Before getting into the piece — please don’t forget to listen to the Shelby Harris interview from earlier today (please share it if you can).
I’ve re-posted it at the bottom of this article.
— I think the Seahawks will take the best offensive or defensive lineman with their first pick. I don’t think they’ll target a quarterback in this class at #9. Sauce Gardner and Derek Stingley could also be options but ultimately I think they’ll plan to build through the trenches.
— I think the top realistic target is Jermaine Johnson at #9. He fits what the Seahawks like — he ran a 1.5 10-yard split and he has fantastic hands to disengage and disrupt. He’s quick to the edge and plays with intensity and violence. He has good length and size. He’s a potential heart-and-soul type who can help shape the identity of the team for the next few years. I just don’t think he lasts to #9, unfortunately. But I wouldn’t be shocked if Seattle’s ‘Plan A’ is Jermaine Johnson.
— If Johnson is gone and they do move down, trading down from #9 and then moving up from #40 feels distinctly possible.
— I would anticipate an early run on pass rushers and offensive linemen. Without the Ja’Marr Chase types and quarterbacks to fill the top of the board, I think teams in the top-10 will settle on getting one of the best pass rushers, pass protectors or cornerbacks. The premium positions.
— If a situation emerges where the top four pass rushers, Evan Neal, Ikem Ekwonu and Sauce Gardner are off the board (as expected) — I think it’ll come down to either taking a shot on Derek Stingley Jr or trading down. I really like the prospect of Stingley and with his pro-day tomorrow, he has a chance to repair his stock. Remember — he ran a 4.30 at SPARQ and jumped a 42 inch vertical. I wrote more about Stingley here.
— Potential trade partners include the Baltimore Ravens (who appear enamoured with Trevor Penning) and the LA Chargers (heavily linked to Jordan Davis but also a possible suitor for an offensive tackle). The Saints could also be an outside bet — or any other team seeking to draft a receiver with the Jets at #10 possibly targeting the position.
— Carolina could also have serious interest in moving down. Contrary to most national mocks, I don’t think they’ll draft a quarterback. The Head Coach Matt Rhule appears to be in a lame-duck season and Scott Fitterer the GM will be thinking longer term. They don’t have a pick in rounds two or three currently. Trading down — perhaps as far as the late teens or 20’s — could net the Panthers an extra 2023 first rounder and a day two selection this year. Then, they could still get an offensive tackle (Abraham Lucas? Tyler Smith?) and have the stock to pursue quarterbacks in 12 months time when Fitterer possibly has his own hand-picked Head Coach in place.
— It’s worth remembering that Scot McCloughan said three quarterbacks will be drafted in the first round but all three will carry third round grades. There will be reaches at the position (as usual) but that doesn’t mean they’ll necessarily go in the top-10. None of the quarterbacks in this draft are ready to start quickly.
— I sense teams with bridge quarterbacks (New Orleans, Pittsburgh) and teams with established ageing starters (Tennessee) will be in the QB market in round one because they can afford to sit a player and let him develop. Those three teams are also not expecting to be picking in the top-10 next year, with a realistic shot at the great 2023 quarterback class. I think the teams picking in the top-10 are simply in a very different place. If they draft a quarterback in that range there will pressure for that player to start quicker than he’s ready.
— What about Jordan Davis and Devonte Wyatt? I really like both players. However, the Seahawks have significantly bolstered their defensive front before the draft. It’s rare for a team to draft a ‘two-down nose tackle of the future’ and while I think Wyatt has tremendous potential as a dynamic interior rusher — I think edge rush and the offensive line will probably be the early focus.
— If the Seahawks do move down into the teens, they would be well placed to add a second-tier pass rusher or a plug-and-play offensive lineman. Zion Johnson has everything they look for — superb explosive testing results (ninth most explosive lineman to enter the league since 2016), he ran a 4.4 short shuttle and he has a perfectly proportionate frame with 34 inch arms. Pete Carroll kind of let the cat out of the bag that Gabe Jackson might be on the way out when he said he was in a competition with Phil Haynes. Drafting Johnson, who some call the best guard to enter the NFL since Quenton Nelson, would also allow you to move Damien Lewis back to right guard. I don’t think Johnson will go later than New England at #21.
— I’m not sure whether the Seahawks would make two high picks on the interior offensive line. However, Carroll’s glowing praise for Austin Blythe’s wrestling skills and his statement on trying a smaller center set off huge alarm bells for me. Tyler Linderbaum was an exceptional High School wrestler and he has an almost identical frame to Blythe. Let’s also remember that Blythe is a clear draft hedge, just as he was in Kansas City last year before they drafted Creed Humphrey. With recent reports from Tony Pauline suggesting Linderbaum could fall into round two, he’s one to watch. I said earlier that Plan A could be Jermaine Johnson at #9. To take it a step further, Plan A might be Johnson + Linderbaum.
— Personally I wouldn’t have any problem at all with double-dipping on the interior O-line. If you want to play Seattle’s brand of offense, why not try to be great in the interior? This isn’t a great tackle class but the options inside are impressive. There are no guarantees, of course, but Johnson-Linderbaum-Lewis is an exciting trio.
— What about tackle, where they have two gaping holes? Surely, at some point, they will sign someone. Duane Brown remains available, as does Brandon Shell. Reportedly Rasheed Walker is taking a visit to Seattle. He’s an accomplished talent with inconsistent play and a lack of testing results. Drafting him in the middle rounds to develop behind a returning Brown would make sense. It’s a good use of an official visit. Walker plays like he needs a rocket up his arse. It’s a chance to find out if he’s the right fit in terms of drive and character.
— Alternate O-line targets could include Trevor Penning, Abraham Lucas, Cam Jurgens, Cole Strange, Alec Lindstrom, Zach Tom, Tyler Smith and Logan Bruss. There are other good options too. As regulars know, I have a hard time imagining them taking Charles Cross in round one — an air-raid left tackle who doesn’t run block, jumped a 26 inch vertical and didn’t have much in the way of agility testing to compensate for it.
— The fact they haven’t added even a draft hedge of note at linebacker, plus Shelby Harris mentioning earlier that it’s an important position in Vic Fangio’s defense, makes me think it’s incredibly likely they will draft a linebacker on day two — probably with #40 or #41. That’s a real sweet-spot in terms of positional value. The key names that stand out for me are Channing Tindall, Leo Chanel and Quay Walker.
— The Seahawks need another running back and pick #72 screams ‘Dameon Pierce’. He has the same kind of attitude, energy and aggression as Thomas Rawls and he has the size, explosive traits and ability to run through contact. Seattle loves that. I think Zamir White could be an alternative due to his grit, physical power, quick acceleration to exploit gaps and finishing ability.
— If they don’t take a pass rusher at #9 they might need to wait until round three and beyond where there should be a cluster of developmental rotational players — such as Nik Bonitto, Dominique Robinson, Jeffery Gunter, Amare Barno, DeAngelo Malone, Christopher Allen and possibly Kyron Johnson and Tyreke Smith. There’s no further update on Adam Anderson’s legal case.
— I don’t think they’ll rush the quarterback position. They didn’t in 2010-12. I don’t see why they would now, in this class. I think the only way they’ll do it is if the right player falls to them in round two. Otherwise, I think they’ll wait until day three and consider Kaleb Eleby (who I interviewed yesterday) or Jack Coan. The other possibility, of course, is that they add Baker Mayfield to the competition for a late round pick.
— I think everything’s on the table with D.K. Metcalf but I believe the reports saying the Seahawks plan to keep him. I think it all comes down to whether or not someone makes a mind-blowing offer before the draft — such as the Jets offering #10 + #38. Otherwise, I think he’ll just stay in Seattle and they’ll talk contract after the draft.
— Some final thoughts. I certainly think the cost of the Uchenna Nwosu hedge is a big hint that they perhaps don’t think the top pass rushers will last to #9. I do think they will target the trenches early. I think their top pick will be the best O-liner or D-liner available on their board — possibly after a trade down. I think Austin Blythe is clearly a hedge and that we might see Gabe Jackson depart after the draft. I’m almost certain they will draft a running back quite early — although part of me also wonders if they call the Giants about Saquon Barkley. I think a quarterback competition will be the key this year, rather than a big splash at the position in the draft. Carroll saying having picks next year will influence decisions in this draft was, for me, another tell.
Shelby Harris interview
Please listen to the interview because Harris was on top form and will quickly become a fan favourite. Also check out the other recent interviews with Kaleb Eleby, Mike Florio, Jim Leavitt and Scot McCloughan.