Breakout rookies helping Seattle overcome Jimmy Graham trade

Frank Clark, Tyler Lockett and Thomas Rawls are blossoming into key players for the surging Seahawks.

| 11 months ago
(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

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.

| Senior Analyst

Sam is a Senior Analyst at Pro Football Focus, as well as a contributor to ESPN.

  • Brandon

    KC fan here. I could of told you Lockett was money. I’ve watched him his entire career at K state. He might not have size but his speed is very nice. His hands and route running are also very nice. I really wanted the chiefs to draft him. His dad played his entire career for KC. That’s not the case in still glad to see him doing well and contributing to a great team.

    • J_May

      I don’t watch college ball much but after the Hawks drafted him I went back and watched some highlight reels. Looks like he was fun to watch at K-State too!

    • Woof!

      He’s like Wilson. Give him another 2-3 inches in height and he’d have been a top 10 pick, only behind Cooper.

      • Woof!

        Okay, that’s my bad for posting a comment before reading the article. That was basically a summary of their thoughts as well haha…. I concur!

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      • Brandon

        If Lockett had 3 more inches id take him over Cooper. Lockett hands are insane he can haul in some spectacular catches. Cooper will drop the easiest of throws. I’d compare Lockett to Tavon Austin or Wes Welker.

        • Woof!

          In hindsight I would happily take Lockett or Cooper, but I’m soaker for the rest of teams. I think prior to the draft there was no doubt Cooper was rated higher.

          Tavon Austin doesn’t do him justice in my opinion, because Lockett is already an incredible route runner. Austin is great in open field, but he’s kind of a one truck pony. If I were to compare him to anyone it would be Antonio Brown.

          • Brandon

            Agree to disagree. Tavon Austin is miss used in STL. Austin needs a good offensive OC to utilize his skill set. Jet sweep, WR screens, Decoy screens, he also can create separation with any CB. All I know is sky is the limit for Lockett as well as Brown because he has a legit QB throwing to him. If Austin had a QB to get him the ball any time he could be a top tier WR. You put Tavon Austin in NE he would tear every team up.

          • Woof!

            That’s a very fair opinion to have! I think his route tree is more limited though, as you pointed out it’s mostly just sweeps and screens. Lockett has proved he is not limited to those.

            In either case, I’m not denying that he is talented because your second point no one can argue against. Rams are the worst offense in the league and Foles has been awful. Their OC even just got fired today as a matter of fact. That and most any competent receiver would do well with Brady. Nor does it ultimately matter to compare… I’m happy to have Lockett and wouldn’t want it any other way :)

  • osoviejo

    “Seattle’s other first-round talent is wide receiver Tyler Lockett, who was passed over in the draft process because of his size…”

    Glad the Seahawks cared more about playmaking toughness. Did you see that catch yesterday where he was immediately crushed in a two-defender sandwich? Hung on, popped up, and watched the 15-yard penalty marked off. That’s nails.

    As a bonus, he is a thoroughly likeable kid who makes me smile every time he gives an interview.

  • Johnny Rotten

    The Jimmy Graham trade is still bad. Why trade a good center (when you already have a bad enough O-line as it is) and a 1st round pick for a pure receiving TE when you have a run first offense that has the TE blocking much of the time? Don’t make the trade and you still get your good 2nd and 3rd round picks but you also get to keep your center and your 1st round pick. Maybe use that pick to get the top TE who can catch and block which costs less than Graham. Or use the pick to bolster the O-line.

    • Kevin Smithz

      Max Unger isn’t exactly performing well in NO though… and Patrick Lewis got the highest grade of any center last year..> The mistake was letting Nowak play most of the season

      • TBarnes

        Agreed. We are still thin at OL, but the dam is holding at the moment.


    Seems to be that the big mistake was playing Nowak. Lewis has looked good enough. The seahawks reportedly were targeting Mitch Morse in the 2nd and that would have looked really smart if the Chiefs didn’t grab him. Unger is older, injury prone, and not super cheap. They also got a 3rd round pick back in the trade so by trade value they gave up a high 2nd. If their plans at center had worked out a little bit differently no one would be harping about trading Unger. Morse as a primary option with Lewis as a fallback seems like a decent plan in hindsight to me.

    • TBarnes

      Agreed – plus Unger miss exactly half of the previous two seasons regular season games. They were already playing without him half the time. You better be a stud to be worth your paycheck then.

      I’m thinking the offense and line will be vastly improved when Graham returns and this coupled with the improved pocket and speedy throws would fit his game excellently. While everyone is downgrading this trade he might actually just explode upon his return. I’d also expect a high pick to be used this year on OL, likely a tackle. Okung is getting older and expensive too for the return he generates. They still need to improve this OL to get truly deadly.

  • TBarnes

    Rooks have been studs especially lately! Although Lockett has been strong all season. I am looking forward to seeing more of Clark in other teams backfields as he was in preseason and the past 2-3 games. He seems like a star in the making. Lets also mention Marsh has looked good too and Shead has improved the CB play. That tackle on the reverse was awesome!

  • richardfg7

    Calling a trade , draft pick , or any other player acquisition “bad” because the player becomes injured is a real reach. it’s not like Graham had a big injury history. Besides Seattle got a third round pick back in the Graham trade also. Was that the Tyler Lockett pick ? Carroll / Schneider use a high risk / reward approach . It works.

    • Charles Wallace

      Maybe but it isn’t like he was putting up numbers before he got hurt. They weren’t sure how to use him and were having to learn the hard way that Graham is a total liability in any blocking scheme. The Seahawks got a 4th rounder from the Saints in that trade that they used (with two other picks) to move up in the third to get Lockett – so related, but not directly part of the trade.

      • richardfg7

        Graham was our leading receiver when he got injured . And it was a well known fact he was not a proficient blocker when they signed him . All water under the bridge though. I expect him to be traded if Vanett can do anything at all. Have a great day !