The Seattle Seahawks have remained consistent in their public decree that they plan to bring back quarterback Geno Smith for the 2023 season.
But ESPN’s Mel Kiper isn’t quite buying it.
In his first NFL mock draft of the offseason, Kiper projected the Seahawks to select Kentucky quarterback Will Levis at No. 5.
To be clear, Kiper didn’t rule out Smith returning to Seattle. But the ESPN draft analyst argued the Seahawks could add Levis through the draft even if they plan to have Smith on the 2023 roster.
“For the Seahawks, do they really think Geno Smith is their long-term answer? If so, they’re going to have to pay him before he hits free agency in March,” Kiper wrote. “If they franchise tag him, though, they could play him in 2023 as the bridge to Levis, who can take over after some seasoning as the backup.”
How Levis Fits With the Seahawks
Thanks to the Russell Wilson trade, the Seahawks own the No. 5 pick despite making the postseason. It’s the highest draft pick Seattle has held since before the Pete Carroll era in 2009.
With such a high pick, one that Seattle isn’t likely to hold again anytime soon (unless something goes terribly wrong), the Seahawks should consider a quarterback.
At least that appears to be Kiper’s opinion. He projected the Seahawks to draft a signal caller in his first mock even though the top two were already gone and the best option at the position was what he called a “polarizing” prospect.
“Turn on his tape, and you’re going to see some poor interceptions and questionable decisions,” Kiper wrote. “But you’re also going to see rockets that should have been caught and tight-window throws that no other passer in this class can make.
“There will be a general manager in the top 10 who sees Levis’ positives over the negatives.”
Whether or not John Schneider could be that GM is not yet known. But Kiper also argued NFL teams will be attracted to Levis for his experience playing in a pro-style offense at Kentucky.
In three seasons with the Wildcats, Levis threw for 5,876 yards while averaging 8.0 yards per attempt. He also had 46 touchdowns and 25 interceptions.
As a senior, he threw for 2,406 yards, averaging 8.5 yards per pass, 19 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
Despite his experience in a pro-style offense, Levis is widely considered a more “raw” prospect than either Stroud or Young. Levis might not start immediately, but his need for some development could work in Seattle if the Seahawks bring back Smith on the franchise tag for one season.
Seattle’s Other Draft Options at No. 5
While Kiper’s argument was sound, the Seahawks drafting Levis still appears far-fetched when considering how the organization has been approaching the early part of the offseason.
“We’ll get to it as soon as we can,” Schneider told the media on January 25 when asked about whether the team wants to keep Smith. “And try to do what’s best for Geno and do what’s best for the organization.”
Smith isn’t likely to come cheap. Spotrac reported Smith’s market value as $39.3 million on a two-year deal.
But if the Seahawks sign Smith on a contract of at least two years, Kiper hedged his Seattle draft projection by saying edge rusher Will Anderson Jr. or defensive tackle Jalen Carter could also be great targets for the Seahawks at No. 5.
Carter went first overall while Anderson was the No. 3 pick in Kiper’s first mock draft.