The Seahawks upgraded their defensive line on the first day of the 2019 NFL Draft, selecting L.J. Collier, a defensive end out of TCU with the 29th overall pick. They also added to their overall draft capital for the rest of the draft, something that was important to a team that came into the week holding just four picks.
After trading Frank Clark to the Chiefs for the 29th pick and a 2020 second-rounder, the Seahawks added more picks on Thursday night by first moving back from No. 21 to No. 30 overall in a trade with Green Bay that netted Seattle two additional picks, then later by trading the 30th pick to the New York Giants for a second-round pick, a fourth-rounder and a fifth-rounder.
When the dust settled, the Seahawks ended the day with a player they’re expecting to be a difference maker for their defense, as well as a total of eight picks over the next two days. The trade with the Packers got the Seahawks the 30th pick, as well as two fourth-rounders (114 and 118 overall), then the Seahawks turned pick No. 30 into a second-rounder (37 overall), a fourth (132) and a fifth (142).
“Exciting night,” Seahawks general manager John Schneider said. “A lot going on there. That’s one of the craziest first rounds that we’ve seen. A lot of stuff shaking there.”
On adding so many picks, Schneider said, “We were excited to add a couple of picks. We really feel like we’re back in the mix in this draft in 2019, and we’re looking forward to the rest of the weekend… It’s important. It was very important. You look at where we started out with having four picks going into this thing, it’s not a good feeling. I think everybody understood where we were at in terms of trading back. Our guys (director of pro personnel Nolan Teasley), (pro personnel scout Willie Schneider), (co-directors of player personnel Scott Fitterer and Trent Kirchner) and (director of college scouting) Matt Berry, everybody did a great job of calling all the teams and letting everybody know we were in the mix with everything. We were in it probably about eight to 10 picks away, we were in it trying to figure out how we were going to improve the depth of our whole draft.”
On Collier, Schneider said, “We’re really excited to get L.J… L.J. fits us. He’s a heavy-handed, tough, chip-on-his-shoulder guy.”
Collier has physical talents, to be sure. As Schneider described seeing Collier at the Senior Bowl, “Being on the field at the Senior Bowl was really a cool thing to see, because he’s got those heavy hands, he jumps off the ball, he’s got snap anticipation.” But the Seahawks also liked Collier for some of his intangibles. Collier didn’t get a ton of recruiting interest as a small-school prospect out of tiny Munday, Texas—he graduated in a class of 25 seniors—then during his freshman year at TCU, his mother, Ruby, died after a battle with cancer.
“My mother means the world to me,” Collier said on a conference call after Seattle drafted him. “She’s watched me play every game and she believed in me all the time. I know that she was thinking of me tonight and she was with me here tonight. That’s why I’m going to give it my all, because I’m going to give my all for her like I did in college. Nothing’s changed; I’m still hungry and I’m still ready to go.”
As Schneider put it, “He’s just our kind of guy, that’s the best way to describe it.”
Added Carroll, “The thing I like the most is the chip-on-the-shoulder mentality. He’s got something to prove, and that came through in interviews… He’s one of our guys.”
With a 6-foot-2, 291-pound frame, the Seahawks see Collier as a defensive end who can also play as an interior lineman, particularly in pass-rush situations.
“He’s going to play five-technique (end) for us, and he’s very flexible and he can move around,” Carroll said. “The name I saw on TV—he’s a lot like Michael Bennett. He has the versatility and the style and the penetration ability. He’s really slippery, terrific pass-rush makeup. So we’re going to fit him right into the scheme in that regard. We think it’s going to work out great. You could see early on that he had that kind of stuff to him. He’s real long, really good length, and he’s got a really nice pass-rush bag of tricks. He’s got all the stuff. So we think we’ve really got something special. And I fell in love with the fact that he had a big chip on his shoulder and he wanted to prove it and all that. He’ll really fit in.”
As for the decision to trade Clark, Carroll and Schneider both said the hope had been to sign him to a long-term deal, but the increasing price of top defensive ends, as well as Kansas City’s pursuit of Clark, led to the decision to part ways with the 2015 second-round pick.
“We love Frank, and he did a lot of great stuff here,” Carroll said. “We had every intention of doing a long-term deal with him and hoped that we could; the market just went crazy. It just went out there so far. We just couldn’t work it in, so we had to make him available. We’ve got a lot of work to do—John’s got all kinds of stuff he’s doing with contracts, guys on the team, and there’s a big picture here… We wish him the best. We loved him, we really did, and hate we couldn’t stay together. Frank had a great opportunity we weren’t going to be able to afford here. We love him so much and we’re happy for him in that regard.”
Schneider also noted that Kansas City’s aggressive pursuit of Clark helped facilitate the deal.