SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

Breaking down Seahawks’ 1st-round options with ESPN draft analyst Matt Miller

Apr 6, 2022, 12:58 AM | Updated: 8:39 am
Seahawks Pete Carroll...
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll speaks to reporters during the NFL Draft Combine on March 2 in Indianapolis. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
(Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

With the NFL draft only three weeks away, it’s anyone’s guess as to what the Seahawks will do with that No. 9 pick.

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It’s the highest draft selection the team has had since Pete Carroll’s first season in 2010. Will they go for a quarterback in what’s considered a risky class? Will they add to the pass rush that Carroll said was a priority this offseason? Maybe they will attempt to land a game-changing offensive tackle, trade DK Metcalf for more picks or even go for the least popular decision and trade back.

There are more questions than answers about what the Seahawks could do on Thursday, April 28 in Las Vegas. So we turned to an expert for some insight. ESPN draft analyst Matt Miller joined us on Seattle Sports’ Mike Salk Show last week to discuss his thoughts on the best options for Seattle.

Quarterback

The most obvious question mark for the Seahawks following the Russell Wilson trade is at the quarterback position. We’ve heard Carroll and general manager John Schneider express a lot of confidence and enthusiasm for Drew Lock, who Seattle acquired from Denver in the Wilson deal, but those proclamations are being met with a lot of skepticism from fans and analysts.

Unfortunately, quarterback is not a position of strength for this year’s draft class, though one intriguing but raw prospect is Liberty quarterback Malik Willis. Could he be an option for the Seahawks?

“I don’t think the framework is in place for him,” Miller said. “I think the problem is you would draft him and he’d have to play right away (for the Seahawks) and I don’t think that’s the best thing for him. I think he needs a little bit of an acclimation period coming from Liberty. That’s hard enough if you’re coming from the Big Ten or the SEC. I think coming from Liberty, it’s going to be a bit of a jump for him.

“I like Malik Willis. I think his tools are really, really exciting with the arm strength and the mobility. I think he’s a great personality, a great leader, but the ability to sit in the pocket or even move in the pocket and read a full field worth of NFL talent on defense is not something he’s had to do yet. Maybe he beats my expectations and does it early on, but I think he’s more of a player like (the 49ers’) Trey Lance where you want to sit him for at least part of his first year.”

Pass rush

Pass rush is another area of need for Seattle, and unlike the quarterback position, there are several highly-touted options available. But that doesn’t mean picking one is an easy decision.

Once considered the best defensive player in this draft, Oregon pass rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux’s draft stock has dropped over rumored red flags, plummeting to the point where he is now being projected to go closer to the 10th pick.

“I think he could be there at nine,” Miller said. “He is the most polarizing prospect in this class. For two years, all of us said this guy’s going to be a top two pick, and then this past year he got hurt Week 1 – and he still produced fairly well, but a lot of people expected more. Then, he measures and he’s not as big as you expected. He’s not as explosive as some people expected. I think what’s hurting him more is the interview portion of the pre-draft process.”

Thibodeaux at nine could be the steal of the draft, or there could be very valid reasons for his stock falling. The Seahawks will have to weigh if that’s a risk worth taking with such a valuable pick.

Cornerback

It seems unlikely that the Seahawks would go cornerback with their first pick, and Miller mentioned that it’s unlikely Cincinnati’s Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner will still be there when it’s time for the Seahawks to make their first selection, but Miller’s description of Gardner is likely to make you cross your fingers and hope that he will be.

“I don’t know if he’ll be there at nine,” Miller said. “The hard part is, a lot of these teams like the New York Jets are up there at least once ahead of you. I think the Panthers, if they don’t go quarterback, are in that area as well where a cornerback could make a lot of sense. ‘Sauce’ is one of the best overall players in the class. He’s my No. 5 overall. To have a corner with his size, footwork and explosiveness is pretty rare, so I’m a fan of his.

“It’s funny because my comp for him was actually a faster Richard Sherman, which I know sounds crazy – that’s a future Hall of Famer. But to be 6-3, have 33 inch arms, and to be able to lock guys up in man coverage, just from a measurables standpoint there aren’t many dudes like that who have played at a high level, and I think Gardner is going to be one of them.”

Offensive line

When it comes to the hardest hitter in this draft, Miller had a surprising answer.

“You know what’s crazy? The hardest hitter might be an offensive tackle,” Miller said. “It might be Trevor Penning from Northern Iowa, who has a reputation for being a mauler, maybe playing a little bit too close to the whistle, super physical, was getting in fights at the Senior Bowl. He definitely is one of the hardest hitters.”

That sounds like everything you could want in a left tackle, but in a draft that’s considered deep with offensive linemen, the Seahawks might be better off looking elsewhere with their first pick.

“Nine’s a little rich for him, (but) if they traded back he’s probably in that mid-first round range,” Miller said.

Who should the Seahawks pick?

We’ve heard Miller’s thoughts on some of the top prospects available in the first round, but who would he target if he were drafting for the selections the Seahawks currently have?

“I would say try to get one of the top pass rushers first,” Miller said. “Let’s say Thibodeaux, because I actually like him at nine. I think in round two, you could walk out of there with Desmond Ridder, the quarterback from Cincinnati, who I think fits them really well.”

Ridder is a four-year starter who operated in a pro-style offense and has a lot of athleticism, though the knocks on him are accuracy and consistency, which had resulted in him being projected to go in the second round. However, this week reports have surfaced that Ridder’s stock is soaring based on the impressive knowledge and preparation he is showing in interviews, with ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reporting that he could go in the 24-38 overall picks range.

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“Then, I think at pick 41 you get a corner,” Miller continued. “Someone like Kaiir Elam from Florida or someone like Roger McCreary from Auburn, you feel pretty good about where you’re at if you’re the Seahawks after two rounds.”

You can follow Matt Miller on Twitter here to keep up with his coverage leading up to the 2022 NFL draft.

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