So, a linebacker for the Seahawks in the first round of the NFL draft Thursday night, huh?
That’s not something that anyone saw coming, with talk centering on defensive ends, offensive linemen and running backs.
It’s not something the Seahawks have often done. Jordyn Brooks of Texas Tech, taken No. 27 overall, is just the fourth player listed as a linebacker they have taken in the first round. The others are Aaron Curry (2009), Anthony Simmons (1998) and Tony Woods (1987). Bruce Irvin, taken in the first round in 2012, was listed as a defensive end.
But take a step back, and the pick makes more sense than it did at first glance.
Here are three thoughts on how it happened, and what the Seahawks like about Brooks:
Seahawks wanted to trade, but still happy
Brooks’ drafting was the first time the Seahawks used their original first-round pick since 2011. They have either traded the pick for a player or down to get more picks.
General manager John Schneider said they had hoped again to get more picks, adding he was on the phone with Green Bay — a team the Seahawks pulled off a deal with last year to move down in the first round — before the Packers made a deal with Miami to move up from the 30th pick and take quarterback Jordan Love at 26, a spot before where Seattle selected (with the Seahawks presumably set to get the 30th pick and add a pick or two in a later round).
The Packers were apparently working multiple deals and was worried that the Colts would move up and potentially take Love, instead.
Talk around the league is also that the Ravens were prepared to take Brooks with their pick at 28, where they instead took linebacker Patrick Queen.
Schneider said the deal fell through at the last minute.
“We were ready,” Schneider said, saying he was on the phone with Green Bay general manager Brian Gutekunst, who told him he had a better deal. “It happens.”
Schneider noted the market for trading down wasn’t all that big. There were just four trades, and none until the 13th pick.
“I was very surprised,” Schneider said. “I thought that more people would do things.”
Schneider said he didn’t think the lack of activity had to do with the virtual aspect of this draft put in place because of the coronavirus pandemic. Coaches and GMs worked remotely from their homes.
But resist the notion that Brooks was a consolation prize. Teams spend months going over the possibilities, and when one plan is foiled another comes into play.
More surprising to many observers is that many of the names that had been associated with the Seahawks — such as Penn State rush end Yetur Gross-Matos, Iowa defensive end A.J. Epenesa, Houston offensive tackle Josh Jones and Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor — were all still on the board when they picked.
Trade or no trade, the Seahawks had plenty of options.
They decided Brooks was the best one.
As always, we’ll find out in a year or two if they made the right decision.
Brooks adds young legs at LB
That the 6-foot, 240-pound Brooks is listed as a middle linebacker made the pick more confusing, because the Seahawks have maybe the best in the NFL at that spot in Bobby Wagner. And Wagner is entering the first season of a three-year extension signed last summer.
But Wagner also turns 30 in July, and his inside-linebacking counterpart, K.J. Wright, will be 31 in July and is entering the final season of his two-year deal.
The Seahawks have second-year player Cody Barton, who is able to play all three linebacker spots. But the depth is iffy, with Ben Burr-Kirven seeing little playing time last season and Mychal Kendricks appearing unlikely to be back. Shaquem Griffin seems to be headed to a role as a situational pass-rusher.
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and Schneider said Brooks, 22, can play any of the team’s three linebacker spots, providing depth for the present and options for the future.
Drafting for the future might be a bigger deal this year because practice time could be limited due to coronavirus-related restrictions, which might slow the transition for first-year players.
Schneider called Brooks the best player available, and this might have been a year when going that route makes more sense than ever.
Carroll confirmed that idea, saying the team had filled needs in free agency and “that allows us to be in this draft and take guys that bring us maybe the highest-end opportunity, because we’re not stuck on having to take a player at one particular position.”
The Seahawks appear to have seen a player they liked a lot, figured he can help out at different spots — and special teams — immediately, and they’ll sort the rest out later.
“We always need to get faster and tougher on defense no matter what position,” Carroll said.
Brooks seems to fit that bill, having run a 4.54-second 40-yard dash at the NFL combine. Brooks’ coach at Texas Tech, Matt Wells, was an assistant at Utah State when Wagner played there. Wells once called Brooks “the next Bobby Wagner.”
And what did Wagner think of drafting a middle linebacker?
According to Carroll, he immediately called and asked for Brooks’ number.
‘We love his attitude’
If scouts questioned aspects of Brooks’ game — he’s generally considered better against the run than the pass, and particularly in man coverage — what no one questioned are the intangibles.
Brooks was as consistent and productive as could be at Texas Tech, starting 45 of 47 games in his career and making 372 tackles in four seasons.
“We found a guy that could really check all the boxes,” Carroll said. “We love his attitude.”
Schneider noted that Brooks “was homeless for a while there,” and how he overcame that was further proof that he’d be a good fit.
Brooks, who has a twin sister, and his family had to “find a way” to get through that period of their life, Schneider said.
“And he came across like they were able to handle it,” Schneider said. “They stuck together. They were able to figure it out.”
The tape, the biographical info and the meetings with Brooks painted a picture of the kind of player the Seahawks want to get in their locker room.
“He’s bound and determined to make it,” Schneider said. “He’s overcome a lot, and he’s got a ton of grit.”
He’s also confident.
Brooks said he was surprised to be picked by the Seahawks because he had not heard from them since the combine, but he said, “I wasn’t surprised by the first round.”
Confidence and perseverance? The Seahawks will take that.
The Seahawks might have not contacted Brooks in part to try to keep their interest in him as quiet as possible.
Schneider said he actually wasn’t at the meeting the team held with Brooks at the combine because he had other commitments.
“I totally stayed away from him,” Schneider said, saying the Seahawks had met with Brooks at the Senior Bowl and by the time of the combine they felt they had all the info they needed.
“It just kind of fit and fell just right,” Carroll said.