The Seahawks will be able to bolster their O-line in this draft
This was an impressive day at the combine, both in terms of players excelling during drills and wowing with their sheer size and length. There are appealing first round options and this will undoubtedly go down as one of the richest offensive tackle drafts in years. However, there are also good options in the middle rounds.
Firstly, the big names. It’s frankly unbelievable that Amarius Mims at 6-7 and 340lbs ran a 4.33 short shuttle. In comparison, Michigan cornerback Josh Wallace — who is 155lbs lighter than Mims, ran a 4.35. Aaron Donald, at 285lbs, ran a 4.39.
This should be considered a more headline-grabbing achievement than Xavier Worthy running a 4.21 forty. It’s barely believable that Mims has this level of agility at his size. Granted, there are concerns about his lack of playing time in college and he didn’t do on-field drills today after hurting his thigh running the forty yard dash (an impressive 5.07). However, there typically aren’t humans like Mims on the planet and he deserves to be considered an elite talent with major upside. It’s not beyond the realms of possibility he has a Tyron Smith type career given his body, athleticism and upside.
Unsurprisingly, Taliese Fuagu and Troy Fautanu both excelled.
Fuagu is never going to blow you away as a tester but on the field he moved with light feet and quickness. We know on tape he’s a brutal mauler so seeing him get around as well as we did here should cement his placing firmly in the top-14. It will be a bit of a surprise if he lasts beyond the New York Jets at #10.
Fautanu ticked off plenty of boxes today — firstly measuring with ideal 34.5 inch arms (retaining the possibility he sticks at tackle) before jumping a 32.5 inch vertical and a 9-5 broad. The ideal baseline for explosive testing is a 31 inch vertical and a 9-1 broad jump, so Fautanu is an outstanding athlete. There’s a very real possibility he will be drafted by Seattle at #16 — not just because of his familiarity within the scheme either. He’s extremely aggressive, he can play multiple positions, he’s an explosive athlete, he’s a high character individual and he has the necessary length. He is a legit top-20 pick in any draft.
Tyler Guyton also performed well during drills and performed a 34.5 inch vertical. I thought Joe Alt’s workout was unspectacular and Olu Fashanu didn’t do anything after hurting himself in the 40. Perhaps the most interesting thing with Fashanu was the revelation that he only has 8.5 inch hands on a 6-6, 312lbs frame. That’s exactly the same hand size as Kenny Pickett — but he wasn’t 6-6 and 312lbs.
JC Latham passed the eye test and I like the comparisons to Tristan Wirfs. He will almost certainly be a top-15 pick and could be an option for the Seahawks if he lasts to #16 (I don’t think he will).
The thing that was perhaps most pleasing about the O-line drills were the number of players who really stood out and could be available later on. This was particularly true at center. I recently wrote about the position, noting a trend that is probably important:
Ryan Grubb and Scott Huff had Parker Brailsford at Washington last season and he’s 6-2 and approximately 280lbs. In 2022, Corey Luciano (6-3, 307lbs) started at center for UW. The Seahawks have used Evan Brown (6-2, 302lbs) and Austin Blythe (6-2, 298lbs). In Baltimore, Tyler Linderbaum has started the last two years and he’s 6-2 and 296lbs.
Brown, Blythe, Luciano and Linderbaum all ran excellent short shuttles and you’d expect the same of Brailsford.
Whether it’s John Schneider, Mike Macdonald, Grubb or Huff — they’ve all worked for a team with a center carrying a certain profile.
If the Seahawks are looking for very athletic, undersized centers with either explosive testing results and/or great agility testing, we learnt today that this class has some good options.
Tanor Bortolini was superb during drills, exploding off the snap and looking quick and decisive during pulling drills. He excelled in every drill and put on a testing masterclass. He ran the fastest short shuttle (4.28) and three cone (7.16), jumped a 32.5 inch vertical and a 9-4 broad and even ran a 4.94 forty. He’s 6-4 and 303lbs and based on what he showed today, he’s a fantastic developmental center.
Dyland McMahon and Beaux Limmer also had excellent workouts. McMahon in particular fits the bill at 6-3, 299lbs with explosive athleticism (33 inch vertical, 9-7 broad) and solid agility testing (4.45 short shuttle).
A lot of Seahawks fans want the team to invest in Jackson Powers-Johnson, the biggest name center in the class. However, he’s 328lbs and looks every bit of it. He was bulky and sluggish during drills today, didn’t run a forty and didn’t do any agility testing. It’s hard to imagine him in Seattle’s scheme, he skipped Oregon’s Bowl game (something John Schneider railed against last week) and I’m just not sure he’s as good as some people have been suggesting. For me, he’s not a first round pick and the Seahawks would be better off taking a chance on one of the names listed above.
I thought Sedrick Van Pran had a very good workout after a somewhat underwhelming 2023 season. He looked the part and can probably play guard or center.
The great thing about the combine is it also chucks out names you want to go and study. I thought the Michigan duo Trente Jones and Trevor Keegan had excellent performances. I haven’t studied Jones — but he jumped off the screen to me during drills. Keegan, meanwhile, I have watched and saw him as tough, safe and steady. During drills I saw a level of mobility I didn’t expect so a review session is in order. A lot of teams are going to be attracted to tapping into Michigan’s loaded draft class and this pair feel like they could be a couple of legit sleepers. Gottlieb Ayedze also had a very impressive workout and I can’t wait to watch his tape.
Finally — fair play to Zach Frazier. He broke his fibula towards the end of the season yet worked out at the combine. That’s astonishing and speaks to his toughness and desire to compete. He clearly wasn’t 100% but was out there anyway, running through drills. He’s the toughest center I watched on film and he loves to get after defenders. Teams will like him a lot — and he fits Seattle’s apparent size preferences.
It’s pretty clear the Seahawks will have opportunities, not just at #16, to add talented offensive linemen in April. While a lot of people tend to fetishise the drafting of O-liners early — it’s worth remembering that most of the top lines in the league generally include quality players found outside of the first frame. This class can help you build a good O-line — but it doesn’t have to be with the #16 pick.
What happens next for the Seahawks?
I’ve got a hunch that something’s brewing. Or at least, that John Schneider is trying to get something brewing.
A year ago Schneider said immediately after the 2023 draft that getting an extra third round pick for 2024 was critical. At the time, I remember thinking it’s because they wanted the ammunition to go and get a quarterback if they needed to trade up. Chucking a second rounder away in the Leonard Williams trade changed my thought process slightly but I’ve since squared the circle in my mind.
I think after the Cleveland win they saw an opportunity. The 49ers were on a three-game losing streak, the Seahawks were first in the NFC West. I think they thought they could contend in a wide-open NFC and they simply whiffed in their evaluation of both their own team, the 49ers and the opportunity. That has now been brutally exposed and they might’ve just wasted a pick on a 10 game rental.
However, if the intention a year ago was ‘we see quarterbacks in this class we might be prepared to trade up for’ — they might’ve since returned to that thought. Yes, a deal is now harder to strike. I’m not sure not having your second rounder, though, is a deal breaker.
The Seahawks met with Jayden Daniels, Drake Maye and J.J. McCarthy at the combine. When asked why on 710 Seattle Sports, Schneider said:
“We have to be ready for anything. We don’t know if a certain trade will go down, or something happens, I mean, you guys have seen players fall in the past and we’ve seen teams be able to jump up and have successful trades moving up into the top-10 to draft guys and, so yeah, you just have to be prepared for everything.”
Nobody really picked up on this, with most of the reaction just resorting to the angle of ‘they’re just doing due-diligence’. That answer is a bit more revealing than I think some people realise. He was specifically asked about why he met with the top quarterbacks and his answer directly referred to ‘teams jumping up into the top-10 successfully’. I’m not sure why you’d meet with Maye or Daniels on the off-chance the Raiders move up to get one of them. My interpretation of that answer, at least, was that they’re meeting with those players in case the Seahawks want to consider moving up.
In another answer during that interview, Schneider also mentioned he hadn’t been able to watch much of any of the on-field drills during the first two days of the combine because he was meeting with agents. Then, he said he was looking forward to watching the quarterbacks throw. He also said the final two days at the combine are typically when a lot of trade talks take place between teams.
I just get a really strong sense that the Seahawks might well be considering a bold, aggressive trade up to get a quarterback. I don’t know whether they’ll be able to pull it off. It’d be very expensive. However, I think there’s a little bit of smoke.
Here’s Peter King, writing in January:
“As for teams anxious to deal up for a quarterback, let’s see if Minnesota, at 11, moves aggressively to sign Kirk Cousins (I doubt it),” King wrote. “Then it’s Denver at 12, Vegas at 13, Seattle at 16 (I bet Seattle tries to move up) in the derby for young quarterbacks.”
Here’s Jeff Howe, writing this week from the combine:
“J.J. McCarthy represents the start of the second tier of QBs, as teams view a tier-drop from Daniels to here. Still, there’s a chance he goes as high as the fourth pick if a team gets anxious enough to select him and decides to trade up with the Arizona Cardinals, whom league sources view as willing to move down.
It’s conceivable the New York Giants (No. 6), Atlanta Falcons (No. 8), Minnesota Vikings (No. 11), Denver Broncos (No. 12), Las Vegas Raiders (No. 13), Seattle Seahawks (No. 16) and Pittsburgh Steelers (No. 20) could be in play for McCarthy. Even if it’s just two or three of those teams, it makes a trade up the board more likely, and the action on McCarthy could kick-start the draft-night drama.”
Ian Rapoport, when reporting that the Seahawks and other teams had met with Daniels and Maye, added in his tweet:
“So these are the teams potentially in the market for a top QB.”
Now let’s consider some other speculative angles. Schneider mentioned in the 710 interview how teams had successfully traded into the top-10 to draft quarterbacks. This includes the two players we know Schneider really liked — Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen. The Chiefs moved from #27 to #10 to select Mahomes. The Bills traded up from #12 to #7 to select Allen.
Given the success of these two players, especially Mahomes, I have to believe that if Schneider sees a player or players in this draft class that he rates as highly as he did those two, it stands to reason that he would be prepared to aggressively pursue them.
Then there’s the Geno Smith report from Jordan Schulz last week, stating:
The Seahawks have informed Geno Smith he will be on the roster in 2024 under his current contract. I’m told Smith has received commitment from Seattle’s front office.
I thought it curious of the timing of this, given the combine had already started. It’s also interesting that no other reporter has been able to follow it up — including some who are well connected to the Seahawks front office.
It’s possible they checked on the trade market and there wasn’t one for Smith, thus this news emerged. However, here’s another thought. What if they’ve been non-committal because their intention is to trade up for a quarterback? You keep Geno Smith on the roster so you retain an ideal bridge to the future, especially as you look to install a brand new offense in 2024. Then, in 2025, the new guy takes over. Just as Mahomes did in Kansas City.
It would especially make sense if the apple of their eye was a younger player such as Drake Maye or J.J. McCarthy.
It also stands to reason that you’d be non-committal if you were open to letting the rookie compete for the starting job, even if your expectation is that Smith remains the starter this year.
I appreciate this is a speculative theory. However, I truly believe two things:
1. John Schneider is itching to draft a quarterback. It’s why he keeps mentioning only drafting two in 14 years.
2. I don’t believe he will just muddle along with soon-to-be 34-year-old Geno Smith, waiting for the ideal QB to fall into his lap whenever that will be, kicking the can down the road. He’ll know as well as anyone that there are three ways to land a top quarterback. You’re either bad enough to pick early, you trade up, or you get lucky and one falls into your lap when they had no business being available.
It’s very possible he has every intention to trade up and just can’t make it happen. Going from #16 to #3 or #4 will be incredibly difficult and expensive. He’d have to sacrifice an enormous draft haul and even then — he could still be outbid by the Giants, Vikings, Broncos, Raiders or someone else.
However — unless he intends to pick earlier than #16 in the future (I doubt that’s the plan), it’ll only get more expensive the later they pick.
You all know my thoughts on this quarterback class by now. You will know I haven’t been enamoured with Drake Maye or J.J. McCarthy. Schneider might be. Maye, physically and creatively, feels very much like a Schneider quarterback. In terms of personality and character, he fits like a glove.
Then there’s McCarthy, a player who Mike Macdonald and Jay Harbaugh will know all about and I suspect, given Jim Harbaugh announced he should be the #1 pick recently, they’ll have strong feelings about him.
Listen to this segment of an interview I did with Scot McCloughan a year ago. For those who aren’t aware, McCloughan used to work for the Seahawks. Ron Wolf, as with Schneider, was his mentor. He’s considered one of the best talent evaluators in the business. I asked McCloughan what he looks for in a quarterback:
Listen to Scot McCloughan on quarterbacks in the clip below, then check out the full interview in the link. So much great info & insight from one of the best talent evaluators in the business. A must listen whoever you follow #NFLDraft #Seahawks
— Rob Staton (@robstaton) March 18, 2023
When I listen to that, I think of McCarthy based on what I wrote about him yesterday.
You saw that Jeff Howe article I linked to earlier. The Seahawks were mentioned with McCarthy. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Seahawks moved up to #3 or #4, knowing they could get one of Maye or McCarthy, before giving them a year behind Geno Smith this season.
I’m not predicting it. I’m just saying it wouldn’t surprise me.
Until the Seahawks have a long term answer at quarterback, it will be the #1 priority every off-season. Only once you’ve eliminated the possibility of addressing that problem in a given off-season, should you consider anything else.
It could be that Schneider will look at trading up and might settle for Michael Penix Jr instead. That might even be the more sensible plan. Perhaps they’d have to trade up for Penix Jr? Jeff Howe’s article suggests not, but who knows? I do think, though, that Seattle’s GM has his eye on this quarterback class. If he can’t make things happen, then I think it’s very plausible they’ll just take one of the very interesting offensive linemen at #16, such as Troy Fautanu, Amarius Mims or Taliese Fuagu, or someone like Chop Robinson or Jared Verse.
A lot of people say to me the Seahawks aren’t ready to trade up for a quarterback. You’ll never be 100% ready. You’ll never have a flawless roster and the ideal QB to move up for. They’ve spent the last two drafts pumping up their roster thanks to the Russell Wilson trade. Eventually, you have to make your move. You bring in a quarterback who can elevate your team so you can cover flaws. You fix holes in free agency and the draft and you manage things. All of the current top contenders do this.
Even the 49ers, currently starting a late seventh rounder at quarterback, traded heaven and earth to get into the top-three in 2021. They knew eventually they’d have to do something, that inaction wasn’t an option. The Trey Lance trade also highlights the risk involved. That’s why you need a good talent evaluator in charge, with the conviction to make the right move at the right time.
Personally, I trust Schneider if he decides to move up.
For anyone who says the roster isn’t ready for this kind of aggressive approach, I’d challenge them to consider the following. You’ve invested a top-10 pick at left tackle. You’ve drafted and paid a receiver with top-tier potential. You just drafted another highly rated receiver with a top-20 pick and you also used two other high picks on talented running backs. They might pay to keep Leonard Williams to match with a top-five pick at cornerback, two recent second round picks at pass rusher plus Uchenna Nwosu.
The cupboard isn’t bare. Their biggest needs are basically interior O-line, safety and linebacker. None are premium positions. Safety and linebacker are positions where your new Head Coach has elevated the performance of players in Baltimore. Your new offensive staff could be challenged to turn Anthony Bradford and Olu Oluwatimi into quality players. As we’ve been noting over the last few days, there are good players in this class to be had in the middle/later rounds at safety and interior O-line. Linebacker’s a black hole — but you might’ve had to go the veteran route there anyway.
The Seahawks might not have a 49ers level roster but who does? This isn’t a ground zero rebuild situation. They’ve been building for two years already. Now they have a staff who might be able to actually get something out of this team.
Back to the quarterbacks, I think a ‘top-four’ are emerging within the league, rightly or wrongly. I think Schneider will look at the dynamic, uber-playmaker Jayden Daniels and see similarities to a quarterback in Baltimore. Mike Macdonald’s defense sure benefitted from the scoreboard pressure Lamar Jackson created. In Drake Maye, I think he’ll see his type of gunslinger — with the character to match. In J.J. McCarthy, he may well see a winner who excels on third downs and has the ‘alpha’ vibe Scot McCloughan talked about. Plus, his Head Coach and Special Teams coordinator have excellent intel on him.
Exhaust attempts to trade up for a quarterback, assess willingness to turn to the likes of Michael Penix Jr, or settle on taking the best O-liner or pass rusher at #16? I think that could well be the thought process.
Note — I will produce TEF results for the O-line class once they’ve done the bench press tomorrow
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