Should Hawks play the lottery and use No. 5 pick on a QB if possible?

The Seahawks’ draft position improved Saturday.

No, they didn’t make a trade. But Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson’s record-setting performance at the Combine seemed to vault him into the top five of the draft.

That put the Hawks in an even better spot at No. 5, with the top five players now expected to be, in some order, Richardson, Ohio State QB C.J. Stroud, Alabama QB Bryce Young, Alabama OLB Will Anderson Jr. and Georgia DE Jalen Carter.

So the Hawks will have their choice of a top QB or an elite front-seven player – a winning proposition however you slice it.

Last year, after the Hawks traded Russell Wilson, a QB in this draft seemed a no-brainer. But then Geno Smith put together a Pro Bowl season, and there is a real debate now about whether they should take a QB at 5 — especially knowing it is a 50-50 bet or worse.

The quarterbacks put on a show at the Combine, with Richardson setting all kinds of athleticism records and showing off his big arm and Stroud impressing with his passing ability. That led some Seahawks fans to immediately lobby for Richardson to land in Seattle.

Of course, he does not seem ready for the NFL — his inexperience and inaccuracy at Florida indicate that — and he would need to sit for a couple of years behind Geno Smith. Then the Hawks would need to cross their fingers that their coaching paid off and he proved worth the No. 5 pick starting in 2025.

Richardson certainly would be a gamble on greatness. The 30/60 predictive method for college QBs has been right about 66% of the time over the past two decades. That formula posits that first-round QBs with 30 college starts and at least 60% completions are more apt to succeed.

The method is even more accurate when looking just at first-round QBs who do not hit the 30/60 threshold; 70% have failed in the NFL this century. Richardson started just 13 games and completed a mere 55% at Florida, so he is a prime candidate to fit that 70%.

Young and Stroud don’t meet the 30-start marker either. Young started 27 games and completed 64.5% at Alabama. Stroud started 24 games and completed 69% at Ohio State.

Since 2015, just three of eight first-round QBs (37.5%) have succeeded after coming into the NFL with fewer than 30 starts. So any team drafting Young and Stroud are hoping they will be the next Joe Burrow, Josh Allen or Kyler Murray – not Jameis Winston, Carson Wentz, Mitch Trubisky, Sam Darnold or the late Dwayne Haskins.

This stat does not include recent draftees whose career arcs have not been determined due to health questions or not enough playing time to make a firm judgment: Tua Tagovailoa, Trevor Lawrence, Trey Lance, Justin Fields, Mac Jones and Kenny Pickett.

The counterargument by some to the QB gamble is that there are plenty of non-QB busts as well. Not really.

In the 2010s (2011-20), the QB hit rate in the top 10 of the draft was a straight-up 50%, while the non-QB success rate was 59%.

If we skip over the notoriously terrible 2013 draft (no top-10 QBs) and go from 2014 to 2020, top-10 QBs have worked out just 42% of the time, while top-10 picks on non-QBs have had a 69% success rate. That’s a pretty large disparity.

If the Hawks decide to take the QB gamble, the next issue is this: Any rookie QB likely would end up sitting behind Smith for a couple of years.

That would give the draft pick a better shot at success, but it would give Seattle no return on that No. 5 pick for two seasons. Then the QB would get two years to prove himself before the Hawks had to determine whether he was worth keeping.

A non-QB pick, meanwhile, presumably would contribute immediately — assuming he was among that 69% of top-10 successes.

The argument for a QB

Now that we have explained the stat-based risks of picking a QB, let’s look at the other side of the argument.

The fact is the Hawks have some luxury in this draft. Because they have another first-round pick and two selections in the second round, they basically can consider the No. 5 a lottery ticket.

They would be passing on a potentially dominant defender high, but there are plenty of good front-seven players to be had lower in Round 1 and on Day 2.

Also, no matter what happens at 5, they almost surely will try to move down from 20 to add more picks and get some better value out of that choice.

Here is an example of what they still could do in the first two rounds even if they pick a QB at 5 (trade down from 20 to 26 and up to 57 from third round):

Trading down

If two QBs go in the top three along with Anderson, the Hawks likely will end up with these options: (1) Take a QB to develop behind Smith, (2) gamble that Carter overcomes his legal issues in Georgia and avoids any other trouble in Seattle, (3) dangle the fifth pick to a QB-needy team like Vegas, Carolina, New York or Washington.

The latter seems to be where Pete Carroll and John Schneider are leaning. Carroll has been adamant that he wants to be more “dynamic” on the defensive line, led by a marquee player who can beat double-teams and dominate games. Anderson and Carter are definitely those kinds of players, and plenty of people think the Hawks see Texas Tech’s Tyree Wilson that way, too.

Wilson likely could be had with a move down within the top 10, which Schneider may favor. He has talked about the trade value of the No. 5 pick.

“It’s the options that are available to you because it’s such a high pick,” Schneider told Seattle Sports Radio 710. “In terms of moving around, the value of that pick is really important. … There’s a lot of compensation that comes your way up there, a lot of opportunities.”  

When Carroll said at the Combine that the Seahawks are “totally connected to the quarterbacks coming out,” many took that to mean they are interested in drafting one – especially after Schneider said franchise QBs “don’t grow on trees.”

But what Carroll really might have quietly been saying is they are in position to use the quarterbacks as trade bait.   

What will be most interesting is if the Hawks end up having the choice of a top QB or Carter. Which would they pick? Or would they make the move down?

Other notes & observations

With their 3-4, the Hawks have two kinds of pass rushers: the 5-tech/3-tech types and the outside linebackers. The big ends need to be built like Michael Bennett (6-4, 274) or bigger — though not necessarily Red Bryant’s size (6-5, 326). Carter, Wilson, Keion White and Lukas Van Ness all fit that mold.

Then there are the outside linebackers, who will weigh 240 to 260 – the old LEO body types. Boye Mafe is 6-4 and 265; Darrell Taylor 6-4, 267; Uchenna Nwosu 6-2, 251.

Among draft prospects the Hawks might like, Anderson is 6-4, 243; Will McDonald 6-4, 239; Byron Young 6-2, 250; Isaiah Foskey 6-5, 264; B.J. Ojulari 6-2, 248. They need a guy who can play in space better than the outside pass rushers they have.

The Seahawks need two inside linebackers – a veteran and a rookie. Iowa’s Jack Campbell had a stellar Combine and sure seems like he would be a perfect second-round addition. WSU’s Daiyan Henley looks like a good third-round option.

One of Schneider’s biggest draft whiffs was not taking center Creed Humphrey in 2021. Instead, he drafted WR Dee Eskridge. Humphrey has become a Pro Bowl stalwart for the Chiefs; Eskridge has struggled just to get on the field in Seattle.

The Hawks have been unsettled at this position since 2019, when Justin Britt missed half the season and then was let go. Carroll has admitted the Hawks need to figure out what they are doing at center. They brought back Joey Hunt last year, but he is not starter quality. They should add a vet – it might just be the ill-equipped Kyle Fuller – to fill the spot ahead of the draft.

In the draft, the top two options appear to be Minnesota’s John Michael Schmitz and TCU’s Steve Avila. The Seahawks are pretty desperate at this position and will have to strongly consider using a high pick on one of those guys if they do not resolve the position with a good vet.

The Hawks always put extra focus on Senior Bowl standouts. Among the guys they might have interest in: McDonald, Young, Schmitz, Henley, TE Luke Musgrave, LB Ivan Pace, DE Keeanu Benton, DE Adetomiwa Adebawore, DE YaYa Diaby, LB Aubrey Miller Jr., WR Jayden Reed, WR Michael Wilson, DL Nesta Jade Silvera and S Daniel Scott.  


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