This is how I’ve graded the class, based on tape study starting in May last year. 288 players in total are included and it’s been a long process to get to this point. I’ve not taken players off the board that I don’t think will be drafted by the Seahawks — so this isn’t a team specific board. It’s an overall grading board.

If I were running a team, I’d probably reduce this down to about 100-120 names. Especially in the day three range, there are just a lot of players I wouldn’t want to draft.

Here’s the board and I’ll run through some thoughts after (click to enlarge):

Names in red have current injury concerns or a known injury history

Strengths in the draft

It’s pretty clear in round one that the two key positional strengths are receiver/pass catcher and offensive tackle. The trio of Marvin Harrison Jr, Rome Odunze and Malik Nabers, along with Brock Bowers, are a fantastic group. It would’ve been unthinkable in previous years to say a modest prediction for the number of first round offensive tackles in a single class would be seven — yet we could realistically see more this year.

I also think there are other, far less discussed plus points about this class. It’s a much better safety class than people recognise. I’ve got 10 players graded in rounds 2/3. Several of the 10 could last into round four. So while there aren’t any top-20 players at the position, you have a fantastic opportunity to add a good safety at the start of day three in this draft.

This is the most explosive offensive line class since we started measuring traits in 2016. It particularly shows up at guard and center. Seahawks fans might be fretting about what the team will do with the interior O-line — but I think they can get a talented, high-upside player in the middle rounds as a worst case scenario.

At cornerback, there are also players who will be available in rounds 3-5 who offer upside potential.

Weaknesses in the draft

It’s extremely difficult to build an argument for taking a linebacker early. The talent just isn’t there and I think some players are being pumped up to fill the void. Although a lot of Seahawks fans want the team to draft for the position early for depth/competition, I think they’re better off waiting until later on and taking a chance on traits/upside or players they believe can be a schematic fit. For me, the process at the position is all about seeing whether Jerome Baker and Tyrel Dodson can establish as starters beyond 2024 — rather than using a high pick on a position where the options just aren’t there. This isn’t the draft to find a solution for the long term at a position teams increasingly are not prioritising.

We did hear the Seahawks talk about ‘green dot’ players during free agency — the individuals responsible for calling the defensive plays on the field. Per Bob McGinn’s scouting sources, here are some names to monitor in that regard:

In interviews with several scouts, the consensus was that six of the top 10 linebackers are sharp enough to be “green dots” immediately or fairly early in their NFL careers. The list includes (Payton) Wilson, Cedric Gray, Jeremiah Trotter, Edefuan Ulofoshio, Tommy Eichenberg and JD Bertrand. Junior Colson was a maybe. “Wilson’s a double green dot,” said one evaluator. “He’s Luke Kuechly’ish. He’s a heck of a player. But is he going to be able to stay healthy?”

Tight end is a difficult one to work out. There are a collection of players who tested very well in the short shuttle and 10-yard split. The top TE’s in the league generally perform well in those tests. There’s ‘diamond in the rough potential’ with a number of players — but it’s possible we only see two tight ends drafted in the first two rounds.

Edge rusher is also a position where I think the pockets of talent are short and sharp. You’ll have a group of two, three or four players bunched together in tiers who will possibly be drafted in the same range as soon as one player starts the run. Then you might have to wait another round or a round and a half for the next run to start.

Injury concerns could impact the class

Tony Pauline told us on Friday that Troy Fautanu had a knee issue flagged in medical checks. This was the first I’d heard about this — and then Albert Breer reported the same thing yesterday. Here’s what he said:

Washington OT Troy Fautanu’s knee was flagged. That one was described to me as the sort of issue that shouldn’t be a problem in the short term, but could wind up impacting his longevity in the pros (though his high football character is a factor in making teams feel like he’ll do all he can to take care of it, and give himself the best chance).

Firstly, in terms of the Seahawks, you have to wonder what it means for how they view him. They’re already dealing with an offensive lineman with knee issues in Abe Lucas. This news concerns me.

Secondly, it’s hard to know how teams will view this information. The problem for Fautanu is with this being a loaded offensive tackle draft, teams may simply pick someone without the knee question mark.

Braden Fiske has an extensive injury history and Tony also told us his sources have said it’s not a good picture in terms of the medicals. He has the talent to go in the 25-35 range — but the injury could keep him on the board. It’s the same for Payton Wilson.

There are other things to keep an eye on. Junior Colson did no testing pre-draft due to injury. Teams have no physical data for him and is he an injury concern? Zak Zinter continues to recover from a broken leg. Matt Goncalves, the incredibly talented tackle who will move inside to guard in the NFL, has been dogged by injuries in college. Erick All the tight end has faced the same problem. Jer’Zhan Newton didn’t do any testing pre-draft. Cooper DeJean is still recovering from a serious injury. Edefuan Ulofoshio has a significant injury history. Kiran Amegadjie missed most of last season. Cornerbacks Kool-aid McKinstry and Ennis Rakestraw Jr have some injury question marks.

Finally, two big name players. Laiatu Latu nearly retired due to a neck injury. There’s some concern about his ability to play in a three-point stance as a consequence, rather than in space where he can keep his neck/head out of the play. His tackling style has also become rugby-esque and there’s a thought that he might suffer for the hip-drop-tackle rule change. One team took a chance on Jaelen Phillips, who had a similar problem, so someone will take a chance on Latu. But it’s likely to be a mixed bag of opinions in the league.

Then there’s Michael Penix Jr. For me, the injury history isn’t the big concern. It’s his frame. He won’t have the same benefits he had at Washington. His inability to deal with an excellent defensive gameplan by Michigan in the National Championship didn’t bother me as much as the sight of him limping off the field, beaten up, at the end of the game. There’s no doubt he has remarkable arm talent. Some teams will wonder, though, about how his body will take the regular hits that are coming in the NFL.

Players I’m lower than the consensus on

At no point have I watched Drake Maye and felt like I was watching someone with the ability to become a top-10 quarterback in the NFL. His footwork needs fixing, he misses too many easy throws and his decision making is highly erratic at times. He lacks the supreme physical upside to balance out the flaws. The magical moments often felt a bit flukey, rather than inspired.

I don’t think he’s a bad prospect. I have him in round two, essentially as a top-45 player. I rate him in the same way I rated Jordan Love. He was given time and patience to develop and that’s what Maye needs.

I also understand why a team would take him as early as say third overall. When you need a quarterback, you have to take shots. If you put him on a team with a sensational offensive mind and let him sit for a year or two, that would be an attractive proposition. I’d have a hard time trading a massive haul for him though — and neither the Commanders or the Patriots have that sensational offensive mind leading their teams.

If I were New England, I’d take whatever Minnesota’s offering to get up to #3 and if they’re determined to draft a quarterback — I’d take Michael Penix Jr at #11 instead, after collecting a haul of picks.

I appreciate JJ McCarthy’s intangible qualities and why teams have fallen for him. His tape, though, left me hugely underwhelmed — both in terms of physical upside and quality. He isn’t special as a thrower. His arm is OK. He won’t be playing for a loaded Michigan team next year, overwhelming all opponents. I wouldn’t trade a bunch of picks for him and when I do my final mock tomorrow — I might reflect on a potentially colder than expected market for a non-spectacular player. Right now I’m inclined to back my own assessment — that he isn’t someone worth trading up for.

Olumuyiwa Fashanu has technical flaws that concern me and I wonder about his ability to translate to a NFL blocking scheme quickly. There’s no doubting his physical upside though — I just don’t see him as a top-20 talent in this class. I don’t think Jackson Powers-Johnson is a first round pick. I think Kingsley Suamataia has heavy feet and Patrick Paul’s habit of extending his arms out before contact is a frustrating technical flaw. Both players will go earlier than I have them graded.

I ranked Troy Fautanu, Taliese Fuaga and Amarius Mims ahead of Joe Alt and Dallas Turner is my DE4.

I also have Bo Nix graded in round three. I was really disappointed with his showing at the Senior Bowl and the combine and wanted to see him throw with confidence and let it rip. Instead, he looked tentative and more limited than I expected. There are some characteristics that are appealing but I wouldn’t want to put the kind of investment in him where you’re obliged to start him and try to make him the focal point of your team.

Players I’m higher on than the consensus

Chop Robinson has Micah Parsons upside and for that reason, I’m buying into bringing him onto a team and challenging your defensive staff to make him great in a versatile role. If his knee clears, I believe Troy Fautanu is the best offensive lineman available. Likewise for Braden Fiske — if he passes his medicals, I think he’s a top-40 talent after the best combine I’ve ever seen — to go with a relentless motor and aggressive playing style.

I have Malik Mustapha and Dadrion Taylor-Demerson graded in round two, with Dominique Hampton and Kitan Oladapo in round three. Ben Sinnott is my TE2 and I have him as a top-50 player. I think Spencer Rattler has shown more translatable pro qualities than Maye and Nix. I think Penix Jr is QB3.

Linebacker Nathaniel Watson is too impactful to grade lower than a late round three for me. Defensive tackle Mekhi Wingo is in the same range due to his outstanding athletic traits. Beaux Limmer is the most explosive offensive lineman to enter the league in years. I was really impressed during tape study of receivers Jacob Cowing and Ryan Flournoy.

Using the horizontal board to project the Seahawks

First and foremost, the burning question I think for this draft is what is the situation with Abe Lucas? If, internally, they don’t think he can come back — that creates a huge problem at right tackle. With this being a particularly excellent first round at right tackle, it could tempt the Seahawks to stick and pick for the position, or initiate a modest trade down where they can still address the situation.

I still believe if Taliese Fuaga or Troy Fautanu are available at #16, there’s a strong chance the Seahawks won’t move down. Fautanu’s knee situation might change things. Both players could fit in at right tackle easily. Both can also play inside if needed. They are ideal picks based on talent, need, playing style and scheme fit.

Before the Fautanu injury news I thought they’d both be off the board before #16. Now, we’ll see.

If neither player is an option and they still want to take a right tackle, keep an eye on Amarius Mims. He is unbelievably talented. Most players who are 340lbs are sluggish and play with heavy feet, or they struggle to manage their weight. Mims has barely any body fat and looks like he was created in an offensive line factory.

A year ago the Seahawks had no problem drafting Jaxon Smith-Njigba despite the fact he missed almost the entire 2022 college season. They thought he had so much talent, it was a value opportunity. Had he played, with C.J. Stroud at quarterback, he might’ve been a top-10 pick. It’s similar with Mims. It’s well advertised he only had eight starts in college (more a review of how talented Georgia’s O-line has been than any reflection on him) but if he’d played a full two-seasons, he could’ve also been a top-10 pick.

The Seahawks will almost certainly entertain offers to trade down. Partly, I think that’ll be because they’ll have their eye on specific players in round two they want to get to (such as, potentially, a quarterback). There’s also a value opportunity here. There are so many offensive players expected to go early, due to the options and team needs. There’s a very realistic chance that a group of 4-5 defenders — who in other years would’ve been top-15 picks — are going to still be on the board between picks #20-25.

If Seattle was able to make a deal with Philadelphia at #22, for example, it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that at least one of the top-four edge rushers will be available. The other name I continue to think they might show interest in is Darius Robinson. Alternatively, Graham Barton could also be available in this range.

I have 17 interior offensive linemen I think deserve to go in rounds 3-4. I anticipate some of them will last into round five, if not later. Therefore, I’m not too concerned about Seattle’s ability to add talent at guard.

This is how the Ravens have operated for years — and people seem content to mimic their approach. They just let a veteran right guard and right tackle walk and they’ll likely be replaced by former third and fourth round picks with size and aggression. John Simpson, who started at left guard before joining the Jets, was a former fourth round pick. The big difference is they used a first rounder on Tyler Linderbaum at center — but I think the Seahawks would’ve strongly considered taking him in 2022 given the opportunity.

Having watched Michigan’s O-line dominate for the last three years, I wouldn’t be totally against drafting Trevor Keegan and Zak Zinter, putting them with Olu Oluwatimi again and just rolling with what worked for the Wolverines. It’s not flashy — but they beat everyone up in college. A lot of people think Keegan and Zinter will both be day three picks.

I think the board will produce enough value to wait on the safety position until rounds 3/4. I think they’re better off adding depth at linebacker later on with style preferences, due to the limited options at the position. I think they can wait until rounds 3-5 to add a defensive tackle. I would draft a receiver at some point but I think the depth is sufficiently excellent that I’m prepared to wait for someone like Ryan Flournoy.

What does an ideal Seahawks draft look like?

This is only my opinion and you may disagree. But I think an ideal draft is one that makes the Seahawks significantly tougher up front, on both sides of the ball, and finds a way to add a talented young quarterback.

I’m not interested in more high picks at safety, cornerback and receiver while this team is having its arse handed to it in the trenches by an average Pittsburgh team, led by Mason Rudolph, at Lumen Field.

It’s absolutely imperative they become physically better up front. That doesn’t mean they have to spend their top pick on a beast of an O-liner just because it’s the most pressing need. As I’ve explained already, there are good linemen set to be available later on. However, I do want to see within the totality of this class a really clear plan to get better in the trenches.

I also think the Sam Howell trade, which was only a swap of picks at the end of the day, doesn’t preclude the Seahawks from drafting a quarterback. It’s no different than the Seahawks signing two linebackers, two safeties, Laken Tomlinson, George Fant, Johnathan Hankins or Pharoah Brown. They’ve filled holes to make sure they can do whatever they want in this draft, not be dictated by need. They couldn’t go into the draft with one quarterback on the roster.

Plus, Howell’s cap-hit is $985,000 this year and $1.1m next year. Compare that to the veteran backups signed this off-season. Joe Flacco is costing the Colts a $5m cap hit. Carson Wentz is costing the Chiefs $2.7m. The swap of picks, to get such a cheap backup contract, is justifiable.

Howell was a draft hedge. If there’s someone in this class that they really like at quarterback, they can still take him. And they should. It’s time to take shots. That could be Michael Penix Jr in round one. It could be Spencer Rattler in round two. Or it could be Michael Pratt in rounds 3/4. I wouldn’t even rule out Bo Nix. But I think they will draft a quarterback and I think it’s critical that they start to. They need to look around for the long-term solution, not wait for the holy grail to fall into their laps one year.

Again, John Schneider was the Director of Football Operations in Green Bay when the Packers selected Brian Brohm in round two — despite having Brett Favre and recent first rounder Aaron Rodgers on the roster. That’s what you call taking shots to find the answer — and the Packers continued that tradition when they drafted Jordan Love despite having Rodgers in his prime.

I believe the Seahawks are now going to adopt that mentality and we’ll see one of these young QB’s drafted by Seattle.

To recap — I think an ideal draft includes at least one pick on each side of the lines, ideally two. It includes a quarterback. I would also look to draft at safety in round four, I’d want to add a tight end at some point and a receiver. If you can move down to acquire extra stock, a later round pick at linebacker would be desirable. I would be open to trading Dre’Mont Jones during the draft, saving $4.8m in cap space, to get extra stock if needs be.

My prediction for #16 with 48 hours to go

Troy Fautanu (knee permitting) and Taliese Fuaga could tempt the Seahawks to stick at #16. Byron Murphy likewise, with Michael Penix Jr and Amarius Mims potential wildcards. Otherwise, the Seahawks will find a trade partner. Once they move down, it brings the edge rushers into play — and I think my particular focus will be on Chop and Darius Robinson. They are two players with extremely different characteristics but they have difference making, unique qualities. Graham Barton could also be considered — but more mid-rounders for the interior O-line could be the order of the day. They will draft a quarterback at some point.

Planning ahead

Tomorrow I will publish my final mock draft to be sent for Huddle Report scoring. I’ve written it, so we’ll see how many changes I make between now and tomorrow. Health depending, we will also do a live stream tomorrow at approximately 3pm PT. Then on Thursday, we’ll have a live blog operating throughout the first round. I’ll be appearing on PuckSports’ draft special for 20-25 minutes at the start of round one too. At the end of each of the three days of the draft, we will do an instant reaction live stream. I’ll also be posting my own instant reaction to the YouTube channel when each pick comes in. So be sure to stick with SDB throughout.

If you want to support the blog as we come to the end of another draft cycle, you can do so via Patreon. All help is really appreciated.