Last April, when NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced that with the 25th pick in the 2011 NFL Draft that the Seahawks selected offensive tackle James Carpenter from Alabama, many Seahawks fans were probably thinking, "who is this guy?" I may have been guilty of that myself.
If the Seahawks do not make the conventional or popular pick with this years' 12th pick in the NFL Draft, then who could those "out of the box" potential candidates be? With a pick at number twelve, most of the players on the table are going to be 'known' to you, but some of them may not have been considered all that much, based on their position or apparent fit.
When we're talking about players everyone knows at this point, the most popular candidates assumed to be drafted by the Seahawks at 12 are defensive end Quinton Coples from North Carolina, defensive end/linebacker Courtney Upshaw out of Alabama, and defensive end Melvin Ingram out of South Carolina. Throw in Luke Kuechly and you've got nine out of ten mock drafts out there.
But - the Seahawks have been known to shock on draft day (many of their picks were at first graded poorly because of this), and if they do it again this year, who would be some of the "out of the box" athletes that they could select in the first round?
Most people are assuming that the Seahawks will upgrade the pass rush in the draft, but if they decide to go another direction in the first round, what will they end up doing? Here are a few talented players that the Seahawks might be crazy enough to select in the first round with their 12th overall pick:
Michael Floyd, Wide Receiver, Notre Dame:
To me, Michael Floyd would be the most interesting "out of the box" pick for the Seahawks. While the current Seahawks wide receivers have potential, they have battled injuries and inconsistency and have not lived up to the billing. Adding Michael Floyd to this team would give them a young WR with freakish physical abilities. For my money, Michael Floyd is the best wide receiver in this draft.
At 6'3" and 220 pounds, Floyd has the frame and the speed to be a number one dominant receiver, which is something the Seahawks offense has sorely lacked the past few seasons. Floyd is projected to go in the middle of the first round anyway, but the Seahawks would be wise to consider adding a wide receiver with the potential to command double coverage- especially in the red zone.
Trent Richardson, Running Back, Alabama:
Most mock drafts have the 5'9 and 228 pound running back going as a top-5 pick. However, running backs are becoming less and less valuable in the NFL as teams transition to committee use and realize that stud running backs have been found in the late rounds or even as undrafted free agents (such as Arian Foster, LaGarrette Blount, Michael Turner). It's not insane to think that even though Richardson has immense physical skills, he might be this years unexpected "faller" in the NFL Draft.
If Richardson is still on the board when the Seahawks are selecting at 12, then I think it would be a brilliant addition to add the best running back of the draft class. Imagine a backfield comprised of the trucking tandem of Marshawn Lynch and Trent Richardson, buoyed by Leon Washington and led through the hole by Michael Robinson. The Seahawks would arguably have two of the most barbaric and punishing running backs in the league and would have the tools to live out their commitment to the run. A backfield tandem like that could become a two-headed monster that would dominate in the ground game and wear down opposing defenses.
Fletcher Cox, Defensive Tackle, Mississippi State:
The key word describing Fletcher Cox is versatility, and Pete Carroll has been proven to love players with versatility. Cox has the ability to play anywhere on the line in the Seahawks hybrid 4-3 defense. He has the quickness to play outside (ran a 4.79 forty yard dash) and he certainly has the size and strength to play inside at 6'4" and 298 pounds.
Down the stretch of his junior season at Mississippi State, Cox had five sacks in the final seven games - pretty impressive for a guy who spent nearly all of his time in the interior of the defense. With the ability to play on the edge or on the inside, this could make Cox an intriguing prospect for the Seahawks with the 12th pick. He could develop into someone who can bring the heat off the edge and he certainly has potential to became a guy that can produce in the sack category. Fletcher Cox qualifies as an "out of the box" candidate for the Hawks to draft in the first round.
Dont'a Hightower, Linebacker, Alabama:
If the Seahawks selected Dont'a Hightower with their 12th pick, many fans would probably be thinking, "what are they doing?" Hightower is generally regarded as a late first round pick, but there has been speculation that the Seahawks are trying to get Hightower by actually trading down in the first round. First off, Hightower is a huge inside linebacker with an ideal frame at 6'2" and powerful, abnormal size at 265 pounds. At 265, he just might be the biggest inside linebacker as a rookie in the NFL.
While 265 pounds is huge, it does come with some downside. Hightower has trouble making plays outside of the tackle box and has difficulty getting to the sidelines in pursuit. However, inside the tackle box, Hightower is a machine at getting to the ball-carrier. Despite his lack of desired speed, Hightower does show surprising instinct while dropping back in zone coverage. He does struggle in man to man coverage because he simply is not fast enough to compete with receivers or tight ends on a solo basis.
Also, keep in mind that Hightower played for Nick Saban- a defensive mastermind. Hightower will not be as green as many rookies and he has the skill set to immediately play in the Seahawks defense alongside newly resigned LB Leroy Hill. With the Seahawks elite secondary, Hightower would be relatively protected in coverage and could focus on eliminating the running game with his massive 265 pound frame. Hightower also has the ability to play on the edge on third downs and did so at Alabama, and I'm sure Pete Carroll could utilize his versatility and unique skill set so Hightower could make an immediate impact in year one.
That's essentially what you can hope for with the Seahawks first pick. A player - whether it's someone we've all talked about or a more 'outside the box' pick - with extreme potential that can produce immediately on the gridiron.