Seahawks NFL Draft Profiles: A trio of top offensive linemen

Apr 22, 2022, 9:06 AM
Zion Johnson #OL22 of Boston College runs the 40 yard dash during the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on March 04, 2022 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images) Trevor Penning #OL38 of the Northern Iowa Panthers speaks to reporters during the NFL Draft Combine at the Indiana Convention Center on March 3, 2022 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images) Evan Neal #73 of the Alabama Crimson Tide reacts after their 24-22 win over the Auburn Tigers at Jordan-Hare Stadium on November 27, 2021 in Auburn, Alabama. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Our offseason Seahawks profiles continued this week, this time moving from free agency to the draft. The Seahawks are on the board at pick No. 9, the highest pick they’ve had since they selected tackle Russell Okung sixth overall in 2010.

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

Speaking of Okung, the Seahawks may just use this pick on the offensive line. There’s no Russell Wilson under center, but there will be a new quarterback – and a pair of running backs – in need of protection, and right now they’d be playing behind an offensive line short two starting tackles.

Here’s a quick look at three potential fits on the offensive line in the first round:

T Evan Neal, Alabama

Height/weight: 6 foot 7, 337 pounds
Class: Junior
Notables: Consensus First-Team All-American (2021), semifinalist for Outland Trophy and Lombardi Award, team captain

What you need to know: The chances Evan Neal falls to Seattle at nine? Slim. Next week’s draft is one that’s becoming increasingly hard to predict, but Neal is one of two top tackle prospects in a class without top-heavy quarterback talent to draw the spotlight. There’s a good chance both he and North Carolina state tackle Ikem Ekwonu are off the board in the first five selections.

If they’re not, both have a rare combination of size and athleticism that make for a no-brainer pick, particularly for a Seahawks team short a pair of starting tackles.

Jake’s scouting report: “I would be shocked if he’s still sitting there at pick nine. This guy has the unbelievable size and athleticism that made him a top 10 recruit coming out of high school. Then you transition him to the SEC, and he continues to be a dominant player. He’s got this unique ability at his size to be nasty in the run game and be a very good pass protector and be light on his feet and deal with some of the game’s best pass rushers. A lot of those guys are in the SEC, and Neal went against them and did incredibly well. Another unique thing is that he started games on both the right and left side. So, if you’re talking about long term, I’d like to see him be your left tackle of the future, but if the Seahawks bring back Duane Brown for another season, Neal could also swing over and be your right tackle. There are options available to you with him. He checks off all the boxes. The only thing I really worry about, and this is nitpicky, is that he’d balloon at the next level; he’s at 337-pounds right now. Does he get bigger, or does he have the discipline to stay at the same size or even get smaller? Some guys can get away with being a certain size in college but then need to trim down in year one. Another thing: you’d love to see him, with all of his physical traits, dominate more at the point of attack. Just play with a nastier attitude. He’s not the fiercest guy when you watch him on tape. That being said, he does his job extremely well. Like I said, these are nitpicky things, and if he’s available at nine I’m running to the podium and handing that card in saying ‘Evan Neal is a future Seattle Seahawk.’”

G Zion Johnson, Boston College

Height/weight: 6 foot 3, 312 pounds
Class: Redshirt-senior
Notables: First-Team All-American (2021)

What you need to know: Zion Johnson ran a 5.18 40-yard dash and had a 32-inch vertical at this year’s Scouting Combine. His 32 reps led all offensive linemen. He’s a reach at nine but is sure to be off the board by the second round. If the Seahawks trade back and miss out on a top tackle prospect, could Johnson’s athleticism prove intriguing enough in the late-first for a team focused on re-establishing the run game?

Jake’s scouting report: “A guard at nine isn’t my favorite pick, but Zion Johnson isn’t going to be around in the second round. I’d be shocked if he’s available at 40 or 41 – and if he is and you’re not selecting him, I’m wondering what the heck you’re doing. This is somebody who can be athletic enough to fit into Shane Waldron and Andy Dickerson’s zone schemes where he’s going to have to be able to move laterally and be able to reach and hook guys. When you’re talking about making your running game great again, Johnson has got to be somebody they target. I would be so happy with that pick. He’s a guy who would add to the nastiness level of this offensive line, something they’ve wanted from Damien Lewis and Gabe Jackson that they just haven’t fully gotten yet. He’d be such an awesome fit for a team who wants to run the ball with some physicality.”

T Trevor Penning, Northern Iowa

Height/weight: 6 foot 7, 325 pounds
Class: Redshirt-senior
Notables: Finalist for Walter Payton Award (2021)

What you need to know: If the Seahawks trade to the middle- to late-first round, they may still find Trevor Penning available. He doesn’t have quite the resume of Neal and Ekwonu, but he still possesses the size and athleticism to be a plug-and-play lineman – something Seattle desperately needs if it can’t bring back Duane Brown and Brandon Shell.

Jake’s scouting report: “In the tackle class, you’ve got a clear Tier 1 with two guys in it, and then after that there’s a huge range as to where experts and analysts see Tier 2. This guy falls into that Tier 2 group. This is somebody I could absolutely see the Seahawks taking. Why? Multiple reasons. But you have to remember this isn’t Pete Carroll’s vision and system anymore; this is Waldron and Dickerson’s. If you’re going off of LA’s playbook, there’s a prototype they’re looking for on the O-line. Rob Staton of Seahawks Draft Blog pointed out very clearly that if you’re looking at the Rams tackles, they’re two guys who are tall, rangy tackles. Penning fits that bill and is somebody who has the ability to play in that scheme well. There are lots of question marks; he caught attention with how well he played at the Senior Bowl with how aggressive he played, but there’s a lot of question marks as to how tough he really is. Is that false bravado, or is this who this guy really is 24-7? Athletically he checks off the boxes in terms of those comps – Rob Havenstein and Andrew Whitworth – for the type of player that he can be in the NFL.”

More Seahawks draft profiles

A trio of LBs for 2 picks in second round
QBs Matt Corral and Desmond Ridder
CBs ‘Sauce’ Gardner and Derek Stingley Jr.

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Seahawks NFL Draft Profiles: A trio of top offensive linemen