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.
The trade of starting quarterback Russell Wilson to the Denver Broncos provided the Seahawks with arguably the greatest collection of draft assets the franchise has known since Pete Carroll and John Schneider joined forces in Seattle with its first top ten pick since 2010 and eight selections overall, including three among the first 41 selections.
Replacing one of the most iconic players in franchise history will not be easy and the Seahawks have other critical needs on offense, as well. Offensive tackle, in fact, may currently be an even more pressing position of concern than quarterback given that 21-game starter Drew Lock was acquired as part of the deal with Denver.
Fortunately, the 2022 NFL draft is flush with talent with a deeper and more talented class than we've seen in years. Dozens of prospects who normally would have entered last year's draft opted to bypass it and return to college for an extra season, an exception allowed by the NCAA due to the pandemic.
As such, while it would be surprising to see Seattle (or any NFL franchise, for that matter) focus exclusively on one side of the ball for their entire draft, there is enough need and talent available this year to justify the unconventional strategy.
So, that projection is below – the perfect eight-pack of prospects on offense to get Shane Waldron's scheme clicking in 2022.
First Round, No. 9 overall – Ikem "Ickey" Ekwonu, OT, North Carolina State
While turning the top commodity gained in the big trade with Denver into Wilson's replacement at quarterback might satisfy fans and the media in the short-term, little in Carroll and Schneider's history suggests that the Seahawks will actually use the No. 9 overall pick on a passer.
The justifiable criticism of this year's quarterback class is that it lacks the so-called "sure thing" at the top. Don't expect that to keep some bold team from betting a first-round pick on Willis' exceptional upside, Matt Corral's quick trigger or the hope that Kenny Pickett really is the second coming of Joe Burrow. No one should be surprised if the Detroit Lions (No. 2 overall), Houston Texans (3), New York Giants (5 and 7), Carolina Panthers (6) and/or Atlanta Falcons (8) take a quarterback, so it is quite possible that one or all of the top passers are off the board.
I believe it is entirely possible that the Seahawks select a quarterback at No. 9 overall. Scout Todd Brunner and quarterback coach Dave Canales were among the 60+ NFL personnel at Liberty to see Malik Willis throw, proving that the club is certainly doing its due diligence at the game's premier position.
That said, I believe the club, like me, is legitimately intrigued by Lock, and that if one of the elite talents at a different position fell slightly, the club would opt for the Best Player Available route rather than gamble on a quarterback. After all, the last time Seattle used a first-round selection on a passer was Rick Mirer 29 years ago.
In stark contrast, three of the eight first round picks used by Carroll and Schneider in their 12 years drafting in Seattle were spent on offensive tackles. That is doubly important to remember given the timing of when they were used. Their first ever pick with the Seahawks was left tackle Russell Okung, taken sixth overall back in 2010. The Seahawks drafted right tackle James Carpenter 25th overall a year later. Seattle's strategy then – using premium selections to fortify the offensive line as the club transitioned from Matt Hasselbeck to Tarvaris Jackson to Russell Wilson from 2010-2012 – would seem to make an awful lot of sense this year, as well.
Speaking of Wilson, it would be more than a little ironic if the Seahawks were to invest their first piece of the draft-haul from Denver into a star blocker from very same program Wilson spent the first three seasons of his college career. But if Ekwonu (or Alabama's Evan Neal) were to slip to No. 9 overall, the talent is simply too rich to ignore. Ekwonu started the past three years on the left side (last two and a half at left tackle), possessing the initial quickness, lateral agility and strong upper body to handle pass blocking on the edge. He allowed just two sacks last season. Where he really excels, however, is in the running game, bullying opponents with a rare combination of power and speed.
At 6-foot-4, 310 pounds, Ekwonu is actually a touch smaller than what Schneider and his scouts have preferred at tackle, but he is an exceptionally young player (21) still just growing into his frame. And just like how Wilson plays bigger than his height due to his disproportionately large hands, Ekwonu plays taller and longer due to a staggering 84 ¼" wingspan more typical of a seven-footer. A unique talent and mature beyond his years, Ekwonu is an ideal foundational piece for the offense line to be built around.
Second Round, No. 40 overall – Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati
Part of the reason why Seattle might be thinking of bypassing the draft's top quarterback in terms of athleticism (Willis), polish (Pickett) or seemingly the best fit in Shane Waldron's offense (Corral), is that the best living combination of those traits might be Ridder, who may be available in the second round.
Ridder was the catalyst behind Cincinnati becoming the first Non-Power Five team to break into the college football playoff last season, throwing for a career-high 30 touchdowns (against nine interceptions) and earning his second consecutive All-American Conference Offensive Player of the Year.
Ridder split his time playing football and volleyball in high school and his relatively slim frame allowed him to slip through the recruiting cracks a bit. He starred immediately with the Bearcats, however, growing into his body and starting the next four consecutive years, pushing the Bearcats from a middling program to a powerhouse by the time he left, going 44-6 overall, including undefeated (26-0) at home.
While perhaps lacking a howitzer, Ridder can drive the football to every level of the field and can also take something off the ball, showing touch to place it between defenders. His accuracy on deeper passes makes him an ideal fit in Seattle's scheme built on taking shots off of play-action.
Ridder complements his accuracy with good awareness of the defense, showing the experience of his four years as a starter to look off defenders and feel the pass rush coming.
Oh yeah, and did we mention his speed? Along with the 10,239 passing yards and career TD to INT ratio of 87-28, Ridder ran for 2,180 yards and 28 scores, clocking in the 4.4s at the Combine.
Perhaps best of all, Ridder has the leadership traits expected of the position. He was beloved at Cincinnati and impressed with his maturity and competitiveness at the Senior Bowl, as well.
Second Round, No. 41 overall – Abraham Lucas, OT, Washington State
The Seahawks may feel that the future at right tackle is already in good hands with second-year pro Jake Curhan, after the 2021 undrafted free agent took over as the club's starter for the final five games last season. Curhan played well, providing some of the key blocks which helped Rashaad Penny explode over the second half of the season.
Nevertheless, if the imposing and athletic Lucas were to still be available, Seattle might have to consider fortifying the position and keeping this Cougar in the state. Prototypically-built at 6-foot-6 and 315 pounds, Lucas has the frame and strength to clear a path in the running game but don't let his girth fool you. Lucas is surprisingly athletic, proving among the swiftest offensive linemen tested at this year's Combine in the 40-yard dash (4.92), short shuttle (7.25) and 3-cone (4.40) after turning heads at the Senior Bowl.
The Seahawks could have a difficult decision on their hands if one of the top-rated centers like Iowa's Tyler Linderbaum or Boston College's Zion Johnson were also available at this spot, but there should still be starting caliber options at that position in the third round, whereas plug and play options at right tackle likely will have dried up.
Third Round, No. 72 overall – Cam Jurgens, C, Nebraska
The Seahawks allowed incumbent starting center Ethan Pocic to leave town in free agency and if they view Austin Blythe as the certain long-term solution as his replacement, the club likely would have signed the soon-to-be 30-year old free agent from Kansas City for longer than one year.
Prior to joining the Chiefs, Blythe started for Waldron and new offensive line coach Andy Dickerson with the Los Angeles Rams, so the club probably feels comfortable with the idea of him starting again for them in 2022. Adding a talented youngster to groom behind him would make sense, however, especially given how well Jurgens' quickness and tenacity would fit in Dickerson's zone scheme.
Fourth Round, No. 109 overall – Hassan Haskins, RB, Michigan
I waited until the fourth round for a running back but don't be surprised if the Seahawks are more aggressive at the position given that the team doesn't know what it will get out of Chris Carson next year. One can see a little bit of Carson's explosiveness and grit in Haskins' running.
Like Carson, Haskins is a classic downhill runner with power and enough burst to break into the secondary. What he may lack in wiggle in tight spaces, he makes up for with leg drive, explosive leaps and powerful stiff arms, simply vaporizing would be-tacklers, at times. Carroll will love the fact that Haskins never fumbled a single time over his collegiate career (476 touches!) and that he's just as reliable in pass protection and on special teams.
A candidate to slip further than he should since he's been unable to work out following an ankle injury in the bowl game, Haskins could be the kind of Day Three steal Schneider and his scouts have won with in the past.
Fifth Round, No. 145 overall – Romeo Doubs, WR, Nevada
Even though the Seahawks boast two of the league's elite receivers in Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf and are expecting much bigger things in Year Two from last year's top pick, Dee Eskridge, Seattle would be silly to not take advantage of this year's crop of pass-catchers, especially with Metcalf entering the final year of his rookie contract.
Like the aforementioned Haskins, Doubs could slip down the board a bit because he has not yet worked out for scouts, suffering a "minor" knee injury during the week of practice at the Senior Bowl which sidelined him for the Combine and Nevada's Pro Day.
When healthy, the 6-foot-2, 201 pounder has shown impressive speed and tracking ability for the vertical shots so important to Seattle's offense and he is both quicker and savvier as a route-runner than most deep threats, showing impressive lateral agility and balance, as well as vision and courage to run through traffic.
Fifth Round, No. 153 overall – Cade York, K, LSU
Forgive me for pushing the boundary on the rules of this exercise, but kickers are critical to scoring points, so I'm taking the liberty of considering York as an offensive player, not just a "special teamer."
A year after nailing all 24 field goal attempts he took for the Seahawks in 2020 – including a franchise-long 61-yarder against the Rams, Jason Myers missed six of 23 attempts in 2021. Myers (31) is in the last year of a four-year, $15.5 million dollar contract and is set to earn four million, the 5th highest salary for a kicker this year, according to Spotrac.com. Should the Seahawks opt for a cheaper, younger route via the draft, York would seemingly be the perfect fit.
Considered by many long-time LSU followers as the greatest kicker in at least modern team history, York left after his junior season as the school's second all-time scoring leader, showing both elite range (15 field goals of 50+ yards made 2019-21) and accuracy (82% overall). He finished his career with 118 consecutive PATs made, dating back to the 2019 season.
Due to the relationship with his former assistant coach Ed Orgeron, Carroll would have an inside scoop on what past and current LSU coaches had about York.
Making clutch field goals like this one show me all I need to see.
Seventh Round, No. 229 overall – Conner Tanner, WR/TE, Idaho State
DK Metcalf and Cody Thompson are the only two receivers currently on the roster standing 6-foot-2 or taller. Allowed to work out at the University of Washington Pro Day because he grew up in Kent, Tanner made some buzz for himself by clocking in the 4.4s and posting a 39" vertical jump and 10'7" broad at a chiseled 6-foot-3, 230 pounds. His explosive times were expected given his track background. Tanner won the Washington 300-meter hurdles championship for Kentridge High School in 2016 and double-dipped at Idaho State, starring on the track as well as the gridiron.
The Seahawks likely know Tanner well. His father, Andy, played linebacker for the Seahawks back in 2002 after playing his collegiate ball at Oregon.