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Draft analyst Lance Zierlein: Who Seahawks could target at OT, DE

Mar 22, 2022, 3:57 PM

Seahawks Kayvon Thibodeaux...

Kayvon Thibodeaux of the Oregon Ducks rushes against the Oregon State Beavers. (Tom Hauck/Getty Images)

(Tom Hauck/Getty Images)

The Seahawks will enter the 2022 NFL Draft in a position they haven’t found themselves in since 2010. That would be in the top 10 picks of the first round.

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After trading star quarterback Russell Wilson to the Denver Broncos, the Seahawks not only added three players to the mix, they also acquired five draft picks. And the best of those picks is the No. 9 overall selection in next month’s draft.

The Seahawks under head coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider have been a perennial playoff team, and as such have generally either drafted in the last third of the first round, traded their first-round pick for established talent or traded down to acquire more picks in later rounds.

The last time the Seahawks picked in the top 10, they selected left tackle Russell Okung with the sixth pick in 2010. Okung played six years in Seattle, winning a Super Bowl and earning a Pro Bowl nod.

The Seahawks currently are in the market for offensive tackles as their 2021 starters – Duane Brown and Brandon Shell – are free agents. They could also use more help at defensive end to improve the pass rush.

So if the Seahawks go one of those route early in the draft instead of quarterback, who should we be keeping an eye on? NFL.com draft analyst Lance Zierlein joined The Mike Salk Show last week to help break it down.

Left tackle at 9?

Left tackles are extremely valuable in the NFL and, as such, it’s a position that’s often addressed in the early stage of the first round.

The Seahawks likely will miss out on the opportunity to draft Alabama’s Evan Neal and North Carolina State’s Ikem Ekwonu, but Zierlein says two more top tackle prospects should be available when the Seahawks are on the clock.

“I think based on the way the draft is going to unfold, I think you have two options,” Zierlein said. “One of them to me is a little high, and that’s Trevor Penning. I think he’s going to get drafted earlier than maybe he should out of Northern Iowa … I think the guy that is a little cleaner prospect on tape but is not as physically big but actually would fit the model of what I’ve seen from Seattle at least in years past would be Charles Cross from Mississippi State.”

Penning was a Senior Bowl standout whose draft stock has shot up in recent months.

Cross, meanwhile, is more well-known as he was a first-team All-SEC offensive tackle in 2021.

So what should we know about those two?

“(Penning is) a big human. I mean, there’s about 325 pounds of lean mass. He is just a real thick-boned guy that moves well and is athletic. But he’s still got some work to do,” Zierlein said.

And Cross?

“He played at about 285 pounds (in 2020). This year he played at just over 300 pounds and he showed up at the combine at about 307. So you’d like for it to be 317 if possible,” Zierlein said. “But he is a player that is athletic, good run blocker and has some some good pass protection potential. But he does have a little bit of a hole in his game in terms of protecting against speed rushers. Not because he’s not quick, just because of how his sets work out. So I think those are the two guys if (the Seahawks) really wanted to go tackle, and specifically left tackle.”

Pass rush help

The Seahawks finished 2021 tied for 22nd in the NFL in sacks. Since Salk’s interview with Zierlein occurred, they’ve added Uchenna Nwosu from the Los Angeles Chargers, but the Seahawks could still use more edge rushers.

So what should we know about the edge rushers in this draft?

“It’s a good defensive end draft, especially if you are willing to draft outside of the first round. It’s really a deep draft there,” Zierlein said.

The top pass rusher in this draft is Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson, who finished second in Heisman voting last year and is the favorite to be selected No. 1 overall by the Jacksonville Jaguars. One of Hutchinson’s teammates is someone to keep an eye on for the Seahawks, Zierlein said.

“In terms of the John Schneider model, I’m familiar with it and I think there are some guys that fit his type. I think one of those guys that you look at is potentially David Ojabo from Michigan,” he said. “Nine feels a little early (for him) but he’s a very talented pass rusher.”

(Editor’s note: Ojabo suffered a torn Achilles at his Pro Day workout Friday, which was after Zierlein’s interview.)

Ojabo isn’t “much of a run defender,” Zierlien said, but he thinks he can improve there with proper coaching.

“I think that the rush is what really is going to be intriguing to Seattle and many teams that need a pass rusher,” he said. “He’s got a lot of ability as a pass rusher, but he’s a very raw player who hasn’t played American football for (very long). He doesn’t have a long-term background in the sport. So he’s still a guy who’s moving upwards but there is going to be some time that’s needed for him.”

Earlier in the draft process, Oregon pass rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux was seen as someone who could challenge Hutchinson for the status as the draft’s top defensive end. While he was once seen as a lock to be a top five pick, Thibodeaux has slid down a few spots in some mock drafts. Why is that? And could he fall to the Seahawks at No. 9?

“I think Thibodeaux has rubbed some teams the wrong way,” Zierlein said. “I think there are scouts and evaluators who think he’s more worried about his brand than he is about winning football games and being part of a team … I think from some people I’ve talked to in the league that there’s some concern like, ‘Do you care about being a part of a team and a guy who puts in the work to help his team be the best they can, or are you going to really just be about who you are and what you are as a brand moving forward?'”

Zierlein said that perception especially hurts Thibodeaux because he didn’t have as much productivity or consistency as many expected him to have during his time at Oregon.

“You see the talent, you see the upside, you see the potential, but I think you need to check a few more boxes before you’re willing to take a shot early with a guy who you’re worried is maybe not committed to the team,” Zierlein said. “And I’m just speaking personally for me, I’m just speaking for what I’ve heard from teams.”

So what if he’s available when the Seahawks are on the clock?

“I do think if he falls to 9, it’s a concern that the Jets will have passed once and the Giants will have passed twice and they both need (pass rushers), the Texans need rush (help) at 3 and the Lions could use a pass rusher at 2,” Zierlein said. “If all these teams are passing on him, yeah, I think it’s a little bit of a concern. And yet I don’t know if he’s a player you could pass on because he does have upside, he does have talent.”

Listen to the full interview with Zierlein at this link or in the player below.

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