The Morning After: 2019 Draft Signals New Era

Four picks enter. Eleven picks leave. In one of the most memorable draft performances by a general manager, John Schneider completed eight trades in less than a week to reshape this rookie class and dramatically alter the future of the Seahawks roster. Seattle exited the 2019 draft with the second-most selections (11), which tied for the most in Schneider’s tenure, after starting with the fewest. In doing so, Schneider may have miraculously undone much of the damage caused by a flawed series of moves over the past two offseasons that created the situation in the first place.

The most remarkable achievement was turning the 21st pick into six selections, including two in the first 64 and four in the first four rounds. You can see the evolution of the draft tree here:

You could argue the six-player haul from just that single pick would have been a decent draft class. That the Seahawks wound up with five more players and second round pick next year makes this a staggering achievement.

Some of you may read that and think, “Let’s wait and see if these players are any good.” While understandable, that is a different type of evaluation. Whether the players turn into valuable contributors is about scouting and coaching. Maximizing value extraction from the draft board is its own process and merits separate judgment.

Someone might quibble that Montez Sweat or Marquise Brown or other players the Seahawks could have selected at 21 are going to be better than any single player chosen with the picks created from trading down, but it would would be very hard to argue that many single players chosen throughout the first round will wind up being more valuable than all six Seattle selected.

Depending on which trade chart you use, Seattle was said to have added the equivalent of a top five overall pick with the moves they made this year. Schneider and crew squeezed every last drop of value they could to create the maximum opportunity for returns. We do not need to wait to grade that performance.

Only one of the four picks Seattle started with was used to select a player. They moved up and down to hunt for talent. They even wisely utilized cheap draft capital from next year to ensure they acquired the rights to a player who would have been tough to sign as an undrafted free agent. It was near flawless execution.

The Players

Seattle added seven more players on the final day of the draft. The fourth round was particularly stirring.

Gary Jennings – Wide Receiver

Seattle took the 114th pick they acquired from the Packers in the initial trade down from 21, and trade it back again to the 120th pick, while adding a sixth rounder that was used on Travis Homer. That they were then able to nab a player like Jennings was a coup.

Lots of folks in the media and on Twitter surmised that Jennings would be a slot receiver for the Seahawks. Nope. Jennings is a 6’1″ 200+ pound classic wide receiver. He has terrific speed and is a more polished route runner than D.K. Metcalf.

My first thought when his name was called was that the team had created what could be one of the league’s most dynamic receiving trios with Metcalf and Jennings on the outside and Tyler Lockett in the slot.

Many people incorrectly pigeon-hole Doug Baldwin’s role as a slot receiver. He was on the field in all formations, even if there was only one receiver. His primary area of operation was in the slot, but he played outside as well. Lockett is the clear heir apparent for that role.

Similar to the way certain defensive ends slide inside in nickel packages or outside corners like Byron Maxwell would slide inside to allow an edge corner to take the field, Lockett can move inside when needed to allow Jennings and Metcalf or David Moore to join the attack.

I remain high on Moore, but his path to snaps just got a whole heck of a lot harder. That is a good thing. Do not be surprised if Jennings finds his way to more snaps this year than Metcalf even if his long-term ceiling is not as high.

Seattle could very well scrutinize Jarron Brown’s spot on the roster knowing they could recoup $2.75M in cap space by releasing him. I would have serious questions about the Seahawks pushing a young guy off the roster to keep Brown around. Even Malik Turner is a guy I see as being more valuable than Brown.

Phil Haynes – Guard

Haynes is a big dude. He already checks in at 320 pounds and Pete Carroll mentioned they see him getting to 340 or so. That is your new guard profile under Mike Solari. Gone are the undersized “athletic” guards of the Tom Cable era. Guys like Mike Iupati, D.J. Fluker, Jordan Simmons and now Haynes are the new guard.

I was happy to see them invest more in that position given the age and durability issues facing the current options on the roster. Ideally, Haynes sees no snaps this season while Fluker and Iupati do their thing. A season of development could help him become a starting option as soon as next year depending on how things play out in front of him.

Bit of trivia: Haynes was the only player selected with an original Seahawks pick.

Ugo Amadi – Safety/Slot Corner

Undersized at just 5’9″, Amadi looks more like a slot corner than a safety. He played both at University of Oregon and Carroll indicated they will start him off at free safety before checking him out at nickel.

He is a leader who plays with intensity. Amadi has flashed big play potential with multiple pick-sixes over the past few seasons and also has been a decent punt returner.

There were many who projected Amadi as an undrafted free agent or round six guy. Seattle clearly saw something others did not to take him in the fourth. No team has had a better eye for secondary talent than Seattle since Carroll arrived, so I give them the benefit of the doubt here.

Ben Burr-Kirven – Linebacker

Huskies fans rejoiced when the nation’s leading tackler was announced with the Seahawks 5th round pick. Known to most as BBK, Burr-Kirven was incredibly productive despite being undersized at just six feet tall.

Carroll said he reminded him of Lofa Tatupu in how he was able to play instinctually and find his way to the ball carrier while avoiding the big bodies around him.

Burr-Kirven is an obvious fit on special teams to start, and has the chance to push a guy like Austin Calitro off the roster. The Seahawks linebacking depth was one of the lesser-discussed weaknesses last season. The selections of Burr-Kirven and Cody Barton give the team two players well suited to contribute on special teams as rookies while dramatically improving the quality of the depth behind guys like Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright, and Mychal Kendricks.

That also increases the chances Seattle will release Barkevious Mingo and regain $4.1M in cap space. Mingo was disappointing last season but did play a large role on special teams. BBK and Barton could reduce the team’s reliance on him there. These two guys also represent a threat to Shaquem Griffin’s spot. I see it as less likely they would move on from him given his price, age, and that he was one of the better special teams players last season.

It seems unlikely, but I do wonder if Burr-Kirven might ever get a look at strong safety down the line. For now, expect him to be a special teams standout and a guy who can step in at middle or weakside linebacker.

Travis Homer – Running Back

Seattle needs another running back like they need a reminder about losing the Super Bowl. Chris Carson is the clear alpha. Rashaad Penny was a first round pick a year ago. J.D. McKissic and C.J. Prosise are set to battle it out for reps as a third down back and receiver out of the backfield. Even Bo Scarbrough represents intriguing depth.

The team took Homer because he was a terrific special teams gunner in college who could also be the heir apparent to McKissic and Prosise if they do not work out. Homer is said to be an excellent pass blocker for a running back and talented pass catcher.

He has a tougher path to a roster spot than any of the other selections discussed so far. Special teams will be where he needs to make his impact felt.

Demarcus Christmas – Defensive Tackle

Christmas is a big-bodied run stuffer without a lot of clear upside. It would be a surprise if he makes the roster. Even a forgotten acquisition like Jamie Meder has a better chance to stick and contribute. Christmas has to hope he shows enough to earn a practice squad spot.

John Ursua – Slot Reciever

Seattle traded a 2020 6th round pick to acquire a 7th round selection this year that they could use on Ursua. This is a guy Seattle had their eye on the whole time, and were hoping to get in free agency after the draft.

The thinking is that after drafting two receivers, Ursua might not see Seattle as the best place to find a roster spot. The Seahawks wanted him in camp and paid the price to ensure it would happen.

Ursua led the nation in receiving touchdowns last year and has terrific agility. He is more the mold of a Julian Edelmen, Danny Amendola type who is perfectly suited to the slot. I can’t put my finger on why, but I have a good feeling about his chances to eventually play meaningful snaps for Seattle despite his 7th round status.

His competition will be a guy like Keenan Reynolds.

There is a lot to like about the talent upside and flexibility of a receiver group that includes:

  • Lockett
  • Metcalf
  • Jennings
  • Moore
  • Turner
  • Ursua

Some might see that as too unproven. I see the potential for a dominant young core that could rival the cornerback position from 2011-2013 in terms of talent and depth.

Tune in for a special episode of Real Hawk Talk today at 3:30PM PT recapping the draft live as the fellas discuss all the ins and outs

Changing of the guard

Many Seahawks fans have complained that the team has not built around Russell Wilson. They say the team has not provided him the weapons or the offensive line to excel. While I have never held that point of view, this draft represents a moment where the team has put more resources than ever into surrounding Wilson with a group built to accentuate his strengths for years to come.

Metcalf and Jennings are both deep threats who can high point a ball. Moore already has proven he can do that. Lockett was one of the best deep threats in the league last season.

Imagine the fits secondaries will have next year when they cannot cheat coverage to Lockett. We can discuss the crater left by Baldwin’s absence once that news finalizes, but few teams in the NFL will be able to vertically stretch the field like the Seahawks.

They will combine that with the best running game in the NFL, and what should be an increased use of their backs in the receiving game. The hope is Will Dissly returns to full health and continues his surprising contributions in the passing game as well.

This will be a team that wins or loses based on the dominance of their offense. They were near the top of the league in scoring last year, and should only improve this season.

The defense relies heavily on safety play, and it just was not good enough last season. Bradley McDougald did his job, but everyone else was below starting caliber.

Adding Marquise Blair and Amadi to battle with Delano Hill and Tedric Thompson is great news. Blair jumps off the screen as a guy who could impact games in ways the others have yet to do.

I am bullish on L.J. Collier as a pass rusher, but would have liked to see more edge rushers added from this class. That Seattle chose to go another direction strongly indicates they will dip back into the free agent market once May 6th passes and they can sign players without impacting compensatory picks for next year’s draft.

There are players like Ezekiel Ansah, Ndamukong Suh, Nick Perry, Shane Ray, Corey Liuget, Muhammad Wilkerson, Danny Shelton, Dominique Easley, Ethan Westbrooks, Pernell McPhee, Matt Longacre, and Caraun Reid still available. There may also be trade options the team can consider now that teams know what they exited the draft with.

Sign two of the players above and suddenly the defensive line looks incredibly competitive. Do that, and this would become a nearly perfect offseason for Seattle. That does not mean they have added the most talent in the league. It is more about maximizing what they could accomplish with the constraints they faced.

Zeroing in on the draft, the team leaves with what could be 6-7 starters by as soon as 2020. The shored up critical weak areas, and turned some weaknesses into strengths. There is superstar potential in a guy like Metcalf, who many describe his ceiling as being the best receiver in football. When is the last time Seattle drafted a player anyone described that way? Collier could team with Rasheem Green, Jarran Reed, Poona Ford and Jacob Martin to become a terrorizing young crew of defensive linemen.

Even the floor seems pretty darn high. Just about every pick from the 2018 draft contributed last season or showed promise. This group seems stronger. Should that prove to be true, these two draft classes will be compare favorably to the vaunted 2010-2012 hauls. Training camp cannot get here soon enough.