The Seahawks are known to shock in the NFL draft and they did not disappoint with their completely unforeseen selection of Bruce Irvin. While the Seahawks first rounds are wildly unpredictable, they have made a habit out of finding talented contributors in the later rounds and with undrafted free agents. With the Seahawks rookies starting mini camp Friday, who are some of the Seahawks newcomers that can contribute this season?
Bruce Irvin ought to be an immediate contributor. Being selected number 15 overall leads to the expectation that he will be a difference-maker from day one. He has immense pressure to perform, and if he does not deliver in his rookie season then many Seahawks fans will be reminded of the former first round disappointment, Aaron Curry. I think it's safe to say, that if Irvin does not have a double-digit sack season, many fans will regard him as a failure.
Bobby Wagner might not have similar pressure to perform like Irvin, but the second round linebacker from Utah State is expected to compete for the starting middle linebacker job. Wagner has superb speed and can do something that Seahawks linebackers have not been able to do in the past: cover receivers. With his quickness, he has shown the ability to remove opposing tight ends from the passing game and he can hold his own in zone coverage.
Third round pick and former Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson will be an unlikely candidate to receive playing time as a rookie. While he does have intriguing physical skills, Wilson will have an immense learning curve in the NFL and with the Seahawks already having an experienced Tarvaris Jackson and a young, unproven talent in Matt Flynn, Wilson most likely will do nothing more than hold a clipboard this season- barring serious injury to the other Seahawks QB's. Will they cut Tarvaris Jackson or third-string QB Josh Portis to keep Wilson around?
Along with Wagner, Robert Turbin is another Utah State product that is expected to see playing time in 2012. Turbin is projected to compliment Marshawn Lynch's powerful, physical running style and he should be a valuable addition to the Seahawks backfield.
A Seahawks selection that intrigues me is defensive tackle Jaye Howard from Florida. Maybe I'm biased to the fact that he is a defensive player from a SEC school, but Howard's physical intangibles illustrate his potential. He has the kind of size that would get Pete Carroll "jacked up" and he has quickness to provide versatility. I'm guessing the Seahawks would like to plug Howard in to relieve Red Bryant from time to time. He can play on the interior and he can also play just outside the tackle in the five-technique (where Red Bryant plays). Howard could turn out to be key addition to the Seahawks defensive line.
With their fifth-round pick the Hawks selected an athletic freak in outside linebacker Korey Toomer from Idaho. Toomer posted a 42-inch vertical jump at his pro day and blazed through a forty-yard dash in 4.53 seconds. He can help supplement the pass rush and he seems to be someone that can make a difference for the Hawks this season. His sheer athleticism alone should land him on some special teams. If he proves that he can be a smart player, Toomer should see time on defense this year.
With the Seahawks possessing one of the best secondaries in the NFL, it will be more than difficult for any rookie to see playing time at defensive back. In the fifth-round, the Hawks selected cornerback Jeremy Lane from Northwestern State. He is 5'11" so he fits the mold of Seattle's taller cornerbacks. Brandon Browner, Richard Sherman, Marcus Trufant and Walter Thurmond provide depth at cornerback and Lane might simply be a special teams addition.
Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman are both Seahawks defensive backs with long dreadlocks. In an effort to continue the hairstyle tradition, the Hawks selected physical safety Winston Guy from Kentucky. Guy is a prototype Pete Carroll safety. Although he does not have the monster frame of Kam Chancellor, he is still a 6'1", 218-pound physical presence at safety. Guy was selected in the sixth round and will mostly contribute as a special teams player this season, but he might develop into a reliable backup for Chancellor.
In the seventh round, the Seahawks selected two defensive ends with J.R. Sweezy (6'5", 298) from North Carolina State and Greg Scruggs (6'3", 285) from Louisville. Interestingly enough, Assistant Head Coach and Offensive Line Coach Tom Cable is actually going to convert Sweezy to offensive guard. Sweezy is just slightly undersized for a guard, but he has fantastic movement and quickness for an offensive linemen. Cable is hoping that Sweezy can adjust to playing on the other side of the line.
As far as potential goes, Greg Scruggs might have more potential than any other seventh round pick. He is a monstrous defensive end at 285 pounds and he can rush the passer. He has length and he is rangy. He could mature into a productive member of the defense. Even though he was a seventh round selection and there are flaws in his game, his physicality and intangibles make Scruggs a rookie to keep an eye on.
Last season, the Seahawks found gold in undrafted free agency by snagging receiver Doug Baldwin from Stanford. Baldwin ended up leading the Seahawks in receptions and yards. It's rare for an undrafted free agent to have such a standout rookie year, but there are a few Seahawks UFA's who have a chance.
Of the ten UFA's the Seahawks signed, I think two of them have a legitimate chance to contribute. The first of which, guard Rishaw Johnson, is a former Ole Miss player who had to leave Ole Miss for Cal (PA) because of off-the-field issues. He was thought to be mid-to-late round draft pick by many experts, but character issues caused him to go undrafted. The Seahawks have proven that they don't mind gambling on a player with baggage and maybe Johnson can pull it together to contribute for the Seahawks.
Wide receiver Levasier Tuinei (6'5", 213) from Oregon is a UFA that I think has endless potential. He utilizes his height by catching the ball at the highest point and he has top-end speed (4.53 forty-yard dash) to force mismatches and put pressure on the defense. While at Oregon, Tuinei exploded onto the scene as a senior while showing a knack for making the clutch catch and the big play. He can play in the slot or outside and he could present matchup challenges to any defense because of his rare combination of size and speed. The Seahawks did sign hometown Husky product Jermaine Kearse, but ultimately I think he lacks the size, speed, and consistency to be a NFL receiver.