Huard: Don’t expect much from projection-heavy Seahawks draft class in 2020
To put it plainly, former NFL quarterback Brock Huard isn’t the biggest fan of the Seahawks’ 2020 draft class.
Seattle went 11-5 last season and won a playoff game. The team is also in arguably the toughest division in the NFL and the Seahawks are built to win now. Huard told 710 ESPN Seattle’s Tom, Jake and Stacy that he thought too many of Seattle’s eight draft picks were project players who won’t be able to help the team win right away.
“None of them. I don’t think any of them … I think the only ones with maybe a shot are Damien Lewis and Jordyn Brooks,” Huard told Tom Wassell when asked which rookies have the best chance to start right away in 2020. “These guys are going to be up against it, Tom.”
This year’s rookies will face a tough challenge as they will be doing virtual meetings starting this weekend and rookie mini camp and full-team mini camp may not happen due to the coronavirus. That practice time is important, and we saw with 2019 first-round pick L.J. Collier what can happen when a rookie misses that time.
“Look at L.J. Collier and the excuses and explanations that went on the entire season,” Huard said. “‘Well, he missed training camp.’ Yeah, but he had at least rookie mini camp and camps and was there and around and he missed most of training camp and he played catch up all year. These guys are going to play catch up all offseason and into the season.”
Wassell has been higher on the Seahawks’ draft class than his co-hosts Jake Heaps and Stacy Rost and he thinks that if you don’t believe the 2020 class will work out or that it’s a bad one then you don’t believe in the coaching staff, which has a proven track record of developing prospects into elite players. Huard agrees that the team has done that in the past, but that those players were more productive in college than those selected by Seattle this year.
“Tom is largely right. I think through this decade there have been a lot of guys that have had to grow and develop, but Russell Wilson through for 11,000 yards (in college), Bobby Wagner was an All-American with 400 tackles, K.J. Wright had 250 tackles, Kam Chancellor was a three-year starter at Virginia Tech,” Huard said. “Their best players through the years have been guys that were really good college players and very productive, not every one of them – Chris Carson was a seventh-round pick, he bounced around – and everyone’s story is unique, but this class has just a bunch of guys that are projection, not production.”
Because the team was successful and returns nearly every major piece from 2019, Wassell thinks most of these players won’t need to be instant contributors. Huard said that Seattle’s management sees it the same way.
“That’s why they made these picks and they went down that road. They feel really good about their roster,” Huard said. “They feel better about their roster than their quarterback does, they feel better about their roster than I do, they feel better about their roster than a lot of people do, and as you said, they were 11-5. I would say they were largely 11-5 because of their quarterback, because I think he covers for a bunch of spots and their offense was super dynamic last year.”
Something that could still happen this offseason is the re-signing of defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. Seattle released starting center Justin Britt and right guard D.J. Fluker, clearing over $12 million in cap space, which led to speculation that the Seahawks were making room to sign the former No. 1 pick. Huard said Clowney’s return would make him feel better about the team’s draft.
“I hope Jadeveon Clowney is still in the fold because Jadeveon Clowney in the fold with these projection guys makes a lot more sense than it does (with) no Clowney in the fold and having to count on these guys to play some snaps.”
Clowney’s return would assist in the Seahawks’ pass rush, which was their biggest weakness last season. The team did address that by signing defensive ends Bruce Irvin and Benson Mayowa and drafting Tennessee’s Darrell Taylor in the second round and Syracuse’s Alton Robinson in the fifth round. Huard doesn’t see the two rookies doing much in 2020.
“Darrell Taylor is a guy who had 18.5 sacks in five years at Tennessee … he’s not been a guy who’s just going to get you 6, 7 or 8 sacks next year. He’s beautifully built, body beautiful, (and has) wonderful traits and attributes, but he’s going to be a work in progress,” Huard said. “Robinson had four sacks last year at Syracuse … Do I think all of a sudden the light bulb goes on and he’s going to get you 5, 6 or 7 sacks as a rookie? Hard to do, man.”
There is some precedent for early Seattle picks taking time to develop, especially at pass rush. Look no further than 2015 second-rounder Frank Clark, who had just 3 sacks as a rotational piece as a rookie before having 9, 10 and 13 sacks his next three years. But in Clark’s case, the team had players like Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett in front of him. There’s not a clear No. 1 edge rusher on the current team.
Huard said the goal for this class should be that three of the eight selections become high-end starters with Pro Bowl potential at some point for the Seahawks. And he thinks that there is potential for that to happen down the line.
“There is some upside. Taylor has some upside. (Third-round guard Damien Lewis) has some upside. These are physically gifted guys,” he said. “… These guys check a bunch of those boxes but it’s going to take some significant growth in development for them to make an impact on the game.”
You can listen to the full discussion with Huard, which includes thoughts on some of the Seahawks’ other picks, why he likes the Ravens’ draft more than Seattle’s, whether the team could currently compete if Russell Wilson got injured and much more at this link or in the player below.