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Seattle Seahawks have many needs but not much draft capital

Think 2021 has been a tough year for Seattle? Next season could be even worse.

Both starting tackles – LT Duane Brown and RT Brandon Shell – will be unrestricted free agents. Same goes for center Ethan Pocic. The guards will be back – LG Damien Lewis and RG Gabe Jackson – but Lewis has a PFF grade of 56.8 and Jackson, who the team traded a 2021 fifth-round pick for, has a 62.1 PFF grade. Meanwhile, Kyle Fuller, who has started at both center and guard, will also be an UFA.

The offensive line is just part of the problem, as running back Chris Carson’s career may be in doubt and Seattle’s starting tight end Gerald Everett is also scheduled to become an UFA.

It’s more of the same on defense.

Most of Seattle’s starting defensive backfield will be unrestricted free agents, including safety Quandre Diggs and cornerbacks Sidney Jones and D.J. Reed. The same can be said of half of the Seahawks’ starting defensive line, including defensive tackle Al Woods and defensive end Rasheem Green.

If only previous first- or second-round picks like DL L.J. Collier, RB Rashaad Penny, DL Malik McDowell or OL Germain Ifedi – just to name a few – had panned out.

But that’s the position Seattle finds itself in with a disappointing but not entirely surprising record of 4-8 and only six picks in the 2022 NFL draft. This will be the fifth time in the past nine years that Seattle won’t have a first-round pick.

So what do you give the team that needs almost everything but quarterback and receiver?

In a word: Players. Seattle can’t have the same misses that’s plagued them in recent years when putting together next season’s roster. While it’s unusual to find more than three full-time rookie starters in any given draft, these six should at the very least push for immediate playing time, if not start.

Round 2: RB Kenneth Walker III, Michigan State

Finishing second in the nation with 1,636 yards and third with 18 touchdowns while propelling Michigan State to a surprising 10-2 record apparently wasn’t enough to make the 5-foot-10, 210-pound junior one of the four Heisman Trophy finalists.

The Seahawks have drafted 11 running backs since 2012, including one in the first round (Penny in 2018) and one in the second round (Christine Michael in 2013). The only one that panned out? Carson, who was a late seventh-round pick out of Oklahoma State in 2017. Even if he returns after recently undergoing season-ending neck surgery, it’s still hard to envision Carson as part of the team’s long-term future, especially after signing a two-year contract in the offseason.

Say what you will about the chaos surrounding Seattle’s offensive line, but when Carson was at his best, so, too, were the Seahawks the past three seasons. Seattle led the league in rushing in 2018 and finished fourth in rushing yards in 2019 before dipping to 12th last season. The Seahawks’ record during that time? 33-15 with three straight trips to the playoffs and one divisional title.

And that’s why this pick makes a lot of sense for Seattle. The Wake Forest transfer had 1,646 yards rushing and 18 TDs this season, good for second and third nationally, respectively.

The only knock on Walker is his receiving ability – or lack thereof. He caught just 13 passes for 89 yards and 1 TD this season.

From Pro Football Focus’ Oliver Hodgkinson, who ranked Walker No. 46 in his latest top 50: “He’s physical, has contact balance, cuts with explosion, and displays elusiveness in the open field. Yet, a lack of receiving reps and questionable blocking ability may limit his stock in the eyes of the NFL.”

Round 3: OT Jaelyn Duncan, Maryland

Dollar signs followed Michigan Edge Aidan Hutchinson every game this season – he made some of the best tackles in college football look silly while vaulting himself into the conversation for the No. 1 overall pick and the Heisman Trophy.

But the one player who held his own against Hutchinson? That would be the 6-foot-6, 320-pound redshirt junior Duncan. He was one of the few bright spots in Maryland’s humiliating 59-18 loss back on Nov. 20, allowing just two pressures against Hutchinson. He was even better against Michigan’s other Edge, David Ojabo, who had just one tackle and no pressures when facing Duncan. Hutchinson is the No. 1 overall player in the latest Fanspeak-Jake Rigdon big board, while Ojabo is No. 7.

From The 33rd Team following the Michigan game: “… The key for Duncan is to become more consistent, because if he can do that he can become a very good player. Duncan was not perfect on Saturday, but the flashes were there.”

Round 4: DL Noah Elliss, Idaho

The 6-foot-4, 330-pound Woods has been very effective since signing with Seattle in the offseason, his third stint with the team. But the 34-year-old is getting up there in age and will be an UFA at the end of the season.

A possible replacement for Woods is Elliss – and you won’t find many defensive linemen who are bigger than the 6-foot-4, 367-pound redshirt junior who is said to be leaning toward entering the draft. Ellis also comes from strong NFL bloodlines: His father Luther is a former two-time Pro Bowl defensive lineman from Utah who was a first-round pick by Detroit in 1995 and is now the defensive line coach at Idaho. Noah Elliss’ older brother Kaden was a seventh-round pick at LB by New Orleans in 2019, and his other older  brother Christian is a linebacker at Idaho.

Round 4: S Jalen Pitre, Baylor

Seattle hasn’t had much success drafting in the fourth round over the years, with only one true “success” story out of 18 fourth-rounders taken since 2011: LB K.J. Wright of Mississippi State, who signed with the Las Vegas Raiders this past offseason.  Pitre has a chance to change that history.

The 6-foot, 198-pound senior did a little bit of everything in his five years at Baylor, playing his first three seasons at linebacker before converting to safety full-time in 2020. Pitre has amassed 190 tackles, 35 TFLs, 7 sacks, 4 INTs, 10 PDs, 3 FRs and 4 FFs between 2017 to 2021, including 70 tackles, 17.5 TFLs, 2 sacks and 2 INTs as a senior. He also returned both of his INTs for TDs last season.

Pitre was recently named as the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and made the all-conference first-team for a second consecutive year.

Here’s what The Athletic’s Dane Brugler said about him: “One of the best run defenders in the Big 12, Pitre is an enforcer downhill and shines when Baylor uses him as a hybrid edge defender who can blitz or make plays on the outside.”

Round 5: Edge Josh Paschal, Kentucky

The 6-foot-3, 278-pound Paschal is the only three-time team captain in Kentucky football history and is a cancer survivor who is revered by his teammates. Paschal had 52 tackles, 15 TFLs and 5 sacks this season, all career-highs. He was also named second-team all-conference – a feat unto itself in the competitive SEC.

Here’s what Senior Bowl executive director Jim Nagy told On3 about Paschal: “There will be defensive line prospects with more ‘wow factor’ in this draft, but few are as dependable and productive on a weekly basis as Paschal. … From a scouting perspective, Paschal is a versatile and instinctive player with quick hands and a slippery knack for getting into the backfield. Makeup-wise, he is a checks-all-the-boxes type that we expect to ascend through the draft process once NFL teams start spending time with him.”

Round 7: TE Sam LaPorta, Iowa

The 6-foot-4, 250-pound junior could return to school, as 2022 NFL draft is expected to be deep at the tight end position. Then again, there’s no guarantee doing so will drastically improve LaPorta’s draft stock despite leading the team in receptions (46) and receiving yards (548) this season. This was the second consecutive year that LaPorta has led Iowa in receptions.



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