Seahawks 2023 mock draft: A prediction on what Seattle could do with other first round pick
Guess what: There are other players besides Jalen Carter and we don't know yet who will end up as the best DT
There has been much noise made about Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter, from being “the best player on the best college defense of all-time” in 2021 to Todd McShay’s “character issues” controversy brought up last week. There will be many opportunities to continue to talk about Carter from now until April 27th, this I can promise you 1000x over, so let’s instead take a moment to declare what the Seattle Seahawks could do at defensive tackle without him.
The Seahawks desperately need better defensive tackles. Al Woods is 36. Bryan Mone is a cap casualty candidate. Poona Ford is a free agent. Myles Adams is a prospect worth monitoring, but nothing more yet and the list of current starting defensive tackles in the league who went undrafted is a short one. Even shorter than Poona, coincidentally one those starters.
Name the seven current Seahawks defensive linemen (Woods, Mone, Ford, Adams, Shelby Harris, Quinton Jefferson, L.J. Collier) and there’s a non-zero chance that none of them are on Seattle’s 53-man roster a year from now.
Jalen Carter? Yeah, okay, that’s a possibility. But the Seahawks may need to draft more than one defensive tackle anyway and there’s a good possibility that they won’t even be in position to select Carter. He could be “special” but at this point Seattle would happily settle for a defensive tackle prospect who is just “really good”.
Look around the NFL today and make note of where the best defensive tackles were picked in the draft. You’ll see, unsurprisingly, that few of them were top-10 picks. That’s in large part due to the fact that not many defensive tackles are selected that high in the draft and many of the top-10 guys who couldn’t miss, found nothing but air on their pro swings. Many of the best DTs were mid-first round picks and it so happens that right now the Seahawks’ own 2023 selection is situated at 15.
That may end up being the better sweet spot for Seattle to land their Al Woods mentee. It may have to be anyway.
As usual, Seaside Joe doesn’t just talk the talk. Joe also walks…down to Pro-Football-Reference headquarters and pays $80 per year for the STATHEAD tool…the walk.
You’re probably wondering, like me, “Who are the best current defensive tackles?”
This is a bonus article but look at how much you’re getting for free. Consider supporting:
Let’s start with 2022’s tackles for a loss leaders at defensive tackle just as a jumping off point, noting that not all schemes or defensive tackle positions/assignments are created equal: Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne, Christian Wilkins, Quinnen Williams, Chris Jones, J.J. Watt, Grady Jarrett, Aaron Donald, Grover Stewart, Javon Hargrave, Dre’Mont Jones, Jeffery Simmons, DeForest Buckner, Cameron Heyward, Sebastian Joseph-Day, and Justin Jones should all at least qualify as “beefy dudes who’d help bulk up any defensive line” and they have at least eight TFL this season.
From the DT-leading 16 TFL of Allen to the eight TFL for Buckner, Heyward, SJD, and Jones.
Of the above group of 16 defensive lineman, nine were first round picks, including the top-four leaders in TFL (Allen, Payne, Wilkins, Williams) and six of the top-eight (Watt, Donald). Of those six, only Williams was a top-10 pick (third overall in 2019), while the other five were all selected between 11-17.
That’s pretty specific for a group of tackles for loss leaders.
Every year we get the same sentiment from NFL fans and the draft, which goes along the lines of, “Oh God no, please God no, if my team doesn’t select the absolute best PROSPECT at the position I want then I don’t know the point of continuing to watch the NFL anymore, dear God no!”
But let’s do some reviewing of the respective draft classes for some of these prospects and see if I can convince anyone that there is life after Carter:
2011 - Watt wasn’t the first big defensive lineman selected, that would actually be third overall pick Marcell Dareus. Though he had some really good years in Buffalo, Dareus saw his career nosedive by 2016. Another top-15 pick, Nick Fairley (my personal favorite that year), wasn’t terrible but also wasn’t particularly good.
2012 - The best defensive tackle in the class with hindsight is obviously Fletcher Cox, still one of the top DTs in the game, but he was selected one pick after Dontari Poe. Seattle may have even stuck at 12 and picked Poe if he had fallen, but instead traded down for the Eagles to select Cox and the Seahawks chose Bruce Irvin.
2013 - The top defensive tackles were Sheldon Richardson at 13 and Star Lotulelei at 14, both fine players.
2014 - Amazingly, Aaron Donald was the only defensive tackle in the top-28 picks that year, until the Patriots selected Dominique Easley, rumored to be Seattle’s favorite target in the class. The best player of his generation, Donald didn’t get the same hype as Jalen Carter is getting now.
2015 - Another relatively weak DT first round class, many people were besides themselves over Washington’s Danny Shelton, who went to the Browns at 12th overall. He was okay at times. With hindsight it was Grady Jarrett, the 137th overall pick, who should have been the fan favorite.
2016 - A rare prospect evaluation home run, few players have plugged holes as well as DeForest Buckner, the seventh overall pick. I liked Sheldon Rankins because Rob Staton said this his “explosiveness score” was like none other, but the 12th overall pick has had a really disappointing career. Instead, Rob should have ranked Kenny Clark (27th overall) as one of his favorite players.
2017 - You could probably put Solomon Thomas (third overall) somewhere in that 3-4 defensive tackle type conversation, but nowhere near a “great player” discussion. Jonathan Allen went 17th overall and he may be the best in the game at his position now.
2018 - Vita Vea (12th overall) is a special nose tackle but had some time robbed with injuries and he went one pick ahead of Payne. The Seahawks picked Rasheem Green 79th overall but might have been better served with Justin Jones, who went five picks later, or SJD, who went 195th.
2019 - Perhaps the best defensive tackle class of the century: Quinnen Williams, Ed Oliver, Christian Wilkins, Dexter Lawrence, and Jeffery Simmons were top-20 picks, and Dre’Mont Jones was a solid steal at 71st overall.
2020 - Derrick Brown is a good defensive tackle, but would Seahawks be happy using a top-10 pick on a player at this position who doesn’t get to the quarterback? People thought that Javon Kinlaw could be that guy but with 1.5 career sacks…no. Teams could have gotten Justin Madubuike at a third round discount.
2021 - There were no true defensive tackles picked until Christian Barmore at 38. An early standout has been Milton Williams, a third round pick built in the Aaron Donald mold at 290 lbs.
This past year, I ended up pointing to Georgia’s Jordan Davis as my final mock selection for the Seahawks in the first round despite my very first mock after the Russell Wilson trade having Seattle select Charles Cross. I should have stuck with my gut. But Chris Simms motivated me to take a longer look at Davis and teammate Devonte Wyatt, citing them as worthy of top-six picks who were being undervalued.
It’s too early to judge, but neither Davis nor Wyatt have done anything to earn reputations like that in the NFL. They were the only two defensive tackles selected in the first round and neither has recorded a professional sack yet, while Wyatt is having a very Jerry Tillery-like start to his career.
There’s nothing that Davis or Wyatt have done this year that the Jets haven’t gotten out of fourth round pick Michael Clemons.
And remember, Jordan Davis was cited as Georgia’s “MVP” in 2021, while some were even higher on Wyatt. To argue that Georgia’s defensive linemen could have been overrated this year is not like claiming that the Earth is flat; there’s some science here to back it up, although this doesn’t mean that it is the case.
Don’t think of this as me trying to talk you out of Jalen Carter. Instead, think of it as Seaside Joe reminding you that despite your gut feeling that it is “Carter-or-bust”, in fact the NFL Draft has proven over and over again that talent evaluators have massive blindspots and that is the case year after year. Seattle needs to add talented beef to their defensive line but it doesn’t have to be with the pick that the Seahawks got from the Denver Broncos.
In fact, Seattle’s best option may be a different blue chip prospect at the top of the draft and then either sticking-and-picking with their own first round pick, if not the Seahawks trading down again and trusting their abilities to find meaningful defensive tackle snaps later down the order, perhaps on day two.
Now let’s go over some of those options—but first if you are reading this as a free subscriber please take this into consideration: You get at least 365 FREE Seahawks articles from Seaside Joe every year. I have literally written over 1,000,000 words about the Seahawks in 2022 already. This is not my full-time job, it is a side hustle based on my longtime obsession over covering the team because of some innate need to do so that I’ve never been able to quiet.
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That’s the end of my pitch, continue reading for more information on the 2023 defensive tackle class.