BROCK AND SALK

Brock Huard’s 5 Seahawks draft crushes at CB and LB

Apr 10, 2022, 8:37 AM
Seahawks draft Sauce Gardner...
Cincinnati CB Ahmad Gardner signals to a teammate during the 2021 Cotton Bowl. (Photo by Matthew Visinsky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
(Photo by Matthew Visinsky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The 2022 NFL Draft is just a few weeks away and as is an annual tradition, former NFL quarterback Brock Huard has given some of his draft crushes he’d love to see the Seattle Seahawks select.

Breaking down Seahawks’ first-round options with ESPN’s Matt Miller

During this week’s Brock and Salk Podcast for Seattle Sports 710 AM, Huard stuck to two position groups – cornerbacks and linebackers. (Note: Look for more of Huard’s draft crushes both in the Brock and Salk Podcast and on SeattleSports.com in the weeks leading up to this year’s draft).

So which five draft prospects made the cut?

Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, Cincinnati cornerback

Few college defenders shined in 2021 like Cincinnati’s Ahmad Gardner, known to most as “Sauce.”

The long physical corner was a consensus first-team All-American in 2021 a year after earning All-American honors in 2020. He was also a first-team All-AAC member for the third time in his collegiate career.

Gardner, who recorded nine interceptions in his college career, did not allow a single receiving touchdown in coverage during his three years with the Bearcats, and he was a major reason why Cincinnati made it to the College Football Playoff in 2021.

“If they draft Sauce Gardner at nine, you better not be mad, because that guy is 6 foot 3, 190 (pounds with) 33.5-inch arms,” Huard told co-host Mike Salk. “Jalen Ramsey is the comp for me”

Ramsey, the fifth overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, is considered to be one of the best cornerbacks in football, if not the best, and is a five-time Pro Bowler and three-time first-team All-Pro.

Huard thinks “Sauce” stands out above the rest of this draft’s cornerbacks in a big way, and would be more than comfortable with the Seahawks taking the Cincy product at No. 9 overall.

“He’s the only corner I would take at No. 9 and I don’t think he’s gonna be there,” he said.

Huard said that cornerbacks as big as Gardner shouldn’t be able to move how he does.

“There are not corners that are 6-3 with 33.5-inch arms that run electronically 4.41 (in the 40-yard dash). Those human beings just don’t exist,” Huard said. “And oh, by the way, he’s physical. He has pick-6’s. He can take the ball away.”

Huard told Salk that he recently chatted with NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah who said that Garnder isn’t as physical as Ramsey is, but that he has better ball skills than the perennial All-Pro did when he was coming out of college.

“So if Sauce Gardner is there at nine, consider me more than motivated,” Huard said. “If they pull the trigger on it, I would be thrilled because that would mean they would have an evaluation off the charts for his abilities.”

Devin Lloyd, Utah linebacker

The middle of the Seahawks’ defense is set to look mighty different in 2022.

After 10 years starring at middle linebacker for Seattle, linebacker Bobby Wagner was released and is now a member of the Los Angeles Rams.

The Seahawks drafted linebacker Jordyn Brooks in the first round in 2020, but he’s played exclusively at outside linebacker with Seattle, though he did play middle linebacker in college.

Seattle also has Cody Barton, a 2019 third-round pick who filled in at MIKE linebacker late in the year when Wagner was injured. Fellow 2019 draft pick Ben Burr-Kirven is also set to return to the Seahawks in 2022.

But the Seahawks could add an impact middle linebacker in this year’s draft from Barton’s alma mater of Utah in Devin Lloyd, a 2021 first-team All-American and a two-time first-team All-Pac 12 member. He was also the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year last year while leading the Utes to the Rose Bowl and a Pac 12 title.

“The only linebacker that I would draft at nine – and I still wouldn’t do it – would be the kid out of Utah that I mentioned you this morning Devin Lloyd,” Huard told Salk. “(He’s) 6-3, 237 (pounds with) 33-inch arms (and ran a) 4.6 and repped 225 25 times (on the bench press), jumped 35 (inches with his vertical leap). Two-time captain, 22 tackles for loss last season, four interceptions, a couple pick-6’s. I mean, he’s just an absolute monster.”

Lloyd started his college career at outside linebacker before moving inside, and Huard thinks he could play either spot at a high level as a pro.

“He is just going to be an All-Pro player in the NFL,” he said.

Huard doesn’t think Lloyd should be taken with the No. 9 overall pick, but if the Seahawks trade down a few spots, he wouldn’t mind Seattle selecting the Pac 12 standout.

“If they were to trade down and all of a sudden they’re sitting there at 14 or 16 and they’ve added another pick in the 30s, he would be a guy deeply, deeply intriguing to me,” he said.

Jalen Pitre, Baylor defensive back

Do you like guys who fly to the ball and deliver hard hits? Huard’s next draft crush is for you.

Jalen Pitre, the 2021 Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and a consensus first-team All-American, starred as a safety for Baylor, but Huard thinks that as a Day 2 pick, he could be an intriguing nickel cornerback prospect for a Seahawks team set at both safety spots.

“Jalen Pitre out of Baylor was probably my favorite player this year to cover,” Huard, who calls college football games for FOX Sports, said. “Absolutely knock your block off.”

Pitre is 5-11 and weighs around 200 pounds and has 4.5 speed, Huard said. But he’s an explosive athlete with a 35-inch vertical leap and he had 18.5 tackles for loss as a safety in 2021 to go along with two interceptions and three forced fumbles.

What really stood out to Huard about Pitre aside from his physical play is how coaches talked about him.

“I don’t think there was a player on the road this year who’s entire coaching staff – head coach, D-coordinator, O-coordinator, opposing coaches – talked about more of (being) just an absolute killer. This guy is going to saw you in half,” Huard said.

Nik Bonitto, Oklahoma linebacker/edge

Another standout Big 12 defender who Huard thinks could be a good addition to the Seahawks in the second round is quite the freaky athlete.

That would be Nik Bonitto, a linebacker/edge rusher from Oklahoma who’s as much of a physical freak as former Seahawks defensive end Frank Clark, Huard said.

“He’s 6-3, 250 (pounds and) ran 4.54 at the combine and jumped 35.5 (inches),” he said. ” …He played, Bonnito did, a little bit of linebacker and got to be an awfully good pass rusher (recording) 48 pressures last year. He led all of the Big 12 in pressures.”

Mike Rose, Iowa State linebacker

While the other four defenders Huard discussed are players he thinks will be taken in the first two to three rounds, his final pick – also a Big 12 defender – is someone he thinks is a “sleeper” who could be had later in the draft. That would be Iowa State linebacker Mike Rose.

“This is a kid that’s got a cinder block for a head and that is Mike Rose,” Huard said. “He’s 6-4 and almost 250 pounds out of Iowa State … His head is like a cinder block. I had Iowa State a bunch and he just hits you and he stops you like a cement mixer.”

Huard said that Rose is a bit like Barton and Burr-Kirven as a linebacker prospect with plenty of college production, but he’s bigger while still moving very well.

“Beloved, changed Iowa State, the heartbeat,” Huard said. “He had five picks in one year and can play the ball. When I look at what I think (new Seahawks defensive coordinator) Clint Hurtt and the new staff want to do defensively, I think having just big, rangy, physical linebackers is the centerpiece of that.”

Listen to the entire Brock and Salk Podcast at this link or in the player below.

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