There were no swaggy suits. Roger Goodell was spared from the merciless booing he so deserves. Nobody was left in the green room while they slid down the first round. Never before have so many young men moved to new cities without ever leaving their homes. The 2020 NFL draft was mostly able to retain the experience of previous drafts despite the unique circumstances. They even managed to mess up the last day the way they always do with endlessly aggravating distractions like musical performances when your team is selecting. Seattle, on the other hand, felt like it broke from past convention with their draft class.
The Seahawks selected a defensive or offensive linemen with their first pick in 7 of their previous 10 drafts. Not so this year with linebacker Jordyn Brooks, who was the earliest pick John Schneider and Pete Carroll have ever used on a linebacker.
Seattle had nine picks or more in 9 of their previous 10 drafts. This year ties 2015 as their lowest pick total with eight players.
Schneider had never traded up (consolidating picks) before trading back (gaining picks) before doing so this year. It was not for lack of trying, as we know they had a deal in place with Green Bay in the first round to move back that fell through.
It is difficult to quantity the weighting of team need versus player potential, but this draft felt like Seattle was using a very different equation for making their selections. One of my biggest criticisms of Schneider’s approach at times has been overemphasizing need as a factor in their picks. This has caused what felt like reaches in the past.
Rashaad Penny was an example. The team really was not sure they could rely on Chris Carson heading into that season, so they spent incredibly valuable draft capital on a position they could have addressed later. L.J. Collier is another example. The team needed edge players, and they thought there was a big cliff after Collier in terms of talent, so they spent a first round pick there.
Seattle’s biggest need heading into this draft was for edge pass rushers. While some could say they showed a lack of confidence by trading up to grab Darrell Taylor in the second, I see a good understanding of where they could acquire different players to maximize their talent draw.
Reports came out that Baltimore was prepared to take Jordyn Brooks with the pick immediately following Seattle in the first round. If true, and Seattle had followed their usual pattern of overweighting need in the first round, they would have called Taylor’s name at 27, been panned for doing so, and lost Brooks.
Instead, they wound up with their top choice at linebacker and the guy they wanted on the edge. We could still find holes in their process, like the fact that they could have picked an edge player like Julian Okwara at their original spot in the second and kept that extra third round pick, but that assumes they saw those two players as roughly equivalent. It also focused on where there are areas to critique instead of where there were some signs of evolving.
On that note, there was a frustrating pattern that continued this year. Schneider tends to react to deep positions in a draft by waiting until later to grab a guy and prioritizing less deep positions early. He did that in 2017 when a terrific defensive back draft gave the team chances to add multiple starting quality defensive back in the first two rounds, but the team waited until the third round to take Shaquill Griffin and Delano Hill, and the fourth round to take Tedric Thompson. Instead of ending up with two quality starters, they left with one.
This year was very deep in receivers. Some would say this was a historically deep receiver class. Seattle did not pick a receiver until the sixth round. It is possible the guys they liked did not fall to them at the picks that they had, and it is hard to argue receiver is a bigger need than pass rush. My preference is that when there is a rich vein of gold, come away with at least a chunk of that wealth instead of prospecting somewhere else in the hopes of striking it rich.
I would not be too critical of Schneider there as they did take three receivers last year. D.K. Metcalf will take a big step forward this year from a historic rookie season. Tyler Lockett is still fantastic. Phillip Dorsett is an upgrade over Jaron Brown or Malik Turner. And there is a name many Seahawks fans may have forgotten. John Ursua looked like someone who could be a difference maker in training camp and the preseason last year.
Carroll mentioned later in the year that Ursua had the most to learn in terms of their requirements related to blocking and other intricacies. He made enough progress to be on the field for Seattle at the end of the season, nearly catching the game-winning touchdown against the 49ers. If the team believes in what they have there, it is more understandable why they did not spend more picks on the position.
The other aspect to think about is receivers are not the only players who can catch a pass. Seattle plays with a lot of multiple tight end packages. They signed Greg Olsen, re-signed Luke Willson and Jacob Hollister, and are hopeful that Will Dissly will be ready when the season starts. That is solid tight end room. Now they added Colby Parkinson in the fourth round, as well as Stephen Sullivan in the seventh.
Parkinson is a 6’7″ pass catcher who either never dropped a pass in college or dropped one, depending on which statistical site you ask. He is not a physical blocker. In some ways, he’s a taller Willson. Parkinson played a lot in the slot and was split outside at Stanford. He’s a whiz with the playbook, having learned every position on the field his freshmen year. There’s a strong chance he will push Willson or Hollister off the roster.
Olsen is 6’5″ and Dissly is 6’4″, so Parkinson brings something unique to that position for Seattle. Olsen is also probably not going to be playing more than a season or two at most. We could see a Parkinson and Dissly pairing as soon as the 2021 season.
My largest question mark about the Seahawks 2020 draft class is the lack of nickel corner. The only player who truly profiles as a starting nickel corner on the roster is Ugo Amadi, and he has not come close to proving himself. Not taking one in the draft was surprising, especially given their lack of additions there during free agency thus far.
Carroll made reference in his press conference to some possible moves afoot. That is encouraging. My hope is they are making a hard push for Darqueze Dennard. Dennard was a good nickel corner for the Bengals who signed a three year deal with the Jaguars in early March before the deal fell apart. He has not resigned to this point.
Dennard would be a great addition and put less pressure on the team to force fit someone like Quinton Dunbar or Shaquill Griffin into the nickel position. I am not opposed to having them explore those options, but it would be ideal to not be reliant on them working out.
One other name to watch is Tramon Williams. He’s super old, but was very solid for the Packers last season.
One of my favorite picks in the draft for the Seahawks was Alton Robinson in the fifth. He looks like a player who could outplay his draft position. Where Taylor is more of a LEO edge rusher in the style of Cliff Avril or Chris Clemons. Robinson is more of a 5-technique end who could play opposite Taylor, like Michael Bennett.
Robinson has tons of potential and the biggest knock on him was that he has not fully realized it yet. I like his physical traits more than the Seahawks first round pick (Collier) last year. He also shows more aggression than their third round pick, Rasheem Green, the year before. Robinson probably will not be more than a rotational pass rusher this season, but don’t be surprised if he is the starter by as early as 2021.
Seattle may still sign more pass rush help, but I would not assume it will be a big name. They have more need at defensive tackle and at nickel corner. It would make some sense to grab a guy like Damon “Snacks” Harrison to plug the middle in rotation with Jarran Reed and Poona Ford.
Some were upset the Seahawks drafted a running back in the fourth round. DeeJay Dallas is 220 pounds and has proven to be an excellent pass protector on blitz pickup. He also has some experience as a returner. Knowing that there is some question as to Carson’s availability and durability, as well as Rashaad Penny, it made sense to grab a big back who profiles more as a multiple down back than the slighter Travis Homer.
This team played with Homer and Marshawn Lynch in the playoffs. They needed to add to the pile, and a fourth round pick is hardly a panic selection.
When I step back and look at the Seahawks 2020 draft class, I see a lot of sensible selections. The one I may be most intrigued by is Damien Lewis. The team had the least need for him, which makes his selection that much more interesting. Should he press for starting snaps, he could really change the course of the season and the makeup of that offensive line.
Brooks is the surest bet. He looks like a starting NFL linebacker to me. The question there is how high is his ceiling? Comparing him to Bobby Wagner is not fair. Wagner is a Hall of Fame level player, who has been the best linebacker in the game for stretches of his career. Brooks does look like a guy who could eventually press for Pro Bowl consideration if things click.
Taylor is the biggest question mark. He does not jump off the tape for me. I am encouraged by the fact that Seattle has not missed when trading up for a player in the early rounds, and also that he reminds me of Frank Clark, who is one of the only pass rushers the team did hit on through the draft. I also like his swaggy demeanor.
My gut is this will be a good-not-great draft for Seattle. I think the floor is lower than the ceiling is high. Let’s hope we get to see these players on the field soon to learn more.