Seattle could keep Ben Obomanu and Courtney Taylor, but I think it's possible one is cut. John Carlson can play wide receiver on four and five wide receiver sets. He's a better pure receiver than Obomanu or Taylor are or are ever likely to be. Carlson creates matchup problems with smaller defensive backs and can be motioned tight to counter blitzes. So though I projected both to make the final 53, that was in some part recognition that the fifth wide receiver battle is not yet won.
There's not a sure leader, though I think Taylor has an edge. He has been more active with the first team and has the only reception from Matt Hasselbeck. There's also a sense that Taylor has a greater organizational standing than Obomanu. When it became clear last year that Seattle would not start the season with Deion Branch or Bobby Engram, weeks before Obomanu broke his collar bone, Taylor was tapped to start at split end. He failed, of course.
Obomanu hasn't had a regular season reception since 2007. Both players become restricted free agents after this season, so future and upside are considerations. The two were teammates at Auburn. Obomanu was the better red zone receiver, but Taylor was the Tigers' number one receiver. He was the number one receiver for Auburn's 13-0, 2004 team*. A team that included Jason Campbell, Ronnie Brown, Carnell Williams, Marcus McNeill, Jay Ratliff, Carlos Rogers, Will Herring, King Dunlap, Quentin Groves, Ben Grubbs, Kevin Hobbs, Anthony Mix, Pat Sims and Evander Holyfield's son, Evander Holyfield.
Taylor was the better prospect. Obomanu was a situational receiver. He had nine fewer receptions and only 46 more yards than Ronnie Brown, but he led the team in touchdown receptions: seven. Taylor had six.
Obomanu has the two's only professional touchdown reception. If Seattle needed a designated deep threat or red zone threat, Obomanu would be the favorite. But Deon Butler is the better deep receiver, and T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Carlson are better red zone receivers. Seattle's fifth receiver needs to be, simply, as good as possible. That favors Taylor.
Nothing is decided though. There's a sudden-death feel to Thursday. Both receivers have positives and negatives. Taylor is most recently healthy, but Obomanu's injury was fluky and he owns better overall health. Obomanu has been with the team longer, but Taylor is better integrated into the offense. Obomanu has more experience as a returner, but Taylor is the better gunner. Taylor is better insurance for Deion Branch, but Obomanu is better insurance for Nate Burleson.
Both should get plenty of looks on Thursday and both could be working out the kinks or playing for their job. Taylor has developed better chemistry with Seneca Wallace and Matt Hasselbeck, but Obomanu has developed better chemistry with Mike Teel. Wallace is down with a groin injury and, having not practiced, may not play this Thursday. Hasselbeck won't fill that space. He could see a series or two, or not play at all. Teel could start, but even if he doesn't, I expect him to play 3+ quarters and pass the ball 20+ times. That favors Obomanu. It all factors, because the body of evidence does not strongly favor either. One breakout showing against Oakland could be enough to secure either the fifth wide receiver spot.
*Tim Ruskell likes winners.