The Seahawks came away with 11 players from the NFL Draft after trading down several times. The first player they drafted was Michigan State defensive tackle Malik McDowell in the second round. How much of an impact can we expect from the rookie in September?
The Seahawks chose Michigan State defensive tackle Malik McDowell 35th overall after trading down in the NFL Draft three times. Bucking all the predictions, the Seahawks chose to bolster their defensive line rather than find someone who can block for Russell Wilson or challenge the status quo in the Legion of Boom (more on that later in the week).
Instead, Seattle chose “Big Leek,” a 6’6″, 297-pound DT. McDowell made 88 tackles for the Spartans, including 24.5 for loss and 7.5 sacks in 32 games.
No one doubted McDowell’s physical abilities. He appeared to take over the line of scrimmage at times for Michigan State and has the size and strength to be a starter for the interior defensive line right away in the NFL. (See the awesomely stylized highlight reel below).
The knock on McDowell was that he appeared to take it easy toward the end of his Michigan State career. As the season started to slide away from the Spartans, McDowell appeared to some scouts to turn it off.
CBS Sports Dan Brugler wrote this about McDowell back in February:
"Appeared to shut it down at times in the second half of 2016 when the season started to go south (missed the final three games of his career due to a left ankle sprain)."
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Perhaps he babied his injury, perhaps he made a smart business decision. Rather than play in a lost season, he decided to pack it in and get healthy for the NFL Combine. McDowell’s reputation as lazy and unmotivated at times pushed the talented and huge DT into the second round, but perhaps playing for money instead of a scholarship in the NCAA’s hugely corrupt system will motivate him for the Seahawks.
Big Leek appears to be a great fit for the Seahawks. He can fill the run gaps, get penetration, and add to the run-stuffing corps up front on defense. Seattle loves to force teams to throw into the teeth of a healthy LOB after running the ball fails. McDowell puts an end to the blueprint to beat the Seahawks, which is: a) hope Earl Thomas is injured b) run past or fight one-on-one with Richard Sherman and company, especially in crossing traffic and c) run the ball effectively.
Seahawks fans should be excited for many rookies from the NFL Draft, and McDowell should be one of them. And if these 400+ words didn’t convince you, take a look at this epic tweet introducing Big Leek* to Seattle.
*Get used to that nickname, ya’ll. I’m using it!