The Seahawks shocked viewers on day one of the 2020 NFL Draft—by remaining at their original selection, pick 27. With the pick, they furthered the surprise, taking Texas Tech linebacker Jordyn Brooks.
John Schneider, Pete Carroll, and Seattle’s personnel brass can always be counted on to go in an unexpected direction, and they did so on Thursday. Brooks’ selection can be seen as a head-scratcher, so let’s breakdown his short- and long-term outlooks, as well as his ceiling and floor as a pro.
Barring an unforeseen roster move (read: K.J. Wright’s release), it’s hard to see Brooks immediately cracking the starting lineup in 2020, if the team returns to more sub than base. Bobby Wagner and Wright remain (as of now) locked in as the two starters, with Cody Barton being the primary backup at both MIKE and WILL. Brooks’ most certain path to the field in 2020 will be on special teams.
Brooks did, however, rush the passer 117 times in 2019, per Pro Football Focus, and totaled three sacks and 44 pressures. With a hole at SAM linebacker, Brooks could crack the starting lineup that way—allowing the Seahawks’ to keep him around the line of scrimmage while adding much-needed play speed to their front seven.
Though Brooks has played both outside and inside ‘backer, long-term he surely projects inside. He’s best suited flowing to the ball sideline-to-sideline or sorting through traffic and playing downhill between the tackles. With Barton alongside him as a long-term duo, he could have his deficiencies downfield and in coverage covered up as much as possible.
Wagner, under contract for three more seasons, could be spelled in certain situations by Brooks over the next several years. It’s difficult to envision Wagner and Brooks playing together in sub packages, however.
While it’s easy to see how Barton and Brooks could play with one another, there is a cold reality of Brooks’ skill set at the moment—or rather, the lack of a certain skill set. He simply is not a space player. According to PFF, Brooks dropped into coverage 274 times last season and forced zero incompletions. He’s uncomfortable and lacks fluidity dropping into coverage, and zone dropping is exactly what will be asked of him in Seattle more often than not. There is a chance he never develops that ability and, in that scenario, he would be a severely limited defender.
Brooks is hardly the first linebacker to enter the NFL underdeveloped in one area of his game—he just happens to be underdeveloped in the most crucial area for a ‘backer in the modern NFL. However, his speed and awareness are quite prominent already, and those are traits that could translate to reacting to the football quickly on underneath routes from a zone. If Brooks can get to even a passable place in coverage and moving downfield, he can develop into being an above-average starter.
In 2019, really for the first time under Carroll and Schneider, the Seahawks overlooked their usual priorities in athletic testing for linebackers—speed and explosiveness—in favor of agility. At the time, it appeared to be a reaction to the evolving responsibilities in coverage for linebackers in the NFL. Brooks’ selection, seemingly, is a return to their usual lens for the position. He only ran the 40-yard dash at the Scouting Combine, but he checked that box for Seattle—and his play indicates high-level explosiveness. His change of direction ability and agility, however, is wanting. Athletically, Brooks is in line with the team’s drafting of linebackers.
While Brooks’ selection may have shocked or disappointed some, there is reason behind his selection. The team has previously had great success developing linebackers, and with two starters over 30 in the 2020 season, Brooks appears to be a look toward the future—and a bet on the Seahawks’ ability to develop.