After trading down three times during the draft’s first 34 selections, the Seattle Seahawks finally made their first selection of the draft, selecting defensive tackle Malik McDowell from Michigan State. McDowell - who was talked about as a potential top-five pick in September - dropped due to questions about his effort and play during his final season. In three years in East Lansing, McDowell was a Freshman All-American and two-time Second-Team All-Big Ten. The talent speaks for itself, but it’s yet another project for Pete Carroll and the coaching staff to coach up.
In McDowell, the Seahawks added a potential blue chip player, a true first-round talent that dropped for several reasons, none of which relate back to his talent. And if there’s a coach and team I trust to motivate a young talent, it’s Pete Carroll and Seattle.
The Seahawks finally have a legitimate second inside pass rush option for the first time since Clinton McDonald left for Tampa Bay, and a real inside-outside defensive lineman to spell Michael Bennett. Bennett is getting older, and Seattle has added another option to help spell him - the fresher Bennett and Cliff Avril feel in December and January, the better.
An athletic defensive lineman with great short-area quickness and bend, the Seahawks have added a new-school inside pass rusher akin to the kind that’s given them hell over the last few seasons. He compares favorably to Tampa Bay’s Gerald McCoy and the New York Jets’ Leonard Williams, two of the best interior pass rushers in the game today.
Plays like this show everything that McDowell can be at the next level; the versatility to line up wide, the swat and rip to get past his blocker, the athleticism to bend around the corner and the short-area burst to finish. The tools and athleticism are there for all to see:
Now it’s up to the team and the player to get McDowell to the level he’s capable of playing at.
Despite being a perennial contender, Seattle has legitimately pressing needs at both cornerback and along the offensive line. The Seahawks have to add either a nickelback or outside cornerback with DeShawn Shead set to miss the beginning of the season, and while the draft is brimming with talent at that position, the longer they wait the less likely it is they can get a player ready to contribute week one. Additionally, they passed on a ten-year starter type of prospect in guard Forrest Lamp when they selected McDowell.
As far as the downside of McDowell himself goes, it all comes back to effort. He went missing far too often for the Spartans in 2016, and it wasn’t because he was over-matched. If McDowell expects to contribute and play immediately in 2017 - in a group that includes Avril, Bennett, Frank Clark and Cassius Marsh - he is going to need to be 100-percent focused on every down.
Or, alternatively, Always Compete.