The Seattle Seahawks must address defensive tackle in the 2017 NFL Draft, and these three mid-round prospects could be the answer
Looking just over two weeks ahead to the 2017 NFL Draft, the Seattle Seahawks have a clear set of needs. Chief among them is undoubtedly their need to improve the offensive line, specifically at tackle. Russell Wilson spent much of the 2016 season running for his life. The fact that he pushed Seattle to the playoffs in spite of how little protection he had is quite incredible. If there’s a worthy prospect there, taking an offensive tackle at No. 26 in the first round is a must.
However, that’s not the only need that the Seahawks have entering this draft. Because of how quality their defense has been for so long, it’s not often you think of it being a unit with deficiencies. But when you look at the 2016 season and then ahead to 2017, there is one critical area that they must address: defensive tackle.
Jarran Reed and Ahtyba Rubin started as the two middle men in the defensive front for Seattle last season. And the dirty secret for the Seahawks is that both players were quite abysmal. Pro Football Focus graded them as the 91st and 113th ranked interior defensive linemen, respectively, in the league last season. PFF isn’t the end-all be-all in judging players, but that at least gives an example of how wanting the Seahawks front was left last year.
There’s certainly still hope for Reed, a second-round pick in 2016 who was obviously in his first NFL season. With that said, the Seahawks can’t hope for their defensive prowess to continue being as lethal as it has been with that level of ineffectiveness on the interior of the front four. Thus, this should be an area they look at as early as the second round in the 2017 NFL Draft.
But which players at the position will they then be choosing from. Here’s a look at three defensive tackles that should be available in Rounds 2 and 3 that the Seahawks should target.
Nov 12, 2016; Athens, GA, USA; Auburn Tigers defensive tackle Montravius Adams (1) and defensive lineman Carl Lawson (55) tackle Georgia Bulldogs running back Nick Chubb (27) during the second quarter at Sanford Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
3. Montravius Adams – Auburn
Based purely on physical gifts, Montravius Adams out of Auburn is a fringe-first-round talent. Just looking at his 6-4, 304-pound frame and how he looks even more imposing than that, it’s not hard to see where that assessment of his innate tools comes from. However, Adams is a far more complicated prospect than just looking at what he brings physically.
At his best, Adams is a guy that can fight his way into gaps and stuff the run whenever he pleases. With quick movement up top and the bulk of his power being generated from his lower body, that’s easily his biggest asset. However, he also has the potential to be an factor as a pass-rusher up the middle, though he’ll indeed require some work in that regard as it comes to his technique.
Where Adams gets in trouble, though, is in terms of his effort. There was talk that he could’ve left Auburn after his junior season coming into the 2015 campaign. However, he looked lackadaisical for much of the year and ultimately hindered his stock enough to make it necessary for him to return. The effort was less of an issue in 2016, but he still displayed issues with inconsistency — not just on a game-to-game basis, but even within the confines of games and even on single plays.
However, his potential is obvious and he flashed it in college. What’s more, he’s the type of prospect that the Seahawks seem ideal to help mold. Though passionate and loud, the Seahawks defensive culture fosters performance and effort. That’s exactly the type of environment Adams needs, which makes him an intriguing fit.
Oct 3, 2015; Madison, WI, USA; Iowa Hawkeyes defensive lineman Jaleel Johnson (67) during the game against the Wisconsin Badgers at Camp Randall Stadium. Iowa won 10-6. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
2. Jaleel Johnson – Iowa
For whatever reason, Jaleel Johnson is one of the most unanimously underrated players in the 2017 NFL Draft by my estimation. Most analysts tag him with a third round grade, or a second if they happen to be feeling generous. However, I see a player on tape from his time with the Iowa Hawkeyes that’s worthy of at least a second-round selection, and that meaning early in the round. Though a team likely wouldn’t have to given how he’s being valued, I wouldn’t hate it if my team drafted him at the end of the first round based on talent.
Unlike the other two players listed, Johnson isn’t a physical freak in terms of what he brings to the table. That isn’t to say that he doesn’t have formidable tools on the interior of a defensive front, because he does. At 6-3, 316 pounds, he’s certainly a load and he has nice agility and deftness in his feet for a guy of that build. What truly stands out about Johnson, though, is the effort.
Call it motor or whatever other buzzword you want, but Johnson’s is always firing whenever he’s on the field. Against both the run and the pass, he’s relentless in trying to either make a play or control the offense within his power to allow for teammates to disrupt. For a class of tackles that features a number of guys with issues in this area, Johnson stands out a great deal. Combine that with his physical tools and there’s tremendous value and potential with the former Hawkeye.
Admittedly, his effort might not be enough to make him an effective run defender right away. He won’t be a liability and, for Seattle, he’d have to try hard to be worse than Reed and Rubin were in that regard last season. Given that he’s at least a was versus the incumbents in that regard, his presence as an interior pass rusher puts him ahead by my estimation. Johnson could start immediately in Seattle and help embody the defensive mindset the Seahawks are famous for with his un-ending push when he’s playing.
Nov 26, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish defensive lineman Jarron Jones (94) tackles USC Trojans running back Ronald Jones II (25) in the second quarter at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. USC won 45-27. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports
1. Jarron Jones – Notre Dame
If the draft were based on what a player’s potential physically is, Jarron Jones would be off the board on Day 1, without question in my opinion. He’s exceptionally imposing at 6-6, 316 pounds as he boasts crazy 35.5-inch arms and shocking quickness for a man his size. When you watch the tape, Jones at his best is just an incredible force that is able to impose his will in any way necessary to be disruptive, which isn’t exclusive to going against the run or pass.
However, the first issue when it comes to Jones is the fact that he didn’t see the field a great deal while at Notre Dame. He played sparingly as a freshman, but showed flashes as a converted offensive lineman. Jones then became a starter as a redshirt sophomore and played well before his season ended prematurely with a foot injury. The 2015 season should’ve been a coming out party in full effect, but he barely saw the field due to a torn MCL. Though he stayed healthy as a senior, his snaps were limited — even if he was productive. That limited amount of work and that type of lower body injury history with a man of his size isn’t comforting for NFL teams.
What’s more, his NFL.com Draft Profile contains an interesting tidbit as a scout says that teams question his love and commitment to football. Again, that’s another thing that, though not totally provable, works against him heading into the draft as teams don’t want to use draft capital on a player not ready to help them long term.
If the Seahawks are sitting with their two compensatory picks at the end of Round 3, though, it’s going to be hard to let Jones pass them by. Players of his build are rare and his tape shows moments of him using that to great effectiveness. The concerns are warranted, but again, Seattle is a place that is built culturally to minimize such risks. And if Seattle could do that with Jones, he could be a viable star and tremendous mid-round value.