MOBILE, Ala. -- Did your team miss the playoffs? Has it been a month since you watched a football game with a real rooting interest? Wishing your favorite also-ran could suddenly become the toast of the NFL?
What you need is a Seahawks Makeover.
You might be wishing for a Broncos Makeover, but one of the primary ingredients is Peyton Manning, a commodity as easy to get your hands on as authentic dragon teeth. A Seahawks Makeover, on the other hand, seems doable: find a bunch of nasty defenders and useful role players in the middle-to-late rounds of the draft, add a steel-eyed little quarterback and a runaway locomotive at running back, then stir. No pipedreams about once-per-generation quarterbacks necessary.
Now, if a Seahawks caliber roster were easy to replicate, there would be 32 of them. But we can look at the Senior Bowl rosters and dream. The Seahawks have selected several Senior Bowl participants in their recent superdrafts, and some of them (Richard Sherman, Russell Wilson) didn't even look that great to the naked eye when they were in Mobile. So let's do a little window shopping for "Seahawks type" players from among this week's standouts, keeping in mind that the Seahawks do their best work when gobbling up odd-fit players other teams did not have the vision to take a risk on. Some of these selections may seem outside-the-box, but your team has been inside that box for too long, and the Seahawks Makeover is as much about inspiration as imitation.
First Round: Aaron Donald, DE, Pittsburgh
Start your makeover with the breakout star of the Senior Bowl, a defensive lineman no one has been able to block through three days of practices. He should slip to your team because he stands just six feet tall and weighs a mere 285 pounds, small by high-round defensive tackle standards. "Donald is a very explosive defensive tackle," Falcons (and North Team) coach Mike Smith said. "I've been very impressed with him. He doesn't have all the measurables, but he's one of the more explosive guys that we have on this team."
Ignore the height and weight and think creatively. Pitt moved Donald from three-tech tackle (the guy between the offensive guard and tackle who typically tries to knife between them) to defensive end on many downs. The Seahawks play a similar mix-and-match game to create mismatches at the line. Donald combines a powerful bull rush and tenacity with exceptional burst. Grab him and immediately increase your options on the defensive line.
If your team is in the top ten of the draft and really wants to splurge on a defensive lineman, consider Ra'Shede Hageman, a 6-foot-6, 318-pound slab of trouble with outstanding strength who routinely overwhelms his blockers.
Second Round: Dee Ford, OLB, Auburn
Don't be afraid of undersized pass rushers! Your Seahawks Makeover allows you to use the "Leo" pass rusher, a smaller guy who lines up extra wide and disrupts the blocking scheme from the edge. The 240-pound Ford may seem undersized even for that specialized role, but his combination of quickness, willingness to slice inside of offensive tackles, and pure violence when he engages a blocker makes up for it.
Ford also clearly loves the game. A blown blocking pattern gave him a free rush at a quarterback at the end of Wednesday's practice, and he shouted "Wheeeeeee!" as he whooshed in to threaten the passer (a rattled David Fales collided with a different defender and dropped to the ground, creating one of the few actual sacks in recent Senior Bowl practice history). "I like his spirit, he loves the game, and he showcases that on the practice field," Jaguars (and South squad) coach Gus Bradley said. "Anytime a guy can come off the edge and show his ability to have some rushes in him, it really pops out to all the coaches."
"For us, in our scheme, the Leo spot is designed for guys like that," Bradley added. Bradley, a former Pete Carroll assistant, is trying to give the Jaguars a Seahawks makeover.
Ford may be playing and whooping his way into the first round; lots of 3-4 teams will give him a long look at outside linebacker. Chris Smith of Auburn is not as quick as Ford, but he is bigger, has spin moves and other tricks, and keeps attacking until a coach yells at him. He has a little bit of a Chris Clemons look to him.
Third Round: Justin Ellis, DT, Louisiana Tech
Speaking of the Leo, even the best little speed rusher is going to be declawed if he does not come bundled with a huge linemate who can do more than eat space and engulf double teams. The Seahawks defense needs Red Bryant and Brandon Mebane types who are nimble enough to slide out to the edges of the line but huge enough to collapse your entire blocking scheme.
How does a 360-pound man with a spin move strike you? Ellis strikes blockers pretty hard, but there is more to him than raw girth. He showed off his wicked spin at the Shrine Game practices. Then, after showing off a not-so-chiseled deep-fried marshmallow physique at weigh-ins, he proved to North squad blockers just how quick-footed he was. In two-on-one blocking drills, he consistently gave his double-teams headaches, getting off the line faster than they anticipated, then staying low to maintain his leverage advantage.
Ellis moved all over the line at college, but he sees himself as a strict one-technique nose defender in the NFL. Whether you line him up over center or slide him off to try his spin move on offensive tackles, Ellis provides the kind of size-athleticism mismatch opportunities that can keep opponents from focusing on a Ford or a Donald.
Fourth Round: C.J. Fiedorowicz, TE, Iowa
Seahawks tight ends are not Jimmy Graham-types who line up in the slot and catch 100 passes. They are blockers who drive the running game and help out in pass protection, slipping into the flats or sneaking up the seam now and then. Upgrade your outside running game quickly by signing Fiedorowicz, an excellent all-purpose blocker who is also a useful short passing weapon.
Fiedorowicz had a big day as a blocker on Tuesday. He stymied Louisville defensive end Marcus Smith on a pass rushing drill, driving the big, quick defender to the turf. During 11-on-11 drills, he consistently locked out top defensive prospects like Michael Sam on stretch runs, carrying them toward the sideline before using quick feet and long arms to pin them away from the ball carrier. The Senior Bowl drills were a carryover from Fiedorowicz's game film: he won battle after battle with edge defenders, using positioning and length to gain a blocking advantage against defensive ends and linebackers.
Of course, blocking alone will get a tight end drafted in the seventh round and buried on special teams. "I think I can prove that I'm a good receiver and route runner," he said. "A lot of people saw me block in college. I have more than that to add to my game." Fiedorowicz is a fine route runner and can catch short passes in traffic. He has also flashed a little bit of downfield speed, though he dropped his best opportunity to show off his all-purpose potential: a crisp pass after a corner route that would show Fiedorowicz can do more than run shallow crosses.
No matter. You will want to run the football much more after your Seahawks makeover. Of course, you will need a running back for that.
Fifth Round: Jerick McKinnon, RB, Georgia Southern
Running backs who look like Marshawn Lynch, and who play a little like Marshawn Lynch, are practically a dime a dozen. Antonio Andrews of Western Kentucky is built like an action figure, runs hard between the tackles, and has impressed as a pass protector. Charles Hyde of Ohio State skipped the Senior Bowl, but he's the kind of huge, durable between-the-tackles runner you imagine in the Lynch role.
But a true Seahawks Makeover requires us to be a little more imaginative. A 215-pound converted quarterback who can truck defenders in the open field? Now that's the kind of promising straw the Seahawks spin into gold.
"Running between the tackles, you have to be a powerful runner," McKinnon said when asked about his open-field truck of Florida State safety Terrence Brooks in the open field. "He came up at the last second and I was already going full speed, so he just laid contact right up. I got the best of it."
One highlight does not a Beast Mode make, but the former option quarterback looks very comfortable running between the tackles and making the quick cut to find the open field. The Seahawks are familiar with the idea of converted quarterbacks at other backfield positions: former Penn State quarterback Michael Robinson has been the team's on-and-off fullback for years. McKinnon looks so natural at running back that no one will remember that he used to take snaps by the time camp opens.
Sixth Round: Pierre Desir, CB, Lindenwood
The key to the Seahawks Makeover is grabbing some king-sized late-round cornerback nobody has ever heard and turning him into one of the NFL's biggest stars. No problem, right? The shadow of Richard Sherman haunts every Senior Bowl cornerback over 6-foot-1; the suppressed eye-roll when asked about the polarizing Seahawks superstar is a more common drill for these young defenders than one-on-ones against wide receivers.
Stanley Jean-Baptiste of Nebraska and Keith McGill of Utah both stand nearly 6-foot-3, and each has had his moments when jamming or otherwise tying up receivers at the line. Both have also displayed the flip-side of being too tall at cornerback: they lose speed when turning upfield or cutting with a receiver, making it easy for smaller guys to shake free of them. (McGill also suffered a minor Wednesday injury.) Neither has looked like Sherman, though it is important to note that Sherman looked nothing like Sherman at the 2011 Senior Bowl. The future All-Pro had only recently moved over from wide receiver, and he got schooled over and over again by his former fellow wideouts.
So let's get creative and select Desir, the small-school interception machine who earned a Senior Bowl invitation with an impressive Shrine Game performance. Desir stands just over 6-foot-1 and weighs 195 pounds. He has made his share of mistakes during his quick, steady climb from Division II through the all-star process, but he has also shown progress. He spent Wednesday's practice getting excellent position against North receivers, swatting away two passes in the end zone during a 7-on-7 drill.
At Lindenwood, Desir faced the opponent's top receiver in press man coverage for nearly the whole game, every game. He's still learning some basics and adjusting to the speed of top-level competition, but the size-athleticism package is there, as is the mentality. "He's a ballhawk, I'm a ballhawk," Desir said when pressed to make a (totally unfair) Sherman comparison. "He uses his long arms to knock receivers off routes, and I do the same things. Differences? He's a little bit taller than me. I feel I can be a little bit better in press man."
Wait, better than Richard Sherman? "He's Richard Sherman. There's not much of anything I can say I am better than him at. He's the best." Hey, there's nothing wrong with a whole lot of confidence. It's very Seahawks appropriate.
Seventh Round: QB ???????
Oh, you expected me to find the next Russell Wilson for you too? Fat chance. But Wilson was not Wilson at the Senior Bowl, either. He did not throw the ball particularly well on those cold, windy 2012 afternoons, and the vanilla systems and drills of the Senior Bowl did little to showcase his talents. There is no quarterback down here that has the "epic leader" buzz that Wilson generated, and only Fresno State's Derek Carr has looked like a true starting prospect on a day-in, day-out basis.
Tell you what: beef up that defensive line, find the tall shutdown cornerback, and build the punishing running game, and you may discover that the fiery, resourceful leader at quarterback is easier to come by.