There might be 31 picks in the first round this year — but there certainly won’t be 31 first round grades handed out by the teams.
This is always the case. A decent average could see around 12-18 legit first round prospects in a given draft class. Unless you’re picking very early (top-15) you’re likely facing a compromise. Do you take the best player remaining at a position of need, trade down or use your first round pick creatively?
In 2013 and 2015 the Seahawks traded their picks for proven veterans — feeling that was a better use of the resource because they weren’t going to land a first round talent. In 2014 they dropped back into round two before selecting Paul Richardson.
They haven’t always gone down that road — I’m not entirely convinced they had James Carpenter down as one of the best fifteen or so players in the draft. That was about filling a priority — taking the best run blocking tackle available to enhance a league-worst running game.
They’re unlikely to make another big trade this year — probably because they can’t afford to do so. So how likely are they to acquire a legit first round prospect with the #26 pick? And how likely are they to trade down?
In December I estimated a total of 18 first round grades for the 2016 class. Two of those players chose to return to college (Cam Sutton and Tre’Davious White). I listed a further 15 players that could realistically be considered in the first frame as a borderline ’round one’ prospect.
Today I’m going to predict a conservative tally of 14 legit first round grades. This takes into the account the likelihood the Seahawks aren’t going to seriously consider one of the top three quarterbacks. I’m also including 18 ‘borderline’ first round grades. Players they might be willing to consider in round one — or could target after a small trade down.
With so many players in the ‘borderline’ category — it probably lends itself to suggesting the Seahawks are likely to move down. However — they haven’t had a serious need (O-line) like this since 2011, where they took Carpenter to try and solve a problem. In that draft a lot of the better O-liners were off the board before Seattle’s pick and options were thin. They’re perhaps unlikely to take too many risks if there are two or three prospects they really like available at #26. Moving down a few spots and remaining in the late first round could be an option.
Legit first rounders
Laremy Tunsil, Taylor Decker, Jack Conklin, Shon Coleman
Tunsil’s a prototype for the position and a former 5-star recruit who’s been on a path to the NFL since High School. Decker is long and more athletic than people realise — plus he has a terrific attitude and fits Seattle’s profile for the O-line. Conklin lacks elite athleticism but plays with such a grit and determination. He wouldn’t be a left tackle in Seattle — but he could be a fantastic left guard or right tackle. Coleman’s age (24) and medical history might be a concern for some teams — but I think he’s a top-20 talent. He’s long, athletic, physical and plays with an edge.
Jaylon Smith, Myles Jack, Darron Lee
The Seahawks want elite speed and athleticism at linebacker. Smith (pre-injury), Jack and Lee all look like 4.4 runners. Smith was a candidate to be the best player in the draft before he hurt his knee against Ohio State. Jack is also recovering from an injury but possesses such a natural athleticism and played running back for UCLA too. Lee is a fiery competitor and an intelligent player with the speed to match.
Joey Bosa, DeForest Buckner, Noah Spence
Bosa could be another Robert Quinn at the next level (he’s possibly just a notch below Quinn’s level of athleticism). Buckner is a powerful, versatile D-lineman that can line up inside and out. He had major production for Oregon. There isn’t another player like Spence in the draft — he has the speed to work the edge, the hand-technique to fight off blocks and the agility to evade blockers and explode.
The Seahawks haven’t drafted a defensive tackle earlier than the third round and I suspect it’s because that player would need to be a very athletic, quick-twitch pass rusher that plays with gap-discipline and spirit vs the run. Rankins consistently embarrassed Graham Glasgow at the Senior Bowl with an explosive get-off, spin move, swim/rip and elite quicks. The Seahawks can find run stuffers in free agency. They struggle to find guys like this because they’re so few and far between.
Eli Apple, Mackensive Alexander, Jaylon Ramsey
Apple looks like he’d be a perfect fit for the Seahawks. He keeps everything in front and doesn’t get beat deep. On top of that he appears to pass the 32-inch arm test and he’s a great athlete. There’s so much potential here. Alexander might not pass the length test but I’ll reserve judgement until the combine. He’s sparky, physical and a great cover corner. Ramsey won’t play CB for every team but his physical style would work well in Seattle.
Borderline first rounders
Jason Spriggs, Nick Martin, Cody Whitehair, Ronnie Stanley
Spriggs reminds me a little of Nate Solder who the Seahawks apparently liked in 2011. He’s long and athletic with upside and could play right tackle. Nick Martin might be the most accomplished O-liner in the draft. He’s a plug-in-and-play center who gets the job done. Whitehair needs time to adjust to center but has the balance, frame and physicality to be a safe pick. Stanley plays with inconsistent effort and someone needs to light a fire under him. He has the athletic upside to stick in round one — but he could fall.
Leonard Floyd, Kyler Fackrell, Deion Jones
Floyd is pencil thin and hasn’t always looked great rushing the passer (see: Shon Coleman blocking him into the car park). He is a terrific athlete though — in one game he covered a teams #1 receiver on a deep route at 6-4 and 231lbs. Fackrell is just a constantly disruptive pass-rushing force — a splash-play specialist. Jones won’t get many first round grades but his fantastic suddenness, fluidity and all-round athleticism could put him near the top of Seattle’s board.
Vernon Butler, Andrew Billings, Robert Nkemdiche, Jarran Reed, A’Shawn Robinson
This is a tough one to gauge. Will they take a bigger, non-quick-twitch interior D-lineman? Butler is intriguing because he combines size, length and quicks to show flashes of Muhammad Wilkerson. He’s still a 325lbs defensive tackle and that’s not something the Seahawks have pursued early. Billings is very strong and athletic but doesn’t play with any kind of discipline and that’s a concern. Nkemdiche might be struck off many boards for off-field concerns despite his massive upside. Reed is a pure run-stopper but plays with his hair on fire. Robinson coasts through a lot of games. He’s an incredible athlete for his size but how badly does he want to be great?
Elliott does everything well. He doesn’t go down on first contact, he can be a home-run hitter, he pass-blocks very well, he’s a threat to catch passes out of the backfield and he makes things happen. He’s the only running back in this class that deserves to go in the first frame.
Will Fuller, Corey Coleman, Laquan Treadwell, Michael Thomas
Fuller’s suddenness and elite speed to separate and explode will surely be coveted by teams in the top-25. Coleman isn’t far behind as a sparky, athletic playmaker that can make the circus catch and be a production machine. Treadwell is Mr. Consistency but might drop a little if he runs in the 4.6’s or 4.7’s. Thomas is a big target with great agility. The stop-and-go route he put on Kendall Fuller was a thing of beauty.
He had a terrific Senior Bowl — flashing range and closing speed. He’s a playmaker in the secondary and had five picks and two forced fumbles in 2015. He has the size (6-2, 210lbs) to play up at the line if needed. Thompson is an ascending talent and appears to be working his way into first round territory.