Utah safety Marquise Blair was the second selection for the Seattle Seahawks, taken in the second round, 47th overall. It was widely known that Seattle wanted to take a safety somewhere in this draft after officially losing Earl Thomas this offseason.
Tedric Thompson and Delano Hill have both shown they are capable stopgaps, but neither has established himself as the clear-cut option opposite starter Bradley McDougald.
McDougald has the strong safety spot sealed down pretty tight, although he is the most versatile of the safeties on the roster and could take on the role of free safety if absolutely necessary.
For the Utes, Blair played a lot of two-high and even single-high safety. He displayed good range and athleticism, which translated to a 4.48 40-yard dash and tested highly in the vertical and broad jumps as well, displaying his explosiveness.
General Manager John Schneider weighed in saying, "He’s really quick. Like a silent assassin. This guy's like, scary tough.”
In some aspects, Blair played free safety at Utah with a strong safety or even linebacker's mentality. He plays football like he is personally offended by the offensive players he encounters. Occasionally, this leads to reckless play, as he was called for multiple targeting fouls. Head Coach Pete Carroll doesn't seem bothered by that.
"He’s really violent, really aggressive. We’re cool with it.”
Blair has the tools to play either safety spot but on the Seahawks, Carroll hinted he'd be at strong safety, under McDougald's tutelage.
“We’d like to start him at safety on the inside knowing that there’s other things that he may be able to do, but we’re going to zero him in. We really like him attacking the line of scrimmage. He blitzes well, he tackles well, hits well, great feel. It’s his toughness that we’re really excited about. He happens to be a really great athlete as well. But we’re going to zero him in and focus him in at strong safety.”
He has quick twitch muscles and changes direction well. He can tackle in space as well as play downhill, supporting the run game.
His tackling technique will need some fine-tuning, but Seattle should be a great landing spot with talented coaches on defense to help fix that. Too often, he goes for the "hit stick" highlight hit instead of being fundamentally sound. The bigger, faster, smarter ball carriers he will face in the NFL will bounce right off if he does not clean up that aspect of his game.
His angry, aggressive manner in which he plays will fit right in on the Seahawks' defense. His predecessors, Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor, played with a similar edge.
There were other safeties on the board when Blair was taken such as Taylor Rapp and Nasir Adderly. It's clear Seattle liked Blair's versatility and attitude on the field. In two seasons at Utah, Blair collected 83 tackles, one interception, and 4.5 tackles for loss. He also returned a fumble recovery for a touchdown in his first season with the program.
For now, it looks as if Blair will learn under McDougald as a strong safety, but he is more than capable of moving over to free safety if things don't work out with Thompson. Seattle also drafted another Pac-12 safety in Ugo Amadi from Oregon, who the coaches have said will be a free safety with the potential to play nickel cornerback as well.
As illustrated once again in this year's draft, Seattle loves versatile defensive backs and they certainly got one with the selection of Blair.