Seahawks Draft Central: Projecting Seattle’s plan if the top edge rushers are gone

Rob Rang

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 — Due to the trade of star pass rusher Frank Clark, the Seattle Seahawks now have five selections in the 2019 NFL draft.

That still leaves them tied with the Chicago Bears for the least number of draft picks of any team in the NFL this year and with fewer than any draft in the franchise’s 43-year history.

So, unless you have been living under a rock during the current regime, that almost certainly means that Trader John (Schneider) has even more swap scenarios to work out before this draft concludes.

With two first round picks in his back pocket, Schneider now has much more flexibility to play the board, selecting a player in the first round if he would like. It dramatically increases the likelihood of the team being willing to roll the dice on one of the players with injury red flags – like Mississippi State’s talented defensive duo of Montez Sweat or Jeffery Simmons, Michigan’s do-everything defensive lineman Rashan Gary or Mississippi’s workout warrior (and wideout) D.K. Metcalf.

The following is a Seahawks-only projection of the players the Seahawks may be targeting with their current draft picks.

The Seahawks currently own five selections in the 2019 NFL draft, 21st overall (First Round), 29th overall (First Round due to Tuesday’s trade of DE Frank Clark), 92nd (Third Round), 124th (Fourth Round) and 159th (Fifth Round).

First Pick, No. 21 Overall (First Round): Dexter Lawrence, DT, Clemson

SANTA CLARA, CA – JANUARY 07: Dexter Lawrence of the Clemson Tigers congratulates Nyles Pinckney #44 fourth down tackle on a fake field goal during the second half against the Alabama Crimson Tide in the CFP National Championship presented by AT&T at Levi’s Stadium on January 7, 2019 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

In an ideal world, one of the flashy edge rushers mentioned previously would fall to Seattle at this spot. That may not occur in reality unless teams really are scared off by Sweat’s enlarged heart or Gary’s torn labrum. The Seahawks have historically placed a great deal of faith in their medical staff and therefore if other clubs are dropping these players, Seattle may too. That said, with Clark and his team-leading 13 regular season sacks out of the picture, I believe the situation could be dire enough – and these players’ talent rare enough – that either could leapfrog the massive Lawrence, if they were available. In my final mock draft at NFLDraftScout.com, however, both players were off the board, leaving the Seahawks addressing their other “big” need for a run-stuffing nose guard and five-technique DE with the massive 6-5, 342-pound Lawrence.

Second Pick, No. 29 Overall (First Round): Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, FS, Florida

ATLANTA, GEORGIA – DECEMBER 29: Chauncey Gardner-Johnson #23 of the Florida Gators celebrates after his teams win over the Michigan Wolverines during the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on December 29, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. The Gators defeated the Wolverines 41-15. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

The Seahawks love versatility and Gardner-Johnson certainly possesses that, starring as a single-high free safety, a run-thumper in the box and even in nickel coverage. He joined Hall of Fame running back Emmitt Smith as the only Florida freshman to ever win MVP honors of a bowl game and accomplished the same thing in his final college game, showing an exciting knack for producing turnovers. Given how much Seattle struggled last year in pass coverage, he would make a lot of sense at this spot as no safety of this caliber is likely to be available at Seattle’s current next pick – 63 selections from now.

Third Pick, No. 92 Overall (Third Round): D’Andre Walker, DE/OLB, Georgia

ATHENS, GA – SEPTEMBER 29: Head Coach Kirby Smart of the Georgia Bulldogs heads off the field with DAndre Walker #15 after the game against the Tennessee Volunteers on September 29, 2018 at Sanford Stadium in Athens, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)

With a frame very similar to former Seahawks’ standout edge rushers Cliff Avril (6-3, 260) Bruce Irvin (6-3, 251), the 6-2 (and 3/8), 251 pound Walker is just tall enough to fit into Seattle’s threshold for edge rushers and he plays bigger than his height due to his disproportionately long 34 (and 3/8”) arms. Walker had to wait his turn behind some very talented edge rushers the past few seasons but proved to be Georgia’s top Dawg as a senior, leading the team with 11 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks. He is among several mid-round edge rushers in this class (Oregon’s Justin Hollins, Central Michigan’s Maxx Crosby, TCU’s Ben Banogu, Oklahoma State’s Jordan Brailford, etc.) who flash starter-caliber traits but need some polishing.

Fourth Pick, No. 122 (Fourth Round): Miles Boykin, WR, Notre Dame

SOUTH BEND, IN – NOVEMBER 10: Miles Boykin #81 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish makes a three-yard touchdown reception against Hamsah Nasirildeen #23 of the Florida State Seminoles in the first quarter of the game at Notre Dame Stadium on November 10, 2018 in South Bend, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

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. Boykin only had one productive season at Notre Dame so despite his eye-popping numbers at the Combine, he could last longer on draft day than some in the media expect. His upside is very intriguing, however, as his experience blocking in an offense built more around the running game than the passing attack – as it is with the Seahawks.

Fifth Pick, No. 159 (Fifth Round): Kaden Elliss, OLB, Idaho

COLUMBIA, MO – OCTOBER 21: Kaden Elliss #3 of the Idaho Vandals celebrates his touchdown against Adam Sparks #14 of the Missouri Tigers in the first quarter at Memorial Stadium on October 21, 2017 in Columbia, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)

While Shaquem Griffin provided inspiration and plenty of special teams stops last season, he struggled in his limited opportunities on defense. The Seahawks’ starting linebacker corps should be one of the league’s best when Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright and Mychal Kendricks are on the field together – not to mention the versatile Barkevious Mingo – but raw athleticism is somewhat lacking after that. Elliss was not invited to the Combine but he turned heads at his Pro Day, showing off the speed, agility, power and, frankly, the inner drive the Seahawks prioritize.

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