For the seventh time in their history in Seattle, Pete Carroll and John Schneider selected a wide receiver in the NFL draft. This year, it was California receiver Kenny Lawler. Lawler is the latest name on a long list of big possession receivers brought into Seattle to fill that role in the offense alongside Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse. While Carroll and Schneider have done an excellent job of building competition and production at every spot in the field, finding a bigger possession receiver to join that group has proved difficult.
True to fashion for this regime, Carroll and Schneider have been relentless in trying to find the right player for the role of possession receiver. The early success story of Mike Williams filled it wonderfully for a year before Sidney Rice came in. With Rice unable to stay healthy however, the front office found itself remaining in the market for the big target. Braylon Edwards was even brought in for a season to try and be the answer, to no avail.
Outside of free agency, Seattle has drafted Chris Harper and Kevin Norwood in recent years, as well as bringing in Chris Matthews from the CFL. Matthews, the most successful of the trio, had just four regular season catches for the team during his time in Seattle. Last season, even Ricardo Lockette found himself on the field more often before a career-altering neck injury ended his season. So while Kearse and Baldwin have remained, the names behind them churned. On the back of a career-year for Doug Baldwin, the wide receiver group looks more complete then ever; Tyler Lockett and Paul Richardson are both promising players, but neither offer a big target. However, the last piece of the puzzle may have arrived.
By now, Seahawk fans know not to doubt a player simply by draft position. Every round of the draft, as well as rookie free agency, has produced a star for the team during Pete Carroll and John Schneider's time together, and Kenny Lawler may be the latest. The penultimate pick of this year's draft class for the team, Lawler comes into Seattle a seventh round selection with a massive opportunity. The role with the Seahawks he'll be given a chance to fill isn't a massive one. Baldwin, Kearse and Lockett will dominate the snaps at receiver again in 2016 (Baldwin 73.9%, Kearse 71.4%, Lockett 61.5% of snaps in 2015), and the three tight ends will contribute as always. With the passing game expanding in Seattle, Lawler could exceed the snaps seen by the fourth receiver over the past two years (average 14.2% of snaps).
Make no mistake, while the Cal product benefited greatly from being one of Jared Goff's go-to targets, Lawler is an impressive player in his own right. A bigger receiver at 6'2" and 203 pounds, Lawler used impressive length to take away more then a few balls he had no business catching this season. His combination of length, ability to high point the football and strong hands makes him a really great compliment to a group boasting several shifty, dynamic playmakers. Speaking to Brock and Salk on Monday, general manager John Schneider raved about his length saying "His catching range is stupid," and adding that "If he had run 4.5 he would go round 4/5." And like usual, Schneider isn't wrong. Of the 37 receivers that ran a 40-yard dash in Indianapolis, just seven ran slower then Lawler's 4.64. But it probably doesn't matter at the end of the day. Lawler is sudden out of his breaks and creates separation without needing elite speed as a result.
If Lawler can carve out a role in Seattle's offense behind the three receivers, with the tight ends and Prosise being big contributors in the pass game, he'll be set up for great success with the Seahawks. From Kris Durham to Chris Harper, the team has been looking for the long possession receiver that can be another compliment to Russell Wilson and the run game for many years. And on the heels of Marshawn Lynch's retirement and the offense shifting to being Wilson-centric, they may have finally found it in seventh round pick Kenny Lawler.