The Seahawks began the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft looking for an opportunity to move up.
A day earlier, the Seahawks picked Texas Tech linebacker Jordyn Brooks with the 27th pick, but they were also considering University of Tennessee Darrell Taylor in the first round, so with Taylor still available as the second round kicked off, Seahawks general manager John Schneider and his staff began working the phones.
Eventually the Seahawks found a trade partner in the Jets, moving up from No. 59 overall to No. 48, where they added a player they considered to be one of the best pass-rushers in this draft class.
"He was in consideration last night," Seahawks general manager John Schneider said. "Our guys did a great job of working their tails off trying to keep getting up to try to acquire him, and it was pretty hot. We view him as one of the very, very top pass rushers in this (class)… From the get go this morning, we were on it, trying to move the whole way. We were trying to go up pretty high to get him. Like I said, we considered taking him last night, so it was on for a long time. And then, finally, we're able to get a deal done with the Jets and (general manager) Joe Douglas, and we were able to get on the clock and take him, so it was very exciting."
And when the Seahawks have a strong conviction about a player and trade up to get him, that move has usually worked out in the past, particularly on Day 2 of the draft. The Seahawks have moved up to select, amongst others, Tyler Lockett in 2015, Jarran Reed in 2016 and DK Metcalf last year.
In Taylor, the Seahawks see a prototypical LEO edge rusher in their defense—picture Frank Clark in recent years or Cliff Avril or Chris Clemons before that—and a player who can make a difference right away.
"He is exactly that, he is right in that (LEO) mold," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "The height, weight, speed things is there, his aggressiveness is there, his flexibility, his savvy for turning the corner, and doing the things that that position calls for—the power, he has to finish. He's got speed to power moves. And there's enough ability there for him to do some dropping the few times that we do that, when we mix our looks at all. We thought he was an absolute in-the-pocket guy, so it was an easy evaluation in that regard. We're very happy to get him and we know he's going to have a chance to contribute early."
Taylor was one of the last players the Seahawks brought in for a pre-draft visit before the COVID-19 crisis halted travel, and Schneider noted that the visit allowed the Seahawks to get to know him better and also to be confident in his surgically repaired leg after Taylor played last season with a stress fracture in his fibula.
"The fact that he could jump from room to room, he could go to Pete's office to my office to the equipment room to the training room and spend time with our (doctors) and spend time with our defensive staff, the (defensive) line coach, coach (Clint) Hurtt, he just handled himself very well and was excited to be there," Schneider said. "We ended up having lunch with him that day too, a couple of us. He just did a great job. He was just a very impressive young man with an edge and a chip, and he's mad that he didn't have a better season. This guy, who knows, if he's healthy this year, where we're talking about drafting him."
Not too long after the Seahawks moved up to get Taylor, they felt comfortable enough with the players left on their draft board late in the second round to make a trade back, moving from the 64th pick to No. 69 overall, picking up a fifth-rounder to move back five spots. With that pick, the Seahawks added LSU guard Damien Lewis, a player Carroll said will come in and compete for the starting job at right guard.
"He's a self-made guy," Schneider said. "A JC guy from Mississippi and he rode the bus from his apartment to school every day and stuff. There's just so many cool things about the guy. He's so stout, he's so heavy with his hands, he's got a great anchor, really good eyes, you can see him playing against top-level competition. So it makes the evaluation that much easier."
On adding Lewis to a roster that already has 18 offensive linemen, including both starting guards from last year, Schneider said, "We're just trying to get as much competition as we possibly can to protect our quarterback. We think we have the best quarterback in the National Football League, and we have to figure out the best group to protect him."
One thing helping the Seahawks in their evaluation of Lewis is the close relationship Carroll has with LSU coach Ed Orgeron, who was an assistant under Carroll at USC.
"We had very, very clear communication with Eddie throughout," Carroll said. "We stay in touch, as a matter of fact, he was the highlight of the post-draft pick of Damien Lewis—everybody got to hear him as he was going on and on about him and how much he loves the kid and all that. Our scouts had great information; it was really helpful. I felt really confident to see all the connections and why we felt so strongly about Damien from the background checks and all of that. Those kinds of relationships are important. Eddie and I see things squared up, so when he's telling me I'm going to love this kid and I'm going to think the world of him by the way he competes and battles and all of that, I know he's right. That does help."
One trait the Seahawks believe will help all three of the players they have selected so far adjust to life in the NFL is the resilience and grit they have shown in their lives to get this far. Brooks was homeless for a period of his childhood; Taylor lost his mother to breast cancer, had a father who was incarcerated for part of his childhood, and is the father of a 1-year-old; and Lewis also spent part of his childhood with a father in prison, and also came out of high school with no Division-I offers.
"Life experiences mold you, one way or the other," Carroll said. "The guys that have been able to have the support when they needed it, or just the 'stick-to-it-ness' when they were up against the big challenges, if they make it through it, it makes them stronger. These guys have all been guys that they were probably pretty ready to tell you about their story and they let you know about their background, and I think it's a clear statement about how the challenging and difficult times can really make you stronger and make you better. And these guys are examples of that. If they learn the lessons, then they bring along that willfulness that can make them unique and special, and we really feel like these guys can all come in with a chip on their shoulder—they've got something to prove, they're not going to be denied, they're not going to let anybody get in their way and take it away from them. I'm sure you heard that from Jordyn [Brooks] last night. I think John has really made it important to the scouts to understand these guys and know and understand the impact that their lives have had so that they can contribute to us. We're thrilled about these guys. These are the kind of guys that you want to build a team with."
The Seahawks will be back to work tomorrow morning, with the fourth round kicking off at 9 a.m. PT. Here's a look at the Seahawks' 2020 NFL Draft so far, as well as the four picks they're scheduled to make Saturday:
Round 1, No. 27 overall: LB Jordyn Brooks, Texas Tech
Round 2, No. 48 overall: DE Darrell Taylor, Tennessee
Round 3, No. 69 overall: G Damien Lewis, LSU
Round 4, No. 133 overall
Round 4, No. 144 overall
Round 5, No. 148 overall
Round 6, No. 214 overall