Two days into the 2021 NFL Draft, the Seahawks have selected only one player, but the cheers emanating from the Derrick Jensen Draft Room that echoed through the halls of the VMAC indicated just how happy they were to select D'Wayne Eskridge.
Eskridge, a speedy and versatile receiver from Western Michigan, made a strong impression on the Seahawks throughout the evaluation process, from his on-field production to his toughness and competitiveness, to his willingness to play multiple positions, to, of course, the speed that stands out even at the NFL level.
"He's just extremely explosive," general manager John Schneider said. "… 4.3-whatever (40-yard dash), ran a 10.5 (second) 100 meters in high school, 21.5 200 meters. Just a really explosive guy who can throttle his speed, tough. We're getting a guy that could play a number of different positions. He was a kickoff returner, could be a gunner. There's a really cool shot of him as a gunner against Central Michigan where he just throttled somebody. We've got a guy who's competitive, hungry, intense, he's got some dog to him."
Dog is also a word Eskridge used to describe himself when asked about joining an offense featuring the likes of Russell Wilson, Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf.
"I just come in and bring some more explosiveness to it," he said. "Those are all dogs that I mentioned; I'm also a dog so I feel like I'll be able to fit in pretty good and just take it to another level."
Asked to describe his game, Eskridge said, "Aggressive, explosive and dynamic. I can do multiple things on the offensive and defensive side, and I can also go and perform well on special teams, so I just bring a whole other juice."
Those traits Eskridge mentioned lined up almost perfectly with how Pete Carroll and Schneider described their newest addition a couple hours later. Having played cornerback and excelled on special teams in addition to being a home-run threat on offense, Eskridge showed a level of toughness that's not common for a receiver.
"It makes him a unique player coming in at the position," Carroll said. "Think about the staff that had to present this to him: 'We've got problems on defense, we need some help. We think you can be a cornerback.' How many wide receivers get asked that question? So the versatility, the all-around athlete that he is, the person that he is—he's really smart and bright and wide open and team oriented and all of that. I think (playing cornerback) just shows the variety and the spectrum of this guy's ability. We love the explosiveness part of it, but you can also see there's a few clips in here—and you can see when he was playing defense—he was physical, he went after guys, which we love about what he brings to the wide receiver position, because our guys are called on the block a lot in our offense, it's a big part of the game. That was one of the additional elements that just added to why we like D'Wayne so much, so we're really fired up about it."
And while Eskridge is small by NFL standards, checking in a 5-foot-9, 190 pounds, he doesn't play small, Carroll said: "There were a number of smaller receivers, fast speedy guys in this draft, but we saw him as 5-9, but he was 190-something too, and he looks physical, plays strong, plays a dynamic style with the ball in his hands and all that. That was one of the attributes that I know that John liked early on when he first picked him up, and it's been really obvious that he's got a uniqueness to them in that regard that we'll be able to hopefully use in a number of ways."
Eskridge excelled in run-after-catch situations at Western Michigan, which should make him a fit in new coordinator Shane Waldron's offense presuming Waldron brings some elements of the Rams offense with him from L.A. And regardless of how the Seahawks use him or where he lines up—Carroll made it clear they see him as more than just a slot receiver—adding a potential third legit threat along with Lockett and Metcalf was a priority for Seattle this offseason.
"Shane has talked since we first started talking about schematically how we're going about it, philosophically how we're going about the offense, about having three legitimate threats in passing situations so defenses can't lock you down," Carroll said. "It was one of the reasons that Gerald (Everett) was such a big get for us, was such a great acquisition for us in the offseason to help us. We always want to have three guys out there that they've got to work with and contend with so they just can't double guys up and take them out of the offense. We'll find out how well D'Wayne fits in in that regard, but we're counting on him being a factor—and our other guys too. This is going to be a wide -open competition in this camp for guys to show where they fit. And we're waiting to allow that emergence to occur and excited to see the competition bring that out, but we want the diversity, certainly."