Breaking down the Seattle Seahawks' 2018 draft class.
Round 1, No. 27 overall: Rashaad Penny, RB, San Diego State
My take: It’s a bit of a surprise pick. Not because the Seahawks took a running back -- that was a commonly projected move and it’s one of their top needs -- but because they took this running back. LSU’s Derrius Guice was still available, as were the two Georgia running backs, Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. That said, Penny has the production you’d like to see from a first-round pick and then some. He led the nation in rushing last season with 2,248 yards and scored 38 rushing touchdowns over the past three seasons. There’s a lot to like about the measurables as well. Penny is 5-foot-11, 220 pounds and ran 40 yards in 4.46 seconds, which is a nice size-speed combo.
"He's so versatile and so dynamic, we know every time he gets his hands on the ball, he can score a touchdown," coach Pete Carroll said. It’s entirely fair to wonder if the Seahawks took Penny a little too early, especially given their other needs. For what it’s worth, general manager John Schneider shared an interesting tidbit when he said another team called the Seahawks after their selection of Penny and tried to acquire him, adding, “I've never experienced that."
Either way, the Seahawks addressed a need by drafting an uber-productive player and added draft capital by trading back initially. You can’t feel too bad about that even if more pressing needs remain.
The reliability factor: Penny didn’t miss a game at San Diego State and appeared in 54 games over four seasons. Any team would like that durability, but you have to figure that was especially attractive to the Seahawks given how things have gone in their backfield in recent seasons. Seattle’s running game has been broken ever since Marshawn Lynch retired after the 2015 season, and none of his successors have been able to stay on the field. The Seahawks have cycled through running backs such as Thomas Rawls, Christine Michael and Eddie Lacy. Chris Carson’s promising rookie season ended early because of a nasty leg/ankle injury.
Carroll talked last season about a lack of continuity with the running back position and the offensive line being a culprit in Seattle’s scuffling running game. If Penny is as durable in the NFL as he was in college, that shouldn’t be a problem. Schneider said some of the analytics the team studied favored Penny over every other running back in this draft in terms of durability and production after first contact. Said Carroll of Penny’s durability: "It was really an important element of his makeup and his background. It was great."
Why not a cornerback or pass-rusher? While running back was a need for Seattle, cornerback and defensive end were arguably bigger weaknesses. The Seahawks, originally picking at No. 18, passed on three of the top cornerback prospects -- Louisville’s Jaire Alexander, Central Florida’s Mike Hughes and Iowa’s Josh Jackson. Why? Alexander doesn’t have the size and length Seattle prefers in its outside cornerbacks. Hughes seemed to have too much off-the-field baggage for a team that is now unwilling to live with those sorts of things. And my sense -- as stated here -- is the Seahawks just didn’t view Jackson as a complete enough player to take him in the first round. Harold Landry of Boston College was among the highest-rated edge players still available and a player commonly paired with Seattle in mock drafts, but there are serious questions about his consistency. Other teams apparently feel the same way as Seattle does about Jackson and Landry, as they weren’t picked in the first round.
Resetting the backfield: Running back was a need for Seattle even though Carson has a lot of promise. He looked like he could be Seattle’s long-term starter last season before he went down in early October. That’s the issue here: Carson hasn’t proven he can carry the load over an extended time let alone a full season. Neither has Mike Davis. The oft-injured C.J. Prosise certainly hasn’t either. Even with the durability concerns outside of Penny, this is a well-stocked backfield. Carson will give Penny the biggest push for the starting job. Davis -- whom Seattle re-signed to a one-year, $1.35 million deal with $350,000 guaranteed -- projects as the No. 3. J.D. McKissic and Prosise -- who have both filled the third-down role -- are the other two tailbacks on Seattle’s roster.
Round 3, No. 79 overall: Rasheem Green, DE, USC
My take: Offensive line and tight end were also in play with this pick, but the Seahawks opted instead to bolster their defensive line by taking Green at No. 79 after trading back three spots with the Steelers. Hard to find any fault with this selection. With news that the Seahawks plan to bring back Byron Maxwell, what might have been their biggest need went from cornerback to defensive line, where Seattle lost a lot of talent over the offseason. Michael Bennett (traded) and Sheldon Richardson (free agency) are gone, and Cliff Avril is in jeopardy of never playing again because of a neck/spine injury. Plus, Frank Clark is entering the final year of his contract and Seattle's other projected starting end, Dion Jordan, is playing on a one-year restricted-free-agent tender.
Defensive tackles Shamar Stephen and Tom Johnson, both added in free agency, are also one one-year deals. So the Seahawks clearly needed to add some young talent to the pipeline up front. They did that with Green, who posted 16.5 sacks and 20 tackles for loss over three seasons at USC. The trade with Pittsburgh got the Seahawks an additional seventh-round pick, another plus.
Schneider said a knee injury that dates back to high school was the only reason Green fell to the third round. Where would he have been drafted if not for that? “Pretty high,” Schneider said. “But we brought him in and our doctors were able to put their hands on him twice. He had a great exam up here and he was able to spend some extra time with our coaches and staff so we could get to know him even better than we did. I’m sure he thought he was going to go higher. We like to have guys like that.”
How he fits: Green (listed at 6-foot-4 and 275 pounds) fits the height/weight specs of a typical end in Carroll's defense, but he also played inside at times at USC. "I personally prefer the outside but I feel like I'm just as good inside as I am outside," he told reporters in a conference call. Green said the Seahawks have told him they want him to do both in Seattle. That's what Bennett did exceptionally well for several seasons, and it's the role the Seahawks had in mind when they spent their top pick last year on Malik McDowell, whose football future is also uncertain because of a head injury.
Round 4, No. 120 overall: Will Dissly, TE, Washington
My take: It's a little earlier than some thought Dissly would go, but this is an excellent match in terms of style and need. This was one of the barest positions on Seattle's roster and Dissly is considered one of the best blocking tight ends in the draft -- if not the best. That made him an obvious fit for a team that is trying to fix a dormant running game. The first move toward that end in this draft was taking running back Rashaad Penny 27th overall, and it continues with the Dissly selection.
How he fits: Dissly will in all likelihood compete with Nick Vannett for the No. 2 job behind Ed Dickson, and he'll have every chance of claiming it. Vannett is a third-round pick from 2016 but has hardly done enough over his first two seasons to be assured that role. The Seahawks signed Dickson after Jimmy Graham left in free agency. They also lost Luke Willson, their backup for the past several seasons. Tyrone Swoopes, a college quarterback who spent most of his rookie season on the practice squad last year, was the only tight end on Seattle's roster aside from Dickson and Vannett. That's why the Seahawks were likely to draft another.
Shaquem thrilled to play alongside brother
Shaquem Griffin is excited to be drafted by the Seahawks in the fifth round and says that playing with his brother will "only mean greatness."
Round 5, No. 141 overall: Shaquem Griffin, LB, Central Florida
My take: There are obvious reasons to like this pick from a sentimentality standpoint, with Shaquem rejoining his twin brother Shaquill and becoming the first player in the NFL’s modern era with only one hand to be drafted. But the Seahawks are also getting an excellent football player. There’s the obvious question of how he’ll handle NFL competition without a left hand, but there are questions about any player taken in this part of the draft.
How he fits: Pete Carroll said the Seahawks see Griffin as a weakside linebacker. Former Pro Bowler K.J. Wright is Seattle’s starter on the weak side, so whatever playing time Griffin gets on defense figures to come in sub packages. "We're going to try to put him in spots where we can utilize the great speed that he has," Carroll said. "He's as fast as you can get as a linebacker." Listed at 6-foot and 227 pounds, Griffin is a bit undersized by the standards of NFL linebackers, but he made enough plays in college to believe he can help out somewhere, even if it’s in a situational role to begin with. Griffin also figures to be heavily involved on special teams, and several draft analysts have shared their belief that at worst, he should be an excellent contributor there.
Round 5, No. 146 overall: Tre Flowers, CB, Oklahoma State
My take: Maxwell's deal lessened the need for Seattle to draft a cornerback capable of stepping in and contributing right away, which might have taken an early pick. Instead, the Seahawks could wait and add one later if the right guy fell to them, which they did with second of their four picks in the fifth round. Flowers played safety in college but the Seahawks are calling him a cornerback. At 6-4 and 202 pounds with arms that are listed as 33 7/8 inches, he fits the specs of what Seattle looks for at that position.
How he fits: While there was a need for starting-caliber options at cornerback before the Maxwell deal was agreed to, Seattle is well stocked on the back end of the depth chart. Maxwell is the favorite to start over Dontae Johnson at left cornerback opposite Shaquill Griffin, with Justin Coleman in the slot. Flowers projects as a depth player, at least to begin with, along with Neiko Thorpe, DeAndre Elliott, Mike Tyson and Akeem King. In explaining what the Seahawks liked about Flowers, Carroll said: “The fact that he’s over 6-3 and that he runs 4.4 and that he’s got great length and good ball skills and he’s a good tackler and works hard at the game in general.”
Round 5, No. 149 overall: Michael Dickson, P, Texas
My take: It wasn’t out of the question that the Seahawks could draft a specialist, but it’s a little surprising to see them trade up in the fifth round to do it. Seattle gave up one of its two seventh-rounders to move up seven spots for Dickson, who was born in Australia and grew up playing Aussie rules football (and if the name sounds familiar, you might recall he was the player the Seahawks challenged to a staring contest during their meeting at the scouting combine). The Seahawks eventually need to replace Jon Ryan, and this pick signals that day may come sooner rather than later.
How he fits: Dickson, who won the Ray Guy Award last season as the nation’s top punter, will give Ryan the only real competition he’s had over the past several seasons. Ryan, the team’s longest-tenured player, is 36 years old. He has two years left on his contract with cap charges of $3.2 million in 2018 and $3.6 million in 2019, which isn’t cheap for a punter in his mid-30s. The Seahawks would save $2 million against the cap by releasing him this year, but keep in mind that the net savings would be less than that when factoring in what Dickson would cost as his replacement.
Round 5, No. 168 overall: Jamarco Jones, OT, Ohio State
Prospect Profile: Jamarco Jones
Former Ohio State tackle Jamarco Jones is ready to protect a NFL quarterback.
My take: This is a lot later than many observers expected Seattle to add to an offensive line that has been below-average -- often well below-average -- for the past few seasons. But the fact that the Seahawks waited all the way until the fifth round is another sign of what seems to be a level of confidence in what the Seahawks have at that spot and in new line coach Mike Solari’s ability to get more out of that group than his predecessor, Tom Cable, could. Listed at 6-foot-4 and 299 pounds, Jones doesn’t have prototypical height for an NFL left tackle, and he didn’t test all that well at the scouting combine. But the Seahawks got him later than some analysts thought he’d be drafted.
How he fits: The Seahawks will put Jones at left tackle. His draft slot suggests he’s more of a depth piece than someone who will make a strong push for a starting job right away. That said, 2016 first-round pick Germain Ifedi struggled in his move to right tackle last season and left tackle Duane Brown has one year left on his contract. Seattle is also getting former starting left tackle George Fant back from a torn ACL that sidelined him all last season. So perhaps Jones competes with Fant for the job of the swing tackle who’s active every game day as the backup on both sides. Either way, getting drafted in the fifth round hardly assures Jones of making the team.
Round 6, No. 168 overall: Jake Martin, OLB, Temple
My take: Along with the selection of Rasheem Green in the third round, this is another pick that helps restock a defensive line that has taken some big hits this offseason. The Michael Bennett trade and Sheldon Richardson’s free-agent departure left a void, and Cliff Avril isn’t expected back from his neck/spine injury. Of course, you’re not drafting a player in the sixth round with the expectation that he will replace Bennett or Avril in the starting lineup. But with Frank Clark and Dion Jordan projected to take over those roles, Seattle needs pass-rushers to replace them in the rotation.
How he fits: The Seahawks list Martin as a Leo, which is essentially the weakside end in their defense. He’s fast (4.59 seconds is his listed 40 time) but not all that big (listed as 6-foot-2, 236), so he seems like more of a situational pass-rusher than a player with the size and strength to anchor against the run on early downs. At best, Martin will be looking to join Marcus Smith in the pass-rush rotation. Whatever his role is on defense, his speed should give him a chance to find a spot in the coverage units on special teams. "He’s kind of got a linebacker body that played in the 250s this year," coach Pete Carroll said. "There are some numbers that show him lighter than that, but he plays in the 250s. He runs 4.6 and just has a great motor, so we’ll find a spot for him."
Round 7, No. 220 overall: Alex McGough, QB, Florida International
My take: No surprise the Seahawks drafted a quarterback with a late pick even though they recently re-signed last year's backup, Austin Davis, and also added Stephen Morris. This felt like a strong possibility with Schneider saying recently the Seahawks haven't done a good enough job of keeping the quarterback pipeline stocked the way his mentor, long-time Packers GM Ron Wolf, was known to do. In fact, Russell Wilson is the only other quarterback they've drafted since Schneider and Carroll came to town in 2010. The Seahawks could have used a rookie to develop after waiving Trevone Boykin. Another option would have been to add one in undrafted free agency, but with Davis and Morris currently on board behind Wilson, it may have been harder to convince a UDFA like McGough to sign with Seattle.
How he fits: Davis is the clear favorite to win the backup job that he held last season, especially considering his contract includes a very manageable cap charge of $720,000. That means there won't be a huge financial incentive to go with a younger player. In all likelihood, McGough will compete with Morris for the No. 3 job. The Seahawks have tended to keep only two quarterbacks on their 53-man roster during the season with a third on the practice squad. McGough (pronounced "Muh-GOO") was a four-year starter in college and ran quite a bit of read-option, which has been a part of Seattle's offense with Wilson. He rushed for 535 yards and 16 touchdowns over his career at FIU. That mobility surely carried appeal.