Editor’s note: As part of Q13 FOX’s coverage of the Seattle Seahawks and the 2019 NFL Draft, longtime football analyst Rob Rang is providing his analysis of the upcoming draft. Rang has covered the NFL draft for nearly 20 years with his written work featured at CBSSports.com, FOXSports.com, USAToday.com, Yahoo.com, NFL.com, NFLDraftScout.com, the Pro Football Hall of Fame and for various official NFL team sites. He is a frequent contributor to Seattle’s Sports Radio 950 KJR and, along with Aaron Levine and Ian Furness co-hosted Q13 FOX’s pre and post-draft coverage of the Seahawks’ 2018 NFL draft – the first live and local video analysis in the franchise’s history.
SEATTLE — Depending on how confident the Seattle Seahawks are in the return to health of two-time Pro Bowler Doug Baldwin, wide receiver may very well be the club’s top priority in the 2019 draft.
Prior to injuries sapping Baldwin of his trademark quickness a year ago, he had become Russell Wilson’s most reliable target, hauling in a combined 29 touchdowns over his three previous seasons. The younger, faster Tyler Lockett emerged last year to claim that title, exploding for 10 scores after accounting for nine over his first three NFL seasons combined.
The dynamic duo is well compensated for their production, accounting for roughly $20.5 million of the team’s salary cap next season or roughly 75% of the money dedicated to wide receivers currently on the team’s roster. The number jumps to more than 96% of the allocation in 2020 with Amara Darboh – who has caught a total of eight passes and is yet to score a touchdown in two NFL seasons – the only other receiver currently under contract.
Fortunately, the 2019 NFL draft offers a deep and diverse class of wide receivers who could help, including some early round candidates who well-suited to contribute immediately.
Players are listed in order of their projected selection. The Seahawks currently own four selections in the 2019 NFL draft, 21st overall (First Round), 84th (Third Round), 124th (Fourth Round) and 159th (Fifth Round).
N’Keal Harry, Arizona State 6-3, 228, 4.53 – First/Second Round
A three-time All-Pac-12 performer, Harry is the most polished receiver on this list, using his big frame, strength and underrated athleticism to consistently generate separation or simply out-muscle defenders when the ball is near. He possesses the alpha-dog competitive fire that the Seahawks have prioritized in the past, reminding me of Keenan Allen, who starred at Cal prior to becoming a Pro Bowler with the Chargers.
Parris Campbell, Ohio State, 6-0, 205, 4.31 – First/Second Round
Lightning in a bottle, Campbell is the most explosive athlete on this list, proving a difference-maker at Ohio State as a receiver, runner and returner. His elite elusiveness and straight-line speed has drawn comparisons to former Seahawks’ standout Percy Harvin – but notably only on the field, as Campbell was a two-time team captain (a rarity for a receiver). For all of his talent and commitment, Campbell is surprisingly raw as a route-runner as the majority of his work was done on simple drags or jet-sweeps designed to get him the ball quickly.
AJ Brown, Mississippi, 6-1, 226, 4.49 – Second Round
Brown was overshadowed at times at Ole Miss due to the presence of fellow freakish wideout D.K. Metcalf (a projected top 15 pick) but it was the former and not the latter who was the most reliable and productive of the Rebels’ receivers throughout their respective careers. As his size suggests, Brown is a bulldozer after the catch and his production comes against elite SEC competition.
Hakeem Butler, Iowa State, 6-6, 227, 4.48 – Second/Third Round
Dating back to his time at USC, Pete Carroll has always prioritized having a big receiver on the outside to simply box-out cornerbacks. This is the role that Butler could serve, though he also possesses the build-up speed to be a legitimate vertical threat, as well, and uses his great size to bully defensive backs after the catch. For all of his highlight reel grabs and flashy Combine performance, however, Butler can frustrate with drops, making him a bit polarizing in the scouting community.
Deebo Samuel, South Carolina, 6-0, 214, 4.48 – Second/Third Round
A history of injuries could push Samuel outside of the top 50 selections but when healthy, he’s a proven star, scoring 27 touchdowns in 30 career games at South Carolina, most of them against quality SEC competition. Possessing a RB-like frame and the aggressive nature that earned him the nickname Deebo (based on the fictional bully from the movie “Friday), Samuel is a legitimate threat to go the distance every time he touches the ball – as a receiver, runner or returner, reminding me of former Seahawk and now 10-year NFL starter Golden Tate.
Mecole Hardman, Georgia, 5-11, 187, 4.33 – Third Round
Former Seahawks star cornerback Richard Sherman began his college career at wide receiver. Hardman is attempting the opposite, signing with the Bulldogs as a corner before emerging as one of the most explosive speed demons on offense and special teams in the SEC over the past two years, turning 11 of his 60 combined receptions over that time into touchdowns and averaging a cool 16.0 per grab. Hardman might need a year (or two) to fully develop as a route-runner but he possesses the upside to warrant the patience.
Andy Isabella, Massachusetts, 5-09, 188, 4.31 – Third-Fourth Round
Given their reliance on a pair of 5-10, receivers in Baldwin and Lockett, the mighty-mite Isabella deserves consideration. Offering elite speed to challenge deep, Isabella is more like Lockett than Baldwin, though he is often typecast as just a “slot” receiver. Prior to starring at the Senior Bowl and Combine, the short-but-not-small All-American shocked Georgia and its Thorpe Award-winning cornerback Deandre Baker (a projected first round pick) for 15 catches, good for 219 yards and two scores. Isabella is smaller but much further along in his development than the afore-mentioned Hardman.
Miles Boykin, Notre Dame, 6-4, 220, 4.42 – Third/Fourth Round
Like many other NFL teams, the Seahawks are well known for their love of “SPARQy” athletes (an acronym for Speed, Power, Agility, Reaction and Quickness) and no one tested better at the 2019 NFL Combine than Boykin, suggesting that the somewhat pedestrian numbers he posted for the Irish may be a function of their run-based offense. The prototypically-built Boykin wasn’t just fast, he showed impressive quickness in tests designed to show change of direction, as well as explosive leaping ability. Boykin only had one noteworthy season at Notre Dame, leaving after a breakout junior campaign (59 catches for 872 yards and eight touchdowns).
Stanley Morgan, Nebraska, 6-0, 202, 4.53 – Day Three
Morgan was one of the very few bright spots over the past two seasons in Lincoln, setting and then re-setting the longtime powerhouse program’s record for receptions with 61 (for 986 yards and 10 touchdowns) as a junior and 70 (for 1,004 yards and seven scores) as a senior for a team that finished just 4-8 in 2018, including 0-5 against Big Ten competition. He isn’t the biggest or fastest but is a crafty route-runner with reliable hands. Further, he played just as hard when his team was down, showing the grit needed to make an NFL roster as late pick.
Jalen Hurd, Baylor, 6-5, 228, 4.64 – Day Three
The Seahawks have consistently drafted players with unique backgrounds and few top Hurd in that regard. He signed with Tennessee as a highly regarded prep and proved an immediate star at running back, ultimately rushing for 2,635 yards and 20 touchdowns in two and a half seasons. He began looking towards his NFL future after suffering a concussion, requesting a position change. When Tennessee’s coaches balked at the idea of their best player switching roles, he left the team, transferring to Baylor to play receiver. Hurd spent a year learning the new position before once again proving a standout, leading the Bears with 69 grabs for 946 yards and four touchdowns, winning the Big 12’s Offensive Newcomer of the Year award. Big, agile, tough and perhaps most importantly – unique – Hurd checks a lot of Seahawks’ boxes.