So far, we’ve had Rookie OTAs and Voluntary OTAs. I think. I can’t be sure. I’m only like half paying attention right now.
I have never been to a single Seahawks practice in my life, so of course I have no firsthand knowledge of what’s been going on at these OTAs. I rely on the beat writers I follow on Twitter, the occasional article I read on a Saturday morning when I get the newspaper, and whatever makes it through when I’m listening to Brock & Salk in the morning. As such, I’m as ill-informed to have an opinion on the new Seahawks rookies as can be. But, this is the Internet, so I’m actually OVER-qualified to have an opinion on these rookies!
Most of this, honestly, is going to harken back to rookies of yore. Because, here’s the deal: by and large, rookies don’t make huge impacts on the game of football. There are precious few every year, and they generally come from the very top of the first round. Oh, you’ll find starters on most every team, but that’s usually based on circumstance: you want to get the promising rookies in there as soon as possible to start gaining valuable experience, in hopes that by Year 2 they’re ready to take a big leap.
Take a look at the 2018 Seahawks draft class; we were all pretty stoked on those guys, right? How many of them REALLY made an impact? Sure, Michael Dickson was a Pro Bowler, but he’s a once-in-a-generation talent at the punter position. Beyond him, Tre Flowers was a semi-capable starting cornerback for most of the season, Will Dissly looked good for about a week before he was lost for the season due to injury, Shaquem Griffin mostly played on special teams after a disasterous start in Week 1, Martin was a decent rotational player on the defensive line, and our top two picks – Penny & Green – were largely disappointments respective to where they were selected in the draft.
Take a look at the 2017 Seahawks draft class. Shaquill Griffin was a semi-capable starting cornerback for most of the season, Chris Carson was solid when he was healthy, but Ethan Pocic was a disaster, Malik McDowell never played a down, and the rest of the guys were – at best – Special Teamers (or, they were role players, or they were injured).
Who was the last Seahawks rookie to come right out of the gate as a star (not just on Special Teams)? I would argue we’re talking Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner in 2012 (you can make a case for Lockett, but he was a Pro Bowler as a returner, and was really just a 3rd receiver on offense his rookie season). Everyone else, you’re talking about adequate starters, role players, the aforementioned Special Teamers, or busts as rookies.
So, it’s pretty stupid to expect ANY of these rookies this year to step into significant roles. While there are openings that figure to at least give guys opportunities for more playing time than they’d otherwise see, it takes a REALLY special kind of player to come in Year 1 and be a star. Russell Wilsons and Bobby Wagners don’t just grow on trees!
I’ll just go down the list from the first round on, giving my thoughts on what I expect from them in 2019. Remember, this isn’t my opinion of their entire careers, just what they’ll bring to the table this season.
L.J. Collier – I think he’ll get plenty of snaps, but I can’t envision much more than a role player, even as thin as the D-Line is. Ideally, he’d pass up Frank Clark’s rookie season of 3 sacks, but that’s only because I expect him to get a lot more playing time. Nevertheless, I can’t imagine double-digit sacks right out of the gate.
Marquise Blair – While I wouldn’t necessarily call the safety position “stacked”, there are plenty of returning starters that will make things difficult for Blair to break through. From what I’ve been hearing, though, there’s a lot of chatter about his potential. If he stays healthy, he certainly has one of the best chances to really stand out as a rookie, but I would expect his career to start off slow, and pick up steam towards the end of the season. More than anything, I see Special Teamer in his immediate future.
D.K. Metcalf – Of all the rookies, I feel like fans are highest on his breakout potential. And why wouldn’t you? He’s probably the most physically gifted athlete on this team, and there’s a new opening with Doug Baldwin’s early retirement. I’d say I’m a little more reserved about his chances of truly breaking out, and not just because the offense is stifling to the passing game. To be a star in this offense as a receiver, I’d say he’d have to eclipse 65 receptions and/or 10 touchdowns (in his case, the 10 touchdowns is probably more likely). That’s certainly within reach, but I can’t help but see him falling just short of both of those marks. I’d be thrilled with something around 45 catches and 5 TDs, which isn’t bad in the slightest, but also not really amazing.
Cody Barton – Based on all the OTA hype so far, Barton appears to have the highest ceiling of all the rookies (at least when it comes to their rookie season results). Too bad for him that the Seahawks are beyond stacked at linebacker. When you hear about how he’s so good that the team will look to find ways to get him on the field, I think that’s a good sign. The positive for his own growth is that the linebacker room is also among the oldest on the team, so the odds of these guys getting injured at some point feels pretty high. I would expect Barton to be the best of the rookies in 2019, with him ultimately taking K.J. Wright’s spot for good starting in 2020.
Gary Jennings – I’m pretty sure he’s been injured throughout OTAs. Honestly, I sort of expect that to continue. He’ll be so hyped up in Training Camp to make an impact, that he’ll probably re-injure himself and spend 2019 on the IR.
Phil Haynes – I heard good things early, but I think he too has been injured a little bit (I could be wrong). Regardless, I’m expecting nothing out of him as a rookie. I think he’ll stick with the team and probably be a healthy scratch most weeks.
Ugo Amadi – I’ve heard exactly nothing about Amadi so far in OTAs. My guess is he makes the team, plays on Special Teams, and doesn’t really do much on defense. Seems like a longshot that he steps right into a nickel cornerback role from Day 1.
Ben Burr-Kirven – There’s been a lot of positive chatter, and there’s been word that he’s nicked up. He’s obviously not seeing time on defense, as you figure he’s also behind Barton – as well as the returning vets – on the depth chart. When he’s not injured, I bet he’ll flash occasionally on Special Teams, but I don’t have super high hopes that he’ll be healthy.
Travis Homer – At best, he’s a #3 running back, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he lands behind C.J. Prosise (who manages to stay healthy through Training Camp for the first time ever, only to get injured once the season starts and Homer is on someone else’s 53-man roster).
Demarcus Christmas – He strikes me as a Practice Squad player.
John Ursua – My hunch is that he’s NOT the next Doug Baldwin, and that he probably gets cut at the end of Training Camp. Meaning we’ll have traded away a pick from 2020 for absolutely nothing.