The 2023 NFL Draft kicks off later this month, 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.
Yesterday we kicked things off with quarterback, and today we turn our attention to the other side of the ball with a look at the defensive line and outside linebacker. Check back Tomorrow for a look at the offensive line.
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.
Defensive Line/Edge Rusher Draft History Under John Schneider and Pete 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, 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); OLB Boye Mafe (No. 40, 2022); OLB Tyreke Smith (No. 158, 2022).
Where the Seahawks Stand
Pete Carroll made it clear in his end-of-season press conference that the Seahawks need to get better and more disruptive up front, noting his defense has to “become more dynamic up front, we have to."
The Seahawks have made moves this offseason to try to reach that goal, most notably signing former Broncos defensive lineman Dre'Mont Jones and bringing back Jarran Reed, who spent five seasons with the Seahawks before leaving in 2021. But the Seahawks still have more work to do up front even after adding those two, particularly when it comes to the interior line spots. While both Jones and Reed have the versatility to play end and tackle in Seattle's 3-4 front, the Seahawks still need more help in that area after releasing Al Woods, Shelby Harris and Quinton Jefferson in salary-cap related moves, and with Poona Ford still unsigned.
"There's a lot of work to do still, we know that," Carroll said of the defensive line. "We're faced now with different circumstances to deal with, just because we've spent a lot of money already and all of that, but we have a lot of work to do. We have a couple of great spots for guys who want to come here. This will be more of a recruiting process than anything, and I'll need the players to really help us on that as well as the coaches. We've got some spots that we need to fill, and they're going to be crucial. I'm hoping some guys will see that this is a great opportunity for them to come in and be part of something really good."
Said Schneider, "It's an issue for us. We're going to have to figure it out as we go along. Cash and cap, we're pretty tapped out, so we have to be careful how we proceed."
The Seahawks could still add to that group via free agency, including by bringing back some of those aforementioned players, but surely they are also looking at the draft as a way to bolster the line, and those interior spots in particular.
The Seahawks are in better shape at outside linebacker, where they have Uchenna Nwosu, Darrell Taylor and Boye Mafe, all of whom were big contributors last season, as well as 2022 draft pick Tyreke Smith, who missed his rookie year due to injury. But as Carroll has said over the years, a team can never have too many pass rushers, so by no means should anyone be surprised if the Seahawks look for edge rushers in a draft class loaded with them, perhaps as early as the No. 5 pick.
Rob Rang's Top 5 Edge Rushes/Outside Linebackers
Overview: It is perhaps appropriate that the strongest positional group on defense this year is led by a member of the Alabama Crimson Tide as waves of edge rushers have come crashing into the NFL in recent years and 2023 is no exception. All five of the players listed below are expected to be first round selections, with Alabama's Anderson very possibly already off the board when Seattle is slated to pick. Texas Tech's Wilson and Iowa's Van Ness are frequent mock draft projections for the Seahawks. Testifying to the depth of this year's group is the fact that there are multiple "other" edge rushers in this class worthy of a Top 52 selection (of which Seattle has three) who also fit the Seahawks nicely, including arguably the best pure pass rusher in the draft in Iowa State's Will McDonald IV, LSU's BJ Ojulari and Kansas State's Felix Anudike-Uzomah – each of whom are shockingly pro-ready despite their youth – Georgia Tech's unique athlete Keion White and Tuli Tuipulotu, the Morris Trophy winner as the best defensive lineman in the PAC-12, who starred at Carroll's beloved Southern Cal. I would be surprised if any of those players make it past Seattle's current third round pick (No. 83 overall), their fifth overall selection of the draft.
1. Will Anderson, Jr., Alabama, 6-4, 253, Top 5
As a unanimous All-American, the SEC Defensive Player of the Year and winner of five national awards over the last 16 months, Anderson is more decorated than a wedding cake – and it's well deserved. The statistics he put up over three years at Alabama (204 tackles, 58.5 tackles for loss and 34.5 sacks) are like something out of a video game, ranking second all-time in Crimson Tide history to only the late college and NFL Hall of Famer Derrick Thomas. Simply put, Anderson is the easiest pick of the 2023 NFL draft.
2. Tyree Wilson, Texas Tech, 6-6, 271, Top 10
Football is a big man's game and edge rushers don't get much bigger than Wilson, who towers over opponents with his height and a staggering 86-inch wingspan that is just one inch less than NBA superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo, who is 6-foot-11. He's already powerful and will get stronger, but it is the agility he shows for a man of his size that is really intriguing. He recorded seven sacks each of the past two seasons but his traits suggest that could be his floor in the future.
3. Lukas Van Ness, Iowa, 6-5, 272, First Round
Of course, when the conversation switches to upside among pass rushers, Van Ness takes the cake. A former hockey player who didn't focus on football until his junior year of high school, Van Ness was clocked at 4.58 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the Combine and his natural power is eye-popping. He's got a long way to go to earn this comparison, but Van Ness reminds me a bit of the college tape of one of the Seahawks' toughest rivals of the past - former San Francisco 49er Justin Smith.
4. Myles Murphy, Clemson, 6-5, 268, First Round
Murphy signed with Clemson as one of the most highly touted prospects in the country three years ago, has turned in three consecutive dominant campaigns and is now ready for the pros. Powerful, agile, durable, and productive (116 tackles, 36 tackles for loss and 18.5 sacks), Murphy is as safe as a Subaru.
5. Nolan Smith, Georgia, 6-2, 238, First Round
Speaking of highly touted prospects, Smith signed with Georgia literally ranked as the No. 1 overall prep back in 2019 and given the jaw-dropping workout he posted at the Combine, one can understand. Smith didn't fill up the stat-sheet at Georgia but his power, burst and selfless play jump off the tape. Like Anderson at Alabama, the coaches at Georgia rave about Smith, a mathematics major and team captain, who might have signed as five-star but competes like a walk-on.
NFL Draft expert Rob Rang identifies the top edge rusher prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft.
Rob Rang's Top 5 Interior Defensive Linemen
Overview: The 2023 class of defensive tackles is a pick-your-flavor crop with massive run-stuffers, penetrating pass rushers and two exceptional talents who have demonstrated at a high level that they can do both. Those two prospects – Georgia's Jalen Carter and Clemson's Bryan Bresee – each come with significant other factors that must be taken into account but their ability is undeniable. So too is the fact that Seattle still needs bodies at defensive tackle, even after bringing in veterans Dre'Mont Jones and Jarran Reed in free agency. The Seahawks often draft Senior Bowl standouts and two players who fell just short of my top five – Wisconsin's Keeanu Benton and Northwestern's Adetomiwa Adebawore – could be candidates as early as No. 20 overall and certainly on Day Two. Fortunately, as always, there are some big-bodied run-stuffers available in the middle and later rounds. Baylor's Siaki Ika, Texas' Keondre Coburn and Coastal Carolina's Jerrod Clark seem like particularly good fits should Seattle be looking for insurance at nose guard with Bryan Mone coming off knee surgery and Al Woods released.
1. Jalen Carter, Georgia, 6-3, 323, Top 10
Simply put, Carter is the most physically dominant player in this draft, controlling the line of scrimmage, at times, in much the same as a young Ndamukong Suh or Jeffery Simmons, simply overwhelming opponents with an exceptionally rare combination of size, power and athleticism. Carter comes with significant off-field concerns, which must be thoroughly vetted, but the talent is very, very real and he plays the position that currently ranks as the Seattle's biggest area of concern. A stable program, like the one Carroll has created in Seattle, might be all Carter needs to maximize his immense potential.
2. Bryan Bresee, Clemson, 6-6, 302, First Round
If not for a troubling track record of injuries, Bresee also would have earned the Top 10 grade I gave the aforementioned Carter, as there are certainly flashes of dominance in the former's tape, as well. Bresee (pronounced "bruh-zee") is about as smooth off the snap as his last name, slipping through gaps with impressive body control and core power.
3. Calijah Kancey, Pittsburgh, 6-1, 281, First-Second Round
Speaking of slipping gaps, Kancey is built a lot like his Pitt predecessor – Rams' superstar Aaron Donald – sliding past would-be blockers as if his jersey were lathered in axel grease. Kancey is cat-quick and much stronger that he appears, generating 34.5 tackles for loss and 16 sacks in 33 career games.
4. Mazi Smith, Michigan, 6-3, 323, First-Second Round
If run-stuffing is more the concern – and for Seattle, it is – Smith is one of a handful or so of true nose guard types in this class who have the square-ish frame, raw power and toughness to hold up at the point of attack. Smith's power (including 34 bench press repetitions at the Combine) is legendary, making him the featured prospect on my FOX coworker Bruce Feldman's annual "Freaks List." His 48 tackles for Michigan a year ago are a high number for a true nose guard and hint at Smith's ability to control the middle.
5. Gervon Dexter, Sr., Florida, 6-6, 310, Second Round
Dexter is a naturally large man with an unusual frame for this position, featuring a tall, muscular build that looks more like that of a defensive end or offensive tackle. He only began playing football as a junior in high school, and therefore still has plenty of technical work to do, but he generates impressive power and shows good balance and effort to anchor and pursue laterally, and he plays angry. The 4.88 second 40-yard dash at the Combine speaks to his raw athleticism, as well.
NFL Draft expert Rob Rang identifies the top interior defensive line prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft.