With the Jaguars set to go on the clock with the first overall selection on April 29, the 2021 NFL Draft is less than a week 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 five of the series, defensive tackle stands out as an overlooked area of need for the Seahawks after losing Jarran Reed. Aiming to find a long-term successor for the departed starter, which prospects could the team consider to help fortify the defensive front for years to come?
Second Round - Pick No. 56
Daviyon Nixon, Iowa
Arguably the most athletic defensive tackle in this class, the 6-foot-3, 313-pound Nixon ran the 40-yard dash in a blazing 4.90 seconds and posted respectable times in the 3-cone and short shuttle. Speed and quickness were calling cards on his college film, as an explosive first step allowed him to penetrate gaps and wreak havoc both as a run stuffer and as an interior pass rusher. Over his final two seasons with the Hawkeyes, he amassed 19 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks, including 5.0 sacks in just eight games in 2020. He also took back an interception 71 yards for a touchdown during the 2020 season, showcasing his rare athletic talents. He will need refinement technique-wise with run fits, but if he manages to slip to 56th overall, Seattle would be foolish not to consider snagging him as Reed's replacement.
Levi Onwuzurike, Washington
Another twitchy athlete for the defensive tackle position, Onwuzurike tantalized during his time with the Huskies, showing flashes of being a disruptive pass rusher. Unfortunately, he never achieved consistency in that department, producing 7.0 combined sacks in his first three collegiate seasons before opting out in 2020. Still, from a traits standpoint, he has the ingredients to become a standout 3-tech in the league right away, as he possesses elite quickness, heavy hands, and a muscular 290-pound frame. With added weight and refined hand technique, he could also develop into a versatile defender who can play nose at the next level as well. His college stats suggest he's a day three player, but his skill set and immense upside should push him into the second or third round and he should be on Seattle's short list at the position.
Milton Williams, Louisiana Tech
After beginning his college career as a defensive end, Williams transitioned to defensive tackle as a junior and put up decent numbers with 45 tackles and 4.5 sacks in 10 games. Entering draft season, he was viewed by many as a solid day three prospect, but he wowed at Louisiana Tech's pro day, running a 4.67-second 40-yard dash and a sub-7.00-second 3-cone drill at 284 pounds. He also posted a ridiculous 38 1/2-inch vertical jump, exhibiting rare explosiveness for a player of his size. This has caused him to become one of the fastest risers up draft boards and it's possible he could now be a day two selection. Teams can overdraft players based on athletic traits and Williams wasn't a dominant pass rusher in college, so it's possible he could fall in that category. At the same time, he has a unique skill set that may be too enticing for a team like Seattle to pass up if available at 56 overall.
Alim McNeill, North Carolina State
Though McNeill doesn't quite stack up athletically compared to players such as Nixon or Williams, the 6-foot-2, 317-pound defender can be a handful to block in the trenches playing the nose or 3-tech role. Against the run, he's stout at the point of attack, plays with sound leverage due to a natural low center of gravity, and has a powerful lower body that allows him to drive opposing blockers into the backfield. He also has plus-short area quickness for his size, which has allowed him to provide contributions as a pass rusher for the Wolfpack. His lack of length (32 5/8-inch arms) could knock him down draft boards for some teams and he only produced one sack during the 2020 season, but his blend of size, quickness, and versatility should make him one of the first tackles to hear his name called and he would be a fun player to pair with Poona Ford.
Fourth Round - Pick No. 129
Osa Odighizuwa, UCLA
The Seahawks typically prefer their 3-tech defensive tackles to weigh between 290 and 310 pounds and Odighizuwa only weighed 282 pounds at UCLA's pro day. But there may not have been a more impressive defensive linemen pound-for-pound at the Senior Bowl than the former Bruins standout. Despite being just 6-foot-2, he measured in with 34 1/8-inch arms and an 84-inch wingspan and put that length on display while winning battles in the trenches as a run defender throughout the week in Mobile. He also flashed the ability to win one-on-one as a pass rusher with power as well as quickness and finesse using a set of developed counter moves. There's a chance he's gone before day three, but if he falls into the fourth round, Odighizuwa could help fill the void left behind by Reed's exit immediately.
Darius Stills, West Virginia
Though undersized at 6-foot-1, 280 pounds with short 32 1/4-inch arms, Stills' lack of height actually proves beneficial winning the leverage battle, he's a twitchy athlete who exhibits a consistent burst off the line of scrimmage, and he excels at splitting gaps with a quick first step. At West Virginia's pro day, he posted a sub-5.00-second 40-yard dash time and 7.21-second 3-cone drill, both respectable times for a defensive tackle. He's a serviceable run defender who will need to harness his run fits and sometimes his aggressive nature gets the best of him maintaining gap responsibilities, but his pass rushing upside coupled with a relentless motor would make this a very intriguing day three selection for Seattle.
Jaylen Twyman, Pittsburgh
Looking to follow in the footsteps of his idol Aaron Donald, Twyman emerged as one of the nation's premier pass rushing defensive tackles for Pittsburgh in 2019. Boasting impressive push-pull and swim moves, he found his way to the quarterback for 10.5 sacks as a redshirt sophomore, earning Second-Team All-American nods. He opted out of the 2020 season, but reminded scouts and executives of his talents at his pro day by repping 225 pounds 40 times and posting a 32 1/2-inch vertical jump at 300 pounds. His other athletic testing wasn't near as impressive, however, as he ran a slow 5.40-second 40-yard dash and 8.00-second 3-cone drill. Size and athletic limitations will likely drop Twyman into day three, but his refined pass rushing toolbox could set him up for success in a 4-3 scheme such as the one the Seahawks employ.
Tommy Togiai, Ohio State
There are a few significant red flags when evaluating Togiai as an NFL prospect, including his short 31 3/4-inch arms and 296-pound frame. He's also had his share of issues discarding blocks and had limited production earlier in his college career. But athletically, he plays with excellent short-area quickness and explosiveness, as illustrated by his 7.21-second 3-cone drill and 32-inch vertical jump, and improved hand technique allows him to play above his weight class. He's active at the point of attack against the run and plays with a relentless motor snap-to-snap, which helped him corral quarterbacks on secondary efforts for sacks on numerous occasions with the Buckeyes. As a day three prospect, Togiai would be a solid alternative for the Seahawks as they pursue long-term help at the 3-tech position.
Seventh Round - Pick No. 250
Khyiris Tonga, BYU
In a different era, Tonga may have gone as early as the second or third round. But in today's NFL, big-bodied run stuffers simply aren't valued as much as they used to be. While Tonga has flashed at times bullying opponents as a pass rusher with 8.5 career sacks for the Cougars, he's unlikely to impact games much in that regard as a pro and a step up in competition will limit his effectiveness. With that said, the hulking 6-foot-2, 325-pound defender still offers value as an early down space-eating nose tackle and he will surprise with the number of plays he makes as a tackler down the line of scrimmage. At worst, he has the tools to become a reliable rotational nose tackle and if he finds greater consistency, he could evolve into a starter down the road, making him well worth a late round flier by Seattle.
Mustafa Johnson, Colorado
If Johnson would have been in the draft after the 2018 season, he likely would have been drawing a bit more buzz, as he impressed with 8.5 sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss for the Buffalos as a sophomore. His production has waned over the past two years, however, as he's generated 7.5 combined sacks during that time and battled a few injuries in the process. He's a high-energy, athletic interior defender who has thrived because of his effort at the college level, but at only 290 pounds with short arms, he had issues succeeding against stronger Pac-12 offensive linemen that will only be exacerbated in the NFL. Since he has shown promise as a rusher and would be best-suited playing the 3-tech role in a four-man front, Seattle would be a solid landing spot in the seventh round or as a priority free agent.
Ta'Quon Graham, Texas
At 6-foot-3, 292 pounds with 35-inch arms, Graham is right in Seattle's wheelhouse in terms of size and length for the 3-tech role. He also has some intriguing athletic traits, as he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.89 seconds, posted a 32 1/2-inch vertical, and benched 225 pounds 32 times. On the field, he's far less polished from a technical standpoint and battled chronic issues playing too upright, though he did manage to produce 21.5 tackles for loss and 6.0 sacks in four seasons for the Longhorns despite these deficiencies. He's a clear size/traits project who will need to be developed and may not be ready to see the field right away, but the Seahawks have had success with such prospects under line coach Clint Hurtt.