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2018 NFL Draft Preview: How Will Draft Picks Help Shape A New-Look Defensive Line?

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


With the NFL Draft coming up, 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.

We kicked things off Monday with the offensive line, and today we take a look the defensive line. Tomorrow we'll turn our attention to the tight ends.

Draft History Under Schneider and Carroll: DE E.J. Wilson (No. 127 overall, 2010); DE Dexter Davis (No. 236, 2010); DE Pep Levingston (No. 205, 2011); DE Bruce Irvin (No. 15, 2012; Irvin later switched to LB); DE Jaye Howard (No. 114, 2012); DE Greg Scruggs (No. 232, 2012); DT Jordan Hill (No. 87, 2013); DT Jesse Williams (No. 137, 2013); DE Cassius Marsh (No. 108, 2014); DT Jimmy Staten (No. 172, 2014); DE Frank Clark (No. 63, 2015); DE Obum Gwacham (No. 209, 2015); DT Jarran Reed (No. 49, 2016); DT Quinton Jefferson (No. 147, 2016); DT Malik McDowell (No. 35, 2018); DT Nazair Jones (No. 102, 2018).

Where the Seahawks Stand

The Seahawks traded one starter from last year's defensive line (Michael Bennett) and lost another in free agency (Sheldon Richardson), and the future of a third defensive-line mainstay, Cliff Avril, is still uncertain because of the neck injury that ended his 2017 season.

So while the Seahawks still have plenty to figure out between now and September, we already know that their defensive line will look quite a bit different in 2018 than it did last year. The question now is how many of the pieces the Seahawks already have in place, and how many will they try to find in the 2018 draft?

Even with some notable departures, the Seahawks still like a lot of what is currently on the roster, from Frank Clark, who has 19 sacks over his past two seasons, to Jarran Reed, who started 15 games last season, to former No. 3 overall pick Dion Jordan, who had a big finish to the 2017 season after more than two years out of football, to Nazair Jones, who flashed playmaking ability as a rookie, to Barkevious Mingo, who can help as an edge rusher and strongside linebacker, to Tom Johnson and Shamar Stephen, a pair of defensive tackles signed in free agency.

"Really excited about Dion Jordan coming back with us," Carroll said last month at the annual league meetings. "He had a really good finish to the year. Frank (Clark) had a really good finish to the year, as well. Both of those guys give us extraordinary athleticism on the edge. Jarran Reed has had a couple of great years for us and is really the heart and soul up front. I think the two additions—in losing Sheldon we picked up Minnesota's two guys, so we got kind of two for one in this trade. Both guys played a lot, showed a lot of diversity in the running game as well as in the rush game. Tom Johnson is more of a rusher than Shamar (Stephen). Shamar is a big dude, very similar to the guys we've had over the years. If you look at all the three techniques we have had through the years Shamar is a guy that really fits that role, and we'll give Naz Jones a chance to be in the rotation and all that. So I think that worked out beautifully for us. Of course there were cap issues there with Sheldon going at a big number. We were able to bring these guys in, and you watch the Vikings play football these guys are all over their film. They are playing all the time and that's a very good front and a very good defense, so we just kind of shift them into our mode. They are going to fit beautifully, and it's ironic kind of that it worked out that way but we just kind of swapped guys."

Schneider too said he’s “really excited” about the prospects for Seattle's defensive line: "Tom Johnson, Shamar, Mingo, we're going to let him rush a little bit, we've got Marcus Smith back, who played kind of beat up last year, so he's going to put his hand down a little bit too. We're excited about those guys, and we're still in the process of addressing this thing all the way through… Dion, he's a real big deal for us, because he played real well when he was out there. We just have to keep him healthy and making sure we can help him take care his body as much as he can."

Yet even if the Seahawks like what's already in place, it's hard to envision a scenario in which they don't address the D-line at some point in the draft. Dating back to Carroll and Schneider's first draft together in Seattle, the Seahawks have taken at least one defensive lineman in all eight drafts and taken multiple D-linemen every year but 2011. That list includes second-round picks in each of the past three drafts, including Seattle's first selection of the 2015 and 2017 drafts.

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

NFL Media Draft Analyst Mike Mayock's Top 5 Edge Rushers

1. Bradley Chubb, N.C. State

Overview (via Chubb possesses high-end physical traits, years of production and the ability to play in a variety of positions in both odd and even fronts. Chubb returned to school last year and turned areas of improvement into areas of strength. His motor and athletic ability cause him to jump off the tape snap after snap and his play attributes and production should translate quickly as a pro. Chubb should be an early pick, early starter and multi-time Pro Bowler.

2. Marcus Davenport, Texas-San Antonio

Overview (via Davenport packed on 30 pounds from his sophomore to senior season and has the frame to continue getting bigger and stronger. While he's been a stand-up rusher at UTSA, teams may see him as a 4-3 defensive end. Right now Davenport is more of a flash player than a consistent menace, but he showed flashes at the Senior Bowl of being able to take a substantial step forward with more time.

3. Arden Key, LSU

Overview (via After watching Key closely for three seasons, it is accurate to say the 2017 version was the least exciting to date. Key's length and ability to slither around blockers to threaten the pocket has never been in question, but this season he lacked the necessary suddenness and conditioning to project as an effective pro. There are red flags with Key, but a strong Combine performance could go a long way in getting his draft stock back on track. He has the potential to become a productive edge rusher as a starting 3-4 outside linebacker or as a designated pass rusher in even fronts.

4. Harold Landry, Boston College

Overview (via Landry lacks premium size, but his burst, stride length and ability to dip and rip around the edge give him special potential as an edge rusher. Landry lacks strength at the point of attack and may be a designated pass rusher early in his career. While he can play standing for 3-4 teams, he's at his best with his hand in the dirt as a rusher. Landry can get by as an NFL rusher with just speed and athleticism, but he has an opportunity to become a Pro Bowler if he can improve his hand usage and develop an inside counter.

5. Sam Hubbard, Ohio State

Overview (via Hubbard will pass the eyeball test with his height, weight, and build, but he's missing the plus athleticism to take him over the top as a pass rusher. His tape is solid, but nothing jumps off the screen. Teams looking for a big time edge rusher won't get too excited by him, but he will appeal to defensive coordinators looking for guys with size and motor to plug into a blitz-heavy, twist-happy defense. Hubbard could become an early starter as a strong-side defensive end for a 4-3 defense.

Check out which players NFL Media Draft Analyst Mike Mayock pegs as the top interior defensive linemen in the 2018 NFL Draft.

NFL Media Draft Analyst Mike Mayock's Top 5 Interior Defensive Linemen

1. Vita Vea, Washington

Overview (via Vea's tape can frustrating because he flashes star potential one series and then looks average the next. With that said, he's still very raw and should be judged by his ability rather than just his results as he should unlock his potential with more coaching. Vea has the size and power to play nose in an odd or even front and he could be targeted by 3-4 teams looking for dominant run defender on the end. He should work into a defensive line rotation immediately and has the ability to become a good NFL starter for years.

2. Da'Ron Payne, Alabama

Overview (via Payne possesses one of the most impressive combinations of strength and athleticism that we've seen from an interior lineman. He will be the premier run-stuffer in this draft, but he may have enough in the pass rushing toolbox to project as a better pro than college pass rusher. Payne is a game-ready starter who immediately upgrades a defense's ability to slow the run. If teams view him as just a run-down player, then his draft value could fall a little, but he could become a Pro Bowl defender early in his career.

3. Maurice Hurst, Michigan

Overview (via Hurst is an upfield three-technique who gets out of the blocks ahead of his competition as soon as the starter's pistol goes off. His ability to come out fast and low should create opportunities to become a disruptive penetrator, but he has to prove that he has the strength to play through redirect blocks and hold up against NFL interior linemen. Will need to be cleared medically at re-check after heart irregularities showed up at combine.

4. Taven Bryan, Florida

Overview (via Talented defender with rare athletic ability and play traits. Bryan's lack of production is due to a lack of instincts and feel for the position and he's still in a developmental phase as a prospect. Bryan played inside at Florida but has the size and talent to play inside or outside. His instincts and feel are below average so his development could take time, but when he is a finished product, Bryan has the ability to become a disruptive, highly productive talent with a very high ceiling

5. Harrison Phillips, Stanford

Overview (via Phillips plays a little upright and looks more like a guard than nose, but he definitely has the leverage and power to play to anchor and muddy the run game waters. Phillips has a feel for blocking schemes and is able to handle down blocks and double teams while allow linebackers to flow to the ball. As a former wrestler, he's a natural scrambler with non-traditional ways of finding the football and finding the quarterback. He has early starter potential and could find snaps on passing downs as well.