seahawks have struggled here, but their torturous wait for the development of proficiency and chemistry might finally be paying off. They started two rookies last year in Germain Ifedi and George Fant who had glimmers of potential show through a brutal trial by fire in 2016. Justin Britt had his most successful season yet playing his first year as center, and for what it’s worth, slightly outperformed Max Unger at the position.

 

If we include tight ends into the conversation, it’s worth mentioning Carroll had positive remarks on the noticeable improvement of Jimmy Graham in the blocking game. Graham set franchise records for total receptions (65) and yards (923), while adding 6 touchdowns. His $10 million dollar cap hit will likely be absorbed graciously. Luke Willson on the other hand has played second fiddle for a few years, and will test free agency, passing along his backup role to Nick Vannett.

Despite the excruciating plea from fans, Seattle is unlikely to pursue a big contract offensive lineman in free agency. Rather, GM John Schneider and Carroll will be content to acquire top rated talent at cheaper prices in the draft, and roll the dice with what they’ve got. After picking Ifedi with their first pick in 2016, look for the Seahawks repeat again this time, and go after long and athletic lineman who can integrate into the zone scheme. Pittsburg’s Adam Bisnowaty and Florida State’s Roderick Johnson are players who fit the bill, and are likely to still be around by the 26th pick.

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For a unit that finished ranked 25th in the league, and came in dead last for cap allocation in 2016, it is critical they develop in the off-season. Bisnowaty and Johnson have the skills to get lateral quickly and be effective at the second level, and have the aggressive tendencies offensive line coach Tom Cable likes.

Cornerbacks/ Secondary

One source of good news going into the offseason is that the Seahawks will retain their second-round pick after threats from the NFL to confiscate it. Coach Pete Carroll and company seem to have effectively appealed the league’s concern that cornerback Richard Sherman played with an undisclosed injury in defiance of policy. They argued the time off was related to routine veteran rest, and not to the MCL which bothered him for most of the season.

 

Sherman’s performance was all the more admirable, and statistically more successful than many gave him credit for. Chancellor and Thomas were also valiant in their injury-slowed seasons, and it makes you wonder how much these gladiators have left. With that said, the Legion of Boom is in need of a physically gifted and youthful injection. This draft more than any other will provide the opportunity to do just that.

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This is one of the deepest cornerback drafts in recent memory, and as a secondary guru, you can always count on Carroll to hoard defensive back talent. However, as sexy as it might sound, the Seahawks are not likely to pick up a defensive back, such as Alabama’s Marlon Humphrey or Washington’s Budda Baker, in the first round.

With DeShawn Shead ailing and Jeremy Lane’s deteriorating play, it will be important to increase the competition. The Seahawks should not wait too long to draft a capable and hungry corner. Clemson’s Cordrea Tankersley might still be around in the second, and at 6‘1” and 195lbs, he has all the size Seattle likes in physical press coverage. Another who could possibly slip out of the first would be Ohio State’s Gareon Conley. With his teammates Malik Hooker considered a top safety and Marshon Lattimore considered the top corner in the coming draft, people sometimes overlook Conley’s size, speed, and the ability to cover deep.

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Even if the depth chart does not jump off the page, Seattle is deeper in talent here than most recognize. They have a blistering gauntlet for young corners and safeties. There will plenty of options for John Schneider and Pete Carroll to get their guys on the second and third days as they prefer. Together they have never taken a defensive back higher than the 4th round, and with the clinic the team puts on, they don’t need too.

However, if there is one thing we know from Schneider and Carroll, it’s that they’re apt to take the best athlete available regardless of projections or needs. How the Seahawks scout and build their draft board now will have major consequences come 2017.

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