Under GM John Schneider and Head Coach Pete Carroll the Seahawks have made it their mission to build their team through the draft. In all rounds of the draft they’ve managed to uncover talent that is core to the team’s success. As this year’s crop of draftees take their first snaps in Organized Team Activities, let’s check in on a few of the players selected last year who may be poised for a big step forward in the 2016-2017 season
It’s easy to forget about Frank Clark. 16 tackles with 3 sacks over an entire year isn’t exactly what you would call setting the league on fire. However, as a rookie he was used very sparingly, most often as an inside pass rusher on passing downs. You need to go all the way back to preseason to see Clark get any significant action. When you do, you see a dominant force. He notched 7 tackles, 3 stops and a sack in limited action. His stellar play earned him the highest rating from Pro Football Focus among 4-3 defensive ends.
Clark’s sophomore campaign has the potential to be just as dominant. The departure of Bruce Irvin will create many opportunities for Frank Clark, especially on passing downs as an edge pass rusher. In preparation for the new role Clark has trimmed from 275lb down to 260lb. His new frame will serve him well as a speed rusher. As long as Frank Clark stays healthy he could take as big a leap as any defensive player in football.
I know what you are thinking. “Tyler Lockett was a stud last year, how can he be a breakout player?”. Trust me, we haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of his potential. It’s easy to forget that Tyler Lockett only caught 18 passes over the first half of the year, as he acclimated himself to speed of NFL games and earned the trust of Russell Wilson. He finished the season with 30 receptions over the final 8 games, where he caught 5 of his 6 receiving touchdowns, and 411 of his 664 receiving yards. That’s a tremendous growth curve for a rookie at any position, let alone one as notoriously difficult to develop at as wide receiver.
It gets better. Of his 51 receptions 9 were for 20+ yards. 31 of those catches were for a first down. According to Football Outsiders his 74% catch rate was among the league leaders, ahead of established stars like Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, and Odell Bechkam. In the playoffs he was even better averaging over 27(!) yards per reception.
That’s all in addition to his already All Pro punt and kickoff return skills. As long as Tyler Lockett stays on his currant trajectory, and there is nothing to suggest he won’t, he has very quickly be the top wide receiver on this team. He has true #1 receiver potential, which is truly rare in this league.
Tye Smith is one of the better Seahawks you’ve never heard of. He was a standout cornerback at Towson, and had a notably strong performance against future 7th overall pick Kevin White. He was a day three target of several teams, notably New Orleans and Baltimore were known to have strong interest.
Smith didn’t see the field much as a rookie, so we need to project a bit. At 6’, 195lb he has the size the Seahawks covet. He ran a 4.5 second 40 yd dash, and had a 36.5” vertical. Compare that to Richard Sherman, who is slightly taller at 6’3”, and ran his 40 yard dash in 4.56 seconds with a 38” vertical, and you see Smith is exactly in the blue print the Seahawks prefer. His biggest criticism coming out of schools was his the rawness of his technique. He has been able to benefit from the best possible situation for a raw prospect at cornerback however. Pete Carroll is, at his core, a secondary coach, reflected in the elite Legion of Boom. Kris Richard is the same, rising to defensive coordinator from secondary coach himself. The defense is littered with with players with similar dimensions as Tye Smith who have successfully adapted to Pete Carroll’s system, and have the ability to help Tye Smith ingratiate the technique. His natural ability with that elite support system has Tye Smith positioned to be the next great Seahawks corner.
John Schneider and Pete Carroll are perhaps the best GM-Head Coach combo in the league. They have teamed up to form one of the best and deepest rosters in the league. Frank Clark, Tyler Lockett, and Tye Smith have potential to be terrific players. Time will tell if they are the next star success stories of this front office. But all the pieces are there for those players to take a giant second year leap.