STACY ROST

Rost: The likelihood of Seahawks’ 4 possible routes with No. 5 pick

Apr 4, 2023, 9:22 AM | Updated: Apr 6, 2023, 2:20 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)

There’s little certainty about anything heading into the NFL Draft for the Seahawks and the rest of the league. It’s the case every year for good reason.

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But as close to certain as you can get is that the top two teams aren’t budging. The Panthers traded a haul to the Bears for the opportunity to select their quarterback No. 1 overall, a pick the Texans were hoping to use for their franchise passer (they’ll need to settle for pick No. 2). So there goes C.J. Stroud and Bryce Young, in either order.

It’s at pick No. 3 that things start to get interesting for the Seahawks, which kicks off a few draft possibilities. That starts with something head coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider have never done: trade up in the first round.

Option 1: Trade up

Trades between division rivals are rare, so there’s likely additional capital needed here.

Arizona has a chance to improve its defense with Alabama edge rusher Will Anderson Jr., who’s been widely mocked here. Or, the Cardinals could do what Chicago did and benefit from an early run on quarterbacks with a swap.

If Seattle’s in love with Anderson and a quarterback-needy team moves up to No. 3, the Seahawks can stay put at No. 5 and likely have their choice of the two best defensive players in the draft (that’s unless Indianapolis swaps with Arizona to keep other teams at bay). If Seattle is smitten with someone like Florida QB Anthony Richardson, it will need to make a move to jump ahead of a Colts team that badly needs a franchise passer.

Ruling: Unlikely

Seattle’s top brass made the rounds to visit the top four quarterback prospects and neither Schneider nor Carroll have ruled out the possibility of selecting a quarterback. But the position is at least solidified for 2023, and this is a team that not only loves having more bites at the apple (a philosophy more consistent with the Seahawks’ habit of trading back) but one that also badly needs defensive help.

Option 2: Stay at 5 and draft a QB

What if the Seahawks still had bites at the apple and a chance to find a passer? Without sacrificing picks, they could still face the option between improving their defense or snagging one of the draft’s top remaining quarterback prospects, which will be the case if either Richardson or Kentucky’s Will Levis is available.

I can hear it now:

“But why would they take a quarterback if they need defensive help? This would never happen!”

Because finding a franchise quarterback is the most important thing any team will do. Asked why they’d take a passer if they extended Geno Smith, Schneider responded with a single line: “Because they don’t grow on trees.”

There’s real temptation here for Seattle. Schneider and Carroll haven’t shied away from taking a risk if they fall in love with a player (see: trades for Percy Harvin, Jimmy Graham and Jamal Adams), no matter what critics think.

Ruling: Possible

Schneider and Carroll’s efforts to visit those four top QB’s pro days in person can seem like smoke and mirrors, an effort to entice other teams into a trade. But I believe there’s also genuine intrigue for a team that hasn’t definitively answered the biggest question they faced after their trade of Russell Wilson: Who’s the next franchise guy? It may well be Smith, though the curiosity about a younger talent will linger. Still, finding a defensive difference-maker is the primary goal for 2023.

Option 3: Stay at 5 and draft best defensive option

Two months ago, that would undeniably have been Georgia’s Jalen Carter. Talent-wise, that remains true. More recent mocks have Seattle taking another option like Texas Tech’s Tyree Wilson.

If Carter’s available at No. 5, there will be plenty of temptation there, but also more recent character concerns. Those stem from misdemeanor charges for reckless driving and racing filed in March to which Carter pleaded no contest. He declined interviews at Georgia’s pro day, showed up nine pounds heavier, and reportedly struggled through drills. And this week, his agent Drew Rosenhaus announced Carter wouldn’t be interviewing with any teams drafting outside the top 10 in the first round.

“I think it’s another on the list of horrendous decisions on his part,” longtime sportscaster Trey Wingo told us Monday on Seattle Sports’ Bump and Stacy. “(Seattle) might be benefiting from him being there at five. I mean, he’s the best overall talent on the board, but because of a series of actions and decisions that he’s made he might very well be available there. I just think that this guy is either not getting it or his representation isn’t doing him any good…

“Talent weighs out. There’s always going to be that guy. Now, I know one team that’s taken him off their board completely. But there’s always that one team that says I can make it work. That one coach that says I can do it. His talent is undeniable, and sometimes that’s just far too much to pass by.”

Ruling: More likely than not

Whether it’s Carter, Wilson or another top defensive prospect, this is Seattle’s greatest area of need and has been for years. They were 31st against the pass in 2020 and 2021, and 30th against the run in 2022. Say what you will about Smith’s weaker second half or concerns on the interior offensive line (which are fair). This team isn’t going anywhere until they improve defensively.

Option 4: Trade back

Seattle could still get a mid-first round talent (potentially a top-10 talent) and add more capital. But here’s another consideration for this one: Schneider has never had an opportunity to draft this high. For the first time in his career here there’s an opportunity for a top-5 pick. Isn’t this one worth using to find the kind of blue-chip talent they’ve been unable to acquire in past classes?

Ruling: Possible

Because it’s the Seahawks.

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