I am not going to go on and on about what everyone knows: that the Seattle Seahawks are adept at finding quality guys in later rounds. So let’s just jump right in, shall we? Here are four late-round sleepers who I believe would make an impact on the Seattle Seahawks.
1. Beau Allen, DT, Wisconsin
Allen was instrumental this past season in the Badgers’ run defense. Featured as the nose tackle in a 3-4 defensive scheme, Allen was able to plug the middle, and the big boy even rushed quarterbacks. In his senior season, Allen accumulated 20 tackles and 1.5 sacks, but his contribution to the stout Wisconsin defense transcends his stats.
Allen is slated by NFL.com to be a seventh round pick, but this 6’3” 330-pound nose tackle could really add to the Seahawks’ depth at defensive tackle. He won’t be a starter, and he definitely won’t be a pass rusher, but I seem him as a Red Bryant type who can come in and help stuff the run. He was a crowd favorite at Madison, and the 12th man could develop a relationship to him like they did with Big Red.
2. Jared Abbrederis, WR, Wisconsin
Bringing Sidney Rice back definitely helps the Seattle Seahawks’ receiving corps, but Seattle could use another lengthy possession receiver. And yes, I know I already have two Badgers on this list, but they are both sleeper picks who could be useful. Abbrederis has experience with Russell Wilson, and he has great intelligence on the field in addition to great hands. He is being overlooked because of his history with concussion and his slender build. And with all of the superb receivers in this draft, Abbrederis’s stock isn’t very high.
This guy can get stronger, though, and Seattle’s coaching staff can help develop him. He won’t be on the starting eleven any time soon, but he was a great punt returner in college, and with Golden Tate’s departure, that’s a slot he could fill. So while he may not have ideal size and speed, his smarts and hands are worth John Schneider giving Abbrederis a shot with their fourth round pick.
3. Bennett Jackson, CB, Notre Dame Jackson’s athletic ability is extremely desirable, but he needs work to become a starter in the NFL. A converted wide receiver, Jackson has great hands to intercept some passes (like Richard Sherman when he first arrived at Stanford). He has the ideal size for a corner at 6’0” and 195 pounds. Jackson could be a great asset on special teams, with Jeremy Lane likely stepping up a few spots in the depth chart with Brandon Browner and Walter Thurmond’s departures. He’s not ready to be a starter yet, as he is more of a reactionary cornerback. Seattle’s coaching staff as well as Sherman and Byron Maxwell can help mold this guy into a talented corner. He has the height and athleticism, he just needs some time to sharpen his coverage skills. He’s worth picking up in the fifth round.
4. Anthony Hitchens, OLB, Iowa
This 6’0”, 240-pound linebacker plays with great aggression and packs a lot of pop in his tackles. He’s not an injury risk, missing only game at Iowa, and while is short, he plays much bigger than his reality. He’s not a coverage linebacker, but he will fight in the trenches and will be unyielding against bigger-bodied blockers. Right now, he’s either getting drafted in the seventh round or will be a priority free agent. Keep in mind that Malcolm Smith was a seventh round pick, and he has come up big. Smith and Hitchens are the same height, and Smith is 14 pounds lighter, so criticisms about Hitchens’ size may not have too much merit. A hard-nosed guy out of the Big Ten, Hitchens could become a nice backup early in his career.
5. Jeremiah George, OLB, Iowa State
George is a 5’11”, 234 pound linebacker slated to be a sixth or seventh round pick. The Cyclones’ team captain led the Big 12 in tackles this past year with 133, and his explosiveness is something to be admired. He’s got the speed to get to the sideline, and his work ethic on the field has been praised immensely. He’s also strong as an ox, bench-pressing 225 pounds 28 times at the combine. He could be an O’Brien Schofield type kind of special teams player, and he’s destined for the 4-3 scheme.
And just to throw a little disclaimer in here, I know linebacker is solid with K.J. Wright, Bobby Wagner, and Malcolm Smith, but with Wright and Wagner needing new contracts soon, the late rounds of this year’s draft is a nice player to start adding to some depth. Both Hitchens and George need work, to be sure, but starting on special teams and developing under the Seattle Seahawks’ impressive defensive coaching staff could lead to some impact linebackers in the future.
I’m really excited to see Schneider work his late-round magic in this year’s draft. These five guys could be future impact players, and in the short term improve depth at areas of need.