Originally set to pick at No. 64—the selection the Seahawks received in exchange for Frank Clark a year ago—Seattle moved down to number 69, sliding out of round two and adding an extra selection after their trade to acquire Darrell Taylor earlier in the evening. At the top of the third round, the Seahawks stuck and selected right guard Damien Lewis, from the national champion LSU Tigers.
Though Lewis’s selection, and the decision to select a guard rather than a tackle, was met with some consternation, it is sensible. The NFC West is stacked with interior rushers (not that the EDGEs are anything to scoff at, though) and interior pressure has always given Russell Wilson issues. Both in the short-term and the long-term, Lewis will help.
A pure right guard in college, Lewis will be competing in training camp with D.J. Fluker, Jordan Simmons and a host of other players to start at that spot (with Mike Iupati and Phil Haynes leading the competition on the left). With Fluker’s experience in Mike Solari’s system and his previous highs under the offensive line coach, the veteran should be expected to win the spot—while Lewis provides solid depth.
If the incumbent starters, Iupati and Fluker, retain their spots for 2020, then Haynes and Lewis should be expected to take over in 2021. Lewis’s long-term role is at the right guard spot he manned at LSU; whether he begins to fill that spot as a rookie or in his sophomore season is yet to unfold.
Lewis is an excellent representation of Seattle’s new draft strategy with offensive linemen under Solari. Rather than draft high-level athletes and attempt to mold them into passable starters at a given position, they have begun targeting prospects who come into the NFL as above-average run blockers and the physical tools to become solid in pass pro. Even if Lewis does not develop, he should be able to provide play at a similar level to Fluker in 2018 and ‘19: clearing pathways upfront for tailbacks, bringing the mobility to execute what is asked, while struggling in one-on-ones in pass protection.
This is the flip side of their new strategy, and it is so exciting. Already, Lewis is a great, thrilling run blocker. He has the power to blow defenders off the ball cleanly, and the mobility to help spring explosive plays on the ground by pulling, climbing to the second level or executing trap blocks. Though he needs to grow as a pass blocker, Lewis has the anchor, arm length, and technique to grow into an above-average starter in that area, too. Both Lewis and Haynes have upsides that the current starters do not, and could give Wilson a strong interior for the foreseeable future.
While Lewis does need to further polish his game in pass protection in the pros, he was hardly a liability for the pass-happy Tiger offense:
Per PFF: Damien Lewis allowed just 5 sacks, 13 hurries in 1,089 pass blocking snaps during two years at LSU— Alistair Corp (@byAlistairCorp) April 25, 2020
While the Seahawks’ mold for offensive linemen is still developing under Solari, Lewis seemingly checks all the boxes. Size-wise he is right in line, at 6-foot-2 and 327 pounds, with 33” arms and a 79 1/2” wingspan. He has the requisite explosiveness, with a 9-foot broad jump and 30” vertical, and it is apparent when he comes off the ball at the snap. Solari continues to acquire offensive lineman to build up a unit in his vision, and it will continue to improve.
Seattle went against conventional thought with this pick, looking towards the interior rather than the edges, but it’s tough to complain about the value. With their third selection in the 2020 NFL Draft, the Seahawks went and landed a surefire starter who will help keep Russell Wilson clean.