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2022 NFL Draft Preview: Do The Seahawks Again Use Their Top Pick On A Defensive Lineman?

A look at where the Seahawks stand at defensive line heading into the 2022 NFL Draft, as well as Rob Rang’s top-ranked prospects at that position.

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FILE - Oregon defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux gestures during an NCAA college football game against Washington, Nov. 6, 2021, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Stephen Brashear, file)

The 2022 NFL Draft kicks off next week, and due to the trade that sent Russell Wilson to Denver, the Seahawks are loaded with the most draft capital they've had in the last decade, including the ninth overall pick, their first Top 10 pick since 2010, John Schneider and Pete Carroll's first draft in Seattle.

With eight total picks, including three in the top 41 and four in the top 72, the Seahawks are looking to use this year's draft to help reach Carroll's stated goal of building "the most competitive roster in the NFL."

"This is an extraordinary opportunity for us to help our franchise, which is what we're here to do," Carroll said of the 2022 and 2023 draft capital acquired in the Wilson trade. "We're doing everything we can to make it as good as we can possibly make it.

"We've got to make this the most competitive roster in the NFL, that's what we're out to do, and that means all the way through the ranks. That means you're going to get young, but we're going to mix it with a group of experienced players as well. That's the chemistry we have to create."

With the draft coming up soon, Seahawks.com is taking a position-by-position look at where things currently stand for the Seahawks, as well as the top draft prospects at each position. We'll also look at Seattle's draft history at each position over the past 12 drafts under Schneider and Carroll.

So far, we've covered quarterback, safety, receiver, cornerback, tight end, linebacker and running back, and today we turn our attention to the defensive line. Check back tomorrow when we wrap things up with a look at the offensive line.

Seattle's 2022 Draft Picks: Round 1, No. 9 overall; Round 2, No. 40 overall; Round 2, No. 41 overall; Round 3, No. 72 overall; Round 4, No. 109 overall; Round 5, No. 145 overall; Round 5, No. 153 overall; Round 7, No. 229 overall.

Defensive Line Draft History Under Carroll & Schneider: 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, 2017); DT Nazair Jones (No. 102, 2017); DE Rasheem Green (No. 79, 2018); DE/LB Jacob Martin (No. 186, 2018); DE L.J. Collier (No. 29, 2019); DT DeMarcus Christmas (No. 209, 2019); DE Darrell Taylor (No. 48, 2020); DE Alton Robinson (No. 148, 2020).

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Where The Seahawks Stand

Pete Carroll didn't hesitate when asked what needed to improve about his team in 2022, noting the defense wasn't able to affect quarterbacks the way it should with its pass rush.

"We need to improve our pass rush," Carroll said. "That is an area that we need to get better in."

The Seahawks will look different on defense this season under the leadership of Clint Hurtt, who was promoted to defensive coordinator earlier in the offseason, and his hope is that an aggressive defense will help bolster the pass rush, but the Seahawks in all likelihood also need to continue to add to the roster to improve that group.

So far the Seahawks have signed Uchenna Nwosu, an outside linebacker who should help bolster the edge rush; acquired via trade veteran defensive end Shelby Harris; and brought back versatile defensive lineman Quinton Jefferson, and they'll look for even more out of Darrell Taylor after an impressive debut last season. But with Carlos Dunlap II and Kerry Hyder Jr. both getting released this offseason, there is room to add more defensive end/outside linebacker help to the roster.

The good news for the Seahawks is that there very well could be top-end pass rushers available when they pick at No. 9, and that position group is also considered to be deep this year, meaning there could be opportunities to address it later on in the draft. And it would by no means be a bad bet to predict the Seahawks might go with a pass rusher early on considering that in four drafts under Carroll and Schneider, the Seahawks have used their top pick on a defensive lineman/edge rusher four times—Bruce Irvin in 2012, Frank Clark in 2015, Malik McDowell in 2017 and L.J. Collier in 2019—more than any other position group (they've used three of their top picks on offensive linemen). The Seahawks also added Darrell Taylor and Jarran Reed with their second overall picks, both times getting those players in the top half of the second round.

When it comes to the interior line, the Seahawks can and will always look for ways to get better, but they feel good already about that group led by veteran Al Woods, who re-signed this offseason, Poona Ford and Bryan Mone.

Rob Rang's Top 5 Edge Rushers

Pardon the pun, but NFL quarterbacks will be the ones on edge with this year's dynamic class of rushers, which could comprise half of the top ten picks (including Seattle's selection at No. 9 overall) and nearly a third of the first round. Barring something unforeseen, Michigan's Aidan Hutchinson and Oregon's Kayvon Thibodeaux should be long off the board by No. 9 overall but, after mopping up in Mobile, Ala. at the Senior Bowl, some scouts are as high or higher on Florida State's Jermaine Johnson II or his former teammate at Georgia, Travon Walker. Pete Carroll, John Schneider and new defensive coordinator Clint Hurtt have all publicly spoken of Seattle's need to improve its pass rush and, while free agent acquisition Uchenna Nwosu does lessen the concern, he doesn't end it by himself. Given the priority and talent of this year's class, it would be a surprise if the Seahawks did not invest at least one early pick on an edge rusher.

1. Aidan Hutchinson, Michigan, 6-7, 260, 4.74/40-yard dash, First Round

Invited to the Heisman Trophy presentation and for good reason, Hutchinson was the best player in college football throughout the regular season, all but willing the Wolverines into the playoff. While not as long or fast as some of his peers, Hutchinson is the safest pick in the 2022 draft. Powerful, quick, technically refined and tough, he's a future Pro Bowler with immediate impact ability.

2. Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon, 6-4, 254, 4.58, First Round

Even after coming off of a disappointing junior season, Thibodeaux's rare talent warrants No. 1 overall consideration. He wins with excellent burst and power off the edge, showing the ability to take over in much the same way that Jadeveon Clowney can, but is similarly inconsistent. Don't read too much into Thibodeaux's "average" production (19 sacks in three years), as Oregon didn't protect him well and PAC-12 offenses did a nice job of neutralizing him with play design.

3. Jermaine Johnson II, Florida State, 6-5, 254, 4.60 (est.), First Round

Seeking more playing time, Johnson transferred from Georgia to the Seminoles in 2021 and the gamble paid off beautifully, as the flashes he'd always shown turned to finishes. Johnson jumped from five sacks in 2020 to leading the ACC in both tackles for loss (18.5) and quarterback takedowns (11.5) at Florida State and followed that up with a spectacular showing at the Senior Bowl, where, frankly, he was the best player on the field. In a piece for FOXSports.com, I projected him as Seattle's "top option" should the club stay and make a selection at No. 9 overall.

4. Travon Walker, Georgia, 6-5, 272, 4.51, First Round

Just how good is this edge rusher class? Walker is listed fourth on my board but is viewed by some as a legitimate contender for No. 1 overall in the draft. He is one of the primary reasons why the aforementioned Johnson couldn't find playing time at Georgia. He was a key cog in the dominating Georgia defense that earned a national championship but was even more impressive in workouts, teasing scouts with a blend of size, strength, speed and explosiveness which suggests that he may only be scratching the surface of his potential.

5. George Karlaftis, Purdue, 6-4, 266, 4.70 (est.), First/Second Round

Karlaftis received the Thibodeaux treatment in the Big Ten, where opponents tailored their gameplans towards slowing down the three-time All-Conference selection, resulting in his dropping to "just" five sacks in 2020. He's more productive off the edge than those numbers suggest, however, and his power, tenacity and awareness make him a day one contributor against the run, as well.

NFL Draft expert Rob Rang identifies edge rusher prospects the Seahawks could target in the 2022 NFL Draft.

Rob Rang's Top Defensive Tackles

By bringing back veteran Al Woods and acquiring Shelby Harris as part of the compensation in the Russell Wilson trade, the Seahawks have already addressed defensive tackle this offseason. While not as gifted as their edge rushing linemates, this year's defensive tackle crop offers an intriguing collection of traditional run-stuffers and interior pass rush specialists that Seattle may, nevertheless, simply find too tantalizing to pass up. Davis and Jones are massive and powerful, possessing the ability to "eat" up double-teams and leave linebackers free to create havoc – precisely the types usually preferred in the 3-4 alignment Hurtt and Co. are expected to employ more often in 2022. Given how much media attention Davis has earned in winning both the Outland and Bednarik Trophies and starring at the Combine, some might be surprised to see his former teammate, Wyatt, atop this list. While certainly not as big or celebrated, Wyatt, is the more polished and consistent of the two and has generated a lot of excitement in the scouting community following a terrific week at the Senior Bowl and Combine, as has the Sooners' Perrion Winfrey. The talent is good enough for Seattle to consider drafting a traditional defensive lineman early but with greater areas of concern and good depth in this class, the Seahawks are likelier to wait until the middle or later rounds.

1. Devonte Wyatt, Georgia, 6-3, 304, 4.77, First Round

Overshadowed throughout much of his college career, Wyatt gave off some Jarran Reed-like vibes at the Senior Bowl, busting out during the all-star game practices with the quick hands and high-running motor to suggest that he could be an even more productive pro than collegiate player. Wyatt only recorded five sacks over four years (and 113 tackles) at Georgia, but that is more than twice what Reed recorded in his two years at Alabama (two). Powerful, shockingly fast and still just learning technique, Wyatt has an exciting upside.

2. Perrion Winfrey, Oklahoma, 6-4, 290, 4.89, First Round

In a class loaded with run-stuffers and pass rush specialists, Winfrey is one of the few who offers intriguing upside at both, possessing size, raw power and an explosive initial surge that can collapse the pocket from the inside. Winfrey's punches were as loud as his trash talking at the Senior Bowl and both had opponents staggering. A JUCO prospect who only spent two years at Oklahoma, Winfrey remains a bit rough around the edges but his traits are special.

3. Jordan Davis, Georgia, 6-6, 341, 4.78, First Round

The NFL is a big man's game and they simply don't come any bigger than Davis, a prototypical nose guard with the speed of an edge rusher. While undeniably the star of the 2022 Combine, scouts knew that Davis was an exceptional athlete and therefore his eye-popping numbers in workouts won't move the meter much – at least not as much as media reports might suggest.

4. Travis Jones, Connecticut, 6-4, 325, 4.92, First/Second Round

Another Senior Bowl and Combine winner, Jones offers a combination of raw power and straight-line speed that would have generated far more attention had it not been for Davis' unbelievable performance in Indianapolis. Jones was virtually immovable in the middle at Senior Bowl practices, pushing guards and centers deep into the backfield as if they'd replaced their cleats with roller skates.

5. DeMarvin Leal, Texas A&M, 6-4, 283, 5.00, Second Round

Leal may lack the imposing frame and speed of his battery mates along the defensive line but his production (including 8.5 sacks in 2021) and positional versatility warrant a closer look. Quicker and more flexible than most defensive linemen, Leal slithers through the line of scrimmage, really coordinating his upper and lower body nicely to "get skinny" and penetrate gaps. The Seahawks have been in search of a second version of Michael Bennett (a former Aggie) for years. Could he hail from the same college?

One of the most recognized names in the industry, Rob Rang has been covering the NFL Draft for more than 20 years, with work at FOX, Sports Illustrated, CBSSports.com, USA Today, Yahoo, NFL.com and NFLDraftScout.com, among others. Rang's opinions and evaluations are his own and do not reflect those of the Seahawks.

NFL Draft expert Rob Rang identifies defensive tackle prospects the Seahawks could target in the 2022 NFL Draft.

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