BRANDON GUSTAFSON

Seahawks Breakdown: Why this may be their biggest NFL Draft ever

Feb 27, 2023, 9:13 AM

Seattle Seahawks draft...

A video board displays for a Seahawks selection during the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft. (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

(Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

We’re just over two months away from arguably the biggest draft in Seahawks history.

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The Seahawks have plenty of draft capital this year as they’re armed with two picks in each of the first two rounds, including the fifth overall selection.

Seattle can go a number of different ways in this draft, but what does history tell us about what the Seahawks will do early in the draft?

Key numbers: 3 and 5 – and thanks, Denver

The Seahawks have been perennial winners under coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider.

Since the duo came to Seattle ahead of the 2010 season, the Seahawks have made the playoffs 10 times in 13 years while winning five NFC West titles, two NFC championships and one Super Bowl. As a result, the Hawks have found themselves picking near the bottom of the first round in most drafts over the last 13 years.

This year’s a different story, but not because of the Seahawks’ play in 2022. Instead, last year’s blockbuster trade of Russell Wilson to the Denver Broncos paid dividends for Seattle as the Seahawks hold the No. 5 overall pick, which is the highest of the Schneider-Carroll era.

In fact, this is just the third top-10 pick the Seahawks have had under Carroll and Schneider, and just the fifth time Seattle will pick in the top half of the first round.

Funny enough, two of those top-10 picks (last year and this year) are courtesy of the Broncos while another pick in the top half of the first round (14th overall in 2010) was also due to a trade with Denver.

What have Hawks done with their first picks?

In this Seahawks regime’s 13 drafts, their first picks (not necessarily first-round picks) have largely focused on the trenches.

Four of their top picks were offensive linemen, and four were defensive linemen if you include Bruce Irvin, a pass rusher who later played outside linebacker.

After those two position groups, the Seahawks have used two of their top picks each on linebackers (including Irvin), running back and wide receiver. And if you include their second first-rounder in 2010, the Hawks have also used early capital on safety with Earl Thomas (and later traded two first-round picks for safety Jamal Adams).

A new direction in the top 10

Assuming the Seahawks stick with the fifth overall pick – or trade down and stay in the top 10 – Carroll and Schneider will almost certainly be going in a different direction than they did with their previous top-10 picks.

In 2010, the Hawks selected Russell Okung from Oklahoma State sixth overall. Last year, Seattle took Mississippi State’s Charles Cross No. 9 overall. Both were left tackles.

With Cross entering just his second season, the odds of the Seahawks taking a left tackle with their first pick is next to none. Heck, they also drafted right tackle Abraham Lucas last year in the third round, so offensive tackle is far from a need for Seattle this offseason.

With their two other picks in the first half of the first round, Carroll and Schneider took Thomas 14th overall in 2010 and Irvin 15th overall in 2012.

With Quandre Diggs signed for two more years and Jamal Adams still early in his lucrative extension, the Seahawks likely won’t be taking a safety in the first round – or early in this draft. But an edge rusher like Irvin is certainly in the cards as Seattle’s pass rush lacked at times in 2022 and was top-heavy with only three players finishing with more than four sacks.

The QB question

Will this be the year the Seahawks draft a quarterback early? History, at least, suggests the answer is no.

Even in years when quarterback was a big question mark, Seattle has avoided the position in the draft.

All in all, Carroll and Schneider have used only two picks on quarterbacks in 13 drafts together, and none were in the first or second rounds. Seattle struck gold with Wilson in the third round in 2012, then drafted Alex McGough in the seventh round of the 2018 draft.

In the 2010 draft – Carroll and Schneider’s first with the team – the Seahawks had a 35-year-old Matt Hasselbeck under contract for one more year and had traded for Charlie Whitehurst, a backup. But that wasn’t a great QB draft as there were just two first-rounders (Sam Bradford was first overall and Tim Tebow went 25th).

The next year, with Hasselbeck gone and Tarvaris Jackson signed to compete with Whitehurst, the Seahawks picked 25th in that draft, taking offensive lineman James Carpenter. At that point, four quarterbacks were off the board, with four going in the first 12 selections. But two notable quarterbacks went early in the second round, shortly after Carpenter went to Seattle (Andy Dalton 35th and Colin Kaepernick 36th).

The year following that, the Seahawks still had Jackson under contract while Whitehurst was gone in free agency, but Seattle had signed Matt Flynn to compete for the starting spot.

When the Seahawks took Irvin with the 15th pick, three QBs were taken in the first eight picks (Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Ryan Tannehill). With the 22nd pick, the Cleveland Browns selected Brandon Weeden.

A few rounds later, the Hawks landed Wilson, who would be Seattle’s starter for the next 10 seasons.

Last year, the Hawks traded Wilson, getting QB Drew Lock as part of the return from Denver, and re-signed Geno Smith, who had been Wilson’s backup. It was not a great draft year for quarterbacks – just one (Kenny Pickett) went in the first round, and the next signal-caller taken wasn’t until early in the third round, meaning Seattle passed on third-rounders Desmond Ridder (Atlanta) and Malik Willis (Tennessee) four times to take Cross, pass rusher Boye Mafe, running back Kenneth Walker III and Lucas.

The Seahawks will again pick early in the draft like last year, and again quarterback is a bit of a question mark with both Smith and Lock pending free agents. But unlike last year, this year’s QB draft class is seen as fairly strong, with three to four QBs projected to be first-rounders and potentially all going in the first 10 selections. If there was a year for Seattle to target a quarterback early in the draft, this may be it.

What to expect

In all likelihood, the Seahawks will draft a defensive player with their first pick in April. Depending on what happens with trades for QBs, Seattle may find one of Jalen Carter or Will Anderson still available when the No. 5 pick rolls around. And history also suggests that defensive line/pass rush is something the Seahawks prioritize with their early draft picks.

If the Seahawks bring Smith back for 2023 as expected, it’s no sure thing that Seattle will find itself in this kind of draft position again any time soon. As such, a quarterback can’t be off the table by any means, especially if the team falls in love with one. At that point, a QB of the future supersedes any other position of need – even a defensive line and pass rush that drastically needs to improve for this team to be successful.

These next two months will be very fun to keep an eye on with the Seahawks, and a big part of that cycle begins this week in Indianapolis with the NFL Scouting Combine.

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