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.
On the heels of perhaps the most unexpected playoff run in franchise history, the Seahawks have a "unique opportunity" in the 2023 NFL Draft to catapult the franchise back to being a perennial title contender.
Extra first and second round picks acquired in last year's deal with the Denver Broncos give Pete Carroll and John Schneider a great deal of flexibility to move up or down the draft board. At No. 5 overall – the earliest Carroll or Schneider have ever selected – the Seahawks are in prime position to land an immediate-impact defender, address the long-term future at quarterback or trade down to fill out the roster via a draft full of talented players at positions of concern.
Obviously, the decision made at No. 5 overall will dictate Seattle's strategy throughout the rest of the draft. While adding playmaking ability at the skill-positions is important, the Seahawks' top priority should be getting bigger, stronger and nastier along the line of scrimmage.
The following is my 10-point plan on how the Seahawks can do precisely that. Enjoy the draft!
First Round, No. 5 overall – Jalen Carter, DT, Georgia
The most physically dominant player in the draft, Carter would offer premium value at No. 5 overall and immediately fill Seattle's biggest need for more impactful defensive linemen. Similar in a way to both Al Woods at nose guard and Jadeveon Clowney outside, Carter is simply different than most defensive linemen, truly rag-dolling 300-pound opponents with his remarkable combination of power, mass and athleticism.
While concerns about Carter's conditioning and off-field decision-making are fair, a significant part of Carroll's Hall of Fame resume is based off he and his program's ability to motivate and mold star players. In my opinion, Carter was the best player on Georgia's back-to-back national championships, topping even last year's No. 1 overall pick Travon Walker.
First Round, No. 20 overall – Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida
Schneider opened the pre-draft press conference last week reflecting on he and Carroll's "marriage" over the past 14 years. So, if that partnership gained the head coach the most instant-impact defender in the draft in Carter with the Seahawks' first pick, it seems only fair that Seattle's general manager had his opportunity to take a quarterback whose rare tools have scouts positively drooling.
Anyone who saw the 6-foot-5, 244-pound Richardson at the Combine knows what an athletic phenom he is, and the arm talent is undeniable, warranting comparisons to anyone from Cam Newton (my personal favorite comp) to Josh Allen. Richardson is so gifted, in fact, that he could wind up being selected much, much earlier than No. 20. Certainly, that is the expectation among many in the media.
However, experience reminds me that there are not many front offices in today's NFL on the steady enough ground to justify investing a premium pick on a player with 13 career starts and a 54.7% competition percentage. I think Richardson is as likely to take a small tumble Thursday night as he is to go in the Top 10. I believe Seattle is anticipating taking a different player here – likely another player along the line of scrimmage – but if Richardson were to fall into Schneider's lap, I think he'd see too clean of a fit and too much upside to pass a second time.
Second Round, No. 37 overall – Joe Tippman, C, Wisconsin
I am admittedly higher on this year's center class than some others seem to be. I see a handful of future starters in the NFL and if Carter is, indeed, the selection at No. 5 overall, I think the Seahawks will be doing some heavy thinking as to which of this year's center/guard prospects might offer a nice personality and playing style match to the imposing Georgia defensive tackle.
At 6-foot-6 and 313 pounds, Tippman is as imposing as it gets and he's remarkably quick for such a big man, checking off the agility requirements for Andy Dickerson's mobile scheme. With a "tip" of the cap to fellow clean schematic (and personality fits) John Michael Schmitz and Steve Avila from Minnesota and TCU, respectively, I think the Seahawks fall in love with the younger, more athletic player's perceived greater long-term potential.
Second Round, No. 52 overall – Zach Charbonnet, RB, UCLA
With Kenneth Walker III rightfully earning more first place votes than anyone else for last year's Offensive Rookie of the Year, few outside of Seattle are likely expecting the Seahawks to again invest a top 50-ish pick at the position, but Charbonnet (pronounced Shar-bone-aye) is just too smooth of a fit to ignore. The 6-foot, 214-pounder looks more Clydesdale than thoroughbred, lowering his shoulder and plowing through would-be tacklers, but his galloping strides eat up yardage in a hurry. Charbonnet had 8 carries/catches of 20-plus yards just last year, alone. Like Walker a year ago, Charbonnet dominated at two different programs, starring at Michigan for Jim Harbaugh prior to transferring back to his native state of California and another former NFL head coach in Chip Kelly, where he rushed for over 2,500 yards and 27 touchdowns the past two years.
Third Round, No. 83 overall – Henry To'oTo'o, ILB, Alabama
There are lots of flashy off-ball linebackers in this class but To'oTo'o – a rare underrated prospect from Alabama – might just be the most pro-ready of the bunch. He isn't the biggest or fastest but To'oTo'o offers Jedi-like instincts, clean and reliable form tackling and great durability, having started a staggering 50 games over the past four years while splitting his time between the University of Tennessee (where he was named a Freshman All-American and played with current Seahawk Darrell Taylor) prior to transferring to Alabama the past two seasons, operating as an extension on the field of head coach Nick Saban. There are elements to the 6-foot-1, 227-pounder's play that remind me of former Seahawks standout middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu, and not just because of their Polynesian roots.
Fourth Round, No. 123 overall – Marte Mapu, S/OLB, Sacramento State
Even with Jamal Adams, Quandre Diggs currently on the roster, Seattle could be looking at safeties earlier than expected, and Mapu, who is 6-foot-3 and 217 pounds, has the size and explosiveness Carroll has preferred as a traditional box safety. Mapu, a Combine snub, is the reigning Big Sky Defensive Player of the Year and eased concerns about his level of competition with a splashy few days at the Senior Bowl.
Fifth Round, No. 151 overall – Cameron Young, DT, Mississippi State
Like Robinson ahead of him, Young is a really good football player who might fall on draft day amid questions about his fit in today's NFL. Young is a throwback to a prior generation where defensive tackles were primarily asked to stuff the run, not rush the passer. His inability to generate much of a rush (just two sacks in 34 career games) is concerning for some, but I see a powerfully-built 6-foot-3, 305-pounder who ranks as of the more proven and powerful two-gappers in this class and an excellent value for a club that finished 30th in the NFL a year ago in rushing yards allowed.
Fifth Round, No. 154 overall – Jon Gaines II, OG, UCLA
Seattle's anticipated starting trio of interior offensive linemen -- Damien Lewis (left guard), Evan Brown (center) and Phil Haynes (right guard) – are all scheduled for free agency at the end of next season. With all 22 of forecasted second-round pick Joe Tippman's starts coming at center, the Seahawks would be wise to keep an eye out for athletic guards late. The 6-foot-4, 303-pound Gaines has center-guard versatility, flashing the combination of quickness and dedication to project as a future starter.
Sixth Round, No. 198 overall – Ronnie Bell, WR, Michigan
It was difficult to keep passing on wideouts with the lack of a consistent third weapon in Seattle's receiver room, one of the real concerns for this club. No one needs to remind the Seahawks of the drop-off in production from DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett to everyone else currently on the roster. Bell gets overshadowed by all of the elite athletes in this receiver class but few play with greater toughness, projecting as a quality slot and returner in the NFL.
Seventh Round, No. 237 overall – Deneric Prince, RB, Tulsa
With Walker and Deejay Dallas currently the only running backs on the roster, it should surprise no one if the Seahawks invest multiple picks on the position, as Schneider and Carroll have done twice before (2013, 2016). Prince didn't put up the numbers at Tulsa expected after transferring in from Texas A&M, but he possesses a pro-caliber combination of size (6-foot, 216 pounds) and speed (4.41), warranting a late roll of the dice.
Draft analyst Rob Rang predicts what the Seahawks will do with all 10 of their 2023 draft picks.