Seahawks 2020 Scouting Combine Preview

CorbinSmithNFL

Six weeks have elapsed since the Seahawks’ 2019 season came to an abrupt end at Lambeau Field, and up to this point, it has been a fairly quiet offseason for the organization thus far.

Backing up coach Pete Carroll’s comments during his end-of-season press conference, Seattle chose not to make any notable changes to the coaching staff with the exception of hiring long-time NFL assistant Sanjay Lal. The roster has largely remained unchanged as well, though the team did sign veteran tight end Greg Olsen earlier this month.

But with all 32 NFL teams descending upon Indianapolis for the annual scouting combine this week, everything is about to heat up for general manager John Schneider, Carroll, and the Seahawks personnel department.

While more than 300 prospects will be aiming to improve their draft stock through various drills at Lucas Oil Stadium, behind the scenes, Schneider and his staff will be conducting pivotal player interviews, meeting with agents, and gathering invaluable intel about other teams through a variety of avenues.

With nearly $50 million in cap space, the Seahawks have several decisions to make heading into the new league year. Will they break the bank to re-sign defensive end Jadeveon Clowney? Does Jarran Reed still have a future in Seattle? Bucking previous trends, could the organization spend big bucks on an outside free agent?

Those questions remain unanswered at the moment, but this week will be critical as franchise’s offseason blueprint begins to take shape in the Circle City, setting the stage for what Seattle will do in free agency as well as the draft in an effort to get back to the Super Bowl next season.

2019 Season in Review

Despite battling a bevy of injuries, including losing starting center Justin Britt and running backs Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny to injured reserve, the Seahawks reached the playoffs for the second straight season and the seventh time in eight seasons. Leading the charge, All-Pro quarterback Russell Wilson threw 31 touchdowns and just five interceptions, nearly carrying his team back to the top of the NFC West by winning nine one-score games. Finishing with an 11-5 record, Seattle came up inches short of a division title in a 26-21 loss to San Francisco in the regular season finale, forcing the team to hit the road for the playoffs again.

Unlike the season prior, however, the Seahawks advanced past the wild card round by defeating a banged-up Eagles squad in Philadelphia, making the NFL’s final eight for the first time since 2016. After orchestrating a league-leading five game-winning drives in the regular season, Wilson nearly pulled another rabbit out of his hat in the divisional round in Green Bay to reach the NFC Championship Game. But his heroics weren’t enough to overcome a 21-3 halftime deficit and Seattle’s season came to an earlier-than-desired conclusion.

2020 Draft Position

This time a year ago, much to the dismay of Schneider, the Seahawks entered the offseason with just four total draft picks, tied for the fewest in the NFL. The lack of draft capital played a role in the eventual decision to trade defensive end Frank Clark to Kansas City, netting a much-needed first-round pick and a future second-round pick. Aided by his efforts in Indianapolis, Schneider masterfully turned his five picks into 11 total selections last April, including landing budding star receiver DK Metcalf.

This year, Seattle finds itself in a far better position going into the combine, as the organization currently holds eight picks in the 2020 NFL Draft, including three selections in the first two rounds and six total selections in the first four rounds. Slated to pick No. 27 overall, after trading down in the first round four consecutive drafts, it’s a guarantee Schneider will be opening up lines of communication this week for potential trade down partners to acquire additional picks two months from now.

Help Wanted, Help Needed

Few organizations have been as consistently successful as the Seahawks under the leadership of Schneider and Carroll, but with Wilson set to turn 32 in November, there’s been an evident sense of urgency to the quarterback’s words this offseason. Seattle’s title window remains open for now, but he knows he needs help to win another Lombardi Trophy. Most importantly, the organization must address its pass rushing woes after ranking near the bottom of the league in sacks, quarterback hits, and pressure percentage last season. Even if Clowney is re-signed, finding a complementary EDGE rusher to chase down opposing quarterbacks should be imperative in the draft and Schneider has to hope a top-tier talent falls to the Seahawks at No. 27 overall. 

Away from bolstering the pass rush, three starting offensive linemen, including right tackle Germain Ifedi, will also be hitting free agency next month, making the front line a priority heading into the draft as well. This year’s class has excellent depth at the tackle and center positions and Schneider could consider selecting a player at either position in the first couple of rounds to provide protection for Wilson. While it isn’t necessarily an area of need with Tyler Lockett and Metcalf already on the roster, receiver could also be an option early due to a historically deep and talented draft class at the position.

Five Players the Seahawks Must Watch

When it comes to evaluating pass rushers at this week’s combine, all eyes will be on Yetur Gross-Matos of Penn State and K’Lavon Chaisson of LSU as potential round one targets for the Seahawks. Gross-Matos has overcome unthinkable tragedy in his life to become a top prospect and at 6-foot-4, 260 pounds, he projects as a three-down defensive end who is equally adept at pressuring quarterbacks and stopping the run. While Chaisson may lack the frame to be an every down end, he’s the twitchy, explosive rusher off the edge Seattle desperately needed last year at the LEO position and plays with a relentless motor.

Away from those two rushers, the Seahawks should be paying close attention to several offensive tackles, including Josh Jones out of Houston, who could further solidify his standing as a first-round pick with a strong showing in Indianapolis after shining at the Senior Bowl. Though it seems unlikely Seattle will be looking to draft a receiver over other more pressing needs, TCU star Jalen Reagor and Arizona State standout Brandon Aiyuk may be on the team’s radar due to their explosive downfield capabilities as well as special teams value. Both players will have a chance to vault into first-round discussion with elite times in the 40-yard dash and other agility drills.

Who Makes the Call, Recent Draft Hits and Misses

When Carroll was initially hired as coach and executive vice president in 2010, he selected Schneider as Seattle’s general manager and the two have formed one of the best front office tandems in the league over the past decade. Both are heavily involved the roster building process, but Schneider makes the final call on draft picks. Over the past few years, Schneider has lived up to his reputation finding late-round value, selecting a Pro Bowl-caliber running back in Chris Carson in the seventh round and a starting cornerback in Tre Flowers as a fifth-round pick. He also looks brilliant for stopping Metcalf's free fall by trading back into the second round to pick him.

However, Schneider hasn't fared well in the first round recently. Penny hasn't rushed for 800 total yards in two seasons and now is recovering from a torn ACL, while 2019 first rounder L.J. Collier produced just three tackles as a rookie. Unless both players turn things around in 2020, those two selections look like clear misses and Schneider needs to hit a home run by adding an instant contributor with Seattle's first pick this April.

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