Huard: Can Seahawks’ rookies be better, deeper than in 2022?

Jul 13, 2023, 3:00 PM

Seattle Seahawks Devon Witherspoon...

Devon Witherspoon poses with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell at the NFL Draft. (Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images)

(Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images)

The Seattle Seahawks surprised many by making the playoffs in 2022.

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A big reson for that? It was effectively “Year of the Rookie” for the Hawks.

The Seahawks got key contributions from each of their first six picks, with five of them ending the season as regular starters.

First-round pick Charles Cross started every game at left tackle and third-rounder Abraham Lucas played all but one game at right tackle for Seattle. Second-round running back Kenneth Walker rushed for over 1,000 yards, fourth-round defensive back Coby Bryant became the team’s go-to nickel corner and fifth-round corner Tariq Woolen was a Pro Bowler who picked off six passes, tied for the NFL lead.

Second-round edge rusher Boye Mafe picked up three sacks and another rookie – receiver Dareke Young – wound up playing in 13 games and was a core special teamer.

This year, the Hawks had 10 picks, including two in each of the first two rounds thanks to the Russell Wilson trade with the Denver Broncos.

“As good as last year’s draft class was for the Seahawks, can this year be any better or deeper than last year?” Mike Salk asked former NFL quarterback Brock Huard during Tuesday’s Brock and Salk on Seattle Sports.

Replied Huard, “This one’s gonna be tough.”

Why? Mostly opportunity.

“Last year, you had many more opportunities as you just looked at it on paper and went into that season,” Huard said “And certainly your right tackle and left tackle doing something hadn’t been done in 30 years in football in being bookend tackles and starting nearly every single game. That right there, that opportunity is not presented with this crew.”

That’s even true at cornerback, Huard said, which is what the Seahawks used the No. 5 overall pick on this past April.

With that selection, Seattle drafted Illinois All-American cornerback Devon Witherspoon.

Normally, a top-five pick is a lock to start come Week 1, but Huard said there’s a chance Witherspoon isn’t a starting outside cornerback  at that point like you’d think.

“Would you be shocked Week 1 if Devon Witherspoon is not your starting corner opposite of Tariq? Would you be shocked? I would not be shocked,” Huard said. ” … I’d be surprised, but I wouldn’t be shocked (because of) Michael Jackson ‘Thriller’ having the kind of offseason he did and the kind of season he did last year and just saying (to Witherspoon), ‘Man, I’m not going to give you this. You’re the fifth pick in the draft, but nothing is going to be given to you, you’re gonna have to earn it all.'”

Currently, Huard really only sees one rookie that appears penned in to a starting opportunity. That would be receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba, the Seahawks’ other first-round pick, taken 20th overall.

“Jaxon Smith-Njigba is going to be your third receiver, so (that’s) kind of like Cross last year and Abe Lucas. That opportunity is right there for you. You’re gonna be thrown in with the (starters) right away,” Huard said. “But overall in totality, you may see a lot of snaps (by the rookies). You’re gonna get lots of opportunities. But as far as starting and five starters (like last year), I think that’s a little rich.”

Listen to the full second hour of Tuesday’s Brock and Salk at this link or in the player near the top of this story.

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