Millions of Americans will follow Thursday’s NFL draft, but very few, I suspect, with as much interest as the manager of the Seahawks Pro Shop. For if the Seattle Seahawks choose former Husky star and local deity Jake Locker, the run on Seahawks #10 jerseys will transcend any in the annals of sports-themed apparel retailing.
Our redoubtable team shop manager, if he survives the onslaught, will have a story to tell at team shop manager conventions to the end of his days.
Of course the Seahawks, owned as they are by best-selling author Paul Allen, need not base their draft-day decision on jersey sales revenue. Locker will be judged on one criterion: Can he help the Seahawks reach the Super Bowl sooner than the other hundreds of 20- to 23-year-old football players available when the Hawks make their first pick, the 25th overall selection.
The Seahawks need a new quarterback. There can be no debate about that. Incumbent Matt Hasselbeck is brittle, immobile, and weak-armed. He’s not even a Seahawk, technically, as Hasselbeck became a free agent at season’s end. No one seems to think that backup Charlie “Touchdown Jesus” Whitehurst is starter material. So selecting a quarterback would make sense. The question is, what kind of quarterback.
Under new offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, the Seahawks are likely to return to the West Coast offense. That is a style that relies on precise throwing and astute decision-making–Jake Locker’s two biggest weaknesses.
While Locker has many strengths–including a cannon arm and gunslinger’s mentality that have some comparing him to Brett Favre–the Seahawks may be more likely to select a quarterback with proven ability in the short passing game, like Nevada’s record-setting Colin Kaepernick or TCU’s red-headed Andy Dalton–though it’s no guarantee any of the three will be around by pick #25. One mock draft has Locker going as high as 12th overall.
And it’s not like the team doesn’t have other needs. Offensive line has been a weak spot for six seasons now. The linebackers used to make impact plays, now you’re just happy if they make tackles. The team hasn’t had a 1,000-yard rusher since 2005, a streak matched only by the Lions. The pass rush made surprising strides last year, but does anyone really think that Chris Clemons will have 11 sacks again next year? And the performance of the team’s diminutive cornerbacks against large receivers has been so apocalyptic that if you sneak up to any Seahawk fan and whisper the name “Larry Fitzgerald” you’re likely to compel a change of trousers.
So the Seahawks may give up their pick in order to “trade down,” in draft parlance: That is, trade their highest selection to another team for two or more picks later in the draft. Which might be smart, but would be very, very boring, and would screw up my second-annual NFL draft party. (Shameless plug! If you are throwing an NFL draft party, check out the NFL draft recipes at ManTestedRecipes, of which I am editor when I’m not writing about sports for fun.)
Here’s to hoping the Hawks embrace the karmic possibilities of the greatest amateur quarterback in state history going pro just as they need someone to play that very position. Yes, Locker is unpolished. Yes, as Art Thiel has pointed out, it’s unfair to ask Locker to shoulder the hopes of the region again. Yes, the Seahawks Pro Shop in Pacific Place just moved into a smaller space. But, dammit, how often does a chance like this come along?