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O’Neil: Seahawks wanted to draft Jordyn Brooks or Darrell Taylor — here’s how they got both

A fortunate series of circumstances allowed the Seahawks to draft Darrell Taylor. (Getty)

The Seahawks thought they likely would have to choose either linebacker Jordyn Brooks or defensive end Darrell Taylor.

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When you understand that, it becomes clear that getting both Brooks and Taylor is truly the story of this draft for Seattle, so it’s worth putting a microscope on what happened over the first two days of the draft to figure out just how that happened.

It starts with the possibility the Seahawks saw that they could have a shot at one in a trio of linebackers they liked. Then there was the defensive end who was the last player the Seahawks hosted before the NFL put a halt to pre-draft visits because of COVID-19. And finally there was a third-round selection that Seattle was awarded because of Earl Thomas’ free-agent departure, a compensatory pick that the Seahawks wouldn’t have been allowed to trade a few years earlier.

Here’s how it all happened:

Start with the top linebackers available in this draft: Isaiah Simmons of Clemson went ninth to Arizona. Then K’Lavon Chaisson was picked by the Jaguars at No. 20, but he’s more of an edge rusher than a true linebacker. Then came a specific trio that Seattle had its eye on: Oklahoma’s Kenneth Murray, LSU’s Patrick Queen and Brooks out of Texas Tech.

“We had a pretty strong feeling that the three linebackers might be of the position that may fall,” Seahawks GM John Schneider said.

That was based on the belief that there would be a run on wide receivers in the second half of the first round, which is exactly what happened. Three receivers were chosen among the first 20 picks, but after that, the pass catchers started flying off the shelves. TCU’s Jalen Reagor went to Philadelphia with the 21st pick, LSU’s Justin Jefferson to Minnesota with the 22nd. The Chargers then picked Murray – the first of three linebackers the Seahawks were eyeing – and after New Orleans took an offensive lineman, the San Francisco 49ers traded up to the 25th slot to choose Brandon Aiyuk of Arizona State.

“The receivers all started flying off, which we all thought may happen,” Schneider said. “It was a very strong receiver class at top.”

That left two of those three linebackers Seattle liked: Brooks and Queen. It was at this point the Seahawks were talking to the Packers about trading back. Green Bay wanted to come up in the order to pick quarterback Jordan Love, and Seattle was willing to move back to the Packers spot at No. 30.

If the Seahawks moved back, they would have hoped either Brooks or Queen reached them. If both were gone: Darrell Taylor.

Turns out Green Bay got a better deal from Miami, which left Seattle at No. 27. The Seahawks took Brooks, the top player on its board.

“Jordyn was the guy that fit us the best,” Schneider said, “and we had the most buy-in for everybody.”

Here’s where it gets interesting, though.

“We knew that if we drafted one of the linebackers,” Schneider said, “we were going to have to work our tail off to try and get back up in the second. And I’ve got to be honest with you, I didn’t feel very good about being able to get back up to acquire Darrell.”

It took Seattle until the midway point of the second round to find a team that would swap spots with the Seahawks in the second round, accepting Seattle’s third-round pick (No. 101 overall) as compensation.

That third-round pick? Seattle received it as compensation for losing Thomas in free agency. He signed with the Baltimore Ravens in 2019, netting Seattle a third-rounder in compensation. Before 2017, those compensatory picks couldn’t be traded. This year, Seattle was free to deal that choice to get the pass rusher it had considered in the first round.

So why was Taylor still on the board?

Well, some of that was that Taylor had played through a stress fracture in 2019, waiting until after his team played its bowl game on Jan. 2 to get surgery. He attended the Senior Bowl, talking to as many teams as he could, but couldn’t participate. Same went for the scouting combine in February. Taylor was planning to work out for scouts on campus at Tennessee for the Vols’ Pro Day on March 26. That was canceled, though, as were most workouts across the country.

Seattle was in position to know more about Taylor through a fluke of the schedule, though. He was the last prospect the Seahawks hosted at their headquarters for a pre-draft visit before the NFL called a halt to visits on March 13 because of concerns over the spread of coronavirus. Usually teams are allowed to host 30 different players for pre-draft visits, but this year only a fraction of those were actually completed and Taylor was the final prospect that Seahawks had at their facility.

And while the unusual circumstances may have cost Taylor a chance to get picked earlier for another team, it worked out great for Seattle, which didn’t end up having to choose Brooks or Taylor. The Seahawks got them both.

Follow 710 ESPN Seattle’s Danny O’Neil on Twitter.

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