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Should the Seahawks prioritise building a dominant defensive line in the 2024 draft?

As I’ve been mentioning a fair bit recently, it does seem an awful lot like the Seahawks are setting themselves up for an O-line centric draft. By now everyone knows this is the best offensive line class in years. It feels like ‘best player available’ will perfectly match ‘need’ as far as the Seahawks are concerned — whether they stay at #16 or move down.

I’ve long felt that Troy Fautanu and Taliese Fuaga would be ideal picks. Their highly aggressive, athletic playing styles are a great match for what Ryan Grubb and Scott Huff appear to want to create. Either player would potentially be a ‘must draft’ at #16 short of an unbelievable trade-down offer.

I don’t think Fautanu or Fuaga will last to #16 personally. I sense that’ll be the case even if Michael Penix Jr comes off the board in the top-15 (more on that in a bit).

If that happens, they could trade down. Or they could pick from the pool of remaining players — which would still include highly talented O-liners such as J.C. Latham, Amarius Mims and Tyler Guyton.

I’ve also talked about the possibility of Seattle moving down and selecting someone like Graham Barton. Lance Zierlein projected this in his latest mock draft. The only problem is, I’m not convinced Barton will get by Pittsburgh at #20 and Miami at #21. Especially after his superb pro-day.

Anyway, that’s enough of a throat-clearing. Onto the key topic at hand.

Would the Seahawks be doing the right thing if they focus on the O-line?

It’s not the ‘of course, duh’ answer you might think. Clearly O-line is a need. Clearly the Seahawks would benefit from being better up front on offense.

However, there’s something else to consider. I talked about this with Brian Nemhauser and Jeff Simmons on the Hawkblogger Mornings podcast on Sunday.

John Schneider’s approach, or the approach during the Pete Carroll era at least, has been to fill out the roster as much as possible. This works alongside the vision that Schneider has reiterated again this off-season. He’s said their intention is to try and compete next season. He says it is the remit of Jody Allen to try and compete every year — however unrealistic that might seem currently.

I’m not sure this is the best approach.

The idea, I’m sure, is to create a nice balance by spreading your resources across the roster. That sounds good but can it prevent you from ever achieving greatness in one particular area without consistently elite drafting and/or great luck? Are you better off being balanced, or are you better off trying to invest heavily in one important aspect of your team to create a positional group that is the envy of the league?

For example, should the Seahawks try and create the best defensive line possible — having already invested a lot in the defensive front — to create a potential top-five unit? It might leave the offensive line weak in 2024. Would it be worth it to possess a potentially ‘great’ D-line — something that could be the foundation for a contending team in the future?

Let’s put it this way. How would you feel if the Seahawks were starting Laken Tomlinson, Olu Oluwatimi and Anthony Bradford in 2024 — if it meant spending your top pick on another interior pass rusher to try and create something special?

Can the current D-line deliver ‘special’? Will the offensive line reach anywhere near that level just with a couple of high draft picks? Or will you just be left with, at best, two units that are potentially ‘decent’ (all being well).

The idea of trying to craft a great defensive line intrigues me. Would this be a better process for building greatness? Focusing on making one unit ‘great’ while creating an identity for the Mike Macdonald era?

Brian, Jeff and I conducted a mock draft simulation where we traded down a few spots, selected Byron Murphy the defensive tackle and then with an acquired second rounder we selected his Texas teammate T’Vondre Sweat. It’s overkill, granted. Two more defensive tackles? To add to what you already have? That probably isn’t realistic.

Yet think of it this way. You’d suddenly be able to field a defensive front that included the dynamic Murphy with the disruptive Leonard Williams. On early downs you can anchor with Sweat in the middle. The likes of Jarran Reed and Cam Young could rotate in. You’d have flexibility to trade Dre’Mont Jones after June 1st for much-needed cap relief ($11.5m) and you’d have the edge rushers in Uchenna Nwosu, Boye Mafe, Derick Hall and Darrell Taylor to work the edges.

That could become a big-time identity for this team. Even if you only took Murphy instead of the two Texas DT’s — this would be a defensive front that might just scare the likes of San Francisco and the LA Rams. Fancy that. After years of worrying about the way those two teams rush the passer, you could reinforce your D-line at the exact time they lose Arik Armstead and Aaron Donald. It’d be poetic.

There’s probably a lesson to learn from the 49ers. They relentlessly spent their first round picks on the D-line. Armstead (2015), DeForest Buckner (2016), Solomon Thomas (2017), Nick Bosa (2019) and Javon Kinlaw (2020). They also paid big money to Javon Hargrave a year ago, used a second rounder to trade for Dee Ford, rented Chase Young for a third rounder and recently paid Leonard Floyd.

They’ve made a concerted effort to build up a fearsome pass rush and that was their identity. Comparatively, they’ve spent very little on the O-line. They traded for Trent Williams, paid him, and drafted Mike McGlinchey (before letting him walk). They also spent a second rounder on Aaron Banks.

With Macdonald as Head Coach in Seattle now, should the Seahawks go all-in on their defensive line too? Should they be looking to add even more talent, with the mindset of beating the 49ers at their own game?

For what it’s worth, it wouldn’t necessarily have to be a defensive tackle either. If they believe Chop Robinson has Micah Parsons-level upside — as I do — then he could be an option too. I’m just not sure, having invested so much in Nwosu, Mafe and Hall, whether they want to limit their reps rather than plan for life beyond Jarran Reed (who has one year left on his deal).

Here’s what this would mean for the O-line. It’d likely mean one of Tomlinson or Cody Whitehair at left guard. It’d mean the highest pick you spend on the O-line could be #81. It might mean a line that struggles to function and would be relying on superior coaching and guidance to succeed.

I suppose you could argue that is going to be the case anyway, even if you spend a high pick on one offensive lineman. They are going to be young. There are going to be question marks. But the perception will be that the Seahawks aren’t taking this unit seriously if they ignore it early in the draft. If the line fails in 2024, that will lead to criticism.

It’s a tough call to make. Yet it’s also a debate we should have. The Seahawks can’t afford to just sit comfortably in the middle of the NFL, pretending to compete because at 8-8 they might sneak into the playoffs in the final game (they did in 2022 and failed to in 2023). How do you break out of this zone, short of landing an elite quarterback? Yet until the Seahawks find that player, how do they start to go into seasons feeling as bullish as the 49ers or Eagles in recent years, or as the Lions currently are after a short rebuild? They need a serious plan to become ‘great’ not just ‘good enough not to be bad’ or ‘as balanced as possible’.

A terrifying D-line feels like a pathway to breaking out of being one of the NFL’s ‘beige’ teams.

The one other thing to consider is this is a draft class with starter-level O-liners available in the middle rounds. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with going after Michigan’s linemen — such as Zak Zinter or Trevor Keegan — after they demolished most college opponents last season. The likes of Dominick Puni, Christian Haynes, Mason McCormick, Beaux Limmer and Jacob Monk could offer solutions. There are others you could mention too.

The situation wouldn’t be a total lost cause if you waited until the middle rounds — but again, it’d be risky if it didn’t work.

Given what we know about the Seahawks with Schneider as GM, I suspect they’ve done most of their business on the D-line. This is the GM who once said ‘you can find a nose tackle’ anywhere provided he did the job in college at a reasonable level. I think Johnathan Hankins rotating with Cam Young and/or Jarran Reed is your nose tackle situation sorted. They may well keep Dre’Mont Jones to operate with Leonard Williams as interior rushers, with Mike Morris and Myles Adams mixing in too.

They’ve already used three second round picks at edge rusher in recent years and they paid Nwosu.

My guess is they’re likely going to challenge Macdonald and his staff to turn what they already have into a potent force and they’re much more likely to spend their first two picks on the O-line, rather than gamble on mid-round picks to offer solutions.

It’s a debate worth having though. Should the Seahawks try and add to what they already have on the D-line? Should they try to emulate San Francisco’s ‘you can never have enough good defensive linemen’ approach? Should they be trying to create a pass rush that is the envy of the NFC to find a way to be difference makers in key games, rather than hope a balanced team will be sufficiently good enough as a collective?

I said I’d come back to Michael Penix Jr and his stock. A connected friend reiterated his belief to me this week that the Washington quarterback will be off the board by the #16 pick. In the media, he’s picking up steam at the same time that Drake Maye’s stock seems to be falling. For what it’s worth, I’ve had Penix Jr ahead of Maye on my horizontal board for a while.

Don’t be surprised if Penix Jr goes earlier than many have been thinking. He has flaws, he has medical concerns — but he also has a sensational arm.

I think it’s very plausible Caleb Williams goes #1 to Chicago, the Commanders take Jayden Daniels with the #2 pick. Then it gets interesting. I think the Pats may well look to trade down. I’ve said a few times — Ron Wolf is often mistaken as a quarterback guy. I’ve spoken to people who worked for him and he was all about the trenches. His son, Eliot, may well trade down with the intention of taking an offensive lineman. Or, as my source mentioned, don’t be shocked if they pick Rome Odunze (there are connections there on the staff) or even Michael Penix Jr (they’ve shown a lot of interest).

If the Vikings move up to #3 — there are two trains of thought. One, that they’ll take Maye — in part because Josh McCown, now on the Minnesota staff, coached him in High School. Two, that they’ll prefer J.J. McCarthy because they are an analytically-driven front office and McCarthy has the better analytics in key areas such as third downs and completion percentage when scrambling.

That could set up a situation where it’s a Williams, Daniels and McCarthy top three — and then Arizona will be in an interesting spot. Will teams be prepared to trade up for Maye or will he, as Lance Zierlein has been suggesting, suffer a small drop? Would he get past the Giants at #6? I suspect not, given Brian Daboll has had success with raw, physical talents in the past. But I wouldn’t rule out a Maye fall, or Penix Jr being the fourth off the board.

I don’t think any of this makes it more likely that Fautanu or Fuaga last to #16 though. I think the media is overrating Joe Alt and it’s definitely overrating Olu Fashanu. Besides, with the Chargers, Titans, Bears, Raiders, Saints and potentially the Colts all in the O-line market (Chris Ballard went onto the field at the combine specifically to watch the offensive linemen work out) — we’re still likely to see something of a run on the position.

It won’t be a bad thing if you’re in favour of trading down. Teams in the 20’s and 30’s will be eager to trade up for the last of the top offensive tackles, the top two cornerbacks or the remaining top pass rushers. Brian Thomas Jr could also be a desirable prospect as WR4. There’s a lot of fatalism when it comes to trading down among Seahawks fans (wrongly, in my opinion). This team needs to add talent in a number of areas and this is draft chock-full of possibilities on day two.

Why I’m back to not overthinking this for the Seahawks, they’re going to focus on the O-line

It’s always good to run through different scenarios and we’ll continue to do that leading up to the draft. However, I think after listening to John Schneider on Seattle Sports yesterday I’m going to go back to what I said a while ago.

Don’t overthink this.

The Seahawks need to do some major repair work to their offensive line. They’ve already invested in the defensive line, by spending huge money on Leonard Williams and signing Johnathan Hankins. They traded for a quarterback in Sam Howell and retained Geno Smith, who they’re now regularly stating is ‘the guy’.

Meanwhile, they’ve filled in other holes at linebacker and safety.

The one position group that has had minimal attention is the O-line. And here we are, preparing for a draft that is universally considered to be one of the best ever for offensive linemen.

Although the Seahawks are determined to avoid drafting for need, it doesn’t really matter in this instance. It’s quite possible the Seahawks already know that the best player available at #16 is almost certainly going to be an offensive lineman based on their grading. Or, at the very least, the linemen will be graded so similarly to other players at other positions that it won’t matter.

This would explain how they’ve approached free agency because right now, they’ve done everything they can to set up an O-line draft.

In Schneider’s latest radio appearance, I got the sense he wanted to shout through the microphone that he had a plan for the O-line and it involved the draft. He confessed that he’s very aware of what the sentiment is within the fan base and media. So what could the plan be?

I’ve thought for a long time that their preference would be for one of Troy Fautanu or Taliese Fuaga to last to #16. They both ideally match the physical style they want to create up front, they’re both athletic and they’re both excellent players. For me, they’re the best two offensive linemen in the draft.

I think the Seahawks will have both comfortably graded higher than Joe Alt and Olu Fashanu. That’s my hunch, anyway.

The problem is, I don’t think either will make it to #16. So this brings me on to something Schneider said about who might be available at that position, versus who might be available if they move down.

What’s the best option? Take the best offer on the table to move down and potentially select from a group that includes Graham Barton, Jordan Morgan and Jackson Powers-Johnson, or stay at #16 and look at J.C. Latham, Amarius Mims or Tyler Guyton?

I don’t think the Seahawks will be tied to a specific O-line position. All of the players I just mentioned can play multiple spots — although Powers-Johnson is strictly an interior blocker.

Take Latham for example. He’s an athletic man-mountain. He could easily play guard or tackle. If you take him, you bring him in and work things out in camp.

Typically when I write this, someone jumps in the comments to say Latham and Abe Lucas are too tall or too big to play guard. Let’s get this out of the way then. Washington last season had Nate Kalepo at guard. He’s 6-6 and 327lbs and a former High School tackle. Before that, Jaxson Kirkland — who is 6-8 and 321lbs — played guard after shifting inside from tackle. Clearly, Scott Huff is very comfortable using big, tall interior linemen. There’s no reason to think players like Latham or Lucas couldn’t kick inside in this scheme.

Schneider did say guards get over-drafted and overpaid. He didn’t say that about tackles or players with the ability to play both positions. Drafting a player with the ability to play tackle long term could also be vital insurance if, sadly, Lucas’ career is cut-short due to his knee problem.

Doesn’t this just make sense? Their plan being, all along, to take advantage of the O-line options in this class — meaning they spend their free agent money elsewhere.

I think this also speaks to a broader possible plan to be young and aggressive up front. From what I can tell, athleticism is critical to Huff’s scheme. Therefore, they were never likely to sign older linemen towards the end of their careers for decent money. George Fant hardly fits that description either. His cap-hit in 2024 is $3.4m. He’s basically a very useful (and cheap) swing-tackle who can play various spots when called upon.

A line in 2024 that includes Charles Cross, another first round pick and Abe Lucas has potential — especially if the likes of Olu Oluwatimi and Anthony Bradford can also be coached up.

The other benefit here is consistency. Someone asked me the other day about the most important feature for a good offensive line and aside from the obvious answer of talent — having five players who understand each other, can work together as a unit and communicate is critical. Very few teams are patient enough to build and grow a line. Consistency is vital and it’s one of the reasons Philadelphia’s line succeeds, on top of their investment.

If you asked me to put $100 on a prediction for Seattle’s draft plans today — my bet would be something like this:

1. Are Fautanu and Fuaga available at #16? If so, one of them will probably be a Seahawk.

2. If not, you have to compare the next group — which could potentially include the likes of Latham, Mims and Guyton — versus trading down and getting more stock. The quality of the offer or offers dictates your interest in trading down.

3. If they do move down, it brings the Barton, Morgan and Powers-Johnson types into play. Or they could pivot to a different position and potentially target Roger Rosengarten on day two.

Everything is set up for the offensive line to be the focus. The quality of the O-line players in the draft, the fact they’ve already reinforced the defensive line, the fact they’ve added a young quarterback, the fact they’ve signed linebackers and safeties.

I seriously wish they had more picks because there are so many players at a variety of positions you’d love to add. It’s going to be painful watching so many of them leave the board for other teams.

Ultimately though, I think the Seahawks will be O-line centric early on. They’ll likely add a tight end at some point (there are several who hit the targets for 10-yard split & great agility testing) and they’ll add depth at linebacker too (they are meeting with two great options in Nathaniel Watson and Tyrice Knight).

A final point on the defensive line — like other people, I love the idea of turning it into a dominant force and adding a high pick to this unit. I generally think you’re better off trying to build one great unit instead of trying to create an unrealistic full-roster balance.

Isn’t it just a numbers game, though? They have Leonard Williams, Dre’Mont Jones, Jarran Reed, Johnathan Hankins, Cam Young, Myles Adams and Mike Morris. I appreciate Jones might be trade bait later in the year to create cap space — but even then, this is a lot of investment to also throw in a first or second round pick. They have a rotation here, plus they clearly believe Williams can be a star performer based on the investment in him. I’d be open to adding another player if they truly believe in one of the bigger names available — I’m just not sure they will.

Likewise at edge rusher. They recently paid Uchenna Nwosu a handsome salary, while investing high second round picks in Boye Mafe and Derick Hall. They also used a second rounder on Darrell Taylor and just re-signed him too. If you spend a first round pick on an edge rusher, doesn’t that just put a road-block in the way for Mafe and Hall? While fans might not mind that, the man who made those two picks is still in charge and probably hoping his new staff can get more out of the players he’s already invested in. Remember, the Seahawks’ official website revealed they had a firm first round grade on Hall last year.

With the recent news that they have some interest in Randy Gregory, he might end up being someone who comes in as part of the rotation — rather than a top pick being used on another edge rusher. Mike Macdonald succeeded with an ageing Jadeveon Clowney and Kyle Van Noy (who’s still available) in Baltimore, so I’m not convinced another edge rusher is a priority (but it’d obviously depend on how they grade the available players).

At linebacker, they certainly need competition. Do they spend a high pick, though? Just because Jerome Baker and Tyrel Dodson are on prove-it deals? I’m not sure they will think that way, rather than look for depth and competition later on.

Philosophically you can look at it two ways. On the one hand, the Seahawks matching their biggest need with the biggest strength in the draft makes sense. On the other, are they ever going to be able to make one side of the ball elite by essentially trying to match-up a way to create a complete roster in free agency and the draft? Or do they have to pick their poison and attack offense or defense? What’s your identity? Being great at one thing, then building from there, also makes sense.

Arguments can be made for either view — but I do think if you take a step back, don’t overthink things and just look at what’s available in this draft class — it seems very obvious what the Seahawks will do with their first pick. It will be an offensive lineman, short of a dramatic trade down that changes the complexion of where they’re picking in a big way.

Signing Laken Tomlinson or Cody Whitehair is unlikely to change that.

A whole bunch of Seahawks & general NFL draft notes

Seahawks add to official 30 visit list

Tyrice Knight, Malachi Corley, John Rhys Plumlee and Grayson Murphy are all confirmed as making a trip to Seattle. Per Tony Pauline, big nose tackle Khristian Boyd will also visit. A separate report confirmed linebacker Nathaniel Watson would also take an official-30 visit.

I really like Watson — an old-school, heavy-hitting linebacker with outstanding blitz potential. There are a couple of reasons why Seahawks fans should keep him in mind. Firstly, he called the plays for the Mississippi State defense. John Schneider highlighted how much value they placed on Jerome Baker and Tyrel Dodson being ‘green dot’ players (meaning they get the defensive play-calls in their helmets) when they were signed. Watson fits that mould too.

Secondly, Mike Macdonald recently referenced the need for players to be able to blitz in his scheme. Watson had 21 career sacks at Mississippi State and 35 TFL’s. Jim Nagy told us in our interview yesterday he’s an ideal fit for a 3-4 defense and can play inside or outside linebacker. It’s no surprise he’s on Seattle’s radar. When I watched him I thought he’d be an ideal target — and while I have him graded in round three, I think he could be available in round four.

Boyd was a combine snub after impressing at the Shrine Bowl. On tape he does flash some quickness for his size. It’ll be interesting to see how he tests — he’s going to do a joint session with Cooper DeJean on the 8th April given both players are currently rehabbing from injury.

Michael Penix Jr at #16?

A source who was at UW messaged me yesterday, as soon as Penix Jr ran his forty, with the number ‘4.53’. Regulars to the blog will know this isn’t unexpected. When I was at the facility last year, I saw the testing data for Washington’s players. Penix Jr has actually jumped a 38 inch vertical, as noted in November, which is better than his pro-day number of 36.5 inches. So the fact he’s a great athlete is no big shock.

That same source told me a few weeks ago, when I asked about Penix Jr’s likely draft range, that he didn’t see him getting to #16. The medicals will obviously impact things. Yet increasingly it does feel like Vegas at #13 could be a serious landing spot — if not one of the teams picking before the Raiders. It’s quite easy to imagine Brian Daboll appreciating his arm talent and the Giants took a large contingent to Washington’s pro-day.

However, two mocks paired the Husky quarterback to Seattle yesterday. Firstly, Colin Cowherd had the Seahawks trading up to #12 to take him. Then, Charles Davis put Penix Jr at #16 in his latest projection.

As I wrote the other day, I don’t think it’s something to be dismissed. Increasingly though, I don’t think he’ll be there. The arm talent is too good. If teams are willing to look beyond Drake Maye’s poor technique and J.J. McCarthy’s physical limitations — provided Penix Jr is medically cleared, why won’t teams look beyond the inconsistencies in his game for a shot at having that arm lead them to glory?

Schneider mentioned recently that part of the reason for trading for Sam Howell was because they looked at the NFL landscape and saw numerous teams who needed quarterbacks picking ahead of them. I think he anticipates five could be off the board by #16. Thus, he made the Howell trade and is expecting to do something else with the top pick.

If he does last though — or if the Seahawks can trade down and take him later on — it shouldn’t be a huge shock.

Notes on Drake Maye’s pro-day

Back in 2021, I remember watching Trey Lance’s pro-day and thinking it was a really poor session. Numerous passes were off target or incomplete. Yet after, Lance gained rave reviews. It didn’t make any sense — unlike Lance’s predictable struggle to transfer to the pro’s. San Francisco’s decision to bet the farm on a player who’d shown so little in college was remarkable. He was taken for size and traits — yet neither were so good to warrant the incredible haul the 49ers spent.

Maye’s pro-day wasn’t as bad as Lance’s — but I don’t think it was a million miles off. I have a lot of similar concerns.

He started the session extremely poorly. On basic routes just to get warmed up, he sailed passes over the heads of receivers or threw behind. These were just easy lay-ups to get things going.

The same problems you see on tape were on show here. His footwork is not good, he moves off the center and drifts — preventing the opportunity to set with base and throw consistently. This messes with his mechanics and too often the ball placement suffers.

It’s stating the obvious to say when you see something on tape then it happens again in a setting 100% designed for the quarterback to impress — with no defenders on the field — that’s a concern.

When he planted his feet and threw with a strong base you could see how much more comfortable he was. Yet the team drafting Maye is going to probably have to spend considerable time working on his technique, footwork and mechanics before he takes the field. Or, they’re going to have to suffer as he learns on the fly.

Later on in the session he did the usual trendy ‘throwing across your body’ passes downfield — which make for great social media videos but tell us very little in terms of quarterbacking. There’s no doubt that Maye has an arm. I’m just not convinced that it’s ‘that’ special to warrant ignoring some of the flaws that appear over and over again on tape with the belief that over time he’ll iron things out.

In 2023 he did not play well. There are several games where you’re left scratching your head not just with his footwork but also his decision making. He isn’t the same physical talent, in my opinion, as Anthony Richardson and Will Levis. Both of those two players made ‘wow’ throws a year ago that I haven’t seen from Maye. Anyone taking him will be banking on a Josh Allen style development process — but for me he simply isn’t an Allen level physical talent.

I completely understand why analysts such as Lance Zierlein have suggested Maye could fall in the draft. If I were a team like the Vikings, I would not be trading major resources to go after Maye or J.J. McCarthy. I can understand why the New England Patriots are supposedly receptive to trading down.

Speaking of Jayden Daniels — I thought what I saw from his pro-day was good not great. He finished well with some nice bombs and showed off an impressive arm for the deep throws. His velocity on throws to the short and mid-range was also impressive. Physically there are no concerns here — but his accuracy did suffer a little early on.

Neither pro-day came close to the tempo, scripting and quality of CJ Stroud’s a year ago.

Updated TEF scores

Many offensive linemen opted not to do the bench press at pro-day, meaning we still have incomplete scores. However, here are confirmed TEF scores for a handful of players:

Mason McCormick — 3.60
Jacob Monk — 3.10
Blake Fisher — 2.89
Karsen Barnhart — 2.87
Charles Turner — 2.84
Amarius Mims — 2.72
Trente Jones — 2.71
Cooper Beebe — 2.66

There’s been a bit of talk recently that Cooper Beebe isn’t as highly regarded as the media thinks. I do wonder if this extremely poor testing score — which includes just 20 reps on the bench press despite benefitting from short arms — is one of the reasons why teams have soured a bit on Beebe. Explosive testing isn’t the be-all and end-all — but Beebe hasn’t performed well after opting to skip the Senior Bowl — a big mistake on his behalf.

Meanwhile, Mason McCormick is now officially the second most explosive tester since we started using the formula in 2016. This is likely one of the reasons why his stock, unlike Beebe’s, is rising.

Here’s a full list of confirmed TEF scores for this year:

Beaux Limmer — 3.68
Mason McCormick — 3.60
Jarrett Kingston — 3.29
Frank Crum — 3.19
Kingsley Suamataia — 3.11
Jacob Monk — 3.10
Jackson Powers-Johnson — 3.04
Joe Alt — 3.02
Tanor Bortolini — 2.94
Nick Gargiulo — 2.90
Blake Fisher — 2.89
Karsen Barnhart — 2.87
Charles Turner — 2.84
Christian Haynes — 2.83
KT Leveston — 2.81
Delmar Glaze — 2.79
Gottlieb Ayedze — 2.75
Amarius Mims — 2.72
Trente Jones — 2.71
Drake Nugent — 2.70
Sataoa Laumea — 2.69
Cooper Beebe — 2.66
Keaton Bills — 2.66
Javion Cohen — 2.56
Isaiah Adams — 2.45
X’Zauvea Gadlin — 2.40

Two strong pro-day performances

Duke’s Graham Barton is a terrific player and a likely first round pick. At his pro-day he ran a fantastic 4.84 forty and a 4.43 short shuttle. These are outstanding times. He also managed to get his arms measured at 33-inches (he’s 6-5 and 311lbs). Barton can play any position on the line and will be a coveted player.

Washington State pass rusher Brennan Jackson ran a really good short shuttle of 4.34 at his pro-day. He’s a seriously underrated player who is going to provide great value and leadership to a team. You can check out my interview with him here.

Chad Reuter projects a trade scenario for Seattle

With no pick between #16 and #81, the chances are the Seahawks will look to move down in round one. However, this is only possible if there’s a buyer willing to present a reasonable offer. There’s no guarantee of this. The Seahawks would also need to be wary of passing on a player that another team is so desperate to move up for.

In Reuter’s latest piece for NFL.com, he suggests the Chiefs move up to #16 from #32 to get Xavier Worthy. I would be stunned if the Chiefs needed to make that kind of move for Worthy. It’d make a lot more sense to do that for LSU’s Brian Thomas Jr or an offensive tackle.

The Chiefs are one of the few teams who can justify being aggressive. Per Reuter’s suggestion, the Seahawks would get the #64 pick and a 2025 third rounder to drop down half a round.

This is where the problem lies. That’s a massive drop for just one additional pick this year. Plus, you’re getting the last pick in round two. If the Chiefs continue to thrive, that 2025 third rounder will be nearer a fourth rounder.

I’m not sure I’d take that deal. I’d want more. Make that 2025 pick a second rounder, perhaps. Or make it Kansas City’s 2025 first rounder straight up, with no additional pick this year (or perhaps chuck in a fourth rounder).

I do not fear trading down. Some of the elite players in the league have been drafted in the 30’s — T.J. Watt, Lamar Jackson and Chris Jones, for example. I appreciate this fan base is scarred by memories of L.J. Collier but this is a different draft with some attractive options set to go in the #30-45 range. That’s why the Texans were so willing to move down in their deal with the Vikings.

I’d even be willing to trade down a couple of times, frankly. But it has to be for the right deal and the truth is — the right deal might not be there.

Quick hitters on a few players

— I’ve recently seen plenty of mocks with Brock Bowers sinking down boards. He is the ultimate mismatch weapon for the modern NFL. He won’t get out of the top-15. The Jets are in win-now-at-all-costs mode and just traded for Haason Reddick. If the top-three receivers are gone by #10 — I bet they take Bowers.

Jim Nagy said in our interview that T’Vondre Sweat might be the most unique player in the draft. You can definitely make a strong case. You see every pound of his 366lbs frame when he connects with blockers and manhandles them. The fact he has an effective swim-move to work off it, at his size, is astonishing. A word of caution though. The feeling going into the 2023 season was that Sweat struggled to control his weight and had been a disappointment at Texas. There was hope the light had come on in his final year and so it proved. Yet when Jim relays a story about scouts/teams saying they didn’t expect Sweat to last the full week in Mobile — especially after he chose not to weigh-in — it shows that there’s scepticism within the league about his conditioning. Can he stay motivated? Can he last through 17 highly intense NFL games? Can he control his weight? I’d suggest he didn’t play at 366lbs last season, for example. These are valid questions to discuss. So while he’s a very intriguing, very unique player — there are also clear reasons why he might last into the second half of round two.

Case in point, here are a couple of quotes from Bob McGinn’s scouting sources on Sweat:

“He’s going to go first round but he’s an overweight lazy (bleep),” a second scout said. “He is very talented. He’s always going to have a weight problem. You can take that to the bank. He played in spurts the last couple years. But the big, strong (bleep) is hard to move.”

“He’s been up to almost 400,” said a third scout. “He’s like 380 something in-season. His football character is terrible. For people that don’t care he’s got top-two round ability. He’s not quite the freak show that Jordan Davis was but for a big, fat guy he does some pretty impressive (bleep).”

— Troy Fautanu is the best left tackle in the draft. Forget all this talk of a move to guard. He’s a legit tackle. He’s superior to Joe Alt — who let’s not forget, lost the left tackle competition to Blake Fisher at Notre Dame and only got the job due to an injury to Fisher. I think it’s optimistic to think Fautanu lasts to #16. I’d be very surprised if one of the teams picking in front of Seattle didn’t take him with the clear intention of starting him at tackle.

Here’s McGinn’s sources on Fautanu:

“I really, really like the athlete. I could see him playing left tackle because his pass pro is unreal. Plus, he’s got some prick in him. (Taliese) Fuaga played hard; he’s just not as mean as this guy. The combination of mean and athletic usually doesn’t happen. Usually you’re asking for one or the other. I think he can play left tackle at 6-3 ½ because he compensates with almost 35-inch arms and exceptional feet. Of the top guys, he has the best feet.”

“I think he’ll end up being a guard because he’s so quick and mobile. He won’t have the height or arm length you want for left tackle but he can play left tackle. I have him in the top 10 picks but I don’t know if you take a guard there. The Colts took that guy from Notre Dame (Quenton Nelson, No. 6, 2018) but I think I can find guards.”

If you didn’t watch the Jim Nagy interview yesterday, please do. There’s so much great info here so check it out, share it on other sites and forums and social media:

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Why I wouldn’t rule out the Seahawks drafting Michael Penix Jr in the first round

Former NFL GM Mike Tannenbaum published a mock draft yesterday. He said it’s what he would do, rather than what he thinks will actually happen.

The Seahawks took Troy Fautanu, a consensus pick among the mocks these days. I still think it’s unlikely he’ll last to #14. Fautanu is the best left tackle prospect in the class for me. I think teams like the Saints will strongly consider him at #14 — and it won’t be a surprise if teams in the top-10 look very closely at Fautanu.

I wanted to touch on a different aspect of the mock, though. Tannenbaum has the Rams selecting Michael Penix Jr at #19. Firstly, I think this is very unlikely. Matt Stafford is contracted until 2026 and is really locked into LA’s cap for the next two years. There’s $47m in dead money attached to his deal next year. So realistically, provided he continues playing, Stafford is going to start for the Rams for at least two more seasons.

By 2026, Penix Jr would be 26 years old. I think it’s more likely the Rams will use the #19 pick to get an impact player, with the view of trying to be very competitive this year. After that, it wouldn’t be a surprise if they drafted someone like Spencer Rattler in round two. But even without Aaron Donald, I think they played well enough in 2023 to feel like they’re well placed to have a go next season. Signing Tre’Davious White yesterday suggests that’s how they’re thinking.

The reason I wanted to raise this, though, is to say if Penix Jr is being pitched as a realistic option for the Rams post-Stafford, why didn’t Tannenbaum pair him with Seattle?

The Seahawks have no commitment to Geno Smith beyond this year. They are clearly mindful of what the future looks like at quarterback. Ryan Grubb attended the Oregon pro-day, then went to Michigan and reportedly had a ‘lengthy meeting’ with J.J. McCarthy during the visit. Seattle were also one of a handful of teams to meet with Drake Maye and Jayden Daniels at the combine.

Yes, they just made a move for Sam Howell. They’ve also gone to great lengths to point out he is the backup this year. Speaking on the radio last week, John Schneider noted how important is was to add a QB — referencing the number of teams in the draft who had a need at the position and how that might hamper their attempts to pick one.

The Seahawks know everything they need to know about Penix Jr. They don’t need to do any homework here because Ryan Grubb has the best intel in the league on the Washington quarterback. Is Grubb attending the Oregon and Michigan pro-days to cross-reference and compare? Is it information gathering for the man who ultimately will be able to advise Schneider on Penix Jr?

The Howell trade theoretically provides insurance against the Raiders, Broncos, Vikings, Giants or anyone else taking Penix Jr before Seattle’s pick. But it also doesn’t prevent the Seahawks picking him if they truly believe he is the future.

We’ve probably analysed Penix Jr as much as any player during this draft cycle and I’m still in the same place I’ve always been. His arm talent is truly exceptional and for that reason, there’s a very real chance he will go in the top-15 and could be a legit option for the Seahawks if he reaches #16. There simply aren’t many players who can throw with his downfield ability and touch. Schneider wants field-tilting ability at the position and as we saw in the Texas playoff game, Penix Jr is capable of that. It was a masterful display.

Seattle’s scheme under Grubb will presumably take on a lot of the characteristics we saw at Washington. That involves attacking every blade of grass on the field in the passing game. We know Penix Jr can do that because we saw it for the last two years.

I also get the sense that Schneider is desperate to get more from D.K. Metcalf and wants a coordinator and a quarterback who can create 1v1 opportunities and attack them. I truly believe Schneider sees Metcalf as a potential top-25 player in the league and probably feels the Seahawks haven’t done enough to make that a reality. There isn’t one hint of hesitancy from Penix Jr on tape when he sees Rome Odunze 1v1. He goes after it, time and time again. He will not fear throwing to Metcalf in contested situations.

The counter, though, is obviously the injury history. The reports on a clean bill of health were premature at the combine and felt agent led. It doesn’t mean teams won’t ultimately clear him — but those decisions aren’t made until deep into April. We’ll need to wait some time to discover the reality of the situation.

On top of that we have the dip in performance we saw during the 2023 season. A reminder that his completion percentage dropped from 75% in the first five games to 60.1% in the next eight. During those same two splits, his PFF grade dropped from 87.4 to 70.9. I watched all of the games in this period and he simply didn’t play very well in a lot of games — chucking throws downfield to areas rather than with calculated precision, leading to a lot of incompletions. He still managed the special throws week-to-week and when needed, as we saw against Oregon State, he produced when the team needed a big-time conversion. Yet his performance level did drop — and increased pressure impacted him. This issue re-emerged against Michigan in the National Championship.

Then you have the lack of creative mobility. He isn’t a mad-improviser and a lot of teams want that. I get the sense John Schneider has been chasing Brett Favre throughout his time in Seattle and Penix Jr just isn’t that type. He has the arm — but he’s not extending plays and making the improbable happen on the move. The only real evidence of that was one great play against USC.

There are major pro’s and some con’s. The remarkable arm talent, ability to attack opponents to all levels of the field and the way he elevated Washington to new heights on the plus side. Then there’s the injury history, inconsistent performances and the lack of what the league loves these days — improv and escapability.

In Tannenbaum’s mock, he has Sean McVay taking the chance on the positives. But the key question in this scenario for us should be — is that a chance the Seahawks should take if he’s there at #16?

You could sit Penix Jr for one year, as the Chiefs did with Patrick Mahomes. Or, you’d even have the option to try and trade Geno Smith post-June 1st, where you’d save $12.9m in cap space. You likely wouldn’t get much at that stage of the off-season, or going into camp, short of a critical injury for another team. But Smith would only cost a suitor $12.7m in salary. So there are options here for the Seahawks if they do indeed draft someone like Penix Jr and don’t feel the need to redshirt him.

After all — this is the team that signed Matt Flynn to a big contract (at the time), retained Tarvaris Jackson and then drafted Russell Wilson. They signed Flynn, fully in the knowledge that they really liked Wilson and wanted to draft him. I’d suggest they’re in a similar situation now. They have guys on the roster but while they’re looking for ‘the guy’ they could and should keep looking.

The mind wanders when you see a tweet like this from Jim Nagy, offering the opinion that he didn’t think the Seahawks would draft an offensive lineman in round one. My first reaction was to think that maybe Mike Macdonald had sold Schneider on the idea of building an epic defensive line and that could be the direction they go. What if Nagy actually was thinking quarterback? Or more specifically, Penix Jr?

There’s every chance Penix Jr is off the board by #16 — or the Seahawks can’t clear the medicals to justify taking him. Or pick another scenario — whether it’s not being sold on the elusiveness or they simply don’t think he’s significantly better than Howell. I’ll say again that I think the Howell trade was indicative that they probably don’t expect to draft a quarterback this year, or weren’t confident they could, and wanted insurance they felt comfortable in.

I also don’t think we should rule out Penix Jr in round one to Seattle. There was definitely something going on when Macdonald was appointed, with the repeatedly non-committal approach to answering questions about Geno Smith and the talking-up of Drew Lock. It felt very much like the were open to trading Smith — and Adam Schefter’s report on Twitter at the time virtually spelled that out. They’ve now pivoted to constantly talking-up Geno, while trading for Howell. Meanwhile, Grubb’s doing the pro-day rounds and they 100% know they need to draft a quarterback sooner rather than later.

They’ll never have as much info on a player as Penix Jr going into this draft. This could be the opportunity to get a guy they like without trading the farm to go up and get him. And while the Seahawks clearly have other needs on the team — nothing will do more to set this team up for contender status than drafting and hitting on a top-level quarterback.

I think there are still some interesting potential twists and turns to be had going into this draft. Schneider is in charge now, not Pete Carroll. I think he will be driven by the quarterback position until it’s solved long-term. He once reportedly wanted to draft Andy Dalton in the first round. Provided Penix Jr gets the injury green-light, it’s easy to imagine why Schneider might be very interested in his incredible arm. Keep him in mind at #16.

A final note for today — the LSU pro-day took place. I timed Mekhi Wingo’s short shuttle (you can watch it here) and I got a 4.38. Another excellent time which puts him in the same kind of agility range as Braden Fiske. You can watch my interview with Mingo here. If there are any other details from LSU or from Washington State (where the likes of Brennan Jackson and Jayden Hicks are also working out today) I’ll update the piece.

For crying out loud, will the Seahawks just move on from Jamal Adams

For a large portion of the fan base, Jamal Adams’ departure was a cause for celebration. Weeks earlier he’d completely embarrassed himself and the franchise when he attacked a reporters wife, then doubled down on the behaviour when quizzed by reporters.

It was a relief that he only managed one more game for the Seahawks before we were all given the respite of not having to root for the guy any more. Adams was an expensive flop — his acquisition an epic mistake by Seattle’s decision makers. By the end though, it was more than just a crap trade. Adams was toxic.

Cutting him was a line being drawn under the whole episode. A fresh start. So why, suddenly, is a potential return even a ‘thing’? John Schneider and Mike Macdonald keep entertaining the idea. Brock Huard, who correctly called the signings of Jerome Baker and Tyrel Dodson right before they happened, brought up the suggestion of Adams returning. Turns out it wasn’t a random thought from Huard.

What does he have to offer the Seahawks at this stage? He missed 33 regular season games in four seasons in Seattle. His body has been gradually breaking down. There’s no sign as he approaches his 29th birthday later this year that a clean bill of health and a return to his best is on the cards.

His performance in Seattle when he was healthy was massively underwhelming and often irritating. Nobody could sarcastically applaud an opponent after a seven-yard gain on first down quite like Jamal. He was the anti-Richard Sherman. The brash Seahawks of yesteryear backed up their chatter. Sherman yawning after another incompletion aimed his way was an enjoyable slice of banter from a top performer.

Adams had a knack of consistently chirping away, even when he was doing nothing of significance on the field. That’s how the whole issue came about with the reporter. Adams gave up a huge play in a game where he’d been at the Dallas players throughout. As a touchdown was thrown to Jake Ferguson, the Cowboys’ tight end gazed at Seattle’s safety and Ceedee Lamb came running over to gloat.

Cue the ‘yikes’ tweet.

People love to talk about his sack record for defensive backs in year one — but as Hugh Millen has frequently pointed out, it was virtually all manufactured pressure. One of his sacks came about because Sam Darnold ran out of bounds for a short loss and Adams happened to be nearest to him. He didn’t record a single sack in the next three years. He was PFF’s 88th ranked safety last year and in his three years as a starter in Seattle, his average grade was a poor 59.7.

His time was spent either being injured or ineffective. By the time he started insulting reporter’s wives he’d become an embarrassment. A liability.

What’s the point of bringing him back to play linebacker, as they’ve suggested would be the situation? He’s 213lbs. His body’s already breaking down. How is this going to work?

I get that coaches sometimes feel like they can fix anyone. Mike Macdonald’s schemes have benefited from creative and versatile safety play. He might think he can turn Adams into something he’s shown he no longer is — and John Schneider might be open to a different coach changing the narrative on his worst trade as a GM.

They should resist this idea. Move on. Get younger, faster and healthier. Start a new era where the Seahawks do their talking with their tackling, hitting and pass rush — not with a twerp chuntering away at opponents only to be left with egg on his face, then deciding another man’s wife is a fair retaliation.

I’m bored of Jamal Adams. I want to see that massive mistake consigned to history. Nobody else seems to be interested in him, so why are the Seahawks?

Schneider is starting to resemble Indiana Jones at the end of ‘the Last Crusade’ where he’s reaching out for the Holy Grail. Someone needs to be Indy’s dad, telling him to let it go.

John, for Pete’s sake (pun intended) — let it go.

Robbie, Adam and I will be doing a stream at 4pm ET — do join us:

Two defensive player short shuttle times worth noting

I’m writing this article from a hotel on my phone, which is the first time I’ve done this since Jay Glazer initially reported that Frank Clark might be dealt in 2019. Basically, it isn’t going to be a long piece but the info could be important.

We’d had mixed feedback from local Missouri reporters on what times players ran at the Tigers’ pro-day. Tony Pauline passed on to me information on Darius Robinson’s agility testing via his league sources. He ran a 4.76 short shuttle and a 7.88 three cone.

These are not great times, possibly enough to put the Seahawks off in round one. There’s no denying that Robinson was highly disruptive in 2023 and had a sensational Senior Bowl. When you’re beating Tyler Guyton off the edge you’re no slouch. However, the knock on Robinson has always been a lack of twitch and these times paired with a 4.95 forty confirm that.

The early talk had been of a shuttle in the 4.5’s and that would’ve been comparable to Arik Armstead. Instead, Robinson’s lack of twitch will likely keep him on the board until the late first or early second. He is talented, can create chaos and he’s a tremendous leader. Tony suggested a range of #25-40. It might be more towards the latter half of that range after his pro-day testing results.

The other player to mention is Byron Murphy. There are no reported numbers for his shuttle time but I found footage of his run online and timed it myself. I timed it twice and on both occasions got a 4.43 on the stopwatch — which would be an excellent mark for a 297lbs defensive tackle.

Murphy already tested brilliantly at the combine — running a 4.87 with a 1.69 10-yard split. He’s explosive too, recording a 33 inch vertical and a 9-3 broad.

I’m not convinced the Seahawks would ‘stick and pick’ Murphy at #16 but it would be intriguing to see the Seahawks try to build a great defensive line, after watching the 49ers and Rams dominate in this area for years.

One final note, Albert Breer mentioned the Seahawks were one of three teams to have a ‘lengthy meeting’ with J.J. McCarthy at his pro-day. The other two teams were Washington and New England.

I think it speaks to a couple of things. Firstly, the Seahawks acknowledging the pressing need to be across the young quarterbacks in the draft because they need to find a long term answer sooner rather than later. Secondly, the need to be ready for a quarterback falling into range.

I know the latest talk today is about McCarthy to the Commanders at #2. However, I can’t help but feel sanity will return to the league soon. He isn’t, for me, a top-25 talent in this draft let alone top-two. The talk of teams trading multiple firsts for him or McCarthy going second overall is fairly remarkable. It might be that in a month the intangible qualities are getting less attention than the actual tape. And that meeting in Ann Arbour could end up being fairly useful.

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