2024 NFL Draft – Seattle Makes Splash, Oregon And Washington Players Shake Up First Round

Casey Mabbott | Oregon Sports News

With the 16th pick in the 2024 NFL Draft, the Seattle Seahawks selected Byron Murphy – the junior defensive lineman from Texas. Murphy was the second defender selected all night after Laiatu Latu was chosen by the Colts at 14, and just one of nine defensive players taken in the first round, which simply has to be a record.

GM John Schnieder is making his first selections without the approval of former head coach Pete Carroll. He has a new head coach and a new system for seeking players who fit. Murphy fits not only a major need for the defense but also checks a critical box of draft philosophy—taking the best available player, not just the guy you need.

For the last several seasons, Seattle has been missing a monster in the middle who can rush the passer and stop the run without taking a lot of plays off. New Seattle head coach Mike Macdonald helped Baltimore defensive lineman Justin Madubuike turn into one of the best dual-threat linemen in the league in 2023, and he will have the chance to do the same thing with Murphy as a rookie. Many folks, including myself, thought passing on Jalen Carter in the 2023 draft was a mistake, but Murphy is a good alternative.

With a big frame, fast feet, strong arms, and aggressive playing style, I will be very surprised if Murphy doesn’t make a quick name for himself at the pro level. Granted, he will be in a new system surrounded by a mix of young and veteran players also learning a brand new system, but he won’t have much competition for a starting job, and the team needs him to be an impact player quickly.

The guy Murphy will be compared to in Madubuike is not a fair comparison, but it is the most likely to stick. Madubuike made a big name for himself in MacDonald’s system, but it took two years to make it happen, so don’t be surprised if Murphy has a decent rookie year followed by a breakout sophomore season.

Seattle does not have any picks in the second round and won’t pick until late in the third round, so this pick had to be a big hit, and I think that is exactly what they did. Byron Murphy is an excellent player with a big motor and a lot of heart, along with impressive athleticism for a big man.

Murphy’s college teammate, T’Vondre Sweat, was still on the board at the end of the night despite winning multiple awards. While some will point to Sweat’s recent legal trouble as a reason for him slipping to the second round, I would argue his off-field conduct is not the issue; it’s that Murphy is a more athletic player and will handle NFL football better. Sweat has 50lbs on Murphy and is about 3” in height, but you can’t coach heart, and Murphy has a lot of it. Sweat won a lot of awards in their final season, but Murphy was voted the best lineman in the conference – and you don’t win that just because you line up next to a bigger guy; you win that award by playing very down like the season depends on it and that’s the kind of guy Seattle is getting in Murphy, the type of defensive lineman the Legion of Boom defense was built around – no matter how many stories you hear about the secondary. You need a pass rush and the ability for those same players to stop the run without help. If the front four can’t make it work, the back four won’t get very far, no matter how good they are. Seattle overlooked that fact last season, but they didn’t forget it this time around.

Oregon, Oregon State, And Washington Players Show Up EARLY In First Round:

Huskies QB Michael Penix and Oregon QB Bo Nix went into the draft with first-round grades. Still, most people thought they might make an appearance in the middle of the round or perhaps if a needy team wanted to trade into the end of the round, but almost no one had them going in the top 12 and within a few picks of each other.

The first three picks of the draft went QB-QB-QB, with Caleb Williams going first, followed by Jayden Daniels second, and Drake Maye third. Then it got quiet on the QB front for a few picks before the Atlanta Falcons had their turn at the wheel and made a surprising selection. With needs at virtually every position on defense and their pick of anyone at those spots with no defenders having been selected in the top 10 for the first time in the Super Bowl era, Atlanta threw a curve ball and selected Penix. With nearly a hundred million dollars tied up in new QB Kirk Cousins, this was an odd move, even if their top brass loves Penix. Maybe Cousins’ Achilles injury isn’t recovering as quickly as they expected, or perhaps they saw what Green Bay did with Aaron Rodgers and Jordan Love and think letting him sit for a few years will be the way to go; I don’t know. The reports are that Cousins was not aware they would be drafting a QB that high, and he was less than thrilled they spent such a high pick on his potential successor rather than giving the defense help. Those are interesting choices; we’ll have to see if Cousins likes that.

Washington wideout Rome Odunze was taken by the Bears with the next pick, reuniting him with new Bears QB Williams, who trusted Odunze not to crash the plane they shared to Detroit while heading to the draft. Odunze was a huge playmaker for the Huskies and favorite target of Penix and now gets to make plays for Williams and the Bears. Odunze was the third receiver taken after Marvin Harrison Jr went to Arizona and Malike Nabers went to the Giants.

The Broncos took Nix at number twelve and will probably fight for a starting spot immediately. A common comparison to Drew Brees in playing style, Nix will likely fit right in with Sean Payton’s offense that features a lot of checkdowns with some deep routes and a fair amount of medium passes over the middle. Sounds like Nix’s super senior season at Oregon in a nutshell. With no proven players at the position in Denver, this will be Nix’s job to lose, but don’t be surprised if Payton, a well-known jerk, brings in some glorified clipboard holder and gives them an equal shot in camp to “motivate” his new player.

Oregon State offensive tackle Taliese Fuaga went to the Saints at 14, giving them a boost in protection on the right side for QB Derek Carr and opening running lanes for Alvin Kamara. Fuaga isn’t the most athletic, the biggest, or the strongest, but he is a very solid player, and that’s what many teams need on the right side of their offense. The left side is for the flashy tackles to take on the meanest defensive ends; the right side is for pushing guys upfield and opening the run game. And that’s what Fuaga did extremely well for the Beavers and will do again in his new home in New Orleans. Like his Pac-12 counterparts, Fuaga will be one of the final players representing his school in the first round after the conference dissolved.

Closing out Washington’s trio of draft picks in the first round was OT Troy Fautanu to the Steelers at #20. Even if head coach Mike Tomlin insists they won’t do this, don’t be surprised if their new lineman is moved to the right side or asked to play guard early on. He is a very capable lineman and won many awards for his play in his senior season, but he’s known more for being a bully than a really talented player, which sounds like a Steeler to me. Fautanu will fit right in with the new-look Steelers and OC Arthur Smith’s preference to run the ball the majority of the time and wear down the defense.