Rost: Don’t underestimate Seahawks’ late-round pass catchers
It’s no surprise when a team’s top draft pick steals the show, but it would be a mistake for Seahawks fans to overlook the potential throughout Seattle’s 2020 draft class – all the way to the final two rounds.
Then there are Seattle’s final two picks, both receivers. And while Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf will be Russell Wilson’s featured targets in 2020, the competition is wide open and primed for a few surprises. Could two of those surprises be rookies Freddie Swain and Stephen Sullivan?
Here’s what you need to know about Seattle’s newest pass catchers (and what they’ll need to do to find a spot on the roster this summer).
The 6-foot, 197-pound Swain was praised for his route-running as a four-star receiver out of Marion in Florida. As the No. 35-ranked receiver nationally, Swain had his choice of a few schools, including USC and LSU. He opted to stay in state when he committed to the Florida Gators.
Swain’s biggest impact at Florida came during his final two seasons. In 2018 he had 14 receptions for 265 yards and five touchdowns. He also had 224 punt return yards and a touchdown, good for No. 3 in punt return yards and No 4 in yards per punt return (10.2) in the SEC. In 2019 he had 38 catches for 517 yards and seven touchdowns.
A smaller receiver who contributes on special teams? Sounds familiar.
“He plays more slot receiver,” 710 ESPN Seattle’s Jake Heaps said during his spotlight profile of Swain. “Which is interesting because Tyler Lockett is going to be your slot guy who can also play outside. John Ursua can also contribute there, and fans wanted to see him play more after a great preseason. But Freddie Swain is going to come in and push Ursua at that position, and I think it’s going to be great competition there in the slot.”
Ursua drew comparisons to Doug Baldwin after the Seahawks drafted him in 2019. Likewise, Swain has also drawn those comparisons.
“When the Seahawks made this selection, I got a text from a friend who evaluated him extensively in high school and throughout his college process. And he said this guy is a bigger Doug Baldwin. He’s going to be great in the slot, he’s got unique traits like Doug, a great understanding of space. And that’s a tremendous compliment from someone who I really trust and believe in.”
Ursua never got a chance to take off last year, but will the competition between Swain and Ursua finally give the Seahawks a chance to find the kind of talent Baldwin brought?
For the second year in a row, the Seahawks traded back into the seventh round of the NFL Draft, and for the second year in a row they used that pick on a wide receiver.
Well, sort of.
Sullivan, who was a four-star recruit, transitioned to tight end in his senior season with the Tigers. His numbers didn’t jump off the page – 12 receptions for 130 yards – but his athleticism (his 4.66 40-yard dash was the second-fastest among all tight ends at the combine) made him tempting enough to draw a move from Seattle, who risked losing him in undrafted rookie free agency.
At 6-foot-5, 245-pounds, there’s also Sullivan’s potential as a mismatch opportunity. Former Seahawks scout and current Senior Bowl director Jim Nagy joined 710 ESPN Seattle’s Tom, Jake and Stacy after the draft and had high praise for the ex-Tiger.
“They got a chance of really hitting on Stephen Sullivan,” Nagy said. “Going back to player comps, the first time I watched him he reminded me of (Raiders tight end) Darren Waller… For 6-5, he’s a really fluid, easy moving guy. Huge catch radius, long arms, can go up and get it… You can call him whatever you want to call him. You can call him a big wideout, you can call him an ‘F’ tight end, but right now he’s a mismatch in the pass game is what he is, and if they can get him up to speed blocking, that’s like a bonus.”
Sullivan’s best shot at making the roster will be not just to excel as a pass-catcher, but to contribute as a blocking tight end. He’ll have his competition cut out for him in a tight end room that includes Greg Olsen, Will Dissly, Luke Willson, Jacob Hollister, and fellow rookie Colby Parkinson.
Jake & Stacy