With the Jaguars set to go on the clock with the first overall selection on April 29, the 2021 NFL Draft is less than three weeks away as a new class of players will be ushered into the league.
Due to a series of trades, including acquiring safety Jamal Adams from the Jets for a pair of first-round picks and a third-round pick, the Seahawks will enter the festivities with only three total selections. Making the situation worse, only one of those picks falls in the first 120 selections, limiting the possibility of landing a blue chip talent.
Based on general manager John Schneider's history, it would be an absolute stunner if Seattle doesn't add multiple picks during the draft by trading down and/or sending future draft picks to get back into the draft. But for this exercise, I will be searching for viable alternatives for the Seahawks to pick at each position group with their three native selections.
In part two of the series, cornerback remains a position of need for the Seahawks both in the short and long-term, particularly on the outside. Adhering to the team's 32-inch arm threshold, which prospects could the team consider to help bolster the secondary moving forward?
Second Round - Pick No. 56
Ifeatu Melifonwu, Syracuse
From a size and length standpoint, there may not be a cornerback in this class that fulfills Seattle's prototypical build for an outside corner than Melifonwu, who stands 6-foot-3, weighs 205 pounds, and has 32 1/4-inch arms. He's also a freak athlete, as he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.48 seconds and showed off his explosiveness with a 41 1/2-inch vertical and 134-inch broad jump. He can be a bit of an adventure in off-man coverage at this stage and doesn't have elite change of direction skills, but he thrives using his long arms and physical mentality in press coverage, he has shown improving ball skills in spurts, and he's a reliable tackler who limits yards after the catch when he does allow completions against him. There may be a big of learning curve for him technique-wise in some schemes, but he has the upside to become a perennial Pro Bowler with proper coaching.
Tyson Campbell, Georgia
While he's a bit unpolished compared to even Melifonwu, the 6-foot-1, 193-pound Campbell may have as high of a ceiling as any cornerback in this draft class. Athletically, he stacks up favorably against most of his peers, as he ran a sizzling 4.37-second 40-yard dash and posted a respectable 7.15-second 3-cone drill. There are obvious flaws in his game, including issues with getting his head around to find the football and battling balance issues transitioning out of breaks in coverage. But these are coachable issues and his fluidity in the secondary allows him to mask many of these deficiencies. He plays with physicality and his ball skills improved substantially during his three years with the Bulldogs. If the right team picks the former Florida state track champion, he's another player who offers Pro Bowl or even All-Pro potential.
Benjamin St-Juste, Minnesota
Entering the draft season, most draft pundits had St-Juste penciled in as a day three selection. He didn't have a single interception in three collegiate seasons and was hovering under the radar. But he put on a clinic in Mobile at the Senior Bowl, sticking to receivers and using his impressive length to swat away numerous passes during practice sessions as well as the actual all-star event. Then, he turned in a jaw-dropping pro day performance, as the 6-foot-3, 202-pound defender ran the 40 in 4.51 seconds and dominated agility drills with a sizzling 6.63-second 3-cone drill and 4.00-second short shuttle. While some teams may not value him as a day two pick, his background as a press corner playing similar techniques and physical presence against the run should push him towards the top of Seattle's wish list at the position.
Paulson Adebo, Stanford
If Adebo would have left Stanford a year early, there's a chance he may have been a day two selection a year ago. But he opted to return for his senior year, only to choose to opt out because of the pandemic, leaving plenty of questions for scouts. But he silenced those doubters when Adebo ran the 40-yard dash in 4.42 seconds and eclipsed 10 feet on the broad jump at his pro day. Most importantly, he also flashed his elite ball skills during drill work, deflecting several passes and reeling in a handful of interceptions. The 6-foot-1, 190 pound defender showcased those abilities in Saturdays during the prior two seasons, producing 38 pass deflections and eight interceptions during that span. His length, athleticism, and ball-hawking prowess should put him on the Seahawks radar as a second or third round option if he's still available.
Fourth Round - Pick No. 129
Trill Williams, Syracuse
Prior to opting out for the rest of the season in November and undergoing ankle surgery, Williams was actually Pro Football Focus' second-highest graded slot cornerback in college football. But at 6-foot-1 and nearly 200 pounds, his physical stature suggests he should be lined up on the outside in the NFL. He's a capable playmaker, as illustrated by his three defensive touchdowns for the Orange, and has shown himself willing to step up and make plays against the run with 93 tackles. In an effort to prove he's fully recovered, he ran his 40 in the low 4.4s, produced a 36-inch vertical jump, and also put up an impressive 20 reps on the bench press. His arm length didn't quite meet Seattle's threshold and he has some technical issues that need cleaned up, but his physical makeup and playing style could make him an intriguing project for coach Pete Carroll.
Robert Rochell, Central Arkansas
Rochell is on the smaller side for consideration as an outside corner in Seattle's defense, measuring 5-foot-11 and 7/8 inches and weighing 195 pounds. He's also coming from the FCS level playing against Southland Conference competition and the team hasn't often picked small school prospects. But the Seahawks also covet elite athletic traits and Rochell oozes with them, as he ran a 4.39-second 40-yard dash, a 6.83-second 3-cone drill, and a 4.08-second short shuttle. He also posted a 43-inch vertical jump and 133-inch broad jump. A hamstring injury kept him from showcasing what he could do at the Senior Bowl and he may be a multi-year project grasping the kick-step technique coached by Carroll, but his athleticism and natural coverage skills may be too good for the team to pass up on drafting him on day three.
Keith Taylor, Washington
Due to the talent in front of him in the secondary and a COVID-19 shortened season in 2020, Taylor only started 19 games for the Huskies and his overall production wasn't anything special. He didn't record a single interception and produced 10 pass deflections over four seasons, making him somewhat of an unknown upon arrival at the Senior Bowl. But in Mobile, the 6-foot-2 Taylor impressed in one-on-one drills, playing sticky coverage and using his length and instincts to break up multiple passes. Given his versatility, size, and willingness to make plays against the run, there may not have been a corner who did more to help his draft stock in Mobile and if he remains available on day three, he looks to be a strong fit for the Seahawks' scheme and could be a candidate to resume his career in the Pacific Northwest.
Seventh Round - Pick No. 250
Israel Mukuamu, South Carolina
Mukuamu presents another lengthy, versatile prospect with upside late on day three. At 6-foot-3, he's one of the tallest cornerbacks in this year's draft class and used that size to his advantage in a variety of roles for the Gamecocks, including playing "big" slot against tight ends. While his pro day numbers suggest otherwise, on the field, he isn't as fluid or natural of an athlete as many other players on this list in coverage and there are clear and obvious footwork-related issues that must be corrected. He may have a bit more trouble sticking with athletic receivers on the outside, creating questions about his positional fit at the next level. But at the very least, he would give the Seahawks another big nickel alternative with good ball skills and could develop into a starting outside cornerback in time.
Jason Pinnock, Pittsburgh
While his athleticism doesn't always show on his college film, the 6-foot-1, 204-pound Pinnock helped his stock a bit with a surprisingly solid pro day performance. He ran the 40 in a respectable 4.52 seconds, turned in a quick 6.93-second 3-cone drill, and posted a 38 1/2-inch vertical jump, exceeding expectations. He's a physical player who plays at his best in zone, as illustrated by his success in coach Pat Narduzzi's quarters (Cover 4) scheme. Per Touchdown Wire's Doug Farrar, he surrendered only two catches on 13 targets for 36 yards, no touchdowns, and an opponent passer rating of 66.7 while picking off two passes in those looks. While he may not have the speed or quickness to be a standout man cover corner, his success in a zone-heavy scheme could make him an ideal late day three target for the Seahawks.
Nahshon Wright, Oregon State
The tallest corner in this year's class at 6-foot-4, Wright naturally finds his way onto this list even though he looks to be a long way away from being ready to play on Sundays. While he has some intriguing athletic traits, including running a speedy 4.46-second 40-yard dash, his change of direction skills don't stack up against most of his cornerback peers. He's tight-hipped and has his share of issues changing direction fluidly, which was exhibited with poor 3-cone drill and short shuttle times. Only 183 pounds, he also needs to hit a weight room, as he produced just six reps on the bench press. Wright has some quality football skills to work with, as he picked off five passes over the past two seasons, but he may be better suited as an undrafted priority signing due to an unrefined overall game.
Previous "Finding Seahawks" Positional Previews: Centers