T-minus one day until the 2020 NFL Draft, which will be entirely virtual and highly likely to produce unintentional comedy. The Seattle Seahawks, with John Schneider’s war room all ready to go, are set to pick at #27 but we all know deep down inside that they will trade down.
On the eve of draft night, I’ve taken 20 random mock drafts from reasonably reputable sites and columnists, with a mixture of prominent national pundits and local Seahawks analysts. In the interest of getting the most up-to-date takes, I’ve excluded any mock drafts that were conducted before April 8th.
CBS Sports’ Ryan Wilson: Marlon Davidson, DL, Auburn
Davidson was overshadowed by Derrick Brown, but he can line up inside or out, though he’s much better coming off the edge at this point in his career.
ESPN’s Brady Henderson: Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama
Defensive line and linebacker are arguably bigger needs, but the Seahawks wouldn’t reach for the lesser front-seven prospects available here and pass up on a back-end star such as McKinney. They’d be all over McKinney, Todd McShay’s top-ranked safety and his 14th-highest-graded prospect overall. McKinney is versatile enough to play deep, in the box and in the slot, so coach Pete Carroll wouldn’t have trouble getting him on the field. And while general manager John Schneider will be looking to trade back like he usually does in the first round, McKinney falling is among the scenarios that would tempt him to stay put.
ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr: Cesar Ruiz, G/C, Michigan
Seattle wants to be a run-first team, and it could upgrade at guard, where Ruiz is my top-ranked interior offensive lineman. He started the past two seasons at center for the Wolverines but is athletic enough to play either guard spot. Since it appears Jadeveon Clowney won’t return to Seattle, I thought about defensive end here. Iowa’s AJ Epenesa could be a fit.
NFL Network’s Chad Reuter: Joshua Jones, T, Houston
Beefing up the defensive line would make sense here, as well. However, Duane Brown is going into his 13th year (having missed four games last year) and the Seahawks reportedly gave Cedric Ogbuehi a one-year deal, so it’s unlikely they consider him the long-term answer at right tackle.
NFL Network’s Rhett Lewis: Isaiah Wilson, T, Georgia
A big, powerful offensive lineman heading to Seattle — stop me if this sounds familiar. ... Wilson will fit right in up front as the ‘Hawks continue their commitment to the ground game.
The Ringer’s Danny Kelly: Isaiah Wilson, T, Georgia
Wilson is another high-upside tackle with rare size and movement skills. At 6-foot-6, 350 pounds, he brings people-moving mass and the type of power that would fit well in Seattle’s smashmouth run game. He’s still developing his technique as a pass protector, but his length (he has an 84-plus-inch wingspan) makes him tough to run around on the edge.
NFL Network’s Peter Schrager: Yetur Gross-Matos, EDGE, Penn State
Gross-Matos is 6-5, 266 pounds and an athletic specimen. Penn State’s best defensive lineman over the last two years can get to the passer and stop the run. I don’t see him escaping the first round. The Seahawks need more juice off the edge, even if they ultimately end up re-signing Jadeveon Clowney. Gross-Matos is 6-5, 266 pounds and an athletic specimen. Penn State’s best defensive lineman over the last two years can get to the passer and stop the run. I don’t see him escaping the first round. The Seahawks need more juice off the edge, even if they ultimately end up re-signing Jadeveon Clowney.
NFL Network’s Charles Davis: Yetur Gross-Matos, EDGE, Penn State
Willowy and rangy with some juice. Some believe Gross-Matos won’t make it out of the teens on Day 1.
Just to break from this a bit, “willowy and rangy with some juice” sounds like a description of a beverage, not a football player. Classic Charles Davis.
Seattle Times’ Bob Condotta: Yetur Gross-Matos, EDGE, Penn State
No one reading this far needs reminding that the Seahawks need help with their pass rush. Gross-Matos has emerged as a really popular choice for the Seahawks in mock drafts, which means it probably won’t happen (or Seattle will just trade down). Still, he makes a ton of sense for Seattle to consider, on paper a prototype pass-rusher off the edge who wowed on the big stage last year when he had two sacks and 3.5 tackles-for-loss in Penn State’s close loss at Ohio State.
Bleacher Report’s Mike Freeman: Yetur Gross-Matos, EDGE, Penn State
If the Seahawks don’t trade out of this spot and into the second round—and they probably will—they’ll address a potentially huge need should they not come to an agreement with Jadeveon Clowney.
NBC Sports’ Peter King: Yetur Gross-Matos, EDGE, Penn State
There’s not much of a chance Seattle sits and makes this pick, honestly; GM John Schneider has traded down in the first round eight straight years. I still think he could deal down, particularly if there’s a lesser-light big corner he likes available high in the second round. But I couldn’t find a logical dance partner for the Seahawks. My feeling is Seattle is doling out hope for Jadeveon Clowney in the $15-million-a-year range, or maybe Everson Griffen; they’re the kind of veteran rushers Seattle thinks are necessary in a high-powered NFC West. But Gross-Matos is a good alternative as a backfield disruptor.
Microsoft Sports: Yetur Gross-Matos, EDGE, Penn State
Jadeveon Clowney doesn’t appear to want to be a Seahawk, and, at this point, the Seahawks are probably done with Clowney. Clowney’s asking price was $20 million a year until earlier this month. Even after cutting his demands by at least $2 million, the Seahawks don’t seem ready to bite. Losing Clowney will hurt, as the Seahawks were already second-to-last in sacks in 2019.
Thankfully, Gross-Matos will be able to slot right in at LEO (a DE that has the ability to stand up and play more like an OLB in a 3-4 defense). Though there’s a clear need for pass rush, a skill position could be picked here. With RB Chris Carson recovering from a hip injury, and RB Rashaad Penny probably being unavailable to start the season due to an ACL tear, we could see the first RB off the board here if they like Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor enough. However, the value of Gross-Matos at No. 27 is too much to pass up here
Sporting News: Yetur Gross-Matos, EDGE, Penn State
The Seahawks likely won’t re-sign Jadeveon Clowney, and Ezekiel Ansah remains a free agent, leaving a void for strong all-around edge defender. Gross-Matos (6-5, 266 pounds) is a well-built, explosive and versatile defender made to be disruptive in a Pete Carroll defense because of his size and engulf ability.
Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer: Yetur Gross-Matos, EDGE, Penn State
The Seahawks need pass-rush help, even if Jadeveon Clowney comes back next year. Gross-Matos fits their athletic profile, and still has a lot of room to grow. I’d watch this as a spot for someone to come up and get an offensive tackle, too—Seattle will be listening to offers to move out of the first round.
Washington Post’s John Clayton: Yetur Gross-Matos, EDGE, Penn State
General Manager John Schneider hasn’t drafted in Seattle’s original first-round spot since 2011, so the Seahawks are likely to trade down. But if they don’t, Gross-Matos would be a no-brainer given their need for a pass rusher.
Bleacher Report: Zack Baun, EDGE, Wisconsin (trading down to 32)
Sweated this one for a while, just because Seattle Seahawks GM John Schneider will probably look to trade back again (it’s sort of his thing). Since that’s not an option again in this case, we’ll go with the best pass-rusher available to a team that doesn’t appear to be bringing back Jadeveon Clowney or Ezekiel Ansah.
Even with those veterans, the Seahawks had the third-lowest sack rate in the NFL last season, with nobody on the roster reaching the five-sack plateau.
During his senior season at Wisconsin, edge defender Zack Baun recorded 12.5 sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss. He is arguably better suited as a 3-4 outside linebacker, but he’s versatile enough to make an impact in multiple ways for Pete Carroll and Ken Norton Jr. He’s an explosive player with the polish and pedigree to play a major role right away on a team that would probably rather not wait for an edge-rusher to develop.
If the Seahawks can’t get any further back, this makes the most sense.
CBS Sports’ Josh Edwards: Grant Delpit, S, LSU
Delpit, to me, is still a first-round talent even if it is a bit of a gamble. Seattle can slide him into the secondary alongside Quandre Diggs.
Pro Football Focus’ Steve Palazzolo: Julian Okwara, EDGE, Notre Dame
Okwara has a fantastic combination of burst, length and power, and the Seahawks might like Mike Renner’s Chris Clemons comp from the PFF draft guide. Okwara has the movement skills to dabble at linebacker in the right scheme, but he’s likely a pure edge rusher for Seattle. He finished with an outstanding 90.4 pass-rush grade last season, though he’s got work to do against the run where he graded at just 64.0.
FOX Sports’ Jason McIntyre: Austin Jackson, T, USC
Big needs on the offensive and defensive lines. But John Schneider hasn’t drafted a tackle in the first three rounds since 2014.
Bleacher Report’s Mike Tanier: Trevon Diggs, CB, Alabama
Cornerback Tre Flowers had a rough 2019 campaign. Diggs, the younger brother of Stefon Diggs, is your typical NFL-ready Alabama cornerback with good eyes and great feet. He’s also 6’1”, the perfect height for a Seahawks cornerback.
Later in the draft, look for the Seahawks to select at least three safeties, a hard-nosed running back with fumbling issues (let’s just pencil in Eno Benjamin), two offensive linemen who were converted tight ends or small forwards and either a kicker or a long snapper. Because that’s how they like to do it.
Using a completely random sample of 20 mock drafts, here’s the scoreboard:
Yetur Gross-Matos - 9
Isaiah Wilson - 2
Trevon Diggs - 1
Xavier McKinney - 1
Julian Okwara - 1
Joshua Jones - 1
Cesar Ruiz - 1
Marlon Davidson - 1
Austin Jackson - 1
Grant Delpit - 1
Zack Baun - 1
For the most part, it’s either EDGE or offensive lineman as the top choice for the Seahawks. You do have a few who see secondary as the first move, something Seattle has never done under John Schneider. Frankly I don’t think the Seahawks will draft any of these players, although I’m actually intrigued the most by Isaiah Wilson.
Stay tuned for Thursday (or Friday) when the Seahawks pick is announced and you’re sat at home wondering aloud, “Who the hell is that guy?”