There was a time when the NFL draft was probably the football event I was most interested in each year. I remember as a kid treating that Saturday — when they held the first three rounds all on one day and you could bundle in for eight hours of coverage — like a holiday. And I still find the first round to be very exciting, instantly marrying franchises together with prospects for four, sometimes five, and sometimes even two or three years!
But as time goes on covering professional football, I’ve had less time to form a heavily informed opinion on college prospects other than in reading the evaluations from the last couple of months. That’s why I go out and find the real experts to come and write for Field Gulls, which you’ve seen in running series like “Draft on Tape” and “7-Round Seahawks Mock Draft” this year. They can give you a much better argument for why to take player “X” or “Z” than I can, but here’s what I will say.
The player I most want the Seahawks to draft is: any eight players.
In 2009, Seattle draft seven players under the leadership of Tim Ruskell and Jim Mora. Since Pete Carroll and John Schneider took over in 2010, the Seahawks have never drafted fewer than eight. They average 9.5 players per draft class. This year, as you know, they enter the draft with four picks. That’s less than half their average and as we are all aware, they will be trading down on Thursday so they can get closer to their minimum of eight.
The Patriots have the most picks (12) but them moving up from 32 to 21 would be as out of character as the Seahawks moving up from 32 to 21. The Giants also have 12, but moving up from 37 to 21 would be a huge jump and New York doesn’t have a 2019 third round pick to offer, so it would likely have to include a 2020 first round pick and that doesn’t help Seattle’s problem of having four picks.
The Packers have 10 picks, own the Saints’ pick at 30, are often making big draft day moves, and have a long-standing relationship with Seattle’s GM. Green Bay GM Brian Gutekunst and Schneider overlapped in the Packers front office for eight years. The Packers could offer pick 30, pick 75 (lucky for the Seahawks), and one of their many day three picks of varying rounds depending on how competitive teams are for that pick 21. That gets them from four to six.
Next, the Seahawks likely move down again, perhaps targeting a team that wants to move up and secure a quarterback in the first round. New England actually becomes a possibility again, since they do have 12 picks, do need a new prospect to prepare behind Tom Brady, and might want to assure that a team doesn’t jump in front of them. To move up only two spots, the Patriots might only need to sacrifice one of their third round comp picks at 97 or 101. The reason Seattle might find this more appealing than a team offering a little better compensation is that New England is still offering a first round pick, increasing the chance that the Seahawks could trade down a third time from the first round. Schneider could again dangle the opportunity to take a player with a fifth-year option on his contract, and this is where I could just draw a name out of a hat.
We can’t predict with any accuracy which players will still be on the board and what needs have been “filled” at this point for the teams waiting in the front half of the second round. But if the Seahawks did get themselves to this point, then they’ve already gone from four picks to seven without even leaving the first round yet. Seattle could also acquire extra picks by be willing to move down in the third or fourth rounds, by using their 2020 picks (of which they have 11 so far), or trading a certain player of note. They’ll definitely be leaving with more prospects than the number of picks they currently have, and I would hope it’s at least eight.
Because the best lesson that I think you can learn about the prospects in the NFL draft is that there’s only so much you can learn about the prospects in the NFL draft. Better to have more of them added to the mix than less.
Now onto the people who do know the players and the picks of some of our Field Gulls crew:
Matty F Brown: Trevon Wesco, TE, West Virginia
Matty wrote about Wesco at length back in January. Though Wesco could resemble the positive traits of current Seahawk tight end Will Dissly, this is not a bad thing. To have both of them is a bonus but if Dissly struggles to get back on the field at 100% in 2019 because of his torn patellar tendon, Wesco would be there and his blocking could translate to the next level immediately.
Nothing demonstrates Wesco’s team-first approach more than his blocking, the element to his game that will have alerted Seattle’s Front Office. Be it pancaking the backside EDGE on an inside zone split lead from H-back or sticking to a mauling in-line down block, he rocked defenders while doing it all.
Matty also likes his soft hands and his ability to punish defenders downfield. Wesco could be a day three target.
Brandan Schulze: Deebo Samuel, WR, South Carolina
In a recent podcast, Brandan talked about the limited amount of time that Seahawks players have performed as a punt or kick returner. Historically, the maximum has been about four seasons. With Tyler Lockett going into his fifth year, and having the best statistical season of his career in 2018, it may be time for Seattle to look for his replacement in this year’s draft.
Samuel could be: 1) available after trading down from the 21st pick overall, even if they decide to go all the way back into the second round, 2) able to immediately contribute on special teams, 3) the type of receiver that Golden Tate was for the Seahawks. When asked to describe the type of player a team would get, Samuel says, “You get a player who can do anything. Put him anywhere out on the field and he’ll make something happen.”
He also performed extremely well at the Senior Bowl this year. Check out the breakdown by Matty F Brown and Samuel might end up being your draft crush, too. However, it should be noted that the Seahawks don’t have any players from South Carolina currently on the roster. Is Pete Carroll avoiding confrontation over whether his alma mater and South Carolina can both be referred to as USC?
John Fraley: Gardner Minshew, QB, Washington State
A quarterback?! As your draft crush? Come on, John. Missed deadline notwithstanding, aren’t the Seahawks re-signing Russell Wilson, paying him all the money, racking up the wins, and making more playoff runs? Yes. Yes, they are. But one hole in John Schneider’s otherwise full resume is quarterback development.
Grooming a backup isn’t just good cheap insurance for if anything happens to Wilson; it’s also a way to leverage assets into more assets. Should the Seahawks ever turn a project QB into someone worth a second or third-rounder in trade, then they don’t have to move back as aggressively in the draft that year. I’d love to see them grab Gardner Minshew, yes the one we’ve seen play a few miles down I-90 at Washington State this past season, for exactly that purpose. And to provide a little friendly but somewhat serious competition to RW. Paxton Lynch isn’t that guy.
Minshew’s gonna be available late. CBSsports.com has him projected as a 6th/UFA, same as nfl.com and walterfootball.com. There’s consensus that he’s not a top quarterbacking prospect. That’ll happen when you only play one season in a major conference, and not in the biggest spotlight either. Yet he’s got a few strong qualities that shoud endear him to the Seattle front office.
A) He’s got a proven ability to adapt. Transferring schools into a major conference for his senior year, then winning the job in camp, then tearing it up with a 147 rating is a pattern that PCJS are bound to recognize and respect. You have to be mentally strong to make that transition successfully, and mental strength combined with adaptability has always felt to me like of the greatest predictors of pro success.
B) Ball security is no problem. 20 interceptions in 1168 career throws is reassuring. It’s a 1.7 interception percentage rate; Kyler Murray’s is 2.7.
C) He’s accurate. As the NFL passing game has gone more horizontal generally, accuracy has become more important to some teams than elite arm strength.
D) Besides, he doesn’t get enough credit for his arm strength. In this clip below, the ball travels 50-plus yards and arrives where the receiver has the best play on it. You’d like to see less arc, maybe. But tha’s nitpicking.
Watch again and check out how he delivers that big throw under pressure. As a Seahawks quarterback, chances are he’d have a pass rusher in his face from time to time.
E) Lastly, Minshew’s actually a little bit mobile, especially in the red zone. Last year, he threw for 38 touchdowns, sure, but also scampered for four more. He’s also got decent pocket awareness -- here he steps up subtly but sufficiently to slide the pass into a tight window:
The .gifs are from his time at East Carolina. We’ve seen what he can do at WSU. Why not here, as either the long-term backup answer or some other team’s dream trade target?
John Gilbert: Anyone from the Big 12
The Seahawks have had good success with the conference. ET3, Okung, Lockett, Carson, Dickson, Flowers. So, I’m cool with anyone from the Big 12.
Michael “Mock Draft” Edwards: Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, S/CB, Florida
Over the course of the draft evaluation process, I have grown a mighty man crush on Chauncey Garner-Johnson. In college at Florida, he was used as a slot corner and single high safety. Prior to this last year, he was known as a pure coverage player who was lacking as a tackler and run defender. In his final year, he was brought up in the slot in nickel situation and responded by improving his tackling, run support and blocking to the point where it is now considered one of his most valuable traits. This year he had 71 tackles, 9 for a loss and 3 sacks, those are great numbers for a slot CB. He is made to throw up with McDougald on the other side and dare teams to run a jet sweep. I see him as a S to leave on the field as a big/small nickel, who can move from safety to the slot and give us the ability to react to any wrinkle the offense throws at us.
I also asked this question to the readers of Seaside Joe, my daily Seahawks newsletter that comes to your email each morning with some tidbits about the team and other random thoughts, and Gardner-Johnson’s name came up there too. Readers also chose edge Jalen Jelks and receiver DK Metcalf.