After being spectators on the opening night of the NFL Draft, the Seattle Seahawks have now made their first selection of the even with Western Michigan wide receiver D'Wayne Eskridge being selected by the team with the 56th overall pick on Friday night.
Eskridge is a 5-foot-8 3/4 and 190 pounds and has played both receiver and cornerback during his time at Western Michigan. He's also a capable kick return option as well. In just six games played last year for the Broncos, Eskridge had 34 receptions for 784 yards and eight touchdowns en route to earning first-team All-Mid-American Conference honors. He led the conference in both receiving yards and receiving touchdowns last year.
"We want guys that are versatile," head coach Pete Carroll said. "We like to play with good rhythm and tempo. We like to keep the guys out there on the field so they have to be versatile and able to do all of those things. He definitely is a guy, as you can tell from the highlights you probably have seen, we can hand him the football, we can flip it to him. We can do things with him behind the line of scrimmage. He's run very effectively on reverses and stuff like that and the returns show that as well. We were looking for a receiver that would have all of that kind of versatility and he was a really exciting one to get."
Eskridge posted a screenshot of a text conversation to his twitter account shortly after he was drafted by the Seahawks expressing his desire to land with Seattle prior to the NFL Draft.
"I just felt comfortable being in a good football position with them more than anybody else that I talked to," Eskridge said.
"I had a lot of great interviews with pretty much all the staff. Going through it they made me feel more comfortable when it comes to being taken care of when I come to Seattle. I know I could just come there and be able to get better, wouldn't have to worry about too much of the nonsense. I felt that energy directly. ... I'm definitely grateful for it."
Receiving didn't appear to be the 'biggest' need for the Seahawks with DK Metcalf set to enter his third season and Tyler Lockett signing a contract extension with the team this offseason. However, the team deeply lacked a third option in the passing game the latter half of last season. David Moore's production would disappear regularly in the second half of seasons the last few years. With defenses being able to limit the team's effectiveness after a soaring first half of the year, Eskridge appears to be part of the team's attempt to adjust.
Carroll said that in conversations with new offensive coordinator Shane Waldron about the direction of the offense, Waldron expressed the importance of having a third option in the passing game as being critical to the approach they want to take moving forward.
"Shane has talked since we first started talking about schematically how we're going about it, philosophically how we're going about the offense about having three legitimate threats in passing situations so a defense can't lock you down," Carroll said. "It was one of the reasons Gerald [Everett] was such a big get for us, was such a great acquisition for us in the offseason to help us. But we always want to have three guys out there that they have to work with and contend with so they can't just double guys up and take them out of the offense.
"We'll find out how well D'Wayne fits it in that regard but we're counting on him being a factor."
Russell Wilson now has a stockpile of weapons to work with on offense. With Metcalf, Lockett, Eskridge and Freddie Swain as the top returning receivers and the addition of Gerald Everett in free agency to pair with Will Dissly and Colby Parkinson at tight end. Additionally, the re-signing of Chris Carson in free agency to pair with a healthy Rashaad Penny, Travis Homer, DeeJay Dallas and Alex Collins in the backfield would appear to give Seattle a load of options across the skill positions.
General manager John Schneider said that they had been in conversations about a possible trade to move back from the 56th pick only to have it fall apart in the minutes before the selection. So they didn't try to force the issue and stood their ground to take Eskridge.
"We just moved forward and we were just excited to take our guy," Schneider said.
The Seahawks hold just two selections currently for the final day of the 2021 NFL Draft. A fourth-round pick, No. 129 overall, and a seventh-round pick, No. 250 overall. Schneider said that he anticipates they will be very active and a popular destination for undrafted free agents to sign given the lack of draft picks coming to the team this year.
"I think we're going to be very attractive with just three picks," Schneider said.
"When we're working on these guys to be able to convince them that they're going to have a clean opportunity, just naturally when you have three draft picks I think we're going to be a very, very attractive landing spot. Unless we do something tomorrow but I don't know if we have quite the firepower (to add picks)."
Via Dane Brugler's scouting report in The Athletic, he described Eskridge as... "A three-year starter at Western Michigan, Eskridge lined up in the slot and to the boundary in head coach Tim Lester’s offensive scheme. After a short stint as a two-way player in 2019, he returned to receiver full-time in 2020 and had a prolific senior season with 100-plus receiving yards in five of WMU’s six games, registering a catch of at least 47 yards in each contest. With his ability to turn small plays into big plays, Eskridge is the definition of a playmaker due to his explosive feet and ability to mix his speeds as naturally as you or I breathe. He can out-athlete opponents in the MAC, but that won’t always be the case in the NFL, and he needs scale back the wild tendencies. Overall, Eskridge is undersized and must sharpen his route tree, but he is a gifted athlete with the speed, toughness and promising pass-catching traits to warrant early NFL playing time on offense and special teams."
Photo Credit: KALAMAZOO, MI - AUGUST 31: D'Wayne Eskridge #7 of the Western Michigan Broncos makes an 84-yard touchdown reception behind the Syracuse Orange defense in the third quarter of a game at Waldo Stadium on August 31, 2018 in Kalamazoo, Michigan. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)