Now that the draft has come and gone, it's easy to overlook some of the futures contract players the Hawks signed at the end of the season but I think a few of them have an outside shot at making the team. One guy in particular strikes me as having a chance to make the 53 man roster in 2011: WR Dominique Edison. At 6'2", 205, and blazing 4.34 40 speed coming out of college, he definitely fits the profile as an outside deep threat in Pete Carroll's system. He is a project guy though, coming out of Steven F. Austin University, a small Division I school in the Southland Conference.
At SFAU, Edison had pretty impressive career numbers, catching 182 passes for 2,697 yrds and 28 touchdowns. Despite his performance there, I would guess that reason he didn't get as many looks in the draft is probably due to him playing at a lower level with lower competition and less fanfare. That being said, he definitely has the physical tools to compete, and he wouldn't be the first small school project to make it big in the NFL, something we've hammered on recently.
His NFL Combine analysis page is pretty interesting (also interesting he was invited to the combine): I'll quote from there:
Pick Analysis: Edison is one of the faster players in the draft. He has good quickness too and he worked out pretty well. He's tall but is not especially strong.
Edison has been a consistent performer for the Lumberjacks since his freshman season, gaining more than 500 yards each of his first three seasons and scoring 10 times. But his productivity jumped into the stratosphere in 2008 (67 catches, 1,106 yards, 18 scores), as did his NFL draft stock. Unlike many small-school receiver prospects, this first-team All-Southland Conference selection has the size/speed combination to be more than just a complementary weapon. Had an arm span of 32 1/2 inches and a hand span of 8 1/2 inches at the combine.
Positives: Overmatches lower-level talent with good height and sinewy upper body strength. Separates from most FCS corners with his elite speed. Catches with his hands and is able to go outside his frame to adjust to poorly thrown passes in any direction. Uses his hands or feet on the line to free himself off the jam. Quick into and out of routes. Has good body control, and is able to get his feet down, high-point the ball in traffic and make a quick move after the catch. Typically runs stay-routes on the sideline and posts, but is also used on underneath crossing routes to get him the ball quickly. Sells the outside route fake, and uses his body to shield corners on the post. Covers up and locks onto defensive backs while run blocking.
Negatives: Lanky frame that is thin in the hips and legs. Productive, but at a lower division playing in a spread offense regularly using four- or five-receiver sets. Lacks suddenness off the line and takes a couple of steps to get to full speed. Only average elusiveness in space, lacking wiggle in his hips. Faced lower-level corners, so it may take some time until he's physical enough against NFL veterans on the jam and downfield. Must prove he can handle going over the middle. Could increase his value by returning kicks, but is inexperienced there.
I don't attend Seahawks' practices, I haven't seen him play a lot, and can't offer a lot of insight on Edison as a playmaker. Seahawks' beat reporter Dave Boling, though, does attend practices and OTAs, and stated recently on twitter:
Of Hawks "futures" guys, I thought WR Edison shone in practices. Size (6-2 205) speed (4.34 best 40). Made some plays that made me go "ooh."
I love that quote - and it really piqued my interest.
The question is of course: where does Dominique Edison fit in? I'll be detailing this a bit in a post down the line, but I still think that the Seahawks really lack a deep threat, a la Mike Wallace of Pittsburgh or DeSean Jackson of Philidelphia. Even a pure "West Coast Offense" (if that's what it comes down to - though I doubt it) needs a guy like this to keep the defense honest - a guy that can stretch the field and make defenders respect the over-the-top big play. Set up the big play with dink and dump passing and smashmouth rushing and then air it out. Of course it helps to have a QB that can make those throws and until they do have a guy like that their offense will remain rather impotent. I'm not sure yet if Charlie Whitehurst is that guy. He hasn't shown it yet - in the one game he was gameplanned for, they used short passing and screens mostly - but he could still have it in him for all I know. For the sake of this argument though let's just assume the Hawks have someone in mind, whether it's Charlie or someone in free agency or via a trade, that has the arm to challenge the defense. (If they don't, I shudder for the Seahawks)
None of the Hawks' receivers have the shiftiness of DeSean Jackson, but the pure straight line speed needed to get behind the secondary is there with Kris Durham, Deon Butler if he can heal fully, and Dominique Edison. This threat is something that was completely lacking in the Hawks' offense in 2010 (except for a few lucky plays where the safety made a stupid mistake).
It seems like this was the role that Deon Butler was drafted for by Mike Holmgren, and I remember Pete Carroll and other coaches talking about it before the beginning of last season. The problem with that though, apart from the fact Butler is rehabbing from a leg injury, is that he's struggled getting off the line. He gets jammed too easily and therefore hasn't been much of a deep threat. As a corollary, they have used him a lot in the slot and on intermediate routes where he's had some success but nothing earth shattering. This is where Edison could step in and make his name. Though he's raw and unproven mostly, he does have roughly the same straight line speed as Butler, and Edison's obvious advantage is 3-4 inches in height. His specialty in college was running vertical deep routes and post routes and that's where he feels most comfortable and where he shined. Kris Durham may be the deep threat the Hawks are looking for but often receivers take a couple of years to adapt to the NFL level so until that happens who will fill that role? If Deon Butler struggles to rehab and starts the season on the PUP list, or worse never recovers fully from his injury, someone will need to step up and Dominique Edison could be that guy.
A little background: Edison has been on and off of practice squads throughout his short career. He was a long-shot 6th round draft pick to start with. He didn't work out in Tennessee, perhaps because they were trying to work him into the slot position, not the outside, as he played in college. He stated at the time:
It is kind of new to me, and it is a process, but it is coming along. It is different, on the outside you come off the ball real fast, and you have time to get in and out of routes. Playing the slot everything is faster, quicker. I've had to learn how to get in and out of breaks better, faster. That has been in the biggest thing. Mainly I'm just trying to stay consistent, trying to learn two or three positions to get the best opportunity to be on the field.
This type of attitude can go a long way in the Pete Carroll system. Carroll has proven that he'll give any player a chance if they produce. Ben Obomanu languished on special teams for several years before Pete saw the potential in him and we all saw what happened with him this year. He earned playing time and will likely see a lot this year as well. Keep your eye on Dominique Edison, he could be next in line for this type of jump.