I am going to be frank: of all the rookies of the Seattle Seahawks’ 2016 draft class, wide receiver Kenny Lawler probably has the slimmest chance of making the final 53-man roster.
A 7th round pick out of Cal, the 6’2” pass catcher is known for his massive hands—and also his rail-thin build and sub par speed.
In his three years with the Golden Bears, he caught 143 passes for 1706 yards and an outstanding 27 touchdowns—thirteen of which were during his final year. Doing a little bit of math (see Mom, I learned something in school), he scored a touchdown on exactly 25% of his catches his senior year.
Plus, he can, you know, do this:
Aside from his highly publicized XXXL hands, Lawler also has incredible body control, which allows him to make acrobatic catches in the air, and a great knack for locating and tracking the football, which allows him to make catches even when he's tightly covered. He will be a red zone weapon the minute he steps onto an NFL field.
So, a skinny receiver without much speed, route-running skills, or ability to beat a press, yet he consistently wins all the jump balls. Where does he fit?
The X-receiver, or split end, is pretty much out of the realm of possibility. An X will always be lined up on the line of scrimmage, so every route he runs will start in a jam from the defensive back.
He might could play slot, but that usually requires exceptional quickness and route-running to go along with a toughness needed to withstand the pounding of catching the ball near the hungry embrace of hulking linebackers.
That means Lawler is likely limited to playing the Z, or flanker. He will be outside the hashes, but has an extra two steps to run before fighting off a press.
Though the Seahawks often rotate their receivers around to different spots to get the best matchups, Tyler Lockett most often occupies the flanker. Though it’s only speculation on my part, I would go out on a limb to say that Lockett is a lock to be the starter there again this year. That in itself is a detriment to Lawler making this roster.
Factor in that Doug Baldwin mans the slot and Jermaine Kearse has a hold on the split end, the rest of the Seahawk receivers will be looked at as backups, men who most often prove their value by displaying versatility. Last year, Kevin Smith hung around as the go-to back up receiver because he could play any of the three receiver spots as well as multiple facets of special teams.
Lawler can do none of that. He does one thing well: win jump balls in the redzone. You know who else does that? Jimmy Graham.
Kenny Lawler’s skill set is redundant. As such, I see it a difficult battle for him to make this team. I also do not think he is the type of player that would be useful on the practice squad (again: versatility is key), so I see it likely that he gets cut with the intention of keeping him on the “ghost roster,” though I could see a WR hungry team showing interest in him if he’s cut.
As such, it would not surprise me at all to see him get “injured” this preseason, and put on the team’s season long IR list. He would use this year to add some bulk to his frame and work on his route running, then try again in 2017 to make it into the receiver rotation.