NFL Draft expert Zierlein: Freaky defenders that fit Seahawks

Jan 26, 2023, 11:53 AM | Updated: Jan 29, 2023, 12:35 pm
Seahawks draft Drew Sanders...
Keanu Hill of the Brigham Young Cougars loses control of the ball while he is tackled by Drew Sanders of the Arkansas Razorbacks on October 15, 2022. (Chris Gardner/ Getty Images)
(Chris Gardner/ Getty Images)

With the Seahawks’ 2022 season wrapped up, the focus turns to the offseason and especially the 2023 NFL Draft.

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The Seahawks have a chance to make a big splash in April as they’re armed with two picks in each of the first two rounds. And thanks to a trade with the Denver Broncos last offseason, Seattle will pick fifth overall, the highest pick of the Pete Carroll-John Schneider era, which began in 2010.

When looking at the Hawks’ roster and 2022 season, it’s clear they need help on defense, especially in the front seven at linebacker and on the defensive line. draft expert Lance Zierlein joined Seattle Sports 710 AM’s Brock and Salk on Thursday to help break down players that would fit the Hawks’ needs on defense.

“So Lance, give me two or three guys just right now within the front seven that you look at and go, ‘Whoa, these dudes are just physically (talented) … and can do things that that others just simply can’t,'” former NFL quarterback Brock Huard said.

Replied Zierlein: “I’m going to give you some players that I think are specific to the Seattle model.”

Let’s break down what Zierlein had to say.

Targets at No. 5 overall

Georgia DT Jalen Carter

Zierlein started off with a name many Seahawks fans are familiar with by now, and that’s Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter, a unanimous All-American in 2022 who won two national championships with the Bulldogs.

“I would say No. 1, if you want freak daddies like that, the first guy you’re looking at is Jalen Carter,” he said. “He reminds me of (Tennessee Titans star defensive lineman) Jeffrey Simmons a lot. Just block destruction, quick-win potential. He has a lot more ability to become a more dominant interior rusher than you see from a production standpoint so far at Georgia.”

Texas Tech DE Tyree Wilson

Next up is another name Hawks fans may have heard: Texas Tech edge rusher Tyree Wilson, who is commonly landed with Seattle in mock drafts.

Related: Huard on why DE Tyree Wilson is being mocked to Hawks at 5

“I think Tyree Wilson is that kind of guy. He’s got Seahawk written all over him, potentially as early as five,” Zierlein said. “He’s long, he’s athletic. He needs to be a little tougher against the run. We’re talking about a guy who’s 6 foot 6 who’s just continuing to grow into his frame. Like, you see him flash and you say, ‘Wow, he’s just scratching the surface.’ So he’s one of those freak daddies.”

Other first-round players

Arkansas LB Drew Sanders

The Seahawks also own the No. 20 pick, and there are a few names Zierlein thinks will be available there that can help Seattle’s defense right away. The first is someone who is a very unique talent: Arkansas linebacker Drew Sanders, a 2022 first-team All-American.

“There’s a player that is I think uniquely suited to what to what Seattle does, and that’s Drew Sanders out of Arkansas,” he said. “He went as an edge to Alabama as a five-star (recruit) … and he’s got really impressive rush (skills). But he played inside linebacker for Arkansas and he filled up the stat sheet.”

In 13 games for the Razorbacks in 2022, Sanders had 9.5 sacks, 13.5 tackles for loss and an interception while recording 103 tackles and forcing three fumbles.

“He’s still learning that position. He’s a rare hybrid talent that you can play as an inside linebacker, and then on (pass) rush downs you can rush him A-gap, B-gap, or even as a 3-4 outside rushing linebacker,” Zierlein said. “So he’s one of the uniquely-suited hybrid defenders that I think are going to start to become not the norm, but we’re going to start to see more of those kind of guys.”

“He is a run and hit guy who  is kind of multifaceted and multi-dimensional,” he also added.

Oregon CB Christian Gonzalez

While cornerback isn’t a front-seven position and isn’t the biggest area of need for Seattle, Oregon’s Christian Gonzalez, a first-team All-Pac-12 selection, is an intriguing target when looking at the Seahawks.

“I want to mention Christian Gonzalez just because you guys see him up there in the Pacific Northwest. But this is the freakiest corner on the board,” Zierlein said. “I mean, he’s just rare height, weight, speed, loose-limbed athleticism, and he’s gonna test off the charts. I think that’s the type of guy if you had him opposite (rookie Seahawks Pro Bowl cornerback) Tariq Woolen, that’s a huge difference maker.”

Potential second-rounders

The draft isn’t just won in the first round, so who are some potential second-round picks the Seahawks could add to the front of their defense?

One name – Iowa State defensive end Will McDonald IV – reminds Zierlein of a former first-round pick.

“Will McDonald’s a little lighter, but he’s got some of the same explosiveness that we saw when the Seattle Seahawks kind of surprised a lot of people and drafted Bruce Irvin (in 2012),” he said. “But Bruce Irvin was 250 pounds and Will McDonald’s a whole lot lighter. But he’s gonna (vertical) jump in the 40 inches and he’s got some of the same long arms and athletic traits (as Irvin).”

What about some rapid-fire edge rusher names?

“I think if you want edge, there’s Isaiah Foskey in the second round from Notre Dame. I think B.J. Ojulari from LSU has big upside,” Zierlein said.

Not a fan of Clemson DL

Two players who are seen as early draft picks in many mock drafts are Clemson defensive linemen Myles Murphy and Brian Breece. Murphy is a defensive end who has been mocked by some to the Seahawks at No. 5 while Breece is a defensive tackle.

Zierlein isn’t too big a fan of the two Clemson defenders.

“I’m not as high on Myles Murphy. I think he’d fit over with Seattle, but I’m not as high on him as some others,” he said. “Brian Breece, I think, is being way overrated by the general public, the draft public. I think he’s gonna fall further down than people think.”

Listen to the full discussion with Zierlein at this link or in the player below.

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NFL Draft expert Zierlein: Freaky defenders that fit Seahawks