JOHN CLAYTON

Clayton’s draft thoughts: Seahawks got younger, more versatile up front

May 1, 2017, 11:13 AM | Updated: 11:22 am
Malik McDowell is one of four defensive tackles Seattle has drafted the last two years. (AP)...
Malik McDowell is one of four defensive tackles Seattle has drafted the last two years. (AP)
(AP)

The key to the Seahawks’ 2017 draft was versatility.

Coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider needed this draft for several things. They needed to get some potential defensive starters for the future. They needed to add depth and competition. Consequently, they needed to find draft choices who can adjust and project at a couple different position.

ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay said the Seahawks nailed it even though some of the ratings that he and Mel Kiper Jr. have on their draft board will be lower than Schneider’s and Carroll’s. The Seahawks’ success in drafting to their scheme has earned them the benefit of the doubt.

Where the Seahawks nailed it was their selection of defensive tackle Malik McDowell in the second round. McDowell was their targeted pick going into the draft. Though he may not have gotten the most out of his skills at Michigan State, he is a freakish athlete. Some compare him to Calais Campbell, the former Cardinal who is now in Jacksonville.

Sure, Washington cornerback Kevin King was a scheme fit for Seattle. Alabama’s Reuben Foster would have been a stud to add to the linebacker corps. But the idea of trading down from No. 26 in the first round to the third pick in the second round allowed them to two safeties – Delano Hill and Tedric Thompson – who could be groomed to be starters of the future. It also gave them a developmental running back in the seventh round, Christopher Carson.

O’Neil: Seahawks’ picks in second round are a project and a puzzle

As much as Carroll loves to build a defense from the back to the front beginning in the secondary, he knows the importance of winning the battle at the line of scrimmage. He needed to get younger and better at defensive tackle, particularly getting defensive tackles who can rush the passer.

Now, the Seahawks have McDowell, third-round pick Nazair Jones and Quinton Jefferson to help the interior pass rush and Jarran Reed to stop the run. Having that many also increases the competition for playing time.

The versatility theme couldn’t have been more evident than the selection of Ethan Pocic from LSU in the second round. Last year, the Seahawks admitted they were too young on the offensive line. Their options at tackle as it turned out were thin because they moved draft choices Germain Ifedi and Reed Odhiambo inside to guard, leaving Seattle with Bradley Sowell, Garry Gilliam and former basketball player George Fant at tackle.

The Seahawks have plenty of options now. Pocic could be groomed at tackle or guard even though his main spot in college was center. That’s where the versatility works out. Justin Britt has developed into a Pro Bowl-caliber center. He’s entering the final year of his contract and could command between $7 million and $9 million a year in free agency. If the price becomes too much, the Seahawks have the option of plugging in Pocic at center next year, although signing Britt is important for offensive-line continuity.

O’Neil: Seahawks’ selection of Pocic shows they don’t value O-line continuity

The Seahawks drafted 11 players this year and brought in 10 free agents on one-year deals. The veterans will be scrambling to try and earn spots for next year against the draft choices who will be battling them for playing time.

The Seahawks have a bunch of defensive backs who can be tried at safety or corner. Shaquill Griffin, a third-round pick from Central Florida, fits the size and speed requirements Carroll wants in an outside corner. But there’s no guarantee he can he pick things up in one spring and summer and be ready to start by the beginning of the regular season.

For that reason, look for the Seahawks to bring in a veteran corner. According to Pro Football Focus, the highest-rated corners on the street are Tramaine Brock, Brandon Flowers, Leon Hall, Jason McCourty and Darrelle Revis. Hall (32) and Revis (31) are probably too old. Flowers (5-9) is a smaller corner.

The McDowell selection may not have been embraced league-wide, but the trades down to add three picks created the versatility to make this a good draft for Seattle.

Want more John Clayton? Listen on-demand to his weekday and Saturday shows as well as his “Cold Hard Facts” and “Clayton’s Morning Drive” segments on 710 ESPN Seattle. Also, check out his all-new “Schooled” podcast and look for his columns twice a week on 710Sports.com.

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