Take the best player available or draft for need? That's the endless debate when it comes to the NFL Draft, with teams having to decide whether it is better to select a player who fills an obvious hole on the roster, or one who just projects as the best player down the road.
Sometimes, however, whether due to good fortune or good planning—teams look multiple years ahead when it comes to roster building, so sometimes their needs intentionally match a deep position in an upcoming draft—a draft can play out where, for the most part, the best player available at any given pick happens to match one of a team's needs.
And after selecting nine players in the 2022 draft, the Seahawks come out of the weekend feeling like they were indeed able to attack needs while also getting players they had rated at or near the top of their board at that particular point of the draft.
"Really strong group for us," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "It was exciting because this was such a full draft for us. Every phase of it was challenging, but we met it with some really good choices that are going to help our club. And it was fun to have all the picks, especially after (having only three picks) last year. It was a good time, and I thought we did great. We're excited about it."
As general manager John Schneider has said over the years, the Seahawks grade prospects for their team, not for the league, meaning need does factor into the grading process, but even so, it worked out well for Seattle that tackle and edge rush were particularly deep in this year's draft, with the Seahawks able to add tackles Charles Cross (first round) and Abraham Lucas (third round) and outside linebackers Boye Mafe (second round) and Tyreke Smith (fifth round), getting both high-end talent and good draft value.
Carroll described Seattle's draft haul as, "Pretty well balanced in our choices that we got some spots that we had agreed upon that it would be nice to get some help. The roster feels in pretty good shape right now. To answer your question, are there big holes? I don't feel like that at all, but we're just getting warmed up.
"I think we balanced it out, and we attacked some needs. The tackle spot, that was a big deal, and were really fortunate that that worked out like that. Really fortunate. We had two really good guys to go for and upgrade the challenge and competition at those spots. I don't know who's going to start, but I know those guys are going to be challenged by the new guys coming in. It feel like we had some spots, and we didn't just get a guy, we got a couple of guys who can help us. As we continue to push to make it competitive, it makes us better. That's what I think we feel coming out of there. We got that done."
The first round saw the Seahawks waiting at No. 9 to see if Cross would fall to them—Schneider said Thursday that they may have tried to trade back had Cross been gone—and when they were able to land the Mississippi State standout, it was the beginning of a three day stretch of the Seahawks finding high-value picks at positions of at least some need.
Getting Cross and Lucas from what Schneider called "a really good (tackle) class" addressed probably the most obvious need, as the Seahawks had only three tackles on their roster before the weekend, with last year's starters, Duane Brown and Brandon Shell, both free agents.
After adding to the pass rush with Mafe at pick No. 40, the Seahawks added running back Kenneth Walker III with the very next pick. On the surface running back might not seem like a huge need with Rashaad Penny re-signing, but his was only a one-year deal, and as Carroll reiterated Thursday, there is some uncertainty about Chris Carson, who is trying to come back from neck surgery, so getting the player who won multiple awards as the nation's top running back could prove to be a huge addition for the offense for years to come.
After closing out Day 2 with Lucas, the Seahawks kicked off Day 3 by doubling up on cornerbacks in Cincinnati's Coby Bryant and UTSA's Tariq Woolen. Seattle then added a second outside linebacker/pass rusher in Ohio State's Tyreke Smith.
"There was a big number of rushers also in different styles and makeup and all of that, so we hit it and doubled up on both of those, and I think it was because of the depth of the draft," Carroll said. "We were fortunate."
While top-end receiver talent isn't a need with DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett on the team, the Seahawks did add talented depth their with their final two picks, taking Rutgers' Bo Melton and Lenoir-Rhyne's Dareke Young in the seventh round.
Add it all up, and it's a class the Seahawks are very excited about. And given how little the 2021 draft class was able to play either due to injury (Tre Brown and Dee Eskridge) or opportunity (Stone Forsythe), the Seahawks feel like they have a very big infusion of young talent coming to help in 2022.
"There's a class there that's missed out a little bit," Schneider said. "So to put those guys with this group, I think you're going to see some outstanding stuff."
The fact that the Seahawks were able to add what they feel is both a balanced and very talented class, one that began with a tackle in the top 10 makes it hard not to go back to Schneider and Carroll's first draft together when they added Russell Okung and Earl Thomas in the first round, and later added Kam Chancellor, Golden Tate and Walter Thurmond.
"I don't mind saying that I think it was like the first draft in that we had the picks in the first round," Carroll said. "We haven't had that opportunity—John hasn't been able to take advantage of that because of our seasons and all. In that regard, it felt like we had a full draft that year. There's been a unique excitement about coming back in the building, and this was all part of it. It's been pretty fun."
Adding to the fun of the weekend, Schneider noted, was the presence of Seahawks Chair Jody Allen in the draft room for the first time.
"It's the first time that our owner has been able to come in the draft room and be with us," Schneider said. "Jody was a blast, she was into it. So it was great to have her in the draft room with us."
- Round 1, No. 9 overall: Charles Cross, OT, Mississippi State
- Round 2, No. 40 overall: Boye Mafe, LB, Minnesota
- Round 2, No. 41 overall: Kenneth Walker III, RB, Michigan State
- Round 3, No. 72 overall: Abraham Lucas, OT, Washington State
- Round 4, No. 109 overall: Coby Bryant, CB, Cincinnati
- Round 5, No. 153 overall: Tariq Woolen, CB, Texas-San Antonio
- Round 5, No. 158 overall: Tyreke Smith, LB, Ohio State
- Round 7, No. 229 overall: Bo Melton, WR, Rutgers
- Round 7: No. 233 overall: Dareke Young, WR, Lenoir-Rhyne
Without further ado, your 2022 Seahawks Draft class: OT Charles Cross, LB Boye Mafe, RB Kenneth Walker III, OT Abraham Lucas, CB Coby Bryant, CB Tariq Woolen, LB Tyreke Smith, WR Bo Melton, and WR Dareke Young.