The Seahawks went safety. And, as usual, they went unexpected.
Seattle traded down from the top of round two to the middle Friday then selected Marquise Blair, a safety known as an aggressive, near-the-line tackler at the University of Utah.
Blair, 6 feet 1 1/2 and 196 pounds, was a strong safety known as a hard hitter at Utah. He was ejected for targeting in the Utes’ game last season against the Washington Huskies. Many draft assessors pegged him a third- or fourth-round pick.
Utah defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley gave this one-word description to the Salt Lake Tribune of Blair: “Nasty.”
This is the highest the Seahawks have drafted a defensive back since 2010. Seattle selected Earl Thomas 14th overall that year.
They didn’t draft another safety in any round since then--until now.
“I’m just grateful,” Blair said by telephone Friday evening from his family draft party in his hometown of Wooster, Ohio, outside Canton.
He said he played strong and free safety “50-50” at Utah, sometimes alternating by the play per the Utes’ defensive scheme.
Seattle loves such versatility in their safeties.
“Marquise will fit in great with our style, and he’s what we covet from a safety,” Seaahwks west-area scout Tyler Ramsey said. “He’s a guy that can play either position. He’s got great speed on the back end, but really loves to be physical and mix it up in the box near the line of scrimmage.”
The Seahawks watched Thomas, who of course blossomed into their All-Pro free safety, leave last month in free agency for Baltimore. They have Tedric Thompson, a 2017 fourth-round pick, poised to be their free safety with veteran Bradley McDonald starting again at strong safety in 2019.
McDougald has played both strong and free safety in his first two seasons with the Seahawks, but has said his favored spot is strong safety and feels he plays better there. He was brilliant there last season.
Blair sustained a season-ending knee injury in 2017, but returned ahead of schedule to become a second-team All-Pac-12 selection in 2018.
Blair has a favorable precedent being drafted at number 47 by Seattle.
The last time the Seahawks had and used the 47th-overall pick in a draft it worked out OK: Bobby Wagner, in 2012.
Earlier in round two the Seahawks traded down for the third time in less than 24 hours. They moved down 10 spots from the top to the middle of round two and gaining their 10th choice in the 2019 draft.
Seattle traded the second-round selection it got late Thursday night from the New York Giants to get into round two. It sent the 37th-overall choice, the fifth pick of the second round, to Carolina and received the Panthers’ 47th-overall selection in round two and Carolina’s 77th-overall choice, in round three later Friday.
Carolina used the 37th pick to select Mississippi offensive tackle Greg Little.
The Seahawks traded down twice in round one to gain four choices.
They started the week with an NFL-low four choices in this draft.
The Seahawks moved up to the fifth spot of the second round Thursday night when they traded their 30th pick in round one to the New York Giants. Seattle received the second-round choice they lacked and really wanted, plus choices late in rounds four and five on Saturday.
Seattle’s other choice Friday was to be late in the third round, at 92nd overall. That is from Kansas City, in Monday’s trade that sent Seahawks’ top pass rusher Frank Clark to the Chiefs.
Seattle used the additional first-round pick they got in that trade, at 29 in round one, to draft Texas Christian defensive end L.J. Collier.
So why all the trading down?
Coach Pete Carroll firmly believes he can coach/mold/maximize every prospect he gets into that player’s unique skill set. Just give him athletic talent and speed, he’ll do the rest.
First round (Earl Thomas). Seventh round (Chris Carson). Undrafted free agent (Doug Baldwin). Whatever.
So, the more picks the better.
Plus, seven Seattle’s 10 total pick in this draft are now in rounds 3-5. The team has zero picks in rounds six and seven. This is a historically deep draft in middle-round talent. Carroll and general manager John Schneider are targeting that.
Friday night’s part of the draft began with the Arizona Cardinals selecting cornerback Byron Murphy from the University of Washington to lead off round two. Murphy will be reunited in Arizona with UW teammate Budda Baker.