These are two separate stories that we’re tying together. Pro Football Focus loves their grades and they love to rank things, and I know that rankings posts generate some good traffic in the deadest periods of the NFL offseason.
PFF recently ranked the best linebacker groups, but with the caveat that outside linebackers in 3-4 defenses would fall under defensive line. So this list was exclusively for players listed as off-ball linebackers. It may surprise you to find out that the Seattle Seahawks ranked 8th overall (the San Francisco 49ers were unsurprisingly number one).
This ranking may be a surprise after the Seahawks lost future Hall of Famer Bobby Wagner in free agency this offseason, but Wagner seemed to be on the downslope of his career. Jordyn Brooks is an ascending star who will get more snaps this year. Cody Barton is another interesting player who will finally get a chance to start this season.
This is actually quite humorous given Brooks graded just 58.4 last season, and 47.6 as a rookie. Anything below 70 is considered below-average so uh... your guess is as good as mine? Their projections of a new scheme and Brooks improvement plus Barton getting regular playing time = Top 10 off-ball linebacker group?
But then you go to the ESPN article ranking the rosters (based on projected starters) and you’ll find that the Seahawks are only higher than the Chicago Bears, Atlanta Falcons, and Houston Texans. Yeah, they’re 29th. Criteria for the rankings is based on “PFF grades from the 2021 season — a number included for every projected starter — and a more comprehensive assessment of each player’s career using both PFF grades and statistics.”
Rookies/players without any NFL experience have their PFF grades listed from their final year in college.
Biggest strength: Life isn’t going to be as good for DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett in 2022 without Russell Wilson. No quarterback has graded higher on throws 20-plus yards downfield than Wilson over the past five seasons, which has played to Metcalf and Lockett’s strengths. However, that wide receiver duo still looks to be the strongest point on Seattle’s roster entering this season. Both are top-20 receivers in PFF’s wins above replacement since 2019.
Biggest weakness: A quarterback competition between Drew Lock and Geno Smith isn’t where any team wants to be entering a season. Smith didn’t look completely out of place when he had to fill in for Wilson last season; he was PFF’s 12th-highest-graded quarterback from Weeks 6 to 8 and averaged 7.3 yards per attempt across those three weeks (12th out of 32 qualifiers). His familiarity with the offense could give him a leg up on Lock, even though it seems as if Lock wasn’t merely a throw-in in the Wilson trade. There’s a very small chance that either is Seattle’s starting quarterback at this time next season.
X factor for 2022: The Seahawks are going to need one of their young edge rushers to take a leap this season because their most experienced player at the position — free-agent acquisition Uchenna Nwosu — has a career PFF pass-rushing grade of just 67.3. Darrell Taylor is one of the more likely players to step up to that challenge. The former Tennessee Volunteer missed his rookie season in 2020 with injury, but he recorded 36 quarterback pressures in a rotational role last year.
I’m just the messenger. I don’t think they’re bottom five but also I’ve been pretty critical of the team in recent seasons so I obviously don’t believe they belong anywhere near the top-10. It’s a roster that has a lot of potential to be really good even if they aren’t good in 2022. That doesn’t mean they can’t exceed expectations, but a roster in the bottom five does pretty much coincide with the Vegas over/under win projection of 5.5.
A little over two months before finding out what the post-Russell Wilson Seahawks are really made of.