Tony Pauline produced an updated big board this week. With just over two weeks to go, it’s a revealing and interesting read.
It also explains the quandary facing the Seahawks.
I’ve told this story before but it’s worth relaying. Before the 2010 draft a little birdie passed on some information that the Seahawks initially had strong interest in a safety and tackle combo with their two first round picks. I never established whether this was by choice or because of the options available.
There was a feeling they were targeting Eric Berry at #6 and Trent Williams at #14. Before the combine Williams’ stock was seen to be in the mid-first round range. Berry’s stock, equally, had fluctuated a bit after a so-so final season at Tennessee.
A brilliant combine helped propel Williams well into the top-five. Berry also ran a 4.40 and jumped a 43 inch vertical. Plans changed.
Obviously I’ve never verified any of this so it could be false, although this source was reliable and passed on some other nuggets that came true, including the Marshawn Lynch trade days before it occurred (which I tweeted about and was given a credit for at the time).
They ended up taking Russell Okung at #6 and Earl Thomas at #14. All’s well that ends well. It goes to show how things shift and change during an off-season process — yet you can still come away with a satisfactory conclusion.
The point of bringing this up is I suspect the Seahawks made the Russell Wilson trade thinking there was a good chance a pass rusher would be available at #9. They talked it up as the off-season priority and Clint Hurtt directly spoke of a need for a game-wrecker. Pete Carroll stated they wanted another Darrell Taylor.
Many were mocking Jermaine Johnson as a fringe first rounder in January. A great Senior Bowl and combine has seen his stock rise and rise. Now he’s a consensus top-10 pick and probably doesn’t get out of the top-seven.
I think the Seahawks possibly had their eye specifically on him. And if not him, one of the others. Travon Walker for example. Now it appears neither will reach #9. Aidan Hutchinson definitely won’t. Only perceived character flags could make it a possibility for Kayvon Thibodeaux.
Thus, we had the Uchenna Nwosu signing — the most expensive outside free agent addition in the Carroll era. A clear sign that post combine the Seahawks knew which way this was going and needed more than a minor hedge.
Tony’s big board has Thibodeaux, Hutchinson and Walker at #1, #2 and #3. Johnson is at #7.
Kyle Hamilton was assumed to be a very high pick but that no longer seems likely. This also adds another issue where teams who might’ve considered Hamilton perhaps pivot now to the more attractive option at a more premium position (DE/OL).
If, as expected, the best pass rushers are gone — and if we assume the Seahawks have been anticipating this since the combine — they have likely been preparing an alternative non-pass-rushing plan for the #9 pick.
I would argue the next few names on Tony’s list — Charles Cross, Jordan Davis, Garrett Wilson, Hamilton, Jameson Williams — are no better than the group that follows — Derek Stingley Jr, George Karlaftis, Trevor Penning and Devin Lloyd. Either that or they play positions that aren’t needed in Seattle.
It’s what we’d call over here ‘sod’s law’. Unfortunately the Seahawks could be just out of reach of the options they truly covet. The same is likely true for Atlanta. Quarterbacks going in the top-10 would change that but I’m just not buying it. And neither are the likes of Scot McCloughan, who I interviewed recently.
This is why trading down might be more likely than it was a few months ago. It’s just the reality of the situation.
Personally I’d be open to standing pat at #9 and taking Stingley Jr because I rate him higher than Tony. But if Tony has him rated in the mid-first, and if that’s where he’s expected to go, it’s plausible to move down a few spots and still target him.
If the Seahawks don’t plan to select any cornerback early — which is also a distinct possibility given their history — I’d argue the Karlaftis/Penning/Lloyd option — combined with Zion Johnson — plus an extra day two pick, is a better scenario than staying put and taking one of the higher ranked players.
So while some fans will sneer at the prospect of another trade down given Seattle’s recent track record — it might actually be somewhat justified here.
Unless the top-10 becomes a lot more unpredictable and one of the better pass rushers or offensive linemen fall. Then you stay put. There are plenty of mocks out there predicting this slice of fortune — but none are realistic. The top four pass rushers, Evan Neal and Ikem Okwonu will not make it to #9. It means the Seahawks are going to have to adapt and adjust.
It makes it tricky to project who specifically they will take.
Stingley Jr feels like the kind of project Carroll would love to take on, thus he might be the front runner. But it’d be wrong to totally ignore the injury situation and Seattle’s preference to draft cornerbacks later.
I can see them having interest in Lloyd as an impact player in the front seven. Is another linebacker really the route to go though, in a deep linebacker class?
Penning for me isn’t necessarily a day-one starter at left tackle but they might shift him over to the right initially. He has so many technical flaws though that it’d be a risky pick to launch a rebuild.
Johnson would be a plug-and-play left guard with an outstanding profile. He might be the safest available player.
Karlaftis isn’t anything, really, like the pass rushers they’ve drafted or signed in the past. Yet there’s no doubting his high-energy, high-effort style. As I mentioned last week, a trusted talent evaluator generously passed on his comparison to me: ‘He’s Aidan Hutchinson just available later in the draft‘. Can he drop into coverage though in a 3-4? Debatable.
The no-man’s land position in this class might sadly be #8 or #9. Thus, we could see the Falcons simply take the receiver they need. The Seahawks might feel obliged to take their top option on the board whatever the position. Both teams would probably prefer to move down a bit, gain some stock and take a similarly graded player in the middle portion of the first round.
Trading down could also allow Seattle to trade up later — something they’ve had success with in the past in the round two range (Jarran Reed, DK Metcalf, Darrell Taylor).
Tony has Tyler Linderbaum at #29 on his board having previously reported that he could fall into round two. At his pro-day yesterday he ran a 4.98 forty, an outstanding 4.38 short shuttle and if he’d benched only the average amount of the combine testers his TEF would’ve been an explosive 3.07.
His size limitations will always be an issue for some teams but the other big problem was the lack of testing combined with the size. Now that he has some numbers to look at and the mystery is removed, for me it’s very unlikely he will fall out of day one.
I do think the Seahawks are very interested in him. Austin Blythe is a clear hedge. I don’t think the talk of Blythe’s size and wrestling background is a coincidence. The benefit of a hedge is you don’t necessarily have to force the issue — so it’s not a cast-iron lock that Seattle trades up to claim what would be a great prize in this draft for their scheme.
However — if they want to make this blocking scheme work, there isn’t really a better option than Linderbaum to lead from the front. He would be a fantastic choice to help launch a new era with an injection of talent, aggression and athleticism to the offensive line.
If he falls into the late 20’s it would be well worth the Seahawks looking at options to trade back into round one to secure him. Trading down from #9 would secure the extra stock to make this even more possible.
What would it cost? The 2019 draft is the last time we saw teams trading back into the late first. The Giants gave Seattle a fourth and fifth round pick to go from #37 to #30. The Falcons jumped from #45 to #31 for the price of a third round pick.
Seattle has one fourth and two fifth round picks — with the potential to add more. So moving up from #40 wouldn’t be too challenging.
Getting a quality defensive prospect and a great offensive line addition with their first two picks would match the start of the 2010 build and would, frankly, be ideal.
At #41 they would have options. They could move down again to replenish their stock, or they could seek value. What a luxury to have that extra pick this year.
The reason I think they are so interested in Michael Clemons despite people, fairly, raising his average testing results is simple. He flashes on tape the same way Darrell Taylor did. Wins in the same way Taylor won. They’ve stated they want that and he’s attending the VMAC on an official visit.
Plus you wouldn’t be taking him in the same range as L.J. Collier so the risk isn’t anywhere near comparable.
If they miss out on the top pass rushers he could easily be their mid-round fall-back option to rotate in with Taylor, Nwosu and Alton Robinson. There’s already talk of a reunion with Carlos Dunlap too.
Ideally you’d get that great pass rusher in the top-10. If that’s not possible — this still feels like a reasonable plan.
And as mentioned before — Clemons just has that alpha, aggressive, tone-setting air that this team has lacked for a few years.
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