RENTON — After becoming the latest addition to Russell Wilson’s arsenal of pass catchers, D’Wayne Eskridge took to social media to share a text message exchange with a friend.
Even before the Seahawks came around with the No. 56 overall pick in the NFL draft, Eskridge believed Seattle would end up becoming his destination.
“Just going through it, they made me feel more comfortable when it comes to being taken care of when I come to Seattle,” Eskridge said. “So I know I could just come there and be able to get better, and won’t have to worry about too much of the nonsense.”
After sitting through the first round without a selection, the Seahawks took the speedy Western Michigan playmaker in the second round Friday to add to a wide receiver group that already includes Tyler Locket and DK Metcalf.
Depth was an issue after David Moore and Phillip Dorsett left in free agency, leaving Lockett, Metcalf and Freddie Swain as the only wide receivers with extensive experience on the roster.
“We were looking for a receiver that would have all of that kind of versatility and he was really an exciting one to get,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said.
Seattle almost risked missing out on Eskridge. General manager John Schneider said the Seahawks nearly traded back to pick up additional picks, but the possible deal fell apart in the final minutes and Seattle went forward with the selection.
“We were literally maybe five minutes away or something. (It) just kind of fell apart and we just moved forward and we’re excited to just take our guy,” Schneider said.
Eskridge is undersized at 5-foot-9 and projects as more of a slot receiver in the NFL, although Carroll said they plan to use him aligned in multiple positions. Eskridge’s speed is elite and could end up being a major matchup problem for Seattle opponents.
Eskridge had 33 catches for 768 yards and eight touchdowns in just six games last season for Western Michigan. Eskridge topped 100 yards receiving in five of those six games, including 212 yards receiving and three touchdowns — on just four receptions — in a win over Central Michigan.
He played just four games in 2019 due to a broken collarbone, but had 38 receptions for 776 yards in 2018, including a career-best 240 yards receiving against Syracuse.
Most notable for Eskridge in college were the big plays. He averaged 20.4 yards per reception in 2018 and 23.3 yards per catch last season, and Eskridge can also be an option in the return game.
Eskridge was a two-way player for Western Michigan early in his career, and playing on the defensive side gave him additional perspective that helped when he moved full time to wide receiver.
“It just really slowed the game overall for me. Whenever I’m going against a DB I always think to myself, what can make me uncomfortable if I was going against a receiver of my stature,” Eskridge said. “I always put myself in that example and then just thinking of different things that will make me uncomfortable if I was playing corner. That helped me a lot going to the offensive side.”
While Eskridge did his damage in college against mostly Mid-American Conference opponents, it was his performances during the practice week at the Senior Bowl that seemed to rocket Eskridge up draft boards. Coupled with 4.3 40-yard dash speed, he’s an enticing option that should make Wilson happy.
“As soon as anybody lines up against me, I’m automatically thinking I can win. I’m not thinking about anything else,” Eskridge said. “I just went down (to the Senior Bowl) to show who the real (D’Wayne) was.”
Seattle has just two picks remaining in the draft, and moving the second-round selection likely would have been the Seahawks’ best shot at acquiring more midround selections. But the Seahawks have seemed comfortable from the start with having a limited number of picks.
Seattle should look at cornerback and offensive line as primary targets before looking heavily into undrafted rookie free agents.
“I think we’re going to be very attractive for rookie free agency,” Schneider said. “It’s been a unique year, it’s been a hard year to evaluate for every team so I just know we’re gonna do a great job with it.”