Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
The Seahawks could use a developmental quarterback to groom as Matt Hasselbeck's long-term replacement. At least that's how I see their situation at the position heading into the draft. But if the analysts are correct, this draft lacks promising quarterback prospects after the first round, making it harder to find strong developmental options without investing massive draft capital -- the fourth overall choice, in Seattle's situation.
Scouts Inc.'s Steve Muench and I debated the subject pretty hard late Monday night. He thinks Seattle needs to draft Matthew Stafford or Mark Sanchez if either is available. He envisions a scenario whereby injuries continue to slow Hasselbeck, hastening the end of the quarterback's career. If the Seahawks do not draft a top-level quarterback this year, Muench contends, the team might not have another opportunity to find one this early in the draft.
The Muench example: Let's say Hasselbeck lasts eight games in 2008. Seneca Wallace might be able to lead Seattle to, say, a 5-3 record to close the season, securing a 2010 draft choice in the middle of the first round. However, the team would be no closer to developing its long-term successor to Hasselbeck. If Seattle drafted Sanchez or Stafford, one of the rookies would gain eight games of solid experience. Sanchez or Stafford might not post that 5-3 record down the stretch, by the experience would put them in position to take over in 2010. Seattle would then be set up for the longer term.
I can see the reasoning, but I also think the Seahawks need immediate help and I'm not convinced either rookie quarterback is good enough to warrant phasing out Hasselbeck so quickly. Any quarterback drafted fourth overall in 2009 would need to be starting no later than 2011 for practical purposes.
The way I see things, this team isn't winning anything anytime soon if Hasselbeck isn't the quarterback. Enough talent remains for Seattle to contend for the playoffs if key players regain their health, and if the Seahawks get immediate contributions from one of the most talented rookies available. None of us knows which rookies will enjoy the most productive careers, but we do know which players are likely to help the most right away. Probably not the quarterbacks.
"We both agree that Sanchez should not be the starter over Hasselbeck next year or even in the second year, but if you look at what they did with Carson Palmer in Cincinnati, that worked very well for them," Muench said. "I also see your point. I feel stronger the other way. The other argument is to say, 'I don't think they need help at receiver.' If Aaron Curry is there, it becomes more interesting. I think you take Sanchez still. Personally, I don't think drafting Crabtree is that much of an option based on who they have at the position."
Muench does make a strong point. He looks at what the Bears paid for Jay Cutler as evidence that it's easier and more cost-effective to draft a quarterback. "You can trade a first-round choice for a receiver later," Muench said, "but it's going to cost you much more trying to trade for a quarterback."
Strong point. But in applying my feel for the situation in Seattle -- how much the team likes Matt Hasselbeck, how much the team wants an immediate impact from its top choice -- I expect the Seahawks to head in a different direction. I think that's particularly true if Crabtree or Curry remains available. If both are gone, a quarterback might make more sense.