By Nick Patterson
RENTON — The Seattle Seahawks came into this year’s draft with two glaring needs. One: help with the pass rush. Two: more picks. Thursday night the Seahawks believe they managed to accomplish both.
Seattle parlayed its two first rounders into defensive end L.J. Collier and a bushel of additional picks during Thursday’s first round of the NFL draft.
“It was an exciting night,” Seahawks general manager John Schneider said once the dust settled at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center. “There was a lot going on there, that’s one of the craziest first rounds we’ve seen, a lot of stuff shaking there. We’re really excited to get L.J., we called his house and his whole family was there, he’s from a really small town in Texas, it’s just a great story. So we’re excited. We’re excited to add a couple picks and we really feel like we’re back in the mix in this draft.”
Seattle entered the day with two first rounders at Nos. 21 and 29 overall, thanks to the trade that sent star defensive end Frank Clark to Kansas City for a first-round choice. However, the Seahawks executed their patented move, trading down twice to stockpile additional picks. Those two trades netted four additional picks in the middle rounds.
But Seattle still managed to nab a player Thursday, and it was a player who filled a need. Seattle found itself desperate at defensive end after it traded Clark, its top pass rusher, to the Chiefs in a deal that broke Tuesday and was made official Thursday. In exchange the Seahawks received a wealth of draft capital — the 29th-overall pick Thursday as well as a second rounder in 2020 — but the loss of Clark’s 13 sacks left a gaping hole on the edge.
“Quite frankly Kansas City’s aggressiveness (was the reason for trading Clark),” Schneider said. “They were extremely aggressive throughout the process. We had budgeted to keep Frank and we were hoping to do a long-term deal with him. The deal in Dallas (with the Cowboys signing defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence to a big-money deal) didn’t help things with him. Kansas City was very aggressive and it just got to the point where we needed to help the team and do what was right for the organization.”
Collier should help address that hole. The 6-f00t-2, 283-pounder from TCU was a late developer in college, as he didn’t become a starter until his redshirt senior season. However, he was an impact performer once he became a starter in 2018, registering 42 tackles — including 11.5 for loss — six sacks and four passes defensed.
“He’s going to play 5-technique for us,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. “He’s very flexible, he can move around. He’s a lot like Michael Bennett, he has the versatility and the style and the penetration ability. He has a terrific pass-rush makeup, so we’re going to fit him right into the scheme in that regard. You could see early on he had that kind of stuff to him, he has really good length and a really nice pass rush bag of tricks, he’s got all the stuff. I think we really got something special, and I fell in love with the fact that he has a big chip on his shoulder and wants to prove it. He’ll really fit in.”
Collier was generally given a second-round draft grade.
“I didn’t know where I was going to go, but it’s truly an honor,” Collier said from via phone from his hometown of Munday, Texas. “I’m really pleased with Coach Carroll and those guys up there that took a chance on me. They took a chance on a good one.
“I’m hard-nosed, I’m a physical guy,” Collier added. “I play every down, I’m not just a pass rusher, I’m an overall player. That’s what I bring to the game, I get off the ball and I go 150 percent every time.”
Seattle entered the week with just four picks in the draft, the fewest of any team in the NFL. But the Seahawks picked up the extra first-rounder earlier in the week in the Clark trade, then traded down twice Thursday to pick up four additional picks. Seattle sent No. 21, its own first-rounder, to Green Bay in exchange for No. 30 overall and a pair of fourth-rounders (114th and 118th overall). The Seahawks later sent No. 30 overall to the New York Giants for a second-rounder (37th overall), fourth-rounder (132nd overall) and fifth -rounder (142nd overall).
As a result Seattle zoomed all the way to nine total picks in the draft. The Seahawks have second- and third-round picks Friday, then four fourth-rounders and two fifth-rounders Saturday.
Seattle’s wheeling and dealing continued its streak of dealing away its own first rounders. This was the eighth straight year the Seahawks traded away its own first-rounder and the sixth time they traded down to acquire more picks. It was also the second straight year Seattle sent its first rounder to Green Bay — last year the Seahawks traded down from 18 to 27 and selected running back Rashaad Penny.
The strength of the top of this year’s draft was on the defensive line, which played into Seattle’s needs. However, players the Seahawks may have had their eyes on at No. 21 came off the board fast, with 10 of the first 19 selections being defensive linemen. Schneider said the speed at which the defensive linemen came off the board played a big part in it being such a crazy night.