With the NFL draft now in the rearview mirror, the Seahawks will get their first on-field look at this year's rookie class when their 11 draft picks, undrafted free agent signings and tryout players all take part in this weekend's rookie minicamp.
Veterans will not be on the field, and real, full-contact football is still months away, but this minicamp is still an important first step for rookies as they adjust to life in the NFL. With that in mind, here are seven things we'll be keeping an eye on when rookies take the field this weekend:
1. Does Malik McDowell look dominant?
The real test for McDowell will come when the Seahawks are in full pads during training camp and he's going against starters, but this weekend is a good first opportunity for the Michigan State defensive tackle to show why he was Seattle's first pick.
McDowell was known in college for being a dominant, first-round caliber talent at times, but the one knock on him was his consistency. McDowell can't really prove his ability to show the right kind of consistent effort the Seahawks want in one minicamp, but he can show, especially against fellow rookies and tryout players, the physical talents that made the Seahawks want to make him the 35th overall pick.
"He's too unique," said Seahawks general manager John Schneider, who also compared McDowell to Pro-Bowl defensive tackle Calais Campbell. "We've been looking for a pass rushing 3-technique (defensive tackle), we've talked about this a lot, since we've been here together… He's 300 pounds and ran 4.7, 4.8 (40-yard dash), something like that."
2. Does Shaquill Griffin look like a starting corner?
Even Seattle's best cornerbacks under Pete Carroll and John Schneider have needed some time to develop. Richard Sherman opened his rookie season as a third-stringer before taking over a starting role mid-season, while eventual starters like DeShawn Shead, Jeremy Lane and Byron Maxwell all made their mark on special teams well before seeing significant playing time on defense.
But with Griffin, there is reason to believe he'll at least have a chance to get on the field right away. The Seahawks certainly won't force him into action if he isn't ready, but Griffin and every other corner on the roster has a chance to compete for what appears to be an open starting job at right corner unless DeShawn Shead is able to return from a knee injury ahead of schedule. Prior to selecting Griffin, the Seahawks had never drafted a cornerback earlier than the fourth round under Schneider and Carroll, and while his draft status doesn't guarantee a thing, it does show how highly the Seahawks think of his abilities.
"You guys are going to love him, he is a fun kid," Schneider said. "Really confident, really tough, really fast, 4.37. He had a couple rough situations, but he responded the right way and he's just our kind of DB in my opinion."
Added Carroll: "I see him as an outside guy. We'll start there and try to transition to our style of stuff. His ability to play the ball, really his ball sense too, we think he'll be a really good fit… He had some big plays on the ball, he had plenty of good turnovers and stuff. He looks just like he'll fit in just right."
3. Where do all the defensive backs fit in?
Griffin was one of four defensive backs the Seahawks selected with their first eight picks, a sign not of some sort of master plan to reload at that position group, but rather a reflection on this year's draft.
"It was really a defensive-back heavy draft and it's just the way the board came off," Schneider said. "We didn't want to start just jumping players. That's when you get in trouble. We just really stuck to our board."
How all those players fit in on a long-term basis remains to be seen, but right off the bat it will be interesting to see where everyone fits in given the versatility of the group. While Griffin definitely appears to be an outside cornerback, sixth-round pick Mike Tyson is a college safety who will work first at cornerback, and safety Delano Hill is a player whose coverage skills have the Seahawks considering him as a possible movable piece who can cover multiple positions, a role they already envision for free-agent addition Bradley McDougald.
"We have to wait and see, got to get them on the field first, but Delano Hill really has a lot of range here," Carroll said. "He can do some different things because of the stuff that he has done in coverage and all that, so we'll see how it works out. We're really fired up about Bradley though, we think he's a really good player.
"I think it will be really fun to see how these guys fit in. They're all real competitive guys, they've been all been great players in their programs. We'll see how they fit in with our guys, but it's a very competitive room. We would not take guys that we thought weren't going to be able to handle that. We think that they're going to add to it… We're going to have a great battle just in the mini-camp, with the young guys we have on both sides, at receiver and DB. It should be a very good group."
4. Where is Ethan Pocic playing?
Pocic, a second-round pick out of LSU, was primarily a center in college, but one of the main reasons the Seahawks picked him is because they see him as an option at multiple positions.
"We think he's the most flexible guy in the draft," Carroll said. "He started a lot at center but he's played at guard and he's played tackle. He's been a primary player for them in a great conference and just been steady as a rock. Really smart, intelligent, tough guy. Long, tall, he has all the right elements and the background was so versatile that we just thought that was a great opportunity. We really were hoping, there weren't many offensive linemen in the draft as you've noticed that already, and we just thought he could fit into a number of spots and really help us out. We'll see him at guard and tackle, knowing he can play center."
Added Schneider: "He was the one guy that, quite frankly, we were really sweating out. We felt like we were drafting maybe two and a half players with one guy, so we debated whether to go up and get him or just sit and wait and sweat it out."
Offensive line coach Tom Cable said Wednesday on Sports Radio 950 KJR that Pocic will start out competing at right tackle, but it's a pretty safe bet that, given his versatility, Pocic could be an option at a lot of spots.
5. What undrafted rookies stand out?
While draft picks tend to get the most attention this time of year, it would be foolish to sleep on the undrafted free agent class that will also be on the field this week. The Seahawks opened the 2016 season with 24 undrafted players on their 53-man roster, a number that went up to 27 late in the season, so the odds are high that at least a couple of undrafted players on the field this weekend are beginning a journey that will end with them making the team in September.
"These guys that come in after the seventh round is over are just as valuable to us as anybody that we take in the draft, and we treat them with that thought," Carroll said last year. "The care that John goes through with all of his guys to figure out the eighth-round pick, the ninth-round pick, the tenth, all those guys."
6. Do any tryout players shine?
While most of the top undrafted rookies quickly agree to deals with teams immediately after the seventh round comes to an end, a few talented players always fall through the cracks and end up at rookie minicamps around the league on a tryout basis. Back in 2013, Carroll mentioned being impressed with "the kid from Idaho," and eventually the Seahawks signed Benson Mayowa, who is still in the league four years later and who started six games for Dallas last season, piling up 6.0 sacks. Last year, the Seahawks signed five players who participated in minicamp as tryout players.
7. Do any receivers stand out?
The nature of a practice without pads lends itself to skill players and players on the edge of the field—think cornerbacks, receivers, running backs, etc.—standing out more than linemen or linebackers. And just about every year in minicamps and OTAs, there is a receiver or two who makes a strong early impression, catching everything thrown his way.
The Seahawks drafted two receivers, Amara Darboh and David Moore, both of whom possess an impressive combination of size and speed, so don't be surprised if one or both of them ends up being a rookie minicamp standout. And seeing as the Seahawks have turned two undrafted receivers, Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse, into starters, it's also wouldn't be shocking if an undrafted receiver steals the spotlight to some degree.
Photos of the 11 draft picks the Seahawks selected in the 2017 NFL Draft.