RENTON — The label of first-round pick also carries with it the weight of expectations.
And when it comes to the Seahawks, it also carries the burden of recent history.
While the Seahawks have been among the best in the NFL at assembling a winning roster each of the past 10 years, their track record with first-round picks has been spotty since hitting on the duo of Russell Okung and Earl Thomas in 2010 — the first draft for coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider.
Those two combined for eight Pro Bowls as Seahawks.
Seattle has drafted 10 other players in the Carroll/Schneider era who have made a Pro Bowl, evidence of a sterling draft eye overall.
But oddly, none of those has come in the first round.
True, Seattle has often traded out of the first round. But since 2010, the Seahawks have made six first-round picks and none has yet to make a Pro Bowl, with the team’s two most recent first-round picks before this year — running back Rashaad Penny and defensive end L.J. Collier — so far yielding mixed results.
Into that caldron now steps 2020 first-round pick Jordyn Brooks, somewhat of a surprise pick at No. 27 overall due in part to the fact that he plays a position — weakside linebacker — where the Seahawks have an established starter in K.J. Wright.
And roughly a month into Brooks’ NFL career it’s unclear what kind of impact he will make this season.
Wright, recovered from shoulder surgery in the offseason, has held firm to the starting weakside linebacker all camp with Carroll saying Thursday that Wright has had “a terrific camp.”
That the team could save $6.5 million against the cap releasing Wright led to conjecture from the minute Brooks was drafted that the team could look to release him. But Wright working with the first team throughout camp and showing no ill effects of the shoulder injury, and Carroll’s comments about his play seem to indicate his job is safe.
Brooks hasn’t played any other spot to any significant degree, as the Seahawks are happy with Cody Barton as the backup middle linebacker and Shaquem Griffin behind Bruce Irvin on the strong side.
Brooks missed a little bit of time earlier in camp with a groin injury but both Carroll and defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. in recent days praised his play since he returned.
“It’s just a matter of time that he’s gonna find himself on the field,” Carroll said in a Zoom session with reporters on Sunday. “It could mean just he’s too good to hold out and keep out of there. So it’s really exciting to have our pick make us all feel that kind of confidence in him.”
Carroll, though, also noted that not having preseason games this year hurt rookies such as Brooks, saying that typically he would have gotten 100 or so plays in games and this year was able to get only 40 or 50 in the three mock games the Seahawks held.
That means his only crime at the moment may be the position he plays because Wright doesn’t appear to be going anywhere anytime soon, though the Seahawks could devise some sub packages, such as using Brooks in the nickel.
“There’s no rush here,” Carroll said of trying to find a role for Brooks behind Wright. “We’re just trying to do the right thing and I like what both guys bring — they are different style players.”
Of course, a rookie season hardly defines a draft pick, especially with Seattle also clearly seeing Brooks as an heir apparent to the 31-year-old Wright, who is in the last year of his contract.
Still, first-round picks tend to be judged with a little harsher light, so if Brooks spends the season as a reserve or situational player there will be at least some discussion about the wisdom of Seattle’s pick.
Brooks said pressure and expectations aren’t something he’s concerning himself with as he concludes his first NFL training camp.
“I try not to think about or listen to what anybody else has to say,” he said when he talked to Seattle media via Zoom Wednesday for the first time since draft night. “The expectation I have for myself is higher than anybody’s. So, if I’m not living up to my own expectations, that’s what I’m worried about. So I will control what I can control and let everything else handle itself.”
What Brooks has tried to control: learning the Seattle defense and assimilating into the NFL, which has been especially tricky this year due to COVID-19.
Unlike previous years’ draft picks, who got a few preseason games to get accustomed to all the trappings of an NFL gameday, Brooks will have to wait until Sept. 13 to get a feel of the real thing, even if there won’t be any fans in Atlanta, either.
“Obviously it’s been a little bit challenging just what’s going on outside of football,” Brooks said, also referencing being a young Black man and “seeing people of color just get shot in the streets.”
” … But as far as football stuff, it’s been good. Surrounded by a good group of guys, everybody’s been welcoming with open arms, and it’s been a smooth transition for me.”
It’s been helped by the one of the men who stands in his way of making a big first impression — Wright.
Brooks said Wright and Bobby Wagner have been two of his biggest teachers so far.
“Just watching those guys, I’m not just blowing smoke when I say that they are the first ones in, and last out,” Brooks said. ” … From the first day I got here. Those guys are the first guys in the building, Bobby and K.J.”
And the other lesson he learned from the best linebacking duo in team history?
“Just learn how to be a professional and take care of your body,” Brooks said. “You know, our bodies are our ticket, so we’ve got to take care of that first to be able to perform. So that’s the biggest thing I’ve learned so far is just being smart, when you have injuries, anything that’s going on, get treatment, get massages in, make sure you are fully healthy to go out there and perform.”
Just one of many lessons Brooks will learn this season.