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ESPN ranks Seahawks’ 2023 rookie class as 7th-best overall

Houston takes the No. 1 spot from Seattle.

NFL: APR 27 2023 Draft Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

A year after ranking the Seattle Seahawks’ 2022 rookie class as the league’s best, ESPN has ranked the 2023 class as the NFL’s 7th-best.

Which ain’t too shabby.

Sure, ESPN ranked six teams higher, but there aren’t many 12s who will complain about the Seahawks having back-to-back top-10 drafts.

As is often the case, the rankings are behind the ESPN+ paywall, but that’s okay because we’re going to share the relevant details with our friends here at Field Gulls.

Methodology:

ESPN’s rankings rely heavily on Sports Info Solutions’ Points metric, which awards points on a per-play basis to determine how many points a player is responsible for generating (offense) or preventing (defense).

ESPN then applied a subjective adjustment (up or down) “based on the importance of certain positions or how well players did in ESPN tracking metrics and the DVOA rankings.”

Note: For whatever fault there may be in the methodology, keep in mind that this is the same process ESPN used last year to name the Seahawks’ class No. 1.

Results:

Given a full season to evaluate the rookies, ESPN gave the top spot to the Houston Texans which seems sort of obvious considering that they had two of the top three picks in the 2023 NFL Draft and had those two players perform better than they could have possibly imagined.

QB C.J. Stroud had one of the best rookie seasons EVER and Will Anderson Jr. is a Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate.

The Texans also hit a home run with 3rd-round WR Tank Dell who appeared in 11 games and caught 47 of his 75 targets (62.7%) for 709 yards and 7 touchdowns.

Note: Jaxon Smith-Njigba, who was selected 49 spots earlier than Dell, appeared in 17 games with 63 receptions on 93 targets (67.7%) for 628 yards and 4 TDs.

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The No. 2 draft class belongs to a team that didn’t have a first-round pick . . . the Los Angeles Rams.

The most obvious reason why is 5th-round WR Puka Nacua who broke the all-time rookie records for receptions (105) and receiving yards (1,486).

But Nacua had help hoisting the Rams to No. 2 on ESPN’s list . . .

  • EDGE Byron Young (R3.77) recorded eight sacks
  • DT Kobie Turner (R3.89) recorded nine

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The Green Bay Packers, who swiped the final wildcard slot from the Seahawks, came in third with a quantity-over-quality approach.

Per ESPN, ten of their thirteen rookies appeared in at least 10 games this season.

WR Jayden Reed (R2.50) was the only real “breakout star” but six of their rookies had at least 10 “Total Points” according to the SIS scale.

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The Detroit Lions came in 4th.

Reasons:

  • Safety / Slot Corner Brian Branch (R2.45) recorded the most Total Points for a defensive rookie (Devon Witherspoon was No. 2)
  • TE Sam LaPorta (R2.34) set a new rookie tight end record with 86 receptions for 889 yards and 10 TDs
  • RB Jahmyr Gibbs (R1.12) averaged 5.2 yards per carry while amassing 945 rushing yards and 11 total touchdowns
  • LB Jack Campbell (R1.18) started 12 games and recorded 95 tackles

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Given the above, it’s hard to argue that the Seahawks should have finished in the top four, but . . .

Putting Seattle at No. 5 seems like an argument that could be made.

As is, ESPN put the Chicago Bears at No. 5 and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at No. 6.

The Bears got contributions from RT Darnell Wright (R1.10), a pair of CBs (Tyrique Stevenson, R2.56; and Terell Smith, R5.165), RB Roschon Johnson (R4.115), and QB Tyson Bagent (UDFA) who made four lackluster starts when Justin Fields was out.

For the Bucs, it was UDFA Nickelback Christian Izien who led the way, along with UDFA Safety Kaevon Merriweather, R1 DT Calijah Kancey, R2 OT Cody Mauch, R3 OLB YaYa Diaby, and R6 WR Trey Palmer.

The Seahawks answered with a draft class that ESPN ranked 7th:

The Seahawks’ two first-round picks were their two most valuable rookies in 2023. Cornerback Devon Witherspoon ranked as the No. 2 defensive rookie in Total Points behind Branch of the Lions. He had a better than average minus-12% DVOA in coverage plus three sacks and a pick-six on his way to the Pro Bowl. Wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba had 63 catches for 628 yards and four touchdowns, though he graded out as slightly below average in receiving DVOA.

Beyond the first-rounders, second-round running back Zach Charbonnet had 108 carries for 462 yards and a touchdown backing up Kenneth Walker III. Undrafted wide receiver Jake Bobo had 19 catches for 196 yards and two touchdowns. Fourth-round pick Anthony Bradford started much of the year at right guard, although he ranked second to last among qualifying guards in pass block win rate (85.5%). Fifth-round center Olu Oluwatimi played some as well.

One disappointment was second-round edge rusher Derick Hall, who had no sacks and only five pressures while playing roughly 25% of Seattle’s defensive snaps. But this was the second straight strong rookie class for the Seahawks, who were the top-ranked team in this piece a year ago.

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The Atlanta Falcons, Arizona Cardinals, and Pittsburgh Steelers round out the Top 10.

And, just to complete the circuit . . .

ESPN ranked the San Francisco 49ers 2023 draft class at No. 30, one spot ahead of the Denver Broncos, and two spots ahead of “America’s Team”.

Hopefully, John Schneider and (head coach to be named later) can make it three straight top-10 draft classes a few months from now.

Go Hawks!