With just over 24 hours gone since the Seattle Seahawks put a bow on their 2016 draft class, one that included shoring up the offensive line and taking a bevy of running backs, it’s time to look ahead to next year’s class of 2017. Of course, it’s far too early to have an clue about the direction with which John Schneider and company will go in the draft next year, but here’s a list of some players that you’d be foolish to not keep an eye on over the course of this next draft cycle.
Takkarist McKinley, DE, UCLA
The Seahawks chose to shore up the interior of the defensive line with their 2016 selections, adding Alabama’s Jarran Reed and Maryland’s Quinton Jefferson, but it’s likely that they will look to add a piece or two on the ends in 2017. Chris Clemons signed just a one-year deal this winter and Cassius Marsh will be an unrestricted free agent after this season. The 2017 class is stuffed to the brim with edge rushers, and it just so happens that another former Bruin could take Marsh’s place if he opts to leave via free agency.
On a defense that included two first round talents in Kenny Clark and Myles Jack, it was sometimes easy to lose sight of just how good of a player UCLA’s Takkarist McKinley is. Despite primarily being used as a rotational player, McKinley still managed to record 7.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, and two forced fumbles. A former track star in high school, McKinley still runs in the 4.5s and has bulked up to 250 lbs, ensuring that he will be able to handle powerful offensive tackles on the edge at the next level. What stands out most about McKinley’s game is his ferocity, heavy hands and ability to generate tons of power when getting his arms extended, often knocking offensive lineman out of their stances with ease. He is consistently in the middle of any scuffle on the field but never gets out of control, which is just the right amount of playing with an “edge” that the Seahawks love.
Off the field, McKinley is just as intriguing. He’s very candid in interviews and has a fascinating backstory that includes honoring the memory of his late grandmother, with whom he would regularly watch the WWE. McKinley also has a good sense of humor, as evidenced by the notes he would leave in the locker of early-declaring teammate Kenny Clark, which simply read “please stay.”
UCLA will get back star DL Eddie Vanderdoes from injury in 2016, but McKinley could be yet another Bruin defender in store for a rise up draft boards if he continues to builds on the success he’s had to this point.
Other DE to watch:
DeMarcus Walker – Florida State
Deatrich Wise, Jr. – Arkansas
Devonte Fields – Louisville
Jason Hatcher – Kentucky
Darius Hamilton – Rutgers
Forrest Lamp, OT, Western Kentucky
The much-maligned offensive line for the Seahawks got more help with the addition of three lineman that could all potentially start Week 1 for Seattle in 2016 via the draft. That doesn’t mean more help won’t be on the way in 2017. The Garry Gilliam at Left Tackle Experience is yet to be tested and the fact is that there is yet to be a draft in the John Schneider-Pete Carroll era that has been completed without taking an offensive lineman. One player that could end up as a solution to future offensive line needs is Western Kentucky OT Forrest Lamp, an obvious early candidate for the best name in the 2017 draft class.
Lamp has been an anchor of the Hilltoppers’ offensive line since the first game of his redshirt freshman year, and has now started a whopping 39 straight games in his collegiate career, 36 of those at left tackle. Lamp was named a second-team All-American by Pro Football Focus in 2015 after allowing just 11 quarterback pressures all season. Though he struggles to block in space in the run game, Lamp possesses incredible technique and awareness in pass protection. He rarely gets caught lunging at opposing pass rushers and routinely puts a quick end to their advances as soon he locks on. He was also voted a team captain by his teammates in 2015 and overall that leadership, as well as his extensive experience and pass pro wizardry could make him an attractive draft target come next year.
Other OL to watch:
Cameron Hunt – Oregon
KC McDermott – Miami
John Heck – North Carolina
Tyler Orlosky – West Virginia
Brad Wilcox – BYU
Gerald Everett, TE, South Alabama
The addition of Ohio State’s Nick Vannett in the third round will give Seattle a tight end more capable of helping in the running game than Luke Willson or Jimmy Graham, but with the impending free agency of Willson and Graham’s injury, they could look to add a receiving threat at TE in 2017. South Alabama’s Gerald Everett could very well serve that purpose.
Everett has had a bit of a whirlwind collegiate career, including stints in JUCO and formerly-defunct UAB, but has flourished as a South Alabama Jaguar. Listed at 6’4″, 225 lbs, Everett has more of the frame of a big receiver but still has plenty of athleticism to continue to be a threat in the passing game if he puts on more weight. Everett scored eight touchdowns for the Jaguars last season and figures to be an integral part of their success in his senior campaign in 2016. Oh, and what might the favorite NFL team of this former HS basketball star be, as listed on his team bio? The Seattle Seahawks.
Other TE to watch:
Jeremy Sprinkle – Arkansas
Evan Baylis – Oregon
Jordan Leggett – Clemson
Blake Jarwin – Oklahoma State
Jeb Blazevich – Georgia
Joshua Dobbs, QB, Tennessee
John Schneider opted to pass on a quarterback this time around, but it’s unlikely that they won’t be actively seeking a longterm backup quarterback to Russell Wilson in 2017. They extended a rookie minicamp invite to former Oregon/Eastern Washington star Vernon Adams, as well as an offer to 33-year-old Tarvaris Jackson, but they’d be wise to look for a more permanent solution.
Tennessee’s Joshua Dobbs was a highly-touted quarterback prospect coming out of high school that has developed into a bonafide star over the last two seasons for the Volunteers. Dobbs became the full-time starter in 2015, throwing for just over 2200 yds and 15 TD, while also rushing for 671 and 11 scores. Dobbs’ elite blend of size and speed at 6’3″, 207 lbs. are what make him unique, but as a former highly-recruited baseball player, he also possesses plenty of arm strength to make the required throws at the next level. In fact, his quick release and compact delivery are very reminiscent of Russell Wilson.
Dobbs will have to get work at improving his accuracy and pocket awareness, but it’s undeniable that Dobbs is one of those players you just can’t take your eyes off of when he’s on the field. He’s a leader with that magical ability to make any play miraculous, not to mention the fact that he’s brilliant off the field, as he’s currently completing his degree in Aerospace Engineering. With a good 2016 campaign, Dobbs could eventually see his draft stock flying high as well.
Other QB to watch:
Chad Kelly – Ole Miss
Greg Ward, Jr. – Houston
Dane Evans – Tulsa
Zach Terrell – Western Michigan
Kenny Potter – San Jose State
Chidobe Awuzie, CB, Colorado
Tharold Simon and Brandon Browner will be unrestricted free agents at the end of next season, so unless Seattle finds more gems at the cornerback position via this year’s undrafted free agent crop, they could look to address the position in the 2017 draft.
Colorado’s Chidobe Awuzie is one of the most physical corners in the country and looks poised for a breakout 2016 campaign. A 2015 Second Team All Pac-12 selection, Awuzie has been a tackling machine since his arrival in Boulder, racking up 200 total tackles, 19 TFL and 5 sacks in his career so far. Awuzie’s truly a jack-of-all-trades player in the secondary. Not only did he lead the country in pass rush productivity (+19.5) in 2015 according to PFF, but he also posted the eighth-highest coverage grade. Awuzie can play safety, nickel, and corner, all with the tenacity required to create havoc in the backfield when rushing the quarterback. At 6’0″, 195, Awuzie is also the ideal size Carroll looks for in his secondary.
Other DB to watch:
Marcus Maye – Florida
D’Nerius Antoine – Southern Miss
DeJuan Rogers – Toledo
Jourdan Lewis – Michigan
Desmond King – Iowa