Lefko: Drafting QB Malik Willis at No. 9 would explain Seahawks’ Russell Wilson trade

Mar 14, 2022, 12:35 AM | Updated: Jan 23, 2023, 3:42 pm

Malik Willis Seahawks...

Liberty QB Malik Willis celebrates winning the LendingTree Bowl over Eastern Michigan on Dec. 18. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

(Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

When charting all possible courses going into the Seahawks’ offseason, two items didn’t factor into the discussions: drafting in the first round and needing a new quarterback. Yet after the move that will define this next chapter of the franchise, Seattle’s new ninth overall pick of the upcoming NFL Draft suddenly takes on great significance.

Wyman and Bob react to Seahawks trading Russell Wilson to Broncos

The overarching question to the Russell Wilson trade seems to be “Why now?” From a competitive standpoint, replacing one of the most stable quarterback options of the last decade, along with eating $26 million in dead money, seems counterproductive to the goal of winning a Super Bowl.

However, what if the move was done at precisely this time for precisely one reason? Like the guy the Seahawks want being available in the top 10 of the draft.

When deciding to write about the Seahawks’ draft options, I was going to break down all the possible positions that would make sense at No. 9. But the more I thought about it, the more obvious it became: There is only one option and one reason this trade makes sense, and that’s drafting the quarterback the Seahawks know will be there when they are on the clock.

Malik Willis, QB, Liberty University

There are a myriad of mock drafts clogging the internet – in fact, you could make a seven-round mock draft of every draft. In reading countless projections and predictions, Malik Willis’ name keeps lining up with the Seahawks.

Sure, offensive linemen can be franchise-altering stalwarts if you hit on them, and Seattle’s defensive line could desperately use an edge rusher. But with the pieces the Seahawks have in place on offense, notably wide recievers DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett, and the fact that general manager John Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll face decidedly more scrutiny and pressure than in 2010, which was the last time they had a top 10 pick, the only position worth risking this much for is at quarterback.

There is also minimal risk that the teams in front of Seattle will take a quarterback. Willis could be the first one off the board, but out of the eight picks in front of the Seahawks, none of those teams have an immediate need at QB. The Panthers are certainly trying to upgrade from Sam Darnold with Deshaun Watson, but you don’t risk drafting a quarterback at No. 6 overall when you already have a QB and your head coach’s future hangs in the balance each week.

Thus, the path is clear: If the Seahawks want a quarterback at No. 9, every quarterback in the draft will be available to them.

Perhaps we should now factor in that for all the criticism (warranted at times) that this front office takes for its lack of success drafting in the first round, the one area that Schneider and the Seahawks brass have had success in evaluating and identifying talent in the draft is at quarterback. Not only did they find the greatest quarterback in franchise history in the third round (Wilson in 2012), but they also were reported to have correctly assessed the star potential of both Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen, the latter of which has now become an infamous event in 2018 because Wilson was reportedly irked that Schneider went to Allen’s pro day. draft analyst Lance Zierlein’s mock draft 2.0 has the Seahawks drafting Willis, and he wrote in his profile of the quarterback that “Willis uses his rare combination of elite rushing talent and a rocket-launching right arm to unlock explosive plays in two different ways.” Huh, that kind of sounds like all three of those quarterbacks that the Seahawks were high on before they were drafted and all who turned out to be franchise cornerstone pieces.

What if Willis was in fact the catalyst for the Seahawks to trade Wilson? With a no-trade clause and an unwieldy contract, it was always going to be difficult to attain maximum value when dealing Wilson, so let’s work under the assumption that the trade only happened once the Seahawks realized they could in fact get a high enough pick to take the guy they really wanted, who could help remake the team in the identity which won Seattle a Super Bowl.

Envision this: a starting quarterback on a rookie contract for four seasons, ample salary cap space and star talent at key positions on the field. In the immediate aftermath of trading Russell Wilson, the end was nigh on the Seahawks’ future, but it turns out the sky might not be falling after all.

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Lefko: Drafting QB Malik Willis at No. 9 would explain Seahawks’ Russell Wilson trade