A look at Todd McShay’s first mock draft

ESPN analyst Todd McShay has published his first mock draft of the year. Here are a few quick thoughts…

Some of the things we’ve been discussing for a long time are represented. For example, I’ve been saying I think Texas running back Bijan Robinson will top many draft boards in terms of pure grade. In a year without many clear top-10 picks, I’ll be surprised if someone doesn’t take him in that range despite his position. He is just too good and the alternative options will be far less talented.

McShay has Robinson going fifth overall to the Eagles at #5. It’s a perfect match.

There’s also a place for Anthony Richardson at #11. That’s not as high as I’ve been suggesting but McShay has Richardson at #32 on his big board. Thus, he is acknowledging here that there’s a very realistic chance the Florida quarterback will be taken very early — irrespective of how raw he is perceived to be.

I think as we go through this process he will continue to appear in more and more mock drafts and should he have a strong draft season, he will be a firm candidate for the top-five based on his incredible upside. As we’ve been noting for some time — there are plenty of elite QB’s in the NFL currently who were not being mocked in the top-15 when they declared. Patrick Mahomes, as highlighted last week, wasn’t even included in Daniel Jeremiah’s top-50 board just three weeks before the 2017 draft.

McShay has Will Levis at #6. This is validation of how we’ve assessed Levis over the last 12 months and the way we’ve projected him and his situation at Kentucky which, frankly, was horrendous. The lack of weapons, the fact he was sacked endlessly compared to every other big name quarterback in college football and his experience in a pro-system rather than a wide-open, half-field system that delivers mass-production. He’s not had it easy and he’s immensely talented.

McShay also has Michael Mayer going very early (#12) which I think is a lock and he has Myles Murphy lasting to #14. I don’t understand how or why people keep putting Murphy in the top five or six picks. Have they watched Clemson?

I’d be surprised if Peter Skoronski and Paris Johnson Jr go in the top-10. I don’t think either player is deserving of that mark, despite the premium nature and big need for offensive linemen. Skoronski is a guard convert in all likelihood and Johnson Jr just doesn’t jump off the screen.

Seattle’s picks are Jalen Carter at #2 and Brian Branch at #18.

We’ve discussed Carter a lot and he would provide a long overdue interior presence for a struggling D-line. He will be the first non-QB taken barring any unforeseen injury or character issues and a tremendous addition. Whether it’s Seattle or Chicago picking at #2 — Carter will almost certainly leave the board there, unless someone trades up.

Here’s McShay’s blurb:

This pick is higher than Seattle thought it would be when it sent Russell Wilson to Denver in March — and it will have options here. First, if the Seahawks aren’t sold on Geno Smith long term, they can happily select Ohio State passer C.J. Stroud and let Smith walk in free agency. Second, they can trade back with a team that wants Stroud and pick up even more picks for their ongoing rebuild. Or third, they can add a difference-making defender.

It’s still early to project trades or truly evaluate Smith’s future, so I’m opting for the third option — and going with Carter over Alabama’s Will Anderson Jr. Seattle has a bigger need on the interior than edge, and I think Carter could be dominant there with a lightning-fast first step and plenty of disruptive power. He reminds me of Quinnen Williams.

McShay is right to highlight the possibility of drafting a quarterback at #2, although it’s nothing to do with being sold or not on Geno Smith. The simple fact is Smith turns 33 next year and has had one good season. Hedging your bets isn’t a negative given recent performances haven’t been as strong:

Owning pick #2 would be a rare gift and an unusual, for this franchise, opportunity to select a top quarterback prospect. They would have to strongly consider that, even if they retain Smith as the starter. Quarterback is a critical position. Having a player for today and one learning and developing for the future would be a good plan. If they love Stroud, Levis or Richardson — the three available in McShay’s mock — it should be considered.

I do think it’s very possible the Seahawks draft a safety in the first two rounds. They have to be ruthless with Quandre Diggs and Jamal Adams and can’t justify committing $36m to the pair in 2023. I’m not sure they’d do it at #18 though — or for Brian Branch. He is, as McShay notes, more of a hybrid slot/safety. At times he looks like a Rolls Royce gliding across the field but he can also pack a punch. He’s not an eraser or a strong safety though.


It’s all defense in Round 1 for Seattle, after it took Jalen Carter at No. 2 — and Branch can impact every area of that side of the ball. You’ll see him down near the line of scrimmage trying to make a run stop, blitzing through gaps, holding up in coverage and showcasing his range and instincts on the back end. He fits this system and would be a great complement to rookie corners Tariq Woolen and Coby Bryant. Jamal Adams is turning 28 next season, while Quandre Diggs will be 30, so adding to the safety room would be prudent. But Branch has played quite a bit of slot corner, and that’s where I’d expect him to make an impact early in his career.

Boise State’s J.L. Skinner looks a better fit and might be available early in round two. He is the closest thing I’ve seen to Kam Chancellor since Kam retired.

A quick final note — the updated draft list has Seattle now in possession of #17, not #18.

If you’ve enjoyed the work and want to support the blog so that I can consider options for the pre-draft coverage in the new year, please consider supporting the site via Patreon — (click here)


  1. cha

    I really struggle with the idea of investing a top pick a safety. And yet I’m calling for Diggs and Adams to be dealt with this offseason as much as anyone.

    if they spend a pick on Skinner, that would be three years in a row they have spent a top pick on strong safety – maybe the least impactful position on the defense.

    That said, I love what Skinner brings.

    But I would still rather roll with Ryan Neal at the RFA tender and invest resources in the front.

    • Group Captain Mandrake

      I’d be ok with a safety later, but that should not be a position that is addressed in the first (or maybe even the second) round.

      • Zxvo3

        Would anyone get behind the idea of double dipping on the DL by drafting Carter (Broncos pick) and then drafting Mazi Smith with the Seahawks native pick? You would get the interior pass rusher you’ve always wanted in Carter and also draft a great run stopper in Smith.

        In the second round I would draft J.L. Skinner with the broncos pick and then see if a LB like Nolan Smith is available at the end of the second.

        That would be the ultimate injection of talent to the defense.

        • Group Captain Mandrake

          I’d love for them to get Carter with the first pick. The way things are going, they may end up with a higher native pick than it looked like they would have just a little while ago, so I would prefer they get a QB if possible (maybe Anthony Richardson is still around by then?). I wouldn’t be mad about Mazi Smith or Kalijah Kancey though.

        • Roy Batty

          But is Smith going to even go that early. It seems a bit of a reach.

          I would rather they picked BPA at the native first pick, then evaluate needs as they get into the 2nd round, and still go BPA if no player has fallen into the 2nd.

        • MarkinSeattle

          Yes, I would definitely be okay with those selections.

    • Jerry

      I was wondering this too.

      I’m not sure what the cap ramifications for this might be, but I was wondering if the Hawks will continue to purge vets and use next year to take the significant dead money that would entail. Moving on from Adams, Diggs, Mone, Jefferson, and Jackson will cost a bit. However, the last draft class has exceeded the best expectations, and the team will have the opportunity to add a lot of players in the upcoming draft. Perhaps taking one in the nuts next year would allow them to fully lean into this rebuild.

      Even if they did this, the main needs would be manageable: IOL, DL, LB, S, QB. They’ll have 9 picks and ammo to add additional selections.

      Is jettisoning these bad deals feasible while still retaining Geno?

      • Ashish

        I would do that as we don;t have pressure to win even next year. I remember Hawks waiting for getting dead money hit for Kam, Beast mode, Arvil to name few of them. Cha expert on cap space can confirm, we should be good on dead cap hit for Russ and Bobby next year. We should atleast do it for Diggs and Adams as i feel they are performing below average.

        If JS can get any draft picks out of our safeties that will be great, but doubt anyone will give anything due to the contract size.

      • GrittyHawk

        I wouldn’t mind seeing it, but I don’t know how feasible it is. Cutting Adams this year would actually cost $3M more than keeping him on the roster (post 6/1 would be $7M 2023 / $14M 2024). Cutting Diggs would leave behind $14M dead money (or $7M / $7M post 6/1). Harris, Woods, Jefferson, and Jackson are all UFAs after 2023. Cutting all of them would leave around $12M dead money but save $24M – cost of replacing them — but again, if we’re going full rebuild what’s the point in freeing up all that cap space cutting guys who are already off the books in 2024 anyway.

        Honestly I just don’t see the team giving up any pretense of being competitive next year. Pete is still under contract and you know he won’t fully rebuild. Jody Allen isn’t going to fire Pete and if they’re trying to sell the team the last thing they’ll want to do is have a 3 win season. Realistically I expect Adams and Diggs to be on the roster next year, and we’ll maybe see Jackson and Harris cut for cap savings.

  2. Zxvo3

    Would anyone get behind the idea of double dipping on the DL by drafting Carter (Broncos pick) and then drafting Mazi Smith with the Seahawks native pick? You would get the interior pass rusher you’ve always wanted in Carter and also draft a great run stopper in Smith.

    In the second round I would draft J.L. Skinner with the broncos pick and then see if a LB like Nolan Smith is available at the end of the second.

    That would be the ultimate injection of talent to the defense.

    • TomLPDX

      How many times are you going to post this?

      I’m with the Group Captain above. We need to get Will Levis or Richardson if they are available with our second 1st round pick. Get Skinner in the 2nd round if he is there (or Kancey).

      • Zxvo3

        Hahaha sorry about the posting. Still can’t get used to it after all these years LOL.

        • TomLPDX

          No problem. That came off a bit harsh as well, sorry about that. It’s a good question but I think we need to look for a QB every year from now on.

      • Ben - Fort Worth

        Agreed. As tempting as Jalen Carter is, I think the proper approach is to take the player that best fits you’re future. If building around Geno Smith is something that Pete and John feel confident in, then yes go and select Carter. If he’s not then Richardson or Levis should be taken. Stroud isn’t even a consideration for me at this point. I’d also be tempted to trade back to acquire more picks, if they felt they could get Levis or Richardson later. However it’ll all be up to the combine and pro days to help determine where there draft stock lies. I say draft Richardson at 2 and don’t even think twice about it.

        • Matt

          Completely agree.

          I think you take Richardson and give him all the time he needs. The ceiling is just insane with that guy. Not sure we’ll ever get a chance at someone like that, again.

    • Matt

      Love both guys but I think if you double dip at DT; it should be Carter OR Smith AND Kancey. *Not saying Smith with the top pick, btw.

      Why? I do think people are overrating Carter’s pass rush ability. He’s a superior run game player who has pass rushing ability. I think you’re looking at a dominate run defender who puts up 4-6 sacks. I do think Smith has a similar ceiling but not quite there yet. I don’t see a guy who flirts with double digit sacks – which is why I think Kancey is the compliment. He could totally wash out of the league due to size but has shown that if everything clicks – he can be the rare double digit interior sack guy.

      Just my opinion, but this is the double dip I’d go with, if it were my decision.

  3. All I see is 12s

    With the reports of Geno possibly having big time potential as a free agent ( likely provided by his agent), I want to ask again. What do you think of a scenario where we work with Geno to place the franchise tag on him and then move him to a team willing to trade for him and give him his new contract? Basically doing with him exactly what we did with Frank Clark.
    Obviously, this would be a situation where Smith’s salary would just be too high.

    • Ashish

      Frank Clark DE was at his prime so we were able to trade him. Imagine we tag Geno for say 32 mil and no one is ready to trade for :). Hawks already got so much for Russ who everyone agreed that he was a great player but proved that was because of the system. Now will any other teams will take the bait ?

      • All I see is 12s

        My understanding is that all parties need to be in agreement for this to work. Including Geno agreeing to not sign it until a trade and contract were signed.

        • All I see is 12s

          Never mind, the more I think about it the more I think it won’t work. the Seahawks just wouldn’t really have enough leverage.

    • cha

      That angle is a very dicey proposition. It ties up cap space and there is no guarantee that a team will want to pay Geno a franchise tag wage, let alone trade capital to the Seahawks for the privilege.


  4. Happy Hawk

    The question is If you take Carter at #2 can you get Levis or Richardson with the #17 pick? If not take your QB at #2.

    • Group Captain Mandrake

      This is where it gets dicey though. The way they are playing, they may have a higher pick. Do they think AR might be available in the low teens (I personally don’t think so)? If so they may gamble and try to get both. I would personally pick QB at 2 but I would not be upset with Jalen Carter either.

  5. Ashish

    Everyone including me are so excited for the draft 🙂 It’s December will have to wait till end of April solid 5 months. So many things will change from now till end of April. Remember video of OT Laremy Tunsil.

    Fun times ahead.

  6. KD

    It’s really only McShay and a few professionals with insider connections whose mock drafts I really pay attention to (present company included). There are just way too many mocks out there and most of them are REALLY bad. When guys like McShay, Kiper, Pauline etc. publish mocks it’s because they are talking to NLF scouts and FOs. That’s credible knowledge. Too many twitter GMs are either massively over-valuing or under-valuing most of the players that they have in the 1st 2 rounds. Bijan Robinson lasting until the mid 20’s. Gimme a break.

  7. Mia

    Rob, if Jalen Carter does go #2 to the Seahawks, would Calijah Kancey make sense at #17? Do you see him being available there? And if JL Skinner is the pick at #35, would Chris Smith II be realistic at #48?

  8. Jabroni-DC

    There are a lot of moving parts to sort before the final draft order is set. It would be fun as hell if we actually held #2 when all of the dust settles.

    In the mean time we’ve got Argentina facing the winner of Morocco/France coming up.

    Also just finished binge watching House of the Dragon. I was entertained!

  9. Ishmael

    It’s a team that needs talent at every level, on both sides of the ball. That said, even Aaron Donald couldn’t drag Jared Goff to a ring.

    They’ve got a chance to pick up a premium talent at the most important position in sports. Carter might be really, really, good, but Geno Smith just isn’t good enough that you can justify ignoring a quarterback when you get a chance this (hopefully) rare.

    Having said that, I almost hope there’s a way to trade down a bit, see if someone like the Panthers can’t be tempted to jump up and lock in Levis/Stroud. If there’s a way to get Richardson, then come back for a splashy impact defender – whether at safety or tackle – I’d be over the moon.

  10. Gross MaToast

    I think the first pick has to be QB. This is a dream scenario for the Seahawks and, while Carter may be a nice addition, as a franchise, you simply must add one of either Levis or Richardson while you have the opportunity. Don’t gamble with trade-downs – go get your guy.

    I would not sign Geno. If you get some compensatory picks for him going elsewhere, fine. Go with Lock until Richardson is ready to take over. Spend the savings on the defense.

    Both big money safeties have to go. It’s a self-inflicted wound and letting it linger does no good for anyone.

    I’d trade DK. Can you get a couple of 1’s for him? Find out. He’s going to be out of contract long before Seattle is competitive for their next Super Bowl, so use his value to speed the process.

    What will actually happen?

    Pete will:

    – sign Geno for 5/$150 – all guaranteed
    – keep both safeties
    – trade down, down, down and then draft a safety we’ve not discussed, or even heard of, from Wisconsin-Whitewater or Western Michigan with the Seahawks’ first pick.
    – find a way to piss off DK so that he absolutely has to trade him for a half-can of beans.

    And those will be his positive offseason moves.

    • UkAlex6674

      Why trade DK if you want to draft a new QB? No point in drafting a QB at 2 and then taking away his weapons.

      • Roy Batty

        And if they traded him, they would want to do it before the draft. That means an immediate $34.5 million dead cap hit. You can’t designate him post 6/1 to get draft picks in 2023.

        That leaves the Hawks with no cap space, prior to cutting the safeties, and still much less cap room if you kept him for at least another year. His cap hit for 2023 is only $13.72 million. He’s absolutely cheap right now for his level of production.

        That also leaves a massive hole in the receiving room. He’s on pace to easily go over 1000 yards this season.

        I get that people want more draft picks. But, acquiring draft picks by cutting off your arm isn’t the way to do it.

    • Big Mike

      Oh he’ll keep Adams alright. He’s already mentioned the defense needs an “impact player” and he’s going to delude himself into believing the peacock 🦚 is that guy. In reality it’s a subconscious attempt to try yet again justify that horrible trade.

      Don’t think they keep Diggs. No Carroll ego tied up in him.

  11. UkAlex6674

    I still don’t get the little love for RBs in the current league. I know it’s a passing league for now – for the most part – but I would have no qualms in picking a RB early on if it was required.

  12. Sea Mode


    Bruce Irvin

    I’m sore as shìt still! Thursday night games should be illegal

    • Roy Batty

      Hey, Bruce, would you and every other player take a pay cut instead of playing Thursday night?

      That revenue from Amazon counts in the money matrix for revenue sharing in the CBA.

      To be clear, I hate Thursday night games. They are usually crap football, and it’s not a great time to watch.

      • Big Mike

        And screw the NFL for putting it on Amazon.

  13. Bankhawk

    Bad news about Big Al Woods’ Achilles issue: if it’s anything beyond run-of-the-mill soreness, ya gotta wonder. After all, he is no spring chicken.
    If it is anything more serious, it may be just one more nudge in the direction of drafting a Carter or a Smith?

    • GrittyHawk

      I don’t see that factoring into their decision either way. He’s a 36 year old who plays fewer than half of defensive snaps and is a likely cap casualty either way. They’re not basing draft decisions on his health.

  14. Roy Batty

    K9 full participant in practice.

    Unfortunately he’s going against the best run defense in the NFL

    • Rob Staton

      Stand by for 13 carries for 29 yards

      • Big Mike

        I think you’re being optimistic.

        • TomLPDX

          I’m going to go out on a limb here and say he gets 30 yards!

  15. Joshua Smith

    Like many here feel if the Hawks take Carter with their top pick I wouldn’t be upset. But i would be disappointed that we wasted an opportunity to possibly get a great franchise QB.
    Picking in the top 5 usually comes on the heals of a crappy year. We are incredibly lucky to be rooting for a (somewhat) competitive team that can still make the playoffs and NOT damage their top 5 pick status! Even more rare!

    We are not likely to have THIS opportunity again soon to build on a great draft by taking a top flight QB prospect. While also having a team that is good enough to sneak into the playoff (granted the 7th spot, but still).
    I personally think the choice should be to take your QB. I did not research data to back this up but I imagine teams are more likely to find top level D-line talent beyond the first round they top level QB play.
    Ifbyoure gonna take a risk with top 5 talent then take that risk at the most important position.

  16. Zane

    I wonder why it is we can’t run block lately?
    By all accounts, Lucas, Cross, and Damien Lewis have played well, and even Jackson/Haynes have provided competent play.
    So whats that problem? Is Blythe really that much of a liability in the run game? Or are defenses stacking the box against us?

    • Big Mike

      Yes and yes? Also wonder if the tackles have hit the rookie wall?

    • 206

      I do see Blythe being driven backwards quite often, but his play cant be the only reason. In general the push of the line seems lacking.

    • TJ

      What are everyone’s thoughts on Michigan’s C Olusegun Oluwaitimi. He’s a good college C, but I don’t know how he projects in the NFL. It’s a position that Seattle could certainly upgrade. Might he be a potential target?

    • CJ

      Gabe Jackson has always been trash at run blocking. Blythe isn’t exactly a mauler. Lucas holds his own but Cross doesn’t looks great. The line just isn’t built for it right now which is why they only seem to make yards when Walker can break tackles at or behind the LOS. The IOL needs to be addressed for this in the offseason.

  17. BK26

    Someone asked for logic on drafting Richardson on another site (can guess which one). Legitimately wanted to know more. The response by their “draft guy was:” he is bad, it’s stupid to draft him before round 3.

    I created an account after years and years and had to respond. I’m going to get in trouble because I can’t shut up hahaha.

    This is going to be a LOOOOOOOOONG four months until the draft.

    • Big Mike

      Only if you continue to waste your time at said site. Rob will have enough content here to get you through more quickly than you think.

  18. TomLPDX

    What do you guys make of the Marcus Mariota situation? We haven’t heard from Marcus yet. Sure seems strange but I’ll wait until I hear his side of it.


  19. Jabroni-DC

    This would be a great week to right the ship. It’s the 2nd most important game on the schedule after the Denver opener. Prime time vs our most despised division rival. Hope at the very least we fight like hell. Make Purdy try to beat you & don’t turn the ball over.

    • Group Captain Mandrake

      I am not sure I see how they make Purdy beat them. The Niners can just run it down the Hawks’ throat for 4 quarters. I would not be surprised by 250-300 yards rushing.

  20. Rob Staton

    Vikings also struggling with this scheme https://t.co/FjpTnNikyx

    • Group Captain Mandrake

      That article says that the Vikings are last in total defense. It is absolutely mind boggling to realize there is a D performing worse than Seattle’s.

      • Rob Staton

        Just think… the Seahawks wanted Ed Donatell 🤦‍♂️

        • Group Captain Mandrake

          I guess that’s a good example of “be careful what you wish for.”

    • Rob4q

      So what other teams are running a version of the 3/4 or a Fangio style defense? A quick Google search showed this:


      Some good in there and some not so good! And there are a lot of so called “Hybrid” defenses.

      However, look at these quotes:

      “The nose in the 3-4 has to demand two blockers, otherwise linebackers will have to sift through traffic and shed the blocks of bigger offensive linemen. Those defensive linemen also must free up the outside linebackers for one-on-one pass rushing situations”

      “The 3-4 defense is more flexible for defending the pass and plays on the edge. This is because it’s easier to drop a linebacker into coverage than a defensive end. However, the 4-3 defense is generally better at stopping inside run plays because there are more defensive linemen in the game at once”

  21. schwefelfell

    If I remember correctly, in the 2020 season the media loved to talk about how good the Hawks Run-D was for several weeks pointing to metrics like yards allowed per game,completely ignoring that teams were essentialy abandoning running against them, because the Pass-D was even worse an they were torched for over 400 yards by backup QBs on multiple occasions.

  22. icb12

    For some reason I just want to see Bijan end up on the Bills. That would be fun.

    • Matt

      Bills or Bengals would be bonkers.

  23. UkAlex6674

    Re the 49ers game tonight – it’s a 49ers game, form can largely go out the window. It won’t be a 49er blow out win, and I can see us sticking around until the 4th, and the game will be won by 3 points.

    But I don’t know who will win!

  24. Alex Potts

    Has a “Tag and Trade” option been discussed regarding Geno?

    Draft your QB at 2, pick up more draft capital for next year and beyond and work on building a defense.

    Drafting Will Levis will have much bigger impact for the next 10+ years on whether we win a super bowl than Jalen Carter ever could.

  25. JAFreeman

    While on ESPN’s “This Just In,” McShay said Georgia defensive lineman Jalen Carter could scare off a few teams.

    “Here’s the thing with Jalen Carter: He has character issues, and the closer we get to the draft, the more we’re going to hear about how some teams are really concerned about it,”

    • Rob Staton


      I have expressed some thoughts about how he plays that would align with this

  26. Alex Higgins

    I’m sorry to be a wet blanket but I think the Broncos are playing better and playing very bad competition for two weeks. They should beat the Cardinals and the Rams. I am very confident we will not be picking number two. So if we are picking #5 and can’t get Carter, what should we do?

  27. WILL

    Do we trade back for a multitude of picks if we stay in 2nd 3rd or take best defensive plaver Carter Anderson. also what are the chances they are looking at JL Skinner .? for our own 1st rd pick .

    • Seahawkwalt

      Trade back..get firsts for next year.. the gift that keeps giving

  28. rad_man

    4 pretty good run defending interior DL on the free agent list. Dre mont Jones, Dalvin Tomlinson, Javon Hargrave, Daron Payne

    All are very good run defenders, per PFF at least…and some decent pass rush too.

    adding one of those guys (or 2?) to Shelby Harris/ Al Woods would go a long way to shoring up the run D.

    handful of good run defending LBs hitting the market too. And decent Safeties too, if they decide to cut bait on Diggs or even Jamal (ouch).

    Maybe the run D can be addressed with FA dollars and middle round prospects.

    If so, it would free up the higher draft picks for what is usually higher cost talent like QB, pass rush, and edge players. Always better to get those guys cost controlled if you can.

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