MAURA DOOLEY

Want to know who Seahawks will draft? Look to the Senior Bowl

Mar 24, 2023, 12:21 AM | Updated: Apr 6, 2023, 2:23 pm

Seattle Seahawks John Schneider Pete Carroll...

John Schneider and Pete Carroll watch Seahawks practice on June 8, 2022. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

We are just over a month from the 2023 NFL Draft, and everyone is eager to see what the Seahawks will do will do with their significant draft haul.

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You can check the latest mock drafts, pay close attention to pro day attendances, or maybe even attempt to make sense of coach Pete Carroll’s draft day clues. But is there a better way to narrow down the field of players Seattle could be interested in? There has to be a trend that can shed a bit of light on their preferences in recent years.

Top 30 pre-draft visits seem like a good place to start searching for a correlation, but those don’t turn up much outside of a few undrafted free agent signings. It turns out, though, that the Senior Bowl is where you want to look if you want some names that the Seahawks are probably keeping close tabs on.

The Seahawks have drafted 12 players that were on Senior Bowl rosters in the last three years. The Senior Bowl game itself is an All-Star showcase where scouts, general managers and coaches can see the premiere talent available, but it’s the drills throughout the week where they can really get to know the prospects they are considering.

Seahawks GM John Schneider explained the wealth of information they’re able to gather at the event back in 2019 on Sirius XM’s Movin’ the Chains with Jim Miller and Pat Kirwan.

“Who are the people and what makes them tick?” Schneider said. “Why do they want to be great? How are they going to compete with the other guys already in your locker room? When you watch these guys down here (at the Senior Bowl), you can watch how these guys compete in every aspect of what they’re doing, see if they’re acting like pros. Or do they act like they’ve got all the answers?”

Another bonus for the Seahawks when it comes to the Senior Bowl is that one of their former scouts, Jim Nagy, is the event’s executive director. He knows the qualities Seattle looks for in a prospect, and Schneider has noted how that has been helpful to the Seahawks in the past.

Here is how the Senior Bowl has been represented in the last three Seahawks drafts:

• 2020: LB Darrell Taylor, G Damien Lewis, DE Alton Robinson, TE/DE Stephen Sullivan
• 2021: WR D’Wayne Eskridge, CB Tre Brown (the Seahawks had just three draft picks that year)
• 2022: OT Abe Lucas, LB Boye Mafe, CB Tariq Woolen, CB Coby Bryant, DE Tyreke Smith, WR Bo Melton

This year, there have been reports of Seahawks visits with five players who were on the Senior Bowl roster:

• Ohio State OT Dawand James, WSU LB Daiyan Henley, Kansas State CB Julius Brents, Boise State S J.L. Skinner, Minnesota C John Michael Schmitz

Nagy, who is also a regular guest on Seattle Sports’ airwaves during draft season, highlighted two of those players when he joined Bump and Stacy last week.

Seahawks Draft: Senior Bowl’s Nagy on C Schmitz, LB Henley

First, he raved about the 6-foot-3, 301-pound Schmitz, who earned AP All American and all-conference honors last year.

“He’s what you’re looking for at center,” Nagy said. “He’s played a ton, he can handle it mentally, he’s a good communicator, he’s tough, he’s durable, and he’s strong. That’s probably the biggest thing for me. Every year we have guys that show up here in Mobile and at different levels of the board are better than I thought they were. Schmitz is that guy.”

The other name that Nagy brought up was Henley, who checks in at 6-1 and 225 pounds, ran a 4.54 in his 40-yard dash and was the first finalist for the Butkus Award (top college linebacker) in WSU history.

“I think he fits what I consider a Seahawks linebacker,” Nagy said. “He’s just a run and hit guy. He’s got the build; I mean the guy’s built to play linebacker. Daiyan was eligible to play in the Senior Bowl a year ago in Nevada. The tape was just OK. We had a late, late draftable grade on him. He transfers up to WSU, made a huge jump. To me, I’m thinking glass half-full with a player. I think that stuff’s going to come along. What you can’t coach is the length. He’s long, he’s explosive, he runs, he hits, he can blitz. I think the guy’s going to be a really good starter in the league.”

If recent history is any indicator, a number of these Senior Bowl invitees will be hearing their name called by the Seahawks on draft day.

Will Henley and Schmitz end up in Seattle? Unless you’ve cracked the code to solving Carroll’s draft day clues, we’ll have to wait and see what happens April 27-29 as the picks roll in.

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Want to know who Seahawks will draft? Look to the Senior Bowl