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.
Armed with a top ten selection, three picks among the top 41 and eight choices overall, the Seahawks enter the 2022 NFL draft as well-stocked as at any time in the Pete Carroll-John Schneider era.
Both men have spoken numerous times about the need to refresh the talent on Seattle's defense and this year's class boasts plenty of it with the top-end talent and depth at pass rusher, off-ball linebacker and cornerback especially alluring.
One could argue that the defensive talent is so good this year, in fact, that the Seahawks could target just that side of the ball with all eight of their draft picks.
So, that is what we are projecting below – the perfect eight-pack of draft picks if Seattle were to focus strictly on defenders. If you missed it last week, our projection for a hypothetical all-offense draft.
First Round, No. 9 overall – Jermaine Johnson II, Edge, Florida State
While wildcards like Georgia's freakish defensive tackle Jordan Davis or the best off-ball linebacker in the draft - Devin Lloyd of Utah - remain possibilities, history and logic both suggest that if the Seahawks stay with this pick and select a defensive player, it most likely will be an edge rusher.
In the 12 drafts since Carroll and Schneider joined forces in Seattle, the Seahawks have invested their top selection in a rusher four times (Bruce Irvin, Frank Clark, Malik McDowell, L.J. Collier), more than any other position.
Johnson is often lumped in with Michigan's Aidan Hutchinson, Oregon's Kayvon Thibodeaux and Georgia's Travon Walker as one of the elite rushers in this year's class and, frankly, I think Seattle would do well to nab any one of them, if able. I'm particularly high on Johnson, given how the powerful, technically-sound and prototypically-built 6-foot-5, 259 pounder dominated this past season. I thought he was the best player on the field at the Senior Bowl.
He was asked to line up as a traditional defensive end much of the 2021 season at Florida State, attacking blockers out of the three-point stance. His initial quickness, coordination between his upper and lower body and power helped him earn ACC Defensive Player of the Year honors with 70 tackles overall, with 18 of them behind the line of scrimmage, including 12 sacks.
Johnson proved just as effective out of the two-point stance at the Senior Bowl, offering precisely the kind of versatility and immediate impact ability the Seahawks will be looking for out of the first pick acquired in Russell Wilson trade.
Second Round, No. 40 overall – Channing Tindall, LB, Georgia
It takes more than speed and strength to replace a player like Bobby Wagner, but one wouldn't be able to blame Seattle's scouts for a feeling a bit of déjà vu when evaluating Tindall, who offers a similar frame, strike zone as a tackler and, shockingly, the same explosive athleticism as the Seahawks legend.
Both Wagner and Tindall look like they've come out of a football laboratory, boasting chiseled frames and the explosive testing results typically reserved for wide receivers, not linebackers. Wagner was clocked in the mid to high 4.4s at his Utah State Pro Day back in 2012, posting a stunning 39.5" vertical jump. Tindall was timed at 4.47 in Indianapolis and, regardless of position, no one jumped higher at the Combine this year than his 42" vertical.
Of course, to star at linebacker in the NFL, one needs instincts, range and knockdown power, not just flashy workouts. Don't worry, Tindall offers plenty of that.
While Tindall is an exciting talent and fit, it is worth noting that the depth at off-ball linebacker is good enough that Seattle may opt to wait until the middle rounds. Now entering his fourth season, Cody Barton may very well seize the starting linebacker job next to Jordyn Brooks. But with he and fellow 2018 draft pick Ben Burr-Kirven entering the final years of their rookie contracts (with the latter and fellow linebacker Jon Rhattigan each coming off significant knee injuries), the Seahawks will almost surely invest at least one pick in the position.
Second Round, No. 41 overall – Phidarian Mathis, DL, Alabama
Sticking to the premise that a club can never have too many talented linemen, don't be surprised if the Seahawks invest a relatively early pick on a defensive tackle, even after bringing back Al Woods and adding fellow veterans Shelby Harris and Quenton Jefferson. As you'd expect from a defensive lineman from Alabama, Mathis is pro-ready, experienced playing up and down the line of scrimmage out of both the odd and even front.
He plays even bigger than his 6-foot-4, 310-pound frame would suggest, in part because of the sledgehammers he uses for arms (34 5/8"). He looks the part of a classic block-eater at the point of attack and has handled this role beautifully since emerging as a consistent part of Alabama's rotation since his redshirt freshman season in 2018.
Mathis is a more effective rusher than some think, using his length and leg drive to bull doze through single blocks. Mathis and the rest of the Seahawks' traditional defensive linemen could see plenty of those with opponents busy worrying about the outside speed offered by Darrell Taylor, free agent acquisition Uchenna Nwosu and, in the case of this projection, Johnson, the No. 9 overall pick.
Rated lower on most media boards than 41st overall, selecting Mathis might draw some criticism but when have the Seahawks ever shown fear of that? Due to his versatility, dependability and leadership skills, Mathis is exactly the type of player Seattle is likely to target as part of its defensive evolution.
Third Round, No. 72 overall – Coby Bryant, CB, Cincinnati
Finally, a cornerback! Given the inconsistency of Seattle's secondary play for much of the past two years, I can't blame Seahawks fans for hoping the club invests multiple draft picks in the position, despite the fact that the club brought back Sidney Jones and acquired two more starting caliber players in veterans Artie Burns and Justin Coleman. The reality is, though, Seattle simply has not invested early round picks at cornerback, with the 90th overall pick used to draft Shaquill Griffin back in 2017 the highest pick ever used in Carroll and Schneider's 12 years together.
While it would be tempting for Seattle to toss this trend at No. 9 overall should Cincinnati's Sauce Gardner or LSU's Derek Stingley, Jr. fall into their lap, the club's proven preference for waiting until the middle rounds at the position fits in beautifully with the depth of his year's stellar cornerback class.
The class is deep enough, in fact, that a few cornerbacks who might normally be drafted in the second round could slip into the early portion of third. Don't let the name or fact that he played opposite Gardner at Cincinnati fool you, Bryant takes a back seat to no one. Honored as this year's Jim Thorpe Award winner as the nation's best defensive back, Bryant is poised with the ball in the air, showing soft hands for the interception, as well as the physicality in run support always prioritized by Carroll and his staff.
Fourth Round, No. 109 overall – Chase Lucas, CB, Arizona State
Once the Seahawks start taking cornerbacks, they may start to like it, especially given how much talent is still expected to be available in the mid rounds at cornerback. This is one of the deeper classes at the position I've seen in 20+ years of evaluating and the Seahawks would be wise to take full advantage of that depth given that last year's rookie Tre Brown is the only player at the position currently signed past the 2023 season.
Even more than the aforementioned Bryant and Mathis, Lucas is getting underrated from a national media perspective. A buttery smooth athlete accelerating and changing directions, Lucas possesses the pure coverage skills to handle the extra man to man duties new defensive coordinator Clint Hurtt is expected to feature. This Sun Devil brings the physicality and tenacity to go along with his athleticism, projecting nicely as a future "starting" slot.
Fifth Round, No. 145 overall – Jeremiah Moon, Edge, Florida
As mentioned previously, this year's edge rusher class is loaded. What separates the 2022 crop from most years is that some of the twitchiest rushers remain quite raw and were never able to turn their potential into consistent production at the college level. The 6-foot-5, 249 pound Moon is a perfect example of that, delivering one of the more eye-popping workouts of this year's Combine (including a 40.5" vertical and 11'1" broad jump) but registering just eight sacks over six years in Gainesville.
Moon's long-armed, tapered frame seduced the Florida coaches into keeping him as strictly an edge rusher for much of his career but he flashed some versatility at linebacker this past season, racking up a career-high 49 overall tackles. The Seahawks have won big gambling on traits in the later rounds of the draft in the past and could see Moon as the perfect toy for Hurtt and his revamped defensive coaching staff to play with.
Fifth Round, No. 153 overall – Aaron Hansford, LB, Texas A&M
Teams are always looking for late-bloomers whose best football still lies ahead of them and that may be the case with Hansford, who signed with Texas A&M as a heralded four-star recruit at quarterback and initially played at wide receiver for then-head coach Kevin Sumlin before switching to linebacker when Jimbo Fisher took over at the Aggies program.
As one might expect for a player who only switched to linebacker three years ago, Hansford is still a little rough around the edges, still learning to fight off blocks and losing the ball in traffic, at times. The 6-foot-2, 239 pounder has good agility and speed for the position, and brings his experience on offense to the table in coverage, showing awareness and ball skills. He also doesn't lack for physicality, showing legitimate knockdown power and the toughness to work special teams while competing for opportunities on defense.
Seventh Round, No. 229 overall – Bubba Bolden, S, Miami
Injuries and inconsistent pursuit angles could knock Bolden deeper in the draft than his traits – including a prototypical 6-foot-2, 209 pound frame and 4.47-second time in the 40-yard dash at the Combine - would suggest. When he's been healthy, however, Bolden has shown a real knack for delivering big hits, forcing four fumbles in just 11 games during the 2020 season at Miami.
Bolden began his college career at USC before transferring to "The U." That fact might only spark Carroll's interest that much more, though the physicality and speed with which Bolden played at both safety positions as well as on special teams could be all the club needs to warrant a roll of the dice this late.