If there’s anything that feels certain in these most uncertain times, it’s that the Seahawks will trade down in the first round of the NFL draft, which begins Thursday at 5 p.m.
It’s not much of a prediction to say that they will do that. It’s mostly just relying on history. The Seahawks have traded either down in the first round or out of it completely every year since 2011.
If that’s a question that seems easy to answer, others aren’t quite as simple.
So, with a most unusual draft finally upon us, here’s a look at a few questions facing the Seahawks and our attempt at answers.
Q: So, you firmly expect the Seahawks to trade down again?
A: Yes, though not just because of history but also because of the way the draft lays out. The Seahawks have just seven picks. They have never made fewer than eight since Pete Carroll became coach and John Schneider general manager in 2010.
While they do have four of the first 101 picks — and three of the first 64 at 27, 59 and 64 — the Seahawks have just one pick in the final three rounds (214 in the sixth).
The Seahawks have never made fewer than four picks in the final three rounds under Carroll/Schneider, rounds in which the Seahawks have unearthed the likes of Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, Chris Carson, Malcolm Smith, Luke Willson, Michael Dickson and Byron Maxwell.
It’s hard to fathom the Seahawks going from pick 144 (its final pick in the fourth round) to the end of the draft at 255 making just one pick.
Q: If the Seahawks stay at 27, which players might be good fits?
A: The really popular player for the Seahawks at that spot in national mock drafts has been Penn State defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos. They obviously needs to continue to address the pass rush, as Carroll and Schneider acknowledged during a pre-draft Zoom news conference Tuesday, and Gross-Matos could be the best available rush end at that spot. Other defensive ends who could come into play there include the likes of Iowa’s A.J. Epenesa, Auburn’s Marlon Davidson and Tennessee’s Darrell Taylor.
NFL draft analyst Rob Rang said in a chat with The Seattle Times on Tuesday that he thinks two players who might fit best there for Seattle in terms of value and need are Houston offensive tackle Josh Jones and Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor.
Q: Would the Seahawks really take an offensive lineman with 18 already on the roster?
A: Certainly that number indicates they don’t need to take any offensive linemen for depth. But you never turn down an elite offensive lineman if he lands in your lap, and the Seahawks have some veterans such as left tackle Duane Brown they will need to eventually replace. Jones, a four-year starter at left tackle at Houston, could be viewed as a pick for the future. Another guy we’ll mention is Boise State’s Ezra Cleveland, a graduate of Bethel High in Spanaway who is said to be rising up boards of late. He started 39 games at LT for the Broncos.
Schneider made an interesting comment Tuesday when asked about adding veterans B.J. Finney, Brandon Shell and Cedric Ogbuehi to the offensive line in free agency: “We hit in our mind what was 1, 2,3 (among offensive linemen) in free agency,’’ he said.
Schneider noted that the team has found it increasingly hard to find offensive linemen in the draft who can help immediately because many college teams don’t play offenses similar to those in the NFL.
Adding the free-agent signees, Schneider said, “puts you in a position to not feel like you need to — and we have felt this over the years, one of my primary lessons we’ve learned throughout the years as college football has developed, the offensive linemen are very hard to find. So this really gives us, again, an opportunity to go into the draft and take the best player.’’
Meaning, yes, the Seahawks could take an offensive lineman it views as maybe not ready now but who could pay off big down the road.
Q: OK, so would the Seahawks really take a running back with its first pick?
A: Well as you may have heard, this is a team that likes to run a lot. They also have used their first pick on a running back twice since 2013 (Christine Michael in 2013 and Rashaad Penny in 2018), both times in years when few thought that was the team’s biggest need.
The Seahawks have just four running backs under contract at the moment, two of whom are coming off significant injuries — Carson (hip) and Penny (ankle). The others are second-year player Travis Homer, and Adam Choice, an undrafted free agent who sat out last year with an injury.
Taylor could be an intriguing option, rushing for 6,174 yards in just three years with the Badgers and 6.7 per carry, and at 5-10, 220 pounds fitting the mold of a punishing early-down runner that the Seahawks like.
Q: Do you expect any clarity on the Jadeveon Clowney situation by the time the draft rolls around?
A: No. All indications remain that Clowney is willing to be patient and see if he might get more interest later. How the draft develops could change things some. But there’s also a thought that some teams might be waiting for the April 27 passing of the deadline for when he will no longer factor into the formula for compensatory draft picks in 2021.
Not knowing what Clowney is going to do somewhat complicates things for the Seahawks as they go into the draft.
Q: What is the biggest challenge for the Seahawks because of alterations in the draft process due to the coronavirus outbreak?
A: There is the obvious, that every team is having to conduct the draft with coaches and GMs in their homes and everyone communicating virtually rather than all gathering in one large “draft room.’’
But, the NFL held a mock draft earlier this week to try to smooth out the process, and Schneider said the Seahawks planned to go through another drill Wednesday with four or five teams that would focus on communicating when making trades.
As Carroll said, every team is impacted the same, so it’s all “relative.’’ Still, Carroll also said it presents an opportunity to compete and that “we’re gonna try to kick butt in this process.’’
From an evaluation standpoint, teams were not able to bring in players for visits to team facilities — teams can usually bring in 30 — where one of the most important aspects is a physical.
As Schneider noted Tuesday, the elimination of the visits came in the same year the NFL had already decided to cut interviews at the combine from 60 players to 45.
But this is also an “it’s all relative’’ thing, to use Carroll’s term, since every team is facing the same obstacle.
Some theorize it could in particular make teams a little warier of drafting some players who have specific medical issues that they were not able to get a final, late physical on. It might impact how teams view players who did not go to the combine and that teams were not able to see at college Pro Days, which almost all were canceled.
“There’s two huge elements,’’ Schneider said. “One is the medical. There’s a lot of guys that did not go to the Combine that we don’t have medical grades on. And then, also the verifieds: Meaning height, weight, speed tests.’’
The Seahawks have been able to do virtual interviews with players. As Schneider noted, those can still be valuable.
“We had one guy wearing a tie. We had another guy laying in bed watching TV,’’ Schneider said. “So you know, you can learn a lot.”
Q: So will the uniqueness of this draft really impact the order in which players are taken?
A: Interestingly, Carroll and Schneider indicated they didn’t think it really would, especially in the early rounds.
“I would say that it’s probably going to come off like it usually does,’’ Schneider said.
Q: Make one “sure-to-be-foolproof’’ prediction about something surprising the Seahawks might do.
A: They’ll take a quarterback earlier than people might expect. They have only one QB under contract — some guy named Russell Wilson.
The Seahawks have had a different backup QB every year since 2015. With Wilson turning 32 in November, it may be time for the Seahawks to finally get a young QB on the roster who can hang around a while and groom to be ready if needed. One fun potential QB draftee? James Morgan of Florida International, who like Schneider, grew up in Green Bay.
Q: Finally, I saw that Percy Harv ….