Why Seahawks should go O-line with No. 9 pick, and who the options are

Mar 30, 2022, 9:26 AM | Updated: Jan 23, 2023, 3:42 pm
Seahawks draft...
Ickey Ekwonu of North Carolina State runs a drill during the NFL Combine on March 4 in Indianapolis,. (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)
(Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)

This is all very unfamiliar, and not to say that it needs to be a regular occurrence, but it makes for a fun time of year right now with the Seahawks drafting in the top 10 for the first time since 2010.

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There is more discourse and educated analysis that can take place in the lead up to draft day as moves around the NFL shake up and alter the course the Seahawks might chart for their future. All of that is a really long way of saying that while I’m not changing my mind about what the Seahawks plan has been all along for the No. 9 overall pick in the NFL Draft, there is now a more prudent and likely path.

There is a reason that the mock draft industry is a thriving and ever-changing marketplace – free agency and trades are constantly shifting and upending the best laid plans and projections. A little over two weeks ago, when I wrote the Seahawks’ most logical move would be to take Liberty quarterback Malik Willis, the second wave of big QB movement hadn’t occurred. A Matt Ryan and Deshaun Watson spin cycle later and you suddenly have two quarterback-needy teams ahead of the Seahawks in the draft order.

Now there are obstacles, and with the positions that Seattle still needs to fill, it doesn’t make sense to part with high draft capital in order to jump ahead of the Falcons at No. 8 or even the Texans at No. 3. Instead of risk and high upside, it’s time for the Seahawks to make the safe and stable option: drafting an offensive lineman from a glut of talented prospects.

When you draft a quarterback with a top 10 pick, you must be sure; it can’t be a situation where you talk yourselves into a pick. That is the situation the 49ers seem to be in right now after coach Kyle Shanahan said at the NFL owners meetings that Jimmy Garoppolo could be on the 49ers roster again this season. You trade three first-round picks to draft Trey Lance and now he might not even be the starter this season? If there is any, ANY hesitation on the Seahawks’ part about Malik Willis, then don’t take him at No. 9. The risk can be mitigated at any other position, but miss on a quarterback in the top 10 and it sets a franchise back for years to come.

I’m further convinced that an offensive lineman is the way to go after hearing CBS Sports NFL Draft analyst Ryan Wilson on with Seattle Sports’ Wyman & Bob on Monday. Wilson broke down the myriad of offensive line talent in the draft, especially top-tier players who will be available to the Seahawks at No. 9.

“The three guys – Evan Neal, Ickey Ekwonu and Charles Cross – if any of them happen to fall at 9, you sprint to the podium and take them there,” Wilson said.

When looking at the Seahawks’ current unsigned free agents and lack of reliable options on the offensive line, it almost becomes an ironclad certainty (almost, because nothing is truly certain with a Seahawks draft) that the first pick is on the offensive line. For the real offensive line enthusiasts, the internet is filled with blocking and pancake montages of all these guys, so feel free to look those up on your own time. But here are some interesting notes on the three potential options for the Seahawks.

Evan Neal, OT: 6-7, 337 pounds

Neal started for three years at Alabama so he routinely faced off against future NFL players on a weekly basis. Lance Zierlein of NFL.com gives a thorough profile on Neal and his ability to be technically sound on either the right or left side. “Rare combination of measurables, talent and pedigree” is certainly enticing to read.

Related: Draft analyst Lance Zierlein on who Seahawks could target at OT

Ikem Ekwonu, OL: 6-4, 310 pounds

His nickname is “Ickey,” which isn’t totally relevant here, but it’s a good thing to know about him. He is also a freak athlete and drew rave reviews after running a 4.97 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine. That versatility allowed him to play at both guard and tackle in college.

Charles Cross, OT: 6-5, 307 pounds

Out of these three linemen, Cross has been most frequently paired with the Seahawks in a large number of mock drafts floating around. He is the more raw of these three with just a couple of years starting in college, but doesn’t this blurb on Cross sound like the ideal tackle for the Seahawks?

Even if the Seahawks re-sign veteran free agents Duane Brown or Brandon Shell, the chance to draft an offensive lineman in the top 10 represents a potential generational cornerstone at one of the most important positions in football. And, these guys can play for an eternity! Andrew Whitworth just retired at 40 years old after 16 seasons in the NFL. Brown is 36 and was a critical part of the Seahawks’ offense last season.

With the Seahawks returning to a heavy emphasis on the run game, now is the time to load up on the guys who will help implement that formula.

Malik Willis is the flashy choice, and drafting a quarterback energizes a fan base and brings hope and excitement… in the short term. No one will go delirious with joy upon seeing an offensive lineman drafted in the top 10, but it’s the pick the Seahawks need to make. The downfall of the last two Super Bowl runners-up has been poor offensive line play. A superstar quarterback can take you far, but you can’t win the NFL’s ultimate prize without the real MVPs in the trenches.

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Why Seahawks should go O-line with No. 9 pick, and who the options are