NFL Draft Daily: Who could replace Russell Wilson in Seattle?

NFL Draft Daily looks at top stories, historical trends, player performances and more all through the lens of the NFL Draft. After all, there are only 51 days until the 2022 NFL draft. Check back in tomorrow for another entry.

Wilson is 104-53-1 in his career as a starting quarterback. (Wikimedia Commons)

Talk about a blockbuster trade. Hours after Aaron Rodgers signed the richest contract in NFL history, at least on an annual salary basis, to stay in Green Bay, the Seahawks traded Russell Wilson to the Broncos. The man who once beat Denver in a Super Bowl will now be tasked with winning the franchise’s fourth title. It is a league-altering deal that turns the AFC West into the toughest division in football; maybe even one of the greatest divisions in NFL history. Patrick Mahomes, Justin Herbert, Derek Carr and Wilson will all now face off twice a year. In the era of a 14-team playoff, don’t be shocked if all four teams reach the postseason in 2022.

This move can be described as nothing other than shocking. Trading a franchise quarterback is a massive decision with endless implications and there is no guarantee that you will find another one. Yes, the Seahawks had a down year in 2021. That coincided with a serious injury to Wilson and a general drop off in defensive productivity. Prior to that, Seattle had been to the playoffs all but one season under Wilson and won a Super Bowl back in 2014. They should have won a second in 2015, but we all know what happened there.

Beyond that, finding a franchise quarterback can prove incredibly difficult. Ask the Dolphins. Or Jets. Or Lions. Or Jaguars. Or Giants. Or Browns. You get the point. Moving on from Wilson at 33 years old is a bold move. Perhaps this front office has confidence in itself to find “the next Russell Wilson” so to speak. Wilson was a third-round pick who developed into a star and could very well end his career with a gold jacket. Just a quick reminder though that in 2011, Tavaris Jackson was the Seahawks starting quarterback and the team signed Matt Flynn to start in 2012 before hitting on Wilson.

Lock struggled in his three years with Denver, throwing 25 touchdowns and 20 interceptions while completing fewer than 60% of his passes. (Wikimedia Commons)

So how does Seattle move forward without Russell Wilson? The Seahawks acquired Drew Lock as part of the trade with the Broncos. He will join Geno Smith in a very underwhelming quarterback room. As of now, you would expect those two to compete for the starting job in 2022. That being said, the team now has $46 million in cap space and a plethora of draft picks to work with to address the quarterback position.

The problem is, this is one of the worst quarterback classes in recent memory. On the heels of a quarterback class that produced five picks in the first 15 selections, 2022 pales in comparison. Malik Willis turned some heads at the combine, but is still largely a project. Kenny Pickett has the smallest hands of any draft prospect in decades. Matt Corral has some uneven tape and is coming off an ankle injury. Desmond Ridder, Carson Strong, Bailey Zappe and Sam Howell all have some question marks. That doesn’t mean that one of them won’t turn out to be a quality starter, but it’s hard to feel overly confident in the group as a whole.

Free agency also feels unlikely with Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota and Mitchell Trubisky among the top players on the market. It would probably be better to ride out 2022 with Smith and Lock. Maybe you roll the dice on Winston, but all of them feel like marginal upgrades.

Bottom line, Seattle is unlikely to find its quarterback of the future this year. Here’s the important part: that’s okay! The Seahawks are heading into a rebuild. It has the potential to be a short one, but it will be a rebuild. In a division that boasts the 49ers, Rams and Cardinals, it is hard to pencil Seattle anywhere other than fourth right now. They need to find a pass rusher, depth at receiver, stability on the offensive line and a true No. 1 corner. That’s a lot to do in one year.

However, this added draft capital allows them to restock their roster with young players on affordable contracts. They already landed two talented young players in Noah Fant and Shelby Harris as part of this deal as well. With the No. 9 pick in this draft, Seattle can target an offensive tackle or cornerback. Then, with two first round picks in 2023 (theirs and Denver’s), they can be aggressive in moving up to acquire one of the top prospects in the 2023 draft. Presumably, they will be picking between Alabama’s Bryce Young and Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud. As of now, they are one of three teams with multiple first-round selections in 2023, joining the Lions and Dolphins.

I know it is way too early to start projecting 2023 draft picks. The point is, there is a path back to relevancy in Seattle that may only take two to three years. It is still a major risk. Heading into this past college football season, Sam Howell, Spencer Rattler and Kedon Slovis all seemed like locks to go in the top 10. Now, one might go at the end of the first round and the other two are still in college after losing their starting jobs. Trying to predict the future can get you in trouble pretty quickly in the NFL. Let’s make it clear: Seattle has two years to find its new franchise quarterback, otherwise this trade is going to go down as a bust.

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2018 Heisman Hopefuls are Hard to Find

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Only quarterbacks and Alabama running backs have won the Heisman dating back to 2000. (Wikimedia Commons)

After five weeks of action in the 2018 college football season, the shortlist of contenders for the Heisman Trophy is shrinking. Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa, Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins, West Virginia’s Will Grier and Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray are the clear front runners at this stage. All four of them are undefeated quarterbacks playing on Power 5 conference teams ranked in the top 10. At this stage, any of them could win the award, but it seems like there is not much chance anyone else manages to get their name into the running. Let’s break down who else was supposed to be in this race.

The Preseason Hopefuls
There were several other players who were supposed to challenge for the highest individual honor in the college game. Stanford running back Bryce Love and Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor headline this group. Love was the runner up for the award last season when Baker Mayfield took it home. Taylor finished sixth in the voting. The pair finished second and third in the nation in rushing respectively behind Seahawks first round selection Rashaad Penny. This season Taylor is fifth in the country for ground yardage, but hasn’t scored in either of his past two games and Wisconsin lost to an unranked BYU squad. Love has missed time with some nagging injuries.

Also in this group is Shea Patterson of Michigan and Kelly Bryant of Clemson. The two quarterbacks had rough starts to the season. For Patterson, he lost his season opener to Notre Dame and failed to throw a touchdown pass. He only has seven through five games this year. On the other hand, Bryant actually lost his starting job to freshman Trevor Lawrence and announced he plans to transfer.

The Sleeper Picks
Every year, there are a bunch of dark horse candidates to win the Heisman. 2018 was no different. The most popular sleeper pick this year had to be Penn State’s Trace McSorley. A true dual-threat quarterback, the senior has thrown for over 1,000 yards and rushed for over 450. Normally, that would put you right in the heart of the conversation. However, McSorley sustained a heavy blow to his candidacy with PSU’s loss to Ohio State at home. On top of that, he has a woeful completion percentage of 52 and had two games where he failed to eclipse 200 yards passing.

Alongside McSorely were Drew Lock and Jarret Stidham, two SEC quarterbacks with first round potential in the upcoming NFL draft. Lock was always going to have a tough road to the award being on an unranked team. He opened the season on fire, but came back down to Earth when Georgia drubbed Missouri. Lock failed to complete 50 percent of his passes against the Bulldogs, threw no touchdowns, one interception and for under 250 yards. For a quarterback who doesn’t run much, that pretty much ended Lock’s campaign. Stidham’s candidacy turned out to be mostly hype. Through five games, the Auburn quarterback has only thrown five touchdowns, lost at home to LSU and topped 200 passing yards twice.

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Mayfield became the first senior to win the award since 2006 and translated it into the first overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. (Wikimedia Commons)

Still Could Join the Party
I have bashed the depth of the hopefuls pretty thoroughly, but it is still early and there a are a handful of players who could make some noise and draw Heisman attention before the season is over.

The first is Justin Herbert. The Oregon quarterback is making a case to be the first quarterback selected in May at the NFL draft. He could also sneak into the Heisman conversation, but it feels like he missed his best chance to assert himself. It will be hard for voters to shake the memory of him throwing four straight incompletions to lose at home to Stanford in overtime. He also has a couple of ugly statistical games on his record where he tossed multiple interceptions and completed fewer than 50 percent of his passes.

There is no way that only quarterbacks finish as finalists either. Travis Etienne of Clemson has a chance to thrust himself into the conversation before the season is out. He is currently seventh in the country in rushing with an outrageous 8.1 yards per carry. The sophomore running back also has eight touchdowns so far. Additionally, Etienne might have just had his Heisman moment as he carried Clemson to a comeback in Death Valley over Syracuse with the team’s third-string quarterback under center. He rushed for 203 yards and three touchdowns to keep the Tigers undefeated. Being the lead back on a team likely to make the playoff and having your starting quarterback transfer, Etienne has everything in place to take a stab at this.

One last one that is a bit of a unique case is Ian Book. The Notre Dame quarterback took over as the starter in the third game of the season. He threw the game-clinching touchdown against Wake Forest and has thrown for 603 yards and six touchdowns over his last two starts. He torched what is a good Stanford defense and has a stellar 74 percent completion rate. On top of all of that, he hasn’t thrown an interception. The Irish sit at sixth in the AP poll and have a chance to make the College Football Playoff. If Book puts up similar numbers and leads Notre Dame to an undefeated regular season, he could be in the mix.

The Longshots
Just because you aren’t at a big school doesn’t mean you can’t make some noise. Now, Kentucky is a big school, but you probably know them for basketball. However, Ben Snell Jr. is having an impressive year running the ball. He is fourth in the nation in both yards and touchdowns. Kentucky is also 5-0 and up to #13 in the AP Poll. He will get a chance to play some great competition as Texas A&M and Georgia are still on the schedule. He could be a late riser.

Even more of a long shot is John Ursua of Hawaii. He really doesn’t belong, but he leads the nation in receptions, yards and touchdowns. He is on pace to finish with 100 catches, 1500 yards and 24 touchdowns. That kind of production usually catches the eyes of Heisman voters, but the best team Hawaii has played all year is Army. Unless Ursua can step it up and start shattering some records along with Hawaii winning out, he won’t really draw much attention.

One last name to throw around is Steven Montez from Colorado. The Buffaloes are 4-0 this season for the first time in 20 years. Montez is completing 75.8 percent of his passes, which leads the nation. Colorado is 21st in the polls and has road games against USC, Washington and Cal. Montez has thrown for over 1,000 yards and nine touchdowns in four games so far. He still has two-thirds of his games left in his season. It will be interesting to see what he can do with it.

The season is far from over, but it seems like the majority of the whittling down for the Heisman Trophy has already occurred. We might get some fireworks by season’s end, but this feels like a four-man race with a lot of people wondering what could have been.