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Seahawks rookies who can make an immediate impact

RENTON – Russell Wilson’s final throw of last Wednesday’s workout turned out to be a compliment and not a pass.

“Did you all see the catch he made out there today,” Wilson said, pausing as he jogged off the practice field.

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Second-round pick Paul Richardson made a few eye-opening plays during the offseason, including one long touchdown catch in which he somersaulted into the end zone. (AP)

He was pointing out Paul Richardson, the Seahawks’ second-round pick. Yes, Russell. It was kind of tough to miss the ball Richardson hauled in, stepping on the gas to get behind the cornerback and then reaching out to catch the ball with two hands before somersaulting into the end zone.

We pause amidst the heralding of Richardson’s breakout potential to acknowledge the following reality: These kinds of stories are a staple of NFL coverage this time of year, optimism unchecked as everyone looks ahead to everything that will be new and/or different in the coming year that holds so much potential for each of the league’s 32 teams. Even Cleveland.

But a year after Seattle seemingly red-shirted so many of its draft picks, Richardson headlines a rookie class now composed of eight draft picks and a couple of promising undrafted players. Here are the four best bets to make an immediate impact this season:

1. WR Paul Richardson, second round (No. 45 overall)

He’s not going to have the volume of catches that Doug Baldwin had as a rookie in 2011 when he became the first undrafted rookie to lead his team in receptions since the NFL/AFL merger. Heck, Richardson might not have the most catches of any rookie this season as Kevin Norwood looks game-ready as a slot receiver. But Richardson’s speed is going to make him a big-play threat, the kind of guy who can quickly punish teams that load the box against the run or push up to the line of scrimmage to try and combat the quick throws and bubble screens to Percy Harvin. It will be a surprise if Richardson doesn’t have three receptions of more than 25 yards this season.

2. DL Cassius Marsh, fourth round (No. 108 overall)

The schedule hurt Marsh as NFL rules didn’t allow him to report to Seattle until after UCLA’s graduation. At last week’s minicamp, though, his fresh legs were evident as he showed his quickness at the line of scrimmage. Expect the Seahawks to try and spotlight his versatility, using him both at defensive end and at times as a pass-rushing defensive tackle. He’ll need to add some weight – perhaps as much as 15 pounds – but his work rate and versatility seem tailor made for what the Seahawks immediately embraced about Michael Bennett last season.

3. LB Kevin Pierre-Louis, fourth round (No. 132 overall)

The Seahawks have a golden touch when it comes to drafting cornerbacks, whether it was finding All-Pro Richard Sherman in the fifth round or the selections of Walter Thurmond, Byron Maxwell and Jeremy Lane over the final four rounds of the draft. Seattle’s selection of linebackers has been impressive, too, whether it was finding starters like Bobby Wagner or K.J. Wright or finding Super Bowl MVP Malcolm Smith in the seventh round. Well, Pierre-Louis certainly looks like someone who is going to be a starter at some point. The only question is whether that’s down the road or right now with Smith and Bruce Irvin rehabilitating from offseason surgery.

4. WR Kevin Norwood, fourth round (No. 123 overall)

Receiver is the one position where Seattle’s draft record has been spotty over the past four years. Kris Durham was a fourth-round pick who was released after playing a single season, ending up on injured reserve. Chris Harper was a fourth-round pick who didn’t make the team coming out of training camp a year ago. Norwood looked like someone prepared to change that trend during offseason workouts. Not only is he polished, but he’s very comfortable playing in the slot, which could be a great opportunity for him with Baldwin expected to get more opportunities on the outside as a split end. Seattle was surprised Norwood was still available in the fourth round; his receiving totals this season might be even more surprising.