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Seahawks LB Jordyn Brooks
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Seahawks Rookie Report Card: Grading Jordyn Brooks and the 2020 class

Rookie LB Jordyn Brooks carved out more of a role as the 2020 season progressed. (Getty)

The Seahawks’ 2020 season is in the rearview mirror, and while it’s exciting to look ahead at the offseason and next year, it’s also important to look back and reflect on the campaign that just concluded.

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Part of the reflection has to do with how the rookie class performed in its first NFL action. For Seattle, it made eight selections in last April’s draft and got very different contributions from those players.

I gave a progress report for those rookies back in the Week 6 bye, which you can check out here, but with such an early bye it was a little harder to gauge how they were performing. Now we have a full season to look back on plus a playoff game.

So let’s dig in to how the eight rookies the Seahawks selected in last year’s draft performed in their first professional season and see how it compares to where they were at the bye.

LB Jordyn Brooks (first round, 27 overall)

The Week 6 bye impacted Brooks’ first grade more than anyone on this list. He started the year backing up Bruce Irvin at strongside linebacker but was thrust into action when Irvin tore his ACL in Week 2. Then, in his first game as a starter in Week 3, Brooks got hurt himself and missed the next two games.

When Brooks did come back from that knee injury, he slowly but surely started to get more comfortable. And by the end of the season, he was regularly making splash plays and was at or near the top of Seattle’s leaders in tackles most games. What makes it more impressive is Brooks was, in a sense, doing that as Seattle’s No. 3 linebacker as he was the one to leave the field when the Seahawks ran nickel packages with an extra defensive back.

Brooks finished the year with 57 tackles, two tackles for loss and two pass deflections while playing 32% of Seattle’s defensive snaps. Overall, Brooks didn’t get the same amount of opportunities as the three other first-round linebackers – Arizona’s Isaiah Simmons, Los Angeles’ Kenneth Murray and Baltimore’s Patrick Queen – but by the end of the year, Brooks was playing some really good ball.

Seattle spent a lot of the 2020 offseason trying to make the defense faster and adding guys who could hit. Brooks checks both those boxes in a big way and he could find himself with a larger role in 2021 since K.J. Wright is a free agent. Even if Wright returns after a very good 2020 season, the Seahawks may have Brooks stay on the field in nickel packages while Wright leaves the field.

Simply put, by the end of the season, Brooks looked like he was a first-round pick.

Week 6 grade: C
End of season grade: B+

DE Darrell Taylor (second round, 48 overall)

If head coach Pete Carroll’s postseason comments are any indication, the future is bright for Taylor, who is in rare company as a player the Seahawks actually traded up to draft. The issue is we haven’t seen Taylor due to a shin injury that required surgery last offseason and he only started practicing during the playoffs.

The storyline of Seattle’s 2019 season was the pass rush, or really, the lack of one. Even after trading for former No. 1 pick Jadeveon Clowney, the Seahawks tallied just 28 sacks, which was tied for the second fewest in the NFL. Naturally, the 2020 offseason was spent trying to strengthen that unit.

The Seahawks traded for safety Jamal Adams, who is a great blitzer. They also signed Irvin and Benson Mayowa, who combined for over 15 sacks in 2019. And in the draft, Taylor was one of two edge rushers the Seahawks selected. But as noted, Taylor didn’t appear in a single game and only practiced for one week.

Taylor could have a key role in 2021 if healthy as Mayowa and Irvin are both free agents, and the Seahawks could find themselves having to part ways with a starter on the defensive line due to limited cap space.

For now, though, there’s nothing to go off of with Taylor, so it’s another incomplete grade for the second-rounder out of Tennessee.

Week 6 grade: Incomplete
End of season grade: Incomplete

RG Damien Lewis (third round, 69 overall)

For the second year in a row, the Seahawks hit big in Day 2 of the draft by nabbing an instant starter on offense.

In 2019, that was receiver DK Metcalf. In 2020 it was Lewis, who started all 16 games for Seattle.

Lewis was part of maybe the best offensive line in the NCAA in 2019, a unit that played a big role in the LSU Tigers winning the national championship. Lewis allowed the Seahawks to save money by cutting two-year starting right guard D.J. Fluker, and while Lewis had the occasional rookie moment, he and left tackle Duane Brown were the only two Seahawks offensive linemen to play and start in all 16 games.

Lewis played 15 games at right guard and due to injuries at center played an entire game at a position he’d never played before, and he held his own. He played 100% of the Seahawks’ snaps 12 times, more than 90% 14 times, and wound up playing 91% of Seattle’s total offensive snaps for the year. Lewis also earned First-Team All-Rookie honors from the Pro Football Writers Association.

In terms of penalties, he was flagged nine total times with two being declined, but three of those penalties came in Week 1 while two were in his start at center in Week 11.

We know Lewis can be a mauler in the run game, but he was solid for the most part in pass protection, though there’s some obvious room for improvement.

Still, Lewis showed he can be a long-term fixture on this offensive line and held his own against some really, really good defensive lines throughout the season. Seattle has two offensive line spots to take care of this offseason, but right guard shouldn’t be an area to address for a long time if 2020 is any indication.

Week 6 grade: A-
End of season grade: A

TE Colby Parkinson (fourth round, 133 overall)

It took a while for us to see Parkinson due to offseason surgery on his foot, but the big Stanford product made his NFL debut in Week 8 and ultimately appeared in six games for Seattle in 2020.

Parkinson stands 6 foot 7, has arms over 33 inches long, weighs just over 250 pounds and moves well for his size (he runs the 40-yard dash in 4.77 seconds), so it’s easy to see the upside he could have as a weapon for quarterback Russell Wilson going forward, especially in the red zone and on third downs. We just didn’t get a chance to see much of Parkinson as a rookie due to the injury and because the Seahawks typically had three to four veteran tight ends ahead of him on the depth chart.

Not anymore, though. Greg Olsen is retiring and Jacob Hollister and Luke Willson are free agents, leaving Parkinson and Will Dissly as the only two tight ends on the Seahawks’ roster heading into the offseason.

While Parkinson did play in six games, he had just two catches, both of which were in a blowout win over the Jets where many starters were pulled when it was clear the game was out of hand.

Even if Seattle brings back Hollister, Parkinson could, and likely should, have a bigger role in 2021. New offensive coordinator Shane Waldron comes from the Rams, who utilize a lot of two-tight end sets. One of those two tight ends is Tyler Higbee, who is 6 foot 6 and weighs roughly 250 pounds, so he and Parkinson are built similarly. Higbee had over 500 yards in 2020 and had over 700 in 2019.

Week 6 grade: Incomplete
End of season grade: Incomplete

RB DeeJay Dallas (fourth round, 144 overall)

With Chris Carson and Carlos Hyde on the roster, Dallas wasn’t expected to do much his rookie season aside from special teams and maybe some third-down work. But when Carson and Hyde both got hurt in the middle of the season, Dallas suddenly was starting.

In Week 8, he had 41 yards on 18 carries and a score and also caught five passes for 17 yards and a touchdown. A week later, he carried the ball seven times for 31 yards and a touchdown and caught two passes. With Hyde and Carson still out in Week 10, though, Dallas didn’t get the start or the bulk of the carries – practice squad back Alex Collins did.

Overall, Dallas finished 2020 with 108 yards and two rushing touchdowns on 34 carries, and he caught 17 passes for 111 yards and a score. Averaging just 3.2 yards per carry, Dallas certainly has room to improve going forward, but he did showcase the ability to be a capable receiving back.

With Carson, Hyde and Collins hitting free agency, Dallas is one of three backs signed for 2021 along with 2018 first-round pick Rashaad Penny and 2019 sixth-rounder Travis Homer, who was Dallas’ teammate in college at Miami. Due to Penny’s injury history, if the Seahawks don’t retain one or both of Carson and Hyde, we may see Dallas get more touches in a running back by committee approach next season.

Week 6 grade: C+
End of season grade: C+

DE Alton Robinson (fifth round, 148 overall)

After a season in which the Seahawks tallied just 28 sacks, it made sense that they would spend two of their eight draft picks on edge rushers. What didn’t make sense at first, though, is that Robinson was inactive for the first two weeks of the season despite being healthy, especially as Taylor was out and ultimately wouldn’t play as a rookie.

Once given a chance, Robinson immediately showed Seattle that it should have played him from the start. In his first game, the fifth-round pick from Syracuse recorded a sack, a quarterback hit and had two tackles for loss while playing  37% of the Seahawks’ defensive snaps in a Week 3 win over the Dallas Cowboys.

That game kind of showcased what Robinson would do as a rookie. He appeared in 14 games and played 29% of Seattle’s defensive snaps, making four sacks, four quarterback hits, five tackles for loss and 11 pressures. Robinson also recorded a tackle for loss in the Seahawks’ playoff loss to the Rams.

That kind of production may not pop out at you, but when Rasheem Green led the Seahawks in sacks in 2019 with four while playing 210 more snaps that year than Robinson did as a rookie, it’s definitely impressive. He also had the second-most sacks of any rookie in the NFL in 2020, with just No. 2 overall pick Chase Young of the Washington Football Team ahead of him in that category.

Additionally, the Seahawks haven’t had much success getting immediate production from rookie pass rushers since Bruce Irvin in 2012. For example, 2015 second-round pick Frank Clark had three sacks in 2015 and 2019 first-round pick L.J. Collier had no sacks in 11 games in 2019. Heck, Robinson had one more sack than Collier did in 2020 and Collier started all 16 games and played roughly half of Seattle’s snaps.

Whether Robinson can develop into a starting defensive end remains to be seen, but at worst he appears to be a rotational or situational pass rusher. For a team that hasn’t done too great at drafting and developing edge rushers of late, hitting on one in the fifth round and getting immediate production is a big win.

Week 6 grade: B+
End of season grade: A-

WR Freddie Swain (sixth round, 214 overall)

Expectations for Swain were pretty low in 2020, and I think a lot of that has to do with John Ursua.

Seattle’s seventh-round pick in 2019, Ursua was someone who was hyped up a bit despite being a late-round draft pick, and it was thought that he could carve out a role in the offense as a rookie. Well, he was a healthy scratch for most of 2019 and had just one catch, which came in Week 17. In 2020, he was on the Seahawks’ practice squad.

Swain’s rookie campaign seemed destined to turn out like Ursua’s due to the fact that the Seahawks had a really good receiver trio in DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett and David Moore, a deep tight end room, and they went out and signed Phillip Dorsett to a one-year deal in free agency. It just didn’t seem like there would be much if any playing time for Swain early on.

It didn’t turn out that way. Dorsett was hurt and never saw the field, Seattle didn’t use its tight ends as expected, and from the start, Swain was contributing.

Swain played in every game for the Seahawks, catching 13 passes for 159 yards and scored twice. He also had a nice showing on special teams, returning six kicks for 137 yards (22.8 yards per return), making two tackles and recovering two fumbles. Swain appeared in 33% of the Seahawks’ offensive snaps and 33% of their special teams plays.

With Hollister, Moore and Dorsett hitting free agency plus Olsen’s retirement, Swain very well could have a bigger role in the offense next year, potentially as the Seahawks’ No. 3 receiver. The Seahawks also currently have just four draft picks, and with holes on the offensive line and potentially at cornerback, receiver may not be much of a priority in the upcoming draft.

Week 6 grade: B+
End of season grade: B+

TE/DE Stephen Sullivan (seventh round, 251 overall)

It seemed like the Seahawks were getting quite an intriguing offensive weapon in LSU’s Stephen Sullivan, a 6-foot-5, 250-pound player who was a receiver in high school before moving to tight end. Sullivan’s size as well as his 40-yard dash time at the NFL Scouting Combine (4.66 seconds) made it clear that he had potential to be a fun puzzle piece for Seattle. It was also thought that his 2020 season would be a redshirt year of sorts, and in that case, it was.

Sullivan wound up on the Seahawks’ practice squad but did appear in one game. The thing is, it came at defensive end, not at tight end or receiver. Sullivan had been practicing as a defender during the season and made one tackle in 22 snaps in a Week 8 win over the 49ers. He was then reverted back to the practice squad, moved back to offense and didn’t play the rest of the season. He also underwent surgery for a sports hernia in November.

But unlike the other seven draft picks Seattle made last April, Sullivan may not be on the roster at all next year as he didn’t sign a futures deal with the team and is now reportedly a member of the Carolina Panthers. That connection makes sense as the Panthers’ new general manager is Scott Fitterer, a longtime member of the Seahawks’ front office and scouting department.

Even though he’s no longer with the team, him being a practice squad player who was a late pick who played multiple positions makes him an incomplete rather than an F, which I gave last year to 2019 fourth-round receiver Gary Jennings since he was waived during the 2019 season and was thought to be someone who could contribute early on. 2020, meanwhile, was expected to be a redshirt year for the big LSU product.

Week 6 grade: Incomplete
End of season grade: Incomplete

Follow Brandon Gustafson on Twitter.

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