Breakout rookies helping Seattle overcome Jimmy Graham trade
The trade Seattle made for Jimmy Graham would be in danger of looking disastrous, if it weren’t for the Seahawks bailing themselves out again in the 2015 NFL Draft.
The team sent Max Unger – their best offensive lineman – and a first-round pick to the New Orleans Saints for Graham. The offensive line has been even worse than in years past, and the team struggled with how best to use Graham before eventually losing him for the year with a knee injury. When you factor in the loss of a first-round impact rookie, this looks like a trainwreck of a trade from Seattle’s point of view, at least in the short term.
Strangely, though, they have been able to combat the negative effects with a few fantastic rookie additions.
Undrafted running back Thomas Rawls has come in and been extremely effective, despite some incredibly poor blocking from the offensive line when Marshawn Lynch has been hurt. And though they may not have had a first-round draft choice, I think there’s a good argument to be made that Seattle received first-round talent with both their second- and third-round selections.
Frank Clark (second) and Tyler Lockett (third) were dominant against the Vikings on Sunday, in a 35-7 win, both backing up the tape we saw grading PFF College a year ago.
Clark was always a hugely talented player, grading in the top 10 in the nation for edge rushers before being arrested for domestic violence and being dismissed from the Michigan football team midway through the year. (The charges were later reduced to a misdemeanor disorderly conduct charge.) Seattle took heat for drafting him as high as they did. Setting aside the off-field implications for a moment, Clark’s rookie year with Seattle has been a success, as he has been a very productive player.
Clark had two sacks against Minnesota, but also two hits, two hurries and two batted passes in what was by far his best game of the season to date. He now has a sack in each of his last two contests and multiple pressures over his last three consecutively.
Seattle’s other first-round talent is wide receiver Tyler Lockett, who was passed over in the draft process because of his size – an area the Seahawks have some experience in.
Amari Cooper earned the highest receiving grade among college wideouts last season, but the one player to give him a run for his money was Lockett, who caught 71.9 percent of his targets his final year at Kansas State.
Seattle drafted him primarily as a return man (and he has both a punt and kick returned for a touchdown already this season), but have been steadily getting him involved more on offense. The game against Minnesota saw him targeted seven times – a season-high – and he caught all of them for 90 yards, making three defenders miss tackles along the way. Those 90 yards also represent a career-high, and 48 of them came after the catch.
Sometimes finding first-round talent isn’t about having a draft choice in that round, it’s about identifying the players that slip through the cracks. The Seahawks traded their first-round pick away to get Graham, and while that hasn’t proved successful, they more than made up for it with their next two picks. Both rookies look like potential studs in the making.