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Senior Bowl preview: Wide receivers to watch for the Seahawks

Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl - Utah State v New Mexico State Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Two of the Seattle Seahawks’ three most talented pass catchers will be free agents this offseason, with both Jimmy Graham and Paul Richardson’s contracts set to expire. There’s still time for one or both to be extended, but at the moment, their future with the team is unclear. Even if Seattle is interested in bringing back one or both, there’s a strong likelihood the Seahawks get outbid for both by teams with cap space to burn. If Richardson signs elsewhere this March, I believe they’ll look to add a player who can stretch the field vertically. The Tyler Lockett we saw this past season can’t do that — if the remainder of his career resembles this season, his future is very much as an underneath WR. Additionally, they still are searching for the big-bodied possession receiver they’ve been unsuccessful in acquiring in past drafts. Just like at the East-West Shrine Game, there’s a good amount of talent at the receiver position at this year’s Senior Bowl.

Marcell Ateman (WR, Oklahoma State)

Height: 6042

Weight: 216

Playing opposite James Washington, Marcell Ateman put together an excellent college career over five years, losing the 2016 season to a broken foot. He broke out as a junior in 2015, averaging 17 yards per reception (45 receptions for 766 yards) and catching five touchdowns. Ateman then returned from injury in 2017 and improved his junior year totals, catching 59 balls for 1156 yards (19.6 yards per reception) and eight touchdowns. While Washington will get the majority of attention between the two teammates in Mobile, Ateman is among the better receivers at the Senior Bowl.

Ateman is the ideal size for a possession receiver. He doesn’t have the speed to separate at will against cornerbacks, but he’s a clean route runner and knows how to use his frame to win one-on-one. At Oklahoma State, Ateman ran a high volume of routes - comebacks, outs and fades - where the pass is released before he makes his break. These were the routes he had the most success on, and it’s due to his ability to get inside or in front of defensive backs, and catch contested passes. Along the sideline on out routes, Ateman is able to make good adjustments to the ball and contorts his body well for his size.

While Ateman didn’t run a full complement of routes with the Cowboys, he displayed several traits that make him an interesting target for Seattle. He wins on contested catches and has terrific size and physicality, something the Seahawks lack at the position. And as importantly, he’s a fierce blocker, pushing his man as far downfield as the play allows.

D.J. Chark (WR, LSU)

Height: 6025

Weight: 196

Any potential interest in D.J. Chark from Seattle would be predicated on Paul Richardson’s departure. They have similar games coming out of college, a threat to stretch the field vertically or otherwise used in space underneath. Chark has a bigger, more solid frame than Richardson at almost 6-3 and 198 pounds, but they both have great length. Like Richardson, Chark’s long arms give him a great catch radius both high passes that require full extension or catching balls just off of the turf.

At LSU, Chark wasn’t used in a large variety of ways. Almost all his routes were either vertical up the seam or sideline, or they were quick hitches that allowed him to turn up-field into space. It’s vertically, however, where Chark does his most damage. At 6-3 he isn’t an explosive athlete in and out of breaks, but he will simply run past defensive backs on deep routes once he’s allowed to hit his stride. He has the innate ability all good deep threats have, and that’s to separate late in the route and have several steps on the defender by the time the ball arrives.

If Richardson does in fact move on in free agency, Chark has the ability to step in and be a vertical threat immediately with the Seahawks. With his ability to gain yards underneath and create in space, there’s the possibility he develops into a legitimate outside receiver similar to Richardson, too.

Allen Lazard (WR, Iowa State)

Height: 6042

Weight: 227

For three seasons, Allen Lazard was a great player on a terrible team, before the Cyclones turned it around in 2017. While Iowa State won just 16 games in Lazard’s four seasons there, he was terrific, averaging 60 catches, 840 yards and 6.5 touchdowns per season. Much like Jake Wieneke at the East-West Shrine Game, Lazard made a living winning contested catches.

Lazard, at 6-4 and 222 pounds, has a large frame and a great catch radius, catching passes at full extension at all angles. He did the most damage at the intermediate and deep levels of the defense, and is a consistent red zone threat. Despite his size, he isn’t overly physical at the line of scrimmage or at the top of his routes. Struggling to separate in the Big 12 doesn’t bode well for his chances against NFL cornerbacks, and his lack of physicality could be a massive flaw in his game if he’s expected to win on size alone.

Lazard isn’t the cleanest prospects among the possession receivers set to appear in Mobile, but with a good showing in one-on-ones at Senior Bowl practice, he could dispel a lot of worries about his game translating.

J’Mon Moore (WR, Missouri)

Height: 6025

Weight: 209

At 6-2 and 209 pounds, J’Mon Moore fits the kind of receiver Seattle should be searching for in this year’s draft. But after height and weight, the fit with the Seahawks all but ends. Moore looks disinterested when the football goes to the other side of the field, not even running out his route before the ball is released in some cases. In the running game or blocking for another receiver, Moore is simply noncompetitive. He’ll extend his arms into a defensive back to try and show “See? I’m blocking!” only to get jacked back by a smaller defender. Senior Bowl practices will be massive for Moore. Either he gets exposed as a soft receiver in a big body, or he’ll have a chance to prove he truly has a competitive edge to him.

It isn’t all negatives with Moore, however. He ran a limited route tree with Mizzou — essentially, just hitches, screens, slants and nines. After the catch he is electric, opening up into his long stride immediately, he gets up-field in a hurry. He has a good understanding of his size and leverage on inside-breaking routes, gaining inside position and winning the route before the ball is released. With good open field ability and size, Moore is worth taking a shot on to see if he can develop his game into that of a complete outside receiver. However if he doesn’t show up in Mobile ready to compete and impress in drills against cornerbacks, it might be safe to take him off of Seattle’s draft board before the Combine arrives.

Jaleel Scott (WR, New Mexico State)

Height: 6047

Weight: 216

Playing in the Sun Belt Conference, Jaleel Scott looked every bit as freaky as his frame would suggest, listed as 6-6 by the Aggies, and measuring in at almost 6-5 with a 81 1/2” wingspan at the Senior Bowl. He is a tremendous threat in the red zone, and his ability to high point the football makes him an almost impossible cover one-on-one. His long arms enable him to win on contested catches as well, negating good position by a defender due to his long arms. He isn’t an explosive athlete in the open field, but he’s a long strider and does a good job of getting up-field after the catch. Scott has the potential to be a physically dominant wide receiver in the NFL, but there is a long way to go.

Scott isn’t a technically sound receiver; he didn’t run a full route tree with the Aggies, and he has a tendency to be too deliberate in his release, trying to tiptoe around the defensive back. His raw game and level of competition - barring an outstanding Combine performance - could mean Scott’s available early on day three, when wide receiver becomes a real possibility for the Seahawks. In Seattle he could be a red zone threat immediately while his game is refined, and would be a great fit for the type of wide receiver they’re lacking.