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Wassell: Why I’m grading the Seahawks’ 2020 draft an A-minus

The Seahawks' draft picks fit Pete Carroll's philosophies, writes Tom Wassell. (AP)

When a talk show host has an extreme opinion on something, many in the audience tend to write that host off as having an agenda. In nine years of hosting, nobody has ever accused me of schilling for any of the Seattle-area teams, which is great in this case because I gave the Seahawks an A-minus for their 2020 draft.

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The only way I could evaluate their approach is to examine the team’s goals and determine whether or not they were able to meet them. That’s the team’s goals, not mine. In all honesty, if I were drafting for this team, I might have gone in several other directions than what we saw from John Schneider and Pete Carroll, but that’s irrelevant. My plans for the team differ in the same way that Mel Kiper’s or Daniel Jeremiah’s do.

When we read draft grades from the major NFL media sites, most are critical because they’re judging based on their own philosophy for how the team should be built. Take Hayden Winks of Rotoworld, who gave an F grade for Seattle’s draft: “Seattle unsurprisingly overdrafted prospects early and focused on the run game while the rest of the league modernizes with efficient passing attacks.”

Right off the bat, Winks shows his own bias toward passing offenses (I’m not even sure if he’s referring to the Seahawks’ offense or stopping opposing offenses). Either way, Pete Carroll sees being able to run the ball and stopping the run as extremely important.

If you’re a fan that thinks, “I want the Seahawks to throw the ball all over the place and if their draft doesn’t reflect that, it’s a bad draft,” you’re gonna be disappointed. Plus, you probably hate the Seahawks’ overall approach, even if you’re afraid to admit it outright.

In any draft, Pete and John’s objective is pretty clear: Find the special players with unique skills that will fit what they’re trying to accomplish for the next several years. I believe they did that.

Keep in mind that in any team’s draft, not every player is going to end up a starter. It’s far more common that two or three won’t even make the team, much less contribute. So really what we’re looking for is two or three other players that end up being part of their nucleus for seasons to come. If Pete and John have identified those guys, I think that warrants an A- or B-level grade.

There’s these words like ‘project’ and ‘developmental’ that get thrown around quite a bit to criticize picks that won’t be stars in Week 1. Well, unless you’re picking in the top 10, every player in the draft is a developmental project in some respect. They all have to learn the game and will do so, each at their own pace. Wouldn’t you hope that first-round pick Jordyn Brooks or second-rounder Darrell Taylor blossom into better players in year 3 than in year 1 rather than the opposite scenario? Look at Bobby Wagner. He’s gotten better almost every season since entering the league. Wouldn’t you classify that as developmental?

The idea that because a player may require time to improve, that makes him a burden to the team and not worthy of a high draft pick is straight-up bunk.

So now you know my criteria and framework by which I’m judging this adventure, let’s take a look at the haul.

In a general sense, every one of these players reflects the Seahawks’ culture, and more specifically, they reflect Pete Carroll. My mentor Colin Cowherd once said of Carroll, “When Pete wakes up in the morning, he high-fives his lamp.” Based on the media appearances that most of Seattle’s draftees have done so far, I get the sense that they’re cut from that same cloth.

Combine their enthusiasm with the fact that Taylor and third-rounder Damien Lewis had seriously difficult upbringings that involved prison time for their fathers. They’ve experienced the worst kind of adversity at an early age and overcome it each in their own way. They’re more prepared as men for the real world and life in the NFL. Pete is looking for hungry players who are eager to succeed now with the potential to be the next batch of leaders in the team culture. Pete and John found the personalities that they were looking for to a T.

In case you missed Stephen Sullivan’s phone call with Schneider where he was told he was going to be a Seahawk, do yourself a favor and listen. You can’t help but be optimistic for what he might bring.

But attitude obviously isn’t the only thing Pete and John are looking for. They want guys who can, ya know, play.

Taylor, a defensive end from Tennessee, was drafted in the second round and the consensus that I get on him is that while he may not be as accomplished as some other pass rushers in college (largely due to injury), his skills have shown evidence of first round talent. Unless you’re a quarterback or maybe a running back, I can’t put too much stock in stats for a college player because again, should what you did or didn’t show at age 18 take away from the potential that you’re displaying at age 22? Mind you, this puts him in the “developmental” category and that means putting the responsibility of lead edge rusher on his shoulders is asking way too much in year one. He needs someone like Jadeveon Clowney or Everson Griffin alongside him while he learns the ropes.

On day 1 of the draft, I was perplexed at the pick of a linebacker (Brooks, Texas Tech) in the first round, but K.J. Wright isn’t going to be around forever, Wagner is going into year 9 and Mychal Kendricks is self-explanatory. If Brooks is the type of player that helps to bring speed worthy of Super Bowl 48 back to the Seahawks’ defense, I’m good with it. Plus, while draft analysts seemed to think Patrick Queen was the better pick, ESPN’s Brady Henderson reported that some believe that the Ravens, who took Queen with the pick after Seattle took Brooks, would have opted for Brooks if they’d had the chance. That’s two defensive-minded teams that wanted Brooks over Queen. Good.

There is an entire nest of offensive linemen on this Seattle team but some are old, some are practice squad guys and some are oft-injured. Lewis, who played for national champion LSU, should fill at least one hole. For anyone worried that the Seahawks picked a bunch of players that aren’t ready to go right now, don’t worry about this player. He’s as ready to play as anyone in the draft. No doubt the line will still have many problems to solve, but Lewis won’t be one of them.

I’m hopeful for sixth-round pick Freddie Swain to emerge on special teams as a punt returner, something they haven’t had since Tyler Lockett was weaned away from that role, focusing all of his energy on being a wide receiver. Fourth-round pick DeeJay Dallas will service a need at running back, giving Chris Carson a respite and a change of pace. This need doesn’t carry the same urgency as, say, pass rush, but given that the Seahawks have drafted RBs out of Miami two years in a row (Travis Homer was the other in 2019), they clearly see this role as important.

Is an A-minus grade too generous? Maybe a B-plus is more accurate, but remember, the 2020 draft isn’t going to solve all of the problems of the 2019 team. Just because the Seahawks have bungled the last few drafts doesn’t mean that this one has to make up for all of those mistakes. More to the point, it can’t make up for all of those mistakes. That’s what free agency is for.

If you want to criticize the Seahawks for not being aggressive enough over the winter, fair enough. But don’t blame the kids who are supposed to be heroes in 2021 or 2022 because Seattle didn’t solve all of its problems right now.

Follow 710 ESPN Seattle’s Tom Wassell on Twitter.

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