With the 2021 NFL Draft set to kick off in Cleveland on April 29, Seahawks general manager John Schneider will face one of the toughest challenges of his career due to limited draft capital.
As a result of three trades to acquire safety Jamal Adams, defensive end Carlos Dunlap, and guard Gabe Jackson, Seattle will enter the draft with a league-low three selections. Only one of those picks - No. 56 in the second round - comes in the first 100 selections, putting Schneider's renowned ability to trade down and recoup picks to the ultimate test.
How can Schneider and the Seahawks make the most of a difficult situation? It's anyone's guess how things will play out, but here's a look at three best-case scenarios as well as three potential doomsday scenarios on draft weekend.
Best Case Scenarios
Several talented prospects drop further than anticipated.
Such a development could potentially knock out two birds with one stone for Schneider and the Seahawks. If a player such as Virginia Tech cornerback Caleb Farley free falls deep into the second round, he’s an obvious top-10 talent if not for undergoing back surgery this offseason. Seattle has substantial long-term questions at the position and they may not be able to pass up on the former Hokie if they are confident in his medicals. The team could face a similar situation if one of the top center prospects or even an elite receiver prospect lasts longer than expected. It’s also possible – if not likely this year due to a dramatically altered pre-draft scouting process - another consensus first-round pick or two at a position of lesser need could surprisingly be available late in the second round. If those types of values are present, Schneider should be able to dangle pick No. 56 for quality compensation in return to help recoup draft capital.
Teams find themselves in a bidding war for the second tier of quarterbacks.
Speaking of trade down compensation, the NFL continues to be a quarterback-driven league. If the Seahawks want to maximize their potential return, they should be hoping Stanford’s Davis Mills, Texas A&M’s Kellen Mond, and/or Florida’s Kyle Trask remain on the board towards the back half of the second round. This could create an auction of sorts with other teams looking for a young signal caller jockeying for position to draft one of those players and if there’s a general manager built to capitalize on such a situation, it would be Schneider. Under such circumstances, it wouldn’t be out of the question for him to pry two additional picks from a prospective suitor aiming to trade up for a quarterback. In quick order, he could choose from a number of bids to help re-stock the team's draft pick arsenal.
Multiple quality centers and cornerbacks remain undrafted.
This would be another dream scenario for Schneider and Carroll. It would be much more difficult to justify trading down if Seattle’s two biggest areas of need have been picked down and only one or two players on their draft board remain available. There would be a lot of risk associated with making such a move - more on that in a bit. But if the Seahawks know they have flexibility and at least one of "their guys" should be available after sliding down to add a pick or two, it will make conducting business far easier.
Worst Case Scenarios
The draft board unfolds as expected, limiting trade down value.
If there’s a draft scenario that may be keeping Schneider up at night, it’s the prospect of having little to no interest from other teams in acquiring pick No. 56. Last year, he struggled trying to move down in the first round at No. 27 overall, eventually opting to sit pat and draft linebacker Jordyn Brooks. A late second rounder holds even less value. If the draft offers few surprises – the good news is that this seems very unlikely given unusual scouting practices this year coupled with the inability to get accurate medical assessments on players – it’s possible the Seahawks wouldn’t have many offers to field for their only pick in the first three rounds. This would force Schneider to either take far less value in return for the pick or do what he did last year by making a selection without trading down, neither of which would be ideal.
Out of desperation, teams trade up for quarterbacks earlier rather than later.
In most drafts, the second wave of quarterbacks doesn't start to come off the board until midway through day two. As mentioned earlier, that trend continuing would be beneficial to the Seahawks. But with five signal callers, including Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, and Justin Fields, all expected to go in the top 10 picks, quarterback-needy teams who aren't able to land one of those players may be eyeing the early second round or even the late first round to make a run at Davis, Mond, or Trask. Given the strength of the position in this draft class, it wouldn't be shocking if seven or eight quarterbacks were off the board in the first two rounds and if they are all gone before Seattle picks, Schneider will lose one of his greatest bargaining chips.
A run on centers and corners leaves the Seahawks grasping for straws.
This is the biggest issue with having just one pick in the first three rounds. Nobody knows how the draft will shake out and though this year's center class offers great talent and depth, there's a substantial drop off after the first 5-6 players come off the board. Cornerback isn't much different, as there's a group of 5-6 players that look to be head and shoulders above the rest of the group. This isn't to say Seattle can't get a quality player at either position in later rounds - they certainly could. Future starters may be found as late as the sixth or seventh round. As far as immediate contributors are concerned, however, if that first tier of players is gone by pick 56, the team will be hard-pressed to find one. Trading down would remain on the table and other positions could be under consideration, but at the risk of both position groups being picked down even further.