Seahawks Young Core Players: Then vs Now
The average age is going down but the optimism is going up: Seaside Joe 1534
When showing deferential treatment of the rest of the Seattle Seahawks as an inexperienced player, a young Russell Wilson helped the franchise win their first Super Bowl and then nearly another. After a couple of contract extensions and countless (deserved) accolades, that ability to defer or to be “one of 53” instead of “the first of 53”, that kind of success became harder to find for both the player or the team.
But thanks to last year’s trade with the Denver Broncos, once again Wilson may be the centerpiece of a Seahawks Super Bowl.
I don’t really care about it being “distasteful”, but I think it’s very hacky to pile onto Russell Wilson or even to write about him anymore if you cover the Seattle Seahawks and that’s why I never do it unless the post relates to the current team, as this one does. It can’t be controversial to say that Seattle won more games when Wilson was averaging 400 pass attempts per season than when he was cooking.
It can only be fact.
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The Seahawks had gone too many years in a row without drafting premier players, only giving out long-term second contracts to Tyler Lockett, Will Dissly, Michael Dickson, and DK Metcalf from picks between 2013-2019. So, four players over seven drafts, only two of them are your traditional “stars”, and they both play the same position.
Coming off of the 2021 season, Seattle knew the roster was old and that they only had one pick in the top-70 of the 2022 draft, and it wasn’t a first rounder. Thanks only to Russell Wilson, the Seahawks have been able to save money and directly add four top-40 draft picks, plus more. But let’s just focus on the draft picks because Seattle has treated the return for Wilson as if its just one big lump sum of young players.
When asked about Devon Witherspoon and Jaxon Smith-Njigba and the other picks this year, Pete Carroll mentioned in an interview with the NFL Network last week that the 2022 and 2023 draft classes are really more of one unit than two:
“It’s blending last year’s class and what we accomplished with those guys with this year’s class. It’s really connected.”
Looking at the Seahawks roster in 2021, it’s not only Wilson, but many other positions and players who are so much closer to the end of their careers than the start as compared to those who have replaced them.
I want to take a brief comparison of those two rosters even though we haven’t gotten into the 2023 season yet. It’s not too soon look ahead at how Seattle’s roster has changed, and not too late to thank Russ.
Players in their first two seasons: 2021
2020 draft class: LB Jordyn Brooks, DE Darrell Taylor, G Damien Lewis, TE Colby Parkinson, RB DeeJay Dallas, OLB Alton Robinson, WR Freddie Swain, TE Stephen Sullivan
UDFA Rookie: WR Penny Hart, TE Tyler Mabry, CB Gavin Heslop, DT Myles Adams
2021 draft class: WR Dee Eskridge, CB Tre Brown, OT Stone Forsythe
UDFA Rookie: LB Jon Rhattigan, OT Jake Curhan, WR Cade Johnson
Players in the their first two seasons: 2023
2022 draft class: OT Charles Cross, DE Boye Mafe, RB Kenneth Walker III, OT Abe Lucas, CB Coby Bryant, CB Tariq Woolen, OLB Tyreke Smith, WR Bo Melton, WR Dareke Young
UDFA Rookie: S Joey Blount
2023 draft class: CB Devon Witherspoon, WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba, OLB Derick Hall, RB Zach Charbonnet, G Anthony Bradford, DT Cameron Young, DE Mike Morris, C Olusegun Oluwatimi, DB Jerrick Reed, RB Kenny McIntosh
UDFA Rookie: We’ll see
Who are the core players from 2020-2021 rookie classes?
Of course, we don’t want to rule anybody out from having their moment. But let’s be really safe and conservative: There’s no guarantee that a single player from these draft classes or undrafted signings will get a second contract.
The Seahawks didn’t give Jordyn Brooks the fifth-year option, which isn’t all that surprising. For Brooks to have gotten the fifth-year option or a second contract, he would have had to be better than the average 27th overall pick.
He isn’t and he’s coming off of a torn ACL.
Taylor missed his entire rookie season, is now 26 and probably at-best a situational pass rusher. Seattle just signed a player like that, Mario Edwards, to a small one-year contract. Lewis is a starter, certainly not a dominant one.
The 2021 draft class is also marred with injuries and not getting lucky with any day three picks. We may emerge from these two years with Myles Adams as the best find.
Who are the core players from 2022-2023 rookie classes?
It’s early to make judgments on the 2022 class and obviously we have nothing to go off of from 2023, but isn’t the feeling dramatically different?
Three first round picks, four second round picks, and a massive day three steal who has potentially given the Seahawks more value in one season as anyone from the 2020 or 2021 draft classes have in their entire careers. I don’t want to overstate the impact by Tariq Woolen or underrate the value of Brooks or Lewis…but I don’t feel that statement does either of those things.
2020 vs 2023 — Some key changes that we know of
QB - Russell Wilson (32) vs Geno Smith (33)
RB - Chris Carson (26), Carlos Hyde (30) vs Walker (23), Charbonnet (22)
TE - Greg Olson (35) vs Noah Fant (26)
OT - Duane Brown (35), Cedric Ogbuehi (28), Brandon Shell (28) vs Cross (23) and Lucas (25)
G - Mike Iupati (33) vs Phil Haynes (28) or Anthony Bradford (22)
How it’s different
So I wanted to note Geno Smith there even though he’s not really a different age than Wilson, but at least he’s much cheaper and also happy to blend into the background and defer as much as a quarterback can really be expected to do these days.
But three seasons ago, Seattle was employing, starting, and giving a lot of playing time on offense to Duane Brown, Greg Olsen, and Mike Iupati, all 33+ years of age. Geno is by far the oldest player on offense and the next-closest is Lockett (31), Haynes (28), and Dissly (27). If Drew Lock gets appearances, he’ll be in there too…at 27.
I don’t want to say that the Seahawks are younger everywhere on defense because that wouldn’t be the case: Bobby Wagner (33) is back, Jarran Reed (30) is back, Jamal Adams and Quandre Diggs are still here.
But certainly having Witherspoon, Woolen, Coby Bryant, Jerrick Reed means there’s a youth movement in the secondary, and Julian Love is only 25.
Dre’Mont Jones is 26, which is the same age as L.J. Collier in 2021…but Dre’Mont Jones is actually good!
And finally, the Seahawks went 12-4 in 2020, yet the season ended so sadly with a wild card loss to the L.A. Rams. Then 7-10 in 2021. Seattle is now coming off of a 9-8 season and though that feels a little generous compared to how dangerous the Seahawks actually were, the roster seems to be edging closer and closer to being one the 10-best in the NFL.
That did not seem possible prior to the Russell Wilson trade. It wasn’t possible prior to the Wilson trade. It certainly would not have been possible if Seattle waited another year to make the Wilson trade.
I’ll always be grateful for the Seahawks former quarterback, both for how he helped in the beginning and how he left at the end.
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It's like Kenny Rodgers said Joe, "You got to know when to hold em, know when to fold em, know when to walk away, know when to run." PC/JS must be fans. Great article Joe.
Geno Smith is almost TWO FULL YEARS younger than Russell Wilson. Not the same age. That seems somewhat overlooked and significant to me, especially at his position. And as someone else noted, he has a lot less mileage on the chassis as well. It also seems to me that the mentorship he received under 3 different "ironman" QBs should not be understated. He wasn't simply a career backup - even though - well, he was. Still smile as I think of us chanting, "Geno, Geno, Geno!" during the Denver game last year. I expect him to grow this year as a starter and as a offensive team leader after the experiences of last year. Love Russell Wilson, but really glad it's worked out the way it has. I don't have to sit there during games yelling, "Russ! Throw the f___ing ball! Just throw it!!" Go Seahawks!!