During his interview session at the NFL combine this week, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll enthusiastically answered a few questions about receiver DK Metcalf, taking something of a victory lap for a draft pick that could hardly have turned out better.
“Through our process we just didn’t see the negatives that other people saw,’’ Carroll said, recalling last season’s pre-draft investigative work into Metcalf. “… It was a really extraordinary moment when he was still there and we picked him. We thought that should never have happened. And he did everything to make it worthwhile.’’
Indeed, despite being the ninth receiver picked, Metcalf tied for the second-most receptions of all rookies last year with 58, and was third in receiving yards with 900.
But if Metcalf’s selection proved to be a direct hit, exactly what the Seahawks have in the rest of their 11-person 2019 draft class is still to be determined, while also serving as a critical factor in the team’s success over the next few years.
If the Metcalf pick can already be called a clear success, another can be termed a misfire: the fourth-round selection of receiver Gary Jennings, who was waived at midseason and then claimed by Miami, where he was then quickly injured and placed on IR.
But the jury still remains out on the other nine heading into Year Two.
With another draft process under way, it’s worth reviewing last year’s class and what Carroll and general manager John Schneider said about it this week in Indianapolis. Here are the picks, in order of selection.
DL L.J. Collier
Seattle’s first pick, taken 29th overall, played just 152 snaps and made just three tackles in a rookie year that did not go according to plan. Seattle drafted the 24-year-old with the hope that he could provide immediate production on a line that desperately needed it. Instead, an ankle injury suffered early in camp knocked him off track, and Carroll and Schneider each said this week that proved more devastating than maybe was realized at the time. They each expressed hope that Collier can rebound in 2020.
“We were lucky that we had him,’’ Schneider said. “We thought we were going to lose him for the season that day (in training camp). We’re lucky that we didn’t have to place him on IR. Obviously we would have liked to have seen him make a little bit more of a dent, but his checkout meeting was awesome. He’s really excited about next year.’’
S Marquise Blair
Blair wowed with his athleticism in the preseason but showed he needed some time to learn the nuances of the position, an admission Seattle made publicly when it traded for Quandre Diggs at midseason. But with Bradley McDougald entering the last year of his contract, Blair still remains a big part of the team’s future. And like Collier, Blair suffered an injury during camp (back) that also halted his progress.
“When ‘Quise had his chances he did some good stuff,’’ Carroll said. “I think he is going to have a big impact. He’s an exciting football player, coverage-wise, hitting-wise, covering ground, all that kind of stuff.’’
WR DK Metcalf
Proved himself a fixture in the Seattle offense for years to come.
LB Cody Barton
Started two games in the regular season and two more in the playoffs at strongside linebacker in place of Mychal Kendricks, and with Kendricks’ future uncertain, appears ticketed to be the starter there heading into 2020.
“I think Cody Barton could have been a bigger factor,’’ Carroll said this week. “He had fantastic work for us. He was the top special-teams player, when he wasn’t playing (defense).’’
WR Gary Jennings
Jennings, out of West Virginia, was never active for Seattle and played in just one game with Miami — getting one snap on offense and eight on special teams — before he was injured and lost for the season.
OL Phil Haynes
Fourth-round pick’s season was also waylaid by injury, undergoing sports-hernia surgery in the offseason. He saw his only offensive action in the playoff loss to Green Bay but figures to be a factor this year at the guard spot, where veteran Mike Iupati may not be back.
DB Ugo Amadi
Amadi played in all 16 games on special teams and as a reserve, and also filled in at nickel a few times, especially late in the year. Carroll this week said the nickel job is Amadi’s “to lose’’ heading into the offseason.
LB Ben Burr-Kirven
The fifth-rounder out of UW was a special-teams stalwart but played just four snaps on defense. He also missed a substantial portion of camp due to injury, with Carroll throwing him into the mix of the young guys, such as Collier, Blair and Haynes, for whom injuries proved critical.
“A couple of those guys had injuries that stifled them all kinds of ways in early parts of the season, the development part of the year,’’ Carroll said. “We just didn’t get them over the hump and in part of the flow of it.’’
RB Travis Homer
The pick of Homer in the sixth round was about as promising as any pick besides Metcalf. Homer was a special-teams standout all season and then a lifesaver late in the year when he had to assume a significant role at tailback.
“Homer did a great job for us, we’re thrilled for what he added,’’ Carroll said this week. “… He’s legitimately a factor. He’s got some stuff that he does in his style that’s different than the other guys (Chris Carson, Rashaad Penny) that we really like.’’
DT Demarcus Christmas
Sat out the season with a back injury. Seattle obviously needs all the help inside it can get, so he’ll get a long look this offseason.
WR John Ursua
Played just 11 snaps and had just one catch (albeit a really memorable one late against the 49ers). But Carroll indicated this week that the Seahawks expect a big jump from him in Year Two as he continues to adjust from the spread offense he played in at Hawaii under now-WSU coach Nick Rolovich to an NFL offense.
“We’re excited to see where he fits into it,’’ Carroll said this week. “He could definitely be a factor. … Johnny had a long way to go and had a lot to learn, and it took him longer to assimilate. But he’s getting there now.’’
On to 2020
And as Seattle now gets to the serious work of drafting a new class of rookies, Carroll remains optimistic as ever about the class it drafted a year ago.
“All of those guys should help us out,’’ he said. “It should be a really exciting second year for those guys.”