The Seahawks are a team with excellent top-end talent, but their lack of depth, especially at offensive line, wore on them throughout the season and into the playoffs. Heading into a draft filled with quality depth, it was time for the team to plug holes and bolster the depth chart. Matthew Brown takes a look at how they did that on day 3 of the draft.
This article represents Part 2 of Matthew Brown’s Seattle Seahawks 2016 draft review. Part 1 covered their selections in rounds 1 through 3.
Round 5 Pick 147, Defensive Tackle Quinton Jefferson, Maryland
With a need to address their interior pass-rush situation, the Seahawks traded their seventh-round pick and 2017 fourth-rounder to New England in order move up and select Jefferson. The former Terrapin could replace Jordan Hill whose contract expires next season.
Jefferson had 6.5 sacks last year in a competitive, relatively strong Big Ten. He is a violent pass rusher, possessing effective swim and rip moves. Jefferson’s pass-rushing technique is made more appealing by the fact that he rushes with his head up, tracking the ball as he rushes. Despite tearing his ACL in 2014, Jefferson is impressive in terms of measurables, with a 1.69 second 10-yard split at his pro day and a 4.37 second short shuttle — ranked fourth-best amongst the entire defensive tackle draft class.
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Round 5 Pick 171, Running Back Alex Collins, Arkansas
The second running back taken by the Seahawks is more of a power back. Collins is only the third player in SEC history to have three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, after Darren McFadden and Herschel Walker. He runs with a wide base in a rather choppy style, showcasing impressive feet — aided by his pastime of Irish dancing; his foot speed enables him to make the first defender miss a lot of the time. His style of running has drawn comparisons to Chris Ivory and Eddie Lacy, but those closer to the Seahawks have likened him to ex-Seahawk and current Kansas City Chief Spencer Ware.
Collins is a very durable back, having never missed a game in college. However, there are doubts that his style will translate to the NFL, where his slashing, choppy style might potentially fail in the more athletic league. He sometimes dances (no pun intended) before hitting the hole — this works at the college level but will fail in the NFL — though it should be said that the majority of the time he hits the hole with a nice burst. Collins seems to know the right time and the wrong time to make a move before hitting the hole and he was rarely stuffed in the backfield. He has a very effective spin move and jump cut to get away from rushers in the backfield, turning stuffed runs into positive yardage. His skill in making the first man miss should not be understated.
His top-heavy body is something Seahawks’ fans will be wary of after Robert Turbin fell down after ankle tackles, yet Collins possesses the ability to run through arm tackles. He also finishes his runs with the physicality and aggression that the Seahawks love, falling forward to gain extra yardage. A disappointing combine performance, where he ran a 4.59 40-yard dash and jumped a 28.5 inch vertical confirmed his lack of clear breakaway speed. His style may also be to blame for his fall in the draft, as it drew lots of debate. NFL.com said he had just five broken tackles over his last 475 carries while Pro Football Focus claims that he had the third most broken tackles in the NCAA with 58. Pro Football Focus’ total seems more accurate based on watching film. Another concern is Collins’s 16 career fumbles.
Collins is a good inside runner who will likely come in to take the workload off of Thomas Rawls. He would be effective as a short yardage rusher, and also is comfortable in a running back by committee approach, having split carries with Jonathan Williams. This pick came across as a mixture of best player available and a commitment to a run-first mentality. It would not be a surprise to see Collins take Christine Michael’s roster spot. This video from ESPN highlights his red zone and short yardage skills.
Round 6 Pick 215, Center Joey Hunt, TCU
The Seahawks have not been hesitant to play undersized centers in their scheme. Max Unger was 6’5” but only 305 lbs and current starter Patrick Lewis is just 6’1”, weighing 311 lbs with 32.5” arms. Their sixth round pick, Joey Hunt, is an even more extreme example of an undersized center. If he can cope in the NFL at his size — 6’1”, 299 lbs and 30.5” arm length — he could be a terrific NFL center. The size issues he has will have to be overcome mentally and with sound technique, as his frame is very close to being maxed-out.
Hunt was named to the first team All-Big-12 as a center and was one of the top players at the position nationwide. He did not allow a single sack or hit on the quarterback in 445 pass-blocking snaps. At TCU, he played in an offense that was top five in the country the past two seasons. This offense featured Trevone Boykin, a mobile quarterback, and Hunt showed good awareness of where Boykin was scrambling. This is a vital skill for a Seahawks offensive lineman. His snaps are quick and fast, not floating to the quarterback as has been the case for some other Seahawks centers. One downside to Hunt playing for the Horned Frogs is that he very, very rarely snapped the ball in an under center formation; his snaps usually came in shotgun and pistol formations.
He also fits with regards to what Carroll has been keen to emphasize on the offensive line, having been named team captain for the last two years. Seattle’s offensive scheme suits him almost perfectly, with both TCU and Seattle running a zone blocking system (ZBS). At TCU, Hunt double-teamed linemen when there was no rusher for him to block, demonstrating a clear understanding of the system. He also showed a proficiency in legal cut-blocking, a crucial skill in a ZBS.
Because of his lack of size, Hunt needs to fully understand the rest of the offensive line, particularly the guard play, in order to carry out his job effectively. He made all of the line calls at TCU, so this should not be too big of an issue for him.
The Seahawks delight at this pick is shown by their post draft comments, with Schneider remarking, “I don’t know if Pete and I would’ve been able to leave the building if we didn’t come away with Joey,” and Carroll confirming that “[The Seahawks] had to get that done.” In addition, Cable worked Hunt out at TCU. Durability concerns over Hunt were clearly eased by the Seahawks’ medical team; Hunt missed the last three games of 2015 after undergoing surgery for a torn lateral meniscus. The center competition will feature SPARQ-freak Kristjan Sokoli, Britt, and Hunt pushing Lewis for the starting spot.
Round 7 Pick 243, Wide Receiver Kenny Lawler, University of California
Kenny Lawler, like Collins, is a player who fell because of concerns based around his athleticism. Projected to go as high as the third round pre-combine, Lawler’s combine performance confirmed scouts’ fears that he was not fast enough for the NFL.
A 4.64 40-yard dash did not dissuade the Seahawks from drafting Lawler, though, and rightly so. He was Jared Goff’s favorite red zone threat at Cal. The first team Pac-12 wideout high-points the ball and has good hands. On highlight reels of Lawler it looks like he is wearing stickum, as he plucks balls out of the air with 10.5” hands. He is acrobatic, and will provide the sort of catching radius that Russell Wilson loves with 33 ⅜” arms and a 6’2” frame. He left Cal with 27 career touchdowns, tied with Bobby Shaw for the second-highest total in school history.
To succeed in the NFL he needs to add to put on weight, work on his route running to help him gain separation and work on his run blocking. He will battle for the fifth receiver spot on the final 53 along with Kevin Smith, Kasen Williams, and the UDFA signings. After being criticized for being too skinny and slow, the chip on his shoulder that the Seahawks look for is there. His ceiling is probably playing in the role that an aging Sidney Rice did for the Seahawks: being a clutch red zone target who can go up and grab the football.
Round 7 Pick 247, Running Back Zac Brooks, Clemson
At pick number 247, this selection was probably based on fears around Brooks not signing in Seattle as an undrafted free agent as two running backs already had been selected by the Seahawks. Brooks is a largely unknown quantity; he had just 809 yards of total offense at Clemson, carrying only 115 times.
What probably turned initial intrigue into concrete interest was Brooks’s pro-day, where he proved his athletic prowess. He ran a 4.45 seconds 40-yard dash (some timed it at 4.32), a 4.38 seconds 20-yard shuttle, and jumped a 36” vertical and a 10’9” broad jump. On what little tape is available of Brooks, his athletic ability is clear to see. He has game-breaking speed and short area quickness, and in the 2016 National Championship Game often made the first Alabama defender miss. He also is not afraid to seek contact and is a physical runner despite his build. He would enjoy more success carrying the football if he lowered his shoulder more on contact, rather than staying relatively upright.
Brooks would be of most use to the Seahawks as a receiving threat out of the backfield, but Seattle may wish to transition him into a slot wide receiver. Brooks played wide receiver in high school and was heavily recruited there as he considered his college options; his route running is surprisingly good for a player who never really saw significant playing time. Size-wise, he is listed at 6’ 200 lbs on the Seahawks’ website and, to be an effective third-down back in the NFL, he will need to get bigger at the expense of some athleticism. Having played on kick return, punt return, and kickoff for Clemson, special teams are probably his greatest chance of contributing in his rookie season.