Examining each of the Seahawks 2022 rookies and breaking down their usage roles on the team in the coming season
The 2022 NFL Draft may likely end up being a pivotal moment in Seahawk football, but it’s too early to tell as of now. However, the amount of talent the team brought in far surpassed the class of 2021, which included only three selections for Seattle. Until training camp begins and we’re able to watch the rookie class compete against veterans, it will be difficult to project which players start in Week One. Using the information I have now, I projected the playtime that the nine drafted rookies (and one bonus UDFA) earn come this fall.
Charles Cross, LT: Locked-In Starter
The Seahawks spent the top asset they picked up in the Russell Wilson trade (the number nine overall pick this year) on an anchor for the future of the left tackle position. Cross, regarded as an excellent pass protector, has reinforced the fact that he loves to run block as well. Most of his starting experience at Mississippi State had him pass blocking in the Mike Leach Air Raid system, but Cross boasted a stellar 87.2 PFF grade on his 200 run-blocking snaps in 2021. Duane Brown remains unsigned, and a reunion seems unlikely. The young Cross, who turns 22 this November, gets the start day 1 at left tackle and plays all the snaps he can.
Boye Mafe, OLB: High-Level Rotational Piece
I absolutely loved Mafe as a prospect coming out of Minnesota. Building a strong corps at the OLB/Edge position will be of extreme importance when it comes to enhancing the new 3-4 system, and Boye Mafe should eventually be a star in this scheme. In 2022 terms, I see him as the third man up on the edge, behind Darrell Taylor and Uchenna Nwosu. Mafe played well in coverage and against the run in college and maintained a sterling 16.3% pressure rate on his pass-rush snaps. He won’t be a starter quite yet but should see a good amount of work.
Kenneth Walker, RB: #2 With A Shot At #1
Running back is as cloudy a position as can be on this team right now. Chris Carson, the team’s effective RB1 since 2017, has been sidelined since Week Five of 2021 with a neck injury. While he’s under contract for 2022, there’s a chance he remains unhealthy for the coming year. This would leave two backs at the top of the heap: Rashaad Penny and Kenneth Walker. I see Penny as the clear #1 option now, but the team declined to make a long-term commitment to him. Either Penny remains healthy, and Walker is the best backup in the league, or Walker takes the #1 spot with a Penny injury.
Abraham Lucas, RT: Likely Starter
Lucas is a clear right tackle, meaning there are two threats to his shot at a starting role: Jake Curhan and Brandon Shell. Curhan stepped up and played well (especially in run-blocking) in his rookie year as a UDFA. Shell (like Duane Brown) remains unsigned, but I could see a reunion here if Training Camp comes and goes and offensive staff feel neither Lucas nor Curhan is up-to-speed. The true battle will come when coaches compare Lucas’ and Curhan’s practice work, but I think Abe Lucas has a real chance at starting.
Coby Bryant, CB: Unlikely Starter
Barring injury, it’s safe to lock Sidney Jones in at one outside corner spot. Bryant himself will be an outside corner in the NFL, and Tre Brown seems to be the most likely option at outside corner #2 for the Seahawks. Ugo Amadi remaining on the team and the signing of Justin Coleman point to a willingness to keep Tre Brown on the outside. The chance Coby Bryant has at starting relies on the health of Tre Brown. If Coby doesn’t earn a starting role in 2022, he may earn one in 2023 should Sidney Jones depart in free agency.
Tariq Woolen, CB: Development Project
Another pure outside corner with breakneck speed, Woolen is the rawest of the Seahawks’ new prospects. His off-the-charts measurables mean that if Woolen is developed under Pete Carroll the right way and given the right amount of time, he can be part of the next great Seahawk secondary. It’s unlikely he’s ready to be a big-time contributor in 2022, though.
Tyreke Smith, OLB: Rotational Piece
The edge defender position gets more important with each passing NFL season. Smith, the Seahawks’ second draft selection to play the position, doesn’t have the same ceiling that Boye Mafe does. Seeing as Seattle picked Smith up in the fifth round, Tyreke doesn’t have any pressure on him to step in and play a ton of snaps. I envision Tyreke Smith playing about as many snaps as Alton Robinson does. He’s got the potential to be an excellent member of the pass-rush rotation, just not a bona fide, 50% of snaps kind of player.
Bo Melton, WR: Likely Starter
It won’t be in the position you expected him to play, but I think Bo Melton has a good chance to be the team’s top punt returner and/or kick returner in 2022. DeeJay Dallas returned kicks in 2021, but he may be needed more in the running back room this season if Chris Carson doesn’t return. Freddie Swain returned punts, but as the Waldron system is implemented, more four-receiver sets that include Swain will be used. I would like to see Melton get some work as a receiver, but he’s got impressive speed (4.34 second 40 time with a 1.5 second 10-yard split) and moves well with the ball in his hands, great traits for a kick returner.
Dareke Young, WR: Fill-In Player
Throughout the draft process, the Seahawks had ties to Dareke Young. He’s a bigger receiver (6’2, 224 pounds) who has experience as a running back as well. I liked that in the late rounds, the Seahawks took a player who has a chance (no matter how slim it is) at becoming the next Deebo Samuel. Because of the weak competition, he played against at the collegiate level, it will be difficult for Young to prove himself at the NFL level. He has the tools and the groundwork of a skillset to do it, though.
Shamarious Gilmore, OG: High-Level Backup
The interior part of the Seattle offensive line wasn’t addressed in the draft, so if one UDFA has a good chance to make the 53-man roster, it’s Shamarious Gilmore. Behind Damien Lewis, Gabe Jackson, and Phil Haynes (likely the team’s first man off the bench to play guard in 2022), the guard position needs help in terms of depth. With Austin Blythe set to start at center this season, Gilmore will battle Kyle Fuller for the title of #4 guard on the roster.