Following a couple of down seasons drafting, Seattle Seahawks GM John Schneider and the team’s personnel department were seemingly back to their best following the 2015 draft. While the two drafts prior produced just one starter – Justin Britt, who’s been replacement level at his best – the 2015 draft delivered the team two budding stars, as well as several more potentially key role players. The successes of Tyler Lockett and Thomas Rawls have been well documented, but how will the rest of the returning sophomores fair in 2016?
Clark burst onto the scene in August, being one of the league’s standout players in the preseason. The initially timid expectations were pushed forward, to his name being mentioned as a possible Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate in a weak rookie class on the defensive side of the ball. The second round pick didn’t deliver on those expectations, but he did improve as the season went along. During his best stretch of play, between mid-November and December, Clark averaged almost four snaps more than his season average. That period saw him grab his three sacks on the year and look closer to the player Seahawks fans were introduced to in the preseason. With Bruce Irvin gone, Clark figures to be a bigger piece in obvious pass rushing downs, and could see his snaps close to double as a result.
After blowing away expectations in his rookie season, Lockett would do well to do the same in 2016. He showed the makings of a star receiver as a third round rookie in 2015 and should be more than just a fantasy darling in his second season. Despite the new contracts for both Jermaine Kearse and Doug Baldwin this offseason, there’s every chance that Lockett ends 2016 as the top receiver in a potentially stacked Seattle offense. I expect Lockett to work outside more than he did in his rookie season, and his star should rise even further, as a result.
For all the positivity that surrounded Clark’s preseason play, the opposite could have been said about Poole’s first NFL preseason. The fourth round pick was largely overmatched against roster bubble guys and looked every bit the athletic project he was touted as. A year on the practice squad now under his belt, Poole will have every chance to stick on a weakened offensive line in 2016. He’ll start training camp in the mix at right tackle but if Poole, at 6’5" and 307-pounds, can become the team’s swing tackle, that pick will have been a success.
Glowinski will enter training camp as the presumed starter at left guard, taking over for Britt. Having seen limited action in 2015, with 72 of 73 snaps coming in his one start in week 17 against Arizona – at right guard, no less – it’s tough to put expectations on Glowinski. On one hand, he looked steady in his one start, against a toothless Cardinals team. On the other hand, he’s an unproven and largely untested sophomore, starting over at a new position. All signs point to Glowinski being a steady player for Seattle, and steady would be a happy upgrade over the Britt-coaster the Seahawks rode at left guard in 2015.
Appearing in four games in his rookie season, Smith played exactly zero snaps on defense. Heading into his second season, Smith finds himself in the mixer behind established starters Richard Sherman, Jeremy Lane and DeShawn Shead. Similar to Poole, I don’t see the Seahawks using a redshirt season on Smith just to cut him the following camp. At worst, Smith will be the fifth or sixth cornerback on Seattle’s roster, but could beat out the much-maligned Brandon Browner and Tharold Simon and surprise some people.
Sokoli dressed for just one game in 2015, as the wildly raw former defensive lineman made the transition to center. His athletic profile will keep Tom Cable and company salivating at the prospect of the sixth round pick coming good, but at this point it’s anyone’s guess as to what Sokoli will give the team in 2016. Spending the year on the practice squad and risking him being poached by another team seems the most likely, and smartest route for the Seahawks with Sokoli this season.
Rookie Free Agents
Despite the fact Rawls is returning from a nasty ankle injury, I don’t think any Seahawks fans expect anything less than for Rawls to be the number one back for Seattle in 2016. A breakout star in his rookie year, Rawls can comfortably replace Marshawn Lynch’s production, with the luxury of a bevy of young, talented running backs behind him. The fact that the Seahawks get to enjoy the rarity of improving on a retired legend says all you need to know about Rawls in 2016. Just sit back and enjoy the ride.
Kasen Williams and Kevin Smith
The two undrafted free agents besides Rawls to contribute in 2015, the former Washington Huskies will be involved in one of the deepest competitions in Seahawks training camp. It’s unlikely both, or even one of them, end up on the 53-man roster, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if they both were around the team in 2016, either on the practice squad or the figurative taxi squad. If I had to choose, I would expect Williams to be the team’s fifth receiver over Kevin Smith.
Undrafted free agents Trovon Reed, Brandon Cottom, George Farmer, DeShaun Foxx, Antwan Goodley and Justin Hamilton all ended 2015 on the team’s practice squad, and all were signed to future contracts following the conclusion of last season. Of that group, Cottom has a legitimate shot at being the Seahawks starting fullback come week one, with Derrick Coleman’s future unclear and Will Tukuafu still unsigned. Farmer remains an interesting prospect as he converts from receiver to cornerback, but he, along with the rest of the group, are most likely practice squad bound again in 2016 if they are to be involved with the team at all.
The Seahawks roster has been pillaged by the rest of the NFL for the past few offseasons, with teams naturally overpaying to bring in reserves and starters from winning programs. After failing to replenish that depth in the past couple drafts, John Schneider delivered a well-needed rookie class last season, and hopefully the 2016 rookies will join the returning sophomores in the effort to bring depth back to the Seahawks roster.