STACY ROST

Seahawks Draft: Close look at 4 players being mocked to Seattle at No. 9

Apr 20, 2022, 9:05 AM | Updated: 9:23 am

MIAMI GARDENS, FLORIDA - JANUARY 11: Evan Neal #73 of the Alabama Crimson Tide blocked by Tyler Friday #54 of the Ohio State Buckeyes during the third quarter of the College Football Playoff National Championship game at Hard Rock Stadium on January 11, 2021 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) ATLANTA, GEORGIA - DECEMBER 07: Derek Stingley Jr. #24 of the LSU Tigers intercepts a pass in the first half against the Georgia Bulldogs during the SEC Championship game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on December 07, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images) CLEMSON, SOUTH CAROLINA - OCTOBER 30: Defensive end Jermaine Johnson II #11 of the Florida State Seminoles scores a defensive touchdown while eluding offensive lineman Walker Parks #64 of the Clemson Tigers during the fourth quarter during their game at Clemson Memorial Stadium on October 30, 2021 in Clemson, South Carolina. (Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images) LYNCHBURG, VIRGINIA - SEPTEMBER 18: Malik Willis #7 of the Liberty Flames rushes the ball for a touchdown in the first half against the Old Dominion Monarchs at Williams Stadium on September 18, 2021 in Lynchburg, Virginia. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)

Who will the Seahawks take at No. 9 overall? It’s one of the biggest questions facing this team in the month of April and will certainly be the biggest question on Day 1 of the draft next Thursday.

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The Seahawks’ selections are all over the board on several mock drafts, but there are certainly a few names that pop up more than others.

Here’s a look at the players who experts are most commonly mocking to Seattle at No. 9.

OT Evan Neal, Alabama

Where you’ve seen it: Mel Kiper Jr. (ESPN), Todd McShay (ESPN)

The Basics: 6-7/337, junior out of Okeechobee, Fla.

What else you should know: Consensus first team All-American (2021), semifinalist for Outland Trophy and Lombardi Award, team captain.

Required reading: A recent ESPN profile on Neal’s path to the NFL and the work he’s put in behind the scenes.

Oregon star Kayvon Thibodeaux and Cincinnati’s Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner – two defensive standouts – are off the board in Kiper’s latest mock. Both would fill a need for Seattle, a team looking to rebuild its once-heralded defense. But no matter; offensive tackle remains one of their biggest needs on either side of the ball, and Neal is the best in this class.

That’s why it’s surprising to see Neal fall all the way to No. 9 in recent mocks. We’re talking about a player who’s been mocked as high as No. 1 overall and typically falls inside the top five. Sure, it’s in part because Kiper isn’t buying the slide for other players (namely Thibodeaux). Plus, a few quarterback-needy teams (Detroit, Carolina) may be tempted to snag a passer far earlier than needed. But Neal is one of the draft’s best prospects regardless of position, and the Seahawks would be lucky to see him fall outside the top five.

In a class that may not have their long-term answer at quarterback, the Seahawks could certainly find their franchise left tackle with Neal.

CB Derek Stingley Jr., LSU

Where you’ve seen it: Lance Zierlein (NFL Network), Dane Brugler (The Athletic), Charles Davis (NFL Network)

The basics: 6-1/194, junior out of Baton Rouge, La.

What else you should know: First team All-America, first team SEC in 2020

In Zierlein’s latest mock, Neal, Thibodeaux, and fellow cornerback Gardner are off the board by No. 9. But the Seahawks need an outside cornerback, and Stingley and Gardner are the best in the class. Gardner has drawn attention, deservedly so, for some wild college stats – like the fact that he didn’t allow a single touchdown during his college career and allowed around 130 passing yards all season long in 2021. But Stingley could be garnering even more attention were it not for missed time. The five-star recruit was mocked as high as No. 3 overall before his September injury.

Speaking of that injury, Stingley underwent surgery to repair a torn ligament in his left foot in October and missed the bulk of the 2021 season, meaning he hasn’t played football at all since Sept. 18. But he impressed scouts at LSU’s pro day April 6 when he clocked an unofficial 4.37 second 40-yard dash and recorded a 38.5-inch vertical (consider that he was just getting back into running a month prior).

Stingley is a star when healthy; he was a first team All-America and first team SEC in 2020. But he’s played just 10 games over the last two seasons, which has made his final landing spot on draft day a little murkier than his Cincinatti counterpart.

Edge Jermaine Johnson II, Florida State

Where you’ve seen it: Danny Kelly (The Ringer), Mike Salk (SeattleSports.com), Walter Football

The basics: 6-5/254, R-Senior out of Eden Prairie, Minn.

What else you should know: ACC Defensive Player of the Year (2021)

The Seahawks would probably love to snag Thibodeaux, but despite rumors of a slide, it’s not likely he lasts beyond No. 8. Thankfully this is a great class for defenders, and Florida State’s Jermaine Johnson II is also one of the best prospects.

The ACC Defensive Player of the Year was a force for the Seminoles in 2021, finishing the season with 12 sacks. The only thing keeping him from climbing even higher on draft boards is his history. His two seasons at Georgia, while still productive, were less impressive (6.5 combined sacks) than his final season with Florida State.

QB Malik Willis, Liberty

Where you’ve seen it: Sporting News, Ryan Wilson (CBS Sports)

The basics: 6-1/225, R-Junior out of Atlanta

No surprise here. The Seahawks need a long-term answer at quarterback following their trade of franchise star Russell Wilson, and national analysts see Willis as not just the best quarterback prospect but also the best fit for Seattle’s offense. Personally, I think the Seahawks go defense first unless a top prospect like Evan Neal falls to them. And they should; as promising as Willis may be, Seattle has plenty of holes to fill on both sides of the ball.

Unless the Seahawks are sold that Willis, or any other quarterback in this class, is their next big superstar, they should add the kind of elite talent at edge, corner or offensive line that they haven’t had a shot at over the last decade.

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Seahawks Draft: Close look at 4 players being mocked to Seattle at No. 9