First Round Pick Jordyn Brooks Adds Versatility, Toughness to Seahawks Defense
SEATTLE, WA - As general manager of the Seahawks, John Schneider has been known to throw a filthy curve ball on draft weekend, particularly in the opening round.
Back in 2011, Seattle's selection of Alabama guard James Carpenter shocked even his college coach Nick Saban in the draft room. Two years ago, the team stunned many by taking running back Rashaad Penny late in the first round and then last year, they selected defensive end L.J. Collier.
But emulating Dodgers perennial Cy Young award winner Clayton Kershaw in his prime, Schneider may have thrown his best curve yet on Thursday night. After a trade down attempt with the Packers fell through, the Seahawks uncharacteristically stayed put at No. 27 overall and picked Texas Tech linebacker Jordyn Brooks.
“Real excited obviously with Jordyn," Schneider told reporters. "We took the best player on the board... So it worked out great. We’re really excited to add a real tough, great person."
Just as fans were stunned by the selection, Brooks himself couldn't believe Seattle drafted him in the first round. At the time of the selection, he was cooking pasta when a family member informed him that his phone was ringing.
"I wasn’t surprised about the first round, I was surprised the Seahawks came and got me. I hadn’t talked to them since the combine," Brooks remarked. "So I wasn’t really expecting them to pick me. But I’m very grateful and excited to get down there in Seattle.”
On the surface, Brooks' selection looks like the latest first round reach by Schneider, selecting a player many draft experts viewed as a day two selection at a position that wasn't necessarily a major need. Seattle drafted two linebackers last April, including Cody Barton, and stars Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright remain entrenched as starters.
But as Schneider and coach Pete Carroll elaborated in their pre-draft press conference on Tuesday, they felt free agency had positioned the Seahawks to draft the best player available. They wouldn't have to force the issue drafting someone at a specific position.
Though drafting a linebacker wasn't what Seattle planned to do initially, given the fact traditional offseason programs have been postponed indefinitely due to COVID-19, the organization has placed a premium on finding pro-ready players who could pick up the defense quickly. Add in Brooks overcoming homelessness at one point and he checks off all of the character boxes while also being a quality football player.
“In general terms," Schneider stated. "Our philosophy was just trying to get players that, in the environment that we’re in, that can come in and act like [professionals] right away. This is one of them. This is one of the guys we had, obviously, or else we wouldn’t have taken him. There’s no doubt in my mind that this guy is going to come in right away ready to go.
Brooks proved he could do just that at Texas Tech, acclimating to a new position in a new scheme under a new coaching staff prior to his senior season. Thriving as an inside linebacker after playing on the outside his first three years on campus, he finished with 108 tackles and 20 tackles for loss in only 11 games, garnering Second-Team All-American honors.
Acknowledging Brooks' ability to swiftly pick up a new system, Carroll indicated his versatility while producing gaudy tackling numbers playing both inside and outside made the former First-Team All-Big 12 selection an ideal first-round option for Seattle. Once he ran a 4.54 40-yard dash at the combine and blew the team away in their final meeting, he became a top target.
"He really had a chance to really flow and run to the football," Carroll said when discussing his play as a middle linebacker. "They gave him responsibility to spy the quarterback. They entrusted in him to be the play maker and cover up for everybody. The scheme gave him a lot of freedom to play football. I thought he did well in that."
"The fact that he’s been outside, he’s been the edge, that’s really helpful to us for the versatility. I think they made a statement that they want him to try and make all the tackles. And they put him in the position to do that.”
From the outset, it remains unknown where Brooks will fit in initially as a rookie. But as Carroll pointed out, linebackers in Seattle's scheme must be able to play inside and out and "really have to do it all." Considering his background and passion for the game, Schneider has no doubts he will be ready to hit the ground running whenever the team can return to the field.
"I think where you play him and all that, just in general, when you look at our division and the team speed, we’ll figure it out. That’s not for today. The guy can fly and he’s a run and hit guy. He’s actually a really good rusher from the A gap, the inside stuff. He’s a very disruptive football player.”
Taking a friendly jab at his former colleague Louis Riddick, who now covers the NFL Draft for ESPN, Schneider also quickly disputed scouting reports criticizing Brooks for his skills as a coverage linebacker.
"I already sent Louis Riddick a text, I said 'really, he struggles in coverage?' I used to work with Riddick, that’s why I said it. He’s got great ball skills and he reacts very quickly. He’s got great feet. I think the thing he would tell you is that he needs to bring his speed on contact a little bit more. We talked about that in the formal interview as well.”
Once the Seahawks start practicing, Carroll anticipates Brooks will be able to compete for defensive snaps immediately. Comparing his traits to former starter Mychal Kendricks, he envisions him potentially being an option at SAM linebacker who can rush off the edge as well as drop into coverage.
Down the road, it's possible Brooks could replace K.J. Wright at the WILL position, as the veteran has one year left on his current contract.
For now, like any rookie coming to the Pacific Northwest, Brooks will have to cut his teeth on special teams and compete against a deep, talented positional group headlined by a future Hall of Famer in Bobby Wagner as well as Wright and Barton. Playing time will have to be earned, but based on how he's overcome adversity to reach this point, the Seahawks believe he will embrace the challenge.
"We’ll give this guy a chance to see where he can fit in. We’ll work the competition so that we can uncover exactly what’s best. We really think that he’s got a chance to be fighting for playing time right away."