Given the months and months of build-up to the annual NFL draft, the rush to summarize a team’s rookie draft class in a few sentences and stamp a letter grade on it has never quite made much sense to me.
In the past, I’ve compared this process to patrons at a restaurant complimenting (or complaining to) the chef based on the menu, rather than waiting to actually taste the food.
In much this same way, it obviously takes time to properly evaluate a draft. Given all of the complexities of the 2020 NFL draft, specifically, this is especially true.
So, while we cannot skip years ahead to know for certain which players will ultimately exceed or fail to live up to expectations in the NFL, we can provide a much deeper dive into each team’s rookie class.
Therefore, in a 32-part series, NFLDraftScout.com will be providing a detailed breakdown of each of the NFL teams’ rookie hauls, following the original draft order. Each team will be evaluated on the quality, quantity and relative safety of their draft classes (including undrafted free agents), with specific players recognized as Best Player, Best Value and Best Project, culminating in one “final” grade.
Today’s team: Seattle Seahawks
Head Coach: Pete Carroll
General Manager: John Schneider
Players selected in 2020:
Round 1, Pick 27 overall: LB Jordyn Brooks, Texas Tech
Round 2, Pick 48 overall: DE Darrell Taylor, Tennessee
Round 3, Pick 69 overall: OG Damien Lewis, LSU
Round 4, Pick 133 overall: TE Colby Parkinson, Stanford
Round 4, Pick 144 overall: RB DeeJay Dallas, Miami
Round 5, Pick 148 overall: DE Alton Robinson, Syracuse
Round 6, Pick 214 overall: WR Freddie Swain, Florida
Round 7, Pick 251 overall: TE/WR Stephen Sullivan, LSU
Key Undrafted Free Agents:
QB Anthony Gordon, Washington State
CB Gavin Heslop, Stony Brook
S Chris Miller, Baylor
CB Debione Renfro, Texas A&M
RB Anthony Jones, Florida International
Overview of the Seahawks’ 2020 draft:
To say that the Seahawks have approached the annual NFL draft differently than most clubs is putting it mildly. In an era when most teams are building around their own passing game and defending others, the Seahawks have doggedly stuck to a heavy running game as the crux of their offense and a relatively simple base 4-3 defense with three traditional off-ball linebackers, rather than flooding the field with defensive backs to counter opposing multi-receiver attacks. To use a simple analogy, while most of the NFL is developing sportscars, the Seahawks are sticking with their one-ton 4x4 pickup truck to mash opponents. There is some genius in this contrasting approach, with similarly-built run-heavy offenses in San Francisco, Baltimore, Buffalo and Tennessee pushing into the playoffs, just as Seattle has in eight of the nine seasons that Pete Carroll and John Schneider have worked together. Taking a different strategy does not often result in positive reviews from the media, which is perhaps part of the reason why Seattle is an easy target for annual criticism in the draft. This is a club that had traded out of their original first round pick the past eight years running, recognizing that the players they valued will likely be seen by others as reaches. The Seahawks thought they had a deal in place this year to do the same but Green Bay, instead, wound up trading with New England to take Utah State quarterback Jordan Love, leaving Seattle to take their top-rated remaining player, Jordyn Brooks, at No. 27 overall. In part because he plays linebacker and not defensive end – Seattle’s stated top priority throughout the offseason – the selection was immediately panned locally and nationally. The Seahawks rebounded with two clear schematic matches in highly-productive edge rushers Darrell Taylor and Alton Robinson (a personal favorite) later in the draft, however, and sprinkled in a variety of skill-position talent at all shapes and sizes to help Russell Wilson, as well. Third round guard Damien Lewis will get overlooked – it is the nature of the position – but he may wind up seeing as much time on the field as a rookie as any of Seattle’s draft picks. Medical questions with top picks Brooks and Taylor make this a boom-or-bust draft for the Seahawks.
Best Player of the Seahawks’ 2020 Draft: LB Jordyn Brooks
Given that he did NOT crack my personal Top 100 Big Board, one might assume that I hated Seattle’s selection of Brooks. I do believe that he comes with medical risk, having undergone surgeries to his right shoulder twice after both his freshman and senior seasons at Texas Tech. Unable to compete at the Senior Bowl due to his recovery and with even less medical information circulating in the scouting community than normal with Pro Days and the Combine re-check largely cancelled, Brooks did not generate much national buzz in the build-up to the draft, despite posting eye-popping numbers (108 tackles, including 20 tackles for loss in just 11 games as a senior and blazing through the 40-yard dash in 4.54 seconds as a prototypical 6-0, 240 pounds. Those are eerily similar numbers to those put up by Seahawks’ All-Pro middle linebacker Bobby Wagner, who missed his own Combine workout back in 2012 due to illness but was clocked in the 4.4s at his Utah State Pro Day after excelling in the same scheme for the same coach (Matt Wells) as Brooks did at Texas Tech. While Brooks could ultimately supplant Wagner (who turns 30 in June) in the middle of Seattle’s defense but he likely will play outside as a rookie, which is where he spent his first three seasons in Lubbock. While possible that Brooks may step in and compete immediately at the strongside role that Mychal Kendricks played last year, the rookie’s range and experience in coverage playing in the pass-happy Big 12 may make him a better fit at weakside linebacker, where veteran K.J. Wright has quietly proven every bit as reliable as his buddy Wagner during their time together in Seattle. Wright, however, is entering his 10 season (and last year under contract) and underwent shoulder surgery of his own during the offseason. That puts Brooks in position to splash immediately. If healthy - and the Seahawks are obviously convinced Brooks is - he will do so.
Best Value of the Seahawks’ 2020 Draft: DE Darrell Taylor
Like Brooks, Taylor comes with some medical questions which contributed to his still being on the board midway through the second round despite finishing each of the past two seasons among the most disruptive edge defenders in the SEC. The 6-4, 267 pound Taylor recorded 21 tackles for loss and 16.5 sacks over the past two years and told me at the Senior Bowl that he was expecting to prove the best of the pass rushers invited to the game this year. Instead, Taylor’s leg was flagged and it was discovered that he played through a stress fracture all year long. Taylor underwent surgery in late January to place a titanium rod in his lower leg, which kept him from working out at the Combine. With Tennessee’s Pro Day among those cancelled this spring, Taylor was essentially in medical purgatory from a draft perspective, contributing to his lack of pre-draft buzz, just like it did for Brooks. Taylor was able to visit the Seahawks’ facility on a private visit prior to the NFL ending these out of an abundance of caution with the COVID-19 pandemic, giving the Seahawks’ medical team more insight than most clubs. If healthy, Taylor possesses the burst, bend and closing speed to rank among Seattle’s top pass rushers immediately, as does fifth rounder Alton Robinson. That isn’t saying much, of course. The Seahawks tied with Atlanta and Detroit for 31 in the NFL in sacks a year ago (28) with just Miami (23) worse – and that was with Jadeveon Clowney on board. I will say this about Seattle's rookie edge rushers - which is probably why I'm higher on their overall draft class than many - of the non-first round pass rushers in the 2020 draft, I thought Taylor and Robinson were the two best fits for Seattle. I said as much on the air with my buddy Ian Furness of Seattle's Sports Radio 950 KJR just a few hours before the Seahawks traded up nine spots to nab Taylor, with Robinson and his 19.5 career sacks (in three years) a steal at No. 148 overall.
Best Project of the Seahawks’ 2020 Draft: TE/WR Stephen Sullivan
Given Seattle’s focus on running the ball, the Seahawks incorporate tight ends as much as any team in the league, employing a Baskin Robbins-like variety at the position that has ranged from jumbo blocker George Fant (essentially an extra offensive tackle) to relatively diminutive H-back Jacob Hollister to more traditional do-it-all types like veteran Greg Olsen, who signed during the offseason. As such, it should not come as a surprise that the Seahawks drafted a couple, thought to be clear, both of them - Colby Parkinson and Sullivan – are as likely to line up as massive slot receivers as they are to be handling in-line blocking duties. Parkinson is clearly the more polished of the two but the Seahawks were enamored enough with Sullivan’s upside that they traded a 2021 sixth round choice for the right to move back into the 2020 draft to make him their final selection, similar to what the club did a year ago with slot receiver John Ursua (who made the team). The 6-5, 245 pound Sullivan began at LSU as a wide receiver but switched to tight end in an effort to get more playing time. He caught just 12 passes for the Tigers but did enough to earn an invitation to the Senior Bowl, where he quickly became one of my favorite sleepers in this class. Sullivan is a legitimate project who won’t likely see the field for the Seahawks as a rookie. He offers an intriguing blend of size, soft hands and build-up speed, however, and was personally endorsed to Carroll from LSU head coach Ed Orgeron, who was part of the former’s staff back at Southern Cal. Given Russell Wilson’s deep ball accuracy and Seattle’s need to surround him with playmaking pass-catchers, this is an investment that could pay off big someday.
Overall Grade for the Seahawks’ 2020 Draft: B
Previous 2020 NFL Draft Report Cards: Cincinnati Bengals |Washington Redskins | Detroit Lions | New York Giants | Miami Dolphins | Los Angeles Chargers | Carolina Panthers | Arizona Cardinals | Jacksonville Jaguars | Cleveland Browns | New York Jets | Las Vegas Raiders | Indianapolis Colts | Tampa Bay Buccaneers | Denver Broncos | Atlanta Falcons | Dallas Cowboys | Pittsburgh Steelers | Chicago Bears | Los Angeles Rams | Philadelphia Eagles | Buffalo Bills | New England Patriots | New Orleans Saints | Houston Texans | Minnesota Vikings | Seattle Seahawks | Baltimore Ravens | Green Bay Packers | Tennessee Titans | San Francisco 49ers | Kansas City Chiefs