Seahawks Rookies and Expected AV

Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

The 2018 NFL Draft is in the books and once again, the Seattle Seahawks decided to draft a few players. Usually, there's a decent amount of hype surrounding a team's draft picks, especially those higher draft picks. This year, however, there seems to be a lot of hype around most of the draft. There's the hype around the ultra-durable, powerful but dynamic running back Rashaad Penny, the punter that's going to make punting great again in Michael Dickson and of course, the undefeatable thunderstorm-in-shoulder-pads and all-around amazing story Shaquem Griffin.

Hype is always great in moderation but what would be reasonable to expect from each rookie in the 2018 season?

What follows is just that: I take a look at the average rookie year Absolute Value (AV, Pro Football Reference's all-encompassing value stat) for players drafted since 2002 that correspond with the position and round for each Seattle 2018 draft pick. I also try to find the player that matches for that average AV who is as close to the overall draft slot of the 2018 draft pick. This isn't meant to be predictive, just a fun exercise in draft history and an interesting way of thinking about the current draft class.

Rashaad Penny (1-27)

Average Rookie AV of 1st Round RBs: 6.8 AV

Historical Match: Marshawn Lynch (2007, Pick 1-12) - AV: 7

Yes lawd! Right out of the gate we're swinging for the fences. Greatest Living Human and Seahawks Legend Marshawn Lynch was selected 12th overall in 2007 by the Buffalo Bills. His rookie campaign was an interesting one: he missed three games in the middle of the season, yet still racked up over 1,100 rushing yards (3.98 YPC). His best game of the season came in Week 8 against the Bengals, where he ran for 153 yards, ran for one touchdown and even threw for another! While Lynch may have been prolific, he wasn't all that efficient. His DYAR (27th) ranked just below Maurice Morris while he ended up posting a negative DVOA (-4.8%, 33rd).

Historically speaking, running backs drafted in the first round are expected to be significant contributors their rookie year. If Rashaad Penny is able to produce a rookie season similar to Beast Mode's rookie campaign, that would be a drastic improvement over the black hole that was the running back position for the Seahawks in 2017, regardless of your thoughts about the overall value of the position.

Rasheem Green (3-79)

Average Rookie AV of 3rd Round DEs: 1.5 AV

Historical Match: Justin Tuck (2005, Pick 3-74) - AV: 2

Defensive ends drafted in the 3rd round aren't usually major contributors early in their careers, with the two exceptions being Yannick Ngakoue for Jacksonville in 2016 and Kendall Langford for Miami in 2008. Rasheem Green's match, Justin Tuck, wasn't a significant contributor his rookie year. Tuck only started one game and only recorded one sack in a Week 12 win against Dallas. In fact, Tuck only started 3 games in his first three season but was able to rack up 10 sacks his third year as a rotational player (including 2 in Super Bowl XLII). By Tuck's fourth season, he was a full-time starter and ended up having a career year with 18 AV that included 12 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, 52 tackles and a pick-six for good measure.

It seems like the Seahawks are planning to use Green in the role previously occupied by Michael Bennett. If Green can make the full transition from role player to significant contributor to Pro Bowler, Seahawks fans should take that every day.

Will Dissly (4-120)

Average Rookie AV of 3rd Round TEs: 0.8 AV

Historical Match: Tyler Higbee (2016, Pick 4-110) - AV: 1

Imagine my surprise watching the NFL draft on a lovely Saturday morning and see the Seattle Seahawks draft...Will Dissly? Don't get me wrong, Thrill Dissly (yes, Thrill Dissly) was a joy to watch at Washington. He seemed to be able to get open down the middle pretty frequently and I always had a panic attack whenever he eventually was tackled from behind, fearing a fumble.

Thrill's match, Tyler Higbee, started 7 games for the Rams in 2016 as a rookie. He saw at least one target in 11 different games. Unfortunately, Tyler really didn't do much with those targets. Sporting a catch rate of less than 38%, Higbee only was able to haul in 11 catches for 85 yards and 1 touchdown. He was so bad, in fact, he had far and away the worst DYAR and DVOA of qualifying tight ends in 2016. Thanks to the Rams offensive resurgence in 2017, Higbee rebounded to become just under replacement level (-9 DYAR) while being a 3 AV player.

It seems right now that Will Dissly will be called upon to be primarily a run-blocker for Seattle, so we may not see much measurable contributions from Thrill Dissly early on, if at all. However, there are few TEs who sported zero-AV rookie seasons, like Jacob Tamme and Julius Thomas, who've had some decent seasons here and there. Getting a couple of 5+ AV seasons out of Dissly would be welcome, indeed.

Shaquem Griffin (5-141)

Average Rookie AV of 5th Round LBs: 1.3 AV

Historical Match: James Davis (2003 Pick 5-144) - AV: 1

"Where were you when Seattle drafted Shaquem?" is a question that many Seahawks fans will remember the answer to for a very, very long time. Griffin's story of being a talented football player who happens to have one hand, absolutely dominating the combine after previously being snubbed from the event and being drafted by the team that currently employs his brother is one that need to be experienced in order to be believed.

While Griffin is incredibly talented, the list of successful 5th round rookie linebackers is pretty short: Telvin Smith and Avery Williamson, both drafted in 2014. James Davis was drafted by the Lions in 2003 and only played in eight games his rookie year, starting in just one. His 8 tackles and 2 passes defended were enough to net him 1 AV but in 2004 and 2005 he was much more productive, netting 6 AV both seasons. Davis started 15 games his 2nd year and 14 games his third year. He was especially productive in 2004 when he amassed 89 tackles and 3.5 sacks. Oddly enough, he was cut the following year, tried to make the Giants roster, failed to do so and was then out of the league.

Now, I believe that Shaquem is too talented and mentally tough to flame out of the league in three years but if his only contributions to the Seahawks in his rookie year is solid special teams play with some rotational minutes at weakside linebacker, I think that would be a great foundation to build from.

Tre Flowers (5-146)

Average Rookie AV of 5th Round DBs: 1.4 AV

Historical Match: Orlando Scandrick (2015 Pick 5-143) - AV: 2

There are quite a few recognizable names as you scroll through a list of 5th round DBs: Josh Norman, Micah Hyde, Brandon Carr, William Gay, Perish Cox, Jamal Agnew (though primarily as a return specialist) and of course Richard Sherman. A safety-to-corner convert, Tre Flowers has a long way to go to have the careers many of these players but setting our expectations at the level of Orlando Scandrick would be just fine.

Scandrick started off as the Cowboys main nickle corner in 2008 and continued primarily in that role until 2013 when he won a starting corner job. During his rookie year, he did end up starting two games, finishing the campaign with one sack, 26 tackles and 4 passes defended.

Flowers, who is 6'3", will play a much different role in the Seahawks defense than Scandrick (5'10") did early in his Cowboys' career. Whether or not Flowers can take on a starting role in his rookie year like his new teammate Shaquill Griffin did last season remains to be seen.

Michael Dickson (5-149)

Average Rookie AV of Drafted Punters: 1.5 AV

Historical Match: Zoltan Mesko (2010 Pick 5-150) - AV: 2

There haven't been too many drafted punters since 2002 (just 30) so instead of comparing punting phenom Michael Dickson to other 5th round punters, I just decided to look at all drafted punters. Rookie AVs are pretty stable for punters; whereas other positions may have a few well-performing outliers (say, an 8 AV for Aaron Hernandez for 4th round tight ends), no punter drafted since 2002 has a rookie AV above 3.

And so we come to Zoltar. No, wait, that isn't right...ah, yes, Zoltan. Zoltan Mesko was a high-decorated punter at Michigan in college and was drafted by the Patriots in 2010. Mesko averaged about 43 yards per punt his rookie year but set an NFL record for average net yardage by a rookie at 38.4. Mesko also had about a third of his punts downed inside the 20 in 2010. He had a 3 AV year his second year but only a 1 AV year for his third year. After that, he was cut by the Patriots, then hung with the Steelers for a few games, was cut again and had a cup of coffee with the Bengals before being out of the league entirely.

Jamarco Jones (5-168)

Average Rookie AV of 5th Round OTs: 2.3 AV

Historical Match: Ricky Wagner (2013 Pick 5-168) - AV: 2

When it comes to 5th round tackles, there's Carl Nicks and there's everyone else. Nicks posted an 11 AV rookie season, followed that up with a 9 AV sophomore season, then made the Pro Bowl his 3rd year and was a 1st Team All-Pro his 4th year. 5th round tackles tend to average 2 AV their first year and an interesting name on the list is Ricky Wagner. In a bit of interesting trivia, Wagner was selected with the exact draft slot that the Seahawks used to draft Jamarco Jones (168th overall).

Wagner wasn't a full-time starter his rookie year but did win the starting right tackle spot in his 2nd year. Per Pro Football Focus, he was nearly a Top 10 tackle that season (he posted an 8 AV season). He had a down year his third year, but bounced back in 2016 and parlayed that into a contract with the Lions in 2017. Last year, Wagner was ranked as the 12th best tackle and 24th best offensive lineman by PFF, surrendering only 5 sacks and hits combined in 444 passing snaps.

With questions surrounding the fit of Germain Ifedi at the right tackle position, if Jones were to have a career like Ricky Wagner's that would be a serious boon for the Seahawks and their most maligned position.

Jacob Martin (6-186)

Average Rookie AV of 6th Round DEs: 1.0 AV

Historical Match: Eugene Sims (2010 Pick 6-189) - AV: 1

The bag of 6th round defensive ends is rather mixed; only one draftee (Melvin Oliver for the 49ers in 2006) posted a rookie AV above 5. There's also Greg Hardy, who outside of 2013 didn't have a single season of an AV above 6 (fun fact, he's also a horrible human being). It seems as though a player like Eugene Sims is decent model for what a decent 6th round DE career could look like. Sims was a rotational player for much of the beginning of his career, starting in only 3 games in his first five seasons and not recording his first career sack until Week 4 of 2012 against, you guessed it, the Seahawks. In the last two seasons, Sims has become a more significant contributor on the Rams' defensive line, starting in 9 games in 2016 and 8 games last season.

Alex McGough (7-220)

Average Rookie AV of 7th Round QBs: 0.3 AV

Historical Match: Tyler Thigpen (2007 Pick 2-217) - AV: 0

Take a journey, dear reader, down the rabbit hole with me to the Realm of The Seventh Round Quarterbacks. There are a lot of names you'll remember but mostly in the "Wow, I at one point knew that human being existed as a football player" category. Cody Pickett. Trevor Siemian. Greg McElroy. Matt Flynn. B.J. Daniels. There are even two names who have carved out something of an NFL career: Ryan Fitzpatrick (The Smart Guy With The Beard) and Matt Cassell. But the quarterback I've decided to highlight is Tyler Thigpen.

Young Tyler Thigpen mostly rode the bench his rookie season, as neither Damon Huard nor Brodie Croyle could do much to jump-start an anemic Chiefs offense that would finish 31st in weighted offensive DVOA. Trivia: the offensive coordinator of the Chiefs that year was none other than current Seahawks offensive line coach and Definitely A Guy Who Is Not Tom Cable, Mike Solari (Solari was fired after that season)! Thigpen was awarded the starting job in early 2008 after both Croyle and Huard went on IR. Thigpen would finish with 9 AV, 25th in QBR and 29th in DVOA.

If you're drafting a quarterback in the 7th round, you're absolutely drafting a back-up to your current starter. We've already seen reports of McGough wowing coaches with his performance in rookie camp but if young Alex is going to be in a position to put together a relatively high AV season for a 7th round QB, then something has gone terribly wrong.

All things considered, it would behoove us as fan to moderate our expectations of our new rookie class, both for their first season and beyond. However, none could blame you if each highlight video, scouting report and preseason performance got you that much more excited seeing just what these guys can do in green and blue on Sundays. That's the beauty of being a fan, after all.

Many thanks to Pro Football Reference and Pro Football Focus for the data and information in this article.