Huard: Can Seahawks’ Walker or Woolen win Rookie of the Year honors?

Jan 7, 2023, 9:46 AM

Seahawks Kenneth Walker III...

Seahawks RB Kenneth Walker III celebrates a touchdown against the Giants on Oct. 30, 2022. (Photo by Lindsey Wasson/Getty Images)

(Photo by Lindsey Wasson/Getty Images)

A big reason for the Seahawks’ surprising success in 2022 is the play of their rookie class.

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Seattle made nine selections in April and so far, seven have played for the Seahawks this year with six carving out substantial roles on the team.

On offense, in addition to finding two starting offensive tackles in Charles Cross and Abraham Lucas, the Seahawks found a potential star running back in Kenneth Walker III. Walker is knocking on the door of 1,000 yards rushing despite not having more than 30 yards in a game until Week 5.

On defense, second-round edge rusher Boye Mafe has done some nice things, as has fourth-round nickel cornerback Coby Bryant. But the star on that side of the ball has unquestionably been fifth-round cornerback Tariq Woolen, a Pro Bowler who is tied for the NFL lead in interceptions with six.

Heading into Week 18, both Walker and Woolen are among the best rookies in the game, and both are certainly in the conversation for Rookie of the Year honors on their respective side of the football.

But will either wind up taking home the hardware? Here’s what former NFL quarterback Brock Huard had to say during Friday’s Brock and Salk on Seattle Sports 710 AM.

With Woolen, Huard thinks the odds are “a bit longer” than they were a few weeks ago.

“And it’s why a couple of those passes that just are off his fingertips or right on his shoestrings (are important),” Huard said of some near-interceptions Woolen has had in recent weeks. “… And the way that Sauce Gardner has played.”

Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, like Woolen, is a Pro Bowl cornerback in his rookie season. Gardner, a former college teammate of Bryant, was the No. 4 overall pick in April by the New York Jets. He’s been as good as advertised and has quickly entered the conversation for best cornerback in the NFL.

“We watched it (last week against the Seahawks) too,” Huard said.

And being in New York is one part of why Huard thinks Gardner will be Defensive Rookie of the Year over Woolen.

“When you play in New York and you have that hype and … you’re a top-five pick, you have all of that attention going in,” Huard said. “And then you play at that level in that market the way he has this season. I think Sauce Gardner is likely to win the (award on) defense.”

Huard thinks Walker is “still in the hunt,” even though he had a bit of a tough stretch a few weeks ago with injuries and poor rushing numbers.

“His injuries have played a role. Some of the absence unfortunately (impacted him) statistically there after a great stretch and their four-game winning streak. He, like the rest of the team, got some bumps and bruises and took a step back,” Huard said.

Overall this year, Walker has 936 rushing yards and nine touchdowns. He also has 155 receiving yards, so Walker has more than 1,000 yards from scrimmage in 2022.

In order to secure the Offensive Rookie of the Year award, Huard thinks Walker has to have a “monster game” against the L.A. Rams on Sunday. And like Woolen, Walker’s top competition for the award plays for the Jets.

“(Receiver) Garrett Wilson has 74 receptions – once again in the New York market – and over 1,000 yards receiving (and is the favorite),” Huard said. “If (Walker) is a difference-maker, if he gets to that 1,000-yard barrier – which is 64 rushing yards to get there – and scores a couple touchdowns Sunday, he, I think, has a better shot (to win his award) than Tariq does to chase down Sauce.”

Listen to the full second hour of Friday’s Brock and Salk at this link or in the player below.

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