Seahawks draft predictions: A trade early, a quarterback late

The Seattle Seahawks need to nail this NFL draft.

That has been the common sentiment in each of the past few years, and it has been true.

When you have a roster with several star players approaching 30 and a string of unfruitful drafts like the Seahawks had from 2013-15, you really can't afford to have any more.

Of the 28 players they drafted in that period, only five were still with the team by the end of last season. By comparison, Seattle's 2010-12 drafts -- the first three under general manager John Schneider and coach Pete Carroll -- produced six Pro Bowl players who finished last season with the Seahawks.

One of those Pro Bowlers, Richard Sherman, is gone along with several other key players as the Seahawks turned over a good chunk of their veteran core this offseason. Another, Kam Chancellor, may never be able to return from injury. A third, Earl Thomas, faces an uncertain future in Seattle as he enters the final year of his contract.

So yeah, the Seahawks really need to nail this draft.

With that in mind, here are five predictions for what Seattle will do beginning with Thursday's first round:

1. They will trade back in the first round with Atlanta or New England: There are a few reasons why moving down from No. 18 isn't the foregone conclusion many assume it to be. What if a player they love falls to them there? What if they can't find a trade partner? But Seattle has done business with both the Atlanta Falcons and New England Patriots in the recent past, and each could have a strong-enough desire to move up into Seattle's spot -- perhaps Atlanta for a defensive tackle or New England for a cornerback. A trade with the Falcons could look like this: Seattle gets Atlanta's first (26), third (90) and fourth (126). That would recoup the third-rounder the Seahawks are missing (they'd still be without a second-rounder). A trade with the Patriots could have Seattle moving back to No. 23 and adding New England's third (95).

2. Seahawks' first pick won't be a cornerback: That's even though it's arguably their top roster need with Sherman, DeShawn Shead and Jeremy Lane all gone and Dontae Johnson the only player added there in free agency -- and even though some of the top cornerback prospects could still be available at 18 or a few picks later if Seattle moves back. Louisville's Jaire Alexander doesn't have the size and length Seattle prefers at the position. Central Florida's Mike Hughes seems to have a lot of off-the-field baggage for a team that -- as Schneider implied last week -- is no longer as willing to live with that stuff. And I just don't have the sense that Seattle likes Iowa's Josh Jackson enough to take him in the first round. Colorado's Isaiah Oliver and Auburn's Carlton Davis fit the mold of the big, long corners that Seattle likes. They're intriguing options for late in the second round (if Seattle can acquire a pick there) or early in the third. Other cornerbacks who could be in play later are Boston College's Isaac Yiadom and Texas' Holton Hill.

3. But they will go heavy on defense: That will be the case even if the Seahawks take an offensive skill player in the first round like Maryland wide receiver D.J. Moore, whom I gave them in our ESPN NFL Nation mock draft. I'll predict that more than half of the players they draft are on defense. After an offseason talent drain, there's a lot of restocking to do on that side of the ball, particularly in their secondary and defensive line. Marcus Davenport from Texas-San Antonio is a pass-rusher who has been paired with the Seahawks in mock drafts, but I don't think he's polished enough for Seattle to view him as a first-round option -- not for a defensive line that could use immediate contributors now that Michael Bennett and likely Cliff Avril are gone. Rutgers' Kemoko Turay and Florida's Josh Sweat are two edge players who could appeal to Seattle after the first round. The Seahawks reportedly met with both during the pre-draft process.

4. Seattle will draft a quarterback: It's hardly something the Seahawks are expected to do. They've drafted only one under Schneider -- Russell Wilson -- and they recently filled out the depth chart by bringing back last year's backup Austin Davis and adding Stephen Morris. But Davis is a journeyman, Morris has bounced around too and the Seahawks could use a young developmental prospect now that they've moved on from Trevone Boykin. There would be a conversation in the Seahawks' draft room if one of the top prospects unexpectedly fell, a possibility that Schneider was accounting for when he attended the pro days for Sam Darnold and Josh Allen. The much more likely scenario has Seattle taking a quarterback late, as ESPN college football analyst and Seahawks broadcaster Brock Huard discussed earlier this week. I'll predict Houston's Kyle Allen in the seventh round.

5. Seahawks won't draft as many offensive linemen as you'd like them to: Their line was terrible last season. But consider this: By the end of the season, the starting five consisted of three first-round picks (Germain Ifedi, Duane Brown and Luke Joeckel) and two seconds (Justin Britt and rookie Ethan Pocic). It's the same as things stand now with D.J. Fluker essentially replacing Joeckel in the projected starting five. If the Seahawks felt that Mike Solari is a better line coach than Tom Cable, it would stand to reason that they believe he can get more out of talented players than his fired predecessor could. Plus, Carroll has talked a few times this offseason about finally having continuity along the offensive line, which suggests a feeling on the team's part that it likes what it has there. Notre Dame tackle Mike McGlinchey may be hard to pass up if he's still on the board at 18, but I wouldn't expect Seattle to spend its first pick on either UTEP's Will Hernandez or Georgia's Isaiah Wynn, two highly rated linemen who could still be there in the first round.