Seattle Seahawks

Top defensive backs in NFL draft, and those available for needy Seahawks

Minkah Fitzpatrick (29) from Alabama, here in the Peach Bowl two seasons ago against Washington, is the best cornerback in this NFL draft.
Minkah Fitzpatrick (29) from Alabama, here in the Peach Bowl two seasons ago against Washington, is the best cornerback in this NFL draft. The Associated Press

The Seahawks have the need. This draft has the players.

The 2018 NFL draft is deep in cornerbacks, though not as deep as last year in quality safeties — when three became first-round picks.

The league drafted 56 defensive backs in 2017, the second-most in the last 18 years. Today's NFL is all about passing and having defenders who can sack the passers and knock down their passes. So another long, deep run on DBs is likely in this draft, too.

That's all good for Seattle, which needs cornerbacks and safeties.

Here are the top cornerbacks and safeties in this draft, followed by those that are likely to be available when Seattle chooses most. That's on the last day, Saturday. Seven of the team's eight scheduled picks are in rounds four (one choice), five (four picks) and seven (two selections).

CORNERBACK

1. Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama: Last year's Bednarik and Thorpe award winner as college's top defender and defensive back, respectively. Athletic and versatile. Has played safety for the dominant program of his time. Will go quickly atop round one.

2. Josh Jackson, Iowa: Led the nation with eight interceptions last season. 6 feet, 196 pounds, long and lanky. Attacks balls in the air. Likened to Richard Sherman because both were college wide receivers and are considered not fast enough (4.56 40 for Jackson). But—crucial in the past for the Seahawks—doesn't have 32-inch arms.

3. Denzel Ward, Ohio State: Freaky fast, with a zooming 4.32 40. Under 6 feet, but plays taller because he's so aggressive. Can out-run passes and make up ground in coverage while the ball is in the air. Another first-round pick.

Possible later-round options for Seahawks:

1. Isaiah Oliver, Colorado: Press-coverage skill fits what Seahawks like to do most at the line of scrimmage. 6-foot height, 33 1/2-inch arms check other Seattle boxes. Seahawks have hosted him for a pre-draft visit.

Washington Colorado Football (2)
Former Colorado cornerback Isaiah Oliver, left, here tackling Washington wide receiver Chico McClatcher in a September game in Boulder, has visited Seahawks headquarters for a workout in advance of this week's NFL draft. David Zalubowski The Associated Press

2. Holton Hill, Texas: Another corner the Seahawks have hosted. Has had some off-the-field concerns, including failed drug tests, that GM John Schneider may be emphasizing in importance this year.

3. Simeon Thomas, Louisiana-Lafayette: Not even on many teams' draft boards. But he's on Seattle's—because he is 6-4 1/2 inches tall with pterodactyl-like arms that are a whopping 35 inches long.



SAFETY

1. Derwin James, Florida State: A safety, cornerback and linebacker at FSU, and excelled at all three. Slight concern about 2016 torn meniscus in his knee trumped by sheer talent and athleticism as maybe the best defensive player in the draft.

2. Justin Reid, Stanford: Seahawks have had him in for a visit. But it's unlikely this versatile free safety, strong safety, cornerback, do-everything DB is going to last that long in this draft.

3. Ronnie Harrison, Alabama: The best run-stopping strong safety in this class. A former high-school quarterback, so he can read offenses well. Played like a linebacker often at Alabama.

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Ronnie Harrison (15) from Alabama, here tackling Washington quarterback Jake Browning in the Peach Bowl on Dec. 31, 2016, is the top-rated strong safety in this week's NFL draft. The Seahawks have hosted him on a pre-draft visit. Curtis Compton TNS

Possible later-round options for the Seahawks:

1. Tray Matthews, Auburn: Another hitting strong safety. Also played free safety but much more accomplished in the SEC at strong safety against the run. Some think he won't get drafted after off-the-field issues got him kicked out of Georgia's program.

2. Marcel Harris, Florida: 6-1, 216. Hard-hitting strong safety Seahawks had in on visit.

3. Chris Cooper, Stony Brook: 202 pounds. Has run a 4.47-second 40-yard dash. Many see as an undrafted free-agent option. Seahawks have hosted him, too.

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