Rost: Seahawks’ draft has been quintessentially unpredictable
At first glance this year’s Seahawks draft doesn’t look anything like – for lack of a better description – a Seahawks draft.
You know the rules by now: trade out of the first round, trade back again to acquire more picks, find some special teamers and – hopefully – one or two late-round diamonds in the rough.
This year has marked a different tone through the first two days.
Seattle stayed put at their original first-round pick and opted to select a player rather than trade back. It was the first time the club has done so since 2011, when then second-year general manager John Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll took Alabama’s James Carpenter at No. 25 overall.
Fans didn’t have to wait too long to see the Seahawks make a trade – only this this time, it was to move up. The team sent the first of its two secon-round picks (No. 59) and its sole third-rounder (No. 101) to the New York Jets to leapfrog into the No. 48 spot and select Tennessee pass rusher Darrell Taylor.
Then – and this move might’ve been the one that stopped fellow 710 ESPN Seattle host Danny O’Neil, who tweeted about it Friday night – the Seahawks drafted a guard. But not just any guard; they drafted the strongest guard from college football’s best offensive line to immediately compete for playing time at… guard.
The #Seahawks stand pat on their first-round pick …
They trade up in the second round …
They draft an honest-to-goodness, actual guard. Not a defensive tackle being converted. Not a tackle to move inside. A strong, physical guard.
Most un-#Seahawks draft ever.
— Danny O'Neil (@dannyoneil) April 25, 2020
What’s happening here?
I don’t know whether O’Neil agrees with me on this one, but on second glance this Seahawks’ draft is starting to take shape and it’s looking very much like – again, for lack of a better description – a Seahawks draft.
Because the Seahawks didn’t use their first pick on an edge rusher, by far their biggest need. They didn’t bulk up the interior of their defensive line or add pass protection help on the other side of the trenches. They didn’t give their top-paid quarterback one of the draft’s top receivers, nor did they give him help in the backfield with the top halfback. They drafted a linebacker, Jordyn Brooks, out of Texas Tech – a player who spent 2019 starring in a role currently occupied by the Seahawks’ second-highest-paid player, the very recently extended Bobby Wagner.
But the Seahawks look to have fallen in love with Brooks and everything he brings to the table, including his off-the-charts speed, power, and tackling (“A tackling machine!” declared ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. shortly after the pick of Brooks).
“He’s our kind of guy,” Schneider said Thursday night, seeming to speak as much to Brooks’ grittiness and passion for football as he did to his blazing 4.54 40-yard dash (speed and hard hits being a key for Carroll’s most accomplished defenses.)
Schneider said earlier this year that he tries not to panic for need during the draft, and he adhered to the mantra Thursday, much to the chagrin of fans who were hoping Seattle would address its glaring hole at defensive end.
The first-round pick deserves a bit of context; a deal to trade back was all but official when the other team pulled out at the last minute.
“It happens,” Schneider shrugged in conference with reporters.
Seattle, without a trade partner, went with their best player on the board. There at the top was Brooks, whose athleticism and attitude wowed the Seahawks enough that they couldn’t risk losing him.
“We always need to get faster and get tougher on defense no matter what spot we’re talking about,” Carroll said, “and Jordyn fit that perfectly.”
It’s that conviction about their own style that feels quintessentially Seattle. And it was evident again with the selection of LSU’s Damien Lewis, a 6-foot-3, 332-pound guard who brings immediate competition at right guard to bolster Seattle’s run-game. Even while being part of a Joe Moore Award-winning offensive line unit, Lewis was described as the Tigers’ strongest player, with the ability to squat 635 pounds and bench press nearly 500.
“There’s just so many cool things about the guy,” Schneider said. “He’s so stout, he’s so heavy with his hands, he’s got a great anchor, he’s got really good eyes and you can see him play against top level competition. It makes the evaluation that much easier.”
A few quick takeaways and tidbits from the Seahawks’ first three picks and post-round press conferences:
• The plan is for Lewis to compete immediately with D.J. Fluker at right guard.
• Darrell Taylor was the last of Seattle’s prospect visits before facilities were forced to shut down in quarantine. Schneider said in retrospect, it might have been an advantage that Seattle’s medical staff was one of the few teams to evaluate Taylor’s health before the draft, as Taylor underwent surgery in January to repair a stress fracture in his fibula.
• Taylor was in consideration for the Seahawks in the first round.