How Seahawks can have the perfect 2020 NFL Draft in five steps, starting with upgrading their pass rush
This might be one of the few drafts where Seattle isn't pressed to move around
It's all about regaining glory for Pete Carroll and the Seattle Seahawks, currently recovering from an exit in the NFC Divisional Round at the hands of the Green Bay Packers after logging an impressive 11-5 finish to the 2019 season. The team battled through injury and uneven play at certain positions to keep themselves in the conversation as contenders, but in the end it was all too much to overcome at Lambeau Field, and the 28-23 loss still resonates with a club that knows they had a chance to advance to the NFC Championship and possibly beyond. That being the case, job numero uno for Carroll and Co. is to absolutely own the 2020 NFL Draft -- being only a few pieces away from potentially hoisting another Lombardi trophy.
Because the team's most pressing needs aren't many, it'll be interesting to see if general manager John Schneider employs his annual tactic of trading down to acquire more picks. The Seahawks enter the draft with seven of them, and it might serve them better to either stand pat, or possibly to even trade up in the first round -- when considering how dire their top need truly is.
Let's discuss how the Seahawks can land an A+ in the draft, which would be much easier to achieve than some other clubs.
Add a dynamic edge rusher to buoy the pass rush
Maybe Jadeveon Clowney will walk back through the door, and maybe he won't. Even if he does choose to accept an offer from the Seahawks that is clearly lower than he'd like, the club still needs to add a dynamic pass rusher in the draft. Clowney delivered only three sacks in 13 games with 11 starts, and yet that low tally was still good enough to tie him for third-most on the team. Rasheem Green had the most of all players in Seattle, but his four is only one more than Clowney's, and by now you're gathering just how difficult a time the Seahawks are having at attacking the opposing quarterback. Their struggles in the category forces more downhill play from Bobby Wagner and Mychal Kendricks, which robs them of the ability to consistently provide coverage assistance and/or to simply be allowed to read and react to plays.
Having not addressed the issue in potent fashion in free agency, sitting still and waiting to go on the clock with the 27th-overall pick might not be a good idea. Doing so doesn't rule out the possibility of an impact player falling to them and giving them tremendous value, but premier pass rushers don't hang around draft boards long. They'd likely have to make quite the leap to land someone like K'Lavon Chaisson, but if they see an A1 talent falling because of a run on one or two other positions -- jumping a couple spots north would be well worth what it costs to do so.
Contrarily, they could roll the dice and hope someone like Zack Baun falls in their lap. Jarran Reed was brought in on a two-year deal -- along with Benson Mayowa on a one-year contract -- to help stitch the wound, but they can't stop there. Not if they want another Super Bowl appearance sometime in the near future.
Fill the need at cornerback
After procuring a new quarterback harasser, the name of the game will be to address the situation behind them. The bottom line is Tre Flowers needs some assistance from fellow cornerbacks, as evidenced by his three interceptions having been matched by linebacker K.J. Wright and safety Quandre Diggs, while no other CB on the roster logged a single one in neither the regular season nor the two playoff games. For those paying attention, yes, that means they even failed to intercept Josh McCown, the 40-year-old backup forced to play for an injured Carson Wentz.
So while their pass rush showed up in a big way in Philadelphia -- to the tune of six sacks -- to help carry the secondary on its back, when the aforementioned uneven pass rush couldn't replicate that success against Aaron Rodgers; there was little Flowers and Co. could do to keep the former Super Bowl MVP contained.
Some are harsher on Flowers than others, but my stance is he's simply being asked to do too much and providing him an impactful complement at corner would see him take a leap forward in his play. Shaquill Griffin showed flashes in Year 1 and Year 2, but contributed zero interceptions in Year 3. His 13 pass break ups are valuable, true enough, but it's fair to consider adding competition at the spot, and it needs to happen early on Day 2.
Continue building a wall in front of Russell Wilson
If no trades are made and everything remains as-is, the Seahawks will be right back on the clock five picks later, having both the 59th- and 64th-overall pick. This allows them to grab their cornerback or pass rusher with the first pick of the second round, depending upon how they handled the first round, while having the confidence they'll be able to immediately circle back and get more protection in place for Russell Wilson. It's well-known the Seahawks have had one of the more porous lines in the NFL in recent seasons, and they admittedly added two tackles and two guards in 2019 free agency, proving they're far from blind to that fact.
Still, there are questions surrounding those signings. Chance Warmack served as a backup for three seasons in Philadelphia before sitting out 2019 altogether. B.J. Finney is being paid starter money but has only 13 starts in four NFL seasons. Brandon Shell lost his starting job in 2019 and regained it only due to injury to Chuma Edoga. And then there's Cedric Ogbuehi, a former 21st-overall pick of the Bengals (2015) who hasn't logged a start the last two seasons.
Credit the Seahawks for desperately trying to wall off Wilson, but even if one or two of these risks pay off, they're short-term and still leave a glaring need for the future (if not also the present).
The last premium (non-mid round and non-flyer) pick the Seahawks used on an offensive lineman was Germain Ifedi in 2016, and being four seasons removed from having done so provides perspective as to why Wilson is often scrambling for dear life. It's time for them to spend another top pick on protecting their franchise quarterback, lest he become another cautionary tale for GMs who devalue the need for protection because of their quarterback's ability to make magic.
Locate a third option at wide receiver
The move to select a falling D.K. Metcalf in the last year's draft turned out to be a master stroke for the Seahawks. The former 64th-overall pick played like a man possessed in his rookie year, en route to posting 900 yards and seven touchdowns in the regular season. His physical prowess is the perfect complement for the speedy Tyler Lockett, who himself had a 1,000-yard season with a team-high eight receiving touchdowns, so it's safe to say the Seahawks are all set at No. 1 and No. 2. That said, there's still the question of the No. 3 seat in the wide receiver room, with the third-highest production from the unit coming on only 301 yards and two TDs from David Moore.
Considering the need at tight end -- one they hope they've addressed with the addition of Greg Olsen -- lacking a threatening WR3 forces Wilson to funnel passes to Metcalf and Lockett at a rate that becomes too predictable at times.
That makes it easier for opposing defensive coordinators to key in on stopping them and even if that respective team doesn't have the personnel to do it, eventually someone will. An example being the aforementioned loss to the Packers, for while Green Bay couldn't contain Lockett, Metcalf was held to only 59 yards and no touchdowns. With no definitive third receiving option for Wilson, the Seahawks offense often stalled, and helped cost them a close one in Green Bay when it mattered most. It's an exceedingly deep class of wideout in this year's draft, so using a third- or fourth-round pick on one shouldn't be out of the question in Seattle.
Help for Chris Carson in the offensive backfield
There's no debate surrounding who's the starting running back in the Pacific Northwest. Carson has earned the job and then some, but his recent bouts with injury should be more than enough motivation for the Seahawks to bring in some help. And not simply stopgap help like another possible reunion with a still-capable Marshawn Lynch, but fresh legs hot off the collegiate stove. Adding to the need is the concern over Rashaad Penny not being ready for the start of the season -- assuming it begins on time amid COVID-19 concerns -- with Penny currently recovering from a torn ACL. With the starting RB having durability concerns and the other not yet ready to take the field again anytime soon, it's a no-brainer the Seahawks would consider looking at the pool of halfback prospects.
That is, if they truly understand how beneficial it'd be to scale back Carson's workload to more of a 65/35 or 60/40 split, especially considering he suffered a fractured hip that ended his 2019 season. It's the injuries to both Carson and Penny that led to the reunion with Lynch in the first place, but they can avoid needing to plead with Beast Mode in the future.
With two fourth-round picks at their disposal, assuming that order sticks by virtue of Schneider allowing it to, utilizing one of them on a running back that is both insurance at the position and possibly lots more would be just what the doctor ordered. Even better would be to grab one who can double as a wide receiver out of the backfield, considering the added need of finding Wilson more targets outside of just Lockett and Metcalf.
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