The Seahawks got great value on their first-round trades down Thursday and ended up parlaying their top pick into five selections via three trades. But there’s a reason they moved down three times before drafting inside pass rusher Malik McDowell.
McDowell had an underwhelming 2016 season in which some think he mailed it in, and he did not impress some teams during the pre-draft process. But John Schneider and Pete Carroll really wanted him because of his size (6-6, 295), athleticism and versatility.
“He’s too unique,” Schneider said, comparing him to Calais Campbell, the 6-8 lineman who used to terrorize Russell Wilson as an Arizona Cardinal (and will again as a Jaguar next season). “We’ve been looking for a pass-rushing 3-technique since we’ve been here together.”
“He’s got a lot of flexibility,” Carroll said. “He’s played all across the board. He’s been a defensive end, he’s been a nose tackle, he’s been a 3-technique, which bodes well for us. We see a lot of flexibility in him. He’s unique player. He’s a very young man, 20 years old, who has a lot of growing (to do). We think he has great upside.”
But will McDowell thrive in Seattle’s hypercompetitive environment? Or will he fold when pushed by the Hawks’ alpha males? Vets Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril and Ahtyba Rubin will be counted on to guide the rookie and kick him into gear as needed.
“Good leadership: That’s what we’re counting on,” Carroll said. “We’re counting on our guys to communicate with (young players) and challenge them and show them the way and all of that. Our guys have already shown that they like doing that and they’re quick to try to help a guy along.”
Schneider and Carroll seem to know they are taking a gamble. In their phone conversation with McDowell after they picked him, both sounded like they already were trying to get him motivated.
Before hanging up, Schneider referenced a previous chat, seemingly related to McDowell’s attitude: “Don’t forget our conversation, OK?”
Carroll told him: “Come in here as serious as you can be and let’s do something really special with this, OK?”
Asked the most effective way to reach a player whose consistency is in question, Carroll said, “It’s always starting to get to know the guys and figure them out. It’s the term ‘learn the learner.’ We have to figure out who the kid is, dig into him, and then make the connections that will really hit home.
“You have to communicate, you have to be straight up. And, once you do that, then we kind of develop the strategy of how we’re going to work with them. We’ve already started that. That’s why John visited him and we talked to him at the combine, just to get to know him as much as we could. The coaches have done a great job to get to the point where we think we can really make sense and reach this kid. We think we know him well enough to know that. We invested a lot to figure that out, and that’s why we were so committed to getting this done.”
Now the question is: Will McDowell return the commitment?