Rost: The Seahawks’ smart pick, fun pick and wild card at No. 16

Apr 19, 2024, 9:34 AM

Seattle Seahawks draft Troy Fautanu UW Huskies...

Troy Fautanu of the UW Huskies looks on during a 2022 game against Colorado. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The Chicago Bears have one choice to make at pick No. 1 in next week’s NFL Draft: USC quarterback Caleb Williams. Any other selection would feel ludicrous.

Seattle Seahawks GM John Schneider: How draft position impacts strategy

That certainty is less obvious with every pick to follow. The Commanders need a passer, but will they surprise and draft a player like Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy sooner than expected? Will the Patriots stand pat for their franchise star or take a risk by trading back?

The Seattle Seahawks, meanwhile, have a few directions they could go at pick No. 16. This is a team that badly needs an improved defense after finishing as one of the worst teams against the run for a second consecutive season. They also lack experience on the interior of the offensive line and could add to the trenches under new head coach Mike Macdonald.

What’s the smart pick for Seattle? And to make things a bit more fun… what’s the fun pick? Let’s take a look.

Seattle Seahawks at No. 16 in NFL Draft

The Smart Pick: OL Troy Fautanu (UW Huskies)

The Seahawks never boasted a top-five offensive line in previous head coach Pete Carroll’s 14 seasons and have long been searching for more consistency there. Criticism about improving offensive line play will at times feel tired for a Seahawks fan, but it still rings true.

Last year’s group finished 25th in pass block win rate (53%), and while they fared better with run blocking (17th), they still weren’t in the top half of the league. Then there’s the issue of experience with their current group: gone are guard Damien Lewis and center Evan Brown. Seattle added center Nick Harris (four starts in three years) in free agency to compete with 2023 fifth-round pick Olu Oluwatimi, as well as guard Tremayne Anchrum (one start in three years) to add depth alongside Anthony Bradford, last year’s fourth-round pick. And at tackle, former Seahawk and Jet George Fant is returning for depth behind Abe Lucas.

If he’s not scooped by the Jets (favored to take tight end Brock Browers) or Saints, Fautanu could be available for Seattle at 16, and the fit feels obvious. Praised for his physicality and hard-nosed style, Fautanu was last year’s Morris Trophy award winner and was first team All-Pac-12. He’s a bit shorter (6 foot 4) than other tackles in the class but still boasts good arm length (34.5 inches).

More on Fautanu: Seahawks may not need to look far to fill hole on O-line

Seattle has answers at tackle for next season with Lucas and former no. 9 overall pick Charles Cross, but Fautanu doesn’t need to play behind them; he has starting experience at guard and has often been mocked as a choice for the interior.

And don’t forget that Fautanu played at UW under new Seahawks offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb and offensive line coach Scott Huff, who previously held the same position with the Huskies.

All of that said – and this doesn’t change the fact that he’s the smart pick for the Seahawks – it’s worth mentioning Fautanu’s recent comments to Justin Melo of The Draft Network about the idea that he profiles better as a guard than a tackle:

“I think I’m a tackle,” Fautanu said. “Grouping me in a category with the guards because of how tall I am, I honestly felt like it was a lazy narrative that grew legs for some reason. That’s lazy analysis.”

Fautanu added that he’s proud of his versatility and is open to anything.

The Fun Pick: QB Michael Penix Jr. (UW Huskies)

Look, business is business, and I’m going to be blunt with you: perhaps nothing in football is more interesting than a quarterback controversy.

You know what I’d love to talk about next Friday morning? The Seahawks bolstering the trenches. You know what would be really, really fun to talk about, though? The Seahawks shocking the world and adding a quarterback in the first round.

Do the Seahawks absolutely need a passer in this year’s class? No. Are there more pressing needs here? Absolutely. Do they already have two passers and limited picks in rounds 1-3 to use on a quarterback? Yes and yes. But one of the best pure passers in the draft would add a fascinating dynamic to a QB room that already houses Geno Smith and the recently acquired Sam Howell.

Smith has earned his starting job and has certainly shouldered an unfair share of blame for this team’s struggles in 2023. But the Seahawks’ commitment to him doesn’t run deep; there’s no draft pick used or major contract signed. The same is true for Howell, meaning any quarterback taken will have fans and critiques wondering the same thing: What if it’s him?

More: Why UW QB Michael Penix Jr. should be in play for Seahawks

The Wild Card: CB Cooper DeJean (Iowa)

Two cornerbacks in the first round over two years? Yeah, that’s a wild pick.

The Seahawks hosted DeJean for a pre-draft visit, and this front office has been known to zig when they should absolutely zag. But sometimes that’s worked: just look at last year’s No. 5 pick, Devon Witherspoon.

More on DeJean: A ‘positionless weapon’ at CB for Seahawks’ Macdonald

There are no depth issues at corner and greater needs to be addressed elsewhere, but DeJean was my Bump and Stacy co-host Michael Bumpus’ pick for his intriguing athleticism. And who doesn’t want to give new head coach Mike Macdonald another weapon with which to revamp this unit?

Listen to Bump and Stacy’s conversation on the smart pick, the fun pick and the wild card from Thursday on Seattle Sports in the podcast at this link or in the player near the top of this post.

More Seattle Seahawks NFL Draft coverage

Huard’s Seattle Seahawks Draft Profile: Michigan CB with WR skills
Salk: The perfect fit for Seahawks in draft isn’t who you think
Why rankings don’t matter for UW’s Odunze, other top draft WRs
Final AP Mock NFL Draft: Edge with local tie to Seahawks?
Rost: With Seattle Seahawks’ top draft pick, expect the unexpected

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