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Seahawks 2017 draft class: What to expect from each of them as rookies

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NCAA Football: Central Florida at Cincinnati Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

After several poor draft classes in succession, Seattle Seahawks general manager John Schneider seemed to get back on the right track in 2016, selecting day-one starters in Germain Ifedi and Jarran Reed, offensive chess piece CJ Prosise, as well as preparing for the future with the selections of Nick Vannett, Quinton Jefferson and Rees Odhiambo. It’s the kind of draft class that helped the Seahawks be so deep during back-to-back Super Bowl runs, and it’s the kind of draft class Seattle will need to continue to hit on if they want to contend in the years to come.

In 2017’s draft class, Schneider and Pete Carroll appear to have added two more day-one impact players, as well as several more intriguing prospects. I don’t think you can accurately judge a draft class for three seasons, but what can we expect from the 2017 Seahawks draft class in their rookie years?

Round Two: Malik McDowell

With their first pick of the 2017 draft, the Seahawks selected (in hindsight) the most Seattle Seahawk prospect available; an athletic freak with a huge upside, who just happens to have a motor that runs cold more often than not. McDowell started the 2016 college season as a potential top-five selection before little production and question marks about his effort dropped him down.

While Carroll and the coaching staff get to work trying to coach the talent out of McDowell on the practice field, they’ll be able to ease him into things on the field on Sundays. With starting defensive ends Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril expected to play about 75-percent of defensive snaps, and starting defensive tackles Ahtyba Rubin and Reed expected to come in at about 50/55-percent, there won’t be too much on McDowell’s plate in year one.

I would expect McDowell to get onto the field on obvious passing downs, as well as being apart of the main rotation with Frank Clark and Cassius Marsh. If he can get into 20-25 plays a game - about 30-percent of the team’s snaps over the course of the season - and chip in the 5-6 sacks Seattle has desperately missed, then his rookie season will have been a success.

Round Two: Ethan Pocic

A center who projects at guard who will likely play tackle for the Seahawks - or in other words, par for the Seattle offensive line course. At the time of his selection, I wrote about the versatility Pocic displayed during his time at LSU, starting games at center, guard and tackle. Following his selection, the thought was that he would play guard for the Seahawks. Since then, it’s been made clear he will compete at tackle, and I expect him to win that job.

Pocic brings pedigree - he earned first team All-SEC and All-American honors in his senior season - as well as size and natural talent to the offensive line. A right side featuring Ifedi and Pocic may be raw, but they both have the ceiling of above average NFL players, and have both faced top-level opposition for several years now and should come out better for it. The first and second year players should, and likely will be the cornerstones of the offensive line for years. If Pocic can win the right tackle job and make it his own in 2017 then the team will be thrilled.

Round Three: Shaquill Griffin

Before Seattle made Griffin their third selection, the expectation seemed to be that Jeremy Lane would move to outside cornerback in 2017, opening up a competition for the available nickelback position. Instead, Seattle landed an ideal Seahawk cornerback, while beefing up two spots in the secondary; Lane can stay inside where he has played his entire career, and Griffin can start from day one where he projects long term, on the outside. He has the size, physicality and athletic ability to be the latest in a line of secondary players outperforming their draft status, and I think he will from day one.

There isn’t a draft pick in this class I have higher hopes for, and my expectations for Shaq Griffin won’t be tempered regardless of how his rookie season goes. It goes one of two ways:

  1. He impresses in training camp and preseason, picking up on Seattle’s technique quick enough to be a viable week one starter and only grows from there. He makes the job opposite Richard Sherman his pwn, and the team has their lockdown corner of the future. Or:
  2. He flashes enough while taking lumps in the summer to win the job over the competition. The potential is there for all to see but he isn’t quite ready, ceding the job to DeShawn Shead around November before coming back for year two more prepared for the mental strain of being a Seattle cornerback.

Shaquill Griffin is going to be a very, very good player for the team for many years.

Round Three: Delano Hill and Round Four: Tedric Thompson

This is one of the harder projections. In a normal year, backup safeties for the Seahawks play little more than a dozen snaps on defense in a season. Last year wasn’t a normal year, but with Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor getting older while still playing an unforgiving style, it could quickly become the normal. The team has prepared for that possibility this offseason, signing Bradley McDougald and drafting Thompson and Hill. I grouped them together here because I think their rookie year outlooks are quite similar.

Barring injury, neither one of them will see the field much on defense but both should be big contributors on special teams right away. Hill in particular, with his fast and physical style of play, should become a big piece of the team’s special teams unit within his rookie season.

Round Three: Nazair Jones

Naz Jones, like McDowell, will see a big chunk of his potential playing time eaten up by starters Avril, Bennett, Rubin and Reed, as well as the pass rushing rotational players like Clark, Marsh and McDowell himself. And while a selection like the one of Jones is crucial to Seattle rebuilding some of the depth they’ve lost over the years, I’m not expecting much of anything in year one. He’ll likely be on a similar snaps-per-game track that Quinton Jefferson was last season before he was lost for the year, coming in for 6-7 defensive snaps a game.

That being said, there is a chance Jones proves to be a valuable part of the defensive line in his rookie year should either of Rubin and Reed go down with injury for any considerable amount of time. In that case Jones could step into a starting role, something he should do regardless following the 2018 season when Rubin is a free agent.

Round Three: Amara Darboh

Last season, following the seventh-round selection of receiver Kenny Lawler, I wrote this on my expectations for him. I was a big fan of Lawler’s game and thought he could be the one to finally fill the possession receiver role that Seattle’s been searching for. He could still be, but it’s far more likely Darboh is that player for the Seahawks.

He posses a much bigger frame than Lawler and stylistically his game is much closer to that of a true possession receiver. He doesn’t catch the ball simply to catch the ball. No, he is catching the ball because that ball is his damn property. He may have loaned it to Russell Wilson to throw around with Doug Baldwin and Jimmy Graham, but just for a moment. When the his ball is thrown to him, just like the spoiled kid in your neighborhood growing up, he is getting his ball back and going home and you’re not stopping him.

His large frame will allow him to contribute on special teams right away, while working his way into the offense. I wouldn’t be surprised if by season's end he has started to take some of Jermaine Kearse’s snaps, before completely taking over for Kearse in 2018.

Round Six: Mike Tyson

A safety at the University of Cincinnati, Tyson will play cornerback in Seattle, immediately taking the title of ‘Player Most Likely to Make You Stop and Say, “Damn, that guy doesn’t look like a cornerback”’ away from DeShawn Shead. He hasn’t even stepped on the field and he’s already making waves. Those Seahawks are always finding guys deep into the draft, I tell ya.

As far as actual football goes, I think Tyson’s rookie season has three routes, all of which may intersect. There is:

  1. He looks incredibly raw in the preseason and lands on the practice squad, where he continues to learn the cornerback position and comes back in 2018 ready to compete for a job.
  2. He makes the 53-man roster only to be inactive for most if not all games, becoming an afterthought in 2017 before coming back in 2018 ready to compete for a job. And finally:
  3. He makes the 53-man roster and plays in some games, making an impact on special teams before coming back in 2018 ready to compete for a job.

I think Tyson will compete for a job in 2018.

Round Six: Justin Senior

Death, taxes, and Seattle selecting a player in round six or seven that leads several draft analysts to declare that they had that player as a priority free agent. Senior is the latest of that bunch, mostly due to Senior accepting a late invitation to the Senior Bowl this past January where he was beaten like a drum over and over in practice.

As Rob Staton pointed out on 3000 NFL Mock Draft following the draft, the lone positive to come of Senior’s experience at the Senior Bowl was the way he took to coaching over the course of the week. Here’s a player that snapped up an opportunity that was presented to him, didn’t back down when it got tough, and improved with good coaching. Now that sounds like the kind of project Tom Cable and the Seahawks love.

Round Seven: David Moore

Moore, a six-foot, 219-pound receiver out of tiny and totally not made up East Central Oklahoma University was another surprise pick by Seattle towards the end of the draft. Moore himself said he was surprised he was drafted at all, but with good size and good speed (4.43 forty) it’s no surprise that the Seahawks were interested.

He is the type of player that can flash real promise against preseason competition, but he’ll be in the middle of a tough receiver competition that will include Cyril Grayson, Lawler, Tanner McEvoy and Kasen Williams. If he brings value to special teams, with his size and speed, he could find himself on the 53-man roster. Otherwise it could be a Zac Brooks-situation like last season; too many bodies at the position for even a draft pick to break through.

Round Seven: Chris Carson

One of the few running backs in this year’s class that fit the mold of a Seattle running back, Carson will be facing a similar situation as Moore; despite being a draft pick, he’ll have a huge uphill battle to make the roster. Between Carson, Eddie Lacy, Prosise, Alex Collins and Thomas Rawls, along with last preseason’s star Troymaine Pope and a fullback, the team will likely keep five running backs. A lack of development from Collins combined with a promising preseason from Carson is likely the only way he’ll leapfrog Collins and be on the roster in September.