What should the Seahawks do at No. 9?

Pete Carroll and John Schneider have a big draft head to bring the Seahawks back on the right track.

This is a critical night for John Schneider and the Seattle Seahawks.

After moving on from franchise legends such as Bobby Wagner and Russell Wilson this offseason, Schneider has a chance to reshape the state of the roster with the highest overall draft pick (No. 9 overall) he has had since the 2010 season.

Schneider started his tenure with the three of the best drafts in modern NFL history, but has fallen into a pattern of troubling mistakes in the draft – that have been well documented on this website and on our podcasts – ranging from poor talent evaluation to hyper-focusing on one positional need, to misunderstanding league trends such as positional value, and getting a little too cute with his decisions to trade down.

Will Schneider get back to what made this team so strong in the first place – drafting blue chip players – or will he continue to fall back on his recent trends? That is what makes this draft so fascinating for the Seahawks – with three picks in the top 41 after the Wilson trade.

With that in mind, here is my sense of the board and the options Seattle will be looking at with the No. 9 overall pick. Bare in mind, the Seahawks have not drafted the player I have wanted them to select since the 2010 draft. Although, I was hoping for Trent Williams over Okung.

Should they trade down?

From a general draft philosophy standpoint, trading down is usually a good idea, but in the context of Seattle’s roster, I am very down on the idea this year. There are a few exceptions (if Seattle can pick up another 2023 first round pick for example), but I believe the Seahawks roster is in desperate need of a foundational piece to rebuild this roster and this is a rare opportunity for this team. Schneider has preached for years about the difference in quality between picking in the top 12 versus the end of the first round, so it would be hard to take him seriously if he moved out of that range. I would like Schneider to stop operating as if he is Kevin Costner in the movie Draft Day and trying to manipulate the board, although you could probably argue this team could use more bites at the apple by acquiring more draft picks, and just be more like Ozzie Newsome and Eric DeCosta in Baltimore and just pick solid players in the first round year after year. The Ravens have been one of the best drafting teams over the last two decades.

Players I would be ecstatic about:

  • Evan Neal, OT, Alabama: Given the lack of upper-echelon quarterback prospects in this draft, the teams picking ahead of Seattle are likely to turn to premium positions such as offensive tackle and pass rushers, making Neal less likely to fall to No. 9. He is the cleanest prospect of the three top-ranked offensive tackles and has played multiple positions at Alabama. He would slot in as a decade-long starter at left tackle and Seattle should instantly turn in the card if he falls to their spot. Seems like a bit of a long shot, but it is happening in more and more mock drafts as of late. He would be Hawk Blogger’s ideal pick.
  • Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon:  The Seahawks have been lacking a blue chip defensive lineman that can be a game-wrecker.  Almost every playoff game this past season was largely impacted by one of those players, which is why Thibodeaux falling to No. 9 would be a dream scenario. He isn’t the prospect for everyone – as there are some off-field concerns about his motor – which gives some hope he could fall down the board. His upside is elite, as he entered the season as the No.1 prospect in the country, and I could see Pete totally being on board with trying to get the most of him. If he’s there, I would be furious if Seattle didn’t make this pick if he was on the board.
  • Derek Stingley, CB, LSU: Albert Breer of SI.com and Todd McShay of ESPN both indicated that the Seahawks have done a lot of homework on Stingley over the last week or so. The Seahawks should have pretty good intel on the most talented corner in the draft – given Carrolls’s relationship with former LSU head coach Ed Orgeron and that new DB coach Karl Scott coached at Alabama during Stingley’s best college season (2019). Stingley was considered one of the top players in the country as a freshman and his play tailed off the last two years (due to a foot injury and the LSU program sort of nosediving)., which is why he might fall to No. 9. To me, he’s a no brainer if he’s on the board. He has a massive ceiling, maybe the highest of any player in the draft, and Breer made a similar point that I had heard earlier this offseason – that the Seahawks are more willing to draft a elite cornerback early (their previous highest CB drafted is 90th overall) due to the new scheme and new defensive coaching staff. I would be devastated if Seattle passed on Stingley to move down.
  • Ikem Ekwonu, OT, North Carolina State – I put Ickey last on this list because I just don’t see a very high likelihood he falls to No. 9. There are too many teams ahead of them where he would slot in perfectly. Ekwonu isn’t as refined as a pass protector as Neal is but is considered to be the best fit in a zone blocking scheme (which the Seahawks run with Andy Dickerson) and is already a very good run blocker. I would not be surprised, given his athletic traits, if he is one of the top players ranked on Seattle’s board.

Players I would be on board with:

Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State: Cross could be a fit with the Giants at No. 5 and Carolina at No. 6, but if he is available, he would be an intriguing selection for Seattle. He is considered to be the best pass protector of the bunch, coming from Mike Leach’s air raid system in college, but is not as experienced in the running game, which made me question whether Seattle would like him. However, Breer wrote in his mock draft earlier this week that Seattle had him graded highly. Some have Cross as the OT1 while consensus boards usually have him as the third tackle available. Cross does not possess elite size or athletic traits, and some are worried after Andre Dillard – who played for Leach in college – has been a first-round bust, but securing a top 10 ranked left tackle would be okay with me.

Ahmad ‘Sauce’ Gardner, CB, Cincinnati: I thought about putting Sauce in the top group, but I am just way more excited about Stingley. Nothing against Sauce, though. He might be the cleanest defensive prospect in the draft. He is long, he has ball skills, he has almost no concerns off the field and played very well in college. He would slot in cleanly as Seattle’s CB1 and would improve that group immensely. I would definitely give a little fist pump if he’s the pick.

Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia: Not everyone will agree with this, but ignoring Seattle’s needs for a second, Davis is one of my favorite prospects in this entire draft. He reminds me a lot of Haloti Ngata as a player and as someone who has preached rebuilding the trenches for years, Davis would definitely get me a little excited. McShay said Seattle was doing their homework on him this week. Per Josh Norris of Underdog Fantasy, based on his size (over 330 lbs), Davis is one of the most athletic players to ever enter the draft. He was a very good player in the SEC and was an absolute freak athlete at the combine. There are some drawbacks, though, which is why some would be more hesitant. He was mostly a two-down DT at Georgia and did not bring much as a pass rusher and there are concerns about his weight. Daniel Jeremiah compared him to a young Albert Haynesworth (before he got paid in Washington). I would like this pick, and would even make sense as a trade down candidate.

Aidan Hutchinson/Travon Walker, EDGE —  These two round out the clear top eight in this draft, but I am not putting much energy on these two prospects from a Seattle standpoint. They are absolute locks to go in the top eight.

Players I’m conflicted on:

  • Jermaine Johnson, EDGE, Florida State: No player in this draft class produces more wide-ranging opinions than Johnson. Doug Farrar, for example, has him the No. 1 EDGE player in this class while a lot of the analytical-driven analysts have him ranked in the 20s. A lot of NFL teams have been talking about Johnson as a top-10 lock this week. He’s a tough evaluation for me. He was dominant at the Senior Bowl and showed some elite qualities in his last college season after transferring from Georgia. At the same time, though, he is a bit older as a prospect and did not have good pressure rate metrics. This one could go either way.
  • Malik Willis, QB, Liberty: When Wilson first got traded, a lot of reports came out and indicated that the Seahawks were high on Willis. The dot-connecting makes sense. Willis has a lot of similarities as a prospect to Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes, both of which Schneider was said to like coming out of the draft, and his skill set has a lot of similarities to a young Russell Wilson, being able to impact the running game with a great deep ball and being able to extend plays. The issue for Willis is he is very raw and likely is not ready to play. And has a lot of the same flaws that frustrated fans about Wilson, holding on the ball for too long, taking too many sacks, and not frequently throwing over the middle. I could probably convince myself into this pick within a few minutes if it did happen, but the opportunity cost of passing on another core position seems like it would be a big risk.

Players that would make me throw my remote:

  • Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Iowa – Let me start by saying Penning is not a bad prospect. He is not LJ Collier and is easily supposed to go before pick 18. But he would represent a number of the troubling patterns I mentioned above. Selecting him with so many needs at premium positions would indicate the team was hyper focusing on the tackle position instead of drafting the best player on the board. He does have a lot of very elite athletic traits and impressive size with good potential as a run blocker, but he is very raw in pass protection, which was evident at the Senior Bowl. There will be an adjustment coming from a smaller school. To me, Penning would be a very good complimentary piece for a team with an established core like Baltimore or the Chargers. He would be a very risky use of a 1st-round pick for a team needing to establish core players in a foundation. He has a Germain Ifedi floor with a Joe Staley ceiling. Penning just seems like the perfect Tom Cable prospect, which is telling isn’t it? I’d be upset if they took him at 9 or moved down for him. He just seems like a Carroll pick, who is basically a meme for his love of running the football, which is why everyone is making the connection.
  • Kyle Hamilton, S, Notre Dame:  Hamilton is a very good prospect, but makes no sense from a Seattle standpoint given their investment already in the safety position. Hamilton should not be in consideration unless there is an immediate plan to trade Jamal Adams, and given his contract and 2021 play, that seems very unlikely. I imagine Sean Desai wants to coach Jamal Adams and taking Hamilton with all the roster needs would be a very troubling pick.
  • Devin Lloyd, Utah: Lloyd is a very good linebacker prospect. However, this comes back to my point about positional value. Taking an off-ball linebacker in the first round, given all the other positional needs, would just be a waste of resources. There is a clear sweet spot for LBs in the 40 range and while Lloyd is not a bad player by any means, it would provide more evidence that this team does not understand how to build a modern roster.
  • Trading back up for a QB – This could be Sam Howell, Matt Corrall, or Desmond Ridder. All three have been linked to Seattle, even though Brady Henderson of ESPN.com has been saying throughout the offseason that Seattle isn’t very high on the top end of this QB class. Ridder would be the easiest to stomach of the three and I could probably get on board with it, but the other two (or Kenny Pickett) do not excite me in the least. They are low ceiling players with a lot of downside and I would rather them not give up other assets and use the second round picks (which I’ll write about tomorrow) on other key positions where there is some potential sweet spots in the top 40, which is the strength of this draft class. If Seattle ends up with Penning and then trading up for a QB, as Tony Pauline of Pro Football Network suggested earlier this week, you will not have a very happy version of me this weekend and I will have no reason to trust this front office moving forward.