John Schneider did what everyone thought he would do in the first round. The league’s most unpredictable general manager told us what his plans were for the past few months. He wanted to trade back. He wanted to add to the offensive line. Check and check. So much for draft day surprises.
Most impressive was Schneider’s ability to trade back five spots with the Denver Broncos and add a third round pick in the process. That gave the Seahawks five picks in the top 97 spots, the most they have had in the first three rounds since 1977. An added touch of brilliance was that Denver was moving up to take a player the Seahawks did not want. I am as close to certain as I can be without being inside Schneider’s head that he would have picked Germain Ifedi with the 26th pick, so he got the player he wanted and added a third round pick. They now will take at five of the top 97 players in a draft they call the best since they have been in Seattle. Off the charts amazing move for Seattle.
Ifedi was a pick that does not excite me, but it is also one that I understand. He does not excite me because he is a work-in-progress in pass protection who is a better run blocker and is projected by many to wind up as a guard in the NFL. The comparisons to James Carpenter are fair at some level, even if Ifedi is a far more athletic player.
If Tom Cable and the Seahawks had given me reason to have confidence in their evaluation process for offensive linemen, I would be far more excited. The team needs top-shelf offensive line talent. They need young and less expensive talent that they can control for five years. They also have yet to pick a lineman who excels in pass protection.
When Seattle lost to Carolina in the playoffs, it was in large part because of their line getting blown off the ball or fooled completely in pass protection. It is hard to get the image of Kawann Short running by Justin Britt as he was grasping at air and leading to the pick-six out of my head. The idea that Ifedi is going to help solve that problem when he struggled with pass protection last year as well requires faith. I love the Seahawks. I love Schneider and Cable. This is one area where assuming everything is going to be alright could set you up for a shock.
Make no mistake, the other teams in the NFC West are amassing talent along their defensive lines with an eye on exploiting the Seahawks offensive line. Arizona added Chandler Jones and drafted Robert Nkemdiche, who reminds me a lot of Darnell Dockett. St. Louis has Aaron Donald and Robert Quinn and more. San Francisco added DeForest Buckner to Quinton Dial and Arik Armstead. Carolina, a key rival for NFL supremacy, added a raw-but-talented defensive tackle to their already impressive duo of Short and Star Lotulelei.
My preference all offseason was for the Seahawks to add some more reliable veteran talent along the line so the season was not dependent on young players coalescing and stepping forward. That did not happen, unless you are high on J’Marcus Webb or Bradley Sowell. Seattle has settled on a plan to add through the draft and compete with low-price castoffs. It is a gamble.
Ifedi will come in and compete with Webb for the right tackle spot, and the loser may well compete with Justin Britt and Mark Glowinski for a starting guard spot. Webb and Ifedi are huge men. Pete Carroll and Schneider were giddy about Ifedi’s size. They believe he is part of the solution for how the Seahawks regain their bully status. We all want that.
Hopes and dreams
The player I really hoped fell to the Seahawks was center Ryan Kelly. The fact that he wound up being picked at #18 (eight spots ahead of where Seattle started the night) shows how unrealistic that dream was. Kelly seems like a guy who is easy to project as a future Pro Bowl center, and a guy who could step into the middle of that line and help stabilize things. Alas, it was not meant to be.
Some pundits had defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins falling to the Seahawks. That seemed crazy, but a very good crazy. He went at #12 which made a lot more sense. He would have been a fantastic weapon inside for Seattle, but he was never going to make it here.
Myles Jack was the shock of the night. Arguably the best athlete in the whole draft, and a player who could become a playmaker on the order of Patrick Willis or NaVarro Bowman in the NFL, fell out of the first round completely. Word is that the reports on his injured knee have teams worried about his longevity. Jack is such a transcendent athlete, it is hard to imagine an injury that he won’t come back from and perform at a game-changing level. I trust the Seahawks medical personnel to evaluate those situations, though, and just hope that somehow he comes to the team at a pick they feel comfortable spending on him. My gut tells me some team is going to get an All-Pro player at an extreme discount, and I want it to be Seattle.
There were some other offensive tackles that I liked more than Ifedi that went way ahead of the Seahawks pick. That is part of why I understand the choice by the team. There was a decent dropoff at tackle after Ifedi, and Schneider knew they needed to add to the pile there.
Now he is free to spend his four day two picks on whichever great players fall to them. Expect at least two defensive linemen and at least one more offensive lineman. Running back would also not be a surprise.The team could very well add four starting quality young players. Today should be a terrific day for Seahawks fans.