Three things you should you know about the draft picks for the Seahawks: Character, courage and desire. That's why my evaluation on their nine draft picks are higher than most so-called draft experts.
Here are my grades for each man, along with an overall grade for the 2018 group:
Round 1 – San Diego State RB Rashaad Penny – B+
Happy to see they took a running back with their first pick, but not sure they took the right one. Georgia running back Sony Michel, more highly rated by most NFL scouts and draft experts, went four picks later to the Patriots. It will be interesting to see how the two rookies compare next season.
Penny (5-11, 220) is an explosive runner and an excellent kick returner, but do you really want to risk injury to your top draft pick on returning kicks and punts? The Seahawks need Penny as the lead guy to help them return to the power running game they had in the back-to-back Super Bowl years with Marshawn Lynch.
Would Michel have been the better man to accomplish that feat? Time will tell.
Round 3: Southern Cal DE Rasheem Green: B
Green (6-4, 275) is the man the Seahawks hope can fill a similar role to Michael Bennett by playing both defensive end and defensive tackle. Green doesn’t have Bennett’s quickness, and frankly, it’s unfair to compare anyone to the Pro-Bowl player Bennett was for the Seahawks.
Green also is the team’s answer to make up for last year’s second-round pick Malik McDowell, who never played a down after a serious ATV accident before training camp.
Green overcame a speech impediment as a child. He probably would have gone higher but some teams were concerned about a previous knee injury. Green is a hard-nosed player who had 83 quarterbacks pressure in his three season at USC.
Round 4: Washington TE Will Dissly – A
The Seahawks found the right guy to help with edge blocking in the running game. Dissly (6-4, 265) was viewed as the best blocking tight end in the draft. The Seahawks will have two excellent blockings tight ends, along with veteran free agent signee Ed Dickson.
This was the plan all along and the reason the Seahawks didn’t try to re-sign Jimmy Graham, whose next block will be his first one.
The one knock on Dissly is his lack of experience as tight end, moving to the spot in final two years at UW after starting his college career as a defensive lineman.
Round 5: Central Florida OLB Shaquem Griffin – A-plus
The top grade here doesn’t come from the obvious feel-good reasons of drafting a player with only one hand, who now get to play again along side his twin brother, Seattle cornerback Shaquill Griffin.
The highest grade is for stealing an athlete with so much talent in the fifth round. Shaquem is lightning fast and a ferocious ball hawk. He was the best player on the only undefeated team in college football last season. His lack of a left hand causes him no visible limitations.
At 6-foot, 225, Shaquem is a bit of a “tweener”, but he can rush off the edge with speed and power, and also cover wide receivers and tight ends. He also is an excellent special teams tackler.
Round 5: Oklahoma State DB Tre Flowers: B
At 6-3, 205, Flowers is the type of lanky, physical cornerback the Seahawks love. He measured almost 34 inches in arm length at the combine.
The lone concern here is Flowers played safety in college, so it may take some time for him to transition to a cover corner in the NFL.
Round 5: Texas P Michael Dickson – A-plus
It sounds crazy to give a team the highest grade for drafting a punter, especially when they moved up and gave up a draft pick to do it. But Dickson is a once-in-a-generation talent, possibly the best punter since Ray Guy.
How good is he? So good that he was named the MVP of the Texas Bowl when 10 of his 11 punts pinned Missouri inside the 20. Dickson, who is from Sydney, Australia, honed his skills in Australian Rules Football, where directional kicking and perfect placement is a big part of the game.
With Seattle’s goal of returning to a power running game, field positon is critical and Dickson can make a big difference.
This also is a financial move. Jon Ryan, 36, has been a solid punter for the Seahawks for years, but releasing him could save $5 million the next two years on the salary cap.
Round 5: Ohio State OT Jamarco Jones – C
He had a solid career for the Buckeyes at left tackle and will learn this season under starting LT Duane Brown. Jones didn’t do well at the NFL Combine and post-season workouts, which is why he fell to the sixth round.
Lots of critics have a problem with the Seahawks waiting until Round 6 to take an offensive linemen, but they signed guard D.J. Fluker in the offseason. Nevertheless, I might have taken an OL (possibly Alex Cappa of Humboldt State) instead of Green in the third round.
Round 6: Temple DE/OLB Jacob Martin – C-minus
This pick is a little puzzling. Martin is listed at 6-2, 235, but was 230 at the Combine and reportedly played at 250 at times in his college career. He’s an undersized edge rusher. So is Shaquem Griffin in many ways.
Probably what the Seahawks hope is Martin bulks up to 250 and uses his quickness to give them as added option off the edge.
Round 7: Florida International QB Alex McGough – C-minus
There are a lot of unknowns taken in the seventh round, but McGough (pronounced Magoo) is about as unknown as they come for a drafted QB. He had good size at 6-3, 215 and reportedly throws well on the run, which can be an important asset for an O-line that has struggled as much as Seattle’s has.
The Seahawks needed another arm to compete for the back-up QB spot. However, let’s address the elephant in the room – Colin Kaepernick. The Seahawks could have signed him and had a proven QB to back up Russell Wilson. Kaepernick’s ongoing political opinions weren’t worth the distraction for a team trying to eliminate distractions.
Overall grade – B
Most experts disagree, saying the Seahawks reached on Penny, didn’t take an O-lineman high enough and didn’t draft a true cornerback. USA Today gave the Seahawks its lowest grade at D.
But Seattle GM John Schneider and coach Pete Carroll never have followed conventional draft wisdom. They go with their gut and often look for underappreciated, athletically-gifted guys who have something to prove.
This time, they also went with high-character young men who just might prove the pundits wrong.
RENTON, Wash. – The 2018 NFL Draft has a hero.
This man is a real hero. It has little to do with him being a great player. Shaquem Griffin is everything we love about sports. He is everything we love about overcoming obstacles in life.
It doesn’t matter what your team affiliation is. It doesn’t even matter if you care about football. Griffin is the feel-good story of the year, an outside linebacker with one hand and a giant heart.
His big moment came Saturday when the Seattle Seahawks made him a fifth-round draft choice. That in itself is not a big deal.
The fact that Griffin doesn’t have a left hand, became an NFL draft choice and now will play on the same defense with his twin brother, that’s a big deal.
“People have doubted me at every single level,’’ Shaquem said. “Every single time I proved them wrong. I’m going to keep proving people wrong.”
In case you’re wondering, this is no mercy pick or PR show. If anything, it was a surprise he didn’t get selected sooner.
Griffin was the best player on the only undefeated college team in 2017 – the Central Florida Knights. He also was the best player at the NFL Combine in February and he wasn’t even invited until media pressure forced the NFL to add him to the list.
“We’re going to let him use his speed and chase the football,’’ said Seahawks coach Pete Carroll. “He also is a great blitzer. And he’ll be a big factor on special teams.”
Seahawks general manager John Schneider said it was “nerve racking” waiting and hoping Griffin would still be there when they picked in Round 5.
Carroll was sold from the moment he first talked to Shaquem at the Combine.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been in a more inspiring interview,’’ Carroll said. “He's an extraordinary young man. He has a message we’re all going to grow from.”
After dazzling scouts at the Combine, Griffin shot up many draft boards and was expected to be a second-day pick on Friday in the second or third round. He was invited to the draft show extravaganza at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas (Jerry World of the Cowboys).
That call didn’t come Friday, so Griffin waited in a hotel Saturday with his brother and the rest of family to see what would happen.
The fourth round went by and he still wasn’t picked. When the call finally came, Griffin had gone to the restroom. His brother, Shaquill, a starting cornerback for the Seahawks, saw on Shaquem’s cell phone the 425 area code of Seattle.
“I literally jumped over people and tackled him in the bathroom,’’ Shaquill said. “I’m really emotional right now. I don’t think I cried on my draft day, but I just couldn’t hold it (when his brother was drafted). Everything he’s been through and everything he’s accomplished, but it’s just the beginning.”
Shaquem had a congenital birth defect and his hand was amputated when he was 4. He was in so much pain before the amputation that he tried to cut it off himself.
The one constant, the one thing that helped him overcome his handicap is his brother, who always told Shaquem he could accomplish anything through hard work.
“I’m so proud of him to see where he’s gone and where he’s about to go,’’ Shaquill said. “To see the dream come true means the world to me and to him. We’re gonna shock the world.”
Shaquill was a third-round pick of the Seahawks last year and became an NFL starting cornerback in 2017. Shaquem had one more season in school as a redshirt senior.
“The only thing we knew was being around each other,’’ Shaquem said. “But we called each other every day last year and cheered each other. I’m so excited to get to play with him again. He knows what’s in me. It’s like I’m living a dream and magical stuff is happening. The chances of this happening were really low.”
After the call came from the Seahawks, Shaquem went back to AT&T Stadium. The crowd was waiting. Never in history has a fifth-round draft choice walked into a draft headquarters and received the ovation that came for Griffin.
Everyone stood and applauded. Everyone wanted to pat him on the back, take a selfie or give him a hug. Some people screamed his name. Others cried.
Griffin is more than a football player. He is the symbol of everything good about the human condition.
“It is a story about overcoming obstacles,’’ said Seattle coach Pete Carroll. “It is about never giving up. And it’s also about a connection of brothers that is all about love and heart.”
Day 1 of the NFL Draft wasn’t 10 minutes old when the Cleveland Browns managed to select the one man in the world they needed to avoid, another Mistake on the Lake for this troubled franchise.
With the first pick in the draft and numerous great options, the Browns decided to jump in Lake Erie by picking quarterback Baker Mayfield.
Incredible. This organization learned absolutely nothing from the past. The Browns are still the Browns.
The only player the Browns had stay away from, given their past dumpster fire with quarterback Johnny Manziel, was Mayfield. With a draft full of great quarterbacks, why in the world take a guy who may have maturity and character issues? Dumb and Dumber.
Mayfield is talented, gritty, determined and a proven winner, which is why he won the Heisman Trophy last season while leading the Oklahoma Sooners. For Cleveland however, the red flags and the similarities to the Manziel disaster should have made Mayfield off-limits from its draft board.
Everyone knew Manziel, also a Heisman winner, was a behavior risk when the Browns drafted him in the first round in 2014. The problems continued with immature gestures on the field and issues with excessive drinking and partying off the field. It eventually led to rehab and he was out of the league after two seasons.
Mayfield isn’t Manziel (some say) but Mayfield also has well-known issues, childishly taunting opponents and a previous arrest for public intoxication.
For the long-suffering Cleveland fans, I hope Mayfield is a model citizen and everything the Browns believe he can be as an NFL quarterback. Maybe it will work out, but why take the chance?
The New York Giants high-fived and should send the Browns a thank you note. The Giants used the second pick to take the best player in this draft and possibly the best running back in a generation in Saquon Barkley of Penn State. Giants quarterback Eli Manning just got five years younger.
And the New York Jets, with the No. 3 pick, also jumped for joy knowing they got their man in USC quarterback Sam Darnold, a huge talent and a respectable young man, making him a much safer pick than Mayfield.
The Browns had the fourth overall pick and blew it again, although not as bad as Mayfield. They selected Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward. A fine player and a home-grown guy, but not the right pick.
There were better options _ North Carolina State defensive end Bradley Chubb, who went to Denver one pick later, or Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson, the sixth player picked.
It’s all an avalanche effect from picking Mayfield first. Four quarterbacks went in the top 10, including Wyoming’s Josh Allen at No. 7 to Buffalo and UCLA’s Josh Rosen at No. 10 to Arizona.
The right decision for the Browns was to take Barkley first and the best quarterback still on the board at No. 4. They probably could have gotten Mayfield at No. 4, although it still would have been the wrong decision for them over the other QBs.
Maybe when we look back on this in two or three years, Mayfield is a class act and a Pro Bowl player, and the Browns finally can have an “I-told-you-so” moment. Or maybe Mayfield is the person we’ve seen in the past and it will go down as another reason for fans to say the Browns just don’t get it.
Whatever happens, it wasn’t worth the risk.
SEATTLE – The Seahawks did the right thing in picking a running back in the first round. Was it the right running back?
Rashaad Penny, a record-breaking runner at San Diego State, was the surprise choice for Seattle. Few, if any, draft projections and draft experts had Penny going in the first round. Now he wants to prove them wrong.
“I looked at all the mocks and projections, but as the process went on I realized mocks and predictions don’t mean anything,’’ Penny said. “I can do whatever it takes to help them win a game, that’s for sure. That’s the mindset I’m bringing to Seattle.”
As expected, the Seahawks traded down, from 18 to 27 in Round 1. The two running backs most experts saw as the best in the draft next to Penn State’s Saquon Barkley – Sony Michel of Georgia and Derrius Guice of LSU – were still on the board.
Penny (5-11, 220) was projected to go in the second of even the third round. Guice and Michel were projected as late first round or early second-round picks. Michel was drafted four spots after Penny by the New England Patriots. So why Penny instead of the other two?
“I don’t mind telling you, this pick fires me up,’’ said Seahawks coach Pete Carroll. “He’s such an exciting player and so versatile and dynamic. We know that every time he gets his hands on the ball he can score a touchdown.”
Penny’s stats are impressive. He rushed for 2,248 yards as a senior, an eye-popping 7.8-yard average per carry. Penny had 23 TDs rushing and two receiving. He also can return kicks and punts and had seven kickoff TDs.
Stats alone aren’t the reason Carroll and Seattle general manager John Schneider felt Penny stood out.
Carroll and Schneider made it clear earlier in the week the kind of players they are looking for in this draft. No red flags. After a season of constant distraction last year, the front office wanted high-character young men who they believe will buy in to the program.
Penny is that kind of kid.
“He fits the bill for us,” Carroll said. “To get a guy who knows who he is and has his world squared away gets us that much closer to the core of who we are and what we want to be.”
Penny’s joy at becoming a first-round pick was clear in a video that went viral on social media. He was home in Los Angeles when he got the call from the Seahawks in front of about 50 family members and friends. Penny cried as the people around him screamed in happiness.
“I was just excited to be part of this process,’’ Penny said. “I’m a hard worker and I want to come in and compete.”
Penny, 22, started only one season at San Diego State because he played behind Donnel Pumphrey, but Penny still rushed for 1,018 yards as a junior with a 7.5-yard average.
“I’m a very patient runner and very elusive,’’ Penny said. “And I can catch the ball out of the backfield.”
Penny also admits his weaknesses.
“Definitely I have to work on my pass protection,’’ he said. “I’m working on it every day. I’m going to get better and I know I have to protect that million-dollar man back there in Russell Wilson. I’m excited to join him. It’s gonna be fun.”
Penny didn’t play against the rugged competition of the SEC like Michel and Guice, but he probably convinced the Seahawks he could get it done against better competition at the Senior Bowl. Penny had a 73-yard TD reception and rushed for 64 yards on nine carries.
Penny also has an older brother, Elijhaa, who is a back-up running back for the Arizona Cardinals. Rashaad said his big brother helped him prepare for the draft.
The Seahawks and everyone else knows Penny is talented. Advanced analytics show other things, as well.
“He has some really interesting analytic stats on durability and yards after contact,’’ Schneider said. “Out of this [draft] group, he was No. 1 in both those categories.”
In the end, it wasn’t any single stat that made the Seahawks pick Penny over the other backs.
“He is a really easy-going, humble, really good person,’’ Schneider said. “Once he gets on the field he has a swagger about him. His demeanor is this quiet kid, but he has that sparkle in his eyes.’’
The Seahawks had only one rushing TD from a running back last season. The truth is they haven’t been the same team without Marshawn Lynch, who led them to back-to-back Super Bowls.
“He’s a great running back and I’m excited to try to follow his footsteps,’’ Penny said. “He was amazing and I want to carry on that tradition. I think that’s why they picked me.”
He thinks right and it was the right move by the Seahawks. But is Penny the right man for the job?
“I want to bring that team back to where it was a few years ago,’’ Penny said. “I want to thank everyone in their organization for trusting me. I know they need someone to come in and help, and I’m the right guy for that. I’m a fighter. I just can’t wait.”
Heading into the 2018 NFL Draft, the Seattle Seahawks are no worse off than they were when the 2017 season ended.
That statement may shock some fans considering the team lost cornerback Richard Sherman, defensive end Michael Bennett, tight end Jimmy Graham, defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson and wide receiver Paul Richardson (to name a few) since the end of last season.
If you look at it position by position, things aren’t quite as gloomy as they appear. In most spots, the Seahawks are either the same or better than they were at the end of December.
Granted, the end of last season wasn’t so good. However, the idea that the team has gone downhill over the offseason losses isn’t true.
Let’s take a look, along with who might make sense for the Seahawks in the draft that starts Thursday and continues through Saturday:
Offensive line – Better.
The addition of D.J. Fluker at guard is a major improvement. Fluker (6-5, 340) is a bulldozer as a run blocker and should help the Seahawks get back to a power running game.
The offensive line still has question marks at right tackle (Germain Ifedi hasn’t shown he can get the job done) and whatever guard spot Fluker doesn't play (Ethan Pocic should improve over his rookie season). They go into the draft better overall and likely will take an offensive linemen early in the draft.
Another big reason the O-line is better involves a non-player move. Mike Solari is the new OL coach, replacing Tom Cable. Solari is a no-nonsense guy. He will use more man-to-man blocking schemes where Cable emphasized a zone-blocking scheme. In other words, less thinking and more muscle, allowing players to use their instincts.
Draft need _ High.
Who would I pick? Will Hernandez, G, Texas-El Paso. A bulldozer at 6-2, 340. The Seahawks could move Pocic to tackle.
Running backs _ No change.
And that’s not great, but the Seahawks will get Chris Carson back after missing most of his rookie season with a broken ankle. Carson looked promising in four games, but he’s a seventh-round draft choice with a lot to prove.
Mike Davis also played well down the stretch. Whether or not either man can be a lead back for a team that wants to emphasize the run is uncertain at best.
Draft priority _ Mandatory
Who would I pick? Sony Michel, Georgia. Plays big in big games and a solid pass-blocker. Great burst at the line of scrimmage.
Receivers – Equal.
The Seahawks lost Paul Richardson, but signed former Arizona receiver Jaron Brown and added Marcus Johnson as part of the Bennett trade with Philadelphia. At 6-2, 205, Brown adds a physical presence outside that Richardson didn’t have.
The same is true for Johnson (6-1, 205). Johnson, however, is a complete unknown after spending 2016 on the Eagles practice with limited playing time last year. So no gain and no significant loss here overall.
Draft Priority _ Needed.
Who would I pick? Dante Pettis, Washington. Good hands, gains separation and the all-time NCAA leader in punt return TDs with nine.
Tight end – A mixed bag.
The Seahawks had no intention of re-signing Jimmy Graham, but probably would have liked to keep Luke Wilson, who signed with Detroit. They added veteran Ed Dickson, who gives the team vastly improved blocking over what the Seahawks got from Graham, which was next to nothing.
Seattle loses the one thing Graham did well, which was a true scoring threat near the goal-line. At 6-7, Graham would post-up on defensive backs for TD receptions. But he also dropped too many passes elsewhere on the field and was no help as a blocker at the line of scrimmage.
Again, if the goal this season is to get back to a power-running game, the Seahawks are much better off with Dickson at tight end. He also can help with pass blocking edge rushers.
Draft need: Late round.
Who would I pick? Jordan Thomas, Mississippi State. Huge guy at 6-6, 275 and could really help the season with blocking on the edge.
Quarterback – The same.
Lots of unnecessary drama here with no changes overall. Russell Wilson’s management team got it’s dander up because Seahawks general manager John Schneider went and watched quarterback Josh Allen work out.
That led to all kinds of ridiculous speculation about Wilson being traded. Not happening in 2018 and who knows what could happen in 2019, but watching Allen work out was no reason for Team Wilson to get offended.
The real drama happened when the Seahawks planned to bring in Colin Kaepernick for a work out, but backed out when Kaepernick reportedly wouldn’t list his future plans. Translation: “Are you going to stand for the anthem.”
When news got out about the Seahawks “postponing” a Kaepernick meeting it set off a social-media wildfire on both sides of the issue, along with an avalanche of media attention.
A day later the Seahawks signed quarterback Stephen Morris, who has yet to play in an NFL game in four seasons since leaving the University of Miami. The Seahawks also re-signed back-up QB Austin Davis.
Seattle could have dramatically improved its quarterback depth with Kaepernick, but let politics get in the way.
Draft need: Maybe
Who would I pick? Kyle Lauletta, Richmond. MVP of the Senior Bowl and an accurate passer with an instinct for finding the open man.
Defensive end – Not as good.
This is the one spot where the Seahawks may have an overall loss. Bennett played hurt all last season and still had 8.5 sacks. Trading him meant the Seahawks also rid themselves of all his non-football distractions. Soon after the trade Bennett was arrested over an incident in the 2017 Super Bowl at Houston when he allegedly pushed an elderly security guard.
Dion Jordan steps into the starting spot for now after showing a lot of promise last season with four sacks in five games. However, Bennett was a Pro-Bowl player for the Seahawks, not something easily replaced.
Obviously, the Seahawks were much better at the start of last season with Cliff Avril as a starter. The neck injury probably has ended Avril’s career.
Draft need: Fairly high
Who would I pick? Hercules Mata’afa, Washington State. And undersized DT in college with exceptional quickness and a relentless motor.
Defensive tackle – Better depth.
The Seahawks knew it was unlikely they could afford to keep Sheldon Richardson, who signed with Minnesota, so they signed two veteran defensive tackles from the Vikings to replace him – Tom Johnson and Shamar Stephen.
Seattle also has talented young DTs in Jarran Reed and Nazair Jones, the likely starters in 2018. Richardson was a disruptive force inside, but the Seahawks are better overall here than they were in 2017.
Draft need: Low.
Who would I pick: Breeland Speaks, Mississippi. At 6-3, 305, he had seven sacks last season. He can play the nose, 3-tech or 5-tech.
Linebackers – Slightly better.
Middle linebacker Bobby Wagner and outside linebacker K.J. Wright are rocks on the Seattle defense. The other outside spot is better with the acquisition of Barkevious Mingo, who will give the defense an additional pass-rushing threat outside.
But depth is a big issue here and the Seahawks will need to add players as backups.
Draft need – Moderate.
Who would I pick? Shaquem Griffin, Central Florida. Don’t let his having only one hand fool you. He can do everything well. His twin brother is Seattle cornerback Shaquill Griffin.
Cornerbacks – A wash.
Yes, a Seattle icon is gone in Richard Sherman. But Sherman wasn’t playing at the end of last season because of a ruptured Achilles tendon. It was painful for the fans to see him sign with the 49ers, including some bad feelings from Sherman after he left.
In essence, the Seahawks and 49ers swapped cornerbacks when Seattle signed Dontae Johnson, who started all 16 games for San Francisco last season. Johnson is no Sherman and isn’t going to be. He probably is as good as the Seahawks had in Byron Maxwell, who was started in place of Sherman at the end of 2017.
Shaquill Griffin returns at the other cornerback spot after an impressive rookie season. Cornerback still could be an early draft selection for the Seahawks.
Draft need: High.
Who would I pick? Josh Jackson, Iowa. Physical corner the Seahawks love. It will take staying in the first round to get him.
Safeties – The same (so far).
Both starters from last season are back from the end of last season _ free safety Earl Thomas and strong safety Bradley McDougald. As is the case with Avril, it appears Kam Chancellor’s career is over from the neck injury he suffered early last season.
The unknown here is Thomas and whether he returns or is traded. If a team is willing to give the Seahawks a first and third-round pick for Thomas (possibly the Cowboys), then Thomas may have played his last game with the Seahawks.
Thomas has a year left on his contract. Re-signing him would cost in excess of $50 million. He still is the best free safety in the game. The rest of the Legion of Boom is gone. For the right price, the last LOB member may be gone, as well.
Priority – Moderate.
Who would I pick? Chucky Williams, Louisville. Big-hitter and an outstanding special-teams player.
Kicker – Better.
Sebastian Janikowski is 40 years old and probably not the kicker he once was. Nevertheless, Janikowski still is dramatically better than Blair Walsh, who was a factor in the Seahawks failing to make the playoff last season.
Sea Bass (as the league knows him) has 55 field goals of 50 yards or longer in his 17-year career and 86 percent success rate on kicks under 50 yards.
The Seahawks also signed Jason Myers to compete for the kicking job, but Sea Bass is the likely replacement for Walsh.
Draft Priority – Low.
Who would I draft? No one, but if the Seahawks want to use a seventh-round pick, Daniel Carlson (6-5, 215) of Auburn is the guy.
So there you have it. You can make a case that the Seahawks actually are better at several spots right now than they were when the disappointing 9-7 season ended last year.
That’s not good enough. They need to have their best draft since the remarkable 2012 class if they hope to reach the lofty heights set by the era that ended last year.