STACY ROST

Rost: With No. 5 pick, Seahawks are most interesting team in the draft

Mar 22, 2023, 10:35 AM | Updated: Apr 6, 2023, 2:24 pm

Seattle Seahawks...

The Seattle Seahawks offense huddles before a game against the New York Giants on Oct. 30, 2022. (Photo by Lindsey Wasson/Getty Images)

(Photo by Lindsey Wasson/Getty Images)

The Seahawks might be the most interesting team at the top of the draft.

With Lock re-signed, are Seahawks out on drafting a QB in the first round?

There’s some bias there, but there’s also this truth: they have a chance to either get one of the best defensive players in the class or their quarterback of the future, and they need both.

“That’s obvious for many teams!” you might say. And you wouldn’t be wrong. But when it comes to the top four selections, it’s clear the Panthers, Texans and Colts are looking for their quarterback while the Cardinals are looking to either trade back or go defense, having just extended QB Kyler Murray. The Seahawks’ choice feels more impossible to predict, and as a result, has spawned a fascinating conversation about impact.

Before we get there, let’s look at those two needs.

Veteran passer Geno Smith is back for 2023 (a move that for some fans eliminated the quarterback choice) and consistency there is great news for the offense. However, Smith’s age and single season of Pro Bowl play prompt fair questions about the future. Meanwhile, the defensive line has undergone a complete overhaul since finishing the 2022 season as the third-worst team against the run, but they need more top-tier talent – and all the better if that comes in the form of a young star on a rookie deal.

It’s not just dual needs, but also a new situation that makes the prediction difficult and the stakes high – the Seahawks haven’t had a top-five pick in almost 15 years. Sure, they’ve dealt first-rounders and traded out of Day 1 entirely, but they’ve also never had this opportunity.

A little over a month from now, they will. And fans in Seattle aren’t the only ones to ping-pong back and forth about the Seahawks’ potential decision.

When it comes to quarterback, general manager John Schneider will have his chance to use the kind of capital his NFC West counterparts have already spent over the last decade. For those teams, it was a first-overall pick on Murray in Arizona the year after a 10th overall pick on Josh Rosen. The Rams spent a first-overall pick on Jared Goff and the 49ers a third-overall pick on Trey Lance, both picks acquired via trade.

Only two are still with those teams and one of them is competing for a starting job in 2023. Therein lies the risk, but don’t ignore the potential. Because a 10th overall pick, like was spent on Rosen, was also spent on Patrick Mahomes the year prior. There was also a first overall pick on Joe Burrow and an eighth overall pick on Josh Allen.

Brock Purdy is a fun success story as Mr. Irrelevant and Tom Brady’s story as a sixth-rounder is one of the most well known in football, but consider that the laundry list of quarterbacks selected in the first round includes Aaron Rodgers, Lamar Jackson, Justin Herbert, Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger, Eli Manning, Matt Ryan, Michael Vick, Matthew Stafford, Andrew Luck, John Elway, Dan Marino and Troy Aikman.

“But JaMarcus Russell was the first overall pick!” Yes, and so was Peyton Manning. Big risk, big reward, big temptation – and at five, the Seahawks are feeling it.

Florida’s Anthony Richardson has been the quarterback most often mocked to Seattle. Richardson has an elite combination of size, strength and speed and backed it up with a stellar performance at last month’s NFL Scouting Combine. He brings a mobility that the Seahawks are already familiar with, rushing for 654 yards and nine touchdowns last year for the Gators. Like other prospects, he also brings a risk: his single season as a full-time starter brought mixed results, showcasing a big arm that was sometimes brilliant, mistakes that were sometimes costly, and a less-than-ideal 53.8 completion percentage.

Which brings us back to that conversation about impact. There’s a world where Richardson or another passer who falls to five sits behind Smith and eventually becomes a star, providing Seattle an opportunity to remain competitive for the long-term. Investing in passer makes football sense. Despite watching Nick Bosa and Aaron Donald wreak havoc on offenses in the NFC West (both first-rounders themselves) no player is more impactful than a franchise quarterback.

Let’s talk defense at No. 5

If the potential for long-term impact is what drives the temptation to select a quarterback, the opposite feels true for defense. That’s not to say you can’t find long-term impact with a defensive lineman, but add a defender at five and he’ll be expected to be a plug-and-play starter from the jump. And that’s tempting for a Seattle defense that’s struggled to find its identity – or any form of consistency – for years.

Given Seattle’s struggles there, most mock drafts project an addition to the front seven. In February, that player was often Texas Tech’s Tyree Wilson. Following more recent character questions about former top prospect Jalen Carter, it’s been the Georgia standout who’s been most often mocked to the Seahawks.

Whether they find their future quarterback this year or not, the Seahawks won’t go anywhere if the defense doesn’t take a step forward. Only three of last year’s 14 postseason teams had a defensive DVOA worse than Seattle’s. That ranking wasn’t the worst (21st overall) and none of the top three teams won a Super Bowl (though two were in the playoffs). But the point isn’t that the best defense wins a championship. Rather, it’s that even if it’s Tom Brady or Patrick Mahomes at the helm, championship teams have defenses that have outperformed who the Seahawks have been – which is why it’s time for change. The only question is whether they’ll use No. 5 overall to expedite it.

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