After agreeing to trade Russell Wilson to the Broncos (pending Wilson’s approval), the Seahawks are armed with more ammunition than Rambo in First Blood. While I’m certainly not an advocate of trading a franchise quarterback who’s among the top 10 at his position, the state of the Seahawks roster was far from being in contention, even if Wilson’s flaw-masking powers have yet to subside as he drifts into his mid 30s.
And now the Seahawks can deploy their own type of rebuild. Netting two first-round picks, two second-rounders and relatively youthful pieces in Drew Lock and Noah Fant in the Wilson trade will kickstart those efforts.
At the forefront of this new era in Seattle football will be the No. 9 overall pick (assuming this is the pick in the deal) in the 2022 NFL Draft, the premier chip added in the Wilson deal. What options do the Seahawks have?
Option 1: Malik Willis, QB, Liberty
For as much as I was a Lock believer in the 2019 draft, I am not a believer in the Seahawks trading away Wilson to entrench Lock as their starter for the 2022 season. Part of a camp battle? Definitely. Week 1 starter? Sure. But long-term option at quarterback? No. That’d be ridiculous. That’s not the plan. I can almost guarantee it.
All that means the Seahawks should absolutely still be in the quarterback market at No. 9 overall. And Willis is the most Wilson-like quarterback in this class. Moments of improvisational brilliance, the arm to consistently threaten defenses vertically and, of course, the stunning athleticism needed to win with his legs as a scrambler and designed runner in the NFL. Only a select few quarterbacks can do the latter. Willis has the physical gifts to be able to.
With Lock, still a relatively young quarterback who does have 21 NFL starts under his belt, the Seahawks would have a placeholder during any portion of a likely needed redshirt season for Willis. I couldn’t get behind any other prospect this high in Round 1 for Seattle.
Option 2: Any of the top 3 offensive tackle prospects
There’s a reasonable chance the Seahawks will be staring at one of Evan Neal from Alabama, NC State’s Ikem Ekwonu, or Mississippi State’s Charles Cross at No. 9 overall. Duane Brown is 36 in August and free agent next week. Isaiah Prince, the team’s fifth-round pick in 2018, is also ready to hit free agency. Brandon Shell’s going to be a free agent too. There are only former late-round and undrafted free agents under contract for 2022 at that position. In other words, the Seahawks, a team that seemingly placed a low priority on the offensive line and was simply not good at drafting prospects up front during the Wilson era, are barren at offensive tackle.
That means one of the three best prospects in this class at that position would be the most sensible. Doing so would align the club to take a quarterback in Round 2 — or after a trade back into the late stages of Round 1 — like, say, Matt Corral, whose collegiate coach, Lane Kiffin coached with Pete Carroll at USC in the early 2000s.
Neal probably represents the most upside because of his mammoth size and movement ability. Cross is a tremendous pass protector with smooth athletic gifts who won’t turn 22 until November of his rookie year. Ekwonu is a highly mobile blocker who generates a scary amount of torque in the run game and possesses elite recovery skills.
Option 3: Legitimately go “Best Player Available”
Even with Wilson, the Seahawks felt closer to rebuilding than anything else. And this trade signals they mostly agree with that.
Without an established quarterback, an offensive tackle room devoid of even one marquee talent, minimal threatening pass rushers up front — outside of 33-year-old Carlos Dunlap and, to a lesser degree, Poona Ford on the inside — and a secondary in dire need of reconstruction, I wouldn’t call any position “undraftable” for the Seahawks at No. 9 overall outside of a specialist or running back.
Who could that be then? One of Oregon pass rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux or LSU cornerback Derek Stingley could conceivably sink to the back-end of the Top 10. Maybe No. 9 overall would be the time for the first receiver to come off the board? How about Cincinnati cornerback Ahmad Gardner or the high-upside appeal of Georgia edge rusher Travon Walker?
The Seahawks are rebuilding — and it may not be a complete teardown — rebuilding clubs shouldn’t get too picky positionally in the first round, although the depth of each position group must be considered, and edge rusher and receiver are particularly deep in this year’s draft.