In general manager John Schneider’s words, a focus for the Seattle Seahawks in this year’s draft was identifying prospects who wouldn’t need “a ton of hand-holding” to navigate their first NFL offseason under atypical circumstances.
They’ve always liked players who have demonstrated perseverance. That was particularly appealing this year.
“It’s been a primary part of our scouting philosophy this year anyways,” Schneider said. “And now especially … it’s all about the guys that can come in here and contribute right away.”
The odds are against all eight of Seattle’s draft picks making the team, let alone making significant contributions from the get-go. Here’s an early guess as to which of them will, ranked in order of their likelihood of making an instant impact.
DE Darrell Taylor: Second round (No. 49 overall)
The first three spots on this list are something of a toss-up between Seattle’s first three selections. Taylor gets the nod because he projects to at least be a regular in the Seahawks’ pass-rush rotation, whereas the others’ paths to playing time are less clear if they don’t start. Recent history tells us that an eight-sack rookie season would be asking a lot from Taylor. Something like what Rasheem Green produced in 2019 — four sacks on roughly 34 snaps per game — is more realistic. Then again, Taylor’s chief competition for playing time at Leo end is veteran Benson Mayowa, who has never started more than six games in a season and didn’t make any starts last year. So it wouldn’t be a shock if Taylor factors in more than that.
LB Jordyn Brooks: First round (No. 27 overall)
The Seahawks believe Brooks’ best fit is at one of the two inside linebacker spots in Pete Carroll’s 4-3 defense — middle or weakside — as opposed to the strong side. All-Pro Bobby Wagner mans the middle and isn’t going anywhere, leaving Brooks to most easily project to weakside linebacker. That gives added significance to Schneider’s revelation a week after the draft that veteran K.J. Wright, who plays weakside, had offseason shoulder surgery and faces an uncertain recovery timeline. Schneider mentioned the possibility of Brooks playing on the weak side and Wright moving to the strong side, where Bruce Irvin currently projects as the starter. Those comments were in response to a question about whether Wright’s spot on the roster is assured, which Schneider declined to say. Wright carries a $10 million cap charge, though moving on seems less likely since he was paid a $1 million roster bonus in March. Brooks’ playing time is tied largely to whatever happens with Wright.
RG Damien Lewis: Third round (No. 69 overall)
Anyone penciling Lewis into the starting lineup at right guard should tap the brakes. D.J. Fluker‘s release created an opening, but others will be in the mix and will have an edge in terms of experience. That could carry extra significance this year. Offensive linemen typically face one of the more difficult transitions from college, and Lewis will have to make that transition with fewer on-field reps than normal with the coronavirus pandemic cutting into the offseason program. Having started for two seasons at a big-time program like LSU should help, but the Seahawks have no shortage of alternatives if they feel he isn’t ready, including Chance Warmack, Jamarco Jones and Phil Haynes. Warmack has primarily played right guard and Jones made two of his three starts there last season. The Seahawks are higher on Warmack than you might expect for someone who was out of football last year.
RB DeeJay Dallas: Fourth round (No. 144 overall)
Seattle’s top two running backs are coming off season-ending injuries, and while Chris Carson is expected to be ready by Week 1, Rashaad Penny might not be. That could bump Dallas and his former college teammate, second-year man Travis Homer, up the depth chart early in the season. The Seahawks think highly of Dallas’ pass protection and his ability to factor into the passing game as a former wide receiver, two skills that should help as he fights for third-down reps. The Seahawks could still sign Marshawn Lynch or another veteran running back, but for now, Dallas is in a good position to see the field right away.
DE Alton Robinson: Fifth round (No. 148 overall)
Robinson’s production (32 TFLs, 19 sacks in three college seasons) and measurables (4.69 40) make you wonder why he wasn’t drafted higher. Carroll cited him as one of the players he was most surprised to see remain on the board as long as he did. Robinson is a Leo end like Taylor and Mayowa, but there’s no one else at that position who’s clearly ahead of him on the depth chart.
TE Colby Parkinson: Fourth round (No. 133 overall)
Parkinson is sixth on this list despite being fourth in draft order simply because of the depth Seattle has at his position. Even if Will Dissly isn’t ready by Week 1 and Luke Willson is the odd man out once rosters are trimmed, Parkinson would still be third in line behind Greg Olsen and Jacob Hollister. He has the frame (6-foot-7), speed (4.77 40) and hands (only one drop last season) to become a weapon for Russell Wilson, but he might have to wait for a while unless injuries push him up the depth chart early.
WR Freddie Swain: Sixth round (No. 214 overall)
Players chosen as late as Swain are hardly assured of making the team. His return ability could help him as he fights with John Ursua and others for one of the final receiver spots behind Tyler Lockett, DK Metcalf, David Moore and Phillip Dorsett II. The Seahawks are always looking to take some return duties off Lockett’s plate.
TE Stephen Sullivan: Seventh round (No. 251 overall)
Sullivan was the one pick whom the Seahawks acknowledged as a project. His position isn’t entirely clear, as he played both tight end and wide receiver at LSU. He doesn’t have an easy path to playing time at either one.