The Seattle Seahawks exceeded expectations in 2022, turning a projected rebuilding year into a playoff appearance. With four top-55 picks in the 2023 NFL Draft, Seattle has an opportunity to make even bigger strides next season.
One of the biggest reasons for Seattle’s success was its offense. The Seahawks ranked 10th in scoring (23.9 ppg), ninth in offensive touchdowns per game (2.5) and eighth in yards per play (5.7). Led by quarterback Geno Smith, Seattle achieved a level of success that it couldn’t reach the previous year with Russell Wilson.
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However, the Seahawks’ defense prevented the team from going even further. Coming off a season that saw Seattle allow the fifth-most total yards per game (369.7) and the eighth-most points per game (24.6), improving the defense is a clear need in the upcoming draft.
Let’s examine four players the Seahawks should target in the first two rounds of the 2023 NFL Draft.
Will Anderson Jr, edge rusher, Alabama Crimson Tide
While the first-round pick acquired from the Denver Broncos didn’t land atop the NFL Draft order, Seattle is still fortunate. Not only does general manager John Schneider hold the fifth overall pick, but at least three teams ahead of him will be drafting quarterbacks.
It’s a fantastic spot for the Seahawks to be in. Consider how this pass rush fared last season. Seattle ranked 19th in pressure rate (20.8 percent), 28th in hurry rate (5.4 percent) and had the fifth-lowest pass rush win rate (34%) in the NFL.
Will Anderson Jr. symbolizes everything Seattle needs. The 6-foot-3 edge rusher dominated at Alabama last season, recording a 20.4 percent pass-rush win rate (PFF) and recording 14 sacks in 14 games. Over the last two years, Anderson Jr. is responsible for 98 quarterback hurries and 29 sacks in 28 games.
Adding Anderson Jr. to the front seven will dramatically improve Seattle’s pass rush and more pressure makes life easier for the secondary. While there might be some temptation to take Jalen Carter, Anderson Jr. can be just as dominant and doesn’t have the off-field concerns.
Calijah Kancey, defensive tackle, Pittsburgh Panthers
Thanks to Settle having a pair of first-round picks, it can double-up on the defensive line. Anderson Jr. is a great first step and defensive tackle Dre’Mont Jones will also help, but more talent is needed to win battles in the trenches.
While no one would compare Calijah Kancey to Pitt alum Aaron Donald, there are similarities. Standing at 6-foot and 281 pounds, Kancey ran a 4.67 40-yard dash with a 1.64-second 10-yard split at the NFL Combine. It puts his athleticism in rare company for defensive tackles.
Kancey (30 hurries, 8 sacks in 2022) is best suited as a designated interior pass rusher to begin his career. That’s fine, the Seahawks defense will welcome all the interior disruptors they can have. Putting Kancey, Jones and Anderson Jr. together on the defensive line could give Seattle a top-15 defense next season.
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O’Cyrus Torrence, offensive guard, Florida Gators
If the Seahawks can grab those two defensive players in Round 1, it would then allow them to shift their focus to offensive players in the second round. The first priority is upgrading the interior offensive line.
O’Cyrus Torrence is a plug-and-play starter, bringing a 6-foot-5 and 330-pound frame into the trenches. He will make a greater impact as a run blocker than he does in pass protection, but that fits perfectly into Pete Carroll’s plans for an offense built around Kenneth Walker. An improved rushing attack paired with Torrence replacing Phil Haynes would also allow Smith to perform even better next season.
Nathaniel Dell, wide receiver, Houston Cougars
After addressing the defensive and offensive lines with its first three picks, Seattle could next be in a position to combine drafting for need and going best player available. While DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett are an outstanding duo, the Seahawks’ offense needs another pass-catching threat.
Nathaniel Dell would be the perfect complementary weapon. Seattle can use him in motion, get the football in his hands on screens and create quick throws that allow Dell to make a play after the catch. The rookie would be eating up all the open space that is created with Metcalf and Lockett stretching defenses vertically.
If you put Dell in Seattle, paired with the other draft targets mentioned above, the results will be even greater than what happened last season. Combine a top-10 offense with an above-average defense and suddenly the Seahawks are a major threat in the NFC.