BROCK AND SALK

Draft prospects to help Seahawks on offensive, defensive lines

Jan 25, 2024, 3:17 PM

Seattle Seahawks draft Byron Murphy...

Michael Penix Jr. under pressure by Byron Murphy II on Dec. 29, 2022. (Tim Warner/Getty Images)

(Tim Warner/Getty Images)

The Seattle Seahawks may look very different in the trenches in 2024.

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Offensive tackles Charles Cross and Abraham Lucas are entering the third years of their careers, but guards Damien Lewis and Phil Haynes are both set to hit free agency, as is center Evan Brown.

On defense, the middle of Seattle’s defense could lose two key contributors from 2024 as Leonard Williams and Mario Edwards Jr. are both pending free agents.

What does this year’s draft class look like on the interior of the offensive and defensive lines? ESPN draft analyst Matt Miller joined Seattle Sports’ Brock and Salk on Thursday to break it down.

“Offensive line, really good. And like you mentioned, the entire interior (for the Seahawks), they’re all free agents … so you’re gonna have some big holes to fill there,” Miller said.

The Seahawks hold the No. 16 pick in the first round and have no second-round pick because of the trade for Williams. Seattle does own two third-round picks thanks to a draft trade with Denver last year, though.

Who could Seattle Seahawks draft on the line?

Seattle may have two new starting guards in 2024, and if the Hawks try to get those replacements in the draft, they could find good players in the third round, Miller said.

“I think there’s really good depth at guard. We’re going to see some of those guys at the Senior Bowl next week,” Miller said. “Cooper Beebe from (Kansas) State is a player I absolutely love. Zach Frazier is a center from West Virginia.”

Until the Seahawks hire their next head coach, Miller says it is tough to project which players are scheme fits.

“Zack Frazier might not be a scheme fit. If you’re going with more of a power run scheme, then you might look at the center from Oregon, Jackson Powers-Johnson, as maybe a better fit,” Miller said. “It’s a really good interior line group in rounds two, three and four.”

On the other side, the Seahawks were once again one of the worst run-stopping teams in the NFL. Could they find help in the draft?

“I’ve got two (defensive tackles) in the top 20. Then you’ve got a pretty big drop off after that,” Miller said.

But since the Seahawks have a top-20 pick, they could potentially land one of those top defensive linemen.

“I’m in love with Byron Murphy from Texas. I think he’s a top-15 player. He’s a true first-rounder,” Miller said. “I think Jer’Zhan Newton from Illinois, I got an opportunity to see him in person early this year, he’s fantastic. T’Vondre Sweat, the other Texas defensive tackle who’s more of a nose tackle, he’s probably in the top-40 conversation. I think there’s three guys that are really good, and then there’s some developmental guys.”

Miller likes Kris Jenkins from Michigan, but because the Wolverines rotate so often, players like Jenkins rarely “get into a rhythm,” he said.

There are also some defensive linemen in this draft who maybe weren’t utilized properly in college.

“Leonard Taylor from Miami, when the dude got to play 3-technique, he was awesome, but they made him play nose technique most of the time,” Miller said. ” … McKinnley Jackson at Texas A&M, if you just look at his position-specific traits you’re like, ‘This dude’s a top-10 pick, top-15 pick,’ but because he was asked to play nose tackle at A&M with all this 3-3-5 (defensive scheme) in college football, he just never broke out.”

What about a UW standout?

The UW Huskies will have a lot of players selected in this year’s NFL Draft, and one player that many think will go in the first round is left tackle Troy Fautanu, a first-team All-Pac-12 selection.

NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah has the Seahawks taking Fautanu 16th overall in his first mock draft of the offseason, and Miller agrees that’s probably around when Fautanu will get picked.

“That’s probably the start of his range as we sit right now,” he said. ” … He’s fascinating because he’s so violent and powerful, and his short-area quickness and control are through the roof.”

Some, like Jeremiah, expect Fautanu to move inside to guard at the NFL level. Miller said he doesn’t have to do that.

“The guy has almost 35-inch arms; it’s just he’s 6 foot 3, so that’s where the conversation is coming in,” he said. “A lot of times it’s, ‘The foot speed isn’t there, we’ll move him to guard.’ Or, ‘The length isn’t there, we’ll move him to guard.’ It’s neither of those with him. It’s just that he’s a little bit short.”

But if the Seahawks think Fautanu could be a standout guard, Miller wouldn’t hate to see that happen.

“The draft gets weirdly picky and fickle about things where being 6 foot 3 1/2 matters more than how well you actually play football sometimes. But that could be great news for a team like Seattle at 16 if you wanted to draft him and say, ‘Alright, cool, here’s our left guard, we’re gonna go Charles Cross and Fautanu (on the left side) and we’re gonna just dominate,’ I’m not mad at that pick at all, especially with a new head coach coming in.

“I’ve said this for years, sometimes that first year – obviously, John (Schneider) is still gonna be there at GM – but sometimes that first year, you just need to hit a single and a lot of these guys swing for a home run. Sometimes you just need to hit a single with that first pick and have a guy that’s, ‘Hey, for five years, he’s gonna be a starter and we’re probably gonna sign him to a second contract.’ NFL teams need to do a lot more of that instead of overdrafting for athleticism or size, and that’s where teams miss.”

Listen to the full Brock and Salk conversation with ESPN NFL Draft analyst Matt Miller in the podcast at this link or in the player near the top of this post.

More on the Seattle Seahawks

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• NFL insider Pelissero breaks down ‘truly open’ Seahawks coach search
• With J.J. McCarthy mocked to Seahawks, how can Penix raise his draft stock?
• Why Seahawks head coach candidate Ejiro Evero is so highly regarded
• Salk: 5 things the Seahawks should prioritize in coach search
• Why is Seattle Seahawks’ head coach job so appealing?

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Draft prospects to help Seahawks on offensive, defensive lines