The Seahawks shocked their fan base when they selected Texas Tech linebacker Jordyn Brooks with their first-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. A year later, the selection is looking pretty good in hindsight after Brooks impressed in increased action in the second half of last season.
Having that added depth with Brooks also makes the potential loss of K.J. Wright a bit easier to bear for Seattle. While a reunion with the 10-year veteran is still on the table, as he somehow remains unsigned five weeks into free agency, that may become less likely after the draft when signings no longer count against the compensatory pick formula.
As of now, the Seahawks have their MIKE in Bobby Wagner and their WILL in Brooks. Wright took on SAM duties after Bruce Irvin tore his ACL in Week 2 versus the Patriots last year, thus leaving a pretty big hole at the spot with his ongoing free agency. For the time being, Cody Barton and possibly Darrell Taylor are vying for the role.
I'd suspect more competition will be added there between now and autumn, whether that's a reunion with Wright or through the draft. Barton's been a solid special teams contributor through his first two years in the NFL, but he's struggled in limited defensive snaps. The status of Taylor's health and readiness for game action is still unconfirmed as well, and a transition to a new position - albeit one he should handle nicely with his athletic profile - may be too much for him to take on as he makes his way back to the football field.
While I wouldn't expect yet another early-round selection - not that the Seahawks have many of those - of a linebacker in this draft, I'd be surprised if they land more picks and not a single one of them ends up being a prospect with SAM potential. There are several possible fits who should be available on day three of the event, including Purdue's Derrick Barnes, who's really caught my attention over the couple weeks.
A four-year player at a multitude of spots for the Boilermakers, Barnes brings a passion and intensity to the game unmatched by many of his fellow 2021 classmates. He's able to hone that high motor well, playing effectively fast and decisive on the field. He flies to the ball like a torpedo and remains disciplined at the point of attack.
Barnes is a technically-sound tackler with good wrap-up ability. His athleticism not only shines downhill, but sideline-to-sideline as well. He has fluid lateral movement, helping him stay in line with the ball-carrier, and efficiently works past blocks.
In 2019, Barnes saw a significant amount of time rushing off the edge. Some 7.5 sacks and 11.0 tackles for a loss later, he proved to be one of the most underrated defenders in the Big Ten. Using his shorter frame to his advantage, he was able to generate solid leverage against bigger offensive tackles and never appeared too overwhelmed for any long duration of time.
Those sack numbers faded the following year, though he moved about the field a lot more as a senior. In doing so, he really showed his fast and furious nature as a linebacker, earning him an invite to the Senior Bowl where he performed well both in workouts and in the game.
It may take him some time to eventually factor into a defensive gameplan in the NFL, but he should be able to make an impact on special teams right out of the gate. He was excellent as a core special teamer for Purdue, playing as fast and furious as ever.
Despite all the things Barnes does well, his size is going to keep his draft stock fairly down after measuring in at 6-foot-03/8, though he comes in at a good weight of 245. His height has caused some issues against the pass, both in coverage and at the line of scrimmage. There's also very little room for him to grow, so what you see is basically what you get.
Coverage-wise, he needs work. He has pretty good feel for zone, but lining up man-to-man on tight ends, running backs, and slot receivers is where his warts show a bit. That's where his height starts to come into play more, especially against taller, athletic tight ends, even though he boasts 33-inch arms.
Fit in Seattle
This is a weird - and, admittedly, not very good - comparison, but I think of Barnes as the linebacker equivalent of Seahawks defensive tackle Poona Ford. Like Ford, he's a guy that did almost everything incredibly well on the field in college, but gets overlooked because he doesn't necessarily fit teams' ideal dimensions. While scouts are typically right about size limitations, they can often be overblown. I think that may be the case here, especially when they're not even that egregious to begin with for Barnes. It's really hard not to like what he brings to the table, whether it's from a place of passion or a pure technical standpoint.
That's also why I can't imagine the Seahawks not loving him as well throughout this process. He may not be their solution at SAM right away, but he's going to buy into Pete Carroll's philosophy and bring it on special teams. For a linebacker in the fifth or sixth round, in a draft where Seattle lacks significant capital and must hit on some day three choices, what's not to like?