A look at roster after special-teams draft

NFL draftWith two first-round selections in this draft, the Seahawks had a chance to be aggressive in trying to replace Frank Clark. Instead, they kept to their usual MO — drafting for volume, their “Seahawky” traits and development.

Pete Carroll already liked his roster and even had said rookies would have a tough time making the team. But that didn’t stop John Schneider from making seven trades and 11 selections in what basically amounted to a special-teams draft.

“We know a lot of these guys are going to be special-teams players; they’ve already done it, they’ve proven it,” Schneider said. “Some of them are projections, but the majority of them, we’ve seen them play on teams.”

Many observers were impressed that Schneider turned five picks into 11, but that’s what Schneider does. It was the safe play. It was the Seattle play. As Schneider said, “To get to 11 was a big deal for us.”

The Hawks did their usual, drafting for volume and taking players who fit their athletic profiles (except, oddly, their top pick) and have the grit and toughness they like.

“You’ll see a constant theme through here; that’s smart, tough, reliable guys,” Schneider said. “Physicality, special teams help, just adding a ton of competition and some alpha dogs to this group.”

Carroll thinks his roster is like the Super Bowl squads of 2013-14.

“This feels like one of those rosters that we’ve had maybe four, five years ago where it really felt like there were guys on our team that other people are going to want,” he said. “That’s a good spot to be in. It has taken some time to get back to that; you’ve seen the cycle of the roster move, and this is a really exciting spot right now. … It’s going to be competitive, which is exactly the way we like it. Guys are going to be battling at spots, and it forces the energy and the juice of what camp will be like. This is just beyond our expectations.”

Here’s a look at the roster after the draft:

QUARTERBACK
Top vets: Russell Wilson, Paxton Lynch.
Top rookie: Taryn Christion (UDFA).
Projection: Wilson was just re-signed to a monster deal to remain the franchise quarterback through 2023 — a deal that makes him and us happy. Carroll said he likes what he has seen from former first-round pick Lynch, and it appears they won’t bring in another veteran right now to challenge for the backup spot. If they change their minds, Sam Bradford’s lottery tickets finally ran out, so he’s available to play for the minimum.
Carroll on Lynch: “We’re excited about the quarterback position, with a little bit of help from Paxton. He looks like he’s going to give us an exciting choice there. We’ll see how he develops.”

RUNNING BACK
Top vets: Chris Carson, Rashaad Penny, J.D. McKissic, C.J. Prosise, Bo Scarbrough.
Top rookie: Travis Homer (6th).
Projection: Carson and Penny will share the load, and McKissic should be the third-down back. The others will battle for the No. 4 spot, although it probably will be Scarbrough vs. Homer since we all know Prosise won’t make the club from the tub.
Schneider on Homer: “He can play an every-down back. He’s really tough. He’s only 20 years old. He’s a grit guy for us, hell of a special-teams player. He can play on third down. We actually had him in the third-down category because he had such good hands coming out of the backfield. Really good instincts. Just a really, really tough dude.”

WIDE RECEIVER
Top vets: Tyler Lockett, Jaron Brown, David Moore, Amara Darboh, Keenan Reynolds, Malik Turner (Doug Baldwin).
Top rookies: D.K. Metcalf (2nd), Gary Jennings (4th), John Ursua (7th), Jazz Ferguson (UDFA).
Projection: It’s no surprise that Baldwin is going to retire or that the Hawks added receivers in the draft. They traded up for both Metcalf (who slipped to the bottom of the second) and Ursua (giving up a 2020 sixth). The Hawks don’t have many good options behind Lockett, so preseason should be interesting to watch as Brown and Moore try to hold off the rookies. Carroll said they will use Metcalf on things he does well: deep routes and special teams. It wouldn’t be a surprise if Jennings saw more playing time than Metcalf on offense in 2019. Darboh has one more chance to avoid being a third-round bust; but, if Carroll had confidence in him, he would not have drafted three receivers. Ferguson is a big UDFA (6-5) and interesting because the Hawks were linked to his pass-rushing brother Jaylon at the top of this draft.
Carroll on rookie speed: “It was really important going in. That was really the No. 1 thing. We wanted to get fast and make sure we can complement the stuff that we like running down the field, taking advantage of (Wilson’s) ability to throw the ball down the field. And being able to complement the work we were able to do with Tyler and make sure he’s not the only fast guy who really can take the top off. So we hit it, and we’re really excited about that.”
Seahawks scout Aaron Hineline on Metcalf: “D.K. fits the mold of smart, tough and reliable. He obviously has a great pedigree and is a freak of an athlete. He’ll be a great fit with all that we ask of our guys at that position. He blocks well and can contribute on special teams.”
Schneider on Jennings: “He had a great year. Coming out of that offense, there’s always questions, but he did a great job at the Senior Bowl. … They tracked him at 23 mph. … Phenomenal hands. Really strong after the catch.”
Schneider on Ursua: “John has been honestly one of our favorite players throughout the whole process. He had an awesome visit with us, led the nation with 16 touchdowns (15 from the slot). He is going to come in and compete for that slot spot. … (He has a) really good feel for sitting in zones and setting guys up. He has a really good shake off the line of scrimmage. Then, he has deceiving speed too. He would have liked to have had his (4.56) 40 time back, but he plays much faster than that.”

TIGHT END
Top vets: Ed Dickson, Nick Vannett, Will Dissly.
Top rookies: NA.
Projection: A lot of people thought the Hawks might add a tight end in the draft, but they apparently are confident Dissly will come back from his torn patellar tendon just fine. If he does, it will be a good trio.
Carroll on Dissly: “He’s making great progress. Really, everybody is excited that he’s going to be OK by the time we open up. … Everything is pointing toward where he is going to be very competitive. We loved the start he had with us last time around. Our hopes are really high that he will be a big part.”

OFFENSIVE LINE
Top vets: Duane Brown, D.J. Fluker, Justin Britt, Germain Ifedi, Mike Iupati, George Fant, Jordan Simmons, Jamarco Jones, Joey Hunt, Ethan Pocic, Jordan Roos, Elijah Nkansah.
Top rookie: Phil Haynes (4th).
Projection: Haynes adds some good interior depth to a very solid unit and could project as a starter on a 2021 line that also could include Brown, Simmons and Jones. Health will be a key to the guard situation, since none of Fluker, Iupati or Simmons has been able to play a full season. Pocic was a dubious second-round pick in 2017 and has played like it — this is probably his last chance to show he merits a roster spot. The deadline for Ifedi’s fifth-year option is May 3, and we don’t expect the team to pick it up — because Fant and Jones are around. Lots of depth, lots of options for Mike Solari with this unit — the best Carroll has had.
Carroll on Haynes: “Phil is a guy that we targeted early because of his makeup and his style of play. We’re really excited about how our guards have been playing. You saw us go out and get Mike Iupati to go along with what D.J. has done. We thought early on that this is a guy that can fit in the mold of that. He’s going to be 340 pounds. He’s a really strong, really physical guy. He likes to finish blocks and knock guys down. He’s got an attitude about him. He just looked like he would fit the bill to compete with those guys.”

DEFENSIVE LINE
Top vets: Jarran Reed, Quinton Jefferson, Poona Ford, Cassius Marsh, Rasheem Green, Jacob Martin, Branden Jackson, Nazair Jones, Jamie Meder, Nate Orchard.
Top rookies: L.J. Collier (1st), Demarcus Christmas (6th).
Projection: This is the weakest position on the team — thanks to the Clark trade. Reed is the only guy who has established himself as an NFL player. Tons of people are stoked about Ford, but he needs to prove it. Marsh and Martin are limited pass rushers, and Green and Jones need to stay healthy and figure it out or join the growing list of Schneider’s recent third-round busts. Schneider and Carroll have work to do on this unit if they are going to win a playoff game in 2019, as we fully expect them to. Get on it, fellas.
Carroll on Collier: “He has the versatility and the style and the penetration ability. He’s really slippery. Terrific pass-rush makeup. So we’re going to fit him right into the scheme in that regard. … We think we’ve really got something special with him.”
Carroll on Christmas: “He’s going to play 3-technique to start us out. We just want to bring him along. Good, tough guy who can do a lot of good stuff. We just want to develop him. We need the depth, and we need the girth. He’s a 300-pound guy.”

LINEBACKER
Top vets: Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright, Mychal Kendricks, Barky Mingo, Shaquem Griffin, Austin Calitro.
Top rookies: Cody Barton (3rd), Ben Burr-Kirven (5th).
Projection: The rookies will be special-teams players in 2019 and might bump the spendy Mingo. If Kendricks spends the season in prison, though, that could change Mingo’s fate and/or give Barton a chance to start (though the Hawks play nickel over 60 percent of the time). Wagner’s future needs to be addressed before camp starts, but the Hawks presumably traded Clark so they could pay their defensive leader. Everyone is happy to see Wright back — and hoping his 2018 knee trouble will not return. If Kendricks is available, this unit will be awesome. If not, it will still be very good.
Carroll on Barton: “That versatility is really important to us and we know he’s an incredibly gifted special-teams player as well. He’ll have a chance to learn under terrifically experienced guys. He’ll be a great asset to us. We see him being a part of a lot of stuff right off the bat, so we’re really excited about that.”
Carroll on Burr-Kirven: “I thought it was a really exciting pick to evaluate because he’s such a unique type of player. Whenever you get a guy that’s this active and has these kinds of (tackle) numbers, you have to take a look. We took a really deep look at what Ben’s all about. He reminded me so much of Lofa Tatupu, (who) had this extraordinary knack for finding the football in unique ways. And the way he fit in the running game, he was amazing. This is the way that Ben plays. Our guys all latched on to him and the productivity, but he’s also got speed. The special knack was something that we were really excited about. We know that he’s going to be a factor on special teams. He’s going to be running down those kicks and making hits. He’s recognized as a really big-time player and the fact that he’s local (UW) is pretty cool also.”

SECONDARY
Top vets: Bradley McDougald, Shaquill Griffin, Tre Flowers, Tedric Thompson, Delano Hill, Akeem King, Neiko Thorpe, Shalom Luani, Simeon Thomas (Kam Chancellor).
Top rookies: Marquise Blair (2nd), Odu Adami (4th), Derrek Thomas (UDFA).
Projection: Carroll has been talking up Hill for months, leading us to believe he will start opposite McDougald. But the Hawks drafted two safeties, which could mean they don’t like the young safeties or they don’t expect McDougald and his balky knee to last much longer (he is signed for two more seasons). Blair seems destined to follow Chancellor’s path, playing special teams in 2019 and perhaps pushing for the starting strong spot in 2020. Unless Thompson again outplays Hill in preseason, he seems likely to back up McDougald. Adami also is starting at free safety, Carroll said, so the Hawks are fairly stacked at the safety spots. Some folks are concerned about the corners, but Carroll fully expects Griffin to take a big step in 2019 — and no one in the history of football (let alone any know-it-all fans) should doubt the elite secondary coach when it comes to corner play. King figures to be the lead nickel, although it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Thompson, Blair and Adami cycle through there, too.
Carroll on safeties: “We need the competition. We need to keep it competitive and let that take care of most of the decision-making there through opportunity. Let those guys go at it, because we are very, very young other than Bradley.”
Carroll on Blair: “We really like him attacking the line of scrimmage. He blitzes well, tackles well, hits well, great feel. It’s his toughness that we really are excited about; he happens to be a really good athlete as well.”
Carroll on Amadi: “He’s a very versatile football player. … He’s a safety and we’re going to start him off playing back in the middle, free safety to start. … He’s done a lot of coverage stuff in the slots, he’s done nickel work in a unique way and been effective there, too. We’d like to see how that works out in time. He’s been a returner. He will be a very instrumental guy in the special teams area as well because he’s a runner and a hitter.”

SPECIAL TEAMS
Top vets: Jason Myers, Michael Dickson, Tyler Ott.
Projection: The Hawks screwed up in 2018, letting Myers go for “Old Man and the Sea Bass.” It helped cost them one game (missed PAT in OT loss to the 49ers). Meanwhile, Myers made the Pro Bowl kicking for the Jets last year. So Carroll told Schneider to bring Myers back. This should be a strong trio, perhaps helped by all of the special-teams players the Seahawks just drafted.

One thought on “A look at roster after special-teams draft”

  1. It’s an odd draft. Metcalf aside, Schneider did what he does, then drafted like Tim Ruskell — i.e., play it safe.

    Re Metcalf, it sounds like they were surprised he was available, and just couldn’t pass on the up side. That he comes across like he has something to prove is encouraging.

    I am glad that they drafted some receivers — they need a pipeline and it will take a couple of years to sort that position out.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s