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Seahawks draft predictions: My final pick
The prospect who reminds me the most of Pete Carroll: Seaside Joe 1517
Who will the Seattle Seahawks select with their first pick in the 2023 NFL Draft on Thursday? That is not a question that anyone can answer—not even Pete Carroll and John Schneider until they see which one of their scenarios plays out in the first four picks—but there has been a uniform wave of mock drafts this week that have the Seahawks overlooking the character concerns of Jalen Carter to select him at fifth overall.
I don’t necessarily disagree with that because I never dropped Carter on the big board for character concerns. It’s not because I find that narrative to be meritless. Some teams may indeed be so off-put by their interviews and research into Carter that they feel empowered to go in another direction, but I couldn’t imagine that at least one team in the top seven or eight picks wouldn’t feel differently.
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Either something more damning would need to come out about Carter or the rest of the draft class would need to start looking a lot better and neither of those things happened. There are only two reasons I could see the Seahawks not drafting Jalen Carter: A) He is drafted before they are on the clock or B) They are one of the teams that felt uncomfortable. Maybe during his visit to Seattle he used the bathroom and didn’t flush a 2.
I can’t say.
What I can say is that in the last 24 hours, almost everybody is mocking Carter to the Seahawks and then many of those same people have Seattle choosing Anthony Richardson in some form or fashion. Either at 20 (Daniel Jeremian, Evan Silva) or trading up from 20 (Peter Schrager), and I don’t know if this is because of parallel thinking, reading too much into reports that the Seahawks love Richardson, or legitimate league sources relaying to one or two people that they keep hearing that he believes he’s going to Seattle.
If that wasn’t a wild enough ride, on Thursday morning there is now an equal and opposite reaction to Anthony Richardson falling out of the top-10:
For the record, Tessler is not Richardson’s agent and I do think Fowler is a good reporter.
Would Seattle really draft a quarterback in the top-5 who doesn’t even have a clear path towards getting reps with the backups in training camp? I don’t want to go blind trying to “logic” the reasoning behind drafting or not drafting any one player because that’s usually where draft-guessers end up going astray. If the Seahawks felt that a generational quarterback talent fell into their laps at #5 and that Greg Olson swears up and down that he (the guy who helped mold Drew Brees) can teach him how to find DK Metcalf’s catch radius, then they can just pick now and answer questions later.
I’ve said it before and I won’t say it again (because this is the last article before the draft) but I really do not care who the Seattle Seahawks pick. I have no say in the matter and I am not in a good position to disagree with what the front office chooses to do, I’m only trying to rationalize what would make the most sense; all options can make sense, one of them will make the most.
So the question for many fans and draft-guessers seems to be: Will the Seahawks choose Jalen Carter or Anthony Richardson, if they can’t have both?
My answer to that question…
It was late in the process that I looked into Witherspoon because I just expected it to be a waste of time. The Seahawks have not picked a cornerback higher than 90th overall in any of the 13 draft classes with Pete and John, so it would be so unusual for them to change course not only in the first round, but the top-five. But after hearing too many former football players say, “Devon Witherspoon is my favorite player in the draft,” I had to finally take a deeper look into the Illini cornerback.
I now have to say it too: Devon Witherspoon is my favorite player in the draft.
This is not the reason that I am linking him to Seattle though. It doesn’t matter what I think about any prospect, it only matters what I think of his fit with the Seahawks and maybe it’s because I’ve followed this team so closely for so many years and our visions now align…But Witherspoon is a perfect match for Seattle and he’s even acknowledged in a pre-draft interview this week that his visit with the Seahawks was his favorite.
Now, I’m going to take the opportunity to cheat a little here and say that I don’t know if the Seahawks are going to pick Witherspoon over Carter. Everyone is saying that Carter won’t go in the first four picks, to which I’ll just say, “We’ll see”. Thursday night is guaranteed to be a night of surprises given that there’s nothing close to a consensus on anything that will happen after the Panthers choose Bryce Young.
I also can’t say whether or not the Seahawks feel comfortable with Carter, so it could be that he’s available but docked too many points for not taking practice and conditioning seriously enough.
What I think I can say is what I said when I first had eyes on Witherspoon two weeks ago: He’s the prospect who I would insure against every other prospect. He’s the one player in the draft who I would tell, “You want me to pick you fifth overall? Then you better make me like you more than I like Devon Witherspoon.”
“Hey Jalen Carter, I’m not sold on you, why should I pick you over Witherspoon when he loves the game more than life?”
“Hey Anthony Richardson, I’m not sold on you, why should I pick you over Witherspoon when he plays harder than anyone else in the draft?”
“Hey Will Anderson, I’m not sold on you, why should I pick you over Witherspoon when he’s going to make life hard on Deebo Samuel and Cooper Kupp and Marquise Brown and DeVonta Smith?”
I imagine Seattle’s war room and everyone in there has a different opinion on who to draft: John Schneider wants Richardson, Clint Hurtt wants Anderson, Greg Olson wants Will Levis, and Shane Waldron wants Bijan Robinson. And you know who Pete wants? The guy who is half-Richard Sherman, half-Kam Chancellor, half-Gary Payton and who’s never going to take a snap off in practice OR let any of his teammates take a snap off in practice.
Now, who’s the most important decision-maker in that war room?
This is not me predicting that the Seahawks will draft Witherspoon because that would require me a) knowing who the first four picks are going to be and b) having intel on Seattle’s risk assessment with Carter, development plan for Richardson, medical tests for Tyree Wilson, and a position for Anderson.
I don’t know if in three years we’ll be talking about any of Carter, Richardson, or Anderson as All-Pro talents in the NFL, but I can acknowledge each of them having a ceiling of that caliber. However, if I had to bet on one of these projected top-10 picks who will make me feel good about this day, I’d lay my money on Devon Witherspoon. On a related note, the odds of the Seahawks picking Witherspoon are longer than Wilson’s arms:
Carter is the heavy favorite to go fifth, followed by Richardson, Anderson, Stroud, Wilson, Levis, and Christian Gonzalez. If Pete were going off-script to finally draft a first round cornerback, you would think that Gonzalez hits the mold to a tee: 6’1, 197 lbs, 32” arms, 4.38 speed, fluid hips, potential to be molded into an All-Pro and a lot of room to keep getting better with coaching like Seattle’s. I do think Pete’s draft clues are merely an exercise in keeping fans engaged, but since you asked…
One of the storylines in Love Is Blind season 4 involves a person who has to move from Portland to Seattle for his fiance. Christian Gonzalez plays at Oregon.
I don’t believe this is the answer to Pete’s draft clue…I just felt like I had to share my incorrect guess with somebody.
However, as you can tell, I would assume the Seahawks favor Witherspoon over Gonzalez and many other prospects. Maybe not every prospect, but potentially all the prospects who will be left on the board when Seattle makes their first pick which could also be after they trade down.
There are a few additional reasons why I am looking at Devon Witherspoon and even if the Seahawks do not draft him—which I’m sure they won’t, but last year I flipped my Seattle first round draft guess to a Georgia defensive tackle and got burned so I’m not going to OFFICIALLY do that again (even though I think Jalen Carter is a very likely pick)—I will remember this pre-draft hype train on Witherspoon over his top-10 counterparts and we’ll check back in a couple of years and see how accurate it is to say he’s a true gem.
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Nobody is mad at the Jets for picking Sauce Gardner
Picking top-five cornerbacks used to be rare, but the game is changing in such a way that it will only continue to become more commonplace. Gardner was the Defensive Rookie of the Year, narrowly beating out Tariq Woolen, and there’s value in top flight corners that now comes a premium these days. Not only is Woolen one of the top-three corners in the NFC, he’s really separating himself from the pack because as I wrote recently, the conference has not invested many first, second, or third round picks in the position over the last few years.
I would take Woolen over Trevon Diggs, without bias.
At the current trajectory, Woolen will cost at least $25 million per season when his extension comes up for eligibility in 2025. That requires him to stay healthy and keep getting better, the latter of which seems to be a probability. Having Witherspoon or Gonzalez on the other side potentially gives the Seahawks the two best corners in the conference—period—and a little insurance in case anything goes off course with Woolen in the next three years.
The Jets could have picked Kayvon Thibodeaux, Ikem Ekwonu, Evan Neal, Charles Cross—they all play positions typically considered at more of a premium than cornerback—but who was the most-talked about rookie of 2022? Sauce Gardner.
I see similar traits and abilities in Witherspoon.
Where did all these Illinois players come from?
Witherspoon will be the first Illini player to be drafted in the first round since Whitney Mercilus and A.J. Jenkins in 2012 and they’ve only had one second round pick in the last 10 years. One of the beautiful things about the Legion of Boom is how they were not only individually talented, they made each other better.
Then last year you’ve got safety Kerby Joseph go as a third round pick to the Lions and have an outstanding year in the NFL, followed now by Witherspoon and two safeties who could get drafted on day two in Sydney Brown and Jartavius Martin; the Seahawks also had a visit with Martin.
I watched an interview with Illinois defensive coordinator Aaron Henry and he’s just beaming with joy when talking about Witherspoon, highlighting how he motivates the rest of the defense through his effort and preparation.
Witherspoon is an EASY SELL to NFL coaches.
Trash Talks like the Gary Payton of Cornerbacks
This is why I say that one-third of him is one-half Gary Payton, Witherspoon is one of the most notable trash talkers in college football. But he backs it up. Witherspoon acknowledged his trash talk to Kay Adams on Thursday, but said “I can’t really say that on TV” when asked what he says to receivers on the field.
“I don’t really compare trash talk. I just do it.”
Witherspoon is serious business when the whistle blows, but says he’s just having fun—another obvious Pete-ism:
“I got to talk my stuff now. I got to talk my stuff,” Witherspoon said. “I’ve been like that since I was a kid just having fun. If you can’t have fun out there, then you probably can’t have a good day. So just always go back to why you started playing football, and just a little talk now and then, it keeps the game interesting and fun.”
Doesn’t a left field pick just seem like Seattle?
Nobody is expecting this. NOBODY. I don’t say you should make draft picks just to prove that people don’t know what you’re doing, but it is rare that anyone knows what the Seahawks are going to do on draft night—other than trade down at some point.
However, with such a strong push in the last 24-48 hours for the pick to be Carter or Richardson, it just feels like that’s now too obvious to be true.
(By the way, I think this is 100-percent me confirming all my biases with Witherspoon. But as you’ll see in a second, it’s not entirely unwarranted.)
Will Anderson makes sense. Tyree Wilson, whether we like it or not, makes sense. Carter makes sense. But it’s not hard to “make sense” for a team when that team is picking in the top-five, there’s a reason every prospect is under consideration at that stage.
Who makes the most sense? It could be someone who gets drafted ahead of the Seahawks and then they fall back on Witherspoon. Or it could just be Witherspoon. He’s Pete Carroll, if he was 50 years younger and a much better athlete.
Witherspoon likes Seattle and I’m sure the feeling is mutual
There was a lot of publicity on the Seahawks going to the pro days for the top-four quarterbacks. There was a news break when we found out that Jalen Carter—and then later Will Anderson—were on visits to Seattle. But it seems like it’s been kept well under wraps that the Seahawks, who also showed a lot of interest in Sauce Gardner in 2022 and didn’t come close to getting the opportunity to draft him (but did apparently get close to Gardner), were not only in attendance at his workout…They also brought him into Seattle.
Witherspoon was on Steve Smith’s “Cut to It” podcast this week and was asked about some of his favorite visits during the pre-draft process. He first mentioned Baltimore because of Smith’s personal connection there, but went directly to praising Seattle’s VMAC facility and Pete Carroll’s infectious personality.
“It was just one of the best cities I’ve ever been to, for real. Coach Carroll, he’s a funny dude. He can talk about a million things within five minutes.”
There’s been a whole media storm for weeks surrounding Richardson’s acknowledgment that he likes Pete, but no reporting on Witherspoon having basically the exact same reaction. What does it tell us? Probably a LOT of prospects will always remember their meetings with Pete! Most of them will not go to the Seahawks and it’s probably not worth reporting as foretelling the future.
However, it is notable that Witherspoon was brought in for a top-30 visit and that he would be beyond excited to get the draft call from Seattle and to form another great secondary with Woolen, Quandre Diggs, Jamal Adams, Julian Love, Coby Bryant, and Mike Jackson.
My favorite moment in that “Cut To It” interview is when Steve Smith makes an analogy (sorry, I forgot the timestamp) and Witherspoon immediately responds. “That’s a bad analogy.”
What do I always say about draft prospects? You should be able to find out everything you need to know about these men by looking them in the eyes and having a five-minute conversation. That’s the importance of these meetings at the combine, pro day, and top-30 visits. Yes, there’s medical evaluations and clarifying that the athleticism matches the film. But once you’ve started to pare down each round to a certain number of prospects worth picking in that range, then it just comes down to those conversations.
“Is this person AWAKE?”
I do have my reservations with believing that Jalen Carter is awake. A lot of the top prospects are out there doing a ton of interviews right now. Carter hasn’t responded to all the questions people have about him by doing a full court media press and that’s notable to me; he’s a quiet person and a bad interview. That doesn’t have to be a negative—I’m pretty certain that if I had the chance, I would draft Jalen Carter—but being the opposite type of person could definitely be a positive.
How often do you see on a podcast, someone gives a bad analogy or tells a bad joke and the guest giggles and let’s it slide? I know this seems like such a minor detail, but I was STUNNED when Witherspoon told Steve Smith—the borderline Hall of Fame receiver—”that’s a bad analogy”. I don’t even know professional comedians who would push back on their interviewer like that.
Man, this is a corner coming for blood. And he’s wide awake.
I don’t know if the Seahawks are going to pick Devon Witherspoon, it would shock the draft world tonight. But it shouldn’t. He’s an absolutely perfect fit and I’m going to push in my chips on the longshot because I don’t think Carter will be available and I would be really surprised if it’s Richardson. It’s probably not going to be Witherspoon, it’s just that since nobody really knows, I’ll go into left field because that’s where Pete and John like to hang out.
Pick 20 — Not sure
I have noticed that mock drafts tend to make Seattle’s second pick at #20 using some logic related to their first pick at #5. But if you don’t actually know who the Seahawks are going to pick at #5, how can you use that as information for their pick at #20? Doesn’t make sense to me.
My guess for pick 20 is that the Seahawks will trade down. Maybe more than once. And that leaves about 30-40 names who could be Seattle’s second pick.
Because I’m confident the Seahawks will add defensive line help early in this draft, I’ll say it might be a defensive lineman!
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