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Rookie check-in: How the Seahawks draft class is performing

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Syndication: Arizona Republic Joe Rondone/The Republic / USA TODAY NETWORK

Last month, I took a look at where all of the Seahawks’ draft class was at following their first matchup with the Arizona Cardinals. Obviously, this is a special group, and many of these guys have continued to improve substantially over the last month. It may be a factor of playing time for some — like Kenneth Walker III who had just finished his first start as an NFL running back when I wrote that first article — and for others it is simply a matter of consistently outperforming their draft status — like Abe Lucas and Tariq Woolen.

The fact that top-10 selection Charles Cross is garnering less attention than guys selected in the 2nd, 3rd, and 5th rounds sounds like it could be a bad thing, but for the Seattle Seahawks, this is right where they want to be. Cross has been solid, and in many seasons he would have been getting all the attention after the team seemingly failed to develop a blindside blocker following the departure of Russell Okung until the arrival of veteran Duane Brown solidified the left side. Cross very much looks the part of a developing franchise left tackle. This year, however, he has teammates who are potential OROY/DROY in Walker and Woolen, so the fact that he isn’t hogging the spotlight isn’t that surprising. So let’s take a look at each of the rookies and see where they are at!

Charles Cross — 1.09

As mentioned above, Cross has looked very much like the player that Seattle hoped they were getting with the ninth overall pick. Yes, he has had his struggles at time, but rookie tackles almost always struggle. The good news is that his challenges at the moment look very surmountable, and Pro Football Focus ranks him third among all rookie tackles in pass block grading... one spot behind his teammate! They also credit him with allowing 4 sacks on the year; for reference, Duane Brown surrendered 11 in his rookie season. He never allowed more than 8 after that, and went 10 straight seasons allowing 4 or fewer sacks, including the first three years of a solid run with the Seahawks. This is not to say that Charles Cross is going to have an identical career, but simply to show how well things are going early.

Boye Mafe — 2.40

Mafe often feels like the forgotten man among Seattle’s Day Two selections. But much like Cross, that is really more of a testament to the strength of this draft class. He has 2 sacks on the season and has largely been playing in a rotational role; he has been outsnapped by Darrell Taylor and Uchenna Nwosus by a significant margin, and Bruce Irvin is very quickly creeping up on him. This last tidbit of information may sound a bit alarming, but Bruce Irvin is Bruce Irvin and he has been playing phenomenally since rejoining the team. Much like rookie tackles, rookie edge rushers often times take a bit to acclimate to the NFL; Mafe actually ranks quite favorably relative to other rookies. Of the seven edge rushers who were taken ahead of Boye, only Aidan Hutchinson, Travon Walker, and Jermaine Johnson have more sacks. Take that for what it is worth, but I would say the future still looks bright, and he seems to be catching on quite quickly in run defense, indicating that he has the potential to be an every down player. Just take this play for example:

Kenneth Walker III — 2.41

Okay, I could list all of Walker’s accomplishments here, but I don’t think my words would do him justice, so instead I’ll just say that he has been a revelation for this offense. He looks like a strong candidate for OROY, and he still has a lot of developing to do. I hope to watch many, many more plays like this in the coming seasons.

Abe Lucas — 3.72

Abraham Lucas continues to impress; he is second among all rookie tackles — and remains in the Top 10 among all rookies — with a pass blocking grade of 74.9, according to PFF. He has allowed 4 sacks in 10 games, which isn’t great, but we have all seen this guy play. He brings a toughness and attitude to the right side of the line that is unmistakable. He is a major component of why PFF ranks the Seahawks 11th overall in pass blocking. And his run blocking is improving, from what I can see, as well. Check out this pulling block on Devin White from last week; sure, this play was ultimately a failure for the offense, but you can’t blame Lucas!

Coby Bryant — 4.109

Coby Bryant has had his struggles in coverage; PFF credits him with allowing 37 receptions on 50 targets and surrendering a passer rating of 111.3, while also missing 9 tackles on the season so far. These are not great statistics for a defensive back. However, what these ignore is the fact that Bryant has accounted for 4 of the team’s 17 takeaways, second only to Tariq Woolen, who is up next.

Bryant has a long ways to go before he is a consistent performer for this defense, but he is another guy who would be getting a lot more attention in a weaker draft class. He has made some impact plays, for sure, like his forced fumble on Kyler Murray with the Cardinals threatening to score near the end of the first half; this play effectively took 7 points off the board for the Cards and put the Seahawks back in the driver seat.

Tariq Woolen — 5.153

What can be written about Woolen that you haven’t already read? A lot, probably. His list of accomplishments reads like that of a veteran All-Pro, not a Day Three draft pick. He is already impacting the gameplan of opposing offenses, and he is second in the league with 5 interceptions (C.J. Gardner-Johnson of the Philadelphia Eagles has 6). PFF credits him with allowing 26 receptions on 45 targets with a passer rating of 71.7. At the moment, DraftKings Sportsbook gives him the second best odds behind Sauce Gardner to win DROY. Not bad for a guy who was drafted nearly 150 picks later. Plus, this will be an NFL highlight for years to come.

Tyreke Smith — 5.158

Smith is on season-ending IR and will unfortunately have to wait until 2023 to have an opportunity to make an impact.

Bo Melton — 7.229

The former Rutgers receiver was waived and signed to the practice squad; he has yet to be called up to the active roster and has not played any snaps in 2022.

Dareke Young — 7.233

When we last checked in on Young, he had only played seven snaps and was a healthy scratch for much of the early season. Oh how things change! Since then, he has played more than 50% of the team’s Special Teams snaps in each game, and has been on the field for 41 offensive snaps. Sure, this is a far cry from becoming a legitimate offensive threat, but his special teams performance has looked good to me, and the fact that the team’s final pick in the draft is making any kind of an impact in his rookie season is a good sign. Here is a quick clip of him making a standout play in punt coverage.

So there you have it. The Seattle Seahawks seem to have course corrected with a swiftness that few of us predicted; not only are they getting promising production from nearly every rookie on the team, they are also starting to see some previous draft picks — like Jordyn Brooks and Cody Barton — starting to come into their own as team leaders. This squad has a ton of potential, which many astute observers saw heading into the season. Few could have predicted how quickly this draft class could deliver on their potential. And what is more exciting than watching a talented group of young players gelling as a team? Maybe winning the Super Bowl, I guess... but one step at a time.