ESPN’s Riddick: ‘Everything is looking up’ for Seahawks after another quality draft

May 23, 2023, 11:29 AM

Seattle Seahawks Jaxon Smith-Njigba...

Seahawks WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell at the 2023 NFL Draft. (Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images)

(Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images)

Thanks in large part to their 2022 NFL Draft class, the Seattle Seahawks surprised many by going 9-8 and making the playoffs last season. They’re continuing to trend in the right direction after this year’s draft, too, if you ask ESPN analyst Louis Riddick.

Rost: 3 Seattle Seahawks veterans with young players hot on their tail

Riddick, a former NFL safety and scout, joined Seattle Sports’ Brock and Salk on Monday and shared his thoughts on the direction of the Seahawks and why he’s a fan of their draft class.

“I think it’s just doing more real quality work and building on what – as you guys know – I believe got started last year, in particular,” he said. “I don’t think you can be any happier with the return on investment they got last year out of new players that came in there, and I think 2023 will result in the same with both some of the veteran player acquisitions that they pulled off and in particular, I think everyone’s always excited about and intrigued about just how these young guys and how the young blood is going to do as they’re imported into this roster and injected into this roster… I think those two are converging real nicely when it comes to this team.”

The Seahawks had some of the best capital in this year’s draft as they were armed with two picks in each of the first two rounds thanks to last year’s blockbuster trade with the Denver Broncos involving quarterback Russell Wilson.

With those four picks, Seattle took cornerback Devon Witherspoon (fifth overall), receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba (20), edge rusher Derick Hall (37) and running back Zach Charbonnet (52).

It’s safe to say Riddick is a fan of those selections.

“You can’t argue against Devon Witherspoon. You can’t argue against Jaxon Smith-Njigba no matter how hard you try. You can’t argue against Derick Hall. You can’t argue against Zach Charbonnet and how these guys fit into what Seattle wants to do, what they’ve already demonstrated they can do at the college level, and what you project to be their future performance in these systems with this team, with this young roster base that’s already been put together,” he said.

The Seahawks’ first fourth-round pick – guard Anthony Bradford – is also a favorite of Riddick’s.

“I think he has the potential to be as good as any of them, if not the best one of them all, because his skill level is so ridiculously good,” he said. “Look, (Seahawks general manager John Schneider) and his group … have definitely over the past few years hit a sweet spot with what the coaches are looking for, what the coaches want to work with both in terms of the physical characteristics and how these guys then take what they’re being taught and apply it to the field. That was evident last year and I was suspect it’ll be evident again this year.”

“I think everything is looking up for this team,” Riddick later added. “I’m as excited, if not more excited, this year for this team than I was last year because they got better. They got better, and the (NFC) West is wide open, man. It is wide open. And if you’re Seattle, you’re going, ‘We’re kicking that door down this year’  because they were a year ahead last year.”

Why the Seattle Seahawks’ first 2 picks make sense

Cornerback and receiver were hardly the Seahawks’ most pressing needs entering this year’s draft, but that’s still the direction Seattle went in the first round.

While the front-seven of the defense was easily the Hawks’ most glaring need entering April’s draft, Riddick thinks drafting Witherspoon and Smith-Njigba makes a ton of sense.

“Let’s just say we were going to discuss the top-five positions on a football team if you’re starting from scratch, if you have an expansion team,” he said. “Corner is going to be in your top-five positions. Quarterback always is going to be No. 1 and then everything else is up for grabs over the next four. It’s going to be offensive tackle, pass-rusher, corner, wide receiver in some order. In some order it’s going to be one of those.

“So if you think Devon Witherpoon represents what you philosophically believe in, what you realistically need on your football team, and ultimately (think) he is going to give you top-five overall production for the next five to eight years or 10 years, then you take him.”

With Smith-Njigba, he profiles as a slot receiver, but Riddick thinks that’s underselling what the Ohio State product can do on the football field.

“He will cut you a new one at the slot position, but he doesn’t have to,” he said. “He can play the X, he can play the Z, he can play either one. And quite honestly, that’s what I want … Jaxon is the dude who as a defensive player, I’m going, ‘I don’t know where No. 11 is gonna line up.’ I know that if I’m a safety and he’s lined up in the slot, I better be looking for ‘Who’s helping me? Who’s the guy who’s helping me?’ If he’s outside, I’m going, ‘This guy is about as smooth and as crafty as a release technician and a route runner as there is.’ And he has plenty of speed.”

Listen to the full conversation with Riddick at this link or in the player below.

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