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2020 NFL Draft: The altered pre-draft process could impact the Seahawks’ approach

NCAA Football: Rutgers at Michigan Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 NFL Draft, and the process leading up to it, will be entirely different than anticipated just a few months ago. There will be no medical rechecks in Indianapolis, no top-30 or local visits, nor private workouts; the majority of pro days have been or will be canceled; the draft itself, as an event, has been shut down. The event, the league, and all 32 teams will be functionally different this year.

For the Seattle Seahawks, the altered landscape in 2020 might force a departure from an unspoken rule they have held to almost completely since Pete Carroll and John Schneider took over in 2010. By now, as we head toward draft number 11 for the duo, there are trends we could recite in our sleep: 32-inch arm length for cornerbacks, length and explosiveness for players in the trenches, and on it goes.

Another draft trend they follow, however, is the tendency to only select prospects who have complete, or largely complete, athletic profiles. Whether it’s at the Scouting Combine or pro days, Seattle wants to know a prospect fits their mold for them to select the player. Of the 97 players drafted by Schneider and Carroll since 2010, 87 have had either complete athletic profiles or at least testing in the drills relevant to their position. (For example, Rashaad Penny did not do the short shuttle or three cone drills ahead of his draft, but he did record vertical and broad jumps, the two tests most relevant to the Seahawks’ evaluation of running backs.)

Seattle is hardly the only team that wants as much information on prospects as possible this time of year, but some teams are more inclined to take fliers than others. The 49ers under Trent Baalke, for example, come to mind as a team that would roll the dice on high-ceiling prospects who would require a medical redshirt season. The most notable example of this for the Seahawks would be Walter Thurmond III, in Carroll and Schneider’s first draft at the helm, who was selected despite having suffered a serious knee injury. Similar decisions, however, are scarce across their 10 drafts.

When pro days were effectively shut down, 268 days ago on March 12, just 53 of 191 scheduled had occurred. As a result of the incomplete pro day schedule—and a high number of prospects at the combine not participating—many prospects this year will have nonexistent athletic profiles.

Seattle will still have a healthy number of prospects who A.) Fit into their size and athleticism trends and B.) Have complete testing to choose from. Currently, the Seahawks Draft Board has over 150 prospects on it, all of whom have completed or partially completed athletic profiles.

However, there are many prospects who make sense for the Seahawks who do not. Josh Uche, a pass rusher from Michigan, is one of the few high-end EDGEs who could potentially fill the hybrid SAM linebacker/pass rusher role Bruce Irvin once did. Due to a hamstring injury suffered at the Senior Bowl, Uche wasn’t able to participate at the combine, and the Wolverines’ pro day did not occur prior to the shutdown. Should Seattle find themselves in a position where he is the top prospect available on their board, they may be forced to fly blind where they may not otherwise. There are players at every position who hypothetically fit the Seahawks’ profile, but won’t be confirmed to be a fit without athletic testing.

Seattle will need to navigate the unknown in 2020 more so than they have previously. With many holes to fill across the roster, their vaunted player evaluation has to be on point in what is a crucial year for this iteration of the Seahawks.