We’re a week away from what is likely to be one of the least consequential drafts in Seahawks history, but you know John Schneider will do everything he can to make it a lot more interesting than it has any right to be.
In the end, you know he will be a lot more involved than his three current picks, the smallest draft stock in the league, indicate he will be.
It’s usually pretty hard to predict what the Hawks will do in the first round – as we all know, they tend to overdraft players who struggle to contribute. But we can look at Schneider’s trends and the makeup of this draft and make an educated guess about what he might do April 30 and May 1. So here we go …
What do they need?
Teams like to say they draft for value – taking the top guys on their boards, regardless of position — but we all know most teams draft mostly to fill roster holes. It is only logical.
While infamously unpredictable in the first round, Schneider has almost always used one of his first two picks to fill one of Seattle’s top current needs. And you can expect him to do the same this year.
There have been just two “luxury” drafts for Schneider – 2013 and 2015, when he traded his first-round picks and used his seconds on spots that were not in big need of help. The rest of his drafts have always used high picks on need positions.
Last year was a prime example: Schneider did his usual first-round surprise with a linebacker (Jordyn Brooks) before addressing his most pressing need in the second round – desperately trading up for pass rusher Darrell Taylor.
In 2019, Seattle badly needed a pass rusher and overdrafted L.J. Collier in the first round. In 2018, Schneider, desperate to elevate a grounded running game, reached for Rashaad Penny with the first pick then used his second choice (a third-rounder) on a much-needed defensive lineman (Rasheem Green). In 2017, the Hawks’ top needs were OL and DB, and Schneider got those positions on Day 2. In 2016, they needed linemen and started with Germain Ifedi and Jarran Reed. The 2010-12 drafts obviously were formative, with lots of positional needs.
This year, the Seahawks need a corner and center, with a third receiver and left tackle as secondary needs. Schneider is not likely to stay at 56, but he is very likely to use at least one of his first two picks on those spots.
Everyone knows Schneider has a penchant for trading his first-round pick – whether for a player or to move down in the draft. He has done this in nine of his 12 drafts as Seattle GM, including this one.
It doesn’t get as much attention, but he also loves to move around on Day 2. He has dealt his own second-round pick in eight of 11 previous drafts and has made a handful more moves down after trading out of the first round. It would be a major upset if he did not drop down this year to add more picks to the scant three he currently has.
It will be interesting to see whether teams are more willing to trade again after a down year in 2020 – just 29 trades after 40 in 2019, 38 in 2018, 37 in 2017 (when comp picks first could be traded).
Seattle could not find a trade partner in the first round last year and had to work hard to find a partner (the Jets) to move up for Taylor in the second round. “I was very surprised,” Schneider said of the first-round trade trouble (there were just four). “I thought that more people would do things.”
It seems like there might be a lot more action this time. There already have been some big trades at the top (San Francisco, Miami, Philadelphia) and Atlanta, Carolina and the Giants all reportedly might try to move down. If there is a lot of action in the first round, it would seem to bode well for Seattle on Day 2.
Schneider will be looking for teams that will want to jump up to 56. The clubs with the most draft capital are Jacksonville, Philadelphia, Minnesota, New England, Green Bay and Dallas.
In mock drafts, we also have looked to make deals with Kansas City (63 and 136) and Cleveland (59 and 169) before dropping into the 70s or 80s to make the first pick. You can bet Schneider and his guys have worked through these kinds of options.
Smart, tough & reliable?
Seattle’s draft motto has long been “smart, tough, reliable.” But they sure have whiffed on the “tough and reliable” part in many of their high picks since 2016.
They made some changes after the Malik McDowell debacle in 2017. In 2018, Schneider said, “There aren’t as many names on our board (100-150). You have to have certain criteria to be on our board, and we’re making less excuses for players.
“What happens is you end up kind of ignoring some of those red flags if you feel like you have a specific need or fit for a player,” he added. “I think it’s happened in the past. It’ll probably happen in the future. But we just want to limit those.”
Taylor was a definite medical red flag last year, and the Seahawks clearly misjudged his recovery from a leg stress fracture as they leapt up the board to fill their “specific need” at pass rusher.
They still go for the “grit and chip” players – guys who have overcome serious life obstacles and seemingly bring uncommon maturity and drive in their transition from college to the pros and adult life.
They did that again last year with their top three picks — Taylor, Jordyn Brooks and Damien Lewis. They surely will look for those guys again this year, especially with the pandemic still affecting preparation.
Last year, as the pandemic shut down life as we know it, Schneider wanted to draft players who could “come in and act like pros right away.”
The injured Taylor aside, that seemed to work out OK. The 2020 rookie class was right in the middle of Seattle’s recent first-year groups for playing time – about 200 fewer snaps overall than the 2019 rookies but 200 more than the 2018 group.
Lewis started from Day 1 and played 91% of the snaps. No one else was over 33% though.
Brooks finished 15th in defensive play time (32%), but he did flash with some big games late in the season. Freddie Swain played in 33% of the snaps, with 13 catches. Alton Robinson played more before Carlos Dunlap arrived, but his time waned in the second half and he ended up with four sacks in 29% play time.
DeeJay Dallas was pressed into starting duty amid injuries for a couple of games at midseason, but he quickly reverted to the bottom of the depth chart. Colby Parkinson did almost nothing (but will be expected to do a lot more in 2021).
Barring a rookie pushing Ethan Pocic or starting at corner or No. 3 receiver, the Seahawks’ lineup is largely set. Expectations are really low for this class heading in, so we’ll see whether Schneider expands his pick count and selects anyone who might do much as a rookie.
A number of mocks have the Seahawks taking Syracuse corner Ifeatu Melifonwu at 56. Of course, as we said above, Seattle won’t stay there.
In fact, the composite Big Board tells us that the Seahawks can feel comfortable dropping to the middle of the third round before making a pick, with plenty of corners and receivers they might like. Those positions run deep into the fifth round.
Their first pick, somewhere in the third, could (maybe should) end up being a lineman – perhaps Illinois center Kendrick Green or Stanford left tackle Walker Little. Or they could add East Carolina left tackle D’Ante Smith in the fourth. Those guys all would be slight projects with seemingly high ceilings, and the Hawks have time to groom them.
We’ve also run some mocks where Seattle started with a defensive tackle – an ostensible replacement for Jarran Reed.
QB: A passing thought
Early in the month, we brought up the idea of using a Day 2 pick on a QB such as Texas A&M’s Kellen Mond. Others have since suggested it as well, but many have scoffed at the idea that Schneider would dare upset Russell Wilson with such a frivolous pick.
To that, we say: Who cares what Wilson thinks? The quarterback does not run the franchise. Some think Wilson needs to approve every move. Rubbish. Schneider has no obligation to satisfy Wilson.
Yes, it behooves Schneider, Pete Carroll and new OC Shane Waldron to work with their QB in hopes he and the offense will finally be good enough to beat top defenses in the playoffs. But, if Wilson’s future is in question, it might be smart to finally build behind him a bit.
Schneider, who came from a QB factory in Green Bay, admittedly has been very remiss in not drafting quarterbacks during his Seattle tenure (just Wilson in 2012 and Alex McGough in 2018).
Mond is a third-rounder on the Big Board, but he seems likely to be drafted in the second round despite some NFL evaluators thinking he’s too “robotic.”
Florida’s Kyle Trask and Stanford’s Davis Mills are not exciting options, so Wilson fans probably can be safe in assuming Schneider will pass.
Another possible pandemic effect: The Seahawks rarely take small-school players (just two of 39 picks since 2017). They drafted only big-school guys in 2020 (Texas Tech, Tennessee, LSU, Stanford, Miami, Syracuse, Florida) and might do it again this year. That could rule out guys like C Quinn Meinerz (Wisconsin-Whitewater), WR D’Wayne Eskridge (Western Michigan) and CB Robert Rochell (Central Arkansas).
The only times Schneider has made his native second-round picks were 2014 (Justin Britt at 64), 2015 (Frank Clark at 63) and 2017 (Pocic at 58). He has turned his other natural second-rounders (not including moves down from the first round) into Charlie Whitehurst, Golden Tate, John Moffitt, Kris Durham, Bobby Wagner, Korey Toomer, Greg Scruggs, Christine Michael, Jesse Williams, Jarran Reed, Sheldon Richardson, Duane Brown and Darrell Taylor.
Schneider and his staff typically have trimmed the draft board to 100-150 players by this point and then meet with coaches the weekend before the draft to fine-tune their rankings.