With the combine right around the corner and with the unusual silence on roster moves for the past several weeks I’m going to start focussing more deeply on the upcoming draft. For this article, I am going to assume that Seattle stays put at #18 or does a slight trade back but stays in the first round.
First, we need to take a look at what position groups are most likely to be addressed with the first pick. I’m confident they will go either interior offensive line or defensive line. There’s a chance they could go running back, too, however I am going to focus on the running back class in its own article soon.
Seattle has proven their investment in first round picks typically covers either side of the trenches for some time now, so that’s a fair assumption. Running back is a bit left field, a lot will come down to how the team feels it needs to fix the run game, is it in the blocking up front? Or would a star back hide some of the deficiencies on the offensive line? With a gun to my head, I’d say they go guard with the first pick, someone that can slide in at LG and be the starter there for multiple years. Provided the pick is right, that could really nail down the left side of the line with the rookie in-between veterans Duane Brown and Justin Britt. The right side would be where Mike Solari needs to earn the majority of his pay check.
Defensive line is another possibility, with the potential departure of Sheldon Richardson in free agency, as well as uncertainty surrounding Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril, there’s every chance the team may go DL early.
let’s start off by looking at prospects for the interior offensive line that stand a good chance to be available with the #18th pick –
Isaiah Wynn – OG – Georgia – 6-3” 308 pounds
He absolutely excelled at the Senior Bowl, arguably the best player on the field and although isn’t an absolute mammoth of a man, he remains calm and dominates his blocking. We won’t see him work out at the combine as he’s recovering from a torn labrum, however his college play will be enough to cement himself in the first round, or at the very worst, early second.
He was voted All-SEC First Team in 2017. Running backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel are where they are on draft boards, predominantly, because of Wynn’s run blocking skills. He played at LG earlier in his college career however was asked to move to LT for his 2017 season. He is certainly going to be a guard in the NFL, though. He has very long arms in relation to the rest of his body and is very quick on his feet which is ideal when dealing with defensive lineman pulling stunts on him.
A knock on him could be his lack of effort in getting to the second level, he also occasionally doesn’t totally finish his blocks allowing the defender to get an arm on the ball carrier.
Will Hernandez – OG – Texas-El Paso - 6-3" 330 pounds
Hernandez would no doubt be a bit of a reach at #18, however if a trade back occurred and Price and Wynn were off the board, Hernandez would be a suitable consolation prize. His team didn’t win a single game in 2017 but the star of the team was no doubt their LG.
He also has an uneventful injury history, starting in 49 consecutive games. If it wasn’t for his team’s lacklustre record, he would have no doubt earned more awards and recognition, however he was invited to both the Senior Bow and the East-West Shrine Game. He plays nasty, something Seattle would love in him, he’s also quick and powerful, obvious traits of any successful lineman in the NFL. He also offers flexibility as he has a little bit of experience at center, although given Seattle is pretty stacked at versatile lineman, this ability wouldn’t get him climbing up their boards unnecessarily.
A knock on him would be the level of his opponents. He has played against Big 12 opponents Texas and Oklahoma, however the majority of his opposition has been small schools so he may get a bit of a shock at the NFL level. Still, to come from the school he has and to be pegged as a late first/early second round talent is impressive and deserving at the same time.
Billy Price – C/OG – Ohio State – 6-3” 312 pounds
Billy Price, although listed as a center, could easily be a guard in the NFL. He’s certainly an athletic specimen who will almost certainly excel at the combine with his power and explosiveness. He’s also a smart guy, more than capable of being a leader on the line very early in his career and certainly has the smarts to suitably deal with double teams and picking up blitzes. He also gets to the second level very well when needed. He can also stay healthy, he has started in 54 consecutive games for Ohio State, a big plus no doubt.
He has played left guard, right guard and center for the Buckeyes. Initially starting at RG in 2014 for the first 3 games, he transitioned to LG for the remainder of the season and the following 2 seasons before moving to center in 2017. He was also voted the Big Ten’s Offensive Lineman of the Year, impressed? I am.
You could argue his weaknesses lie in sometimes switching to his secondary target before finishing the first assignment too early, something that any offensive line coach will be able to drill down on, though.
Those 3 are the only real options at this area of the draft, sure there are plenty of later round options but we can look at them further down the line.
Next up, let’s look at the possible defensive lineman that Seattle may select.
Sam Hubbard – DE – Ohio State – 6-5” 265 pounds
Hubbard had a fantastic year making 13 and a half tackles for loss and 7 sacks. On his college career, he finished with 29 and a half TFL’s and 17 sacks total. He actually converted early from safety and has since earned himself with a first round grade from the majority of scouts and media analysts alike. He was a contributor of arguably the best defensive line in college football.
He has the ability to make offensive lineman miss him all together, he can manipulate blockers with his movability. He’s also smart with a great football IQ. He’s one of those kids that lives, breathes and sleeps football. He studies tape and would never be called out for his lack of effort.
A weakness would be he sometimes plays somewhat reserved and doesn’t get ‘stuck in’. He isn’t the quickest off the snap, if this continues, he will give NFL lineman too much time to suss out their block and keep him from being disruptive.
Arden Key – DE – LSU – 6-5” 265 pounds
Key may or may not go in the first round, some have him pegged in the early second, however if he can put it all together, he has all the physical traits to be a dominant force at the highest level. He has question marks for sure, following shoulder surgery he showed back up out of shape, he also missed his last two games after undergoing surgery on his finger. If a team believes, with the right coaching, they can unlock his full potential, though, he could be a star in this league. His commitment has been questioned before, too. Something that NFL scouts and GM’s will likely push him hard on in interviews and private workouts. There’s a lot that needs to be worked out with this guy. Sound familiar?
He doesn’t deal with double teams too well, either. He is incredibly fast off the snap, though, with long arms to shred blockers with the right moves. There’s no doubt he has the skillset to succeed in the NFL, the biggest question mark is if he wants to put the effort in required to succeed.
Da'Ron Payne – DT – Alabama – 6-2” 308 pounds
Arguably the best defensive tackle in this draft class, Payne earned the 2017 All-SEC Second-Team honours last year after totalling 45 tackles, one sack and 8 QB hurries. He also had 2 pass breakups and a fumble recovery for good measure.
His strength is, quite frankly, ridiculous. He isn’t going to be the ‘sexiest’ pick in this draft as his skills lie with shutting down running lanes rather than attacking the pass rush, but if that’s what a team is looking for, nobody does it better than Payne. He will easily win leverage battles with offensive lineman and deserve multiple double teams. He is exactly the sort of player that enables his DL friends to increase their stats by taking away double teams from them.
His acceleration is lacking and that’s fine, as long as you’re not expecting him to be in the QB’s face multiple times a game, he will prove to be a worthy first round talent.
Maurice Hurst – DT – Michigan – 6-2” 280 pounds
Another All Big-Ten First Team player, he managed an impressive 13 and a half TFL’s in 2017, which, considering was his first year starting for the Wolverines, is why he’s being graded where he is.
He is quick from the get-go, too. Often the first defender moving at the snap, he will test offensive lineman and make any that don’t react quickly to him pay the price. He really can move for a man of his size and has some impressive moves to get him in the backfield. His size does not stand out at all for a DT, but just looking at his tape above proves otherwise.
He may struggle against guards and centers in the NFL. If he doesn’t win the battle right at the start, it’s highly unlikely that he will be able to pull a move off later in the play.
Those seven players are all names to watch out for when Seattle is on the clock, in future articles I will focus on the possibility of Seattle taking a running back with the first selection as well as what players may interest them in later rounds.