By CASEY MABBOTT, OREGON SPORTS NEWS
In less than a week, Seattle will go into the 2023 NFL Draft with two picks in the first round. If they play their cards right, they will go into training camp with a minimum of two of the top 20 prospects coming out of college. That’s nuts. It feels like Christmas morning at the end of April, and given the extra long winter we’re seeing this year, that’s not too strange, I suppose.
Seattle has another two picks in the second round, so they don’t need to chase a specific position. They have the assets to wait and take the best players on the board without reaching. And if a player they are super high on starts to tumble, they can move up without giving up much. That’s what it means to play with house money.
They need help on the defensive line, and unless the top 4 teams in the draft all go that route, they will have their chance to pick a top 5 player with the fifth overall selection. Will Anderson and Jalen Carter should be their top targets, but Anderson is likely to go in the top three, so unless Seattle is willing to pay extra to get him, they will miss out. Carter should be their second target, as the middle of their defensive line needs work, and Carter could be the guy they need to go from 0-60 in run defense.
Seattle hasn’t had a guy on defense that terrified offenses since the Legion of Boom defense was disbanded in 2017. They have had good players, but not guys that other teams have to gameplan around. That could change with a guy like Anderson or Carter. If they miss one of those prospects, it probably doesn’t make sense to go defensive line with a top-five pick. At that point, they should consider trading back or looking at a QB prospect. They know Geno Smith and have just a few years left, if even that, so they need to get a first-rate replacement to start developing at some point. It can’t hurt to get one of the best to come out of college.
Florida QB Anthony Richardson is one of the top-rated QBs going into the draft and will likely be available at #5. It’s not likely he will fall to Seattle’s next pick at #20, so if they pass on him with their first pick and he starts to fall, they will need to make a quick decision about moving up and what that will cost. Is a future first-round pick and maybe even another selection worth getting their QB of the future? Probably.
Pick #20 might actually be tougher than pick #5. If you don’t like someone enough to take them with the #5 pick, just don’t. Trade down and let someone else pay extra for a guy you didn’t put very high on your list. At #20, there will be many more options available, and most teams don’t want to give up much to trade back into the end of the first round, but you never know. That puts a lot of pressure on teams to get their picks right because there are so many guys with similar grades that you either feel like you can’t miss or you feel like you can’t get it right.
At #5, you’re probably only going QB or defensive line, and after that, you pass. At #20, you’re either looking to trade down or the world’s your oyster; every position is on the board and valuable. Four receivers are graded in the first round, and Tyler Lockett won’t be able to play forever, so it would be smart to go wideout there. But you also know Jamal Adams can’t stay healthy, so you should go safety. But you also need depth on your offensive line and either a QB or pass rusher. You also need depth at RB and CB so that you can pick the best player on the board.
If any of the first-round grade receivers (Quentin Johnston, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Zay Flowers, or Jordan Addison) are there at #20, you must take a hard look. Geno needs more playmakers, and each of these guys could contribute immediately.
If Brian Branch, one of the top-rated safeties, is there at #20, you have to give him a good look since the next-best safety has a second-round grade. You can still look at edge rushers Lukas Van Ness, Myles Murphy, and Nolan Smith. There could even be a QB still on the board, such as Will Levis, or Richardson may fall farther than the experts seem to think possible. It happens often.
And that’s just the first round; many more players will be available when Seattle picks again in the second round. They definitely don’t need to rush into anything.
No matter what Seattle does, they are getting building blocks for their next Super Bowl run. It’s not just the draft, it’s Draft-mas, and I can’t wait to see what Seattle finds under the tree.