Regardless of the day or the round, every team hopes that the players they call during the NFL draft will be the fit the team needs. The 2022 Seattle Seahawks draft class is off to a fast start, from earning starting positions, to putting themselves in the conversation for rookie honors while helping lead the Seahawks to a win over the Cardinals on Sunday.
In March, Seattle traded Russell Wilson in a blockbuster deal including several draft picks and three players (Noah Fant, Drew Lock and Shelby Harris). The 2022 picks involved in the trade resulted in the selections of Mississippi State tackle Charles Cross and Minnesota Gopher defensive end Boye Mafe in the first and second rounds respectively. Overall, Seattle would make nine selections, leaving the newcomers to learn the ropes over the summer. Of those nine, six have been key contributors for the 3-3 Seahawks. Here's a quick look at the early success of Seattle's selections, and thoughts in the building and league-wide on the progress and potential of the group.
LT Charles Cross
With the No. 9 overall selection, Seattle selected Cross to be a potential anchor for Seattle's offensive line along with third-round selection and fellow tackle Abraham Lucas. Cross was named First-team All-SEC in 2021, giving up just two sacks on 919 snaps. After a strong showing throughout OTAs, training camp and the preseason, both Cross and Lucas were named starters. This was a major sign from confidence from Seahawks Head Coach Pete Carroll - and a historic moment, as the pair became just the third rookie tackle duo to open the season as starters since 1970.
Despite your typical young offensive line growing pains, including penalties, Cross has given Seattle plenty to be proud of. Namely, protecting the blindside of quarterback Geno Smith, who led Seattle to being one of the league’s best offenses of 2022.
Boye oh Boye: Boye Mafe off the Edge
With the No.40 overall pick via the Wilson trade, Seattle selected Minnesota alum edge rusher Boye Mafe.
Mafe excelled throughout the summer, recording multiple sacks through the preseason and earning rotation reps in his first year. Mafe has played in every contest of 2022, recording 15 tackles and a sack, and he started each of the past two games at outside linebacker.
Mafe's performance Sunday included a couple of standout plays, including a play in the red zone on Arizona's first drive that helped force a field goal attempt.
"That was the game plan this week," said Carroll. "Those guys had to do a great job on the edge. And you saw why, the way Kyler was running around. He's a dynamic football player. But the running backs couldn't get it done. And our guys did a great job of keeping them corralled. It was a big week of discipline, understanding what their game was like so that we would be available to make those plays. And really nice job by the defensive coaches to get that across to the guys because we played a little bit different today to take care of that. And the guys really took to the game plan."
Kenneth Walker III: Walker, Seattle Ranger
It took a few games for Seahawks rookie running back Kenneth Walker III to get healthy and ready to embark on his rookie campaign. After rushing for a combined 58 yards in his first-three games, Walker is on fire over the last two weeks.
Walker scored his second-career touchdown Sunday in Seattle's 19-9 win over the Arizona Cardinals. After nearly helping Seattle defeat the New Orleans Saints on the road in week 5, Walker was rewarded with 21 carries for 97 yards and an 11-yard score, as well as two receptions.
Coach Carroll discussed what Seattle – namely General Manager John Schneider – saw in Walker, who has taken over the starting role for an injured Rashaad Penny.
"Johnny thought that from the start that this guy could be the lead back," said Carroll. "And thinking that it would be great to have two of those guys on the same team and to help share the load and all of that. Unfortunately, we weren't able to catch up with that yet. So I'm not surprised at all. It was like you give him a chance, he's going to show you this stuff. It was just a matter -- remember, he's had a number of plays in earlier games, he was a little bit out of sorts and a little bit out of whack one way or the other and didn't find his rhythm yet. He's just getting started. He's just getting started. This is the first chance he's had—he carried the ball 20 times today, 21, something like that. That's a beautiful number for him to get out there. I think he had over 100 yards but we called one back (for holding) or something like that. But he's the real deal in our eyes."
Abraham Lucas: Heavy Metal
Lucas has been an early bloomer since his days at Washington State. As a redshirt freshman, Lucas was named a starter for the Cougars, and remained in that position until graduation. The 2021 First-team All-Pac 12 selection has been more-than-reliable for Seattle.
Despite going against some of the league's best edge rushers, Lucas has not allowed quarterback Geno Smith to be touched much.
Aside from Lucas’ love for heavy metal music, the majority of his time these days is spent protecting the pocket.
Coby Bryant: Leading the Force
In the fourth round, Seattle selected Cincinnati cornerback and 2021 Jim Thorpe award winner Coby Bryant. The man named after late basketball legend Kobe Bryant is balling in his own right, leading the NFL with four forced fumbles in his first season. On the season, Bryant has recorded 22 tackles and a sack from the nickel position.
For the fourth-consecutive game, Bryant forced a fumble, and for the third straight game it resulted in a turnover, aiding Seattle in its 19-9 victory.
Bryant's physical play has been key, as Seattle's defense continues to find its identity.
Tariq The Freak: More Than A Rookie
The story of the Seahawks 2022 draft class is 6-4 University of Texas-San Antonio alum cornerback Tariq Woolen. It’s only been two years since the Roadrunners moved Woolen from wideout to corner, but you can’t tell. Woolen is currently tied for first in the NFL in interceptions with four, after recording his fourth-consecutive pick against Arizona. In addition to the pick, Woolen recovered a fumble forced by fellow rookie corner Coby Bryant.
At the request of head coach Pete Carroll, Seahawks Legend Richard Sherman has taken Woolen under the wing, giving him the tools to succeed. And over the first six weeks of Woolen's rookie campaign, few have been louder in support than Sherman.
On Sunday, Woolen became the 14th rookie in league history to record four interceptions in his first six games.
When asked about his rookie class following Seattle's 19-9 home win over the Arizona Cardinals, Seahawks Head Coach Pete Carroll revealed he didn't imagine this type of production from the unit as a whole this soon.
"No," said Carroll. "I could never have foreseen that really, honestly. I'd like to say, 'Oh, yeah, I knew that,' but I didn't. This is what we hope for. You hope when you draft a guy you can picture what he's going to do. And you hope he's going to fit in and be a factor for us. But I don't know, how many, like six guys or something are playing and starting and doing stuff. I don't know how many it is. But those guys, they're just coming through. Mafe played well again on his edge. So it's better than we expected. It's what we had hoped for. So, you know, we're just getting started. This is just warming them up, you know. So hopefully these guys will continue to grow and be creative and productive and keep giving us the thrills."
There's no denying that a big reason for Seattle's climb back to .500 is play of its rookie class. Seattle can only hope this progression and production continues, as the Seahawks push to take control of the division.
The Seahawks face the Arizona Cardinals at Lumen Field for Week 6 of the season on October 16, 2022. Game action photos are presented by Washington's Lottery.