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, CBSSports.com, USA Today, Yahoo, NFL.com and NFLDraftScout.com, 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.
Re-signing quarterback Geno Smith and the bold moves in free agency since prove that the Seahawks are very much in win-now mode.
That might mean general manager John Schneider and his scouts are focusing this spring on players likelier to make an immediate impact rather than long-term projects.
Pure talent has more to do with that than anything, of course, but pro-readiness is about more than power and speed. It is about being technically refined, tougher than nails and totally committed to the team, as well as to one's own development.
Fans sometimes view the NFL draft like they are constructing a roster in fantasy football, just plugging in players at positions of need. Real team building requires careful consideration of the personalities of the men involved, as well – those currently outside of the roster being evaluated, the veterans already on the team and, of course, the coaches.
Even the most educated guesses are still guesses when it comes to evaluating the desire within a player. But one way of lessening the risk on draft day is to have an inside perspective on what makes him tick. Scouts are paid to learn this and Seattle has some very good ones. But players know their teammates even better. I mean, come on, even in passing conversation Schneider and his scouts have likely asked Boye Mafe about his former teammate at Minnesota, John Michael Schmitz – the burly center frequently projected to Seattle in mock drafts and reportedly someone the Seahawks met with at both the Senior Bowl and Combine.
And it would make all of the sense in the world for the Seahawks to prod Charles Cross for intel on his former Mississippi State teammates, Cameron Young and Tyrus Wheat, who he lined up across in practice for years.
Think about some of the other immediate hits we've seen around the NFL in recent years as teams have gambled on proven camaraderie.
Joe Burrow's reunification with former LSU teammate Ja'Marr Chase led to the Bengals' Super Bowl run two years ago. The Philadelphia Eagles made the same run last year with Jalen Hurts and DeVonta Smith, who caught passes from him back in Tuscaloosa. Miami took the Alabama approach, as well, reuniting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and wideout Jaylen Waddle. Jacksonville took a similar tactic by making Clemson stars Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne their top choices two years ago.
The Seahawks have tried this strategy multiple times in the past, most recently drafting LSU teammates Damien Lewis and Stephen Sullivan in 2020 and the Utah duo of Marquise Blair and Cody Barton a year earlier. Bobby Wagner and fellow Utah State and Seahawks fan favorite Robert Turbin were drafted together by Seattle in the legendary 2012 class which ranks among the great single-year hauls in modern league history.
And, of course, in a lesser way, Seattle has already taken this approach many times in the past, plucking several former Senior Bowl teammates virtually every year since Carroll and Schneider began working together in 2010.
But in all that time, Carroll and Schneider have never had an opportunity like this one - five draft picks among the top 83 overall! The 2023 NFL Draft truly is a "unique opportunity" for the Seahawks.
So, who might the Seahawks be looking to pair together this year? Here are a few of the most exciting reunion possibilities, as well as the current college teammates, if drafted together, might be best set to splash in Seattle.
Both from an alphabetical and sheer fit perspective, the Crimson Tide top the list. Demonstrating the accuracy, anticipation and intangibles Schneider and Carroll have always prioritized, it goes without saying that quarterback Bryce Young would fit in Seattle, but his former teammate, Will Anderson, Jr., has perhaps the better chance at being available when the Seahawks are on the clock and his speed, power and tenacity would also be a terrific fit. Anderson is my personal top-rated defender in this class. Versatile and as reliable in coverage and as an open-field tackler as any defensive back in this class, Brian Branch also checks a lot of "Seahawk-y" boxes. It is easy to see the physicality Seattle seeks along the line of scrimmage in Tuscaloosa, where offensive linemen Tyler Steen and Emil Ekiyor, Jr., as well, defensive tackle Byron Young project as future starters. Meanwhile linebacker Henry To'oTo'o may lack elite measureables, he is among the more instinctive and pro-ready players at his position this year. The Seahawks may see running back Jahmyr Gibbs as too similar to second-year pro Kenneth Walker III to justify one of their top picks, but he's a young star, as well, and no one should be surprised if Seattle invests another early pick at the position given the free agent defections of Rashaad Penny and Travis Homer.
Given that the Bulldogs are the back-to-back defending champs, perhaps they should be listed first in this article, especially considering the fact that there are so many Bulldogs who might fit in beautifully with the Seahawks. Ultra-gifted defensive tackle Jalen Carter is a perfect schematic match for Carroll's defense and if anyone can help the young man turn his potential into greatness on and off the field it is the Seahawks' head coach. Should Seattle opt to invest in the gifted defensive tackle, supporting him with former Georgia teammates would seemingly be a sound strategy. Edge rusher Nolan Smith missed most of the past season for the Bulldogs but he was among the team's captains all year and scouts traveling through Athens universally tout his talent, competitiveness and leadership. The Seahawks have prioritized unique athletes during the Carroll-Schneider era and they don't much more bigger or faster at cornerback than Kelee Ringo, who has Tacoma ties. Tight end Darnell Washington is a throwback to a prior generation, winning with sheer size (6-foot-7, 264 pounds) and power and currently ranking as much more of an intimidating run blocker than a dynamic receiver. Seattle is expected to select at least one running back in this draft and Kenny McIntosh would make sense, as the strengths of his game are similar to Homer's and he is used to playing in a rotation. What quarterback Stetson Bennett lacks in traits, he makes up for with accuracy, grit and a real knack for playing at his best with the lights shining brightest, ranking among the better fits for Seattle of this year’s celebrated QB class.
The Seahawks sent a large contingent to Gainesville as the final stop of their "QB Selfie Tour," evaluating the tantalizing potential that is Anthony Richardson. As I explained in the previous "QB Fits for Seattle" article, I believe Richardson is a really intriguing fit for the Seahawks, but he isn't the only Gator with teeth. Four-year starting offensive guard O'Cyrus Torrence is massive, mean and owns one of the most dominant statistics you'll ever see in football – allowing zero sacks over his entire career. A bully on the other side of the ball, veteran defensive tackle Gervon Dexter, Sr., is one of the more powerful run-stuffers in this draft class and would seemingly make a lot of sense for Seattle. Similarly, linebacker Ventrel Miller is a classic downhill thumper and core-four special teamer with the aggression and physicality Carroll has demanded of the position.
Of course, the first stop on Seattle's QB tour over the Pro Days was in Columbus, where CJ Stroud followed up a spectacular throwing session at the Combine with yet another demonstration of his rare accuracy, likely sewing up a top two selection in the draft. Even with Smith (and Drew Lock) re-signed, Seattle might feel it had no choice but to select the California native if he were to somehow still be available at No. 5 overall. Even if it seems unlikely that the Seahawks and Stroud are a match, the Buckeyes boast plenty of other future NFL starters, including some really intriguing fits in Seattle. Perhaps the flashiest of the bunch is stud slot receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba, who reminds me a bit of L.A. Chargers five-time Pro Bowler Keenan Allen for his sharp route-running and strong hands. Offensive line coach Andy Dickerson has appeared to prioritize quickness over mass and that might make the Buckeyes' precocious 21-year-old center Luke Wypler an intriguing candidate, as well. The Seahawks have reportedly already planned a Top 30 visit with Buckeyes' massive right tackle Dawand Jones, whose sheer size (6-foot-8, 374 pounds) makes him an incredibly unique prospect and the Seahawks love those. Another former Buckeye to keep in mind simply because of his traits is edge rusher Zach Harrison, a former five-star recruit who played the best ball of his college career this past season, standing out (albeit in a losing cause) to hated rival, Michigan. At 6-foot-6 and 274 pounds, Harrison has the size to hold up against the run and his exceptionally long arms (36 ¼") help him stack and shed blockers at the point of attack and lasso ball carriers simply out of the reach of most defenders.
Speaking of the Maize and Blue, like him or hate him, former San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh has returned Michigan to the upper echelon of college football, helping the Wolverines churn out quality, pro-ready prospects since taking over at his alma mater in 2015. Literally and figuratively the Seahawks' current "biggest" area of concern has to be along the defensive line, and perhaps specifically nose guard, following the release of veteran Al Woods and the ongoing recovery from ACL surgery for Bryan Mone. There are not a lot of classic nose guards in the 2023 NFL draft, with Michigan's Mazi Smith one of the few capable of helping a club immediately. The 6-foot-3, 323 pound Smith is both powerful and shockingly athletic, earning the top spot on longtime college football analyst Bruce Feldman's annual "Freak" list. Smith's upside might force an interested club to invest a Top 50 selection in him – pretty rare territory for a player at this position. The Seahawks have already reportedly held Combine and Senior Bowl interviews with Smith's teammate, the 6-foot-5, 275-pound defensive end Mike Morris, who was named the Big Ten's Defensive Lineman of the Year in 2022. His breakout starring role this season and positional versatility are certainly intriguing. Even more celebrated than Morris or Smith, however, was center Olusegun Oluwatimi, who took home the Rimington Trophy as the nation's top best in the middle, as well as the Outland Trophy, given annually to the best lineman (offensive or defensive) that season. Oluwatimi has an interesting backstory, beginning his college career at Air Force and starring at Virginia prior to transferring to Michigan for his final season and he comes with pro-ready toughness and power. Lost a bit in the shuffle with all of Michigan's running and defense are a pair of underrated pass-catchers that might intrigue Seattle. Wideout Ronnie Bell has a slippery and sudden style to him that reminds me a bit of former Seahawk receiver Freddie Swain. And while making player comparisons, should Seattle want to take advantage of an extraordinarily deep tight end class, Michigan's Luke Schoonmaker offers an all-around game very similar to current Seahawks' standout Will Dissly.
If they boasted as many top-rated prospects as some of the blueblood programs listed earlier, Kansas State might rank higher on this list, as they offer some of my favorite players in the 2023 draft class. Edge rusher Felix Anudike-Uzomah gets lost a bit in the hype of all the "other" top sack artists but his eye-popping production – including 19.5 sacks and eight forced fumbles over the past two seasons – speak for itself. Given all of the success the Seahawks have enjoyed with tall, long-armed cornerbacks, Julius "JuJu" Brents would seemingly rank very high on Seattle's board. The 6-foot-3, 198 pounder boasts 34" arms and both the change of direction and explosiveness that the Seahawks have prioritized amongst defensive backs, as well as good ball-skills (four interceptions in 2022). The polar opposite of the prototypically-built Brents is mighty-mite running back Deuce Vaughn, who measured in at the Combine at just 5-foot-5 and 179 pounds. Like former Kansas State (and current Seahawks) star Tyler Lockett before him, however, Vaughn proved that dominance can come in smaller packages, generating over 4,800 all-purpose yards and 43 touchdowns in just three years of college football. Vaughn looks and plays like the second-coming of former KSU and NFL star Darren Sproles, a three-time Pro Bowler who retired after 15 seasons in the NFL ranked fifth all-time in all-purpose yardage (19,696 yards).
Finally, if the Seahawks wanted to pair up a prospect (or two) from this class with some of the standouts from last year's stellar rookie class, Cincinnati, surprisingly, might make the most sense to start. Current Seahawk Coby Bryant was revered there for his leadership and poised play, earning the Thorpe Award as the nation's top defensive back, a year ago. Bryant's perspective might help Seattle determine just how difficult it is to track speedy wideout Tyler Scott, who offers a big play element after the catch that the Seahawks have lacked in recent years, outside of Lockett and, of course, DK Metcalf. Scott is a former running back and still shows that contact balance to spin off hits, as the fact 10 of his 13 career touchdowns spanned 30 yards or more. The Bearcats have a lanky tight end in Josh Whyle whose developing frame, soft hands and speed might bring back memories of Colby Parkinson at Stanford. Finally, given that they shared the huddle, Bryant could provide valuable insight into inside linebacker Ivan Pace, whose lack of ideal size might push him into Day Three but whose intensity and physicality would fit in Seattle.
Tennessee: QB Hendon Hooker, wide receivers Jalin Hyatt and Cedric Tillman, offensive lineman Darnell Wright, edge rusher Byron Young, inside linebacker Jeremy Banks.
Iowa: Defensive lineman Lukas Van Ness, inside linebacker Jack Campbell, tight end Sam LaPorta, cornerback Riley Moss.
Texas: Running backs Bijan Robinson and Roschon Johnson, nose guard Keondre Coburn, linebacker DeMarvion Overshown.
Southern California: WR Jordan Addison, defensive lineman Tuli Tuipulotu, OG Andrew Vorhees
Kentucky: QB Will Levis, running back Chris Rodriguez, Jr.
NFL Draft expert Rob Rang identifies quarterback prospects the Seahawks could target in the 2023 NFL Draft. Read more here.