Huard: Top draft prospects who could fill Seahawks’ top needs at OT and DE
When it comes to the Seahawks’ biggest needs in the 2022 NFL Draft, former NFL quarterback Brock Huard said that it’s all about offensive tackle and defensive end.
And the Seahawks are in a good position to potentially add an impact player at one of those spots as they hold the No. 9 pick.
Seattle has liked to trade down in the first round under John Schneider and Pete Carroll, but Huard thinks that shouldn’t be the case this year as the Seahawks hold their earliest pick since the 2010 NFL Draft.
“This is a draft that is not loaded after pick 15,” Huard told Bob Stelton during the latest Brock and Salk Podcast for Seattle Sports 710 AM. “This is not one that I’m like, ‘Oh yeah, trade down from nine, go to 17 or 20 and you can still (get top-end talent).’ No, there’s a significant drop from the very top. And I think of both of these positions, offensive tackle and pass rusher, to the next tier down (it’s) a pretty significant drop. And at the top, there are some special dudes.”
So who are some of those “special dudes”? Huard broke down some of the top prospects at both offensive tackle and defensive end.
The best offensive tackle in this draft cycle, Huard said, is Ikem “Ickey” Ekwonu from North Carolina State. Huard gave Ekwonu some of the highest praise he can bestow on an offensive lineman.
“The closest thing to Walter Jones coming out of the draft we’ve seen a long time. He is that kind of athlete.
Ekwonu, who is 6 foot 4 and 320 pounds with 34-inch arms, doesn’t have Jones’ power, Huard said, but he does have “the same kind of football ferocity ”
Below Ekwonu in Huard’s eyes is Alabama’s Evan Neal, who is 6-7 and weighs between 335 and 350 pounds with 34-inch arms. The gap between those two is not very big, Huard said.
“I would put those two athletically and just (traits-wise) physically in a place that’s just different than everybody else,” he said.
Huard said it’s important to look to what the Los Angeles Rams have done at offensive tackle as Seattle’s new O-line coach, Andy Dickerson, comes from that system, as does offensive coordinator Shane Waldron.
The Rams have used tackles who are taller at 6-5 or above with long arms and can move well, Huard said,
“This isn’t a power scheme. This is a reach and grab (scheme). This is a move your feet (scheme). This is hook people, this is use your length and your size to really win on the edges, and that’s where obviously Ickey or Evan Neal are special,” he said.
That being said, he thinks Ekwonu and Neal will be gone by the time the Seahawks pick at No. 9.
“There is no way on Earth that (Ekwonu) will be there at nine. Evan Neal more than likely not as well unless you get a ridiculous run on a couple of receivers or a quarterback or two,” he said. “… That would be the greatest thing in the world for the Seahawks is if any quarterback or wide receiver (run happens before pick No. 9). I think, unfortunately, that’s not going to happen.”
So after Ekwonu and Neal, who are other tackles that Seahawks fans should know about?
“Trevor Penning (from) Northern Iowa (is) 6-foot-7, 330 (pounds), 34-inch arms, ran 4.89 (in the 40-yard dash), jumped 28 (inches vertically) and also benched 225 (pounds) 29 times,” Huard said.
NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah rates Penning as his No. 22 prospect, and his No. 23 prospect is Charles Cross, an offensive tackle from Mississippi State who was initially seen as a candidate to go in the top 10-15 picks.
“Those would be the next two that I think if you’re looking (at tackles and are thinking), ‘Oh, gosh, do I want to pull the trigger? Is that a little a little much for nine? Are they still gonna be on the board if I trade from nine to 16 or 15?'” Huard said. “I think those two could be. But you never know with teams and the desire and the need for offensive tackles.”
What about potential second-round picks or late first rounders? Huard pointed to Tulsa’s Tyler Smith and Central Michigan’s Bernard Raimann, who are Jeremiah’s No. 41 and 42 overall prospects, respectively.
“Powerful powerful dude but raw,” Huard said of Raimann. “And then Tyler Smith, the kid out of Tulsa, (he’s) super raw (at) 6-3, 332 (with) 34-inch arms but I think last year had 12 holding penalties himself at Tulsa. So a pretty good gap between some of them. But (there are) some raw goods that you haven’t had here (in a long time).”
As noted, Huard thinks offensive tackle and defensive end are of equal importance right now for the Seahawks just two weeks ahead of the draft.
“Now here’s the difference,” he said. “I think the delta between Icky and Evan Neal and the next step down is more significant than the delta at defensive end/pass rusher. Obviously (Michigan’s) Aidan Hutchinson is likely going to go No. 1. And then you’ve got a group with (Georgia’s) Travon Walker, (Florida State’s) Jermaine Johnson and (Oregon’s) Kayvon Thibodeaux.”
Huard also threw out a defensive tackle who he describes as “just a human force of nature unlike anything we’ve ever seen on Earth,” which is Georgia’s Jordan Davis, who shined at the combine when he ran a 4.78 40-yard dash at 6-6 and 340 pounds.
“He’s just a different human.”
As far as the defensive ends go, Huard doesn’t see a big gap between Walker, Johnson and Thibodeaux.
“The hope that maybe a receiver or a quarterback or somebody goes(early), or at linebacker someone loves (Utah’s) Devin Lloyd and takes him (before the Seahawks pick) and all of a sudden one of those three guys is available at nine,” he said. “I would put Walker one, Johnson two and Thibodeaux three … Those three are pretty freakishly different than anything that you’ve seen drafted by the Seahawks at that position in a long, long time.”
Huard said he does have concerns about Thibodeaux at nine, but he has exciting traits and showed at Oregon he can take over games. As far as Johnson and Walker, Huard said they’re freaky athletes like 2012 first-round pick Bruce Irvin was coming out of West Virginia.
“The kid out of Georgia, Walker, not huge production (in college with just) 8.5 career sacks,” he said. “He was asked to do all sorts of things (at Georgia). He would be a home run fit in the Seahawks’ system with their new scheme and things they want to do at 6-5, 275 (pounds with) 35.5-inch arms and he jumped 36 (inches) and ran 4.51.”
Huard that Walker is freaky athletically like star Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald.
“Tell me how many 280-pound human beings there are that run 4.51?” he said. “… Trayvon Walker is 6-5 (while) Aaron is 6-1. Trayvon Walker is 275 (pounds) and Aaron is probably 285. Trayvon has got 35.5-inch arms and Trayvon ran 4.51 … That’s just not human stuff, right. Human beings are not supposed to look like that and do that and run the way that he did. And you see it show up.”
Walker did a bit of everything at Georgia and is very raw and doesn’t have a ton of defensive line moves, Huard said, but that never scared the Seahawks away from guys like Frank Clark or Darrell Taylor.
“Taking that, though, at number nine when you would be a ninth pick with 8.5 sacks, that would be the the one little kind of red flag. It wouldn’t bother me. If he’s there at nine, you take that kind of freakish athlete,” he said.
Huard thinks that the Seahawks should stick with the ninth pick and be able to nab one of those three edge defenders.
“You should be able at nine to have one of those slot them in Day 1 starters like you did with Russell Okung and Earl Thomas years ago,” he said.
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