MIKE SALK

Salk: Why Seahawks did smartest thing possible with 2 1st-rounders

Apr 27, 2023, 9:11 PM | Updated: Apr 29, 2023, 3:57 pm

Seattle Seahawks Devon Witherspoon...

Devon Witherspoon of Illinois reacts to catching an interception against Rutgers in 2020. (Photo by Corey Perrine/Getty Images)

(Photo by Corey Perrine/Getty Images)

The draft gave the Seattle Seahawks a few lemons. And they turned them into the sweetest lemonade.

Seattle Seahawks Draft Breakdown: A look at every 2023 NFL Draft pick

By selecting Devon Witherspoon and Jaxon Smith-Njigba, they added the top player at two different positions. Period.

They got their choice and went with CB1 and WR1. So regardless of need, regardless of positional value or importance, they got two players they deem to be the absolute best in this class. The corner and receiver most likely to be NFL stars. And for a team that has been looking for impact, they found the two players in whom they saw that kind of potential.

That is huge.

And rare.

In fact, it is so rare that since coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider arrived in Seattle in 2010, the only time the Seahawks have ever drafted the first player off the board at any position was when they selected punter Michael Dickson at pick 149 in 2018!

These might not be my personal favorite positions in terms of importance, but that kind of value is impossible to ignore. That is how you find stars.

There is a lot to like about each of these players individually.

Witherspoon is tough, physical, nasty and plays much bigger than his size. The idea of pairing him opposite a budding star like Tariq Woolen has to be giving opposing passers nightmares.

Could this open up more man coverage? Could this be the key to getting back on top of the takeaway rankings? Can he help set an edge, something we’ve seen Seahawks corners do before? If the answers are yes, then this Witherspoon will help make everyone around him better.

As for Smith-Njigba, he is quite simply always open. Always. He is always open and he never drops passes. I don’t know what else you could say about a wide receiver. He played among some all-time college receivers at Ohio State and often shined above any of them.

I might have more confidence in his future success than any other Hawks draft pick in my time in Seattle. He will absolutely help make this team better.

But I said there was some sour citrus thrown the team’s way. While certainly positions of value in the NFL, these aren’t the premier positions. Quarterback, defensive line/edge and offensive tackle have more value. And with two picks in the first round, it stings not to be able to find anyone on that list, especially when most of those spots are positions of need. In fact, it felt like the Seahawks may have tried to trade back from the fifth spot in order to avoid taking a corner that high.

If they were trying to trade, is that because they were hoping for one of the quarterbacks to fall to them? And if so, should they have made more of an effort to trade up to get one of them? The first four picks played out as the “nightmare scenario” many had predicted, and it left them with a tough call. And if that was a nightmare scenario for them, it was likely the same other teams as well. Maybe no one wanted to make that pick!

Clearly, the Seahawks were uncomfortable with Jalen Carter. It is almost impossible to imagine they wouldn’t have snatched him up if it weren’t for his off-field issues. And we’ll be monitoring his career in Philly and judging whether they should have taken that chance.

But other than gambling on Carter, what else would you have reasonably wanted at No. 5? This was a lousy draft for top defensive linemen and edge players. That was just the reality of the situation.

So with no suitable players at the most valuable positions and likely no trade partners, the Seahawks did the smartest thing possible: they took the best player on their board. They took a top player at his position.

And in so doing, they hope to turn lemons into lemonade.

2023 Seattle Seahawks draft picks

• First round (5th overall): Illinois CB Devon Witherspoon
• First round (20th overall): Ohio State WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba
• Second round (37th overall): Auburn edge Derick Hall
• Second round (52nd overall): UCLA RB Zach Charbonnet
• Fourth round (108th overall): LSU guard Anthony Bradford
• Fourth round (123rd overall): Mississippi State defensive tackle Cameron Young
• Fifth round (151st overall): Michigan edge Mike Morris
• Fifth round (15th overall): Michigan center Olusegun Oluwatimi
• Sixth round (198th overall): New Mexico safety Jerrick Reed II
• Seventh round (237th overall): Georgia RB Kenny McIntosh

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