Mel Kiper Jr.: Seattle Seahawks' needs match strengths of NFL draft class

Going into the offseason, two specific areas of need stand out for the Seattle Seahawks.

Offensive line is the most obvious. Coach Pete Carroll made it clear they need to get better up front, and left tackle Russell Okung and right guard J.R. Sweezy are both pending free agents.

The other is defensive line and more specifically, pass rush. Both starting defensive tackles -- Brandon Mebane and Ahtyba Rubin -- are slated to be unrestricted free agents. The same goes for Bruce Irvin, who has played a hybrid linebacker/defensive end role.

The good news is that the Seahawks' potential holes seem to align well with the strengths of this year's draft class.

"This is an 'in the trenches' draft," said ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. "It's not a skill position draft. Some really good centers. Some really good offensive guards. Some outstanding tackles. So offensive line is really good.

"Defensive line is the best it's been since probably in my history of doing this, in terms of depth. I don't remember ... I've been doing it since the '78 college football season, and I don't remember as many outstanding defensive ends, defensive tackles, combo guys, as there are this year. It's loaded with elite guys in the first and second round. So if you need a defensive lineman -- end or tackle -- this is the year to get one."

In his most recent mock draft, Kiper projected Ole Miss defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche to the Seahawks with the 26th pick in the first round. But there will likely be many other high ceiling options, particularly on the defensive side of the ball.

With defensive tackles, the key will be pass rush. The Seahawks have shown they can fill in veteran run-stuffers and still be productive. But if the organization identifies a guy who can hold up well against the run and also possesses high upside as an interior pass-rusher, they could pounce.

"I had a lot of different options there," Kiper said. "It ends up being Robert Nkemdiche that dropped that far. If you're looking at other guys that could be there ... Kenny Clark, a really good player at UCLA. Vernon Butler, Louisiana Tech, would be another one. Adolphus Washington, Ohio State. Those would be some guys that could be around. Austin Johnson, Penn State.

"I thought about giving them, with [Bruce] Irvin moving on, to me a pass-rusher like Leonard Floyd at that point, out of Georgia, would be another guy to throw into that mix. Kamalei Correa, pass-rusher out of Boise State. That tends to be the guys that they like at that point. So you could get a pass-rusher or you could get a really good interior presence on the defensive line."

There's still a couple months until the draft, but those are some names to keep an eye on this week when the combine gets under way in Indianapolis.