MIKE SALK

Salk: The perfect fit for Seahawks in draft isn’t who you think

Apr 17, 2024, 12:03 AM | Updated: 12:10 am

Seattle Seahawks draft Jared Verse...

Florida State DL Jared Verse celebrates a big play against Virginia Tech in 2023. (Michael Chang/Getty Images)

(Michael Chang/Getty Images)

It’s obvious what the Seattle Seahawks should do in the NFL Draft: they should improve their offensive line.

What style of lineman fits new Seahawks OC Grubb’s scheme?

Everyone knows it, too, which is why UW Huskies tackle/guard Troy Fautanu is going to them more at No. 16 in mock drafts than any other player. He’d be an incredible fit and of course that is what they should do next Thursday.

After all, we have all been beating the drum for improved line play for quite some time. It has been an issue in Seattle for nearly a decade and it takes a significant investment to improve. The more I watch, the more I’m convinced that line play is more important than system and scheme. Any attempt to run a consistent offense without competent play up front is an exercise in futility.

So they should draft Fautanu. If he comes right in and starts at guard, he will make them better immediately. And if either Charles Cross leaves in free agency or Abe Lucas’s knee keeps him from sustained success, Fautanu can move to tackle. He brings an element of nastiness, advanced technique and a familiarity with the offense under new Seahawks offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb, who was UW’s OC the past two years. And after years of Fautanu playing on Montlake, he already knows the area. He’s perfect.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. The Seahawks need offensive line help and the ideal offensive lineman should be available to them when they pick at 16. This is the ultimate no-brainer.

Except

There are other directions they could go. What if Fautanu gets picked before 16? What if they decide they need more picks and they need to trade back? What if defensive head coach like Mike Macdonald wants to improve his defense? And if that’s the case, of course they should draft a defensive lineman like Texas’ Byron Murphy. He’d be their version of what Macdonald had with Justin Madubuike in Baltimore, and players like that make everyone’s job easier around them.

So this easy. Either Fautanu or Murphy. Right?

Except

Don’t they kind of need a quarterback? I mean, this is a draft that might have six potential franchise-changing options and the Seahawks could find their quarterback of the future. Next year’s draft class is not nearly as promising and you would hope not to be near the top of the draft again. So if UW’s Michael Penix Jr. is there, how could you not take him? Especially if Seahawks general manager/president of football operations John Schneider really believes that he is a special player that could change their future.

Nothing is more important than a franchise quarterback and I have a tremendous amount of faith in Schneider to identify his future leader. So if he loves Penix (or even Oregon’s Bo Nix), I am 100% on board and excited about the future.

So there you go. My public stance on the draft is easy. Draft Fautanu… or maybe Murphy. And if you fall in love with one of the quarterbacks, then take your chance and go big!

Except

I have a secret. I want Florida State edge rusher Jared Verse.

On paper, the Seahawks don’t have the same kind of need for Verse that they would for Fautanu. Uchenna Nwosu is returning. Boye Mafe could be on the verge of developing into a real weapon. They used a second-round pick on Derick Hall and brought back Darrell Taylor. Plus, last year’s shiny free-agent addition Dre Jones can play outside. And there is a legitimate argument that none of those players have been utilized properly given the issues the Seahawks have had with their coaching staff the last few years.

On the other hand, they have a grand total of one Pro Bowl season among them, and it was as an alternate (Nwosu in 2022). Hall showed nothing as a rookie and Taylor is back on a minimum deal after severely disappointing last season. Yes, they have the position filled. But is it filled well?

Edge rusher may not be the Seahawks’ biggest need, but it is so valuable that I would throw that need right out the window. Verse is a freak athlete who is known to play with great motor and ferocious competitiveness.

Draft analyst Dane Brugler of The Athletic described some of his strengths as:

• “Never feels like he is out of the play, because of outstanding hustle and effort.”

• “Plays with emotion.”

• “Has a strong support system built on hard work (added 40 pounds of muscle during the pandemic to move to the defensive line).”

• “Great teammate and quickly created a legacy in Tallahassee (before he transferred to FSU, he reached out to their defensive linemen to make sure they knew he wasn’t coming to steal their jobs).”

I highlighted these parts of Brugler’s draft profile on Verse because those are intangibles that this Seahawks team needs more of right now.

Verse is exactly the kind of player the Seahawks have been missing for quite some time. A true, top-tier pass rusher that deserves to be drafted in the first round and could change their defense both by setting an edge and by getting to the passer. And that comes with no concerns about his desire, competitiveness, or work ethic? With no concerns about his speed, strength or body type? With no concerns that he hasn’t done it at the highest level or been the beneficiary of other players getting the lion share of the attention?

There are some positions that should be off limits for the Seahawks in the first round this year. They absolutely do not need to spend more significant resources at receiver, running back, cornerback or safety. If they do, we should have a serious conversation about what is going on with this roster. The needs up front on both sides of that ball are obvious, and the possibility of adding a true franchise quarterback would obviously trump any other option.

I know what the Seahawks should do. That is obvious. And no one should criticize for a moment if they go in any of those directions. But secretly, I’ll be watching next week and hoping for Jared Verse. Don’t tell anyone.

More Seattle Seahawks draft coverage

Final AP Mock NFL Draft: Edge with local tie to Seattle Seahawks?
Rost: With Seattle Seahawks’ top draft pick, expect the unexpected
Brock Huard’s Seahawks Draft Profile: Utah’s complete safety
Huard reacts to Seahawks GM’s comments on drafting QB
Wyman highlights UW Huskies LB as Seattle Seahawks draft target

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