Darrell Taylor, right, of the Tennessee Volunteers celebrates defeating the Vanderbilt Commodores during the Vols’ senior night game at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tenn. The Seattle Seahawks selected Taylor in the second round of the NFL Draft on Saturday. (Silas Walker/Getty Images)

Darrell Taylor, right, of the Tennessee Volunteers celebrates defeating the Vanderbilt Commodores during the Vols’ senior night game at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tenn. The Seattle Seahawks selected Taylor in the second round of the NFL Draft on Saturday. (Silas Walker/Getty Images)

Post-draft analysis: Who was the biggest steal for the Seahawks?

  • Mon Apr 27th, 2020 4:30pm
  • Sports

By Bob Condotta

The Seattle Times

In any normal year, we’d all get a good look soon at the eight players the Seahawks just drafted, and the dozen or so undrafted free agents who signed on shortly after when the team, would gather for rookie minicamp one of the next two weekends.

But, this isn’t a normal year, so there will be no on-field rookie minicamp (the team plans to conduct a stripped-down one virtually) and it’s unclear when we’ll see the group take the field in any manner.

That won’t lessen the intrigue or excitement about this draft, though, one that the Seahawks hope will not only allow them to maintain the 11-win level of last season but exceed it.

With the sight of Roger Goodell reading off picks lounging in his chair still fresh in our mind, let’s hand out some awards and answer some questions about the Seahawks’ draft that was.

Biggest steal

DE Darrell Taylor, Tennessee.

The Seahawks said they debated taking Taylor at 27, and that may not just be spin — more than a few analysts thought Taylor could slide into the first round. Instead, Seattle was able to get him at 48, and while they had to give up pick 101 to do so, Taylor may well prove worth it.

The team loves his attitude, displayed by playing through a stress fracture last year for a going-nowhere Tennessee team and still making eight sacks. And they were one of the only teams to get a close look at his leg with a personal visit to Renton before travel restrictions kicked in. That not only allowed Seattle to get some extra assurance that surgery he had after the season — which included having a titanium rod put in his left — had worked as planned but also meant other teams may not have felt as comfortable.

“That was a big deal because we thought maybe we had missed our chance in the sense that we really wanted to get him on the rush group,” Carroll said. “When we were able to hang through it and get him, that was a big pick for us.”

Best story

Seventh-round pick Stephen Sullivan

Where to begin? The bio of almost every player the Seahawks drafted read like a tale of perseverance. First-round pick Jordyn Brooks was homeless for a while as a youth; Taylor’s mother died when he was in high school; Damien Lewis headed to a small junior college to keep his football career going when he had no scholarship offers out of high school.

Then there was seventh-round pick Stephen Sullivan, a receiver/tight end from LSU who overcame a poverty-filled childhood in Donaldsonville, La., to not only play at LSU but earn a degree in interdisciplinary studies in three-and-a-half years.

“I saw my mom and dad get incarcerated,” Sullivan said to Seattle media following the draft. “I saw my dad do cocaine in front of my mom. I saw my dad beat my mom. I saw my brothers and my dad get in a fight. It’s just so much that I’ve been through. Every single day, I think about that and I think about my situation growing up. You can say that motivates me. It does, actually. It motivates me every single day. Just me thinking about my past and thinking about so much that I’ve been through, it’s a long time coming.”

It’s not clear Seattle really specifically targeted players who’ve traversed rocky roads to get to the NFL. But it’s a trait that will come in handy as all teams try to manage what will be a most-unusual offseason.

Biggest headscratcher

Drafting two (potential) tight ends

It’s worth noting that Seattle had a nicely balanced draft, essentially taking one player at just about every level of the team, especially if you include cornerback Quinton Dunbar, who was acquired from Washington last month in a trade for a fifth-round pick. Include Dunbar, and Seattle added two defensive lineman, one linebacker, one defensive back, one offensive linemen, one running back, one receiver and two tight ends.

That Seattle took two tight ends was maybe the biggest question. But Sullivan was mostly a receiver at LSU before being moved to tight end (and he was also the 251st overall pick, where all teams are mostly doing is taking fliers anyway).

And Parkinson was known more as a receiving tight end at Stanford, split out as a receiver on 62 percent of his snaps the last two years for the Cardinal, according to Sports Info Solutions.

So maybe Seattle views each as potentially as much of a big receiver as a tight end. Still, it was interesting that in a year when the receiving class was viewed one of the deepest ever — a record-tying 36 were drafted and 13 in the first two rounds, the most since the common-era draft began in 1967 — and seemed to be an area of need for the Seahawks, Seattle didn’t take a true receiver until Florida’s Freddie Swain at 214.

Maybe Seattle likes what it has at the back end of its receiving rotation more than has been portrayed.

Undrafted free agent to watch

QB Anthony Gordon, Washington State.

This may be the easiest of these questions to answer. At the moment Gordon is the only other QB on the roster aside from Russell Wilson. That’ll change at some point. But Gordon’s arrival makes the preseason QB competition for a backup fascinating to watch.

One lingering question

What is the deal with Seattle’s nickel corner spot?

Seattle didn’t draft any defensive backs leading some to wonder what the Seahawks will do at the nickel spot — or if the fact that Brooks could slide into the strongside linebacker spot means Seattle plans to again play a ton of base defense.

Carroll mentioned that “we’re working on” some things to create more competition for Ugo Amadi, and Schneider noted Seattle last week claimed cornerback Linden Stephens off waivers. Stephens was on Seattle’s practice squad much of last year and it appears he’ll again be an option at nickel.

Carroll’s comment, though, also seemed to hint that the Seahawks either could bring in another corner from the outside, or also might be thinking of trying some of their current players in that role (certainly, you’d doubt that whoever loses the Dunbar/Tre Flowers battle isn’t going to just sit on the bench).

Most overblown story heading into the draft

That the draft would be filled with technical glitches

The draft not went off without any glaring hitches, but in the aftermath many around the league were saying it almost seemed more intimate and entertaining than in seasons past, with commissioner Roger Goodell saying the league would explore if there are elements of this draft that can be used in the future.

As for whether the virtual nature of the draft resulted in any changes in how players were picked it wasn’t apparent (and the decision to hold the draft as scheduled seemed to resonate with sports-starved fans — the league announced Sunday it was the most-watched draft ever with 55 million viewers over three days).

Schneider said the only thing he noticed was that there weren’t as many trades in the first round as usual — there were four this year compared to six last year. But technology didn’t seem to be the reason.

“The effort by everybody to pull this off and make it happen, it was pretty magical,” Carroll said. “This was a big challenge. We’ve learned a lot. It evolved quite a bit, more than you might think, in the way we’ll do things in the future.”