Month: February 2023 (Page 1 of 3)

Mock Seahawks off-season: Pre-combine edition

Free agency, a seven-round mock, Geno’s future. It’s all covered here.

I’ve tried to make this as realistic as possible — and it highlights some of the challenges facing Seattle financially.

The Geno Smith situation

So far, I think the Seahawks have handled this perfectly.

They resisted calls to extend Geno during the season. They’ve taken things into the combine, where all the teams meet and talk business. Smith’s representatives — and the Seahawks — will have a better idea of his value after this week in Indianapolis.

Only then can they make a decision. While there’s obviously mutual interest in getting a deal done, it has to work for both sides.

Carroll spoke to Mike Florio earlier today and said this on Smith:

“Geno’s been us and we’ve been him. We should just do this together. We’ve still got to work out the business part of it. We’ve got a team that needs some help and some areas in free agency that we’ve got to address and we’re looking forward to doing that and this is the game that you play at this time of year. So we’re working hard at it. We’d love to have Geno back.”

The public message has been consistent. They want him back but it has to be at a certain price. It’s the right tactic. Praise Smith, celebrate his 2022 season. Then remind him that to continue what they started — and to get better — they can’t just give him all of their available money. There has to be some give and take.

I don’t think it was a coincidence that Dave Wyman, who hosts a show with John Schneider, casually brought up a belief that Smith wants $40m a year on 710 Seattle Sports. I also think that was a good tactic, if the information was leaked by the team. It informs the fanbase that they’re trying and if it doesn’t happen — it wasn’t really their fault.

So which way does this go?

It might seem a bit of a cop out to start this mock off-season with a hedge but the honest answer is I don’t know.

There are a number of very similar quarterbacks hitting the market. If one of them — Daniel Jones, Derek Carr, Jimmy Garoppolo — gets a big contract, then it’ll make it easier for the others to follow suit. It’s also possible teams are going to smoke this market out. There might not be a great rush to pay. Whether it’s this year or some time in the future, I think the league is going to reach an epiphany on second and third tier quarterback contracts. I do think a consensus might emerge where the view is — pay the best top money, or just use the draft and look for value.

If that happens, they could all end up playing a game of poker, waiting for someone to show their hand first.

For that reason it could mean free agency starts and a few of these players end up in a staring contest with teams. That would be typical for Smith — who took weeks to re-sign in Seattle last year despite it being the only starting job on offer. It even prompted a slightly irked Carroll to make a public statement in a press conference before the 2022 draft to try and get things moving.

I don’t think there’s any chance Seattle uses the franchise tag on Geno because it’s too risky to not get an extension done and be lumbered with a $32.4m charge this year. That would end any hope of doing what Carroll says they need to do — make moves in free agency. The Seahawks only have $14m in effective cap space. They can create more, but not so much more that they can carry $32.4m. They’d lose leverage in talks too because Smith would know he’s guaranteed $32.4m and the team needs to get that number down.

Their best leverage ploy at the moment is their ability to move on. That’s gone the minute they tag him.

Here’s my prediction. They don’t use the tag. I think it’ll come down to Seattle and Tampa Bay. The Buccaneers are making a big push by hiring his QB coach with the Seahawks to be their offensive coordinator. They also just appointed one of Geno’s best friends to be their new QB coach. Todd Bowles also worked with Smith in New York.

How prepared are they to commit future money and guarantees? They are in a desperate cap situation but equally can’t just blow everything up. They have a veteran roster full of players who won’t want to waste their time in a rebuild. Many of the contracts are immovable and will need to be re-worked to get under the cap before the new league year begins. Bowles and GM Jason Licht can ill-afford to endure a wasted season too, or their jobs will be at risk.

The NFC South is winnable. Even if it’s time to suffer through some financial pain to come out the other end, they have a roster that can compete if they have a viable quarterback. I suspect they’ll look at what Seattle did in 2022 and think they can do the same — in a division without the 49ers.

I think Smith could sign with either team. Seahawks or Buccs.

Either way, the amount Seattle spends on a veteran quarterback this year will be similar. Any deal with Smith will require a multi-year agreement with a low cap hit in 2023 for perhaps as little as $8-10m. If he departs, they’ll likely just take that cap number and give it to Drew Lock or another veteran to be the bridge for a season. Or they might sign two veterans for the same cost.

My hunch is they’ll get something done to keep Smith. However, it’ll be a contract with an obvious out as early as next year and will very much keep the door open to draft a quarterback at #5. This could be considered the ideal situation — re-creating the torch-passing we saw in Kansas City when the Chiefs had Alex Smith and drafted Patrick Mahomes.

Creating more cap room

If they spend $8-10m on a quarterback this year, they’ll only have $4-6m in effective cap space remaining. That’s how tight finances are, despite everyone imagining the post-Russell Wilson era would give the Seahawks loads to spend. Most of it has already gone.

Cutting Gabe Jackson is inevitable to create an extra $6.5m. I think they’ll cut Quinton Jefferson too, to save another $4.5m. That would give the Seahawks $15-17m to play with.

Bryan Mone’s injury makes a settlement likely. Cutting him saves $2.6m to bump the available money up to $18-20m.

I would consider re-working Jamal Adams’ contract to create more room. That feels inevitable and really, it’s not unreasonable for the team to go down that route given he hasn’t provided value for money.

They could also look to extend Uchenna Nwosu’s contract to lower his $13m cap hit. He’s set to be a free agent next year and played well in 2022.

They’ll probably need to lower Shelby Harris’ cap hit but I’m not sure how they approach that. I would be against cutting him because he’s too important. He and Al Woods were the only bright spots on the defensive line in 2022. He’s high character and a good scheme fit. If you cut him and re-sign him, how do you do that while carrying $3.3m in dead money? You’d have to get him back for about $4m just to make the process worthwhile. A small extension would be ideal but Harris turns 32 in August. They might have to live with this one and make savings elsewhere.

For the purpose of this article I’m going to say they have $20-22m in effective cap space to use in free agency.

Seattle’s other free agents

It might take a bit of time with this one but I can imagine Rashaad Penny returning to Seattle. They gave him a decent contract in 2022, a show of faith. It might be time to return the favour now after another season lost to injury. This shouldn’t be a bank-breaker and will allow the team to feel good about having two runners. Let’s say he comes back for $3.5m.

Poona Ford was an ill-fit in Seattle’s new defensive scheme. As well liked as he is, they might need to try and find a different type of defensive lineman.

Austin Blythe has just announced his retirement. He will need to be replaced.

Will Cody Barton return? Possibly but it’s likely to be a very modest contract and both parties might feel like a change of scenery is needed. I would imagine they have a lot of interest in bringing back Travis Homer for his special teams value (and they seem to like his attitude and versatility). Between them it might cost $2m.

The only other significant free agent is Drew Lock. The Seahawks would surely like to bring him back but it’ll depend on interest elsewhere and whether there’s a better route to start with another team. If his market is lukewarm, after a period of time he could come back to provide competition and depth. He’s a lot more likely to return, obviously, if Smith moves on.

It seems inevitable that Ryan Neal will receive a tender. Do they risk using the right of first refusal rather a second round tender, to save $1.7m? I’m going to say yes due to Neal’s injury record. They get him back for $2.6m.

Michael Jackson played well enough across from Tariq Woolen to be kept as an exclusive rights free agent. I’d imagine they retain Godwin Igwebuike as an ERFA too after the way he provided a major boost in the return game. There’s also probably enough to keep Myles Adams around in the same situation as an ERFA.

These moves, plus a quarterback signing, will not leave much cap room left to go shopping. It might be as little as $10-12m.

Outside free agent signings

I think they will key-in on a couple of positions like last year and look to make similar signings. In 2022 they brought in Nwosu, brought back Jefferson, added Blythe and signed Artie Burns.

I’m going to look for similar level signings, given how little they have to play with.

This is not a good center class in the draft. I don’t have any player graded higher than round three — although I’m willing to move players up into round two if they perform well at the combine. Even then, I think Joe Tippmann (who should be the top tester at center) might be better suited to guard.

Even with a haul of picks I don’t think you can bank on a center you like being available. Let’s say the Seahawks rate John Michael Schmitz higher than I do. You can’t go into the draft assuming he’ll be available on day two.

Thus, I think this is a key area for free agency.

I would ask about Minnesota’s Garrett Bradbury first and foremost. He played for Kevin O’Connell last season, running the same offense as Shane Waldron. He’ll know the terminology. He’s also ideally sized (6-3, 300lbs) for the type of center they want (leverage is key). He ran a 4.53 short shuttle at his combine — that’s the type of short-area agility Seattle wants at the position.

They might be prepared to make a 2-3 year commitment here in order to keep the 2023 cap-hit low. We also know the Seahawks like a reclamation project and Bradbury, a former #18 overall pick, would be a nice challenge for them. He’s been solid if unspectacular — but that’s OK at center. You can live with solid.

If his price is too high then the other name I’d go for is Jake Brendel. He’s arguably an even better scheme fit. He’s 6-4 and 299lbs and has the wrestling background they like. His short shuttle was an outstanding 4.27. After a few years bouncing around the league he found a home in San Francisco and he did a good job replacing Alex Mack.

The Kyle Shanahan scheme shares DNA with the Sean McVay scheme — so it’d be a comfortable transition for Brendel.

The 49ers have cap problems and might not be able to match even a ‘decent’ offer to Brendel. They seem to like backup Daniel Brunskill and appear ready to re-sign him if they need to make a move.

Sign one of these two players and it’s another box ticked before the draft. I’m not sure how you’d structure the deals — multi-year or single season — but It’d help to put down some roots on a 2-3 year deal. That could enable you to keep the 2023 cap-hit down, perhaps as low as Blythe’s $4m in 2022.

Next, defensive line.

You might only have enough space to make one signing, with the rest of your moves coming in free agency.

I would put the feelers out to see if there’s a ‘Nwosu-style’ deal to be done with Arizona’s Zach Allen. As with Nwosu, he’s at a good age (26 in August) and just building into his prime. We noted the Seahawks put a lot of emphasis on the short shuttle on the D-line and he ran a superb 4.36. He’s a classic 3-4 defensive end too — the kind who can disrupt and play the run with great length (35 inch arms). Basically he’s exactly what they need.

I just think the Cardinals can ill-afford to lose him, especially to a division rival, and will work hard to keep him in Arizona. He might be too pricey. If it’s possible, he’d be a key target for me.

John Cominsky could be an alternative. He was claimed off waivers by the Lions a year ago, after being released by Atlanta. He developed into a heart-and-soul contributor in Detroit and a vital part of their blossoming defense. He also has decent length and size (34 1/2 inch arms, 290lbs) and he ran a 4.38 short shuttle. He turns 28 in November and could be viewed as another rising talent reaching his peak, with high character and grit.

The other name to mention is A’Shawn Robinson. He’s viewed as a good run defender and that’s something the Seahawks badly need. He has 34 1/2 inch arms and isn’t as athletic as the others but he’d be more of a base down, rotational run defender than a disruptor.

He signed a two-year deal in LA worth $8.5m a season. He turns 28 in March. If the sparkle of Allen or Cominsky isn’t available — or if the Seahawks just want a stout, reliable run defender instead — Robinson could be an alternative. I think, based on price and market, Robinson is the more likely option.

If there’s anything left after signing a center and a defensive lineman, adding a linebacker is necessary. I don’t think they have any chance of being able to afford Bobby Wagner, so who is an alternative?

We’ve identified that the Seahawks also place a lot of emphasis on the short shuttle at linebacker. Cole Holcomb ran a fantastic 4.14 shuttle at his combine — plus a 4.51 forty. He has been hailed in Washington for his leadership and performance and he only turns 27 in July. His stock might be impacted slightly by an injury-hit 2022 season where a foot injury meant he didn’t play after week seven.

He could be a cheap, physical, fast linebacker who can come in and carve out a role on a one-year prove-it deal.

So this is how free agency shapes out in this projection:

— Garrett Bradbury or Jake Brendel
— A’Shawn Robinson (assuming Zach Allen & John Cominsky aren’t available)
— Cole Holcomb

Onto the draft.

Character is the key

It’s hardly a revelation that teams want ‘good character’ players. However, John Schneider and Pete Carroll keep ramming home the point when they talk about the draft.

Schneider has taken a couple of opportunities to talk about how important that was a year ago. We noted on Friday that the radio host who does a weekly show with Seattle’s GM dropped a nugget of information, claiming the Seahawks had no interest in Kayvon Thibodeaux (who concerned teams about his non-stop talking about his personal brand).

Today, Phil Simms asked Carroll about Seattle’s priorities this off-season. He immediately brought up the same thing Schneider has been talking about. Last year they placed a big emphasis on high-character players and had a good draft. Now, they want to repeat that:

“We want to keep adding competitive guys who are really over the top that way. We hit it with the height-weight-speed with Tariq Woolen but we found out he was a terrific competitor too. We want to keep adding to it because the guys who came through this year for us in this last year’s draft all have great make-up. They have confidence in themselves, the willingness to say, ‘Ok I don’t know everything but I’m going to dig in and fight and claw and scratch and hang with it’. And we were rewarded with a great class last year. It’s the make-up of the kids that’s so important. I want to stay with that and really make sure that’s at the very source of what we’re doing in this process.”

This is more than token chatter from a GM and Head Coach trying their best not to give anything away. They keep referring back to the last draft. We can all see the players they selected had a similar type of personality. No risks were taken, no compromises made. That’s why Thibodeaux was of no interest.

When I listen to the words they’re using, this is what I think. Players like Will Anderson, Will Levis, C.J. Stroud and Bryce Young fit the bill at #5. I don’t know enough about Tyree Wilson or Anthony Richardson to add them to that list — but I haven’t seen anything negative. At #20 I’d suspect players like Josh Downs and Michael Mayer are the types of high-character talent that will interest them. Hendon Hooker is another big-time character guy, so is Nolan Smith and Ji’Ayir Brown.

On the other side of the equation — I cannot imagine they’ll have much interest (if any at all) in Jalen Carter. There are too many question marks about his maturity. Jaelyn Duncan might be a hard sell unless he lasts deep into the draft and becomes too much of a value pick. I doubt they’ll have much interest in Rashee Rice.

There are other players I can mention in both categories but you get the point.

This is going to be a huge part of Seattle’s 2023 class. They feel like the attitude and maturity of the players they selected a year ago helped them have a great draft. They are going to build on that and this will likely be a risk-free process once again.

In doing a seven round mock — I’m going to put a big emphasis on character and leadership.

#5 (R1) — Will Levis (QB, Kentucky)
If John Schneider sees a quarterback he likes — and if that player is available at #5 — he will probably take him. Even if Geno Smith is re-signed. This is a rare opportunity. A first top-five pick since Schneider became GM. So why Levis? Schneider loves traits at the position. From Charlie Whitehurst to Patrick Mahomes to Josh Allen and Drew Lock. All are big, strong, downfield throwers with plus athleticism. Even Russell Wilson fits the bill, just in a smaller frame. Levis has the physical tools Schneider craves. We also know the Seahawks are placing a strong emphasis on character. Levis is 10/10 in this regard. I’ve interviewed him personally and have spoken to people about him. He is beloved. He lives in the gym, he gave everything to UK despite the situation he faced in 2022 and he will impress teams with his intelligence and attitude. Finally, he played for Liam Coen in 2021 and has the inside track on Seattle’s scheme. If Levis lasts to #5, I think there’s a very good chance the Seahawks will take him — either to start or compete with Geno Smith. Once he’s performed at the combine, the narrative will change on Levis — to what he can be, not how he wasn’t a mistake-free dynamo in a thankless task of a situation in Kentucky. He has special physical qualities. If Levis is gone, I think they’ll strongly consider one of the other top-four QB’s in this spot.

#20 (R1) — Will McDonald (EDGE, Iowa State)
With so many high picks this year, the Seahawks can afford to take a quarterback at #5 and still get a defensive player they really like at #20. McDonald looks exactly like a Seahawks pass rusher. He’s lean and long with explosive qualities. He can bend and straighten like the best in the league and he set the sack record at Iowa State. There’s a flash of star quality with McDonald as we saw at the Senior Bowl. He’s expected to test brilliantly in all the key areas at his position — 10-yard split, vertical and broad jump, short shuttle. He could be added to the rotation and he’s a great fit for the defensive scheme. The only concern might be that his stock moves way up after the combine.

#38 (R2) — Josh Downs (WR, North Carolina)
I have a hunch that Downs could end up being a ‘must have’ player for the Seahawks. Again, Carroll and Schneider have talked about a big emphasis on character. Downs already speaks like a seasoned veteran. He has NFL bloodlines through his dad, who’s also a coach. His uncle is Dre Bly. He speaks and carries himself like a pro and has a level of maturity that will likely appeal to the Seahawks. There’s talk he could run in the 4.3’s so you might have to think about him in round one. Then there’s his style of player — which is eerily similar to Tyler Lockett. He high-points the ball superbly for his size, can make big plays downfield and his short-area quickness creates ample separation on shorter routes. He’s very difficult to cover and very competitive. They were aggressive in trading up for Lockett and D.K. Metcalf. I wonder if they’ll go for the hat-trick and move up for Downs, who just plays and acts like a Seahawk.

#53 (R2) — Byron Young (DE, Alabama)
I think this would be a perfect fit, although I’m eager to see how he tests. For this position — a big, 290lbs 3-4 DE — you’re looking for a good short shuttle at his size. Explosive traits aren’t necessarily a factor. I hope he fits the bill because there’s so much to like with Young. Firstly, he’s another high-character player. He’s a big-time leader at Alabama and would immediately add another serious, mature player to Seattle’s defensive front. He’s strong and powerful at the point of attack. He shoots gaps and creates consistent disruption, showing surprising quickness at times. Perhaps most importantly for Seattle’s scheme, he’s adept at read/react and responding to the play-call. He might not be the second coming of Cameron Heyward but there’s a chance he’ll be able to start quickly, perform consistently and do an important job to help protect the second level and allow the edge rushers and linebackers to excel. He was an unheralded but vital player at Alabama in 2022. Young is the type who won’t get people leaping out of their seats on draft day — but really, in terms of solidifying the defensive front, he’s what they need. He could be the 2023 answer to Damien Lewis — a top SEC performer flying under the radar, who should go in this range but maybe lasts to the early third round. They might be able to trade down a few spots and still get him.

#84 (R3) — Cameron Young (DT, Mississippi State)
This is the kind of range where the Seahawks have traditionally targeted defensive tackle help. They still view length as a vital component and Young’s arms were measured at 35 inches at the Senior Bowl. He has terrific size at 6-3 and 304lbs and he shone in Mobile — driving blockers into the backfield and using his long arms and power to his advantage. I think there’s untapped potential here and again — I hope his shuttle time is good enough in Indianapolis to justify the projection. It might not get the pulses racing if the Seahawks try to fix their D-line with A’Shawn Robinson, Will McDonald, Byron Young and Cameron Young (while cutting Jefferson & Mone and retaining Woods/Harris) but I think you’d be adding sparkle off the edge and toughness and size inside.

#124 (R4) — Daiyan Henley (LB, Washington State)
Having added to the defensive front, now it’s time to add a linebacker. Henley could go a round earlier than this if he tests well. Certainly the way he covered in 1v1 drills at the Senior Bowl will have teams very intrigued. Even so, we’ve seen plenty of athletic linebackers last into the top-end of day three and that’s possible for Henley. To interest the Seahawks he’ll either need to prove he has plus athleticism overall (forty, explosive testing) or he’ll need a great shuttle time. If they wanted to try and add a running back here instead — Roschon Johnson has the size, speed and special teams value that could really appeal to Seattle. It’s a deep class though and there are plenty of alternatives.

#154 (R5) — Nick Broeker (G, Ole Miss)
I really liked what he showed on tape — he’s highly competitive, loves to get to the second level and when he gets his hands in the right position he can lock on and finish. He switched from tackle to guard at Ole Miss and I thought he played well in the Senior Bowl game, combining with Nick Saldiveri to create running lanes. The Seahawks have bought into the Rams’ blocking scheme and with these two picks in round five, I have them doubling up to bring in depth and competition for the interior. They could try Broeker at center or guard.

#157 (R5) — Ryan Hayes (G, Michigan)
He had a hit-and-miss time at the Senior Bowl but the reason I’m pairing him with the Seahawks is because it’s the type of pick the Rams make for their offensive line. Within this scheme, they have consistently added college tackles and kicked them inside. They did it with David Edwards and more recently with Logan Bruss (two other Big-10 tackles). Hayes was the left tackle for a Michigan O-line that won back-to-back Joe Moore Awards. He’s also good on the move, getting into space and latching onto targets. He’s a fit in that regard and it’ll be interesting to see if the Seahawks begin to transition their guards to fit what the Rams do in the same blocking scheme.

#199 (R6) — Larry Brooks (S, Tulane)
I just love the way Brooks plays — his intensity, his hitting, the way he carries that #31 on his back. This is the range where you look for special teamers and Brooks has the kind of approach that lends itself to fitting in that role. He hasn’t been invited to the combine but he’s someone who could still be drafted in the later rounds.

Final thoughts

I genuinely wish they had more money to spend in free agency. It’s not even because I want them to go out and land a big fish like Javon Hargrave. It’d just be better to think they can easily go and compete for a Zach Allen, add multiple defensive linemen at a good age, truly improve that area of the team and feel good about it.

I wish they could do what the Bengals did a couple of years ago and set out to sign a duo like D.J. Reader and Trey Hendrickson to super-charge the D-line.

Instead, in going through this exercise, you realise how limited they are. It’s going to be incredibly difficult to improve this roster in free agency. Yet when the Russell Wilson trade was announced, one of the big positives was the cap saving for 2023.

That benefit has evaporated and it’s hard to say $49.3m of your cap being used on Jamal Adams, Quandre Diggs, Will Dissly and Phil Haynes is value for money.

Still, this is the situation they’re left with. I think the projection above is realistic even if you disagree with it.

Let me know what you think and if you missed it yesterday, please check out (and share) our extensive combine preview.

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The ultimate Seahawks combine preview 2023


This is a very different draft class at the top of the board compared to a year ago. You won’t find a left tackle worthy of a top-10 grade, a year after three were taken in that range. We could see four quarterbacks selected in the top-10 — a stark contrast to last year where just one signal caller was taken in the first two rounds.

There’s depth at running back, defensive end and cornerback — but it’s top-heavy at quarterback and tight end. It’s also light at defensive tackle and safety.

Several players are expected to test brilliantly — including defensive tackle Mazi Smith, receiver Quentin Johnston, tight end Luke Musgrave, defensive lineman Adetomiwa Adebawore and pass rusher Will McDonald.

The top quarterbacks could make headlines — with Anthony Richardson and Will Levis having the kind of arm strength that will have scouts salivating. Both are set to throw and so will C.J. Stroud. Bryce Young will not throw at the combine.

It’s been revealed that Jalen Carter is opting not to do any workouts or drills and neither will Tyree Wilson. Will Anderson is going to do some of the on-field drills but is being made to work with the linebackers.

Travon Walker had an excellent combine last year and was able to propel himself to the #1 overall pick. I’m not sure anyone will repeat that but as with the 2022 class — a lack of obvious blue-chippers will present several players with a big opportunity in Indianapolis.

Changes to the combine

Last year was a shambles and an embarrassment to the NFL.

By opting to move the bench press to the same day as on-field drills, barely anyone participated in it.

The never-ending desire to make even more money also saw the retention of ‘prime-time’ coverage. This meant players were doing drills late into the evening. By the time they’d finished, most skipped the three cone and short shuttle because they were being asked to do it at 9-10pm.

Thankfully there are changes this year but you can easily argue they don’t go far enough.

The bench press is being moved and will once again take place on a separate day to on-field drills. However, it now occurs on the final day of the event for each participant. Previously, it used to take place on the day before drills. I’m not convinced many players will bother to stick around for it, especially those who excel in the testing and feel like they’ve done enough to improve their stock.

Timings have also changed. Last year, the Thursday, Friday and Saturday workouts all began at 4pm ET. Now, the Thursday and Friday sessions begin an hour earlier at 3pm and the Saturday and Sunday workouts start at 1pm.

This is useful because the earlier start time will hopefully encourage players to do the agility testing. Certainly there’s little excuse for the Saturday and Sunday participants not to do the short shuttle and three cone.

I wish all the testing began at 1pm though. The NFL has already tainted its own product by introducing a pointless 17th game and a seventh playoff seed. The need to get every last cent out of the scouting combine — an event that should simply be an information gathering exercise for teams — is the ultimate face-palm.

The order of testing has changed. The D-liners and linebackers will kick things off, followed by the defensive backs. This is a reversal of previous years, where the offensive players began the event.

One other thing to mention is it’s being suggested the league will trial the use of body scans this year for measurements. The hope is that by 2024, they’ll no longer have to measure arm length and hand size in the traditional, manual way — producing a more consistent, accurate result.

Workout schedule

» Thursday 2nd March (3-8pm ET): defensive linemen and linebackers
» Friday 3rd March (3-8pm ET): defensive backs, special teams
» Saturday 6th March (1-8pm ET): tight ends, quarterbacks, wide receivers
» Sunday 7th March (1-7pm ET): offensive linemen, running backs

Horizontal board

Here is how I have graded scouted players going into the combine.

Click the image to enlarge:

Groups 1-3: DT, DE & LB

Arrival: Sunday 26th February
Team interviews: Monday 27th February
General medical exam: Tuesday 28th February
Media & NFLPA meeting: Wednesday 1st March
Measurements, on-field drills: Thursday 2nd March
Bench press & broadcast interviews: Friday 3rd March

Michigan’s Mazi Smith is expected to be a top performer at the combine

Defensive tackle
None of Seattle’s previous defensive tackle picks have been explosive testers, with an average vertical jump of 26.8 inches among the group. The short shuttle appears to be more important. Seattle has used third round picks on the following:

Naz Jones — 4.63 ss
Jaye Howard — 4.47 ss
Jordan Hill — 4.55 ss

As you can see, all three recorded fantastic shuttles for their size.

They also drafted Pep Livingston in round seven (4.62). Jarran Reed, their highest pick at defensive tackle (round two, 2016) ran a 4.75 which is decent enough given he was seen as a stout anchor for the interior, rather than a dynamic athlete.

Of the eight defensive tackles drafted, six had +33 inch arms. Clint Hurtt spoke about the importance of length at the position during the season. The 33-inch threshold has been important for Seattle and is likely to be a key consideration again.

They have drafted two defensive tackles with sub-33 inch arms but they were Demarcus Christmas and Jesse Williams — two later round picks. Both were well known college players who dropped in the draft (Williams for health reasons, Christmas for poor testing). Both performed badly in the agility testing but ran surprisingly well — Williams recording a 4.92 forty and Christmas a 5.08.

I think it suggests that when there’s a chance to be opportunistic later on, they are prepared to overlook a lack of length. Otherwise it has been a priority.

Key tests
Short Shuttle, Three-cone, 10-yard split, Forty

Ideal size
+6-2, 300-310lbs, +33 inch arms, 4.50-4.65 ss

Positional assessment
This is not a deep DT class but there are some options. Jalen Carter is the headline act at the top of the board but there are legitimate concerns about his maturity and conditioning. It’s now being reported he won’t do any testing at the combine. I can’t imagine this will be well received by teams, with maturity concerns and a feeling that he more or less did what he wanted at Georgia. Calijah Kancey and Mazi Smith are expected to have short arms — perhaps too short for Seattle — but both players are expected to make a star-turn in Indianapolis and be among the best testers at any position. It’ll be interesting to see how Keeanu Benton, Cameron Young and Zacch Pickens perform after playing well at the Senior Bowl. Bryan Bresee, who was too inconsistent at Clemson and missed a lot of games over the last two years, will hope to enhance his stock. He could be one of the top-testers because he’s naturally a fantastic athlete. Keep an eye on his arm length though.

Interesting note
This hasn’t traditionally been a position the Seahawks have invested high stock in. When they took Jarran Reed with the 46th pick in 2016, they traded up using a fourth rounder. Afterwards John Schneider admitted they considered taking Reed with their first round pick (used on Germain Ifedi) and thought the value was too good. Need could heavily influence their decision making in 2023 but typically they have preferred to target the defensive tackle position in the mid-to-late rounds

Best drills to watch
I like to watch the swim/rip drills for defensive tackles. I also like to watch how they get in-and-out of the bags with their footwork and how they punch and move. Who plays with violence, even in this setting?

Five names to watch
Calijah Kancey, Mazi Smith, Zacch Pickens, Keeanu Benton, Moro Ojomo

Potential standout
It has to be Mazi Smith. He was named #1 on Bruce Feldman’s ‘freaks’ list for 2022. He can reportedly run a 4.41 short shuttle at around 337lbs, plus a 6.95 three cone. He’s also explosive — jumping a 9-5 broad and a 33-inch vertical. He might not be Jordan Davis a year ago running the forty but he should still make headlines.

Importance to the Seahawks?
It’s a huge need. Seattle’s defensive line hasn’t been good enough for too long. They need impact disruptors and players who can do a better job clogging lanes against the run. This is likely a position they’ll be watching very closely.

Adetomiwa Adebawore shone at the Senior Bowl and is expected to produce a great workout

Inside/out rushers or 5-techniques
This has typically been a position where the Seahawks have sought difference-making athletes in the draft. The most obvious example of this is Malik McDowell, who they took with their top selection in 2017. At 6-6 and 295lbs he had outstanding length (35-inch arms), agility (4.53 short shuttle) and great speed for his size (4.85 forty plus a 1.69 10-yard split). His explosive testing, however, was relatively poor (28.5-inch vertical) — perhaps further highlighting that explosive traits haven’t been that important to the Seahawks for defensive linemen.

A year later they took Rasheem Green. At 6-4 and 275lbs he also had good length (34-inch arms), great agility (4.39 short shuttle) plus a strong performance in the sprints (4.73 forty, 1.65 10-yard split). Before drafting McDowell or Green, they selected Quinton Jefferson in 2016. At 291lbs he ran a 4.37 short shuttle plus a 4.95 forty with a 1.69 10-yard split.

Given they re-signed Jefferson a year ago to play in their adjusted defensive system, it seems like the profile of these players still matches what they’re looking. Although they certainly need to add at defensive tackle — typically the 3-4 teams have big-bodied five-techniques flanking a nose tackle.

They used a first round pick on L.J. Collier to try and fill this position in 2019. That pick is interesting for two reasons. Firstly — he was a departure from their athletic preferences. He ran a mediocre 4.91 forty and a 4.78 short shuttle. Collier was explosive (30 inch vertical, 9-10 broad jump) and impressed at the Senior Bowl but that’s not typically what they’ve gone for. Secondly — it reinforced, after McDowell, they’re willing to spend a high pick on this position.

The fact that Collier appeared so limited in the NFL could steer them back towards athletes. I suspect the pick was an over-correction from the McDowell situation. Collier was fiery and intense, passionate and seen as an over-achiever at TCU. In the end he just wasn’t good enough. Character clearly still matters though — as we keep hearing from John Schneider. I’m just not sure they’ll spend a high pick on another Collier type. I suspect any prospective pick will need to be a good athlete and have high character.

Key tests
Short Shuttle, Forty, 10-yard split

Ideal size
DL — +6-2, 275-295lbs, +33 inch arms, 4.35-4.50 ss

Positional assessment
There aren’t a lot of options and the players who typically fit the bill are going to go quite early. Keion White is being talked about as a solid first round pick and with a good combine he could confirm that status. He was ranked 20th on Bruce Feldman’s freak list, so a good showing is expected. He’s likely to be out-performed by Adetomiwa Adebawore, however. The Northwestern athlete, who lit up the Senior Bowl, is going to be one of the top-testers. More on that in a bit. Lukas Van Ness is seen by a lot of people as a first round pick despite the fact he didn’t start at Iowa. Tuli Tuipulotu made a lot of splash plays for USC but how he measures and tests will be crucial given his stocky, shorter frame. Personally I’m a big fan of Alabama’s Byron Young and hope that he can perform well enough to back-up what he shows on tape. It’s also worth noting that Young is an all-star when it comes to character.

Interesting note
The Seahawks have selected a defensive lineman with one of their first two picks in seven of the last eight drafts (Boye Mafe, Darrell Taylor, L.J. Collier, Rasheem Green, Malik McDowell, Jarran Reed, Frank Clark). With a strong D-line need this year, the chances are they’ll do it again in 2023.

Best drills to watch
The two I’ll be watching closely is the figure of eight (where a player has to run around two hoops, picking an object up within the first hoop and placing it down in the second) plus the test where they have to run between a line of bags, slapping two away and spinning past one, before rounding a final bag and finishing. These drills show off change-of direction, ankle-flexion, power and quickness.

Five names to watch
Adetomiwa Adebawore, Keion White, Byron Young (ALA), Lukas Van Ness, Tuli Tuipulotu

Potential standout
Despite being 285lbs, Adetomiwa Adebawore is expected to run a 4.05 short shuttle and a 6.90 three-cone. He’s also expected to jump a 10-5 broad and a 37.5-inch vertical. These would be special times for a man his size. You can watch my interview with Adebawore by clicking here.

Importance to the Seahawks?
This might be an even bigger need than defensive tackle. They have a big, stout nose tackle type in Al Woods and he had a good season in 2022. What they need are players who are in the 290lbs range and can play the run but still provide a level of disruption. If one of these players runs a great short shuttle and has the necessary length/size — they could become a big target for the Seahawks.

Will McDonald looks and plays like a Seahawks’ pass rusher

Edge rushers
Twitch seems to be the name of the game here — with a long, lean frame also a preference. The Seahawks have drafted four edge rushers in the first two rounds. Darrell Taylor couldn’t test due to injury — but we can well imagine he would be in a similar range to the names I’m about to bring up.

Bruce Irvin ran a 4.50 forty with a 10-yard split of 1.55. He added a short shuttle of 4.03. Frank Clark ran a 4.68 forty with a 1.58 10-yard split and a 4.05 short shuttle. Boye Mafe didn’t run a shuttle a year ago but he did run a 4.53 with a 1.56 10-yard split. All three players were explosive too — Irvin jumped a 33.5-inch vertical, Clark had a 38.5-inch jump and Mafe was close behind with a 38-inch vertical.

What we need to look out for are splits in the 1.5’s, a top-tier short shuttle in the 4.0’s or 4.1’s and explosive testing in the vertical/broad jumps.

A 10-yard split in the 1.5’s is considered elite. A reminder that Cliff Avril famously ran a 1.50. If you’re running a short shuttle in the 4.00’s with the size of an EDGE or defensive end, that is remarkable.

Even Seattle’s later round picks all performed relatively well in the shuttle. Cassius Marsh (4.25), Obum Gwacham (4.28) and Alton Robinson (4.32) all excelled.

Is arm length as much of a consideration now that the Seahawks are using 3-4 concepts? Possibly not. Mafe measured a shade under the 33-inch threshold, as did Tyreke Smith. Alton Robinson also had 32 3/8 inch arms. I still think great length will be coveted (it always is, by every team) but any prospective EDGE target with 32 inch arms perhaps doesn’t need to be immediately written-off as a potential Seahawk.

Key tests
Vertical, Broad, Short Shuttle, Forty, 10-yard split

Ideal size
6-4, 250lbs, +33 inch arms, 1.50-1.59 10-yard split, +35-inch vertical

Positional assessment
It’s a thick EDGE class with high picks and attractive mid-round options to follow. Will Anderson and Tyree Wilson are being tipped to go very early. They’re making Anderson work out with the linebackers but I’m still including him in this section of the preview. Wilson will not perform drills at the combine as he continues to recover from injury. Personally I think Myles Murphy is overrated but it won’t be a surprise if he creates buzz around his combine performance. Will McDonald will be one of the stars in Indianapolis and could chuck himself into the top-20 mix. K.J. Henry, Zach Harrison, Andre Carter, Dylan Horton and Tyrus Wheat are also very impressive athletes. I could name more — this is one of the deepest positions in the 2023 draft.

Interesting note
As far as I can tell, only three pass rushers ran a 1.5 10-yard split a year ago. Mafe was one of them, plus Kayvon Thibodeaux and Amaré Barno. Let’s hope for a better set of results this year.

Best drill to watch
Given the way Seattle’s defensive scheme has pivoted, we need to spend more time watching how the pass rushers work in space in the linebacker drills at the end of each session. On top of that — generally the edge rusher drills are a box-office performance by the most explosive athletes in college football. So just sit back and enjoy.

Five names to watch
Will Anderson, Will McDonald, K.J. Henry, Myles Murphy, B.J. Ojulari

Potential standout
There are a few who are expected to test brilliantly but I’m going for Will McDonald. He has the ‘preying mantis’ frame that Pete Carroll tends to like. Ranked fifth on Bruce Feldman’s ‘freaks’ list, he can reportedly do backflips standing still and has been filmed jumping over cars. He’s being tipped to jump a 43-inch vertical and an 11-0 broad. He showed great bend and quickness at the Senior Bowl so strong testing results in the 10-yard split and short shuttle are also expected.

Importance to the Seahawks?
It’s hard to say. Clearly they need to keep improving their pass rush but they already have Darrell Taylor, Uchenna Nwosu and Boye Mafe under contract. Having a rotation is necessary but how many high picks are you inserting into a rotational role? They might lean on the depth here and focus on other positions early — unless they simply see the first round value to be too good (and that’s entirely possible given the status of Will Anderson and Tyree Wilson plus the fit of Will McDonald).

Drew Sanders plays with aggression and he’s a useful pass rusher

The Seahawks tend to look for two types of player at linebacker — freakish athletes and players with great short-area quickness and agility.

Shaquem Griffin ran a blistering 4.38 forty. Kevin Pierre-Louis, Korey Toomer, Malcolm Smith and Eric Pinkins all ran excellent times (in the 4.44-4.51 range). Jordyn Brooks ran a 4.54. Bobby Wagner was a 4.4 runner at his pro-day.

Pierre-Louis, Smith and Pinkins all jumped +39 inches in the vertical. Wagner jumped a 39.5-inch vertical.

They’ve also speficially targeted top-testers in the short shuttle. Here are the top-15 short shuttle times run by a linebacker since 2010:

Jordan Tripp — 3.96
Nick Bellore — 4.00

Ben Heeney — 4.00
Mike Mohamed — 4.00
Nick Vigil — 4.00
Kevin Pierre-Louis — 4.02
Stephone Anthony — 4.03
Cody Barton — 4.03
Dakota Allen — 4.03
Von Miller — 4.06
Josh Hull — 4.07
Dorian O’Daniel — 4.07
Avery Williamson — 4.07
Shaq Thompson — 4.08
Ben Burr-Kirven — 4.09

The players in bold have been either drafted or signed by the Seahawks during the Pete Carroll era. A third of the players.

Admittedly, Nick Bellore was signed as a full back. Even so, this isn’t a coincidence. It’s something I wrote about originally six years ago.

If there’s a linebacker who runs an exceptional short shuttle, there’s a decent chance he will be on Seattle’s radar.

Key tests
Forty yard dash, short shuttle, vertical, broad, three cone

Ideal size
+6-0, 230-240lbs, 4.4-4.5 forty, 6.70 three-cone, +10’ broad, 4.00-4.20 short shuttle

Positional assessment
This is not a good linebacker class. Arkansas’ Drew Sanders looks destined to be the first taken and if he tests well, could cement a place in the top-20. After that, you have players with questionable tape or size (Trenton Simpson, Nolan Smith) who are expected to be brilliant testers. There’s also a collection of ‘solid/meh’ college linebackers, some of which are overrated, who aren’t expected to test well (Ventrell Miller, Henry To’oto’o, Jack Campbell, Noah Sewell, DeMarvion Overshown). I’m intrigued to see how Daiyan Henley gets on and Auburn’s Owen Pappoe could be the standout performer at the combine. Overall though there’s a distinct lack of quality.

Interesting note
For years the Seahawks had Bobby Wagner and KJ Wright take virtually all of the defensive snaps. Wagner tallied 99.35% of the snaps in 2016, 93.08% in 2017, 93.34% in 2018, 98.32% in 2019 and 99.13% in 2020. That dropped to 89.1% in 2021 before he was cut. Jordyn Brooks has played 87.4% and 88.67% of the snaps in the last two seasons. Cody Barton played 77.42% of the time in 2022. I’m not sure if this indicative of anything but the Seahawks seem to be trying to avoid giving two players such an extensive workload these days. Or maybe Wagner and Wright were too good to take off the field?

Best drill to watch
Due to the importance of the short shuttle — look how the players work in space, backpedal and read/react. Quickness and change of direction is vital at linebacker.

Five names to watch
Drew Sanders, Nolan Smith, Trenton Simpson, Owen Pappoe, Daiyan Henley

Potential standout
Nicknamed ‘the freak’ — Owen Pappoe is reportedly capable of running in the 4.3’s. Even if he doesn’t top that mark, expect a big show. If only his tape at Auburn was as impressive as his athleticism. Honourable mentions go to Trenton Simpson who is also being tipped to run in the 4.3’s (and although his tape isn’t as bad as Pappoe’s — he still had a poor year in 2022). Meanwhile Nolan Smith was a SPARQ superstar in High School. If he’s healthy enough to test, watch out.

Importance to the Seahawks?
The injury to Jordyn Brooks means they have to do something. I’m just not sure how much investment they want to make at linebacker. A year ago they cut Bobby Wagner to save $16.6m and then didn’t replace him. They simply rolled with Brooks and Cody Barton. There wasn’t even any serious competition added for camp. With Barton a free agent, they need to add a body. Unless they’re enamoured with someone like Drew Sanders it might be a position they address in the mid-to-late rounds. If nobody tests to their satisfaction in that range, they might go the cheap veteran route. Are they willing to take a great athlete early, full of potential, with disappointing tape? If so, that could bring Trenton Simpson into play but he’s more athlete than football player currently. Sanders does play with a fiery intensity that Seattle’s second level misses at times.

Groups 4-6: cornerback, safety & special teams

Arrival: Monday 27th February
Team interviews: Tuesday 28th February
General medical exam: Wednesday 1st March
Media & NFLPA meeting: Thursday 2nd March
Measurements, on-field drills: Friday 3rd March
Bench press & broadcast interviews: Saturday 4th March

Julius Brents has promised to surprise people at the combine

For years everyone knew what the Seahawks liked in a corner. You had to have 32 inch arms. You had to be long and lean. Then, in 2021 — things changed. They drafted Tre Brown in round four. He was small (5-10, 186lbs) and had 30 3/8 inch arms. Carroll and Schneider talked about changing their approach, after experiencing the success of D.J. Reed before he joined the New York Jets in free agency.

However, just as we were all adapting to a brave new world, the Seahawks found their ideal cornerback with prototype size in Tariq Woolen.

Granted, they also took Coby Bryant with his 30 5⁄8-inch arms in the fourth round. Will the success of Woolen steer them back towards a desire for length and size? There are certainly players in this class who fit the bill — and some are great athletes too.

We noted a year ago that Clint Hurtt talked about utilising man-coverage. A more pressing question these days should be ‘how are your skills in man-coverage’ rather than ‘how long are your arms?’.

As long and lean as Woolen is, he’s also lightning quick. He ran a 4.26 forty. Bryant wasn’t especially slow either, running a 4.48.

Slower cornerbacks are better suited to zone, quicker cornerbacks are typically targeted to play man. You’re often facing 1v1 challenges where you have to sprint great distances, matching the receiver. You need good recovery speed. Size isn’t as important and physicality is just a bonus.

So while the long cornerbacks will likely remain attractive — keep a closer eye on the forty yard dash and which cornerbacks have fluidity, suddenness, smooth hips and an ability to change direction easily during drills.

It is also worth stressing that the Bryant and Woolen picks were day three selections. Carroll/Schneider still haven’t taken a corner any higher than the very end of round three (Shaquill Griffin). The approach in terms of arm length might be adapting but there’s no new evidence that they’re more likely to draft a cornerback early.

Key tests
Forty, Vertical

Ideal size
+5-10, 195lbs, +32-inch arms, 4.30-40 forty, +35-inch vertical

Positional assessment
It’s a deep cornerback class. There isn’t a clear top-10 pick but there are players who could work into that range if they test well, such as Oregon’s Christian Gonzalez (and he is expected to test well). We could see a cluster of players taken in the top-40, due to the importance of the position. I think we’ll see relative depth stretching into round four and there’s a chance the combine will unearth some hidden gems.

Interesting note
The Seahawks drafting two cornerbacks last year was actually a welcome return. In the four prior drafts, they’d only drafted one player at the position. For a team with a good history of developing cornerbacks, it was quite a surprising run. Their work with Woolen and the way they turned D.J. Reed and Michael Jackson into useful players is encouraging for the future. If you’re a cornerback expected to be taken after round three, you probably want to be drafted by Seattle.

Best drill to watch
The backpedal drill. Watch to see how the cornerbacks transition and whether it looks effortless. Do they have loose hips and do they explode out of their breaks? Is the footwork smooth or clunky? Are they laboured in any way or do they look natural?

Five names to watch
Christian Gonzalez, Devon Witherspoon, Kelee Ringo, D.J. Turner, Julius Brents

Potential standout
Christian Gonzalez will excel and big things are expected of Kelee Ringo and D.J. Turner. I’m going to suggest Julius Brents, however. He’s expected to test brilliantly in the vertical jumps and he looked quick and smooth at the Senior Bowl. When I interviewed him recently he said he’s going to surprise people at the combine. He’s my one to watch — especially as he’d look very good across from Tariq Woolen.

Importance to the Seahawks?
Michael Jackson is an exclusive-rights free agent so he’ll likely be back. With Woolen, Bryant and Brown under contract they have some depth. However, there’s at least room for a couple more names to be added. Perhaps they’ll add one later in the draft and look to sign a cheap veteran in the Artie Burns mould?

Ji’Ayir Brown — the emotional voice of the Penn State defense

After hitting on Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor in 2010, Seattle hasn’t had much success at the safety position. Ryan Murphy, Winston Guy, Mark LeGree, Tedric Thompson, Delano Hill and Marquise Blair have come and gone. The less said about the Jamal Adams trade the better.

Thankfully, the Quandre Diggs trade worked out — although whether he’s worth the $18m cap hit he’s going to receive in 2022 is a question mark (especially with finances tight). Ryan Neal has been an absolute steal and has developed into the kind of tone-setting, vocal player Seattle craves. He’ll surely be kept as a restricted free agent. Hopefully in the future the Seahawks will focus more on the Neal-style bargains instead of trading first round picks or spending $36m on two safeties.

For what it’s worth — Neal ran a 4.47 forty and a 4.29 short shuttle, while jumping a 37.5 inch vertical and a 10-7 broad at his pro-day. He was undrafted and spent time with the Eagles and Falcons before joining the Seahawks.

There’s a real mix of physical profiles in the players they’ve taken, making safety one of the tougher positions to project. It’s hard to describe a Seahawks ‘type’ physically. The only safety they’ve drafted in the first round (Earl Thomas) was a tremendous athlete. He ran a 4.37 at his pro-day after pulling a hamstring running the forty at the combine (while still managing an official 4.49). Blair, their next highest pick at the position, was also athletic and hit like a sledgehammer.

It’s a bit basic to describe it this way but you might be best served looking for playmakers and hitters. Thomas and Thompson both had a lot of picks. Chancellor, Guy and Blair loved to hit.

This might be a position where physical ideals take a back-seat to production or attitude/impact.

Key drills
Forty yard dash, short shuttle, vertical

Ideal size
+6-0, 200-220lbs, 4.4 forty, +39-inch vertical, +10-5 broad jump

Positional assessment
College football isn’t churning out a lot of quality players at the position and it’s another light year. There are certainly players to like — but once they’re gone, there’s not a lot to get excited about. Brian Branch is a Rolls Royce and should find a home within the top-20. J.L. Skinner shares some of Kam Chancellor’s qualities as a hitter with great size. Sadly it’s been announced he tore a pec in training on Friday and will now miss the combine. Ji’Ayir Brown has a knack for interceptions and is well regarded as the high-character, vocal leader of Penn State’s defense. Christopher Smith had a good year for Georgia and has great range and hits well for his size. Sydney Brown is a big-time athlete. I also think there are some slightly overrated players — including Antonio Johnson, DeMarcco Hellams and Jordan Battle. Later round guys I like include John Torchio, Larry Brooks and Hunter Reynolds — but none were invited to the combine.

Interesting note
Both Earl Thomas and Tedric Thompson had a lot of interceptions in their final college seasons and both were drafted to play free safety. Thomas had eight picks for Texas in 2009, Thompson had seven for Colorado in 2016. Ji’ayir Brown had 10 interceptions in his final two years at Penn State and is the closest thing to Thomas and Thompson in terms of production. This combined with his vaunted character means Brown is one to watch.

Best drill to watch
Any of the drills requiring the safeties to close in space and show off their open-field quickness and range. I also like the ‘W’ drill for this position.

Five names to watch
Brian Branch, Ji’Ayir Brown, Christopher Smith, Sydney Brown, Jammie Robinson

Potential standout
Brian Branch and Ji’Ayir Brown are both expected to test very well but the name to mention here is Sydney Brown. Ranked joint 33rd on Bruce Feldman’s ‘freaks’ list with brother Chase, he looked in fantastic shape at the Senior Bowl and has registered a top-speed of 22.4mph during a game. Expect a big workout from the Brown brothers in Indianapolis.

Importance to the Seahawks?
You can look at this two ways. Firstly, is some long-term planning required? Quandre Diggs is 30 and there’s an easy out on his contract next year. The team has control of Ryan Neal for only one more season. Who knows what the future holds for Jamal Adams? Drafting someone now could set-up a transition. However, they’ve already committed $36m to Diggs and Adams and will retain Neal via a tender (second round?). How much more are you prepared to invest when there are needs elsewhere to address?

Groups 7-9: QB, WR, TE

Arrival: Tuesday 28th February
Team interviews: Wednesday 1st March
General medical exam: Thursday 2nd March
Media & NFLPA meeting: Friday 3rd March
Measurements, on-field drills: Saturday 4th March
Bench press & broadcast interviews: Sunday 5th March

Will Levis has the kind of tools John Schneider likes


It’s been a long time since I’ve had to write anything in this section. The Russell Wilson trade was still being laughed-off at the 2022 combine, as a deal was being struck between the Seahawks and Broncos behind the scenes.

Many fans get angry when you mention the position as a need for the Seahawks, following Geno Smith’s surprisingly productive 2022 season. The fact is whether Smith re-signs or not, it’s still entirely possible the Seahawks select a quarterback with the fifth overall pick, or at some stage in this draft.

I don’t want to go over too much old ground here but it comes down to this, purely and simply. If John Schneider sees a quarterback he really likes — and if that player is available at #5 — the chances are he’s going to draft him. The Seahawks have never owned a pick in the top-five during the Carroll/Schneider era. This is a rare opportunity. If Schneider sees a QB he loves, he will take him — with or without Geno on the roster.

Schneider has a duty to think about the long term health of the franchise. His contract outlasts Pete Carroll’s. The Seahawks can’t exist purely to give Carroll a nice send-off. That’s assuming that Geno is even capable of delivering such an ending.

Let’s not lose sight of the fact we’re talking about the most important position in the sport. The best-case scenario for the Seahawks is to retain Smith on a relatively team-friendly contract, then draft a QB for the future. They’d be re-creating the Alex Smith/Patrick Mahomes handover. We’ve seen too many young QB’s struggle because they’ve been thrown in at the deep-end too soon. Here’s an opportunity for the Seahawks to get the best of both worlds. Keep a player who can help you win now but also set things up for the future. Plus you still have picks #20, #38, #53 and #84 to address your defense.

If Schneider doesn’t like the quarterback options at #5, it’s a moot-point. They’ll take a defensive lineman and move forwards.

I feel very comfortable about the situation either way and wish more fans shared that thought. I trust Schneider when it comes to QB’s. We’ll give him a mulligan for the expensive Charlie Whitehurst trade. Since then he’s drafted Russell Wilson and reportedly had high interest in Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen — so much so, he was willing to move off peak-Wilson to get either player.

Thus, if he takes a QB — he should be given the benefit of the doubt. If he doesn’t take a QB, we can all assume with confidence there simply isn’t a player he rated highly enough.

It’s not a deep quarterback class by any stretch. There are four I think deserve to go in the top-10. Then there’s a big drop-off. Hendon Hooker will likely be the fifth taken but his stock is a mystery given his knee injury. He could end up being taken earlier than he should be, purely because there’s a gaping black-hole once he’s off the board.

Some things to consider in terms of Seattle’s possible preferences — Whitehurst, Wilson, Mahomes, Allen and Drew Lock all have big arms. All but Wilson have prototype stature. Mahomes is creative and able to extend plays — while Allen, Lock and Wilson were all excellent athletes. Even Whitehurst could move around a bit.

Much is made of hand size and that could be important. Wilson had 10 1/4-inch hands. However — Mahomes only has 9 1/4-inch hands and Lock’s are even smaller at exactly nine-inches. It might be more of a bonus than a factor.

It’s also worth noting that this is a quarterback class full of high-character, high-intelligence players. Levis, Stroud and Young are beloved by their teams. You can watch my interview with Levis by clicking here. Richardson is well regarded at Florida. Hooker is extremely mature and respected. There are no concerns with the top group and it won’t be a surprise if many of the QB’s get glowing reports for the way they interview at the combine.

Key tests
Deep throws, Forty

Ideal size
+6-2, 220lbs, +9.5 inch hands

Positional assessment
Fans and the media alike are tying themselves up in knots about this class. It often feels like when you have good quarterbacks, people find reasons to knock them. When you have a bad class — people find ways to elevate them. We saw that a year ago, when clear third-round talents like Malik Willis were suddenly being mocked second overall to the Lions. Heck, this was still being talked about as a possibility in April (click here and here). I think the top-four quarterbacks in this class — C.J. Stroud, Will Levis, Anthony Richardson and Bryce Young — are all worthy of being taken with the #5 pick. None are flawless. Neither was Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen or Justin Herbert. In particular I think the physical traits of Stroud, Levis and Richardson will really appeal to John Schneider, while the creativity and mentality of Young will also likely make him a favourite. Beyond the top-four, I suspect teams will have different opinions on Hendon Hooker who is high-character and enjoyed a productive two-years in Tennessee. However, he played in a wide-open offense and is recovering from a serious knee injury. He’s also 25-years-old and already older than Jalen Hurts. Dorian Thompson-Robinson has a lot of intriguing qualities but he is even smaller than Young and Tanner McKee just screams Mike Glennon 2.0.

Interesting note
The Seahawks have only drafted two quarterbacks in the Carroll/Schneider era — Russell Wilson (third round, 2012) and Alex McGough (seventh round, 2018).

The best drill to watch
Everyone wants to see the top QB’s throw the deep ball. I used to think it was a waste of time at the combine but I’ve changed my mind. It’s a great way to compare all of the QB’s because they’re throwing in the same setting. You can do an apple’s for apple’s comparison — without all the home comforts of a pro-day. It’s been confirmed that Anthony Richardson and C.J. Stroud will both throw at the combine. Bryce Young will not throw. There’s no news on Will Levis at the moment, who has been recovering from a broken toe suffered during the season.

Five names to watch
C.J. Stroud, Will Levis, Anthony Richardson, Bryce Young, Dorian Thompson-Robinson

Potential standout
Will Levis isn’t a lightning quick straight-line runner but he’s a gym-rat who should test well in the jumps and short shuttle — plus he has an outstanding, elite-level arm. However — this should be Anthony Richardson’s stage. He has an opportunity to do everything well, starting with the forty. Reportedly he intends to take part in all drills and tests. He has a rocket arm to launch the ball downfield. He can make some serious money in Indianapolis.

Importance to the Seahawks
I appreciate that many disagree and want the Seahawks to pay Geno Smith a small fortune, then build up the rest of the roster. Again, I trust Schneider on quarterbacks and will be comfortable if he goes QB or DL at #5. However, for me the whole Russell Wilson trade has been building up to this moment. You have a rare opportunity to invest in a talented, physically gifted young signal caller for the long-term future. You also have the benefit of having four more picks in the first three rounds to address other areas of the team. It makes perfect sense — whether you keep Smith or not — to consider drafting a quarterback at #5.

Josh Downs looks like a Tyler Lockett clone

Wide receivers
Pete Carroll has only drafted three receivers who didn’t run a 4.4 forty or faster:

Kenny Lawler — 4.64
Chris Harper — 4.50
John Ursua — 4.56

The rest all cracked the 4.4’s:

Paul Richardson — 4.40
Golden Tate — 4.42
Tyler Lockett — 4.40
Kris Durham — 4.46
Kevin Norwood — 4.48
Amara Darboh — 4.45
David Moore — 4.42
D.K. Metcalf — 4.33
Freddie Swain — 4.46
Dee Eskridge — 4.38
Bo Melton — 4.34
Dareke Young — 4.44

We have enough data now to say definitively — unless a player runs a 4.4 or faster, the Seahawks are unlikely to consider them until the later rounds (if at all). Clearly they value speed and suddenness at the position even if you’re a ‘bigger’ receiver.

The entire NFL acknowledges the need for speed. The days of the classic ‘possession’ receiver are over. Teams are utilising tight ends in a variety of creative ways to get a sizeable mismatch target on the field. For receivers playing outside or in the slot, quickness is the desired trait.

Positional assessment
If college football isn’t churning out many safeties, it’s doing a good job producing capable wide receivers. The 2023 class isn’t as good as we’ve come to expect in recent years — but there’s still a cluster of names and decent depth stretching into day three. There isn’t an obvious player destined for the top-10 but Quentin Johnston, Jalin Hyatt and Zay Flowers are a good bet for the first round. Josh Downs, Jonathan Mingo, Cedric Tillman and Jordan Addison could also find a home in the top-50. It’ll be a big week for Jaxon Smith-Njigba — he has to prove he’s quicker than expected after running a 4.64 at SPARQ. Keep an eye on Bryce Ford-Wheaton — he’s flying way under the radar and should test well in Indianapolis. Jayden Reed, Kayshon Boutte, Tank Dell and Tyler Scott are other names to monitor.

Interesting note
Carroll’s Seahawks don’t really have a ‘range’ where they take receivers. They’ve drafted four players in round two (Tate, Richardson, Metcalf, Eskridge), two in round three (Darboh, Lockett), three in round four (Norwood, Harper, Durham), one in round six (Swain) and five in round seven (Moore, Lawler, Ursua, Melton, Young). It’s worth noting they’ve been aggressive in trading up for two players — Lockett and Metcalf. They’ve also been their best ‘hits’ at the position. Is there a player they like enough to be similarly aggressive for this year?

Key tests
Forty, vertical, catching drills (proper technique)

Ideal size
Just run a 4.4 forty or faster

The best drill to watch
Any drill that clearly shows catching technique. It’s extremely important. You want to see a receiver cupping his hands while presenting to the ball. No alligator arms, no fighting the ball or snatching at it. Watch the downfield throws and see who is good at high pointing the football, showing body control and tracking over the shoulder. Who is a natural hands catcher? I would expect Josh Downs and Jonathan Mingo to excel in both areas.

Five names to watch
Quentin Johnston, Jalin Hyatt, Josh Downs, Jonathan Mingo, Bryce Ford-Wheaton

Potential standout
Unsurprisingly there are high expectations with the group. Jalin Hyatt’s late separation skills hint at extreme speed. Zay Flowers’ ability to change direction could make for a pair of blistering agility tests. Bryce Ford-Wheaton can jump a 40-inch vertical and has been timed running a 4.02 short-shuttle and a 6.68 three-cone. Tyler Scott is being tipped to run in 4.2’s and he’s also jumped a +40-inch vertical. However, based on size and extreme testing, Quentin Johnston is the one to watch. At 6-4 and around 210lbs he is expected to nail a 42-inch vertical and maybe even break the 4.3’s. If he does, it’ll be interesting to see what impact that has on his stock. He’s inconsistent at times but he has rare physical qualities.

Importance to the Seahawks
Most successful teams in the NFL have three quality weapons. That can include a tight end — but generally in the modern NFL you’re passing attack needs three legit targets. The Seahawks clearly have two in Lockett and Metcalf. They mixed their tight end production around without any one individual rising to the top. They’ve struggled in recent years to find a third receiver, highlighted by the pick used on Dee Eskridge which clearly hasn’t worked out. They’re high on Dareke Young but I still think there’s room for a pick at receiver if the right player is available. I think they’d consider a ‘big slot’ type who they can move around — and Jonathan Mingo would fit the bill if he can crack the 4.4’s. Josh Downs, meanwhile, just screams ‘Seahawks’. His playing style is so similar to Lockett’s. He’s a very mature individual with NFL bloodlines (his father played in the league and his uncle is Dre Bly). He already talks like a seasoned veteran. He high points the ball brilliantly for his size, can get downfield to make big plays but he’s also good on the short-stuff too. Fingers crossed he runs well. I can imagine him being a ‘must have’ player for the Seahawks.

Michael Mayer is a fantastic player

Tight ends
Seattle has drafted five tight ends under Pete Carroll — Nick Vannett, Luke Willson, Anthony McCoy, Will Dissly and Colby Parkinson. They also traded for Jimmy Graham in 2015 and signed Zach Miller to a big contract in 2011. In the last four years they have signed Greg Olsen and Gerald Everett to one-year deals and brought in Noah Fant as part of the Russell Wilson trade.

One thing links all ten players — agility testing.

Short shuttle and three cone.

It appears the Seahawks see it as vital:

Luke Willson — 4.29 (ss), 7.08 (3c)
Will Dissly — 4.40 (ss), 7.07 (3c)
Nick Vannett — 4.20 (ss), 7.05 (3c)
Anthony McCoy — 4.57 (ss), 6.99 (3c)
Zach Miller — 4.42 (ss), 7.01 (3c)
Jimmy Graham — 4.45 (ss), 6.90 (3c)
Greg Olsen — 4.48 (ss), 7.04 (3c)
Colby Parkinson — 4.46 (ss), 7.15 (3c)
Gerald Everett — 4.33 (ss), 6.99 (3c)
Noah Fant — 4.22 (ss), 6.81 (3c)

Tony Pauline also linked the Seahawks with interest in free agent Austin Hooper before he signed with Cleveland. He ran a 4.32 short shuttle and a 7.00 three cone. It was speculated that Seattle really liked O.J. Howard in the 2017 draft. He had the top short shuttle in his class (4.16) and a fantastic three cone (6.85). After acquiring Fant last year, John Schneider said they were preparing to draft him in 2019 before the Broncos selected him with the 20th pick.

Short-area quickness and agility appear to be important for any prospective Seahawks tight end so pay close attention to the short shuttle and the three cone.

This is an understandable approach to the position when you consider the top tight ends in the league. They generally all have the same thing in common — strong agility testing and a good 10-yard split.

Rob Gronkowski — 1.58 (10), 4.47 (ss)
Travis Kelce — 1.61 (10), 4.42 (ss)
George Kittle — 1.59 (10), 4.55 (ss)
Mark Andrews — 1.54 (10), 4.38 (ss)
Dallas Goedert — unknown (10), 4.31 (ss)
Zach Erz — 1.64 (10), 4.47 (ss)
T.J. Hockenson — 1.63 (10), 4.18 (ss)

People will focus on the forty yard dash, particularly with players such as Michael Mayer who won’t run a fast time. However — the more important numbers to focus on are the split, the shuttle and the three cone.

Key tests
Short shuttle, three cone, 10-yard split

Ideal size
6-5, 250-265lbs, +33-inch arms, +10-inch hands

Positional assessment
There are a cluster of players set to go in the first two rounds but it’s a top-heavy class. For me, Michael Mayer is a complete tight end and a class act. He’s one of the safest picks you can make in the draft and will combine committed blocking with consistent hands, production, an ability to create late separation and he does a superb job catching away from his body. Luke Musgrave will be one of the stars of the combine — we’ll discuss why in a moment. Dalton Kincaid will not test and he’s expected to miss the entire pre-draft process due to injury. Tucker Kraft flies under the radar but could easily be a top-50 pick. I think Darnell Washington is a bit overrated. He’s too big and doesn’t move freely enough to be a serious receiving threat. His size should be useful as a blocker, however. After that — there’s not much to get at.

Interesting note
In 2017 the Seahawks needed a tight end and were presented with a strong looking class. Unexpectedly, they passed on the position. They drafted seven players before George Kittle was selected in round five by the 49ers — despite his good combine and dynamism as a blocker. Seattle even spent five picks in rounds 3-4 without taking Kittle. A huge blow, especially given he was eventually drafted by a division rival.

Best drill to watch
Catching technique is always important so look for how a player uses his hands. Is he cupping them to the ball? I always like to see TE’s who can move naturally on seam routes and change direction during drills. It’s quite easy to spot stiffness among this group when they’re running in the open field.

Five names to watch
Michael Mayer, Luke Musgrave, Tucker Kraft, Darnell Washington, Josh Whyle

Potential standout
It has to be Luke Musgrave. It was noticeable how smooth he looked running routes at the Senior Bowl and his testing numbers will no doubt show well. He’s been timed running a 4.51 forty and a 4.21 short shuttle.

Importance to the Seahawks?
There’s no immediate need but this could be a situation where they look to the future. Noah Fant and Colby Parkinson are both free agents in 2024. There’s an easy out on Will Dissly’s contract next year. If BPA matches up with this position, they might be tempted to think ahead.

Groups 10-12: OL, RB

Arrival: Wednesday 1st March
Team interviews: Thursday 2nd March
General medical exam: Friday 3rd March
Media & NFLPA meeting: Saturday 4th March
Measurements, on-field drills: Sunday 5th March
Bench press & broadcast interviews: Monday 6th March

Cody Mauch — talented player, great hair

Offensive linemen
This has typically been the point where I introduce ‘TEF’ — the formula we created to calculate explosive testing. In the past it helped us identify potential O-line targets for the Seahawks successfully.

Up until 2020 it still seemed to be somewhat relevant. Damien Lewis was an explosive tester and Phil Haynes — drafted in 2019 and recently re-signed — was the second best TEF scorer in his class.

However, both players were drafted when Mike Solari was the offensive line coach. Andy Dickerson took over a year ago and the Seahawks then drafted two non-explosive offensive tackles with high picks.

Charles Cross didn’t do a bench press or broad jump before the draft, so it was impossible to judge how truly explosive he was. However, his 26-inch vertical was not good. Generally you want to see players jumping in the 30-inch range.

Abraham Lucas only scored a 2.73 through TEF. He was not an explosive tester.

The Seahawks are copying the Rams’ blocking scheme and over the years, they haven’t placed much emphasis on explosive traits. Here are some of the linemen they’ve acquired in recent years and how they scored in TEF:

Brian Allen — 2.63
Austin Corbett — 2.55
Rob Havenstein — 2.36
David Edwards — 2.19
Joseph Noteboom — 2.62

They did, however, draft Logan Bruss with their first pick a year ago and he recorded a 3.08 TEF score, making him an explosive tester.

I’m going to run through the annual TEF explainer — because I do still think it’s fun to collect the data and compare to previous years. However, I’m not going to make any predictions relating to the Seahawks based on explosive testing this year.

Instead, in future, I’m going to focus on what the Rams have done and suggest the Seahawks will do something similar.

LA has a tackle in Joseph Noteboom who compares favourably to Lucas. He ran a 4.96 forty and a 4.44 short shuttle — but only managed a 24-inch vertical. Lucas ran a 4.92 forty and a 4.40 short shuttle, while only jumping a 27-inch vertical.

Cross also ran a 4.95 forty but his short shuttle was only a 4.61.

Meanwhile — center Austin Blythe played for the Rams between 2017-20. He’s 6-2 and 298lbs and very similar to Brian Allen, the current Rams center. Blythe ran a 4.53 short shuttle — a very good time for his size. Allen ran a 4.71. I think, at this position, the shuttle will be important within this scheme. I’m intrigued to see if Seattle goes after Garrett Bradbury in free agency, who has the ideal size and matched Blythe’s 4.53 short shuttle. San Francisco’s Jake Brendel also fits the bill — and he ran a fantastic 4.27 shuttle.

At these two positions there’s a clear correlation.

The only significant difference comes at guard — where Seattle is retaining size and traits while the Rams prefer converted college tackles.

It’ll be interesting to see if the Seahawks begin to transition to LA’s approach at guard, with Lewis and Haynes only contracted for 2023. Let’s see if they draft a couple of tackles with the idea of kicking them inside next year. With Blythe a free agent they also have a void at center. I’d expect them to look for a smaller, leverage-winning player with a wrestling background who runs a good short shuttle.

Finally on to TEF — I do think it’s worth stressing there is some value in explosive testing. Most of the top linemen in the league are explosive testers, as I detailed in this article.

Pat Kirwan — a confidant of Pete Carroll — explained in this piece why explosive testing is important:

Every time a ball is snapped to start a play there is a critical element of explosiveness that takes place. When two players collide in an attempt to physically dominate each other, the athlete with the edge in explosiveness has the best chance to win the confrontation. It could be a blocker vs. a tackler, a tackler vs. a ball carrier, or many other examples of winning at the point of contact.

Explosiveness is defined in the dictionary as a violent release of energy, a sudden outburst. Football is a series of explosions. How do you measure it in athletes trying to play NFL football?

Take the vertical jump, standing broad jump and the bench press test results and add them together. If the combined score is over 70 there is a reason to consider the candidate at some point in the draft process for his explosiveness.

Kirwan’s formula is flawed because it diminishes the impact of the broad jump. A superb 9-7 only achieves a 1.2 point advantage over a below par 8-5. That’s why TEF was created — to do what Kirwan intended and measure explosive traits equally and emphasise their combined importance.

In recent years we’ve increasingly seen explosive testers drafted earlier than non-explosive testers. Despite Seattle’s scheme shift, I’d expect that trend to continue.

Here’s the TEF formula explained…

Tom Cable stated in 2015 that an O-line prospect would ideally achieve a 31-inch vertical, a 9-foot broad jump and 27 reps in the bench press. TEF uses these numbers to create an overall score for each individual offensive lineman:

1. Vertical ÷ 31
2. Broad ÷ 9, then cube the result
3. Bench ÷ 27
4. Results added together = TEF

Here’s what the ideal (31 — 9 — 27) would look like using this formula:

1. Vertical: 31 ÷ 31 = 1
2. Broad: 9 ÷ 9 = 1, cubed = 1
3. Bench: 27 ÷ 27 = 1
4. Overall score = 3.00

A prospect achieving the exact Cable ideal (31 — 9 — 27) will score a 3.00 in TEF.

The TEF formula is explained here. We also created a second calculation to account for the fact that jumping a vertical at 320lbs is considerably more challenging than jumping a vertical at 275lbs. Thus, we created a second formula (weighted TEF or wTEF) to account for weight:

Weight x TEF x 0.1

We can give each player a score that sufficiently emphasises their unique size. For example:

Germain Ifedi — 324 x 2.97 x 0.1 = 96.1

Phil Haynes, meanwhile, scored a 103.7. For more information on weighted TEF, click here.

I always feel obliged to end with this — TEF is not an attempt to determine who is a good or bad offensive linemen. It’s merely a calculation to judge explosive traits. While that’s only one part of any evaluation — it’s clear the league pays attention to it. That’s why I do, too. It might not shed any light relating to possible Seahawks picks but it’s interesting information to have from a league perspective.

Key tests
Vertical, Broad, Bench, Short Shuttle, Forty

Ideal size/testing
OT — 6-3/6-5, 305-320lbs, +33 inch arms, 4.90-5.00 forty, 4.40 ss
OG — 6-2/6-5, 300-320lbs, +33 inch arms, +3.00 TEF
OC — 6-0/6-2, 295lbs, 4.50 ss

Positional assessment
This is not a particularly exciting offensive line class. There are no obvious top-10 picks, despite the media trying to push Paris Johnson Jr and Peter Skoronski into that range. For me the only two linemen deserving of first round consideration are Darnell Wright and Dawand Jones — both right tackles. There’s some depth at guard in the mid-to-late rounds and there are plenty of prospective tackle-to-guard converts — including Jaelyn Duncan, Matthew Bergeron, Jordan McFadden, Broderick Jones, Tyler Steen and Ryan Hayes. Personally, I think O’Cyrus Torrence is overrated as a limited pure guard. I also think it’s an overrated center class. Joe Tippman will test very well but might be best placed to move to guard given his height and size. I’m intrigued to see John Michael Schmitz test because I think he looks limited on tape. Ditto Luke Wypler. Juice Scruggs could provide some later round value at center and Ricky Stromberg is expected to be a strong tester. Cody Mauch, however, is the player who intrigues me the most. I thought he did a tremendous job moving to center at the Senior Bowl. He’s athletic, intense and a real brawler.

Interesting note
The average short shuttle time among the leading, most respected centers in the league is a 4.50. If you take out Jason Kelce’s insane 4.14 short shuttle, it’s still a 4.56. When I interviewed Juice Scruggs recently (you can watch the interview here) he said he’d been working hard on his short shuttle times, following advice that it was viewed as an important test.

The best drills to watch
The mirror drill and kick-slide. In the mirror, two linemen used to stand opposite each other, with one acting as ‘the rabbit’. He’d move around and change direction and it’s up to the participant to stick. Now they don’t use the ‘rabbit’. It’s an important test of footwork, agility, mobility, balance, control and stamina. It’s also a good gauge of pass protection skills. In the kick-slide, it speaks for itself. How well do the offensive tackles get into position, how athletic do they do it, what’s the footwork like? I also like to watch the linemen move around the field from side-to-side so we can see who are the more fluid athletes. Abraham Lucas looked so smooth out there a year ago and it showed in the way he played as a rookie.

Five names to watch
Guard — Matthew Bergeron, Jordan McFadden, Nick Broeker, Nick Saldiveri, McClendon Curtis

Center — Joe Tippman, Cody Mauch, John Michael Schmitz, Luke Wypler, Juice Scruggs

Tackle — Darnell Wright, Dawand Jones, Jaelyn Duncan, Anton Harrison, Paris Johnson Jr

Potential standout
It’s not often you see a center on Bruce Feldman’s ‘freaks’ list but Joe Tippmann ranked a very impressive 28th. He can reportedly run a 4.31 short shuttle and a 1.65 10-yard split, which would’ve been faster than any O-lineman at the NFL combine last year.

Importance to the Seahawks
It’d be nice to continue to see the Seahawks invest in the trenches but the bigger priority feels like the defensive line at the moment. The Phil Haynes signing likely ends any realistic thought of a top pick on a guard (or a right tackle, with Lucas moving inside). Unless the Seahawks sign an obvious veteran starter at center, that could remain a viable pick. Otherwise we’re mostly looking at depth and competition.

Bijan Robinson might be the best player in the draft

Running backs
The Seahawks have a type at running back. They’ve consistently drafted players with a similar physical profile. Their runners are about 210-220lbs. They have explosive testing results (good vertical & broad jump). It’s made it fairly straight forward to figure out who they might like. Here are the players we identified from the 2016, 2017, 2018, 2020 and 2022 combines as probable targets:


C.J. Prosise — 6-0, 220lbs, 35.5 inch vert, 10-1 broad
Kenneth Dixon — 5-10, 215lbs, 37.5 inch vert, 10-8 broad


Chris Carson — 6-0, 218lbs, 37 inch vert, 10-10 broad
Brian Hill — 6-0, 219lbs, 34 inch vert, 10-5 broad
Alvin Kamara — 5-10, 214lbs, 39.5 inch vert, 10-11 broad
Joe Williams — 5-11, 210lbs, 35 inch vert, 10-5 broad


Saquon Barkley — 6-0, 233lbs, 41 inch vert DNP broad
Kerryon Johnson — 511, 213lbs 40 inch vert, 10-6 broad
Bo Scarborough — 6-0, 228lbs, 40 inch vert, 10-9 broad
Nick Chubb — 5-11, 227lbs, 38.5 inch vert, 10-8 broad
John Kelly — 5-10, 216lbs, 35 inch vert, 10-0 broad
Lavon Coleman — 5-10, 223lbs, 33 inch vert, 10-0 broad
Rashaad Penny — 5-11, 220lbs, 32.5 inch vert, 10-0 broad
Royce Freeman — 5-11, 229lbs, 34 inch vert, 9-10 broad


Jonathan Taylor — 5-10, 226lbs, 36 inch vert, 10-3 broad
Cam Akers — 5-10, 217lbs, 35.5 inch vert, 10-2 broad
Deejay Dallas — 5-10, 217lbs, 33.5 inch vert, 9-11 broad
AJ Dillon — 6-0, 247lbs, 41 inch vert, 10-11 broad
Zack Moss — 5-9, 223lbs, 33 inch vert, DNP broad
James Robinson — 5-9, 219lbs, 40 inch vert, 10-5 broad
Patrick Taylor — 6-0, 217lbs, 34 inch vert, 10-3 broad


Breece Hall — 5-11, 217lbs, 40 inch vert, 10-6 broad
Brian Robinson — 6-2, 225lbs, 30 inch vert, 9-11 broad
Dameon Pierce — 5-10, 218lbs, 34.5 inch vert, 9-11 broad
D’Vonte Price — 6-1, 210lbs, 34 inch vert, 9-11 broad
Isaih Pacheco — 5-10, 216lbs, 33 inch vert, 9-10 broad
Jerome Ford — 5-10, 210lbs, 31 inch vert, 9-10 broad
Kenneth Walker — 5-9, 211lbs, 34 inch vert, 10-2 broad
Kevin Harris — 5-10, 221lbs, 38.5 inch vert, 10-6 broad
Snoop Conner — 5-10, 222lbs, 29.5 inch vert, 9-10 broad
Rachaad White — 6-0, 214lbs, 38 inch vert, 10-5 broad
Tyler Allgeier — 5-11, 224lbs, 33 inch vert, 10-0 broad
Tyrion Davis-Price — 6-0, 211lbs, 30 inch vert, 9-9 broad
Zamir White — 6-0, 214lbs, 33.5 inch vert, 10-8 broad

They drafted a player from each of the groups — Prosise, Carson, Penny, Dallas and Walker. They eventually added Bo Scarborough too and admitted significant interest in James Robinson as an UDFA (John Schenider said he was on the brink of signing with the Seahawks, before opting for Jacksonville).

In 2021 the combine was cancelled and in 2019 we identified Alex Barnes, Damien Harris, Alexander Mattison, LJ Scott, Miles Sanders, Dexter Williams and Tony Pollard as possible options. Running back was an unlikely target with the depth they had at the position. With a strong emphasis on special teams improvement they selected Travis Homer in round six mainly because he was considered to be one of the top special teamer’s in the draft. That was more of a special teams exception than anything indicative. Homer has since added weight to try and expand his role on offense.

Key tests
Vertical, Broad, size

Ideal size
5-10, 220lbs, +35 inch vertical, +10 broad

Positional assessment
Texas’ Bijan Robinson might be the best player in the draft. He’ll likely top many boards in terms of grade, depending on how teams view the concerns surrounding Jalen Carter’s maturity. He has superb acceleration to shift up the gears when he breaks into space. He can drive through contact and finish runs. He’s a fantastic receiver. Someone will take him in the top-15, guaranteed. Robinson headlines a deep class full of options. Jahmyr Gibbs is a dynamic runner and receiver who could also go in the top-40. Kenny McIntosh, Zach Charbonnet, Tyjae Spears and Israel Abanikanda all carry second round grades on my horizontal board. There’ll be attractive options deep into round three and beyond — including Chris Rodriguez, Chase Brown, Tank Bigsby, Zach Evans, Roschon Johnson, Evan Hull, Eric Gray, Deuce Vaughan, Devon Achane and DeWayne McBridel. This is probably the deepest position in the draft.

Interesting note
In the past the Seahawks seemed to prefer explosive traits over straight line speed. Christine Michael (4.54), C.J. Prosise (4.48), Robert Turbin (4.50) and Chris Carson (4.58) were better explosive testers than runners. Things have shifted slightly in recent years. Rashaad Penny wasn’t quite as explosive but ran a 4.46. They admitted after the 2022 draft that they thought there were two top-level running backs — Ken Walker (who they drafted) and Breece Hall. Walker ran a 4.38 and Hall a 4.39. It could be that having adjusted to a new blocking scheme, they’re placing a greater emphasis on speed and quickness.

The best drill to watch
It’s nice to see the running backs cutting against pads while showing body control and quickness in the open field. You can tell who has it and who doesn’t in these drills and it’s where Walker really excelled a year ago — looking so good changing direction despite having a very muscular, thick frame. He looked like a beast and moved like a ballerina.

Five names to watch
Bijan Robinson, Kenny McIntosh, Zach Charbonnet, Tyjae Spears, Israel Abanikanda

Potential standout
Little is known of the testing potential of the bigger names so it’s going to be intriguing to see how they get on. For that reason I’ll give a shout-out to Roschon Johnson here. He was ranked 26th by Bruce Feldman on the ‘freaks’ list and can reportedly run at a top-speed of 22.6mph despite being around 220lbs.

Importance to the Seahawks
It’s hard to say. They invested a high pick in Ken Walker despite already bringing back Rashaad Penny. Do they re-sign Penny again? If not, they’ll need to do something at running back. I don’t expect Bijan Robinson to last to #20 (the Seahawks will have a big call to make if he does). I think the great depth at the position means they’ll be able to draft an adequate RB2 later on if needs be and address other positions with their high picks.

The week ahead

Throughout the combine I’ll be producing a live blog updating testing results, followed by a reflective piece at the end of each day. I’ll also be delivering daily live streams to offer thoughts and observations. My podcast partner Robbie Williams is attending the combine and will also provide his own analysis from Lucas Oil Field.

If you enjoy the blog and appreciate what we do, including this 10,000 word combine preview — why not consider supporting the site via Patreon — (click here)

Friday notes: No to Wagner, more character talk & two receivers

Bobby Wagner is being released by the LA Rams

Why it’s a ‘no’ on Bobby Wagner for me

Seahawks’ media and fans alike are buzzing on Twitter, calling for the team to bring Wagner home.

I can understand why. He was a very popular player, liked by everyone. The Seahawks have been known to keep bringing back their own players — almost to a fault. Bruce Irvin, Benson Mayowa, Luke Willson and several others spring to mind. They are very comfortable with familiarity so I can see why some people expect this might happen.

For me though, it’s an emphatic ‘no’.

Let’s not forget we’re only a year removed from the Seahawks cutting Wagner. There was a reason for that and we can’t just put it down to cost. They are paying Quandre Diggs and Jamal Adams similar salaries this year. They could afford Wagner if they wanted to — they chose to part ways instead.

Going into the final year of his contract, it would’ve been fairly easy to negotiate an extension and lower the 2022 cap-hit. Again, they chose not to.

I don’t think people ever really embraced what Wagner was showing on film towards the end. It’s not nice to say and I appreciate any time you criticise a franchise legend, you’re going to get a pushback. However — it was very clear on tape that Wagner appeared to be increasingly avoiding contact. He was not hitting his gaps with any kind of urgency. There were screen passes where he was riding downfield rather driving to the ball-carrier. He was hesitant.

The play that really encapsulated his 2021 season was having a target right in his path against the Rams, remaining extremely static and watching Darrell Taylor chase from nowhere to deliver a massive hit while he stood and watched:

There were no big plays, not enough of the old Wagner and he could no longer justify a good contract.

The team didn’t make that call on a whim. You don’t just cut Bobby Wagner. That will have been a difficult but necessary decision. Few saw it coming, apart from those of us who were willing to embrace what the tape was actually showing.

He was released on March 9th and was immediately able to negotiate with new teams. He didn’t sign a contract until March 31st. He endured a relatively cold market. A bit of interest from Baltimore, a bit of interest from LA. There wasn’t a lot of buzz. Eventually he signed a deal with the Rams that was announced as a ‘five-year deal worth $65m’ but as soon as the details came out, we could all see it was likely a $10m contract for one season and then see what happens.

Despite being PFF’s top-graded linebacker, the Rams are moving on after one season. For the second year in a row, he’s being released.

I only watched the Rams closely twice in 2022 — against the Seahawks. I thought Wagner played very well in those game. I also think he was highly motivated to play well against his old team and might’ve played with that bit between his teeth all year.

I’m not interested in signing a 33-year-old Wagner to a contract similar to the arrangement he had in LA, just to find out whether he’ll play like he did in 2021.

The Seahawks only have $15.9m in effective cap space (and that doesn’t include the Nick Bellore contract). That will rise a bit when they cut Gabe Jackson. With major holes in the trenches — and no quarterback signed to the roster — now isn’t the time to be spending around $10m for the feel-good-factor of Wagner returning, to play behind an inept D-line.

Imagine if the team did try and re-sign Wagner. What does this mean? That they’re trying to re-create the 2019 Seahawks? With a quarterback earning a salary in the $30-35m range and an ageing Wagner leading the defense?

I thought the whole point of last year was a fresh start? New heroes to find, a new era for the team? Not trying to roll back the years.

Are we really, 12 months on, going to hope for a team led by Geno Smith on a Russell Wilson sized contract, with soon-to-be 33-year-old Wagner on the other side of the ball?

I want a new direction. I don’t want to hold on to the past, or a plan that didn’t work three or four years ago (so why will it work now?).

I voiced my disinterest in re-signing Wagner on twitter and people have quickly retaliated by pointing out that I said I had interest in signing Lavonte David. It’s a fair challenge to make and one I should answer.

Firstly, I am hardly awash with NFL sources and contacts but from time-to-time, I am able to exchange ideas, thoughts and opinions with people who played the game. It was during a conversation about Wagner’s play in 2021 that the play of David was highlighted in comparison. I watched his all-22. It was the complete opposite of what Wagner was showing on tape.

To put it bluntly, Lavonte David chooses violence. There was no shirking anything. He continues to play like lightning to the ball-carrier. His intensity, physicality and speed is as good today as it was in his late 20’s. He is a thoroughly impressive, tone-setting player. He is someone who deserves more praise than he gets.

To me that is what Seattle badly needs. While I’d be worried about Wagner settling back into Seattle like he’s putting on a pair of favourite slippers, I’m not sure David has any other mode than ‘attack’.

I am not tied to the thought of signing David, either. It was a suggestion among others that included improving the trenches first and foremost. That needs to be the priority before anything else. I want to see reinforcements up front and if that means settling on a cheaper linebacker, so be it.

Over the years, we’ve been able to work out the types of player Seattle likes at certain positions. Their process at linebacker makes sense. Yes, Cody Barton has been a disappointment and Jordyn Brooks is yet to truly justify his investment. Yet the same physical traits they covet also helped us identify Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw as potential targets for Seattle. Both, obviously, now excel in San Francisco.

I think sticking to those preferences and taking shots on fast, explosive, agile linebackers in the middle and later rounds is the way to go. I’d consider an exception for Drew Sanders, who I think should be a possible option at #20.

For the most part the bigger investment should come in the trenches, though.

I had a Twitter exchange earlier with someone who suggested it would be a plausible consideration if Wagner was willing to take an unrealistic salary, such as $5m. We need to embrace what is actually likely to happen here.

According to Spotrac, Wagner has earned $92m in his football career alone. He was named 2nd team All-Pro in 2022 and got the highly publicised ‘top PFF grade’ for a linebacker in 2022.

He acts as his own agent, which typically doesn’t create the smoothest negotiation. As mentioned already, a year ago it took a while to get a deal done.

Wagner doesn’t strike me as someone who will take any old contract to carry on playing and might even sit out on a point of principle after everything he’s achieved. We’ll see. I can’t imagine him carrying on for a Phil Haynes salary. There may well be teams with a lot to spend — Atlanta, Chicago and Vegas for example — who are willing to invest in his experience.

More than anything though I’m just ready to look to the future and not be sentimental for the past. Wagner will always be a Seattle great. Yet he was cut for a reason 12 months ago and a revenge tour season in LA shouldn’t push the Seahawks towards going back for more.

They don’t have much to spend. What little is left should go on other areas — namely quarterback and the trenches.

Another important note on character

I’m always looking for little nuggets of info and this felt like an interesting one. On 710 Seattle Sports this week, Dave Wyman had the following to say about Kayvon Thibodeaux — a player the Seahawks supposedly wouldn’t have drafted a year ago:

“That was a guy that they just weren’t going to draft. Probably in the second round or at some point. That was just a guy they weren’t very high on”

Wyman doesn’t detail why they wouldn’t have drafted Thibodeaux but it’s worth remembering some of the talk about him pre-draft. In all of his interviews he talked about his ‘brand’ and how being in the NFL would help his ‘brand’. He constantly talked about money and how being in the league was simply a vehicle to achieve financial success.

Closer to the draft it emerged he’d also been saying similar things to teams and a few found it off-putting. In mocks you started to see him drop. Right before the draft, Peter King even mocked the Seahawks trading down to #13 and taking Thibodeaux.

When Schneider spoke immediately after the 2022 season ended, he spoke about the added emphasis they placed on character last year. You can see that in the players they drafted — all were very mature, focused players.

My hunch is they were one of the teams who were put-off by Thibodeaux’s relentless desire to talk about his ‘brand’ and entrepreneurial ambitions.

I appreciate there’s some dot-connecting here but John Schneider recently started a weekly radio segment with Wyman. Recently, we’ve seen this comment on Thibodeaux and a note that Geno Smith is asking for $40m a year. Draw your own conclusions but personally when Wyman speaks these days I’m going to listen.

The reason I bring all this up is because of Jalen Carter. As talented as he is — and he’s very talented — there’s no getting away from the character concerns. Todd McShay questioned whether he’s someone you’d want to bring into the locker room. Lance Zierlein noted maturity issues in his scouting report. I understand he basically did what he wanted at Georgia.

This could all be fair and accurate and he could still have an amazing career. You don’t need to be the ultimate pro to succeed.

And let’s not forget — the Giants took Thibodeaux at #5 despite all the chatter. I think Carter will similarly go very early.

I’m not convinced, however, that he’ll be on Seattle’s radar unless he can convince them otherwise over the coming weeks.

On the other hand, Will Anderson is constantly raved about by Nick Saban for his character and attitude. It’s also worth noting that Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud and Will Levis are celebrated for their amazing character. I’ve interviewed Levis and have spoken to people at Kentucky about him. He is loved over there. I’ve also heard good things about Anthony Richardson, just not to the same extent as the other top-three quarterbacks.

This is all worth remembering if character plays a big part in Seattle’s key decision with their top pick.

Two receivers I’m eyeing for Seattle

I’m very much looking forward to the combine and will be publishing my big combine preview on Sunday or Monday. I can’t wait to mention two receivers though.

The Seahawks might go in a different direction with their high picks and we need to see how they test. However, Josh Downs and Jonathan Mingo just scream ‘Seahawks’ to me.

Downs is just the ultimate. He reminds me so much of Tyler Lockett it’s uncanny.

His ability to high-point the football at his size is truly remarkable. He creates subtle separation with suddenness to clear coverage. He can make the big play downfield and deliver on the quick-hitters inside.

Personality-wise he is a 10/10. He already speaks like a seasoned veteran. His dad played in the league and his uncle is Dre Bly. He’s grown up around coaches and players and it shows.

He is also immensely productive and explosive — a constant threat.

It won’t be a surprise if he ends up being a ‘must-have’ for Seattle. He’ll need to prove his speed at the combine but this is the player I would put a ring around pre-Indy.

Mingo, meanwhile, is one of the most underrated players in the draft. He’s well sized with a fantastic frame. He has the quickness to get downfield and take the top off a defense but amazingly at 6-1 and 225lbs he’s brilliant in the slot. He’s technically adept and knows how to get open, present himself to the ball and he shows his hands to the QB and catches away from his body. His ball-tracking over his shoulder and on deep and contested throws is first rate.

He can make spectacular one-handed grabs, he can ‘Moss’ defenders and he runs terrific routes. He can pretty much do everything and he plays with an aggression and physicality teams will love.

I’ve watched every rep he had at the Senior Bowl and he was as smooth as silk. His ability to leap and catch away from his body was there for all to see and he deserves way more attention than he’s getting for his showing. I think he’s a second round lock but let’s see how he tests.

The fact Seattle trialled Laquon Treadwell as a bigger WR3 makes me think they’re open to that type of player. If Mingo’s there at #53 — he could end up being a steal.

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The sliding doors effect of a Seahawks off-season

John Schneider made his first appearance on 710 Seattle Sports last Thursday, kicking off a weekly spot that’ll continue until the draft.

Schneider isn’t going to give away secrets when he goes on the radio. However, I’m fascinated why — after 13 years — he suddenly wants to do this now. Is he simply doing a solid for Dave Wyman, a friend and one of the hosts? Is it indicative of an ongoing transfer of power — which will eventually culminate in Schneider being the key man within the franchise as Pete Carroll nears the end?

I think a bit of light-hearted speculation is an enjoyable topic during the off-season and I can’t have been the only one reading too much into what Schneider said. He wasted no time name-dropping scouting missions to watch Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen. Was it a coincidence? Or was he gently reminding everyone that he liked both players and that perhaps any future QB decision deserves a little faith and trust?

One of the key lines I found interesting was the way he described how he discusses the off-season with Carroll. He praised the Head Coach’s ability to take on information and the differing possibilities that come with a free agency and draft period.

It made me think about the amount of planning that goes on for an off-season. For those of us without first-hand NFL front office experience, it’s easy to come up with a ‘Plan A’ and talk about the benefits of said plan. I’ve never properly considered the sliding doors effect that goes on when certain dominos fall.

The way Schneider talked he essentially portrayed a situation where he would tell Carroll a series of opportunities and how they will pivot if those opportunities do or don’t come off. Basically it sounds like there is never really a ‘Plan A’ but just one bigger vision where you have to be ready to react to circumstances that go for or against you.

It’s a continuous puzzle piece, where you have to fit a lot of things together to build a roster. When you think of it like that — you realise how difficult it is to connect everything.

I think this is one of the reasons why we’re seeing teams cheat by using void years, taking on massive cap debt and pushing problems into tomorrow. It makes the puzzle easier to complete today and you can let the next person worry about the future.

I wanted to break down some of the scenarios that could impact the Seahawks’ thinking. There will be more, of course. These do feel like the obvious questions and challenges they’ll face though, as they prepare for a pivotal off-season.

1. Does John Schneider love one of these quarterbacks?

There’s nowhere else to start. This is the defining question of the whole off-season. For all the talk of Geno Smith’s future and the defensive line — this is where everything begins.

This is a GM who was reportedly prepared to draft Patrick Mahomes in 2017 when they had Russell Wilson. This is a GM who reportedly was willing to trade Wilson for the opportunity to draft Josh Allen. Neither player was the first QB taken in their respective classes. If they’d actually gone through with either move, it would’ve been stunning and unprecedented at the time.

You better believe, therefore, that he’ll be willing to use the #5 pick on a quarterback — irrespective of any other off-season decision — if he sees a player he rates as highly as Mahomes and Allen.

Remember — Mahomes and Allen were viewed as flawed players coming into the league. Lest we forget that Daniel Jeremiah didn’t even include Mahomes on his updated top-50 board less than a month before the 2017 draft, while Lance Zierlein graded Mahomes and Allen lower than he did Drew Lock.

If Schneider loves a quarterback or multiple quarterbacks, he will probably take one at #5. When you look at players like Will Levis, Anthony Richardson and C.J. Stroud, it’s hard not to think they are exactly the types of quarterback Schneider covets. I wouldn’t rule out interest in Bryce Young, either.

2. Geno Smith’s future

Smith’s future will matter for a number of reasons. It’ll dictate how much you have to spend in free agency. If you don’t re-sign him, you’ll need a quarterback on the roster before the draft who you are comfortable with adding to the competition to start.

With only $19.1m to spend in effective cap space, this is a huge call.

If you don’t re-sign Smith, does a quarterback at #5 become inevitable? Do you even have to consider being aggressive and trading up if there’s one player you feel is especially capable of starting for you quickly?

Does the cap saving also give you a greater opportunity to be more aggressive in free agency on the defensive line? For example, if your intention is to sign Smith to say a three-year deal with a lower year-one cap hit — can you do something similar for a defensive lineman if Smith goes elsewhere? You just transfer that initial cap hit to a DaRon Payne or Javon Hargrave and backload in the same way.

Signing Smith to an extension obviously buys you the opportunity to go D-line first, if that is the preferred route. It would also take the pressure off needing to start a rookie quarterback. We’ve talked a lot about the ideal situation being an Alex Smith/Patrick Mahomes torch-passing scenario.

Of course, Smith isn’t the only bridge option. There are cheaper alternatives available who could do the job but they might not be able to perform to Smith’s level.

Keeping Geno would also be the perfect smokescreen if your intention is to draft a specific quarterback, whether that’s at #5 or later on.

I’ll assume Schneider already knows if there’s a quarterback he ‘has to have’ in this class. With that established, addressing Smith’s future is the second most important factor because it influences everything else you can do or need to do.

I still think the best thing to do is let him establish his market at the combine when the entire league and every agent congregates on Indianapolis. Then you make a call on the price. Thankfully, that increasingly appears to have been Seattle’s plan all along.

3. Is Jalen Carter a Seahawk?

For me this is the third most important question entering the off-season. Schneider spoke on Thursday about the work they do on individuals, then the meetings they have as a staff before determining whether a player has the right character to be graded as a potential Seahawk.

In a separate interview at the end of Seattle’s season, he noted how much emphasis they placed on character in the 2022 draft.

In terms of pure talent, Carter is one of the best defensive linemen to enter the league in the last few years. He is exactly the type of player the Seahawks have needed for a long time. He is someone who can wreck the interior, impact games and be a difference maker. If he isn’t the best player in the draft he’s second only to Bijan Robinson.

As noted last week, however, the concerns over his character are real and should be taken seriously:

While it’s not the case that Carter is a bad person or anything like that — there are legitimate concerns in the league about his maturity, attitude, reliability and punctuality. Unquestionably he’s a very talented player but I would recommend people don’t dismiss what is being said by Todd McShay and Lance Zierlein.

This not only increases the chances of Carter lasting to #5 — it means the Seahawks would have a big call to make if one of the most talented defensive linemen to enter the league in recent years is available, yet they — like others — have serious concerns about whether he has the attitude and application to make the most of his god-given physical gifts.

Determining whether you would be prepared to take Carter at #5 is a big call. If you decide that he’s not a character fit for your locker room, then it impacts how you approach the #5 pick in a significant way.

Will Anderson will likely be very much considered a ‘Seahawk’ because there are no questions about him. It’s also been reported by Jeff Howe in the Athletic that generally speaking, the league sees a ‘top-three’ at quarterback (Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud & Will Levis).

If the three quarterbacks and Anderson end up making up the top-four — you have a big decision to make. Are you OK taking Carter? Do you take Anthony Richardson to draft and develop? Do you trade down with a team wanting the opportunity to select Richardson or Carter? Do you have another player you’re willing to take at #5?

It will certainly make life a lot easier for all concerned if Carter can convince teams he will apply himself like a professional and be a more mature person when drafted. That way the Seahawks can either draft him, filling a huge need, or someone else will draft him in the top-four, sending Anderson or a top-three QB to Seattle.

This isn’t the only consideration though. If you’re not prepared to take Carter at #5, then you need a plan to improve your interior defensive line. Is it possible to do that at #20, #38 or #53 at a sufficient level? Can you add a key free agent (especially if you’ve re-signed Geno Smith)? If DaRon Payne is tagged by Washington, can you trade for him? Can you afford him?

Carter influences so much of your draft and free agency thinking.

4. If you take a quarterback at #5 how do you fix your defense?

Given Seattle’s glaring defensive issues — if Schneider is insistent that he’s found the next great quarterback and can get him at #5, he’ll need to produce a plan to help the defense in other ways.

It wouldn’t surprise me if the Seahawks view Will Anderson as a big target at #5 (if he lasts) and would then look to pivot to Will McDonald if he’s gone.

I’ve said it a few times since the Senior Bowl but McDonald is the prototype pass rusher for the Carroll Seahawks. The length, the explosive traits, the balance and bend. He’s what they go for.

Their main round one defensive focus could easily be based around the two players named Will — Anderson at #5 or McDonald at #20.

I fear McDonald will rise up boards after the combine when he puts on a show for the ages. At the very least, he might end up being just out of range — as Brian Burns was in 2019. That would be gut-wrenching because increasingly I think he could be an excellent option for Seattle at #20 — whether they go quarterback at #5 or not.

Any plan will obviously have to go beyond one player. McDonald just feels very ‘Seahawks’ though and could be the primary alternative to Anderson with the other pick in round one.

There are other questions to consider here.

Is the arm length for Calijah Kancey a deal-breaker or not? Obviously Kancey isn’t Aaron Donald — but they share a very similar physical profile. Donald led Brandon Staley’s league-leading defense in LA. Is it totally out of the question that Kancey could similarly play beyond his size? I like him a lot but it’s hard to create expectations on anything like a Donald-level. Still, he’s another player Seattle will surely do a lot of work on. They do talk a lot about length on the D-line though and Kancey is expected to measure with short arms.

Can Adetomiwa Adebawore or Keion White produce enough impact as rotational players for the defensive front?

Are the second-tier defensive tackles good enough to really excel? Is there anything special about Keeanu Benton, Cameron Young, Zacch Pickens, Moro Ojomo, Siaka Ika and Byron Young (Alabama)? How is Mazi Smith’s arm length and do you factor that in if he tests as well as any defensive tackle not named Jordan Davis?

How do you combine a draft pick (or picks) with free agency?

I’d like to see a splash — and think one is warranted. One of the key benefits of trading Russell Wilson should’ve been the flexibility to go and land a key free agent or two this year. This will be almost impossible if they give Geno Smith a big contract, even with a lower year-one cap hit.

Thus, we can all appreciate that the best we can probably hope for is another Uchenna Nwosu level signing. Who fits that bill? Two names that spring to mind are Derrick Nnadi and Zach Allen. Neither will tilt the balance but they can produce. It does just feel like the Seahawks need more up front, however.

That’s why it feels to a lot of people that it could end up being — re-sign Geno Smith, go defense at #5 (and maybe #20 or #38). Or — go quarterback at #5, get someone who knows your scheme and can start quickly (eg, Will Levis) and then add some veteran D-liners. To be fair, you can build cases for both plans. I think one has greater potential for short-term growing pains and long-term success (quarterback at #5) but the other likely makes you more of a shorter-term threat with questions about the future at quarterback (and whether you will be good enough to actually be anything more than playoff also-rans). The Seahawks might need to pick their poison.

5. If you don’t go quarterback at #5, how do you add to the position?

The obvious answer is Hendon Hooker. I think there are enough doubts about his deep accuracy, age, injury situation and helpful Tennessee scheme to wonder whether the Seahawks (and other teams) will be that interested in him. I have reservations. Yet he also has a high degree of physical upside, maturity, college production and traits (huge hands) that teams like the Seahawks pay attention to.

I can well imagine a scenario where the Seahawks are inclined to go quarterback at #5 unless Will Anderson lasts. Feel free to add Jalen Carter’s name too, provided they get the necessary character reassurance (and trust me, they will seek it).

If they take that mindset, they might pivot to taking Hooker to make sure they add a signal caller later on.

This situation meshes better if the Seahawks retain Geno Smith. Hooker almost certainly won’t be ready to compete to start in 2023 and will need to continue rehabbing his knee, before learning a new system and getting back to 100%. He’s a redshirt draft pick and if you need to open up a competition at quarterback, he probably wouldn’t be part of it this year.

If Smith comes back he would be the unchallenged starter to begin the season and it would give you a chance to just sit Hooker, let him learn and recover and be part of the competition in 2024.

It’s not a stretch to imagine:

1. The Seahawks sign Geno Smith to a new contract
2. They take a defender at #5
3. They plan to draft Hooker on day two

It wouldn’t be a major surprise if the Seahawks used the 53rd pick on Hooker — the exact same pick the Eagles used on Jalen Hurts.

You would still get three years of quality cap control out of Hooker. If he was PUP’d for 2023 you could also get an extra season of manageable RFA protection, just as the Seahawks are going to receive with Darrell Taylor.

This isn’t necessarily what I would do because I much prefer the four quarterbacks at the top of the board. I also think there are enough good defensive players at #20 and #38 to feel like you can take one of those QB’s at #5. That said, it’s possible the following occurs in a pattern leading the Seahawks to Hooker:

1. The market comes to Seattle with Geno Smith
2. The D-line market goes against Seattle in free agency
3. They discover it’s likely that three QB’s come off the board in the top-four
4. They decide to take one of the top-two defenders at #5
5. They target Hooker in order to make an investment at QB

This approach would probably mean the Seahawks taking further ‘shots’ at the quarterback position in future years in a similar range. That’s something, for example, the Packers have done and that’s Schneider’s background.

Again though, it comes down to the first question. Does Schneider see a quarterback at #5 he has to have?

Overrated talking points

What will they do at center?

I think this has become a bit of an obsession among Seahawks fans. There aren’t actually that many quality centers in the NFL and the way people go on about Creed Humphrey you’d think only the Seahawks passed on him. He lasted to the 63rd pick.

Do the Seahawks need to be better at center? Yes. Have other teams ‘plugged guys in’ using this scheme? Yes.

Do they need to force things with a high draft pick? No, absolutely not.

I don’t think this is a particularly exciting center class and with Sedrick Van Pran returning to Georgia, they’d be best served looking for a solid veteran. John Michael Schmitz has become a trendy round one projection for Seattle but as I noted here, I think that would be a big reach.

I continue to think Garrett Bradbury would be the ideal solution based on profile. To me he’s another ‘Uchenna Nwosu’ level free agent in terms of price and potential.

Can you get a center later on? Yes — and I think the man I interviewed yesterday, Penn State’s Juice Scruggs — could be an option there.

What do they do at right guard?

If there was an opportunity to draft a top-level guard I’d be all for it but I don’t see any in this class, contrary to what’s being suggested in the media. The Seahawks can find scheme fits later on and should be able to follow what worked for the Rams — shifting college tackles inside to execute the system.

Let’s not forget — LA’s offensive line led the league in a number of categories for a few years before injuries decimated their unit in 2022.

If they see an opportunity they can’t miss — then fine. I think it’s at least possible they could view someone like Dawand Jones as the clear BPA at #20. That could lead to a shift inside for Abraham Lucas. However, Lucas is one of the big success stories from 2022 and they’ve already moved enough linemen around.

I would guess this is a situation that could be resolved by re-signing Phil Haynes (EDIT — the Seahawks just announced they have re-signed Haynes to a new one-year deal) and then drafting someone. Matthew Bergeron, Jordan McFadden and Tyler Steen could be solid guard converts. Nick Broeker, Nick Saldiveri and McClendon Curtis could also produce value. I also think teams might view Joe Tippman as a guard and he is going to be one of the best testers at the combine — at any position.

Get another cornerback!

We’ve seen too many mocks projecting the Seahawks take a cornerback early. This will likely be dealt with in the usual way — draft and develop in the middle or later rounds. It’s a deep group at corner so there’s little need to draft a player early. It’s likely Michael Jackson will be back anyway.

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Curtis Allen: The Seahawks’ search for roster value

This is a guest post by Curtis Allen

With the season over, hope for next year springs eternal for all 32 teams.  Fans are focusing primarily on two questions: “How did this year’s teams get to the Super Bowl?” and “What do we need to do to get there next year?”

There are several ways to accomplish it but from an organizational perspective there really is only one overriding way to ultimate success.

Teams need to generate a high level of value from their roster.

It is the same for the professional football world as any business:  to get to the top of the game, you need to generate a bigger return than what you pay out.  The bigger the return, the more successful you will be.

The one big difference in the NFL is there is a salary cap that levels the playing field of expenses.  The richest and the poorest teams alike are capped in how much they can lay out in payroll each season.

That just serves to underline the need to create value on your roster even more.

The two Super Bowl teams this year have generated extreme value on their roster in completely different ways.

Philadelphia have Jalen Hurts on a rookie contract and they are leveraged up to their eyeballs.

Kansas City have top stars outperforming their big contracts in Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce and Chris Jones and have supplemented their roster with some solid rookies.  Frank Clark has once again turned into one of the most clutch pass rushers in the NFL when the lights are brightest.

Indeed, there is more than one way to get to the top of the mountain.  With that in mind, I thought I would briefly look at the last four years of Conference Championship participants and chart the areas of extreme value they have created as an exercise to assess where the Seahawks are:

A couple notes before we dive in.  Admittedly, this is rather unscientific and includes a degree of subjectivity.  Not all of these categories are easily quantifiable.  

I also wanted to only credit teams with creating significant value in these categories.  Any team getting this far has good players and good coaches.  More is needed though.  A degree of return that pushes them above the other playoff teams.

To give some insight into the five categories:

Quarterback Value – this seems self-explanatory but there is a little more context needed than just the straight up case of having a rookie-contract quarterback and surrounding him with expensive talent.

Sure, you have Burrow, Allen, Mahomes and Hurts checking that box — but it is broader than that.  I also gave teams credit for getting great value from a quarterback on a below-market veteran contract as well.  

Tom Brady is the prime example here for playing at nearly half his available market rate.  

Also, Tennessee in 2019 is an intriguing case.  The Titans had Marcus Mariota making $21 million on the fifth-year tender but Ryan Tannehill and his $2.25 million cap number overtook him and helped the Titans go deep in the playoffs.

Leveraging – teams have created extreme value by borrowing heavily from the future.  

The Rams have not only restructured their biggest stars to create cap room more than once but they have also traded just about every first-round pick they have for star talent at key positions.  

Another example:  Last year, they sent a second and a third-round pick to Denver to acquire Von Miller and had the Broncos pay the bulk of his salary.  He contributed nine sacks, with four of them coming in the playoffs, with a cap hit of only $722k.  Miller left in the offseason to go to Buffalo.  Two high picks for a handful of games with a premium return and a very affordable cap charge?  A prime example of leveraging.

Likewise, the Eagles traded their first-round pick for a star player in AJ Brown.  

They have also used restructuring and void years to super-size their roster.  They had $65 million of dead money this year and have already accrued $37 million for 2023.  

Just one example:  they signed Hassan Reddick to a 3-year, $45 million contract in 2022.  

That pencils out to a clean $15 million per year, right?  No.  Look at how it is structured by the Eagles per OTC:

The Eagles structured this contract at the extreme end of aggression, realizing only $3.8 million in cap charges for Reddick in 2022.

What did the Eagles get for their $3.8 million?  19.5 sacks – 16 in the regular season and 3.5 in the playoffs.  That is extreme value.  

Even in 2023 they are only on the hook for $7 million.  

The price though?  $34 million in cap charges between 2024 and the future dead money from void years.

Reddick is just one example.  They have backloaded contracts with void years all over the roster.  For 2023-2028, the Eagles have already committed an incredible $131 million to void contracts.  That is cap space dedicated to players who will not be on their roster, all to field more talent in 2022 than the cap traditionally allows for.

I hope they are getting airline miles for using the company credit card that much.

Rookie Performers – this covers all non-quarterback players on rookie contracts that are having a serious impact on the team.  

It is not enough to have a handful of players on cheap contracts getting snaps.  They must be contributing to team success at a high level to generate enough impact.

Look at 2019 on the chart.

The Packers had Aaron Jones with 1,650 yards and 21 touchdowns for $695k.  Kenny Clark got seven sacks for $3 million.  Jaire Alexander emerged as a top corner with a cap of $2.7 million.

Tennessee had Derrick Henry with 2,140 yards and 20 touchdowns for $1.7 million, Harold Landry contributing nine sacks for $1.5 million, Kevin Byard emerging as a top free safety with six interceptions for $4 million, Jeffery Simmons as a rookie and Jack Conklin locking down right tackle for $2.6 million.

Kansas City had Chris Jones with nine sacks from the interior at $1.9 million and Tyreek Hill with seven. touchdown catches on $2.1 million.

And San Francisco, the plum of them all.  On rookie contracts that year:  Kittle, Deebo, Bosa, Warner, Buckner, and Armstead on his fifth-year tender.  Unreal.  I should have given them three x’s on that chart for how filthy they were.

Expensive Stars – You expect your highly paid players to provide value with their performance, along with that unquantifiable value of ‘making everyone around them better.’  Yet in this category, these players provided more pure value than even their big salary accounted for.

The Packers in 2019 got 29.5 sacks from the two Smiths in the first year of their expensive contracts.

In 2020, Aaron Rodgers threw an insane 52 touchdowns against only seven interceptions.

The Bills have gotten more than their money’s worth for Stefon Diggs.  

Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey for the Rams are the type of players you can pay handsomely, shape your entire defense around and still come out way ahead on value.

This year, Patrick Mahomes’ veteran contract kicked in and he counted $35.7 million against the cap but maintained his magnificent play, taking home the MVP and leading the Chiefs to a Super Bowl win.  All this despite losing Tyreek Hill to the Dolphins.

Coaching – I gave Andy Reid and Kyle Shanahan marks for creating tremendous roster value through their coaching.

Shanahan has been able to coach this team to massive success with a litany of lesser-talented quarterbacks by designing a system that creates opportunities in both the run and passing game.

Reid has brilliantly navigated this team to take advantage of Mahomes’ arm talent and off-schedule ability and has found a defensive coordinator in Steve Spagnuolo that gels with his team strategy in a way that deserves more recognition than it gets.


I want to be clear; these are not the only ways to reach as far as the Conference Championships.  There are other factors like strength of schedule, injury luck and turnovers.  

From a roster standpoint though — if you are not producing extraordinary value in at least two of these five areas — recent history demonstrates that you will not be having a deep playoff run.    

How do the Seahawks measure up?  What needs to happen for them to create significant value in at least two of these five fields in the near future?

Let’s start with the one that has been the hottest topic of debate in recent weeks…

Quarterback Value

The Seahawks have no quarterbacks on the roster currently.  Obviously, what they do in the next two months will dramatically affect the franchise and their prospects for 2023 and beyond.

We can all agree on the standard premise that drafting a quarterback and building a roster around him while he is inexpensive has tremendous potential to provide a big return.  Annually getting $30-40 million of play for three or four seasons on a rookie contract is a direct way to turbo-charge your roster.

Selecting a quarterback early in the draft does not automatically make it happen though.  Caveats apply.

First off, you need that quarterback to actually play well enough to provide that value.

Secondly, the front office needs to be very smart in building the team around that quarterback.  Just having extra cap to spend on free agents or retain your stars on veteran contracts does not automatically translate to putting a successful product on the field.

If the Seahawks choose to tie their future to a quarterback with the #5 pick in the draft, that is a great start.  But filling out the roster with middling veterans that struggle to generate a big return will not get them where they want to go.

Now let’s consider a different way to create value at the quarterback position:  bringing Geno Smith back on a veteran contract.

We will start with what we all can agree on – Smith had a much better 2022 than any of us expected.  He checked that box tremendously.  He might have been the Best Roster Value (veteran edition) in the entire NFL, doing what he did for a total of $7 million.  

However, the search for value needs to look forward now, not backward.

Can the Seahawks check that QB Value box by getting tremendous value on an investment in Geno Smith in 2023?

Yes, they can — but under some very limited circumstances.

Assuming the reports of a contract in the $30-35 million annual value range are true, to get extraordinary value they will have to sign him to a multi-year extension with a low 2023 cap hit.  

He will also need to provide them with a fantastic full season.  The Seahawks will need the Geno Smith they got for the first 10 games of the season in 2022 and not the Geno they got for the remainder of the season.  There will be considerable pressure to be consistently good in order to truly provide extreme roster value.

There is a heavy price to consider for that one potentially high-value season though.

Having a very reasonable cap hit in 2023 on a big contract inflates his 2024 and 2025 cap hits and means 2023 will very likely be the only year for the foreseeable future that we can check this box for significant QB Value.  Why?

Those bigger cap hits severely limit the potential for an outsized return from the game’s most critical position.  

To illustrate, Patrick Mahomes won the Super Bowl this year with the heaviest cap hit in history for a single quarterback – taking up 17% of the Chiefs’ cap this year with a hit of $35.7 million.  The next highest percentage?  Steve Young at 13% years ago.

Signing Smith with a workable 2023 hit means the next couple years of cap numbers will be between that range of 13-17% of the cap.

Brass tacks – will the 34–35-year-old Geno Smith be able to outperform a $30-40 million cap hit in 2024 and/or 2025?  To a similar degree that Patrick Mahomes outperformed his big cap hit this year?  Can he even come close?

To do so, that means Geno Smith will need to be very, very good in 2023 and then take a major step forward and perform as a top-five quarterback in the NFL for 2024 and 2025 to generate that much value.  

Is that something the team feels Smith can do?

It is hard to make the case that he will.  Very hard.  Even the sunniest of Seahawks fans to have to admit that is a lot to ask in order to reach the high altitude of a Conference Championship game.  The standard line of reasoning that ‘this is what you have to pay a quarterback these days’ is just not enough.

The Seahawks had a big dead cap hit of $26 million on Russell Wilson’s contract on the books in 2022.  They are now free from that burden.  Do they really want to spend that enormous roster resource on Geno Smith?

If Smith is a Seahawk in 2023, it could be reasoned that it’s your best shot to go deep in the playoffs because with a small cap hit you can check the QB Value box easily.  Yet counting on Smith to provide significant value against those far bigger cap hits in future seasons is a pretty steep hill to climb.  

It really narrows your margin for deep playoff success if you cannot get a massive return on the investment at the game’s most important position.

If the Seahawks decide to take this route with a big contract for Smith, they will need to either go all-in on 2023, or dramatically improve in other areas on the team with less cap space to do so.  That makes the climb even more difficult.


It’s very likely the Seahawks under this ownership and administration will not ever aggressively create value by borrowing from tomorrow’s revenue to buy significant roster returns today.

The administration prefers steadiness on their cap and roster to taking the bold risk of the daring acquisition.  There is a lot of value in that – the roller coaster ride of four-win seasons to 13-win seasons can leave your head spinning.  

Also, when you pay your bills with your credit card, that leads to a dangerous cycle.  What will you do when that credit card comes due and your next round of bills are due?  The easiest route is to pay the credit card off and then pay your bills with the credit card again, repeating the cycle.  

It is a process that does provide significant roster value in the here and now but a reckoning and an ugly roster reset every few seasons is virtually guaranteed.

The Seahawks have occasionally tried leveraging without much success.  They traded first-round picks for star players and have not received the return desired.  It is just not in their wheelhouse.

So that box will likely not be checked soon, barring some significant organizational change.

Rookie Performers

Now we are getting closer to their wheelhouse.

Nearly a quarter of their roster this year will be players on their rookie contracts.  Most of those will be playing roles of great importance for the team.  The Seahawks have set themselves up nicely to potentially check this box in 2023.  

Why do I say ‘potentially?’

Remember, we are talking about significant roster value being provided here.  Look at those examples I provided above.  We are talking about devastatingly good seasons from players making a very low wage.  Seasons that return 10 times their contract value, maybe more.

Can the Seahawks get that kind of return in 2023-2024?

Cross and Lucas have had commendable rookie years.  Yet to reach that high threshold of value, they need to take a very big step forward.  Eliminating key penalties, not tiring out in December and some more consistency in pushing defenders around are in order.

Kenneth Walker needs continue his progress.  Perhaps he can integrate some more pass-catching into his game this year.  Also, staying healthy will be critical.

Darrell Taylor will be in the last year of his rookie contract in 2023 but has a very affordable year of team control in 2024.  It is time to provide a season or two of major value to the roster by being a more consistent disruptor.

Tariq Woolen still has so much untapped potential.  Avoiding a sophomore slump is critical.  The Seahawks need to help him find a way to keep improving without forcing on a mental straitjacket with their system so that his incredible physical gifts and instincts are not inhibited.

Perhaps the Seahawks could go the Moneyball-type route, recreating a couple of All-Pro players in the aggregate?  Combining well above-average play from several of the players above with contributions from fine young players like Boye Mafe, Tre Brown, Cobe Bryant, and Dareke Young among others?

All that is before we talk about the impact talent the team will add in the draft this spring, with four very high draft picks on the board.

Optimism about this category being a check mark for the Seahawks is justified.  They are well on their way.

They will need to provide the team all the value they can because the next category might be troublesome.

Expensive Stars

The Seahawks’ four players with the heaviest cap hits in 2023 are Jamal Adams, Quandre Diggs, Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf.  Can any of those four provide a value far and above their cap hit?

Metcalf at $13 million in 2023 has the greatest opportunity to provide top-level bang for the buck.  He had a career-high 90 catches this year and had a terrific game against Jalen Ramsey and the playoff game against San Francisco was a nice step in the right direction.

To put a check in this box, Metcalf has to take that next step to being a truly dominant player.  We have seen him take over games.  This year we saw him be a chain-mover as well as a dominant downfield threat.  Yet his ceiling is still yet unreached.  A 110-catch, 15-touchdown season is within his grasp.

He will need to get there in order to threaten this top-value category, as he counts $53 million against the cap in 2024 and 2025.

Tyler Lockett has consistently been one of the best values for the Seahawks over the years.  Due to the team’s eagerness to extend him ahead of the market and Lockett’s acceptance of their overtures, he is regularly outside the top-15 wide receivers in annual contract pay.

There will not be a negative word spoken about Lockett here.  However, after a $16 million cap hit this year, he counts $47 million against the cap in 2024 and 2025.  The Seahawks will happily take the career value he has provided but can he vastly exceed that value in the next three seasons?  It is hard to say he will.  However, he is the least of the Seahawks’ worries when it comes to expensive veterans.

We now come to the two safeties, who hit the cap this year to the tune of $36 million currently.

Can they provide great value on the field relative to their cap hit?

No.  They cannot.  

Adams has been unable to stay on the field.  Recovering fully from his injury in time to play (and play well) in 2023 is a very tall order.

Diggs’ value has been vastly diminished, between a horrific injury he clearly struggled to recover from in 2022, to the lack of talent in the front seven, exposing his occasional poor tackling and giving him more responsibility than he can reasonably carry.

You can point to his leadership and the fact that the Seahawks were one of the better teams in the league at defending his territory in the deep middle as providing value.  Yet he hits the cap at $18 million this year.  Providing a huge return on that investment just is not on the cards.

The absolute best-case scenario is that Diggs fully returns to form and the Seahawks approach Adams and rework his contract and cut his cap hit for 2023 way down.  He then fully recovers from a torn quad and delivers a superior season for the team without any major lingering effects of that injury.

It is possible but very, very hard to see happening.

Here is the challenge for the Seahawks in this category — Metcalf and Lockett will at least hold their value.  Providing a massive leap might just be too much to ask though.

For the safeties, they are so highly compensated and their ability to provide serious value so in question, they might actually prove to be a negative value.  It is more than the binary ‘yes or no’ answer to the question of whether they provide value over and above their cost.  They are very likely to be a drag on the team’s roster, potentially negating gains in other areas.

Their best route to being able to find value here might be to sign a big free agent or two and coach them into outperforming the typically lower-hit first year of their cap number by a wide margin.  Not unlike what the Packers did in 2019 with the two big pass rusher signings.  The Packers saw a need, they attacked it vigorously and were handsomely rewarded.


Pete Carroll has been a very effective coach in many ways over the years.  Since providing tremendous value by selecting and developing very inexpensive players into stars early in his time in Seattle, however, he has not been able to bring major roster value over and above what other coaches are doing.


As you can see, the Seahawks at this time are set up with a strong possibility to return big value in only one of the categories in the near future.  Their outstanding rookie class of 2022 has energized the team and shown the fanbase that they are building something.

Are the Seahawks good in several areas on their roster?  Yes, they are.  However, if they have serious designs on a deep playoff run, “good” will not pass muster.  They need more.

Both Pete Carroll and John Schneider have spoken about the decisions they will have to make this offseason.  They both acknowledge some of them will be tough.  It is confidence-inspiring that they made two very difficult decisions last year rather than prolong the franchise’s descent into mediocrity.  The draft haul and the team’s performance in 2022 rewarded those decisions handsomely.

Does that success change their long-term plan?  They have to decide whether it does and very, very soon.

All decisions carry a measure of risk.

Giving Geno Smith a big contract and hoping he can outperform the moderate cap hit in 2023 and the big hits in 2024 and 2025 carries high volume of risk.  There is simply not a thorough enough record of performance to move forward with absolute confidence that he will continue to ascend to the top of NFL.

Let’s not fool ourselves, drafting a quarterback and plugging in a stop-gap like Drew Lock also carries significant risk.  If they take that route, the chances that the team will be truly competitive in 2023 are not great.  The team will likely endure some criticism if they regress and particularly if Geno Smith goes to another team and plays well.

However, the opportunity cost of having the #5 overall pick in a draft with four top quarterback prospects measured against the risk of Geno Smith regressing significantly on an expensive veteran contract cannot just be ignored.  It must be considered as a real, viable option to gain significant roster value — and not just for 2023, for the next five seasons.

The upcoming Scouting Combine will likely give us some more clues we will be able to parse about their thinking.

This season, the full proceeds from trading Russell Wilson will be entered into the history books.  The Seahawks will be molded for the next 5-10 years based on the decisions they make.  Creating value over and above what they pay should drive every major decision they consider.

Updated horizontal board (post-Senior Bowl)

Not as sold on the interior O-liners as others are

A lot of people have started mocking John Michael Schmitz in round one (often to Seattle). I also read a lot of mocks putting O’Cyrus Torrence in round one.

I just don’t see it.

I thought Schmitz had a decent Senior Bowl and there are some things he does very well. In particular for Seattle’s scheme — you see him chipping at the line then progressing to the second level well. He showed that in Mobile too. There’s a degree of aggression to his game which is appealing and he plays with a lot of effort. He has a chance to become a solid if unspectacular player.

When you’re talking about a first round center — a collectors item it has to be said — I think you need to see more.

Schmitz appears to be limited athletically. He isn’t a dominant force in college which makes you wonder about how he’ll make the step-up. He can be overpowered at times and his anchor isn’t top-level. He has a tendency to overextend and we saw at the Senior Bowl you can attack his shoulder and he struggles to take the correct angle, failing to cut-off the route to the QB. A lack of length doesn’t help. I didn’t think his tape was a very exciting watch.

A lot of Seahawks fans are on board with taking Schmitz at #38 and some are even open to the idea of taking him at #20 (or later in the first round after a small trade down). I can’t agree with that. I’ve given him a modest third round grade that I’ll revise up to a second rounder if he tests better than expected. I don’t think there’s a big difference between Schmitz and Luke Wypler or Joe Tippman (who is expected to have a great combine). I also think Cody Mauch showed in limited snaps at the Senior Bowl that his best position could be center at the next level — and he jumped off the screen during the game in Mobile when he lined up inside. I thought he was legitimately exciting as a center convert.

I even think someone like Juice Scruggs (who was the top O-line performer in 1v1’s at the Shrine Bowl) could provide far better value than taking Schmitz early. As noted earlier this week, I’d be very willing to take on Garrett Bradbury as a scheme-fitting reclamation project if the former #18 overall pick is available at a reasonable price in free agency. Either way, I’m not a fan of taking Schmitz in the top-40 and I’m not convinced the Seahawks are going to find their long term fix from this class.

Then there’s Torrence — possibly the most overrated player in the draft. I thought he had quite a poor Senior Bowl. He gained credit for a lot of losing reps. He received a lot of praise for reps where he was driven back 5-7 yards into the backfield. Typically that isn’t a win for the offensive lineman. There was also the ugly moment in the game where he was dumped on his backside by undersized linebacker Ivan Pace.

Torrence isn’t a great athlete. He had a sloppy frame at Florida and benefitted from a lot of support from the right tackle against key opponents such as Jalen Carter. He doesn’t overpower and smother defenders for a 337lbs lineman. To me he looks like someone who’s happy to hold blocks and contain. I wonder what the better athletes at the next level will do to him and I think he’s limited to blocking schemes that don’t ask their guards to move around.

I think we see players like this come into the league every year and they typically become average or below-average starters or backups.

I think in this draft McClendon Curtis would provide much better value. He has similar size at 6-5 and 331lbs. He has greater length (35 inch arms) and just looked more dominant at the Senior Bowl. He controlled and overpowered opponents and flashed more than Torrence did in the week of practise. I’d even say if you just want size at the position — take a chance on converting someone like Tyler Steen inside.

For a zone-blocking system I would prefer converted tackles Nick Broeker and Nick Saldiveri (both excelled during the Senior Bowl game). Matthew Bergeron and Jordan McFadden could provide mid-round value and we know the Rams’ blocking scheme traditionally favours guards who played tackle. I also think Ryan Hayes as a day-three pick has some developmental potential.

I can’t imagine Torrence going in the first round and I don’t think he’s the plug-and-play dynamo many think he’s destined to be. I think he’s an underwhelming player.

Quick-hitting thoughts on players

Anton Harrison (T, Oklahoma) — I went back and watched two of his games and moved him up to round two. His run-blocking is a lot more impressive than I initially gave him credit for. He’s a waist-bender and looks like he has athletic limitations but if nothing else, he could be a road-grader in the running game.

Rashee Rice (WR, SMU) — he just lacked any kind of juice or suddenness running routes in Mobile and he didn’t look like much of a playmaker, so he moves down the board.

Will McDonald (EDGE, Iowa State) — what a performance in Mobile, hinting at the potential to be something special at the next level. After the combine, I might give him a legit first-round grade.

Adetomiwa Adebawore (DL, Northwestern) — nobody else got the D-liners fired up during 1v1’s like ‘Ade Ade’. His combination of special athletic qualities, long arms and low centre of gravity make for an intriguing package.

Juice Scruggs (C, Penn State) — controlled most of his 1v1’s at the Shrine Game. Yes, the competition wasn’t great. However — he stood out among offensive linemen and it’ll be interesting to see how he tests.

McClendon Curtis (G, Chattanooga) — big, long and aggressive — one of the standout performers in Mobile.

Cameron Young (DT, Mississippi State) — if he tests well I might shift him into round two. I’m not sure why more people aren’t talking about him. He has ideal size (6-3, 304lbs) and incredible length (35 inch arms). He put on a show in Mobile.

Israel Abanikanda (RB, Pittsburgh) — he blew me away watching tape, much like Tyjae Spears. Abanikanda has a great frame, superb burst to accelerate from defenders in the open field, he has excellent cut-back ability and he can drive through contact. A very interesting player who should be on our radar at the combine.

General draft thoughts

This class is lacking in a number of areas. There isn’t a left tackle worthy of a top-10 pick. There isn’t a receiver you can comfortably say deserves to go in the top-10. We might see a cornerback sneak into the top-10 but it might be a bit of a reach.

Your blue-chip players basically come down to four quarterbacks, two defensive linemen, one running back and a tight end. At least in my opinion, pre-combine.

It doesn’t really matter for the Seahawks though. With the #5 pick they are guaranteed to be in position to draft one of the top-four quarterbacks or one of the top-two defensive players. This is a really attractive position to be in.

There’s even better news. I have nine players I’ve given ‘legit’ first round grades (would be first rounders any year) and a further 14 players with ‘fringe’ first round grades (would be happy to take them in the first round).

Basically, the Seahawks should be able to get a good player at #20. I wouldn’t pay much attention to these mocks that put Bijan Robinson in the 20’s (he’ll be the top player on many boards) but the realistic options include aggressive, quick linebacker Drew Sanders, the two hulking offensive linemen Dawand Jones and Darnell Wright, the brilliant interior rusher Calijah Kancey and classic Seahawks-style pass rusher Will McDonald.

As I’ve been discussing this week, I think McDonald is a player to put a ring around. He is exactly the type of player the Seahawks tend to love at his position. He’s 241lbs with 35-inch arms. He’s expected to jump a 42 or 43-inch vertical. He set a school record for sacks.

They already have Darrell Taylor, Uchenna Nwosu and Boye Mafe on the roster so whether they want another EDGE type remains to be seen. Yet McDonald showed at the Senior Bowl he has the rare qualities to bend around the arc and straighten to the quarterback with incredible balance and explosion. He’s strong for his size. He has a killer spin-move that we saw in Mobile when he beat the excellent Wright of Tennessee on back-to-back reps.

If you’re looking for special, difference-making traits — McDonald has them.

Seattle’s pressing need defensively is to get better in the trenches but as they try to create a defense that can scare opponents — it’s hard not to look at McDonald and think they’ll love what they see.

Can the Seahawks improve defensively if they take a quarterback at #5?

Undoubtedly, yes.

They could take McDonald at #20 to get a defender with elite-level traits. They could select Keeanu Benton at #38 — or perhaps after a small move up the board to ensure they get him.

You could keep adding. Alabama’s Byron Young continues to be underrated by many. Cameron Young at Mississippi State had a very good Senior Bowl. Moro Ojomo has intriguing potential at Texas.

I still believe if the Commanders tag DaRon Payne with the intention of trading him — you should be ready to offer a deal using one of your second round picks. That would immediately inject proven quality into your defensive front, taking the pressure off the draft. It would take a pricey contract but they’re going to have to spend to elevate to the next level. Payne is at a good age (he doesn’t turn 26 until May).

So while many people think the only right thing to do is pour resources into the defense — you can plausibly add a young, talented quarterback for the future and still reinforce your D-line.

That doesn’t mean I’m against taking a defensive lineman at #5. I understand the argument and will not criticise the Seahawks if they do that. I think John Schneider deserves some faith when it comes to quarterbacks. If he passes on a player, it won’t be because they’re neglecting the position.

I also hope fans give him the benefit of the doubt if he does take a quarterback. It’s extremely viable to add a young QB at #5 and still improve your defense.

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