Seattle Seahawks: 2020 Draft Grades

Introduction

Prepare for a doozy, because that’s exactly how I felt when I watched this Seahawks draft. Whether it was reaching for a bunch of players they didn’t need or taking worse football players over better ones, this Seahawks draft was a complete and total crapshoot. Here’s why I, as a Seattle native, was so annoyed, enraged, and disappointed by the Seahawks’ draft, all in 3 days. Disclaimer: If you’re a Seahawks fan, I recommend closing this now.

Round 1, Pick 27: Jordyn Brooks, MLB, Texas Tech

Grade: C-

Patrick Queen was on the board. I repeat, Patrick Queen was on the board. I REPEAT, PATRICK QUEEN WAS ON THE BOARD! The Seattle Seahawks may have just enraged the Cleveland Browns, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Cincinnati Bengals, all by taking Jordyn Brooks 27th overall. Brooks isn’t a bad player by any means. For future reference, none of the Seahawks’ picks have low grades because the players themselves are bad. This pick, in particular, is bad because Brooks neither fits a large need nor is he worth the value of the pick.

Seattle had multiple other needs entering into this draft, such as interior offensive line and edge, which were arguably more critical to their team. So… John Schneider’s version of 4D chess is to draft a linebacker who probably won’t contribute very much from Day 1, as he’s a project with “upside”. Ironically, I had the Seahawks taking Wisconsin linebacker Zack Baun 27th overall, but he fits an entirely different role. Baun would fit Seattle’s base defense as a SAM linebacker (lining up on the strong side of the formation) who could also serve as an excellent blitzer or even potential 4-3 defensive end in nickel packages.

I penciled in Baun to Seattle because his positional versatility fits really well with Seattle’s needs. They couldn’t generate pressure with a 4-man rush, so adding Baun as another end or as a potential 5th-rusher would lessen the burden on their secondary. However, Brooks does not fit that role at all. Sure, he can blitz, but he rarely played coverage at Texas Tech and really lacked awareness while doing so.

Bobby Wagner, who for some reason earned a First-Team All-Pro in 2019, gave up over 650 yards in coverage, with almost 430 of them after the catch to go along with an 80% completion and 108 passer rating, per Pro Football Reference. Seattle’s WILL linebacker from last year, K.J. Wright gave up 630 yards in coverage, with nearly 430 after the catch as well, according to Pro Football Reference. If we assume Brooks starts from Day 1 (not at SAM, we’ll get to this in a moment), the Seahawks have 3 linebackers who are giant liabilities in coverage in a division with 3 elite aerial attacks. Fantastic.

Furthermore, Brooks cannot play SAM linebacker at the next level because he cannot take on blocks at all. He projects as a WILL linebacker, which is odd because Wright played that position last season, and Brooks isn’t exactly Wright’s Day 1 upgrade. Outside of his inability to take on blocks, Brooks also lacks anticipation skills to a T, which also screams liability against the run. Finally, the cherry on top is that Brooks’ value as a Round 1 player is very questionable, especially considering how raw he is against both the run and the pass. For a team that wants to contend, this doesn’t seem like a good move by any means. The value just wasn’t there.

Just to sum this all up, Seattle passed on the best pure linebacker (Simmons doesn’t count) in this class (coverage, instincts, pursuit, athleticism, range) just to reach for a raw prospect who makes them even more vulnerable against both the pass and the run in 2020, in a division where the other 3 teams pride themselves on finding and exploiting mismatches in space off of play-action. Great move, John. No wonder Russell has to carry the team every year.

Round 2, Pick 48: Darrell Taylor, EDGE, Tennessee

Grade: D

If you thought I hated the Jordyn Brooks pick, I’m going to blow an even bigger gasket on this one. What on Earth was Schneider thinking? Before I dive into why I hated this pick so much, I will admit this fills arguably the biggest need on the Seahawks’ roster, pending the likely departure of 3-time Pro Bowler Jadeveon Clowney. Seattle had absolutely 0 pass-rush almost all of last season, so the team definitely needed to take an edge rusher in this draft. They weren’t getting out of the draft without one.

That being said, that is no excuse to reach. If anyone remembers the 7-round mock draft I wrote for the Dallas Cowboys, I had Darrell Taylor realistically mocked to the Cowboys as a mid-3rd-round pick, which I thought was fair value for him. His bend was fantastic, he had solid get-off, he could set the edge against the run without getting plowed, and he showed flashes of being a solid coverage player, which is part of the reason why I said Dallas should take him. Flexibility is key.

However, my concern with Taylor is exactly why I despise this pick so much. The Tennessee product completely and totally lacks technical development to the letter, and Seattle traded a 3rd-round compensatory pick, which could’ve been used on another starter, just to draft him. If they had taken him at 64, the pick wouldn’t have been a problem. However, just like Brooks, the Seahawks take a guy with a pick they could have traded down. Late-Round 2 is pretty much early Round 3, but the higher you go, the more value the picks are worth, so getting value out of high assets is incredibly important to keep a contending football team.

The complete and total lack of technical development in Taylor (he literally has 0 technique to his game) makes this pick a terrible value, which is why I hate it so much. The team is really counting on their coaching staff to get the best out of Taylor, but if he can’t contribute from Day 1, why should Seattle even take him? This is not the same situation as taking an athletic freak like Jadeveon Clowney with high-upside because Taylor doesn’t have that kind of athleticism.

Furthermore, Seattle’s sacks leader in 2019 was Rasheem Green with a whopping total of 4 sacks. While sacks are very overvalued, Seattle’s lack of a true pass rush in the absence of Frank Clark really emerged on tape in 2019, and neither of the defensive ends they’ve drafted with high-value assets is likely to replace that production for quite some time.

Speaking of time, Taylor needs it badly. They can’t label him as a starter from Day 1 and expect Pro-Bowl/All-Pro-caliber production out of him because he is a developmental pass rusher. He’s also going to struggle against tackles with longer arms who can anchor really well due to his lack of arm length. In general, against offensive tackles in the NFC West, like Josh Jones in Arizona, Mike McGlinchey and Trent Williams in San Francisco, and Andrew Whitworth and Rob Havenstein in Los Angeles, Taylor’s not going to be very productive.

He’s going to have to be rotated in-and-out. After all, he’s not ready to go against tackles of that caliber snap-after-snap because he’s going to lose on the majority of them, at least as a rookie. The technical development is not there yet, and the Seahawks traded up to the mid-2nd-round to snag a pass-rusher who will be a project for quite some time. Another rebuilding pick for a contending team that doesn’t make sense, especially considering there were better edge rushers on the board. Once again, Seattle reaches on a player with “high-upside” who can’t help them from Day 1. Terrible, terrible value. Yikes.

Round 3, Pick 69: Damien Lewis, G, LSU

Grade: B-

Finally, a good pick. I mentioned earlier how Seattle needed to address the interior offensive line for sure. D.J. Fluker and Mike Iupati weren’t going to be long-term options for the Seahawks, so shoring up their guard depth was a priority heading into this draft. Damien Lewis is a very good football player for sure. Seattle immediately cut Fluker and center Justin Britt days after taking Lewis in Round 3, so they seem to be confident in him as a plug-and-play option at right guard, which is exactly what he played at LSU, so good on them here.

However, the reason why this pick gets a B- rather an A is because Seattle once again reached. The reach wasn’t as bad as that of Jordyn Brooks and Darrell Taylor, which is why I graded it a low B instead of a low C/high D, but they nevertheless reached. In the NFC West, arguably the most competitive division in football, the Seahawks’ interior offensive line has to block Jordan Phillips/Leki Fotu/Rashard Lawrence in Arizona, Aaron Donald/A’Shawn Robinson in Los Angeles, and Arik Armstead/Javon Kinlaw/D.J. Jones in San Francisco, each group twice a year, and those are just interior guys.

So, they really needed a guard who could anchor against defensive linemen like this who can win in different ways, with some having more diverse abilities than others. Lewis is the definition of a mauler if I’ve ever seen one, so he can handle the power of some of these linemen, especially their bullrush. In both the run and the passing game, Lewis can just move people out of the way at will. Think Mekhi Becton, but not as athletic/physically imposing, playing guard. If you want pancakes, Damien Lewis can serve those up at will.

However, his feet are so inconsistent to the point where he’ll most likely face balance issues in the NFL. He’s also not very quick, so edge rushers will be able to get around him with bend or technique, which could mean Seattle would see wider alignments in 2020 so opposing defensive lines can take advantage of his feet and lateral quickness. Honestly, I see Lewis as what Germain Ifedi could’ve been had he played guard throughout his tenure in Seattle: a mauling offensive guard who can anchor really well against the run and the pass but lacks the feet and quickness to play at his best.

Once again, Seattle reached. After cutting Britt, their only play at center is either Joey Hunt, who’s struggled mightily in past years with 2019 being no exception, or the recently-acquired B.J. Finney, who was a backup guard for the Steelers. That doesn’t exactly help against 1-technique DTs, especially with the aforementioned guys who can play that position in the NFC West.

The Seahawks passed on center Lloyd Cushenberry III, who also played at LSU, just to reach on a guard in a draft where quality guards could’ve been found much later. Cushenberry is also a better fit for the Seahawks than Lewis and solves their problem against powerful, twitchy interior defensive linemen. Heck, guys like Ohio State’s Jonah Jackson and Kentucky’s Logan Stenberg were still available several picks later and both would’ve started at right guard the same way Lewis will. While that may just be an opinion, I didn’t like the Lewis pick this early in terms of value, but considering he’s a good scheme fit and fills a position of need, I’m content with it.

Round 4, Pick 133: Colby Parkinson, TE, Stanford

Grade: A

Talk about a redemption pick. Compared to how poor Seattle’s first 2 picks were, this pick may be as good. Seattle already had 4 tight ends on the roster before this pick, but considering Greg Olsen’s age, Will Dissly’s durability concerns, and Luke Willson’s lack of production, Jacob Hollister is the only tight end Seattle could count on to produce the entire season in 2020. To shore up depth at the tight end position, they took Stanford TE Colby Parkinson, and boy was he worth this pick. Seattle is known for hitting home runs off of their late-round picks, and this one may be no exception.

Outside of D.K. Metcalf, the Seahawks don’t have a single big-bodied target who can contribute in the red zone, or at all, for that matter. Metcalf had his ups and downs as a rookie, but adding another giant who could line up all over the field may have been the best way to help this passing attack., especially considering the position listed next to Parkinson’s name. The first thing you’ll notice when watching Parkinson on tape is his unreal size. At the combine, the Stanford tight end measured in at a whopping 6″7, with a height of 252 pounds. While some may think Parkinson is a true Y tight-end, his skill set is a lot more unique than people give him credit for.

Parkinson isn’t the most refined blocker at all; in fact, I’d argue he’s quite terrible at it. He has a ways to go in the run game because he just cannot move people as an in-line contributor, and this all comes down to one limiting factor: strength. Parkinson only benched 18 reps at the combine, which was even less than some wide receivers. This lack of strength also showed up on tape when he struggled against press coverage. As a result, he very well may be limited on early downs because of his lack of true run-blocking prowess and, considering how much Seattle wants to run the football, Parkinson may not see that many reps at all on run-designs unless the Seahawks incorporate misdirection.

However, that doesn’t really matter. The Seahawks didn’t draft Colby Parkinson to be their version of T.J. Hockenson. The Stanford product isn’t a good blocker at all, so drafting him to fill that role isn’t exactly using his best traits. Seattle drafted him because they want a guy who can line up all over the field and just get yards. Parkinson’s size alone makes him a mismatch nightmare. He’s too tall for both linebackers and safeties to cover, and becomes even more dangerous if deployed against undersized corners in the slot. If the Seahawks want to show run at the goal line and then motion him out, that’s a goal-line fade waiting to happen, especially if he’s matched up on a linebacker.

Parkinson’s a great route-runner for the most part, and he’s such a good high-pointer that Russell Wilson can just lay the ball up in the air and say, “Go get it”, and believe me, Parkinson will do just that. He’s going to be deadly from the red zone, and assuming Seattle incorporates their tight ends a lot more in their offense for 2020, expect him to be a RAC monster.

He may very well be Wilson’s “safety valve” because he’ll be open 9 times out of 10 just based on the matchups. Imagine an even more dominant version of what Heath Miller was for the Pittsburgh Steelers: a tight end who always made himself open and became his quarterback’s best friend as a result. If you care about fantasy, drafting Parkinson as a late-round sleeper may not be the worst idea, considering how much Seattle’s going to use him in the red zone. Bravo, Schneider. Way to save this draft.

Round 4, Pick 144: DeeJay Dallas, RB, Miami

Grade: B

To me, the sole purpose of this Day 3 investment is for future contracts, which makes a lot of sense, considering the team may well be in cap hell after the 2020 season. Both of Seattle’s starting corners, Shaquil Griffin and Quinton Dunbar, are free agents in 2020. Starting running back Chris Carson is a free agent in 2020. Defensive tackle Poona Ford, one of the team’s best run support players, is a restricted free agent, not to mention multiple other rotational pieces like defensive end Branden Jackson and defensive tackle Nazair Jones.

I didn’t mention K.J. Wright, Jacob Hollister, and Bradley McDougald because Jordyn Brooks, Colby Parkinson, and Marquise Blair were drafted for the sole purpose of replacing the former 3 respectively, if not upgrading them. Good move on Seattle’s part to acquire depth (even if Brooks and Blair were bad value) at future positions of need rather than throwing themselves in cap hell at even more positions of need. However, the reason the Seahawks drafted Miami RB DeeJay Dallas is to effectively part ways with Chris Carson after the 2020 season.

The old cliche returns; “It’s okay to draft running backs at a high value as long as you don’t pay them, so just replace them”. The selection of Rashaad Penny in 2018, which was widely criticized as a reach, is now paying huge dividends. Seattle has 3 years left on Penny’s rookie deal, so why would they unnecessarily spend money to keep a running back they can easily replace? Give Carson the boot after 2020, label Penny as the starter, with Travis Homer as a change-of-pace back. Dallas, however, was drafted to provide a similar role as Homer: a back who can spell Penny and be a factor in the passing game.

Dallas is a very powerful runner. He’s not afraid to stick his shoulders into contact at all and will gladly run over defenders who attempt to tackle him low. Miami also used him in the wildcat and the passing game quite frequently. Because he does have the background of a former wide receiver, he can contribute as a potential hot route on 3rd downs and become a benefactor of the Seahawks’ screen game. I’d argue he’s already the Seahawks’ most capable back for effective production in the passing game, especially on those plays.

However, Dallas doesn’t exactly have great vision or burst. He’s not the kind of back to explode through a small crease and break away from the defense on an 80-yard scamper; that’s not what he does best. He’s also not very laterally quick in the sense that he’s not going to stick his foot in the ground and slash from side-to-side to make defenders miss. Dallas’s pass-blocking skills could use some work as well.

The best way to describe his pass-blocking is “inconsistent”. He sometimes identifies where he needs to help and then tries to do so, but on tape, it was clear he lacked the technique to do so and sometimes even got bodied by blitzing cornerbacks. Either that or he was way too late to his assignment and the guy he was supposed to block flustered the quarterback. However, Seattle shouldn’t use him as a pass-blocker, as that wouldn’t be taking advantage of his best skills.

Dallas can thrive as a capable red-zone back as well as a coverage identifier, depending on who follows him in space. He thrives on screen passes and is likely the team’s best receiving back from Day 1. It’s unlikely he gets that many touches as a rookie unless the Seahawks go with a 4-man running back rotation or unless someone gets injured, but he’ll see a lot of playing time on special teams and most likely will vulture 5-10 touches a game.

Get Dallas a few screens or option routes to go along with some red zone carries in 2020, and then up that usage heavily in 2021 if you commit to the RBBC (running back by committee). Either way, the Seahawks did a good job acquiring depth with this pick and because they could’ve done a lot worse in terms of value, I consider this is the second solid Day 3 pick they’ve made, so good on them for doing so.

Round 5, Pick 148: Alton Robinson, DE, Syracuse

Grade: A

Alton Robinson is the definition of an inconsistent, one-trick pony. On one play, you’ll see him execute a perfect one-arm stab move and the tackle falls right into the quarterback’s lap, but on other plays, you’ll see him get stood up at the line while generating absolutely no movement. Robinson’s one trick is very simple: no matter what, regardless of the play, attack the offensive tackle’s outside shoulder.

He has an explosive first step, which then translates to excellent bend around the edges. If his hand placement and technique is correct, he wins 95% of his reps, but because he’s so inconsistent, the hand placement and technique are usually not in-sync. Furthermore, because Robinson’s so dependent on attacking the outside edge, that makes him vulnerable in two ways.

One, if tackles overset against his outside rush, he has no semblance of a countermove to punish that overcommitment. Two, rushing outside all the time makes him a target for inside runs, especially when the offense schemes a run call right at his gap. Because he doesn’t play with proper gap discipline and sets way too hard outside (thus losing contain), tackles can just toss him outside, which opens a huge running lane on the play-side B-gap. However, with that being said, Robinson can still be a very solid football player if he cleans up a few things.

First, he needs to be more aware in the run game, because he’s shown the ability to shed blockers (I mean literally throw them to the ground) and set a really hard edge in the run game, but he just needs to do that more consistently at the next level. Second, he really needs to add a few more pass-rush moves to his arsenal. The occasional swipe move and the one-arm stab are the only tools he has, so working to develop more tools, especially inside counter-moves, will make him a much better football player.

Great depth pick by Seattle. Out of all of the defensive ends the Seahawks have drafted the last 2 seasons, it’s highly likely Robinson leads the group in production for the 2020 season. After all, he has the least red flags out of all of them and was actually taken at fair value, so his expectations will be much easier to outperform. Furthermore, he makes Benson Mayowa and Bruce Irvin more expendable, allowing the Seahawks to draft a true edge rusher in 2021 (any Quincy Roche fans?).

If he gets 5-6 sacks as a rookie, which is very possible, this will be a 5th-round pick well-spent. Robinson won’t play at an All-Pro level right away, but he’ll most definitely be a contributor, and ever since the loss of Frank Clark, that’s what the Seahawks need more than anything.

Round 6, Pick 214: Freddie Swain, WR, Florida

Grade: A

Freddie Swain is…..an interesting player. Whenever I turned on tape of SEC defensive backs, Swain always stole the spotlight. Whether it was Kristian Fulton, Noah Igbinoghene, Grant Delpit, or Bryce Hall, Swain always made play after play. In a way, he was the perfect complement to Van Jefferson, who was widely seen as one of the best route-runners in this class. Jefferson was a lot more technically-refined and his game was a lot more nuanced as a result, but Swain was by far the better athlete of the two, and in some ways, was overshadowed by Jefferson’s dominance.

For a 6th-round pick, Swain is a great route-runner. He crosses the faces of unsuspecting defensive backs within the blink of an eye, and if he gets the ball with an inch, his breakaway speed is simply tremendous. Think about a very, very discounted version of Colorado wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr, who got drafted by the Jaguars in Round 2. They both possess very similar route-running acumen and breakaway speed, but Shenault also wins by being a slippery RAC monster who’s incredibly difficult to tackle.

Swain isn’t exactly the most slippery wideout, but they do possess a similar skill set. There was one play against Auburn where Van and Freddie ran the same route but at different depths, and I swear it was like watching a human ladder drill. Swain’s feet are so quick to the point where leverage and cushion may not even make a difference. If he can shake defenders at the college level regardless of their depth, what’s stopping him from doing the same against inexperienced slot defenders at the pro level?

Speaking of the pro level, Swain’s utility is similar to that of Cardinals wideout Christian Kirk. They can both roast slot defenders in space with unbelievable lateral quickness and footwork, they can break away if given even an inch of space, and they can also be excellent mismatch weapons to get the ball to in the quick passing game. Swain can also run everything in the route tree, and no matter what, it felt like defenses in the SEC couldn’t do anything to stop him from the slot. He’s also incredibly aware of soft spots in zone coverage and knows exactly how to make himself open for an easy pitch-and-catch.

When I mentioned that Colby Parkinson could be Russell Wilson’s favorite red-zone threat because of his size and catch radius, I was mainly referring to how he could find a niche as a big-bodied slot receiver. Swain, however, is the polar opposite. He’s not very big at all, so using him on jump-balls and asking him to high-point wouldn’t exactly take advantage of his best skills. He’s also not a great blocker (in fact I’d argue he’s terrible) because of his size limitations.

However, Swain may be the Seahawks’ best rookie and Wilson’s favorite target because he can be a do-it-all slot receiver who brings in 70-80 catches in Year 1. Quite honestly, just because of how open he got against top-notch SEC squads like Auburn (RIP Javaris Davis) and Georgia, I don’t think 70-80 catches may be out of the realm of possibility.

His lightning-quick feet, incredible lateral quickness, underrated elusiveness, breakaway speed, high-level awareness, and explosive cuts roasted slot defenders time and time again, and if he had a better quarterback, Swain definitely may have gotten the “diamond in the rough” label. I expect him to run away with the starting slot receiver job from Day 1 and be a very strong contributor on special teams. Swain will probably be a gunner, and if the Seahawks manage to extract 650-700 yards and valuable special teams play all from 1 6th-round pick, I think it’s fair to label that pick as a steal.

Round 7, Pick 251: Stephen Sullivan, TE, LSU

Grade: B

I’ll be honest; I didn’t exactly watch a lot of Stephen Sullivan on film, mainly because Thaddeus Moss got the majority of snaps at the tight end position for LSU in 2019, which initially puzzled me on why the Seahawks even made this pick. However, Sullivan is more of an athlete than he is a football player. He ran a 4.66 40-yard dash at the combine and jumped 36.5″ on the vertical with 123.0″ on the broad jump, according to NFL.com.

I disagree with the Seahawks trading back into the 7th-round to take Sullivan because I do think he would’ve been available as an undrafted free agent, but it’s not horrible when you consider the Seahawks are giving up a 6th-round pick next year. In my opinion, Sullivan will probably get time on special teams if he makes the 53-man roster, but with so many names ahead of him at tight end, one would think Sullivan will end up as a high-value practice squad member.

Even though tight end is what’s listed under his name, he’s not a great in-line blocker at all mainly because his frame isn’t akin to that of most tight ends. Sullivan is built more like a big slot receiver, so I think the Seahawks’ coaching staff will just try to harness the best out of Sullivan as an athlete and see what they can turn him into. A position change to fullback could be in store for him if they refine his in-line blocking skills.

Couple that with his tight end background, and you could have a decent contributor in the passing game. One way or another, he’ll have a shot to make the team on special teams and that athleticism does open a spot for him on the practice squad, even if he doesn’t. Either way, if he shows flashes in a certain role during the preseason and remains on the Seahawks’ practice squad, expect him to be making money somewhere. This is a late 7th-round pick, so taking a flier on an athlete like this is a good idea, even though I didn’t like the fact that they traded up for him.

Overall Draft Grade: C

The Seahawks, as usual, impressed me a lot more with their late-round picks than their early-rounders. In fact, I’d argue their Day 3 haul may prove more fruitful to the team than their Day 1 and Day 2 hauls. However, despite the excellent late-round grades, the Day 1 and Day 2 picks have a higher value, so I had to weigh their grades much more heavily when compared to the late-rounders.

In my opinion, because the Seahawks significantly reached on their Day 1 and Day 2 picks, that drops their grade quite a bit, but they managed to salvage it with their late-rounders. However, in a holistic review, with one of the most talent-studded draft classes in a very, very long time, you’d have to think that if the Seahawks’ first 3 picks don’t outplay their draft slots, which I don’t think they will, this draft may be seen as a giant loss, regardless of how their late-rounders pan out. High-value assets are high-value assets, and I genuinely feel as if the Seahawks completely and utterly botched them.

Advertisements

2 Replies to “Seattle Seahawks: 2020 Draft Grades”

Comments are closed.