Fann: PFF draft expert targets 1 QB prospect for Seahawks despite Geno deal

Mar 9, 2023, 10:14 AM
Seahawks Hendon Hooker...
Tennessee QB Hendon Hooker warms up on Oct. 8, 2022. (Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
(Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

On Monday, the news broke that Geno Smith signed a three-year, $105 million extension to remain with the Seahawks. It’s a deal that added short-term clarity to Seattle’s quarterback situation and kept Smith from hitting the open market.

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But while Smith will be the team’s starter in 2023, his return doesn’t mean the Seahawks won’t take another quarterback with the No. 5 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo reported on Tuesday that despite the $35 million in average value on the contract, it’s an incentive-laden deal that has a base value of $25 million per year with $40 million guaranteed at signing. To say it’s “worth up to $105 million” would be much more appropriate.

Pete Carroll confirmed on Tuesday that drafting a QB, potentially even in the first round, remains fully on the table.

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Last week’s NFL Scouting Combine added some clarity on this year’s top passers and which have the upside of leading an NFL franchise.

Pro Football Focus’ draft expert Trevor Sikkema spoke to Seattle Sports this week and shared his thoughts on this year’s quarterback class. There are four names unanimously on top of the QB rankings. For Sikkema, he’d rank them starting with Alabama’s Bryce Young, Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud, Florida’s Anthony Richardson and then Will Levis in the No. 4 spot.

The first two will likely be gone by the time Seattle goes on the clock at No. 5, but Richardson or Levis could still be on the board.

“All four of these players are guys you take big swings on in the top 10 of an NFL Draft,” Sikkema said.

That would be awfully tempting for Seahawks general manager John Schneider, who has never gotten to take a quarterback in the top 10. Beyond that, if Seattle’s 9-8 record in 2022 was the low point, then the Seahawks won’t be picking inside the top 10 for the foreseeable future. Heck, they’re only there now because of Denver’s disastrous season.

Richardson is especially intriguing given his headline-grabbing week in Indianapolis. His athletic measurables were off the charts with a 4.43-second 40-yard dash and a 40.5-inch vertical jump while standing 6-foot-4 and weighing 244 pounds. And while his 2022 tape is what is keeping him behind Young and Stroud in the rankings, Sikkema thinks there’s more than enough game film to suggest high-level NFL success.

Richardson only spent one season as a starter at finished with 2,549 passing yards, 17 touchdowns and nine picks in 2022. He added 654 rushing yards and nine scores on the ground.

“Yeah, there are moments where the tape looks rough, but there were also a lot of improvements: how he navigates the pocket, how he dealt with pressure, the touch he was throwing with. All of that stuff is there in his tape, it just isn’t as consistent as you want it to be.”

But there could be a cost to taking a QB that high as it pertains to the message it would send Smith. And Sikkema, as a believer in Smith, doesn’t think that would be Seattle’s best route to take.

“If you draft one of those guys are No. 5, you’re basically saying that Geno’s time is now running out before he even begins on this new contract. You don’t draft a quarterback at No. 5 overall and say, ‘Oh, maybe we’ll just never play him.’

“You look at what Geno was able to do last year, and it shouldn’t be denied. It shouldn’t be overlooked. As that team continues to rebuild, you now have a quarterback who will allow you to compete week in and week out.”

That’s why Sikkema has a different QB prospect for the Seahawks to target on Day 2 that offers similar upside as the top four.

“To me, I don’t believe in going bargain bin shopping for a quarterback, but for Seattle specifically I’d be targeting Hendon Hooker and figuring out where you can get him.”

The former Tennessee quarterback is an older prospect (25) and is coming off an ACL tear. But there’s no denying Hooker’s tantalizing arm talent. He posted 3,135 passing yards and 27 touchdowns to just two interceptions in 11 games last season prior to his injury. He also posted five rushing touchdowns and was a leading candidate for the Heisman Trophy as well.

Sikkema said that using an early second-round pick on Hooker would be justified and added that he can’t see him lasting beyond Round 3. Seattle has a trio of Day 2 picks with Nos. 38 and 53 overall in the second round and No. 84 overall in the third round.

“If this guy really is that confident and can play that well and command an offense, to me he’s somebody that you’d spend some sort of a Day 2 pick on.”

Of note, Sikkema said that the gap between Levis and Hooker is smaller than the gap between Hooker and whoever might end up being the sixth quarterback off the board. That’s how much respect he has for the former Tennessee Vol.

“It’s not often we get five quarterbacks that you can legitimately convince yourself are going to be good in the NFL,” Sikkema said.

Hooker having the ability to sit behind Smith for a couple years while he gets healthy and acquainted with the NFL game would be invaluable for his development. A decision to forgo the “big four” would also allow the Seahawks to acquire some of the elite defensive talent in this draft.

Ideally, Will Anderson or Jalen Carter (pending legal troubles) would be pushed down to No. 5 with an early run on quarterbacks. Sikkema sees those two, as well as Texas running back Bijan Robinson, as the only three blue-chip prospects outside of the top QBs.

The anticipation for draft day will continue to grow over the next month and a half. Seattle’s decisions on Days 1 and 2 will be paramount given the quality and quantity of the picks at Schneider’s disposal. Who will he end up taking? Will he trade down from No. 5? Will he take a quarterback?

The answers to those questions will determine the Seahawks’ ceiling in 2023 and beyond.

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Fann: PFF draft expert targets 1 QB prospect for Seahawks despite Geno deal