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2 Seahawks players named to ESPN’s 2023 ‘All-Youngster’ team

Two of the best players under the age of 24 play for the Seahawks

Arizona Cardinals v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

On Tuesday morning, ESPN released their 2023 NFL All-Youngster team, comprised of 44 players under the age of 24 (as of November 28th).

Per usual, it’s behind the ESPN+ firewall, but we’ll share the relevant details here.

Let’s start with some of the noteworthy non-Seahawks who made either the first or second team on ESPN’s youth squad.

Quarterback

Two QBs selected two picks apart . . . one was the final pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, the other was the second pick in this year’s draft which means that only only player was picked between them . . . both poised to do what most thought was impossible . . .

Stroud has turned the Texans into a potential playoff team - they’re currently slotted at No. 8 in the AFC but only because the No. 7 team currently holds a head-to-head tiebreaker over them with the rematch scheduled for Week 18.

Purdy currently leads the league in completion percentage (70.2), QBR (75.6), and passer rating (112.3) and has the 49ers on course for a potential return to the NFCCG.

Note: ESPN’s Football Power Index (FPI) gives the 49ers the best odds for making the NFCCG (65.3%) with a +1.8% advantage over the Philadelphia Eagles (63.5%) and a +28.2% advantage over the Dallas Cowboys (37.1%). For what it’s worth, Seattle’s chances of making the NFCCG are 2.0%.

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Running Back

One of these is the RB that I was really hoping the Seahawks would take this year; the other is an RB that several 12s thought Seattle should have taken last year.

Production-wise, Kenneth Walker III is closer to Robinson than Hall with Zach Charbonnet well behind all three.

  • Robinson: 11 games, 141 carries for 703 yards; average = 63.9 per game, 5.0 per carry
  • Walker: 10 games, 149 carries for 613 yards; averages = 61.3 and 4.1
  • Hall: 11 games, 124 carries for 569 yards; averages = 51.7 and 4.6
  • Charbonnet: 10 games, 67 carries for 308 yards; averages = 30.8 and 4.6

For what it’s worth, K9 has more rushing touchdowns this year (6) than the other three combined (5).

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Wide Receivers

There are six wide receivers on ESPN’s Under-25 team, including:

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Seahawk No. 1

The Tight End selections are irrelevant from a Seahawks’ perspective, as are most of the selections on the Offensive Line.

With one exception.

The second-team Left Tackle is Charles Cross.

Here’s what ESPN had to say about Geno Smith’s blindside protector:

A 2022 first-rounder, Cross stepped into the Seahawks’ lineup immediately and became a foundational part of the O-line at left tackle. There were bumps along the way last season, as he allowed 15 sacks in 17 games, but he has allowed one sack so far in 2023 and has a pass block win rate of 88.4% over eight games. Cross is equally impressive in the run game, where his 80.4% win rate is top 10 in the NFL among tackles.

The bit about Cross allowing 15 sacks last season seems “off” - PFF says it was less than half that (7). But, to be fair, PFF says Cross has given up 3 sacks this year while ESPN says he’s only given up 1, so . . . ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Whatever the actual numbers are, it’s clear that Cross is one of the best young tackles in the league, and it’s nice to see him get the recognition that he deserves.

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Defensive Line

The first team EDGEs are Aidan Hutchinson (Detroit Lions) and Kayvon Thibodeaux (New York Giants) while the second team Edge Rushers are Will Anderson Jr. (Texans) and George Karlaftis (Kansas City Chiefs).

Three of the four were top-5 selections, and Hutchinson (23) is the elder statesman in the group.

The first team Defensive Tackles both play for the defending NFC Champions - one of them (Jordan Davis) was selected at No. 13 last year, the other one (Jalen Carter) was No. 9 this year. According to the Eagles’ official depth chart, Carter is the backup to Davis but that’s basically just semantics given how much rotating the Eagles do on their D-line.

The second team DTs are Calijah Kancey (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) and Keeanu Benton (Steelers)

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Linebackers

ESPN’s youth team has zero linebackers with any connection or relevance to the Seahawks. Literally the only things worth noting are that 4 of the 6 play for NFC teams and the Lions may have known what they were doing when they used their second R1 in this year’s draft on Iowa’s Jack Campbell (No. 18 overall).

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Safeties

This would be another “nothing to see here” part of the Under-25 team were it not for the presence of 49ers Safety Talanoa Hufanga as the first player on the list.

He’s joined on the first team by the Baltimore Ravens’ Kyle Hamilton while Jevon Holland (Miami Dolphins) and Andre Cisco (Jacksonville Jaguars) are on the second team.

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Cornerbacks / Seahawk No. 2

Y’all know what’s coming. The only question is whether he’s on the first team or the second team. And y’all know that I like playing with you so let’s start with an alphabetical list of the cornerbacks on ESPN’s All Youngster team . . .

Alphabetical by Last Name:

  • Sauce Gardner, New York Jets
  • Trent McDuffie, Kansas City Chiefs
  • Pat Surtain II, Denver Broncos
  • Devon Witherspoon, Seattle Seahawks

Alphabetical by First Name / Nickname:

  • Devon Witherspoon
  • Pat Surtain II
  • Sauce Gardner
  • Trent McDuffie

Interestingly, alphabetical by first name / nickname is probably the order that I would put them in.

Admittedly, I have a bias for Seattle players.

But I also like stats.

And, per PFF, the stats favor Devon Witherspoon over the other three cornerbacks.

Interceptions

  • 1: Witherspoon and Surtain II
  • 0: Gardner and McDuffie

Pass Breakups

  • 9: Witherspoon
  • 6: Gardner and Surtain II
  • 0: McDuffie

Completion Percentage

  • Witherspoon = 50.9%
  • Surtain II = 62.7%
  • Gardner = 64.9%
  • McDuffie = 70.0%

Passer Rating Allowed

  • Witherspoon = 75.6
  • Gardner = 90.4
  • Surtain II = 93.6
  • McDuffie = 98.5

Given all this statistical evidence, one might assume that Witherspoon is one of ESPN’s first team selections . . .

Alas, one would be wrong.

Witherspoon is ESPN’s first selection for the second team.

Here’s what they wrote about him:

Witherspoon’s urgent playing style jumps off the tape. The rookie — who was drafted at No. 5 in April — is a natural disruptor with inside/outside coverage flexibility and the physicality to drop the hammer on contact. He has one interception and three sacks already this season, and his 10 pass breakups are tied for second-most in the NFL. Witherspoon is in the mix for the Defensive Rookie of the Year award.

On the bright side, ‘Spoon is the youngest cornerback on the team and should continue to garner national attention.

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Go Hawks!