Looking Back: 2008 Draft

The 2007-08 campaign ended with yet another devastating road loss in the playoffs, this time in Green Bay. Although the final score wasn’t nearly as close as it was in Chicago the previous year, Seattle jumped out to a quick 14-0 lead before the Packers (and heavy snow) took over and punished the Seahawks 42-20.

Seattle, still regarded as one of the more talented football teams in the NFC, was entering an offseason with many of the same questions as the previous season. An aging, talented team who was just a few playmakers shy of being a serious contender, the Seahawks were desperate to add to their running game, and find help for a defense that was exposed in the snow at Lambeau Field. The ineptitude caused by the departure of Steve Hutchinson was never more obvious, and Shaun Alexander’s best days were far behind him.

Seattle needed to find an answer at running back – preferably long-term – and the draft was loaded with talented backs. Players like Jonathan Stewart, Rashard Mendenhall, Felix Jones, and Chris Johnson all figured to be available late in the first round, and the Seahawks held the 25th overall selection. The passing game seemed okay under the command of Matt Hasselbeck, but still lacked a true playmaker at wide receiver. Holmgren still hadn’t found a solution tight end; Marcus Pollard proved late in the season that he wasn’t the answer, and his age was working against him. It appeared as if the Seahawks would almost certainly select a tight end in the draft.

Seattle also still needed to add depth and talent to a deprived offensive line. Walter Jones’ age continued to creep up on him, and his dominance isn’t eternal. Veteran guard Chris Gray seemed ready to call it quits, and did I already mention Steve Hutchinson? Fortunately for Seattle, the 2008 draft class was full of offensive linemen worthy of a first round selection, and was extraordinarily deep at the tackle position.

The Seahawks needed to find answers on the defensive side as well. The undersized defense whose success was dependent on speed and quickness was completely abused in the snow against the Packers. Their lack of size was exposed, and needed to be addressed in the offseason. The focus was once again on the defensive line (injuries finally caught up with Marcus Tubbs), where depth and bulk was needed. The linebackers were amongst the best in the league, but there were many other positions (including defensive backfield) in need of an upgrade.

Instead of taking all of these needs with them into draft weekend, Tim Ruskell again utilized free agency to address most of them. This once again allowed the front office to select the best available players, rather than reach for players to fill needs. Julius Jones and T.J. Duckett were signed to relieve the running game, and Shaun Alexander was dumped. Veteran players such as Jeb Putzier (tight end) and Larry Tripplett (defensive tackle) were signed for depth, and guard Mike Wahle was brought in to finally close the rotating door at left guard. Fan favorite Josh Brown departed for a division rival, so Olindo Mare was added as his replacement.

Through transactions prior to the draft, Seattle put themselves in a position where they didn’t need to select a player to fill a need. This has been typical of Ruskell and the front office, and it made predicting Seattle’s draft choices quite difficult. Here is a look at the players Seattle selected last year:

Pick (Overall) Player School Position
Round 1
28 Lawrence Jackson USC Defensive End
Round 2
38 John Carlson Notre Dame Tight End
Round 4
121 Red Bryant Texas A&M Defensive Tackle
Round 5
163 Owen Schmitt West Virginia Fullback
Round 6
189 Tyler Schmitt San Diego State Long Snapper
Round 7
233 Justin Forsett California Running Back
235 Brando Coutu Georgia Kicker

Many experts gave the Seahawks an average grade (at best) for their draft, and most questioned the first two picks (Jackson and Carlson). Analysts criticized the Seahawks for reaching for Jackson when they could’ve selected a wide receiver such as DeSean Jackson or Limas Sweed, or added a more talented prospect at another position. Apparently, Carlson was also a reach in the second round, as many declared his value to be later in the draft.

It is difficult to grade a draft a year later, much less immediately after. However, it appears as if the Seahawks struck gold in the second round, finding the tight end of the future in John Carlson. Carlson was one of the few bright spots on a team that went 4-12 last season. Many people thought the Seahawks would target USC tight end Fred Davis (in the first round even), who was supposedly the best tight end prospect available in the draft. However, the front office was right to pass on Davis, as Carlson exceeded expectations and looks like he’ll be a much better player in the NFL. Fred Davis finished his rookie season with only 3 receptions for 27 yards, and was a distraction off the field.

I think the 2008 NFL Draft will end up being a success for Seattle. Lawrence Jackson, who was injured most of last season and didn’t perform as expected, looks like he’s ready to rebound. Carlson is already a very good tight end in this league, and Red Bryant is finally healthy and ready to contribute to the defensive tackle rotation. Owen Schmitt will finally get an opportunity to start, and should flourish in a run-oriented offense as a traditional blocking fullback. Tyler Schmitt is finally healthy and should challenge for the long snapper spot, and Brandon Coutu will push Olindo Mare for playing time in the near future. Justin Forsett is an undersized, gifted athlete who will get some more looks this preseason.

2008 Draft Outcome:

Lawrence Jackson: Jackson’s rookie season was considered a disappointment by many, mostly because he finished with only 2 sacks on the year. He did play in all 16 games, however, including 14 starts. Jackson will be given every opportunity to succeed next season, and should see improvements in both performance and statistics.

John Carlson: The shining star of the 2008 draft class, Carlson played 16 games and started 9 at tight end. Carlson is the answer Seattle has been looking for at the position, and should be the starter for years to come. He finished his rookie campaign with 55 receptions for 627 yards and 5 touchdowns.

Red Bryant: Bryant was the big body necessary for Seattle’s defensive line, but his rookie year was derailed by injuries. He injured his left knee during training camp, and later suffered an ankle injury during the season. Bryant only played in 4 games, totaling just 8 tackles. Unless injury problems return, Bryant should see the field a lot next season.

Owen Schmitt: The traditional fullback teased fans with a Mohawk and promises of broken facemasks. The organization sold his jerseys before the backup rookie even made any big contributions on the field. Schmitt did play in 15 games, however, and played a large role on special teams. He started once in place of an injured Leonard Weaver, and sometimes was on the field in obvious running situations. Schmitt figures to be the starter at fullback next season.

Tyler Schmitt: Schmitt was selected to solve Seattle’s obvious problems at the long snapper position. In a position where the expectation is perfection, there should never be debate surrounding the ability and performance of a long snapper. Traditionally, long snappers are brought in as undrafted free agents, and maybe the Seahawks should have done just that: Schmitt spent the entire 2008 season on injured reserve, and reportedly had “the back of a 60-year old.” Word is Schmitt is finally healthy and will compete for a roster spot next season.

Justin Forsett: Forsett was the highlight of the 2008 preseason. He offered several highlights, great runs, and left some Seahawks fans wondering if they’d found the running back of the future. He was unable to hold onto a roster spot, however, and was signed by the Indianapolis Colts. After the Colts let him go, a Seattle team depleted by injuries at other positions jumped at the chance to bring him back. He played in 11 games for the Seahawks (14 total, including Indianapolis), contributing on special teams.

Brandon Coutu: The supposed kicker of the future, Coutu was unable to beat out veteran Olindo Mare and spent the season on the bench. The front office apparently likes Coutu’s potential, as he held a roster spot even when the Seahawks were desperate to add depth to other positions.

Tags: 2008 NFL Draft Brandon Coutu Chicago Bears Chris Gray Chris Johnson Defensive Line DeSean Jackson Felix Jones Fred Davis Green Bay Packers Jeb Putzier John Carlson Jonathan Stewart Josh Brown Julius Jones Justin Forsett Lambeau Field Larry Tripplett Lawrence Jackson Limas Sweed Marcus Pollard Marcus Tubbs Matt Hasselbeck Mike Wahle NFC NFL Offensive Tackle Olindo Mare Owen Schmitt Rashard Mendenhall Red Bryant Running Back Seattle Seahawks Shaun Alexander Steve Hutchinson T.J. Duckett Tight End Tim Ruskell Tyler Schmitt Undersized Upgrade Walter Jones Wide Receiver