Looking at first-round options and overall strategy

The NFL draft is two weeks away, and the Seahawks are finishing up their evaluations of players and starting to put together their final draft board.

John Schneider outlined upcoming steps on his radio show on Thursday: Scouts went over the board last week and coaches are meeting to go over it again this weekend. Next week, Schneider will hear from his medical team and let the analytics squad “pick the board apart” (he said that with a laugh). On Tuesday of draft week, Schneider and Pete Carroll will go over the board one last time.

Schneider said it’s time to “hunker down in the draft room with everybody and be able to study and continue to bounce things off each other and try to figure this thing out.”

So let’s figure it out with them.

It all starts with the No. 5 pick, of course. Assuming top pass rusher Will Anderson Jr. does not get to them, these appear to be their options:

  • Gamble on greatness with Anthony Richardson or Jalen Carter
  • Trade down to get better value
  • Play it safe

Before we break those options down, let’s check out some recent scuttlebutt related to the Seahawks and the top five:

  • According to ESPN draft analyst Matt Miller, the Seahawks are leaning toward a defensive lineman over quarterback. But, if the top pass rushers are gone, Seattle also “loves” Illinois cornerback Devon Witherspoon.
  • Other reports indicate that the Texans might prefer Anderson over Alabama QB Bryce Young, if Carolina leads with Ohio State QB C.J. Stroud. That would ruin any thought of the top four QBs going in the first four picks and leaving the best defender to Seattle.
  • The Colts reportedly are leaning toward Kentucky QB Will Levis at No. 4, which would mean Richardson, the Florida QB, would be there for Seattle if the draft started with Stroud, Anderson, Young and Levis. We have talked about the gamble Richardson would be.

Trading down

If the Seahawks really do prefer a defensive lineman, they could dangle Richardson for a trade down. Vegas (7), Atlanta (8), Tennessee (11) or Houston (12), if no QB at 2, might want to come get him.

Schneider has been doing his diligence on moving around the top 10 ever since the Combine, where he talked to old friend Scott Fitterer about a 5-9 swap. But Fitterer’s Carolina Panthers then surprised Schneider (and most everyone else) by jumping all the way up to No. 1 with Chicago.

Per The Athletic, “Talks for the fifth pick never intensified.” Schneider likely thought they were setting groundwork for a trade closer to the draft.

There also was a report that the Seahawks were a team to watch for a move to No. 3 for Richardson, but that surely was just Schneider doing his diligence and someone getting wind of it. Seattle seems very unlikely to move up.

If he moves down to 7 or 8, Schneider still would be looking potentially at Jalen Carter, Tyree Wilson and Witherspoon. At 6, Detroit is expected to take a much-needed defender, with Wilson reportedly the top preference.

Is Carter smart, tough, reliable?

That would bring us back to a gamble on Carter.

A lot of mock drafts have Carter going to Seattle at No. 5, and Schneider seemed to reference Carter on his radio show Thursday when he said mocks just look at the player’s ability, without considering team fit.

“The easiest thing to do is evaluate the player,” he said. “That’s the easiest part. [But] bring in the person, bring in his heart, bring in the mental aspect of it, the psychological part of it, the medical – there’s a ton of stuff that goes into it.”

He then cut himself off, as if he was getting too deep into all of the stuff the Seahawks obviously have been considering with Carter, whose heart and mind are in great question ahead of this draft.

Schneider later made a point of saying, “Some teams won’t necessarily take a player because they’re afraid of blowback from the fan base. … We don’t do that because we just believe in what we’re doing and we just keep moving forward.”

That seemed to be his way of saying the Hawks might be open to gambling on Carter.

Asked about his overall strategy, Schneider said, “You have to be pliable. … You have to be able to take all of this information in but come back to what your core values are.”

What are Seattle’s core draft values? Smart, tough, reliable. That has been Schneider’s mantra for years.

The Seahawks obviously have been trying to figure out whether Carter is smart, tough and reliable enough.

What about CB or OL?

If they don’t think so, Witherspoon could well be the pick after a trade down. A lot has been made of the fact that Schneider and Carroll have never drafted a corner in the first two rounds. But Schneider said, “Every class is completely different. … Best player, best fit — and away we go.”

In a move down to 11 with Tennessee, Seattle also could look at drafting Northwestern LT Peter Skoronski. We suggested Skoronski in a December mock, at 20, but he is now a consensus pick in the 8-11 range.

In Seattle, he would move inside to guard or center (and be a great backup at LT). In a 2020 study of the 2011-17 first rounds, offensive line was easily the most successful position (71% of OTs, 67% of centers, 64% of guards).

Supply and demand

Why would the Hawks take a tackle-turned-guard in the top 11? For the same reason they might take a QB at 5: supply and demand.

On his radio show last month, Schneider said, “When you look at free agency and the draft … you really have to focus on other areas where there are less numbers because things just go much faster at (those positions).”

This chart shows the depth and star power of this draft. It is deepest at WR, CB, EDGE, DL. It is shallow at QB, S, ILB, IOL. It is top heavy at QB, CB, OT, EDGE, DL. It also is a very strong TE draft, relative to previous drafts at that position.

Many mocks keep giving Seattle a WR in the first round, but that is the deepest position in the draft – without any elite players (some teams reportedly rank only one as a first-rounder). The Hawks could consider a WR on Day 2, but it’s not a top need, so Day 3 seems more likely (just not Round 4!).

Some fans want the Hawks to use a first-round pick on a star corner, just as they wanted Sauce Gardner last year. Witherspoon would be a Day 1 starter and a potential star to pair with Tariq Woolen. But the draft is deep at this position, so we don’t expect the Seahawks to take a corner at the top unless there are really no better options for them.

What about 20?

Whether they stay at 5 or move down, the Seahawks seem very likely to want to move off No. 20. That is no man’s land in this draft (like most drafts), and it’s easy to see Schneider looking not just down, but maybe up.

If, for example, Schneider moves down from 5 and gets Carter, Wilson or Witherspoon, he could use the bounty from that trade to try to move up for Skoronski. Getting two top-11 guys would be a great start to the draft – and the Hawks still could retain both second-rounders.

Of course, this all depends on finding trade partners — something the Hawks have not always had a lot of luck with in recent drafts.

Georgia outside linebacker Nolan Smith might be a great option with that second pick as well. Consensus boards have him listed in the 18-23 range, so a short move up could net him.  

Overall strategy

Carroll and Schneider have made it clear they are trying to create a dynamic defensive line. It is still incomplete, so we think Carter or Wilson might well be their pick — maybe after a short trade down from 5. The ESPN report goes along with that thinking.

Whether they move up or down from 20, their focus over the rest of the first two days seems likely to be interior offensive line, linebacker and more defensive line — perhaps tight end as well.

Schneider has addressed the team’s top needs (as perceived by us) in nine of his 13 drafts — about 70% of the time. He has hit most of our priorities in six of the last seven, so we are pretty in sync with the GM about the team’s draft strategy.

The one glaring spot Schneider has not addressed is center, which we have listed as a top-three need in the past three drafts. We have it up there again; will he finally draft one?


4 thoughts on “Looking at first-round options and overall strategy”

  1. Who was the author of the piece? It’s the most sensible, concise summary I’ve read. If John likes a QB then take him. If not then I like Witherspoon because of his fire but there is great depth in taller, athletic CBs. There are a few guys I like for their heart, intelligence, and commitment such as Bresee who would give us a dynamic big body with elite quickness and Adebawore could be the Michael Bennett 3-tech we’ve been searching for. Charbonnet is the perfect complement to K9. There are three top-notch centers on days one and two, and a couple more on day three.


  2. Thanks for the comment! All posts are written by me (https://chawktalk.com/about/).

    I noticed my last sentence on Witherspoon got partially dropped, so I filled it back in. I would not expect a first-round CB, but if that’s their best choice …

    I think Bresee is overrated on consensus boards. Way too many medical concerns/general lack of production to consider him in the first round.

    I do like Ade Ade and Charbonnet, though I am not sure the Hawks will go RB on Day 2 two years in a row.

    As for center, it should be a Day 1-2 prio, but watch them totally ignore it yet again …

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t know what you’ve read about Bresee but his sister died from cancer at the beginning of the season last year and it had a big effect. He also battled injury but still came back and had a big end of the year. I don’t know of any ongoing injury concerns. I think he’s underrated. We’ll see.


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