With the start of the new NFL league year rapidly approaching, the Seahawks have two vacancies along their offensive line that will need to be addressed this offseason in an effort to improve protection for quarterback Russell Wilson. Left guard Mike Iupati announced his retirement last month, while former second round pick Ethan Pocic will be an unrestricted free agent.
While Seattle may be aggressive filling one or both of those starting roles with veteran free agents, the 2021 draft class offers excellent talent and depth in the interior offensive line. Despite having only four draft picks, the team should have a crack at a quality guard or center prospect when they select at pick No. 56 overall in the second round or even entering day three.
Among the viable options the Seahawks could choose from, if they buck prior trends of avoiding small school offensive line prospects, versatile Wisconsin-Whitewater prospect Quinn Meinerz could project as a long-term starter at left guard or center.
Emulating an elementary school bully stealing lunch money from a weaker classmate, Meinerz put on a clinic cooking up pancakes against inferior Division III talent. Defenders across from him simply hope to avoid getting driven onto their backside and becoming one with the turf each respective play, while the ornery guard keeps his feet churning and relentlessly blocks downfield to the whistle to ensure that's exactly the outcome.
Much to the delight of scouts and coaches alike, this physicality and dominance was exhibited both as a run blocker and pass protector against far better competition as Meinerz turned in a sensational week at the Senior Bowl. He held his own in one-on-one battles all week long, including putting his strength on full display driving Pittsburgh defensive end Patrick Jones to the ground to cap off one of his finest reps.
Playing with excellent leverage, Meinerz will rarely be overpowered in pass protection, as he sets a sturdy anchor and quickly gets his hands into the defender's frame. Pass rushers will have a tough time defeating him with power and he surprisingly mirrors opponents well, helping nullify counter moves.
Though Meinerz only played left guard for the Warhawks and hadn't played for a calendar year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he worked tirelessly during quarantine to teach himself how to play the center position and improve his craft - he did so in quite unorthodox ways, as shown below working on hand placement against a tree - and looked like a natural in Mobile. Such versatility should further elevate his draft stock as he prepares to embark on an NFL career.
From a technical standpoint, Meinerz has a tendency to play "wild" at times, particularly with his footwork. In his mission to humiliate opponents by knocking them off their feet each play, he can get caught lunging and poor balance has been a persistent issue for him, leading to him spending more time on the ground himself than he should. He also isn't consistent with hand placement at the point of attack, which could be problematic against NFL defenders.
Meinerz isn't necessarily a poor athlete at 320 pounds, but on film, he lacks the lateral quickness and mobility teams that run zone-centric schemes prefer. He's far better equipped to thrive in a power/man/gap system where he can shoot out of his stance, attack one-on-one matchups as a downhill run blocker, and execute short-distance pulling and trap assignments. Though capable of laying big blocks at the second level, blocking in space isn't a consistent strength.
These athletic deficiencies could also put a cap on Meinerz's overall upside in pass protection, as he may have trouble with twitched-up interior defenders with a quick first step and will be tested by NFL-level stunts and twists. With that said, playing on the inside should alleviate some of those concerns.
Despite playing well against top Division I prospects in Mobile, questions about the jump in competition may still persist, especially considering he only played 31 games at the college level. Going from playing against teams such as Wisconsin Stevens Point and Wisconsin Oshkosh to the likes of Aaron Donald and J.J. Watt is a pretty steep climb.
Fit in Seattle
Much like any prospect in this year's draft class, Meinerz's fit with the Seahawks remains up for debate because it's unclear how much the offensive scheme will change under new coordinator Shane Waldron, particularly in the run game. Over the past three years, he would have been an ideal pick given his size and mauling playing style as a blocker, but that may not be the case now.
With that said, since offensive line coach Mike Solari remained on board, there's a good chance Seattle will try to blend Waldron's wide zone with more power-based schemes in 2021. If that's the case, Meinerz still would have plenty of value, especially because he could be viewed as a long-term option at left guard or center and plays with the grit and tenacity the organization covets.
Assuming Seattle still values size and physicality in the search for a replacement for Iupati and shows a willingness to draft a small school prospect that may need a little seasoning before he's ready to start, Meinerz should be near the top of the team's wish list on day two and into day three if available.