Russell Wilson, Bobby Wagner, Golden Tate, Frank Clark, Paul Richardson, Tyler Lockett, Jarran Reed, DK Metcalf, Shaquill Griffin, Justin Britt.
That’s a nice list of Seahawk players that have been drafted Day Two of the NFL Draft during the Pete Carroll and John Schneider era. The majority of these guys have been pro bowl level players for this club, and a couple of them are generational talents.
On Day One of the 2020 NFL Draft, Seattle took Jordyn Brooks, a speedy run stopping linebacker that most were not considering as a first round pick even though the talent was clearly there on tape for all to see. While most thought that Seattle would go pass rusher, they took the player that they thought was the best player on their board. Seattle has needed more speed on the defensive side of the ball, and they needed better tacklers for the last couple seasons. Enter Brooks.
On Day Two, Seattle focused on improving their pass rush, and improving their offensive line. Let’s break these two players down.
Darrell Taylor is exactly what Seattle looks for at Leo end
There were a few bigger edge rusher names were on the board when Seattle trade up to be 48 to take Tennessee defensive end Darrell Taylor. Iowa’s AJ Epenesa, and Notre Dame’s Julian Okwara are two players that had garnished first round hype for several months leading to the draft.
I never thought Epenesa would be a player of interest for Seattle, even though national draft pundits had been consistently mocking him to Seattle at pick 27. While he has had good production at Iowa, he’s not a bendy rusher, he’s not quick, or explosive, and he doesn’t have the size to likely play much at defensive tackle for this club either. At best, he could probably a serviceable 5 technique end for a club that is loaded at 5 technique with last year’s first round pick LJ Collier, Rasheem Green, and Brandon Jackson. Further more, nothing on Epenesa’s tape made me think that he would likely be any better than Green, or Collier.
What Seattle has been in desperate need of since they traded away Frank Clark is a Leo end. They essentially played without one last year for the first time in Pete Carroll’s tenure. It was an odd decision for the club, as Carroll coaches a very specific style of defense that almost entirely depends on having a serviceable Leo. Jadeveon Clowney, as talented as he is, is not a Leo, and neither is Ziggy Ansah. These are base 4-3 ends.
For those who do not understand this defensive line terminology, allow me to quickly explain. Seattle runs a hybrid 4-3 defense that is called a 4-3 Under, and at times, it looks a bit like a 3-4 defense. Simply, the defensive line is slightly tilted. On one side you have a bigger defensive end (5 technique) that almost looks like a defensive tackle playing up against a tackle, then you have a big defensive tackle (1 technique) that plays between the offensive guard and center that is strong enough to take on both blockers, followed by a more athletic tackle (3 technique) that plays in the other gab between the other guard and the other offensive tackle, and then you have this much lighter, quicker, more athletic player that plays much farther out on the edge of the other offensive tackle.
That player is the best athlete on the defensive line and his job is to make that tackle have to deal with him solely, and that creates opportunities for the athletic defensive tackle and others. That player is the Leo end.
In 2018, when Seattle had Frank Clark, he was their Leo, and Jarran Reed was the 3 technique DT. Clark had 13 sacks that year and Reed had 10.5 sacks. That was how a functioning 4-3 under defensive line is supposed to ideally work.
Under Carroll, up until last year, Seattle has always show cased a Leo. From Chris Clemons to Cliff Avril, to Frank Clark, that player is always about 6-3 and 260 lbs with long arms that can bend the corner and has the explosion to convert speed to power against blockers. They win with explosion, twitch, speed, leverage, bend and strength.
This draft class had very little prospects that fit this profile. The few that I could honestly see as potential Leos were Notre Dame’s Julian Okwara, our boy Darrell Taylor, Charlotte’s Alex Highsmith, Alabama’s Terrell Lewis, and maybe Tulsa’s Trevis Gibson. Highsmith and Gibson are major project players that you probably don’t take with a high pick, and while Lewis is a talented athlete, he could never stay healthy enough through college and would be a major risk to take high, as well.
When Seattle traded up for pick 48, I figured it was either for Okwara or Taylor, and Seattle chose Taylor. Okwara interestingly enough continued to fall into the third round.
Seattle chose the athlete that I believe has the highest upside. In fact, the last few weeks leading to the draft, I felt that there was an outside chance he could be the first player they would take if they didn’t trade back too much. He has a very Cliff Avril/ Frank Clark vibe to his game with his ability to bend the corner, and convert speed to power. His hits on quarterbacks and running backs in the backfield are no joke. He can win with a bend on the edge, and he can win with a bull rush. That’s what Cliff Avril did, and all Taylor needs to do to get to that level is add more pass rush moves to his tool box.
My last few mocks, I had Seattle taking a defensive tackle with their first pick because I did not think Okwara or Taylor would be there after a trade back. When they are picking at 27, I thought one of these guys was probably going to be that pick. To my shock, they took Jordyn Brooks.
I am elated that they were able to land Taylor with their next pick. I thought he would be possibly going to New England, Detroit, or Miami long before Seattle would pick again. He feels like a Belichick coaching tree type of player. Seattle got lucky with this pick.
Damien Lewis is a grown man at offensive guard
When Seattle traded back from 64 to pick 69 in the third round, I really wanted them to add one more piece to the defense. I honestly wanted them to take Ohio State defensive tackle DaVon Hamilton because I think he has the tools to be a really good player for years to come. When they selected Lewis, I was initially deflated, kind of like I was deflated when Seattle took Jordyn Brooks at pick 27 over a defensive lineman.
As this pick settled in with me, though, the more I quickly liked it. Damien Lewis has round two talent, and round two is typically a superb round to get a quality guard. Lewis was the strongest player on the national championship LSU roster. He is able to squat 600 lbs, an insane amount of weight. He is also a player with a high football IQ, and was a clear leader on the team. Best of all, he’s not just a run blocking road grader, he’s actually a pretty good pass blocker.
When the San Francisco 49ers added South Carolina defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw at pick 14, my heart sank with that pick. San Fran had successfully traded it’s star defensive tackle to Indianapolis and then used that pick to take a player who quite possibly has even greater upside. I turned to my wife after that section, and simply said, “well, then. Seattle is going to have to draft a guard now, and he better be a good one.”
Seattle just landed a really good guard with this pick. I know they are presently loaded up on the line, but I wouldn’t read too much into it. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Lewis beats out DJ Fluker outright for the starting job this Summer and makes him a cap casualty. Out of these three early round picks, Lewis might be the player that wins a starting job the soonest.
I love this pick.
Thoughts about Day Three of the NFL Draft.
Seattle will have four picks to play with on Saturday, two in the fourth round, a high one in the fifth, and a late sixth round pick. They can still find good value, and maybe a future starter or two. Some really interesting names to watch for at some positions of need include the following:
Leku Fotu, DT, Utah. He’s a big athletic talent, and Seattle loves Utah defenders.
Rashard Lawrence, DT, LSU. Underrated player that has a Jarran Reed vibe.
Prince Tega Wanogho, OT, Auburn. Massive steel if Seattle lands him day three.
Saahdig Charles, OT, LSU. Would not be shocked if he is a Seattle target.
John Hightower, WR, Boise State. Underrated and feels like a Seattle WR
Quez Watkins, WR, Southern Miss. A true burner that fits their vertical game
Hunter Bryant, TE, Washington. Seattle is loaded at TE, but Bryant could tempt.
Amik Robertson, CB, Louisiana Tech. One of the best nickel corners in the draft
Bryce Hall, CB, Virginia. Big outside corner that fits Seattle’s mold.
Troy Dye, LB, Oregon. Seattle is now stacked at LB, but what if they move on from KJ?
These are just a few names to keep in mind when Seattle looks to add. There are other names I could mention, but these players really stand out. There is still some really interesting offensive linemen, a couple defensive tackles, and a few back end defenders that Seattle might like to scoop up. There are also going to be some interesting pass catchers.
For me, with their four remaining picks, I would love to see a quality defensive tackle, a playmaker added to the offense, a playmaker added to the defensive back end, and one more quality offensive linemen, and I don’t care in which order.