A few months ago, when the NFL calendar turned from postseason to draft season, cornerbacks were a popular player to mock to the Seahawks with one of their first few picks.
That apparent need, though, evaporated as quickly as it took Seahawks general manager John Schneider to call Washington and trade a fifth-round pick for Quinton Dunbar.
Or did it?
Like an awful lot of Seahawks position groups, while the present may seem set in Seattle’s secondary, the near future is more uncertain.
Both Dunbar and Shaquill Griffin, the starter at left cornerback, have just one year remaining on their contracts and each is likely to want pretty hefty extensions (that Dunbar wanted a new contract, resulting in reports he was planning to hold out of the team’s Offseason Team Activities, was part of the reason he was available from Washington in the first place).
The safety position is situated somewhat similarly. Starting strong safety Bradley McDougald is entering the final season of a three-year contract (with a $5.4 million cap hit but just $1.3 million in dead money) while free safety Quandre Diggs has two years remaining on his but with sizeable cap numbers ($5.1 million and $5.5 million) and no dead money either season.
So don’t rule out the Seahawks addressing the secondary in this week’s NFL draft, if not necessarily at the top and if not necessarily for the present but for the future.
As we continue our preview of the draft, here’s a look at Seattle’s secondary and some potential draft options.
Projected starters: Free safety Quandre Diggs, strong safety Bradley McDougald.
Key backups: Marquise Blair, Ugo Amadi, Lano Hill,
Key offseason losses: Tedric Thompson was waived and went unclaimed and is now a free agent.
Projected starters: Shaquill Griffin, Tre Flowers/Quinton Dunbar.
Key backups: Ugo Amadi, Neiko Thorpe, Brian Allen, Ryan Neal.
Key offseason losses: Akeem King is a free agent and is unsigned.
As noted above, Seattle’s starting base secondary for 2020 may be set — Diggs and McDougald at safety and Dunbar and Griffin at cornerbacks. Dunbar, though, will have to beat out incumbent Tre Flowers, who started the last two years on the right side. Flowers had some specific struggles in Seattle’s two playoff games, and the thought is Dunbar was brought in to compete with him on that side.
Could Flowers be a possibility as a big nickel if not used as a starter? Possibly, as the nickel spot remains uncertain — and if Seattle has a specific immediate draft need in the secondary it’s at nickel.
Amadi, who played both safety and corner last year. ended last season as the primary nickel and coach Pete Carroll said at the combine he would be the front-runner there going into 2020.
The safety spot seems set up for another year of McDougald and Diggs as the starters with Blair — a second-round pick last season — getting another year to learn behind them and fill in as necessary (and maybe also play in some specialty packages as he did increasingly at the end of last season) with Hill serving as depth.
Draft need (on scale of 1-10): 4 for safety, 5 for cornerback.
Potential draft fits
Seahawks draft aficionados may not need reminding that Seattle has never taken a cornerback higher than the third round since the arrival of Carroll and Schneider in 2010 (that was Griffin, in 2017, at pick 90).
Seattle has taken only two safeties since 2010 higher than it chose Griffin — Earl Thomas at 14 in 2010 and Blair a year ago at 47.
Odds are that Seattle addresses other positions than the secondary with its early picks — and it’s hard to see them devoting an early pick to what is their biggest need in the secondary, a nickel corner. But then, with the Seahawks, you never know.
Here’s a look at a few defensive backs who could prove intriguing to Seattle.
Xavier McKinney, Alabama: McKinney is usually considered possibly going as high as the mid first so he may not even be a real consideration. But if he lasts to 27, he’s the kind of defensive back Seattle could consider due to his versatility — which means he could be used immediately in a lot of different roles and groomed to take over later where he fits best. As noted by ESPN, McKinney played 100 or more snaps at four defensive spots last year — safety, cornerback, inside linebacker and outside linebacker.
Grant Delpit, LSU: Delpit, the Thorpe Award winner in 2019 as the best defensive back in college football, has been mocked to Seattle a few times at 27, and is considered able to play either free or strong long-term. NFLcom wrote of him that he also has “big nickel potential,’’ the kind of thing that could get him on the field immediately even if paired with veteran safeties.
Trevon Diggs, Alabama: Diggs is another who was a popular pick to mock to Seattle early on. That seems unlikely now with Dunbar in the fold, and given Seattle’s history drafting corners. But the 6-1, 207-pounder fits all the Seattle requirements of being big and long (he has 32-3/4-inch arms and he has played in the slot quite a bit – 42 percent of snaps in 2018 according to Sports Info Solutions — meaning he could be an immediate fit there. The younger brother of Bills receiver Stefon Diggs, he also is a good returner.
Ashtyn Davis, Cal: The Seahawks met with Davis at the combine. The 6-1, 202-pounder is regarded more as a second-day pick and able to play either safety or corner but he mostly played a deep safety role at Cal.
Kyle Dugger, Lenior-Rhyne: The Division-II standout is one of the bigger curiosities in the draft. Dugger has all the measureables — listed at 6-1, 217 — but there will be the obvious question of his level of competition. He also has played cornerback in the past and that might especially intrigue Seattle. Was also a standout returner in college with six punt returns for touchdowns.
Next up: Special teams.