Originally set to pick 37th on Friday night, the Seattle Seahawks slid down once, 10 spots in exchange for the Panthers’ second and third round selections (numbers 47 and 77). At pick 47, the Seahawks selected Utah safety Marquise Blair—a tremendously fun player, but a selection that led to some vintage eyebrow raising in Seattle’s direction.
Size wise, Blair is an exception to a mold the Seahawks have stuck to quite closely. At just 195 pounds, Blair is nearly 10 pounds lighter than the next lightest safety Seattle’s drafted since 2010 (Tedric Thompson at 204 pounds). Blair—like Earl Thomas—plays like he’s 220 pounds, and that was surely taken into consideration. Though he doesn’t have a complete athletic profile, Blair does clear the Seahawks’ thresholds in the drills he tested in—vertical jump, broad jump and forty yard dash—and his broad was particularly impressive (80th percentile among safeties).
Where Blair Wins
Blair’s strengths work in chorus; he has great play speed and burst to get to the football, and when he arrives, he finishes with physicality and certainty. Though the vast majority of his snaps came as the free safety in Utah’s defense, Blair will offer Seattle versatility—rangy enough to play as the single-high safety:
New Seahawks S Marquise Blair finished last season with the 2nd-highest coverage grade among draft-eligible Pac-12 safeties! #NFLDraft pic.twitter.com/shlihyijph— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) April 27, 2019
And physical enough to survive playing the flats and hook/curl zone underneath:
Blair is like a heat-seeking missile. Sprints at the right angle and detonates what he hits at the end of it: pic.twitter.com/VXWItvYgMC— Sam Monson (@PFF_Sam) March 29, 2019
Where Blair Loses
The decision to not participate in either the three cone or short shuttle was curious from Blair, because a strong time in either/both would quell concerns surrounding his agility and change of direction. There’s a reason the above tweet describes him as a “heat-seeking missile.” With the correct angle, Blair can explode into the ball-carrier with speed; if he needs to adjust on the fly, he struggles. It will be fascinating to see how he is deployed by Pete Carroll.
Year One Role
One would imagine Bradley McDougald and Tedric Thompson will enter camp the presumed starters, but the Seahawks have added legitimate competition for Thompson in Blair. If he wins the job, he’ll be a year one starter at free safety (and Seattle likely uses a wider range of coverages, as they did down the stretch last season). If Thompson holds Blair off, then the rookie safety should be a special teams contributor.
Best Case Scenario
Blair’s physicality and straight-line speed makes for an intriguing prospect. If Carroll can combine the existing physical tools with quicker processing in the pros, Blair could become a fun-as-hell, versatile safety to pair with McDougald. Like L.J. Collier, it’s going to take time to see the finished product, but in the best case scenario, that finished product is just what the Seahawks need.
Worst Case Scenario
There’s a real possibility Blair’s lack of agility is exposed at the next level, and if so, it would severely limit what he can do on the back end. He has the physical tools and mentality to be a long-time special teamer. Seattle has to hope their second round selection can be a lot more than that, but it’s contingent on his development.
It will be interesting to hear Carroll and John Schneider’s justification for drafting Blair so highly, if they do give it. There were a number of Seahawk-y safeties available, and ones more highly regarded than Blair at that. We’ll surely hear the trope that Blair is “one of their kind of guys,” on Friday evening from Seattle’s brain trust. Even still, it feels like the Seahawks could’ve acquired a more talented, and more polished, “their guy.”