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Don't Look Now, But The Seattle Seahawks Are Low-Key Feeling Eerily Similar To Their Just-Before-Russ Era

Abbie Parr. Getty Images.

Leading into the 2012 season, I could see the Seattle Seahawks were building something special. 

I was early AF on the Richard Sherman bandwagon. Tell me preseason football doesn't matter, and I'll tell you I could easily see Russell Wilson was already hitting a higher ceiling than Matt Flynn or Tarvaris Jackson. It was, like, out-of-orbit beyond those quarterbacks' collective grasp. I mean no offense. Just reality. It was my early draftnik days and Bobby Wagner was one of my favorite less-heralded prospects ever based on only two things: 1) three straight 100+ tackle seasons in college; 2) a 4.46-second 40 at 241 lbs at the Combine. Yup. First-round grade from trading card scouting and 40 time. Turned out legendary. I'm a fuckin' genius.

No but seriously. A decade later, the 2022 Seattle Seahawks have at least the makings of something similarly intriguing. About all that's missing is a young franchise QB of the future, which I assume will arrive via the 2023 NFL Draft in a class that's expected to be loaded at the position. There's no way it has less to offer than this year's group, let's say that.

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So bear with me here, because I know the premise might sound outlandish. To be clear, this isn't a perfect one-to-one, because how could it be? That's ridiculous. I'm also not saying Seattle will be competitive NOW, this year. Hence the start of this headline, "Don't Look Now." Except do. Oh you know what I mean. What I AM saying is, look the fuck out in 2023. Which is something I couldn't have fathomed before the draft got underway in April. That's where everything began to change for that Seahawks group at the beginning of Russ' career. I'll now break down what's happening in the Emerald City in present day, and compare it to what happened at the dawn of the DangeRuss Era.

A franchise-changing draft class?

I’ve hated the Seahawks’ drafts for years. I’m not sure if Pete Carroll ceded more control than he usually does. I don’t know if Colin Cowherd has been making shit up about the amount of sway Carroll has had over personnel during his tenure. Whether it’s Carroll or GM John Schneider or a balanced combination, Seattle’s draft classes have been ASS for a long time.

Coming out of the 2022 draft, I was like, “Hold on WTF??” Because here's who they got, with my big board rankings in parentheses:

  • Round 1, Pick 9: LT Charles Cross (15)
  • Round 2, Pick 40: EDGE Boye Mafe (25)
  • Round 2, Pick 41: RB Kenneth Walker III (66)
  • Round 3, Pick 72: RT Abraham Lucas (69)
  • Round 4, Pick 109: CB Coby Bryant (68)
  • Round 5, Pick 152: CB Tariq Woolen (33)

SIX of yours truly's top-70 players in one draft? THESE Seahawks?

Giphy Images.

The only reason Walker wasn’t higher on my list is because my big board philosophy actually builds in the value of each position. Since running backs are quite often the easiest spot on the field in terms of replacement-level value, and their shelf lives are shorter, it takes a back of insane skill to make it anywhere near the top.

Case in point: Walker is my RB1 and I really like him, yet he’s only on the fringe of Round 2/3. Lo and behold, sadly, he’s suffered an injury as of Wednesday, which means former first-rounder and perpetually banged-up ball-carrier Rashaad Penny — did I mention I hated the Seahawks’ overall drafts from 2013 through 2021? — is in line to be the clear workhorse even more so now.

The more I went digging into this and revisited the iconic 2012 Seahawks class, I realized how many great guys they got in the previous two drafts, too. Also had two key receivers come via undrafted free agency. But check this:

2012:

  • Round 1, Pick 15: EDGE Bruce Irvin
  • Round 2, Pick 47: LB Bobby Wagner
  • Round 3, Pick 75: QB Russell Wilson
  • Round 7, Pick 225: RG J.R. Sweezy
  • UDFA: WR Jermaine Kearse

2011:

  • Round 4, Pick 99: LB K.J. Wright
  • Round 5, Pick 154: CB Richard Sherman
  • Round 7, Pick 242: LB Malcolm Smith (SB MVP)
  • UDFA: WR Doug Baldwin

2010:

  • Round 1, Pick 6: LT Russell Okung
  • Round 1, Pick 14: S Earl Thomas
  • Round 2, Pick 60: WR Golden Tate
  • Round 5, Pick 133: S Kam Chancellor

I think the 2022 'Hawks are on an even more interesting trajectory because it seems Cross and Lucas will bookend the offensive line as instant starters. Mafe lit up his preseason debut with two sacks and may be supplying Seattle with much-needed juice off the edge. Walker is the feature back of the future. Things are looking up.

Ladies and gentlemen, though —here's the big kicker. We may have ourselves the making of a new Legion of Boom-esque secondary (HEAVY emphasis on -esque) in due time!

An overhauled secondary with two promising CBs and a solid safety tandem

  • 2022: Coby Bryant-Tariq Woolen-Quandre Diggs-Jamal Adams
  • 2012: Richard Sherman-Brandon Browner-Earl Thomas-Kam Chancellor

I've got a HUGE My Guy complex when it comes to Tariq Woolen. Didn't care how raw he was or that he only recently converted to cornerback from wide receiver. That is the exact path Richard Sherman followed at Stanford and look how he turned out. Not saying Woolen has the elite football IQ Sherman did. Whatever he'd lack, it's more than made up for with physical tools: 6-4, 205, 4.26 40, 42-inch vert. And he's getting way better coaching now than he did at UTSA, all due respect to them. It's the NFL. Come on now.

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Like as long as Woolen isn't a complete moron — kidding but not really — what's stopping him from being a beast among men? His margin for error is so much greater than anyone else's I can even begin to remember. Reports out of Seahawks camp have consistently highlighted him as a standout. With injuries to Artie Burns and Sidney Jones, Woolen has lined up as a starter along with, yup, his draft classmate, Cincinnati product Coby Bryant!!

Before getting to Bryant, let me hand it over to Baldy to further drive home why I fell in love with Woolen's upside this Draft SZN:

Yeah you better mark it sensitive, Twitter. Woolen's athleticism is a powerful agent to the uninitiated.

Bryant is almost the antithesis to Woolen: A very good but not off-the-charts athlete. Started at cornerback for four years at Cincinnati. Plenty of polish when it comes to technique. Early in his NFL career, he's flashing inside-out versatility.

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Because he started opposite Sauce Gardner, Bryant got tested often and was solid as hell. I don't know why he wasn't more highly regarded by the greater draft community.

Now to safety: I'm not saying the tandem of Quandre Diggs and Jamal Adams will compare to Thomas and Chancellor. Also not saying Woolen and Bryant will be on the level of Sherman and Browner. I'm just saying, the general framework is there for a similarly strong unit. Between Woolen's raw ability and Adams' unique all-around playmaking, there's a lot to like.

Uncertainty at quarterback and a training camp competition

  • 2022: Geno Smith-Drew Lock
  • 2012: Matt Flynn-Tarvaris Jackson-Russell Wilson

Sadly there's no first-year phenom waiting in the wings to floor everybody in the organization like Russell Wilson did once upon a time. That's bound to happen once the 2023 draft comes and goes, wherein Seattle has two first- and second-round selections to play with. Whatever happens this year, do whatever it takes to get high enough for a crack at one of the top two signal-callers.

In the meantime, here's an idea…

A hyper-athletic, tackling machine in the middle of the defense

  • 2022: Jordyn Brooks
  • 2012: Bobby Wagner

Everyone knew Jordyn Brooks could play the run well coming out of Texas Tech. Still, despite excellent production for the Red Raiders, he was largely untested in coverage. That's an area he still struggles in, yet Brooks did make 184 combined tackles in 2021, so that's not nothing. He has time to make strides in the passing game, but he'll likely fall short of Wagner. Hard not to. Bobby has been elite in that department for many years. If Brooks ever comes close to Wagner's level in coverage, he'll be a perennial Pro Bowler.

A receiving corps led by a massive dude and many smaller/quicker/grittier guys

  • 2022: DK Metcalf-Tyler Lockett-Freddie Swain-Dee Eskridge-Marquise Goodwin
  • 2012: Sidney Rice-Doug Baldwin-Golden Tate-Jermaine Kearse

The 6-4 downfield threat that was Sidney Rice didn't live up to his billing as a high-profile free-agent signing. Despite that, he had his fair share of big plays for the Seahawks, including a game-winner 2012 when the team really burst onto the scene against their down-the-road Super Bowl opponent. Had to do a Twitter excavation for this one:

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Aside from Rice, it was more about Seattle's famously "pedestrian" group that banded together and helped Wilson catalyze a dynamic, explosive passing attack. That's similar in spirit to what's happening now: You can't solely rely on DK Metcalf's splash plays and limited route tree. He has to expand his arsenal, and others behind Metcalf and Lockett need to rise to the occasion.

I definitely like the personnel better these days in Seattle's receiver room, at least in terms of the initial 1-2 punch of Metcalf and Lockett. To be fair, they were draft picks as well. Unclear who will step up behind them. A sleeper I like who isn't getting much play is Cade Johnson. Time will tell if he ever gets a chance.

Backfield with a bona fide bell cow [of the future]

  • 2022: Rashaad Penny [/Kenneth Walker III]
  • 2012: Marshawn Lynch

Come on now, can't forget about Beast Mode!!! He who could've carried it on the 1-yard line and helped the Seahawks to back-to-back Super Bowls. That one stings to this day. I think it's still lost in history: In that game that bolstered the Patriots' dynasty and featured a vintage Tom Brady rally, the Legion of Boom was down BAD. Jeremy Lane broke his arm and tore his ACL on the same play after making an interception early on. Richard Sherman was playing with torn elbow ligaments. Earl Thomas had a separated shoulder. Kam Chancellor? A torn MCL. Wild shit. They still were thisclose to winning it all.

Good news on Walker via Carroll from later on Wednesday once news broke of the former's injury:

It's a perfect situation right now. Walker will have a situational role I would imagine while he eases his way back to the lineup. Penny has a one-year prove-it deal to boost his stock and either secure a long-term future in Seattle or (far more likely) bolt for a team who can pay him better and might be a more conspicuous contender in 2023. That's why I have the brackets around KWIII. I suspect he'll take over. Still, the run-first philosophy deployed during Lynch's heyday should be intact while Lock/Smith start under center in 2022 and whenever a top-flight rookie takes the reins (presumably) in 2023.

The final, most important step: Get the damn QB right!!

Despite all the optimism I've strived — strove, striven? ALACK — to infuse the 12th Man fans with, these are the sort of harsh jokes landing on the Twittersphere at this moment in time:

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That will continue. All year. 

Credit the Seahawks for showing some patience, however. They know they have a young team, and against all odds and their recent draft track record, they've managed to piece together what could be a mind-blowing 2022 rookie class. Trading for Jimmy Garoppolo or Baker Mayfield would've only raised hopes so much, and you'd rather have a look at next year's crop of college QBs than pay one of those two guys, due to the youthful potential and cost savings from a roster-building standpoint.

Suck for C.J. (Stroud). Blow up for Bryce (Young). Whatever your tanking slogan or prospect preference, go nuts. In a perfect world, this 2022 Seattle team loses enough to get a high first-round pick, yet is still competitive in most games to where it's not a completely demoralizing campaign. I'll be keeping an eye on this young crew.

Don't worry, 12s. I'm not saying the next several months won't be rough. I just have a feeling the suffering will be worth it, and we may be talking about the Seahawks much, much differently 365 days from now.

Twitter @MattFitz_gerald — hit me with a follow for my birthday!