Which late-round Hawks draft pick is most likely to play?

Apr 29, 2024, 4:18 PM

Seattle Seahawks NFL draft Michigan AJ Barner national championship UW Huskies...

AJ Barner (89) of Michigan celebrates a touchdown against the UW Huskies in the 2024 CFP national championship game. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

(Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

The Seattle Seahawks made eight picks in this past weekend’s NFL Draft.

Seahawks ’24 NFL Draft Breakdown: A look at all 8 Seattle picks

Texas defensive tackle Byron Murphy, the Seahawks’ top pick at No. 16 overall, is expected to be a key piece up front in new coach Mike Macdonald’s defense. UConn guard Christian Haynes, a third-round pick, figures to compete for a starting role on the offensive line. UTEP linebacker Tyrice Knight, a fourth-round pick, is a good candidate to see the field given Seattle’s lack of depth at linebacker.

But of the Seahawks’ other five draft picks, who is most likely to get playing time as a rookie?

Former NFL receiver Michael Bumpus was posed that question Monday on Seattle Sports’ Bump and Stacy. He went with Michigan tight end AJ Burner, who the Seahawks took in the fourth round at No. 121 overall.

“He’s a different type of tight end,” Bumpus said. “He’s not gonna wow you with speed. He’s not gonna overwhelm you with strength. He’s gonna do everything decent. He will block you. He will catch the football. He’ll be good on third-and-short situations. He’s more smooth than explosive. He’ll make the difficult catch. He looks good on film.

“You’re not gonna be like, ‘Oh my god, it’s George Kittle, or oh my god, it’s Travis Kelce.’ Nah, he’s going to play a role. He’ll be that No. 3 tight end. I think he makes the squad. AJ Barner is gonna get some playing time.”

The 6-foot-6, 251-pound Barner spent his first three college seasons at Indiana before transferring to Michigan, where he started eight games this past season on the Wolverines’ national championship team.

Barner finished tied for the fourth-most receiving yards in Michigan’s offense last season, hauling in 22 catches for 249 yards and a touchdown. He was primarily the Wolverines’ second tight end behind Colston Loveland, a potential 2025 first-round pick. In 25 games at Indiana, Barner had 42 catches for 361 yards and four TDs.

Barner gives the Seahawks some much-needed depth after they lost two of their top three tight ends this offseason. Colby Parkinson signed with the Los Angeles Rams in free agency, while veteran Will Dissly signed with the Los Angeles Chargers after being cut by Seattle.

In fact, Bumpus sees some of Dissly’s skill set in Barner.

“He’s going to be your Uncle Will Dissly,” Bumpus said earlier in the show. “He’s going to be the guy who is a solid blocker, a solid receiver. … He has for-sure hands. You watch the film on this young man, he knows how to sit in the zone. He will make the difficult catch. Not very explosive. Not gonna wow you with his speed. But he’s a ballplayer.”

Barner will look to carve out a role in a Seahawks tight end room that includes Noah Fant and Pharaoh Brown.

Fant, who re-signed with Seattle on a two-year, $21 million deal in March, had 32 catches for 414 yards last year in his second season since coming from Denver in the Russell Wilson trade. Brown, a six-year veteran who signed a one-year deal with the Seahawks in March, had 13 catches for a career-high 208 yards and a TD last year with the New England Patriots. The only other tight ends currently on Seattle’s roster are Tyler Mabry and Brady Russell, who have a combined one catch in their NFL careers.

Barner’s special teams background could also prove valuable in earning playing time. He played special teams at Michigan under new Seahawks special teams coordinator Jay Harbaugh, who held the same position with the Wolverines.

“Typically, the Seahawks are gonna carry three tight ends,” Bumpus said. “So far, you’ve got Noah Fant, who’s your more elusive, big-play type of dude. You’ve got Pharaoh Brown, who can catch the football, but he’s a good blocker. And then you have AJ Barner. … I think AJ Barner’s going to make the team.”

Listen to the full conversation from Monday’s Bump and Stacy in the podcast at this link or in the player near the top of this post. Bump and Stacy airs live  from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekdays on Seattle Sports.

More Seattle Seahawks draft reaction

What UConn’s Jim Mora says OG Christian Haynes brings to Seahawks
• Why Huard is big fan of Seahawks’ sixth-round OL draft pick
• AP NFL Draft grades: How did Seahawks, NFC West rivals fare?
• Rost: Seahawks’ future still relies heavily on previous draft classes
• What experts are saying about the Seattle Seahawks’ draft class

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