The NFL Draft is set to take place, digitally, beginning on April 23, and as things stand now, the Seahawks are scheduled to pick 27th in the first round, and hold seven picks overall. 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.
So far we've looked at quarterback, cornerback, receiver, safety and running back, and today we turn our attention to linebacker. Check back tomorrow for a look at where things stand at tight end.
Seattle's 2020 Draft Picks: Round 1, No. 27 overall; Round 2, No. 59 overall; Round 2, No. 64 overall; Round 3, No. 101 overall; Round 4, No. 133 overall; Round 4, No. 144 overall; Round 6, No. 214 overall.
Draft History Under Carroll & Schneider: K.J. Wright (No. 99 overall, 2011), Malcolm Smith (No. 243, 2011), Bobby Wagner (No. 46, 2012) Korey Toomer (No. 154, 2012), Ty Powell (No. 231, 2013), Kevin Pierre-Louis (No. 132, 2014), Shaquem Griffin (No. 141, 2018), Jacob Martin (No. 186, 2018), Cody Barton (No. 88, 2019), Ben Burr-Kirven (No. 142, 2019).
Where The Seahawks Stand
The Seahawks came into last year's draft with a very talented veteran trio at linebacker, but still took two linebackers, Cody Barton and Ben Burr-Kirven, in the third and fifth round, respectively. Both players were big contributors on special teams as rookies, and Barton started two games late in the season because of injuries to Mychal Kendricks, but those two picks were a good reminder of two things when it comes to the draft. One, teams aren't just drafting for need; sometimes you take a player because there's good value there even if the immediate fit isn't obvious. Yes, the Seahawks had Kendricks, Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright heading into the draft, but they also thought Barton and Burr-Kirven were really good players who could provide good depth right away and perhaps develop into starting-caliber players over time. Which brings us to the second point, which is that teams are constantly looking ahead when it comes to the draft. Maybe Barton and Burr-Kirven were longshots to win starting jobs last year, but the Seahawks also knew that Kendricks was set to become a free agent this year, so perhaps Barton is the person to take over that starting role this year. Or maybe Burr-Kirven is the answer at weakside linebacker whenever Wright decides to call it a career, though based off an impressive 2019 season, Wright is showing no signs of slowing down heading into his 10th season.
And that brings us to year's draft. No, there doesn't look to be an obvious need at linebacker, even with Kendricks currently a free agent and coming off of a season-ending knee injury. Wagner and Wright are both back in 2020 and are coming off of great 2019 seasons, Barton and Burr-Kirven have shown potential, and third-year linebacker Shaquem Griffin might have found a role for himself as a pass-rusher in sub packages. But just as was the case a year ago, the Seahawks won't ignore this position or any other if they identify a player who represents a really good value at a particular point in the draft.
Versatility can also be a big factor at linebacker in particular. While a player who is strictly a middle linebacker would have a heck of a time getting on the field for as long as Wagner is on the team, someone who can play strongside linebacker while also contributing to the pass rush would have a real chance to compete for playing time right away. Linebackers also tend to be really good special teams players due to their combination of athleticism and tackling ability, so there's always a chance for a rookie to contribute right away even if he's stuck behind other players on the linebacker depth chart.
NFL.com's Top 5 Linebackers
NFL.com's rankings of the top linebacker prospects in the 2020 draft.
1. Isaiah Simmons, Clemson
Overview (via NFL.com): Ascending hybrid talent with rare length, speed and versatility to create mismatches for the offense, depending upon alignment. He has a bachelor's at three positions (slot corner, safety, linebacker) but could earn a master's degree in complex workload with a more focused and defined job description than "jack-of-all-trades." He can handle zone or man coverage from a variety of spots on the field, which gives defensive coordinators a chance to disguise blitz packages and exotic post-snap looks. He'll miss run fits and can be misdirected due to a lack of instincts near the line, but his playmaking range outweighs those concerns for now. His unique potential to spy and shrink the field against dual-threat quarterbacks could push him way up the draft board.
2. Patrick Queen, LSU
Overview (via NFL.com): LSU is becoming a haven for pro linebacker prospects, with Devin White, Kwon Alexander and Deion Jones going from Baton Rouge to the NFL in recent drafts. Queen is next in line. He got a chance to start four of the last five contests as a sophomore in 2018, once due to White's unavailability in the first half against Alabama due to a questionable targeting call. In 13 games overall, Queen made 40 tackles, five for loss, and one sack. He saved his best for last, leading the squad with nine tackles, two for loss, against UCF in the Fiesta Bowl. Queen continued that progress in the team's national championship campaign, starting 12 of 15 games played and posting 85 stops, 12 tackles for loss, three sacks, an interception and two pass breakups. The former four-star recruit and 2016 Warrick Dunn award finalist (top player in the Baton Rouge area) was the first player from his hometown of Livonia to receive an LSU scholarship offer. In his first year with the Tigers, Queen played in 12 games as a reserve (six tackles).
3. Zack Baun, Wisconsin
Overview (via NFL.com): Ascending prospect whose explosive production on the field has begun to mirror his explosive athletic traits. Baun's twitchy get-off and deep bend at the edge is nightmare fuel for Big Ten tackles and he's still at the early stages of pass rush development. He is aggressive to flow downhill in run support, has sideline-to-sideline range and is fluid dropping into coverage. He's strong but a little light as an edge-setter so teams will need to figure out how best to align him. Baun is a scheme-diverse linebacker with high-impact potential whose best days are ahead of him.
4. Kenneth Murray, Oklahoma
Overview (via NFL.com): Sleek, playmaking linebacker with chiseled frame and long arms. Murray's game is predicated on speed with an ability to fly around from sideline to sideline rolling up tackles. While his twitchy burst allows him to make more plays than the average linebacker, he will overflow to ball-carriers at times. Recognition of play development and ability to take on blocks are both underdeveloped currently, but a move to weak-side linebacker would put him in position to minimize those concerns and maximize his playmaking talent. Murray has hit-or-miss qualities and is more splashy than consistent, but he's immensely talented with the ability to imprint on games on all three downs.
5. Malik Harrison, Ohio State
Overview (via NFL.com): Long-legged, loose-hipped linebacker with desired combination of size, physicality and range to help ruin the running game for teams needing linebacker help. His constant downhill mode disrupts blocking schemes and brings impact tackles, but it can be used against him with play-action and misdirection. The instincts are just average but his physical traits even it out on most snaps. He has some coverage limitations but can pressure the pocket as a blitzer and has the athleticism to spy mobile quarterbacks. He's big and tough with the potential to become a good starter inside or as a 4-3 strong-side linebacker.
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