STACY ROST

Rost: What to know about recent Seahawks pro day visits

Mar 25, 2023, 10:13 AM | Updated: Apr 6, 2023, 2:23 pm

Seahawks draft Luke Wypler...

Luke Wypler of the Ohio State Buckeyes plays against the Michigan State Spartans on Nov. 20, 2021. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

(Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

It’s pro day season! And at pick No. 5, tracking the Seahawks’ movements is a little more insightful this year.

Receiver watch at Ohio State?

A trip to Columbus was up first, where all eyes were on the Buckeyes star quarterback. That meant more than two dozen representatives from the Carolina Panthers (including owner David Tepper and his wife, Nicole), who own the top overall pick. The Panthers have insisted they’re keeping their options open when it comes to this year’s top passers, though C.J. Stroud is the odds-on favorite to land in Charlotte.

Were Seattle’s front office execs and scouts watching Stroud? Most definitely. But with three quarterback-needy teams ahead of them, there’s another important name for Seattle here.

Most Seahawks fans would tell you they’d like to see either a quarterback or top defensive lineman taken at No. 5, but Seattle also holds pick No. 20. Mel Kiper Jr.’s latest ESPN mock has the Hawks selecting wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba.

Smith-Njigba had an injury-shortened 2022 campaign but his overall ceiling and 2021 season (1,606 yards and nine touchdowns) keep him holding steady as one of the draft’s top receiver prospects. Those 2021 numbers not only set program records, but also led all pass catchers on a team that featured current Saints wideout Chris Olave and Jets’ offensive rookie of the year Garrett Wilson, both former first-round picks.

In an interview on Bump and Stacy Thursday, Bill Rabinowitz of the Columbus Dispatch told Michael Bumpus and Curtis Rogers that Smith-Njigba may not profile as an obvious No. 1 receiving threat, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be that player for a team like Seattle.

“I’m not sure about being the classic No. 1 receiver in the sense that he’s a 4.3 guy and big,” Rabinowitz said. “He’s not that big and he ran a 4.48, that’s kind of the unofficial time yesterday. Which is fast, but not crazy fast.

“What makes him special is his quickness. His quickness with his hands, his ability to just cut on a dime, get in and out of breaks just so quickly without losing any speed. So, is he a classic no. 1 receiver? I don’t know. But I’ll say that when Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave were here, they said Jaxon was the best of the three. And if you saw him play in the Rose Bowl against Utah, that was a record-setting performance. And I’m sure a lot of people here think that if he’d been healthy last year, they would’ve won the National Championship.”

A bonus name to keep an eye one: Center Luke Wypler.

The New Jersey-native profiles as a Day 2 or early Day 3 pick at the latest, but with Seattle’s lack of depth at center (and need to find a long-term solution) it’s a position of need this spring.

“He’s a feisty guy,” Rabinowitz said of the Buckeyes center. “He’s a Jersey guy. It’s kind of stereotyping, but he embraces that. There are some rough edges with him, but in a good way. He’s a very smart guy, but he plays with an edge. So, he might not have all the measurables, he’s a little small for a center, he’s a good athlete, maybe not an elite athlete. But he’s not going to back down to anyone. He’s going to be a leader. I really enjoyed covering him and talking to him because he’s got personality.”

Two other stops, two more big names

Seahawks’ brass also made stops at Alabama and Kentucky.

For the Crimson Tide, defensive lineman Will Anderson Jr. remains the top prospect. He’s been mocked to Arizona at No. 3 overall, but if the Cards swap back with a team in need of a passer, Seattle could have its choice of the two best DLs in the class. Worth noting that Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider along with offensive coordinator Shane Waldron and quarterbacks coach Greg Olsen met privately with Alabama quarterback Bryce Young.

The pair also popped by to observe Kentucky’s pro day, where they watched quarterback Will Levis.

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