A year ago, the Seahawks possessed just three of the 259 picks of the 2021 NFL Draft. This weekend, the club is armed with three of the first 41 selections, putting Seattle in prime position to add players capable of immediate and lasting impacts.
One of those early draft picks may very well be used on a quarterback. The club certainly has investigated them. Besides the large contingent of scouts who attended staples such as the Senior Bowl, East-West Shrine Bowl and NFL Scouting Combine, the Seahawks sent at least one scout and, notably, quarterbacks coach Dave Canales to the Pro Day workouts for Liberty's Malik Willis, Pittsburgh's Kenny Pickett, Mississippi's Matt Corral and North Carolina's Sam Howell. The club went even further with Cincinnati's Desmond Ridder, flying him to Seattle for an official Top 30 visit. All of them will be off the board by the time Seattle drafts in the third round, which, of course, is where John Schneider and Pete Carroll nabbed Russell Wilson a decade ago.
Unless the club trades down from No. 9 overall to acquire even more draft picks, however, the early focus could be on other positions of concern. The talent available at offensive tackle, edge rusher and linebacker may be just too rich to ignore. Further, Schneider and Carroll will likely want to see what they have with Drew Lock – who is in the final year of his rookie deal – and the club is already well positioned in the 2023 draft to take advantage of what is expected to be a richer class of quarterbacks with multiple picks in both the first and second rounds.
Well known for their unconventional drafting, predicting who the Seahawks may select in the first round is difficult enough. Projecting what they may do with their eight current picks – knowing full well Schneider is likely looking to acquire more of them – is borderline impossible.
It sure is fun, though! So, with the draft now only days away, here are my final, best educated guesses as to who the Seahawks will be selecting in the 2022 NFL Draft.
First Round, No. 9 overall – Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Iowa
While Carroll made it clear that the Seahawks have not closed the door on bringing back veteran blindside blocker Duane Brown, the club currently only has three tackles on the roster, making this almost surely a position Seattle will address in the draft. Under Schneider and Carroll, the Seahawks have historically invested their premium picks on players from college football powerhouses, and the Panthers (an FCS school which finished last season 6-6) certainly are not that. However, Penning checks off every other box Seattle has prioritized at the position. He is absolutely massive at 6-foot-7, 325 pounds with long arms (34 ¾") and exceptional athleticism and power, leading all offensive tackles measured this year at the Combine in the SPARQ (an acronym for Speed, Power, Agility, Reaction and Quickness) testing that Carroll has used dating back to his USC days. Penning's results, in fact, would place him in the 99th percentile of tackles currently in the NFL.
Further, he is a self-made player (weighed just 210 pounds as a junior in high school) who craves contact, relishing opportunities to maul opponents. Hall of Fame guard Steve Hutchinson – who works as a consultant for the Seahawks now – may have recognized some of his own surly playing style with Penning at the Senior Bowl, where the latter erased any questions about his ability to handle the jump in competition.
Second Round, No. 40 overall – Sam Williams, Edge, Mississippi
While I believe Seattle would strongly consider an edge rusher if one of the top prospects were available at No. 9 overall, the depth at the position is so good the team can afford to wait until the top of the second round and still get a star to rotate with Darrell Taylor and prized free agent addition Uchenna Nwosu. That may sound like hyperbole, but this year's class is absolutely loaded with twitchy rushers. It should surprise no one if nearly a third of the players selected over the first 40 picks play this position. Williams has the frame, athleticism and production against elite competition to get selected in the first round but didn't put it all together until this past season, jumping from 40 tackles, including eight for loss and four sacks as a part-time starter in 2020 to setting the Rebels' single-season record with 13 sacks this past season, ranking top five in the nation in both quarterback takedowns and forced fumbles (four) while also collecting a career-high 57 tackles, overall.
Williams possesses the shocking combination of size (6-foot-4, 263 pounds) and athleticism (4.46 in the 40-yard dash) to suggest that his eye-popping numbers are just the beginning of what he could become with more coaching. His first love was basketball and he remains technically raw, having only begun playing football six years ago. Inconsistencies on and off the field have left him a bit overshadowed in this draft class, but Carroll will have more perspective on Williams than most given a lifetime of ties with Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin, including the five years they worked together at USC, winning two national championships.
Second Round, No. 41 overall – Leo Chenal, LB, Wisconsin
While I feel very confident that two of Seattle's top three picks will be spent on an offensive tackle and edge rusher, that third pick is a bit of a wildcard with a quarterback, cornerback, center or even running back all logical possibilities. This feels like the spot the Seahawks could take a quarterback with Howell perhaps the best and likeliest fit. If seeking to maximize immediate impact potential, however, adding a heat-seeking missile inside linebacker to pair with Jordyn Brooks would certainly make a lot of sense.
Just like the aforementioned Williams, Chenal went from a good player in 2020 to a national superstar this past season, registering 115 tackles, including an eye-popping 18.5 for loss and eight sacks with two forced fumbles – and that was with him missing two games (COVID). Better suited to playing a true inside linebacker role in a 3-4 scheme than many of the smaller defenders in this very good class at the position, Chenal packs a rock-solid 250 pounds on his 6-foot-3 frame and yet boasts remarkable athleticism. His 40.5" vertical jump, 4.53-second time in the 40-yard dash and swift shuttle drills (4.24-second short shuttle, 6.96-second 3-cone) are the kind of results one associates with receivers and cornerbacks, not your traditional glass-eating Big Ten linebacker. Chenal has some personality too. He wore jersey No. 5 at Wisconsin – likely an acknowledgment of the popular perfume, Chanel No. 5. Pardon the pun but given the way Chenal sniffs out screens and scrambling quarterbacks, the jersey choice was certainly appropriate.
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Third Round, No. 72 overall – Luke Fortner, C/OG, Kentucky
The Seahawks addressed the center position in free agency, signing veteran Austin Blythe, who started 47 games at center and right guard for the Los Angeles Rams from 2018-2020 under the watchful eyes of then-L.A. coaches Shane Waldron and Andy Dickerson. His familiarity with the scheme Waldron and Dickerson are implementing in Seattle make him the logical candidate to start at center this upcoming season, perhaps allowing the club to bypass talents like Iowa's Tyler Linderbaum, Boston College's Zion Johnson or Nebraska's Cam Jurgens – each of whom are expected to land somewhere among the top 64 selections.
Blythe is only signed to a one-year deal, however, and he was pushed aside in the starting lineup by a stellar rookie in Creed Humphrey in Kansas City a year ago. Ironically, it could be familiarity that again pushes Blythe this year, as Fortner, a three-year starter at Kentucky, excelled this past season at center for then-offensive coordinator Liam Coen, who previously worked with Waldron with the Rams and at the University of Massachusetts. Fortner possesses an ideal frame for the position at 6-foot-4, 307 pounds and he is much quicker on the field than he showed in workouts. A team captain in 2021 with starting experience at both guard positions as well as center, Fortner offers the kind of leadership and positional versatility the Seahawks have always prioritized up front.
Fourth Round, No. 109 overall – Dameon Pierce, RB, Florida
On paper, the Seahawks would appear to be set at running back. The club re-signed Rashaad Penny after all, and have another difference-maker in Chris Carson, should he be able to return from the neck injury which abruptly ended his 2021 season, as well as DeeJay Dallas, Travis Homer, Josh Johnson and Darwin Thompson. Of the six, only Dallas is signed past next year, however. And, with durability an ongoing concern for Seattle's top players at the position, it should surprise no one if the Seahawks invest one of this year's selections on a running back, perhaps even early. The club did not select a back last year, of course, but the small draft class (three picks) probably had a lot to do with that, as the Seahawks selected a runner in each of the six previous drafts and in nine of the 12 drafts since Schneider and Carroll began working together.
There are few backs in this class that scream Seahawk like the hard-running Pierce. The fact that he lacks true breakaway speed (4.59 in the 40-yard dash at the Combine) likely will push Pierce out of the Top 100, but he offers many of the more important elements to playing the position – like vision, contact balance, power and sheer toughness. At a compact 5-foot-10, 218 pounds, Pierce has the body armor to hold up to NFL punishment and he proved both secure with the football (only two career fumbles) and capable in the passing game. I loved the way he competed against the best on Florida's schedule, including Alabama (two TDs), Georgia (his 69 rushing yards were the most the Bulldogs gave up all year) and in the rivalry game against Florida State in which he scored a touchdown despite losing his helmet.
Fifth Round, No. 145 overall – Chase Lucas, CB, Arizona State
Given that the club resigned Sidney Jones IV, brought back former Seahawk Justin Coleman and inked Artie Burns – a 2016 first round pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers who played arguably his best ball in the NFL a year ago with Sean Desai in Chicago – Seattle has already reshuffled the deck at cornerback. Few teams have enjoyed greater success in the middle and later rounds at this position than the Seahawks since Carroll and Schneider joined forces a dozen years ago, however, and this class offers a lot of intriguing to add to the list. Few, however, have played as well and as consistently as Lucas, who leaves Arizona State with 49 starts over 53 games.
After redshirting his first season in Tempe, Lucas emerged as one of the better young cornerbacks in the country in 2017, earning Freshman All-American honors and leading the Sun Devils with 10 passes defensed (including two interceptions) and 59 tackles. The smart play-callers in the pass-happy PAC-12 mostly stayed away from his side of the field from there on but Lucas nevertheless recorded 34 PBUs and six interceptions over his career. He did not allow a touchdown reception this past season and was just as sticky in coverage at the East-West Shrine Bowl. Frankly, statistics don't do Lucas' quickness, hand-eye coordination and physical tackling justice. His advanced age (he turned 25 in March) and slightly undersized frame (5-foot-11, 180 at the Combine) could push him down the board further than it should – where a team with Seattle's trained eye for secondary talent might be able to steal him.
Fifth Round, No. 153 overall – Juanyeh Thomas, S, Georgia Tech
Despite the fact that Seattle boasts the best 1-2 punch in the NFL at safety in Quandre Diggs and Jamal Adams, the Seahawks have dedicated a lot of time scouting safeties this year. Part of the reason for that may be due to the fact that Desai utilized three safety looks a lot in Chicago. Excellent top-end talent and very good depth at the position in this year's draft are other important factors to consider, as well as the fact that many clubs like to use safeties on special teams due to their size, speed and reliable open-field tackling skills.
Boasting excellent size for a defensive back at 6-foot-1, 212 pounds, Thomas was used all over the secondary and on special teams units at Georgia Tech, including returning two kickoffs for touchdowns as a freshman. He is a thumper with a knack for punching the ball out (five career forced fumbles) and has enough speed and agility to handle coverage duties, as well. Just watch his closing speed and stopping power on this tackle at the East-West Shrine Bowl.
Seventh Round, No. 229 overall – EJ Perry, QB, Brown
Seahawks fans hopeful for a much earlier pick at quarterback might be disappointed with this selection but don't knock Perry until you've watched him. He began his college career at Boston College but the Massachusetts prep legend (his 114 career touchdown passes are second most in school history) ultimately transferred to the Ivy League to play for his uncle, James, Brown's head coach. This wasn't a case of nepotism. Perry was the most productive player in the conference each of his two full seasons (2020 canceled due to COVID), throwing for 5,981 yards and 47 touchdowns while rushing for another 1,132 yards and 15 scores. What Perry may lack in arm strength, he makes up for with smarts, touch on deep throws and the ability to extend plays with his mobility. The solidly-built 6-foot-2, 211 pounder answered questions about his level of competition at the East-West Shrine Bowl, winning MVP of the game, itself, and turned heads with his athleticism at the Combine, clocking in at 4.65 seconds in the 40-yard dash and registering a 34.5" vertical jump that finished second only to Ridder among quarterbacks.
Carroll has used the term "point guard" to describe the kind of quarterback Seattle may bring in from this rookie class. As the 360-degree slam dunk below shows, Perry is a late round Diamond in the Rough candidate who fits that description in many ways.
One of the most recognized names in the industry, Rob Rang 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. Rang's opinions and evaluations are his own and do not reflect those of the Seahawks.