With their final pick of the 2020 NFL draft, the Seahawks drafted former LSU wide receiver-turned-tight end Stephen Sullivan with the 251st pick after trading back into the seventh round via trade with the Dolphins.
Excepting a phone call from Miami at that position, Sullivan wound up being surprised when he received a phone call from a Seattle area code, which he shared during his interview session with the media following the conclusion of the draft.
"I really don’t even know what to say," an excited Sullivan explained. "It was so mind-blowing, and I didn’t expect it at all. At first, I was a free agent like five minutes ago and then next thing you know I’m getting a call from Seattle saying they’re going to pick me and it was crazy. It’s something that I really can’t explain.”
With so many weapons around him playing for LSU's national title team last year, Sullivan only caught 12 passes as a senior, which made him tougher to evaluate heading into the pre-draft process. But general manager John Schneider and the Seahawks saw enough from him at the Senior Bowl to justify trading future draft capital to move back into the draft for his services.
“He’s playing on a national championship team with a ton of talent and they’re trying to figure out where to play him. I think they had 178 players drafted or something like that. Coach O[rgeron] has that place rolling right now. He’s been around a lot of high intensity, high football IQ people that really influence the guys that went into the school," said Schneider.
"Then as our studies continued throughout the fall and into the all-star game and when he got into the all-star game, I think you guys know Jim Nagy used to work with us here in Seattle and now runs the game, so we were able to get great reports on him down there and spend some real quality time with him. Again, Aaron Hineline did a great job interviewing him and really get a lot of those boxes checked that we needed to get checked.”
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll agreed, adding, “I would say too that the thing Coach O[rgeron] would say about him is that with all the talent that they had, they didn’t use him enough and that they weren’t able to get him in there enough. They kind of kicked themselves and wished they would have been able to. That’s why they moved him around to make sure that they did utilize him. But he’s a young player at his position so there’s a lot of growth there, particularly the stuff at the line of scrimmage. He’s a receiver, he’s a catcher."
In regard to where he sees Sullivan fitting in with the Seahawks, Carroll indicated he could see action at tight end and receiver.
“He definitely has the ability as a tight end to be split out. He will have no problem. That transition, he’s way ahead of the curve for most guys. That’s a strength in what he brings. His release ability as well, getting off the line of scrimmage, he should be really good at that in short time. He has such a big, diverse route tree that you can go to with the kid. Obviously you’re going to see him in the receiving, tight end type of role as we develop him, but we’ll want to balance that out as much as we can, as soon as we can and we’ll go at it."
How did draft experts feel about Seahawks' selection of Sullivan in the seventh round? Here's a couple of assessments from draft experts.
Chris Trapasso: "Sullivan is a classic late-round flier by Seattle. Former WR turned TE with scary seam-stretching speed and flashes of high-pointing because of leaping ability and enormous catch radius. Still learning the position."
Mike Tanier "Sullivan caught only 12 passes for the national champions last season and just 46 catches in his entire LSU career. He started his career as a 6'5" wide receiver but bulked up in his senior year to play more of a hybrid tight end role. You can probably guess what happened next: He lost the necessary quickness and fluidity to play wide receiver but wasn't a reliable enough blocker to play a major role at tight end. Sullivan had an outstanding combine, and there's always a place in an NFL camp for a 248-pounder from a major program who can run. He's more likely to max out as Scout Team George Kittle than as Actual George Kittle, but he’s a better long-range prospect than several of the tight ends drafted before him in the last two rounds."