You would have to excuse Seattle Seahawks fans if they were a little nervous when it came to their team having two selections in the first round of the NFL Draft on Thursday night.
Traditionally, the Seahawks have hit home runs in the later rounds of the draft by selecting impact players such as Russell Wilson (3rd), Kam Chancellor (5th), Bobby Wagner (2nd), Richard Sherman (5th), and D.K. Metcalf (2nd).
When it comes to finding impact players in the first round, the Seahawks have hit singles. Since Pete Carroll and John Schneider took over the team in 2010, the Hawks have had eight first round picks and the only to player to be selected for a Pro Bowl is tackle Russell Okung, who earned the honour twice.
The other factor that scared the 12’s was this regime’s tendency to trade down in the draft.
Taking all of that into consideration, Seattle fans have to be happy after what transpired Thursday night.
When it comes to the first round, there is a theory that offensive tackles and cornerbacks are the most coveted assets.
Schneider and Carroll apparently subscribe to that theory as well as they selected cornerback Devon Witherspoon from Florida with the fifth overall pick that was obtained from Denver in the Wilson trade despite most mock drafts having them take a defensive lineman.
Witherspoon was rated as the best cornerback in the draft after a great season with the Gators. Targeted 63 times, Witherspoon only allowed 22 receptions for a measly 206 yards. He also had 14 pass breakups with three interceptions.
“Devon Witherspoon, he’s a rare player. Since the years we’ve been here, we haven’t seen a guy like this. We have not drafted corners high just because we haven’t come across a guy of this makeup. It’s his athletic ability, it’s his speed, it’s his playmaking, it’s his mentality. I haven’t come across a guy like this in a long time. The last time I recognized this kind of makeup was back at USC when we had a guy that you guys may know. Troy Polamalu was a guy who had an extraordinary way about the way he played the game, and I saw this connection between what Devon does and how he looks at the game and how he approaches it that just knocked me out. I’m just really excited about this. He’s physical, he’s tough, he’s got an attitude, he’s going to bring it, he’s going to fit right in with our guys,” Carroll told Seahawks.com.
The kid is confident as they come and it shows in the way he gets involved in run support.
The issue that many have with Witherspoon is his size.
At 6-0 and 181 pounds, some have concerns with his durability given his brazen approach towards the run while others feel he’ll be just fine going up against bigger NFL players given his technique.
The good part for the Seahawks is that they now have two very good corners in Witherspoon and last year’s rookie sensation in Tariq Woolen. The pair will give the football club a solid tandem for the foreseeable future.
If both can provide the Seahawks with exemplary play, it should allow Seattle defensive coordinator Clint Hurtt the ability to come with the blitz a little more often as the Seahawks ranked 31st in the NFL last year blitzing only 15.2% of the time.
The Hawks also had their own pick in the first round and with the 20th selection chose Ohio State wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba, who many will remember for his historic game in the 2023 Rose Bowl in which he hauled in 11 catches for 347 yards and three touchdowns in the Buckeyes 48-45 triumph over Utah.
Smith-Njigba’s senior season was comprised due to a hamstring injury which only allowed him to play in three games yet he was still the #1 ranked receiver on the board for many insiders.
If there were any doubts about his hamstring, they were laid to rest at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. Smith-Njigba’s short shuttle run time of 3.93 cracked the top five of all time while his three-cone time of 6.57 was also outstanding.
He will be a perfect compliment to the likes of Metcalf and Lockett, providing the team with a slot receiver whose route-running abilities are superb.
As for Smith Njigba, he can’t wait to team up with the two veteran receivers.
“I’m a big fan of those guys. For me to be in that room, I know how I am, that’s just going to push me to compete harder and find my way amongst those guys. I’m looking forward to lining up next to them,” Smith-Njigba told Seahawks.com.
If Smith-Njigba can live up to his potential, the Seahawks offence with Geno Smith could reach another level as there should be plenty of opportunity for Smith-Njigba to contribute given the attention Metcalf and Lockett draw.
While some Seahawk fans will be disappointed that the team neglected a glaring need by not selecting an edge rusher such as Tyree Wilson from Texas Tech or stud defensive tackle such as Georgia’s Jalen Carter, the Hawks came away with the two best players ranked in their respective positions.
And as for the issue with the defensive line, Schneider and Carroll do some of their best work in the later rounds.
Veteran B.C. sports personality Bob “the Moj” Marjanovich writes twice weekly for Black Press Media. And check out his weekly podcast every Monday at Today in B.C. or your local Black Press Media website.