The Seattle Seahawks didn't head into the 2015 NFL draft with a ton of holes on the roster to fill. Practically none of those holes existed on the defensive side of the ball, where the team ranked first in the NFL, allowing just 15.9 points per game.
In an odd way, this is precisely why the sixth-round selection of former Oregon State pass-rusher Obum Gwacham makes a bit of sense.
Gwacham is a towering 6'5", 246-pound defender with a scary amount of raw athleticism. The converted wide receiver ran an explosive 4.72-second 40-yard dash at his pro day and turned in an impressive 121-inch broad jump.
These are the types of measurables not typically seen in a guy of Gwacham's size, and they seem to indicate that he can develop into the type of long, athletic pass-rusher that NFL team covet.
Because he is inexperienced, though, Gwacham may have had a hard time sticking with a team that needed him to play right away.
"Gwacham is extremely raw after converting from WR and playing just one year of defense at Oregon State. Has rare athletic qualities but he's a major project and won't see the field for another couple of years," Mark Dulgerian of NFL.com said of Gwacham. The Seahawks, however, do not need him to regularly contribute as a rookie and can develop him.
Originally an immigrant from Nigeria, Gwacham made his way to Oregon State as a wideout. However, after he failed to find success at the position, coaches decided to see what kind of production his freakish athleticism could bring.
The results were encouraging.
Gwacham totaled 28 tackles with 5.5 tackles for a loss and 4.0 sacks in his lone defensive season at Oregon State.
The problem with Gwacham is that he is extremely raw as a defensive player and will likely require a lengthy adjustment period before he can become a regular contributor on the Seattle defense.
From a purely athletic standpoint, however, Gwacham is an elite prospect. Even if he initially contributes only as a pass-rusher, he can bring value to the team.
Gwacham can come in a few times a game as a linebacker or end on passing downs and use his unique set of skills to get after the quarterback and wreak havoc in the opposing backfield. Think of him as a low-round, low-risk Bruce Irvin.
According to Gregg Ball of The News Tribune, the Seahawks do indeed plan to use Gwacham primarily as a pass-rusher:
As long as the Seahawks can keep Gwacham out of extensive pass coverage, there seems to be little downside to giving him some opportunities to make plays early in his career. This isn't because Gwacham doesn't have the tools to excel in coverage situations, either. He is, after all, a converted wide receiver.
With only one season of defensive experience under his belt, however, he probably isn't quite prepared for NFL coverage assignments. His ability to read and react to various run plays may also be an issue due to his lack of experience as a defender.
Conversely, Gwacham's time as a receiver may have prepared him for a J.J. Watt-type of role as a red-zone tight end, if the Seahawks choose to pursue that avenue. The idea of Gwacham and newly-acquired tight end Jimmy Graham lining up together in a goal-line set should be enticing.
Again, Gwacham is a raw prospect with a ton of upside. Since the defending NFC champion Seahawks do not need him to play right away, he is well worth the gamble in Round 6, where a less-complete team may have been forced to pass.