The Seattle Seahawks open 2017 training camp on Sunday, July 30, so it’s not too early to start scouring the roster for some sleepers to make some noise and potentially the final roster. The Seahawks have one of the most talented rosters in the NFL, especially on defense where it seems losing starters (for other teams this season) is unavoidable, but we know that with Pete Carroll everyone truly does have an opportunity.
Who has the best opportunity?
Justin Senior, OL
Can a sixth round pick be a “sleeper” to make the final roster? Of course. Seattle cuts day three players every year before the season and I’m certain that with 11 drafted rookies and even more UDFAs, they’ll be doing it again. However, Senior — who I think of as “the lost man of the Seahawks 2017 draft class” because I think most people have forgotten or glossed over his selection — could be a sleeper not just to make the team, but to start.
I mean, any offensive lineman on the roster right now could be a Week 1 starter because: Seahawks offensive line.
Senior recently spoke of the fact that he knows he’s not a lock to make the team:
“The offensive line of the Seahawks has been decent in the last few years. This is a group of young players who are improving year by year. I don’t see it as if it is an easy opportunity for me to make the team, ” he warned.
“My responsibility is to do everything in my power to be the best player possible. People say that the offensive line has been bad, but I don’t care of it, ” he continued.
Last year, Seattle went with UDFA George Fant and his near-total lack of football experience for 10 starts at left tackle. So Senior, who at least has been a football player for awhile and played tackle at Mississippi State last year, could definitely find himself as an integral part of the line in 2017. He could also get cut, but his opportunity is perhaps the most intriguing among all the offensive linemen competing for spots.
UDFA Jordan Roos is also going to be competing there and so far may be a more popular sleeper with fans.
Kenny Lawler, WR
Speaking of Day 3 players who got cut, Lawler is definitely in a better position to make the team this year than he was as a rookie in 2016. That being said, it’ll still take an upset to get there.
Doug Baldwin, Tyler Lockett, Jermaine Kearse, Paul Richardson, Amara Darboh, Tanner McEvoy. That right there is already six receivers who are definitely in the lead for final roster spots, and Seattle may only even keep five receivers. They could cut Kearse, but I’m leaning towards the idea that they won’t unless training camp and preseason really suggest that last season was no fluke and that they have several young receivers that they just can’t afford to risk losing.
McEvoy is on the bubble too, but they kept him around for all of last season and clearly favor his highly unique athleticism and size combination. But that’s not all.
David Moore is this year’s seventh round pick at receiver. Kasen Williams has been around for awhile and has some game day experience. Cyril Grayson already extremely popular with fans because of his unlikely underdog story and roundabout way of joining the Hawks. But Lawler would still be my sleeper pick if anyone overtakes someone in the top six.
He caught 22 touchdowns over his final two seasons at Cal, which I think has to be intriguing for a team that struggled passing in the red zone. He was clearly talented on film. His biggest weakness was ... weakness. Lawler was scrawny and that dropped him to nearly going undrafted. Well, he’s reportedly much bigger now, so the question is: How much could the added muscle slow him down, if at all? An NFL-sized Lawler could be too interesting to let go to be picked up by Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers, which you just know is what would happen.
Offensive honorable mentions: WR/RB JD McKissic, QB Austin Davis over Trevone Boykin, FB Algernon Brown, G Roos, WR Grayson
Shaneil Jenkins, DL
Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, and Frank Clark are locks to make the roster at defensive end, while I think Quinton Jefferson has a solid case if healthy. Seattle’s other outside edge options are somewhat limited. Garrison Smith, Dion Jordan, and David Bass round out that competition for now, but Jenkins may be the favorite for DE5.
Jenkins, still only 23, had two sacks in two preseason games with the Dallas Cowboys in 2016, but was waived/injured with a knee injury before Week 1. The small school star from Shepherd University was picked up by the Seahawks in December and given a futures contract in January. He could soon earn a “presents contract” though and be a reserve player for Seattle in September.
At his pro day (which he was able to do through West Virginia’s pro day), Jenkins ran a 4.78 at 281 lbs and had a three-cone drill at 7.25 seconds, both really respectable numbers.
Last season, the Seahawks kept four defensive ends (Bennett, Avril, Clark, Jefferson) and had Smith as a DT who also could play DE. By October though, Malliciah Goodman and Sealver Siliga were on the roster because of injuries to Jefferson and Smith, so that’s how close we typically are to any “sleeper” being on the final 53. Jenkins may be more than just a sleeper though; he could be a legitimately good pro who played at a small school and then got hurt at the wrong time.
Or maybe the right time for Seattle’s sake.
Pierre Desir, CB
So the cornerback situation is really complicated at the moment, especially because “starting jobs” are still up for grabs opposite of Richard Sherman and in the slot. The only locks seem to be Sherman, Jeremy Lane, and Shaquil Griffin, with DeShawn Shead presumably starting the year on PUP.
Last season, the Seahawks kept five corners: Sherman, Shead, Lane, Neiko Thorpe, and DeAndre Elliott.
Thorpe is still around and I think most people have him penned into a final 53 spot, if not starting. Elliott is someone who I’ve liked since last year and he’s still around too. Both have considerably more experience in Seattle now than Griffin or Mike Tyson have. So one thing you might expect, though you can never expect too much with this staff, is that they’ll favor experience with potentially starting a rookie and relying heavily on secondary depth from fellow rookies Delano Hill and Tedric Thompson, plus FA signee Bradley McDougald making his Seahawks debut.
That’s a lot of names to get through before I even mention Pierre Desir, but I know a lot of people see him making noise over the next five weeks and not just getting onto the roster, but seeing significant snaps throughout the season.
Desir reportedly declined a roster spot with the Lions in 2016 to stay with the Seahawks on the practice squad. John Schneider also seems high on Desir and at 6’1 with 33” arms, fits Pete Carroll’s mold at the position.
The cornerback unit is perhaps the most crowded jungle on this roster in terms of sneaking through if you’re not one of the top three guys, and Desir may not have a better shot than Thorpe, Elliott, or Tyson -- he certainly doesn’t carry the same cache with the casual fan who knows those guys were either on the team or drafted by the team -- but he could prove himself worthy in August and still be around in September.
The ultimate payoff for not going to Detroit when he had the chance.
Defensive honorable mentions: LB/ST Terence Garvin, LB Kache Palacio, DL David Bass, DE Dion Jordan (despite his draft status, has shown little redeeming value at the NFL level, but has also shown to be a physical freak)