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ESPN analyst breaks down Seahawks by position group, ranks them 16th overall

Agree or disagree? Let’s discuss.

NFC Wild Card Playoffs - Seattle Seahawks v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

ESPN’s Mike Clay recently ranked the position groups for all 32 NFL teams and while the 12s may agree - in some cases, grudgingly - with most of the rankings, the overall result for the Seahawks is somewhat questionable.

Since the article is behind a paywall, we’re only going to provide the highlights (and lowlights: see D-line, below).

Before diving in, let’s first look at Clay’s approach:

  • “It’s all relative” - example, a team can be “loaded” at a given position, but how do they compare to the other 31 teams?
  • Position groups are “objectively” graded / ranked.
  • The overall ranking is a weighted consensus based on positional importance - example, elite QB is more important than elite RB.

For each position group, Clay drops some knowledge regarding the “best” unit, the “shakiest” unit, and an “intriguing” unit to “keep an eye on.”

Seattle only has one position group that gets a write-up and we’ll obviously cover that. A couple of our NFC West rivals get positional write-ups as well and, yes, we’ll cover those too.

Ready? Here we go . . .



The combination of Geno Smith, Drew Lock, and Holton Ahlers is ranked at the 19th-best unit.

Is that too low? Yeah, probably. Especially when you look at the teams that are ranked just a few spots higher: Lions (18th), Saints (17th), Bears (16th), Rams (15th - ugh!).

The one that gets me though is the Giants at No. 13.

Geno Smith > Daniel Jones!

I get it though. Geno had a really good year last year but it’s “just one year” and his performance dipped over the back half of the season.

Next year’s rankings will be different! Ain’t gonna be any way to deny Geno’s awesomeness when he “proves it” this year.

Note: The Rams are ranked No. 15, the Cardinals are No. 22, and the 49ers are No. 24.

Running Back

The Seahawks get some respect in this category, with Kenneth Walker III, Zach Charbonnet, DeeJay Dallas, and Kenny McIntosh landing at No. 6 league-wide.

Interestingly, four of the five teams ahead of Seattle are in the NFC, including the 49ers (1st), Falcons (2nd), Lions (3rd), and Packers (5th).

Here’s the write-up on our Santa Clara rivals:

The 49ers have arguably the league’s best all-around RB in Christian McCaffrey. The ex-Panther has finished his last three full seasons no lower than fourth among backs in snaps, touches and yards. Elijah Mitchell, who split carries with McCaffrey when healthy last season, is an excellent complement/backup and Kyle Juszczyk is arguably the league’s best fullback.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. (Blech!)

Note: Arizona’s running back group lands at No. 27 and the Rams’ group lands at No. 29.

Wide Receiver

Number Two! Behind the Bengals.

No complaints there.

And, Seattle’s wideouts are Clay’s “Unit to Watch”:

DK Metcalf is top 10 in receiving yards and touchdowns over the past three seasons and Tyler Lockett has 1,000-plus yards and eight-plus TDs in five straight seasons. They form an elite duo, and the unit got even better when Seattle spent the No. 20 overall pick on electric rookie Jaxon Smith-Njigba. This could become the league’s best trio by next season’s end.

Santa Clara adjacent is Mike Clay’s No. 11 unit, the Cardinals are No. 22, and the Rams, even with one of the league’s best receivers, is No. 25.

Tight End

For a team that relies on its tight ends as much as Seattle did last year, you’d think that the current group would rank higher than 14th, right?


Admittedly, I’m not deeply interested in the investigating the quality of the league’s tight end groups but this ranking sure seems to be based almost exclusively on who the top guy for each team is.

I mean, the top seven teams are basically in the same order as the Fantasy Football tight end rankings: Chiefs (Kelce), Ravens (Andrews), Niners (Kittle), Vikings (Hockenson), Giants (Waller), Falcons (Pitts), Steelers (Freiermuth).

Whatever, though. With Jaxon Smith-Njigba joining DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett, the tight ends are going to be doing more blocking than catching this year anyway.

No. 14 is fine.

Even if the Niners and Cardinals (No. 9) are ahead of us.

Note: The Rams come in at No. 21.

Offensive Line

Putting Seattle’s O-line at No. 23 seems disrespectful to me. But it’s a young unit that’s likely to get younger as the season goes on.

Note: That’s a semi-prediction that Olu Olu will replace Evan Brown at Center by midseason and that Anthony Bradford will (probably) start the season on the bench but finish it as the starting Right Guard.

Plus, some of the advance stats weren’t particularly kind to the Seahawks’ O-line last year so maybe the ranking is accurate(ish).

Time will tell.

For what it’s worth, the Whiners were Clay’s “Unit to Watch”:

Left tackle Trent Williams is an absolute superstar, but that’s where the certainties end on this line. Interior linemen Aaron Banks, Spencer Burford, Jon Feliciano and Jake Brendel all posted below-average PFF grades last season, and only starting center Brendel was above average in pass and run block win rates. Right tackle is a major question mark, with 2020 fifth-round pick Colton McKivitz (145 snaps over the last two seasons) the favorite to replace free agent departure Mike McGlinchey.

Oh, and the Whiners are ranked below Seattle, at No. 26 overall.

In fact, Seattle’s O-line is the highest-ranked O-line in the NFC West with the Cardinals and Rams landing at Nos. 27 and 30, respectively.


Interior Defensive Line

Take a guess.

If you’re being honest with yourself, you’ll probably land within a few spots of Clay’s ranking.

Shocking exactly no one, Mike Clay has Seattle at No. 26, sandwiched in between the Lions (No. 25) and Cowboys (No. 27).

The Seahawks NFC West rivals land at No. 2 (San Fran), No. 11 (FTR, courtesy of Aaron Donald having decided to not retire), and No. 32 (AZ).

Naturally, the Cardinals get Clay’s write-up for “Shakiest” unit:

The failure to replace offseason departure Zach Allen locks in this unit as shakiest in the league. Leki Fotu, Jonathan Ledbetter and L.J. Collier were three of the worst-graded defensive tackles at PFF last season and yet all three are positioned for substantial roles. Rashard Lawrence, Carlos Watkins, Kevin Strong and sixth-round rookie Dante Stills are also in the mix.

Personally, I think the Seahawks IDL group will end up surprising Clay, but I’m more than a little bit biased.

EDGE Rusher

What’s a bigger issue for the Seahawks heading into the 2023 season, the Interior of the D-line, or the EDGE Rushers?

According to Mike Clay, it’s the EDGEs - at least from a relative perspective.

Seattle’s EDGEs are ranked even lower than Seattle’s Interior Defensive Line, coming in at No. 28 league-wide.

I’d stop there (and let the disrespect simmer for a while) but sadly (and gloriously), the Rams are ranked at No. 32, so here’s Clay’s write-up on them:

Rams fans might want to look away from this point forward. This defense is in shambles and that includes an edge rusher room that lost Leonard Floyd and includes only one player who handled more than 70 snaps last season (Michael Hoecht). Third-round rookies usually start out as depth, but Byron Young might be the team’s top edge rusher option right out of the gate. Recent late-round picks/undrafted fliers Keir Thomas, Daniel Hardy, Nick Hampton and Ochaun Mathis will compete for significant roles.

And, so that no one has to ask in the comments (or go to ESPN to find out for themselves), San Fran’s EDGEs are ranked No. 17 and the Cardinals’ EDGEs are No. 30.

Off-Ball Linebacker

All offseason, we’ve seen article after article after article and literally a bazillion comments lamenting the quality of Seattle’s inside linebackers - especially given Bobby Wagner’s age and the uncertainty of Jordyn Brooks’ return.


Clay has the Seahawks’ inside group ranked at No. 4 league-wide.

Jaw, meet floor!

Santa Clara is No. 1, followed by the Panthers, the Bears, and, yes, the Seahawks!

Here’s the write-up on Shanahan’s squad:

Fred Warner has established himself as one of the league’s best linebackers, having accrued at least 118 tackles in each of his five NFL seasons — his total of 633 tackles ranks fourth in the league during that span. Running mate Dre Greenlaw recovered from an injury-plagued 2021 by racking up a career-high 127 tackles last season. Depth is a mild concern after the offseason departure of Azeez Al-Shaair, though Oren Burks and Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles are viable options.

And, by virtue of their last-place ranking, our favorite L.A. team was tabbed as Clay’s “Shakiest” unit:

Bobby Wagner’s one-year stint in L.A. is over, leaving Ernest Jones to lead the off-ball linebacker room. Jones, a 2021 third-round pick, played 693 snaps (66%) last season, which is most by a returning Rams’ defender. He might prove this defense’s best player not named Aaron Donald. The rest of this unit is a massive concern, as everyone else went undrafted and only Christian Rozeboom has played a single NFL snap (he’s played seven snaps since 2020).


For the sake of completeness, the Cardinals’ off-ball linebackers ranked No. 27 overall.


Don’t shoot the messenger.

Riq Woolen + Mike Jackson + Devon Witherspoon, with solid depth behind them . . . Mike Clay “objectively” considers that to be the 15th-best cornerback group in the league.

Yes, really.

The Jets, with the over-rated Sauce Gardner (and under-rated D.J. Reed) are No. 1 which is, sadly, not at all surprising.

The Eagles, Packers, Cowboys, and Browns round out the Top 5.

The Chargers, Chiefs, Bills, Saints, and Texans get us to No. 10, while the Dolphins, Broncos, Bengals, and Patriots complete the list of teams whose cornerback group is ranked ahead of the Seahawks.

Who thinks all fourteen of those teams have a better cornerback group than Seattle does? Anyone? Anyone?

(Mike Clay’s hand seems to be the only one raised.)

Looking at the brighter side of this particular coin - aka focusing on the rest of the NFC West:

  • The Niners come in at No. 24
  • The Cardinals are No. 30
  • The Rams are . . . DEAD LAST

Naturally, the Rams earn another write-up as the league’s “Shakiest” unit:

The only somewhat-noteworthy veteran offseason addition made to the Rams’ defense was journeyman Ahkello Witherspoon. The problem is that 28-year-old Witherspoon (who has never played more than 13 games in a single season) might be this team’s best corner. Ramsey, Troy Hill and David Long Jr. are gone, leaving recent Day 3 draft picks Cobie Durant, Derion Kendrick, Robert Rochell and Tre Tomlinson (a sixth-round rookie) as the top contenders for starting jobs.

Oof! Saying that Ahkello Witherspoon might be the Rams’ best corner paints a very dire picture for their defense. And, yes, I freaking’ LOVE that!


Jamal Adams (when he’s healthy) + Quandre Diggs + Julian Love + (apparently) Coby Bryant, and whoever else might round out the unit . . .

They land at No. 5 in Clay’s rankings.

To me, that seems about right . . .

For now.

The Bills (No. 1), Saints (No. 2), Titans (No. 3), and Ravens (No. 4) are the teams that Clay ranked ahead of the Seahawks.

Arizona is No. 8, Santa Clara is No. 11, and the Rams are No. 29.


Let’s recap:

  • Quarterback = 19th
  • Running Back = 6th
  • Wide Receiver = 2nd
  • Tight End = 14th
  • Offensive Line = 23rd
  • Interior Defensive Line = 26th
  • EDGE Rusher = 28th
  • Off-Ball Linebacker = 4th
  • Cornerback = 15th
  • Safety = 5th

Add all of that up, apply the necessary weighting per Clay’s formula, and the Seahawks land in the middle of the pack.

At No. 16, to be exact.

One spot behind the Niners . . .

. . . but miles ahead of the Cardinals (31st) and Rams (32nd).

Clay’s write-up on the Rams (“Shakiest” unit) is four paragraphs long so we’ll pick and choose a few of the “highlights” rather than doing a full copy-paste:

I’m not exaggerating when I say that this defense is the shakiest and most unproven I’ve seen on paper since entering this industry.


Six defenders played 700-plus (67%) snaps for this team last season and none remain on the roster. In fact, Jones (693) and Donald (593) are the only players remaining who played more than half the snaps (in 2022).

Ha ha ha ha ha!

. . . there’s a good chance Los Angeles will be locking down its QB of the future with the No. 1 overall pick of the 2024 NFL draft.

(The Rams) aren’t the only team with an underwhelming roster, as divisional foe Arizona Cardinals nearly tie them for this spot.

This last bit is, of course, the downside (for us) of two of our division rivals being terrible this year. And, with the Cardinals having the Texans No. 1 pick next year, we could see the top 3 picks in next year’s draft land in the NFC West.

That’s a story for another day though.

Interestingly, only five NFC teams were ranked higher overall than Seattle was: Philadelphia is No. 1, Dallas is No. 4, New Orleans is No. 13, Minnesota is No. 14, and, as noted earlier, Santa Clara is No. 15.

The good news, of course, is that Mike Clay’s rankings are nothing more than a diversion since the games are decided on the field and the 53rd player on Seattle’s final roster will have more of an impact on Seattle’s season than Mike Clay’s rankings will.

Still, there’s some fun stuff in the diversion . . .

. . . Like the fact that Seattle’s inside linebackers are the team’s second-highest-ranked group.

Go figure.