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.