ESPN NFL draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. has the Seahawks taking Ohio State cornerback Eli Apple with their first pick, No. 26 overall.
In his latest mock draft for ESPN, the man who did as much as anyone to popularize the concept — Mel Kiper Jr. — has again changed who he has the Seahawks taking, this time going with Ohio State cornerback Eli Apple.
In earlier mock drafts this year, Kiper had Seattle taking Mississippi State defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche and Virginia Tech cornerback Kendall Fuller.
But the draft winds change constantly this time of year and Kiper now has both Fuller and Nkemdiche dropping out of the first round and the (Eli) Apple now falling to the Seahawks.
Writes Kiper of the 6-1, 199-pound Apple: “I know the offensive line is a concern, but I don’t think you can sacrifice talent for need here, especially when the reality is you’re not being realistic if you think there’s an immediate upgrade at left tackle to be found here. Apple has major upside as a physical cornerback with length. He’ll fit right in.”
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All of that makes sense, and especially if the Seahawks see a cornerback as the best player available at that spot it could be a position where they look. It would go against their history a little bit, though (more on which later).
And the Seahawks also appear set for the immediate future at cornerback with Richard Sherman and Jeremy Lane now each under contract for at last three more seasons (Sherman through 2018 and Lane through 2019). The Seahawks made maybe their most aggressive move of free agency to retain Lane, signing him to a four-year deal worth $23 million overall and $11 million guaranteed.
“We were really happy to get Jeremy back,”’ Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said at the NFL league meetings last month when asked for a thought on what stood out to him about what Seattle did in free agency. “Thought that was a big deal for us because his best play is ahead of him. He has done great stuff for us. But that solidifies the corner spot going into the draft which I thought was important.’’
The Seahawks also have DeShawn Shead under contract for 2016 after a season in which he started five games at cornerback or nickel.
“The combination of Jeremy and DeShawn gives us two different style corners and both those guys played the nickel spot and that allows us to flip guys around matchup-wise,” Carroll said at the league meetings. “Richard as well, as we did last year, so we have all the flexibility — the best flexibility we’ve ever had — and it allows us to go into the draft and not have to be concerned about having to get a guy.”
Seattle also has an intriguing number of young players at the cornerback spot who will compete for what would figure to be two other spots at that position on the final 53-man roster, including Tharold Simon, Tye Smith, Marcus Burley, Mohammed Seisay and Stanley Jean-Baptiste.
But you wouldn’t go wrong betting the Seahawks will take a corner in the 2016 draft — Seattle has drafted at least one cornerback in every draft of the Carroll/John Schneider regime.
Interestingly, though, they have never done so in the first three rounds. The earliest Seattle has taken a corner under Carroll/Schneider was Walter Thurmond in the fourth round in 2010.
Other Seattle cornerback draft picks since 2010 are: Sherman (2011, 5th), Byron Maxwell (2011, 6th), Lane (2012, 6th), Simon (2013, 5th), Eric Pinkins (2014, 6th), Smith (2015, 5th).