SEATTLE – Maybe D’Wayne Eskridge isn’t the offensive lineman many figured the Seahawks might add with their first pick in the NFL draft.
But otherwise, there isn’t much Eskridge might not be for the Seahawks, who took him with the 56th overall pick Friday night.
Eskridge played receiver and cornerback at Western Michigan and was also one of the nation’s best kickoff returners, along with playing other roles on special teams.
“He’ll be a well-rounded player,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “We like that kind of versatility.”
On top of everything else, what the 5-foot-8, 190-pounder brings to Seattle is speed, having been clocked at 4.38 seconds in the 40-yard dash during his pro day at Western Michigan.
“Just a really explosive guy who can throttle his speed,” Seahawks general manager John Schneider said.
He also brings a healthy optimism that he can emerge as a third receiving threat alongside Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf.
“I just come in and bring some more explosiveness to it,” Eskridge said during a Zoom session with media Friday of joining Lockett, Metcalf and Russell Wilson. “Those are dogs that you mentioned. I’m also a dog so I feel like I’ll be able to fit in pretty good and just take it to another level.”
Eskridge also fits the classic Seahawk mode of having something to prove.
Coming out of Bluffton, Indiana – population 9,919 – he had offers only from Ball State and Western Michigan.
He then also had to overcome suffering a broken clavicle just four games into the 2019 season to revive his NFL hopes with a standout senior year in 2020 in which he averaged 23 yards per reception.
“It’s definitely a blessing I made it through all the obstacles I did,” said Eskridge, who said he went into Friday hoping the Seahawks might take him, and then grew confident they would as the second round wore on.
“As soon as I saw the Seahawks (on the clock) I instantly knew,” he said. “It was some type of energy that came over me. And then once I saw the Washington (area code) I instantly stood up, I was so joyful.”
Eskridge said one reason he felt Seattle might take him is that he had “a lot of great interviews” with the Seahawks during the draft process.
Seattle was obviously as comfortable with Eskridge as he was with the Seahawks. Seattle resisted the urge to trade down and get more picks in a year when the Seahawks have only three.
Eskridge will compete with holdovers on the roster such as Freddie Swain, Penny Hart and John Ursua to be the third receiver after Lockett and Metcalf following the departures of David Moore and Phillip Dorsett in free agency.
Eskridge played inside and outside at Western Michigan and intimated he could be used all over the field by the Seahawks. He played in the slot 30% of the time last season at Western Michigan, according to Sports Info Solutions.
He also took up kick returning last season after several others who had handled that role for Western Michigan had graduated. He had 15 returns for 432 yards and a touchdown and was one of just 11 players in the Football Bowl Subdivision with three or more kickoff returns of at least 40 yards. He ended up leading all of the FBS with 213 all-purpose yards per game and was the only player in the nation to average more than 200.
Cornerback D.J. Reed and Swain were Seattle’s primary returners when last season ended with Lockett’s days as Seattle’s main returner having passed.
Eskridge said the Seahawks haven’t talked to him specifically about being a returner, but it’s something he plans on doing.
“Even if they didn’t talk to me about it playing some special teams, I’m going in there making a name for myself, regardless,” he said.
Eskridge also played some cornerback at Western Michigan, starting games at receiver and corner in 2019 against Syracuse and Georgia State before his clavicle injury. He played solely receiver as a senior in 2020.
Eskridge called the injury both the best thing and worst thing that happened to him, saying that while it was tough to sit out the rest of the season “I learned much more about myself. I learned that I am more than a football player.”
The pick of Eskridge ended a long wait for Seattle, which traded its first- and third-round picks to the New York Jets last July for safety Jamal Adams.
At 56th overall, Eskridge becomes the sixth-highest drafted receiver in team history and the second highest of the John Schneider/Pete Carroll era behind only Paul Richardson, who was taken 45th overall in 2014.
Eskridge finished his career with 122 receptions on 215 targets, according to Sports Info Solutions, for 2,263 yards and 15 touchdowns.
He was especially dangerous after the catch, something that surely caught the eye of new offensive coordinator Shane Waldron.
According to SIS, 488 of Eskridge’s 784 yards last season came after the catch.
“He definitely is a guy that we can hand him the football, we can flip it to him, we can do things with him behind the line of scrimmage,” Carroll said. “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 really an exciting one to get.”
The pick was Seattle’s only selection in the first three rounds of the draft. That led to speculation the team might again want to trade down as it often has in the Schneider/Carroll era.
Instead, the Seahawks kept the pick.
The Seahawks will have picks Nos. 129 and 250 when the draft concludes Saturday with rounds four through seven.
If the Seahawks keep just three picks, it will be the fewest in team history and tied for the fewest of any NFL team since 1999. Seattle’s previous low in picks was five in 1994 and 1997.
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