The draft wish list series kicked off last week when we looked at a potential EDGE target for the Seattle Seahawks on each day of the 2019 NFL Draft. Though EDGE is the Seahawks biggest need, it wouldn’t come as a surprise if Seattle instead addressed pass rush by looking inside. The entire defensive line class is incredibly talented, and if the Seahawks believe their best chance at acquiring a blue chip talent is by looking to the interior rather than the edge, then that’s the direction they should go.
If that ends up being the case, there’s no shortage of athletic, penetrative talents to choose from; this expands across all three days of the draft.
Day 1 - Jerry Tillery, Notre Dame
Tillery’s showing against Stanford in 2018 has become a legend among draft analysts, and if he was able to replicate that level of play—four tackles for loss, four sacks, seven pressures, a forced fumble and four quarters in the backfield—over the course of the season, the former Fighting Irish defensive tackle would be in the conversation to be the first overall pick.
However, Tillery struggled with consistency throughout the season, and that inconsistency extends to a snap-to-snap basis. When Tillery is on, he’s a physically dominant player who combines power, flexibility, accuracy in his punch, and finishing. Importantly, his testing—in the 84th percentile—matches up with his highs on the field. There are glimpses of an All-Pro talent, and despite his inconsistent play in 2018, Tillery finished fourth in the country in pass rush productivity and pressures among defensive tackles. Teams will love that he battled through a torn labrum for several months, too. But when it isn’t clicking for Tillery, he’s often late off the ball, easily knocked off balance and simply without a plan when engaging. In a rich defensive line class, it’s easy to justify looking elsewhere towards the top.
Where Seattle currently finds themselves in the first round—and where they likely will find themselves after a trade—makes more sense for a risk like Tillery. It would be another shot at finding a player with a Malik McDowell or Sheldon Richardson-type of skill set, but with none of the character concerns. If the Seahawks are comfortable with Tillery the person—and are confident he will max out his skill set at the next level—he could prove to be a steal at the back end of round one.
Day 2 - Charles Omenihu, Texas
Full disclosure: I’m cheating a little here and projecting Omenihu as an interior lineman. Maybe he ends up as a 3-4 defensive end, or a 5-tech capable of reducing inside in a 4-3; for this exercise, I’m projecting him to be an interior rusher because that’s where he would see the majority of his snaps in Seattle.
Omenihu, like Tillery, is a physical marvel. 6-foot-5, 280 pounds, explosive and flexible. His ability to shoot gaps and win with short-area quickness makes him an ideal rusher from the inside, and his strength at the point of attack—and explosiveness off the ball—should mean he isn’t limited to just passing downs. Omenihu could end up playing any number of positions at the next level, but as a disruptive 3-tech in the Seahawks’ defense, he could have a tremendous impact as a rookie.
Day 3 - Renell Wren, Arizona State
Big and powerful enough to play as a 1-tech, with the quickness and explosiveness to penetrate as a 3-tech, Wren is a highly intriguing day three prospect. Wren is a force who tested in the 77th percentile at 6-foot-5 and 318 pounds. Similar to one of the defensive tackles at the top of the draft in Ed Oliver, Wren’s production was harmed by his usage, as the former Sun Devil registered just three sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss in his college career, being deployed mostly as a nose tackle.
A team will absolutely fall in love with the idea of Wren, and their staff’s ability to unlock all the physical tools he brings. Seattle is exactly that kind of team, and a nucleus of Jarran Reed, Poona Ford and Wren could set them up wonderfully for the future. There’s a chance Wren gets over drafted by an overeager franchise, but if he is available early on day three, the Seahawks should bet on Wren.
Whether it’s at defensive end or tackle, Seattle must add talent to their existing defensive line group during the 2019 NFL Draft. At both spots, the draft if flush with talent; the Seahawks would be wise to gamble on one of the high upside prospects available.