By Brady Henderson
Thursday marked the unofficial beginning of what will be more than three months of draft-related discussion and speculation on 710 ESPN Seattle and 710Sports.com.
Draft analyst Gil Brandt of the NFL Network got things started when he joined Jim Moore and Danny O'Neil to discuss – among other things – his recently released mock draft. The Seahawks own the 25th pick, which Brandt thinks they'll use on Clemson wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins.
DeAndre Hopkins racked up more than 3,000 receiving yards and 27 TDs in three seasons at Clemson. (AP)
Brandt has this to say about Hopkins Thursday:
"I'm probably way too high on him. But, boy, he really played good against LSU – now LSU has got some very, very good defensive backs. He's a tall guy and has got amazing quickness, was a really good athlete. He was an all-state basketball player three years running in the state of South Carolina.
"He's one of those guys ... that you have to look at and decide, are you willing to take him and maybe he's not going to help you a lot his first year? But he's got a lot of potential down the line."
Hopkins, who is leaving Clemson a year early, set a single-season school record with 1,405 receiving yards as a junior. He led the team with 82 catches and set an ACC record with 18 receiving touchdowns.
The LSU game Brandt mentioned was the Chick-fil-A Bowl, the final game of Hopkins' career. He caught 13 passes for 191 yards and two touchdowns against LSU. That was the 12th 100-yard game of his career, setting a new school record.
Wide receiver isn't the Seahawks' most pressing need. Pass rush was their biggest deficiency even though Seattle's defense led the league in scoring. That was the case even before Chris Clemons, the team's leader in sacks, suffered an ACL injury that will likely force him to start next season on the Physically Unable to Perform List.
Value, of course, often trumps need when teams make draft decisions. The Seahawks opted not to take a wide receiver last year because, they reasoned, better players at other positions were available each time it was Seattle's turn to pick.
In his mock draft, Brandt had six pass rushers being taken among the first 24 selections. That could leave the Seahawks without a good enough pass-rushing prospect to warrant drafting at that spot. Addressing other needs would make more sense in that scenario.
Wide receiver seemed like a bigger question mark earlier in the season when Seattle's passing game hadn't yet hit its stride. Sidney Rice and Golden Tate each finished with seven touchdown receptions. Neither topped 800 yards receiving, but their yardage totals (748 for Rice and 688 for Tate) look better when you consider the Seahawks attempted the fewest passes of any team.
Still, the Seahawks could stand to add a wide receiver, specifically a deep threat. Hopkins' 17.1 yards-per-catch average last season was nearly two yards better than any Seahawks receiver. That figure would have ranked sixth in the NFL.