Why did the Seahawks go after a defensive tackle with their first selection in the 2017 NFL draft?
Coming off a divisional-round exit in the 2016 NFL playoffs, the Seahawks had a few obvious needs on their roster. Their porous offensive line was the first one to jump out to me, and I’m positive that I’m not alone in this. The Seahawks offensive line has not been a strength of the team over the past five years, but this season there was something different. The line didn’t just perform poorly in pass-protection, they were also abysmal in run-blocking. This led to an offense that fell short time and time again.
So obviously the team needed to draft offensive linemen early and often in the 2017 NFL draft, right? That turned out to not be the case. In their 11 picks in the 2017 draft, the Seahawks only selected two offensive linemen; one in round three and the other in round six.
McDowell may not be able to fix the Seahawks’ offensive shortcomings, but he does have the potential to bolster the Seahawks’ greatest asset, their defense.
Instead, they went after a player on the opposite side of the trenches with their first selection. Enter Malik McDowell, defensive tackle out of Michigan State University. McDowell may not be able to fix the Seahawks’ offensive shortcomings, but he does have the potential to bolster the Seahawks’ greatest asset, their defense.
Looking at their defensive line, the Seahawks have serious talent already in place. Between Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril and Frank Clark, the team has three pass-rushers who have had triple digit sack seasons in the past. But for some reason, the team was only able to get serious pressure when Clark or Bennett moved inside for passing downs. When there was only pressure from the edges, it was usually Bennett and Avril doing so as the bookend pass-rushers. This proved to be a problem, as most opposing quarterbacks could just step up in the pocket and avoid the pressure coming off the edges.
In sports, athleticism and talent only count for so much.
This is where McDowell can be a game changer. The 6’6”, 295-pound defensive tackle provides the necessary combination of athleticism and size to wreak havoc on the interior. He’s strong enough to collapse the pocket by pushing the guard or center into the quarterback. He’s agile enough to outright beat the offensive lineman in front of him to completely ruin the play. He is the ultimate interior pass-rush prospect. His talent, displayed at his freshman season at MSU, is undeniable and was often lauded as “top 10” in the draft. So, how did he drop to the Seahawks at pick No. 35?
In sports, athleticism and talent only count for so much. A big knock on McDowell was his attitude and his effort. Scouts questioned whether he really cared about the game. McDowell was an elite his Freshman year, when MSU was a playoff team and he was surrounded by other talent. But in 2016, he had to essentially be a one man-wrecking crew, and he was oftentimes inconsistent in his effort. There was a particular play against MSU’s biggest rival, Michigan, in which McDowell stood and watched the opposing running back score a touchdown. It was an obvious example of a player giving up. That is something that can’t happen in the NFL.
So, what steps do you take as a head coach to make sure the rookie gives it his all? You have to make sure that he has the right type of veterans around him. Luckily for McDowell, he landed in one of the best possible situations for a rookie. With Bennett and Avril being the talented, committed veterans that they are, there is no doubt in my mind that McDowell will not be giving up on plays in the NFL.