BUMP AND STACY

Pete Carroll Breakdown: Detailing the Seahawks’ 2023 draft class

May 1, 2023, 1:25 PM

The 2023 NFL Draft is in the books and for the Seattle Seahawks, they came away with a 10-man draft class with five defenders and five offensive players.

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

“We’re feeling really good about the work that we did,” Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said during a Monday interview with Seattle Sports’ Bump and Stacy.

During the nearly 18 minute-long interview, Carroll broke down his thoughts on how the draft played out and shared his insight into most of the team’s picks. Listen to the conversation in the player below, and we detail the highlights after that.

Devon Witherspoon the guy for Seattle Seahawks at 5

The Seahawks were armed with the fifth pick in this year’s draft thanks to last offseason’s trade with the Denver Broncos that sent Russell Wilson to the AFC West.

Carroll said that the Seahawks went through a lot of scenarios to get comfortable with what could happen with the fifth pick, but with just four picks in front of them, “this is as easy as you can get other than being first.” Carroll said the top four picks went about as expected, leaving Illinois cornerback Devon Witherspoon for the Seahawks at No. 5 overall.

While that pick surprised some as many pegged the Seahawks as taking a defensive lineman like edge rusher Tyree Wilson (seventh overall to Las Vegas) or defensive tackle Jalen Carter (ninth overall to Philadelphia), Carroll said Seattle’s eyes were set on Witherspoon given how the first four picks went down.

“We were really anticipating a chance of getting Devon, and we were hoping that was what was going to happen kind of predicting how went,” he said. “But we were also ready for whatever. It was really an exciting time, but really thrilled to get him.”

Another WR added to the mix at 20

Pick No. 5 wasn’t the only selection the Hawks made on Day 1 as they used the 20th overall pick to add standout Ohio State receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba to a receiver room that already has a star-studded duo in DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett.

Carroll said finding a top-end third pass catcher was “a focus” of the Seahawks in this draft.

“We wanted to complement Tyler and DK and make sure that we could maximize how we use those guys, and it did mean for us to come up with a guy that we could count on to play inside,” Carroll said. “Jaxon was extremely effective doing that and he has a real natural sense about the way he plays and how he fits there. So it was more than just getting Jaxon. It was about how it was going to enhance the other guys’ play as well. I’m really fired up about it. He’s a really consummate guide in terms of his work, his route-running his catching — he’s got terrific hands. We’re really fired up. He’s a come through guy and we think he’s gonna fit in well.”

A ‘ferocious’ edge rusher in second round

The Seahawks also had the 37th overall pick thanks to that Denver trade, and they used that pick to add a boost to their defensive front in Auburn edge rusher Derick Hall.

“He’s a ferocious competitor,” Carroll said. “He’s got such a drive, a physical aspect of his game as well. He’s really fast, he’s really strong, he loves to hit and loves to run. He played 85% of the plays or something crazy like that last year, so you’re getting the real deal from.”

Carroll said the Seahawks “fell in love with” edge rusher Uchenna Nwosu, who signed with Seattle as a free agent, over the last year, particularly in “the way he plays and how he brings it.” That caused the team to want to “find guys that just have that mentality.”

“It just happened that this is really a true example of that,” Carroll said of landing Hall in the second round. “He’s gonna come in and push guys and fit into the rotations and be a factor. He’ll be a terrific special teams player as well. But really, it’s that attitude that he brings that we really didn’t want to miss out on.”

Addressing interior D-line

The Seahawks had one of the worst run defenses in the NFL last year and have revamped their defensive line this offseason.

The Hawks released nose tackle Al Woods as well as 3-4 defensive ends Shelby Harris and Quinton Jefferson. Seattle also let former first-round pick L.J. Collier walk in free agency to Arizona and Poona Ford is still a free agent.

While the Seahawks did sign Dre’Mont Jones and Jarran Reed this offseason, it was clear there was work to be done on the defensive line during the draft.

The Hawks didn’t address the big boys on the line until the fourth round with Mississippi State’s Cameron Young.

Did the Seahawks feel like they knew they were going to be able to address the interior D-line later in the draft?

“We knew the board. We knew what was coming. Guys don’t fit in the same slots all the time. Just because you haven’t need people get really anxious about stuff, and (general manager John Schneider) did a great job of predicting when we could get Cam, and sure enough, he was there for us and we had our eyes on him,” Carroll said. “We wanted a real physical guy inside and really a tough dude, and that’s exactly what we’re getting from Cam Young. But we were sweating it out now because we knew we needed that spot, too. But we just had to kind of wait it out.”

Any surprise picks?

Every year, you hear from GMs and head coaches that they got a player later in the draft than they would have expected. Carroll was asked if there were any picks like that for Seattle this year, or if the Hawks were able to land players they were scared they would miss out on.

“Waiting it out for Cam, that was part of it because of the need inside,” Carroll said.

Another player like that? LSU guard Anthony Bradford, who Seattle took early in the fourth round.

“I really like Anthony Bradford. I think that’s a really cool pick because he’s got big-time power off last scrimmage, he’s got good feet, he’s hungry to play,” Carroll said. “I mean, that’s one of the guys I was kind of surprised that he was there for us.”

Seattle Seahawks double-dipping at RB

The Seahawks found a true No. 1 running back in the second round of last year’s draft when they took Kenneth Walker III, but that didn’t stop them from selecting more players at that position this year.

Seattle took another running back in the second round this year in UCLA’s Zach Charbonnet.

The Hawks also wrapped up their draft with another back, this time Georgia’s Kenny McIntosh in the seventh round.

“I have so much respect for that position and so much regard for what that weighs into our football team and how we play and the mentality and all of that. It’s a really important spot for me, too,” Carroll said. “We do a nice job … We’ve had some terrific guys over the years and I think we we just put this class back together in a really good spot for this position.”

Carroll called Charbonnet a “really cool pick” for the Seahawls.

“He’s so versatile. He just will fit in and be a great addition. And really, we’re gonna find out how far he can take it in terms of the receiving part of it. We know he’s really good at it. But so is Kenneth, so those guys will be battling,” Carroll said. “And we also went all the way down to get Kenny McIntosh because of his versatility. There’s so many positives about these guys.”

A new center on a young Seattle O-line

The Seahawks are set at the two tackle spots thanks to last year’s draft as they got left tackle Charles Cross and right tackle Abraham Lucas in the first and third rounds, respectively.

This year, Seattle added to the interior with Bradford in the fourth round and Michigan center Olu Oluwatimi in the fifth round.

“I think probably the first thought I have is really feel good about these guys,” Carroll said when asked about the state of the Seahawks’ offensive line. “I love that we’re young, but we’re talented and you can see the future here. I think you can see how we’re gonna be for a while. That’s a good feeling.”

The two tackle spots are set and the two guard spots appear to be locked down, barring injury, with Damien Lewis returning at left guard and right Phil Haynes signing a one-year deal to return as well.

Center, though, looks to be a different situation.

Austin Blythe retired after starting every game for the Seahawks last offseason. Seattle went out and signed Evan Brown — a fill-in starter at center and guard the last two years for Detroit – in free agency on a one-year deal. The Hawks also return former backup center/fill-in starter Joey Hunt, who spent part of last year on the team’s practice squad. He signed a reserve/future contract this offseason.

And then there’s Oluwatimi, the rookie fifth-rounder who was the nation’s top center in 2022.

“The competition we’ll have at the center spot between Evan and Joey and Olu, it’ll be heated, man,” Carroll said. “It’s gonna be a great spot to watch and see how that thing turns out. All three guys are really smart. I mean, really smart. And they can handle it and the communications and all of that.”

Carroll thinks Seattle’s offensive line grew a lot last year and will continue to grow and be more physical in 2023. Center may be a key part of that.

“You’ve gotta have good leadership in the center spot, so these guys will fill that and will take off and go,” Carroll said.

New “active” defensive back for Seattle Seahawks

Witherspoon wasn’t the only new addition to the Seahawks’ secondary in the draft.

In the sixth round, Seattle took Jerrick Reed II, who brings a unique skillset to the Seahawks.

“He’s really an active kid. He plays on the deep end, plays a lot of tough coverage assignments (in the slot), so he’s kind of a nickel-oriented guy, but he’s a safety cover guy. He’s a runner and a hitter,” Carroll said.

Carroll said you can learn a lot about a football player by watching how they handle covering kickoffs and running downfield and navigating space.

“He’s a natural. He’s a gunner and makes plays and is aggressive and tough,” Carroll said. “… He’s really good at that. He’s going to be a really good all-around ball player for us and hopefully he’ll be able to factor in and help us out.”

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