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 six of the series, Seattle has already traded for Gabe Jackson to team up with Damien Lewis in the interior. But with Lewis capable of moving to center, could the team take advantage of a deep, talented guard group in the draft?
Second Round - Pick No. 56
Trey Smith, Tennessee
One of the strongest offensive linemen in the 2021 draft class, the 6-foot-5, 321-pound Smith imposed his will on SEC defenders over the past four seasons. Possessing incredible upper body strength, violent hands, and a vicious play demeanor, he seemed to be out for blood on every play as he knocked defenders to the ground like bowling pins. Particularly effective at setting anchor against bull rushers, he also proved to be one of the country's premier pass protectors, allowing a single sack on over 600 pass blocking snaps in 2020 and earning Second-Team All-American honors. Concerns about technique coupled with perceived athletic limitations and blood clots in his lungs that shortened his 2018 season could lead to a slide on draft weekend. But if his medicals check out and the Seahawks still prefer powerful maulers at guard, they could land a first-round caliber player at 56 overall.
Ben Cleveland, Georgia
A massive 6-foot-5, 332-pound guard prospect who earned First-Team All-SEC honors in 2020, Cleveland resembles "The Mountain" off Game of Thrones. There's hardly any bad weight on him and he has a rare chiseled physique for an offensive lineman. Though he's not a great athlete overall - he did surprise with a 4.85-second 40-yard dash at Georgia's pro day - and at times struggles against explosive interior rushers in pass protection, he's a physical brute who plays with heavy hands and loves knocking defenders off the ball in violent fashion. He's also an underrated blocker at the second level climbing off combo blocks. He had a few injury issues in college, but he's the kind of blue collar, tenacious blocker line coach Mike Solari would love to work with and his addition would allow Seattle to slide Lewis to the pivot position while immediately installing Cleveland as the starter at either guard spot across from Jackson.
Kendrick Green, Illinois
Though Green doesn't fit the physical mold Seattle has preferred at guard in recent years, his skill set may be perfect for Shane Waldron's zone-centric scheme. Light on his feet with elite lateral quickness for an interior offensive lineman, the 305-pound blocker gets out of his stance quickly, excels at reaching blockers off the snap, and plays through the whistle. He also is a plus-blocker in space at the second level on run plays as well as screens. He's not quite as polished in pass protection, as he frequently missed on assignments against twists and stunts and also had a tendency to get caught leaning and overextended with his shorter 32 1/4-inch arms. But he often times compensated for these issues with his athleticism and with prior starting experience at both center and guard, he would provide immense flexibility for the Seahawks as a potential day one starter.
Deonte Brown, Alabama
Starring for a heralded Crimson Tide front line full of NFL talent, Brown physically dominated opponents during the team's 2020 championship run. His calling card remains power, as he can drive anyone off the line of scrimmage with his sheer size (6-foot-3, 344 pounds) and brute strength. Despite his thick frame, however, he was more than just a road grader, as he displayed surprising short-area quickness and sound footwork working in unison with hands. He didn't surrender a single sack on over 900 pass blocking reps over the past three seasons per Pro Football Focus. With that said, he has obvious athletic limitations and sawed-off 32 3/8-inch arms, which have led to concerns about how he will hold up against athletic NFL 3-techs as pass rushers and how effective he will be in a zone-heavy scheme. If the Seahawks are comfortable on both fronts, however, his presence in the trenches next to Lewis and Jackson would give them one of the nastiest run blocking units in the game.
Fourth Round - Pick No. 129
Aaron Banks, Notre Dame
A technician in every sense of the word, Banks consistently gets his hands onto defenders off the snap with impeccable placement, which allows him to control the fight from the outset. Playing with an adequate base, he mirrors well for a player of his stature and kept quarterback Ian Book clean last season, surrendering zero sacks on over 450 pass blocking snaps. He doesn't necessarily play to his size, however, as he's not a mauler who creates much push in the run game and can get pushed around by power rushers. As illustrated by his mediocre pro day numbers, he doesn't offer great athletic traits either, which puts a cap on his ceiling. Still, for teams desiring a pro-ready prospect with a high floor at either guard spot or as a potential center convert, Banks fits the bill as a potential option anywhere from the second to fourth round.
Dave Moore, Grambling State
A relative unknown prior to January's Senior Bowl, Moore enjoyed a fantastic week in Mobile to put his name on the map as one of the fastest rising guard prospects in this year's draft class. Built with a short, stocky 6-foot-2, 330-pound frame, he uses a powerful upper body and abnormally long 34 1/4-inch arms to bully opponents as a run blocker. He plays with an easily noticeable edge to his game, which will appealing to any NFL team. Having not played in a game for over a year and making the jump from FCS competition to the NFL, he will need to shore up technical issues such as shaky hand placement and inconsistent footwork in pass sets before he's ready to start. But he has many of the desired traits Seattle looks for and with the potential to transition to center, he's another prospect who should be on the organization's short list early on day three.
Sadarius Hutcherson, South Carolina
A three-year starter for the Gamecocks, the 6-foot-3, 321-pound Hutcherson proved to be the ultimate tease for NFL scouts. On one hand, he has shown himself capable of holding his own at the point of attack and driving defenders several yards off the line of scrimmage. Famous for his weight room heroics, he also can set a cement anchor in pass sets against bull rushes. But on the other hand, there are far too many plays where he's a technical mess, displaying poor body control and failing to use his footwork and hands in unison. This creates significant issues mirroring defenders in pass pro and sustaining blocks in the run game while also mitigating his natural athletic gifts. He's going to be a bit of a project for whoever drafts him, but he has a rare tool box to work with athletically and the Seahawks have never shied away from such high-ceiling prospects.
Robert Hainsey, Notre Dame
Much like Banks, Hainsey plays refined, technically-sound football coming from one of the best programs in the country at developing offensive line talent. But after starting three years as a tackle for the Fighting Irish, his lack of length (32 1/4-inch arms) and girth (306 pounds) paired with average-at-best athletic traits could create a bit of a positional dilemma at the next level. His strengths, including quick-striking hands with precise placement and a steady anchor against bull rushes, would serve him best playing inside. Though he didn't have any snaps at center or guard in college, he showed he could play either spot at the Senior Bowl and that's ultimately where he will end up in the NFL. Given his pedigree and versatility, the Seahawks could consider him as a long-term starter at either position as early as the fourth round.
Seventh Round - Pick No. 250
Robert Jones, Middle Tennessee State
Having only played football since his junior year of high school, Jones screams long-term project and will need a year or two to shore up apparent technical flaws in his game, including sloppy pass set footwork and shoddy hand placement. He also has athletic deficiencies, as he recorded slow times in the 40-yard dash, 3-cone drill, and short shuttle at his pro day workout. Defenders exploited him frequently at the Senior Bowl in one-on-ones due to these persistent issues. But despite his lack of experience and rawness, Jones does bring enticing size (6-foot-4, 319 pounds) and a nasty demeanor as a run blocker to the table. With adequate coaching to work on his fundamentals, there's enough upside for him to become a quality swing guard or even a potential starter for Seattle down the road.
Jack Anderson, Texas Tech
Previously a top-50 recruit nationally, Anderson spurned several blue-chip programs to take his talents to Lubbock, where he became an immediate starter as a true freshman. Aside from missing the bulk of his junior season with a shoulder injury, he proved to be a dependable force for the Red Raiders, starting 38 career games at right guard. He's a decent athlete at 6-foot-5, 314 pounds, as he posted a 30-inch vertical at his pro day and displayed good lateral quickness on his college film. His sub-32-inch arms create issues for him and his hand usage as well as footwork can be erratic at times, leaving him vulnerable against more powerful interior defenders. He's more polished than Jones and still has room to improve technically, making him an ideal player to take a seventh-round flier on.
Matt Farniok, Nebraska
An under-the-radar prospect from this class, Farniok earned All-Big Ten Honorable Mention honors after starting eight games (seven at guard, one at center) for the Huskers in 2020. He has enough size (6-foot-5, 311 pounds) to play tackle and did so in the past, so he offers quite a bit of versatility for this stage of the draft. He will need to improve playing lower with his pads, as leverage issues were persistent on his college tape, and shaky footwork hurt him mirroring opposing pass rushers. However, as further demonstrated at his pro day, he has elite lateral quickness (7.19 3-cone drill, 4.47 short shuttle) that lends well to zone blocking and has enough pop with his hands to handle gap-scheme runs as well. His athletic profile and positional flexibility would be appealing to a number of teams late in the draft, including the Seahawks.