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ESPN ranks Seahawks near bottom of the NFL in “under-25” talent

NFL: NFC Wild Card-Seattle Seahawks at Philadelphia Eagles Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Every once in awhile, especially on slow days as we (hopefully) wait for the start of the 2020 NFL season, I scour the internet and look for an article that might upset Seattle Seahawks fans. ESPN usually makes it easy for me, and lo and behold...

Football Outsiders’ Scott Spratt wrote up a column ranking all 32 NFL teams based on their “under-25” talent entering this season. This is obviously about players under the age of 25, and here’s some of the criteria:

These ratings consider not just talent under age 25, but also the value and length of those players’ current contracts. This will push up the teams with productive players who have several years left on inexpensive rookie contracts and push down the teams that have already had to, or will soon have to, pay their experienced young talent.

Last year, the Seahawks ranked 30th. This year they have soared all the way to 25th, mostly because of the acquisition of the 24-year-old Jamal Adams. This is behind the ESPN+ paywall so I’ll just only give you our write-up but nothing more.

Blue-chip players: Jamal Adams, SS; DK Metcalf, WR

Notable graduated players: Chris Carson, RB; Shaquill Griffin, CB; Tre Flowers, CB, Tedric Thompson, FS

As I started writing this article, the Seahawks were poised to finish in the bottom five in the under-25 rankings for the third straight season. The team’s top picks from the past few seasons — Rashaad Penny and L.J. Collier — have yet to develop into impact NFL players, in large part thanks to the knee and ankle injuries they suffered in 2019, respectively. The team’s top pick from this season — Jordyn Brooks — was a perceived first-round reach given his lack of coverage ability at linebacker.

But then in late July, the Seahawks traded two future first-rounders for All-Pro safety Jamal Adams. With an October birthday, Adams barely makes the cut for under-25 consideration. But as a first-round draft pick, he still has two years left on his rookie contract. That offers the Seahawks plenty of time to extract a value from likely the best run-stopping (24 defeats, 2nd) and pass-rushing (16 hurries and 6.5 sacks, 1st) safety in football.

Adams adds a second young blue-chip prospect to a team that before had DK Metcalf and mostly unproven potential otherwise. Metcalf himself might have fallen into the “more potential than production” camp after a regular season with a neutral 0.6% receiving DVOA. But then he blossomed into a star at the best possible time, catching seven passes for 160 yards and a touchdown to lead a road playoff win against an Eagles team whose stellar run defense (-18.5% DVOA, 4th) required the Seahawks to rely more heavily on the pass than they prefer. Metcalf and tight end Will Dissly, who missed most of his first two seasons with patellar tendon and Achilles tendon tears but has excelled when he has played, could quickly become the focal points of Russell Wilson’s passing efforts.

Adams and Metcalf are critical additions for the Seahawks since their other young talent is concentrated on the offensive and defensive lines. Collier, Poona Ford and second-round rookie Darrell Taylor should all play big roles in a defensive line rotation that, without Jadeveon Clowney, lacks a star veteran. Ford, at least, is a proven talent. He finished top 10 among defensive tackles with an 89% run stop rate and 1.4 allowed yards per carry. On the offensive line, fifth-round sophomore tackle Jamarco Jones and third-round rookie guard Damien Lewis might not start in 2020, but they have starter talent. Jones showed that with a decent 3.0% blown block rate in his rookie season, and Lewis showed that with tremendous run blocking at LSU, even if his lack of quickness could challenge him on pull blocks at the next level. Beyond those players, punter Michael Dickson is probably the team’s most exciting young asset. And even his sophomore decline to 25th in gross punt value dims the star of the top-five rookie season that earned him an All-Pro distinction.

Tedric Thompson is no longer on the team and indeed with the Kansas City Chiefs, but the “graduated players” is just to note that he turned 25 already and thus even if he had stayed on the team he would not have qualified as “under-25 talent” for 2020.

I have a bone to pick with the line that Lewis might not start in 2020, when he seems to be the odds-on favorite to be Seattle’s starting right guard. You don’t cut DJ Fluker and then draft Damien Lewis in the top-70 of the NFL Draft, only to play... honestly who would you play? Jordan Simmons? Swing Ethan Pocic out to guard again? Switch Phil Haynes to right guard?

The Baltimore Ravens are #1 and really there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be. Lamar Jackson is the reigning MVP, they have Marquise Brown at wide receiver, a rising star TE in Mark Andrews, and a great defensive back in Marlon Humphrey.

I really don’t have much issue with Seattle’s placement in all honesty. There was another ESPN column that actually ranked the Seahawks’ roster at 9th overall regardless of age, weighting positional value heavily. This is definitely not one of the Seahawks’ best rosters compared to the glory days of 2012-2015, but it’s also not a terrible one. What this roster also isn’t is bursting with very young, promising talent on inexpensive deals.

And yet they keep on winning and outside of one year, they keep making the playoffs. Carry on with your day!