The NFL draft is just two weeks removed, the ink is barely dry on analysts' grades and teams have barely gotten a look at their rookies as they prepare for full-squad minicamps this week.
But why should that stop us from looking ahead to the next draft?
It's part of the draft's circle of life -- the start of the next evaluation/speculation season. After draft junkies dissect the draft and decide which teams did it right and which ones messed up (the Seahawks are perhaps the only team that sits in both categories at once), they start looking forward to the next year with preseason rankings and very premature mock drafts.
A silly exercise, of course, but fun nonetheless.
In 2015, odds are very good (4-1 in Vegas, in fact) that the Seahawks will be picking last again -- or at least very late -- and it's not that surprising to see mock drafts projecting the Hawks to use the 32nd pick on the same positions they just drafted with their top two selections this month.
That's right: wide receiver and tackle again.
Now, there is no way of knowing whether those players will be around at that point or whether the Seahawks would even be interested. But it's worth noting that people still think the Hawks will have the same holes they tried to address in this draft, when they picked Colorado receiver Paul Richardson and Missouri right tackle Justin Britt in the second round and also added Alabama receiver Kevin Norwood in the fourth.
In slotting Williams to Seattle next year, Rob Rang of The Sports Xchange/CBSSports.com posits the same reasoning we have mentioned a couple of times recently: "Russell Okung is a Pro Bowl left tackle but he's also proven injury-prone and commands a large salary for a team that may be forced to make tough decisions to fit under the cap."
The Hawks reportedly went into this year's draft looking to add multiple tackles, with the thought that they might not end up keeping Okung when his deal is up. They added Britt to a stable that already includes 2013 rookies Michael Bowie and Alvin Bailey, and Garrett Scott was supposed to work at left tackle until the Seahawks discovered he had a heart condition. They also added undrafted rookie tackle Garry Gilliam, an athletic project with some apparent promise.
It's not a huge stretch to see the Hawks letting Okung play out his contract and walk in 2016 rather than try to shoehorn a contract extension in among the big deals for Russell Wilson, Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, Percy Harvin, et al. They also might consider trading him next year if he has a good 2014 season.
If that is indeed their thinking, and if the younger players do not develop to their liking this year, offensive tackle could well be a need again in 2015.
As for the receiver idea, it seems like a little bit of overkill considering the Hawks just took two promising players this year and have spent their top pick on a speedy receiver in each of the past two drafts (they traded for Harvin in 2013). Perhaps in the worst-case scenario -- Harvin missing a big chunk of the season again and Doug Baldwin going to free agency in 2015 -- the Hawks might try to catch another receiver.
Based on possible losses next year and in 2016, the other positions the Hawks are likely to target in the 2015 draft are:
**Defensive back: Byron Maxwell and Jeron Johnson are both free agents after the season, and nickel corner Jeremy Lane is free after 2015. John Schneider and Pete Carroll will always stock up at this position -- typically in the fifth and sixth rounds, where they have used eight of 15 picks on DBs in five drafts.
**Linebacker: They have not placed high value on linebackers to this point, and they seem unlikely to pay much to keep K.J. Wright and Malcolm Smith after this season. Bobby Wagner's contract is up in 2016, and Bruce Irvin will be free then, too, unless the Hawks pick up his fifth-year option. Kevin Pierre-Louis, a fourth-round pick this year, seems quite likely to jump into the starting lineup in 2015, and the Hawks might end up adding a couple of linebackers in that draft.
**Tight end: Zach Miller is done after 2015, and the Hawks might focus on this spot next year with someone such as Florida State's Nick O'Leary or Notre Dame's Ben Koyack.
**Defensive line: Cliff Avril (2014), Brandon Mebane (2015) and Tony McDaniel (2015) are short-timers. It's possible the Hawks will re-sign Avril and/or Mebane, but they surely will continue to draft D-linemen to add to their developmental stable.
**Running back: It would not be a stunner to see the Hawks use their first-round pick on a back next year. Marshawn Lynch and Robert Turbin are free agents in 2016, and Lynch could be done (in Seattle or for good) at that point. Even if 2013 second-rounder Chris Michael emerges in 2014, the Hawks could be inclined to add a back. If Michael doesn't do anything in 2014, Seattle almost surely will draft a back in 2015. The top backs -- according to NFLDraftScout.com -- are Georgia's Todd Gurley, Alabama's T.J. Yeldon, Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon and South Carolina's Mike Davis.
The Seahawks will have 11 picks next year -- their regular seven plus expected comp picks in the fourth, fifth (two) and sixth rounds. Assuming they trade down from 32 again (yeah, we're projecting another Super Bowl win), they will have 12 selections, which will give them plenty of ammunition to get players at their positions of need and keep their developmental pipeline full.
MORE 2015 HAWK DRAFT TALK
**Markus Golden is not listed in first-round mock drafts, but Rob Staton of Seahawks Draft Blog is high on the heir apparent to Missouri pass rushers Kony Ealy and Michael Sam. Golden had 6.5 sacks as the Tigers' No. 3 rusher last season. Golden is listed as the No. 5 senior defensive end by NFLDraftScout.com.
**Another pass rusher pegged to Seattle is Ohio State's Noah Spence, an undersized rusher (6-3, 247) who led the Buckeyes with 8.5 sacks as a sophomore last season. He was suspended from the Orange Bowl for testing positive for the drug ecstasy. The Big Ten initially suspended him for a full season, but the penalty was cut to three games on appeal, and he is slated to miss the first two games of the 2014 season. He reportedly plans to sue the Big Ten and seems a sure thing to come out after his junior year after this fiasco.
**The Hawks could use some guards to replace James Carpenter and possibly J.R. Sweezy in the next two years, but don't count on them drafting any sooner than the sixth or seventh round. They don't put much value on those guys. Carpenter was drafted in the first round -- as a tackle -- and Sweezy was a DL-OL conversion project in the seventh round. Same with Jared Smith. It's possible -- even likely -- that their starting guards in 2015 will be former seventh-rounders or undrafted players: Sweezy at RG, Michael Bowie or Alvin Bailey at LG.