The Seahawks moved up Friday on the second day of the NFL draft, and then they moved down.
And when they were done, they’d added two players that they hope will allow them to hold their ground a little bit better in the future, drafting defensive end/linebacker Darrell Taylor of Tennessee in the second round and guard Damien Lewis of LSU in the third.
The move up was to get Taylor, going from 59 to 48 in a trade with the Jets, giving up pick 101 to do so.
General manager John Schneider said the Seahawks had considered drafting Taylor in the first round Thursday night and held their breath until they were able to finally find a way to make a trade to get him.
The team views Taylor as a rush end, or the LEO position, in the team’s defensive vernacular — in the same mold as a Frank Clark or Chris Clemons, a position the Seahawks sorely needed to shore up this offseason.
“We view him as one of the very, very top pass-rushers (in this draft),” Schneider said.
The Seahawks then recouped the pick they’d lost by making a deal with Carolina to move down from 64 to 69 and getting pick 148 in return and then taking Lewis.
Lewis started 28 games at right guard the last two years for LSU, blocking for number one pick Joe Burrow, and the team said he was drafted with the idea he will come in and compete with veteran D.J. Fluker for that spot.
“Yeah, he will,” said coach Pete Carroll. “… part of the reason we took him is we want him to come in and battle to play.”
Taylor and Lewis also kept with a theme of adding players who have shown an ability to overcome some extreme personal adversity to reach the NFL.
Taylor’s mother died of breast cancer when he was a sophomore in high school, which caused him to take the year off football, while Lewis’ father was incarcerated on a drug charge when he was in the eighth grade, spending roughly seven years behind bars. Both traversed those rocky times to go on to starring roles for two of the most storied programs in the SEC before then finding their way to the Seahawks on Friday.
“These guys’ life experiences, they mold you one way or the other,” Carroll said. “If they make it through it, it makes them stronger.”
And their playing and life experiences made them players that Carroll and Schneider said they had targeted when the day began.
Taylor, listed at 6 feet 4, 267 pounds, had 8.5 sacks last season at Tennessee, which Schneider said was even more impressive considering he played much of the year with a stress fracture in his fibula for which he had surgery in January, when a titanium rod was put in his leg to hold it together.
Taylor visited the Seahawks in March shortly before such visits were banned due to NFL travel restrictions because of the coronavirus outbreak.
The Seahawks said that might have given them an advantage in feeling reassured about Taylor’s health compared to other teams who were not able to have their trainers look at him that close to the draft (Taylor attended the combine but did not work out).
“Who knows, if he’s healthy last year, where we are talking about drafting him?” Schneider said.
The move up for Taylor marked the fourth time since Carroll and Schneider arrived in 2010 that they had moved up in the first three rounds to draft a player.
The other three trades each netted players who have gone on to be big contributors: receivers Tyler Lockett (2015) and DK Metcalf (2019) and defensive tackle Jarran Reed (2016).
Lewis, listed at 6-2, 329, becomes the 19th offensive lineman on the roster. But Schneider said there was a simple reason for adding yet another player to the offensive front.
“Just trying to get as much competition as we possibly can to protect our quarterback,” Schneider said of Russell Wilson. “We think we have the best quarterback in the National Football League, and we have to figure out the best group to protect him.”
Wilson, in fact, got in touch with Lewis within minutes of his selection, telling him “we’re trying to win the Super Bowl over here.”
“He told me ‘you be ready,’ ” Lewis said. “He was real happy.”
So was Lewis at achieving what had seemed just a few years earlier such an unlikely dream. He had no scholarship offers coming out of high school in Canton, Miss., and had to attend junior college to get interest in colleges. But he had something of a thought that Seattle would take him.
He said he was playing the Madden football video game recently with a friend and chose the Seahawks, saying they are his favorite team to play due to their run-heavy style. His friend told him he was going to be drafted by the Seahawks.
“He called it out,” Lewis recounted excitedly on Friday.
Taylor likewise said he wasn’t surprised to be picked by Seattle given how well he felt his visit to the VMAC had gone — he was one of just two or three players who visited the Seahawks before NFL restrictions kicked in.
And his selection helps Seattle fulfill what had appeared to be the team’s biggest need of improving the pass rush.
Taylor played both defensive end and outside linebacker at Tennessee. According to Sports Info Solutions, he was in a three-point stance 51 percent of the time last season and a two-point stance the rest of the time.
“I can run, I can cover, I can do whatever you ask of a linebacker or a defensive end,” he said.
And Taylor said not to worry about his leg.
“I think the surgery helped me a lot,” he said. “My body feels so much better and my body is headed in the right direction of healing and everything going through that progression.”
Seattle on Thursday used its first-round pick on linebacker Jordyn Brooks of Texas Tech, and that they used their first two picks on defense spoke loudly to the desire to fix an area that has weakened considerably over the last two seasons.
Taylor turned 23 last month, and his selection gives Seattle two defensive players who spent four years playing in college and seemingly lots of experience to hit the ground ready to contribute as quickly as possible once what will be a most unique offseason ends and teams can again hit the field for training camp.
“We know he’s going to have a chance to contribute early,” Carroll said.
So could Lewis, who will become part of an especially intriguing competition at right guard.
Fluker is entering the final season of his contract that is due to pay him $2 million in 2020 with a $4.187 million cap hit. However, only $500,000 of that is in dead money, so the Seahawks would save the rest if the team released Fluker.
Lewis also took some snaps at center during practice in the Senior Bowl, and the Seahawks could view him as at least being able to fill in there in an emergency.
Lewis doesn’t care where he plays, considering the road he took to get to this point.
“I could have easily quit when I was in high school,” Lewis said of not having any scholarship offers.
Instead, he said he decided that his football journey was not over and he played well enough at NMCC to immediately begin earning college offers, eventually heading to LSU where he earned the nickname “Big Lew.”
Taylor, meanwhile, was able to take in the big day with his own son, Ka’maril, born in July 2018, while remembering his mother, Peggy Tyler.
Asked about his mother, Taylor immediately noted the date she died, May 2, 2013.
“That was my sophomore year of high school and I didn’t play football that year because that was a rough year for me,” he said.
Now, seven years later, he was not only in the NFL but had seen a team make a trade to move up just to get him.
“It’s exciting because they traded up to get me, so that means they must’ve really wanted me,” he said. “I’m ready to show them what I’ve got.”
Seattle will now have four picks left in rounds four to seven when the draft concludes Saturday — picks 133, 144, 148 and 214.