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Coaching Connections: Washington & Michigan Prospects The Seahawks Could Target In 2024 NFL Draft

The new Seahawks coaching staff, led by Mike Macdonald, has a lot of familiarity with two college programs that will be well represented in the 2024 draft.


One of the most recognized names in the industry, Rob Rang is an NFL Draft analyst for FOX Sports. Rob has been covering the NFL Draft for more than 20 years, with work at FOX, Sports Illustrated,, USA Today, Yahoo, and, among others. He also works as a scout with the BC Lions of the Canadian Football League. Rang's opinions and evaluations are his own and do not reflect those of the Seahawks. Follow him on Twitter @RobRang.

A unique familiarity with the players who made up the two best teams in college football last year gives the Seahawks a distinct advantage in the 2024 NFL Draft over every other team in the NFL.

Many fans know that head coach Mike Macdonald served as the University of Michigan's defensive coordinator in 2022. Two more former Wolverines are joining him in Seattle - special teams coordinator Jay Harbaugh and outside linebackers coach Chris Partridge – who worked in these same roles last season for the reigning national champions.

Of course, incoming offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb and offensive line coach Scott Huff are well known locally for their roles in the University of Washington's PAC-12 title and exhilarating playoff run.

Michigan set a new all-time NFL Combine record with 18 players invited this year. Washington sent a school-record 13.

Familiarity with a draft class worked out beautifully for the Seahawks back in 2011, when general manager John Schneider helped new head coach Pete Carroll reunite with his USC linebacker Malcolm Smith in the seventh round. Smith, many will fondly remember, would go on to be named MVP of Seattle's Super Bowl XLIV title.

With a combined 31 players invited to the Combine (and another handful who arguably should have been) from these teams, it was difficult paring down the list of prospects from Michigan and UW that the Seahawks could select or sign in undrafted free agency.

That said, here are my favorite fits for the Seahawks when it comes to Wolverines and Huskies in the 2024 draft:

Michael Penix, Jr., Washington

The trade for Sam Howell would seemingly eliminate the Seahawks from investing a top pick in another young quarterback, but Penix's talent and fit in Grubb's offense are undeniable.

It is easy to venture into hyperbole with the success Penix enjoyed the past two seasons at UW. The Huskies went 25-3 with Penix throwing 67 touchdowns against 19 interceptions, ranking among college football's most accurate passers in a system that asked him to make a lot of challenging throws, especially deep and to the sidelines.

Like Geno Smith, Penix is simply a very gifted passer. He can rifle passes through tight windows and to the opposite sideline and can feather it softly over the top, as well. Also like Smith, while a better athlete than some suggest, Penix is at his best throwing in rhythm from the pocket.

J.J. McCarthy, QB, Michigan

If the Seahawks are willing to consider a quarterback at No. 16 overall, McCarthy might actually be a better fit in the style of offense that Macdonald practiced against with Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens.

McCarthy is not an electric athlete like Jackson, but he's a legitimate dual-threat weapon with very good accuracy on short and intermediate passes, especially down the seam. McCarthy is liked better by scouts than many in the media and fans, who cite his lack of production in Michigan's run-heavy system. McCarthy's traits – on and off the field – translate well to the pro game, however.

Junior Colson, ILB, Michigan

From both a familiarity and physicality perspective, Colson is my favorite linebacker in this class for the Seahawks. At 6-foot-2 and 238 pounds, Colson is a true thumper in the middle, while also possessing plenty of agility and speed to tackle sideline to sideline.

Colson lacks the eyepopping statistics of some of this year's other top linebacker prospects, but it is worth remembering that he was surrounded by an exceptional supporting cast full of NFL talent. He was checked with "just" second-team All-Big Ten honors but the voters of the LOTT Impact Trophy recognized his value to the Wolverines' stellar defense, naming him this year's winner. The recipients the past two years were Will Anderson, Jr. (2022) and Aidan Hutchinson (2021), immediate impact defenders for the Houston Texans and Detroit Lions, respectively.

Troy Fautanu, OL, Washington

With the obligatory quarterbacks out of the way, the biggest position of concern for the Seahawks on offense currently is at left guard, a position that Fautanu is being rated by some teams as the best prospect in the entire 2024 NFL Draft.

Fautanu starred at left tackle for the Huskies and certainly has the ability to play that position in the NFL. That said, I think his 6-foot-4, 317 pounds of granite project best inside at left guard, where I think he is a future Pro Bowl candidate.

In a year where three PAC-12 offensive linemen are expected to earn first round selections, Fautanu was the one who his conference competitors voted the Morris Trophy winner, as the best blocker in the league. If the Seahawks make a selection at No. 16 overall, Fautanu would make a lot of sense.

Kris Jenkins, DT, Michigan

Retaining Leonard Williams fortified Seattle's defensive line but that won't keep the club from reinvesting in the position. Jenkins' father of the same name earned four trips to the Pro Bowl while with the Carolina Panthers and it is easy to see shades of the elder's athleticism and raw power in his son's play. Jenkins isn't yet a finished product, but he can surprise blockers with his initial quickness and his combination of arm length (34 inches) and weight room strength (29 bench pressreps) are excellent building blocks, as well.

He recorded just 4.5 sacks over his time at Michigan and saw his numbers slip in 2023, after a breakout 2022 campaign (54 tackles, including 3.5 for loss and two sacks) with Macdonald calling plays on defense.

Jaylen Harrell, Edge, Michigan

Another NFL legacy from Ann Arbor who would make a lot of sense is Harrell, a 6-foot-4, 250-pounder who emerged as a starter under Macdonald in 2022 and steadily improved this past season, registering 31 tackles, including nine tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks.

Harrell has the upfield burst and lateral agility to elude pass blockers and he's got long arms and large hands to rip down ballcarriers seemingly out of his grasp. He needs to get stronger at the point of attack, however, which is why he might be available to Seattle in the mid-rounds as an ideal developmental edge rusher.

Bralen Trice, Edge, Washington

The Huskies' best defensive lineman last season, Trice posted similar numbers (49 tackles, 11.5 TFL, seven sacks) and has a similar size (6-foot-4, 245 pounds) as the aforementioned Harrell, but is actually quite different in build and style. Trice played closer to 270 pounds for the Huskies, providing quality run defense and savvy, timely plays on defense. He dropped weight in an effort to perform well in Combine drills but his game is more about power and tenacity.

Jack Westover, TE, Washington

Re-signing Noah Fant and bringing in quality veteran Pharoah Brown means that tight end is no longer a critical area of need for the Seahawks, but every club could use an instinctive mismatch with Velcro-hands like Westover.

At 6-foot-3 and 240 pounds Westover sports a more compact frame than the lankier Fant (6-4, 249) and Brown (6-5, 246). He projects as more of an H-back in the NFL rather than a seam threat like Fant or more traditional blocking tight end (Brown). Westover showed a knack for making big plays a year ago for the Huskies, when he finished third on the team with 46 receptions, including a career-high four touchdown receptions. He's among my favorite Day 3 sleepers, regardless of position.

Seahawks head coach Mike Macdonald continues to build out his coaching staff for 2024 so check out who will be will leading the team next season. (02/28/24)