Ray Roberts: Why middle rounds will be key to next Seahawks draft

Dec 31, 2022, 1:15 PM | Updated: 1:23 pm

Seattle Seahawks 49ers...

The 49ers' Christian McCaffrey runs into Seattle Seahawks defenders on Dec. 15, 2022. (Photo by Christopher Mast/Getty Images)

(Photo by Christopher Mast/Getty Images)

The 2022 Seahawks season isn’t over, as they still have a chance to sneak into the playoffs if the chips fall the right way. But with a pick potentially landing in the top five of the 2023 NFL Draft coming to Seattle from the Denver Broncos (and the fact that it’s college football bowl season), a lot of focus has shifted to what Seattle can do in April to improve its team.

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Quarterback is one position many are focused on for the Seahawks in the first round, while an elite pass rusher could also be in Seattle’s sights.

For Ray Roberts, a former NFL offensive lineman who is now an analyst on the Seahawks Radio Network, he has his eye elsewhere – not just when it comes to positions of need, but also another location in the draft.

“Everyone’s focusing on that top five pick and whether it’s a another quarterback or pass rusher or whatever,” Roberts said Friday when he joined Seattle Sports’ Bump and Stacy, “but I really do think that the middle part of the draft is where they’re going to have to do their damage in finding some guys that can play the defensive line the way they want the defensive line played.”

The Seahawks have struggled to defend against the run most of the 2022 season, which is their first since switching to a 3-4 defensive front rather than a 4-3. That means the ability of Seattle’s defensive tackles is of more importance than it had been in previous years, and this year has shown the Seahawks need to adjust their personnel accordingly.

“I just think those down linemen in the middle, man, you need more Al Woods in there that can kind of eat up double teams and play on the other side of the defensive line,” Roberts said.

He added that there tends to be less risk involved with taking defensive tackles in the draft.

“I am under the belief that usually the most dependable draft picks you can get are defensive tackles,” Roberts said. “They tend to pan out more than other positions, whether you draft them in the first round or the second round or the third round. And so I do think that there are some not as glamorous-type players out there that can come in and play well in the way that they want them to play defense here. They don’t have to be first-round draft picks, you know, they can be later-round draft picks. That’s why I think that’s gonna be the heartbeat of this draft to me, is the guys that they find in the second, third, fourth rounds that are going to be contributors to this team, specifically in the trenches.”

Roberts was asked by co-host Michael Bumpus how close the Seahawks are to being a more competitive playoff contender in 2023, and his answer should be encouraging for Hawks fans.

“I think they have guys on the second level (of the defense) that can can ball out – obviously, secondary is good. I think (edge rusher Uchenna) Nwosu – and I even think (edge rusher) Darrell Taylor, with everything that he’s missed this year and gone though, he still has six sacks. So get him to refocus and going, I still think you have a very good edge pass rush. … Maybe a center and a guard, or one of the other, on offense, I think they’re that close.

“… The big thing is going to be, how do they address the defensive line? Because you can’t go into another year changing the defense, changing the scheme, changing the personnel all throughout the year and think that you’re going to find consistency… So I think if they can address that, then I’m pretty good.”

You can hear the full coversation with Roberts in the podcast at this link or in the player below.

Roberts and Bumpus will be on the Seahawks Radio Network pregame show starting at 10 a.m. Sunday on Seattle Sports 710 AM and KIRO Newsradio 97.3 FM leading up to a 1:05 p.m. kickoff against the New York Jets. You will also be able to hear them during the halftime and postgame shows.

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