The 2023 NFL Draft starts in less than a week, and for the Seahawks, this year's draft represents a big opportunity to improve upon a team that reached the playoffs last season. After hitting a home run in the 2022 draft, the Seahawks have even more draft capital this year, including extra first and second-round picks (No. 5 and 37 overall) that were part of the trade that sent Russell Wilson to Denver last year.
The fifth overall pick is the highest the Seahawks have had since Pete Carroll and John Schneider took over in 2010, and this is just the second time in the Carroll-Schneider era that Seattle has had a pair of first-rounders in one draft, having selected Russell Okung and Earl Thomas in 2010.
"This is really an exciting opportunity for us," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said at the NFL Scouting combine. "We have not been in this situation, we have not felt like this ever. So all of the build up to it has been exciting, and we're hoping to obviously max out everything we can with it… We know that the opportunity is something special, so we're looking forward to it and we'll see how it goes."
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 13 drafts under Schneider and Carroll.
So far we’ve covered quarterback, the defensive line/outside linebacker, the offensive line and off-ball linebacker, tight end, running back, safety and receiver, and today we wrap things up with a look at where things stand at cornerback.
Seattle's 2023 Draft Picks: Round 1, No. 5 overall (from Denver); Round 1, No. 20 overall; Round 2, No. 37 overall (from Denver); Round 2, No. 52 overall; Round 3, No. 83 overall; Round 4, No. 123 overall; Round 5, No. 151 overall (from Pittsburgh); Round 5, No. 154 overall; Round 6, No. 198 overall; Round 7, No. 237 overall.
Cornerback draft History Under John Schneider and Pete 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); Tre Flowers (No. 146, 2018); Marquise Blair (No. 47, 2019; played safety & nickel corner) Ugo Amadi, (No. 132, 2019; played safety & nickel corner); Tre Brown (No. 137, 2021); Coby Bryant (No. 109, 2022); Tariq Woolen (No. 153, 2022).
Where the Seahawks Stand
The Seahawks came into training camp last summer with a lot of uncertainty at cornerback, but finished the year feeling really good about what they had at that position group.
Rookie Tariq Woolen emerged as a young star at right corner, recording six interceptions (tied for most in the NFL) on his way to Pro-Bowl honors, while Mike Jackson thrived in his first season as a starter. Coby Bryant, one of two corners Seattle drafted last year along with Woolen, moved from outside corner to the nickel spot in camp and didn't take long to take over the No. 1 spot at that role, giving the Seahawks three talented, young cornerbacks on the rise heading into 2023, not to mention Tre Brown, who showed a lot of potential as a rookie in 2021, briefly winning a starting job before suffering a knee injury that also kept him out for much of last season.
"I think coming back off of this first year of seeing Tariq and Michael play together, we feel pretty good about that, and knowing that Tre didn't have a chance to really contribute much," Carroll said this week. "Coby's addition, as well, we're in pretty good shape right there. They're going to get way better. They're going to improve a great deal, and they played pretty good this past year in their first really go around. I feel pretty good about that spot. We're always looking to add, but at least we know what we've got coming back."
Being in pretty good shape means the Seahawks won't feel like they have to draft a cornerback next week, but it doesn't mean the Seahawks won't continue to add at that position, however. Granted, an early pick on a cornerback would go against Carroll and Schneider's history—the Seahawks have not drafted a cornerback in the first two rounds since those two took over—but there is enough depth and talent that the Seahawks, who have long had a knack for finding quality cornerbacks in the late rounds, could once again look to find a late-round gem to add to an already talented group.
Rob Rang's Top 5 Cornerbacks
Overview: Given the immediate superstardom of precocious rookie Tariq Woolen, as well as the steady play of fellow first-year player Coby Bryant a year ago, it might seem unlikely the Seahawks would again be looking to cornerback with an early pick in the 2023 NFL draft. This might be the class to consider it, however, as there are some superbly gifted corners, including a couple listed below who check off a lot of "Seahawk-y" boxes. It bears repeating every year, though. The earliest Seattle has selected a cornerback during the Carroll-Schneider era was No. 90 overall back in 2017 (Shaquill Griffin). All of the players listed below will be long off the board by that point with as many as a dozen from this year's stellar cornerback class gone during that time. Fortunately, there is enough depth in this year's class for Seattle to continue to flex its well-documented late-round magic.
1. Christian Gonzalez, Oregon, 6-1 197, First Round
A springy, fluid athlete with prototypical size, Gonzalez originally signed with Colorado as a celebrated four-star recruit out of Texas and played immediately, starting all 18 games of his first two seasons (including the Covid-shortened 2020 campaign) before transferring to Oregon in 2022 to follow his cornerbacks coach (Denetris Martin). There, Gonzalez emerged as a legitimate star this past year, jumping from Honorable Mention to First Team All-PAC-12 honors with 50 tackles, including seven pass breakups and leading the team with four interceptions, while also blocking a kick.
2. Devon Witherspoon, Illinois, 6-0, 181, First Round
While the aforementioned Gonzalez looks like a future Seahawk with his height, arm length and flashy athleticism, Witherspoon plays like one, jumping off the tape with his physicality and competitiveness, including in run support and on special teams, where the Fort Lauderdale native collected a team-high 13 stops as a true freshman (while starting at cornerback), proving even back then that he had grit. He's been one of the better cornerbacks in the Big Ten ever since but took his game to a new level as a senior, winning the conference's Defensive Back of the Year with 41 tackles, including 17 passes defended and three interceptions.
3. Joey Porter, Jr., Penn State, 6-3, 198, First Round
Playing with a similar blend of fire and physicality that his famous father used to star as an edge rusher for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Porter has corralled receivers throughout the Big Ten the past three seasons, starting 31 games, and leaping at the NFL with eligibility remaining despite only intercepting one of his 20 career pass breakups. What Porter may lack in ideal ball skills, however, he makes up for the height, length and physicality Carroll has always loved at the position.
4. Kelee Ringo, Georgia, 6-2, 207, First-Second Round
Of course, there is not a more intriguing size/speed athlete at the position this year than the precocious Ringo, who college football fans might remember helped Georgia seal the national championship two years ago with a pick-six in the final moments. Ringo, who spent some of his childhood in Tacoma, opted for the draft as just a redshirt sophomore and, frankly, he is not as polished in coverage as some of the others on this list. The "freakish" size and speed combination that has earned him comparisons to legendary NFL cornerback Patrick Peterson, however, still could earn him a first round selection.
5. Deonte Banks, Maryland, 6-0, 197, First-Second Round
While Ringo's local ties and national titles earned him plenty of attention, Banks has toiled in relative anonymity, in parts because he signed with the local Terrapins after growing up in Baltimore and he hasn't generated many highlight-reel worthy plays since, intercepting just two passes in 30 games. Banks is money in coverage, though, possessing the easy change-of-direction and acceleration to shadow receivers all over the field, as his eye-popping athleticism totals at the Combine – including a 4.35-second 40-yard dash (which tied for 5th fastest overall at the Combine), 42" vertical jump (third) and 11-4" broad jump (second) suggest.
NFL Draft expert Rob Rang identifies the top five cornerback prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft.