2018 NFL Draft Preview: Do The Seahawks Need To Address Cornerback Early?

Where the Seahawks stand at cornerback heading into the draft, as well as a look at some of the top prospects in this year's draft class.

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With the NFL Draft coming up, Seahawks.com is taking a position-by-position look at where things currently stand on the Seahawks' roster, as well as the top prospects at each position. We'll also look at Seattle's draft history at each position under general manager John Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll.

The Seahawks currently hold 8 picks in the 2018 draft, which begins April 26 in Dallas.

Seattle's 2018 Draft Picks: Round 1, Pick 18, No. 18 overall; Round 4, Pick 20, No. 120 overall; Round 5, Pick 4, No. 141 overall; Round 5, Pick 9, No. 146 overall; Round 5, Pick 19, No. 156 overall; Round 5, Pick 31, No. 168 overall; Round 7, Pick 8, No. 226 overall; Round 7, Pick 30, No. 248 overall.

So far we've covered the offensive line, the defensive line, tight end, linebacker, and running back, and today we take a look at cornerback. Tomorrow we'll turn our attention to the receivers.

Draft History Under Schneider and Carroll: Walter Thurmond (No. 111 overall, 2010), Richard Sherman (No. 154, 2011), Byron Maxwell (No. 173, 2011), Jeremy Lane (No. 172, 2012), Tharold Simon (No. 138, 2013), Eric Pinkins (No. 208, 2014: Pinkins later switched to LB), Tye Smith (No. 170, 2015), Shaquill Griffin (No. 90, 2017), Mike Tyson (No. 187, 2017).

Where The Seahawks Stand

Cornerback is another position that will look quite a bit different in 2018, most notably because longtime starting left cornerback Richard Sherman is now in San Francisco. And it's not just Sherman who will play elsewhere this season—2016 starter DeShawn Shead signed with the Lions as a free agent, while Jeremy Lane, who also had significant starting experience, was released earlier in the offseason.

Yet those moves don't leave the Seahawks devoid of talent at cornerback. Shaquill Griffin, a 2017 third-round pick, played very well as a rookie and will help solidify that position group going forward following the departure of an All-Pro like Sherman. In fact, Griffin played well enough last season that Carroll compared it to Sherman's rookie season.

"It's a really big deal," Carroll said of Griffin's emergence at last month's league meetings. "And when we look at it, it has been really interesting to compare his first season and Richard's first season to kind of gauge, what is the impact he is going to have and what kind of player can he become? Because he had a fantastic year and withstood all of the challenge—he had 84, 85 targets this year, and Sherm had 84, 85 as well his rookie season. So you could see him under all circumstances against great players and saw him come through. So there is no indication that he should be anything but on the upswing and the positive, should be factoring into being a dominant football player in time, but it will all come back to how he comes back and how he works and how he prepares, but he is a very level-headed kid and I think he is going to have a chance to have a fantastic career."

Another key returning player is Justin Coleman, who took over the nickel role early last season and had a very strong season, including two interception returns for touchdowns. The Seahawks also have Mike Tyson, a 2017 draft pick who spent most of the season on the practice squad while making the transition from safety, his position in college. Neiko Thorpe, a special teams standout, could also work himself into the competition for playing time at corner, as could DeAndre Elliot, who missed last season after suffering a dislocated ankle in the preseason. The Seahawks also signed former 49ers starting cornerback Dontae Johnson if they prefer a more experienced option opposite Griffin. Byron Maxwell, who took over a starting role after Sherman's injury, remains a free agent, though Carroll said earlier this offseason he hoped the team could re-sign the veteran corner.

Despite having a number of options, it would make sense for the Seahawks to add to that group via the draft after losing three experienced cornerbacks—four if Maxwell isn't re-signed—from last year's roster. The question then becomes when they would choose to do so. The Seahawks have had a lot of success acquiring cornerbacks on the final day of the draft, most notably landing Sherman in the fifth round, Maxwell and Lane in the sixth round, and Shead as an undrafted free agent. In fact, as a third-rounder, Griffin was the highest-drafted cornerback of the Carroll and Schneider era. So while it's possible the Seahawks could like a cornerback enough to take him early in the draft, don't assume a late-round pick isn't capable of making an impact on Seattle's defense.

Check out which players NFL Media Draft Analyst Mike Mayock pegs as the top cornerbacks in the 2018 NFL Drafft.

NFL Media Draft Analyst Mike Mayock's Top 5 Cornerbacks

1. Denzel Ward, Ohio State

Overview (via NFL.com): Ward has the experience and talent to handle duties on the outside, but his lack of play strength combined with his elite footwork might be the deciding factor for a move inside. Ward is outstanding as a mirror-and-match cornerback with great route feel who is able to maintain tight coverage around the field with good technique and pattern recognition. He should become an early starter at nickel cornerback with the talent to make an immediate impact for a defense that faces a pass-happy division foe twice per year.

2. Jaire Alexander, Louisville

Overview (via NFL.com): Twitchy and quick, Alexander is an instinctive cornerback with the ability to anticipate routes and the quickness to close on throws and make plays on the ball. He tape in 2017 was uneven due to issues with a sprained knee which could raise concerns over his durability considering his slender build. When healthy, he has the potential to become a second cornerback, but teams may view him as a full time nickel cornerback who is able to avoid the rigors of excessive run support.

3. Mike Hughes, UCF

Overview (via NFL.com): Hughes simply hasn't had the game experience he needs to put together the consistency in coverage that teams might like to see. He's a projection-based prospect who has shown twitch, ball production and toughness in a small sample size. Despite being a little short, he is likely to stay outside in coverage. While teams wait for him to gain coverage experience, they can certainly lean on his tremendous talents as a return man. Hughes has potential, but there is still work to be done in coverage.

4. Isaiah Oliver, Colorado

Overview (via NFL.com): Oliver possesses an outstanding combination of size, speed and length and those traits are highly coveted by NFL general managers. There are coverage holes in Oliver's game and he needs to play with increased toughness, but he's just scratching the surface of what his talent could allow him to do on the next level with more experience and technique work. Oliver has a high ceiling as a bump-and-run, lockdown corner, but might benefit from a limited role his rookie season.

T-5. Donte Jackson, LSU

Overview (via NFL.com): Cover corner with below-average size, but elite speed and athleticism. Jackson lacks instincts but has rare closing burst so there will be feast-or-famine games in his future. Due to his slight frame, teams are sure to test his resolve and durability in run support. Jackson's athletic traits should ensure that he makes plenty of plays on the ball, but he'll need to develop better route recognition and focus in order to reach his full potential. Jackson should find early work as a third cornerback.

T-5. Josh Jackson, Iowa

Overview (via NFL.com): Long-armed ball-hawk who understands how to maximize his length to disrupt the catch and take it away. Jackson could be labeled a "one-year wonder", but 27 passes defensed in a single season isn't random. He's talented but inexperienced and he has coverage holes that could be exploited early in his career. Jackson's draft stock likely took a hit with his average forty time and unimpressive work in position drills. However, he is armed with route anticipation, ball skills, and NFL length that teams covet in a press-man corner. It may take time, but the tools are there to be an early starter.

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