One of the most recognized names in the industry, Rob Rang is an NFL Draft analyst for FOX Sports. Rob has been covering the NFL Draft for more than 20 years, with work at FOX, Sports Illustrated, CBSSports.com, USA Today, Yahoo, NFL.com and NFLDraftScout.com, among others. He also works as a scout with the BC Lions of the Canadian Football League. Rang's opinions and evaluations are his own and do not reflect those of the Seahawks. Follow him on Twitter @RobRang.
When you are a life-long Seattle-area resident (born, like the Seahawks, in 1976) and have evaluated as many football players as I have over my 20-plus years in the scouting business, certain iconic traits – such as Hall of Famer Walter Jones' unbelievable blend of size and athleticism, Marshawn Lynch's staggered gait and unbelievable power through contact, Richard Sherman's long arms, galloping strides and nonstop chatter – all tend to stand out.
A year ago in this space, I suggested that longtime Seahawks fans may get a case of déjà vu when watching prospects from the class of 2022.
I'm back this year with a new collection of former Seahawks and their NFL draft doppelgangers.
This is not to suggest that the college prospects listed below will go on to enjoy the same degree of success in the NFL that these Seahawks legends captured. Or, for that matter, that this year's rookie crop can't exceed what their Seahawk doppelgangers achieved. Every player is their own individual, of course. Player comparisons, fair or not, are among the most common requests in this business.
So, take these comparisons as they are intended – an indication of my respect for the Seahawks and other players of the past, present and future – with a dash of nostalgia and projection added, just for kicks.
Here is my Top 5 list of prospects whose tape brought back memories for me of Seahawks, dating back to the Kingdome.
DT Sam Adams = Mazi Smith, Michigan
The Seahawks finished 30th in the NFL in run defense a year ago, with only the Chicago Bears and Houston Texans – two clubs who won three games apiece in 2022 – surrendering more than the 2,554 yards Seattle allowed. Seattle is expected to use at least one or two of their draft picks on fortifying their defensive line and longtime Seahawks fans may see one potential early round fit with a lot of the same characteristics as Seattle's top draft choice back in 1994, the massive Adams, or, as he was affectionately nicknamed back then, "Big Poppa, the Show Stoppa."
Adams earned the flashy nickname by dominating the line of scrimmage at Texas A&M, earning the No. 8 overall selection by the Seahawks that year after remarkably leading the Aggies in both tackles and sacks from his defensive tackle position. While he simply overwhelmed college blockers, in the NFL Adams proved much more effective against the run than the pass, developing into one of the league's most immovable objects. An absolute mountain of a man with great power, Adams played 14 seasons in the NFL, recording 398 career tackles and 44 sacks while earning Pro Bowl nods three times.
To show how much the league has grown since that time, at 6-foot-3 and 292 pounds, Adams was one of the bigger defensive tackles in the NFL when he was drafted. He was checking in closer to 350 by the time he retired.
At 6-foot-3, 323 pounds, Smith already possesses the burly frame it took Adams a few years in the NFL to develop and his power is NFL-caliber out of the box, as his Combine-high 34 bench press repetitions suggest.
Smith's weight room prowess has been well documented this year. He was literally the No. 1 prospect listed on Bruce Feldman's annual must-read "Freaks List," with Michigan reportedly needing a different machine because Smith was too powerful. Fortunately, his power translates on the football field, as well, with Smith posting a healthy 48 tackles this season, more than any of the other top-rated nose guards in this class.
RT Howard "House" Ballard = Dawand Jones, Ohio State
In another example of just how much bigger the players in today's NFL have become, the Seahawks recently held a Top 30 visit with Jones, who, get this, checks in at 6-foot-8 and 374 pounds.
Any man that size can give himself whatever nickname he'd like and most of us will be happy to refer to him, as such. Seahawk fans who remember the aforementioned Adams might also recall the massive Ballard, who at 6-foot-6 and 325 pounds earned the nickname "House," starting at right tackle in four Super Bowls with the Buffalo Bills prior to the Seahawks luring him to Seattle in one of the first big free agency signings by the franchise.
While 300+ pounders along the line of scrimmage are commonplace in today's game, they were very rare in Ballard's era with him ranking as the biggest starting tackle in the league during the early '90s.
Jones is facing a similar role as a trendsetter, bullying opponents at the line of scrimmage in much the same way Ballard did years before, simply mauling them in the running game and creating a virtual forcefield in pass protection because it takes so darn long to get around him.
And, in case, you thought Jones was unathletic, here are some highlights of his time on the high school basketball court.
RB Chris Carson = Chris Rodriguez, Jr., Kentucky
The Seahawks have just three running backs currently on the roster, suggesting that the club is planning to invest at least one draft pick in the position and possibly more. While second-year pro Ken Walker III has proven himself to be a legitimate workhorse candidate, no one has to remind the Seahawks about the short shelf life running backs have in the NFL. This is a club that typically replenishes the position each draft and has selected as many as three running backs in a single year. Interestingly enough, that happened in 2016, the last time Seattle had 10 picks.
Walker is the total package, beating defenses with vision, burst, balance, power and legitimate homerun speed. To preserve him, the Seahawks might want to add a true battering ram in the same mold as Carson, Seattle's former intimidating starter, whose NFL career was tragically cut short due to a neck injury.
There are not many backs who can match Carson's chiseled frame but one who does play with a similar brand of toughness and leg drive is Kentucky's Rodriguez, who was overshadowed at Kentucky in much of the same way that Carson was at Oklahoma State.
Carson scored 14 touchdowns in just 21 games at Oklahoma State, averaging 5.1 yards per carry. Rodriguez was even more efficient, scoring 36 touchdowns in 40 career games at Kentucky, averaging 6.2 yards per carry against stout SEC competition.
The two men measured in almost exactly the same at their Pro Days with Rodriguez checking in at 5-foot-11 (and 5/8) and 217 pounds at Kentucky last month and Carson at six-foot even and 218 pounds back at his March 9, 2017 Pro Day at Oklahoma State. The two also posted similar 40-yard dash times (4.53 and 4.58, respectively) and short shuttles (4.32, 4.28).
TE Zach Miller = Michael Mayer, Notre Dame
Perhaps the cleanest match in this draft class comes at the tight end position, where Notre Dame's Michael Mayer could be mistaken as a twin (if they weren't separated by 16 years) of Miller, who caught 20 touchdowns over eight NFL seasons in Seattle and Oakland.
In today's era of bloated statistics, Miller's 20 touchdowns may not seem like a lot. He was revered by his quarterbacks, though, for his ability to win contested throws across the middle, becoming a true security blanket, as Mayer did at Notre Dame this past season.
Like the two Chrises at running back mentioned a moment ago, Mayer and Miller even sound similar. They're also built similarly with Notre Dame's current prospect checking in at 6-foot-4 and a half and 249 pounds. Miller weighed in seven pounds heavier and an eighth of an inch taller at his March 09, 2007 Pro Day where he was clocked at 4.72 seconds in the 40-yard dash. Mayer was timed at 4.70 seconds at the Scouting Combine.
While neither player possesses ideal speed to be a true seam threat, both offer a pro-ready, full-service game, including exceptionally reliable hands as well as technique, strength and determination as a run blocker.
WR Paul Richardson = Jalin Hyatt, Tennessee
Richardson may rank last on this list in terms of alphabetical order, but the slim frame and playmaking ability he demonstrated at the University of Colorado and in six seasons in the NFL after being selected 45th overall by Seattle in 2014 jumped to the forefront of my mind as I watched Hyatt take over the SEC this season.
For those who don't recall, Richardson terrorized the PAC-12 a decade ago, scoring 21 touchdowns in just three seasons with the Buffaloes before making the early jump to the NFL. He set a school record in 2014 with 1,343 receiving yards and 10 scores in just 12 games, prompting the Seahawks to draft the 6-foot, 175 pound speedster with confirmed 4.40 speed.
Hyatt weighed in at six-foot and 176 pounds at the Combine and also was clocked at 4.40. He caught 19 touchdowns in three years at Tennessee, making the early jump to the NFL after a breakout 2022 campaign in which he led the SEC with 1,267 yards and 15 touchdowns – including a dominating performance to beat mighty Alabama.
Further, he possesses sticky hands and incredible body control with some real circus grabs on tape.
Perceived by some as "just" a deep threat, Hyatt is that and more, projecting as a possible star in the NFL and joining Richardson as a Top 50 selection in the NFL draft.
Like Richardson, Hyatt's best attribute is his straight-line speed, which makes him one of the elite vertical threats in this class. Again, like Richardson, however, Hyatt isn't just fast, he's also very quick changing direction, offering more versatility as a route-runner than some suggest.