Seahawks get needed pass rusher: Minnesota’s Boye Mafe in round 2 of NFL draft

Boye Mafe from the University of Minnesota, here at this winter’s Senior Bowl showcase for NFL scouts, is among the intriguing edge rushers in a draft full of coveted pass-rush specialists.

They needed a pass rusher. Or three.

They got a pass rusher.

The Seahawks selected edge rushing defensive end Boye Mafe from the Minnesota with their first of two consecutive picks in the second round of the 2022 NFL Draft on Friday afternoon.

What was the moment like for Mafe, who was watching the draft back in his hometown in Golden Valley, Minnesota?

“It’s euphoric,” he said on a conference call with reporters. “All the hard work, all the time putting in the extra work and working out by yourself and watching extra film, and then you’re seeing that actually come to fruition now.

“Now it’s time for me to put some more work in and go make it at another level. Compete and just come in and get ready to be hungry.”

Right after Mafe, the Seahawks drafted Michigan State running back Kenneth Walker III. That’s with questions about lead back Chris Carson returning from neck surgery, and Rashaad Penny signed only through 2022.

Their consecutive picks of a pass rusher then a running back reinforced the Seahawks’ belief this draft is weak for quarterbacks. Coach Pete Carroll wants to see what Drew Lock, acquired in the Russell Wilson trade last month, can be in Seattle’s offense with a fresh start leaving Denver.

The Seahawks’ biggest need is to pressure quarterbacks into more mistakes. Seattle’s 18 takeaways last season were the fewest in team history.

Carroll has said improving the pass rush is Job One this offseason. To do that, he’s changed defensive coordinators (Clint Hurtt replacing Ken Norton Jr.) and systems (to more of a speedy, varied 3-4 from his old 4-3).

The 6-foot-3 Mafe has speed, length and strength. He’s known to play with a violent edge on the line of scrimmage, inside and outside.

“He’s one of those guys that he’s going to do everything right,” Seahawks general manager John Schneider said. “You could kind of see as he went through the season, like alright, he’s kind of getting more and more comfortable and he’s kind of letting it loose. You could just really see him improve.”

Mafe is one of the raw wild cards in a draft loaded with top pass rushers seemingly ready to play in the NFL immediately. Five were taken in the first round Thursday.

“The type of player I am, I’m just ready to come in and compete, and honestly just come be a sponge this first year and really find my role and whatever’s asked of me, to go out there and perform,” he said. “If it’s special teams, third down, getting after the quarterback — all of it.”

Mafe spent five seasons at Minnesota, appearing in 42 games the past four seasons, including starting nine of 13 as a senior in 2021. He finished his college career with 87 tackles, 19 1/2 for losses and 15 sacks while adding three forced fumbles.

He collected 34 tackles, including 10 for losses and seven sacks last fall.

“He’s a very versatile football player,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “He’s a fantastic athlete with the speed and size that he brings. He can he can work on the edge as a pass rusher is the first thing we’d like to see him excel at. He’s been a guy that’s been in coverage and dropped too, he’s got versatility in that regard. I like him particularly coming forward and getting after the quarterback, which we’d like to emphasize that as we get started, but he’ll be an outside backer in the system and outside rusher in the in the 4-3 stuff so he’ll get a really good chance to see where he fits in with that.

“I think it gives us a logical opportunity to create the rotation that we’d like to create, and we want a lot of guys playing at those spots so they can play at a really high intensity way. Boye gives us that shot. So, I really like the versatility.”

The Seahawks were also impressed by Boye’s performance and ability to learn different techniques at the Senior Bowl in February.

“Just his effort every every practice, you could see him taking to the coaching and the teaching,” Schneider said. “He’s a really, really smart individual. Highly intelligent and great worker. The Senior Bowl was really, really impressive for him.”

Mafe had a pre-draft visit with the Seahawks earlier this month, setting up the potential for his eventual selection.

“I had a great visit when I was out there in Seattle and talking to the coaches, it was great,” he said. “We talked about ball a lot, they taught me a couple things, and the culture that they were trying to instill there, I could understand it and I could buy into that.”

Then, the Seahawks called Friday.

“I’m glad I got the call from Seattle, and I’m excited to get out there,” Mafe said.

The Seahawks had the 40th and 41st overall selections eight and nine picks into Round 2 on Friday. Their trade of franchise quarterback Wilson to Denver last month netted Seattle the 40th pick in this draft.

The Seahawks also had a third-round choice later Friday. That was four selections in the first 72 picks in this draft.

Seattle began the draft Thursday by choosing reputed pass blocker Charles Cross from Mississippi State with the ninth pick in round one. That’s the highest choice Seattle’s had since Carroll and general manager John Schneider’s first draft running the team in 2010. Then, they also chose a left tackle: Russell Okung.

To begin day two of this draft, they went to what they needed most: pass rush.

Kyler Gordon, the cornerback from Mukilteo, Archbishop Murphy High School and the University of Washington, went to the Chicago Bears with the 39th pick. That was one spot ahead of Seattle’s consecutive second-round picks Friday.