The Seahawks wrapped up a three-day minicamp last week, the final chance to get a look at the full team—or close to it—before players enjoy some time off between now and the start of training camp. And of all the things Seahawks coach Pete Carroll saw from his team last week and during the offseason workouts leading up to minicamp, one of the most significant might have been the contributions made by the 2022 draft class.
With nine picks, including four inside the top 72, the Seattle had its most draft capital in a decade, meaning expectations are going to be high for a class led by No. 9 overall pick Charles Cross. And while only so much can be gleaned from offseason workouts without pads, what this group of rookies has been able to put on display so far has made a good early impression on Seattle's coaching staff.
"I'm really jacked about the class," Carroll said. "Really, these guys should help us. We've got to do a really good job of forcing them to the action and force them in there so that they show us how far they've come and what they can handle. They're going to be really utilized and called on, and they're going to have to (say) 'no mas' on us, almost, by the time we get through camp. They won't do that, so it's going to be really fun to see how they contribute."
Having a high volume of picks, including a Top 10 pick and two early second-rounders, obviously helps make for a better draft class, but another factor that should help this class contribute early on is that these rookies are getting the benefit of a full offseason, something the previous two classes didn't get due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the restriction that came with it.
"I can't even compare where these guys are now to when they would've come to us and have never been on the field but a couple days," Carroll said. "They've had a lot of work, a lot of good quality work, too. I'm talking about the rookies now and the young guys, the first-time guys here. This is kind of where we're supposed to be at this time of year, and we have not been there in the years past, in the last couple. It's fun to get out here. These guys had a blast. I mean, they had fun doing it, they liked the work, they came with a great attitude every day, and really, this was not difficult on them."
Starting with Seattle's first pick, Cross, Carroll gave a rundown on his thoughts of the rookie class, noting that both Cross and third-round pick Abraham Lucas will come to training camp looking to win starting jobs at left and right tackle, respectively.
"The tackles, to nail both those guys, both those guys have a chance to play and they're competing," Carroll said. "They'll be competing to start. When they come back to camp, if they hold their own and they make the right progress, they have a chance to start for us, which is huge, that would be huge. I don't know that they will, but they've got a chance and they give us every indication that they have what it takes to do that to this point."
One of two second-round picks, running back Kenneth Walker III, was limited in offseason work due to some hamstring soreness, but Carroll said that when Walker was able to work this offseason, "He looked great, he really did. He's really fast, he's got an attitude about him, he's nasty and physical, and wants to show that and be that beautiful addition to our group. We saw him on a number of occasions getting the ball out of the backfield and then a couple balls that he broke where you could really see the burst. He's a big-play guy. At this point, when we're looking at him and Rashaad (Penny), those two guys are the potential one-two punch until Chris (Carson) gets cleared."
As for Seattle's other second-round Boye Mafe, Carroll saved some of his highest praise for the edge rusher out of Minnesota.
"I'm really holding out hope that Mafe is going to really have a chance to help us," Carroll said. "He's really talented. He's the closest looking fit to Cliff Avril that we've seen. The explosion and the flexibility, the bend that he has, and Cliff had a great career for us and in the league. If (Mafe) can get anywhere near that, it would be a great plus for us. It looks like he's got the chance to be that kind of a player. Well, we'll see how that goes. Hopefully he's going to work with Cliff in this offseason too. That will help."
Carroll added that fellow pass rusher Tyreke Smith also has a chance to contribute as a rookie, and sticking with the defense, Carroll likes what he's seen from both of the cornerbacks Seattle drafted, Coby Bryant and Tariq Woolen.
Carroll noted that Bryant, a fourth-round pick out of Cincinnati who won the Jim Thorpe Award as college football's top defensive back, "made a ton of plays out here. He's a football player, natural play maker, he's got great hands, he might catch the ball as well as anybody on the team. He's got terrific hands and you could see that adds to a guy's confidence when they're faced with the opportunity to make plays. He's one of those guys, that's why he was recognized around the country. He's a big-time player, he did a nice job.
And while less polished a cornerback at this point in his career, Carroll referred to Woolen, a fifth-round pick out of UTSA, as "probably the flashiest guy" at minicamp.
Woolen, who began is college career as a receiver, ran a 4.26-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine, and that speed showed up on the practice field.
"He missed some early time, but once he got out here, shoot, you couldn't miss him out there, because he's long and tall and he is really fast," Carroll said. "He's fast, fast, and the style of play, we would style him like you would've seen Brandon Browner and he's 6-4 and so they'll look similar. He's got a step on Brandon—or four—no offense, B.B. But he made a really good impression here. He had some really good opportunities to go against Marquise Goodwin, the fastest guy you can find, he's (running in) 4.2s, and they were battling, man. They were battling out here, so that was really encouraging and exciting to see."