There should be no surprises at this point of our relationship with John Schneider and Pete Carroll. Their tendencies in the NFL draft are as familiar as the walls inside your house after a two month quarantine, and can be just as maddening. Yet, the duo managed to surprise again Thursday night by taking linebacker Jordyn Brooks in the first round of 2020 NFL draft. The overwhelming reaction to the pick by Seahawks fans on Twitter was frustration and disappointment. It probably will not surprise you that I don’t share the popular opinion.
The Seahawks most glaring need is in the pass rush on the defensive line. No other need comes close. This draft is both weak and thin at that position. Not only that, few defensive linemen enter the NFL and make an impact as a rookie. Many fans were hoping to hear a name like Yetur Gross-Matos, the defensive end from Penn State. I was happy that was not the name called.
Seattle has a history of reaching for defensive in the first round. They often pick the best of a weak class to ensure they get some additional talent at the position. L.J. Collier was a good example of that last year. Maybe a guy like Gross-Matos will pop and be a huge miss. More likely, he will be a slow developing player with less than a 50/50 shot of becoming a difference maker.
Another position Seahawks fans wanted was offensive tackle. I was not personally very excited about that idea, but it would have certainly aligned with Schneider and Carroll draft habits. Three of their seven first round picks have been big offensive tackles. Two of those three were major reaches (Germain Ifedi, James Carpenter) who eventually became guards.
I had thought they would be tempted by Isaiah Wilson, the massive tackle who went a few picks after Seattle. I’m not upset they went another direction. Some of the guys people mentioned to the Seahawks like Austin Jackson, the athletic tackle from USC, went earlier than Seattle picked.
The other position some people were hoping for was wide receiver. This is a receiver-rich draft with every flavor of playmaker you can imagine. Seattle definitely should add to their strength at that spot by taking another good young player, but there really is no reason they had to do that with their first pick. Exiting the first four rounds without a receiver would be a mistake. My guess is they spend a third or fourth round pick on a receiver.
Believe it or not, many of the fans angered by the Seahawks selection liked the idea of taking a linebacker in the first. They just had fallen in love with another name, Patrick Queen. Queen is a lightning fast player who had to bulk up to play linebacker at 227 pounds after more naturally profiling as a safety when he weighed around 205 pounds.
He has the ability to use some of those coverage skills at linebacker, and appears to have a fair amount of upside. That he went to the Ravens with the pick immediately following the Seahawks picked Brooks will link the two players throughout their careers. It is similar to when the Seahawks traded back in the second round of the 2012 draft and passed on a chance to draft Mychal Kendricks and ended up with the less heralded Bobby Wagner.
That situation worked out wonderfully. This one could as well. I am on video, seconds before the pick was announced, saying I was hoping they would call Queen’s name. The truth is, that was because I knew more about him than Brooks.
I do not spend nearly the time I used to watching college football and the combine and the senior bowl and studying these players before they come to Seattle. As soon as tape started rolling of Brooks highlights, I saw Wagner similarities.
He is a fast, aggressive, heat-seeking linebacker who is a terrific tackler. Nobody seems to argue any of those points. He was one of the best run stuffers in college football and one of the best linebackers overall, per a variety of sources.
Brooks looks most valuable as a middle linebacker given his instincts and ability to slice through the line to make tackles behind the line, which he did 20 times last year. He can also play outside linebacker, which he may need to do until Wagner gives way.
Linebacker was a sneaky area of need for the Seahawks. Wagner took a step back last year. Some of that might have been due to the new scheme he was asked to play, but some of it was physical as he struggled to run with some players in coverage for the first time in his career. K.J. Wright is in the last year of his deal. He played well last year, but he has battled injury and is slowing down.
Seattle drafted two linebackers last year in Cody Barton and Ben Burr-Kirven. People mistake taking two linebackers for finding two future starters. Neither Barton nor Burr-Kirven have proven they are NFL starters yet. If Wagner or Wright went down, those would be your only options to step in for them. That is tenuous at best.
Brooks looks far more like a guy ready to take snaps in the NFL than either Barton or Burr-Kirven. We could see both Barton and Brooks get snaps depending on how things shake out.
Seattle has more flexibility should they choose to cut Wright to sign another pass rusher. I like Barton, but he has not clearly shown me that he can be more than an average starter. Brooks has the physical and instinctual tools to be a plus player. Should that be true, Seattle has done far worse with their first round picks.
The knock on Brooks is his coverage. People say he is stiff and not great there. That is definitely something to watch knowing how important passing is in this league. Seattle, though, was bad at defending the run and the pass last year. Getting better at one is preferable to sucking at both.
Fan frustration with the pick comes more from the fact that this team has a clear need in pass rush that has not been addressed and a lack of acknowledgement that the draft will not help there. The best chance for the draft to help that problem was if they had traded that first rounder for Yannick Ngakoue or another pass rusher, a move many folks who dislike this pick also were against.
The Seahawks draft will make or break based on what they do today more than what happened in the first round. They have three picks in the second and third round. Do not be surprised if they trade back to acquire more draft capitol after failing to trade back from 27 last night. Try not to let everyone sour you on Brooks. There is a good chance you will enjoy watching him play for this team, even if none of us saw it coming.