JOE FANN

Fann: 4 takeaways from Seattle Seahawks’ 2023 draft class

May 3, 2023, 9:29 AM

Seattle Seahawks Kenny McIntosh...

Kenny McIntosh of the Georgia Bulldogs rushes against the Oregon Ducks on Sept. 3, 2022. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

The Seattle Seahawks had a productive 2023 NFL Draft with 10 total selections that have largely been well received. It’s the second straight year where general manager John Schneider has gotten seemingly comprehensive praise for his work over the three-day event.

GM John Schneider: Seattle Seahawks had ‘easy’ decisions with top 2 picks

I don’t think that’s by accident. While Seattle’s front office spent many years zigging where others zagged, there was a justifiable belief that Schneider and Co. overthought the process to the point of trying to be the “smartest man in the room.”

These past two Seahawks draft classes have been comprised of sensible picks at positions of need and value. And wouldn’t you know it, Seattle got immense production in 2022 from its rookie class. This year’s group could pay similar immediate dividends.

Here are my most significant takeaways from the 10-player draft class.

1. Seattle Seahawks pass on Jalen Carter

My biggest question going into Round 1 was what the team would do if Jalen Carter remained on the board at pick No. 5. The Seahawks spent copious amounts of time researching Carter’s past and getting to know him as a person.

Evidently Schneider and coach Pete Carroll didn’t feel comfortable enough with Carter’s red flags as they passed on him in order to take Illinois cornerback Devon Witherspoon. The Georgia defensive lineman ultimately went to the Eagles with the ninth pick, and Philadelphia was subsequently lauded accordingly.

However, I’m not going to begrudge the Seahawks for passing on Carter, even if he ends up flourishing in the NFL. While I have been hard on Schneider and Carroll in the past regarding various topics, there’s no disputing that Seattle’s culture is among the league’s best. Their confidence in that culture has been well documented, as well. So if they decided that Carter wouldn’t be a good fit, I’ll give them every benefit of the doubt.

The Malik McDowell nightmare might also be too fresh. Either way, taking Witherspoon made perfect sense to me.

2. Taking the first player off the board at two positions

Witherspoon was the consensus top corner, and it’s a beautiful thing when you can get the best player on the board at a premium position. Cornerback certainly qualifies as such. Now Seattle gets to enjoy the Witherspoon-Tariq Woolen pairing for at least two years on their respective rookie deals. (That’s with the assumption that Woolen continues to excel and ultimately pursues a new contract prior to his fourth season, a scenario that has become commonplace in the NFL.)

At pick No. 20, Seattle’s decision was much tougher. The top of an overall thin receiver class was bunched with four names, all of whom coincidentally enough were taken consecutively from Nos. 20-23.

The Seahawks made the first move by taking Ohio State’s Jaxon Smith-Njigba. Doing so was by no means a reach, but there were analysts who ranked other receivers higher. (Daniel Jeremiah, for example, ranked him behind USC’s Jordan Addison).

But given Seattle already has two standout receivers, finding a complementary skill set to Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf took precedent to merely selecting the best player. The Seahawks would likely tell you they accomplished both, and they very well may end up being right.

Smith-Njigba should be an excellent chain mover on third down and provide the missing piece that Seattle’s receiver core has been lacking. The Dee Eskridge pick was a flop, and the Seahawks have gone years now without a reliable No. 3 receiver. David Moore sort of fit that bill from 2019-20, but Smith-Njigba’s ceiling is in a different stratosphere.

I cannot wait to see how these three complement each other when the season rolls around. Quarterback Geno Smith is surrounded by an arsenal of weapons that most other NFL’s QBs will envy.

3. Speaking of weapons…

Seattle selecting a pair of running backs didn’t surprise anyone. UCLA’s Zach Charbonnet is an immensely talented runner, and while I would have personally waited on taking a running back, I completely understand why the Seahawks made the move on him with their second of two second-round picks.

My gut tells me that the board didn’t fall the way they were expecting, and Charbonnet was the unequivocal best player on their board at pick No. 52. Carroll mentioned that they weren’t going to force the issue on the offensive line or with an interior defensive lineman if they didn’t believe in the player. I can stand behind that logic, even as someone who trivializes the value of the running back position.

There was an opportunity cost with the Charbonnet pick in a similar Dee Eskridge-Creed Humphrey fashion, though. Florida defensive tackle Gervon Dexter Sr. went 53rd overall, Minnesota center John Michael Schmitz went 57th, Florida guard O’Cyrus Torrence went 59th and Penn State center Juice Scruggs went 62nd. All four of those players would have filled more urgent roster holes in my opinion, but Seattle evidently didn’t think enough of them.

Taking Georgia running back Kenny McIntosh in the seventh round felt like a Day 3 masterstroke. Finding productive college players that late in the draft is always a win, and Seattle’s roster is thin enough in the backfield for him to make the roster along with Kenneth Walker III, Charbonnet and Deejay Dallas.

4. Seattle Seahawks filling the gaps

My opinions are mostly middle-of-the-road on Seattle’s other six selections because I don’t know enough about the players. However, all of them were sensible picks from the standpoint of addressing areas of need on the roster.

Second-rounder Derick Hall will have the opportunity to earn immediate pass rush reps behind Darrell Taylor and Uchenna Nwosu while competing with 2022 second-rounder Boye Mafe.

Evan Brown and Phil Haynes aren’t cemented starters enough to rule out fifth-round center Olusegun Oluwatimi and fourth-round guard Anthony Bradford pushing them in training camp, respectively.

Fourth-round defensive tackle Cameron Young and fifth round defensive end Mike Morris add more depth and competition to the defensive line, a position group that remains Seattle’s most concerning, especially from a run defense standpoint.

Sixth-round safety Jerrick Reed II is an intriguing late-round Swiss Army knife in the secondary.

Will all six pan out? No, of course not. But there aren’t many obvious exceptions to be taken with any of the picks. That’s a nice change of pace compared to many of Seattle’s selections from 2013-21.

More on the Seattle Seahawks draft

Rost: Where the Seahawks stand after adding big 2023 draft class
Devon Witherspoon: Why going to Seahawks at No. 5 ‘means a lot’
UCLA’s Chip Kelly: What Seahawks are getting in RB Charbonnet
UCLA WR Jake Bobo may be Seahawks’ biggest undrafted steal
Pete Carroll Breakdown: Coach details the Seattle Seahawks’ 2023 draft class

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