The Seattle Seahawks lost three quality defensive linemen in the offseason -- defensive ends Chris Clemons and Red Bryant, who were released for salary-cap reasons and signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars, and defensive tackle Clinton McDonald, who signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in free agency.
So picking a defensive lineman early in the NFL draft this week certainly is a possibility. Here's my list of 10 defensive linemen that likely are on the Seahawks' draft board.
Two top defensive lineman aren't on this list because there's no way they fall to the end of Round 1 -- South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney, who may be the first pick, and Aaron Donald of Pittsburgh, who could go in the first 15 picks.
Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame (6-5, 305) -- He's a powerful run-stuffer at end who also can play defensive tackle, similar to Bryant. Tuitt is excellent at pressing the pocket from the inside, but he also can edge rush. He's a bull who had 20½ sacks in 28 starts, but his numbers were down slightly in 2013 after having offseason hernia surgery. Tuitt also pulled out of the combine when a medical scan revealed a fracture in his left foot. He had surgery March 1, but should be 100 percent now.
Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame (6-2, 330) -- Tuitt's teammate, a man who has been compared to New England nose tackle Vince Wilfork. The Seahawks are looking more for another edge rusher than a DT, and it's iffy Nix falls to the end of Round 1. But if he does, they might take him. Nix is outstanding at disrupting any offensive play near the interior line.
Dee Ford, DE, Auburn (6-2, 250) -- Ford is viewed more as a 3-4 linebacker, but he definitely could fill the Leo spot for the Seahawks. He opened some eyes when he ran a 4.5 on his pro day. Ford had 10½ sacks last season and four other tackles for losses. Ford also had two sacks and a pass deflection in the Senior Bowl. He's a little undersized, but his speed helps him make up for it and he will get stronger.
Scott Crichton, DE Oregon State (6-3, 275) -- Projected as a second-round pick, Crichton was a three-year starter for the Beavers. Scouts love how hard he plays and the way he will run down plays from behind and run across the field to make tackles. Crichton is 100 percent on every snap. His motor never quits, which is similar to Seahawks DE Michael Bennett.
Ra'Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota (6-6, 310) -- He's excellent at getting penetration inside and his height enables him to get his hands up and deflect passes. Much longer arms than most DTs, he can play the 3-technique spot well. Much like Seattle DT Tony McDaniel, Hageman will do the dirty work inside.
Kareem Martin, DE, North Carolina (6-6, 270) -- Outstanding quickness for his size. Martin had a standout senior year with 11½ sacks and 21½ tackles for losses, along with three forced fumbles. He's a prototypical DE with the strength to push an OT back or the speed to race around them.
Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri (6-4, 275) -- One of two DEs for the Tigers who are on most draft boards, along with Michael Sam. Ealy has excellent quickness, but he's not the strongest guy for his size. He can beat an OT with his first step and his spin move at the line.
Demarcus Lawrence, DE, Boise State (6-3, 250) -- He has as quick a first step as you'll see anywhere, which helped him post 20 sacks in his two years at Boise State as a JC transfer. Lawrence is a bit of a tweener and probably more of a pass-rush specialist than anything else, but that's not a problem in Seattle's defensive system of rotating lineman and keeping everyone fresh.
Jackson Jeffcoat, DE, Texas (6-3, 245) -- His pedigree alone makes Jeffcoat worth considering as a late-round pick. He's the son of former Dallas Cowboys defensive end Jim Jeffcoat. Jackson was the Big 12 Defensive Player of the year in 2013 when he had 13 sacks and 82 tackles. Jackson is lanky and needs to put on some weight, which he probably will since his dad played at 280.
Michael Sam, DE, Missouri (6-2, 255) -- Sam didn't test well at the combine and he's a bit undersized, but sometimes you have to go by what the man did on the field. You don't become the SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Year (along with Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley) on luck. Sam led the SEC in sacks (10½) and tackles for losses (19) in 2013. He could be a steal for the Seahawks in the fifth or sixth round.