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The News Tribune’s annual NFL mock draft: Seahawks go D-line, D-line in their rare round 1

Will the Seahawks take the stud defensive linemen other teams won’t touch?

Will they get to use their once-in-a-generation place atop this NFL draft on a quarterback?

Will the top three, or even four, quarterbacks in this draft be gone before its Seattle’s turn at five?

The division-rival Arizona Cardinals will largely determine those answers Thursday.

The Cardinals own the third pick in the draft. Unlike the teams at one, two and four — Carolina, Houston and Indianapolis — Arizona doesn’t need a quarterback. Last year the Cardinals gave Kyler Murray a $230.5 million contract through 2028.

If Arizona keeps its pick, it will use it on a non-quarterback. Its likely to be on defense. The best pass rusher in this draft is Alabama’s Will Anderson.

The Seahawks are massively overhauling their defensive front from last season. Coach Pete Carroll has said they aren’t done doing that. They have hosted Anderson and Georgia’s Jalen Carter — the stud defensive tackle some teams won’t take because of off-the-field issues — on pre-draft visits this month.

If the Cardinals trade down out of three to a quarterback-needy team (Las Vegas?Tennessee? Minnesota? Washington?), that almost ensures at least three if not four quarterbacks will go in the first four picks Thursday. That would leave Seattle with the entire defensive board to choose from.

The Seahawks are intrigued by quarterback Anthony Richardson’s supreme physical skills, mitigated by the fact he started only 13 major-college games at Florida. Seattle has Pro Bowl quarterback Geno Smith re-signed to a three-year deal the team could get out of with relatively lower salary-cap hits after years one and two.

This is the second time in 27 years the Seahawks have picked in the top five. General manager John Schneider has traded Seattle’s original first-round pick in 10 of the last 11 years. But not this year. A trade down to give up that rare chance at five just doesn’t make sense, with all the Seahawks’ need to improve: defensive tackle, edge rusher, linebacker, safety, cornerback, center, tight end, third wide receiver.

Then there’s pick number 20. Seattle has that one, too, and four of the first 52 and five of the first 83 selections in this draft that begins with round one Thursday. Rounds two and three are Friday.

The draft ends Saturday with rounds four through seven.

Seattle has 10 choices in all, barring a trade general manager John Schneider almost certainly will make. He always does.

Here is our McClatchy/The News Tribune’s annual NFL mock draft for round one:

1. Carolina (trade, from Chicago): Bryce Young, QB, Alabama. Traded from 9 to 1 to get their franchise guy.

2. Houston: C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State. The smoke is the Texans aren’t taking the passer they desperately need. Then they would even more desperately need that cornerstone QB.

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, third from left, and Ohio State coach Ryan Day, second from left, among the NFL scouts watching departing Buckeyes quarterback C.J. Stroud throw at OSU’s Pro Day in Columbus, Ohio, March 22, 2023.
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, third from left, and Ohio State coach Ryan Day, second from left, among the NFL scouts watching departing Buckeyes quarterback C.J. Stroud throw at OSU’s Pro Day in Columbus, Ohio, March 22, 2023.

3. Arizona: Will Anderson, edge, Alabama. I say Cards don’t trade down. The needs on their defense are too great.

4. Indianapolis: Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida. This is absolutely a dice roll. That’s how much the Colts need a new quarterback. The two more-sure QB prospects are already gone.

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, general manager John Schneider and team decision-makers were at the Pro Day for quarterback Anthony Richardson at the University of Florida March 30, 2023. The Seahawks have the fifth pick in the 2023 NFL draft.
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, general manager John Schneider and team decision-makers were at the Pro Day for quarterback Anthony Richardson at the University of Florida March 30, 2023. The Seahawks have the fifth pick in the 2023 NFL draft.

5. SEAHAWKS: Jalen Carter, DT, Georgia. Cue the debate. They have met with him three times in six weeks the last month. If they like what they found in their deep investigation, this is the monster on the defensive line Carroll has been wanting. If Arizona doesn’t pick Anderson, Seattle will.

Former University of Georgia defensive lineman Jalen Carter runs drills during his school’s Pro Day, Wednesday, March 15, 2023, in Athens, Georgia.
Former University of Georgia defensive lineman Jalen Carter runs drills during his school’s Pro Day, Wednesday, March 15, 2023, in Athens, Georgia.

6. Detroit: Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois. A premium player at one of the premium spots in the pass-happy NFL. After trading Jeff Okudah, Lions have only one cornerback signed past this year.

7. Las Vegas: Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon. Long, fast to defend the top passing offenses in Kansas City and the AFC

8. Philadelphia (from Atlanta): Tyree Wilson, edge, Texas Tech. Trade up two spots with Falcons. The stacked Eagles run a 4-3. Wilson was a menace in Tech’s 4-3.

9. Tennessee (from Chicago, Carolina): Will Levis, QB, Kentucky. In a projected trade up two spots, the Titans take the fourth of the the top QBs in their post-Ryan Tannehill plan.

10. Atlanta (from Philadelphia, New Orleans): Nolan Smith, edge, Georgia. Falcons were next to last in the NFL with 21 sacks last season and last in 2021 with 18. Smith had a torn pectoral in October 2022, though.

11. Chicago (from Tennessee): Peter Skoronski, OT, Northwestern. The Bears, who once had this draft’s 1st-overall pick, need somebody, anybody, to block people. Skoronski started 3 years at left tackle for hometown Northwestern. Some see him as an NFL guard.

12. Houston (from Cleveland): Jaxson Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State. The Texans use a Deshaun Watson trade pick to give them a top receiver to catch their new quarterback’s passes.

13. Green Bay (from Jets): Lukas Van Ness, edge, Iowa. The first payoff of trading Aaron Rodgers to New York. The Packers can move Van Ness around their defense.

14. New England: Paris Johnson Jr., OT, Ohio State. The 6-foot-6, 313-pound Johnson may be the best blocker on the edge in this class.

15. New York Jets (from Green Bay): Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas. Part of the Aaron Rodgers trade is to help him balance the offense. Jets were 26th in the NFL in rushing last season.

16. Washington: Hendon Hooker, QB, Tennessee. The fifth quarterback is the oldest one, coming off major injury. The premium of the position.

17. Pittsburgh: Jordan Addison, WR, Pittsburgh. Won the Biletnikoff Award as the best college wide receiver with current Steelers QB Kenny Pickett at Pitt. Then he transferred to USC.

18. Detroit: Darnell Wright, OT, Tennessee. Excelled at both left and right tackle in the SEC. The Lions are about to become really good.

19. Tampa Bay: Broderick Jones, OT, Georgia. The post-Tom Brady remodel of the entire offense continues for new coordinator Dave Canales, a top Seahawks assistant until this winter.

20. SEAHAWKS: Myles Murphy, DE, Clemson. This would be a dream case if he falls this far. Some think he’s a top-10 talent. 6-5 1/2, long arms, relentless effort, 18-1/2 sacks with six forced fumbles in three seasons. Pete Carroll’s kind of motor. Murphy opposite Uchenna Nwosu, now THAT’S a bookend pass-rush pair.

Clemson defensive end Myles Murphy (98) plays against South Carolina during an NCAA football game Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022, in Clemson, South Carolina.
Clemson defensive end Myles Murphy (98) plays against South Carolina during an NCAA football game Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022, in Clemson, South Carolina.

21. Los Angeles Chargers: Joey Porter Jr., CB, Penn State. The Chargers are fortunate the made-for-the-NFL, press corner is still here.

22. Baltimore: Emmanuel Forbes, CB, Mississippi State. Some see the Ravens trading up for a quarterback because of the Lamar Jackson contract saga. We see Jackson eventually re-signing long term — and Forbes having 14 interceptions in three years in the SEC.

23. Minnesota: Brian Branch, S/DB, Alabama. A run on coveted cornerbacks. Branch was inside as a slot cover man in Alabama’s “Star” position. A QB here, if Levis or Hooker are still available.

24. Jacksonville: Dalton Kincaid, TE, Utah. Trevor Lawrence gets the best receiving tight end, who had injury concerns late in his college career.

25. New York Giants: Quentin Johnson, WR, TCU. Could be a cornerback here, too, but the Giants really need to give Daniel Jones weapons to throw to.

26. Dallas: Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame. The draft’s best blocking-receiving combo tight end would be a good fit for Seattle, too.

27. Buffalo: Jalin Hyatt, WR, Tennessee. The Bills have been defense first in recent drafts. Now they give first-round help to Josh Allen.

28. Cincinnati: Deonte Banks, CB, Maryland. Sudden depth issues make running back a need. But Banks plays a physical style that instantly fits the NFL and the pass-happy AFC.

29. New Orleans (from San Francisco, Miami, Denver): O’Cyrus Torrence, G, Florida. He’s massive: 6-5-plus, 330 pounds. The Saints need massive help on the offensive line.

30. Philadelphia: Antonio Johnson, S, Texas A&M. The Eagles don’t have many needs, but safety is one.

31. Kansas City: Zay Flowers, WR, Boston College. How is it that the Super Bowl-champion Chiefs always seem to get better than they already are? Flowers for Mahomes makes them that. Again.