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Originally published January 30, 2010 at 10:00 PM | Page modified January 31, 2010 at 9:03 PM

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Danny O'Neil

Pete Carroll finishes Senior Bowl evaluations, but reveals little about draft picks

New Seahawks coach Pete Carroll has not given any inkling of what position the team might draft.

Seattle Times NFL reporter

Seahawks' picks

The Seahawks have

two first-round and one second-round pick in this year's NFL draft.

No. 6 The Rams, Lions, Bucs, Redskins and Chiefs pick before them.

No. 14 Acquired in a trade with the Broncos.

No. 40 Their lone second-round pick.

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MOBILE, Ala. — Ready? You better be if you want to keep up with Seahawks coach Pete Carroll.

Set? Neutral is a gear the man simply isn't equipped with. He answered questions as he left Wednesday's practice at the Senior Bowl, but he wasn't going to stop to summarize his three days of scouting 104 of the nation's top senior prospects.

"Let's walk," he said, heading toward the exit of Ladd-Peebles Stadium.

First impressions of the talent at the Senior Bowl?

"Guys are real serious about performing and giving good efforts," Carroll said, "showing what they've got. Intensity was really good. It's fun to get back into the mode of evaluations. I had a good time."

What? You were expecting a cheat sheet on who Carroll was smitten by? Sorry. A poker face is part of draft protocol in this league. Besides, Seattle's evaluations are just beginning for what very well might wind up being a defining draft in Carroll's tenure.

The Seahawks hold three of the first 40 choices in the NFL draft, which begins April 22. It is an incredible opportunity for a franchise starting over with a new coach in Carroll and a first-time general manager in John Schneider. There's also an onus. Seattle can't afford to swing and miss on these chances.

"It's a great situation for us," Carroll said. "I couldn't be more pumped about it. I wish we had a third-rounder. We're going to try to max it out and get as much done as we can."

What's Seattle going to do?

It was the question that circulated among the league's scouts, coaches and executives this week at the Senior Bowl. The Seahawks have a coach returning to the league after 10 years and a general manager who's in charge of the personnel department for the first time.

That makes Seattle a little bit of a wild card, right? No one knows what to expect. Carroll scrunched his face at that term.

"I don't know," he said.

But no one else knows what Seattle's going to do either, and as the analysis of this year's draft began in earnest this week in Alabama, there were more questions than answers concerning Seattle.

1) Will Seattle go big on offense?

In the past five years, they've chosen just two offensive linemen over the first three rounds: Chris Spencer and Max Unger. Both were college centers.

Before Carroll's hiring, most in the league expected Seattle to look for a left tackle. After all, it has been 20 regular-season games and two knee surgeries since Walter Jones suited up, and the Seahawks burned through four starters at that position last season.

But the addition of Alex Gibbs as Seattle's offensive-line coach is a challenge to that assumption. Gibbs is one of the league's top line coaches, a dean of zone blocking and while his system requires athletic linemen, it has not depended on high-end draft choices.

2) Will Seattle put some speed in the backfield?

Over the past four years, Seattle re-signed an NFL MVP in Shaun Alexander, given Hall-of-Famer Edgerrin James a seven-game test drive and added free agents Julius Jones and T.J. Duckett for good measure. The result? Seventh-round pick Justin Forsett was the team's most effective rusher last season.

Do the Seahawks look for a high-end home-run threat out of the backfield, someone like Clemson's C.J. Spiller, or do they depend on the ability to get productivity out of later-round picks like Forsett? That was the formula Gibbs used when he was in Denver and the Broncos swapped out 1,000-yard rushers as if they were changing tires. Terrell Davis, Mike Anderson, Olandis Gary. They all thrived with the Broncos.

3) Will Seattle feel forced to take a quarterback?

Seattle may not need a quarterback right now, but it will eventually. Scouts around the league consider this a weak season for quarterbacks with Oklahoma's Sam Bradford and Notre Dame's Jimmy Clausen considered two of the top prospects.

Carroll already vouched for Matt Hasselbeck's status as Seattle's starter, but the franchise must create a succession plan because he's 34 with an injury history and only one year left on his contract. The fact that Seattle went three years without drafting a single quarterback starting in 2006 has painted the franchise into a corner of sorts. Will it force the Seahawks to reach for a passer with one of those first three picks?

4) Can the Seahawks afford to opt for defense ... again?

Seattle figures to be in position to add a top-rated pass rusher like defensive end Derrick Morgan, an underclassman from Georgia Tech. But Seattle has used its last three first-round picks on defense. In a related development, the Seahawks scored 280 points, their fewest in any season in more than 15 years.

So what will the Seahawks do? It's a question that will be asked repeatedly over the next few months, and one that Carroll and this franchise began to analyze in earnest this week at the Senior Bowl.

"We're in the process of total consumption here," Carroll said.

And with that, Seattle's new coach opened the door to his rental car, his three days of scouting the Senior Bowl over but Seattle's draft preparations just beginning.

Danny O'Neil: 206-464-2364 or doneil@seattletimes.com

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About Danny O'Neil

Danny O'Neil will comment on issues, events and personalities in the NFL. His column will appear on Sundays during the regular season. He also posts most days on the Seahawks Blog.
doneil@seattletimes.com | 206-464-2364

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