Following the Seattle Seahawks’ unceremonious exit from the playoffs, a look ahead to the 2017 NFL Draft with a seven-round mock draft.
Despite the hope that they could find some playoff-magic once again, the Seattle Seahawks were ousted from the 2017 postseason on Saturday night. With Earl Thomas out injured, even the vaunted Seattle defense couldn’t hang with the potent offense of the Atlanta Falcons. Now the Seahawks are left looking for answers in the offense and, pressingly, in the 2017 NFL Draft.
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There’s no denying the success that the Seahawks have had over the better part of a decade and how they’ve done it. With that said, this is a flawed team that has been put in difficult positions—particularly in regards to their offense—due to having to pay several big stars and being thus restrained by the salary cap. That’s where the 2017 NFL Draft can really aid their cause. Subsequently, the end of their season is the perfect time for a fresh seven-round mock draft.
Jan 2, 2017; Arlington, TX, USA; Wisconsin Badgers offensive lineman Ryan Ramczyk (65) blocks Western Michigan Broncos defensive end Keion Adams (1) in the third quarter at AT&T Stadium. The Badgers won 24-16. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Round 1, Pick 26: Ryan Ramczyk, OT – Wisconsin
Looking at the 2017 NFL Draft and how prospects are being rated, the concern for the Seahawks is that they might not be able to adequately address their biggest weakness in the first round: their offensive line. However, in this mock draft, they receive a gift as Ryan Ramczyk out of Wisconsin drops to them with the 26th-overall pick. As such, they get a player who might wind up being the best offensive tackle in this draft class.
Ramczyk has taken an interesting road to Madison after transferring with little to no acclaim from junior college. All he did, in turn, was work himself into being an absolute beast on the edge of an offensive line. He came into the Badgers offense already adept at using his 6-5, 314-pound frame against opposing pass rushes. However, his development as a run blocker has been quite profound. By season’s end, Ramczyk was routinely mauling his man and bullying them out of plays before making solid moves to the second level.
Again, this development means that there is a need to see consistency and further development from the Wisconsin product. However, it might not even be a reach to say that Ramczyk would immediately become the best lineman on the Seahawks front if they were to land him in the first round. Despite concerns, Seattle gets a player who can immediately help them in an area where they desperately require assistance.
Oct 17, 2015; Evanston, IL, USA; Iowa Hawkeyes defensive lineman Jaleel Johnson (67) celebrates after a fumble recovery during the second half of the game at Ryan Field. Mandatory Credit: Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports
Round 2, Pick 26: Jaleel Johnson, DT – Iowa
How people are still sleeping on Jaleel Johnson of the Iowa Hawkeyes is absolutely beyond me at this point. After watching the film and seeing what the big man is capable of on a defensive front, he seems to be a first-round caliber prospect that should be taken far earlier than at the end of the second round. Alas, the Seahawks are able to get an absolute steal with their second pick in this mock as they plug Johnson in the middle of their front four.
While Seattle has talent on the edges and in their linebacker corps when it comes to their front seven, they are lacking at least somewhat when it comes to defensive tackle. They could use both a run-stuffer and someone to help generate more of a pass rush up the middle in the trenches. By adding Johnson, they’d be getting a player who is capable of doing both of those things.
Johnson may not have been the biggest stat-sheet stuffer, especially on a game-to-game basis, but he possesses all of the talent you’d want from an interior defensive lineman. He’s both strong and athletic to take on blocks and clog up holes or get through the blocks and force opposing quarterbacks into quick decisions. Seattle will need to make sure he remains consistently engaged and manage the effort he puts forth, but in terms of what potential he has, the Seahawks can’t do much better in the second round than Johnson.
Jan 2, 2017; Arlington, TX, USA; Wisconsin Badgers defensive end Alec James (57) and Western Michigan Broncos offensive lineman Taylor Moton (72) in action in the 2017 Cotton Bowl game at AT&T Stadium. The Badgers defeat the Broncos 24-16. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Round 3, Pick 26: Taylor Moton, OT – Western Michigan
Again, the Seahawks could truly stand to try and remedy at least four spots on their offensive line. While they may look to free agency to help somewhat in this regard, they need to look at the draft as the best way to do this. Russell Wilson can’t succeed constantly playing under duress and the running game isn’t going to be at peak effectiveness without quality blocking up front. Being able to then secure a player like Taylor Moton out of Western Michigan would be huge for the Seahawks.
Though he played in the MAC in a smaller school against lesser competition, Moton still stands as a solid and intriguing offensive line prospect. In terms of size alone, Moton can turn heads coming into April’s draft. The big man is listed at 6-5, 328 pounds and is clearly a load with length and strength to operate effectively. That size also affords him the flexibility to potentially shift inside to guard moving forward, though that’s not a long-term solution given the advantages his length would provide on the outside.
Moton needs to refine his footwork to not rely so heavily on his size, something he was able to do while playing against the lesser competition of the MAC in college. However, he’s not completely lacking in that regard as he still possesses nice hand-checking, though it’d be nice to see a little more pop in and athleticism as he works to make it in the NFL. He cold potentially be a starting tackle at the NFL level one day, but could plug into the Seahawks porous offensive line almost immediately if they grab him in the third round.
Oct 3, 2015; Champaign, IL, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini defensive end Dawuane Smoot (91) pursues Nebraska Cornhuskers quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. (4) at Memorial Stadium. The Fighting Illini won 14 – 13. Mandatory Credit: Mike Granse-USA TODAY Sports
Round 3, Pick 41: Dawaune Smoot, EDGE – Illinois
Obviously after locking up Michael Bennett and still having Cliff Avril under contract for two more seasons, Seattle still maintains their formidable presence on the edge of their pass rush. However, Bennett showed throughout the 2016 season that he’s still got a bit of injury-prone left in his nature and Avril certainly isn’t getting any younger either. Subsequently, the Seahawks would be wise to address depth on the edge in this draft.
When you’re looking to add depth behind two quality veterans, what you should look for is exactly the type of prospect that Dawaune Smoot has been for the Illinois Fighting Illini. In terms of raw physical abilities, there aren’t many who can match what Smoot brings to the table in the 2017 draft class. He’s explosive and freakishly athletic and can use both of those traits to beat offensive tackles off of the edge many times.
However, Smoot still needs refining when it comes to his move-set as a pass-rusher and in regards to not solely relying on his physical gifts. Far too often you see him come in out of control when rushing and, also due in part to his limited moves, he’s pushed off his line and taken out of the play. To be effective in the NFL, that has to be remedied. Luckily, playing for Pete Carroll and behind veterans like Bennett and Avril will allow Smoot to refine his craft and likely become the next big defensive threat in Seattle.
Nov 26, 2016; Boulder, CO, USA; Members of the Utah Utes line up across from the Colorado Buffaloes in the first half at Folsom Field. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Round 5, Pick 39: Isaac Asiata, OG – Utah
I’m not going to belabor the point that the Seahawks need both depth and quality on the offensive line. We’ve been down that road twice before and nothing’s changed even after taking two linemen earlier in this mock draft. This time, though, the Seahawks should look squarely to the interior of the line and possibly find a late-round steal in the fifth when it comes to Isaac Asiata at offensive guard out of Utah.
Listed at 6-3, 223 pounds, it’s not difficult to see why Asiata could turn heads as he comes into the NFL. He has the size, strength, and frame that makes him seem like an ideal fit at the guard position. Asiata is a powerful blocker on the interior that helped pave the way for a potent Utah rushing attack this season. Despite playing inside of a top-tier tackle prospect in Garett Bolles for the Utes, it was Asiata who earned honors as the best offensive lineman in the Pac-12 for the 2016 season.
Despite Russell Wilson’s prolific talents, the Seahawks would love to be able to set the tone with both Thomas Rawls and C.J. Prosise (once he’s healthy again) in the running game. Though Asiata isn’t a perfect prospect as he needs to improve his hand checking and explosion at the snap in addition to other technical areas on the interior offensive line, he has more than enough potential to work, impress, and potentially contribute sooner rather than later on the Seattle front.
Oct 22, 2016; Columbia, MO, USA; Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders cornerback Jeremy Cutrer (8) breaks up a pass intended for Missouri Tigers wide receiver J’Mon Moore (6) during the first half at Faurot Field. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
Round 6, Pick 26: Jeremy Cutrer, CB – Middle Tennessee
The Seattle Seahawks, if for nothing else, have been known for their tremendous secondary over the years. However, one thing that certainly came to light in their Divisional Round loss to the Falcons—and sneakily throughout the regular season—was the need for both youth and quality depth in the defensive backfield. While having Earl Thomas return will help a lot of their woes, adding a high-upside cornerback would be a fantastic addition.
Jeremy Cutrer might not be a name many are familiar with as he comes out of college, but the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders cornerback has been fantastic throughout his career. Just on his listed measurables alone, it’s not hard to see why Cutrer would be an intriguing late-round pick. At 6-2, 170 pounds, he has the length that could cause tremendous issues for opposing receivers and quarterbacks. What’s more, he’s displayed tremendous ball-skills and instincts while in coverage, though a bit more adept in man than in zone. Though he lacks a bit in size and pop, he tackles well given his apparent shortcomings in those regards, using solid technique to wrap up low.
Obviously Cutrer’s size in terms of muscle and weight are a concern as he heads to the NFL. He’ll need to get on a weight and nutrition program that helps him bulk up so bigger wideouts don’t simply bully him. Moreover, the Seahawks would love to see him improve his overall abilities in zone coverage to make him a more versatile corner. Given the talent they have at the position, though, Cutrer could be given time to develop into a player that’s ultimately labeled a late-round steal down the line.
Oct 17, 2015; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Arizona State Sun Devils place kicker Zane Gonzalez (5) kicks the ball as punter Matt Haack (26) holds during the second half against the Utah Utes at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Utah won 34-18. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports
Round 7, Pick 9: Zane Gonzalez, K – Arizona State
Taking a kicker in the NFL Draft is never a fun exercise, but waiting until the seventh round is the proper course of action to do so if it’s necessary. If you look at the overall body of work for Steven Hauschka this season with the Seahawks, you might not think it necessary for them to look at adding a young replacement at the position. But anyone who watched Seattle’s special teams this season will paint you a different picture.
Hauschka’s kicking woes—specifically in regards to extra points—were wholly frustrating for this team. The last thing you want a team with an inconsistent offense to have to deal with is the special teams hurting the cause. Subsequently, bringing in the 2016 winner of the Lou Groza Award given out to college football’s best kicker would seem like a good way to go about shoring up that area of weakness moving forward. That kicker would be Zane Gonzalez out of Arizona State.
Gonzalez was absolute money throughout his career with the Sun Devils, but even more so over his final season. The strong-legged kicker finished the 2016 campaign going 39-of-40 on extra points and 23-of-25 on field goal attempts, a bright spot in a dismal season for Arizona State. Though you can never fully translate kickers going to the pro level (RE: Roberto Aguayo), Gonzalez looks like a sure thing that would tremendously bolster the special teams unit in Seattle.