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PFF ranks Seahawks roster as 4th-best in the NFC, just outside top-10 overall

John and Pete have constructed another solid roster; will it be enough?

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NFL: New York Jets at Seattle Seahawks Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

The day after every NFL team set their initial 53-man roster, Pro Football Focus (PFF) published their “Updated NFL roster rankings for all 32 teams”.

As part of that piece, they identified each team’s biggest strength in 2023, their biggest weakness, an X-factor, and a rookie to watch. PFF also listed an Over/Under win total and made a prediction as to which side of that line the team would land on. Last, but not least, they took a stab at the Week 1 starting lineup.

We’ll look at the teams that PFF ranked ahead of Seattle in a minute, but let’s look at what PFF wrote about the Seattle Seahawks first:

Biggest strength in 2023: Vertical Passing

Geno Smith was the NFL’s premier deep passer in 2022, carrying a 99.2 passing grade on 20-plus yards throws. He had 32 big-time throws to just seven turnover-worthy plays on deep balls. Tyler Lockett, D.K. Metcalf and Marquise Goodwin all earned receiving grades above 95.0 on deep balls as well. This was a big-play offense that added dynamic rookie Jaxon Smith-Njigba and is supplemented by a healthy Kenneth Walker III. Seattle could have a really dangerous offense again in 2023 if Smith keeps the momentum going.

Biggest weakness in 2023: Run defense

Most of Seattle’s poor efforts on defense came against teams that rely heavily on the run game. The Seahawks defense was overmatched three times against the 49ers as well as in games against the Raiders and Falcons. They even allowed 161 yards on the ground to the Buccaneers’ feeble attack. Reuniting with Bobby Wagner — the best linebacker in the NFL — should be a massive boon to a front seven that was gashed too much last year.

X-Factor for 2023: QB Geno Smith

The NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year had an excellent 2022, but there are signs that regression could be coming. It’s very difficult to repeat outlier-level deep ball performance year-over-year. The Seahawks will lean more on the run game and easier throws if they want to improve on last season’s success. Smith will also have to be more consistent. His passing grade in Weeks 1-8 last season was 84.4, third-best in the NFL. That number dropped to 64.0 in his last 10 games.

Rookie to watch: CB Devon Witherspoon

The fifth pick in the draft creates a potentially fearsome duo with Tariq Woolen, who led the league with six interceptions last year. Witherspoon brings rare aggression on the outside and fits seamlessly into a defense that generally operates with one high safety. Witherspoon’s excellence in man coverage was nearly unmatched in this year’s draft class. Seattle could have the best pair of corners in football very soon.

Over/Under 9.5 win total: Over

The gap will widen between the haves and have-nots in the NFC West. Seattle had an excellent offseason, as the rookie class and Bobby Wagner fit in seamlessly. The Seahawks should have four wins against the Cardinals and Rams. They don’t match up well with the 49ers and Geno Smith may regress a bit, but the Seahawks have enough talent to post a winning record and contend for a wild-card berth.

Projected Starters

PFF lists twelve starters on both offense and defense with a second running back and a third cornerback being the “extra” starters for most teams.

Here’s another oddity: For Seattle, they have three EDGEs and only two Interior Defensive Linemen.

The screen-grab below shows who PFF is projecting as Seattle’s starters, with their 2022 PFF grades in brackets and rookies highlighted in red:

It’s interesting, at least to me, that the Seahawks most-expensive free agent acquisition ever had the lowest PFF grade last year amongst this year’s defensive starters.

It’s also interesting to see how low the 2022 PFF grade was for our prized rookie wideout (who didn’t play much last year).

Perhaps most interesting is seeing three rookies among the projected starters - although that, of course, is because of the “extra” running back in PFF’s projected lineup.

Note: Three is actually a decrease as last year’s team had five rookies in the starting lineup (Charles Cross, Abe Lucas, and Kenneth Walker III on offense, plus Tariq Woolen and Coby Bryant on defense).

Moving past the Seahawks, here are the team ahead of Seattle on PFF’s list with NFC teams listed in bold and the number of rookies each team has in their projected starting lineup in brackets:

  1. Philadelphia Eagles (1)
  2. San Francisco 49ers (0)
  3. Cincinnati Bengals (2)
  4. Kansas City Chiefs (1)
  5. Dallas Cowboys (1)
  6. Buffalo Bills (1)
  7. New York Jets (0)
  8. Baltimore Ravens (1)
  9. Los Angeles Chargers (2)
  10. Pittsburgh Steelers (2)

Now, on the one hand, kudos to PFF for not defaulting to the defending Super Bowl champions at No. 1.

On the other hand, do the Niners really have the second-best roster in the league - even if just on paper?

And are there really seven AFC teams with better rosters than Seattle?

Note: Like Seattle, the Green Bay Packers, Houston Texans, New Orleans Saints, New York Giants, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers are each projected to start three rookies. Only the Detroit Lions (4) are projected to start more.

For what it’s worth, Russell Wilson’s Denver Broncos team is ranked 26th.

And, so as not to ignore our other NFC West rivals . . . the Los Angeles Rams are 31st, and the Arizona Cardinals are dead last.

The Cardinals’ write-up is especially amusing:

Biggest strength in 2023: Pass protection

Biggest weakness in 2023: Everything else

Over/Under 4.5 win total: Under


Go Hawks!