Mel Kiper's Mock Draft 3.0 gives Seahawks a 'ballhawk' in CB Josh Jackson

Cornerback would have been a conceivable first-round target for the Seattle Seahawks even if they had held onto Richard Sherman for the final year of his contract.

It's why ESPN's Todd McShay projected one to the Seahawks in his second and third mock drafts, both of which were published before Seattle released Sherman earlier this month.

But Sherman's departure heightened the need for the Seahawks to solidify the left cornerback spot opposite 2017 third-round pick Shaquill Griffin. The void there remains after DeShawn Shead, who would have been at least a short-term option to replace Sherman, left in free agency.

Which brings us to Mel Kiper Jr.'s latest mock draft. It sends Iowa cornerback Josh Jackson to the Seahawks at No. 18. He's the same player McShay projected to Seattle in his third mock draft. McShay gave the Seahawks Central Florida cornerback Mike Hughes before that.

Any discussion of what the Seahawks might do with their first pick must include a mention of the possibility -- or likelihood even -- that they trade down from No. 18. General manager John Schneider has frequently traded back in the first round during his time with the Seahawks, and he'll be as tempted as ever this year with Seattle missing selections in the second and third rounds.

That could mean moving out of the first round entirely or just down the draft order by a few spots. The latter option could recoup one of those missing picks while still keeping the Seahawks in position for a player like Jackson or another first-round talent they like.

Jackson is a converted wide receiver who led the nation with eight interceptions as a junior last season. That's why McShay called him a "big-time ballhawk" and why ESPN college football analyst Brock Huard described him in similar terms.

As previously noted, Jackson's arms measured at 31 1/8 inches at the scouting combine. That's notable because every cornerback Seattle has drafted under Schneider and coach Pete Carroll has had at least 32-inch arms. At a little over 6-foot and 196 pounds, Jackson otherwise has the size the Seahawks prefer in their outside cornerbacks.

In Kiper's latest first-round scenario, Jackson is the third cornerback off the board behind Ohio State's Denzel Ward (seventh to Buccaneers) and Alabama cornerback/safety Minkah Fitzpatrick (ninth to 49ers). Kiper has Seattle passing on Hughes and the Patriots taking him at No. 31.

Kiper had Florida State safety Derwin James going to Seattle at No. 18 in his first two mock drafts. His latest projection has James going 11th overall to the Dolphins.

The Seahawks could still plug their hole at left cornerback by bringing back Byron Maxwell, who filled in more than capably for Sherman last season. Schneider said at the combine that Seattle is still talking with Maxwell's representatives.

But another reunion with Maxwell would likely be a short-term move that wouldn't preclude the Seahawks from taking a cornerback early if that's something they already had thoughts of doing.