Grading NFL drafts is about as obnoxious as the media can get. It's like grading a test in school before reviewing the student's answers. Nobody on earth knows how any of these drafts will actually pan out until a few years down the road.
So, it's with great trepidation that I give Seattle an A-plus grade for its performance during the draft under general manager John Schneider and coach Pete Carroll. I do so based on what Seattle did more so than based on the players selected. It can never be forgotten that the NFL is a universe where arguably the greatest two quarterbacks in history, Joe Montana and Tom Brady, were drafted in the third and fifth rounds respectively and combined to win 10 Super Bowls, and Seattle built a Super Bowl champion with mostly stars taken in the mid to late rounds.
So let's not pretend that predicting how well these rookies will perform is mostly based on reasonably educates guesstimate. However, there is zero denying that how Seattle handled the draft was pure poetry.
I monitored Seattle's draft along with web producer Ashley Young while both in different locations communicating via text. Our banter was filled with sheer amusement as we watched Seattle bouncer around the draft to accumulate picks and move up to get the guy they wanted. The most common phrase used was "they traded another pick," whether up or down.
The net result was that Seattle, which entered last week with four picks, exited the draft with 11 rookies and an extra second round pick in 2020.
(pause for applause).
I mean....that was flat out mesmerizing.
Schneider should have taken the podium before the media on Saturday and went all Russell Crowe from the movie "Gladiator" and screamed, "ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?"
Now, the down side to all of this is that Seattle had to give up defensive end Frank Clark, who had 13 sacks last year and is just entering his prime at age 25. Dealing him to Kansas City prior to the draft netted the No. 29 pick this year and a second-round pick next season. But there is no guarantee that Seattle will be able to replace Clark's production even with the man the team selected with that No. 29 pick, defensive end L.J. Collier out of TCU.
Another down side is that while all of the wheelin' and dealin' proved to be entertaining and potentially fruitful, for all we know Seattle passed up on some star players in the process.
For examples: Seattle traded its own No. 21 pick to Green Bay for its No. 30 pick and two fourth-round picks (No. 114 and No. 118). What if there were several Pro Bowlers taken between No. 21 through No. 28 that Seattle could have had? Atlanta took wide receiver Calvin Ridley with the No. 26 pick in 2018. He produced 821 yards and 10 touchdowns for the Falcons. Of course, the final 10 picks have produced many busts over the years as well. It's a gamble either way. Seattle's philosophy is clearly to go after volume while trusting the scouting department and the coaching staff's ability to develop talent under Carroll.
Maybe the biggest "get" was the selection of wide receiver D.K. Metcalf with the 64th pick in the second round. Seattle traded up with New England to get Metcalf, a 6-foot-3, 228-pound receiver with as much speed as potential but also some question marks.
“We never would have thought that we would have had a shot to get him," Carroll told reporters. " When John realized, he just snapped at the opportunity to get a pick to elevate, so we could have that 64thpick. I was shocked. That was as much fun as I’ve had. Just to have that guy on our team. All of a sudden, out of nowhere, everything converged perfectly. We nailed it, and yes we got the trade, and bang, bang, bang, he made it to us. It was really exciting.”
It was like that for three days. Seattle's brass getting giddy about its ability to move down and trade up in order to get, what in their eyes, was great value with each pick.
Again, and this can't be stressed enough, we won't know for several years how this draft will ultimately look. Take a trip back down Seattle memory draft lane with this link and you'll find a bunch of names that will make you ask, "who?" mixed in with names you know.
It's the nature of the beast. But on paper, this was an impressive draft for Seattle. Here's a quick rundown:
Round 1 • Pick 29 (29) • DE L.J. Collier, TCU:
Seattle got its potential replacement for Clark right away. Collier is a power end with pass rushing potential that Carroll said will play the five-technique right away. “L.J. fits us," Schneider said. "He’s a heavy-handed, tough, chip-on-his-shoulder guy."
Round 2 • Pick 15 (47) • SS Marquise Blair, Utah: Seattle is solid at safety with Bradley McDougald, signed as a free agent last year, and former fourth-round pick Tedric Thompson, who started most of last year after Earl Thomas was lost for the season. Blair is a heavy hitter who will battle both for playing time. “We’d like to start him at safety on the inside knowing that there’s other things that he may be able to do, but we’re going to zero him in," Carroll said. "We really like him attacking the line of scrimmage. He blitzes well, he tackles well, hits well, great feel. It’s his toughness that we’re really excited about. He happens to be a really great athlete as well. But we’re going to zero him in and focus him in at strong safety.”
Round 2 • Pick 32 (64) • WR D.K. Metcalf, Mississippi: Carroll and Schneider said it would be a few weeks before they know more about wide receiver Doug Baldwin's status following multiple surgeries this offseason so getting a receiver in the draft was a must. Metcalf, at the very least, will be able to go deep and get up high for passes with his 40-inch vertical. "He’s equipped to do a lot of stuff," Carroll said. "Not just the stuff that he can do in the throwing game, but in the running game too. He’s going to be a big factor for us as a team that loves to run the football. He’s going to be a factor and he’s going to be able to help us in the play action game. He releases off the line of scrimmage with great violence."
Round 3 • Pick 25 (88) • LB Cody Barton, Utah: Seattle loves its starting three linebackers in Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright and Mychal Kendricks, but hadn't drafted a linebacker inside of three rounds since Wagner in 2012. That changed in this draft with the selection of Barton. “Versatility, size. He’s 6’2” and a half," Schneider said. "He can play all three spots. He’s always been a phenomenal special teams player. The guy is really intense and loves football. He’s got true grit to him...We got the two Utes. [Utah] actually had a really good defense. He comes from a system where Coach Whittingham is really demanding. [Marquise Blair and Cody Barton] are coming out of a system where they are both well disciplined guys when they come out.”
Round 4 • Pick 18 (120) • WR Gary Jennings, West Virginia:
Seattle added more receiver depth with Jennings, who had 913 yards and 13 touchdowns for West Virginia last season. "Phenomenal hands. Really strong after the catch. He had an awesome visit with us, led the nation with 16 touchdowns. He is going to come in and compete for that slot spot."
Round 4 • Pick 22 (124) • G Phil Haynes, Wake Forest: Seattle led the NFL in rushing last season but certainly needed to add a young guard to the mix and did so with Haynes. “Phil is a guy that we targeted early because of his makeup and his style of play," Carroll said. "We’re really excited about how our guards have been playing. You saw us go out and get Mike Iupati to go along with what D.J. [Fluker] has done. We thought early on that this is a guy that can fit in the mold of that. He’s going to be 340 pounds. He’s a really strong, really physical guy. He likes to finish blocks and knock guys down. He’s got an attitude about him.”
Round 4 • Pick 30 (132) • FS Ugo Amadi, Oregon: The four-year starter at Oregon played both cornerback and safety for the Ducks. He might not have the speed to play full-time corner in the NFL but he certainly is versatile enough to bounce around the secondary when needed. “He’s a very versatile football player," Carroll said. "He’s been recognized and has been awarded some stuff through recognition of being an all-around player. He’s a safety and we’re going to start him off playing back in the middle, he’ll play free safety to start. Marquise [Blair] will be on the other side. He’s done a lot of coverage stuff on the slots, he’s done nickel work in a unique way and been effective there too.”
Round 5 • Pick 4 (142) • LB Ben Burr-Kirvin, Washington: The Huskies produce great defensive players and Burr-Kirven is certainly one of them. He had 338 career tackles for the Huskies with 11 1/2 sacks. Should be an immediate contributor on special teams. "I thought it was a really exciting pick to evaluate because he’s such a unique type of player. Whenever you get a guy that’s this active and has these kinds of numbers, you have to take a look. We took a really deep look at what Ben’s all about. He reminded me so much of Lofa Tatupu. Lofa had this extraordinary knack for finding the football in unique ways and the way he fit in the running game, he was amazing. This is the way that Ben plays.”
Round 6 • Pick 32 (204) • RB Travis Homer, Miami:
Seattle is set at the top of the depth chart with Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny, but both are 220-pound backs while Homer, at 5-11, 195, adds a speed back element. Over the last two seasons, he rushed for 1,951 yards and 12 touchdowns. “He can play an every down back," Schneider said. " He’s really tough. He’s only 20 years old. He’s a grit guy for us, hell of a special teams player. He can play on third down. We actually had him in the third down category because he had such good hands coming out of the backfield. Really good instincts. Just a really, really tough.”
Round 6 • Pick 37 (209) • DT Demarcus Christmas, Florida State: This late in the draft, a team is looking for guys that show them something that could be developed into a contributor. “He’s going to play 3-technique to start us out," Carroll said. " We just want to bring him along. Good, tough guy, who can do a lot of good stuff. We just want to develop him, we need the depth, and we need the girth. He’s a 300-plus pound guy."
Round 7 • Pick 22 (236) • WR John Ursua, Hawaii: Seattle, after already taking two receivers, traded to acquire a seventh-round pick just to take Ursua. “Besides the player, who we all really liked as a competitive slot receiver, when you’re in the seventh round, you have to look at where guys have visited, and who’s had private workouts with them, and who’s spent the most amount of time with them," Schneider said. "He had spent time with several teams that we were concerned about. We were worried about not being able to sign him as a rookie free agent. We did not have a seventh-round pick. We had 12 picks next year, so, let’s go get the guy that everybody feels really good about, let’s just lock it down. He’s a really cool kid.”