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Seahawks top-30 visits: The "blue chip" prospects
Seaside Joe 1145: Will Seattle pick any of their highest rated visits?
On Friday, I went over three safety prospects who the Seattle Seahawks have met with during the pre-draft visit process. The odds of the Seahawks drafting a player who they have a visit with is always going to be relatively low—but the chances that Seattle will either draft, sign, or eventually acquire a player at some point in his career that they meet with are usually better than zero.
We don’t know of many prospects who have first round grades that have met with the Seahawks at this point. There might only be one of these names who gets drafted in the first round. Will he go to Seattle?
Ahmad Gardner, CB, Cincinnati
There was definitely some first round buzz on Gardner going into last season. NFL Draft Bible gave him a “1st-2nd round grade” and compared his game to Jaycee Horn, a top-10 pick in the 2021 draft.
Gardner has the ideal frame for a press man cornerback. He is tall and long, to go with a physical presence that isn’t common for a cornerback. His playstyle is similar to Panthers' first-round pick Jaycee Horn. In coverage, Gardner can make plays with his length and gives up minimal separation. The one aspect of Gardner’s game that could be improved on is his technique. He is sloppy at times and is very grabby. If he can improve on that, he’ll fly up draft boards.
Fly, he did. Tony Pauline said Gardner “significantly elevated his game” as a junior and believes he could be a starter in the NFL right away.
Positives: Tall, athletic corner who showed tremendous progress in his game the past two seasons. Very aggressive, flips his hips transitioning off the line, and battles opponents throughout the route. Stays on the receiver’s hip out of breaks, tracks the pass in the air, and possesses good hands for the interception.
Jams opponents at the line of scrimmage, mixes it up with receivers throughout the route, and works to get his head back around to locate the pass in the air. Plays to his 40 time and easily stays downfield with opponents. Shows a closing burst that allows him to recover. Fires up the field, gives effort defending the run, and wraps up tackling. Plays to his size.
It’s been a fairly dramatic rise for Sauce, going from borderline first round pick to leapfrogging Derek Stingley as the top cornerback in the class, and most recently it sounds like Gardner is being compared to the best players at his position in the game. The most common comp now is Richard Sherman, but I believe that could have more to do with how often he’s being mocked to Seattle and less to do with similarities in their game or even their physical attributes.
There is no buzz about the Jaguars taking him at 1, but other than that it’s fair to say that he could go anywhere else in the top-10, including to the Lions at 2. Gardner is not Sherman, he’s Sauce Gardner and that’s his greatest attribute. If the Seahawks draft Gardner, he’s probably the best prospect they could come away with in this draft outside of Kayvon Thibodeaux.
Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati
Remember, Ryan Nassib was often mocked in the top-10 of the 2013 NFL Draft, even as late as on the week and the day of the draft itself, and then he went in the fourth round. That’s because the 2013 NFL Draft is one of the worst classes of all-time, especially at quarterback, and that made it impossible for mock drafts to come to any sort of consensus on how the league valued the position that year.
E.J. Manuel ended up as the only first round quarterback, Geno Smith was the only quarterback taken in round two, and nobody panned out. This class does have the potential to be that bad. Though I would not call Malik Willis the “consensus” top quarterback available, he’s the one who people are most comfortable calling a first round pick even though many don’t give him a first round grade. And when the top-ranked quarterback in a class is most-often characterized as “boom or bust” with such a volatile range in outcomes, including “He’ll be out of the league in two years” as I’ve heard from one critic, that’s another sign that nobody knows what the hell is going to happen with the quarterbacks.
And remember, that includes the teams. No GM in football can guarantee what the other 31 GMs are going to do next week.
That’s all to say that Desmond Ridder could be a first round pick and he could also be a fourth round pick. My first thought when I write that sentence is, “If a player could be a fourth round pick, he should not be a first round pick.” Sort of a paradox.
Anyways, I’ve always liked Ridder. I don’t know that I during my Ridder watches I ever saw a prospect who would be better than, for example, Mike Glennon.
Hey, Mike Glennon has had a very long career. Some people even projected him for the first round of the 2013 draft. (He went in the third round.) If the Seahawks draft Ridder in the third round, I guess that’s fine, but I do think that’s like drafting a bridge quarterback when you already have two veteran bridge quarterbacks.
I wish Ridder well in proving me wrong, I have always had a high grade on his leadership and character.
Boye Mafe, DE, Minnesota
I wrote about Mafe on Thursday as a prospect who the Seahawks could potentially “reach” for in the first round. But it seems Mafe is getting more and more first round buzz, and Gregg Bell mocked Mafe to Seattle at 16 after trading down.
Christian Watson, WR, North Dakota State
Watson was also on my Friday list. He could potentially go late first round, with some mocking him as a fit for the Kansas City Chiefs.
More names that the Seahawks have met with:
Daniel Hardy, DE, Montana State
Micheal Clemons, DE/LB, Texas A&M
Cameron Goode, LB, California
Samori Toure, WR, Nebraska
Dareke Young, WR, Lenoir Rhyne
Kalon Barnes, CB, Baylor
Cam Taylor-Britt, CB, Nebraska
Rasheed Walker, OT, Penn State
Armani Rogers, TE, Ohio
Cole Strange, G/C, Chattanooga