In the past, Pete Carroll has referenced a quote from his mentor, Bud Grant, about playing youngsters that went something like “you’ll lose a game for every rookie you start.” Carroll said he didn’t necessarily agree with that and proved it by having plenty of young guys on the field both at USC and in Seattle.
He certainly didn’t shy away from rookies during the 2022 season as they combined for 5,074 regular season snaps per PFF. Not only did they play a lot – they played WELL at some very important positions.
Charles Cross and Abraham Lucas locked down starting offensive tackle jobs as rookies and look like bookend tackles for the immediate and (hopefully) long-term future.
Kenneth Walker III is a dynamic, game-changing back who surpassed 1,000 rushing yards in his first season despite missing time and should’ve been the Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Boye Mafe played starting reps at EDGE toward the end of last season and featured heavily in the rotation prior to that.
Tariq Woolen was a Pro Bowl corner, led the NFL in interceptions and should’ve been the Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Coby Bryant played significant snaps at nickel and forced 4 fumbles.
Dareke Young didn’t contribute much as a WR but played a huge role on special teams.
That is an INSANE amount of production from a rookie class, and I can tell you for a fact that the Seahawks won games because of their rookies last season as opposed to losing them like Bud Grant thought. In fact, the Seahawks had the highest ranked rookie class of 2022 according to Football Outsiders and Sports Info Solutions.
John Schneider deserves a ton of credit for pulling that 2022 draft class, but how would he follow that up? With another highly lauded 2023 draft class, of course! Having multiple first and second-round picks helps with that, but it seemed like this would be a second consecutive draft class with substantial production in their first year.
Devon Witherspoon and Jaxon Smith-Njigba looked like surefire contributors at CB and WR, respectively. Zach Charbonnet and Derick Hall surely would get plenty of snaps in the RB and EDGE rotation. Add in Cam Young and Mike Morris on the interior DL and the possibility that Olu Oluwatimi would emerge as the starter, and we’ve got the makings of another massive hit for Schneider and co.
Now? We’re left wondering when most of these rookies will actually see the field. Admittedly, I raised my expectations for the 2023 draft class because of the performance of their predecessors from 2022. My bad. The reason why the rookie contributions last season were such a big deal is because of how rare it is. To expect that to happen two years in a row is highly unlikely no matter how good post-draft grades are.
To be fair, injuries have been the biggest reason that the 2023 rookies are becoming a question mark. It’s easier at this point to list the draft picks who haven’t suffered some injury this season during the offseason, training camp or a preseason game. Make that draft pick, as in singular, because Jerrick Reed II is literally the only one who stayed healthy.
It’s not all doom and gloom. Despite missing valuable practices and preseason time, the NFL season is long enough for many of these 2023 rookies to still get healthy and make an impact. Will they be as productive as the 2022 rookie class? Probably not, but the Seahawks don’t need them to be. It just might be enough if these 2023 rookies fill in the remaining cracks in the foundation that is already in place to help this team build towards another championship season in Seattle.