2014 NFL DRAFT TEAM SPOTLIGHTS: ARI | ATL | BAL | BUF | CAR | CHI | CIN | CLE | DAL | DEN | DET | GB | HOU | IND | JAC | KC | MIA | MIN | NE | NO | NYG | NYJ | OAK | PHI | PIT | SD | SF | SEA | STL | TB | TEN | WAS
Based on the strength of the league's stingiest defense and an opportunistic offense led by Russell Wilson and running back Marshawn Lynch, the Seattle Seahawks earned their first Super Bowl victory in franchise history.
While the Seahawks lost several important players to free agency since thumping the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII, the core roster remains intact and the team looks like an obvious candidate to repeat in 2014. Seattle has a built-in advantage given the relatively miniscule cap numbers allotted to several of their brightest young stars, including Wilson, free safety Earl Thomas and cornerback Richard Sherman.
"I don't think it's any different than winning a national championship and trying to win it again and having another great season one year after the next," head coach Pete Carroll explained at the Combine.
"There's a whole mentality that goes into how you get there that once you get there you continue. It's not a brand new experience. IT doesn't have to be. But it does take great discipline and it does take the proper work ethic and mentality so that you can stay in connection with that which got you there. You have to know how you got there so that you can repeat it and retool. That's the challenge."
The challenge could be in replacing wideout Golden Tate, who led the team in both receptions (64) and receiving yards (898) in 2013. Duplicating the toughness and versatility lost along the scrimmage with starters Red Bryant (DE), Chris Clemons (DE), Breno Giacomini (RT) and Paul McQuistan (LG) playing elsewhere in 2014 could also prove difficult.
Getting back to the Super Bowl would be an extraordinary accomplishment. Just repeating as divisional champs in the ultra-competitive NFC West division might require the Seahawks to once again hit big on draft day - a feat made more difficult given that Seattle gave up their third round pick as part of the package sent to Minnesota for Percy Harvin.
Seattle Seahawks' 2014 draft picks: 32, 64, 132, 146, 172, 208, 247
Primary needs: DE, WR, OL, DT, TE
General manager: John Schneider, fifth year
Five draft picks that clicked:
• QB Russell Wilson, 75th overall, 2012
• CB Richard Sherman, 154th overall, 2011
• FS Earl Thomas, 14th overall, 2010
• SS Kam Chancellor, 133rd overall, 2010
• OLB Malcolm Smith, 242nd overall, 2011
Five players who should be on the Seattle Seahawks' draft radar:
Player, school (overall rating, position rating)
WR Allen Robinson, Penn State (34, 7): Receivers often take longer than most other positions to acclimate to the NFL and the Seahawks remain strong enough at the position to not expect too much from a rookie. During his tenure with the USC Trojans, Carroll frequently supplemented playmaking flankers and slot receivers with a monster split-end. The 6-foot-3, 220 pound Robinson is pro-ready, based on his growth in former Nittany Lions head coach Bill O'Brien's attack and boasts the size, leaping ability and catch radius to be a unique weapon in the red zone.
DE Demarcus Lawrence, Boise State (56, 6): The Seahawks released former starting LEO defensive end Chris Clemons and have Cliff Avril signed for just one more year. Lawrence, who led the Mountain West with 20.5 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks in 2013, is a gifted pass rusher just scratching the surface of his potential. The 6-foot-3, 251 pounder is earning some first-round buzz and might even be in play for Seattle at No. 32 overall if the Seahawks plan to keep 2012 first round pick Bruce Irvin at linebacker.
OT Ja'Wuan James, Tennessee (53, 8): Seattle received quality play from seventh round offensive tackle Michael Bowie a year ago and may feel confident that he'll take over for Giacomini. James, a four-year starter with the size (6-foot-6, 311) and athleticism to fit in nicely in Tom Cable's scheme, would make a lot of sense if still on the board with the final pick of the second round.
DE Josh Mauro, Stanford (133, 13): By re-signing Tony McDaniel, the Seahawks may have their replacement for Bryant at the five-technique position already on the roster. McDaniel has the size and strength to handle the double-teams that come with this role but the Seahawks may be looking for reinforcements, as well as the grit and toughness Bryant demonstrated in Seattle. At 6-foot-6, 280 pounds, Mauro isn't quite as big as McDaniel or Bryant but he's strong, tough and versatile after lining up virtually all over Stanford's three-man front.
OG Brandon Thomas, Clemson (225, 12): Thomas looked like a potential top 50 selection based on three quality seasons starting for the Tigers and a very impressive week of practice at the Senior Bowl but his draft stock took a massive hit when he tragically tore his ACL during a workout. The Seahawks showed a willingness to gamble on players with injury concerns a year ago, essentially giving "redshirt" seasons to former Alabama defensive tackle Jesse Williams and LSU cornerback Tharold Simon as they recovered from serious leg injuries of their own. With a deep enough roster to do the same in 2014, the Seahawks could turn Thomas' misfortune into yet another day three discovery.