SEATTLE – For the first time since before Russell Wilson came to Seattle and anyone had heard of the Legion of Boom, the Seahawks used their original first-round pick.
The player they felt worthy of not trading down or out of the first round was a player no one expected Seattle – or anyone else – to take at that spot, linebacker Jordyn Brooks of Texas Tech, who was selected 27th overall.
“A tackling machine,” ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said when asked about Brooks after the pick was made, noting his 4.54-seconds 40-yard time at the combine piqued the interest of a number of teams. Brooks had 108 tackles, three sacks and two fumbles recoveries last year for the Red Raiders and his 20 tackles for loss led the Big 12 and were the sixth most in the nation.
The 6-foot, 240-pounder projects mostly as a middle linebacker, a spot where Seattle has one of the best in the NFL in Bobby Wagner, who is entering the first season of a three-year contract extension signed last summer.
Former Seahawks scout Jim Nagy, now the director of the Senior Bowl, tweeted after the pick that Brooks “reminded me of Bobby Wagner when I watched him” and that he was “one of the funnest players we watched this year.”
But while Brooks may be a best fit long term in the middle, the Seahawks may also have a plan for Brooks to play alongside Wagner at weakside linebacker, where veteran K.J. Wright is entering the final year of his contract. Wright last month got a $1 million roster bonus and has a $10 million cap hit this season.
The Seahawks, though, could also view Brooks as an heir apparent to Wagner, who has no guaranteed salary after the 2020 season and escalating salary cap hits – in the 2022 season, the team could save $16.6 million releasing Wagner while he has just $3.7 million in dead money that year.
Brooks started 45 of 47 games at Texas Tech but was slowed late last season with a shoulder injury.
Sports Info Solutions rated Brooks as the second-best middle linebacker available in the draft after only Kenneth Murray, who went 23rd to the Chargers.
Wrote Sports Info Solutions in its scouting report of Brooks: “Brooks has the play, speed, range and effectiveness in both the pass and run game to make an impact at the next level, but his inconsistent ability in man coverage, pursuit angles and lack of consistent shed ability will likely hold him back.”
SIS graded Brooks as the best run-defending middle linebacker in the country last year. That’s an area where the Seahawks were hoping to improve this offseason after ranking 22nd in the NFL last year against the run, allowing 117.7 yards per game.
It was the first time Seattle used its first-round pick since taking offensive lineman James Carpenter out of Alabama in 2011.
In every draft since, the Seahawks either traded down to accumulate more picks or traded its pick as part of a trade for an established player (receiver Percy Harvin in 2014 and tight end Jimmy Graham in 2016).
But in a first round that featured few trades, the Seahawks decided to stand pat.
Seattle has six other picks in the 2020 draft, including numbers 59 and 64 in the second round, which will be held Friday night.
That Seattle has only seven picks had led to the idea that the Seahawks would again trade down, as they have so often through the years.
The pick continues a trend of Seattle pulling surprises with its first picks in recent years. Seattle took running back Rashaad Penny at 27 in 2018 and defensive end L.J. Collier at 29 a year ago. Brooks was considered by most draft analysts as a second- or third-round pick.
Many observers figured the Seahawks would take a defensive lineman to address their pass rush or maybe a receiver or even a running back – every running back remained on the board.
But Seattle wanted to beef up its linebacker position with Wagner and Wright getting on in age and the team having few proven players behind them. Cody Barton, taken in the third round last year, was the main backup at both inside spots last year but could also be slotted to play more at strongside linebacker this year.
Brooks could also be viewed as a potential strongside linebacker. NFL draft analyst Rob Rang compared Brooks to Mychal Kendricks, who played the SLB spot for Seattle most of the last two years but is an unsigned free agent and not expected back.
Brooks will get a four-year contract worth up to $12.2 million with a $6.4 million signing bonus.
Seattle’s choice came two picks after the 49ers pulled off a trade with the Vikings to move from 31 to 25 and take Arizona State receiver Brandon Aiyuk. It came one choice after the Packers pulled off a trade with Miami to move from 30 to 26 and grab quarterback Jordan Love out of Utah State.
Subscribe to the sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.