A couple of people sent me this tweet from Jim Nagy yesterday, in response to my article on not overthinking Seattle’s likely positional targets in the draft:

As Jim says, it’s only a guess. He has a view on what the Seahawks might do that he isn’t going to share publicly.

I have a couple of thoughts on this. There are clearly circumstances that could lead to the Seahawks not to take an offensive lineman first. Firstly, a potential run on the position before they select. I think there’s a very good chance Taliese Fuaga and Troy Fautanu are off the board by #16. That could be the trigger point to trade down, or capitalise on someone else who falls into range.

For example, if the run on tackles pushes the top pass rushers down the board, the Seahawks might sense an opportunity and thus, they could go in a different direction. I really like Chop Robinson and Jared Verse. Others are big fans of Dallas Turner. Laiatu Latu’s stock also feels really secure in the #11-20 range.

Secondly, the aforementioned trade down scenario. Not enough people discuss the tiers within this class. You have, in my opinion, a very clear top-seven players. The next tier down isn’t far behind. I have eight players in tier two. The Seahawks are right on the border of that group.

I appreciate they might view things completely different to me (they probably do) but let’s imagine their tiers and numbers are similar. It’s possible they won’t have a significant grade difference between the player they’d take at #16 or the player they’d take later in round one.

On top of this, there’s the black hole on their draft board between picks #16 and #81. The 2024 draft is too good to not pick in that void. So the question will be — is the player available to you at #16 so good that you are prepared to wait 65 picks to select again? Or do you try and trade down with the idea that you might be able to get two or three players instead of one at #16?

The other thing to consider is you need a partner to trade with. I’ve had a number of people say to me it’s a certainty they’ll trade down. Not if the interest in moving up isn’t there, or the right offer isn’t forthcoming. Trading down ten spots for a third rounder beyond pick #70 won’t be tempting.

If they do trade down from #16 — as I noted in yesterday’s piece, it opens up the possibility of going ‘best player available’ regardless of positional need. I think at #16 an offensive tackle or pass rusher is likely. If you’re picking between #20-40, then all bets are off. In that instance, go for value.

I do think at some point in this draft they will select a right tackle. That could be Roger Rosengarten or Caedan Wallace on day two, to give a couple of examples. We’ve all heard John Schneider’s comments about guards being overpaid and over-drafted. We’ll soon find out if that was misdirection or what he truly believes. The way the Seahawks have handled the guard position in free agency suggests he was being up front and honest.

Let’s go back to that top pick though. If they move down into the #20-40 range, there are several things they could look at. I’m not convinced Byron Murphy will go quite as early as some are predicting and he could last beyond #20. There may come a point where the physical toughness and explosive qualities of Darius Robinson becomes intriguing for them. Ben Sinnott, in my opinion, is going to go in the 30’s. Keep an eye on him. I see a lot of mocks with Chop Robinson going in the 20’s or 30’s. It makes me laugh every time because he’s too good for that. If I’m wrong and these mocks are right though, what an opportunity that would be.

Then there’s also the quarterback position. It won’t be surprising at all if the Seahawks move back with the intention of selecting Michael Penix Jr in a range they are more comfortable taking him (assuming Penix Jr isn’t off the board before #16 — as we’ve mentioned, his draft range feels bigger than most). I do think, though, that the Sam Howell trade is indicative of an expectation within the front office that they probably won’t be able to get a quarterback this year.

There’s another name I want to mention as a wildcard. Florida State’s Braden Fiske. Although he generated a lot of buzz after his performance at the combine, it almost seems to have been forgotten a few weeks on.

I’ve been doing a live blog on the combine for 14 years. Fiske’s workout at Indianapolis is one of the best I’ve seen in that period.

I can’t remember seeing a defensive tackle at his size move around the field like he did. His change of direction ability at 292lbs is stunning. On one drill where you have to go in and out of the bags, then bend round the edge and straighten to tackle a final bag, he showed the balance and control of a top-end 250lbs edge rusher. They simulcast his effort alongside Byron Murphy and he was quicker across every section of the drill and he could bend around the edge, while Murphy had to almost stop to change direction. Further to that, his figure-eight drill was excellent for a man his size and his bag drill — stepping in and out of the bags — was possibly the best I’ve ever seen by a defensive lineman.

Here’s a little snippet of what I’m talking about:

In terms of testing — he ran a 4.37 short shuttle which is one of the best times ever by a defensive lineman. Aaron Donald ran a 4.39. Cam Jordan also ran a 4.37. He’s also highly explosive — jumping a 33.5 inch vertical and a 9-9 broad jump. His 10-yard split was a blistering 1.68 for his size.

None of this would matter if the tape didn’t match-up. His get-off and first step quickness is reminiscent of the top defensive linemen. His motor never runs cold — there’s evidence of him chasing down quarterbacks to the sideline long after the snap. He can play stout against the run — engaging, slipping blocks and filling gaps. You are going to get 100% effort in every game, from a player with elite-level athleticism at his position. This is the definition of a potential difference maker.

When he’s given a gap he’ll attack it and you’ve constantly got to monitor where he’s lining up because his get-off enables him to shoot into the backfield better than most. Even when he has to go 1v1 vs an interior lineman, he’ll generally push the pocket to create disruption. I don’t think he’s ever going to be an elite swim/rip specialist. Yet his combination of brute force, stoutness, twitch, fight to get the absolute most out of every rep and when you give him a sniff of a runaway to the quarterback — he’ll just explode through that hole and make a play.

Here’s Nagy on Fiske, speaking on a Bills podcast at the combine:

The short arms (31 inches) are a concern and he’ll face challenges at the next level to get off blocks if he’s losing battles early because he can’t press, keep himself clean and stay in the play. However, the Ravens under Mike Macdonald utilised Michael Pierce (31.5 inch arms) effectively. Broderick Watson also has only 32.5 inch arms. It’s unclear whether they’ll view this as an issue.

Statistically Fiske isn’t anything to write home about. He only had six sacks (although Florida State were so dominant that might’ve impacted stat-collecting). His 6.9 PRP (PFF’s formula that combines sacks, hits and hurries relative to how many times they rush the passer) is comparable to Jer’Zhan Newton (6.8) but it’s behind Michael Hall Jr and Ruke Orhorhoro (both 7.1) and well behind Byron Murphy (9.6). It’s worth noting that Fiske isn’t even listed in the top-200 for ‘pass rush snaps’ in PFF’s system. Apparently he had a quarter of the attempts to get after the passer that Murphy had at Texas. A different role at the next level could lead to greater production.

The other thing to consider is character. Fiske’s is outstanding. The Seahawks have placed a huge emphasis on character and view it through a ‘no compromises’ lens these days. If we’re talking about character traits, Fiske is an A+.

There’s just so much to like about his profile. There are players who have all of the physical traits to be excellent yet somehow they slip through the cracks and go much later than they should do. Aaron Donald had no business lasting to #13. T.J. Watt shouldn’t have been pick #30. Lamar Jackson shouldn’t have been pick #32. Chris Jones was pick #37. There are countless examples. There are also plenty of these types who don’t achieve greatness. Could we be looking back in a few years and wondering why Fiske lasted as long as he did?

There are key things to consider. How much better is Fiske compared to the likes of Orhorhoro, Hall Jr and Mekhi Wingo — all of which could be available later? Then there are the reported injury concerns. Tony Pauline noted at the combine that Payton Wilson and Fiske had received ‘ugly’ medical grades. Teams view these things differently and no final decision will be made until shortly before the draft, when the doctors consult with the front office to determine which players should be dropped on boards for health reasons — or even removed from consideration. Fiske does have an extensive injury history — in High School he suffered a bulging lumbar disc and had shoulder and elbow surgeries.

Here’s what Bob McGinn’s scouting sources say about Fiske:

“You don’t want to like him because he doesn’t look awesome,” said one scout. “But this guy plays every down like he’s going to the firing squad after the down’s over. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anybody play this hard. The lack of length shows up as a pass rusher, but for his size he’s powerful and a penetrator. He gets behind the line of scrimmage. He can run. Really good athlete. He can bend. He’s going to be a really good player. It wouldn’t even surprise me to see him go ahead of Murphy. This guy’s a f—— buzzsaw.”

“Has short arms but uses his hands well,” a second scout said. “Outstanding worker. Has to be kicked out of the weight room. Blue-collar pro mindset. More disruptive than productive as a rusher. Gets stuck on bigger and longer offensive linemen at times.”

“He just goes all-out, all-out, all-out,” said a third scout. “The more you watch him the more you like him.”

On Byron Murphy, it’s also worth noting that McGinn’s sources spoke glowingly about him too:

“His athletic ability and quickness are amazing … off the charts,” one scout said. “Plays his ass off. He’s destructive. The two-gap stuff is not really his deal but he’ll drop a knee in there, he’ll hang in there. Pass rush, his power and explosiveness through the gap, that’s his deal. In this modern NFL, with all the throwing, he’s going to be a problem. I like him better than (Calijah) Kancey from last year, who was another undersized guy. Much better player. Stronger. Kancey kind of came on a little because he worked out like a phenom, but I don’t care how this guy worked out.”

“Disciplined both run and pass,” another scout said. “Excellent straight-line power pass rusher. Thing that worries me is he’s going to be 6-0 and weigh only 300. You will have to team him up with a (much bigger) guy. Can Murphy play square? Yes, I think he can play square.”

“High character,” said a third scout. “He’s sudden, flexible, plays on his feet. Hands and feet work well together. Got pass rush for an inside guy. He’s fairly strong for his size but he’s more of a movement-oriented scheme player, of which there are many nowadays. He’s the best one.”

Murphy, to be blunt, has a fantastic arse and thighs combo that will have the league very intrigued by his explosive lower body power. For a player who lacks height and length, he still looks fantastic. As noted earlier, his analytical success has been charted by PFF — he’s the most consistent pass rush threat and their highest graded interior defender. He too, if he’s available after a trade down, could be firmly on the radar.

Fiske also had a successful Senior Bowl in Mobile:

With the injury history and the short arms it’s hard to project where he’ll go in the draft, even if his talent and traits screams top-40 lock. Daniel Jeremiah had him at #37 in his latest top-50 board.

I don’t think it’s beyond the realms of possibility that the Seahawks trade down once or twice and consider a player like Fiske. It’d create quite a duo with Leonard Williams when they want to rush with four and a front three with Jarran Reed or a true nose tackle (Johnathan Hankins — who signed today — or Cam Young) could be productive on early downs.

If you’re comfortable with the medicals he’d give you a productive player who can ‘do a job’ with the potential to be so much more due to his physical traits. If you trade down once or even twice to fill out your board and take him with your first selection — you’d be having a strong BPA start to round out the quality to your roster.

It’s just so hard to project these things. We’ll never know how they view Fiske’s short arms or the medicals. It’s quite easy to project that they’ll like Troy Fautanu because of the playing style, talent, health and history with the offensive staff. A lot of Seahawks fans and media are on the Junior Colson hype train — but we haven’t got any testing numbers for him and he came in slightly lighter (238lbs) than expected at the combine. I think he’s become a little bit overrated. He’s not the rangiest player but he’s tough and typically ‘Michigan’. He’s a very solid player — but until we have testing numbers it’s hard to gauge his upside.

Fiske to me is very intriguing, as are others. If Jim Nagy is right and they go in a different direction than O-line early — it might be because they traded down and BPA available when they pick is someone like Fiske.

One other thing to consider — at some point between now and September the Seahawks are going to have to create some cap space. Trading Dre’Mont Jones after June 1st saves them $11.5m. It’s very possible they take a defensive lineman in this draft with the intention of that player being a better schematic fit for Macdonald, while producing a chance to create cap space. You won’t get much back for Jones — it’d be a salary dump. A late rounder, a future conditional pick or maybe a player swap. But it feels like Seattle’s most realistic way to create necessary space down the line, unless he just blows the new staff away during OTA’s and camp.

I still firmly believe with the lack of significant activity on the O-line — plus the rumoured interest in Johnathan Hankins and Randy Gregory — that the Seahawks are very likely to select an offensive lineman early, particularly if one of their top targets is available. If they do move down though, as I said yesterday, they could easily pivot to BPA. Fiske might be too much of a medical risk but if he isn’t — and they can see beyond the lack of length — his upside potential is so high that he warrants some consideration for the Seahawks.