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Why the Seahawks did not make a mistake by drafting Malik McDowell

The Seahawks selected DT Malik McDowell with their first pick last year. (AP)

Any criticism of the Seahawks’ decision to select defensive tackle Malik McDowell with their first pick of 2017 grew quiet as the season progressed last year. However, the fact that McDowell has yet to play a down for Seattle was revisited by Danny O’Neil in a discussion with Mike Salk Tuesday, just weeks ahead of the 2018 NFL Draft.

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“He made a terrible decision that ended up costing him at least one season and maybe his career, and that’s not Seattle’s fault at all,” O’Neil said. O’Neil said that in response to whether the Seahawks could avoid a similar case to McDowell, who didn’t play last season after he was seriously injured in an ATV accident just months after the draft.

Since then, there has been little new information on McDowell’s status, and his future for this season remains uncertain. In his last press conference of the season, Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll called McDowell’s situation “unfortunate for the organization,” and “extraordinarily unfortunate for McDowell, personally.”

“He is a tremendous prospect and would be a beautiful fit,” Carroll said. “And if that ever comes back around where that happens, we’ll benefit from it as, of course, he will. But I don’t have any information for you that updates where we go.”

Months later, as the Seahawks enter the 2018 NFL Draft with holes on the defensive line and no second- or third-round pick, Salk wondered how Seattle could avoid picking another McDowell.

O’Neil’s answer? You can’t.

“There’s this discussion about how Seattle can avoid wasting a pick like that,” O’Neil said. “They did nothing wrong in the selection of Malik McDowell. It was not their error. They took a chance on a player, and every player that you draft has an element of uncertainty. And if something he had done could have been scouted, if it would have been his work ethic, if it would have been some of the other things that people looked at going in there [then that would be one thing]. It was a freak accident. And ‘unlucky’ is not the right word, because it’s much worse than that. This is unfortunate. More for Malik McDowell than for the Seattle Seahawks.

“Any attempt to draw a connection between the rationale Seattle used in picking Malik McDowell and the disastrous outcome of that selection is taking the result and reverse-engineering it… where you look at the observed action at the end, the outcome, and say, ‘Well this was inevitable because…’ It wasn’t inevitable.”

The Seahawks have the 18th overall pick in the draft this year, which kicks off Thursday, April 26. The defensive line remains one of their biggest areas of need (here’s a bit more on that position group, and what they should do with their first-round pick).