RENTON -- The Seahawks were in need of help at defensive end in the NFL Draft even before they traded Frank Clark to the Kansas City Chiefs on Tuesday.
Without Clark, the need was that much greater.
Seattle managed to add to the position with their first pick of the three-day draft on Thursday night by selecting TCU defensive end L.J. Collier with the 29th overall pick in the draft.
“I’m on cloud nine, it’s the craziest feeling," Collier told reporters shortly after his selection. "I’m ready to get to work, I know that.”
Collier had 11.5 sacks for TCU in his final season at TCU and only season as a full-time starter. He appeared in 33 career games with 44 tackles and 20.5 sacks, appearing mostly as a rotational player during his first three seasons on the field. Collier measured in at 6-foot-2 1/4 at the NFL Combine and weight 283 pounds.
"He has an active set of hands and he jumps off the ball," general manager John Schneider said. "He has that really good snap anticipation and he’s got a really good, strong set of heavy hands. He can go up and down the line. He has a lot of juice to him. He was the guy that would get in other people’s faces and he’s just our kind of guy. That’s the best way to describe it.”
Television coverage of the draft compared Collier to former Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett. It's a comparison head coach Pete Carroll made as well.
"He's going to play five-technique for us. He's very flexible, he can move around. 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 and look forward to that. I think it's going to work out great. ... Really long, really good length. He's got a really good pass rush bag of tricks. He's got all the stuff so we think we've got something really special with him. 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 too. It really fit in."
One aspect of Collier's game that Carroll pointed to was the consistency of his pass rush success. Carroll said that Collier caused pressure 18 percent of the time, which is a stat that is an important one to the Seahawks' staff.
"I don’t know the numbers you guys have on L.J. I think he’s got an 18 percent pressure stat on him, which is a really good number; that’s a big number for us," Carroll said. "If you look at Jacob (Martin), Jacob was in the 15 almost 16, too. Frank was at 16. So those kind of activity guys are guys that are important for us to rebuild and put it all together again this season."
ProFootballFocus actually had Collier rated better than that with a 19.2 percent win rate on his pass rush attempts.
Collier had a visit to the team's headquarters as part of their pre-draft process and immediately felt comfortable with what he saw. Once Clark was traded to the Chiefs earlier this week, he started to think he was destined to be in Seattle.
"I went up [to Seattle] a couple weeks ago and had a great visit, it was fun. I knew we hit it off right then and there," Collier said.
"The setting, the people. It’s a football town and I know that I’m about to be welcomed there. I’m going to work my tail off for them and I’m going to be loved and welcomed there. I’m ready for it.”
Collier is from the tiny Texas town of Munday, which is located halfway between Fort Worth and Lubbock. Collier - the L.J. stands for Lawrence Jr. after his father - was a part of a graduating class of around 25 people.
"It’s a small football town," Collier said. "Everybody loves football out there. I graduated with 25 people and it was a great place to grow up, I loved it. Allsup’s is a good place to get a burrito. It’s a good place, I really enjoyed growing up there. I grew up with some good, competitive athletes and we had a good time."
Collier brought up former Baltimore Raven and current Arizona Cardinals pass rusher Terrell Suggs as a player he believes his game resembles.
"Just his physicality and his relentlessness. He can get off the ball and pass rush," he said.
The 2019 draft was thought to be deep in talent along the defensive line. That notion played out Thursday night as 13 defensive linemen were selected in the first round.
"We call those body blows," Schneider joked.
"That run on defensive players and defensive linemen. There wasn’t an offensive linemen taken in the top 10. We were waiting for offensive linemen to start going and they never went."
The Seahawks were initially scheduled to pick at No. 21 overall. However, they traded that selection to the Green Bay Packers for the No. 30 overall pick and a pair of fourth-round selections, No. 114 and No. 118 overall. The 30th pick would then be traded to the New York Giants in exchange for a second-round pick, No. 37, a fourth-round pick, No. 132, and a fifth-round pick, No. 142.
Seattle entered the week with just four selections at their disposal. Following the trade of Clark to Kansas City and the draft pick swaps with Green Bay and New York, the Seahawks now have nine total picks and eight remaining over the final two days of the draft. All nine selections come in the first five rounds of the draft.
"We were excited to add a couple picks and really feel like we're back in this draft," Schneider said.
Photo Credit: FORT WORTH, TX - SEPTEMBER 17: L.J. Collier #91 of the TCU Horned Frogs celebrates after sacking Jacob Park #10 of the Iowa State Cyclones during the second half at Amon G. Carter Stadium on September 17, 2016 in Fort Worth, Texas. TCU won 41-20. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)
On the trade of Frank Clark: "It's a bittersweet thing. We love Frank."
The reason Seattle had the No. 29 pick to use on Collier was because of the trade of Frank Clark to the Chiefs earlier this week.
The Seahawks traded Clark to Kansas City in exchange for the 29th pick, a 2020 second-round pick and a swap of third-round selections. Seattle had hoped to keep Clark for the next several years after placing the franchise tag on him prior to the start of free agency. However, the contract given to Dallas Cowboys franchise tag defensive end Demarcus Lawrence pushed the market for defensive ends beyond what Seattle was willing to pay lark.
"They were extremely aggressive throughout the process," Schneider said. "We had budgeted to keep Frank. We were hoping to do the long-term deal with him. The deal in Dallas (Demarcus Lawrence) didn't help things. Kansas City was very aggressive and it just got to the point where we had to help the team and do what's right for the organization."
The tag would have paid Clark $17.1 million this season. The contract Lawrence received from the Cowboys averages $21 million a year over the next five seasons.
"Pete and I feel like it’s a bittersweet thing. We love Frank," Schneider said.
Added Carroll: “Yeah we love Frank and he did a bunch of great stuff here. 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 at the end of it. ... We wish him the best. We loved him, we really did and hate that we couldn’t stay together. Frank had a great opportunity that we weren’t going to be able to afford him here. We love him so much that we’re happy for him in that regard.”
Photo Credit: Seahawks General Manager John Schneider discusses day one of the 2019 NFL Draft, defensive end L.J. Collier and the trading of Frank Clark to Kansas City. (photo by Curtis Crabtree / Sports Radio 950 KJR)