Seahawks offense could get better after the draft
Do Seahawks have a top-3 NFC offense now? Seaside Joe 1518
Though Devon Witherspoon is the guy who I wanted for the Seahawks on draft night most of all, I woke up on Friday not able to stop thinking about this guy:
Seaside Joe was very hopeful that Seattle would come out of the first round with a receiver and though Joe did suspect that Jaxon Smith-Njigba would be available at 20 in a mock draft posted last week, SJ wasn’t sure if the Seahawks would try to trade back given the grouping at that position.
As it turns out, it’s a good thing Seattle didn’t move back because the board fell WR-WR-WR to make it four receivers in a row after the Seahawks picked Smith-Njigba and solidified that Geno Smith has one of the best supporting casts in the NFC.
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Who has the best WR trio in NFC?
For now, let’s ignore teams that have a great WR1 or even a solid WR1/WR2 and just answer which teams have a high ceiling all the way to WR3:
Seahawks—DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, Jaxon Smith-Njigba
Cowboys—CeeDee Lamb, Brandin Cooks, Michael Gallup
Moons—Terry McLaurin, Jahan Dotson, Curtis Samuel
I would argue that’s the end of the list for now. So who has a great start at WR1/WR2?
Eagles—A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith, Olamide Zaccheaus
49ers—Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, Jauan Jennings
Saints—Michael Thomas, Chris Olave, Rashid Shaheed
Vikings—Justin Jefferson, Jordan Addison, KJ Osborn
Bucs—Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Russell Gage
Bears—D.J. Moore, Chase Claypool, Darnell Mooney
Lions—Amon-Ra St. Brown, Jameson Williams (suspended), Marvin Jones
There could still be players on the move, including DeAndre Hopkins out of Arizona and Cooper Kupp out of Los Angeles.
We don’t want to put the cart before the horse with any rookie receivers, but it’s not unfair to say that if you’re placing your bets on which WR3s and also which slots will breakout then any sane person would choose a first rounder over Zaccheaus or Shaheed or Osborn, for example.
There will also be plenty of receivers drafted on Friday and then we can update this list but the Seahawks are already ahead of the game by adding JSN to one of the top WR duos in the NFC.
For the remaining Seattle receivers—Dee Eskridge, Dareke Young, Cody Thompson, Cade Johnson—it’s a race to see who makes the final roster and Young probably has an advantage because of his work on special teams and his unique frame compared to the others. I still would not hate it if the Seahawks signed an outside speed threat before the season.
Seahawks lack elite TE, but have great depth
We saw what Shane Waldron could do with a TE-by-Committee in 2022: 109 catches on 135 targets (81% catch rate!), 1,157 yards, eight touchdowns combined by Will Dissly, Noah Fant, and Colby Parkinson.
If that’s one player, the media is calling him the best tight end in the NFL. And the oldest of them this year is Dissly at 27. But each of them have one or two flaws that makes them better in a committee than on their own and we can’t rule out Seattle drafting a tight end at some point who they really like because two of them are 2024 free agents and Dissly is going to be too expensive for what he does.
Maybe the Seahawks feel as though Fant showed enough improvement to extend him this summer and that Parkinson will be easy to re-sign in 2024 and that solves that, for the most part. If this group comes together, it’s an impressive TE trio to line up with your impressive WR trio. I just wouldn’t put any of them on a list of “the best tight ends in the NFC” on their own. Some of these guys may be more receiver than blocker at this point:
George Kittle, 49ers
T.J. Hockenson, Vikings
Kyle Pitts, Falcons
Dallas Goedert, Eagles
You might be able to fit some of Seattle’s tight ends in the next grouping:
Hayden Hurst, Panthers
Zach Ertz, Cardinals
Will Dissly, Seahawks
Noah Fant, Seahawks
Juwan Johnson, Saints
Cole Kmet, Bears
Logan Thomas, Moons
Tyler Higbee, Rams
Colby Parkinson, Seahawks
Jonnu Smith, Falcons
Robert Tonyan, Bears
Taysom Hill, Saints
Individually, I wouldn’t put any of the Seahawks tight ends next to Kittle—but Pitts, we’ll find out more this year—but as a group they are a talented “bunch”.
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Tight ends should go off the board in day two and then we’ll see which NFC teams can be more competitive in these rankings.
Seahawks keeping pace with NFC offensive tackle duos
It’s a good thing that Seattle landed Charles Cross and Abe Lucas in 2022 (and a reason to think they could draft a tackle on Friday) because the NFC keeps throwing punches at this position. Here are some of the other top tackle duos in the NFC, including after Friday’s first round:
*Multiple first round picks at offensive tackle
49ers—Trent Williams, Colton McKivitz
Vikings—Christian Darrisaw, Brian O’Neill
Cardinals*—D.J. Humphries, Paris Johnson, Kelvin Beachum
Lions*—Taylor Decker, Penei Sewell
Cowboys*—Tyron Smith, Tyler Smith, Terence Steele
Eagles—Jordan Mailata, Lane Johnson
Giants*—Andrew Thomas, Evan Neal
Packers—David Bakhtiari, Zach Tom
Falcons*—Jake Matthews, Kaleb McGary
Saints*—Trevor Penning, Ryan Ramczyk
Bucs—Tristan Wirfs, Matt Feiler
Saints—Ikem Ekwonu, Taylor Moton
There are only three NFC teams who I didn’t mention and they aren’t even that bad off at tackle; the Bears just drafted a top-10 tackle in Darnell Wright.
It’s not so much that the Seahawks are at an advantage with Cross and Lucas, but they aren’t yet at a disadvantage. We need to see improvement from both, however, and picking a tackle is not out of the question.
Improvement Opportunities: C, G, and RB
As far as Geno’s supporting cast, there are clearly three remaining needs and it doesn’t necessarily take the draft to fill them out given Seattle’s current roster. Let’s start with running back because that’s where we could see a legitimate veteran star paired with the Seahawks current legitimate star.
The Seahawks only have Ken Walker III and DeeJay Dallas at running back and that’s not going to cut it given the attrition we see at the position. The Seahawks never get through a season with only one running back and Dallas should not be starting in anything other than an emergency situation. But this is somewhere that Seattle can find a complementary option without having to pick one on Friday.
Top Current Free Agents:
Ezekiel Elliott, Leonard Fournette, Kareem Hunt, Kenyan Drake, JD McKissic, Jerick McKinnon
There are certainly different skillsets and levels of desirability within that grouping, but if you want to give Walker a rest then you can sign Elliott, Fournett, or Hunt. If you want to complement him with a pass-catching weapon, go get Drake, McKissic, or McKinnon. Last year, McKinnon caught nine touchdowns for the Chiefs.
Hunt may fit right in the center, but he and Elliott may not have the character traits that Pete Carroll seems to be looking for now.
And John Schneider mentioned before the draft that the Seahawks could still be looking at post-June 1 free agents and the running back market figures to expand with better names than these.
Here are players who may not return to their teams in 2023:
D’Andre Swift, Joe Mixon, Dalvin Cook, Austin Ekeler, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Alvin Kamara, James Conner, Cam Akers
I definitely don’t think the Seahawks are going to trade for Ekeler and pay him what he wants during this holdout with the Chargers, but Seattle’s options to pair Walker with a good running back should be there after the draft. If the Vikings cut Cook, for example, it may not cost much to say, “You’re going to re-establish your value here by playing for the Seahawks for one season.”
But I’m not sure. These are tenuous situations. This is WHY you draft Ken Walker III at the top of round two.
Seahawks vulnerable on the interior—Again
Where I think Seattle gets into tricky territory is with the interior of the offensive line and I have no choice but to believe Pete Carroll when he says that free agent signee Evan Brown is the team’s center. I also believe that the Seahawks have interest in Wisconsin’s Joe Tippmann on Friday and he could be their number one target if he’s available at pick 52. Tippmann could play center or guard and he might be that guy who pushes Phil Haynes or even Damien Lewis; I have yet to feel super comfortable with either of them.
The other interiors who the Seahawks have signed are Jake Curhan, Joey Hunt, and Greg Eiland. I don’t think any of them should see the field, with the exception of maybe Curhan on an emergency basis. Brown might have been a steal at less than $3 million in free agency but he is an unproven commodity.
Adding Tippmann could help Seattle go from an offensive line that is in danger of being below-average in the NFC (because you saw the other tackles around the conference) to one that is in reach of at least being average. If Cross and Lucas develop accordingly, if Brown plays well, if Lewis figures out where the line of scrimmage exists, and if the Seahawks add one of the top-three centers or guards in the draft class (which they are in reach of since none were picked on day one), then Seattle could have a top-8 offensive line in the conference.
And adding players like Smith-Njigba, who I heard someone call a “make the quarterback right” weapon on a podcast—as in, if Geno makes an okay throw/decision, JSN will turn it into the right decision because he’s that good at getting open and catching the football—will also help the offensive line. You can do just as much to save the quarterback from a sack by having open receivers as you can by throwing up a wall against the pass rush.
Are the Seahawks a top-3 NFC offense?
I don’t want to say that feels like a “stretch” because as you can see there is enough talent around Geno Smith—who by chance and circumstance is a top-four quarterback in the NFC right now—to give Seattle their best supporting cast in a long time. But I would be remiss to forget that this offense was terrible in the second half of the season.
Though the Seahawks ranked ninth in points scored during the regular season, most of that production came in the first nine games. From games 10-17, Seattle ranked 17th in points scored. And in the final four games, they ranked 25th and just got stunted on by the 49ers each and every time they played.
There is a dramatic difference between where the Seahawks were in Russell Wilson’s last season and where they’ll be in Geno’s second season. They’ve added Cross, Lucas, Smith-Njigba, Fant, Walker, and Brown. Every one of those players has an opportunity because of where they’re at in their careers to be better in 2023 than they were in 2022.
What Geno Smith excels at, like ball placement and accuracy, he could improve upon all of his stats from 2022. I don’t want to say he’s a bad decision maker, but the less decisions you give him (or really any QB), the better he will be for it. If he has better protection and goes from Marquise Goodwin to Smith-Njigba and a better Walker in the backfield and maybe adding someone like Jerick McKinnon or, I don’t know, James Conner, I don’t think Seattle should be worse on offense in 2023 than they were in 2022.
They should be better.
If the Seahawks can add three points per game on offense and subtract three points per game from defense—and I think their moves and upcoming schedule make it at least possible to do both of those things—Seattle could go from a lucky 9-8 to a legitimate 11-6.
The draft isn’t over to make moves, but moves won’t be over when the draft ends.
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