Seahawks projected rookie roles: Will DeeJay Dallas see the field in 2020?
Seahawks rookies are set to report to the Virginia Mason Athletic Center for the first time very soon, and after an 11-5 season and a postseason win, Seattle will be looking for the young players to come in and add to a playoff-caliber team.
But how much will the eight members of Seattle’s 2020 draft class actually play this season? Last time, we took a look at the Seahawks’ first four picks from April’s draft, including first-round pick Jordyn Brooks. Now, we’ll look at the final four picks that Seattle made a few months ago, and examine what role these players will likely have for the Seahawks in the 2020 campaign.
DeeJay Dallas, running back
For the second year in a row, the Seahawks used a Day 3 draft pick on a Miami running back. In 2019, it was Travis Homer in the sixth round. In 2020, it was DeeJay Dallas in the fourth round.
Homer was the better college player, totaling roughly 1,200 scrimmage yards in each of his final two seasons while Dallas had 702 and 833 scrimmage yards his final two seasons with the Hurricanes. But Dallas was clearly the better draft prospect in Seattle’s eyes, as he went two rounds and 60 picks ahead of his former college teammate.
Both stand at 5-10, but Dallas is a little more filled out at 217 pounds to Homer’s 202. Additionally, Dallas is more physical, with TheDraftNetwork’s Joe Marino describing him as running “angry with square pads” and having “a willingness to explode into contact.”
Dallas also has experience at wide receiver, which could help him carve out a role in the backfield as Chris Carson and Carlos Hyde aren’t known for their receiving ability – though Carson did have 37 catches last year. Dallas also will benefit from Rashaad Penny’s knee injury as Penny showed he can be a capable pass-catching threat. Marino also said Dallas holds up well in pass protection, which, added with his ability to catch the football, could make him really valuable in obvious passing downs.
Dallas also showed he can return kicks and punts. During his sophomore year, Dallas had 367 kick return yards on 17 returns (21.6 yards per return) and also had 191 punt return yards on 11 returns (17.4 yards per return). One of those punts was returned for a touchdown.
No. 1 receiver Tyler Lockett has been the team’s punt and kick returner since entering the league in 2015, but he’s too valuable to the offense to keep up those duties. Dallas should get the opportunity to compete for those duties, and regardless of if he gets to return punts and/or kicks in 2020, he should contribute on special teams, like Homer did last year.
Prediction: Key special teamer and sometimes third-down back
Alton Robinson, defensive end
As we mentioned last time, the Seahawks spent a good amount of resources on the defensive line this offseason, highlighted by the returns of Bruce Irvin and Benson Mayowa and the draft selections of Darrell Taylor in the second round and Syracuse’s Alton Robinson in the fifth round.
While Taylor will get more attention due to his status as a second-round pick and because Seattle traded up to secure him, Robinson has earned some high praise. 710 ESPN Seattle’s Jake Heaps compared him to former Seattle defensive end Cliff Avril and Senior Bowl executive director Jim Nagy, a former Seahawks scout, said Robinson was the team’s best “value pick.”
Robinson measures similarly to Taylor, as Taylor is 6-4 and 270 pounds while Robinson is 6-3 and around 260 pounds. Robinson was extremely productive in 2018, totaling 10 sacks and 17 tackles for loss, but his numbers dipped in 2019, as he had just 4 sacks and 9 tackles for loss. Nagy said that he was still very disruptive and had a heavy influence on opposing offenses, which is something no Seahawks defensive linemen did on a regular basis aside from Jadeveon Clowney, who is still a free agent.
The Seahawks will be looking for any disruption this year after recording just 28 sacks – second fewest in the league – and allowing nearly 5 yards per carry. Robinson will have guys ahead of him such as Irvin, Mayowa, Taylor and Rasheem Green, who led the Seahawks with 4 sacks in 2019, but Seattle likely will be using more of a rotation on the line, and Robinson should get a crack at making an impact.
Putting him behind those four edge rushers makes sense, but it’s unclear how he’ll stack up against Branden Jackson, Shaquem Griffen and even L.J. Collier, who will likely be playing both end and tackle due to his size at over 290 pounds. His draft profile on The Draft Network says he has an explosive first step add that “the clay is there to be sculpted” in terms of his physical traits and current tools and that he can transition from speed to power pretty smoothly, but he struggles to get pressure inside of blocks and most of his success case from beating his man on the edge.
Prediction: Rotational/situational pass rusher
Freddie Swain, wide receiver
In what was called arguably the best and deepest receiver class in draft history, the Seahawks took their time taking one, waiting until the sixth round before making Florida’s Freddie Swain the newest weapon for quarterback Russell Wilson.
Swain, who is 6-0 and about 200 pounds, played sparingly for the Gators during his first three years, totaling 479 receiving yards and eight touchdowns, but took on a bigger role as a senior, catching 38 passes for 517 yards and seven touchdowns. With a smaller stature and good speed (4.46 40-yard dash time), he profiles likely as a slot receiver for Seattle, which may make it hard for him to get on the field this year.
Lockett and DK Metcalf are the team’s top-two receivers after combining for nearly 2,000 yards last season. David Moore and free-agent acquisition Phillip Dorsett will likely be fighting for the No. 3 receiver spot and 2019 rookie John Ursua could see some action as well. As far as the slot goes, Lockett lined up there more than he had the rest of his career largely because Doug Baldwin retired last offseason. If he sticks there, it’s likely Metcalf and either Moore or Dorsett will be the outside receivers, leaving Swain on the outside looking in, at least for 2020.
But like with any rookie skill position player, Swain will need to prove his worth on special teams. Seahawks rookie receivers have done very well there in previous years, such as Jermaine Kearse, Baldwin, and Lockett to name a few. Though he’ll likely make the roster, Swain will need to show he can handle special teams in order to secure a spot. He can also do that, like Dallas, by returning kicks and/or punts.
Swain only returned four kicks across his four years at Florida, but as a junior, he returned 22 puts for 224 yards and a touchdown. Overall, he had 39 punt returns for 308 yards as a Gator. Perhaps he assumes punt return duties while someone else handles kicks?
Regardless, as a lower-drafted receiver on the Seahawks, special teams will be key for Swain, who may not see many targets in 2020 with a few receivers ahead of him on the depth chart and a very deep tight end room.
Prediction: Core special teamer
Stephen Sullivan, wide receiver/tight end
Just what is Stephen Sullivan? A receiver? Tight end? Pass-catching specialist?
What we know is the former LSU tiger is a big guy at 6-5 and 250 pounds and moves well for his size, having run a 4.66 40-yard dash. He also has a great story, and after playing receiver in high school, he played tight end at LSU during his final season and worked out at tight end at the combine. The Seahawks’ roster lists him at receiver.
So where exactly does he fit in? If he does play tight end, he’s in a crowded room with Greg Olsen, Will Dissly, Jacob Hollister, Luke Willson and fellow 2020 pick Colby Parkinson. At receiver, Lockett and Metcalf are the clear top guys, but there’s still solid depth there with Moore, Dorsett, Swain and Ursua, and there’s the possibility Josh Gordon returns.
But Swain’s build and athleticism will have coaches doing whatever they can to get him ready and on the field. Wilson has shown he likes throwing to big targets, especially in the redzone. Metcalf saw plenty of endzone targets last year and a few years ago, Jimmy Graham made his money there during his three years with the Seahawks. Maybe that’s were Sullivan shines, using his big body and frame to box out receivers and out-jump smaller defensive backs?
But Sullivan is pretty raw overall, as he had just over 700 yards and three touchdowns during his entire career at LSU. The offseason is also very different due to COVID-19, so getting him fully acclimated in the offense will be more of a challenge that in previous years.
It wouldn’t be too surprising if the Seahawks had some special packages – especially near the endzone – in order to get Sullivan on the field and use his unique skillset. It could be something like Ursua last year where he’s a healthy scratch for most games but remains on the active roster.
Prediction: Mostly redshirt year/occasional redzone threat