The Seattle Seahawks' ferocious hitting in the secondary merited the “Legion of Boom” nickname and helped the team play in consecutive Super Bowls in this decade. Utah safety Marquise Blair should fit right into Seattle's next generation of defensive backs.
Seattle took Blair with the No. 47 pick of the NFL draft, in the middle of the second round. And then the Seahawks made Ute linebacker Cody Barton, a Brighton High School product, the No. 88 pick in the third round Friday night. Rounds 4-7 will be conducted Saturday, with linebacker Chase Hansen and punter Mitch Wishnowsky as Utah’s top draft hopefuls, along with offensive tackle Jackson Barton, Cody’s older brother.
The pick of Blair came higher than most projections suggested, although Ute coach Kyle Whittingham said he had been told that Blair could go in the second round. Some rankings had placed Barton in the third round, but his draft position also was mildly surprising.
Blair and Barton both played well in the Pac-12 championship game, as the Utes held the Seattle-based University of Washington to three offensive points in a 10-3 loss. Prior to Friday, the Seahawks had drafted only one Utah player, offensive tackle Jack Campbell in 1982. Seattle became the first NFL team ever to pick two Ute defenders in the same draft.
“That’s going to be awesome, to have a familiar face up there,” Barton said in a conference call with the Seattle media.
The 6-foot-1, 195-pound Blair is the 11th defensive back drafted from Utah in 13 years. The list includes four other second-round picks who have gone on to have outstanding pro careers: Eric Weddle, No. 37 to San Diego in 2007; Sean Smith, No. 61 to Miami in 2009; Eric Rowe, No. 47 to Philadelphia in 2015; and Marcus Williams, No. 42 to New Orleans in 2017.
Blair is known as a big hitter, a trait that resulted in two targeting penalties last season — although Whittingham strongly questioned one of those calls, on a running play in a September loss to Washington. In any case, he matches the Seahawks’ profile for the safety positions, manned by Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor in their recent Super Bowl years.
In a team-distributed quote, Seattle scout Tyler Ramsey said, “Marquise will fit great with our style, and he’s what we covet in a safety. He’s a guy that can play either position. He’s got great speed on the back end, but he really loves to be physical and can mix it up in the box near the line of scrimmage.”
Brock Huard, an ESPN analyst and former Seahawks quarterback, tweeted that Blair is “a bad boy on the football field … the thumper the Hawks secondary needs.”
In Utah’s scheme that generally uses only two linebackers, Blair often was asked to play inside against the run as a safety. He also showed the ability to cover receivers over the middle and deep down the field.
Blair was the third safety picked in the draft and the fifth Pac-12 player taken. Seattle could have taken Washington safety Taylor Rapp as a hometown pick, but obviously preferred Blair. Pro Football Focus had ranked Rapp and Blair 1-2 among Pac-12 draft-eligible safeties for their coverage in 2018.
PFF credited Barton with the lowest missed-tackle rate (6 percent) among Pac-12 linebackers. Barton performed exceptionally well in the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, producing numbers that he let stand during Utah’s Pro Day in late March. He went through linebacker drills that day and was satisfied that he had done enough to impress scouts throughout the process.
Barton is a Ute success story, having developed in the program as “a self-made guy,” said Whittingam, who tweeted, “Proud of this hometown hero and all the hard work he’s put in to get to this point.” Barton will join a linebacking corps anchored by All-Pro Bobby Wagner, of Utah State.
The Seahawks published a video of coach Pete Carroll’s calling Barton with the news, telling him, “We’re fired up to get you. ... We’re going to expect you to be great on special teams too.”
Barton responded, “Yes, sir. Let’s do it.”