Seahawks 2023 mock draft: A Bijan Robinson, Michael Mayer first round plan
How to get the top-2 skill players and an extra first round pick: Seaside Joe 1408
If the Seattle Seahawks end up drafting an interior pass rusher and a quarterback in the first round of the 2023 draft, no matter the order, they could either intentionally or unintentionally be building themselves in the mold of the New York Jets. Hopefully unintentionally though…because the Jets continue to suck.
One of my major misses in the 2022 offseason was predicting that the Jets would be a playoff team and that Zach Wilson would be the catalyst in the center of it all thanks to his breakout sophomore campaign. True as it is that Wilson was even worse in year two than he was as a rookie, it should not be overlooked—or at least not nearly as ignored as it has been by the media—that the Jets also have a terrible offensive supporting cast.
That’s not what I expected when I foresaw Wilson as a Pro Bowl quarterback surrounded by an improved offensive line, several promising young skill players, and playcalling from the brother of Packers head coach Matt LaFleur, himself an offshoot from the Kyle Shanahan coaching tree as a former 49ers pass game coordinator.
Zach Wilson wasn’t the only disappointment in New Jersey.
Offensive tackle Mekhi Becton, the 11th overall pick in 2020, has faced constant questions of being properly conditioned and has only played in one game over the last two seasons. The progress of receiver Elijah Moore, the 34th overall pick in 2021, sounds much better coming out of the mouths of Twitter users than it looks on film and box scores. Running back Breece Hall, the 36th overall pick in 2022, tore his ACL in Week 7, the same week that guard Alijah Vera-Tucker was lost for the season with an elbow injury.
Cutting to the chase, between those four plus tackles Duane Brown and George Fant, receiver Corey Davis, guard Laken Tomlinson, tight end C.J. Uzomah, and running backs James Robinson and Michael Carter, Zach Wilson was far from the only Jets offensive player who wasn’t as good as advertised.
What that amounted to was the Jets scoring a total of 15 points in their last three games (five field goals, zero touchdowns) and ranking 32nd in points scored since their seventh game of the season when they lost Hall and Vera-Tucker… 30 points behind the 31st place Titans.
What does this all have to do with the Seahawks? As I said, they’re kind of building the roster in a similar way and while drafting defensive tackle Jalen Carter could be their Quinnen Williams-esque move, there’s also the strategy of picking a quarterback who could either turn out like Trevor Lawrence or Zach Wilson. Last year, the Jets had four of the top-36 picks and they hit home runs on Sauce Gardner, Garrett Wilson, and Hall. The only one who they’re waiting on right now, besides Hall’s ACL recovery, is 26th overall pick Jermaine Johnson.
Not that there was anything wrong with picking an edge rusher or picking Johnson specifically, it just happens that it was the offense that sank the ship as the Jets lost eight of their last 10 games to fall out of the playoffs.
It makes me think of a strategy that the Seahawks could employ with their own hefty supply of 2023 draft capital by focusing not on their maligned defense (the Jets ranked fourth in points and yards allowed and are out of the playoffs, whereas 10 of the top-11 offenses, including Seattle made it to the postseason) but by doubling, if not tripling down on their offensive supporting cast.
This is the mock draft plan for the Seahawks to get the top-two non-quarterback offensive prospects in the 2023 draft as a way to insure the pieces around Geno Smith or whoever ends up under center next season.
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The First Round of the Draft
The Seahawks hold the fifth overall pick, whereas their own pick will fall somewhere between 19 and 31. They also hold the 37th overall pick and their own second round pick. I’ll address the first round decisions and briefly talk about second round options, but this won’t run like a typical Seahawks mock draft that fakes what overall pick the end up with, as I’ll talk more in generalities.
5th overall pick - Trade down w/team that wants QB
As I wrote on January 4, I’m not sure that the top-five of this draft class makes a lot of sense for the 2023 Seahawks. Now that we know that Seattle is locked in at five, not three, we might even be able to rule out Jalen Carter and Will Anderson as possibilities unless the Seahawks trade up. Either doing that or picking a quarterback would be antithetical to typical Pete Carroll/John Schneider strategy.
I’m not against any strategy—I’ve long pined for Bryce Young—but there’s another road that is favorable and lines up with the usual Pete methodology, which is trading down.
In the comments of that Broncos trade article, I addressed the question of Texas running back Bijan Robinson and here’s why I do not see him going that early in the draft: NFL teams are hesitant to make a rookie running back one of the highest paid players at his position in the entire league.
As the number five pick, Robinson would cost about $9 million per season, which is more than all but eight current running back contracts. That number will get lower after several players are cap casualties in the offseason. Though some people will cite Robinson as the best all-around offensive or defensive player in the class, the potential value savings of a quarterback, edge rusher, and most other positions makes it unlikely that he will go in the top-10.
I won’t say that it is impossible, it’s just that times have changed and we can’t even use recent history—like say Saquon Barkley—to make examples of exceptions.
On a similar note is tight end Michael Mayer out of Notre Dame. Mayer has been getting early first round buzz since his 2020 freshman season and he finished his career with 180 catches, 2099 yards, and 18 touchdowns in 36 games. But a long history of first round tight end disappointments and the lack of positional cost value could make Mayer available into the middle of the first round, if not the twenties.
At CBS Sports last week, Robinson went 19th, Mayer went 23rd.
At DraftWire on Monday, Mayer went 15th, Robinson went 23rd.
At TheDraftNetwork, Robinson went 10th, Mayer went 21st.
At PFF, Mayer went 15th, Robinson went 18th.
We are getting a very consistent vibe so far that arguably the top-two skill players in the entire 2023 draft class are not going to go “early” and that at least one of them could fall to a current playoff team.
Now I ask, does that at least sound a little bit more appealing to any of you Seahawks fans that hearing the ho-hum mock draft results of “Seattle picks Myles Murphy and Kelee Ringo” or “Seattle picks Tyree Wilson and O’Cyrus Torrence”?
At five, the Seahawks will have their chance at probably at least two of the top-four (Young, C.J. Stroud, Anthony Richardson, and Will Levis) quarterbacks in the class and while there could be some appeal to one or several of these names, what if we at least entertained the possibility that Seattle could continue to get better around the quarterback in 2023 while simultanously adding draft capital value to 2024, when the quarterback class is even better?
This is the year to do it.
There is going to be a ridiculously inordinate number of quarterback vacancies in 2023 and I’m expecting some blockbuster trade up situations to happen, just as it did in 2016 for Jared Goff, Carson Wentz, in 2017 with Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson, in 2018 with Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, Josh Rosen, Lamar Jackson, and in 2021 with Trey Lance and Justin Fields.
Teams traded up for all of those prospects. Teams are likely to trade up for several of these quarterback prospects in 2023.
Outside of the top-10, you could have the Titans, Jets, Patriots, Commanders, Bucs, and Broncos all vying to get up to five for a quarterback. But for this mock draft to work, the Seahawks probably can’t slip outside of the top-15, so why not try this: The busy-bee Jets trade the 13th overall pick, a fourth round pick, and their 2024 first round pick to the Seahawks for the fifth overall pick.
You know how I feel about Zach Wilson but let’s keep him out of this and focus on the draft picks. Desperation New York picks C.J. Stroud after the Colts trade up for Bryce Young and the Texans select Anthony Richardson, while Seattle moves down to 13 and with their additional 2024 first round pick, they have another roll of the dice to potentially get a top-five pick again next year because the Jets have a tendency to suck.
At 13, the Seahawks pick Michael Mayer. With their original first round pick, the Seahawks select Bijan Robinson as a complement to Ken Walker III.
As I wrote on December 30, Seattle may need to face a tough reality with Will Dissly based on his extensive injury history and lack of production as a pass catcher. Mayer becomes an immediate weapon in a tight end-hungry offense, as the Seahawks threw 136 targets to tight ends in 2022.
Robinson becomes an immediate starter with a wider range of skills than Walker and alleviates that pressure to bring back the oft-injured Rashaad Penny in 2023; if you have to pay either Robinson or Penny the same amount, which you might, wouldn’t you much rather have the rookie?
Seattle ranked 23rd in rushing DVOA, 18th in rushing yards, and 15th in expected points added from the run game. Important, I think, is that the Seahawks’ 12 rushing touchdowns is half as many as the RB duo of Tony Pollard and Ezekiel Elliott on the Cowboys, while also trailing 21 other teams.
Let’s assess now where the Seahawks offense could stand after these three moves before addressing free agency and how all that will shake out:
The Seahawks QB will have Walker, Robinson in the backfield
The Seahawks starting receivers are Tyler Lockett, DK Metcalf
The Seahawks starting tackles are Charles Cross, Abe Lucas
The Seahawks three tight ends are Mayer, Noah Fant, Colby Parkinson
The only two of those players on veteran contracts are Lockett, Metcalf
The Seahawks would now own two first round picks in 2024
Of course we can all agree that Seattle’s offensive line needs work and that Walker was far too often stuffed in the backfield without an opportunity to create yards like he’s capable of doing. The Seahawks ranked 30th in adjusted line yards at FootballOutsiders, with the fourth-worst “Stuffed Rate” in the NFL.
A lot of that is due to poor run blocking in the interior, but overlooked is that the Seahawks ranked 31st in adjusted line yards off of Cross at left tackle. That’s not surprising given that Cross played at Mississippi State, the college program with the fewest run plays in the nation in 2021.
But I’m less worried about developing Cross as a run blocker or getting interior help in free agency and on day two of the draft than I am on Seattle finding more blue chip talent to put either at the quarterback position or around the quarterback position. This plan for Mayer and Robinson does the latter and it also fits Pete Carroll’s offensive style and draft predilictions more than going for a receiver and a guard.
Mayer improves the run blocking, in addition to improving the passing game. Robinson improves the pass blocking, in addition to improving the running game. Robinson lets you rest Walker. Mayer lets you move on from Dissly.
This is one part of a multi-layered offseason plan for the Seahawks to actually do more work on fixing an offense that ranked 20th on third downs, 28th in red zone efficiency, 24th in time of possession, 17th in turnovers, and that managed only 65 points in their last four games (five Geno touchdown passes, four of which went to tight ends, and as a matter of fact Seattle’s most recent rushing touchdown came on November 27th) than to get overly obsessed with a defense that is surely bad but not without improvements.
In fact, the Seahawks ranked 11th in points allowed over the last 12 games of the season. And five of the teams that allowed fewer points didn’t make it into the playoffs. Why not? Bad offenses.
The Jets allowed the fewest points in the NFL over the last three months of the season.
I’ll get into more layers for this plan for how to improve the offense without necessarily needing to improve the quarterback in future Seaside Joes, so remember to support ad-free journalism by sharing and subscribing.
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I ran across this video of a critique of the Hawks offensive line. The author is a big fan.
Taking this further...
After drafting Bijan Robinson at 13 and Mike Mayer at 19 - noting that I believe we would rather have the Jets 13 & 49 vs 13 and next year's #1. Why? It is so we can load up on more O.
So with those three 2nd-round picks: a Primo OG, Bad-azzed C, and Field-tilting WR. Moving on from RG Gabe Jackson and an upgrade at C (keeping Austin Blythe as a mentor like he did in KC last year), replacing Penny and Dissley with younger/healthier athletes with what many are calling Pro-bowl talent...
BTW - typically the best Centers begin to be selected in the 2nd-round and this year there are 4-5 real studs coming out. For RG, only the all-world OGs get selected later in the 1st-round so we would be on track to select the Best RB, Best TE, Best C, a top two OG and a game changing WR...
All this providing Geno can be signed and that we can find worthy LB depth as well as anything that can be done by JS/PC to upgrade our run defense. Of course one thing will happen naturally as our 7-8 new starters on D this year will have more time together and another off-season with their Defensive Coordinator. Yes, time will indeed help those 3 rookie starter too. I expect a big upgrade to happen.
So, if we were going All-in on Offense, wouldn't be cool to have Geno Smith back, TOP of the draft talent at RB, TE, plus Hard-edged Ball-busting RG and C to go with a 3rd WR with the talent to replace Tyler Locket when he chooses to hang up his toe-drag-swagging cleats?
That would be a Lot of offensive talent infusion. Use free agency and the rest of the draft on Defense. Right?