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Seahawks wrap up 8-player draft class that brings a wealth of experience from college

Seattle bolster offensive, defensive lines

By TIM BOOTH / Associated Press
Published: April 27, 2024, 8:01pm

RENTON, Wash. (AP) — There was an overwhelming theme that came with each of the eight picks the Seattle Seahawks made in the first draft in the new era with Mike Macdonald as head coach.

Filling needs? Seattle absolutely did that, especially adding depth on the offensive line and the secondary, and grabbed possibly the best defensive player in the draft in defensive tackle Byron Murphy II in the first round.

More so, the Seahawks ended up with a draft class that has significant experience playing football in college. Seattle’s draft class of eight selections had a combined 285 starts during their college careers. Five players had 40 or more starts. Guard Christian Haynes, drafted in the third round, started 49 games at UConn. Sixth-round offensive lineman Sataoa Laumea out of Utah started 44 games for the Utes and fourth-round linebacker Tyrice Knight from UTEP started 43 games.

The only player who started fewer than 20 games in his college career was Murphy. But even though the athletic defensive tackle only started 16 games during his time at Texas, he still played in 39 total games for the Longhorns.

Getting players with a significant amount of college games under their belt wasn’t by design according to general manager John Schneider. It was the product of the players they wanted happened to stay in college longer thanks to extra years of eligibility and better financial enticement.

“That’s the COVID year and then the decisions a lot of these guys made last year to stay. That’s a lot of NIL influence,” Schneider said. “Guys just, ‘you know what, I’m going to stay in school, I’m making some good money, more experience.’”

But it also makes for a draft class that’s less about development and could be more about immediate impact for the Seahawks.

END OF THE LINE

When Will Dissly and Colby Parkinson left in free agency, it was clear the Seahawks needed to address tight end in some capacity. They signed veteran Pharaoh Brown in free agency and bolstered the position by nabbing AJ Barner out of Michigan with the second of their fourth-round picks.

On the surface, Barner appears to be a younger version of Dissly — a tight end that grades out to be a strong blocker with the ability to contribute in the pass game. He also will likely be a significant contributor on special teams – especially with new Seattle special teams coordinator Jay Harbaugh having coached Barner last year at Michigan.

“If you ask me to go out there and catch 10 passes a game, I’ll go do that. If you go ask me to man up the C gap and be physical, I’ll go do that. If you ask me to play every special team, I’ll go do that,” Barner said. “I love strapping up the helmet. I love playing physical football.”

WAR EAGLE

Finding depth at cornerback led Seattle to the SEC and specifically Auburn selecting Nehemiah Pritchett and D.J. James in consecutive rounds. The picks give Seattle a wealth of depth at cornerback — perhaps too much to find roles for everyone. Cornerback seemed one of the positions Seattle seemed mostly set entering the draft with Devon Witherspoon, Mike Jackson, Riq Woolen, Tre Brown and Artie Burns already on the roster. Pritchett brings the added element of experience as a returner.

Originally from Alabama, James started his career at Oregon for three seasons before transferring to Auburn for the final two years. Now he gets a return to the Pacific Northwest.

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“It means a lot just knowing I’m going in there with someone I just played college football with,” James said.

DIVISION II

The last pick for Seattle was Division II offensive tackle Michael Jerrell from NCAA Division II school University of Findlay in Ohio. Jerrell was a four-year starter for Findlay, but it was his performance at Ohio State’s pro day that changed his perspective from being hopeful of being drafted to feeling like going into the final day that he would get the phone call from someone.

Jerrell said he had offers from FBS programs to transfer, but wanted to stay loyal to the school that gave him a chance to play collegiately.

“They believed in me, and they believed in me from the start, and I couldn’t see myself leaving to go to another team, and they get the credit for what the University of Findlay helped build,” Jerrell said. “I wanted to stay there and give them the credit. That means everything to me to see ‘Mike Jerrell, University of Findlay’ on the screen, rather than another school.”

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