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The Seahawks won't be drafting Charles Cross with 1st round pick
Seattle needs an offensive tackle in the worst way, but 2022's best pass blocker is actually NOT going to be the choice
In my first Seahawks top-10 big board of the year, I left off a name that should have come as quite a surprise to all of you: Mississippi State offensive tackle Charles Cross. Why should that be unexpected?
Because just two days earlier I had mocked Cross to Seattle in a two-round draft scenario.
The connection at the time seemed reasonable enough. Projected as a mid-to-late first round offensive tackle when I was monitoring the 2022 draft class last summer, Charles Cross went from more of a “raw, former five-star prospect” to correcting many of his issues and developing into arguably the best pass-blocking left tackle in college football. Therefore, in an offensive tackle class that lacked a clear number one for most people, Cross shot up mock draft boards and is currently projected as a top-8 pick at NFL Mock Draft Database:
Cross played in an air raid offense under “Mr. Air Raid” himself Mike Leach in 2021, and that meant pass blocking at left tackle for about 702 snaps over 13 games. Probably the most of any tackle in college football—and he crushed it. Here’s notes on his pass blocking from TheDraftNetwork:
Pass Sets: This may be Cross’ best trait. Cross has a quick first step that allows him to immediately gain leverage on pass rushers and dictate the pass-rush sequence. From this position, he is able to run defenders around the arc using his athleticism or he can prepare himself to absorb defenders who choose to bull rush him. On plays that defenders bull rush him, Cross has just enough strength to anchor on defenders and prevent getting pushed into the quarterback.
Bulldogs’ quarterback Will Rogers was second in the nation in pass attempts (three behind Western Kentucky’s Bailey Zappe, another air raid offense), but first in completion percentage (73.9%), third in yards, and seventh in touchdowns.
Seth Galina of ProFootballFocus spoke on Cross at the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine, calling his season “basically perfect”:
“This guy Charles Cross has impeccable technique. I think he’s the most technically refined tackle in the draft right now. His 2021 season is basically perfect, especially from a pass pro perspective.”
At the combine, Charles Cross had some respectable numbers too. His 4.95 40-yard dash at 307 lbs isn’t spectacular, but it’s not bad (10th among OL). His 9’4 broad jump falls within the top-10 at his position too. Couple that with scouting reports that say Cross is “an exceptional athlete” and you probably should be led to the belief that he is a “top-10 draft pick at offensive tackle.”
Seattle’s number one need—as far as the positions that they can adequately upgrade in this draft with a long-term starting vision in mind (aka QB excluded)—is OFFENSIVE TACKLE. Better yet, fans, and most GMs too, have always clamored for an elite pass-blocking left tackle because the pitch we are always given on modern day football is that “This is a passing league.” Certainly, Russell Wilson wanted the Seahawks to be more of a passing team and now Russell Wilson is in Denver.
So why in the hell would I scratch Charles Cross off of the Seahawks’ big board ENTIRELY?
Because Cross is never going to play in a Pete Carroll-coached offense.
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Charles Cross will 100% NOT be the Seahawks’ pick because:
Run blocking is AT BEST a mystery
Will Rogers was four attempts shy of passing more times than any quarterback in college football. But Mississippi State’s leader in rushing attempts, Jo’quavious Marks, didn’t even finish in the top-200 for carries last season.
He was 201st, carrying the ball 103 times for 407 yards.
In 232nd place was teammate Dillon Johnson, who had 92 carries for 494 yards.
It’s not as though it’s easy to say that Charles Cross is a bad run blocker or that he won’t become a better run blocker with experience, but it is more than fair to say that his run blocking is about as well known as his twitter password. You can make your best guess (g0BuIIdoug$?) and that’s all you’ll ever get.
I’ll hype up my favorite draft YouTube channel once again, Boom or Bust, and in their Charles Cross scouting report it is noted that he simply needs “more reps.” He needs a ton more reps. Cross needs to go out there and be a BAD run blocker for a while so that in the long-term, he could become a GOOD run blocker—but there might be a greater chance than not that his ceiling could be an ADEQUATE run blocker.
You may not agree with Pete’s offensive philosophies. You may not even think that Pete should still even be the coach. But you have to agree that PETE agrees with PETE’s philosophies and that PETE is in fact the coach. And there’s no reason to think that Pete Carroll will use this top-10 draft pick on an offensive tackle who he has to spend two to three years transitioning from an air raid offense to a run-first offense without a quarterback.
As Matty F Brown astutely noted towards the end of the 2021 season, the Seahawks offense was finally taking off in December because of their ability to block for an “historically efficient run game.”
Unlike the Bears game, where eight of the team's 20 running plays featured one puller or more (40 percent) and two more of the plays were duo (50 percent gap-blocked), Seattle returned to more zone versus Detroit. The Seahawks called 29 runs and yet, just six of the runs featured one puller or more while two were duo (28 percent gap-blocked). Whatever the chosen scheme, Seattle’s combination block chemistry and execution has noticeably improved—especially on the interior.
Once again borrowing a theory from the “Boom or Bust” show, Charles Cross’s skillset could actually be what gets him drafted first overall by the Jacksonville Jaguars. As I’ve noted before, Alabama’s Evan Neal—the player most often mocked to the Jaguars at one—is practically the opposite of Cross: dominant run blocker, questionable pass blocker at this stage of his development and especially on the left side.
Jacksonville’s number one need for their offensive line would be a pass-blocking left tackle to protect Trevor Lawrence’s blindside. That’s Charles Cross. It’s not Evan Neal.
Meanwhile, on that list of players in college with the most rushing attempts, scroll from 201 to 1: the running back who led college football in carries in 2021 was Lew Nichols of Central Michigan. Nichols had 341 rushing attempts (42 more than second place) for 1,848 yards and 16 touchdowns.
His left tackle? Bernhard Raimann. By the time I come to my final conclusion of who the Seahawks’ most-likely number one pick is in April, the 6’6 Australian who only transitioned to offensive line two years ago could easily be the name.
Cross failed to meet certain athletic thresholds at the combine
I noted that some people have called Cross “an exceptional athlete” but this clearly didn’t show up at the combine. He wasn’t great in any drill, but he was bad in several.
Cross had a 7.88 in the three-cone drill, which finished in the bottom-10; Trevor Penning and Abe Lucas led the group at 7.25, while Raimann had a 7.46.
The worst three-cone time by any tackle under Pete Carroll would be Russell Okung’s 7.79 back in 2010. Most of Seattle’s tackles have fallen near the 7.5 range; Ickey Ekwonu also struggled here, running a 7.82.
Cross also had a 26” vertical, which would be lower than any Pete offensive tackle who came before him.
There are numbers that help Cross stand out positively: His 1.73 10-yard split is elite, and 34.5” arms stretch longer than many others. But Cross is being touted in the top-eight because of his pass-blocking technique, not because of his athleticism.
Russell Okung didn’t test well at the combine. He did, however, come from a run-blocking offense and there was little question he could handle himself in a Pete ball offense from year one. Cross is a combination of a disappointing combine and an almost complete lack of run blocking film.
Want to pound the table for the Seahawks to draft somebody?
Plentiful list of alternatives
This year, Seattle won’t have to face the dilemma of choosing between “the one offensive tackle on the board who makes sense in this range” and a host of other positions to consider. Nothing will force the Seahawks’ hand to draft Cross simply because he’ll be the only offensive tackle on the board who has adequate top-10 value at that point.
It won’t happen.
Evan Neal and Ickey Ekwonu both appear locked into the top-10, but either of them could also be available at nine. Even if Neal goes one and Ekwonu goes two, Cross won’t be the last offensive tackle remaining with a top-10 grade.
Raimann is one that I already mentioned. Northern Iowa tackle Trevor Penning is a “freak athlete” with a massive frame and some say should be the top-ranked tackle in 2022. Combined with Cross, that’s at least five offensive tackle prospects who could reasonably be drafted in the top-10 picks this year.
But it doesn’t stop there, because the Seahawks also have plenty of other needs. Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum could be a day one starter for Seattle and he has plenty of run-blocking experience/elite film in that area going into the draft. Defensively, defensive tackle Jordan Davis, edge rushers like Travon Walker or Kayvon Thibodeaux, or cornerbacks such as Derek Stingley or Sauce Gardner, could all be available and reasonable selections in the top-10.
There’s just no reason to force Charles Cross to the Seahawks based on “he’s just too good to pass up in this spot and there are no alternatives.” There are many alternatives and Cross isn’t “too good to pass up.”
He’s the best pass blocking tackle going into the draft, but he may also have the lowest overall ceiling of the top-five tackle prospects in 2022. It makes way too much sense for Pete to instead draft a player who has proven himself as a run-blocker, giving the Seahawks an opportunity to teach that player how to pass protect over the next two to three years, as Seattle transitions to a new quarterback.
If you see someone mock Charles Cross to the Seahawks from this point forward, you can cross them off your list of “did the research.”
Uhhh, myself excluded, of course.
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